Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.
Jared McMillan // Film Critic
Humor can be sourced from any type of situation, but the audience wants that humor to be placed in reality. There’s an expectation that the male protagonist would ogle a woman. But the reality is that finding love isn’t always easy. Putting a man bent over instead of a woman is a symbol of this reality of attraction to the wrong people, and the gender swerve makes us laugh at ourselves.
However, goofy humor is something that takes creating a whole new reality in order to digest. Having some burglars survive burns, falls, and bludgeoning is involved in a reality where an 8-yr old boy would get left behind by his parents during the holidays. Another way to make humor come across in a reality is to make the cinematic world a real presence. That’s where the mockumentary comes into play.
A mockumentary (or mock documentary) involves presenting a reality that is framed by characteristics you would find in a documentary…the narrator/interviewer, characters talking off camera, reactionary camera movement, etc. The movie acts as if what is going on is an actual world being documented, but it isn’t factual. It is meant to play on an environment that can be exaggerated to present humor. The characters aren’t real, but the world they’re in is something that we observe from a distance in real life.
POPSTAR: NEVER STOP NEVER STOPPING is the latest entry in the comedy sub-genre. Connor4Real (Andy Samberg) is a caricature of the pop stars we see from a distance in our reality, specifically a pop star that rhymes with Shmustin Shmeiber. We don’t actually know these people, but getting the information at face value lends itself to our imaginations, which lead to Samberg & Co. playing with these perceptions.
With this week’s release of POPSTAR, let’s takes a look at other compelling mockumentaries in this week’s #tbt.
Sure, there are countless other examples of known mockumentaries, but CONFETTI is probably the driest in its humor. The British mockumentary centers on a wedding magazine called Confetti, which is holding a contest for “Most Original Wedding of the Year”, with the prize being that the wedding gets entirely paid for.
What unfolds is utter absurdity as three couples vie for the top prize: Matt and Sam (Martin Freeman and Jessica Stevenson) want a 1940s Hollywood Musical theme; Josef & Isabelle (Stephen Mangan and Meredith MacNeill) want a tennis-themed wedding; and Michael and Joanna (Robert Webb and Olivia Colman) are nudists naturists, so they want there’s to be fully in the buff.
While the movie does have its slow paces, CONFETTI plays with the reality that planning a wedding has all of the best intentions, but can be brutal to carry out a dream concept. Matt and Sam are down-to-earth, trying to get their wedding paid for, while the other two couples want to win for different motives, and they’re completely ridiculous. The interviewees come off as completely heartfelt for the most part, and the reactions of the interviewers and everyone around them get the laughs. It’s a hidden gem.
– Jared McMillan
THE OFFICE (2005-2011)
Mockumentary hit a fever-pitch in American culture with the U.S. release of THE OFFICE. It introduced the world to Michael Scott (Steve Carell) in all of his glory. The filterless head honcho to fictional paper company Dunder Mifflin is a trifling idiot with a heart of gold. This was a star making role for Carell, who found an unprecedented realm of comedy that nobody has dared to cross prior, or been able to achieve since.
Carrell graced the show for seven seasons of belly-laughs that ranged from finger-peering moments of cringe in the workplace to hide-your-head-in-hole-and-die when witnessing his romantic exploits. THE OFFICE made for some of the best moments of laughter and genuine tears throughout its historic run as one of the most beloved (and ground-breaking) pieces of comedy.
– James Cole Clay
I’M STILL HERE (2010)
There are so many great mockumentaries and mockudramas out there to mention: THIS IS SPINAL TAP, Christopher Guest movies, Marlon Wayans movies, THE NAKED GUN, AIRPLANE!– the list goes on. But those are all probably a little too obvious.
One film that’s probably not that obvious is Casey Affleck’s I’M STILL HERE. You probably never saw it, but you’ve probably certainly heard of it. It was the movie that fooled us all into believing Joaquin Phoenix quit acting to become one sleazy, rap-loving stoner.
The film raises many interesting questions about celebrity culture, similarly to POPSTAR. However, unlike POPSTAR, it never really answers any of those questions convincingly.
Props to Phoenix for pulling off the ultimate magic trick and PRESTIG-ing us all, but it’s unfortunate it never really amounted to anything spectacular. Still, it’s a subject that’s worth digging into.
– Preston Barta
POPSTAR: NEVER STOP NEVER STOPPING opens in theaters tomorrow. Read our review here.