A colleague once remarked that the greatest film Christopher Guest will ever make would be about the world of film critics. Just imagine the evisceration of such folks as Rex Reed and Roger Ebert (the latter’s latest prolonged hospital stay notwithstanding), and as many in Guest’s repertory are of the balding, middle-aged variety, it seems like a genius notion. There’s a few critics, and a whole lot of other space-takers, represented in For Your Consideration. This overcrowded and under-funny assault on Hollywood and the Academy Awards is the latest in Guest’s comedy factory of diminishing returns, and there is very little here you haven’t seen before. In the age of US Weekly and the like, what it parodies just isn’t enough to make us forget the scores of other movies that have mined this field.
For Your Consideration‘s central hook is a damn good one: the Oscar buzz that swirls around a crappy independent drama, an earnest Jewish holiday sobfest called Home for Purim, and how each felicitous leak about its production sends its cast and crew spiraling out of control in self-possessed narcissism. Its cast, including aging siren Marilyn (Catherine O’Hara), ultra-serious Victor (Harry Shearer), best known as playing a hot dog in a long-running commercial, and Kelly (Parker Posey), a harsh stand-up comic, all find themselves caught up in agents, handicappers, and even the evil clutches of an Entertainment Tonight-inspired TV staff (amusingly sent up by Jane Lynch and Fred Willard). But a crucial problem remains: the film they’re working on is so lame even Academy voters wouldn’t go for it, which throws everything off balance, and presents us lots of scenes of the cast tossing off ad libs that seem more apropos to outtakes than any film’s finished product (both in the film and the film-within-the-film). Guest even seems to be ripping off himself this time; his 1989 gem The Big Picture covered a lot of this same material with a higher rate of believability. Here, most of what you get is a bunch of people goofing off for their own benefit, with virtually no one in the cast performing to potential.
That is, except for one. O’Hara, one of comedy’s most unsung treasures, is the rare comic who never plays scenes for cheap laughs, and amazingly bags every one. Just as her sincere, heartfelt underplaying in Guest’s last effort, A Mighty Wind, saved that picture from collapsing into coyness, she shrewdly embodies the touchingly vulnerable Marilyn’s best and worst impulses. Sure, the movie takes great pains to highlight her foolishness (her gruesome extreme makeover in the film would be intolerable if not for O’Hara’s chops), but even in the more egregious moments, you see a real woman lurking within. For all of the throngs of people who needlessly crowd Guest’s every frame, all he really needs is a party of one.
The embarrassing image quality almost leads me to believe I didn't receive final product, but the shrink-wrap doesn't lie. This is the real deal and it's completely unacceptable: the junk around the film's title reminds me of the occasional scummy .jpg we find on the web that we have to clean up in Photoshop before passing off on the site as sparkling fresh, except no one bothered to clean up the noise around the letters here. Even worse, the film grain doesn't so much look like actual grain as it does amoeba-like goo. Combing is visible in spots, as is edge enhancement, but detail is so bad that the faces of the film's actors, especially in medium and long shots, are rendered almost invisible. Either I was having an acid trip while looking at the film or this is one of the worst transfers of a major DVD release I have ever seen.
Given the nature of the image quality, it is probably best if you listen to Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy's documentary from another room. Guest goes into dry, perplexing detail about the microphones that were pinned to his body, who the actors in the film are (like the unknown Sandra Oh), and how difficult it is for people who haven't worked for him before to walk onto one of his sets. Levy, who is rarely (actually, never) enjoyable on the big screen, provides the only useful commentary on the actual Oscar process the film lampoons. Rounding out the disc is a heaping batch of deleted scenes that run more than 30 minutes, a theatrical trailer, a Home for Purim poster gallery, and trailers for The Painted Veil, Music and Lyrics, and Lucky You.
The disc's image quality is so reprehensible it makes it impossible to enjoy Catherine O'Hara's great performance.