- James Nguyen on “Movie Close Up”
- Teaser for “The James Nguyen Story”
- “The Birdemic Experience” Featurette
- Deleted Scenes
- Electronic Press Kit
- Commentary with James Nguyen
- Commentary with stars Alan Bagh and Whitney Moore
Um, I…guess it’s The Birds mixed with An Inconvenient Truth but through the lens of a Vietnamese born Ed Wood. But it’s also a testament to a singular vision and what one man can achieve while living entirely in a universe of his own making.
Acted by Alan Bagh, Whitney Moore, Adam Sessa, Catherine Batcha and Tippi Hedrin as Actor on TV.
Written, Produced and Directed by (Master of the Romantic Thriller) James Nguyen.
Our tale takes place in Half Moon Bay, a lovely little town on the Northern California coast. Rod (Alan Bagh, pronounced like the sound sheep make) is a successful salesman for N.C.T. Software. Nathalie (Whitney Moore) is a fashion model who just landed a gig for Victoria’s Secret. After meeting cute (or creepy depending on how you roll), Rod starts courting Nathalie in such ways as bringing her a flower and taking her to An Inconvenient Truth and, much later, even holding hands. After 45 minutes of scenes of them just hanging out, they decide it’s time to have sex and, inexplicably, go to a hotel to do it even though they both have their own well furnished apartments. I guess shit was gonna get torrid. In the morning, they wake up to discover that the world is now a wasteland of fire and pain because birds have decided that everyone needs to die. In a nearby hotel room they meet Ramsey (Adam Sessa) and his girlfriend Becky (Catherine Batcha). Ramsey just got out of warring in Afghanistan, which we slowly deduce due to his constant wearing of camouflage pants and having a van filled with automatic weapons that never need re-loading. They escape the motel by swinging coat hangers at the cartoon birds for three full minutes. It’s fucking amazing. The rest of the movie is them travelling up and down the coast fighting birds (mostly eagles) and learning the lesson that the only way for the birds to start respecting us is for us to start respecting mother nature. And birds.
The hype on this movie is correct. I have never seen a movie this bad in my life. The Room is visual poetry compared to this film. Plan 9 is nuanced in retrospect. Writer\Director\Producer\Visionary James Nguyen (pronounced Win!!) has done something here that tends to defy description because, no matter how you try to explain it to someone, it just has to be seen to be believed. I hope I’m not over-hyping it, but this movie will climb into your soul and take purchase there, forever shading your day-to-day with a rosy glow of epic, epic win. Now that this movie exists for people to watch and is readily available on DVD for mass consumption, there is nothing standing in the way of you and your dreams… if your dreams involve being an actor or filmmaker or producer or special effects technician or cinematographer or if you just wanna smoke cigarettes and hold a boom. You will have no fear because nothing that you do could ever, ever come close to being in the town across the river from the neighborhood of anything this bad. This movie is the antithesis of all that is good. And I loved every second of it.
James Nguyen escaped Vietnam in 1975 during the fall of Saigon when he was nine years old and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. In the 36 years that followed he got heavily into movies (specifically Alfred Hitchcock), started up his own website (Moviehead.com) and started making films, financed solely by his job as a computer software salesman. Birdemic (a romantic thriller) is his third feature, following Julie and Jack (a romantic thriller) and Replica (a romantic thriller). Judging from the previews of those two movies, they also might be worthy of a release by Severin Films because they seem to have the same…artistic flourishes that haunt Birdemic. I went to his website to find out more information on his films but it was all closed up like an abandoned amusement park filled with rides that bad touch you. I hope it’s just down for construction because, now more than ever, America needs a website dedicated solely to this man’s artistic vision.
Nguyen says in the commentary that 60% of the success of a film is dependent on casting the perfect lead actors, and in this regard, he was 100% correct. Alan Bagh’s performance as Rod (named after Rod Taylor of The Birds and A Matter of Wife… And Death) is one for the ages. Yes, his line delivery style is borderline autistic, but it’s his dead eyed stare that gives the performance the anti-psychotic medicine overdose vibe I think he was going for. Honestly, it’s the worst performance I’ve ever seen in my life and I thank him for it. I’ve been a struggling actor and screenwriter for a decade now and he has given me faith that as long as you believe that you are something deeply enough then others will eventually believe it, too.
A lot of the dialogue comes off as being the product of English as a second language, like when Nathalie (over the phone) tells Rod she got a job with Victoria’s Secret, he says to her “Woah, congratulations. I think you’ll look great in those lingerie.” In the actor commentary, Alan and Whitney both say that Nguyen forced them to say the lines exactly as written whether it was broken English or not. I like to imagine that Nguyen had a box cutter on him at all times and if Alan tried sprucing the dialogue up a bit, he would shake his head silently and the blade would come out another notch. That might explain a few things. Whitney Moore comes off a little better than Alan Bagh does, but only because she smiles a lot and is acting opposite a vacuous black hole of charisma and talent. Her performance probably could have been shaped into something a little better in the editing room, whereas Alan’s only hope of coming off even a fraction more interesting is doing something crazy in his personal life, like a public suicide or maybe even getting a disease no one has ever heard of before. Something…gooey.
The filmatism (thanks Vern) on display here is so hilarious and awe inspiring you owe it to yourself to get your hands on a copy of this film. The music (which is mostly derived from royalty free websites and the MTV Music Generator) is jarringly cut off anytime there is a transition to a new scene. The transitions tend to cut people off in mid-sentence and sometimes it even cuts to someone before they’re ready to act. In one scene, our heroes are running down the beach away from some pissed off eagles in a wide shot and when it cuts to a medium shot they’re all standing still for a second before they start running again. At least you can’t actually hear Nguyen yell action, but you can see it in the wide, frightened eyes of the actors.
The sound cuts in and out anytime there’s an edit through the entire film and I would wager that half the dialogue in the film was done in ADR. The sound mixing is even worse because not one scene stays consistent with it’s environment. A good 20 minutes of the film is the Birdemic survivors walking along the beach and the ocean is so loud that you can only hear about every third word that they say. Which is fine because the words are bullshit but I still feel like a better job could have been done there.
And the birds? Oh, holy shit, hold on to your faces because they might be melted off like so much fondue. There is not one real bird in this entire film, they are all computer generated (or as James Nguyen calls them, “Digital Characters”). And the computer that generated them had 8 entire bits to work from. They hover in place and screech while the tips of their wings bend a little, simulating flight. All the birds sound like pelicans even though I only saw like 500 eagles and a buzzard\vulture hybrid. Are buzzards the same thing as vultures or are buzzards something different that only exist in old Warner Bros. cartoons? Could I look that up online? Probably. Will I? All signs point to no.
Sorry, I have to talk about the script a bit more. It’s not that it’s so much bad as it is written by someone who’s never experienced a real human interaction with someone that wasn’t fucking with him. It’s hard to tell where the horrible acting of Alan Bagh and the childlike script of James Nguyen connect, but it connects, alright. It connects all over the fucking place. A quick example would have to be when Rod and Nathalie meet up with Ramsey and Becky, Rod starts asking Ramsey about the war. Ramsey gets all sad faced and says “I’m just tired of all the fucking killing in Iraq. Why can’t we just give peace a chance?” Yes. He does. Or when they meet a scientist who blames all the serial killing birds on global warming. The scientist says “It’s the human species that needs to quit playing cowboy with nature. We must act more like astronauts, spacemen taking care of Spaceship Earth.” The whole movie is filled with these gems, but that’s just the words. The delivery of these lines creates a new universe of completely unaware parody that might eventually overwhelm the borders of our reality and create a new high water mark for self expression. Or people might blow Cheeto dust out their nose while watching it with friends. Either way.
James Nguyen cares. He cares about global warming and pollution and green energy so much that Rod drives a Hybrid, gets solar panels attached to his house and starts a (nondescript) green energy business. Birdemic- Shock and Terror was created to shock and terror us into taking some responsibiliwho the fuck cares. It’s got animated birds dive bombing gas stations and mini-vans and exploding on impact. It’s got Nathalie doing a glamorous photo shoot in a strip mall one hour photo. It’s got performances on par with community theatre productions in mental hospitals. Tippi Hedrin gets an acting credit for the movie and she’s only on a TV screen someone walks by. If this film were a woman, I would tell her she had me at the four minute long opening credits of Rod driving 20 miles an hour down the highway. Try what the youngsters call “getting crunk” or “riding the horse” or “waxing the baby” and watching this movie with some people you love and you will have a very memorable evening, I promise you.
There is nothing good about this movie except all of it, every second of it’s incredibly long 93 minute running time. Watch this movie so James Nguyen can continue living his dream, one film at a time. Speaking of which, his next film is Birdemic 2- The Resurrection in eye fucking 3D. Since the eagles only stop attacking humans because the doves ask them really nicely not to, I figured there was more story to tell. Spoiler.
Severin Films did a nice job with this release and I look forward to seeing what else they have up their sleeve when it comes to fringe entertainment. I’m hoping for a documentary about the life and times of Gallagher but I think I might be aiming a little too high. The disc. The disc has two absolutely wonderful commentaries. The first is James Nguyen basking in the glow of acceptance and popularity, constantly bringing up how popular his film is, but never delving into why. I think he genuinely believes he’s done something incredible here…he has. The second commentary has Alan Bagh and Whitney Moore blaming everything on Nguyen and generally sounding embarrassed about the whole thing. Fun Fact- craft services on the film was one 7-11 egg salad sandwich per actor, per day. Excellent.
The disc also has an incredibly awkward interview with Nguyen that he did on a San Francisco cable access show called “Movie Close Up.” It’s really hard to watch and the host is horrible, but it’s fascinating in a car wreck\parents fucking kind of way. There’s also a featurette about the Birdemic Experience, which is just the midnight showings of the movie they’re doing in cities cooler than mine all over the country. There’s also a few deleted scenes with Nguyen commentary and a smattering of teasers and trailers for the film.
Seriously, though, the commentaries are incredible. Whitney keeps talking about all the red flags she should have paid attention to before taking the role such as auditioning in the parking lot of a middle school and how Nguyen kept telling people she was “legal”. Watch the movie, hear the commentary and then kill yourself because then, you’ve done it all.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars