Posts Tagged ‘Gerrit Graham

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.

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10
Oct
14

Phantom of the Paradise (1974)

It’s inevitable that attempts to watch nothing but horror movies for an entire month will result in a few views that aren’t exactly horror films. Such is the case with Day 10’s selection, Brian De Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise, a twisted, rock version of The Phantom of the Opera (with a little Faust and Dorian Gray thrown in) starring Paul Williams, Jessica Harper, William Finley and my favorite, Gerrit Graham.

Paul Williams plays Swan, a mega-music producer and the owner of Death Records. He is responsible for the “nostalgia-wave” musical craze that is sweeping the nation. His hallmark band, The Juicy Fruits, dress up like greasers and sing music reminiscent of the 1950’s, while he rakes in the big bucks. But being the savvy music producer he is, Swan knows he can only ride this nostalgia wave for so long; it’s time for something fresh and new. And what better way to market the opening of his new music venue, The Paradise, than debuting a new star? But who could it be? And what song will they sing? The search is on.

Swan is such a charmer. What a trustworthy face...

Swan is such a charmer. What a trustworthy face…

Winslow Leach (Finley) makes the choice of song easy; he performs part of his rock version of Faust where he knows Swan can hear it. Poor Winslow optimistically believes that he will get credit for his music when he hands it over to one of Swan’s goons. But more than a month later Swan is holding auditions for singers who are to perform Winslow’s song, with no mention of Winslow’s name on the piece. While investigating the audition line, Winslow meets Phoenix (Harper), a woman whom he believes is perfect to perform his music. And though he tries to use her to get in to see Swan, Winslow is not only violently turned away, but sent to jail (Sing Sing, no less) where he can be out of Swan’s hair (and is also subject to several medical “experiments,” all of which the evil Swan is behind!).
Swan stole his music! William Finley as Winslow Leach.

Swan stole his music! William Finley as Winslow Leach.

Not to be so easily disposed of, Winslow escapes prison, and in the process is maimed and scarred almost beyond recognition. It isn’t until he makes it to the under-construction Paradise where he finds a mask befitting his new look. And that’s when the haunting begins! But Swan is not about to let a disgruntled, maimed phantom ruin the opening of his Paradise, so he makes a deal with Swan: finish writing his Faust and Phoenix, and only Phoenix, will sing it. After signing a contract the size of War and Peace, Winslow is holed up somewhere deep in the Paradise, working on polishing his masterpiece, while Swan plots his final destruction. Not only is he planning on sealing Winslow up in a secret spot of The Paradise, he’s going to relegate Phoenix to back-up singer and replace her with a glam-rock, speed-popping hot mess named Beef (Gerrit Graham)! As I’m sure you can guess, Winslow doesn’t take kindly to the change in plans…
Jessica Harper belts it out as Phoenix

Jessica Harper belts it out as Phoenix

I’ve seen Phantom of the Paradise three times now, and I must conclude that it is just an all right movie. It is one of Q’s favorites, and has a pretty strong cult following, but to be honest if Gerrit Graham weren’t in this, I wouldn’t really get the attraction. It is interesting to me that this is a De Palma film, though. Honestly I haven’t seen much of his stuff, but this is just about the last thing I’d have ever expected out of him. It is light-hearted, goofy, and funny – not like anything else of his I’ve ever seen (and quite a surprise given the subject matter he’s covering!). I wanted to like it a lot more than I actually did; it just seems to drag a bit at points and I found it a little boring. Somehow, it’s never really left much of an impression on me. This might have something to do with the fact that musicals, even tongue-in-cheek ones, have to be really good or really over the top for me to give them the time of day.
The "Phantom" sings.

The “Phantom” sings.

All that being said, everyone’s performances are pretty great. Paul Williams does an excellent job of playing a despicable music-industry devil. I love William Finley’s phantom, too: his constant look of surprise, disappointment and anguish all rolled into one is just about perfect. Then there’s Jessica Harper, who can do no wrong in my book. But, as I already said, Gerrit Graham is the real winner here. The movie is worth watching just for him! Long live Beef!

Gerrit Graham as BEEF!

Gerrit Graham as BEEF!

In the end, I think it’s the musical numbers (except Beef’s, of course) that really kill this movie for me. Whenever they come on I kinda start tapping my foot a little bit faster, waiting for them to be over. After hearing me say that you may be wondering: why the hell are you watching this to begin with? Ask Q. It’s always his fault! I’ve seen The Apple and I think it is Phantom’s crazier counterpart. The Apple I really like, because it is such a wretched, messy train wreck how couldn’t I? I can tolerate Rocky Horror Picture Show, at least it’s pretty to look at and Tim Curry is amazing. But Phantom of the Paradise occupies this weird middle-ground territory between those two crazy musicals and, well, normal ones. It just doesn’t do it for me, I guess.
04
Aug
13

Used Cars (1980)

Who could say no to that face?

Who could say no to that face?

There’s reality, and there’s movie comedy reality. The two are nothing alike. Take a movie like Weekend at Bernie’s for instance. This is a movie about two guys who carry their boss’s corpse around, pretending like he’s not dead, and it’s supposed to make us laugh. Sometimes it’s almost as if my suspension of disbelief needs to be stronger for comedies than it does for superhero movies or action flicks. That strikes me as a little strange, but watching Robert Zemeckis’s Used Cars made me realize that most comedies have plots that lie outside of the realm of possibility.

Used Cars isn’t so wacky as Weekend at Bernie’s, but it’s close. As I sit here trying to write up a decent synopsis, I’m realizing just how convoluted the plot is, so let me try to be succinct: Rudy Russo

Pretending they run over your dog... yeah, that's a good way to sell cars, right?

Pretending they run over your dog… yeah, that’s a good way to sell cars, right?

(Kurt Russell) is a used car salesman, living in a trailer park and ready to move up in life. He’s planning on running for senate, and with his boss Luke’s help, will be able to raise enough money to get himself in the running. Luke Fuchs is a nice guy, but his brother, Roy, who owns a lot across the street, is not so nice. He’ll do anything to get the lot from under his brother, including kill him! 

Roy is successful at bringing about the perfect set of circumstances that would cause his brother’s heart to finally give out. But Rudy and his counterparts Jeff (Gerrit Graham) and Jim (Frank McRae) know all too well that, with an estranged daughter, there’s no one left to inherit their lot except Roy. To avoid this situation, they bury Luke in his car and tell everyone he’s driven off to Miami. Roy of course is fairly certain they’ve hidden the body somewhere, and he and his nasty lawyer pal are on the hunt for it. All the while, Luke’s daughter isn’t so estranged at all, and she shows up on the lot just in time to take it over. Roy’s nastiness doesn’t abate, however, and he

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, they hire Lenny and Squiggy to interrupt live broadcasts for their commercials!

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, they hire Lenny and Squiggy to interrupt live broadcasts for their commercials!

manipulates one of her commercials and sues her for false advertising! Now, the only way to save the lot from Roy’s clutches is to get a mile of cars onto their used car lot! 

So, yeah, succinct fail, but that’s the plot (and I’m leaving a lot out!). A little far-fetched? Yes. Totally freaking ridiculous? Yes. But isn’t that what you want out of a comedy? I have to admit by the end I was getting a little impatient: I mean, I knew the good guys were going to win, why does it have to take so long to happen? That being said, I’m perfectly happy to sit down and watch as much Kurt Russell as possible. Those dimples! 

 




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