How Did This Get Made?
Durham Performing Arts Center, Durham
There are plenty of good podcasts about bad movies, but How Did This Get Made? might be best at capturing the sheer bewilderment that a bad movie inflicts upon its viewers. For almost nine years, it’s operated in a simple format: Prolific comedians and actors Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael, and Jason Mantzoukas—currently visible in everything from Long Shot to John Wick 3—bring in friends like Daniel Radcliffe, Charlize Theron, and Conan O’Brien to riff on the plot, characters, and mere existence of films like Sleepaway Camp, Geostorm, and the Look Who’s Talking sequels. On occasion, people involved in the films show up to explain how, indeed, these things got made. After their take on Tommy Wiseau’s disaster-piece The Room, the hosts appeared in James Franco’s chronicle of its making, The Disaster Artist.
On the podcast’s live tour, which comes to DPAC on July 19, the film under discussion is Unforgettable, an ironically titled 2017 thriller with Katherine Heigl; the guest host will remain a mystery until the event. We spoke with Scheer about just why it’s so much fun to talk bad movies, the Platonic ideal of a HDTGM film, and which Oscar winner he’d like to feature.
INDY: What’s the perfect HDTGM film for you?
PAUL SCHEER: Unforgettable is kind of perfect, actually. It’s Katherine Heigl playing this real villain-y villain—it’s almost mustache-twirling, this kind of Fatal Attraction rip-off that I think will lead us into some really fun discussions. For us, it’s not about torturing the audience. We want to give you something where you go, “Oh, that’s crazy! I want to talk about this!” Unforgettable falls into that horror/thriller thing that always does well, because you’re going, “Don’t go in there! I can’t believe you’re doing this!”
Something like The Room, which is a flawed imitation of the storytelling tropes it’s trying to achieve, engages in a similar way. It makes you feel smart because you recognize exactly how things are going wrong.
Yeah! One of the things that I think works about this podcast is that we’re talking about something everyone’s an expert at, which is movies. We all have a basic understanding of this art form. It’s like a book club, only one where the books are bad.
As the podcast veers toward live shows, it’s interesting to see the broad reactions that people bring to these films.
I always say the movie is just a small part of the show. What it’s really about is the communal experience of talking about them with friends. With the live tour, we’re really able to achieve that. Also, we cut out fifteen to twenty minutes for the podcast, so there’s a lot of inside jokes and odd moments live. Just watch the film with some friends and come ready to talk about it. Come with some questions. Some people come in costumes, some sing songs. Podcasts can be like listening to friends have a conversation, but a live show lets you be part of that conversation.
You’ve been covering the opposite end of the spectrum on Unspooled, going through films considered classics. Do any HDTGM films deserve to be on Unspooled, or vice versa?
The Room is the one I would put on the Unspooled list of defining American films. There’s something about it—its success and failures and longevity and independent spirit, and just the fascination with it—that, if you were to put together a care package of everything that American film has to offer, it’s the very best of the worst. That’s not an insult. You’re hard-pressed to find anything like it.
As for what would go on the other side, I have to say, I just watched The Deer Hunter for Unspooled, and I did not get it. It felt so bloated and oddly comical—that there’s this long wedding sequence, that Christopher Walken’s character seemingly plays Russian roulette every night for years. Obviously, there’s great performances in it, but it’s a fuckin’ weird movie.
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