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Wonderful! Monday Movies, Ladies and Gentlemen!

The King of Comedy — Scorsese and De Niro’s collaborations are famous for De Niro’s explosive physicality, and while Rupert Pupkin (was there ever a better character name? Maybe Darth Vader) is less of a bruiser than Jake LaMotta or Travis Bickle he’s still a clenched fist. Pupkin is an aspiring comedian who can think of no other route to success than trading on the bond he has invented between himself and Jerry Lewis’s crabbed Carson substitute Jerry Langford. His delusions grow more grandiose as his focus becomes clearer, and by the end of the film he has become a master of tactics and sacrifice.

The film is not as simple as a media satire; the villains, heroes, and points are more obscure than in, say, Network. There’s a whiff of the superstar’s fear and resentment of his admirers in the scenario, but it’s faint. All in all it may be more of a light tragedy than a dark comedy.

The habits that Wes Anderson would adopt from Scorsese are on full display in slow-motion sequences and biting dead-center shot setups. Jerry Lewis is terrifically grim (and gives me an opportunity to recommend Arizona Dream, the only Emir Kusturica movie you’ll see this year that features Lewis alongside Faye Dunaway, Johnny Depp, and Vincent Gallo. And Lili Taylor! I’d forgotten about Lili Taylor). Sandra Bernhard gives a great performance as an equally demented fan in an uneasy alliance with Pupkin; she’s utterly naturalistic, self-possessed, and rangy, jackal-like in the way that people call Julia Roberts coltish. And who should show up to taunt her as she chases Jerry through the streets?

You got it — that’s The Clash and Ellen Foley.

The Man Who Knew Too Little — somehow I missed that when the AV Club calls a movie “the kind of featherweight time-waster easy to watch on Comedy Central out of boredom and apathy,” that’s not a strong recommendation. This turns out to be a good movie to watch with someone recovering from abdominal surgery, because the jokes are clever, the laughs non-belly. I wonder if this affable spy comedy, made before Bill Murray’s sadness and wisdom had completely taken over his face, wasn’t smothered in its cradle by the Austin Powers movies, the first of which premiered six months before this one. The Man Who Knew Too Little is clever instead of brash; it pokes gentle fun at its milieu and theme, instead of soaking the premise sopping wet and wringing it utterly dry.

What did you see? What did you think?


July 11, 2011 - Posted by | Monday Movies | , , , , , , , ,


  1. 7/05/11 – Mogari no mori – Kawase Naomi 2007

    The preposition interests me. English translation is usually “The Mourning Forest” rather than “The Forest of Mourning” and I have slightly obsessed over the difference. Kawase structures the filmic journey also (besides internal journey) as social history:bustling city => retirement home -> agricultural => dangerous forest => primeval Shinto/Buddhist shrine. Grief and memory

    7/07/11 – The Lower Depths – Kurosawa 1957
    7/08/11 – The Lower Depths, with Ritchie commentary

    Loveitloveit. I am unusual in that this is among my favorite Kuroswawas now. There is online discussion about Kurosawa not using landscape* and vistas (okay, the way this meant is human figures in fore or middle ground;rarely tiny human in large vista) in his films and I felt this claustrophobic setting suited him. Some outrageously great acting by experienced stage performers, exception Mifune who lacked training and had too much presence. Genius in composition and arrangement of figures. The is the inspired turning of a play into film, not by “opening it up” but by focusing in, and making it dynamic with shots and edits.

    *Read last night some Karatani Kojin (search google books) on Soseki and the late 19th century “Japanese discovery of landscape” Won’t get into it, but relevant to Kurosawa’s “Westernness” and lack of symbolic depth

    7/10/11 – Machete – Rodriguez

    Comment by bob mcmanus | July 11, 2011

  2. I saw ‘My Blue Valentine’ because it was the only movie that was showing that got a reasonable imdb rating & that gave the impression not to be also addressing adolescents.

    It was good. Misery can be entertaining. Movies don’t always need bad guys.

    Comment by Guido Nius | July 11, 2011

  3. My wife and I went to see Horrible Bosses. The story, and even the characters, were pretty fragmented and it’s surprising to me that so many critics gave it a pass on that (75% rating at RT). There were a lot of scenes where it seems like they were just riffing and said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if he did this here?” They may have been right, but the director probably should have said, “Yeah, but everything about your character to this point doesn’t really suggest he would do that.” What the good reviews probably come down to is you can forgive a lot of sins for a movie when it makes you laugh out loud, and I did.

    Actually, that reminds me of The Man Who Knew Too Little. I used to go to movies by myself in my last year of college because I pretty much lived a hermit’s life that year. That was one of the movies I saw, and while I was kind of disappointed in the overall project, I walked out thankful to the movie for the one scene where the spies are firing at him while he’s standing on a window ledge on the outside of a building. One of the shots come close and he says something along the lines of, “Whoa, that could have hit me in the eye you jag off.” It made me laugh out loud at the time and I hope is much funnier than my retelling.

    Comment by Matt in Toledo | July 11, 2011

  4. While the movie I mentioned last week was really disappointing, we decided not to forego movies entirely. On Sunday night it was a toss-up between “Let Me In” and “A Perfect Getaway.” We agreed that we’d want to see the original version of “Let Me In” first, so we skipped that. So, “A Perfect Getaway,” it was. Perhaps I should have said, “An Out-standING Getaway” instead. There appear to be two schools of thought on this movie. The first group thinks that it is utterly incoherent, stupid, poorly made, and the acting is even worse (but everyone in this group gives the generic props to the cinematography–I guess people like Hawaii). The second group thinks that the first is just too stupid to understand the plot and, therefore, they missed what was in fact an absolutely wonderful film. I’ll take this one in another direction: that the movie was so aware that it was incoherent, stupid, poorly made, and terribly acted is what made it so out-standING. We watched this motherfucker in one sitting: no higher praise is possible in our house. Admittedly, I expected more from Milla Jovovich because the T-virus has fully bonded with her system, but that is excusable for she really is an untalented actress. The best part of the movie was easily any time Timothy Olyphant moved, spoke, or anything similar to that; the worst part of the movie was easily any time Timothy Olyphant was precluded from moving, speaking, or anything similar to that. We have resolved to watch “Justified” and finally get around to watching “Deadwood.” Problem, of course, for us is that we aren’t sufficiently “American” to get cowboy or mob movies/tv shows.

    We also watched “The Losers” on Friday night. For what it was, it was pretty good. Definitely in the “Death Race” category: you expected something completely stupid, but you’ll end up watching it on cable everytime it’s played with the swearing edited out. Astute readers of my comments will know that I really hate Jeffrey Douche Morgan–since he first double-whammied us in the first seasons of “Supernatural” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” That cartoonish movie about superheroes without superhero powers (except the blue one) didn’t rehabilitate his image in our minds. I can’t say that JDM has made up for the aforementioned crimes, but he went a long way towards to reconciliation in this movie. As usual, the love interest angle sucked. Can’t they just leave that shit out? Stringer and his collection of knives were great, as were the sniper guy and the communications guy. The scene with the Journey song was fantastic.

    Comment by Craig | July 11, 2011

  5. 4:Second “Perfect Getaway” and “The Losers” Wonderful movies.

    Is Olyphant the most fucking charming TV actor since young James Garner, or does Selleck belong in there? Depp? Discuss.

    Not sure about waiting on Let Me In. Getting the plot and incidents from the remake may actually free you to appreciate the style and tone of the original. But not sure, and original then remake is the order I saw them.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | July 11, 2011

  6. I hate Tom Selleck.

    Comment by Craig | July 11, 2011

  7. Tim Olyphant is so good that after seeing Justified, I have retroactively decided I liked Hitman.

    Comment by Matt in Toledo | July 11, 2011

  8. Depp?

    Comment by Guido Nius | July 11, 2011

  9. 8: Good grief, are the kids here too young to know 21 Jump Street? Yes, Depp started as a TV charmer.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | July 11, 2011

  10. I remember Depp as both the boyfriend in Nightmare on Elm Street and the floppy-haired undercover detective on 21 Jump Street. I also remember when Tom Selleck was a TV/movie star and not a shill for gun rights and RVs. I still like him a little bit, though, because he’s a Tiger fan. Well, Magnum PI was anyway.

    Comment by Matt in Toledo | July 12, 2011

  11. While we wait to hate, allow me to repeat my recommendation of that Wes Anderson link above. It’s a five-part video essay on Anderson’s sources and influences, and it’s really a phenomenal demonstration of using video editing for creative argumentation.

    Comment by Josh K-sky | July 12, 2011

  12. […] a question, inspired by last week’s movie. What movie characters’ names can you recall? I don’t have a very good memory for […]

    Pingback by The Monday Movies with No Name « The Weblog | July 18, 2011

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