Bob Calhoun argues that the great tradition of physical comedy is alive and well and living in the professional wrestling ring
"Through my films I'm eventually trying to one day tell the truth. I don't know if I'm ever going to get there, but I'm slowly letting pieces of myself out there and then maybe by the time I'm 85, I'll look back and say, 'All right, that about sums it up.'" -- Adam Sandler, interview clip used in the 2012 Oscar broadcast
What if those schlocky Adam Sandler movies that you either think are funny or you don't really aren't just schlocky Adam Sandler movies that you either think are funny or you don't? What if they don't have much to do with movies at all, but are more like leveraged derivative instruments (I don't actually know what those are) or synthetic collateralized debt obligation (CDO) transactions, devised by accountants to provide maximum returns with minimum effort -- that promise investors profits for next-to-nothing? Ultra-low-budget production values and minor league actors, writers and directors (except for Sandler himself, who gets $25 million-plus up-front plus a heavy chunk of the gross), subsidized by egregious product placements, make for maximum risk minimalization.
As a moviegoer and a critic, all I care about is what's on the screen -- or isn't. But there's so little on the screen in Adam Sandler movies, that I confess I'm bewildered at what some claim to see in them. So, if you're curious about, say, how the production cost of the average Adam Sandler comedy jumped from about $30 million to about $80 million overnight... well, just keep reading.
The so-called " flop" of "That's My Boy" this past weekend (Sandler's second after "Jack and Jill" -- almost a trend!) has been greeted with schadenfreude in some quarters, but it disregards the likelihood that financial arrangements have long been in place that ensure a Sandler movie has to really, seriously tank before it winds up actually losing money.* Who knows -- there may be the equivalent of credit default swaps that protect Sony and Happy Madison from disappointing returns. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that there are investment devices that allow the backing companies to actually make money by placing wagers predicting the underperformance of a given movie, just to hedge their bets. Everybody wins, right?
The bottom line: Casey Affleck thinks of it as a performance and not as an act, and he thinks of "I'm Still Here" as a film, and not a hoax. In an interview where he revealed details behind the making of his controversial film with and about Joaquin Phoenix, he also said:
• David Letterman was not in on the performance, and what you saw on his show was really happening.
• Phoenix dropped out of character when he was not being filmed or in public.
• The drugs and the hookers were staged. The vomiting was real.
View image: Borat in New York, a town locate on the eastern coast of United States and America.
In their reviews of "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" Anthony Lane of The New Yorker and Armond White of the New York Press make it clear they are not amused. Mostly because they think the movie is about something I woudn't think was funny, either, if I thought that's what the movie was about.
To Lane, Sacha Baron Cohen is a guy who "adopts fictional personae and then marches briskly into the real world with a mission to embarrass its inhabitants." That may be "Punk'd" (or "Candid Camera") but that's the least of what's going on in "Borat," which presents these improvisations in a fictional narrative context that give them meaning (and, consequently, humor). To White, "Borat" is "anti-American propaganda," that "primarily consists of genital humor, scatological humor and jokes about deformity and mental retardation" -- while any praise of the film is "a bit seditious" and amounts to "evil criticism." OK, that movie doesn't sound funny to me, either. But that movie is nine shots of Armond White with just a splash of Borat Sagdiyev.
Lane is baffled by "Borat." White goes off on a comically crude and incoherent rant against Madonna, Andy Kaufman, Neil LaBute, Madonna (again), 9/11, George W. Bush, Michael Moore, Emir Kusturica, the "angry Left’s vicious temerity" and the "self-loathing" of "Borat’s ass-kissing film critics." Yes, in White's six-paragraph review he spews more bilious imagery -- "pits," "sewer gas," "flatulent," "odious," "evil," "stench," "Ethnic-Cleansing" -- than the feature film he's accusing of low blows. (And for some people, inexplicably, everything will always be about Madonna.)
Q. In Bob Zmuda's new book about Andy Kaufman, he mentions how he worked for a famous screen writer, whom he would only call "Mr. X.". He tells us of the wildly eccentric things Mr. X would do and how the tales he would tell led to his and Andy's collaboration, and how these stories led to Andy's form of "comedy." Do you know who this bizarre screen writer is? With Jim Carrey playing Kaufman in "Man on the Moon" soon to be released, it might help give an insight on what drove Andy to his particular brand of humor. (Scott Boudet, Tallahassee Fl)