motion picture, it's called

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World Part II - Opening Scene

Looking for Comedy opens with a casting meeting for a remake of Harvey. Remembering that the title of the movie is Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World, we open with a scene that strangely challenges whether America has any comedy either.

For the fact is that a remake of Harvey is eminently plausible - and inherent grotesquely unfunny, since the original's concept and conclusion are widely known and inherently time-bound. The world of Harvey can exist only in a small (and yet comparatively prosperous) close-knit community in rural or suburban America - communities which were largely a memory even during Harvey's 1950 filming - and communities which are economically impossible today.

Harvey's comedy is not a nostalgic one. It's targets are contemporary fake seperations between reality and fantasy. However, the Harvey remake's humor will be primarily nostalgic and the remake cannot really take aim at our contemporary society.

However, it is clear that the studio is willing to put all of it's power behind this horrid remake. Further, the studio staff and the director (played by Penny Marshall) are revealed to be entirely humorless in person - indeed, they are openly cruel and sadistic (in high contrast to Stewart's legendary off-screen kindness).

As we will learn as we continue through the movie, Brooks will continue to ask whether Americans have any comedy themselves.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Recently Seen Movies

Classic American Movies:

Phil Karlson, Kansas City Confidential (1952) (5/10)
Jules Dassin , Night and the City (1950) (6/10)
Nicholas Ray, Party Girl (1958) (7/10)
Otto Preminger, Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) (6/10)
Maya Deren, Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) (10/10)
Maya Deren, At Land (1944) (10/10)
Raoul Walsh, High Sierra (1941) (6/10)

Currently Playing:

Albert Brooks, Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World (2005) (8/10)
Sonderberg, Bubble (2005) (7/10)
Haneke, Cache (2005) (10/10)

Foreign Cinema:

Robert Bresson, Pickpocket (1959) (10/10)
Louis Malle, Zazie dans le metro (1960) (8/10)
Chris Marker, Le Joli mai (1963) (10/10)
Felix van Groeningen, Steve + Sky (2003) (3/10)
Naruse, Anzukko (1958) (8/10)
Naruse, Daughters, Wives and a Mother (1960) (9/10)
Naruse, Approach of Autumn (1960) (8/10)
Naruse, Older Brother, Younger Sister (1953) (8/10)
Naruse, Late Chrysanthemums (1954) (10/10)

American Independents:

John Cassavetes, Minnie and Moskowitz (1971) (9/10)
Ira Sachs, Forty Shades of Blue (2005) (7/10)


John Carpenter, In the Mouth of Madness (1994) (4/10)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World, Part I

The immediate mystery of Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World is that it’s not funny. And the character “Albert Brooks” isn’t funny within the movie either.

Which is rather strange, as a character notes within the movie, since the real life Albert Brooks is very funny – Brooks appeared on Johnny Carson many times, been an extremely successful stand-up comedian and so on.

We can ascribe that failure of funny-ness, as most critics have, to an inadvertent failure of Brooks’ comedic talents. However, when a first-rank comedian can’t seemingly get a single laugh, perhaps we should not so easily jump to that clichéd conclusion.

When this type of disagreement between comedian and critic occurs, it’s usually useful to think about Jerry Lewis’ later career and the idiotic response of American critics to Lewis’ last masterpieces.