Netflix Pick: “Shut Up Little Man!” will invade your privacy

After a couple of weeks off due to complete, inescapable entrenchment in following the Mass Effect 3 controversy, my weekly Netflix Pick feature HAS RETURNED! I know, I know… You were all just stuck having absolutely nothing to watch because you are unable to decide for yourselves, and for that I apologize. I, myself, had a bit of trouble deciding what to watch this week, so I deferred to the “Top 10 for Darren” section of my PS3 Netflix interface. Of the recommended titles, I was most intrigued by an odd-sounding documentary entitled “Shut Up Little Man!” Was Netflix right to have the audacity to recommend this film to my discerning tastes? FINDOUTAFTERTHEBREAK!

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“Shut Up Little Man!” is a documentary about a couple of young men (Eddie Lee Sausage and Mitch Deprey) who moved to San Francisco in 1987, only to discover that their next door neighbors had a penchant for shouting obscenities at each other loudly and frequently. The nature of these shouting matches were so bizarre that Eddie and Mitch felt compelled to record them in case they needed to have documented evidence if things ever got threatening. When it ended up not being especially threatening to their livelihoods, they found that they wanted to continue recording these disputes out of pure fascination.

An early picture of Eddie and Mitch (respectively). Still not entirely sure if Sausage is Eddie's real last name.

What makes the relationship of these neighbors so interesting is how very little sense it makes that they are able and willing to live together. These men (Ray Huffman and Peter Haskett) are like a real life Odd Couple fueled by drunken rages. Ray Huffman is a vaguely Southern homophobe with a tendency to threaten murder, and Peter Haskett is described by some as a “bitchy old queen.” Late into the night, Ray and Peter would become terribly drunk and yell at each other loudly and constantly, usually including the phrase “Shut up, little man!” shouted repeatedly by Peter.

The documentary starts with interviews with Eddie and Mitch intercut with dramatic re-enactments set to their recordings of Ray and Peter and does so with a mildly whimsical style that is quite engaging and entertaining. Eventually, we learn about how these recordings ended up getting passed around like some sort of cassette-based rage virus, resulting in a slow-acting explosion of fans who find extreme, voyeuristic delight in listening to these two old men yell at each other (including people such as comic artist/writer Daniel Clowes).

From that point forward, the documentary becomes an enjoyable and fascinating examination of what constitutes creative ownership. As these recordings became more and more popular, there emerged a few different attempts to dramatize the relationship of Ray and Peter. This resulted in a variety of legal questions regarding who precisely had the rights to the story, if anyone at all, and whether or not it was even morally or ethically “right” to capitalize on these recordings. By the end, the film does a fine job looking at how these events played out, as well as seeking out some new information about the entire affair. The story of everything involves some really intriguing turns near the end that I do not want to spoil but are very strange and exciting to see.

A great example of the film's stylistic approach to describing certain undocumented events (in case you were wondering if Peter Haskett is actually a cartoon).

Overall, it’s a great documentary with an engaging sense of style. It’s my absolute favorite kind of documentary; one that tells a very personal, human story that prompts some fantastic discussion about the larger issues at hand. In the case of this particular documentary, it features the former more heavily than the latter, which does work in favor of entertainment value without completely sacrificing too much depth of thematic exploration.

It’s an easy recommendation to anyone who doesn’t give a fuck about profanity.

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About Darren Orsetti
Amateur screenwriter. Amateur blogger. Life-long haver of skewed priorities.

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