Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Birdemic

I first watched Birdemic around last April and since then, I'd somehow nearly forgotten about it... that is until today when I pulled onto the interstate, passed a crow pecking around some sort of furry roadsplatter, and thought to myself, "screeaaww-(explode.gif)."


That's all it took for me to develop a renewed urge to sit down with the missus, dim the lights, and have another go at this thing... and as soon as I got home, that's exactly what I did.

On my original viewing, I was a bit surprised to find that at about the 45 minute mark, I'd still not seen the birds I'd come to giggle at. For anyone who's seen the teaser trailer (which makes you stare at boring cityscapes with nothing happening in them for 3/4 of the running-time), get ready for more of the same.

Anyway, our first five minutes are spent with Rod (Alan Bagh) and the opening credits, driving around a winding road and watching from the point of view of a shaky handycam that's apparently riding shotgun. During this, we're treated to an audio track that's about 30 seconds long... repeated over and over. It goes without saying that this is very boring... although it was pretty funny that this is the scene where they give the credits for editing and cinematography.

When we finally get out of the car, we find ourselves at a restaurant where Rod has stopped for breakfast. He talks to the waitress a bit and when we see him again we find that he's ordered a coffee, bottled water, and orange juice for breakfast. That doesn't seem like much of a breakfast to me, and Rod seems to agree because he doesn't bother paying. When he gets ready to leave, he just does.

Transaction Complete.

This first restaurant scene also gets to be our introduction to the horrible sound-quality and editing in Birdemic. Sometimes, when there isn't any dialog in a scene, it seems that no one bothered recording any background audio whatsoever, either that or they just exclusively used the microphone on the camera giving us nothing at all for the long shots. Early on we can tell something is amiss when Rod walks up to the restaurant. As he comes down the sidewalk there are a few moments where everything goes nearly silent. Luckily for us, the expert foley-artist ingeniously added sounds of walking through loud crunching leaves to alleviate the awkwardness.

Pictured: A forest

Once inside the place we're shown just how bad things can get when we're treated to what I think is probably one of the worst executed scenes of the movie. As Rod talks to the hostess/waitress there are several rapid, jarring cuts between the two. I don't think anyone bothered to light the waitress, so the lighting is very different between the two rapidly switching vantage points, and the sound is even worse. It seems no one bothered trying for any sort of ambient noise recording, so no there's no attempt made at any sort of audio continuity through these cuts. It's pretty much about as uncomfortable to watch as you could possibly make a 10 second conversation between two people.

Pictured: Agony

Then again, sometimes when there is a long scene with dialog close to the camera, the environmental sounds are so loud in parts that you can't even hear what's being said... so you just have to take what you can get here.

At some point while enjoying his three beverages, Rod notices Natalie (Whitney Moore), decides to stalk her awkwardly, and spends the next 5 minutes of the movie doing so in a way that would've gotten him pepper-sprayed in the real world, but gets him a date in bizarro-The Birds-world.

In addition to the awkward banter and strange courtship of Natalie, the first half of the film also spends a while showing us Rod and Natalie's jobs. Rod is a software salesman (more on that later) and Natalie is a fashion model. As soon as we're shown what their careers are, both of them are suddenly and inexplicably incredibly successful. Rod is essentially a telemarketer selling software in one scene, and a board member learning that he's got millions of dollars coming his way as a result of stock-options when the company he works for is bought for ONE BILLION DOLLARS.

"BILLION!"

Natalie advances just as quickly. The first modeling gig we see her doing is at a one-hour photo shop...


I'm not sure if this means that some local weird small-business owner hires models to let him take pictures of them while he's at work, or maybe James Nguyen just didn't realize that those photo-shops actually only develop film, but whatever... that's just where Natalie's modeling career is right now. As it turns out though, Natalie's modeling agency actually gets a call from Victoria's Secret while she's on her way to her 1-hour photo gig, so she's off to the big leagues as well.

Rod, who's somehow managed to become a millionaire during the day before their date, finally takes Natalie out on a date that's so awkward it looks like something was guest-directed by Tim & Eric. No wonder those guys have endorsed this film so much...

At one point during this date we're teased with a far-off glimpse of some parrot.gif birds while they're walking outside, but that's all we get for the first date.

Such a tease

The next day, Natalie has an awkward conversation with her mother (that is very reminiscent of the mother-conversations in The Room) where she lets her know about her new job and her new Rod. I only mention this because in this scene, the mother offers Natalie some of her home-cooking, which is just a deli-tray someone swiped from craft services before the shoot.


Somehow, Rod talks Natalie into a second date and it's here that we find that, while Natalie doesn't kiss on the first date, she's wastes no time on the second.


AAAAHHHHH BIRDS!!!
Sorry, false alarm again... Back to the almost-naked footsy session.


The scene fades to black, our protagonists fall asleep, and we get to enjoy the camera-guy using up the rest of his film roll.

Pictured: Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Suddenly, the sun rises on a new day and we find that Rod, Natalie, and ourselves have quite suddenly awakened into the movie we actually came to see.

Now that's more like it.

Unfortunately for Rod and Natalie, it didn't take these low frame-rate monstrosities long at all to hone in on the smell of fresh toe-sweat at the local motel.



They meet up with a couple of disposable characters who have a van and a great strategy to get out to it that involves swinging blindly at the air with clothes hangers... for nearly a minute of screen time.

Brilliant.

Somehow this works and they make their getaway... then they stop and fight birds again, with equal strangeness, and sometimes with automatic weapons. Strangely, instead of trying to get away they seem to stop every chance they get. Early on they see a few people stranded in a double-decker bus and decide to "save" them by bringing them outside. This is where we find out that the birds can shit yellow acid when the mood strikes them...

The mood striking

They drive, then stop and shoot at birds, then drive some more... over and over.

Things meander aimlessly like that and then, when it's time for the movie to be over, the birds just leave. Rod and Natalie see the light, reminding us once more about the heavy-handed message the movie has been giving us since the beginning: global warming is behind all of this.

Strangely enough, and contrary to my expectations, the birds are not the most interesting, or funniest thing about Birdemic. The rest of it is much harder to describe, but many entertainingly novel ways in which it fails are mostly paced pretty well in a The Room sort of way. It turns out to not only be watchable, but actually really entertaining.

The actual story about the birds is pretty minimal: global warming causes birds of prey to attack, and sometimes to explode (In the Birdemic universe, vultures count as birds of prey, apparently). They seem to have trouble really taking that idea anywhere, which makes you really wonder about what exactly is going to happen that's worth making a sequel about...


Luckily for us, I'm sure James Nguyen is a creative genius that will be able to write something brilliant, just look at the incredible variety of characters he's been able to invent so far.

James Nguyen - "Mr. Nguyen ... a Silicon Valley software salesman..."

Julie and Jack (2003) - "Jack Livingston ... a successful computer chip salesman for STELLAchip Corporation in high-tech Silicon Valley"

Replica (2005) - "Joe, a computer chip salesman..."

Birdemic (2008) - "Rod is a young software salesman living the dream in Silicon Valley..."

Oh...

No comments:

Post a Comment