Thursday, 12 June 2008

Special 100th Review Spectacular: The Imaginary Reviewed on DVD

When The Imaginary Review started last year, one of our early fans was Nigel Worthington-Rhys, a documentary film-maker from Wales. He realised soon after the first review that this was going to be huge, a massively successful project that would unite and polarise vast swathes of the planet, and he wanted to be a part of the staggering critical behemoth before everyone joined the bandwagon.

Since that first review was printed, Worthington-Rhys has followed up on the subjects of each entry, interviewing them and following their post-IR successes with the help of a video camera. With the 100th Imaginary Review now published, Worthington-Rhys has edited the footage and released it as a documentary entitled The Imaginary Reviewed. Narrated by the film-maker himself, it makes for some very interesting viewing.

The subjects of the film are covered more or less chronologically, beginning with the first reviewee. Winwood Augary, author of The Climes of Despair (a book he translated from Greek into English despite not speaking a word of the former language), is given this honour. Augary is interviewed briefly from the mental institution in which he now resides, which makes for sad viewing from the onset. He appears to be unaware of his place in history as the subject of the first Imaginary Review, and the mention of the book that rendered him insane causes him to break down violently. The story is left to his publisher, Derek Shatner, who claims that the book’s appearance on The Imaginary Review meant that it sold more than the anticipated zero copies. When asked by Worthington-Rhys how many of the books were purchased, Shatner responds, “at least three!”

The effect of an Imaginary Review is a common theme throughout the documentary, and many of the people featured here are thankful for the level of recognition that the website gave them. Even a mostly negative review could have positive results, as witnessed by artist Gustav Chichester, whose Timpani Suicide installation was described as “drama-less tat” by The Imaginary Reviewer. He claims that his exhibition showed a 33% rise in visitors after the review, but adds that this could be because the days following the review’s publication were very rainy.

Worthington-Rhys’s love of The Imaginary Review is highly apparent through The Imaginary Reviewed. In some of the interviews, it is as if the camera is lovingly caressing the people onscreen, such is the bold light in which they are filmed. In the case of the Cheeky Girls (whose Cheeky Manifesto was reviewed last August), Worthington-Rhys is actually caressing them with the camera, which unfortunately does make for some awkward viewing.

For me, the best part of the documentary is the “Where are they now?” aspect. I was highly pleased to find out that the SwampAid music festival in Annifridagnethaville gained so much publicity from our Imaginary Review that this year’s concert will be headlined by U2, Coldplay, The Rolling Stones (playing with the remaining Beatles), Radiohead and God (who will be joined by President Bongo and the Democratic Republic of Phonque).

In the documentary we also discover that Dave’s Uncle Ted (also reviewed last July), was so touched by his generally positive review that he swore off the booze after reading it. He hasn’t been incarcerated since.

Evil Blood II: The Hurtening, was such a box-office smash that several sequels are already in the works; a similar thing is true for The Golden Rump Ass, reviewed earlier this year. In the four weeks since the critique was printed, six sequels have been released, including The Golden Rump-Ass 4: The Rumpening and The Golden Rump-Ass 5: Rump-Asses Gone Wild.

But not all Imaginary Reviews have led to success stories. Garrulous Industries, makers of the Tring 32X, went bankrupt shortly after it was released. All machines had to be recalled after they were proved to cause dwarfism. Gunchen Maladroit, the photographer whose A Life in Frame retrospective was reviewed last October, was investigated by the police after the show contained photographs of a picnic table that were deemed pornographic. He is now in hiding and only agreed to appear in the film if his face was obscured by a large balloon.

Nigel Worthington-Rhys’s narration on the documentary is superb. He knows his subjects inside and out, having spent an inordinate amount of time on research. “Before I read the Imaginary Review of the Nokia 22-20 Gunphone,” he says in the voice-over, “I had no idea it existed. Thanks to The Imaginary Review I know it’s not an excellent mugger deterrent, a view that I put to the machine’s developers in Finland.”

Some time is dedicated to the things listed in The Imaginary Review’s various end of year reviews, and the people behind the top-ranked albums, films, colours and comics are all questioned about their opinions on the website. Mostly none have heard of it, despite their accolades at The Imaginary Reviewer’s hands.

I can’t recommend this documentary enough for the many, many loyal Imaginary Review fans out there. Anyone who wants to know how successful Freedom 2008 by The Right Trema was (and why he was dropped by his record company) should watch it. Likewise, anyone who wants to see whether Men at Work - the wonderful art exhibit - was finished on schedule and under budget, and how much a two bedroom apartment inside it now costs, should get a copy.

The Imaginary Reviewed will certainly be a strong contender for Best Documentary at next year’s Oscars, a fitting tribute to Nigel, as well as the stars of his film, including the many people featured in it who are sadly no longer with us and to whom the film is dedicated. These include Wayne Carroll (who choked on his own vomit shortly after his Complete Drunken Text Message Poetry Collection was released), Ted the Unknown Species (who caught the very un-pet-like Dutch Elm Disease) and Jerry the dead zookeeper, who is currently being sued for traumatising the children at his presentation this month.

Gosh, that was fun, wasn’t it? Here’s to the next 100 reviews! Maybe Now Toronto will have hired me by then!


Falwless said...

You're a riot. You know what I'm thinking as I read a post of yours? How long must this have taken to write?

Your dedication is staggering.

Melissa said...

"At least three!"

Brilliant. Just brilliant.

The Imaginary Reviewer said...

Falwless: Thank you. As for your question regarding the length of time taken to write, I really can't say. When I start writing a review, time has no meaning for me. Sometimes, when I'm really in the zone, I black out, and when I come to, my My Documents folder is full of new files. I once started to review a new CD and woke up two weeks later with a hard-drive full of furniture criticism.

Melissa: Many thanks! Though I do believe the quote in question might not be that accurate, as I heard that one person bought two copies after one was eaten by a crocodile.