Thursday, April 24, 2008

Ah, I Hit The Trifecta

I know that Schadenfreude is unbecoming, but I'm already going to hell, anyway, so what the fuck.

You've no doubt heard of Expelled, Ben Stein's new polemic about the evils of evolution. Supposedly an expose about a plot by the scientific-industrial complex ("Big Science," in the film's parlance) to silence the voices of brave scientists who buck the theory of evolution, it apparently goes off the rails and draws a line from Darwin to the Holocaust. Which I suppose was necessary, as said plot doesn't actual exist so you couldn't make much of a movie about it, but that's not really the point.

The point is that at every turn, the makers of Expelled have fallen flat on their creationist faces and I'm enjoying it mightily.

For one thing, the film's reviews have been completely atrocious. At Rotten Tomatoes, it's gotten an average of 10% (out of 100, of course), which you'd think a test pattern could beat. But don't take my word for it. How about USA Today, which gave it half a star (out of four) and said:

There's plenty of rhetoric and posturing, but not much truly intelligent debate, in this controversial documentary about evolution. Co-writer and host Ben Stein is startlingly one-sided in his unnatural selection of experts.
Or The Onion's AV Club, which handed out a rare "F" grade, and said:
Expelled is a classic bait-and-switch, presenting itself as a plea for freedom in the scientific marketplace of ideas, while actually delivering a grossly unfair, contradictory, and ultimately repugnant attack on Darwinists, whose theory of life is first described, in frustratingly vague terms, as 'unintelligible' and 'a room full of smoke,' then as a pathway to atheism, and finally as a Nazi justification for the Holocaust.
Or Entertainment Weekly, which hands out a "D" grade, and says:
Regardless of your personal views, Expelled's heavy-handed bias (a visit to Darwin's home gets the same eerie music as a tour of Dachau) is exasperating. By the time the camera zooms in on the word 'Creator' in the Declaration of Independence, the whole debate seems less urgent than getting out of the theater.
And, finally, the New York Times:
One of the sleaziest documentaries to arrive in a very long time, 'Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed' is a conspiracy-theory rant masquerading as investigative inquiry.

* * *

Mixing physical apples and metaphysical oranges at every turn 'Expelled' is an unprincipled propaganda piece that insults believers and nonbelievers alike. In its fudging, eliding and refusal to define terms, the movie proves that the only expulsion here is of reason itself.
Ouch! And that's just the actual film critics! Folks who have no vested interest in anything other than seeing better movies. The scientific critiques are even more withering, if that's possible.

But that's just one way in which the film has flopped. It's also committing the ultimate Hollywood sin - it's not making money.

It launched on 1000 screens (the widest documentary release ever) and had a heavy PR program. In a prerelease article in the LA Times, the executive producer suggested that it might beat the record documentary opening weekend of $23.9 million for Fahrenheit 9/11. Not quite - it brought in just under $3 million - one seventh of it's hoped for haul. Not something likely to shift a debate that most people realize isn't really necessary in the first place.

And that would be enough, but the cherry on top is that the filmmakers have pissed of Yoko Ono. And she's coming after them:
John Lennon's sons and widow, Yoko Ono, are suing the filmmakers of 'Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed' for using the song 'Imagine' in the documentary without permission.

* * *

Ono, her son Sean Ono Lennon, and Julian Lennon, John Lennon's son from his first marriage, along with privately held publisher EMI Blackwood Music Inc filed suit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan seeking to bar the filmmakers and their distributors from continuing to use 'Imagine' in the movie.

They are also seeking unspecified damages.
The Expelled guys are claiming fair use, but that sounds like a post hoc rationalization rather than a winning legal strategy. We'll see. Of course, given how poorly the film's performed, there won't be any profits from which Yoko and crew can get any damages!

* Tee Hee! *

Maia Sez: Yup, it's unbecoming. But these schmucks deserve it!

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