Ken Jennings is many things. He is a trivia master, a shoo-in for the next host of Jeopardy!, an author, and one of the funniest folks on Twitter. After an exchange on the social media platform last night, it seems that Jennings is also a film buff. Or, at least, hilariously pretends to be.
The exchange came when TV writer Chris Regan mentioned that some extras blew the realism in The Entertainer by looking at the camera. The Family Guy writer concluded that it was the fault of Peter Yates, the assistant director of the classic film. Ken Jennings replied, “More and more people are saying this.”
Regan later replied to Ken Jennings saying that “Kitchen Sink Realism Twitter would love if you would spread the word.”
What Are Chris Regan and Ken Jennings Talking About?
Ken Jennings’ tweet is really only funny if you understand the context of the conversation. So, what are they talking about?
The Entertainer is part of the Kitchen Sink Realism movement. This was a movement in British cinema that captured the gritty realism of middle-class life in the country at the time. The style is characterized by depicting poor or middle-class areas of England. They employ the settings, accents, and attitudes of the people of the areas in which the films are set.
At the same time, films in the Kitchen Sink Realism movement, like the one that Ken Jennings and Chris Regan are joking about, use on-location filming as well as live sound. This is done to make the whole thing feel more real. The style of cinema was a direct response to the escapist films of the previous generation.
Ken Jennings and the Family Guy writer are discussing a film that is about a “song-and-dance man,” in a seedy seaside town. So, it takes a hard look at the life and actions of people in small-time show business. Where older films would show the glitz and glamour of show business, The Entertainer looks at the hard, stark realities of the people involved.
So, if you have a ton of extras looking at the camera instead of being engrossed in whatever they’re doing, it blows the realism a little. It’s not as bad as, say, a full-on fourth-wall break. However, it still has the potential to take the viewer out of the moment. When striving for artful realism, that’s the last thing you want.
So, if the Entertainer feels less-than-realistic, we can all blame the assistant director. However, if you find yourself going down a rabbit hole of twentieth-century British cinema, blame Ken Jennings.