Monthly Archives: February 2012

Omnibus Oscar Post

Yes, a horrible show as always. The jokes were all either lame, old, or lame and old, Billy Crystal’s schtick is beyond dated, and the presenter banter was some of the worst stuff I’ve ever seen. Why does Bruce Vilanch get to keep writing the Oscars? He’s like the Bob Shrum of comedy writers.
And if there’s such a time crunch that we have to cut off all the winners, why do they make time for nonsense like Cirque du Soleil, three different montages and an overlong, subpar Christopher Guest comedy sketch?
– Get Neil Patrick Harris to host, please.
– As for the winners, as someone who loved both “The Artist” and “Hugo,” I didn’t have a whole lot of complaints about who actually got the Oscars. I’m also thrilled that the Muppets won for Best Song, although it was the wrong song (“LIfe’s a Happy Song” was much better) and there should’ve been a live performance.
– Quote of the night from Dave Itzkoff on Twitter: “Maybe if Kermit had punched Piggy in the face, the Muppets would have gotten TWO musical performances. #teambreezy.”
– Matt Zoller Seitz, on the show you imagined:

You knew you were in for an extraordinary Oscar ceremony, the most exciting and surprising in history, when Billy Crystals traditional I am the movies opening montage cut to a re-creation of the tender hospital bed scene in The Descendants, but with Crystal in the bed, and the movies star George Clooney leaning in to kiss the host and giving him a staggering 43 seconds of tongue. Then came a string of toppers: The show certified its contempt for the technical categories by having a talking garbage can read the list of nominees for cinematography and production design, burp the names of the winners, then make them root around in the bin to claim their statuettes. Steve Whitmire, Jim Hensons replacement as Kermit the Frog, paused in the middle of Kermit and Miss Piggys introduction of Cirque du Soleil, then hung his head and muttered, Guys, sorry, Im just not feeling it, and I know you arent, either. We all should have hung it up after Henson died. Cirque du Soleil, ladies and gentlemen, like you care. TheCirque du Soleil performers spun menacingly over the assembled crowd at the Kodak Theater and dropped shards of broken Oscar statuettes on their heads while the director cut to tight shots of terrified spectators shielding their Botoxed faces. Statler and Waldorf put shotguns in their mouths and the show cut to a commercial. The broadcast returned for the In Memoriam segment, a stream-of-consciousness Proustian montage done in the style of Tree of Life, alternating home-movie footage of the deceased with shots of Sean Penn walking his dog on a beach. Oh, all right none of that actually happened.

– A SuperCut of all the cursing from the Best Picture nominees. Yes, “The Artist” had some:

– Two great pieces from Drew Magary on the Oscars: a “haters guide” preview and his Gawker liveblog.
– Also from the Deadspin/Gawker axis A.J. Daulerio with his annual Top Ten list of nonexistent movies.

Quote of the Day

Matt Taibbi on the GOP race:

That’s all the early conservative movement was. It was just a heartfelt request that we go back to the good old days of America as these people remembered or imagined it. Of course, the problem was, we couldn’t go back, not just because more than half the population (particularly the nonwhite, non-straight, non-male segment of the population) desperately didn’t want to go back, but also because that America never existed and was therefore impossible to recreate.
And when we didnt go back to the good old days, this crowd got frustrated, and suddenly the message stopped being heartfelt and it got an edge to it.
The message went from, “Were the real Americans; the others are the problem,” to, “Were the last line of defense; we hate those other people and theyre our enemies.” Now it wasnt just that the rest of us weren’t getting with the program: Now we were also saboteurs, secretly or perhaps even openly conspiring with Americas enemies to prevent her return to the long-desired Days of Glory.

“Wanderlust” Review

The new comedy “Wanderlust” is based around a bunch of things- hippies, hallucinogens, nudity, ostentatious single-character scenery-chewing – that aren’t nearly as hilarious as the filmmakers think they are. The movie is wildly uneven but does have its share of big laughs.
Aiming to do for the Great Recession what “Lost in America” did for Reagan-era Yuppiedom, “Wanderlust” stars Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston as a married New York couple who both find themselves unemployed shortly after purchasing a tiny-but-expensive apartment. On their way to Atlanta to stay with Rudd’s monstrous asshole of a brother (Ken Marino), Rudd and Aniston stumble into a rural Georgia commune populated by a collection of wacky ’60s types.
The commune characters are all played by accomplished comedic actors doing extended character bits, some are funny (Kathryn Hahn’s depressed ex-porn star, Joe Lo Truglio’s nudist/novelist) and some not so much (Lauren Ambrose’s Earth Goddess, Alan Alda’s aging hippie, Malin Akerman -as always- playing a braindead hot chick.) Justin Theroux plays the leader/David Koresh figure, and you can see where his plot is going from a mile away.
“Wanderlust” was directed by David Wain and written by Wain and Marino; those two and most of the non-Rudd/Aniston actors are veterans of MTV’s ’90s sketch series “The State.” I’ve never really gotten that style of humor or that of its various ancillary projects. I’ve watched the Wain-directed cult comedy “Wet Hot American Summer” multiple times over a decade and it still does nothing for me.
The only exception is 2008’s “Role Models,” also directed by Wain and starring Rudd, which should’ve been a middling high-concept studio comedy but instead was one of the last decade’s funniest films. That was thanks mostly to hilarious setpieces, wonderful supporting turns by Jane Lynch and kid actor Bobb’e J. Thompson and best of all Rudd’s wonderfully cynical, gutbusting performance, the best I’ve ever seen him give.
“Wanderlust” isn’t anywhere close to the level of “Role Models,” but when it works it’s usually because it takes after that film. There’s some great stuff by Rudd, especially a bit in which he rehearses in front of a mirror is beyond hilarious. The other great performance in the film is by former SNL player Michaela Watkins, who as Marino’s depressed wife seems to be visiting from a different, more psychological movie. And if you’re a fan of the new Comedy Central show “Key and Peele,” both Key and Peele are in the movie, although they never share the screen.
The other great bit is a 30-second throwaway scene that has nothing to do with the plot, in which a trio of newscasters (played by Wain and ex-Staters Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter) parody news-set banter by making it aggressively sexual. I normally recoil in horror from this sort of humor- especially when it involves Black and Showalter, who are far from my favorite comedians- but I couldn’t stop laughing at this bit.
However, the funniness tends to disappear for long stretches. There isn’t really anything funny or compelling about the premise itself, and when the film falls back on tired drug and hippie humor, it fails just about every time. There are also many, many running gags that don’t work, from Theroux talking about obsolete electronics to Alda rattling off the entire list of people who founded the commune with him, which isn’t funny the first, second, third or fourth time and leads to a punchline that isn’t remotely worth the trouble.
As with most films that involve nudity, a scene (since pulled) in which Aniston lifts her top has gotten exponentially more media attention than anything else about the film. Unfair, yes. But besides those two brilliant scenes, there’s not a whole lot else about that will be remembered.

On Jablonski

I’ve been following the story of Jack Jablonski very closely. He’s a high school hockey player from my hometown of St. Louis Park who was recently injured and paralyzed in a game. For “Friday Night Lights” fans, his story has a lot of parallels to that of Jason Street.
Anyway, there’s an article this week in Sports Illustrated about Jack, and it’s written by a cousin of mine, Karen Schneider.