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There is a moment in Fargo (I’ll never stop talking about Fargo) that makes me die with laughter every single time I watch it. The movie is packed with black comedy and irony and brilliant deadpans (the license plate joke, holy shit) and some basic but perfect physical gags (Jean Lundegaard bursting out of the shower draped in its curtain like a kid in a homemade ghost costume), but I ain’t talking abaout all that stuff. I’m talking about the stills above. This moment seems to be more of an editorial in-joke than an actual written joke, but of course you never can tell with the Coen brothers. After Jean’s dad and Stan Grossman and Jerry discuss the plot’s central ransom over breakfast, Jerry is at the counter. The beaming cashier asks how Jerry’s meal was. After he answers rather shortly, he comes back with an affable “How you doin’” and when it cuts back to her, we see her cock her head to the side before it cuts again. All she does is cock her head to the side. No response, no change in expression, just a slight pitch. It’s hilarious. It’s insanely funny.
Continue reading Not All Movies Should Have Jokes, But All Movies Should Have a Sense of Humor
The cinematic powers-that-be tend to decree that Citizen Kane is the best movie ever made, or sometimes Raging Bull. I don’t have a problem with that appraisal. It’s fun. Lists are fun—they expose people to cool movies they may not have heard of, and cause debates over who’s the most badass horror villain from the 80s, or what the best movies for libertarians are.
However, what is annoying is that whenever these movie freemasons decide that Vertigo is the third-best movie of all time or something, it causes all the opinion-scavenging cinephiles-in-training to rant their little hearts out about how The Rules of the Game or whatever really deserves to be ranked third-best. These lists also do a good job of tricking people into thinking The Godfather is artistically superior to Back to the Future, which is ridiculous.
Continue reading The 10 Best Movies Ever Made
If that ain’t masterful mise-en-scéne, I don’t know what is.
Hell Baby (2013)
Written and Directed by Robert Ben Garant & Thomas Lennon
Today’s review was slated to be Blue Jasmine, because I saw that last week and I certainly have a lot to say about it (sorry, next Monday, I promise) but then I realized that I’d somehow forgotten to ever write about Hell Baby, which I saw a few weeks ago when it came out on VOD and enjoyed a great deal. I suppose I could’ve written about Hell Baby next week, and stuck to writing about Blue Jasmine today, but fuck it—the mere moment the words ‘Hell Baby’ were back in my head, I couldn’t stop giggling. In fact, I’m still smiling, as I write this. And if that ain’t the textbook sign of a perfect summer comedy (and of a more fun thing to write about) I don’t know what is.
Continue reading Hell Baby: The Best Summer Movie of 2013
Pure cinematic honey.
A few days ago, I went to a one night only showing at BAM of Minnie & Moskowitz, one of my very favorite Cassavetes films. They’re currently doing a 20-film retrospective, including some films of his that are long out of print on DVD (such as the aforementioned, which thankfully has recently become available on Netflix Instant in HD, after being on there for ages with probably the worst SD transfer I’ve ever seen in my life) and some that have never even been released on DVD in America (such as Love Streams). This goes on until the end of the month, so if you’re in NYC, get your ass there. The prints are all gorgeous 35mm. Cassavetes really doesn’t get enough credit for his colors, because on DVD, they tend to look muddy, but their subtle vibrance comes through wonderfully on film. (Here’s hoping the recently announced Blu-Ray upgrades showcase them better.)
The film played perfectly well in a theater setting. The audience laughed at all the right moments, and genuinely so. I can’t think of a single joke in it that fell flat. You would’ve sworn the film came out yesterday, rather than back in 1971. Like honey, time hasn’t spoiled it whatsoever, and its sweetness hasn’t diminished one bit.
Continue reading Cinematic Shelf Life (Why ‘Good’ Films Go Bad)
Jokes, almost inherently, aren’t funny. We all know scores of ‘classic’ jokes from the aristocrats to dead babies to chickens crossing roads. None of them are funny. But, in the right context, we’ll laugh at them, because the joke isn’t what’s funny—the idea of the joke being told is. It’s that extra layer, that prefix, that meta, that deeper meaning, which gives a joke life, and makes it funny, and makes you truly laugh. (Laughing simply because you’re ‘supposed to’ is why sitcoms are popular, despite their unfunniness.)
Continue reading I Don’t Like Jokes, I Don’t Think They’re Funny