Tag Archives: raising arizona
I can see the boardroom meeting now:
“Listen men, we need a fresh spin for these Elvis movies. Cranking out ‘[insert occupation] Elvis’ films three times a year is all good and fine, but we need to be one step ahead—this rustling overseas from England is making me nervous.”
“Well sir, themes are still popular, and heck, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? Why, the solution is more themes, of course!”
Cut to: Fun In Acapulco.
On this episode, I am joined by fellow Smug Film contributors John D’Amico and Jenna Ipcar. We discuss the movies that got us into movies, and were our gateway into obsession. As always, we go on tangents along the way, take a quick break for a movie joke by comedian Anthony Kapfer, and then close the show with questions from our mailbag.
If you have a question for the show, leave it in the comments or email us at Podcast@SmugFilm.com.
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Movie Stuff Referenced in this Episode:
Anchorman 2: The Super-Sized R-Rated Cut (2014)
Directed by Adam McKay
Written by Will Ferrell & Adam McKay
143 min. (24 min. longer than the original cut)
We’ve all read Greg’s great review of Anchorman 2. He breaks the film down on a mechanical level, getting to the heart of it by working through its raw material: its jokes.
It’s this raw material which has been replaced in this new version.
This isn’t the first time an alternate version of a film has seen theatrical release. Exorcist II and Heaven’s Gate were notoriously pulled from theaters and recut. I remember seeing The New World in New York in 2005, and when it got a wide release a few weeks later, it was about 10 minutes shorter. But unlike these films, the reason for Anchorman 2’s recutting is not because there was something ‘wrong’ with the original—the filmmakers here simply wanted to experiment with the possibilities of cinema.
This isn’t the first recut of an Anchorman movie. Wake Up, Ron Burgundy is an alternate cut of the first Anchorman, which Greg touched on in his review (and which we saw together after acquiring it from the wonderful and unfortunately long gone Kim’s Video of Bleecker Street). It was a direct-to-DVD release, and featured many different jokes, but the main difference was its integration of a completely discarded plot that revolved around a revolutionary terrorist cell robbing banks in San Diego (which was clearly deemed unsatisfactory, and reshot as the Panda Watch section of the original film). The film tries to weave a half-assed narrative out of these scraps, using some leftover jokes as the glue.
The new version of Anchorman 2, however, is not at all different in terms of plot. In fact, beat by beat, it’s the same. If you’re someone who only half-watches movies, you’d be forgiven by some for not thinking anything was different—but you wouldn’t be forgiven by me. The fabric of Anchorman is its jokes, and now, for once, the emperor really does have new clothes.
We may lose a couple great jokes from the original cut, replaced by weaker ones, but these weaker ones often serve as necessary setup for three great new ones that couldn’t have fit in otherwise. In any case though, it’s futile to compare and rate the jokes. Instead what is important and worthy of discussion is the space these jokes occupy. By this I mean the entire philosophical concept of switching one joke for another.
There’s a great little story about how on the set of E.T., Spielberg slowly unwrapped a toy off camera to illicit a reaction from the young actor playing Elliott. I’ve always thought this story was a great way to explain how a filmmaker should approach exposition. Exposition is the easiest, most fun, and most misunderstood part of storytelling. But filmic exposition is generally stupid, because people are afraid of it.
Somebody once asked me, about my 50/50 Rule, “When making a movie, would you pay extra special attention to how it starts, since you lose interest in so many movies so fast?” The answer is decidedly no, because every frame of a movie is sacred and equally important. If you treat your entire movie like that, then you don’t need to spend extra attention to any one part of it. Exposition is too often just underestimated as something that has to be blown through in order to get to the fun stuff. To counteract this, the indies have bloated their exposition with way too much visual minutiae. You can build a ‘stark’, ‘oblique’, ‘atmospheric’ world with your story—you don’t need shots that hold too long on a girl as she wistfully puts on makeup.
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
Written and Directed by Joel & Ethan Coen
Some spoilers ahead.
Inside Llewyn Davis is a frustrating movie. It’s difficult to know how to approach it. Going in, you either know something about the folk music scene of NYC in the early 1960’s, or you don’t—and either way seems to handicap a viewer looking to make sense out of the film. Those who have a familiarity with the subject will be running through their head for facts, looking for characters who correspond to real people, wondering ‘Will Dylan be in this?’ They will be distracted, and in the end, it will not be a very rewarding experience. On the other hand, those who go in blind will probably get lazy and blame their misunderstanding of the film on their ignorance of the subject, thinking it to be full of inside jokes.
If you can somehow make it past that built-in obstacle course, you’ll be able to view the film for what it is—another Coen Brothers film about a cosmic circle. A man, standing still (a la Ray from Blood Simple, H.I. McDunnough from Raising Arizona, Jerry Lundegaard from Fargo, Barton Fink, The Dude) while at the same time, going on an adventure (Tom Regan from Miller’s Crossing, Rooster Cogburn from True Grit, Llewelyn Moss—practically sharing the first name of our main character—from No Country For Old Men, Ulysses Everett McGill from O Brother, Where Art Thou?—literally sharing the first name as our other main character, a cat).