Saturday, November 21, 2009

Eric Reviews Everything He's Ever Seen (Numbers 600, 620, 640, 660 and 680)

Okay. Hiatus over. It isn't good for you, and it isn't good for me, when everything I've ever seen continues to go unreviewed. Not on my watch! A few new movies added to the list over the weekend took the place of more errors already on the list, so I think my overall total movies watched is still 1,067. Convenient. 

600. Pee Wee's Big Adventure (Directed by Tim Burton)

Tim Burton is kind of an eclectic director for having such a definitive style. More he's ignored when a film doesn't carry his more familiar darkness mixing with innocence themes, or star Johnny Depp. Everyone knows he made Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride, and many think he directed The Nightmare Before Christmas. It isn't often I remember he's responsible for the Planet of the Apes remake or Sleepy Hollow, and the movies he directed I like most, Big Fish, Ed Wood and this, Pee Wee's Big Adventure, are only grouped in with his more Tim Burton-y works on IMDb lists. This is a roundabout way to complain that emo kids (do they still exist?) and misanthropes only give credit to Burton when creepy black-clad losers are prancing around. I'm not into that Burton. I like it weird, but I don't like it... lonely? Anyway, Pee Wee's Big Adventure.

Pee Wee makes a fat guy chew tainted gum, almost sleeps with a woman in a stone age-styled pit stop, has a run-in with Large Marge, lights a match and is surrounded by beasts stricken with taxidermy, and rides his bike in one of the coolest ways I've ever imitated. I remember all of this, but I don't remember what the plot was. There was a story. I mean, he was on the road for some reason. I have no clue why. I liked it. I think I watched at least four times when I was a child. I really liked it. Pee Wee was hilarious. I never saw his show, but I think that's probably for the better. Saves the mystique of the movie.

620. Slacker (Directed by Richard Linklater)

It's really interesting to look at this movie, compare it to the world I grew up around in the 90s, and compare this film to that, seeing just how perfect Linklater captured everything I could have been a part of had I been born a decade earlier. Slacker doesn't have a plot, and it hardly has a concept, it's just an honest look at Generation X from the eyes of one of their own. 

The characters and stories that run through the movie are all a little bit strange, but feel a whole lot true. No-dialogue traveling scenes break up the lengthy all-dialogue scenes so as to never have the film bogged down in one camp. It's a well-acted, well-paced slice of life. 

I think this is Linklater's best film, and it's his first. Dazed and Confused comes close to matching it, but there is so much raw humanity in Slacker, relatable yet perplexing, that it seems he will never be able to reach those levels again. 

640. Airplane! (Directed by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker)

The godfather of all parody. Has a spoof movie since been as zany, or as innocently politically incorrect, or as all around hilarious? It's debatable, but for me the answer is no way. Airplane! was the first comedy to shock me. There's an irreverence to it which keeps the constant stream of absurdity grounded somehow. 

It may have helped that I didn't understand anything they were spoofing. Parodies these days draw so directly from what they're mocking that they're getting to be the movies they're making fun of, with a fart thrown in, or a car running over a character. Airplane! doesn't suffer from this. It doesn't lean on other movies, it leans on strong writing and excellent timing from its performers. 

If other parodies took the time to learn from Airplane! we wouldn't be drowning in the slime created by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. Airplane! isn't a breath of fresh air because it came out decades before what we have now. It's a wonderful gem from ages past. I'm glad it remains one of those most widely praised American comedies I can actually agree with.

660. Monkey Business (Directed by Norman Z. McLeod)

I'd watched a few Three Stooges shorts before I got around to watching The Marx Brothers and I hated the Three Stooges. I knew The Marx Brothers were another group of grown men who found themselves in wacky premises making hijinks happen, so by my reasoning I had to be wary. Old comedies seemed stilted and campy to me at the time. I was in middle school. I hadn't given many a chance. Giving The Marx Brothers a chance was ultimately one of the best filmic decisions I've ever made.

The Marx Brothers are the greatest comedic actors to walk the Earth between the 20s to the 40s. No exceptions. They kill. They can draw a single joke out for five minutes, and it won't lose its charm or its hilarity. The Marx Brothers are three of the most well-endowed humorists ever, comedically, and sure, Zeppo doesn't have any of Chico, Groucho or Harpo's abilities, but he's still there, and I give him a pass. 

Having said all that I don't remember what Monkey Business is about. I think this is the one with the "ran out of fuel, had to go back" bit. I know it came out before A Night in Casablanca, the sign of their declining prowess in 1941, so Business is okay in my book. I think their work in the 20s was the height of their awesomeness, and this falls a few years shy of that. I trust I laughed. 

680. In Memory of My Father (Directed by Christopher Jaymes)

Now this is an odd one. I saw this at the Waterfront Film Festival my first year as a volunteer and was blown away by it. I went into it knowing it was a comedy about a dead father, and that's it. No idea who was in it, no idea who had written or directed it. The festival opened my eyes to how great it can be to walk blindly into a screening, because without any expectations it is much easier to be impressed and disappointed. No pre-judgments. Huzzah!

I watched it twice in two days. That's once a day! My reaction to it the second time was a less enthusiastic one. The cast's stellar delivery, and the hilarious writing felt kind of amateur and trying-too-hard when I watched it again. I laughed so hard I was crying when I first say it. I chuckled at the familiar lines the next time. So either this movie has absolutely no staying power as a film, and should never be viewed repeatedly, or my moods were drastically different between days. 

This is on my list of movies to buy, but now that I've written this I think maybe I need to view it a third time before making any brash decisions. Judy Greer was great in it both times, and I think the main three characters, played by Jeremy Sisto, Christopher Jaymes (writer and director as well) and Matt Keeslar, were interesting, if not as funny, the time yonder. Yeah, I'm going to give this another shot. Thrice shot. 

My life is empty without Baby Gorgeous. Her absence helped me find the strength to finish this. I'll try to be a good seriesest. I swear. 

 - Eric T. Voigt

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