The Overlooked Pleasures of Being Out of the Loop
I was watching a Blu-Ray disc of some sort, as one does these days, when I saw a trailer for Killing Gunther, a mockumentary written and directed by Saturday Night Live funnyman Taran Killam and starring former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger as the title character, a legendary hitman targeted for assassination by a jealous, ambitious peer.
The movie did not look terribly appealing. It set expectations firmly at the “maybe watch on Netflix if bored and/or looking for something to write about" level but what struck me about this preview was that it was a coming attraction for a movie starring a man who not too long ago was one of our biggest movie stars and I had absolutely no idea that this movie existed until I saw a trailer for it many months after it was more or less released direct-to-video.
True, Killing Gunther looks like the kind of movie you do once you’ve accepted that the rest of your career will be on a steep downward slide but the movie had a couple of distinctions all the same. It’s a comedy, which is not unheard of for Arnold (you may be familiar with a certain all-time holiday classic called Jingle All the Way) but still represents a relative anomaly in the action icon’s filmography. It’s also from the post-governorship phase of Arnold’s career, which helps explain its low-profile. Additionally, it's a mockumentary, which is not something Arnold has really done before.
Lastly, I had no fucking idea this movie existed until I saw the preview. That kind of happy ignorance would have been impossible to imagine during the eighteen years or so I spent writing about pop culture as a staff writer for The A.V Club and The Dissolve. Back then, it was a not unimportant part of my job to be cognizant of something like Killing Gunther’s existence pretty much from the time it was announced in the press.
This was particularly true during the unhappy final year of my life as a staff writer, when most of my job consisted of meeting a quota of timely news pieces every day. If I were still in that role, I would have written news posts to chronicle every phase of Killing Gunther’s life, beginning with the announcement of such a promising-looking and unusual project in the trades, possibly followed by further casting news or stories about on-set drama. Then there’d be a post when the film’s first trailer went up, followed possibly by a review of Killing Gunther.
These days, I choose to be willfully oblivious when it comes to pop culture. I’ll read articles on friends’ Facebook pages or Twitter feeds but I don’t really read pop culture news. I read pop culture media casually at best and, to be honest, I spend so much goddamn time on Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place that it by default has become my source for entertainment news. That motherfucker isn’t current on anything.
So when I saw that trailer for Killing Gunther I experienced it as what I used to call a “civilian” (that is someone blessed and cursed not to be a film critic) because I am a civilian these days. I process movies the same way you do, assuming you’re not a film critic, so when I see something like the trailer for Killing Gunther I have the, “Eh, that looks whatever” non-reaction of someone out of the game, who watches movies for what I believe is known as “pleasure.”
If I were interested in getting another staff job in pop culture media it would undoubtedly behoove me to pay way more attention to contemporary pop culture. It also would probably help with pitching successfully, but I almost instantly gave up on the idea of a full-time staff position after leaving The Dissolve and pop culture media only seems to have gotten colder, crueler and less conducive to full-time employment since then.
I honestly like being surprised by the mere existence of detritus like Killing Gunther. There’s something to said for not being professionally obligated to track seemingly every film doggedly through the phases of their lives. Now I can just perform weird postmortems on whatever strikes my fancy, which, truth be told, is Killing Gunther.
To put things in The Godfather Part 3 terms, just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in, but thankfully, it’s up to me to determine how, and if, I choose to cover Killing Gunther. True, judging from what’s popular and powerful, it sure seems like readers can’t get enough timely news briefs, television reviews, clickbait and trailers, but you can get that almost literally anywhere else, so I don’t feel too bad that they’re not available here.
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