Monday, November 10, 2008

This Is Spinal Tap

From Mom:
I decided to watch Spinal tap today. I had a pre-notion that i would enjoy it, because I loved Best in Show and enjoyed A Mighty Wind. But I wasn't prepared to actually believe that the performances weren't real!
Best in Show was really funny, and the characters in the movie were actors that became caricatures of the parts they played. I really believed that these guys in Spinal Tap WERE Spinal Tap!! They never seemed ridiculously too much.
The whole feel of the movie seemed real. Even Rob Reiner (who usually reminds me of his Meathead days) was completely the documentary director at all times.
The gigs they played were hysterical. The music and lyrics were very reminiscent of the Kiss/Pink Floyd/Bowie/Alice Cooper era. That glam, punk, reinvention of groups transitioning from the flower-power 60's, to the 70's and 80's hair bands.
The stonehenge gig was so funny, with the dancing druids, and the 18" structure!! Also the gig when Derek gets stuck in the creation pod. Elaborate theatrics like that were such commonplace in rock concerts of that era.
I was really glad that Nigel and David reconciled and that Janine(in the classic Yoko style) didn't ruin their long standing partnership. I think that Nigel was my favorite band member. He was so sweet and innocent. I thought I would keel over when he was playing that beautiful piano solo, and when asked what he called it he says, Lick my Love pipe!!
It was a sweet ending, Spinal Tap playing to a sold out crowd in many other hair bands of days gone by are still doing as we speak!!

From Tony:
The genius behind Spinal Tap is exactly what you said, and what I warned you about, is that as outlandish as they are hair metal was so fucking weird that they do in fact become a real rock band. Lars Ulrich--the drummer of Metallica--has frequently referred to some of their backstage antics as "very Spinal Tap." The world they inhabit in the movie is so real and so well layered in that respect that you will always ALWAYS catch something new when you re-watch it. My most recent example is after like my fifteenth viewing I caught a fan at the very beginning of the movie yell "Do Stonehenge!" They don't actually start to talk about that song until halfway in.
I like that you mentioned Nigel's sweet innocence because after all, most rock and rollers are just man-children playing out some perverse teenage fantasy. It's all pretty gay and they even allude to that when they're discussing being up on stage "with armadillos in our trousers."
This is infinitely quotable. "Going to eleven" is as commonplace as any movie reference you'll ever come across. I even heard Gimme Some Money on a commercial a year or so back and I was pleasantly surprised to hear Hell Hole on some hair metal block the other morning before work. My favorite song is Tonight We're Gonna Rock You because of the lines "Your sweet but your just four feet and you still have your baby teeth/Your too young and I'm too well hung but tonight I'm gonna rock you."
Anotehr element of their genius is that this probably came out before hair metal hit its lowest point. You nailed it, they totally called these bands' decent into obscurity and chart topping success in the last place they ever expected.
What were some of your other favorite scenes and jokes? I personally loved the album cover for "Introvenous De Milo" and that David's family name, St. Hubins, comes from the patron saint of quality footwear. Also, anytime Viv is seen is a riot and when Mick Shrimptom explodes well after the audience has forgotten about the earlier joke about their laundry list of dead Pure gold.
You should watch it again while you have it for these reasons:
1) To catch all the jokes you may have missed
2) To play Name That Celebrity! Did you catch Billy Crystal, Dana Carvey and Angelica Houston just to name a few?
3) Watch it with the commentary track. They do it in character, twenty years later, and their reflections on Marty DiBergi, the making of the film and even the stupid sweater Janine made for David is like a whole other movie.
Not sure if this changes the joke for you at all, but that piano song was "Lick My Love Pump."

From Mom:
I did notice all of the celebrities you mentioned. One of my other favorite scenes is when the are trying to get onstage, and they are going in circles, and have to ask the maintenance man for
directions. Going to eleven was very clever. I bought it hook line and sinker.
I actually started singing along with Gimme Some Money, and I thought that it belonged to another hair band until I read the credits, and realized that I must have heard it somewhere. Do you remember what commercial it was?
I can't remember all of the songs like you do ,but one about a girl with a big butt, and I think they say something like,how can I leave this behind? Totally funny to hear being sung as a rock ballad. Oh yeah, when they're at Graceland at Elvis's grave trying to harmonize Heartbreak Hotel. I think I will need to watch it again to get the more subtle jokes, but the overall movie was fun, and very clever. Maybe this is one to watch together!

From Tony:
Yes. Big Bottom is a classic. "Talk about mud flaps my girl's got 'em." And they all play bass on that song...I heard a lot about it when I was taking bass lessons. And no, I can't recall what commercial the song was on. Probably some credit card with some sort of rewards deal or something.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Singin' In The Rain

From Tony:
So I killed this one last night and am pleased to report that I liked it as much as I was expecting to.
It was refreshing for me to see that America has always been so celebrity obsessed. Maybe refreshing isn't the right word for it, but you know what I mean. The film's treatment of celebrity worship, especially in the opening scene, was awesome. I loved how sarcastic and condescending they were towards it, like when the woman doing all the red carpet announcing said that Lamont and Lockwood are as common in American homes as "Bacon and eggs." A line that killed me was in the premiere of the movie at the beginning of the film a girl in the audience says of Lina "She's so refined. I think I'll kill myself." Loved it.
Now, I haven't seen a lot of musicals from around this time, but aside from The Sound of Music--which I recall having some pretty epic, swooping shots--they all seem kind of bland visually. I usually get the impression that the camera is just there to get every dance move, but with this one I felt like there was more of an effort to make it stand out. There were a lot of angles and shots that, especially for 1952, seemed pretty impressive for something like a big budget musical. Look at it compared to White Christmas. As light and fun as White Christmas is it never really takes you anywhere visually. It's blocked out, like I said before, just to get all the dancing in the frame. It never even convinces you that it's not being filmed on a sound stage. Singin' in the Rain really felt like a movie, where I was looking at people occupying spaces that were actually what they were supposed to be. White Christmas feels like a pageant with a lot of cardboard scenery.
Of all the musical scenes, I'd say my lest favorite was "Gotta Dance." It felt really long, which is a bummer because I thought that it had a really cool look to it. But the problem with it was it took me out of the movie. It felt like it didn't quite fit. That and it came after Singin' in the Rain, which is just such a wonderful example of "movie magic"...tough act to follow.

From Mom:
I'm glad that you liked it.
Nothing much has changed in Hollywood as you said. I found the fact that they wouldn't use the less pretty girl with the best voice, as the gold standard in movies.As a matter of fact, Julie Andrews was turned down for the movie version of My Fair Lady for Audrey Hepburn( who had a voice double), even though she had been on the broadway stage as Eliza Doolittle. She wasn't pretty enough!! Ironically Julie won an oscar that year for best actress in a little movie called Mary Poppins!! But I digress.....
I agree with you that this movie had a real feel to it. I really enjoyed the relationship that the 3 main characters shared. I really liked Donald O'connors performanc in this movie too.He always played 2nd banana roles, and I think he was a great dancer more deserving of some leads, but again, he wasn't leading man handsome and that always put him into the best friend, or comic relief role.
Gene Kelly is absolutely amazing in this movie. He really was a "movie star" as far as I am concerned.
He can dance, sing, act, and he directed numerous movies. He changed the way song and dance films were made.This is one of my go to movies when I have a rainy Sunday and want to watch something that totally entertains me.One of my most favorite scenes is Make em laugh. Sheer bliss for a wannabe hoofer!! Glad you enjoyed it...I'm off to watch This is Spinal Tap!!!! Is that a musical?????

From Tony:
Oh yeah, "Make 'em Laugh" was a lot of fun. Such a goofy, physical number.
What gets me about the whole "not as pretty but better voice" thing is that Hollywood's concept of plain or less pretty means not famous. Debbie Reynolds was adorable in this. Way better looking than what's her face! It's particularly admirable how she was able to keep up with O'Connor and Kelly since she wasn't a dancer before this movie (though I've read that Gene Kelly was a real dick to her.)
And here's another thing in terms of how Hollywood and the idea of celebrity are different now than in the 20s when the movie was set: Don tells about how he was born for the screen, brought up to sing and dance by an affluent family but what we see is a very humble, rags to riches sort of story play out over his phoney voice over. I get the impression that, like his fake off-screen romance with Lina, this was something the studio cooked up to over glamorize him to the public. I can't see American's eating that up today. I would think that we wouldn't be impressed by someone who was essentially bred for stardom whereas his real life story--playing dives, getting booed off stage, etc--would be much more compelling to us now. Though I suppose actors were more like property back then, talent owned by studios, so they had to put on whatever mask the studio told them to. Any insight on this?
And no, Spinal Tap is not a musical, though they toy with the idea in one scene.

From Mom:

You're right. The movie stars of yesteryear were totally beholden to the studio they worked for.
They couldn't marry if they were pop idols so as not to lessen their appeal to the groupies.
That's why so many actors were outed for their sexual persuasion after they died. The studios wouldn't allow their private lives to be anything except what the execs made up for them. The child actors became drug and booze addicts because of the rigorous schedules that the studios made them keep . All of their real names were changed in order to appeal to the audience. No ethnic names allowed, whereas now, ethnicity is usually in the actors favor. Nowadays their real life stories are sometimes more important than their body of work. So the rags to riches concept would absolutely fly today as opposed to the being born for the screen concept. It's almost like a wink wink, nod nod,when a child of a famous star goes into the business. Until they prove themself, the general public pooh poohs them saying that Daddy/Mommy pulled strings to get them the part.
Not to mention that yesterdays movie stars made squat for money.And they were under contract for years by the studios,who mandated their every move.
Oh and by the way, I was only joking when I asked if Spinal Tap was a musical. A feeble attempt at humor son!

Monday, October 20, 2008


From Tony:
This was terrific! I knew more about it than I had originally thought because, as I remembered halfway through, Dan Merluzzi and I did a scene from the stage version of Harvey senior year. Only we used sock puppets.
Jimmy Stewart just brings this big kind of magic to a movie. It's unreal. My generation doesn't have a Jimmy Stewart, and I don't think anyone will ever be able to bring what he does to a character. There's a lot of pessimism and apathy in movies--especially in the list I gave you--so it was really refreshing to see something so uplifting. Another thing I'll say about Ol' Jimmy, it's crazy how he switches between stuff like this, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, etc. in cowboy mode or doing Hitchcock. He still brings that same spark with him, but he is just so lovable and, I don't know...innocent isn't the right word. But do you know what I mean. Comparing the HARVEY Jimmy Stewart to the VERTIGO Jimmy Stewart...I guess its the difference in his age and the fact that, yeah, he's an actor be shit, the man was a force of nature!
As great as Elwood was as a sort of insane voice of reason he was surrounded by some great characters. I loved Wilson, the attendant at the nut house, especially. Chompin' on a stogie, breath stinking of an egg and onion sandwich, spittin out all kinds of "Dame" "Screwball" and other Three Stooges-ish talk and he still manages to woo sweet, uptight, lame duck Mertle. Elwood was the eye of a hurricane made up of the aristocratic, career minded, love struck, love seekers, low brows and delinquents of the time, all of who were too damn busy or too dumb to get the point: that life might be short, but all you need to do to enjoy it is ignore that fact and make the time anyway. He tells you this when he mentions Harvey's "Ability" to stop time "Science has over come space and time," he said, "well Harvey has overcome not only space and time, but any objections." Another lovely line was when he says that his mother told him "In this world you must me oh so smart or oh so pleasant. Well for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant." He then said "You may quote me," so I did, 'cause quotes make you look like you know what you're doing.
But it's true. His sister and her rich friends are all smart, but Christ if that party she through at the beginning (and I love when the recently paroled drunk called in "a clam bake") looked as boring and as lame as hell. Dr. Sanderson is smart but can't see the beautiful girl just outside his door every day. Wilson wasn't smart or pleasant. You get that I get what they were saying.
In the same way that there will never be another Jimmy Stewart, there is a certain sense of magic and wonder lost from movies. They never hint that Harvey is anything other than a magical spirit sent to make everyone's life better. They even tried to explain him through psychobabble, but Elwood burst that bubble. I feel like if they made this today they'd cop out and have Elwood reveal to the chick from Grey's Anatomy or whoever the fuck they shoe-horned in as his love interest that Harvey isn't real and he knew what he was doing all along and then he'd wink at the camera. We give ourselves up to the premise that yes, this booze bag sees an actual giant rabbit. To take that away from us is a gyp. And I'm glad that they didn't take Harvey away from Elwood, that really would have made me sad.
if they DID make this today (and since they haven't remade it yet they probably and thankfully won't) Elwood would be a pot head, someone would have pooped on someone else and the word "fuck" would have taken the place of any comma or period normally found in a sentance. also: more tits.

From Mom:
am so glad you liked this movie. I thought you might find it old fashioned and sappy.
Instead it stood it's ground, and as for my feelings,it is timeless.I agree with you that if it were made today, it would lack the magic. How sad that we need to spell everything out inorder for the viewer to "get it". I agree that Jimmy Stewart is amazing as an actor. What I like about him is that he makes the viewer feel every emotion as he is acting/feeling it himself. He can go from happy go lucky to insanely crazy as he does in "It's a Wonderful Life" all in a 2hr span, and totally be believable during the whole transformation.
I disagree with you about there not being a Jimmy Stewart in your generation.I think that there are a few actors that can create this same persona, it's the writing and directing that lacks imagination.Everything is in your face and shoved down your throat.I think Hollywood thinks it's doing us a great service by portraying life as it REALLY is. If it's done correctly and with intelligence, you can achieve the same "magic" of yesteryear and still get your message across.
I'm also glad that Harvey and Elwood are still together!

From Tony:
I'm totally with you on the writing and directing not being what it used to. Dick and fart jokes sort of took the adult comedy by a strangle hold. But who would you consider to be even close to a Jimmy Stewart?

From Mom:
Well, you're making me put my money where my mouth is,but I think that Tom Hanks possesses similar qualities. I like Hugh Jackman,Christian Bale and Tobey Maguire. I think that they deliver diverse performances, and emotionally involve the viewer . Now, I know that you'll laugh at this one, but I think that Will Smith can deliver that "every man" persona if given good material that isn't stereotypical token black leading man junk. But when you really come down to it that era of the leading man is long gone.


Mom and I have each watched our first movies. Here is our email exchange over ELECTION. Discussions on HARVEY to follow.

From Mom:
Well son, I just finished Election. Very quirky! I liked it!! There were a couple of times that I
actually laughed out loud.
I thought the character development was very good, because I connected to
the characters quickly. I loved the speech that Tammy gave at the election
assembly.It was one of my favorite parts. Then the whole scene getting ready for the "afternoon delight" was hysterical!!!
I would have to say that I enjoyed it, and I would recommend this movie to my middle-aged friends!! What are your thoughts??

Tony's Response:
What I liked so much about Election was its very "warts and all" portrayal of high school. There are a few great high school movies (stuff John Hughes did was always good in a hyper-reality kind of way) but for the most part high school movies are a lot of blown out, bubble gum pop. There is a comedic darkness to this movie that is much closer to what I remember high school being like than any of the slew of movies where it all culminates in the loser getting the girl at prom or so and so hooking up with the girl at a huge party.
The teachers were pathetic, miserable, spiteful and none of them were the evil hardasses or wise old sages that we typically see them as. I loved that the jock was everything a jock is EXCEPT a douche bag. He was popular, an all-star athlete and otherwise just a dude.
There were lots of little touches, specifically how frank Tammy and Paul were in their voice overs, that really killed me. I'm think of eating the asparagus to see if their pee smells funny and the giving each other hand jobs in the hot tub.
I can't say enough how great Broderick and Witherspoon were in this. Ferris Bueller himself as such a lame grown-up alone would have been great, but the way they play off each other, the way they absolutely HATE one's the kind of thing I wish happened more in movies.
All in all, Election made me wonder how much some of my high school teachers just loathed the Tracy Flicks running around the halls. And if any of them were sleeping together.

From Mom:
I agree with you. It was an accurate portrayal of real people in high school. The voice overs were particularly good as you mentioned. It was that little extra insight into their heads, and it played out well in that form. I love that Broderick's characters demise is because the janitor rats him out. Such poetic justice for the janitor.

The hopes and fears of millions (actually just two)

While at work today I had that Mom and I should reveal to one another which movies we are most and least looking forward to before we get too far into this (as it stands we have both watched our first films, HARVEY and ELECTION). In addition, we will write down what we predict the other will like and dislike the most by the end of our ten-movie run. Our predictions will be kept a secret, but bellow are the films we are both excited about and, well, not so much...

From Mom:

So, after reviewing the list for the 100th time,I have come to select the movie that I am most looking forward to. This may surprise you....The Thing is the movie I so want to see. The original Halloween is still one of the scariest movies I have ever seen. I loved horror films as a teenager. There's nothing like a good scary movie to get the blood flowing! But somewhere along the way,(probably when I had you rotten kids,) I felt the need to grow up so I stopped watching horror flicks. Let's face it, Big Bird and Snuffy just don't mix well with evil, and blood curdling things that go bump in the night. I will watch this movie with a big bucket of popcorn, and all the lights on, because son, your mother has turned into a big fat chicken.
Now lets face it. We both know which movie I sooooo don't want to see, and that one is South Park. And honestly, I'm not sure why that is. Maybe it's because I can't seem to view a cartoon and not think of Disney or Bugs Bunny. I know that your generation has a different take on animated movies. But to me, it's a "cartoon" and I don't see how it can be as good as a movie with real people. I'm sure the shock value is pretty high too, and we both know that I am not a prude, but there's just something wrong with dirty words being spoken by a cartoon character! The Disney Princesses are not happy with this choice at all!! BUT...I will watch with an open mind. Who knows, you may be creating a monster!!
I look forward to hearing your picks.
Love, MOM

From Tony:
At the risk of giving away my opinion on this I will simply say, "Huh..." and leave it at that. As for myself, the film I am looking the least forward to is just as obvious as yours. I hate the idea that I have to watch Shall We Dance? Did I say hate? Hate isn't strong enough. I think that given the choice of seeing this movie while it was in theaters or having to voluntarily pass a kidney stone I'd do the latter twice. But, and this is a big but, I will sit down with it with an open mind. If I sound harsh now it is just because I want to get all my negativity out of the way BEFORE I see it. Again. A kidney stone. Two of 'em. At the same time, side by side and not one behind the other.
As for looking forward to the most, I'm going to have to say Singin' In The Rain. The movie has the stink (in a good way) of required classic all over it and I do feel a bit ashamed to not have seen it. I remember a scene from when I was very young where they tried to used microphones and all they picked up was the sound of the actors' clothes swishing around, and that's always stuck with me. And of course Gene Kelly in the rain is just such an iconic image that I feel like I have seen it a million times, though 95% of those times were probably in some sort of spoof.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Mom's List For Tony

Emailed to Tony on Wednesday October 8, 2008

Here we go in NO particular order:

All About Eve....NYC theater life. Classic Bette Davis,she's an aging Broadway star,hires a fan as
her assistant. Very telling about the "industry" and their view on aging.

Harvey......Jimmy Stewart as a lovable drinker with a companion.

Bonnie and Clyde......a very different movie about criminals.You actually like them.

Life is Beautiful.....Italian film, powerfully hopeful and moving.It stayed with me for weeks.

Singing in the Rain....One of the best song and dance films,PERIOD.
About Hollywoods transition from silent movies to talkies. Gene Kelly stars and directs this film, and I believe that it was the first time dancers were filmed whole body as they performed due to his creativity.

Little Women... (1994 Winona Ryder version).Beautiful movie about sisters in New England
during civil war time. One of my fav books, and characters(Jo, and Beth) of all time.

Dream Girls....Just because I love Motown. Eddie Murphy may surprise you!

Road to Perdition....Paul Newman, Tom Hanks, enough said.

Shall We Dance......Really stepping out of your box,like Richard Gere does in this movie.

The Ghost
and Mr. Chicken.....Sunday afternoons with my parents, and siblings.Chips and cheese doodles are a required snack during the viewing!!

Tony had already seen Bonnie and Clyde and Road to Perdition, so they were replaced with:

Immortal Beloved...Beethoven period piece.

On Golden Pond....Beautiful, an eye opening movie about family dynamics.

Tony's List For Mom

Emailed to Mom on Tuesday, October 7 2008

So! Obviously I've been sitting on this idea for a while now. Here are the ten movies I've selected for you. There's lots of swearing, gory stuff and other weird stuff spread out quite nicely throughout the ten of them. Some of these I feel like you are going to see on the list and immediately say how much you hate. Be fair. No backing down. Despite what is on the surface (one in particular I know you're not going to look forward to) they are all here for a reason, whether that reason be artistic merit or for you to have some insight into a younger generation's need to hide a message under a lot of dick jokes. So, here is your assignment with a little introduction for each. Watch them in no particular order.

-Akira: This was the first Japanese cartoon animated under the traditional American method. That is, all the dialogue and sounds were recorded first and then the animation was done to match. No Spritles or Chim Chims here. The plot's a little weird and it won't make sense 100% after one watching, but the animation is beautiful. This, along with stuff like The Matrix, is an example of a sci-fi sub-genre called Cyber Punk.
-This is Spinal Tap: This is THE mockumentary. Unlike more recent stuff (Best in Show, Mighty Wind) you never EVER see the actors. They become this absurd band and the music is so good that people thought that this was all a serious movie.
-Jackie Brown: This is the only adult movie Quentin Tarantino ever made. It has all his staples--violence, 60s/70s heavy soundtrack and it all drips with cool--but it's not as comic booky as Pulp Fiction.
-The Thing: Directed by the guy who did Halloween, this is one of my favorite horror films. The effects are disgustingly beautiful and after a dozen or more viewings I still can't remember whose a good guy and whose a bad guy.
-South Park: This is the one I think you'll dread the most but trust me. behind all the gross jokes and vile humor is one of the best musical films of the last twenty years. It also marked the moment that South Park stopped being gross for gross' sake and became gross as a means of social commentary.
-Fight Club: This is very much a generational thing. Tanked at the box office, made shitloads on video and every 16 year old boy (including yours) loved it. A bit of a stretch, but still much more to it than guys beating the shit out of each other for the hell of it.
-Election: Reese Witherspoon before she was Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick as the kind of teacher Ferris Bueller would have walked all over. Extremely quirky.
-A Very Long Engagement: A French romantic film set during WWI. It plays like a book reads.
-King of Kong: A documentary about a middle-aged failure trying to finally show that he's the best at something in life--Donkey Kong.
-Chasing Amy: Kevin Smith hit his peak around the same time Tarantino did. Both were very in your face voices, though Smith is much more blunt about it. He was a sort of poster boy for Generation X--a slacker/nerd who did good by writing the way he talked and bout what he knew. I picked this one because unlike Clerks (his first movie) this one had real actors and is much easier to sit through as a result.
-American Splendor: This is the biopic/adaptation of a book by the same name about an independent comicbook writer who wrote about the things that drove him nuts about everyday life. This is the antithesis of every other comic book movie ever made.

So there you have it. Let me know if, under some weird circumstance, you have seen any of these. Enjoy! Remember: NO BACKING OUT!