THE DUKE WATCHES
NOTHING SO STRANGE
There are films in this world what are doing nothing more
radical than demanding the respect of the viewer. Films what
question us, the humble folks on the sofa, films what make us
think, and what fuel conversations for a good few days
afterwards.

And then we forget all about those films, those gallant
examples of their medium which, whilst being intellectually
and aesthetically pleasing, perhaps breaking any number of
rules and conventions before our very eyes, leave us cold when
the credits roll.

Nothing So Strange – “A New Film About The Assassination Of
Bill Gates”, is such a work. Easy to admire it certainly is,
but it is also, sadly, almost impossible to love.

Adopting the ever-so-cutting-edge-back-in-the-fifties approach
of the “mockumentary”, the film begins with a spot of the old
assassinating. Bill Gates (played by Steve Sires, who in fact
worked as a double for the man himself, until the release of
this film) steps onto a stage holding one of those big cheques
what folks like to give to charities now and again. A shot
rings out, he grabs his side and falls to his knees. Then his
head spits a load of the skull across the stage. Bill Gates is
dead.

From such a gleefully antagonistic opening, we could go
anywhere. What, pray tell, might Brian Flemming do with such
an arresting introduction? Might he use this as the basis to
expose and dissect any number of Gate’s real-life foibles and
corruptions, actions which have led to this fictional bullet-
bouncing? Might he ask questions about monopolies and what-
not, how other companies are being marginalised or devoured by
the gargantuan Microsoft Corporation?

No. What he wants to do is make a film about folks seek to
uncover who the assassin is. The fact that the victim was Bill
Gates is pure stunt-writing. It could just as easily have been
Jay Leno, or David Letterman, or Ice-T, and the plot need be
altered not one iota.

In an episode of Chris Morris’ fantastically vicious
Brass
Eye
, he interrupted proceedings to bring us a fake newscast.
British TV personality Clive Anderson had, it was revealed,
just been assassinated by Noel Edmonds, another Brit TV Fave.
The reporters went out to social gatherings and questioned
other celebrities, none of them aware that they were being
most heinously wound the fuck up, regarding this diabolical
act of celebrity skull-smashing.

It lasted no more than two minutes, and it was hilarious.

Nothing So Strange lasts an hour and 16 minutes longer than
that, but rather than being witty or insightful or challenging
for the duration, it quickly and depressingly runs out of
ideas. It has one joke, which it replays ad nauseum over and
over and over and over.

I mean, there’s only so many times that chicken can cross the
road before you wanna run the motherfucker down in a tank.

Certainly the film is plausible. It’s not that far from the
fetched to imagine such a situation occurring, and a cover-up
stemming from it all. The authorities, y’see, don’t want you
to know who really shot this fella what made the
Flight
Simulators
or whatever.

Also, the aesthetics of the piece are incredibly convincing,
utilising the news graphics and the CG Reconstructions and
what not. If you tuned in ten minutes late, you wouldn’t have
a clue it was a spoof. I mean, it's not like Bill Gates has
much to do with anything after the titles.

The Citizens For Truth outfit what
Nothing So Strange concerns
itself with actually bring to mind the fringe parties in
Life
Of Brian
, constantly sniping at one another and dissenting and
so on instead of focusing on the issues at hand. Of course,
Life Of Brian had other ideas, too, and jokes also, most of
them very, very funny.

The characters and events in
Nothing So Strange, though, with
the possible exception of hardcore-conspiracy theorist David
James, are crushingly dull to watch. They don’t have
subtleties or comedic timing, they just read lines, never
leaving an impression of any substantial import. It’s
convincing, but in the words of, I believe, Aristotle, “So the
hell what?”

The irony is that, had this been presented as a conventional
thriller type deal, it might actually have proved a much more
satisfying film. The documentary stylistics present the
“action” in a manner which demands our attention, and yet the
onscreen malarkey is so unspectacular you wonder why anyone
would bother shooting it.

It’s not that I expected to see the cannibals or the Hellboy’s
or nothing running about the place, but the script is so dry
you’re liable to get your ears all cut just listening to it.

But, however, there’s a thing to be discussed. (As
The Crying
Game
will no doubt have taught you, there is always a “thing”
hidden away somewhere amidst it all) The
thing is, y’see, the
passion what went into the creation of
Nothing So Strange is
on evidence throughout. And not just in the hour and 18
minutes of screentime, but on the web, even, in the shape of
The Citizens For Truth Website, for example, which led
indirectly to the crash of the South Korean Stock Market,
after a confused news reporter caught wind of the very-
convincing Bill Gates Is Dead theme of things.

This “web-universe” is arguably more interesting than the
film. The online presence was assisted by those fellas at
Haxan Films, the ones what brought us
Attack Of The Blair
Witch
or whatever, no strangers to online marketing themselves.

Then there’s the fact that several of the key scenes were
filmed at actual events with none but those involved in the
production having any idea that the antics were staged. At one
point David James interrupts a police-conference of some kind,
at another the Citizens For Truth make an impassioned (and
nonsensical) speech at a political rally, the spectators
cheering and applauding the demands for “truth” from the LAPD.

But all these stunts and all this marketing and what not mean
not a damn thing if the film can’t stand on its own outside of
it. If this shows up on telly or something, they’re not gonna
interrupt it every five minutes to say, “By the way, the
website was really convincing, is what” or “those
motherfuckers didn’t even know this was a film. Imagine how
ridiculous they feel, like when Ali G says a funny question to
Buzz Aldrin or some shit.”  

For that kind of information, you would imagine you’d need a
DVD Commentary, which, thankfully, is included on the disc of
this very flick.

For the first ten minutes, the commentary is excellent.
Director Brian Flemming worked as a DVD Critic at a time (by
the way,
The Duke would like to point out that DVD Critics
are, in fact, the scum of all earth and should be hunted down
and torched, but sent free DVD’s also), and proceeds to mock
directors who waste the yack-track by saying stuff like, “And
now we see so-and-so reaching down for a bottle of beer” or
“this is such-and-such going to the store, where, you’ll see,
he gets some soda. Oh look. That’s the soda right there. He’s
just gonna pay for it now.” You know the typea crap I refer to.

Unfortunately, Flemming goes on to conduct a commentary which
is, I believe, at least 78% more pointless than those mocked
hitherto. Crushingly, he decides that the thing to do would be
to call in the actors and have them “play their part” and so
on, like it was all “real”. So we get what amounts to two
phone calls playing over the film, in which the “characters”
talk a load of horseshit about “yeah, I liked the documentary”
or “no, I didn’t like that bit” and so on.

Even when
Spinal Tap did that, it still annoyed the hell out
of
The Duke, and they were funny, man.

A film with such an amazing behind-the-scenes tale deserves a
commentary what discusses such nonsense. In case these folks
don’t know, we’re pretty sure that this is all, y’know,
“fictional”.

Imagine if “Dr. Spock” provided the sole commentary on a
Wrath
Of Khan
disc. You’d spit your coffee or whatever beverage you
were drinking right across the room. You wanna hear the
stories, man, you don’t want this fella yacking about “Yeah…
um…. I didn’t like the movie cause it portrayed me in a bad
light.”

Fucking hell, Nimoy, you try that shit and I’ll slap you good,
man.   

I honestly can’t see a reason for watching this a second time.
I would buy it, but purely because it’s an interesting example
of Internet / film convergence, and being a pretentious kinda
motherfucker I’d like to have it in the house just in case
Richard Dyer or somebody needs a copy for to talk to the
students.  

But it suffers so badly from “so what?” syndrome, you can feel
the apathy dripping from your very bones as yet another
rambling conspiracy is unravelled, one that has no bearing on
nothing or nobody. It doesn’t matter that it looks authentic,
it plainly isn’t.

When we go to the cinema we suspend our disbelief, and even
though it’s some shit like
Austin Powers – Pet Detective or
whatever, we get emotionally involved.

Nothing So Strange, however, suffers because it so constantly
attempts to underline it’s
credibility that it simply reminds
us of the falseness of it all. It’s impossible to feel
attached to these people, because whilst the actors are
fantastic throughout, the characters are the kinda people you
end up sitting next to at weddings and then falling out with
the rest of your family on account of, cause they seated you
beside these monotonous boring wretches.

There’s no tension, no sense of drama, no memorable scenes
(excepting one at the beginning, which involves Mr James and
his diorama) and nothing to latch onto emotionally.

The marketing is fantastic, the care and attention to detail
is stunning, the respect for the folks what like the flick is
heart-warming (the web-site,
NothingSoStrange.com offers a
wealth of extras that they couldn’t fit onto DVD), and the
determinedly independent spirit is inspiring. For example,
Nothing So Strange is the first-ever “open-source” film.
Whilst the finished work is copyrighted, the raw material is
not, so folks like
The Duke who thought it was a wasted
opportunity can grab all the footage and make their own
version, without having to pay a cent in royalties.

So like I said, it is entirely admirable, and definitely
demanding of respect, but try as I might, I just couldn’t like
it.

Sorry folks.

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