Sunday, 22 November 2015

L.J. SPENCE'S STARTING POINTS: NOSTALGIA CRITIC: HOCUS POCUS

L.J. SPENCE'S STARTING POINTS

61. NOSTALGIA CRITIC: HOCUS POCUS (2015, dir. Doug Walker)

22/11/2015


I have only become aware of the "Nostalgia Critic" series, which began in 2008, only in the last six weeks, but now it is all that YouTube recommends to me. The infectiously funny, venomous commentary of the Critic, a character whose judgements are tempered by the presence of critical insight that is often missing from TV and film reviews - more than simply concentrating on whether the film is objectively bad or not, the Nostalgia Critic is interested in what decisions must have been made by the filmmakers, what that says about them and their prospective audience, and why that still doesn't stop people from watching bad films.

This is how I know the animated monstrosity "Foodfight" (2012) is a fetishists' paradise, and Michael Bay's "Pearl Harbor" (2001) is so poorly conceived that it disrespects those who lost their lives in the disaster. In taking these two reviews as an example, I have never seen any single person get so angry over a film: it makes you wish the Nostalgia Critic was around when "Monty Python's Life of Brian" came out in 1979, to make it clear to people that, if you are made angry by a piece of art, it should be by its failure of conception and execution, but not by it existing at all. 

I know I am writing a review of a review, but the "Nostalgia Critic" series is at a point where it can be judged on its own merits as a narrative as its own subjects. In fact, my systematic devouring of the near three hundred episodes of it has been driven by seeing how it has existed at various points in time - from a series recorded while sat in front of a camera at home, it added animation and special effects, it began to be shot in HD, it acquired a studio, a repertory company of actors, and a theme tune (via a 45-minute musical demolition of 2001's "Moulin Rouge") and most importantly, can tell its own stories that make good use of the film involved.

Put simply, to watch an episode that I thought would be a straight review of Disney's "Hocus Pocus," only to realise what I thought was a sketch about the bizarre nature of 1990s children's films, and their fans, was actually the review taking place in story form, alternating with a sub-plot of the film's characters plotting to take over its audience. I thought I was going to have an explanation of why "Hocus Pocus" isn't as good as some would like to think, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that the film itself could be used to create a new narrative that plays on, and ultimately celebrates, why we enjoy remembering it. As someone who hasn't yet seen "Hocus Pocus," or can't remember if I actually have, I might now need to watch it.

This isn't just a postmodern example of pop culture eating itself, or a way of differentiating your product in a crowded market of web-based shows: it is a case of a filmmaker, Doug Walker, and his team, becoming what he hoped he would see in his reviews as the Nostalgia Critic. To enjoy watching, and re-watching, episodes of the "Nostalgia Critic" series is an ironic triumph to have been expected from as soon as the series began.


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