Tag Archives: comedy

Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? (a review by the Uncritical Critic)

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I love musicals.  What can I say?  I am a surrealist as an artist, and so I am dedicated to combining the disjointed and bizarre to make something that makes you laugh, or makes you cry, or makes you go, “Huh?  I wonder why?”  So when, in the middle of a sometimes serious but mostly comic story of escaped convicts on the lam in the Great Depression Era South, people suddenly burst into song… I love it!

And this movie is filled with creative stuff and biting social satire about religion, politics, crime and punishment, love and sex, desire and disappointment, and, most of all, the need to escape from it all if only for a moment to share a good, old-fashioned song.

The main character is Ulysses Everett McGill (played by George Clooney), so naturally the sirens overpower him and turn one of his crew into a frog.  This is because this story is based on the Odyssey by Homer.  Only the Trojan War is replaced by a chain gang singing spirituals as they break rocks, the cyclops is a Bible salesman and Ku Klux Klan member with a patch over one eye, and when Ulysses returns to Ithica, he defeats his wife’s suitors with a song.  How can you not love a story as creative as that?

The whole movie is shot in color-corrected sepia tones to give it an old-photograph, old-timey feel.  John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson are masterful in the role of McGill’s two idiot hayseed friends.

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Again, I remind you, as a completely uncritical critic, I have no intention of trying to tell you what is wrong with this movie.  I loved it.  I will watch it again.  I am writing this review only because I feel moved to tell you how much I loved it and why.  So if you don’t approve of that, well, don’t shoot me.   Put me on a chain gang and give me a chance to sing.

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Filed under art criticism, commentary, humor, movie review, strange and wonderful ideas about life, surrealism, Uncategorized

Mr. Bean

Rowan Atkinson is a genius comedian, and the character of Mr. Bean is the greatest work he has done, the best proof of his genius.  As someone who works at humor and tries to get it right, I have to analyze and carefully study the work of the master.  How does he do it?  What does it all mean?  And what can I learn from it?

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Atkinson not only created the character, he co-wrote the entire television series and controls every aspect of the performance as the central character.  Mr. Bean is the bumbling every-man, going through horrific troubles because of the cascade effect of simple little errors.  We laugh at him because we have all been there.  Tasting the hot sauce leads to a meltdown that causes chaos and disaster for the entire store.  Overcoming fear of heights makes him the center of attention for the entire pool-house when can’t overcome the urge to use the diving board, and yet, can’t make himself jump off.  We have all lived the nightmare of being trapped naked in the hotel hallway, locked out of our room, just when the hallway becomes crowded.

There is a certain charm to Mr. Bean.  He is a childlike character, blissfully unaware of how much he doesn’t know about the complex society around him.  He has a teddy bear that sleeps with him and comforts him.  He lays out his supplies for the big exam, and he’s thought of practically everything he will possibly need, but basic physics fails him and makes the pencils keep rolling out of place.

 

Rowan Atkinson is a master of the art form because he has such tremendous control of his rubberized goofy face and manic body.  He can drive his goofy little yellow car from a sofa mounted on top.  He can change clothes while driving.  Just watching him shave with an electric razor is a total hoot.

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It is mostly physical comedy, almost slapstick, and yet it is not the broad unfeeling poke-in-the-eye you get with the Three Stooges.  Most of the real damage is done to himself, though pompous and deserving people are often near enough to get a helping of it smack in the face.  A lot of it is practically pantomime, with hardly any real dialogue.  Much of it, like the sword fight with the bumblebee using a butter knife, is simply silly.

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The movie, Mr. Bean’s Holiday, extends the character by making him actually interact with other characters, though in his own inimitable Mr. Bean way.  The limited dialogue thing is amplified by the fact that he is traveling in France and does not speak French.  Still, he interacts with the boy he accidentally kidnaps, the girl who wants to be a movie star whom he helps in her quest by an accident at the Cannes Film Festival, and the movie director whom he almost kills but ends up saving his career with a hit home movie.

Mr. Bean makes the ridiculous an art form by helping us to laugh at ourselves as we are beset by all the little troubles of life that Bean magically floats through.

So, now I have told you why I love Rowan Atkinson as a comedian.  He is a comedic genius.  Of course, you knew that already, right?

 

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Filed under artists I admire, comedians, humor, review of television, sharing from YouTube

The Uncritical Critic Watches Another Quirky Movie

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Yesterday was a weird day.  If you looked carefully at the mental map I made of Mickey’s head the other day, you realize that Uncle Slappy’s Big Box of Weirdness occupies a key position in the top center.  I had a traffic accident in the parking lot of Long Middle School yesterday morning, banging bumpers with a lady named Vilma.  The sun was in my eyes, and she started to go, then suddenly stopped for no reason I could see.  No damage was done to anything but my pride.  My wife put her parents, Tatang and Inang, on an airplane yesterday bound for the Philippine Islands, going home for a visit.  Afterwards, my wife was feeling mortal, betting me that she was going to die before me even though I have the head start of six incurable diseases and surviving cancer once already.  There are no symptoms for her impending heart attack, so I will probably win that bet.  But the point is, it was a weird time yesterday to stumble weirdly over a weird and wacky movie on Netflix called Moonrise Kingdom.  It is a Romeo and Juliet sort of story about two twelve-year-olds who fall in love at first sight, and though their families try to keep them apart, they end up together.  Thankfully it is not a Shakespearian Tragedy where everybody dies at the end, though Sam is struck by lightning and the big storm nearly drowns all the boy scouts.  It is more like a Shakespearian Comedy where everybody gets married at the end, though the twelve-year-olds don’t get married at the end… rather, they are married by the middle.

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Wes Anderson is the genius director behind movies like;

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None of which I have seen, but now have to watch ALL of them sooner or later.  Kinda like the mad quest to see every Tim Burton movie ever made.  I am one of the few idiots out there who think Dark Shadows was a truly wonderful movie, and along with Edward Scissor-hands, one of the finest things Johnny Depp has ever done.

In Moonrise Kingdom Anderson uses tracking shots at the beginning that shift quickly from one room to the next in a way that invokes an old-time slide show.  The story is set in 1965 in Maine, and is filled with all kinds of iconic references to things we 60’s kids all vividly recall.

The movie also tells the love story of Sam and Suzy with a painter’s sense of iconic pictures that focus you on important plot points and themes.

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And there are numerous quotable bits that make the movie what we teachers refer to as a text-rich environment, complete with phony kids’ books and maps and notes.

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The all-star cast is pretty good, too.

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This is now one of my new favorite movies.  It is a happy-ending-type fairy tale with no fairies in it.  It is full of ineffectual and incompetent adults who have rules of behavior like grown-ups and motivations like goofy kids… just like real life.  The plot is driven by the notion that anything you do in life is a mistake, and mistakes have consequences, but you have to do them anyway because, well… that’s life.

Am I telling you that you should watch this movie too?  Well, you should… but, no.  I am simply gushing about this quirky movie because I like it, and yesterday was a very weird day.

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Filed under goofiness, humor, movie review, strange and wonderful ideas about life, surrealism

Snow Babies

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The day before yesterday I completed the book Snow Babies.  This is a novel I have been working on and off on since 1978.  It is a comedy about orphans freezing to death in a blizzard.  Not really funny you say?  Not packed full of yucks because of the orphan-dying thing?   Well, needless to say, no good comedy is free of tears, just as no tragedy works without its lighter moments and occasional jokes.  And did I tell you there are clowns?  I promise you clowns.

Now, if you are honest about it, you know clowns don’t all come in face paint.  Some are ordinary bumblers, schmucks, and goofy guys doing the bumbling, schmucky, goofy things that bumblers, schmucks, and goofy guys do every day.  You will notice them as easily as you notice them in Shakespeare’s works because they are always the ones taking the header center stage.  If you can’t tell the clowns, then maybe in a future novel I will put them in face paint.

There are scary things too in a good comedy.  I have witches, snow ghosts, and mysterious strangers in my story.    It’s part of that Midwest heritage where we Iowegians go slightly insane because of the long cold winters and the lack of citified entertainments.  Give a yokel or a hick from the sticks enough time to sit and diddle, and you will get weird stories.  How else do you explain how a dude from Kansas named L. Frank Baum could come up with a wonderful world like Oz?

So now that I’ve told you all these wonderful, interesting, and goofy things about the book I just wrote, let me pop your bubbles with the publication pin.  I have not got it published yet.  And I am looking for a better deal than last time around, because it’s an even better book.

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The Reasons I Put it in my Pocket

I wrote Catch a Falling Star. Believe it or not, my comedy science fiction novel is about real people.  Oh, I changed a few things to make them harder to recognize.  I changed their names, and who they are related to, and what religion they really were, and I even made some of them green.  But honestly, they are either characters I grew up with back in my little home town in Iowa, or people I have known in my career as a public school teacher.  A few of the brighter ones are combinations of both.

I first created the story idea, back in about 1977, around a pair of frumpy farmer types who desperately wanted a child of their own and couldn’t have one.  They are natural-born parents from medium-large Iowa families, and in real life they do have kids of their own.  I just imagined what they would be like if they never had a child of their own.  And then, I gave them one, but not a normal one.  It had to be an alien born in orbit around Barnard’s Star and accidentally left on Earth during a blurped-up attempt by the aliens to conquer the Earth.  They were incompetent aliens who had been adversely affected by watching too much Earther television.

I have always been a story-teller.  Anybody from the town of Rowan, Iowa who remembers me will attest to that fact, probably with certain air-curdling metaphors of the obscene variety attached to the recollection.  I renamed the town Norwall so nobody would recognize it (all the same letters, but all stirred up, and with two L’s added for Love and Laughter).   Rowan… I mean, Norwall is a small town of about 250 people counting the squirrels (and you have to count the squirrels because they are some of the funniest people in town).  It’s a small rural farm town with lots of green growing things, corn, cornball people, and plenty of pretty powerful pig poo.  It’s the kind of place that’s so sleepy and quiet that you either have to develop a powerful imagination or go mildly insane.

So, those are the terrifying and traumatizing reasons why I just had to inflict my novel upon the world.  I hope people will find it funny and laugh a little, rather than dropping the book at their feet and then running away screaming.

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