Boogie Woogie (2009, Duncan Ward)

Categories: 2009 and Movies.

This is a reasonably amusing, reasonably on satire of the London art world which could well be called the Short Cuts of art world movies – at least it aspires to be that. There’s an All Star cast, there are lots of inter-cut stories, there’s a fairly ruthless attitude towards many of the characters. Not having spent any time in these circles, I assume that most of this is fairly spot on. The only real issue for me is that it’s not consistently entertaining. (Well, I guess the other one would be: who cares about the problems of rich art Read More

Boccacio ’70 (1962, Vittorio De Sica, Federico Fellini, Mario Monicelli, Luchino Visconti)

Categories: 1962 and Movies.

This is a collection of four roughly 50 minute long films (just three in the US theatrical edition) poking fun at the sexual mores of 1960s Italy (which is why there’s “’70” in the title???) in tribute to Decameron by Boccacio, a 14th century set of tales considered one of the early Italian literary masterpieces. Perhaps a little like The Canterbury Tales for all I know. Knowing how I generally feel about much Italian cinema in general, and Fellini in particular, and “sex comedies,” and learning that I have never heard of Boccacio or read Decameron, one might well wonder Read More

Black Dynamite (2009, Scott Sanders)

Categories: 2009 and Movies.

I haven’t seen any blaxploitation in some time but, from what I remember, this is a spot on parody. And, like every great parody, it takes itself seriously enough of the time that the film and characters feel committed to the genre even as they tear it apart. There are some really solid jokes here, about the genre itself, about African-American culture, about filmmaking in general, and even some “lower” stuff (of the kind you might find in a “spoof”). Though the film probably works better if you are a fan of the genre, it still works quite well even Read More

Big Man Japan (2007, Hitoshi Matsumoto)

Categories: 2007 and Movies.

This mockumentary has an ingenious conceit – the everyday life of a superhero. It combines a satire of Japanese monster movies with a satire of reality TV/slice of life documentaries. This is a ridiculously silly movie – which gets sillier at the end, something I’ve always admired – but its points are still worth taking, even if the film is extremely silly as it attacks easy targets. Something else. 8/10 Read More

Baudolino (2000) by Umberto Eco

Categories: 2000, Books, and Fiction.

This is a fairly uproarious comic novel about the fine line between truth and fiction, that also functions as a critique of medieval logic and reasoning and as a celebration/satire of the power of myth (and faith, and belief). But I felt a nagging sense of deja vu the entire time I was reading it. Because, though the story is drastically different than Foulcault’s Pendulum in terms of setting, characters and their goals, and the target of the critique – in this case the kind of backwards reasoning and reliance on belief over fact that gave us the ontological “argument” Read More

Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958, Mario Monicelli)

Categories: 1958 and Movies.

This is supposedly one of the classic Italian comedies, considered an all-time great film by numerous people. It is apparently a parody of Rififi, a classic film I have yet to see. So, one of the reasons it’s lost on me would be because I haven’t seen the target of its satire. Maybe that’s why it feels more like a farce to me. At this point, my dislike of certain aspects of Italian culture is well known to readers of this blog. Though  I love Antonioni and Leone, I struggle with just about every other major Italian filmmaker (oh, I Read More

The Fugs [Second Album] (1966)

Categories: 1966 and Music.

This insane record is somehow their second – it’s kind of crazy that they had already put one out – and supposedly it’s more competent than the first (which makes you wonder about the first). For the most part, the record is basically what you might imagine the Mothers would sound like had Frank Zappa brought his humour (and a little more sincerity) with little to none of his musical genius. It’s mostly primitive garage rock with hippy/beat politics and what you might call Zappa-esque humour had Zappa released his debut by this point. But the last track is this Read More

Deadpool (2016, Tim Miller)

Categories: 2016 and Movies.

I think it’s safe to say that this is the best Marvel film outside of one or two of the X-Men sequels (the recent ones have been shockingly good). This film is funny – it’s not just mildly amusing, like Guardians of the Galaxy – and it manages to preserve the rather elliptical nature of (this particular) comic storytelling rather intact – i.e. it feels more like a comic book movie than a Hollywood blockbuster (and I mean that as praise).  The short version is that it’s entertaining in ways that (most of) the massive Marvel blockbusters of recent years Read More

Being Julia (2004, István Szabó)

Categories: 2004 and Movies.

I haven’t read the novel (I gather it’s one of Maugham’s lesser regarded works) but I feel like the edge that I have always felt in his writing is present here, which is no small accomplishment. Benning gives a bravura performance in the title role (though everybody’s good) and the production design is excellent. But it’s all a little All Above Eve. 7/10 Read More

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006, Scott Glosserman)

Categories: 2006 and Movies.

MILD SPOILERS This film begins as the horror movie equivalent to the classic 1992 Belgian black comedy Man Bites Dog. It’s literally the same concept: a documentary team follows a serial killer around. However, the additional conceit here is that the audience sees what the horror movie would look like, were one being made. Does that sound a little confused to you? Because it is. And that latter part is soon dropped, as the film becomes more of a conventional horror (comedy?) movie when Leslie Vernon and the documentary team have their falling out. There are a number of really Read More

Danger 5 (2012, 2015)

Categories: 2012, 2015, and TV.

I can find no news of a third season of Danger 5 so I will review it here. If another season comes along then by all means I will watch it. Danger 5 is a delightfully deliriously absurd take on those old puppet adventure shows, only it’s live action. It’s set in a permanent WWII, where, every week, the gang have to try to stop the Nazis and kill Hitler, before teaching us how all to make a cocktail. The show may take on easy targets, but it’s the sheer volume of those targets – and their insanely absurd interaction Read More

Les invasions barbares (2003, Denys Arcand)

Categories: 2003 and Movies.

I stupidly watched this without having seen the first film, however I don’t think it matters. This is an affecting and amusing dramedy about mortality, friendship and, above all, family. However, there are some major issues with either the film itself or the characters. It could just be Quebec, but the men and women in the film appear to be living in a different century than the rest of us. (Like I said, it could just be Quebec.) The mild misogyny of the male characters is viewed as not only integral to their beings but as being something endearing. The Read More

Angel (2007, Francois Ozon)

Categories: 2007 and Movies.

This is a well-executed period melodrama that doubles both as a morality tale that money, indeed, cannot buy happiness nor can superficial fame, and as a parody of oh so many British period melodramas. It’s such a subtle parody that one can easily forget it’s a parody (and, judging by the reviews, a lot of people missed it) and there are really only a couple moments in the film where it’s nature as parody is fully revealed: on their honeymoon (seriously folks, how can any of you take that honeymoon seriously?) and when Angel yells out some terrible romance novel Read More

Amintiri din epoca de aur aka Tales from the Golden Age (2009, Hanno Hofer, Razvan Marculescu, Cristian Mungiu, Constantin Popescu, Ioana Uricaru)

Categories: 2009 and Movies.

This is a highly entertaining omnibus film about life in Romania in the ‘80s under Communism. The segments are all directed by different Romanian filmmakers, they have different styles and vary in terms of how entertaining they are. But, on the whole, it’s a fine indictment of a form of government that has never helped those it was founded to help, and manages to be funny at the same time. 8/10 Read More

Killing Them Softly (2012, Andrew Dominik)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

Like a serious Other Guys. This is an artsy-fartsy gangster film, but unlike so many of its ilk, it’s actually executed well. It’s a little heavy handed in its theme and tying it to the country’s economic woes, but the point is well taken. The cast is excellent, as is the direction (mostly). This is a revisionist gangster film where people are actual people – flawed, regular people. That speech at the end is a little preachy. 8/10 Read More

Lucky Jim (1954) by Kingsley Amis

Categories: 1954, Books, and Fiction.

This is a laugh-out-loud novel about what it’s like to feel like a fraud teaching at a university (something I can sort of relate to) while you hate your (sort of girlfriend), hate your boss, hate your subject matter and generally hate your life – and that hate manifests itself in you screwing everything up. There are a whole bunch of passages that made me laugh out loud and or at least chuckle, especially the ridiculous climax. Someone’s made a movie out of it and I want to see it (though I’m a little worried that, because it was made Read More

Everything is and should be mockable

Categories: Journalism, Politics, Religion, and Society.

I would just like to take this opportunity to express my dismay that this is happening yet again and that I fully support any and all publication’s right to satirize anything. I have not seen the cartoons published by Charlie Hebdo but it doesn’t matter. Anyone who shoots or otherwise harms someone else, especially over art, is committing a far greater crime than any perceived insult. An insult is not even really a thing – it is only an insult to people who interpret it as an insult. But these are people’s lives. Real people. And now they are dead Read More

Machete Kills (2013, Robert Rodriguez)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

The first Machete was an attempt to combine a satire of America’s immigration system with a parody / celebration of “grindhouse” style action films of the ’70s and ’80s. I liked it a lot more than most people, but I don’t appear to have written a review. I gave it a 7 which, in retrospect, feels generous. And so I’m torn, because I feel like I enjoyed this sequel more than the original, though I feel like I can’t rate it as high as a 7, for reasons which I will try to detail below. The sequel feels to me Read More

Escape from L.A. (1996, John Carpenter)

Categories: 1996 and Movies.

I thought I had seen this but it turns out I had seen pieces of it late at night and never really watched the whole thing. This is an action movie that attempts to elevate itself with extremely clunky satire of what it’s like to live in Hollywood. I’m not sure why they decided to make a sequel 15 years later and that in itself is very questionable. But the whole thing is just bad: the script, the not funny and not clever satire, the horribly date effects: honestly, this has to be one of the worst looking ’90s movies Read More

30 Rock (2006)

Categories: 2006 and TV.

When Seinfeld ended, I was done with the sit-com. I honestly didn’t see what it could possibly offer me any more. Television was getting smarter – and would get significantly smarter over the next decade – and I just couldn’t handle being told when to laugh or having to suspend my disbelief to laugh at a set-up that never appreciably changed. I think I spent the last years of high school watching Seinfeld and Simpsons re-runs (and I was still watching new Simpsons episodes back then). I honestly don’t remember what other comedy I was watching back then; maybe some SNL and MadTV, Read More

Evil Dead: The Musical (2007 Original Cast Recording)

Categories: 2007 and Music.

It’s amazing how tastes change. When I saw this a number of years ago I absolutely loved it. But it took me forever to get my hands on the soundtrack. (I deeply regretted not buying it at the show.) But now I am listening to it in a post-Book of Mormon world and what can I say? I am disappointed. It’s not that it’s bad; it is pretty funny and occasionally clever but it lacks polish and more than a few of the lines go for either fan knowledge or groaners. The music, though referential enough, still reeks of its Read More

The Book of Mormon (Original Broadway Cast Recording, 2011) by Matt Stone, Robert Lopez and Trey Parker

Categories: 2011 and Music.

The songs are really great, I really enjoy all aspects of it – though I must say, having seen the touring cast, I was a little thrown off by the voices of the Broadway cast – and I will likely be posting lyrics to facebook every time I listen to it. But some of the layers of the musical are contained in the sets and even more in the brilliant choreography. Both of those things are obviously missing from the soundtrack and it just isn’t the same. This works best as a show. The soundtrack is great fun, but it Read More

Walker (1987, Alex Cox)

Categories: 1987 and Movies.

I think going in that one must accept that Alex Cox made this movie. If one doesn’t like Alex Cox (or Godard, or filmmakers like that) one should probably not watch this film. That being said:Cox appears to rarely get great performances out of his decent to great actors. I don’t why that is, but this is yet another example where the lead performances draw attention to themselves in not so good ways. I wouldn’t say that Harris is terrible in this, but he is curious and I think a better performance from him – and from a few others Read More

The Book of Mormon

Categories: 2013, Music, and Theatre.

Last night I saw the US National Tour version of The Book of Mormon, the musical by the creators of South Park and Avenue Q. I think there was enough going on it that to properly, fully assess it I should see it twice. I say this with good reason as, even though the show is full of stuff that people will dismiss as crude, there are numerous references to other musicals and also the chorus-singing was often so dense you couldn’t discern every part. The plot is pretty straightforward and is, in many ways, like an extended South Park Read More

At Last the 1948 Show (1967)

Categories: 1967 and TV.

This show hasn’t held up that well, so it is mainly of historical interest for anyone seeing the birth of a pretty ridiculous generation in English comedy (Python etc). There are some skits that are simply amazing however, there’s probably only 3-5 in the entire 5 episode run. The rest of them are mostly either ideas that just don’t work that well (Python would do better) or of the kind of stuff that the Goodies later did (and if you like the Goodies, you’d probably like this). It’s definitely worth viewing if you are a fan of any of the Read More

That’s My Bush (2001)

Categories: 2001 and TV.

This is no Brak Show Starring Brak but it’s still a pretty ruthless and relatively subtle satire of sitcom conventions (the last episode is a little more obvious about it). It’s a bit of a one-joke premise and so it is often more “oh that was a clever reference” than laugh-out-loud funny (though there are moments) and unfortunately a few too many of those laughs come from jokes from the sitcom formula (which are just more risque than they otherwise would have been) rather than the satire of the sitcom formula. It makes sense to me that this failed. I Read More

The Brak Show (2001)

Categories: 2001 and TV.

I was a little sceptical coming into this because I never liked Brak when he appeared in other Williams Street shows. I found him annoying and a distraction. But I was wrong. As Space Ghost destroys talk show conventions (and pretty much everything else) and as Aqua Teen destroys so many TV drama conventions, so does Brak, only Brak takes on the sitcom. It is equally effective as the other two shows, and as funny (it might be more consistently funny than Space Ghost, if not quite as ruthless). Another awesome cartoon. 9/10 Read More