Friday, September 05, 2008


God (1998)
Director: John August
USA, 10 minutes
Source: DVD Bonus feature on The Nines (2007)

God is about a woman named Margaret (Melissa McCarthy) and her relationship with God. It's not the type of human-deity relationship with which any of us are (or are not) familiar. This God is obsessed with gossip and has found his soul mate in McCarthy's ditzy caricature. Of course, a relationship between two characters so flawed is bound to hit a rough patch, and that's the main plot of the film. While they avoid talking to each other, God uses his powers for evil and screws with Margaret's life. A plague here, a ruined breakfast there, and Margaret is annoyed. She wants to get God back. But who would know how to get revenge on GOD?

[church lady]Maybe.... SATAN?![/church lady]

With the devil's guidance, Margaret starts sinning, but before she runs off the cliff, she has a change of heart, she talks it over with God, and they get back together and move on. A happy ending! Yay!

God is a good example of how easily a director can put a personal stamp on a short film (as opposed to the intensely collaborative process of most features). "Really?" you may ask. "The cinematography seemed somewhat generic. The lighting was warm but not extraordinary. Not much imagination in angles." Exactly.

John August is not a director by trade. He is a screenwriter (who writes a killer blog that you should all be reading). His credits include Go, Big Fish, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In God, he played to his strengths: monologue and dialogue.

When you see a Spike Lee, Spike Jonze, or Michel Gondry short or music video, you can detect almost immediately that there's "something about" the film that tells you who made it. Usually it's something tangible that you don't articulate right away - maybe similar aesthetic sensibilities (Destino) or photography (The Follow). If you see an actor or character from their other films, that's a nice big clue (Camera). In God, it's a writing style. The film has its share of visual gags, but "You're like a stalker with super powers" is a line I'd expect out of a screenwriter.

John August doesn't have the most recognizable style. Another example: Consider the minute or so of Sin City that was directed by Quentin Tarantino. I knew beforehand that he had directed one scene, but I didn't know which one. When the scene arrived, I knew it was him. The dialogue was delivered in a self-confident Tarantino style. I recognized themes similar to what Tarantino usually features in films he's written by himself. That brings up one last point: It's a lot easier for a screenwriter to put a personal stamp on a film through dialogue because they so often fly solo. Directors almost always delegate. Screenwriters do not.


K. Eng said...

I really enjoyed this. I love films that take a situation and ask the "what if?" question. In this case, really being in a relationship with God, not just in a metaphysical way. I enjoyed the witty humor that you mentioned, and I also liked the mystery of not hearing the voice of God.

Michael said...

One word: confounding and, partly, because of my strict religious practices. Any way, I do agree the lighting and camera angles were bland. I would also like to add that the background music, for me, should have been minimized in this film.
As I am new to short films, this film causes me to suggest the length of this film is insufficient for the time needed to successfully make pun towards religion. In feature films like The Gods Must Be Crazy (Uys 1980), however, this type of comedy is successful. Maybe, real comedy happens over time?

John August said...

I'm the writer/director. Couple things.

First off, God is a bonus feature on the DVD for The Nines. By my choice, that's the only place it's ever been legally distributed. Your site seems to respect copyright on certain films and not others, for reasons I don't understand.

As far as I can tell, you ripped it from the DVD and put it on Google video. If you're going to do that, at least pick a higher-quality host like Vimeo.

In the meantime, please stop linking to that crappy Google video, or better yet, take it down.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was hilarious John! Perhaps because God and I are superclose, except we only discuss quantum theories during episodes of "Touch" with Keifer Sutherland, never Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. I loved each moment. McCarthy is faaaabulous!