(a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: This is a comic documentary that is supposedly an inquiry into the reasons for the poor quality of Hollywood films. In fact, it is a set of five or six semi-serious interviews about films with minor functionaries in the film industry or the occasional college professor. These interviews are inset in a satire of the documentary filmmaking process and a parody of other documentaries. The result is amusing but nowhere near profound. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10

CRAP SHOOT is somewhere in a gray zone between a real documentary and a send-up of documentaries. The film is done on the cheap in digital photography. Ken Close is the writer, director, and producer, worked on the musical score, and did about twenty other jobs listed in the end credits. The supposed intent of the film is to discuss American film with well-known Hollywood filmmakers and with other people close to the film industry. The topic to be explored is, "Why are the Hollywood films that we see so bad?" Why, for example, are we seeing so many sequels and remakes that do not stand up to their originals?

In fact, the intent of the proceedings is a little less serious than that. There are some interviews with real people connected to the film industry. The odds are none of these people will the viewer have ever heard of or remember seeing in a film. However, they are in the film industry and their opinions are of interest and have some value. But all of the connective tissue between these interviews is intended to be comic and it just occasionally succeeds. The result is a film that is amusing (sort of), enlightening (more or less), but nothing to stand beside some of the major documentaries that are being made now. The major insight is what anybody with an ounce of maturity in the film business knows. It is that what makes a good film is a good story and characters the audience becomes involved with emotionally. These cannot be made by a formula, and what films really need is good writing. Even so the system is such that the best scripts are winnowed away with a huge number of very bad scripts. That is not a lot of profundity or reward for 97 minutes of attention. But there are apparently a lot of people in the film industry who do not realize even those basics. How is that possible? The film answers that at the very beginning by quoting the famous 1926 telegram that Herman J. Mankiewicz in Hollywood sent to Ben Hecht in New York. The telegram said: "Millions are to be grabbed out here and your only competition is idiots. Don't let this get around." (It did get around.)

The supposed story documented is Ken Close's trip to Hollywood to interview many of the major figures of the film industry. Of course none of them will talk to him. With him he brings his long-time friend Jim Horton, a real-life radio personality, who brings his deep radio voice to the narration of the film. The two argue over such minor issues at the poor quality food that Ken is providing. Some of the interviewees are also comic plants who undermine what credibility the semi-serious interviews have. Being fair, in the end it is probably clear who was telling the truth and whose presence was just a joke.

Much more could have been said about the state of the film industry and the quality of the films made, had that been the intent. But that was not really the intent. The intent was to entertain and not to say anything serious or affecting. And that in and of itself is a good description of the sort of film the film industry makes. I would rate CRAP SHOOT: THE DOCUMENTARY a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.

Film Credits:

					Mark R. Leeper
					Copyright 2008 Mark R. Leeper