Silly Comedy Week: The Invention of Time Machine, Man

So- three silly comedies over the past few days. Quick thoughts:

  1. The Invention of Lying: The story of a parallel universe where no one lies, and one man (Ricky Gervais) discovers that he can. It takes its premise to its logical conclusion, which is usually funny. Especially funny if you like Ricky Gervais. Also, half-way through the movie, it reinvents itself as the invention of religion, which helps the premise remain funny until the end. Oh, and most of the movie was shot here in Lowell, Mass.
    The number of really top notch cameos in this movie is staggering– Edward Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, ┬áJason Bateman, Jeffrey Tambor, Tina Fey, John Hodgman. And, obviously, Stephen Merchant.
  2. Hot Tube Time Machine: A little bit of funny and a little bit of nostalgia. Movies about the ’80s are probably better than the real thing. Part super gross out comedy, part male bonding comedy, and part nostalgia, which makes it Back to the Future crossed with The Hangover. And the Back to the Future connection is acknowledged- Crispin Glover shows up in the past and the present. And the recurring joke with his hand is inspired.
  3. I Love You, Man: Paul Rudd and Jason Segel star as really, really good friends. The movie is fine in general, but the writers have a very keen sense of the weird rituals of adult men trying to become friends. Especially the non-bar/sports men of this world. And there are many of us.

So there you have it. Three comedies, all good, none great. All worth the price of admission.

Bollywood Roots 3: The Beatles go to Bollywood

So, finally, episode 3 of my video series is ready. This time on The Beatles and India– how India influenced The Beatles and The Beatles influenced Indian music. Our story begins in April of 1965, with The Beatles filming Help in an Indian restaurant (Video).

Bollywood Roots 3: The Beatles go to Bollywood from Devanshu Mehta on Vimeo.

It’s been a couple of months since the last episode. This one took a lot more research, a lot more video clips, and a lot more writing. But I think I am more satisfied with it as a short documentary than I was with the previous two.

[You can find more from this series in the Bollywood Roots section. Also, you can subscribe to my channel on YouTube. YouTube blocked this episode in certain countries, so this one may only be on Vimeo.]

Ebert’s New Show

And while I’m on the subject of Ebert, he just announced the new show today. Key quote:

I can also say that we held video tests with several potential hosts two weeks ago in Los Angeles, and know who we will use. We also know we will have a strong web presence. We will go full-tilt New Media: Television, net streaming, cell phone apps, Facebook, Twitter, iPad, the whole enchilada. The disintegration of the old model creates an opening for us. I’m more excited than I would be if we were trying to do the same old same old. I’ve grown up with the internet. I came aboard back when MCI Mail was the e-mail of choice. I had a forum on CompuServe when it ruled the web. My web site and blog at the Sun-Times site have changed the way I work, and even the way I think. When I lost my speech, I speeded up instead of slowing down.

We’ll also go New Cinema. Not just the One Weekend Wonders, although you gotta have ’em, but indie films, foreign films, documentaries, restored classics, the new Herzog, the new Bahrani, the new Almodovar. What’s new on Instant Streaming. What great movies should everyone see? Hey, Paramount just announced $1 million for ten $100,000 movies. Those kinds of films. What kind of a real movie lover cares who has the “exclusive” first trailer in the newest extrusion of the “Transformer” franchise? It’s time to smarten up.

Continue reading

Ebert, Quoted

I’ve been reading Roger Ebert just about every Friday (except when he was ill) for 11 years now. I love his reviews not because I always agree with them, but because I love his reviews. There is a joy of film, and a joy of writing that shines through.

ebert scorsese

Here are a few of my favorite passages from his writings. These are not his “best” in any literary sense, but they come to mind when talking or thinking about movies. And for anyone who’s read his work, you know he’s at his best when reviewing the worst movies:

On “Not Another Teen Movie:

I have here a heartfelt message from a reader who urges me not to be so hard on stupid films, because they are “plenty smart enough for the average moviegoer.” Yes, but one hopes being an average moviegoer is not the end of the road: that one starts as a below-average filmgoer, passes through average, and, guided by the labors of America’s hard-working film critics, arrives in triumph at above-average.

On “Sunshine:

So, anyway, younger girls won’t like this movie, unless they know what happens under an automobile hood. Younger boys won’t like it because the only thing that’s possibly going to blow up real good is the sun. But science-fiction fans will like it, and also brainiacs, and those who sometimes look at the sky and think, man, there’s a lot going on up there, and we can’t even define precisely what a soliton is.

On “How to Read a Movie:

This all began for me in about 1969, when I started teaching a film class in the University of Chicago’s Fine Arts program. I knew a Chicago film critic, teacher and booker named John West, who lived in a wondrous apartment filled with film prints, projectors, books, posters and stills. “You know how football coaches use a stop-action 16mm projector to study game films?” he asked me. “You can use that approach to study films. Just pause the film and think about what you see. You ought to try it with your film class.”

On “Tru Loved“, this is the reveal at the end of his review that he only watched eight minutes of it:

Full disclosure. I lifted the words “San Francisco to conservative suburbia with her lesbian mothers” straight from the plot summary on IMDb.com, because I stopped watching the movie at the 00:08.05 point. IMDb is also where I found out about Bruce Vilanch’s dual role. I never did see the lesbian mothers or my friend Bruce. For “Tru Loved,” the handwriting was on the wall. The returns were in. The case was closed. You know I’m right. Or tell me I’m wrong.

Q. How can you give a one-star rating to a movie you didn’t sit through?

A. The rating only applies to the first eight minutes. After that, you’re on your own.

On Universal Health Care:

I was informed that my entry was “typical liberalism.” This is correct. I am a liberal. If you are a conservative, this appears to be a difference between us: I think you should have guaranteed health insurance.

And there are a bunch of others in his own list of favorite lines. Some gems:

The director, whose name is “Pitof,” was probably issued with two names at birth and would be wise to use the other one on his next project. — Catwoman

I had a colonoscopy once, and they let me watch it on TV. It was more entertaining than The Brown Bunny. — Response to Vincent Gallo’s hex to give me colon cancer

I am informed that 5,000 cockroaches were used in the filming of “Joe’s Apartment.” That depresses me, but not as much as the news that none of them were harmed during the production.

These days he’s on a roll on Twitter and on his journal, day and night. It’s like he never sleeps.

To Live as a Monster or Die as a Good Man

shutter island
Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island is an extraordinary film. It is Hitchcock, classic noir, Dr. Moreau all at once. But does it cheat?

It’s a question that comes up many times in movies that provide an elaborate twist at the end that makes you rethink the entire movie. Like, say, The Sixth Sense (does not cheat), The Usual Suspects (one big cheat), The Sting (cheats).

What I mean by cheating is this– were there scenes in the movie which were solely meant to mislead the viewer? Or did they serve a purpose in the plot?

Of course, all movies cheat through editing; through what they do not show. But what they do show shouldn’t be a lie.

Well, I’ve only watched it once, but I believe Shutter Island does not cheat.

Tread lightly from this point forward, for here there be dragons! Spoilers about the film may be revealed. Turn back, all ye who wish to remain unsullied. Continue reading

Funny People

Considering the talent involved, this should have been a much better movie– Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen (Knocked Up), Jonah Hill (Superbad), Eric Bana (Hulk, Black Hawk Down), Jason Schwartzman (Rushmore), Aziz Ansari (Parks & Recreation), Aubrey Plaza (Parks & Recreation). Written and directed by Judd Apatow. This should have been so much better.

It’s the story of a comic (Sandler) who learns that he may not have very long to live. He takes a struggling comedian (Rogen) under his wing. This is Sandler giving his second-best performance of all time (the best is here) and I really wanted to like it. The first hour was fantastic, but it just falls apart after that.

Tyler Durden and the Voices in My Head

This is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time.

A few weeks ago I did a post about As Good As It Gets— how so many lines from that movie are the voices in my head. Well, that’s not the only movie that provides color commentary to the events in my life. Another one is Fight Club

Keep in mind that this movie came out when I was 19, when it was easier to be glib about nihilism. This is not to say that Fight Club lacks intellectual depth– it’s just that I hadn’t been through enough to make up my own mind about it.

I felt like destroying something beautiful.

The #1 line from that movie that pops up in my head every time I edge sidways to my middle/window seat on an airplane: Continue reading