Been down with flu for the past 48 hours, abdominal tectonics. Just edging out of the hole now. Spent a lot of time sleeping, but did have the chance to watch a couple of interesting movies.
How’s Your News is a project by Matt Stone and Trey Parker, but you’d never guess it — a documentary wherein the two take five mentally retarded or disabled individuals around the country in a hand-painted RV, interviewing ordinary Americans on the street, at ball games, cattle auctions, etc. Two of the participants are so disabled they can’t even speak — one just waves a microphone frantically at passers-by, a sign on his wheelchair reading “Free interviews – my name is Larry.”
Given the nature of the project, and considering who’s producing it, you’d expect the primary M.O. would be to mock the attempts of these disabled people to model the newscasters they’ve seen on TV all their lives. And yes, there are some very funny moments, where you’re not sure whether you’re laughing with or laughing at. But somehow Stone and Parker have managed to make the project respectful – they’re giving these people the chance to do something they’d never be able to do otherwise. There is no mocking here, no inside joke between the directors and the viewer. The enthusiasm and joy of the participants is genuine.
The potential for misunderstanding the point of the project is high enough that they include a printed note in the DVD case explaining that “It’s okay to laugh.”
We believe that confusion, awkward moments, and humor are important parts of living with a disability. People who live with disabilities, and those who are close to them, know that if you don’t have a sense of humor, it would be hard to get through the day.
Also rented Peripheral Produce – a compilation of entries in a Portland experimental film and video contest. My favorite piece on the disc was Matt McCormick’s The Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal — encouraging the viewer to look at municipal efforts to remove graffiti — usually by covering tags in large dun-toned blocks — as themselves being unintentionally artististic. The subconscious creation of Rauschenberg and Rothko-like rectangular swatches playing off the angles of the urban environment. Sounds self-serious, and it is, a bit, but also playful and partly self-mocking. Even if the idea sounds like a joke, McCormick does a good job of showing that there is real beauty left over by the removal efforts. Very enjoyable.