David Cross “Hits” Albany at Spectrum 8
By Era Bushati
Feb. 24, 2015
“Get ready to laugh more than three times but less than 10,” said David Cross in a pre-recorded clip that played before “Hits,” his directorial debut. Cross, best known for playing Tobias Fünke in the hit series “Arrested Development,” wrote and directed this black comedy, a satire about America’s unhealthy and destructive obsession with fame and viral videos.
The movie debuted at the Sundance Film Festival last year and is now making its way through over 50 select theaters around the country at a pay-want-you-want ticket rate. Last Thursday Feb. 19, the Spectrum 8 movie theater in Albany played a one-time showing of “Hits” followed by a 20 minute Skype Q&A with Cross.
The movie follows Dave Stuben (Matt Walsh from “Veep”), an ordinary man in the upstate town of Liberty, NY. His one grievance in life is the town council’s lack of action when it comes to plowing his street or fixing the potholes in front of his house. One night, Dave, a regular speaker at town hall meetings, is dragged out of the meeting after he goes past the allotted three minute speaking time limit. His yelling and accusations of infringement upon his constitutional rights as an American citizen to be heard get captured on video and posted on Youtube.
A “think tank” collective of hipsters in Brooklyn, NY take it upon themselves to create a video in support of Dave who they see as a tax-paying American hero fighting for his rights against “The Man.”
As media attention starts to rise around Dave’s cause (thanks to the new video that compares Liberty to Berlin under Hitler), his daughter Katelyn (Meredith Hagner) is frustrated by her dad’s accidental fame. She harbors intense hopes of becoming the next standout singer on The Voice, which she believes is her sure way to fame. Several times throughout the movie the viewer is treated to her terrible off-key rendition of Sara Bareilles’s “Brave.”
In the final town hall meeting, the room is filled with Dave’s supporters as well as media people and cameramen. The ending involves three people trying to steal the spotlight in their own absurd ways, which leads to an embarrassing and disastrous conclusion of people getting tasered, trampled and beaten by the police. Everyone gets their 15 minutes of fame in the worst way imaginable.
The movie produced a lot of laughs, definitely more than Cross’s prediction of 10. He managed to accurately portray the delusional fame-seeking behaviors of today’s Internet obsessive generation. As one audience member told Cross in the Q&A, “You didn’t seem to discriminate against anybody. Everybody looked like total idiots.”
At the Spectrum 8 Theater screening there were at least four of the movie’s background actors in the audience. Keith Mueller, a portrait painter and actor from Athens, NY, was on the set for “Hits” for three days in the summer of 2013. He had a short speaking part in the movie.
“I think it makes a good point about America’s obsession with fame at all costs,” he said. “I think it was a really creative story line.”
His friend of 10 years, Scott Ian Barry, an actor and photographer from Woodstock, NY, was also in attendance on Thursday and had a background role in the movie.
“It’s a comedy with substance,” said Barry. “It wasn’t fluffy and it treated you more intelligently and more honestly than a lot of big budget Hollywood films.”
The pay-what-you-want model is an experiment put forth by Cross, as a way to make the movie more accessible to fans. In an online interview Cross has said that “If it’s a choice between 150,000 people paying 15 bucks and a million paying whatever, I’ll take the million any day.”
“I think it’s a cool idea,” said audience member Krista Reynolds-Stump. “It gets people out of the house and it’s good for those who don’t have a lot of money.”
“Hits” is the first feature movie to be released on BitTorrent as a pay-what-you-want project. While artists like Thom Yorke and Radiohead have released albums through BitTorrent in prior years, it was never at a pay-what-you-want basis. This could be an aspiration for indie filmmakers as “Hits” paves the way for a new kind of film distribution in the Internet age.
At the Spectrum 8 theater, manager Joe Crowe said that in his personal experience with ticket sales for “Hits” he has seen people pay as little as $2.50 per ticket to as much as $17. The theater was close to sold out by Thursday night.
The movie doesn’t teach us anything we don’t already know about fame and viral videos but the writing is entertaining and as Mueller and Barry mentioned, this movie has substance and a unique storyline. It is definitely worth whatever you can pay.
“Hits” is available for download on BitTorrent until Feb. 27 at the pay-want-you-want rate. You can also download it from iTunes, Google Play or Amazon at a more traditional price.