Saturday, August 11, 2007

2007 DEAD CHANNELS: POSTALThe Evening Class Interview With Uwe Boll

In appreciation that Bruce Fletcher programmed his latest film Postal at the historic Castro Theatre as the opening night feature for Dead Channels, Uwe Boll presented Bruce with a t-shirt that read: "This shirt was funded with Nazi Gold."

By way of introduction to Postal, Boll sourced his film to the Running With Scissors video game of the same name, which is allegedly not allowed in Northern territories because you can shoot and piss on children, and Bush and Bin Laden. Basically, Boll enthused, Postal broke all the rules.

At the same time, when he sat down to write the first draft of Postal, Boll was equally broken because Bloodrayne had bombed at the box office. He thought, "Ah fuck" and decided to finally write a script again, like he used to when he started making movies. He was pissed about himself, his career, the reviews, but especially by so much of what is going on in the world, all of which keenly influenced the writing. Postal became not only a movie made out of the video game; but, in a further sense, "Postal is post-apocalyptic."

Boll finds it "kind of funny" that people support Al Gore's movie and the Bill Clinton Foundation—even though it's admittedly a good AIDS foundation—while we're still all moving closer to the edge and down the drain. "Politics," he asserts, "have no power anymore. We're trying to save the Earth but the people that rule us are fucking retards." On one hand, stupid Islamic terrorists are completely flipping out and—on the other hand—Bible Belt retards are completely flipping out. Aid keeps funneling to the weapon and oil industries, and when all these factors come together, "We are in the middle; We go down the drain." His main reason for making Postal was to hit really hard with a film the major studios would never do.

When Postal finally wrapped, Boll showed it to the first major studio who expressed interest in distributing it. The studio's representative laughed his ass off but said, "This is a movie that everyone wants to see but nobody will distribute it. Sorry." Boll persevered and now there is a prospective release date in October; but, he's nonetheless having problems with powers that have political issues with the film who are trying to force him to cut it before they will screen it in their theaters.

Then he got sued by The New York Post. After seeing no more than 20 seconds of the film, The Post published a negative review, labeling it unpatriotic for spoofing the victims of 9/11. Boll countered that what he thought was unpatriotic was sending young people to Iraq to die every day in the streets and that President Bush—with all of his lies—should be in jail for what he's done to this country. Complicating matters, on his flight to San Francisco he checked his Blackberry and found out the MPAA had disapproved Postal's website, demanding its removal before allowing the movie American distribution. So with these purposeful attempts to block distribution of the film, the October release date might be in jeopardy.

Twitch teammate Collin Armstrong colored himself excited when the first YouTube trailers emerged for Uwe Boll's Postal and Todd Brown followed suit and ate crow, declaring Postal was "brash, bold, smart when called for and stupid when required and—most importantly—…frequently and intentionally laugh out loud funny."

Count me among those entertained by this film. Lovers of the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker films (Kentucky Fried Movie, Airplane!, The Naked Gun, etc.) will feel right at home with the film's broad comedy; but, it's the film's punctuated moments of acerbic political satire grounded on the strength of its convictions that lift it above mere slapstick (even if not as often as I would have preferred). Without question, the film's opening sequence is darkly brilliant, enough so to piss off The New York Post.

Protagonist "Postal Dude" (Zack Ward) lives in a rundown trailer park with an obese shrew of a wife in a town pointedly named Paradise. Graffiti on the walls proclaim: "Paradise sucks." I suspect that dispersion refers not only to the setting of our story but to the notions of divine real estate on both sides of the Atlantic—name your faith—both gung-ho intent on achieving Paradise even if it costs us Earth. Hopefully, amidst the laughs, Postal will encourage questioning such ambitious zealotry.

The film was received well by its Castro audience, several of the cast members joined Uwe Boll on stage for a Q&A (which I'll transcribe in due course), and after generously signing autographs and allowing himself to be photographed with fans, Uwe and I sat down for a quick talk.

* * *

Michael Guillén: Uwe, I'm not a gamer. I don't play video games; but, I do love my comics. So I'm curious what the difference is between adapting a video game into a movie and a comic book into a movie? And how do the respective industries support or not support such film adaptations?

Uwe Boll: There are two things. In a game, you have a lot of visual ideas basically for art design, for fighting styles, for props, wardrobe, even more than you get from a comic book. A game is more "filmish" compared to making a movie out of a comic book. On the other hand, it's tougher to fulfill what you have in a game and bring it all to the screen. Also, on Postal, we could pick only a few things of what you do basically in the game—like the trailer park, the big wife, the cat [as] a silencer, the dog, the welfare office—these things are also in the movie; but, if you don't put them together in a real story, you have no movie. The biggest problem with the videogame-based audience is that they have the movie built in their heads already—they play the game over and over again—so you cannot satisfy these people.

Guillén: Does that account for the fierce criticism you receive from a constituency you would assume would like your film? They've come to the theater with too many preconceptions?

Boll: Absolutely. You can do whatever you want but you'll [still] get bashed. This is the thing. If I talk to gamers—and I go to game conventions also—I say, "Look, are you not in general happy that someone made a movie out of [this game]?" Right? And then they admire it all; but, I have that feeling also that—the 2,000-3,000 people on the Internet who are constantly kicking my ass are more the people that really don't like it—but, there are maybe 20,000-40,000 people that don't go on the Internet and they are gamers and they like it.

With every movie—House of the Dead, Alone in the Dark or Bloodrayne—in the U.S. alone over a million DVDs [sold], huge numbers. Only big movies like Underworld that make $40-$50 million box office sell [that] amount of DVDs. If nobody likes [my films], I don't know why anybody buys [them].

Guillén: In your introduction, you touched upon The New York Post lawsuit as a conservative effort to halt distribution of Postal. Is it true that the Red Cross has also sued you? Because of the brief allusion to Dr. Mengele's First Aid Station?

Boll: A company [complained] saying they represented the Red Cross; but, we don't [directly] make fun of the Red Cross in the movie. I think the Red Cross does a great job; but, look, if [we] can't parody, if we can't make a gag out of anything anymore, then what are we doing here? The same with The New York Post. I would not have started that New York Postal website if they wouldn't have written that article about the movie after only seeing 20 seconds of the film on YouTube. I said, "Give the movie a chance. See the whole movie before you write something. Or interview me at the same time you write an article about the 9/11 victims and print what I say about them." But they didn't do that. That pissed me off so I thought, "Okay, let's make fun of The New York Post." [The New York Postal website basically replicated the look of The New York Post with mock news, prompting The New York Post to sue for copyright infringement.] The New York Post is not the best newspaper in the world, yeah? And this is the point, not only freedom of speech but the right to make fun of something. It's allowed. I don't know how many gags I've seen on MadTV or Comedy Central where they use a Coca Cola or a MacDonald's sign and make a gag out of it and that doesn't mean it brands that [signage] as a piece of shit. In a way, The New York Post should be happy that we made a little fun of them.

Guillén: You gave them a little bit of publicity. Lord knows I've never paid attention to The New York Post before this brouhaha. Speaking of Comedy Central, I understand they are backing you up in trying to help distribute Postal?

Boll: Yeah. I was very surprised by the South Park people. They actually liked the movie and [they said] we can actually use South Park lines and use Postal as a presenter of the new South Park episodes in September. It's great because South Park has power. I hope this will help us a little.

Guillén: What I admired in your objection to The New York Post article was your criticism of the American canonization of the victims of 9/11. Tragically, they are victims—no doubt about it—but this strategic shift to transform them into victim-heroes hazards dangerous consequences. This subject came up recently for me in an interview with Steven Okazaki and his documentary White Light, Black Rain, where he likewise objected to the tendency to transform victims into heroes or saints. What is that hypocrisy in Americans to sanctify our victims while turning away from—let's say—all the victims at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or the victims in Rwanda and Darfur? Why should our victims be more sancrosanct than the victims of other countries?

Boll: I wasn't in America during 9/11 but I shot Postal after. It was the biggest terrorist attack ever. The whole world was shocked. The whole world was ready to join forces—and did—with America to find the terrorists [and bring them to justice]. But one or two weeks after the attack, in America the political power—the Bush party basically—they turned it into [a strategy] of using that attack to fulfill [their] obligations to the oil and weapons industries. They made something up. It was important to stylize the victims of 9/11 as heroes. Everyone in the World Trade Center was not a victim of a terrorist attack, they were heroes.

Though it's a slightly different subject matter, that's why I was super pissed about Oliver Stone making [World Trade Center]. A guy like him 15-20 years ago—when he was maybe not so desperate to make some money—would never have made a movie like [World Trade Center]. For me, this was a shocking element that Hollywood can now buy an Oliver Stone to make a movie like this; the same guy who did Salvador, JFK, Born on the 4th of July and Platoon, where he criticized American [political policy]. This was shocking. That was also one of the reasons why I [included] that [opening] scene in Postal; to say, look, if everybody says these people are heroes, then one must say the opposite side, even if it's also wrong. You have to play the devil's advocate. You have to present the other point of view.

Guillén: One final question, you did Postal at the same time you did Seed. How did you handle the two projects together?

Boll: We shot Seed first and then Postal but I wrote both at the same time. Seed was a project I had long in development and Seed is actually like the dark brother of Postal. They are both dark movies; but, in Seed there is no humor. Seed is about the death penalty that suggests maybe we all deserve to be killed; that maybe the planet would be better off without humans. Seed is the bitter, depressing brother of Postal. It helped [to write both at the same time] because in Postal there is also a lot of hate. It helped to write something parallel that was depressing. Otherwise, Postal might have been way more depressing.

Cross-published at Twitch.