Give independent filmmakers like Neil Breen a chance
I’m sitting here hunched over my laptop with a throbbing headache, because I can only do this review justice in this raw, unabashedly awestricken state. Two weeks ago the Landmark Cinema at Kendall Square hosted the world premiere of “Twisted Pair,” the latest entry in director Neil Breen’s oeuvre. Breen is most known for his 2016 film “Pass Thru” and his 2005 film “Double Down,” my personal favorite. Now because this review is typed, my extraordinary level of sarcasm cannot be conveyed when discussing Breen’s “genius.” To those unfamiliar with his work, his films are by no means good in any sense. Hell, they are barely competent. Breen has amassed a cult following in the shadow of Tommy Wiseau's mainstream appeal, becoming a champion of the independent filmmaker.
Like Breen’s previous feature efforts, “Twisted Pair” is completely incomprehensible. I equate it to a child’s journal written in crayon; filled with poor sentence structure and sloppy handwriting page after page, but it is art nonetheless. The film has a convoluted plot. It has, by far, the worst visual effects I have ever seen. Its egregious actors don’t deserve any other acting roles. At the center of all of this is Neil Breen. He is the writer, director, cinematographer, producer, editor, visual effects artist, sound effects artist, casting head and even craft services provider.
The use of his green screen is dizzying and embarrassing merely to watch. There are shots that are paused in the middle of scenes to allow characters to enter the frame. The stock visual and sound effects are horribly incorporated into action scenes. There is no one vision Breen is using when preparing his scene structure. The incompetence this man embodies knows no bounds.
The over elaborate plot is so lazily written it physically repulses me. Every one of his films involves a protagonist who is some version of himself in real life: an America-loving stud who can do no wrong and is the best at everything. He has no weaknesses to speak of. In “Twisted Pair,” we have the immense misfortune of having two of him. Breen plays both of the namesake twins in his film. The only way to distinguish the two is that one is clean cut and always wears a leather jacket and the other has a Party City beard taped to his face while he wears a black hoodie. There are no other discernible differences between the two “characters.”
As horrible as the film may seem, you have to give Breen credit. “Twisted Pair” was completely financed via crowdfunding. Regardless of whether or not the money came entirely from movie nerds who want to generate more memes with the production of this film, he still has a loyal fanbase. I can safely declare that going to this screening was the best theater-going experience I have ever had. The audience participated in questioning everything that happened on screen. People were yelling jokes and painfully moaning during exceptionally terrible scenes. As I emerged from the theater with a hoarse throat and headache from the constant laughter, I realized there was no point during the movie where I wasn’t entertained.
It occurred to me that there have been so many independent films out there that need more of a voice. Putting aside the numerous cinematic universes and sequels that plague our theaters with banality and cookie-cutter templates, there are still independent films that fail to enamor an audience. There are gems that are consistently being pumped out by studios like A24 and Annapurna, but the film community needs to support its poorer producers. Whether or not you enjoy Neil Breen’s work, he still represents what the struggling independent film industry is. If you can’t get distribution at a film festival or studios just won’t back you financially, you’re doomed to fail.
We need to take risks in cinema. The movie industry has only recently produced more niche films. Just look at this summer’s “Sorry to Bother You.” It blends social commentary with insane visuals and storytelling techniques. Even though I didn’t enjoy it as much as most other audiences, I can give credit to its director, Boots Riley, for his outstanding vision. And your idea doesn’t have to be quirky! There are young filmmakers out there who just have an idea. Damien Chazelle comes to mind. After just one feature film and one short, he got financial backing to direct one of my favorite films of all time: “Whiplash.” His success from there led him to “La La Land,” the title of youngest director to win a Best Director Oscar, and this month’s Neil Armstrong biopic “First Man.”
Some indie directors get promoted from directing just one hit. Colin Trevorrow went from directing a film based on his own script, “Safety Not Guaranteed,” to jumpstarting the horrible “Jurassic World” franchise. After failing to make “The Book of Henry” even remotely interesting, he got fired from directing Star Wars IX and is back to helming Jurassic World III, a much needed sequel to the film from this summer we already forgot about. Another is Scott Derrickson, who made the moderately successful horror thriller “Sinister.” Using his background in horror and sci-fi, he made “Doctor Strange”, one of the most visually appealing and unique films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
My point is that the Neil Breens out there need to be discovered. They might very well be on our own campus studying film and playing with the free equipment in the library. If we don’t give the little guys a chance, we will only pump out boring sequels. Independent movies are now getting their moment in the sun, but we need to support even more obscure directors. The fact that I can only name three good female directors is a problem. We need more Ava DuVernays and Kathryn Bigelows and Sofia Coppolas. Nobody even knows that “American Psycho,” everyone’s favorite darkly comedic cult classic was directed by Mary Harron. She hasn’t done anything significant since!
Even if directors are bad at their job, there is still a market to see their films. The spectrum of quality versus popularity has a parabolic relationship. The better or worse something is, so long as it strays away from the boring and unoriginal, the more inclined people are to see it. Why do you think we still have Brandeis’ film festival, Sundeis? There are a few gems in featured, but we all know the terrible movies are why we go.