Sunday, September 11, 2016

Budz House (2012) and a Trope of an Opening

I’m going to be super forward this week in saying that the post will definitely be shorter than the past couple.  The last two weeks, I’ve written 3000-4000 words before editing.  As easy as the writing was because I had a fully formed idea, it was time consuming.  I don’t have that much time right now to flesh out a longer post.  School has started up and this has to be second priority to my schoolwork.  With that in mind, I’m still going to put effort into these posts and I’ll still try to give my usual level of quality (which, admittedly, isn’t anywhere near perfect).  I want to give anyone reading this a reason to keep reading.  I don’t want to let you guys down.  With all that said, let’s get onto this week’s post.

There has been a minor meme going around recently based on a cliché, somewhat irritating movie trope.  It’s the beginning of a movie.  Something crazy is happening.  The person who will be the main character is caught up in this event.  All of a sudden there’s a freeze frame or the character breaks the fourth wall and looks directly into the camera.  In many cases there is a record scratch sound effect that goes with it.  Then you hear something along the lines of “You might be wondering how I ended up in this situation.  Well, it’s a crazy story and it’s going to take a while to get into.  We have to go way back to…”  Then the movie flashes back to the beginning of the story and you get to see the events unfold.  You know the trope.

That trope has become a small meme, popping up every once in a while.  People will take a crazy looking screenshot and caption it with something like the quote I wrote out.  The fun they’re having is in turning every movie they know into one of these trope filled movies.  Things like this have happened before.  They will happen again.  But this one is strangely related to the movie I watched this week.

Budz House was released in 2011.  It followed a group of friends as they got wrapped up in the weed business.  Bud (Wesley Jonathan) was an aspiring comic book artist living in his mom’s house.  His friends JPeezy (J.T. Jackson), Pretty Tony (Aaron Scotti), and Ooley (Jorge Diaz) were always hanging around and smoking weed.  With the price of weed going up, they took it into their own hands to find some.  They stole it from Ooley’s cousin, Big Happy (Emilio Rivera).  After stashing the stolen weed under the porch, they discovered that it had grown into a secret grow op thanks to the poop dripping out of the pipes after Big Shitty (Faizon Love) clogged them.  One Punch (Gerald Kelly), the local drug lord, went after the friends to take back his turf while Big Happy went after them to get his product back.

If that sounds confusing, that’s because it is hard to explain the movie.  There wasn’t a single story that could sum up Budz House.  It was a series of small stories that happened one after the other.  There was the story about the mysterious dancing girl on the internet, followed by the story of getting more weed, followed by the story of selling the weed, followed by the story of Bud trying to sleep with the girl he thought was hot, followed by the bad guys going after Bud and his friends.  The stories didn’t overlap much.  They just happened to involve the same characters.  But that’s not what I want to write about.  What’s important is the beginning of Budz House.

The movie began with a bunch of people on a lawn pointing guns at each other.  They scuffled for a couple seconds before Bud turned to the camera.  There was no record scratch, but he was breaking the fourth wall.  That was enough.  He said that if you wanted to know what he did to have all of these people fighting each other, you would have to flash back to earlier in his life.  That was the only way to know what led to the current situation.  He also said the name of the movie.

Let’s break down the pros and cons of this sort of start to a movie.  There are two primary pros.  The first is that using a crazy moment can help to kick up the adrenaline of the viewers.  If you start the movie with action, it is easier to create interest.  This is especially true of stories that start slower.  The other point in the good column is that this kind of opening can create anticipation.  Viewers will want to know what unfolded to cause this event.  Why is the main character in the situation?  The movie spells that exact question out to you through narration or the speech of the main character.  In Budz House, it was Bud looking directly into camera and saying that you would need to flashback to understand.  The viewer looks forward to finding out how the things happened.

I would say that the cons greatly outweigh anything good from this kind of starting point.  Though the adrenaline is built up, it fades quickly.  In many cases, the rug is pulled out from under the viewer as soon as the real start of the story happens.  The introduction to the characters is much slower than the crazy scene.  It works with a cold open featuring James Bond because that resolves a mission and then you naturally begin a new one.  Showing a piece of a story then going back to the beginning without the resolution feels like it is cutting the momentum.  As for the anticipation, if you’re spending the movie trying to figure out how the events unfold, you aren’t giving enough focus to what is happening.  You’re watching characters get introduced but trying to put the pieces together and reach the end before the movie does.  The lack of focus can cause you to miss important details or completely lose interest before finding your answers.  It does a disservice to everyone.

Of course, this trope isn’t only apparent in bad movies.  There are critically acclaimed, hit movies that have managed to use this idea to a good effect.  The one I remember most, which isn’t quite the same because it lacks the narration or outright saying of “Can you believe this situation?” was Michael Clayton.  The movie began with a scene from later on, and the viewers spent the movie watching the events that led up to it.  The main note is that nothing points it out.  It just happens.  Maybe the thing that makes this trope so cheesy is that in many cases, filmmakers feel that their audience isn’t smart enough to understand what is happening without it being directly referenced.  Audiences aren’t that dumb.  They should get more credit.

With that trope going around the internet in meme form, it is apparent that many people know about the issues with it and are willing to parody it.  At the same time, proper parody needs some form of appreciation.  If you want to spoof this trope, you need to be able to appreciate it in all of its clichéd glory.  You need to appreciate it in movies like Michael Clayton, where it works well.  You also need to appreciate it in movies like Budz House where it doesn’t work as well.  Much like my love of movies, you need to be able to recognize the good and bad of something in order to fully understand it.
You can appreciate these notes as well:

  • Budz House was suggested by @the_gaming_king, who seems to be suspended from Twitter.  I’m going to link to that suspended account anyway.
  • Wesley Johnathan played Bud in Budz House.  You might remember him from Crossover.
  • Budz House also featured Faizon Love, who was in Torque.
  • Finally, Aldo Gonzalez was in Budz House, after already appearing in Date Movie.
  • Have you seen Budz House?  Have you seen this meme going around?  Do you know the trope?  You can discuss this stuff in the comments section below.
  • Are there any movies that you think I should watch for the Sunday “Bad” Movies?  You can tell me about them on Twitter or drop the suggestions in the comments.
  • I have a snapchat (jurassicgriffin) on which I sometimes put up clips of the bad movies I watch.  Add me if you want to see the movie clips I share.
  • Next week’s movie is the little known Redneck County Fever.  The only information I know about it is one of the actors, and I don’t know what character they play.  There is a black hole of information on this movie, so that will make for an interesting post.  Or not.  We’ll see next week.

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