A man calls a harried fast food manager, identifies himself as a police officer, and tells her that he has a witness that one of her employees has stolen from a customer – could she help with the investigation until he can get there? Hoping to get this resolved quickly, she complies – even when he asks her to detain, search, and then strip-search the teenage employee. Threatened with arrest, the teenager complies with increasingly bizarre requests from the disembodied voice on the phone – including doing nude jumping jacks to “dislodge” anything hidden within her body’s orifices, bending over to be spanked, and performing a sexual act for one of the males guarding her. Only when one of the male employees objects to the proceedings does the caller hang up, because the whole thing was one elaborate prank to see how far they would go.
Not only is that the plot of “Compliance,” a disturbing and controversial film out this week, but it’s also what roughly happened in 70 real-life cases at rural fast food joints across the country, with some variances. The film is claustrophobic, keeping the viewer for the most part in the same room as the trapped teenager, Becky (played by Dreama Walker), who is humiliated and put on display with only a skimpy apron to clothe herself, if that, when her belongings and clothing are taken away. Needless to say, she’s innocent of the charges, but her protests fall on deaf ears, since her manager Sandra (played by Ann Dowd) accepts the supposed officer’s accusations (which also escalate) as fact without any proof. Beyond the gullibility vs. obedience issue raised by most critics, the situation also begs the question – does no one know their rights?
“Not that I made this film for an advocacy reason, but if people learned their Miranda rights from this, I would feel like we did a good thing,” director Craig Zobel told IFC. “It should be apparent that it’s against the law for anyone who is not a police officer to conduct a strip search, at least in this country, at least right now. You would think if people had seen enough episodes of ‘Law & Order’ that they would know that.”
A season nine episode of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” even tackled the real life cases, with Robin Williams playing a prank phone caller who called himself “Detective Milgram,” in reference to the Milgram experiment which tested how people respond to obey authority – the very experiment which influenced Zobel’s take on “Compliance.”
“The specter of a cop is a powerful thing,” he said. “It gives people pause. People were scared enough by the idea of police that they didn’t question it. They don’t want to say the wrong thing. They don’t want to get into more trouble.”
Some participants, as the Milgram experiment and the Stanford Prison experiment demonstrated, were either thrilled or relieved to be able to transfer responsibility for their actions to an authority figure who asked them to and gave them permission to inflict pain or humiliation. “Milgram’s experiment was about taking responsibility,” Zobel said. “He was basically saying, ‘Look, this is my deal. Your only role in this is to do your duty and do what I say.’ The thing I can’t wrap my head around is how few people questioned that. Maybe some of it had to do with the closed space, feeling away from the world, that this wasn’t real, and no one would know.”
Because part of the prank/crime in “Compliance” involves Becky stripping and performing oral sex as a punishment, Walker ends up spending much of her screen time in a compromised position. Critics who saw the film at a Sundance screening called it misogynist and exploitative, especially because Walker is not unattractive.
“I hoped I shot it in a way that was not sexy,” Zobel countered. “Her nudity should have gravity to it. Should I have cast someone who was less attractive? What does that say about what you think about rape? Do you think only attractive or unattractive people get targeted for sexual assault? Is rape about sex to you? Or is it about power? This is about abuse of power.
In the end, Louise Ogborn, the person whose situation most resembles what Becky goes through during the course of “Compliance,” was awarded millions in punitive and compensatory damages. Walter Nix, her “guard” who committed the sexual abuse, went to prison. The man accused of ordering him to do so, David Stewart, was found not guilty – but there were no more reported hoax calls of this kind after his arrest.
10 Leslie Nielsen Comedies Ranked From Best to Worst
Catch the Naked Gun movies this month on IFC.
Posted by Amber Petty on Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection
Leslie Nielsen has had a long and varied career with his comedies being some of the best of all time. But not every film was a winner, with his Rotten Tomatoes scores ranging from 97% to 0%. So, as you enjoy The Naked Gun movies this month on IFC, you can reflect upon the highs and lows of everyone’s favorite straight man.
Airplane! is one of the best comedies of all time and managed two historic feats: It popularized the film parody genre and introduced the world to the comedy side of Leslie Nielsen. Though Nielsen was already a very successful actor — playing mostly romantic leads, captains and cops — Airplane! was the first example of his stellar deadpan delivery. With a bevy of classic quotes, critics and audiences agreed that this was surely a seminal comedy. But don’t call him Shirley.
2. The Naked Gun: From the Files from the Police Squad!
Based on the underrated freeze-frame filled TV show Police Squad!, Leslie Nielsen honed his performance of Lt. Frank Drebin in The Naked Gun. His most definitive character, the first Naked Gun is just as funny today as it was in 1988. The memorable moments are endless, from “Nice beaver” to Drebin’s enthusiastic appearance as a baseball umpire. Though many more parody films were made, none ever topped this take down of cop dramas. (Click here to see all airings of The Naked Gun on IFC.)
3. The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear
Though the sequel doesn’t match the original, it still features tons of the high-level slapstick and absurd dialogue that we came to love from the Leslie Nielsen parody genre. Plus, this one features Robert Goulet as a criminal mastermind, so it certainly gets point for that.
4. The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult
Usually, comedy trilogies end on a disappointing note. (Looking at you, Hangover III!). But even though Naked Gun 33 1/3 was critically panned, its mix of crass jokes and “celebrity” cameos helped it to be chosen as one of IFC and Rotten Tomatoes’ movies that are “too rotten to miss.” Fans of the series get great moments of Frank going undercover in jail and ruining a dance routine at the Academy Awards. Most importantly, it has the best sequel title since Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo.
5. Wrongfully Accused
Airplane! and the Naked Gun series were outliers in the parody genre that got both great reviews from critics and audience acclaim. Now we come to the first of Nielsen’s comedies that didn’t fare so well amongst the critics. Sure, this 1998 spoof from Naked Gun cowriter Pat Proft only got 22% on Rotten Tomatoes, but you can’t help but enjoy some great riffs on the “falsely accused man on the run” genre. Mostly parodying The Fugitive (though there’s a Titanic parody thrown in because, you know, late ’90s), Wrongfully Accused has a great train chase scene and silly, absurd sight gags akin to the Naked Gun series. Plus, Nielsen nails it as always.
6. Dracula: Dead and Loving It
Sure, this isn’t Mel Brooks’ greatest film, but it’s still Mel Brooks. Here, Nielsen plays Dracula with Brooks as Van Helsing and the perfectly cast Peter MacNicol as Renfield. This parody veers a little bit more towards puns and Borscht Belt-style punch lines, but Nielsen makes for a pretty great Dracula. Honestly, if Gary Oldman and Leslie Nielsen were pitted against each other in a ’90s Dracula-off, one, that would be amazing and two, our vote would go for Nielsen.
7. Spy Hard
Released in 1996 after the Naked Gun films had sputtered out at the box office, Spy Hard is mostly an action movie parody with a bit of James Bond thrown in. (And a catchy theme song from Comedy Bang! Bang! bandleader and musical parody genius “Weird Al” Yankovic.) Partially because of the movie’s lack of focus and specificity, the jokes never quite work. Plus, the Hot Shots! movies did action parody better and Austin Powers came along a year later to perfectly send up James Bond. Despite the film’s poor reviews, no one said a bad word about Nielsen. They just wanted better for him.
New Line Cinema
A lame spoof of The Exorcist, Repossessed has a rare honor of a 0% Rotten Tomatoes rating. (That’s right, Adam Sandler’s Jack and Jill fared better than this thrown-together parody.) Linda Blair gets possessed by the devil again and seeks out Nielsen’s Father Mayii to exorcise her. There’s not much to say about this other than it was made 17 years after The Exorcist came out and no one was clamoring for more gags about Linda Blair’s pea soup vomit. While an abysmal movie by every definition, there are a few chuckles here and there for Nielsen completists.
9. Mr. Magoo
Walt Disney Productions
With a whopping 4% score on Rotten Tomatoes, the 1997 big screen adaptation of the cartoon character of the same name was offensive to both the blind and Nielsen fans alike. Basically 87 minutes of tasteless jokes at the expense of sightless people and the elderly, Mr. Magoo is a low point even by the standards of the ’90s trend of big screen versions of forgettable TV shows. (It makes McHale’s Navy look like a comedic masterpiece.)
10. An American Carol
Though Mr. Magoo and Repossessed technically have lower Rotten Tomatoes ratings than An American Carol (which comes in at 11%), this political-themed “parody” from Airplane! and Naked Gun director David Zucker is offensive garbage, which kicks it to the bottom of the list. The story, so to speak, is about Michael Malone (a Michael Moore proxy), a filmmaker who hates America and wants to cancel the 4th of July. Eventually he’s visited by ghosts and is asked to make movies for terrorists. While a parody of Michael Moore could be great, this film sadly paints every liberal like a moronic, terrorist-loving hippy and indulges in other base stereotypes. Luckily for Nielsen, his part is small. Unluckily for us, he plays a dual role of Grandpa and Osama Bin Nielsen. Yes, Osama Bin Nielsen. Sadly, An American Carol was one of a number of subpar parodies Nielsen popped up in towards the end of his career.
It is the rare film that succeeds in creating a fictional band that taps into our primordial need to bop our heads and for a brief moment in the theater, live out our teenage rock n’ roll dreams of groupie chasing, hotel room trashing and agent firing. In honor of those Wyld Stallyns Bill & Ted kicking out the jams during IFC’s Rotten Fridays, check out some fictional bands who rock hard enough to earn being on a list that — like Spinal Tap once said — goes to 11.
11. The Lone Rangers, Airheads
20th Century Fox
The former high school burnouts/metal heads/wannabe rock stars who take over the radio station in Airheads definitely have the proper reverence for the metal god that was Motorhead frontman Lemmy. In fact, Lemmy actually has a hilarious cameo as part of the crowd of metal fans waiting to see the Lone Rangers play. Brendan Fraser had more than his share of goofy performances in the ’90s, but he looked the part as the Lone Rangers frontman, which also consists of Steve Buscemi on bass and Adam Sandler on drums. You have to like any movie that casts Joe Mantegna as a Dr. Johnny Fever-type DJ who delivers the prophetic line about rock that, “If it’s too loud, you’re too old.”
10. Steel Dragon, Rock Star
Based on the true story of Tim “Ripper” Owens, a singer in a Judas Priest tribute band who went on to replace Priest frontman Rob Halford, Rock Star tells the epic tale of a fan of fictional ’80s metal band Steel Dragon who gets a shot at playing with his idols. In a memorable scene, Mark Walhberg’s Chris Cole auditions for the Steel Dragon members, including founder and guitarist Kirk Cuddy (Dominic West). Cole rocks out the Steel Dragon tune “We All Die Young,” a song written and performed by real life metal band Steelheart.
9. Aldous Snow and Infant Sorrow, Get Him to The Greek
Despite being fictional, Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) is the quintessential British rocker. He’s got loads of charisma, and an impulsive personality mixed with an inclination for heroin, awkward threesomes and putting his record company rep (Jonah Hill) in uncomfortable positions (like sitting in an airplane with heroin stuffed up a body cavity). Brand was the perfect choice to make Aldous Snow a pompous rock star who performs songs like “Bangers, Beans & Mash,” “The Clap” and of course “Furry Walls.” Brand stole all his scenes in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and this spinoff film tells Snow’s rock star story as Jonah Hill’s Aaron Green has to get him to The Greek theater to perform. In the end, both Aldous and Aaron learn the important life lesson that “when the world slips you a Jeffrey, stroke the furry walls.”
8. Citizen Dick, Singles
Singles didn’t just try to reflect the Seattle grunge rock scene of the ’90s — it was at the forefront of a new rock explosion that was taking hold with music fans ready to embrace bands that rocked without hair spray. Several of the biggest Seattle bands of the time were not only on the soundtrack but appeared in the movie, including Soundgarden, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam. The plot of Singles revolves around a group of Seattle twentysomethings experiencing life and love in flannel shirts, all while being lucky enough to go out to shows in a city where Alice in Chains just happens to be playing their local bar. Sure, Citizen Dick frontman Cliff Poncier (Matt Dillon) might have been too wrapped up in his music to say “Bless You” when his girlfriend Janet (Bridget Fonda) sneezed, and he might have earned less stellar reviews than his bandmates (including drummer Eddie Vedder), but he did lead the group to huge acclaim in Belgium.
7. Cassandra and Crucial Taunt, Wayne’s World
“And her name was Cassandra,” sang the smitten Wayne Campbell (Mike Myers). There’s good reason that Wayne heard the song “Dream Weaver” the moment he saw Tia Carrere bring out her inner Joan Jett onstage as Cassandra Wong. She was not only a “fox” but she wailed as the lead singer and guitarist for Crucial Taunt. Sure, Crucial Taunt may not have the bizarre historical knowledge of Milwaukee that Alice Cooper displayed but they certainly rock harder than The Jolly Green Giants and “The Sh—y Beatles.” There may be have been two Darren Stevenes on the show Bewitched but there was only one Cassandra to rock Wayne’s world.
6. Wyld Stallyns, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey
The Wyld Stallyns are Bill S. Preston Esquire and Ted “Theodore” Logan and if you read this in the year 2668, you would totally know both dudes since the music that Bill and Ted created became the foundation for a world that lives in peace and harmony. In Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, the duo, played by Alex Winter and someone named Keanu Reeves, travel in a phone booth time machine to retrieve historical figures (and some princess babes) who they bring back to San Dimas to help them with their rockin’ history presentation. By the end of the sequel, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, the dimwitted boys can finally play their instruments, and are joined by Death, Rufus (George Carlin), some aliens and their robot doppelgangers for an epic concert performance.
5. School of Rock, School of Rock band
The kids are more than alright in the musical comedy School of Rock — in fact, it’s their teacher who’s a mess. Jack Black is at his animated best as Dewey Finn, a failing rocker who pretends to be his roommate in order to take a substitute teaching job. Under the initially misguided tutelage of Black’s substitute teacher, the class of private school fourth graders come together to form a kickass rock band that embraces breaking the rules and learns to “get mad at the man.” They also piss off their uptight principal, played hilariously by Joan Cusack, who lets her inner Stevie Nicks loose in a classic scene. Of course the School of Rock band wins over the crowd at the Battle of the Bands, with an amazing lead guitarist, a tight group of backup singers and a sufficiently snarky manager.
4. Sex Bob-omb, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
“We are Sex Bob-omb. 1,2,3,4!” Sure Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) plays a mean bass and is dorky cool (for a Canadian) and Stephen Stills (Mark Webber) is the front man with “the talent,” but even Sex Bob-Omb’s two hardcore fans know that the ferociously angry drumming of Kim Pine (Alison Pill) is what gives the band its punk/garage rock edge. Most of their shows are interrupted by fights, except it’s not the music that instigates the aggression. As Scott shows off his video game martial arts skills to battle Ramona Flowers’ (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) seven evil exes, the band continues to play hard and fast on songs that “make you think about death and get sad and stuff.”
3. Stillwater, Almost Famous
Stillwater runs deep and so does director Cameron Crowe’s love for music. Almost Famous is Crowe’s love letter to his experience as a young rock journalist in the 1970s. Watching the film through the eyes of William Miller (Patrick Fugit) will make anyone wish they could have toured with the likes of Led Zeppelin and The Allman Brothers Band. The actors portraying the fictional ’70s hard rock band Stillwater don’t just look the part — Crowe made sure they could play together as a band before filming. 1970s guitar superstar Peter Frampton served as a technical consultant and Crowe’s wife at the time, Nancy Wilson of Heart, co-wrote some of Stillwater’s songs. “Fever Dog” has an authentic classic rock sound and all the songs in the movie will take you back to a time of bellbottoms, vinyl records and groupies loving a band so much “it hurts.”
2. Tenacious D, Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny
The comedy/guitar rock duo of Jack Black and Kyle Gass get their feature film debut in Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny as their epic story is told in the form of a rock opera with songs that will make you bang your head and laugh your ass off. JB and KG have always paid homage to the gods of metal in their songs and sketches and their love of all things thrash is in full display in the song that tells the origin of KG’s path to rock greatness. Not only does Meatloaf play JB’s Bible-thumping father but legendary Black Sabbath front man Ronnie James Dio emerges from a poster on the wall to send him on his journey to Hollywood. JB and KG team up to form “The D” and embark on their quest to pay the rent and defeat the Devil himself (Dave Grohl) in the rock-off of all rock-offs. (Catch Tenacious D at the 2016 Festival Supreme on October 29th in Los Angeles.)
1. Spinal Tap, This is Spinal Tap
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Embassy Pictures, StudioCanal, MGM Home Entertainment
If there was a heavy metal Mt. Rushmore, Spinal Tap would clearly be on it. (Or at the very least, they would have a tiny 18-inch version of it next to the real thing.) David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean), Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) and Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer) need no introduction to hardcore rock and comedy fans. The groundbreaking mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap follows the fictional veteran rockers as they promote a new tour, discuss amps that “go to 11” and get lost inside of a concert venue. Spinal Tap’s performances are so loud that their drummers tend to explode although it may not be related to drumming, as “dozens of people combust each year. It’s just not that widely reported.”
Catch Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey this Friday at 8P on IFC’s Rotten Fridays!
Who says political documentaries can’t be hilarious? The best political docs — like The War Room, the 1993 depiction of the Clinton presidential campaign that Documentary Now! pays homage to with “The Bunker” — have plenty in them to make you laugh. Here are 10 political documentaries that will elicit more than just bitter laughter.
1. The Yes Men
Activist duo Jacques Servin and Igor Vamos are responsible for not just one, but three funny and scathing political documentaries: The Yes Men (2003), The Yes Men Fix the World (2009) and The Yes Men are Revolting (2014). The pair impersonate bad guys from the worlds of business and government, and often end up fooling the media. They also stage elaborate pranks like having dozens of people don inflatable ball outfits called SurvivaBalls to help survive catastrophes resulting from climate change. Along the way they’ve racked up numerous awards and almost as many arrests.
“Hilarious…like a Spinal Tap of politics,” said the New York Post about the doc Weiner, of course adding, “…it’s the full package.” This doc follows the disgraced Congressman, who had to resign due to a sexting scandal, in his quest for a comeback, running for Mayor of New York City. Incredibly, yet another sexting scandal explodes during the course of filming. You’ll laugh, you’ll cringe, as the whole sordid story unfolds before the cameras, featuring Weiner and his wife, longtime Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin. It’s the film that puts the (Carlos) “danger” back in politics.
3. Please Vote for Me
Politics on a scale much smaller but just as riveting are on display in this 2007 documentary. A third grade class in China is given the task of holding an election for class monitor. The resulting web of intrigue, dirty tricks and bare-knuckle politics among this group of 8-year-olds are reminiscent of something Karl Rove or Lee Atwater would come up with. And the parents are worse. A fascinating look at the roots of democracy, with a touch of Lord of the Flies.
4. Roger & Me
Filmmaker Michael Moore could have any one of a number of his movies in this list (his is the first name most people think of when the subject of funny political docs comes up). But his first doc, Roger & Me, remains one of his funniest and — with its focus on the economic impact of globalization on American workers — still remains one of his timeliest. The film centers around Moore’s attempts to confront then CEO of General Motors Roger B. Smith. Moments from the film including scenes with former game show host Bob Eubanks and another with a luckless rabbit have become iconic.
5. Bronx Obama
The first feature-length documentary from filmmaker Ryan Murdock, Bronx Obama follows the story of Louis Ortiz, a lifelong resident of the South Bronx. Unemployed and with a young daughter, Ortiz is told by a friend in 2007 that he looks like a rising young politician. Before long, he’s making a living as a Barack Obama impersonator. The award-winning doc shows many hilarious moments intentional and otherwise as Ortiz comes to grips with his new life over the course of three years during Obama’s first term and deals with an unscrupulous manager.
Bill Maher brings his scathing satire of organized religion to his 2008 documentary Religulous. In the course of the film he travels to The Wailing Wall, The Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City and The Vatican, among other places. But some of the best scenes are in cheesy locales like The Creation Museum and a Christian theme park in Orlando called Holy Land Experience. He even finds a Muslim gay bar in Amsterdam. Maher is merciless in his mockery of the main Western religions, but even if you disagree with his viewpoints, his comedy is always spot on.
7. Al Franken: God Spoke
From the makers of The War Room, this doc shows the evolution of Al Franken from comedian to political pundit during the first term of George W. Bush. We see Franken touring in promotion of his book Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot, broadcasting at Air America Radio and touring with the USO in Iraq. The most memorable encounters in the film are clashes with right-wing pundits like Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity. It’s a funny look at a man on a journey from SNL to the US Senate.
8. Journeys with George
In the year 2000, Alexandra Pelosi (daughter of Nancy Pelosi) was covering the presidential campaign of then-Texas Governor George W. Bush for NBC. For 18 months, she also used a handheld camcorder to record Journeys with George. The result is a remarkably warm and funny portrait of a somewhat goofball politician. Pelosi went on to become a filmmaker. Bush went on to bigger things as well. From the vantage point of 16 years later, the big takeaway from Journeys with George is that George W. Bush seemed a lot funnier before we had eight years of him as president.
You may have suspected that George W. Bush could make a goofily entertaining subject for a documentary. What you never suspected was that Mitt Romney could ever be anything other than stiff and robotic. For the film Mitt, documentarian Greg Whiteley was given unprecedented access to Romney in his runs for president in both 2008 and 2012. What emerges is a surprisingly human portrait of Romney and his family. There’s an amazing scene in the hotel on the night Mitt lost to Barack Obama revealing that he never even contemplated the possible need for a concession speech.
10. Sarah Palin: You Betcha!
No list of things both political and funny can avoid having at least one entry about Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin: You Betcha! is from noted British documentarian Nick Broomfield (Kurt & Courtney) and should not be confused with the fawning Palin doc The Undefeated. In 2011, after she had become a conservative icon, Broomfield went to Alaska and documented his attempts at getting an interview with Palin in a Roger & Me-esque pursuit. In interviews with Palin family, friends, fans and foes, Broomfield manages to make the self-described “mama grizzly” seem both dangerous and ridiculous, both of which are undoubtedly true.