TSOYA pal Brandon Bird informs us that he'll be appearing in a show called "I Am Eight Bit" at the Gallery 1988 in Los Angeles. It opens Tuesday night, April 18th. More info here. Brandon is also selling t-shirts of his painting "Crimefighters," which features the cast of "Law & Order" and Batman joining forces to, well, fight crime. You can buy those here.
So I'm starting a new podcast, called The Sound of Young America: The College Years. Lots of folks ask me what happened to Jordan, where did the banter go, that sort of thing. I have a big pre-podcasting archive of TSOYA broadcasts on CD, so I thought I'd podcast them for anyone who's interested.
But here's the question... should I do them in order? I'm inclined to, except that of course, the ones at the beginning are rougher than the ones later on. I guess that could be part of the fun, but won't it bother people?
I saw three movies this week that I really liked. March is a good time for movies, because it isn't the lame Oscar-bait biopics and Issue Films, but and it's not the awful Hollywood summer pablum. Here are the three I saw:
Thank You For Smoking. If anyone tells you that Thank You For Smoking is an insightful, incisive and biting satire, they are full of baloney. The satire is of the broad literary sort -- funny acronyms and the like. There is little insight in the film about its topic, the manipulation of truth and morality.
That said, it's wonderfully funny. Aaron Eckhart is a very special actor, and he's really found his niche in Neil Labute's films, and in this one, playing a guy who is both a believably horrible person and slick enough that you might be willing to forgive him.
There's a scene where Eckhart is visiting Hollywood super-agent Rob Lowe at his huge agency complex. He's getting a tour from an eager young assistant, and the stop at the koi pond. The assistant points out a few koi... "That one cost $8,000. That one cost $12,000: gift from Oprah."
Eckhart offers an impressed mumble.
"Yeah," says the assistant, "its almost enough to make you want to give up sushi." Then he adds, in the perfect off-handed/serious tone, "But I guess you couldn't do that, really."
Then I said "HAH!!! HAHAHAHAHA!"
The Inside Man
A perfectly executed film. The sort of regular-Joe touch that marks some of Spike Lee's best work (especially Do The Right Thing) really grounds this bank robbery, and there's enough intruige in there to keep you guessing until the very end. The plot is simple but nonetheless surprising, and the acting is uniformly spectacular. Note the presence of two regulars on "The Wire."
There are little touches of stylization that are really effective in the context of the film, and don't feel showy. And it's designed and photographed beautifully as well.
Also on this film: Is there any doubt that Denzel Washington is America's Finest Movie Star? I mean, there's a few other real good ones (Clooney), and some sort of Emeritus ones (Hoffman, Freeman), but can you seriously compare like Brad Pitt or Matt Damon to Denzel? Hell to the naw.
What a winner this one is, and certainly the best I saw of the three. The premise is pretty simple: it's a film noir set in a contemporary high school. Sort of a serious answer to the Clueless variety of classical comedies placed in that setting. And it WORKS. Boy does it work.
Its much more Daschell Hammett than the kind of Chandler thing that's often parodied (no complicated similes, lots of tough talk). The characters talk in a semi-made-up language that echoes both the way language is created in the streets, and in young people. Social groups become very important... burnouts, drama queens, and how they interact.
What's wonderful is that none of this gets in the way of the story, which is thrilling and is never deflated by the absurdity of the setting. In fact, even when the setting is funny (and it often is), it seems almost to strengthen the tension, rather than undercutting it. This is a VERY New Sincerity quality for a film to have.
Any of you all see any of these? Thoughts? Seen something else good?
Elephant Larry are one of my favorite sketch groups in the country. Their style is a bit silly, a bit smart and very delightful. Their last show, "Boom," was a smash hit in NYC, with great reviews in the Times, Time Out New York, and elsewhere. They've got a new one coming in May.
You may also have heard two pieces of theirs in audio form on The Sound of Young America -- "Sittin' On a Bear" and "Francophone." The former is a parody of "Livin' on a Prayer," about, well, sitting on top of a sleeping bear. The latter is one of my favorites of their repetoire, a sketch in which a young traveler recounts his trip to France -- which seems to have been a whirlwind tour of the major locales detailed in the first semester of French class (airplane, family dinner, cafe, restaurant, library, supermarket, discotheque). Both are on their MySpace page.
There's something so sweet about this film. I love it. It's called "Baby, Fix That Fusebox!"
A reader of The Apiary offers this potential scoop...
I'm not sure if this is an accurate scoop, but I was on the Magnet Theater's site and one of the upcoming shows caught my eye:
Friday, April 14th 9:30pm
Padsana on Human Potentiality and Equipoise by His Holiness the Guru Pitka. Reservations will be accepted by phone only beginning at noon on Wednesday the 12th. Standby tickets will be given out at 8:30 on the day of the show and we will try to accommodate as many people as we can. $7
I wondered why this listing was overly informative regarding reservations, so I googled "Guru Pitka" and found a second draft of the Austin Powers 2 script. Apparently Guru Pitka was a role Mike Myers was supposed to play?
Make of it what you will.
Last week, I taped an interview for this week with Philip Lopate, editor of the Library of America's Anthology of American Film Criticism, a hefty and wonderful book. The Anthology is the first to seriously consider film writing in the canon of critical writing, and it does a great job.
It's considered by The Atlantic this month (although you have to be a subscriber to read the whole article). You can also check out Lopate's great interview on WNYC's "The Leonard Lopate Show," the host of which is Philip Lopate's brother (though Philip seems to enjoy calling him "Lenny" on the show). It's streaming or downloadable.
Meanwhile, over at the Museum of TV & Radio's blog, Blog Potato, one of the curators asks why there's never been a television critic whose stature could reasonably be compared to Pauline Kael, the late New Yorker critic. It's a great question, and with the emergence the past five years or so of television as a much more artistic medium, I think now's the time to be asking it.
Anyhoo, keep your eyese peeled for my Lopate interview, he was a cool guy. A little skeptical of me, I think, but he gets points for mentioning that before he got on the horn, he was sitting in his hotel room watching "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider," a film which he described as being mostly about Angelina Jolie's lips.
Tim Goodman, the San Francisco Chronicle's esteemed television critic, has finally started blogging. It was only a matter of time, as he's always been a perfect fit for the medium. He's not a great stylist, but he's enthusiastic, full of opinion, and often funny. He seems to understand the reasons people turn to television, and can write thoughtfully and effectively about both "Trading Spaces" and "Nova."
He also values funny on TV -- he was a great champion of series like Arrested Development, Sportsnight and Newsradio that really needed (and deserved) champions. In fact, he was so vocal about Arrested that his name appeared in an episode in season two -- a sort of sly tribute.
Not only does he offer some thoughts on things like The Sopranos and Bonds on Bonds, but also some interesting miscellany -- like the telephone numbers of all the major networks, and how to contact the FCC. I'm looking forward to what he comes up with next.
This just came in over the transom from Stella headquarters. I've never seen Showalter or Allen perform solo, but I've also never seen them be lousy. Seeing Eugene Mirman is a wonderful multi-media experience that I reccomend to all.
Michael Showalter, Eugene Mirman and Leo Allen will be on an East Coast
tour in May. It will a very fun, life changing and lively evening of
alternative stand-up comedy. Please come and check it out.
5/9 Toad's Place, New Haven, CT 203-562-5694
5/10 Higher Ground, Burlington, VT 802-654-7079
5/11 Lupo's, Providence, RI 401-286-0902
5/12 Iron Horse, Nothampton, MA 413-584-0610
5/13 Trocadero, Philadelphia, PA 215-922-6888
5/14 Black Cat, Washington, DC 202-667-4490
5/15 Relative Theory Record Store, Norfolk, VA 757-962-8052
5/16 40 Watt Club, Athens, GA, 706-549-7871
5/17 The Earl, Atlanta, GA 404-522-3950
5/18 Cat's Cradle, Carrboro, NC 919-967-9053
5/19 Ottobar, Baltimore, MD 410-662-0069
Also: on a related note, I really liked "The Baxter," which surprised me, because I'd heard such mixed reviews. Schowalter was indeed a bit too mannered to be the lead, but other than that, it was really wonderful and hilarious.
Related on TSOYA:
"Canada Etc" with Eugene Mirman, Brandon Bird, and Kyle MacDonald (MP3)
Eugene Mirman Interview (Real Audio)
"The Nucyular Option" with Stella (featuring Michael Schowalter) and Geoff Nunberg (MP3)
Slovin & Allen Interview (Real Audio)
This is the first of two pilot episodes of Next!, a series Bob Odenkirk created for FOX a few years ago... it was apparently well-regarded, but FOX decided to go with Cedric the Entertainer Presents instead.
Anyhoo, Next! features Odenkirk, along with a number of Mr. Show castmembers (Jay Johnstone, Brian Posehn, Patton Oswalt, Jill Talley), Fred Armisen, and Zach Galifianakis. I'll post the second episode later.
Time Magazine has a big group profile (or more properly, group of profiles) on alternative comedy. Feature are our good pal John Hodgman (not really our good pal, more like a solid acquaintance of whom we are very fond), the guys from Wonder Showzen, Channel 101, and more.
PS: Does anyone read Time magazine and feel informed afterwards? Or Newsweek? Those things are written for like... 7-year-olds.