Iif you saw Don’t look up When it released on Netflix last Christmas, I have some surprising news for you. There’s a very good chance that since you last saw the film, director Adam McKay has secretly injected the name “Bob Monkhouse” into his timely satire of hope and despair at the end of the world. Incorporating a gag from the urban stand-up genius and British TV icon isn’t the main reason the film earned Best Picture at this Sunday’s Oscars, but it certainly has to count in its favour. Want Liquorice Pizza would have been more fun if at one point Cooper Hoffman had turned to the camera and said, “They laughed when I said I was going to be a comedian. You’re not laughing now”? Of course it would.
Monkhouse was late in earning his Don’t look up Credit thanks to another of his perfectly crafted epigrams: “I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather, not screaming in fear like his passengers.” American author Jack Handey, who promptly wrote to McKay to tell him the joke wasn’t his. It turns out that while filming a movie partly about spreading mass stupidity through online misinformation and distraction, McKay made one of the oldest schoolboy mistakes on the internet: believing something he read on a quotes site would have. Earlier this month, in an interview with World Economic Forum’s Radio Davos, the director revealed what sounds like a satirical fabrication, the kind of elite podcast that’s meant to be interviewed Don’t look up‘s soft-spoken tech villain Peter Isherwood — that he’d fixed his mistake by quietly sneaking into Netflix’s backend. “The only nice thing about streaming is that we could just flip it,” McKay said. “Jack Handey was happy and hopefully the Monkhouse estate is proud.”
If many critics are to be believed, it was far from the only mistake McKay made during production of Million Joke Man Don’t look up. Despite a cast full of A-listers and McKay’s glowing comic book resume peppered with the likes of anchorman, stepbrothers and The great short film, The film earned a meager rating of 55 percent on review site Rotten Tomatoes. That’s hardly best-picture-caliber competitors The power of the dog and KODA sit pretty much at 94 or 95 percent. Rolling Stone called Don’t look up “a disaster movie in more ways than one,” while that newspaper ran a column in January on why it’s okay to hate the movie. In the unlikely event that Don’t look up takes home the biggest prize on Oscar night, it certainly won’t have been carried there on a wave of critical consensus.
While Don’t look up would be a shock winner for best picture, it would be a thoroughly deserved one. More than any other nominee, this witty parable — about mankind’s inability to save itself from impending destruction because a corporation sees an opportunity to make a quick buck — addresses the absurdity of our time squarely. For those of us who spend our days reading the news, convinced that either the world or we have lost the plot of watching Jennifer Lawrence’s Kate Dibiasky lose her shit to the stupidity of Tyler Perry and Cate Blanchett’s airy news hosts didn’t feel smug or self-righteous, as critics often suggest. It felt really cathartic.
Trying to mock these strange times Don’t look up may have braced for a fall. As the film opens, efforts to get Meryl Streep’s President Orlean to take the looming disaster seriously are derailed by controversy over her Supreme Court nominee, Sheriff Conlon, who, it turns out, spent the 1990s doing it to star in a soft-core porn show called Kabel Satin sheets nights. Pretty silly, right? Well, as I write this, Senator Ted Cruz just asked real-life Supreme Court nominee Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson if she believes “babies are racist.” You just can’t beat reality these days, but McKay and co-writer David Sirota deserve their reward for trying. Our ability as a culture to turn absolutely anything into a divisive partisan issue is neatly summed up when Dibiasky’s cantankerous parents tell her that they are actually pro-the planet-killing meteor because they are “pro-the jobs the comet will provide.”
We need more stories that highlight the madness of our increasingly fragile status quo. In a recent interview with GQ, Francis Ford Coppola described the impact he wants his long-awaited project to have megalopolis and said he hoped it would be an annual New Year’s Day viewing and that afterward people would sit around and all discuss the same question: “Is the society we live in the only one available to us?” while not suggesting that we all sit down and watch Don’t look up Every January 1st it has the same impulse beating in the heart. A clever allegory for our time and an all-time great Bob Monkhouse gag – what more could you want from a Best Picture winner than that?
https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/oscar-best-picture-dont-look-up-b2045044.html Don’t Look Up: Why Adam McKay’s controversial doomsday satire should win the Oscar for Best Picture