Listen Up 

People hate Uwe Boll with a seething virulence generally reserved for Judas Iscariot, unrepentant puppy-kickers, and those asshole skeleton guys from The Karate Kid. A Google search for the über-embattled German director — purveyor of such unanimously assailed video-game-based fare as House of the Dead, Alone in the Dark, and BloodRayne — yields links such as Uweboll.com (“Dear Dr. Boll … please stop making movies,”), Bollbashers.com, Uwebollisantichrist.com, and an online petition appending 14,474 signatures to a statement that reads, in part: “We, the undersigned, respectfully ask that Uwe Boll … stop directing, producing, or taking any part in the creation of feature films.” Perhaps an even more telling example of the pervasiveness of the anti-Boll unified front is the site Uwebollsucks.com, a Boll-unrelated ad-portal page that appears to have co-opted the presumably fetching domain name simply to use it as bait.

Boll’s response to his critics, particularly those online (even more particularly, those on the Internet Movie Database, who have consistently voted House, Alone, and BloodRayne onto the site’s “Bottom 100” list), has proven the most interesting aspect of the still-unfolding saga. The filmmaker has returned fire — in interviews, in press releases, even on the director’s commentary on the Alone in the Dark DVD — saying that his critics are mean-spirited and attack his films (sometimes without having seen them) because it’s fashionable to do so. (Indeed, one blog by a Florida visual artist admits to having seen only one Boll film, but nonethless labels him “Hitler’s Favorite Director.”) The best sparring, however, is likely yet to come. In a fantastically maniacal, almost Bond-villainish move that could bump him past Ed Wood in terms of notoriety, a fed-up Boll issued a press release in June, announcing a “Put Up or Shut Up” contest: In late September, five outspoken (male) critics will be flown to the Vancouver shoot of his new film Postal, where, “as a guest of Uwe Boll they will be given the chance to be an extra … and have the opportunity to put on boxing gloves and enter a BOXING RING to fight Uwe Boll. Each critic will have the opportunity to bring down Uwe in a 10 bout match.” Since the announcement, the winners (including representatives from Somethingawful.com and Ain’t It Cool News) have been chosen, and the event has been rechristened … wait for it … “Raging Boll.” Five matches will be shot, select footage from which will be added to Postal; all fights will be broadcast over the internet.

There’s a dilly of a case to be made for “internet phenomenon” as Entertainment Buzzword of 2006. Increasingly, web denizens are being taught that what they laugh, gripe, and wax sophisticated about on message boards, boxer-clad and Fritos-flanked, bears heeding — and not just from the dude on the other end who’s pretending to be an “open-minded” female gymnast. The bleary-eyed 16-to-35-year-old perched intently and well past the witching hour before a faintly glowing screen is no longer an outsider or non-participant. More and more, he (or she) is to be catered to. Any other year, you might be hard-pressed to find an example as good as the aforementioned “blogger-trashes-director, director-catches-wind-of-said-trashing, blogger-gets-invited-to-Canada-to-punch-director-in-the-face” scenario. But any year this ain’t.

The gonzo Snakes on a Plane, of course, must needs keynote any discussion of web-culture cinematic clout. But what hasn’t been said? By now, you must’ve heard in some measure about the fan-stoked reshoots to include more cursing, more violence, and snakes-on-a-boob; the attempt to change the film’s name to Pacific Air Flight 121, smacked down by a Samuel L. Jackson veto; the addition of the now-signature line, as suggested by screenwriter Josh Friedman’s blog and echoed thereafter throughout cyberspace; the soundtrack culled largely from web-contest submissions. (Something you mayn’t have seen `Warning: adult language`).

Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand hit theaters at the end of May to help coax in blockbuster season, and was met with thoroughly mixed reactions. Much was made of the Ratner-for-Bryan-Singer director-swap, of liberties taken with storylines, of characters altered … and the debate continues. Meanwhile, what was for some the film’s most irrefutably memorable moment remains nothing more than an oddish, slightly off-putting dialogue choice for others. To wit: The Last Stand’s Imdb.com page features a user-written review by someone calling him(?)self “stu157,” from the United Kingdom. Admirably, stu tries to remain evenhanded, but ultimately decries what is in his estimation a rather weak script. Faith, I’m inclined to agree — the script was a bit disappointing. But what catches the eye is stu’s complaint: “Still on the script, don’t forget the corny lines (‘I’m the Juggernaut, bitch!’)” With a smile, I must invite stu — and anyone who doesn’t yet know where this is going — to Google “Juggernaut, bitch!” (Warning: adult language.) Though this be madness, there is method in’t. (Not sure how well it works retroactively, though.)

With Michael Bay’s Transformers (slated for release next summer) hopping on the “we’re listening” bandwagon — screenwriters Andrew Kurtzman and Roberto Orci took part in a webchat to allay viewers’ fears, and have announced a forthcoming “Write a Line for Optimus Prime” contest — it would seem we have the makings of a bona-fide trend. Want a redo wherein Bogey bitch-slaps Laszlo and flies off with Ingrid Bergman to fight the Nazis? We’ll likely not see that sort of clout (nor should we, probably). But a shot to the solar plexus from a Razzie-award-winning director? Lace ’em up.

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