Video Mutants: Prince of theme parkness - Page 2

Damon Packard strikes back
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That film manipulates DVD featurettes from the newer Star Wars films, with wraparound footage (reaction shots, responses to conversations, the occasional porn snippet) adding a whole new level to the average Jedi's beef with Lucas. It's payback for Greedo shooting first and Jar Jar Binks, but to Packard, Lucas's addiction to technology is symptomatic of a bigger issue — how Hollywood films have changed dramatically in the past 30 years.

"I don't dislike Lucas," Packard noted, though a viewing of the hilarious Mockumentary might suggest otherwise. ("Angry black people became a strong inspiration for George," a faux Industrial Light and Magic animator notes while working on the schematics for a character described as Mace Windu's streetwise brother, pointedly referencing the observation that some of Lucas's Phantom Menace creatures seem ever so slightly racist.) "I would actually hope that he would have a good laugh at it if he ever saw it. [With Mockumentary] I was just expressing my disappointment in the new generation of Star Wars films and how Lucas has become part of that whole system of becoming obsessed with CGI and digital effects."

But Lucas is hardly alone, according to Packard. "It seems like all of the film industry is operating in this vacuum where they aren't aware of what they're doing. They're out of touch with what audiences are interested in seeing — [although] maybe it's just the reality that I'm experiencing. I don't understand how most [mainstream] films get green-lighted; it's just more of the same thing over and over, just variations on playing-it-safe themes, following the same formulas. Like Transformers. It was a film that I just — why? I was baffled by that film. It was kind of entertaining — I saw it in IMAX — but who would think that was a great idea? There's nothing new or special about doing a Transformers movie."

That's not to say Packard hates every new movie; you may have noticed he submitted a top 10 list to the Guardian's 2007 year in film issue, with favorites like No Country for Old Men and Paris, Je T'Aime. One of his friends in LA gave him a hard time for not including Sidney Lumet's Before the Devil Knows You're Dead.

"He was really upset," Packard said of the Dead fan. "He thinks it's Sidney Lumet's best film. I disagreed. I thought it was OK, but it doesn't compare to his early works at all. It would have been much better if it was made in the 1970s with a sleazier cast, sleazier characters, and not [set in] a modern strip mall. The characters didn't feel credible — they just weren't very interesting. Things aren't that interesting these days."

Watch a Packard film — and if you haven't, you must; Other Cinema is working on a release of SpaceDisco One for later in 2008, and at least one version of Reflections of Evil is available at Amazon.com — and it's clear he's inspired by the 1970s and more than a little nostalgic for them. At 40, he's too young to have been part of what he views as Hollywood's last golden age.

"The late '70s and early '80s were the beginning of the downfall of cinema — the beginning of the blockbuster film and special effects. Suddenly the quality levels, the character-driven films, were diminishing [in favor of] special-effects extravaganzas," he said. "If I went back in time, it would probably be even more difficult to get into the film business [than it is now]. Still, I think it was a better time in a lot of ways. My films are always making a statement about the way things have changed for the worse."

Though he's a YouTube user and sees the finer points of shooting on video (though he prefers film), Packard's view of his future as a filmmaker is surprisingly old-school.

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