1/15/14

FIASCO FLICKS




fiasco
 
 (fɪˈæskəʊ) 
— n  , pl -cos -coes
a complete failure, esp one that is ignominious or humiliating
[C19: from Italian, literally: flask sense development obscure]


What is a "Fiasco Flick? The term originated--I believe--at a test screening of "Rob The Mob" at the Sony Lincoln Square Theater in New York City a couple of months ago. The focus group that was recruited was asked a series of questions to help determine what people thought of the film, how and if they would recommend it, how best to describe it etc. I'm glad to report that a resounding ninety-six percent rated it very highly and said they would urge a friend to see it. (What about the four percent naysayers? There's an old film adage that I've always believed: for absolutely every movie ever made, there's one person somewhere on earth who thinks it's the best movie ever made and one person somewhere on earth who thinks it's the worst movie ever made).

But I digress. When asked to describe what kind of movie "Rob The Mob" is, audience members were a little stumped. Some said romance. Some said thriller. Others said it was funny. Some thought it was sad. And it is all of those things--we were never bound to any specific genre except for the several different ones that the film somewhat audaciously crosses. Then one young man--couldn't have been older than his mid-twenties--raised his hand and said: "It's a fiasco flick." When asked what he meant, he explained that in a fiasco flick you know from the beginning that something is going to go terribly wrong and yet you enjoy watching the process of complete failure, humiliation and utter disaster.

It is my favorite genre description that I'd never before heard and I keep returning to it as I try to think of other films that fit the description and what constitutes a true fiasco flick. Certainly "Dog Day Afternoon" fits the description (see post from previous day). "Deliverance" is one of the most perversely enjoyable examples of the genre. How about heist-gone-wrong classics like "Asphalt Jungle" or "The Killing"? For that matter, how about just about any crime movie? And that's where the distinction becomes a little more...er, distinct.

Not just any crime movie is necessarily a "fiasco" flick because the fiasco itself must be a very specific one. So a heist gone awry is fine, but Bonnie and Clyde, say, aren't specific enough to rate as a proper "fiasco flick"--neither, for that matter is Henry Hill's life story. A camping trip gone disastrously wrong--good fiasco. A non-criminal robbing a bank with his retarded friend to get money for his secret boyfriends sex-change operation...total fiasco.  Robbing Mafia's social clubs because you think they'll never chase you down...true fiasco.

My two favorites? "Before The Devil Knows You're Dead" (their own parents) and "Fargo" (his own wife!). Anybody think of any others? And anybody know the name of that kid who coined this invaluable addition to film terminology? I'd like to buy him a Martini.






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7 comments:

  1. Great reference. I wonder if, for it to be a fiasco flick, it needs to go badly, or spectacularly badly?

    Do the folks that have bad things happen to them need to bring it on themselves in some way? Do we need to root for them - as we do in Dog Day? If not, would not the "Dead Teenager Film" - as Gene Siskel once referred to teens-in-a-house horror films - need to be included?

    The first movie that came to mind is Pope of Greenwich Village - from the moment Paulie is described, you know he will screw it up. However, both of the key players live, albeit minus some appendages.

    Thanks for bringing the topic up!

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  2. I can only think in one, and I think that it fits in the whole word. Actually this is the first time that I recommend and perhaps the last. It just jump into my head when i finish reading this post:
    Staten Island (2009) with Ethan Hawke.

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  3. I felt that way about "Big Deal On Madonna Street"; that the moment the thief got caught with the car at the start, that nothing his gang tried to do was going to end well. I wonder if historically based films, where you know the story ends badly, could also count as fiasco films. When I watch 'The Great Escape,' I'm always aware of the real history behind it, how it ended badly for so many of the prisoners, but yet I also enjoy the ingenuity on display and how brilliant are the escape strategies.

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  4. Very interesting post to know about the movie. Its such an interesting one. I love to share it with all. Thanks for sharing.

    Cine Updates

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  5. JB-A very good point about rooting for them. You can't dislike the characters in a fiasco flick. Either you sympathize with them ('Deliverence") or empathize (DDA I would say). No matter how ill-advised their actions there must be good reasons for them that somehow engage us emotionally.

    CV--funny you should mention "Staten Island" which I saw a few months ago. It was photographed by my DP on RTM, Christopher Norr. Good film. I think it more or less meets the standards.

    GOM--"Big Deal..." is the ultimate FF, isn't it? And I haven't thought of it until you mentioned. Historical movies should count...trying to drum up a few...a war movie that my dad co-wrote "Anzio" is a fiasco flick, though I don't know how much fun the disaster of it all actually was to watch. Maybe that's why nobody knows it.

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  6. JB-A very good point about rooting for them. You can't dislike the characters in a fiasco flick. Either you sympathize with them ('Deliverence") or empathize (DDA I would say). No matter how ill-advised their actions there must be good reasons for them that somehow engage us emotionally.

    CV--funny you should mention "Staten Island" which I saw a few months ago. It was photographed by my DP on RTM, Christopher Norr. Good film. I think it more or less meets the standards.

    GOM--"Big Deal..." is the ultimate FF, isn't it? And I haven't thought of it until you mentioned. Historical movies should count...trying to drum up a few...a war movie that my dad co-wrote "Anzio" is a fiasco flick, though I don't know how much fun the disaster of it all actually was to watch. Maybe that's why nobody knows it.

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  7. That definition really threw me off I had to look the
    word up I always thought it meant something was
    bad not going to get bad. haha
    If I were to be at a film that was very good and heard someone describe it like that I would be thinking they were just not a good judge of art.
    But it can be a kind of cool way to get a conversation going. Plus now I know it also means
    Italian bottle of wine with the straw covering on it.
    I am getting smarter by the minute.

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