Man of Steel
The title "Man of Steel" tells you what you're in for when you buy a ticket to this immense summer blockbuster: a radical break from…
A comedy thought experiment: You've gotta admit, they make it look so easy. Too easy. But they were doing television sketch comedy before SNL and Mad TV and Fox News rediscovered them. Now, as they're being further exposed to audiences of all persuasions, more and more people are saying: "They were so funny, I may previously have forgotten to laugh!" No longer! We're in comedy mode!
UPDATE: She's so quick, I can't even keep up with her anymore. Now she's given us new material on her preferred news sources and the Supreme Court! She's got a million of 'em -- and she'll be here all month! Probably.
Compare and contrast with another famous TV comedy sketch after the jump....
I'm posting this not just because I'm (still) in love with Sarah Silverman (though I am), and not just because she's a genius (though, of course, she is), and not just because of the overt political humor in this short film (though The Great Schlep is an inspired idea), but because of how it relates to recent Scanners posts about comedy and understanding what the joke is. (See posts and discussions regarding "Tropic Thunder," "Juneau," and David Foster Wallace.)
So, please watch the above movie and then provide your interpretation of it, by considering my questions after the jump...
I defy you to tell the difference between her character and the Governor of Alaska, who has been busy lowering expectations all week. The main difference, of course, is that Fey is still in front of TV cameras, while Palin can no longer be found. Anywhere.
And the most brilliant stroke: Palin herself provided much of the material. She writes her own comedy and all Fey has to do is perform it the way Palin does. Fey isn't doing a caricature (like Dana Carvey's George HW Bush), but is giving a performance of uncanny accuracy (closer to, say, Helen Mirren in "The Queen").
NEW! Version 1.1. Now with easier-to-read captions!
Everything I know about economics I learned from the movies. (Collected knowledge after the jump.) So when times get tough, I consult Preston Sturges. Here, I have condensed the financial wisdom of a lifetime into less than five minutes -- all of it distilled from 1937's "Easy Living," written by Sturges, directed by Mitchell Leisen, and starring Jean Arthur, Edward Arnold, Ray Milland, Mary Nash, Franklin Pangborn, Luis Alberni and Andrew Tombes, among many others.
Sturges himself puts in an appearance to explain the key principle behind all successful investment strategies.
And in his movie, there's a happy ending.
Irony alert! Has the very idea of Sarah Palin rendered the concept of irony unrecognizable to many Americans, or has she just pointed out its irrelevance to them in ways that even 9/11 could not? Here's Maureen Dowd channeling/quoting "West Wing" creator Aaron Sorkin on the subject of irony in America today.
President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) speaking frankly, as politicians say, to Barack Obama:
BARTLET: Well ... let me think. ...We went to war against the wrong country, Osama bin Laden just celebrated his seventh anniversary of not being caught either dead or alive, my family's less safe than it was eight years ago, we've lost trillions of dollars, millions of jobs, thousands of lives and we lost an entire city due to bad weather. So, you know ... I'm a little angry.
OBAMA: What would you do?
BARTLET: GET ANGRIER! Call them liars, because that's what they are. Sarah Palin didn't say "thanks but no thanks" to the Bridge to Nowhere. She just said "Thanks." You were raised by a single mother on food stamps -- where does a guy with eight houses who was legacied into Annapolis get off calling you an elitist? And by the way, if you do nothing else, take that word back. Elite is a good word, it means well above average. I'd ask them what their problem is with excellence. While you're at it, I want the word "patriot" back. McCain can say that the transcendent issue of our time is the spread of Islamic fanaticism or he can choose a running mate who doesn't know the Bush doctrine from the Monroe Doctrine, but he can't do both at the same time and call it patriotic. They have to lie -- the truth isn't their friend right now. Get angry. Mock them mercilessly; they've earned it.
I love me some doggies.
In advance of a story I've written about some of my favorite movie dogs whose proper names (if they have them) do not appear in or above the titles of the films in which they are featured, I present a wee quiz. No, these dogs are not marquee names (except, maybe, for the brilliant wire-haired fox terrier at right who co-starred with Nick and Nora and Archie Leach). Some are bit players, but all make indelible marks on the screen. You know what they say: There are no small dogs, just... something like that.
Several of the following dogs I was unable to mention in the story, which I will link to when it goes live. In the meantime, can you identify the pooches pictured after the jump?
Ready. Set. Go.
"It is not enough to like a film. One must like it for the right reasons." -- Pierre Rissient
This is entirely coincidental, so consider it a fortuitous double-bill. Just as I posted the item below ("The sins of the critic"), Roger Ebert posted a blog essay on the subject: "'Critic' is a four-letter word." Here's a taste:
Too many simply absorb. They are depositories for input. They can hardly be expected to be critical of their own tastes, can they? Of course they can. It is not enough simply to be a "Cubs fan," although I confess I am one. It is necessary to feel the philosophy, the history, and even the poetry about the activity called "baseball." It is helpful to step outside a little, and see that sports teams are surrogates for our own desires to conquer, and expressions of our xenophobia. For some, they are even the best way ever invented to drink beer outdoors. If you are only a Cubs fan, you are a willing automaton in a business venture. Join me in being a Cubs fan, but know why you do it. What is my most fundamental reason? I am a fan because they are always the underdogs. That may be why I bought a Studebaker 30 years after the company went out of business.
Read the entire piece here.
Critic Kathleen Murphy takes a prickly, sarcastic inventory of common complaints against, well, critics at MSN Movies and finds them... not so sharp. I have this uneasy feeling some readers looker-atters won't see the irony, but -- what can I say? -- we live in an age when millions either can't or won't see the pig for the lipstick.
Among accusations addressed are the sins of seriousness, snobbery, geezerism and insufficient appreciation for the latest trends. (One of my favorite zingers: "Haven't you ever heard of the fierce urgency of NOW?" As if this week's movies were automatically better than last week's because they're more up-to-date! There's critical perspective for you.)
Kathleen quotes from my "Do the Contrarian" song (a big hit single for me during Contrarian Week in 2007) to introduce a little rant about that vintage favorite, "The Dark Knight," and an Oscar-winner that's soon to become a Dramatic Television Show:
Can Tina Fey get an Emmy just for this? I know, it's almost too easy. But she's flawless. I knew she was a terrific writer and comedian (er, "comedienne"?), especially from "30 Rock," but I don't think I ever fully realized what a brilliant actor (er, "actress") she is.
And now, conservative columnist David Brooks of the New York Times on a word familiar to "SNL" viewers: "prudent"...
Test: Can you find something -- a shot or a cut or a line -- in this trailer for "Crash" -- The Dramatic New Original Series Only On Starz -- that isn't a howler of a cliché? Ready? Let's see, it begins with someone who sounds suspiciously like the late Don LaFontaine intoning:
"Everyone's chasing something. And when they find it, they want more."
(Imagine that prefaced by: "In a world where...")
And then (just like the movie) characters define themselves in didactic speeches. Maybe it's Brechtian. Sometimes they actually look into the camera and tell you who they are and what they "want." Those parts may have been shot just for the trailer, but the effect is very like the Academy Award-winning movie:
"I don't break the rules. I, uh, bend 'em."
"I deserve their respect. As a cop. And as a woman."
"With that much cash you can buy your American Dream."
"I'm willing to cross a line."
"I need to bury my past... before it buries me."
"I have everything I need. And nothing I want."