Archive for the ‘Comedy’ Category

Ranking 2013’s Independent Films

The Esquire Theater in Denver, Colorado. Where I watched many of the films on this list, including Blue Jasmine.

I watched and will now rank 27 independent films that came out this year. I don’t expect to match this number until retirement absent a radical career change.

What’s an “independent film”? Defining the term is difficult. Wikipedia defines it as “a professional film production resulting in a feature film that is produced mostly or completely outside of the major film studio system [or] [by the indie] subsidiaries of major film studios [e.g. Fox Searchlight].”* That definition is good enough for me and I adopt it here.

*But why does it matter that a film is “independent”? There seem to be two prime reasons: (1) independence from major film studios — and, consequently, independence from the desires of the median viewer in the demographic the studio wants to attract — permits production of a broader range of content and (2) independent films generally have significantly lower budgets and accordingly have to make tough choices that major studio filmmakers don’t face. And a third reason for ranking purposes: outside of Los Angeles and New York City, most independent films play in different venues — independent theaters and arthouses — than major studio films and only a subset of filmgoers frequent these venues with any regularity. There surely is a bigger debate to be had on whether these reasons hold water and whether there’s a better way to define an independent film —- perhaps solely according to budget —- but I’ll save that for another day.

I missed a few of this year’s highly-acclaimed indie films (e.g. Blackfish, Wadjda, All is Lost) and I left off this list any film I saw that satisfied the above definition but received a lot of play in standard theaters (e.g. Twelve Years a Slave).

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“Now the story…”: Brief Reviews of Arrested Development

The original plan — like four years ago — was for John S and Tim to barrel through the 53 original episodes of Arrested Development and cooperatively rank them best to worst, with an in-depth review of each. Circumstances intervened with the thoroughness of that project, and egos intervened with the idea of two people “cooperatively” ranking all 53 episodes. (Ranking Game isn’t as effective with just two people.)

So here’s the result of all that labor: Shorter reviews of all 53 original episodes, presented in chronological fashion (albeit with a good deal of ranking going on within them).

Arrested Development is our favorite show, and this, in 53 different ways, shows why.

(Extended) Pilot

John once made a point — I think it was in here — about how dramas are most perfectly conceived in their first seasons. (He’s taken a step back, btw.) Comedies have always been driven differently. It takes time for the characters to evolve and develop the right way, for the proper interactions to take hold.

Which makes watching Arrested Development’s extended pilot so remarkable. The characters are properly and almost comprehensively established right away. “This is Michael Bluth. He’s a good man” is the first line of the series, and it foregrounds everything that is to come after it.* Lucille is overdramatic and quick-witted, Lindsay is hypocritical, Tobias is oblivious, Gob is creepy, Buster is incompetent, George Sr. is going through one of his phases (a cowboy one to be exact). None of these characterizations ring untrue.

*The “He’s a good man” is actually cut from the pilot that aired. Seems like it shouldn’t have been.

This isn’t the funniest episode of the series by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s one of the funnier pilots you’ll ever see, especially considering the amount of expository work that has to be done. The series lays its extensive deck of cards on the table right away, complete with the eccentricities of its characters and absurd plot developments (i.e. incest in the first episode). It’s a nearly flawless pilot. —Tim

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The Onion and Apologies

The Onion

 

Everyone else seems afraid to say it, but The Onion is kind of a cunt, right?

For anyone who’s missed the controversy surrounding the satirical publication, it began over an Oscar-related tweet that called the nine-year-old star of Beasts of Southern Wild a cunt. Within an hour, the tweet was deleted, but by then of course millions of The Onion’s followers had already seen it, and many had retweeted it. People like Wendell Pierce and many others criticized the paper, and the next morning its CEO issued an apology for the tweet.

Now, I should say that I don’t think the joke was very good: It was crude and simple and basically relied on the shock value of calling a little girl the c-word, so I can see why many found it offensive. But I also think the ideas behind the joke—that Quvenzhané Wallis is so adorable and beloved BUT that Hollywood often turns quickly and cruelly on child stars—-are perfect subjects for The Onion’s brand of satire. The product wasn’t good, but the thought behind it was fine. Continue reading

Funner Times at Malibu Sands

It’s the longest and most mundane symposium ever! Three years ago John S wrote about his experiences watching the Malibu Sands arc of Saved by the Bell. This summer, I watched the Malibu Sands arc of Saved by the Bell—mainly because I had just finished the first season of Game of Thrones and needed what a personal trainer might call a cool-down period.

Consider this setting the record straight.

—The issue to be raising isn’t over volleyball as a spectator sport. Clearly, Top Gun proved you wrong there. The issue is the sustainability of a beach club dynasty with an ever-changing roster of volleyball players. Just how can North Shore—the Valley of the beach, amirite?—continue dominating Malibu Sands for a decade when the players on its volleyball team (i.e. staff members at the club) presumably change each year? Now I know what you’re thinking: that I’m essentially describing major college sports, which obviously have dominant and doormat programs. But North Shore doesn’t have a coach; that much is obvious. Malibu Sands’ is Kelly. What we’re led to conclude, then, is that North Shore’s owner actively recruits excellent volleyball players to work at his club over the summer—likely costing himself hundreds of dollars in workplace efficiency—simply to beat Leon Carosi in a bet.

What did Leon do to him in the past to deserve such vengeance? Continue reading

The Louie Rankings

Nervous about the rankings?

Well, we promised rankings of the second season of Louie, and we followed through. It took us several weeks, but we followed through. If you want to see how Josh and John S broke down this summer’s best comedy, just keep reading… Continue reading

Parks and Recreation: The 25 Funniest Lines of the First Three Seasons

Earlier this week, I mentioned that one of the two shows I’m most excited to see come back to TV this fall is NBC’s Parks and Recreation. In fact, I was so excited that I decided to compile the 25 funniest moments from the first three seasons. If you like what you see, then tune in for tonight’s season premiere at 8:30. If not, then watch anyway–I left off a lot a of great stuff: Continue reading

Curb Your Enthusiasm Season Eight Review

About midway through Season Eight of Curb Your Enthusiasm, I was worrying that the show was in the twilight of its run. There wasn’t anything major wrong with the season, but it seemed like every episode had enough minor flaws—it was too long, one story was weaker than the rest, a crucial plot development didn’t make sense, etc.—to prevent the humor from really clicking like it does in the best episodes of the show.

More generally, I wondered if airing at the same time as Louie was hurting my perception of the show. Both are shows about middle-aged, bald, single, misanthropic comedians who often have trouble relating to other people—and they both aired during the summer, when there are only a few comedies airing—so it was inevitable that I would be comparing the two. And the comparison was not working in Curb’s favor. In weeks where Louie was airing such memorable episodes as “Oh Louie/Tickets” and “Come on, God,” Curb was airing uninspired efforts like “Vow of Silence” and “The Hero.” I even started to wonder if Louie was making Curb redundant.

But then Season Eight ended on a run of four straight stellar episodes, and my worries mostly dissipated. Continue reading