Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Matt Ogens, "Confessions of a Superhero" (2007).

Last night I felt the need to kick back by myself and absorb a movie. I used to do that all the time, and the habit resulted in multiple posts with reviews. Lately I haven't made the time to see films by myself, and it was refreshing to have the opportunity to do so. I could have wasted ten or fifteen minutes agonizing over what title to pick. I certainly have a large stockpile of shrink-wrapped and unwatched DVDs waiting for me. But for some reason, I knew ahead of time that I wanted to see a documentary that I recently acquired called Confessions of a Superhero. It was produced by Morgan Spurlock (of Supersize Me fame) and directed by newcomer Matt Ogens. I had heard from others that it was well worth watching.

Ogens somehow became fascinated by the costumed characters that pose for photographs with tourists in front of Mann's Chinese Theater in Hollywood. These folks aren't affiliated with the business attached to the sidewalk they haunt, and in some ways they are really just glorified pan-handlers. Supposedly there are up to 70 different people donning tights, capes and whatnot to hustle dollars from the rubes. There is a Ghost Rider, a dude from Hellraiser, an Elmo, a Cookie Monster, a Chewbacca, a couple of Marilyn Monroes, and a handful of Spidermen. Certainly the assortment of masked freaks changes with the times, depending upon whatever pop culture items are currently in vogue.

But the director of Confessions wisely concentrated on four individuals who apparently had the most intriguing personal stories. We meet Jennifer Wenger (Wonder Woman), Maxwell Allen (Batman), Joe McQueen (The Incredible Hulk), and Christopher Dennis (Superman). It's easy to identify Dennis right off the bat as the informal leader and unofficial representative of the profession. His obsession with the caped hero seems to overwhelm almost every other aspect of his life. Footage of the small apartment he shares with his wife discloses an environment chock-a-bloc with collectibles and memorabilia, all devoted to the worship of the man from Kal-El. And yet somehow that's not even the weirdest part of his personal story.

One might expect anyone that dresses up in costume in order to bum money from strangers to be eccentric, and the folks that Ogens highlights are certainly not exceptions. The girl that plays Wonder Woman was reportedly Ms. Popularity back in high school, and she is probably the most normal of the bunch. I assume she was chosen to add a sexy element to the proceedings. McQueen also seems fairly sane, despite the fact that he spent a number of years as a homeless man, and his decision to appropriate an identity that entails wearing a suffocating body suit in a climate that often exceeds 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The George Clooney lookalike that plays Batman, on the other hand, is completely off his gourd.

If you don't feel at least a little bit sorry for these posers, then I suspect that you aren't fully human. Without exception, they have all landed in their silly outfits in order to "make it" in the Hollywood film industry. It doesn't seem like any wild stretch to predict that they will all inevitably fail in this quest. Yet somehow they have found a means to stay in the public eye, and engage the world of entertainment that they love. Is what these people do any more ridiculous or pathetic then dressing up in a mouse costume in Disney World? Yes, they depend on the largess of passersby to make their living... but at least they work for themselves and control their own destinies. And they all get to appear in this beautifully-shot flick.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

This (costumed panhandling) is apparently a worldwide phenomenon. We encountered a number of Roman legionnaires outside the Coliseum in Rome, and Don Quixote in Madrid, and white-faced mimes both outside of the Paris Hotel in Vegas and on a Quebec street, all fancifully outfitted and posing with tourists for money. Tacky? Perhaps. There seemed to be enough takers, and no one was forced into grabbing this one-time memento. At least the outfits fit the location. No, they were not annoying. Except for the Marcel Marceau mimes, of course... they should simply be flogged on principle.

7:49 AM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

I think mimes have gotten a rotten deal for years... that's not to say that I want to see them on my street though. They are kind of creepy in a bad way.

8:26 PM  

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