Shame

Caution spoilers:

Every year, there are two or three movies that are almost universally praised that really don’t do it for me. I’m kind of left scratching me head, asking myself “Did I miss something?” Shame is one of those films. As the credits rolled I asked myself, “What were you trying to tell me, Film?” Not that every film has to say something about the world we live in, but given the accolades it’s received, I was expecting something more. Also, I know this is going to be controversial, but I don’t get the whole Michael Fassbender thing. He just doesn’t to it for me.

Brandon Sullivan (Fassbender) lives alone in New York City and, to put it lightly, has issues with sex. In the first act alone we see him masturbating in the office bathroom, receiving a prostitute, having sex with a stranger in a public spot, acting all predator towards a girl on the subway, and we see he likes online video sex chat sites. When his sister (Carey Mulligan), whose calls he had been ignoring, shows up and begs him to let her stay, his lifestyle is interrupted. He also takes out a girl from the office only to find that his outlook on life and relationships prevents them from connecting emotionally and later he cannot perform sexually with her, and must turn to a prostitute for release. When his sister tries to get him to the face his issues with her, he embarks on a sexual binge that includes a three-way and sex with a man in a gay club. While he is out, his sister has left several desperate voicemails for him and when he sees there has been a subway accident near his apartment, he assumes the worst, only to find his sister sitting in a pool of her own blood in his bathroom. She survives the suicide attempt but the experience apparently leaves Brandon a changed man.

My main issue with the film is, when it’s over, I don’t feel any different about the subject matter. Sex addition controls people, leaving their lives devoid of anything real, unable to connect with others, I get it. Maybe I’m expecting too much, but I would think a film should say a little bit more when approaching a subject matter like this. Also, Brandon gets off (pun not intended) relatively light, considering. He doesn’t get a disease or get anyone pregnant, his sister doesn’t even die! He gets a good scare but is that really enough to get him to change his ways.

The relationship between Brandon and his sister is epically screwed up. When Brandon comes home to find Sissy has let herself in, he walks in on her on the shower and the two just kind of stand there a little too long considering they’re siblings. Later, Sissy walks in on Brandon masturbating and laughs. Sissy also has an extremely dysfunctional love life, taking Brandon’s married boss home with her and crying on the phone with other lovers. It makes me wonder what the hell these people’s parents did to them.

There are interesting elements to the film. Watching Brandon squirm as his sister beats him at his own game is interesting. Another good scene is when he is on the date with his co-worker and he slowly realizes he cannot connect with a normal person and has nothing to offer as a partner. I think my biggest issue is that there are few surprises. I think I would find McQueen and Fassbender’s other collaboration Hunger interesting but this one didn’t draw me in.

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Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey

When I was the right age for Sesame Street, Grover was the man. Elmo was not the force of nature he is today. I didn’t really get the whole Tickle Me Elmo craze and I’ve heard parents complain about his baby talk being a bad influence on kids but I really didn’t have an opinion on this furry red icon. When I first heard about this documentary I really didn’t have a burning desire to see it but saw enough interviews with the man behind the muppet and my interest was piqued. Being Elmo is a wonderfully inspiring story that should be seen by anyone with a dream.

Kevin Clash grew up in Baltimore and early on developed a love for the work of Jim Henson. He began creating his own muppets from objects around the house and taught himself to be a puppeteer. He got his first break on a local television show and was invited to the Muppet Workshop by master muppet maker Kermit Love. Love teaches Clash the tricks of the trade and the two develop a beautiful friendship. Love introduces Clash to Jim Henson himself and after working on several Henson productions and Kaptain Kangaroo, Clash finally gets his dream job, working on Sesame Street as a puppeteer.

One interesting fact is that Clash was not the creator of Elmo. He was originally played by another puppeteer with a totally different personality. Elmo was originally very caveman in demeanor, but Clash brought tenderness to the character. He decided Elmo should be all about hugs and love, which is what made him so accessible to children. There is a scene where a very young Make-A-Wish participant is on the set to meet Elmo which is hard to get through dry-eyed. Clash says that when children meet Elmo, they never see the man behind the muppet. Something magical happens when you encounter a muppet, their puppeteer is invisible despite being in plain sight.

It’s great to see Clash continue to give back. He is seen in France teaching European puppeteers the subtle touches that take the muppets to that magic level. He is also shown meeting with a young boy who dreams of one day following in his footsteps. Clash gives the boy a tour of the workshop and talks to him about the tricks of the trade as if they are peers. One imagines this meeting is similar to the one between Clash and Love decades before. It makes you wondered if we’ll become familiar with characters this young boy creates one day.

One thing this documentary highlights for anyone who wants to make it in the entertainment industry, is that you can’t just want it, you have to work really hard to reach your goals. Clash didn’t wait to be discovered, he had been working tirelessly to become the best puppeteer he could be, working professionally while still in school. He even hints that his own family had to take a back seat to Elmo. The only help Clash got was from his supportive family, allowing him to reach for the stars. He was allowed to use anything around the house to make his muppets and his mom was the one who initially reached out to Kermit Love. It’s a film filled with love, something you don’t get to see that often, and it’s beautiful to see a story about how someone got to live their dream.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Caution Spoilers!

Wes Anderson is one of the most distinct filmmakers of his generation. Say what you want about him, the man knows his mise-en-scene. He puts so much thought into the colors, how the shots are composed, the costumes, the music, you can tell a Wes Anderson film with a single frame. He also tends to explore similar themes in his films- usually featuring extremely dysfunctional and rich families. While The Royal Tenenbaums is his masterpiece, I kind of have a soft spot for The Life Aquatic. He really lets it all hang out, having some shots that look like they’re from a children’s pop-up book and a soundtrack that includes multiple David Bowie songs sung in Portuguese.

Steve Zissou (Anderson favorite Bill Murray) is a Jacques Cousteau type documentary filmmaker who is determined to find the shark that killed his long-time partner, when he meets a man who may  be his son (Owen Wilson). Wilson’s Ned may be Wes Anderson’s purest character. So many of his characters are spoiled and destructive but Ned just wants to get to know his dad. He’s obviously seen a lot of pain, growing up without a father and losing his mother, but he remains a good person. He struggles to bond with Zissou, who is too self-involved to have a decent relationship with anyone. He is treated like a traitor when reporter Jane (Cate Blanchett) falls for him, when it is clear they are the more age appropriate match. However, just as he begins to truly connect with Zissou, his crew, and Jane, he’s killed in a helicopter accident. It’s a death that cuts me unlike other film deaths because he was becoming important to so many people. It’s not about the loss of one life but more about the holes that with be left in everyone else’s.

While much of the cast is composed of Anderson regulars (Murray, Wilson, Angelica Houston), it’s Willem Defoe’s Anderson debut as Klaus that steals every scene. We are used to seeing Defoe as a menacing figure, making Klaus’ childish jealousy of Ned’s relationship with Zissou even funnier. He is extremely sensitive and has trouble hiding his emotions whether it be glee that Zissou and Ned are fighting or hurt when he is assigned to B squad yet again. He is someone who seeks validation and receives it from Ned’s flag. It’s a very sweet moment when he salutes Ned, officially excepting as a member of the crew.

The only character that really doesn’t work for me is Blanchett’s Jane. I find no fault in her performance, I just think she was given the least to work with. She has some really awkward lines that are clearly supposed to be deep but come off as the writers trying too hard. Also, I didn’t really like that a supposed father and son are fighting over a woman who is already pregnant with another man’s child, especially since Zissou really only wants to bang her.  I thought they may have made the character pregnant to accommodate Blanchett’s real-life pregnancy but that was a coincident. I can see how it ties into the theme of sons without fathers, fathers without sons, but I don’t know. I would have handled that character very differently if I was writing the script.

I wouldn’t recommend this film to someone who has never seen a Wes Anderson film. This film is like all his quirk on crack and sometimes he gets in his own way. However, those who already appreciate his work will find it enjoyable. It should be noted, this was the first film he wrote without long-time partner Owen Wilson. Also, there’s a lot of experimentation with stop-motion animation which he later employed in Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Favorite Quote:

Steve Zissou: I hope you’re not gonna bust our chops on this on, Bill.
Bill Ubell: Why would I do that?
Steve Zissou: Because you’re a bond company stooge.
Bill Ubell: [scoffs] I’m also a human being.

Young Adult

I was a bit on the fence about seeing Young Adult. I had issues with Juno and Charlize Theron always rubbed me the wrong way, but I haven’t seen much of her more reason stuff, so maybe I’m judging her based on work she did before she had a the clout to be choosey. Also, I tend to go either way with unlikeable protagonists. However, I like Patton Oswalt and he’s been making sound film choices so we rented it and was pleasantly surprised. While not a film I can see myself rewatching, it was definitely an interesting viewing experience.

Theron plays Mavis Gary, who despite being named MAVIS GARY, was the most popular girl in her high school class. Since graduating, she has moved to the “big city” (as a snobby New Yorker I find the characters calling Minneapolis the big city adorable) and works as a writer. However, much of her life is smoke and mirrors. She is a ghostwriter for a young adult book series, so her achievements are unknown except by those who know her, and she spends much of her time plastered.  While working on the series’ final book, she receives word that her ex has become a new father and hurries back to her hometown, determined to get her man back.

There is something mesmerizing about watching someone as beautiful as Charlize Theron allowing herself to be so thoroughly humiliated. The moment she steps into town, her motives are so clear and it’s so obvious that things are not going to end the way she wants them to, but she is blind and can’t stop herself. The only misstep I see on the filmmaker’s part, is having Buddy (Patrick Wilson) briefly give in to Mavis’ seduction when they drunkenly kiss outside his house. Not that I expect Buddy to be a saint and I guess it makes sense to give Mavis some sort of hope that her plan is working, but it left me very disappointed. Someone told me that the kiss did not happen in the initial script and the scene was filmed later in the production and I think you can tell. There’s a key scene where Mavis tells Buddy she loves him and she never mentions the kiss. You would think that she would counteract his insistence that he’s happily married with “What about that kiss?”.

Patton Oswalt plays Matt, a former classmate of Mavis’ that was brutally attacked their senior year. Mavis and Matt make an unlikely duo who form a friendship because if they don’t, they’ll be alone. They are both damaged (Matt both mentally and physically) but they focus on the other one’s problems instead of their own. Matt acts as Mavis’ conscious, begging her to leave Buddy and his family alone, while Mavis tells him to stop using his disability as an excuse to never move on with his life. Both are clinging to the past but differently. Mavis has built up her time with Buddy as the greatest love affair the world has ever seen, while Matt sees his attack as proof that this world is nothing but shit.

I liked that they made Buddy’s wife Beth cool. Often with these love triangle plotlines, the wife would either be totally wrong for Buddy or an angelic saint. Beth plays in a band, she’s comfortable with her husband’s ex visiting, who would leave her for alcoholic Mavis? I read someone’s take on the internet who felt Beth was an asshole, who was trying to rub it in Mavis’ face that she won Buddy, but I don’t know. She seems too laidback to cook that up.

Another scene I find really interesting is when Mavis begrudgingly visits her parents. It’s hard to tell if her parents made Mavis the mess she currently is or if they have gotten fed up by her dysfunction.  Mavis asks her parents to take down a photograph of her with her now ex-husband on their wedding day. They explain it is a reminder of a happy day in their life. It made me wonder if Mavis was to blame for the divorce and her parents knew it. I could imagine it being hard, losing a son-in-law because of your daughter’s unrepentant, self-destructive ways. However, they could just be so obsessed with keeping up appearances that they can’t admit their daughter has a failed marriage. They do laugh at her admission that she may be an alcoholic and seem to view her nervous hair pulling as an annoyance instead of a problem that needs their sympathy.

Not sure what will happen to Mavis in the future. She hit rock bottom in a particularly spectacular way but when speaking to Matt’s sister, she got what she had been seeking for the whole film, confirmation that she is the object of envy, so it’s hard to tell if she is going to make the necessary changes to her life. However, I do feel confident about Diablo Cody maturing as a writer. I wasn’t sure how I felt about her after Juno, but I’ll definitely give her next film a shot.

Fun Fact: While set in Minnesota, some of the film was shot in my dad’s hometown, Massapequa Park, Long Island, New York.

Dr. Strangelove

I really believe the most underutilized genre in film is satire. It really blows my mind that with everything that has happened politically in the last decade, more filmmakers haven’t taken advantage of the inherent comedy goldmine happening all around us. The 60s were a time of great political turmoil, and the Cold War stripped everyone of reason, with children hiding under their desks to protect themselves from THE BOMB. Dr. Strangelove does an excellent job of highlighting the ridiculousness of the era while showing what could happen as a result of such silliness, by using real Cold War conspiracies.

Peter Sellers plays three roles in the film: the British Captain Lionel Mandrake, the American President Merkin Muffley, and the German Dr. Strangelove. He was also originally supposed to play Major “King” Kong but struggled with the Southern accent, so the role ultimately went to Slim Pickens. Columbia Pictures originally agreed to finance the film on the condition that Sellers play at least four parts, crediting Lolita’s success on Sellers, which is odd considering some now find him to be a distraction in Lolita. Sellers routinely making everyone on the set laugh, including Kubrick, as he improvised most of his dialogue. Sellers was not a fan of Kubrick’s  directing policy of multiple takes. He didn’t see the point of doing the same thing over and over, even as Kubrick insured him that his performance improved with each take. The character of President Muffley changed dramatically as filming progressed. In the script, he is described as having a bad cold, which Sellers originally played up so much, the cast couldn’t stop themselves from cracking up. He was also played as very effeminate. However, Kubrick decided in the middle of filming, to reshoot all of the president’s scenes and have him be the straight man, surrounded by everyone else’s craziness.

While Sellers is great in all his roles, the film’s highlight for me is George C. Scott as General Buck Turgidson. He is the epitome of the war loving manchild, who has all the power and can’t wait to use it. He is Cold War paranoia in the flesh, and can’t bring himself to trust the Russkies, even when the fate of the world depended on it. Scott was not happy with his performance at first, resenting Kubrick for encouraging him to act so over the top, but he eventually grew to appreciate it and considered it one of his favorite roles.

One thing that is decidedly not funny about the film, is how much of the over the top stuff was based on real life. While General Ripper worrying about fluoridated water poisoning out bodily fluids sounds preposterous, many actually believed that fluoride in our water was a Communist conspiracy.  There was also a real doomsday device, which would be activated if Russia was under threat of immediate attack and could not be reversed. However, the film led to policy changes to ensure the film’s apocalyptic climax could not become a reality. And isn’t that the goal of film as a medium, to display what is wrong in the world and inspire change?

Favorite Quote:

General “Buck” Turgidson: Sir, you can’t let him in here. He’ll see everything. He’ll see the big board!

Midnight in Paris

If you’re a screenwriter, you’re almost required to have opinions about Woody Allen. As a woman, I am constantly reminded that he married his step-daughter (however they do have one of the longest running marriages in Hollywood) and can’t help but question his motives when he makes multiple films with Scarlett Johansen. Woody Allen makes films for himself, first and foremost. He is definitely one of the most self-involved filmmaker of all-time, but when his work speaks to you, it is even more powerful because it is so personal. While I am somewhat predisposed to enjoy Allen’s work due to my love of dialogue, I found Midnight in Paris to be one of his more charming films.

Writer Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) travels to Paris with his fiancé, Inez (Rachel McAdams) while struggling to complete his novel. Gil is very romantic about Paris, particularly the Paris of the 1920s, much to ihs fiancé’s annoyance. As Gil wanders the city at midnight, he suddenly finds himself in the Paris of the 1920s, surrounded by artists like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemmingway. He also falls in love with Adriana (Marion Cotillard) who is sort of a 1920s painter groupie and argues that the true Golden Age of Paris was the late 19th century – la Belle Epoque.

If you know anything about art and literature of the 1920s, the film becomes a lot of fun as you try to guess who’s who. It really brought out my inner snob as I found myself saying out loud, “Of course that’s Man Ray.” I think this film really touches on the true fact that we all think we were born in the wrong time. The problem with nostalgia is that we always remember the good or at least interesting bits. Every era has elements that are forgettable or downright awful.

I think Owen Wilson is a really great fit for Allen’s style. There’s an obnoxiousness to Allen’s leads that Wilson’s laidback likeability balances out. Gil is self-involved, pretentious, and narcissistic, and worst of all ,he thinks it’s everyone else that’s guilty of these sins, but Wilson’s floppy hair and childlike approach to the magic that surrounds him redeems him. I hope Allen and Wilson continue to work together as it is clear Allen has struggled to find someone to take his place in his own films as he’s aged. However, I found the choice to have Gil’s fiancé admit to cheating while in Paris to be an obvious attempt to excuse Gil’s less than gentlemanly behavior. It’s ok that he has fallen head over heels for the enchanting Adriana, because McAdams was a cheating whore!

While I doubt Allen will ever make a film that comes close to Annie Hall, he can still make films that say something the human experience. In the film, Inez’ parents rave about a wonderful film they saw just the night before, but they can’t remember the title. Wonderful but forgettable might be a harsh description of Midnight in Paris, perhaps an unremarkable delight. And don’t be surprised if you find yourself looking up airline prices for a trip to Paris.

Favorite Quote:

Man Ray: A man in love with a woman from a different era. I see a photograph!
Luis Buñuel: I see a film!
Gil: I see insurmountable problem!
Salvador Dalí: I see rhinoceros!

The Apartment

The Apartment is a film that was really ahead of its time. The subject matter is pretty racy when you think about what was deemed acceptable in 1960. C C Baxter (Jack Lemmon) is a mid-level employee at a large insurance company who earns the affection of the higher ups by letting them use his apartment for their romantic rendezvous with their mistresses. Little does he know that his boss Mr. Sheldrake is having an affair with Baxter’s office crush Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine).  There is something profoundly disturbing about a man knowing his boss is sleeping with the girl of his dreams in his own bed, but The Apartment is still a delightfully charming film.

Jack Lemmon is one of my favorite actors of all-time and this is definitely among his top five roles. He’s a guy who always tries to do the right thing and gets his first break by helping men cheat on their wives. However, he eventually sees how much pain the men he helps are causing when Miss Kubelik tries to take her own life in his apartment and he can no longer be a part of it, even if it means losing his job. Baxter is very cute, with his funny way of talking and his peculiar cooking habits, and Lemmon is able to keep him from becoming a Nice GuyTM by not allowing himself to become jaded. He knows being a mensch is what’s important.

The sequence where Baxter finds Miss Kubelik in the midst of a pill overdose and must enlist the help from his neighbor the doctor to save her is extremely powerful. The doctor is no stranger to the carrying on that goes on in the apartment, but incorrectly assumes Baxter is some good time Charlie, who has a different girl every night of the week. Watching Baxter have to play the part of the heartless bastard to hide Miss Kubelik’s secret is one of my favorite scenes in any film. The Oscar winning screenplay has so many magical unspoken moments. I remember in one of my screenwriting classes, my professor waxed poetic about the mirror scene. Early in the film, Baxter returns a compact with a broken mirror to Mr. Sheldrake, then later he sees Miss Kubelik with the same broken mirror, which tells him without words that she is his boss’ mistress. Billy Wilder said that if you let the audience connect the dots themselves, they’ll love you for it.

MacLaine’s Fran Kubelik may be one of the first manic pixy dream girls in film history. She even has a sassy pixie cut! She’s quirky and tragic and can have any man she wants, at least for a night. Baxter loves her quirkiness and is a bit taken aback by her drama but knows he could be the man she needs. My only real complaint about the film is that I don’t believe Baxter and Miss Kubelik will last in the end. I think they’ll give it an honest try, but she’ll eventually leave him for someone more exciting.

Favorite Quote:

Baxter: That’s the way it crumbles, cookie-wise.

Bride of Frankenstein

Warning, there will be spoilers…

Bride of Frankenstein is one of those movies I always heard about, but until this weekend, I had never seen it. Since I’m a writer, whenever there’s a famous movie or book, I tend to concoct a plot based on the snippets I’ve picked up from the collective pop culture consciousness. I should really stop myself from doing this because it always leaves me a bit attached to the version I dreamed up. It’s not that I expected the Bride of Frankenstein to be about the monster preparing for his nuptials, but I thought the bride had a lot more to do in the film. Elsa Lancaster has more screentime as Mary Shelley than she does as the title character.

The film opens with writer Mary Shelley explaining to Lord Byron that her story of Frankenstein did not end with monster being killed by the townspeople like one would think. That alone should show how much audiences have changed since the 1930s. Can you imagine any film made today opening with the author talking about “what really happened” in a Victorian parlor? Byron heaps praise on Shelley and the famous story she created, as scenes from the first film are shown. It’s very “last time on Frankenstein”. Shelley informs Byron that the monster was not killed by the townspeople as previously believed. The film follows a monster as he tries to find peace, only to be routinely thwarted by angry townspeople. Meanwhile, Dr. Frankenstein is visited by Dr. Pretorius, who convinces him to create a mate for his monster.  When their meeting does not go particularly smoothly (she hisses at him) , the depressed monster decides to end it all by blowing up the castle, killing himself, the bride, and Dr. Pretorius in the process (or does it), while Dr. Frankenstein and his wife escape.

Boris Karloff (Or simply Karloff, as he is listed in the credits, since he was such a big name star at the time) does a beautiful job as the monster. He shows signs of being a gentle giant, appreciating music and friendship, but has such a short fused, so whenever he is provoked by the fearful townsfolk, he lashes out and continues to make his situation worse and worse. By the end of the film, he decides death is the only answer for him. Everyone has encountered someone like the monster in their life, who continues to sabotage their own happiness, when all they want is love.

One great sequence is when Dr. Pretorius shows Dr. Frankenstein his collection of miniature people. The mad scientist creates tiny people that he dresses up like kings, queens, etc and keeps in jars for his enjoyment. The special effects are still quite impressive. It makes you think about all the innovations that have been made over the decades and wonder how much they actually elevate the medium. Many films made in the 30s, could not be made more magical with all our modern technology.

If you haven’t seen the film and want to check it out, I would recommend you watch it with someone who’s company you enjoy and spilt a bottle of wine, because it is a film that could not be made today and is an entertaining blast from the past.

Star Trek

I have a lot of Star Trek fans in my life. Hubby has tricked me into watching many of the different series but I couldn’t  get really invested in any of the shows. I found that most of the series were a little too heavy in tone. As I have stated before, I like my Sci-Fi to have a sense of humor to them. If I had to choose a series to watch, I would pick the original series because it knew how to have fun. The Star Trek of the twenty-first century was in an awkward place (much like its prime rival Star Wars) and for the first time since Roddenbury’s death, there was no new Star Trek episodes airing. Then long-time fan J. J. Abrams took the classic characters, wiped the slate clean, and took them to a whole new place and I enjoyed every second of the ride.

The casting of this film is perfection. In the television show, the crew is an established unit with a long history, while in the film, they are cadets who are meeting for the first time. The scene that made me squee with nerdy glee the most was when Kirk and Bones meet for the first time. While all the actors channel the characters they play so completely that you know exactly who they are the second you see them, you know exactly who Karl Urban is playing the second you hear him complaining. What can I say, I like them a little cranky. It was clear that all involved wanted to honor the famous characters, with some, like Simon Pegg and Karl Urban, being huge fans themselves. Chris Pine wrote to William Shatner after being cast and received his blessing to take over the role. John Cho also sought George Takei advice, worried that it wouldn’t be right to play the famous Japanese character when he himself is Korean.

The film has everything one wants in a summer blockbuster. It has almost non-stop action, a lot of good laughs, and lots of eye candy. The filmmakers really have fun with Pine’s Kirk. He may be super slick when he’s the captain of the Enterprise and played by Shatner, but as an eager cadet, who refused to play the rules, he’s put through some sort of embarrassment every few minutes. One great scene is when Bones sneaks Kirk onto the Enterprise for its maiden voyage by injecting him with vaccines and playing his body’s reaction as a real illness. However, his reactions are little more severe than intended, requiring even more shots. Another fun scene is when Kirk sneaks his way into the captain chair and attempts to take control of the situation, only to be told “Out of the chair” but CAPTAIN Spock.

Abrams made the somewhat controversial decision to permanently change the Star Trek timeline with the use of time travel. There were those who found this traitorous  but it really gives everyone a lot more wiggle room to explore new sides to these well know characters. They all ready have experimented with a romance between Spock and Uhura, which will be interesting to see where they take it. It also makes things a bit more dangerous. There are no rules and nothing is safe.

I think the Star Trek franchise benefitted greatly by being reimagined by a fan. Abrams was able to make the film accessible to those who never seen an episode of the original series while still throwing in enough in-jokes for the fans (killing off a red shirt, having Chekov struggle with the letter V). I think Star Wars would benefit greatly if from a similar reboot, but I won’t hold my breath for that one. Sounds like they’re in the process of filming the sequel and I for one can’t wait.

Favorite Quote:

Leonard “Bones” McCoy: Are you out of your Vulcan mind?

This is Spinal Tap

I lost a loved one this month who was always a great person to talk to about movies so I decided to partially honor him by writing about some films he loved and will always make me think of him. My uncle was a drummer and toured with many big acts in the 80s so This is Spinal Tap was an all-time favorite. This film totally got what it was like to be a rock band in the 80s, specifically an aging one. My uncle told me that many rockers walked out of the film in anger claiming “That’s not a comedy! That’s my life!”

The influence of this film is still felt. The mockumentary format can be found in popular television shows like The Office and Park and Recreation. And while the film’s main players had to prove they could make a film with heavy improv, today it is expected that comedy films will allow the cast to ad lib. This film has such a dry humor that you really have to listen closely. They smartly chose a subject to lampoon who doesn’t realize how naturally hilarious they are. They really don’t have to tweek anything too much to make it funny. The “small bread” scene is a take off on the old legend about Van Halen demanding only brown M&Ms, so Spinal Tap was actually less insane than the band they were spoofing. However Van Halen claimed that they only put the brown M&M thing in their rider to see if anyone actually read it.

Michael Mckean, Christopher Guest, and Harry Shearer are all musicians and played all of Spinal Tap songs (something they did again for A Mighty Wind). What I love is that Spinal Tap’s songs get worse (or at least more ridiculous) as the band progresses. The best written song is the song they wrote as children called “All The Way Home”. “Give Me Some Money” is another great one and was recently used in a commercial, like it was a real song or something! However, no matter how silly songs like “Big Bottom” or “Sex Farm” are, I dare you to watch the movie and not get one of the songs stuck in your head.

The leads never turn down the opportunity to return to their Spinal Tap counterparts. They have performed at high profile events like Live Aid 25 and did the DVD audio commentary in character. If you were to listen to only one audio commentary in your lifetime, make it the in character commentary. I really have trouble deciding whether to just watch the movie or listen to the commentary, because the commentary has some amazing lines in it. The band watches their film and comments on all that has changed since it was made. Spoiler alert: everybody died or is semi-retired (in a whole in the ground). Also, Harry Shearer pipes up way more in the commentary than in the film itself.

This is Spinal Tap is one of those films that many probably quote without knowing the source. “This one goes to eleven” is so iconic and completely embraced by the rock community. Spinal Tap later accused Metallica for stealing the all-black album. It’s funny how a movie that made so many rockers uncomfortable became a defining love letter to metal. Also, lots of fun cameos so keep your eyes open if you’re a first time viewer.   It’s also great to see a few now familiar faces like Dana Carvey and Fran Drescher before they were famous. So stick a cucumber in your pants and get ready to “Rock And Roll!”

Favorite Quote:

David St. Hubbins: I do not, for one, think that the problem was that the band was down. I think that the problem *may* have been, that there was a Stonehenge monument on the stage that was in danger of being *crushed* by a *dwarf*.