As regular readers know, as much as I try to cover the wide world of psychotronics, my one true love is horror. And this love has introduced me to wonderful artists like JR Bookwalter and Michael Kallio. And most recently, it introduced me to a comedy duo, Diani & Devine.
Not surprisingly, I discovered them through a horror-comedy, The Selling. I originally watched it with my long-time (Over 3 decade!) horror-film watching friend Andrea. And I don’t ever recall hearing her laugh so much in a movie. That doesn’t just mean it’s funny; it means that it is clever.
I then shared it with my friend Elizabeth and my sister Kim. They loved it too. But after the film, I went on a 15-minute rant about how outrageous it was that people could make such a great film and not then have Hollywood shower them with money for the next decade.
It’s my usual complaint: there are a lot of really creative people who never get the respect that I (the only one who matters) think they should. But I’m not an idiot. One of my all-time favorite films is Death Bed: The Bed That Eats. But I understand why most people hate it and why no one is bringing George Barry to Hollywood. What I do not understand is why anyone would think the same of The Selling.
Could it be an example of, “The reason your work has not been successful may not be because it is not good; it may be because it is good”? Probably not that exactly. But it doesn’t speak well of the film industry that there have only been two feature films from this group.
Diani & Devine Meet the Apocalypse
I agreed to watch this film with Elizabeth and Kim next weekend. But I couldn’t wait. And I was not disappointed.
The first shot in the film is delightful. It’s better than anything in the horribly-titled Last Man on Earth TV series.
But then it spent 8 minutes, very humorously, showing what life must be like for talented people like them in Hollywood.
In fact, there’s a wonderful joke that involves the elitism of a studio executive mentioning that he went to Northwestern. I find that especially delicious because I come from academia and while that school has cachet among many people, most people on the inside don’t think much of it. But the point of the joke is that SF State is looked down on by the Hollywood elite.
The main point of that scene, however, is to highlight how craven the executive is. He insults them over and over again. But it isn’t him doing it. He’s just explaining what others in the business would say. And this kind of resistance to owning opinions leads to a culture that is always pushing the same old thing.
That Feeling When…
This really depressed me. It’s one thing for me to live my life thinking that Hollywood is terrible and that brilliant people I admire are ignored by it. It’s quite another to see those very people say, “Yep! You’re right!”
But I soldiered on. And Diani & Devine Meet the Apocalypse showed that The Selling was no accident. It’s another film that makes you laugh out loud even when you’re sitting alone in front of your computer monitor.
And that’s just depressing. Is it just not worth investing money into stuff that seems like it was created for me and my friends? Truly: I don’t think so. I think either of these films would be a huge success at a comic convention. I think there’s an audience for this film and it’s just that the elites in Hollywood aren’t interested in looking for new audiences when they already know what plays for the 16-year-old American and the general Chinese audiences.
Some Good News
But there is good news. There are a lot of great people who have worked on both these films. Barry Bostwick has a wonderful part in the first film (and a lesser part in the second) and Jonathan Silverman has an amazing part in the second film. Janet Varney is great in both.
The films feature relatively small crews including others who have tilled the low-budget cinematic soil — like editor Chad Meserve and cinematographer Matthias Schubert (whose career has really taken off the last few years).
There is also some mention of their screenplay “Don’t Be Evil” being optioned by “Academy Award-winning producers.” Almost nothing optioned ever gets made. But it’s still great news!
Add to this the general level of professionalism of all aspects of these films. It speaks to a general respect for Diani & Devine’s work. So I don’t doubt that more films will come — eventually.
Not that this makes me any less angry that for every Marvel film, we could have a thousand The Selling and Diani & Devine Meet the Apocalypse. That’s nothing against Marvel films. But really: those films spend more on sound sweetening than a dozen charming and hilarious comedies. Or terrifying and gory horror films. Or whatever.
I guess we should be impressed that there is a DVD release of The Selling. (I just ordered it but I won’t be surprised if it comes with no extras like another outstanding film, He Never Died.) Diani & Devine Meet the Apocalypse has apparently not been released on DVD. (Why not?! Does it cost that much to create an MOD with an outfit like Makeflix? That’s an honest question; I really don’t know.)
But both films are available on Amazon Prime. And yes, Amazon sucks. But they offer a much better selection of psychotronic films than Netflix.
Do yourself a favor: watch these films! They are so good. Also: fuck Hollywood!
Afterword: Some Analysis
I like these films for a lot of reasons. They aren’t just funny (not that they need to be). In particular, The Selling presents a more honest rendering of male friendships than I’ve recently seen on film.
Overall, the films depict sweet relationships without ever falling into sentimentality. That’s especially true of the ending of The Selling, which could so easily have been horrible. These films manage to do something that is very rare: be edgy and even cynical while being positive.
Both films are more or less themes and variations. The Selling is effectively 3 short films based on the idea of a real estate agent stuck with a haunted house. Diani & Devine Meet the Apocalypse is more freewheeling but the same: variations on the apocalypse. Sadly, I can’t think of a single sketch-based SNL film that manages to create a cohesive whole the way these films do.
There are also important thematic elements in both films. But they can be mined any way you like. How about a leftist interpretation?
The Selling is a searing indictment of how capitalism changes human behavior from fundamentally decent and civic-minded to alienating and predatory. Diani & Devine Meet the Apocalypse shows how capitalism turns humans into commodities whether by studio executives or hunting lodge members.
The point is that these films are artistic efforts deep enough to think about how ever you like.
There’s more to say and hopefully there will be more films to allow me to make more generalizations. Watch them and you’ll see what I mean!