After spending more than a month savoring the glow of the best Golden Globe and Academy Awards field in years, along comes "Movie 43" to make me wonder if I have a clue what movies are about in the first place.
Interestingly, this raunchy assembly of gag sketches helmed by 11 directors including Peter Farrelly, Steven Brill and Brett Ratner, features a lot of those perennial Globe and Oscar contenders, eager to take part in these snippets that rarely get beyond juvenile obsessions with body secretions, fluids and the parts under the fig leaves.
And it is fun for a while watching Kate Winslett's discomfort as a woman in a restaurant, who can't get past fixating on the obscene Adam's apple of her blind date (Hugh Jackman). Make that Adam's apples, a pair of them.
Real-life couple Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber play parents homeschooling their teen-age son, whose curriculum includes homework, bullying, humiliating him in the shower and being part of his initiation into adolescent sex.
Those are the bits that can be mentioned in a family newspaper.
Among the generation-spanning co-stars such as Emma Stone, Richard Gere, rapper Common, Seth MacFarlane, Justin Long and Uma Thurman, the cast list features Maui Film Festival honorees including Elizabeth Banks, Dennis Quaid and Greg Kinnear.
Add producer Ryan Kavanaugh, who recently championed building a film studio on Maui, to the sort of local connections.
Unfortunately, they didn't help much in my personal efforts to "get" the movie, structured as a series of bizarre scenes pitched by a demented screenwriter (Quaid) to a mid-level exec (Kinnear) on a studio lot reminiscent of Robert Altman's classic, "The Player."
As for the meaning of the title well, nobody seems to know exactly.
Discomfort, embarrassment and pain have been integral parts of comedy, ever since the first monkey slipped on the first banana peel. Many of the filmmakers on this project have pioneered new ways of making tastelessness hip, at least since producer-director Peter Farrelly introduced a new line of hair-gel products in "Something About Mary."
Good taste doesn't necessarily have much to do with good art. Too bad that doesn't guarantee the opposite - that tastelessness is automatically funny. When Sacha Baron Cohen does it, it's usually hilarious. With these guys, not so much.
Luckily, there are better movie alternatives to choose from, especially now as the industry heads into the home stretch of Oscar season. The Best Ensemble prize, the top award from the Screen Actors Guild, followed Golden Globes and a long list of other prizes, cementing "Argo's" front-runner status for the top Academy Award. Despite Oscar's snub of its star Ben Affleck for best director, it's a labor of love for a superbly talented cast and crew, all the way up to co-producer George Clooney.
The multiple acting prizes for "Lincoln's" Daniel Day-Lewis, "Silver Linings Playbook's" Jennifer Lawrence and "Les Miserables' " Anne Hathaway not only signal superlative performances, but films well worth seeing in their own rights.
Heartfelt, fearless originality runs through the Oscar races, beginning with the best-actress nomination for Quvenshane Walls, who will be 10 in August, for the visionary, magical realism of "Beasts of the Southern Wild." Denzel Washington offers one of his best performances, ever, while folks like Helen Hunt, Alan Arkin, Robert DeNiro, Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz and Philip Seymour Hoffman shore up the supporting ranks.
A studio campaign for Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola's best-original-screenplay contender "Moonrise Kingdom" included an online, illustrated version of its screenplay that feels like a blueprint and tech specs for pure magic. There's greatness, everywhere you look. It's not that you don't expect to encounter many of these filmmakers in the mire of some future "Movie 43" - it's just that some of us still prefer watching how high they can go, instead of how low.
*Contact Rick Chatenever at firstname.lastname@example.org.