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What is more patriotic than watching a film about the dystopian future of America on a community baseball diamond just outside the heart of one of the largest, greatest cities in this country? Voting.
Writer, Director and actor Mike Judge, creator of the cult classic film Idiocracy joined cast members Terry Crews and Dax Shepard along with film producer Elysa Koplovitz to celebrate the 2006 sci-fi comedy that has proved eerily prescient in present day. The screening at the Echo Park Recreation center was presented by Shepard and Amanda Fairey and their voter education initiative MASA – Make America Smart Again in conjunction with Showtime’s EatSeeHear.
Shepard Fairey created the HOPE poster in support of the Obama presidential campaign in 2008 and helped ignite a nationwide movement in support of the Senator from Illinois. The Charleston, S.C. native told THR about his concerns of voter miseducation during this election: “As much as I love how the internet and social media have democratized things, it also means that if it is your nature is to gossip, to construct your own reality, that it’s much easier than it ever was before, and it creates a lot of distraction and a lot of media fragmentation. So let’s celebrate the empowerment that having access to a lot of information has been facilitated by new media, but let’s also remember that truth and a sophisticated understanding of the issues we all face is also important.
Fairey continued, “We live in a capitalist society – people get what they demand. So if they demand more click bait then they get more click bait. If they demand better quality reporting about issues – that’s why we have links to Politifact on our website: govotemasa.com – they will tell you where people stand on the issues and how honest what they are saying is in reality. Analyze everything and question everything. That is my simple philosophy.”
When Idiocracy was originally released in 2006, it was not promoted by the distributor, 20th Century Fox, so it tanked at the box office. At the beginning of a brief Q&A before the screening Saturday night, Dax Shepard, who portrayed the numbskull attorney Frito in the film, told the crowd “Before we start I want to say that this movie was so shit on by the studio that we never had a premiere, so you guys this is our premiere of the movie tonight. Ten years in the making – thank you!”
The film, written by Mike Judge and Etan Cohen, is the story of a hapless army private named Joe Bowers, played by Luke Wilson, who is cryogenically frozen as part of a top secret military experiment along with a cheeky prostitute named Rita, played by Maya Rudolph. Instead of waking up a year later, they come out of hibernation five hundred years later to fully corporatized society of morons strung out on energy drinks and “big ass tacos.”
Terry Crews, the peck-tacular star of Brooklyn Nine Nine, Ridiculous 6 and the Expendables film series, plays President Camacho, a flamboyant former professional wrestler who welds executive power like a televangelist on acid. Speaking to the crowd before the screening, Crews shared some inspirations for the film from his childhood which mirror some of the flash and bang of current political rhetoric.
“I grew up in the church. And there were some really great churches and some great people and there were some charlatans that I knew. And they all went to the same place. It was kind of crazy,” said Crews. “And what I discovered is that all of the charlatans snuck in with all of the good people because they were so damn charismatic. And so the whole thing was if you just show immense amounts of charisma you can say gibberish and people would follow you and go along with you. (addressing the crowd as the bombastic Camacho) Hello – HAH!– my name – HAH – is President Camacho – HAH! (crowd erupts in laughter and applause) You see what that does! I really said nothing and people cheered.”
And this is what is so great about this movie – the message is that you have to think for yourself. And this is what I think is so great about what you, Shepard and Amanda Fairey, have done is really just encourage people to think for themselves. Don’t just go off smooth words and what you hear but actually look and examine and think and you will make the right decision.“
Before the screening the cast members reunited with filmmaker Mike Judge in the dugout by the baseball field like an underdog team revisiting the site of secret victory. Judge has recently struck gold with the Emmy nominated series Silicon Valley. The same authenticity of the show’s characters, partly based on Judge’s short-lived early work experience in the tech industry, has driven the success of his previous satires Office Space, King of the Hill and Beavis and Butthead.
Judge spoke to THR about how growing up in the cultural hinterlands of Albuquerque drove him to craft some of the most iconic American characters of his stories. “Growing up in Albuquerque, you would see all these movies and TV shows and the reference is all New York – I love Woody Allen – and I always felt this strong feeling of being underrepresented – not in a whiney way – more in an opportunistic way,” said Judge. “There’s this opportunity to represent the kind of places where I grew up in New Mexico and Texas – more suburban environments. When I saw Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing it really blew my mind because I had never been to Brooklyn, but it seemed so real. There is just this sort of nuance to something that is real. So I thought somebody should do something like this about Albuquerque or Richardson, Texas where I was living.”
Judge added, “I felt like they (Hollywood) sort of take for granted the middle of the country as people with no opinions and nothing worth looking at. So I maybe even had a bit of chip on my shoulder when I started doing this stuff.”
Crews has been a visual artist since he was a child. He continued to paint through his career as a professional football player, even painting portraits of his fellow athletes. He shared some thoughts with THR about the power of art in society: “First of all, the only only way you are going to live your best life is to move everything to the level of art. Artists really create your world. They know how to take something that has nothing and then all of a sudden give it meaning,” said Crews. “That is what art is all about. It is the most important job in the world. You can have all the money in the world and no art and you just got to polish it.”
Crews shared a story from his childhood which has always inspired him and connected the memory to what artists like Shepard Fairey are doing today: “During the Detroit riots back in 1967 there was a Catholic Church called Holy Redeemer, and they had a Jesus statue out in front. The riots were going on all around. The buildings were burning. It was horrifying. But someone painted the Jesus black – the face, the hands, everything. And it saved the church. Because they saw the black Jesus and it stopped them from burning the church. Now, to this day – that was 1967 – that Jesus is still black – I get goose bumps just thinking about it. Art saved that church. Just the power of the image – it triggered a new way of thought – and saved the church. This is what the Obama Hope image does. This is what one image can be so iconic to take you from one chain of thought and shift you all the way to another. Dude – It’s the most important thing we have. I truly believe it.”
Proceeds from MASA events benefit the non-profit Young Literati of the Library Foundation of Los Angeles.
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