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.
I’ve told this story a billion times so this time I’m going to try to include some more details. When my late grandpa, Tom Easton, was ten years old, he saw Fantasia in the theater. He always wanted to be a cartoonist but his dad was cold and distant and thought cartoons were for kids and no way to make a living. But despite that lack of encouragement, Tom did some cool things. He avoided combat in the Korean War by teaching art on base and drawing army posters. Continue reading My First Feature Film Is Almost Done
SLC Punk (1998) Written & Directed by James Merendino
I could never identify the groups in my high school. We certainly had some jocks, potheads, and even a few hanger-on goths. But punks, I don’t know. We had a kid with a mohawk; he was a fucking asshole. And we had a bunch of kids who loved punk music—a lot of them had safety pins in their clothes and dyed hair, but they seemed to really like some band called AFI, which I always thought was the American Film Institute. By the time I was in high school, punk music had completely soaked into the mainstream and everybody had heard of Pennywise and Bad Religion. It was in vogue to go see Henry Rollins do his spoken word shows in Ann Arbor, and if you were really cool, you already liked Bad Brains and Minor Threat.
I didn’t care about any of that stuff and I was tired of every local band sounding like Green Day. I was like the James Duval character in SLC Punk—the social diplomat. I could be friends with anybody. I was too busy getting into movies and figuring out my own depression to bother committing to some specific clique. Plus, the fashion of punk seemed so childish to me. It’s music; I don’t wear it, I listen to it. But that being said, we didn’t have nazis or rednecks either. Well, everywhere has rednecks, but our punks didn’t beat them with bats. Our punks were nice kids (except for that mohawked loser) and they got good grades and loved their parents. They went to Michigan State University and were proud to do so. Continue reading An Interview with James Merendino, Writer/Director of SLC Punk (But First, A Review Of The Film)