Saturday, July 26, 2014

Fuchsia hall of famer: A look back at 'Purple Rain' (with special guest Craig J. Clark)

Has it really been 30 years since Purple Rain debuted? The answer is yes.

"They finally even made a movie about it ... Whenever anything important happens in America, they have to gold-plate it, like baby shoes." 
-Stephen King, Carrie

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 44: An avalanche of Ed Wood!

It's raining Ed! Hallelujah, it's raining Ed!

NOTE: It had been my intention to review Ed Wood's The Vampire's Tomb (2013), a film by Andre Perkowski, today. However, I have been inundated with so much exciting Ed Wood news lately that I felt I simply had to devote this week's entire article to it. The Vampire's Tomb will just have to wait until next the next installment of Ed Wood Wednesdays on August 6. Sorry, Andre.

In what I can only interpret as a sign of the massive success of Ed Wood Wednesdays, a dizzying variety of Ed Wood-related material will be hitting the marketplace with a Genghis Khan-like vengeance in the next few months. This is clearly an endorsement of my work. What else could it be? Consider the evidence: after many years without any significant re-releases, other than the Big Box of Wood DVD collection in 2011, the Wood-ian floodgates have finally opened, my dear readers! We're talking movies, books, and even a fancy-schmancy New York film festival. The works! Naturally, I'm very excited about all of these events, and I want you to be excited about them, too. In all seriousness, I think it's just a happy coincidence that all of these things are happening at once. Maybe the stars have aligned perfectly. Maybe something got into the water supply. Whatever it is, it's happening, and I could not be more pleased. But what specifically are we getting and when? Let's dive into those all-important specifics, shall we?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

My (brief) thoughts on the Monty Python finale

Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Carol Cleveland, Terry Gilliam, and John Cleese together for the last (?) time.

I have just returned, my lovelies, from the local cineplex, where I paid $18 for the privilege of seeing a group of paunchy, jowly, sagging septuagenarians shuffle through some ancient sketch comedy for three hours (with a half-hour tea break in the middle). I would not have missed this opportunity for the world. These affable old-timers, you see, were the five surviving members of Monty Python, and the occasion was the British comedy troupe's "farewell" performance, which was staged at London's O2 Arena and then simulcast to movie theaters around the world. The rapidly-deteriorating comedians tell us that this is "it" for the team. Monty Python is no more. Bereft of life, you might say, it rests in peace. Or in pieces. So how was the big finale? Was it worth $18 of anyone's money? Oh, sure. I laughed throughout the entire running time, which felt good to do even though I'd heard most of these jokes dozens of times. I even got a few chuckles from the 30-minute intermission, during which the screen went blank apart from a clock counting down the minutes and seconds, because the movie-going audience had not been briefed of this in advance and thought for a few minutes that it might be some kind of high-concept prank. (It wasn't.)

An ad for the concert
As for the rest of the program, it was quaint, sentimental, and nostalgic. The innovators and provocateurs of yesteryear are now the established old guard, and this was a chance for them to cycle through their greatest hits and bits. Some of these golden oldies were conflated: "Vocational Guidance Counselor" became "The Lumberjack Song," "Dead Parrot" melted into "Cheese Shop," etc. The fact that the show was the brainchild of the group's hammiest and most mercenary member, Eric Idle (the self-described "Greedy Bastard"), was plain to see. This was a slick, Broadway-style revue with a heavy emphasis on production numbers and fit, lean chorus girls and boys leaping and tumbling around the stage as the doddering oldsters watched in appreciation. For me, though, the highlights of the show were the quieter, more intimate moments when the five surviving Pythons (Graham Chapman died a quarter-century ago) simply took pleasure in sharing the stage with one another. The venerable "Four Yorkshireman" sketch, in which a quartet of wealthy old geezers try to outdo each other with outlandish tales of childhood suffering and poverty, has a special resonance in 2014 because the comedians performing it now really are the age of the folks they're parodying. Of course, the show ended with a group rendition of "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" from Life of Brian, and I can't have been the only one who got a little misty-eyed during that. After all, Monty Python has been a huge part of my life since the 1980s, when I first saw their BBC sketch comedy series in reruns on MTV. This really felt like a way of saying goodbye to the boys, plus Ms. Carol Cleveland, the honorary female "seventh Python." Perhaps now, they can be packed up in crates and shipped off to that warehouse from the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Norm MacDonald pays tribute to his late 'Screwed' costar, Elaine Stritch

Norm MacDonald, Sarah Silverman, Dave Chappelle, and Elaine Stritch in Screwed.

Screwed on DVD.
The 2000 movie Screwed has not exactly engendered a great deal of affection over the years. Written and directed by the team of Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander, whose previous collaborations include the script for Tim Burton's Ed Wood (1994), the film earned only $6 million on a $10 million budget and current rates a miserable 13% at Rotten Tomatoes, where it is described as "tedious and painfully unfunny." But 14 years after its original release, some good has come from this little-loved motion picture in the form of a series of tweets by one of its stars, comedian Norm MacDonald, who took to Twitter in order to pay tribute to late actress Elaine Stritch, who also appeared in Screwed.  Norm had previously appeared in the Karaszewski/Alexander-written biopic The People Vs. Larry Flynt (1996), but this collaboration proved less fortunate. Unlike MacDonald's previous vehicle, Dirty Work (1998), this forlorn kidnapping comedy has failed to attract any kind of cult following. When read in succession, MacDonald's tweets about making this movie form a lovely little short story about show business. Self-effacing and unpretentious as always, Norm dishes on his own lack of acting ability and the entire cast's lack of faith in the screenplay, but he also takes the time to reminisce fondly about his experiences with Stritch and with fellow stand-up comic Dave Chappelle. The line that really sticks with me is a quote from Elaine herself: "Every time I make a film, I think I am making someone's favorite movie." And now, I think I'll let Norm take over. Enjoy.