Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Box Office: Director KO'd His Critics

Wired reports on filmmaker-boxer Uwe Boll, below, pummeling movie critics. In Harper's, Matthew Power writes a finely detailed account of dump scavengers in Manila.
Wired reports on filmmaker-boxer Uwe Boll, pummeling movie critics.

By Peter Carlson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 19, 2006; C01

Maybe Uwe Boll really is "quite possibly the worst filmmaker in the world," as Wired magazine describes him, but he has done something that every filmmaker in history has dreamed of doing but none -- not Fellini, not Spielberg, not Hitchcock, not Kurasawa -- has ever accomplished: He challenged his critics to a fistfight and then met them in a boxing ring and proceeded to . . . well, we don't want to get ahead of the story, do we?

Boll, 41, is a German director who makes cheese-ball movies based on popular video games: "BloodRayne" and "The House of the Dead" and "Alone in the Dark" and the forthcoming "Dungeon Siege," starring Burt Reynolds.

"His movies are haphazardly scripted, sloppily edited, badly acted and, most crucially, brutally received," writes Chris Baker in "Raging Boll" in the December Wired. It's an evaluation that is apparently much kinder than Boll usually receives. His films are brutally savaged by the kind of online critics who take video games and the movies based on them very seriously.

"Boll is destroying the childhoods and fond gaming memories of internet nerds across the country with each and every cinematic bastardization he produces," harrumphed an online site called Something Awful.

That kind of mean, nasty comment hurts Boll deep down in his sensitive artistic soul. So last summer, Boll, who is an amateur boxer, challenged his critics to meet him in a boxing ring in a casino in Vancouver. Needless to say, most of the critics wimped out, Baker reports in Wired, but four were brave enough, or crazy enough, to take him up on the offer.

"The first challenger: webmaster and CEO of Something Awful, Richard "Lowtax" Kyanka!" the ring announcer bellowed as the crowd roared.

Kyanka, the guy responsible for that "cinematic bastardization" review, climbed into the ring wearing red, white and blue trunks and waving American flags.

That didn't help. Boll hammered him to the canvas in less than two minutes, leaving the battered critic muttering, "You hit me in the face!" as if he was surprised at that.

"Our second con-test-aant -- film critic for Ain't It Cool News, Jeff Snei-der!" the ring announcer bellowed.

Sneider bobbed and weaved through the first round but Boll caught him in the second and pounded him to the canvas, twice. A few minutes later, the unhappy critic was vomiting and sucking oxygen from a medical mask.

The third critic, Chris Alexander, who writes for a horror magazine called Rue Morgue, arrived wearing bat wings, a silver mask and fake fangs. Striding the ring, he spouted Aliesque poetry: "We're gonna put him to bed for House of the Dead ! We're gonna feed him to the sharks for Alone in the Dark ! He's gonna be feeling pain for making BloodRayne !"

Alas, Alexander's poetry proved more Aliesque than his boxing. Boll popped him with a couple of vicious shots to the cranium and the critic surrendered.

Boll's fourth opponent was Chance Minter, a 17-year-old amateur boxer from Frederick, Md. Minter isn't a critic and he'd never written a word about Boll, but he volunteered to fight anyway. Boll pounded him in the guts while Minter's mom screamed, "Move around, Chance! Hit back!"

But it was too late. When the night ended, the record was: Boll 4, Critics 0, Kid from Frederick 0.

Boll grabbed the microphone. "[Bleep!] critics!" he bellowed. "I hit them so hard they have brain damage! They love my movies now!"

It was a great moment in the history of movies, though probably not such a great moment in the history of movie criticism. I like to think that The Post's illustrious film critics, Slammin' Steve Hunter, Ann "the Anvil" Hornaday and Desson "the Destroyer" Thomson, would put up a better fight. Hell, I'd pick any one of them in a mano a mano match with, say, Woody Allen.

Boll has fulfilled the fantasy of every auteur who ever shouted "Cut!" Shouldn't he get some kind of special Academy Award for this? The poor guy will never get one any other way.