Eastbound & Down

Anybody watching this hilarious, profane television show on HBO? It is completely wrong in so many good ways. Episode 1:2 featured a somewhat forced cameo from Will Farrell but was very, very funny nonetheless (directed by David Gordon Green). Good stuff (and maybe as good as “Summer Heights High” which is now out on DVD and worth the effort).


I’m holding an Oscar party in my mind. If I win, each of you owes me $10.

 Everyone is so convinced that Heath Ledger will win Best Supporting Actor posthumously that the online odds for him are 1-20 (for you non-gamblers this means that you have to put out $20 for each $1 you would get on a winning bet on Ledger).  The odds aren’t much better for Slumdog as Best Picture and Boyle as Best Director (1-10 and 1-6, respectively).    I’m holding out for longshots Leo (Best Actress) and Tomei (Best Supporting Actress).  Each is 15-1.  

 Jerry Lewis is getting the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award (proving you can call someone an “illiterate fag” and still be a nice guy).  10-1 on whether he holds up the Oscar and says “Don’t lick it!”


So to Bill Maher’s kind-of documentary about religion. It makes no pretense to being even-handed, nor does it try to persuade anyone who might be wavering (though I think Maher would argue that no amount of balance would penetrate the deep levels of denial necessary for religious belief). It is uproariously funny, and often very powerful. It follows the style of his HBO show with humorous interviews followed by periodic rants which mount in intensity and passion. The final four minutes, with images of nuclear conflagration and ecological disaster accompanying Maher’s almost prophetic (in the good sense) argument about the destructive power of religion left me wordless.

One can question some of the interviewing. Early on he uses subtitles to undermine the legitimacy of one of his interviewees, and some of his sexual innuendo falls very flat on muslim audiences. But he captures the essential comedy of religious belief, and that is his main goal. It is just so incredibly ridiculous. He has a series of interviews with people representing truly obscure religions, usually involving space ships, which are all relegated to the deleted scenes. A pity, because adding them into the main film would have reinforced his point that those religions are not inherently less plausible than the major world religions.

Maher mostly goes after Christianity, and that is where he is most comfortable, but around a third of the film does short takes on Mormonism, Judaism and Islam. On the latter, he mostly mines (bad pun) the role of violence. There is a very early scene in which a black Christian preacher urges young men to stop thinking about women and sex, and direct their passion to religion. It is immediately followed by jolting footage of a car bomb.

To the list of things about which I will mutter angrily to my ingrate son, in my dotage, from the recline of my pseudo-lazyboy, in the grim home where he’s placed me, add

The Pink Panther 2. It makes you kind of fond for the days when Blake Edwards was trying to squeeze a last few dollars out of Peter Sellers’ corpse with that guy from “Soap.”

Families and the work of genre

I’m mainly putting a placeholder here, and a little shout of joy at two recent, wonderful film experiences — both of which I want to write more about, and around each/both of which I have been thinking through the ways certain hard-nosed depictions of Grim family emotions and realities are teased out through certain escapist genre conventions. But I don’t have time, nor have I really gotten my head around this analysis. So, for the moment, I’ll say:

Coraline is the best children’s film in years, which may be faint praise, but add this: it’s also one of the best films I’ve seen in some time, rich in glorious technique and baroque narrative detail and the flush of emotions (fear, despair, joy, awe) of the best fairy tales. The 3d version is … well, stunning, but I think I’d have loved the film regardless.

–So different on the surface–in technique, theme, intended audience–that it might seem like a wholly different medium, Frozen River shows up two of the best performances from last year (Melissa Leo and Misty Upham) in a tale that begins in the familiar backroads small-town deadends of any number of great film noirs. It plays a little like dirty realism, hung on a suspense-thriller hook–and it’s just wonderful, and heartbreaking, in so many ways.

See ’em both. I’d really like to talk about them.

george romero’s sleepless in seattle

i learned from this interesting interview/”random roles” with illeana douglas on the onion’s av-club that martin scorsese was originally slated to direct schindler’s list while spielberg was supposed to direct the remake of cape fear. i have to say i can’t imagine what either would have looked like, but i’m pretty sure one would have been better and the other worse.

now i’m trying to come up with other incongruous directorial switcheroos (both directors have to be famous and interesting in their own right, and the films have to be notable as well, and roughly from the same time-period).

john waters, annie hall/woody allen, pink flamingos
werner herzog, tootsie/sydney pollack, fitzcarraldo
pasolini, harold and maude/ hal ashby,salo
john hughes, natural born killers/oliver stone, ferris bueller’s day off