Filed Under Movies
The New York Times Magazine had a big comedy issue this weekend, more of which I’ll comment on later. But one of the stories was about the top 5 desert island comedy movies of the people they interviewed. Naturally, there’s going to be some overlap - though not much. But they do create a potential Top Ten. Here it is:
- This Is Spinal Tap (which was on the list of four: David Cross, Catherine O’Hara, Fred Willard and Ricky Gervais)
- Dr. Strangelove
- Dumb and Dumber
- The 40-Year-Old Virgin
- The Jerk
- Animal House
- The Big Lebowski
- Young Frankenstein
- Groundhog Day
- Laurel & Hardy’s Sons of the Desert.
Tie with 3 mentions
Tie with 2 votes
Of those interviewed, two of them had the most common taste: Catherine O’Hara and the creators of the online short Le Montage.
Of course, three of those asked had the most idiosyncratic lists:
- Judd Apatow:
Welcome to the Dollhouse, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Punch-Drunk Love, Terms of Endearment and Borat
- Bernie Mac:
Uptown Saturday Night, Let’s Do It Again, Back to School, What About Bob? and Bad Santa
- Ze Frank:
The Party, The General, A Day at the Races, Caddyshack and The Perfect Human
How off is the top ten? Is there any one from the three more distinctive lists that should have made it?
Filed Under Movies
I’ve always liked Comedy Central’s Reno 911, but it’s never made me laugh as hard as something like The Office - perhaps because many of the gags are pretty broad despite it’s reality show format. But that same sense of scale might be perfect for the movie screen. Plus, it’s got Patton Oswalt, though sadly not as his squirrelly dungeon master character from the series.
If the youtube link goes down, you can see the same trailer in quicktime format here.
Filed Under Movies
Watching Johnny Knoxville on last night’s Daily Show, he mentioned a bit in the next movie Jackass 2 featuring him getting run over by a Yak was inspired by an old Warner Brothers cartoon (specifically the act of tying a blindfold and smoking a cigarette beforehand). Later on in the interview it talked about him riding on a rocket for another stunt, which instantly evoked in my head Wile E. Coyote’s ill-fated use of Acme products. Combine that with one short shot from the trailer, featuring one of the boys stepping on the business end of a rake and driving the pole right into their face - something straight out of a Sylvester & Tweety chase.
It was a kind of revelation and it made me wonder how many other bits from the previous episodes or films were inspired by cartoons. Do any others come to mind? I’m sure the connection has been made before but it surprised me how much the stunts from Jackass echo the childhood memories of Bugs, Daffy and others. It probably part of the reason why I find them so funny and why I’m looking forward to the movie’s release on Friday - it’s the laugh of recognition, just a little bit removed.
Filed Under Movies
Patton Oswalt in his blog recently pointed out three attempts to adapt a comic book script of his. The script is a parody of an ad campaign anybody who read comics in the 70s will immediately be familar with - a short one page story where superheroes foil crimes with Hostess Twinkies, Cupcakes and Fruit Pies (imagine supervillains yelling “Real Fruit Filling! Light, Tender Crust!”). Sean Baby has a wonderful site reprinting all of them with appropriately snarky commentary. The script was originally meant to run in a parody comic from Marvel, but never made it to press.
Two of them are draw it out comic book style - I’ll let you go to Patton Oswalt’s post to see them. But another was filmed, staying brutally faithful to Patton’s script. (Patton: “I feel violated and honored.”) Here it is (warning: the sound is a little off):
One of the interesting things about this, other than we’re getting to a point that we’ll create the media we want to see whether a big company will publish it or not, is that, as Patton points out, the two drawn pieces missed his first direction to the original artist to “try to replicate that dashed-out-in-an-afternoon, generic artwork you used to see in the Hostess Fruit Pies ads.” The filmed piece he said caught this original direction. He’s right, it’s the closest. But in my mind, there’s still so much darkness and shadow in it - it seems like the perfect tone would almost be the old Electric Company Spider-Man live action shorts (if you were going to film it).
I really want to see someone nail this the way Patton suggested - contrasting the tone of the darkness against the workman artwork and sunny tone that made the original ad campaign. To me these contradictions are why shows like Wonder Showzen are so brilliantly hysterical - they keep the look so faithfully and let the darkness swallow it from the inside.
(As an extra: check out this cool little interview with Patton by comics creator Brian Michael Bendis)
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An article in June’s Esquire portrays Mike Judge as somewhat cowed by the studio on the release of his next film Idiocracy - particularly because they won’t let him show the writer the trailer (apparently the first version that 20th Century Fox has got right). The writer find this particularly distressing, considering Judge created the white collar manifesto Office Space which has, in my mind, really become a classic comedy of our time - as symbolic as Modern Times was of the 30s. The treatment of Idiocracy doesn’t bother me so much from the perspective of Office Space being a rallying cry for workers, but because there hasn’t been one thing that Judge has touched that has failed comedically yet ( and commercially if you could Office Space’s success on DVD & cable). Why second guess this man?
Idiocracy has one of those hit yourself in the head premises that you wish you thought of: Luke Wilson plays an “average dumbass” who gets put into hibernation and awakes 500 years into the future where after years of the stupid people breeding and the smart people not, he’s now the smartest man on Earth. All you have to do is think of Kevin Federline to know how true the idea is. The rest of the script involves a save the world plot that is really just an excuse to explore how far the world has sunk (no one drinks water but rather “Rauncho, The Thirst Mutilator” according to this script review). It doesn’t sound as subtle or recognizable as Office Space, but the exaggerations of our culture to its logical extreme sound hysterical. (I’d love to read the script, if anyone has a copy.)
Apparently the studio was a little afraid of testing, according to Judge making trailers where instead of setting up humor, it attempts to set up wonder (“What if you could travel through time…”). Plus they’ve backed away from spending money on the special effects of a Ghostbuster-level premise ( to circumvent, director Robert Rodriguez apparently did one special effect scene for free for Judge ). But the worst is the amount of time they sat on completing the film - leaving everything in a limbo that erodes creators’ confidence and care.
Idiocracy apparently finally see release on September 1st and it’ll probably be the last time Judge deals with a studio. I’ve read postings that the next films he does will be self-financed. So much the better, more control and less doubt are what someone with this track record deserves.
Lemon: Annabelle Gurwitch was fired by Woody Allen. “You look retarded,” he said.
Lemonade: “Fired!” - a collection of stories from comedians, actors and writers about how they were fired. It’s been a live show, a book and, now, a movie currently in search of a buyer.
The toughest venue at the festival was the Bellyup and, “Fired! Live” had the distinction of playing at two in the afternoon on Friday, a rough time for comedy. I had read a couple of the essays in the recent book already, so I was well aware of how entertaining they were even if the audience laughs were sparse. (The biggest laugh came when Dana Gould yelled at latecomers and then pretended to start reading his essay from the beginning.) A common theme for all the stories is how shitty the jobs were in the first place - they were a blessing to be fired from. Even the Woody Allen play Annabelle was fired from is described by the New York Times as “disappointing” (noted with some deserved glee by her). My favorite essay and performance was from Andy Borowitz, who failed to be invited back as a writer for “The Fact of Life” because he actually attempts to make the characters funny rather than the “sarcastic black one” and the “sarcastic fat one.”
The film “Fired!”, along with including these stories, attempts a larger social look, with examinations of plant closings, conversations with economists like Robert Reich (who sneaks a plug in for his son’s sketch group Dutch West) and visits to job fairs and career reassessment seminars. After showing a rah-rah “We Love GM” day in Lansing. Michigan, the film then documents how GM lays off workers anyway. In the face of that, I could see some critiquing Annabelle for dwelling on her own firing by Woody Allen (the scene where she shares her experience in a class attended by other displaced workers is likely to get the most jibes), but the film points out quite accurately that anyone who’s gets fired ends of obsessing about it - it’s equally traumatic to all. The film makes clear that nearly all of us can expect to get fired at some point in our careers and gives some comfort just by sharing it. I don’t think it’ll replace “Office Space” as everyone’s go-to video for when they’re shit-canned, but maybe it’ll be a good second choice if it’s out.
Disappointing. Dan Clowes’ original comic story is hysterical, but it’s a collection of observations, so naturally a story had to be crafted to make a film. Jerome, a naive kid from the suburbs, becomes a freshman at Strathmore, an art school where stereotypical students believe their unique voice will shine through, setting them off as the next big thing in the art world. Jerome strives to become a great artist, but the sexually-inexperienced freshman may simply believe this will help capture the love of “his muse” Audrey, whose picture he saw in the college brochure. A second storyline going on in the background about a strangler who might be affiliated with the campus.
The movie’s best when it concentrates on the budding artists interrelationships and how they critique each other. The story builds to a grand joke and it wouldn’t be a bad one. But we get there far sooner than the filmmakers, so the surprise required to land the joke is gone. Plus, Jerome attempts a ploy to win the girl’s affection that results in him missing out on a massive clue that’s so obvious, he appears stupid. The film is unsparing in its critique of all the characters, but I don’t think it wants us to think Jerome is dumb. There’s definitely moments here, but the whole is sadly lacking.