Originally created 09/23/04

Filmmakers capitalize on others' obsessions



Be it a burning need to be at home every Monday at 8 p.m. for the latest installment of 7th Heaven, the use a room for an expanding collection of Dukes of Hazzard memorabilia or the amassing of an encyclopedic knowledge on a given subject, we all exhibit symptoms of obsession.

What's interesting is that while we view our own obsessions as justified, we raise eyebrows, [filtered word] heads and laugh with bewilderment when faced with the obsessions of others. Our obsessions - always justified. The obsessions of others - always odd.

Still, the impartial observation of an obsession in action can be entertaining, and it's something Hollywood has picked up on. When referring to the catalog of quirks in the big book of character development, a movie maker will often fall back on a good obsession to make a movie more interesting. Here are a few fine examples:

HIGH FIDELITY (2000): Slip into an independent music store in any college town in America, perhaps the world, and you'll find a secret society where knowledge (the more obscure, the better) is the currency of choice. This world has never been better documented than in this romantic John Cusack vehicle. While affairs of the heart might drive the plot, it is the discussions of music - the good, bad and important - that drives the movie.

TREKKIES (1997): There are no fans quite as obsessive as trekkies, or trekkers, or whatever they choose to be called. An entire lifestyle, documented in this fun and affectionate film, has sprung up around the original Star Trek series and its spin-offs. Among the movie's high points, the Florida dentist's office designed with a Trek theme, uniforms and all, and the Whitewater alternate juror who went to court in her replica Starfleet uniform. A fine film for both the manic and the mockers.

AMERICAN MOVIE (1999): There's a sort of mania that develops around people trying to make movies outside the studio system. This spirit of single-minded obsession is trotted out to be savored in this documentary about a dysfunctional filmmaker struggling to make his opus - an oddball horror movie called Coven. It's a movie that is, in turn, heartbreaking and uplifting.

NURSE BETTY (2000): Renee Zellweger plays a post-traumatic stress victim whose soap opera obsession segues into delusion, prompting her to hit the highway for Los Angeles for some freestyle stalking of a soap star. On her tail, two hit men (Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock) with their eyes on the drugs she's inadvertently trafficking.

THE KING OF COMEDY (1983): For would-be comedian Rupert Pupkin (Robert De Niro), success means appearing on the television show of a Carsonesque host, his idol, Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis). It's an obsession that eventually leads him to kidnapping and blackmail. This dark comedy is an oft-forgotten work by master Martin Scorsese.

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or steven.uhles@augustachronicle.com.