Archive for the 'Comedy' Category

04
Oct
15

National Lampoon’s Class Reunion (1982)

Did Walter keep the same paper bag, or do you think maybe he makes a new one every couple years or so?

Did Walter keep the same paper bag, or do you think maybe he makes a new one every couple years or so?

Everyone loves John Hughes, right? The lovable writer of such 80’s teen classics as The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Sixteen Candles can do no wrong, right? Well, not exactly. If you’ve seen National Lampoon’s Class Reunion, you know just how much wrong John Hughes can do.

Back in the good old days (that’s 1972), a bunch of assholes at Lizzie Borden High (yeah, the jokes are that bad and that obvious throughout the whole movie, so settle on in) set up the school loser to hook up with his twin sister. Chief Asshole Bob Spinnaker (Gerrit Graham) convinces Walter Baylor that popular girl x, y or z really has the hots for him and wants to do it with him, so long as he wears this paper bag over his head. What a gag! After they hook up for a bit Spinnaker unveils the embarrassment of incest to the entire class of 1972, who all are apparently in on the joke, waiting at lookout point or whatever cliched hookup spot these stupid kids are at, with the high beams of their cars shining in Walter’s shamed face.

The one true highlight of this film is Anne Ramsey as the lunch lady. Unfortunately the jokes are old and tired.

The one true highlight of this film is Anne Ramsey as the lunch lady. Unfortunately the jokes are old and tired.

Fast forward 10 years to the class reunion, where everyone is still a huge asshole and Walter Baylor has returned from the insane asylum to pick off the people who humiliated him one by one. The film, for what reason I haven’t actually figured out, centers around Lizzie Borden’s “nobody” guy, Gary Nash. No one remembers him, not even his best friend – isn’t that hilarious? Anyway, after five minutes that joke gets old – but don’t worry, they’re still making it at the end of the movie, along with some other really stale jokes, like the ones about blind people, feminists, transsexuals, and stoners. Oh and isn’t that chick that’s possessed by the devil à la The Exorcist just a hoot?!

Yes, this movie is an equal opportunity offender, but maybe the most offensive thing about it is its absolute lack of laughs. I don’t think I even cracked a smile once. I suppose it is possible that if the movie hadn’t been so awfully offensive straight off the bat, I would have been more prone to giggling. But this movie pretty much shits on everyone from the get-go and never stops. Look, I know what you’re thinking, a lot of comedy is made at the expense of someone, why am I being so sensitive? It’s true, comedy doesn’t have to be, and maybe even shouldn’t be, inoffensive. But it

AREN'T JOKES ABOUT BLIND PEOPLE HILARIOUS?!

AREN’T JOKES ABOUT BLIND PEOPLE HILARIOUS?!

should be funny. And this movie isn’t funny. Not even in the remotest sense. Does anyone actually like this movie? Also, for the record, I am not easily offended! Believe me! This just hits all the wrong buttons.

It is perhaps worth noting that this is exactly the reaction Q was hoping for when he forced this film upon me. I should have known when he said things like “No, I don’t like this movie” but still wanted to watch it that his motives were less about entertainment, and more about his I-told-you-John-Hughes-is-a-huge-dick-and-maybe-you-should-reconsider-liking-his-shitty-movies-that-always-champion-the-assholes agenda. While I’m not going to say my love for the aforementioned Hughes films has diminished (nostalgia is, after all, a hell of a drug), Class Reunion has certainly cast a nasty pall on Hughes’ name.

Advertisements
13
Apr
15

Deathstalker II (1987)

I’ve never been too interested in fantasy movies. Not that I dislike the few that I’ve seen, it just hasn’t been a genre I’ve sought out. The first time I saw the Conan movies I was nearly thirty, and I definitely enjoyed them quite a bit. And just recently, I watched Krull for the first time – another fun movie! But there was something missing from these movies that kept them firmly in three-star territory, and that is self-awareness, something Deathstalker II has in spades!

Meet Deathstalker: negotiator extraordinaire, incorrigible playboy, King of thieves.

Meet Deathstalker: negotiator extraordinaire, incorrigible playboy, King of thieves.

Deathstalker (John Terlesky) is the king of thieves, scouring the medieval landscape for fortune and fame. Though he likes to come off as a selfish dude, it’s clear he can’t leave a damsel in distress behind, no matter how dim-witted she might be! When Deathstalker sees a peasant girl (Monique Gabrielle) beaten by the King’s guards, he fights back in her honor. After handily beating the oafish guards, Deathstalker decides it’s time for a little menage-a-trois, and hits up the local tavern for some sweet titties and a few brews. But it looks like our peasant girl is in some serious trouble, and desperately needs Deathstalker’s help! He really has no choice but to go along with her and her crazy story about how she is actually a princess, but Jarek the Sorcerer (John Lazar) cloned her and usurped the throne! She claims to be a seer, and promises Deathstalker that if he succeeds in helping her reclaim her throne, he will become a legend!

I never really thought of bananas as part of the sword-and-sorcery landscape, but Monique Gabrielle makes it look good!

I never really thought of bananas as part of the sword-and-sorcery landscape, but Monique Gabrielle makes it look good!

As the duo travel to the Princess’s castle, they encounter many strange things, like exploding dwarves, zombies, and a village of Amazon women! Each time, Deathstalker and the Princess make it out by the skin of their teeth, thanks mostly to Deathstalker’s unfailing charm and, of course, flawless physique! The Princess claims Jarek’s sword skills are superior to Deathstalker’s; what will happen when they make it to the castle? Can Deathstalker come through in the end?!

Sure there's plenty of boobs in Deathstalker II, but they throw the ladies a bone every once in a while!

Sure there’s plenty of boobs in Deathstalker II, but they throw the ladies a bone every once in a while!

Deathstalker II is 85 minutes of pure, idiotic enjoyment. I honestly can’t remember the last time I enjoyed watching a film as much as I enjoyed watching this one. The first time I saw it on VHS, I knew we needed to have a copy on DVD. After the second time I watched it, I had to watch it a third time the next day because it is so much FUN! This movie doesn’t take itself seriously for a single second, and that is the biggest reason for its success. The second-biggest reason is definitely Terlesky’s performance as Deathstalker. He is constantly winking, incorrigible to the max, and let’s admit it ladies, he’s pretty easy on the eyes. Next up is John Lazar’s Jarek, chewing up every bit of scenery he’s given, obviously having a blast.

John Lazar, hamming it up with the best of them!

John Lazar, hamming it up with the best of them!

Of course, for every good performance there are some equally bad ones: Monique Gabrielle’s acting is cringeworthy at best, and we get to see her in two different roles! That being said, as bad an actress as she proves to be in this film I thoroughly enjoy her performance here. I think it actually enhances the silliness of the movie in a positive way; unfortunately, Q does not agree! Then there’s Toni Naples who plays the evil Sultana, Jarek’s right-hand woman. She’s pretty awful too; she just isn’t in it as much as Gabrielle. But let’s get real here: we aren’t watching Deathstalker II for great acting, amirite? Both Gabrielle and Naples deliver just about as much as you should expect with lines like these! This movie delivers on everything it should: boobs, swords and sex. What more could anyone ask for?

08
Feb
15

Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy (1996)

kithposterA truly great comedy film is a difficult thing to find. The odds of finding an acceptably entertaining comedy are only slightly higher than the likelihood that any given horror movie will actually scare you. But finding a comedy that makes you laugh throughout the whole film, for years and years after you’ve seen it the first time? And one that only seems smarter the more you see it? That’s like climbing Mt. Everest and, you know, surviving. I can’t tell you how many times I laughed and laughed during a first-time watch of a comedy, only to show it to someone and realize: holy shit, this movie sucks. So naturally, when I feel I’ve found that needle in the haystack, it shoots right up to the top tier of my favorite films. Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy is just such a film.

Look, I won’t deny growing up a relatively privileged kid. I had everything a kid could want or need, but perhaps more important than anything (except maybe a mother’s unconditional love), I had cable. Shit, I’ll do you one better: I had HBO. I was watching the Kids in the Hall sketch comedy show before I had any damn clue what their jokes were on about. For the uninitiated, at its core the Kids in the Hall are five Canadian guys who write and perform sketch comedy. They play most, if not all of the characters in their sketches, which naturally means half the time they’re in drag. Growing up with their quirky brand of comedy probably predisposes me to appreciating their film more than the average Joe would. I do have it on good authority though that folks who have never really ‘got’ the Kids‘ sketch comedy can (and some even do!) appreciate the film to the fullest.

God damn the pusher scientists!

God damn the pusher scientists!

The plot is simple: Roritor Pharmaceuticals’ research department is about to get gutted. After spending a great deal of time on top of the Big Pharma heap as the geniuses behind stummies, a prozac-like pill that you can pop like candy whenever you feel a bit down, they’re now facing the possibility of bankruptcy. Don Roritor, the ruthless madman behind the company, is personally interviewing each scientist about their research; not only is he out to separate the wheat from the chaff, but he is also on the lookout for a hot, new, marketable drug, like, yesterday. When they get to Chris Cooper, they find out that he and his team have discovered a drug that will cure depression. Though they’re still in the early stages of testing, Cooper is pushed into a corner: tell them the drug is ready, or he and his entire team get the axe. So naturally, he lies and says it’s ready to go.

Gleemonex, as the drug is soon dubbed by Roritor’s wacky marketing executive Cisco, works by latching onto a patient’s happiest memory. For instance, test subject Mrs. Hurdicure reminisces in the happiness of her last

Mrs. Hurdicure, a.k.a. patient 957, is reluctant to take the new drug.

Mrs. Hurdicure, a.k.a. patient 957, is reluctant to take the new drug.

Christmas, when her lovely family came to visit… for 30 seconds. She is the first of millions of Americans to “cure” their depression by reliving their happiest memories, which honestly folks, are all pretty damn pathetic. Sadly, it’s just a matter of time before the unfortunate side effects take hold…

I truly believe Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy to be one of the smartest, funniest comedies I’ve ever seen. I am quite honestly astounded that it’s not more highly rated on Rotten Tomatoes (38%?!) or IMDb (6.8). Not only are the laughs consistent, but as I said before, it really holds up over time. Almost 20 years on, the subject matter is still relevant; perhaps even more so now than ever, what with Big Pharma growing so ubiquitous we simply take it for granted. But the Kids’ take on Big Pharma is just a small slice of the biting commentary it has to offer on our fucked-up society, but I must admit it’s my favorite part.

Ah, the perks of corporate rulership.

Ah, the perks of corporate rulership.

For as long as I’ve watched Kids in the Hall, they’ve been mocking businessmen. From the sketch where a young boy brings home a Businessman to his mother hoping to keep it as a pet to the one where businessman-Bruce literally rips his heart out of his chest and pours coffee on it to keep it ticking, the subject is obviously one the Kids are quite familiar with, and frankly, very good at making jokes about. But with an hour and a half running time to work with, the Kids have a serious field day with it, not only mocking what an asshole corporate bigwigs tend to be (this one evidently resembling Lorne Michaels more than just a little bit), but exactly how dangerous and reckless it can be to keep one’s eye on nothing but the company’s bottom line.

The Kids of course don’t stop there, they have plenty to say about how pathetic all our lives are. The characters that inhabit the world of Brain Candy are naturally pretty miserable, but not outrageously so; most of them strongly resemble folks we know in real life. Our narrator, a nasty old curmudgeon who drives a taxi seems to be the only guy who really understands that you can’t have happiness without sadness. But all that makes it sound like the film is preachy; it isn’t. Sure it’s got something important to say, but I don’t think you can have good, lasting comedy without cultural commentary. The bottom line is, of course, whether or not the movie will make you laugh. The only way to know that is to watch it yourselves, I suppose, so get to it.

05
Feb
15

Innocent Blood (1992)

innocentbloodposterThere is a lot of danger out in the world for poor old saps like Q and myself who still prefer to own physical media over its digital counterpart. The sloughing off of someone else’s excess assures the bloat of our own, from used media stores who dare to charge $7 for discarded DVDs to thrift stores who offer up videocassettes at 25 cents a pop, the world of garbage is our delicious oyster. I guess it goes both ways, though: there is some measure of relief knowing that, after watching a particularly underwhelming feature, we can take it somewhere and turn it into new-to-us gold! After dumping 20-or-so shitty flicks and getting a pretty penny in store credit, my ability and desire to discern a worthy purchase from a shitty gamble goes out the window, and the stack we take home often times ends up larger than the one we ditched! First-world hoarder problems, I suppose, but this is all the long way ’round to explaining why we ended up with a copy of John Landis’ Innocent Blood. The cover looked promising, and while Landis has his ups and downs, I thought for sure a vampire flick set in my former home of Pittsburgh was a shoe-in for a keeper.

Watch out boy, she'll chew you up.

Watch out boy, she’ll chew you up.

The film follows a charming French vampire named Marie (Anne Parillaud, also known as that chick from La Femme Nikita), who skulks around the seedier parts of Pittsburgh hoping to feed on the flesh of the evil mobsters who’ve made it their playground. See, Marie doesn’t believe in killing innocent humans, it’s the devils she’s after. When she happens upon local gangster Tony (Chazz Palminteri) she’s relieved to have found herself a meal for the night, and we get a glimpse into her rules: never leave evidence, and never make the mistake of allowing them to come back as vampires. After a long awaited feast, she cleanly takes care of Tony by blowing his head off by a shotgun.

Having acquired a taste for this particular type of wise guy, Marie sets her sights on the top of the food chain: the number one mob boss in all of Pittsburgh, Salvatore “The Shark” Macelli (Robert Loggia). Unfortunately, his taste for garlicky mussels throws her off her game and she doesn’t quite get the chance to finish him up. Leaving him for ‘dead,’ Marie flees the scene, and its aftermath sure confuses the shit out of undercover cop Joe (Anthony LaPaglia). It seems a blessing in disguise that all the mobsters he’s trying to nail are getting picked off, but he can’t shake the feeling that something supernatural is going on here; I mean, why are there bodies nearly completely drained of blood?

Frank Oz is greeted by quite a surprising corpse.

Frank Oz is greeted by quite a surprising corpse.

Marie’s carelessness with Macelli’s body of course turns into a boon for the mob: his re-animated corpse is seemingly indestructible! Being the opportunist most mob bosses are, he realizes the cops will be no match for him and his crew if they’re all turned into bloodsucking monsters. Now it’s up to Joe and Marie (oh yeah, somewhere along the way they met, fought, made-up and banged) to save the ‘Burgh from the undead.

Somehow, all of Innocent Blood‘s potential just never adds up to a very good movie. Sure, there are some moments that are slightly amusing, but for a film that wants much more to be comedy than horror, it’s never quite funny enough. The jokes just fall a little (or a lot) flat, and I can’t put the blame on the actors; I really think it is due to lackluster writing. Ultimately it’s rather a shame; I wanted very much to like this movie, but it was just… so… anemic.

Sam Raimi and a chicken bone.

Sam Raimi and a chicken bone.

There were times during (and even after) watching Innocent Blood that I thought it might be worth keeping in our collection. After all, genre cameos abound: Frank Oz, Sam Raimi, Dario Argento, Tom Savini and even Forry Ackerman all make appearances. Though they’re delightful, they’re not enough to make the film worthwhile. It seems that lame jokes, a star-studded cast and unimpressive computer-generated special effects don’t make a very good movie. I did find myself thinking this might actually be a good candidate for a reboot: a nice make-over by the right people could bring this plot line to its full potential. As it is, I can’t say I recommend it.

17
Dec
14

Taxidermia (2006)

Every time I see a list on the internet of “the 10 most disturbing movies you’ve never seen” I feel like I’ve been challenged; either to prove how many of them I have seen, or to see the ones I haven’t. Sometimes I surprise myself with how many on any given list I’ve experienced, other times I am disgusted with myself for clocking in at zero. Anyway, one such list had on it a Hungarian film I’d never heard of. Turns out, I don’t think I’ve actually seen a single Hungarian film in my entire life, so I was doubly interested in checking out Taxidermia. All I have to say is it’s a damn shame this was my first foray into Hungarian cinema. My gag reflex is triggered just at the thought of this movie.

Taxidermia follows three generations of Hungarian men. Our genealogic odyssey starts with the pathetic and desperate Morosgoványi, who I guess is some kind of military servant responsible for the Kálmán family somewhere that is cold and remote. Morosgoványi amuses himself by drinking flames and squirting fire out of his dick and screwing holes in walls and slaughtered pigs. He impregnates his superior’s wife, who gives birth to his son, who has a tail, which I guess is supposed to have something to do with those pigs that Morosgoványi screws, or doesn’t screw, or thinks he screws, or whatever. After Kálmán kills Morosgoványi, he treats the newborn baby as his own.

Morosgoványi reporting for flame-dicked duty.

Morosgoványi reporting for flame-dicked duty.

Christened Balatony, the boy grows up to be one of Hungary’s biggest and brightest competitive eaters. We watch as he induces his own vomiting, only to shove some other disgusting, viscous food product down his throat. He has a hard-on for the female competitive-eating champion, Gizi, but so does his top-rival in the competitive-eating world. Who will win her heart? Well I don’t know who actually does, but she ends up marrying Balatony and they give birth to a boy they name Lajoska.

Balatony eats his way to the top.

Balatony eats his way to the top.

Lajoska is nothing like his parents; he’s skinny, frail, and not even remotely interested in the fact that his father, now bound to a chair due to his morbid obesity, can digest food bars, wrapper and all, with no problem. Lajoska’s passion is taxidermy, he’s good at it and his shop seems to do decent business. But he’s constantly berated by his father for being a weakling. It’s only a matter of time before his father’s incessant badgering pushes him over the edge.

Lajoska attempts to muscle up.

Lajoska attempts to muscle up.

Holy. Fucking. Shit. This is, without a doubt, the most disgusting movie I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Maybe you think that’s an overstatement. Maybe you think I’m exaggerating. Maybe you just think I watch chocolate-chip cookies and rainbows on parade, and don’t know what disgusting is. But you’re wrong. This is more disgusting than Salò. Gory isn’t exactly the right word, though there’s a pretty solid, minutes-long scene of our taxidermist rooting around viscera. There’s also vomit. Lots and lots of vomit. And lots of glossy post-vomit chins. And competitive eaters going at a giant plate of caviar. And engorged penises alongside rotting animal carcasses. I mean. Really. Fucking. Disgusting.

Balatony as a vast, old man.

Balatony as a vast, old man.

What really made me interested in seeing Taxidermia is the rumor that the film is an allegory of Hungary’s history. Not knowing enough about Hungarian history to connect the dots, I read this spoiler-filled breakdown on IMDb that does a great job of making sense of the hot mess. I’m still not sure after a little education that the film had to be so fucking disgusting, though. I can only come to the conclusion that the writer/director György Pálfi is filled to the brim with self-loathing. It’s strange, because I’ve read his other film, Hukkle, is charming as fuck.

Of course it is important to watch films from other countries, to experience world views different from ours, to help us relate culturally to people whose lives are completely different from our own. But, dear lord please, don’t make this your Hungarian selection. I’ll go back to the drawing board and hopefully find something a little more palatable. Taxidermia should only be watched on a dare.

29
Oct
14

House II: The Second Story (1987)

Note: Hi! This is Mike Q, and I’m not the one who usually writes here. I got this guest-spot because Katy’s fallen behind in writing up movies of late, so I’ve been called in to do some of the titles she doesn’t especially want to deal with.

Perhaps ten years ago, I got into a conversation with a co-worker about Weekend at Bernie’s II (1993). I listened incredulously to his description of the plot: a voodoo witch puts a curse on Bernie’s corpse, such that it dances towards a buried treasure whenever music plays near it. The hapless friends tasked in the first movie with pretending their friend is still alive now are tasked with keeping the world from finding out that their friend is a boogieing zombie. It seemed hard to believe that there was a movie out there that would live up to the promise that description offered for over-the-top hijinx. When a while later I got my hands on a copy, I found out that, indeed, Weekend at Bernie’s II didn’t. A while later, though, I found myself in a situation where I was watching through a healthy backlog of movies at a clip, and made a double feature of the Sean Cunningham-produced House (1986) and House II: The Second Story. While House didn’t do a lot for me (it couldn’t settle on a tone, and seemed like its best bits were done better in Evil Dead II — sorry, Fred Dekker!), House II was a revelation: THIS was the zombie buddy-comedy that I’d been hoping for all this time… the Weekend at Bernie’s II  that delivered on its promise. We watched it again for Katy’s first time as the 25th movie in the 31 Days of Horror.

house 2 thai

A Thai poster. Not as cool as the disembodied hand ringing the doorbellon the VHS jacket, but more in line with what this flick holds in store…

In the 1950s, a couple that lives in a creepy house give their baby away for safekeeping just minutes before a nightmarish figure (voiced by Fred Welker, using the same voice he used for Darkseid on Super Friends) kills them both. In October of 1986, that baby, now grown, comes back to claim his birthright. He is Jesse McLaughlin, an up-and-coming artist, and he and his music-biz girlfriend Kate have come to make the family mansion into their new home away from the city. Before too long, they’re joined by Jesse’s meathead “entrepreneur” best friend Charlie (Fright Night‘s jonathan Stark) and his aspirant rockstar girlfriend. After only a few minutes have passed in screentime, Jesse explains that he’s named for his great-great grandfather, who was a bandit in the old west, and who built the house they now live in. Seems the elder Jesse had found one of the legendary Mayan crystal skulls along with his partner,  the ominously-named Slim Razor. When great-great Jesse absconded with the skull, Slim felt he’d been cheated. The younger Jesse and Charlie figure that there are big bucks in it for them if they can find the skull, and rashly decide it must have been buried with the elder Jesse. Why not dig him up? So they do, the night before Halloween… and that’s when the REAL fun begins.

Look! It´s a prehistoric bird...

Jesse, Charlie, and a prehistroric bird

I won’t say too much more, but it should come as no surprise that the elder Jesse isn’t dead at all — he’s been kept alive by the mystic powers of the skull, and is played delightfully by Royal Dano. Grandpa Jesse explains that the house has been designed as a temple for the skull, and that it acts as a gateway to alternate universes. They all have to work to keep it out of the wrong hands… This state of affairs — zombie grandfather, dimensional gateways — is something the fellows decide is best kept from an increasingly incensed Kate (who’s being egged on by her lecherous asshole boss, played by a young Bill Mahr), and leads to all sorts of wacky cross-time adventures. This movie at times feels like the pilot for an especially zany Sunday-afternoon adventure show of the sort produced by Sam Raimi in the ’90s, by way of a multiple-camera sitcom of the same period. It’s stupid, and even childish, but never really mean-spirited or cruel.  It gets away with its increasingly outrageous twists through charm and goodwill, and some moments that feel really heartfelt in the midst of the silliness. It’s no surprise, perhaps, that Slim continues to be a threat, but Cheers‘ John Ratzenberger’s guest appearance as an electrician with a helpful sideline comes as an unexpected delight. While, sure, it isn’t horror in the strictest sense, this seemed like a nice break from the gialli that we’d most recently consumed. Even Katy, who holds the ’86 House in high regard, was charmed by this one.

onset_house2

The whole House II gang… at least, all the regular humans

Don’t expect anything groundbreaking, scary, or intellectual here — it’s dumb laughs. But, like the Japanese House (1977) that I prefer to imagine this is the sequel to — this movie has nothing to do eith either other than its loose haunted house premise — this film is made all the better by virtue of its light spirit and easy demeanor.

28
Oct
14

Birdman; or, The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance (2014)

BirdmanPosterI was going to hold off on writing up Birdman; or, The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance until after October, so I’d have a nice, neat little block of horror posts for this month. But the thing is, I just can’t wait. I have been thinking about the movie ever since I watched it two days ago, and the more I think about it, the better it gets in my head. I feel it is my duty to direct whatever audience I might have to the theaters to see it while they can.
Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is washed up. In the 1990’s, he played everyone’s favorite superhero Birdman, but today he’s nobody. All that remains of Birdman is the occasional photograph request from Midwestern families on vacation. Well, not only that I suppose; it seems Riggan maintains an inner dialog with Birdman, the latter always pumping the former up and reminding him that he is a star. But Hollywood has no time for him these days, unless of course he suddenly becomes interested in making Birdman 4. But Riggan has loftier aspirations; in fact it’s those aspirations that have brought him to New York City, where he is acting and directing in his very first Broadway play, an adaptation of Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. He’s never done a thing like this before, and he’s putting his reputation and financial security on the line.
The play is, of course, a disaster waiting to happen. Riggan’s daughter Sam (Emma Stone), a recovering addict of some sort, is acting as his assistant and she’s gonna blow any minute. Worse still, opening night is not far away when his male co-star’s head is crushed by a fallen stage light. This is a blessing; the guy was terrible, and Riggan insists to his lawyer Jake (Zach Galifianakis) that he himself actually made it happen. Jake has no time to ponder Riggan’s potential telekinesis and is more concerned with getting a new guy in the fallen actor’s seat. One of Riggan’s female co-stars Lesley (Naomi Watts) is well-connected and pulls in Mike Shiner (Edward Norton), a Hollywood darling of the moment with opinions and attitude, who also happens to “share a vagina” with her.
So amongst post-rehab familial turmoil, relationship issues between Lesley and Mike, Mike’s diva bullshit, the possibility that Riggan’s girlfriend Laura is pregnant, a likely lawsuit resulting from the fallen stage light, an almost guaranteed shit-review from the New York Times and Riggan’s failing resolve despite his inner Birdman chirping confidence into his ear, the show must go on. But how will it go?
It has been a long time since I’ve seen a new movie with Hollywood actors that is this good. Part of why it is so good is that it absolutely indicts the current state of Hollywood. Riggan’s Birdman conscience is always going on and on about what a “star” he is; all his career needs is a jump-start with another action-packed, superhero blockbuster. But Riggan dares to defy the expectations of Hollywood and his audience in hopes of doing something he considers actually meaningful. As Marvel has just publicized release dates for future superhero movies through 2018, could Birdman have hit the nail on the head any more square? Furthermore, Birdman will only become more relevant as whatever actors play the lead roles in these increasingly tiresome blockbusters age and become themselves irrelevant and forgotten.
I can’t help but wonder how the writers went about creating the screenplay. Did they actually get input from Keaton, who is very clearly the template for Riggan’s character? This movie just wouldn’t mean as much, or possibly couldn’t have even been made, if it hadn’t been for Keaton’s involvement. Birdman absolutely cannot be separated from Keaton’s own experience acting in Batman, a humongous blockbuster that arguably set the stage for the superhero boner Hollywood’s been sporting ever since. A brief glance at Keaton’s imdb page displays loudly Batman and Batman Returns: these are Keaton’s hallmark films, and they’ve cast a shadow under which it’s been undoubtedly difficult for Keaton to escape. Mad props to him for going balls-out with this flick. Did I mention he fucking rocks it in this movie? His performance is stellar; a total pleasure to watch. I have always enjoyed Keaton’s work but this is, like, some of the best stuff I’ve ever seen him do.  
Keaton’s not the only one who shines bright in this movie, though: Galifianakis, Norton and Stone all give pretty fantastic performances. It is worth noting, too, that most of main roles in this film are played by actors who have somehow been involved with blockbuster or superhero movies; there’s Ed Norton’s Hulk, Stone’s Spiderman, and Watts’ King Kong. And though Galifianakis hasn’t dipped into the superhero pot too much (at least not that I’m aware), he is most certainly a victim of the never-ending sequel (The Hangover III? Really?). Birdman really gives its actors a chance to show us what they can do (with the exception of Naomi Watts, who unfortunately isn’t really given much to work with here). Moreover, it dares us to care. The audience is indicted just as much as Hollywood is; after all, Hollywood wouldn’t be churning out gelatinous muck unless it was in high-demand. Writer/director Alejandro González Iñárritu and Co. are asking more from us, and I do believe it’s high time we the audience give writers, actors, and studios a reason to produce quality instead of tripe.
Speaking of quality, don’t think for a second Iñárritu lets critics off the hook. The whole time Riggan is preparing for opening night, the dark figure of the New York Times critic Tabitha Dickinson looms in the background. She frequently drinks martinis in a bar right next to Riggan’s theater, and while she has a contemptuous but respectful relationship with Mike, she has absolutely nothing but disdain for Riggan and other actors like him. She knows the power her reviews hold over the success or failure of a particular play, and she is not afraid to use it. I don’t consider myself a critic, but certainly when you’re writing up anything and offering a published opinion, you’re either endorsing or decrying that thing. Riggan’s opinion of such critics comes out in a fit of desperation and drunkenness, but is articulated better than anything I could ever put to paper, and I’d be lying if I didn’t feel implicated. 
While all of this sounds sort of heavy, and I suppose it is, this is more than just a drama. It is darkly, intelligently funny, and it manages to be so without long stretches of irritating dialog which seems to characterize intellectual comedies. It is refreshing in that way and so many others. There is a lot more I could say, like about how there’s this whole personal struggle going on with Riggan and this movie’s about much more than just showbiz, but I’m way over my word limit here, folks: just go see the damn movie. It needs us as much as we need it.



Categories

Old Wave

Advertisements