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|Index||11 reviews in total|
I saw this documentary at the Traverse City (MI) Film Festival. Two
Midwestern college grads move to California in 1987, only to find that
their new apartment has a pair of profane, arguing drunks living next
door. After being awakened repeatedly by their new neighbors' rants,
the guys start audio taping the fights. Eventually they collect dozens
of hours of material, share bits with their friends, and an underground
sensation begins. Tapes, comic strips, a play, and even a puppet show
depicting Peter and Ray, the fighting neighbors, emerged throughout the
90's. At one point 3 competing movie productions were planning films
about the couple.
The first 30 minutes or so of the doc sets up the scenario and lays the background to the story. It is this part, when we are first introduced to the vulgar fighting couple, where the movie is at its best. Unfortunately the film can't sustain the humor and energy from the first third of the film, as we follow the legal battle to determine who has the rights to the recordings. The film ends with the college guys returning to the scene of their recordings, 20+ years later, and investigating what has happened to their old neighbors. Still, I found the story engrossing and interesting enough to sustain my attention through the second half of the film. The movie is entertaining, but if you're easily offended by profanity look elsewhere!
From director Mathew Bate comes the stunningly well put-together
documentary "Shut up, Little Man: An Audio Misadventure." It tells the
complete story behind the infamous audio tapes that have been
circulating around the globe for around 20 years. For those unfamiliar,
the tapes are real-life recordings done by two college graduates of
their drunken, next-door neighbor's violent, profane and often
hilarious verbal (and occasionally physical, as is implied) brawls.
They were essentially a viral sensation long before the age of the
internet took over, and circulated throughout the US. (and eventually
This documentary, as mentioned in the subject line, feels like two different documentaries on a common subject, "smooshed" together. The first half of the film follows the two guys, who in the late 80's made the initial recordings and helped facilitate their distribution. It follows their stories, and how the audio grew beyond expectations, spawning everything from comics, to small plays and even eventually a film.
The second half of the film is a more comprehensive look at the two main subjects of the audio- Ray and Eddie, a homophobic violent drunk, and his gay and equally as drunk roommate. It pieces together their story and we are eventually able to learn more and more about them, and their relationship as friends/roommates/enemies.
The film is presented in a very interesting way, and the method by which the production team chooses to develop the subjects is fascinating and very cool. Lots of cool visuals, stock footage set to the audio, and other visual tricks give the documentary a level of eye-candy, and there is rampant humor throughout. If you've seen the fabulous documentary "Winnebago Man", you will know the sort of thing to expect, because the latter half of the film is in much the same vein.
It's also interesting seeing "Eddie Lee Sausage" and "Mitchell D", the two men who made the recordings, and how their lives have been affected by it, both for the better and for the worse. Some scenes focusing on the morality and exploitive nature of the audio and the "art" it inspired are exceedingly though-provoking.
That being said, the film does get a little lost at times. Some scenes focusing on "fans" of the audio feel out of place and don't add much to the story, there is some redundancy in how the film keeps coming back to the same themes over and over again (but not in a clean, poetic way, but in a forced, contrived way), and it does drag at times.
However, that being said, it's still a fundamentally solid and extremely fun documentary, and I'd highly recommend it. I give it an 8 out of 10.
Imagine, if you will, a couple of cartoonist Harvey Pikars living in
the next apartment in 1987 San Fran; only these two aren't savage
cartoonists and don't have Harvey's wit or wide-ranging interest in
humanity. They're just a couple of aging men, roommates, one gay one
Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure is the strangest documentary you'll see this year or almost any because nothing really happens except that filmmakers Mitchell D and Eddie Lee Sausage tape their two old neighbors, who, when drunk, verbally abuse each with the same repetitive expletives, the most memorable being Ray's, which is the first part of the film's title.
Two elements of the experience are worth noting: a viral fame came by way of a world-wide network of lending tape organizations (remember, no You-Tube or Internet), and talk of litigation about privacy rights appears and then vanishes.
These two topics could have been the heft needed to counterbalance the repetition of Ray and Pete's rants, which are strangely uninteresting except for our voyeuristic interest in loser humanity and the sheer banality of their lives, perhaps reminding viewers of their basest moments of stupidity and anger against a loved-one.
The doc is peopled by geeks who spend a large part of their lives pursuing these tapes as if they were the private conversations of Charlie Sheen. Wait! That's the answer: We love the salacious, degraded moments of someone else's life because we feel superior or we need to know that others have the same weird moments we do. I must admit to a fascination with the rhythmic patterns of their language, poetry from the tenement but not T.S. Eliot.
Its lowness mystifies me, an art house fan, and yet attracts me, as a winsome prostitute might. I know she's not part of my life, but for some reason I'm compelled to invite her in.
In the end, this movie felt like an excuse to milk the tapes for a
little more fame and/or money.
The first 2/3rds nicely chronicle how the whole phenomenon took place. And it truly is fascinating. You get a sense of how strange, serendipitous and organic it must have been to have a personal project turn into a meme.
But the key word is "organic". Other people drove the Pete and Ray story. The partners, correctly, said "go ahead" since, in effect, it wasn't really theirs to control.
It's when they take control that movie inadvertently reveals that, rather than a sweet, hapless pair that fell into something, they've staked their identities on this one thing and they've become kind of self-important assholes.
When Eddie Lee made proclamations about "art" my first thought was - "Really? What other art have you created? Because an artist normally creates more than one piece of art and all you did was tape some guys screaming at each other. Other people picked it up and turned it into something. Duping tapes and giving them to people...well...that's not really art." After that, the pair goes on a quest to do the one thing that art should never do - explain itself. Tracking down Ray, the roommate, felt like a stunt. It was a fishing trip to solve the riddle of whether Pete and Ray were lovers. That's dull and pointless.
Art, imho, allows people to project themselves into and onto what they see. These two, Eddie in particular, seem to want to prove something that doesn't need to be proved. Wrapping up the film with the Pete and Ray dancing sucks everything that's interesting about the relationship out of it.
It may actually be a plus that the director takes no moral viewpoint
about the material, but it is disturbing that no one really sees the
ugly moral, if not legal, ramifications of the exploitation of the two
drunks. Yes, it is difficult not to laugh at any colorful alcoholic, as
comedians have alway known, and the recent suppression of such humor
may only add the laughs we are indulging in when we hear these two.
The pranksters, of course, went way past that and harassed them with prank calls, still, it could have been viewed as edgy, if caustic, humor. Those who went crazy for this stuff, however, are the type of people who kick a cripple, and watching the attempts to turn this fad into a big Hollywood payoff is car wreck time, you want to look away but you can't.
It's funny that the identity of the big name comic who wanted to do the movie is protected, the two losers are granted no such compassion or dignity. Indeed, the director displays no real interest in them other than as push pin dolls for comic derision. Who were they, really, and how did they get to such a desperate state of life? To ask these questions might have spoiled the fun of deriding them.
The story of Raymond and Peter, mean drunks and awful roommates whose constant shouting matches - committed to tape by frustrated neighbors - made them an unwitting, unsuspecting pair of underground celebrities. Like the thematically-similar Winnebago Man, the quest to learn more about these clueless cult legends is much more rewarding than what's actually at the end of the trail. While the focus hovers on revisiting the tapes, hearing the men who recorded them reminisce about the glory days, and watching dozens of talking heads throw on a headset and burst into genuine fits of laughter, it's a light, cheery smile a minute. Later, when the inherent humor of the material begins to run out, the whole picture begins to look downright pathetic. Hearing about the legal struggles that surrounded the story's film rights, witnessing the self-important ruminations of the guys who held the mic, seeing how confused and flabbergasted Peter was about the phenomenon, captured on film years later... these actually take away from what made the tapes so enjoyable in the first place. As a momentary distraction, an escape from the mundane to voyeuristically laugh at the worst state of the human condition, the tapes are in their element and at their best. This level of over-inspection only rubs away the veneer and many of the laughs.
It's difficult to believe that simple recordings of unorthodox
arguments had the ability to go viral in the 1980's. It may seem
unfathomable, but Tribeca's new documentary Shut Up Little Man! An
Audio Misadventure assures us that it happened. In 1987, two young
punks named Eddie Lee Sausage and Mitchell "Mitchell D" Deprey moved
into a bright pink, low rent apartment (eventually coined the "Pepto
Bismol Palace") and were consistently bothered by their next door
neighbors loud, inane arguments that would happen throughout hours of
The neighbors were apparently on a life long welfare and alcohol binge. They were bigoted and homophobic Raymond Huffman and openly homosexual Peter Haskett. Though it appears them living together was a contradiction in itself, sources claim that the two were close friends when sober. Which, as we can assume from watching the film, wasn't too often.
Peter and Raymond would argue like a married couple, using profanity so explicit it may be questioned why they weren't thrown out. They would exchange insults back in forth with Peter usually yelling "shut up, little man!" at Raymond. After growing weary of the yelling, and after an attempt to stop them did not work, Eddie and Mitchell decided to tie a microphone to a ski pole and raise it out the window so they could record their neighbors' mindless rants for their personal record. They recorded them to a cassette tape, and the newly discovered mechanism of evidence and defense eventually became used for enjoyment and curiosity. They continued doing it for the logical reason of human nature; to see how far they would go next time. The result makes for a surprisingly entertaining documentary. Just like the documentaries F**k and Winnebago Man, it proves that the topic of swearing, if taken seriously and effectively, will produce a very interesting breed of films.
What makes this documentary so interesting was it shows how things went viral before computers. What if the "Shut Up Little Man" recordings had Youtube under their belt? They would've spread uncontrollably, but due to the primitive technology, it took longer for them to be heard.
The film was made for two major reasons; the first being because, at one time, three separate films from three separate groups were trying to make a film on this subject, including Eddie and Mitchell, and all were rejected or stuck in development hell. And the second reason because one big question lingers over Eddie and Mitchell's heads "do they owe Peter and Raymond anything?" Both men died in the nineties, but is it fair to market their recordings for a profit without giving them something in return? It's a little late, but the duo do the best they can to try and make amends. This involves tracking down a third member of some of the infamous recordings. To say what happens when they meet him would be criminal. Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure is funny, engaging, and genial. There's nothing to really be biased about, which is why I believe the documentary didn't feel like a burden at all. Just like with Winnebago Man, things could've quickly spiraled into a whirlpool of mindless swearing and inconsistencies. Luckily enough, the film doesn't get preoccupied with ridiculous, directionless comments which is a lot more than can be said about some of the actual recordings.
Starring: Eddie Lee Sausage and Mitchell Deprey. Directed by: Matthew Bate.
this documentary left me feeling giddy but cold. the recollections of
ivan and daniel are the best and most human part of this film. the
telling of the pete & ray story is a bit creepy, but i just couldn't
it's all real and that is what is so disturbing about this story. two humans treating one another like trash yet the watcher or listener finds it entertaining and at moments a brilliant use of the English language in phrases. i must admit i had to laugh along with the thousands of others - but it's an uneasy laugh!
this flick is also a wonderful look into the pre-internet subcultures and how it spread nationwide. fascinating! and they also bring up the legal ramifications in their story!
it's worth watching. they did a good job. it does get to a boring part, but stick with it as that is very short then the pace picks up.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Shut Up Little Man is certainly not groundbreaking. I think in the
hands of a more talented documentary maker they could have told
something fascinating and parts of this are but its told in sort of a
silly plodding way. However, the story itself is actually really
fascinating. This was truly a story that, if encouraged by the
internet, would have been viral in seconds. But this was years before
the internet, before mass communication like emails and cell phones,
and actually spread and became viral via the Sanfrancisco underground
and audio tapes. Remarkably I had never heard of this story but it is
kind of neat to watch and see everything unfold and the best part for
me was seeing them trying to re-connect with the subject of this viral
project. The project is of two alcoholic (and I think mentally
deficient) neighbours who would become verbally abusive and scream
horrendous and darkly funny things at each other. Even a film was made
based on these two men which I had never heard of but hopefully will
see at some point.
Mitch Deprey and Eddie Lee Sausage are the two guys who started the viral sensation. Granted the entire beginnings of this is very juvenile but I feel like Mitch and Eddie were still, twenty plus years later, still sort of juvenile about it. The two men in the apartment, Raymond and Peter, have a very serious problem and yes listening to them is often funny, in the same way that if you heard your neighbours arguing especially like this you would listen in because its human nature, much like reality TV is now such a craze. Still the film does try and touch on how ultimately very sad the entire situation is, and Mitch and Eddie even seem to get emotional at point when re-visiting Raymond and Peter's lives but I wonder how sincere it is.
This is writer and director's Matthew Bate's first full length documentary and he does a good job. The film is easy to watch and covers all aspects of the legend that was Raymond and Peter. It covers the gambit of things that happened to these seemingly simple recordings. I just don't think it delved into the true significance of how profound this event was in history. Decades before internet, or reality Television this set the bar for what people loved to see, hear, and experience. Its fascinating and worth seeing. 7/10
I tried as hard as I could not to laugh at the recordings of two drunks
hurling abuse at each other. It was impossible, my moral code failed
beneath the sheer brilliant beauty of the dialogue that takes place.
Some of the lines from Peter and Ray are pure comedy gold, I wish I
could remember as many of them as possible.
The film itself is very well made, weaving together exciting visual eleemnts to accompany the auditory subject matter. There is a distinct nod to Erroll Morris in the Interrotron, to-camera style of interviews as well as the re-ennactment of the scenes taking place inside the Pepto-Bismol Palace.
This film is a riot, great for fans of the tapes and those who know nothing. Highly recommend.
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