Thursday, March 01, 2007

Bring on the Next Bad Numerology Movie

Jim Carrey in The Number 23, a numerology movie that fully explains its title.
Christine Loss/Courtesy of New Line Cinema

Ten days ago I called the Howard Stern Show in response to a comment that Stern’s soundman, Fred Norris (or somebody pretending to be Norris), posted here inviting me to speak on the show about the Chapter 27 boycott. The intern whom I chatted with had never heard of Chapter 27 or any boycotts. But he did say that somebody would “check it out” with Norris.

As the show has yet to return my call, I can only assume (until proven otherwise) that “Norris’s” comments about my previous two postings are forgeries. By all appearances these notes are an attempt by the publicity junkies at to scam their next media fix. Because it’s become increasingly clear that, aside from the boycotters themselves, the only people who care if Chapter 27 is picked up for theatrical distribution in the United States are the filmmakers, the Peace Arch Entertainment stockholders, and a handful of hardcore Jared Leto fans.

The “15 minutes” of fame allotted the boycott and the film have expired. If anybody’s still talking about Chapter 27 a few months from now, they’ll probably be saying, “The boycott was better than the movie.” Already, bloggers and critics have moved on to trashing the next numerology movie, The Number 23, which, unlike Chapter 27, at least goes to the trouble of explaining its title.

Yet, as the boycotters assume their rightful place as a footnote to the history of bad films about numbers, they refuse to see the obvious: Chapter 27 hasn’t been picked up for distribution not because of their headline-generating assault on free expression, but despite it—which is an indication of just how fatally flawed the film must be. If I were to venture a guess as to why nobody’s yet expressed a willingness to bring Chapter 27 to a theatre near you, I’d say: Probably because Lindsay Lohan’s limited to 10 minutes of screen time, and no distributor believes a mass American audience is going to shell out 11 bucks each—the current price of a ticket in Manhattan—to look at a fat Jared Leto play a despicable character, no matter how transcendent his performance might be.

Meanwhile, over at the Peace Arch Entertainment business forum, disgruntled PEA investors, as reasonable and well-mannered a group of people as you’ll find on any board in cyberspace, have been analyzing Chapter 27’s aesthetic and financial problems. Though they’re deeply disgusted by the toxic ignorance of the boycotters’ spam-like postings on their site, they think that the boycott itself is a joke that, if anything, has been helping the film—just not enough to put it over the top. And they predict that somebody will eventually pick up Chapter 27—but only after the hype dies down completely and a distributor can get it for a song. For their sake, I hope they’re right.

As for Me

This blog, now in its 14th month, has been an interesting, and at times creatively rewarding, experiment—my first serious foray into cyberspace. I started it because I believed that Chapter 27’s writer/director Jarrett Schaefer had ripped off my title and possibly my concept from the Chapman section of my John Lennon biography, Nowhere Man.

Beatles expert Roberto Ponce, one of Latin America’s foremost cultural critics, agreed that this was most likely the case. In a story about the film, “Mark Chapman, el Asesino de Lennon,” (Mark Chapman, the Assassin of Lennon) which ran in the December 9, 2005 issue of the prestigious Spanish-language newsweekly Proceso, Ponce, quoting extensively from Nowhere Man, explained how Chapter 27 is a metaphor for the murder—that Chapman wanted to write Chapter 27 of The Catcher in the Rye in Lennon’s blood—and how the number 9 and all its multiples numerologically connected Chapman to Lennon.

Then, in a story that ran in the New York Post, and was picked up by the Associated Press, on January 20, 2006, “Ono Tries to Halt Filming of Movie About Lennon’s Killer,” the writers Mandy Stadtmiller and Mary Huhn referenced Nowhere Man to explain the movie’s title. Why? Because Nowhere Man is the only book that fully explains it.

Disappointingly, Schaefer was either too amateurish or too ignorant to fully explain the meaning of Chapter 27—he completely ignored both the numerology angle and the metaphor of writing the missing chapter of The Catcher in the Rye in Lennon’s blood. All he did was “borrow” an obscure title to graft onto a film that has little to do with Chapter 27. Had he fully explained the title, and shown how it numerologically connected Lennon to Chapman, I suspect Chapter 27 would be a more interesting movie.

Of course, everything I’ve written here is little more than educated guesswork—I’ve not yet seen the film. (I only feel as if I had.) Like everybody else who’s interested, I’ll see it when it’s released, in whatever form it’s released in. Then, as promised, I’ll post my review. For now, however, I’m going to take a little vacation from blogging and go someplace tropical. We’ll see where things stand when I get back.


Robert Rosen said...

To My Readers:
I see that things are pretty much as I left them when I went on vacation a month ago. "Chapter 27" has still not been released, nor has a release date been announced. Though there is an “unofficial” version available online for downloading, I’m not going to watch it—for the time being. I prefer to see "Chapter 27" exactly as the filmmakers intended it to be seen, either in a movie theatre, or on DVD with all the extras and outtakes. When that happens, I’ll post my review here.

That other Mark David Chapman biopic, "The Killing of John Lennon," however, will be making its North American premiere at The Tribeca Film Festival in a few weeks, and I will be seeing it there. So, stay tuned for that review, and again, thanks to everybody for reading.

Anonymous said...

Have you tried getting an interview in Latin American press where you can do a "j'acusse" to the film' producers? That might get their attention, what with world sales markets and all. . .

Robert Rosen said...

I already have the attention of the producers—they’re regular readers of this blog. Check out Jarrett Schaefer’s curiously evasive answer to an interviewer’s question about where the title, “Chapter 27,” comes from:
shtml. (It’s a little past the halfway point of the video.)

The Latin American press has been writing about the connection between “Chapter 27” the movie and “Chapter 27” in “Nowhere Man” since December 2005. There have been three stories in the Mexican newsweekly “Proceso,” one of which I wrote (“Diarios Explosivos”), and one of which I linked to this posting (“Mark Chapman, el Asesino de Lennon”). And there’s been additional ongoing “Nowhere Man” coverage in Mexico, Chile, Colombia, and Argentina for the past four years. If and when “Chapter 27” is released in these countries, I’m sure there will be more coverage.

So far, however, Brazil is the only Latin American country that’s picked up “Chapter 27” for theatrical distribution. And I think it’s unlikely that an official, non-pirated, version of the film will find its way into theatres or video stores in any of the other countries. In general, the entertainment industry in the USA—and I include publishing as well as movies—believes that it’s too difficult to do business Latin America; there’s not enough money in it to make it worthwhile; and nobody cares about Lennon or the Beatles down there anyway. The last part of this statement is, of course, absurd—they love the Beatles in Latin America; the passion and interest, which I’ve experienced firsthand on two book tours, is extraordinary. But because of this official belief, “Nowhere Man” is one of the few Lennon bios available in Spanish, and that’s one of the reasons it gets the amount of coverage that it does.