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 Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, unless otherwise noted. twitter | facebook | pinterest | tumblr | letterboxd

 

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Entries in comedy (79)

Saturday
Aug302014

UHF (1989) - Let's Get Weird

Hello all, Margaret here to ask: in our Year of the Month, 1989, did anyone guess what cultural endurance "Weird Al" Yankovic would have?
 
By all rights he should have faded into obscurity after his surprising burst of mainstream popularity in the late 80s. Yet somehow, not only has he enjoyed a steady career these past 25 years, Weird Al is actually almost hip right now, coming off of 8 ultra-viral music videos, a spot in this year's Emmy telecast, and a #1 album on the Billboard chart. Capitalizing on this moment in the sun, Weird Al recently announced plans to write (and possibly direct) a second film. His first, released in 1989 during that early burst in popularity, was the critically maligned cult classic UHF. [more...]
 

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Friday
Aug222014

Look Who's Talking (1989) and the Perils of Revisiting Childhood Faves

Hello everyone, Manuel here jumping aboard my personal DeLorean and taking a trip to 1989 to catch up with what’s still Amy Heckerling’s biggest box office success, the comedy Look Who's Talking.

There's a certain joy and sadness in revisiting films you remember enjoying as a kid. Some, because of their continued playback on cable or at your own home theater, seem to age with you so that their flaws become endearing while their wonders become treasures you hoard as if they were intended just for you. In this, films can be like old friends. Catching up with one you haven’t seen in over a decade can be a terrifying prospect. Have they aged well? Do you still share the same sense of humor? Will there be awkward silences where there were laughs before?

Much like its stock male lead, Look Who’s Talking is a flawed, sloppy, lovable creature. It may feature the scariest CGI baby that side of Ally McBeal, but at its heart it’s a funny rom-com that handles its “women having it all!” plot with aplomb. Heckerling’s quippy film follows Mollie (Kristie Alley) whose married lover (George Segal) knocks her up, refuses to divorce his wife for her (doing so instead for his younger interior decorator), leaving her to raise young Mikey by herself. John Travolta plays James, a roguish cab driver who after helping Mollie deliver her son, begins babysitting for her and well… you can probably guess where the film eventually lands. Certain things have aged better than others. The performances still shine. Proving why they were stars before they were Kathy Griffin punchlines, Travolta and Kristie show that a great rom-com needs great chemistry at its center to succeed. Indeed, Travolta’s on-screen charisma remains undeniable whenever he’s dancing while Alley’s comedic timing shows why she was a sitcom superstar. And that doesn’t even cover the presence of always welcome Olympia Dukakis who proves she can do raucously funny no-nonsense mom in her sleep. My favorite exchange from the film is Mollie asking her mom why she married her father:

-He looked good in a uniform.

-Yes, but didn’t they all look good in uniform?

-No... I didn’t care for the sailors and their bell-bottoms!”

It’s all in the delivery, but there’s a spark in Heckerling’s script that is undeniable. The same cannot be said for the central conceit of the film. Hearing Bruce Willis’s voice as Mikey’s inner monologue is as bizarre as it sounds and adds very little to the film as a whole; maybe this explains the diminishing returns of the film's two sequels which relied more heavily on its voice actors (Roseanne Barr, Diane Keaton and Danny DeVito) and thus on its rickety gimmick?

Mikey, voiced by Bruce Willis

If Look Who’s Talking is indeed an old friend, it’s one I’ll be unlikely to catch up with any time soon. She's just as nice as I remember her, if not as funny but her schtick gets old very soon (am I the only one impervious to cute kids in films unless they're named Richie and are (s)mothered by Julianne Moore?). Now I’m scared to see other old friends from that time (I’m looking at you Willow!) for fear I'll be just as disappointed.

What childhood staple have you revisited recently? Are there films better left as untouched warm memories of sitting around with friends in party hats while celebrating one's sixth birthday?

Tuesday
Aug192014

Where My (Legendary) Girls At: Jane, Lily, Diane, and Debbie

Any 24 hour period that has wonderful news about four film legends is a good day, at least in part. We have to grasp at happy straws considering the "real" world outside of the arts. So, let's start with the best best actress news of the day week month...

first still (since pulled it looks like it)

JANE & LILY
That Jane Fonda & Lily Tomlin Netflix series "Grace & Frankie" is really happening and Jane Fonda wrote about it while sharing the first still and behind the scenes photos yesterday: 

I had a brief hard spell the first day, moving away from my Leona Lansing-Newsroom mode and into comedy. Comedy requires different muscles, a subtle shifting of gears, of attitude. It’s harder, in my opinion. This kind of comedy has to be real, the comedy has to come out of reality, out of pain, yet it has to be funny... 

Some actors don’t like to watch dailies (the footage you shot the day before). I, on the contrary, benefit from watching them, and not just the footage that I’m in. I’m one of the producers on this series and I need to see everything. Besides, it helps me calibrate my performance.. 

Jane Fonda would make the best Smackdown guest because she takes acting so seriously, articulates it well and still has curiousity about it; my heart practically burst at a Fonda event a year or two ago when she mentioned her plan to go back to acting class for reasons that there's always more to learn about your craft. This from a two time Oscar winner who, at her best, is pretty untoppable in terms of acting magic. It reminded me of Madonna taking vocal lessons in the 90s and then guitar lessons in the 00s -- Mega-successful people who still stay humble about their talent and seek to improve are a rare breed and deserve enormous respect. One of the great dangers of success is laziness and coasting, you know.

As for Lily, her 75th birthday is next month and we'll be sure to celebrate it somehow.

Debbie Reynolds & Diane Keaton after the jump... 

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Friday
Aug152014

Nicole's Return. The Dates Are Ever Changing.

When will our beloved Kidman return to us? For someone who works so consistently, doesn't it seem like it's hard to find Nicole Kidman in a movie theater? Grace of Monaco keeps threatening to arrive but never does leaving us to wonder if it will ever play in regular movie theaters after its shaming at Cannes (that place can be brutal). Any big dreams for the quality of Paddington (it comes from charming source material at least) her Christmas film, have been dashed by that hateful slapstick trailer and Colin Firth's exit as the voice. The wait is soon over though. For those of you who missed The Railway Man in theaters, it's just out on DVD and Blu-Ray. [Warning: Nicole's part is small enough that when the climax arrives, she's literally a blurry figure in the background.]

 

Next up though is the thriller Before I Go To Sleep which has a new poster (above) and a new release date: Halloween to be exact. Let's just hope it's better than The Invasion or Trespass. (It's apparently really hard to make a good thriller post-Hitchcock because not that many filmmakers are skilled at making them.)

After that picture all us Kidmaniacs will wait again for her other completed films to play the release date shell game. Most promising by far is Werner Herzog's Gertrud Bell biopic Queen of the Desert both because Herzog is an amazing director (another feather in Kidman's auteur-fetish cap!) and because the role is big and central. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like Queen of the Desert is doing the fall festival circuit so maybe they're waiting until 2015?

CAST THIS!
This is one of those stories that was so obviously a Film Experience type of story that I pretended to myself that I'd already covered it on the blog. Like those dreams you have where you already went to class or work so there's no need to jump up and go when you wake up! Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon are now attached to the film adaptation of Liane Moriarty's comic best seller Big Little Lies about a group of three mothers whose kids are in the same Kindergarten class in a beautiful Australian seaside town (with secrets, natch). A sprained ankle sets off a series of events which eventually leads to a school riot and a murder. There are three major characters (and apparently a lot of broadly drawn but possibly scene-stealing supporting casts). No word yet on which of the moms Nicole & Reese are planning to play but obviously a third star will be joining them.

These are the characters...

Madeline: gleefully extroverted, fashionable, and still a "glittery girl" at 40. Her broken Dolce & Gabbana heel sets the plot in motion. She's happily married but still having trouble with her ex and his younger "new age-y" wife
Celeste: a nervous very beautiful mom with twins, who is married to a wealthy man
Jane: shy, plain and uncomfortable in her own skin. New in town but Madeline and Celeste befriend this single mom when her son gets in trouble the very first day of school

YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO PICK THEIR ROLES FOR THEM AND ADD A THIRD ACTRESS IN THE COMMENTS!

Let's just pray this wasn't doesn't go the way of The Danish Girl which Nicole was attached to for quite some time until development hell took it from her plate. The film is still trying to get made but instead of an actress in the transgender lead role it's now Eddie Redmayne with his Les Miz director Tom Hooper guiding him through the transformation. 

Wednesday
Jul092014

Best Shot: Batman (1966)

Happy 75th Anniversary to the world's favorite f***ed-up orphan billionaire!

Hit Me With Your Best Shot returns on the evening of July 15th with a special free-for-all episode in which you choose whichever Batman feature film you want to look at and post your choice for its Best Shot. We link up. It's our way of celebrating Batman's 75th birthday. I opted to start at the beginning. No, not Tim Burton's high gothic smash but the special feature edition of the 1960's TV series, which was filmed after season 1 wrapped (the props were reused for follow-up seasons)

BATMAN (1966)


Batman (1966) has a ton of sight gags. I'm not claiming that any of them are particularly well-executed but my favorite bar none is Batman's lunatic run holding a lit bomb that he can't find a place to dispose of. It's what would happen if you crossed Batman with a Mr Bean skit. But that joke isn't freeze frameable since it's all in the montage / length. Since this is the only Batman feature that's an intentional comedy (someone will cover Joel Schumacher's movies I'm sure) I had to choose something humorous for my best shot. Nothing is funnier in 60s era Batman than the OCD labelling of everything. It's not enough to have everything shaped like the Bat symbol and called 'Bat-this' and 'Bat-that' but the Bat-name must also be displayed in big letters ON the item in case the hero forgets who he is or what props are (but remembers how to read). Even the four villains (Catwoman, Joker, Riddler and The Penguin) get in on the act with their own labelled shelves in their submarine HQ.  

In the movie's opening maritime rescue setpiece Batman dangles from the Bat-Copter on the Bat-Ladder (yes, there's a label on the last rung) when suddenly he emerges from the water with a shark dangling from his leg nine years before Jaws made that a universal nightmare. Batman tries to go all Lara Croft on its ass, but lacking her mad shark-punching skills many years later, Batman needs Robin to save him (but he's not in a hurry about it since he's Adam West and he likes to make each sentence into 3 sentences.)

Best Shot

Hand.    Me Down.    The Shark Repellent Bat Spray.

Robin climbs down the Bat-Ladder (no one is piloting the Bat-Copter. Just saying). Instead of just handing his Sugar Daddy the Bat Spray Shark Repellent --  it's not like the shark is going to leap legs for Burt Ward's chicken legs when it's already got an Adam West thigh --  the Boy Wonder pauses to be all acrobatic about it and hangs upside down to pass over the spray.

It's super dumb and I love it. 

[Gluttons for punishment can check out a few more shots I loved after the jump]

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