‘But, you don’t understand’: A Look Beyond The Idiotic


To many, Two Idiots In Hollywood is a rubbish film - one of the very worst. Robert Rakeridge of Films “Я” Us Quarterly hated it. Fellow film critic Loupenis Jones thought it lacked ‘momentum and any real characters you could identify with’. The movie’s own conceptualist, T. Barry Armstrong, notes its feeble budget and total loss of continuity. And yet, if we look hard enough, we can see the profound exploration of the ‘klutz and clamour’ of Hollywood that T. Barry, so Icarian, was aiming for, and that Loupenis comments upon. From its very title, the film promises to address the question all filmgoers ask themselves: are there really ‘idiots’ in Hollywood?


We are shown at the outset that the film is set in the Void (Outer Space), bracing us for a sense of vacuity. Immediately, in Taylor and Murphy’s preoccupation with doing a film character impersonation (the eponymous character from 1941 classic The Wolf Man), and ‘getting it right’, we see members of a younger generation who are somewhat bewitched by the silver screen. The small screen, too, has the power to denigrate and persuade.


Don’t ever call me Goonshow.

Hey, it ain’t that bad to be called Goonshow.

Yeah, you’d love it I bet.

No, I wouldn’t love it, but I wouldn’t hate it that much. I wouldn’t cry.

Oh yeah?

Yeah. It’s a hit show in Australia.

You lie.

It’s true. I saw it on Entertainment Tonight.


 - Taylor and Murphy


When they fail to score with their dates, Taylor and Murphy come to view Hollywood as the answer to their problems. Murphy, referring to his job in Dayton’s soda pop factory, yearns to avoid being ‘bottled up’ by escaping to Los Angeles (the city of angels - heaven?). Furthermore, it has the appeal of non-stop television - the industry that Murphy hopes to penetrate.


But when the pair reaches LA, we see that it may not be the panacea they hoped for. Their new apartment offers nothing new (‘the buttsteaks left the phone switched on’), and Taylor and Murphy find themselves lying to their new landlord (‘I write for The Batpoon Show... Public Access’). Joc Jeremy himself illustrates the perils of living in La long-term - he has a terrible back injury from a life of ‘bondage’. But Taylor and Murphy move in; and soon the TV is on.


‘Today, we watch Entertainment Tonight; tomorrow, I hit the studios.’ - Murphy


The following day, after an excited drive through Hollywood, Murphy reaches the hub of its entertainment industry - the National Broascasting Association. It is an open house: Security lets in Perry White, a prig who feels that his hopeless jokes are good enough for TV; and Security admits Murphy, with (literally) trash. We see Dan Skink, the President Of Television, who is stressed and desperately ‘needs good ideas for television’.


‘Look at me, getting ulcers wondering what ideas for new televisions shows I’m gonna give the Boys From New York. It’s all just crap anyway ... We fill our lives with deceit, indolence, the lust for money; where did it all go wrong? Where?’ - Skink


It is ironic that it is the President of TV who is so conscious of the fetid hollowness of Hollywood. He himself is forced into self-preservation, and has questionable religious faith, as he prays to Jesus for ideas that will keep him employed, with his chauffeured limousine and huge office. He then has an almost inverse epiphany, in picturing $40bn under the guidance of Murphy, who is presenting himself to Skink for his own financial gain.


‘I come before you today because I get great ideas for television all the time, just like Carol Burnette or the E.T.’ - Murphy


More on E.T. later. Skink relaxes by thinking about ‘what Reagan did to the world’ - Ronald Reagan, who rose from the film industry to the highest echelon of politics.


Murphy’s idea - The Pac-Man Comedy/Drama Hour - is picked up not only because it is potentially very lucrative (the Boys From New York have little difficulty in picturing $40bn), but because it appeals to the executives as an incestuous hybrid of different facets of the entertainment industry, looking back to the dramaturgy of 1920s cinema (Cops and The Lost World have clips featured in the dramaturgical breakdown), sideways at television, and forward to ‘blompety-blomp years’ of video gaming. While Joe Clark highlights this transcendence by playing himself, William Shatner, with his successful Star Trek transition from TV to film (Outer Space), is also suitable. (Hence, Reagan and Shatner both earn places at the Hollywood Waxworks Museum).


However, Murphy’s ambitions nosedive when The Pac-Man Show mutates from high- to low-concept TV, and he is no longer wanted. Feeling used and heartbroken, he soon falls into an hallucination where his own family are monstrosities, his best friend is killed, and he is hounded by zombies he has awoken, baying for brain. As they chant ‘we need good ideas’ relentlessly, we think back to Skink’s hunger for good ideas, and T. Barry’s openness for good ideas about The Robot From Outer Space. Murphy’s dream gives us a view of Hollywood as unstable, parasitic and dangerous. His only escape is to ‘wake up’, and realise that it is his friend who truly needs his good ideas.


The instability of Hollywood is such that not only do the Armstrong brothers intervene to explain bout scene excision, but are in turn interrupted by a film review segment, presented by Robert Rakeridge and Loupenis Jones, who proceed to show unseen clips from Two Idiots In Hollywood, and from T. Barry’s new movie, The Robot From Outer Space. This is another nail in the coffin of normal continuity, and the critics’ segment descends into bickering, then disintegrates altogether. The fact that Robert and Loupenis lead the undead against Murphy shows that even they are not above Hollywood’s deformed hostility.


Besides this view of the entertainment industry, we hear from T. Barry of another, even more malign Hollywood force.


‘Lawyers are such horrible, horrible people.’ – T. Barry Armstrong


Not only have they set up an investigation of his profit-sharing proposal for The Robot From Outer Space, and eviscerated his movie of its most ‘crucial, hard-hitting scenes’, but they are a threat within the movie, as illustrated by Taylor’s misadventures. Following Joc Jeremy’s death, his police interrogation is unnervingly warped; and the defence lawyer he is later allotted does him no favours, by allowing him to be guided by his libido (he signs a confession in the hope of scoring with female prisoners).


It is Taylor’s trial scene that forms the richly elaborate crux of the film’s social commentary. We are immediately unsettled to see that the statue of Justice is in fact an immobilised person. The mutant Judge’s two heads are no better than one, as he influences the jury, to the powerless frustration of the lawyer, who later falls asleep. As the prosecution lawyer cross-questions Taylor, we are abruptly reminded of the power of the small screen - this time, to repulse.


‘You watched TV?! After a vicious, homosexual torture-murder – your Honour I’ve heard enough!!’ – Prosecuting Attorney


When Murphy later mentions TV-watching, it is met with convulsions, vomiting and screaming from a public terrified by the screen and its menacing implications. The barbershop song brings about the complete degradation of the legal proceedings, with the audience dancing, and the jurors regressing into Native Americans and hula dancers. Taylor is then almost condemned under the false patriotism of the Jury Foreman (‘I’ve lived in this great country America for 62 years to be exact’), and then the Judge.


‘Hippies, Yippees, Beatniks, and now this. It’s people like you who make a sham out of civilisation and turn the Me Generation into a cruel joke.’ - Judge


Taylor is saved by the arrival of the ghost of Joc Jeremy. He is accompanied to the courtroom doors by Abraham Lincoln and Puck, but no further - for his speech will not quite reach the heights of the Gettysburg Address, or of Shakespeare. (Besides, Lincoln, having been killed in a theatre, would be uneasy in post-Reagan Hollywood.) Jeremy is met with great fear, from an audience which has seen E.T. and Poltergeist on the big screen and feels unsettled by such aberrations. (Also, E.T. reminds us of the power of Entertainment Tonight.) Joc has a higher purpose; an eloquent speech chiding Hollywood for its inept atavism.


‘You all act like dogs, so eager to get a big dinner.’ - Joc Jeremy


Appropriate, since the courtroom has featured both a buffet and a pack of dogs. So like Shatner’s Pac-Man, the people of Hollywood live for food and sex. But unlike Pac-Man’s ghosts, this ghost is neither ‘the slow terror of a wasted past’ or ‘faulty sentimentality’ - he is the genuine sentimentality of a cherished past. Joc promotes a more sedate, less Californian, yet more active life, such as the prelapsarian serenity of his own youth. And then, the screen itself is redeemed, as we see it used for good purpose - the family home video, with all the purity, dreamy simplicity, love and friendship therein.


So, Taylor and Murphy have survived Hollywood intact, but have they too been mutated? Apparently, they’re still idiots, but with the Landlord’s admonition ringing in their ears, they are ready to look for the best of all worlds, as it were, within the Hollywood they have stumbled into. Murphy decides that the solution is DJing: it is entertainment, but without the NBA’s lust for ideas; they ‘can talk’ and ‘like music’; they’ll get ‘tonnes of snatch’. And, if reality gets corrupted again, and they can’t have it all,


‘We can always dream.’ - Murphy


At this line, T. Barry Armstrong has appeared on screen and points at us. We realise that this is the point: the better we dream, especially in a world of nightmares, the better we thrive. Finally, T. Barry’s own dream comes true: the Void is filled; the Robot from Outer Space is with us.




Mike &




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