Welcome to Commentary Commentary, where we sit and listen to filmmakers talk about their work and then share the most interesting parts. In this issue, Rob Hunter picks up on a comedy / mystery gem that has earned a larger following and an ongoing franchise, Zero Effect.
Twitter may be a cesspool for a number of reasons, but it has its high points – one of which is good people talking about great movies. Someone mentioned Jake Kasdan’s brilliant and shamefully underrated Zero effect (1997), and as was to be expected, that forced me to buy a new watch. The film remains a funny, surprising and charismatic riff of the private eye genre with great performances by everyone involved. It’s goofy, but Kasdan manages to shape the tone in some serious and seriously entertaining directions.
This new watch naturally made me want to see it again with Kasdan’s comment track. So read on to see what I heard about the Zero Effect comment.
Zero Effect (1997)
Commentator: Jake Kasdan (Writer, Director)
1. Kasdan has “always suspected” that he might be the only person who actually hears comments. Now let me be clear about … Jake? You’re not alone. Even so, I’m obviously a few years late to enter the sweepstakes he developed to test whether anyone actually heard that particular comment. Throughout the track, he says a series of individual words that together make up a complete sentence. “If you ever see me in the world and approach me on the street and pronounce this phrase, I will personally donate $ 5 to your favorite charity on your behalf.”
2. They went through some ideas for the opening sequence of Zero Effect, with some people suggesting variations on “zero” logos and illustrations, but he eventually settled on one that played around with the multiple identities of Daryl Zero (Bill Pullman).
3. In retrospect, he wishes the film had “got into the action” a little earlier, but at the same time cannot complain about the opening sequence, not even thanks to Ben Stiller’s appearance as Zero’s assistant Steve Arlo.
4th Arlo, drinking in the bar and complaining about Zero, was not only the first thing they filmed, but “the very first moment of my directing career.” He adds that “I was severely ill”.
5. He credits cameraman Bill Pope (Baby Driver, 2017; The World’s End, 2013; The Matrix, 1999) with the fact that Zero Effect “looks like a cohesive film”.
6th The song Zero sings on its introduction was scripted, but Pullman and Kasdan developed the melody together.
7th When he first started thinking about who would play his two leads, he looked at some key moments in the script. “Who is the actor who makes all these moments a reality?” You’d be a fool to believe he didn’t hit both of them.
8th. In the scene where Arlo and Zero are talking in the kitchen, a boom microphone shadow can be seen briefly.
9. They shot two days in Los Angeles, but 95% of the film was shot in Portland, Oregon, where most of it takes place.
10. He asked The Greyboy Allstars to achieve Zero Effect and loves the results. “You had never made a movie before, I had never directed it. A lot of people would have considered that a bad idea. “Kasdan credits the people at Castle Rock for trusting him (and others) on this matter.
11. The big pink building – “I dare say ugly” – that you see at 9:42 pm is the US Bancorp Tower in Portland, and they refused permission for the filmmakers to film it. “We stole that first shot. Total theft. Come and get me. “It is seen again later when Kasdan rubs it on Bancorp’s face.
12th He wrote the script specifically for Portland, and his appreciation for the city is evident in the montage sequence of Gregory Stark (Ryan O’Neal) driving through the streets. St. John’s Bridge is well conquered which isn’t a big deal, but I lived right next to it for a couple of years.
13th During the motel scene, an audio clip from Rob Reiner’s Misery (1990) can be heard at 36:00. Reiner, of course, co-founded the production company for that film, Castle Rock Entertainment.
14th The Chinese restaurant, spotted at 37:21 p.m., caused a four-hour delay in filming because it refused to keep the front door open while the camera was rotating. The closed door caught the camera’s reflection, but they were eventually given permission to open it for a few minutes.
fifteen. “I always had the feeling that the film was really beginning in many ways,” says Kasdan at 5:15 pm.
16. The scene with Zero doing Gloria Sullivan’s (Kim Dickens) taxes came together through rehearsals where they all figured out how this love story would work. Her face, the smallest piece of exposed waist, and “eyes that threaten to see it all” make Zero uncomfortable in the best possible way and create “a common kind of sexual tension.”
17th The outside windshield shot while it is raining is Pope’s favorite photograph in the film. It’s not Kasdans.
18th Zero’s epic deduction regarding the origins of full-size mattresses is fictional. “None of this is true.” The art department of the film did some research to try to mix some truth into the mix, but no, it’s all a lie.
19th The restaurant conversation between Arlo and Stark was filmed at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse in Portland. The bars that separate the booths make the couple look like they are in a confessional booth that matches Stark’s entry.
20th “My father shot the rodent camera,” he says, referring to Lawrence Kasdan, who is filming the tracking shot through the restaurant at floor level. “Some people, it’s their favorite shot in the movie. Some people hate it. “
21. Much of the film’s origins stem from Kasdan’s desire to “make a detective story about a hero who isn’t just a hero”. He believes that humans are far more than just good or bad and instead are a complicated mix of everything. It’s a pervasive argument that’s currently back on pop culture news thanks to shows like The Falcon and The Winter Soldier.
22nd He describes audience test screenings as “the obnoxious process of showing a recruited test marketing audience to get their opinion on the last thing you want.” Viewers are chosen for demographic reasons, but since no one goes to a movie randomly – that is, they’re looking for movies that match their real interests – it doesn’t come close to simulating a real audience for a particular movie. The Zero Effect test audience was “really confused” by the Zero-Sullivan diner scene.
23 The building at 1:37:21 is the Vista House on the Crown Point State Scenic Corridor in Oregon and is used for the exterior of a planetarium. “It’s not a planetarium.” They were filming the interiors of the OMSI Planetarium in Portland, and it took some subtleties to get that done. “They didn’t want to let us in, especially this guy named Mark. Mark if you listen [pause]Thanks. “He goes on to say that this whole sequence is sloppy and that he didn’t get it right, but I’ll blame Mark for all of the problems.
24 O’Neal faked this heart attack about twenty times so they could film it at different speeds.
25th Kasdan’s voice came over the safe as a bank clerk. “My voice is too nasal,” he says, adding that listening to this excerpt reminds him that he will never be able to hear his own comment track.
26th The little logo on the “Case Closed” card at 1:49:34 was actually the work logo during production. It’s only used elsewhere in the movie, and if you can spot it – and then one day find Kasdan on the street and tell him about it along with the mysterious phrase – he’ll donate another $ 5 to your favorite charity.
Best in Context-Free Commentary
“He’s the best with his face.”
“Could be the strangest sequence in the movie.”
“He has the finest comic book instincts I’ve ever seen.”
“We’re the only film crew in history that has traveled to the Pacific Northwest and can’t get enough rain.”
“Every time you walk away with material that really works and it all fits, and you’ve got it right and the actors are great, it’s a miracle.”
“I like to think this is the most dynamic shot ever made of a Scrabble board.”
“My father makes films.”
“Here’s a great mother of a scene.”
“That creepy rumble is a distant timpani.”
Zero Effect remains an absolutely brilliant film that lands every beat of its mystery, comedy and heart. Double function with The Kid Detective from last year for something very special. Kasdan’s comment is very good as it provides anecdotes from the filming, thoughts on the filmmaking process, and explanations / motivations for various story / character choices. It’s a fun listen and a reminder that a better world could have got an entire Daryl Zero franchise by now. That said, it’s not too late for a sequel …
Read more comment comment from the archive.