The newest YouTube sensation isn’t a Britney Spears meltdown: it’s two movie-reviewing octogenarians who call themselves the Reel Geezers. Veteran screenwriter Lorenzo Semple, 85, and producer Marcia Nasatir, 82, often hilariously disagree on flicks such as The Kite Runner (“It’s corny as hell,” says Lorenzo. “I loved it,” Marcia proclaims). [Watch the video below.] The friends started the reviews after a pal told them their arguing was driving her dinner party guests crazy.
But that banter doesn’t seem to bother YouTube viewers a bit. Reel Geezers has gotten over 650,000 hits so far—many of which were clicked by the under-30 crowd. “Word gets around that two impossibly old people comically put each other down,” says Lorenzo. “And even more amazing, it turns out they have a lot to say about movies.”
AARP The Magazine's Audrey Goodson talked at length with the Geezers for this online-extra Q&A.
Q: Who came up with the idea to post the reviews on YouTube?
Lorenzo: Marcia’s friend Heather Finnegan, who makes documentaries, said, “Let’s tape them and put them on YouTube.”
Marcia: And I said, “What’s that?”
Q: You two don’t pull any punches in your reviews. You’ve made jokes about Robert Redford getting plastic surgery, for instance. Do you ever get angry phone calls from friends in the business?
Marcia: I got a call from a friend who was upset that I called his movie—Lions for Lambs—“shameful.” That was the first time I realized there were people out there watching who could get hurt.
Lorenzo: Being in the business, we know it’s just as much work to make a bad movie as it is to make a good one. They worked just as hard, and they’re annoyed you feel that way.
Marcia: But we’ve had people criticize our movies too, and what’s the phrase? “Suck it up.”
Q: Marcia, speaking of criticism, you’ve taken several movies to task for being hostile or demeaning to women. Do you think this is something we’re seeing more of recently?
Marcia: No, I think it’s that we were more accepting of it in the past. Society has changed, and women don’t want to see themselves depicted as not strong, opinionated, and interested in the world. If you lived through the women’s movement, I think you notice how women are portrayed in film.
Q: Lorenzo, you’ve said that you don’t like Marcia’s politics because “she wants to fix everything.” What’s that about?
Lorenzo: Marcia thinks marching in the streets will fix something, much in the same way she thinks movies will fix something. I’m more inclined to think things are unfixable.
Marcia: I do believe that movies can change people’s perceptions and their behavior.
Lorenzo: I think that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.
Q: That’s right! You’ve said you’re with Sam Goldwyn on film: “If you want to send a message, use Western Union.” Why is that?
Lorenzo: I don’t think anybody’s mind is changed by a movie. Take a [critical] film about Iraq, for example. People who already disagree with the war felt that way before they saw it. And those who do agree with the war don’t go see it, and they call it left-wing propaganda.
Marcia: Let me just say, All Quiet on the Western Front. Lorenzo, you have to admit that movie brought about a pacifist movement.
Lorenzo: I think the movie was utterly unimportant in terms of changing anything. The novel was more important, but it was one of about 50 novels about pacifism at the time.
Marcia: Lew Ayres [the lead actor] became a conscientous objecter and didn’t fight in WWII.
Lorenzo: I’ll agree a movie can influence the actors in it. I’ll concede that to Marcia.
Q: Lorenzo, you’ve said that you easily tear up during sentimental scenes—so even if a movie can’t change your mind about something, it can obviously strongly affect you. What film has really brought out the waterworks?
Lorenzo: Waterworks is too much—I’ll maybe have a misty eye or a tear down the cheek. A happy romantic ending will make me tear up. This is where Marcia and I disagree. When two people get together, Marcia points out that it’s not likely they will end up together forever. But that doesn’t matter to me. At that moment, they’ve gotten over the obstacles, they’re together, and they’re happy.
Marcia: When I was growing up, there was a radio show called Let’s Pretend that broadcast fairy tales. I used to believe in happily ever after. But I’ve become a little more cynical since I was 12.
Q: You two have quite impressive résumés. What’s been your proudest accomplishment?
Lorenzo: None of them! The idea of being proud of something in this business is dubious at best, but I had the most fun writing the Batman series.
Marcia: I have two. First, I produced Hamburger Hill, a movie about the Vietnam war. I was proud I got people to put up money to make a film that at the time dealt with an unpopular subject. The other movie I’m proud of is The Big Chill, which has had a long life.
Q: AARP The Magazine holds an annual Movies for Grownups® Awards. What movie would you say deserves an all-time greatest Movie for Grownups Award?
Lorenzo: Snow White, maybe.
Marcia: That’s what I was going to say! But for this year, I would give it to Juno. It’s about falling in love, getting pregnant, and being able to continue with your life.
Q: Your reviews of teen-centered movies like Juno get the most hits. Do you receive many e-mails from younger viewers?
Marcia: Yes, they are often very complimentary. Many say they didn’t think that older people would be as informative, entertaining, and enlightened as we are.
Lorenzo: It’s like a trip to the zoo for them. They go to see old people arguing with each other. And if they know anything about movies, they also see we know what we’re talking about—and they really enjoy it.