Category: Movies

Movie: Thank You For Smoking

Filed Under Aspen Comedy Festival, Movies

Was looking forward to this one and it didn’t disappoint. Based off the fantastic Christopher Buckley book (Bizarrely, i felt stupid when I asked people if they read it and they said “no”), the movie featured Aaron Eckheart as Nick Naylor, a man who talks for a living for big tobacco. He’s charged with reversing the downward trend in teen smoking by his employers, a lobbyist group who scientists have found no link between smoking and any ill-health effects (their scientst, Nick says, could “disprove gravity”). The film is definitely an adult satire, in some ways a celebration of a lack of integrity. Director Jason Reitman plays with putting icons and symbols, using them to highlight and creating jokes that would require exposition otherwise. There’s all kinds of small bits layered in the background, such as the all-black pallbearers at the funeral of a North Carolina Big Tobacco lord, creating a richness that rewards multiple viewings. The ending is nicely uncompromised as well. And the big plus for not creating some faux-revelation: the movie was the perfect length for a comedy - 92 mnutes.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 08:57 AM | Comments (1)

Sundance Plays Odenkirk’s “Pity Card”

Filed Under Movies

Bob Odenkirk's The Pity CardReader Sean Smith dropped word that Bob Odenkirk’s short “The Pity Card”, a segment from his television pilot “Derek and Simon” is now up on the Sundance Website. Watch Pity Card here. The short revolves around the discomfort after a first date at the Holocaust Museum with a girl who was unaware of the Holocaust. (The creative tab for the movie player says, perhaps a little defensively, the girl was based on a real person.) Zach Galifianakis also appears in the short, sharing about how a variety of diseases aren’t so bad to have. HBO appears to have been the original target for “Derek and Simon”, but they aren’t making any more.  Reparations for failing to make a fifth season of Mr. Show must be repaid someday, HBO. Tick-tock.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 06:24 PM | Comments (0)

“Smoking” Good Trailer

Filed Under Movies, Print

Usually when a novel trumpets that it’s “laugh out loud funny”, it’s the kind of funny where the characters have twisted themselves an ironic situation that’s makes you inwardly acknowledge “oh, yes, the characters have put themselves in quite the amusing predicament.” But no laughs. One book that did live up to those promises was Christopher Buckley’s “Thank You for Smoking”. There’s many hysterical scenes in that book, including (spoiler) an attempt to kill a tobacco lobbyist with nicotine patches (a bit NewsRadio, another old favorite, concurrently did). So I’ve had high expectations for the film adaptation, and even with the bidding war from this year’s Toronto Film Festival, I’ve been waiting for a preview that shows they didn’t fuck it up.

The first trailer gave me a lot of hope. Aaron Eckhart appears to have a perfect handle on the sincere insincerity required for a lobbyist of an addictive, killing product. Writer and director Jason Reitman seeming to laying out great material grounded in reality, letting the exaggerations play subtly. No release date is set yet, but it’s be sometime after Sundance, as it’s an official selection of the festival.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 06:25 AM | Comments (0)

Bob Odenkirk at Sundance

Filed Under Movies

At, Bob Odenkirk posted yesterday that a favorite project of his - a TV pilot entitled “Derek and Simon” - will, naturally, not be made into a series. The saving grace this time is that will be part of the Sundance Film Festival. And even if you can’t make it to Utah (due to not being a film executive, a mormon or Mr. Redford), they’ll also be showing it on the web starting January 19 at the following address:

I’ll be sure to remind you when the time comes. I take Bob’s word that it’s good stuff, since another show of his “Next!” (which saw no light of day save for the Other Network) featured a fantastic sketch of a R & B singer cheating on the American flag. Sigh. Maybe if this is a huge download, Bob will forget network middlemen and just try podcasting.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 12:49 PM | Comments (2)

Sarah Silverman =/≠ Lenny Bruce?

Filed Under Movies, Stand-Up Comedy

In the wake of Jesus is Magic, comaprisons of Sarah Silverman to Lenny Bruce are almost as cliche as hipster reporters salivating over her, contemplating just what does it means to be so funny and so fuckable (more on that at the end). It’s a parallel that she’s appropriately humble about. But what makes someone the next Lenny Bruce? What’s the ruler here? Here’s some answers from other sites as to if Sarah = Lenny and whether I find the comparison fair.

A Picture of Sarah Silverman

Onion A.V. Club Blog: Yes. And No. Why? She’s walking a well-worn path of taboo breakers, but she walks it incredibly well. But her work isn’t attempting to make an impact in society, ultimately being about itself rather than meaningful. Fair or Unfair Fair. Hysterically funny stuff doesn’t have to have a goal, but I think any comparisons to Lenny Bruce would require the comics to be attempting some sort of change. David Cross is far closer to Lenny Bruce in this regard. Sarah’s material lives in its own world, you live and laugh, laugh very hard, in it for the hour and you’re done.

Entertainment Weekly: No. Why not? Though “blasphemous-and-proud-of-it”, she lacks a connection with her own material in a way. We simply rehear stereotypes. Fair or Unfair? Fair, although she is found wanting in this category in opposition to Margaret Cho, whose material, while sharp, doesn’t seem as twisted. I don’t think this is necessarily a flaw, but some comics find they enjoy talking about themselves, some do not. The Sarah Silverman on stage is a character and I think it might be a function of her sex. Female comics who talk about themselves on stage are considered confessional whereas a guy who does the same is simply talking about something that happened to them. It’s an annoying categorization that people place on comediennes. I think it’s one reason why Sarah is so popular in a frustratingly masculine art, she avoids that limiting box by not putting her real self in her act. I ‘m not sure we’ll get a feminine Lenny Bruce until a comic defies that box entirely.

Cinematical: Somewhat. Why Not? Sarah will never get arrested for her material. Her struggles are against political correctness rather than establishment.

Fair or Unfair?

Unfair, considering times are different. Would Sarah have gotten arrested then for doing the material she performs now? Almost certainly. Even today, she still has trouble with some audiences who are not ready to hear her play on racial sterotypes (the infamous Chink statement and getting booed off stage by a largely African American audience for a Martin Luther King Joke.) A lack of spontaneity is a bit more daming, because she is very rehearsed and calculated. But she is capable of incredible improvisation, see her joke from the Aristocrats. She’s professional, not stiff.

Now, as to Sarah “coltish looks” and “porcelin skin.” I don’t think Sarah’s looks matter one bit to her comedy. You could easily issue “Jesus is Magic” on CD, with equal effect. (In fact, I hope they do). Her material is strong, although arguably the expressions on her face help sell some of them. Gushing over her looks is just another sign that so many comics and fans of comedy have never really exited puberty. Grow the fuck up, already.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 02:24 PM | Comments (3)

A Talk with The Aristocrats Director Paul Provenza

Filed Under Movies

Writer Jim Colucci, Myself, Aristocrats Director Paul Provenza and Sirius Radio host Frank DeCaro Recently I had a long conversation with the director of The Aristocrats, Paul Provenza. We covered a lot of topics about the film and comedy in general, enough to make me regret that I don’t own a tape recorder, as my pen failed to catch all of our discussion. But what I did get was just grand. It’s all after the jump.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 01:58 PM | Comments (1)

The Aristocrats: A Review.

Filed Under Movies

The most common retort I see online from people talking about “The Aristocrats” movie is “I’m curious but 90 minutes of the same joke getting told over and over again is going to get old fast.” This movie is not that simple. The Aristocrats is about one joke, but really about comedy and laughter’s ability to unite us, even when all of us sing a little bit different.

If you’re not familiar with the joke, it goes like this: A family walks into a talent agent’s office. They offer him a chance to represent them and he agrees to watch them perform. The next part is always improvised by the teller, but it could involve all manner of bodily fluids, sexual behaviors and disturbing images - giving the joke the comic’s unique signature. The punchline is always the same, the agent asks the name of the act and the family replies “The Aristocrats!”

The Aristocrats joke is traced back to the days of early vaudeville and it’s sort of an initiation rite for many a comic. Or possibly a masonic handshake. The ultimate insiders material, it’s never really been considered for public consumption. In some sense to be told the joke by a fellow comic was almost a private version of being invited to the couch by Johnny Carson (to whom the film is dedicated). It’s the marker of “hey kid, you’re in.”

Talking about funny stuff can be a real snoozefest than the laugh riot some expect (hence my own warning on the top right hand corner), but “The Aristocrats” keeps the conversations about the joke involving and funny as well, floating from speculation on why the agent in the joke just doesn’t stop the act right at the first sign of depravity to the disappointment of screwing up the punchline after a marathon hour-long telling of the joke.

The jokes most well-know public performance gets featured near the end. Gilbert Gottfried, one of many comics attempting to mine laughs at a Friar’s Club Roast only a few week after 9/11, begin to tell the joke after losing the crowd with material that’s just too soon to tell. Deploying the joke at that moment brings howls of laughter, reversing the room’s mood in an instant. With 9/11’s brutal reminder of how fragile we are, a joke that revels in the depravities of our bodies was exactly what’s needed.

Laughter won’t unify anybody who finds this material too coarse. But Producer Penn Jillette has a simple solution: don’t come.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 09:10 PM | Comments (1)
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