Tag Archives: comedy

Tribeca 2018, Part 2: Fuck-Ups or Just Funny?

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

I don’t mean to be glib when I say that this year’s Tribeca is, like some Tribecas of the past, pretty big on women-fucking-up indie movies. I’m actually pretty excited to say that, because women-fucking-up indies tend to be a lot more fresh and a lot less mopey than their male counterparts, the latter tending to be awash with sensitive acoustic guitar music, passivity, beards, and Manic Pixie Dream Girls.

There actually might be a Manic Pixie Dream Girl of sorts in Duck Butter (Grade: C-), or maybe she’s a commentary on one; it’s hard to tell, because the movie is so low-key unpleasant. Sergio (Laia Costa) meets Naima (Alia Shawkat, who co-wrote the film with director Miguel Arteta) in between Naima’s first day on the set of an indie movie and the next day, when she is told she’s been fired; Sergio is first seen singing in public in a way that’s not very good but supposed to be bold and charming (not a good sign) and makes a post-hookup proposal that Naima initially rejects, then warms to after her firing: Why don’t they spend a full 24 hours together, having sex every hour or so, as a way of jumpstarting their intimacy and honesty?

Why not? Well, mostly because it’s exhausting, even with a 93-minute running time. Sergio acts vaguely mercurial (which is to say petulant), Naima acts vaguely overcautious (which is to say normal), and rather than a fuller understanding of their characters, you mostly get an idea of what kind of thought-experiment noodling Shawkat and Arteta would like to see from the movies they watch. Credit due, though: Duck Butter (which opens today in limited release and hits VOD next week) is the first movie where I’ve seen both Duplass Brothers playing themselves, and the awkwardness of their interactions with Naima feel more like vintage (if second-tier) Arteta.

Naima is an actress who is too self-conscious about the shitty state of the world to appear especially creative. Two more Tribeca movies focus on women who use their creativity to fight their crummy circumstances, not so much women-fucking-up movies (though one sort of takes the form of one) as women-fucking-shit-up movies. The documentary Love, Gilda (Grade: B-) chronicles the life of peerless SNL player Gilda Radner, who died far too soon at the age of 42, from ovarian cancer. The film, assembled from old photos, home movies, and diaries (though it’s hard to tell when the latter are fudged together with the audio book of her autobiography, It’s Always Something), is a moving and candid portrait, though the materials it’s working with sometimes feel stretched thin, cinematically speaking (some of the shots of old photos linger too long, as if the movie has nothing else to cut to for the moment). It’s not a wildly insightful movie, but it’s valuable both for getting to hear Radner’s voice again (in the voiceover audio as well as her comic voice in various clips, some oft-repeated SNL bits and some more obscure), and to see Amy Poehler, Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, and Bill Hader read through her diaries and reflect on her comic technique (Poehler calls most of her SNL characters poor Radner imitations, a humble way of acknowledging her hero’s influence).

The talking-heads from people who actually knew Radner are a little thin. Lorne Michaels, Chevy Chase, and Laraine Newman go on camera, but it’s disappointing not to hear from Dan Aykroyd, Jane Curtin, or (less surprising, but even so) Bill Murray. What resonates most about the movie is Radner’s joy of performance – that despite her eating disorder or neediness, she truly and, especially toward the end, unselfishly, loved making people laugh.

It wouldn’t be fair to compare the tough and fictional stand-up comedian of All About Nina (Grade: C+) to Gilda Radner, but as well-observed as the movie’s fake stand-up routines are, it could have used a little more sense of that joy, however fleeting. Nina (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is a brash, smart lady comic with a dark past who gets a long-awaited shot at an SNL-style show (based for plot convenience in Los Angeles rather than Nina’s native New York). The pacing of the movie, as Nina breaks things off with an abusive boyfriend, moves to L.A., temporarily rooms with her agent’s new-age-y friend, and strikes up a romance with a plainspoken guy outside the entertainment industry (Common), is careful and appealingly slow. But the movie’s turn into Nina’s tragic backstory, while right up to the minute with the #MeToo movement, isn’t handled as adroitly, and even makes the movie’s first hour feel poky and rambling in retrospect. It’s too bad, because Winstead is typically great as Nina; she has a great scene running through some material three-quarters naked in front of her apartment window, invigorated by her own talent. In the end, though, All About Nina feels ambivalent about the very act of making comedy; it wants to position it as Nina’s salvation, of sorts, but at arm’s length, like it secretly finds the whole thing kind of distasteful, a remove the movie never fully explores.

Karen Gillan’s The Party’s Just Beginning (Grade: B-) is more of a traditional young-lady-fucking-up movie, about a Scottish gal (Gillan) flailing through a drunken, French-fry-binging, casual-sex-having life after the suicide of her best friend. As written, the material is pretty boilerplate, but Gillan shows a lot of promise behind the camera. In front of it, she captures the desperate helplessness that can come with grief. Even when she’s spiraling, the movie never mopes—or breaks out the sensitive acoustic guitar.

Will Ferrell experiments with dad comedy in The House

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

In Will Ferrell’s new movie The House, the comic actor plays the father of an incoming college freshman. Age-wise, this makes perfect sense; Ferrell is nearly 50, and having his daughter be a burgeoning adult probably more accurately reflects typical parent ages than, say, Adam Sandler, who is only a year older than Ferrell but has been stuck parenting mostly tweens on-screen for about a decade. Sandler is a major comparison point not just because of his age, but because of that tenure as a movie dad, which has by now amounted to around a dozen movies, many of which are explicitly about fatherhood (or Sandler’s sitcom-sentimental version of it, anyway).

This happens to most big comedy stars as they get older, especially guys – they need to pay tribute to their real-life families, reflect their real-life priorities, and nod to their aging fanbase by rejecting their youthful vigor/anger/anarchy in favor of gentler dad antics. Ben Stiller spent a whole comedy trilogy preparing himself for the rigors of family life; Sandler made a movie about dads screwing around and busting each other’s balls on vacation, and it’s his only live-action project so far to spawn a sequel; as early as 1997, just three years into his career as a superstar, Jim Carrey was playing a liar who needs to learn to be a better parent to his disappointed moppet.

Ferrell, though, has resisted this role, at least in movies. During his seven years on Saturday Night Live, he was a go-to father figure. His very first showcase sketch had him manning a barbecue, pausing every so often to scream, with increasing frustration and intensity, at unseen off-camera children to “GET OFF THE SHED.” Ferrell was a natural fit in these parts, with his height, soft belly, and slightly beady eyes – he could appear cuddly or menacing, sometimes within the same sketch. Later in his run on the show, he had a recurring bit where two parents made inane conversation over dinner, a symphony of plate-clinking silverware their backing track, until their teenage daughter would interrupt them and send Ferrell into an apoplectic but impotent rage.
Continue reading Will Ferrell experiments with dad comedy in The House

HALFTIME REPORT: Four Lions (2010)

Nathaniel

Nathaniel

SportsAlcohol.com cofounder Nathaniel moved to Brooklyn, as you do. His hobbies include cutting up rhubarb and laying down. His favorite things are the band Moon Hooch and custard from Shake Shack. Old ladies love his hair.
Nathaniel

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With Halftime Report, your good friends at SportsAlcohol.com revisit some of their favorite films from the first half of this decade.

It’s become part of the conventional wisdom about Paddy Chayefsky’s great 1976 satire Network that modern viewers will miss the comic exaggeration in its depiction of a craven and amoral American media landscape. The darkly absurd predictions it makes about ratings-hungry producers and networks have been rendered commonplace (or even quaint) by reality in the last four decades. I had this in mind when sitting down to watch the woefully under seen terrorism comedy Four Lions again for the first time in a few years. I figured the character comedy would still work, but I wondered if the recent horrifying attack in Paris and incredible brutality of ISIS, along with their bizarre success in recruiting westerners, would render the film’s group of buffoonish Al-Qaeda dead-enders similarly quaint or outdated. Continue reading HALFTIME REPORT: Four Lions (2010)

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: The Donald Trump SNL

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Several SportsAlcohol.com founders are regular viewers of Saturday Night Live, and not especially fans of Donald Trump. So when the Trump SNL aired, Marisa, Jesse, and Nathaniel got together (with founding baby Eloise serving as a silent partner) to discuss the show so far this season, and the Trump SNL in particular. We touch upon impressions, political satire, expectations of the show, and the best and (lots of) worst of the Trump episode.

How To Listen

We are now up to SIX (6) different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

The Worst SNL Characters of All Time

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Saturday Night Live celebrated its fortieth anniversary over the weekend with a three and a half hour special full of clips, former cast members, special guests, music, and, of course, recurring characters. As much as the show gets credit for its political and celebrity impressions, pioneering fake news, and occasional forays into edgy music, what most people associate with SNL is its four decades’ worth of characters and catchphrases. Most of the ones revived for the special were respectable (Wayne’s World; What Up with That; Stefon); a few were unnecessary (Garth and Kat). But any longtime SNL fans probably maintain a mental list of the recurring bits that they never ever want to see again (and will probably see again, even if the cast members in question are gone, during compilations, anniversary specials, and when those cast members return to host). It’s an inevitable byproduct of (a.) having recurring characters at all and (b.) doing recurring characters often as a clear concession to casual fans. Not everyone watches SNL every week and even fewer people have been watching it every week for decades.

But some of us do and have and this is my list of beloved recurring characters I absolutely despise. To keep it a little positive — it’s the show’s birthday, after all — I’ll suggest alternatives for all of the hacky, overplayed, irritating torture I’ll be discussing. I considered an accompanying list of my favorite recurring characters, but we’re already working on a Best of Will Forte post. That’s basically the same thing.

Feel free to chime in with your own least-favorites, or to defend these terrible sketches, in the comments.
Continue reading The Worst SNL Characters of All Time

The SportsAlcohol Podcast: Sunday Morning Quaterbacking Saturday Night Live

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Many SportsAlcohol.com staffers and contributors are united in their hardcore Saturday Night Live fandom. The show, somewhat erratic even in its best years, has gone through some transitional pains over the last year or two, as beloved cast members have departed, new cast members have stepped in, and others have been let go. Season 40 began with yet more cast tinkering, especially around Weekend Update. Marisa, Jesse, Nathaniel, and Michael discussed the season premiere immediately after it aired, touching upon favorite cast members, the new guys, Chris Pratt’s hosting skills, Arianda Grande and the state of Saturday Night Live music booking in general, dream hosts for the upcoming season, and plenty more. We’ll be checking back in with Saturday Night Live periodically during the season, and offering plenty of more hot takes timed to its 40th anniversary season.

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Photo credit: Dana Edelson/NBC