Film Scouts Reviews

"The Last Big Thing"

by Karen Jaehne

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It takes a lot of nerve to be Dan Zukovic. Almost as much gall as
he's written into the character of Simon Geist whom he plays with
something bordering on obsessive true conviction.

Zukovic is trying to nail our culture's - or make that California's -
shallow, sit-com obsessed notions of glamour and greatness in art. He
rails because "great" is thoughtlessly applied to everything from
Hieronymous Bosch to Michael Jackson with no thought to differentiate
art from entertainment. The most useful distinction I've seen lately
is that entertainment reinforces images and ideas we know; art
challenges them and requires thought, possibly even dissent.

Zukovic finds the great category of greatness most deficient for
failing to include Zukovic, which has driven him into the league of
glory-seekers who have to do it all themselves: the auteur comedians.

It would help if he were funny. His physical appearance, with
deep-set eyes, a downward arching mouth and prominent point on his
nose, doesn't lend itself to humor. He's frightening without being
eerie or intriguing, as good villains are. Nor does the character he
creates out of Simon Geist have a simple human trait where we can
sympathize and join him in his distrust and disapproval of popular
culture. We do that with Woody Allen, because he presents his hapless
insights at about the same level as a stubbed toe; and he's always
able to laugh at himself. Not so Simon Geist. His anger is sharp and
tries to take aim with very clever words and concepts, and yet these
are too often mishandled - albeit not intentionally. Sadly, there is
no unintentional humor, either.

The Last Big Thing is unfortunately unfunny. Zukovic bends and
distorts all the characters to an unpleasant degree and, because it's
all over-written, none of the actors' performances manage to speak for
themselves. For the first third of the movie, you wait in
anticipation of a figure by which we will measure all the distortions;
but there is no ground zero.

The poseurs whom Geist and Zukovic want to skewer turn out to be
people who go to some length to play a practical joke on Geist,
mocking him because he lives in the suburbs and his neighbors are
weird. The neighbors are weird - they're just not credible. Nor is
Geist. Nor is the idea that these wannabe actors would go to so much
trouble, because Geist had interviewed them for a phoney magazine.
There are lots of phoney magazines, especially here on the net. And
there are days when we're none too sure about ourselves here at

You see, Zukovic wants to be a grumpy intellectual editing The Nation.
But so far there's no reason to think he has control of the concepts
of manufacturing consent, for example, which is one thing he's trying
to get at in mass entertainment. Or any other of the leftist liberal
ideas that keep people griping about too much democracy, or at least,
the kind where the Pope, Micky Mouse and Mary Baker Eddy each get one

The Last Big Thing is an interesting film for publicists to describe
and they have - very successfully! But it's a miserable viewing
experience, something like watching somebody clown around with the
idea of hanging himself as a joke - and, in the end, seeing him

I believe the essential problem is rooted, as with many independent
films, in lack of story. Story is hard. Plot should not be
underestimated. It's beginning to be clear that Generation X art is
impatient with story. They want - as with Zukovic - whole worlds and
esthetic concepts to be evoked by, for example, a chrome garbage can,
because it distorts your face when you look in it, a la Edvard Munch's
The Scream. Zukovic intended it to invoke Starbucks, but that's
assuming a lot. Why is it not funny? Perhaps because we, too, are
tired of these symbols and cultural cliches.

There's sometimes when a garbage can is just a garbage can and should
be used as such. Clearly, Zukovic didn't use his for the right thing.

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