What We Do in the Shadows

 

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Ever curious, I’d been wondering where Taika Waititi came from – like what did he do before Thor: Ragnarok? A quick google pointed me towards his vampire mockumentary with Jemaine Clement, What We Do in the Shadows. I’d had it filed away in the back of my mind for awhile, until I saw a commercial for an upcoming TV series based on the film. Oooh, better get on it!

Having a weekend of flying ahead of me, WWDitS was the first thing I downloaded from Prime. Filmed in two camera documentary style, it wasn’t the easiest film to watch in daylight, on a 7 inch tablet – keeping with the vampire theme, it is rather dark and grainy at times. I squinted my eyes and blazed forward. Goddamn, this is one of the funniest vampire films I’ve ever seen – and there are A LOT of funny vampire films – Fearless Vampire Hunters, Vampire’s Kiss, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Once Bitten, Innocent Blood, Queen of the Damned – oops, I don’t think that last one was supposed to be a comedy.

I have a total crush on Vladislav, probably because he reminds me of my BFF’s future husband, Voltaire. I know his look was a nod to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but I didn’t hate it.

Taika’s Viago is a dandy vampire, with a tragic backstory. He is roommates with Vladislav, the Nosferatu-esque Petyr and the Lugosi-ish Duncan – they all share a Wellington flat…and argue over who is going to do the dishes. They also go clubbing, try to lure victims and get into a turf war with the local werewolf pack. It is sidesplittingly funny – it’s a dry humor, though not as dry as British humor, with a bit more of the physical comedy. I’ll never get over the vampire sissy slap fight or Vladislav’s failure to “get the face right”.

I don’t know if it is valid to say I have a “New Zealand sense of humor”, just based on Taika Waititi and Peter Jackson – I cannot even think of anyone else from New Zealand. <Googles New Zealand Celebrities…> Nope.

Diary of the Dead

I was starting to get bored until the Dynamite-tossing Amish guy showed up.

Even then, it was still boring in between zombie attacks – probably because the characters kept talking and talking and talking about their predicament. As I’ve said before, it’s not that Existentialism has no place in Zombie movies…it just comes off as pretentious if it’s not done right. Diary of the Dead was not the least bit subtle – the characters kept rehashing their situation. I was ready for all of them to die, I was so sick of their bellyaching. Is it better to die now or die later? Fuck you, I want to see more zombie attacks!

The Mockumentary style was somewhat interesting at first, but as the other characters began to get annoyed, I got annoyed right with them. There’s no such thing as privacy in times of crisis – or ever, really. It was another not too subtle point – we now live as voyeurs through the Internet. Under the same circumstances, I can’t say how I would react…but I’m guessing there would be a lot of facebook updates and zombie pictures posted. I tend to upload a lot of pictures to facebook, so I’m thinking that a picture of my first zombie kill would get a lot of ‘likes.’ Unless, of course, it was someone on my friend list…I wonder how long facebook would last during a zombie apocalypse? Farms would go untended, Mafias would no longer fight, it would chaos! Chaos! Twitter would die, as would FourSquare. MySpace already appears to be the victim of a zombie invasion – nothing left at MySpace but Pedophiles and Scammers. World of Warcraft would likely be unaffected, as those losers are already hiding in secure, light-proof basements and attics.

So…I liked the premise, but did not like the execution. The premise would have been better served by either comedy elements or by less ass-holish characters. However, I would watch a sequel to see how the survivors fared…they were pretty much fucked as the credits rolled.

 

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Okay, I think I finally get the whole Borat thing…

I tried to watch Da Ali G Show and I never could get into it. I’m all about dry British comedy, but I just couldn’t get into his shtick. I sat down to watch Borat prepared to be irritated and disappointed, but I was pleasantly surprised that it had me laughing hysterically from the very beginning. (Next bachelorette party I go to, I’m bringing a fist-shaped dildo…I’m also adding it to my Christmas list, if Santa is reading this.)

In addition to hilarious, I also found Borat to be very educational. For instance, I had no idea that Kazakhstan was a real place until they got all pissed off about Borat. I though it was a fake made-up country, like Kerblakistan in Austin Powers. (Yes, I went to public schools.) I don’t get all pissed off about that Mickey Rooney’s retarded parody of an Asian Man in Breakfast at Tiffany’s…much. Or how about all those films making fun of Germans, like Triumph of the Will? (Technically, it’s not a comedy, but it sure made me laugh – that parts I didn’t sleep through, that is.)

I wanted to believe that all Borat’s “interviewees” were in on the joke, but judging from the litany of lawsuits that came out after the film premiered, they obviously weren’t. It’s sad that the real losers are Americans. At least Kazakh can plead their case that Borat is a mean spirited stereotype that doesn’t reflect their country in the slightest. The United States doesn’t come off so well, as all those plain old Americans that Borat encountered are Grade A ASSCLOWNS. And please tell me that Pamela Anderson was in on the joke – she’s really not that stupid, is she?

So Sacha Baron Cohen has been in the news recently – he’s been interrupting fashion shows while filming his next project – Bruno. Judging from Borat’s naked wrestling scenes with Azamat, Cohen will take things even further in his portrayal of an extremely swishy fashion designer. I’m looking forward to checking Bruno out.

 

C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America

What if the South had won?

NASCAR would be the only sport in the country, McDonald’s would serve nothing but ribs and Larry the Cable Guy would be President. (Or maybe we would be something resembling Idiocracy?) Oh, that shit’s not in the movie, I’m just guessing. C.S.A. is a mockumentary that takes the subject very seriously. Filmed in a dry ‘Ken Burns’ style, C.S.A. is a British documentary about post-Civil War life in the Confederate States of America. Blacks continue to be slaves, with women and Hispanics continuing to be oppressed as well. In fact, women never do get the right to vote and the Confederate States invade and conquer Mexico. I always thought that the US couldn’t be more fucked up than it is right now, but it definitely could be worse.

Without a good understanding of American history, the film falls flat. This isn’t a broad comedy – you have to be educated to be “in” on the joke. Breaking up the dry segments are outrageously racist commercials for crazy products like Darkie toothpaste and Niggerhair cigarettes. The epilogue ties everything together nicely – if you’re white, you’ll be left with an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of your stomach, which of course is the creator’s intent.

I wasn’t the least bit surprised to see Spike Lee’s name pop up in the credits with some kind of production credit. This is kinda his thing. I didn’t have much of an opinion about him until recently. I didn’t watch his films, but I didn’t actively dislike him until he griped about Clint Eastwood not making one of the Iwo Jima soldiers a black guy. Wouldn’t that have been revisionist history, the exact thing that this type of film rails against? Fucking hypocrite.

Pauly Shore is Dead

Pauly Shore has finally learned what the rest of us have known for over a decade – Pauly Shore sucks.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of comedians that suck more than Pauly Shore. Carrot Top is the first one that comes to mind, who coincidentally also stars in Pauly Shore is Dead as Pauly’s nemesis. Gallagher and Martin Lawrence also suck more than Pauly Shore, but neither were invited to be in the movie.

The premise of this film is that after his Fox sitcom is canceled, Pauly’s life goes to shit and he ends up living with his mom and parking cars at her Comedy Club. [I am pretty sure that the film is an accurate portrayal of Pauly’s life up to this point.] One night, he is visited by the ghost of Sam Kinison (his one-time babysitter) and gets the idea to fake his own death. The plan works at first and Pauly is hailed as a misunderstood genius by the comedy community. But eventually, Pauly gets caught and is sent to prison, where he meets Todd Bridges and redeems himself. Awwwww…heartwarming.

There is a bizarre subplot involved Bucky from Kentucky, Pauly’s biggest fan. After Pauly is found to have faked his death, Bucky renounces Son-in-Law as his favorite film and goes after Pauly. Unfortunately, Bucky does not succeed.

Strangely enough, Pauly is actually likable in this film. As soon as you realize that Pauly knows that he sucks and admits that the Wiez is just a construct created to distance himself from people, you start to really feel for the guy. Of course, there’s always the possibility that this is some kind of sympathy psyche-out and Pauly still is oblivious to fact that he sucks and is still a sex addict and will continue to make shitty comedy for the rest of his life. Only time will tell, I guess.

I was amazed at the high quality cameos that Pauly was able to scrounge up. Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Whoopi Goldberg, Ellen DeGeneres. There were definitely some low rent cameos – Tommy Lee, Pamela Anderson, Tommy Chong, Britney Spears. And then there were the people who probably showed up to the shoot uninvited – Andy Dick, Kato Kaetlin, Heidi Fleiss, Nicky and Paris Hilton – and RICO SUAVE! WTF? Tom Sizemore had more than a cameo – although he played himself, he was portrayed as one of Pauly’s close buddies. Maybe they met via Heidi? I was amused that they threw in a joke about getting Sizemore confused with Michael Madsen – I used to do that all the fucking time!

I cannot believe I am going to recommend a Pauly Shore movie, but yeah, it was pretty funny – I would even watch it again.

Waiting for Guffman

My life is complete – I can now lay down and die, for I’ve finally seen Waiting for Guffman.

It take a lot of practice to suck. I’d say it probably takes even more practice than being awesome. And every single small town thespian in this film must have practiced A LOT…because they all stink. People who watched Guffman right after it was released probably thought the sucking wasn’t that big a deal – maybe they are just shitty anyway. I already know that Parker Posey, Christopher Guest, Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy can sing from watching A Mighty Wind, which made their “bad” performances all the more awe-inspiring. That “Midnight at the Oasis” skit – while hilarious – was cringeworthy.

I was disoriented at seeing Catherine O’Hara matched up with Fred Willard instead of Eugene Levy. Don’t get me wrong – they worked…but they just don’t have the same chemistry.

So this is what Matthew Keeslar was doing before Gregg Araki found him? I wonder if Parker Posey had anything to do with hooking them up?

David Cross has a cameo. Bonus.

My son is developing a very sophisticated sense of humor. He really got excited about the last half of the film – specifically the music numbers. His favorite was “Stool Boom.” I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him hop around like that! He was bouncing up and down on my lap nonstop. I wonder if Christopher Guest has ever thought about directing Baby Einstein DVDs? Because my kid won’t give them the time of day…

Oh no, it’s the inevitable mockumentary comparison! EEK! General consensus seems to be that Waiting for Guffman is the funniest of the three (or four, if you count Spinal Tap) Guest mockumentaries. Of course, I’ve gotta disagree and put Best in Show at the top of the list…with Waiting for Guffman a close second. I’m really looking forward to For Your Consideration. I’m unsure whether it will be a full-on mockumentary..but Ricky Gervais is the star, so how can it not be? Imagine, the top American and British improv/mockumentary teams joining up to form the best mockumentary ever – it’s like VOLTRON!

This movie is probably going to end up getting me fired. I don’t think I am going to be able to resist telling someone that I hate them…and their ASS FACE!

This Is Spinal Tap

I’ve finally filled another fundamental gap in my film viewing history – I’ve finally seen Spinal Tap.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen enough VH1 Countdown shows to already be familiar with all the funniest bits in Spinal Tap. I knew all about knobs that go up to 11, foil wrapped zucchinis and tiny Stonehenge. But it’s just not the same until you see the whole package.

I can’t decide if my favorite song is ‘Big Bottom’ or ‘Sex Farm.’ Hands down, Logan’s favorite was ‘Big Bottom’ – probably because of all the bass. But what does he know? He’s only 10 months old. ‘Listen to the Flower People’ is also a good tune – who are the Flower People anyway? And why should I listen to them?

Michael McKean is really a very talented singer and musician. He actually could have been successful as a Rock Singer. (Or as a folk singer.) He looked the best in spandex and also had the best hair. Hair is important in the rock world – more important than talent anyway. Just ask Winger.

Fran Drescher has not aged in the past 20+ years – she looks exactly the same. She was also just as annoying 20 years ago as she is today. Apparently, the fountain of youth and the fountain of suckiness are in close proximity. Mimes? Also suck. Even if the mime is Dana Carvey, who usually rules – mimes suck.

I was waiting the whole movie for an explanation of the cold sores that the whole band suffers from, but I never got it. So disappointing. I read that the herpes subplot is covered in deleted scenes on the DVD. That’s what I get for watching it on satellite – no herpes satisfaction.

  

A Mighty Wind

Wha’ Happened?

I think my expectations were too high. Best in Show was so goddamned funny that I was expecting A Mighty Wind to be a howler as well. Don’t get me wrong, it was pretty funny, but tears were never running down my face as I was doubled over in laughter. I guess the main difference is my personal body of knowledge. I’ve owned a dog before and have even watched dog shows on Animal Planet (shhh, don’t tell anyone), but I can’t recall ever listening to Folk Music. At least not on purpose.

I think I need to go buy the soundtrack. I’ve had “Never Done No Wanderin'” stuck in my head for several days. Maybe if I listen to the entire song, it will go away. I also kind of like that ‘Potato’ song, even though I can’t figure out what the hell they were talking about. That seems to be a general theme with Folk Music – what the hell are they talking about? Puff the Magic Dragon, for instance. Lamentation of lost childhood? Drug parable? Who can tell? Even though I don’t know shit about Folk Music, the music in the film seemed to be fairly authentic sounding. All of the actors sang and played their own instruments, which is impressive in in its own right. How many people actually know how to play the autoharp? Most people probably don’t even know what an autoharp is.

Eugene Levy’s character was by far the best and most three dimensional. He played Mitch, a burned out Folkie, devastated by the break-up with his partner Mickey. He was almost Brian Wilson-ish in his confusion and general malaise. I wonder if that was intentional?

Parker Posey was woefully underused. I guess there’s just not that much you can do with a character that perky. Jennifer Coolidge was also underused, but then again, she didn’t have a major character anyway.

As in Best in Show, the best gags are left for the end of the film – the infamous “Six Months Later” epilogue. I don’t want to give anything away, but The Folksmen become a little more like Peter, Paul and Mary, if you get my drift…

If you saw this in theater, you have to get ahold of a copy on DVD. The extras are definitely worth it. We watched the psychedelic Folksmen video, “Children of the Sun,” several times. There are some cute extra scenes and also the full broadcast version of the tribute concert. It is indistinguishable from an actual PBS production.

 

Best in Show

I haven’t seen Waiting for Guffman, but I still think it’s hilarious. Don’t tell anyone, but I haven’t seen This is Spinal Tap either.

I actually saw this in the theater when it first came out, but I was suffering from a bit of writer’s block back then, it happens to us all. Why can’t someone invent some kind of “Writer’s Viagra”? Anyway, I got the DVD for Christmas, so watching it again last weekend brought it back into the review queue.

The film opens with neurotic yuppies, Hamilton and Meg Swan, complaining to a psychiatrist. Ever since “Beatrice” caught them performing the congress of the cow, she just hasn’t been the same. Turns out that Beatrice is their dog and they are fucking crazy. In short order, we are introduced to a bizarre cast of characters – Cookie and Gerry Fleck and their beloved terriers; Harlan Pepper and his bloodhound; Sherri Cabot (Stifler’s mom!) and her standard poodle, Rhapsody in White AKA Butch and last, but not least, the very ‘out’ Scott and Stephan and their Shih Tzus. They are all competing in the Mayflower Dog Show and may the best dog win.

The humor in this mockumentary is very understated, not over the top like Drop Dead Gorgeous. It’s also not 8 millimeter hell like The Blair Witch Project. It’s slickly done, yet the camera is not obtrusive at all – it’s almost as if you are there at the Mayflower with these freaks.

The best part about watching Best in Show is watching it with Sherry and Laura, my boyfriend’s mom and her best friend. They laugh until they cry the entire time, each and every time they watch it. They actually watch dog shows – and they say that some of those dog show people are really like that! It just blows my mind.

You must get the DVD for the deleted scenes.

Go see Best in Show – and take your mom.

Drop Dead Gorgeous

April has been after me for years to see it, I wish I had listened sooner.

I laughed so hard, I almost cried. I am not big on documentary style films, they became a little too fashionable after The Blair Witch Project, but there is no other way this film would have worked. Being able to “penetrate the fourth wall” made the characters even more ludicrous while making them more human.

Kirsten Dunst (the future Mrs. McIver?) is the center of the film, how could she not be? Of all the teen stars out there today, she is definitely the most likable. Her talent will likely outlast her looks, which is definitely not the case with Denise Richards. She was 28 when this film was released. 2-fucking-8. And apparently, she was the only one too stupid to be able to do a Minnesota accent. I have been praying for her death ever since Starship Troopers…

The director, Michael Patrick Jann, was previously from MTV‘s The State, one of the funniest sketch comedy shows ever. It’s not a sofa…it’s a looooove seat.

Kirstie Alley was very scary. She should do more black comedy, although I do consider Look Who’s Talking to be a black comedy.

Will Sasso must have lost like 300 pounds after this film. He looks positively svelt these days on Mad TV. Maybe he went on Jared’s Subway diet.

Watch it, it’s on cable every night this week.