Category: Movies

Fired! - Both Live and Movie

Filed Under Aspen Comedy Festival, Movies

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.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 10:42 AM | Comments (0)

Art School Confidential

Filed Under Aspen Comedy Festival, Movies

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.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 01:30 PM | Comments (0)

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 bobanddavid.com, 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:

http://festival.sundance.org/2006/watch/index.aspx

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)
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