Posts Tagged ‘Bill Murray’

Judd Apatow’s Funny People, a film about a comedian/celebrity George Simmons – confused me. As the end credits rolled, I wasn’t sure whether I liked it or not. I ended up on middle ground, which was really annoying, given my aversion towards the neutrality of things. Indifference is the ultimate insult a common man can assign to a work of art and since cinema (and the love I have for it) is something I hold near and dear, I hated feeling inadequate about either recommending it or shitting on the essence of its being. Here’s the problem first. Adam Sandler (who plays George Simmons) must have hoped Funny People would do for him what JCVD did for Jean Claude Van Damme. I guess it’s alright for celebrities to seek therapy through self-caricaturizing; at least it beats going down to some river to pray. It worked for the Belgian muscleman because the public had never before thought of him as a man who suffers, let alone muse eloquently over all those crappy films he starred in. After watching his insecurities come alive on-screen, no longer did people think Van Damme’s first reaction to anything would be to do a seriously gay version of the splits or position his limbs for a Judo crane kick. The self-loathing characterization in JCVD hit a nerve (in me, at least) because it made for a chilling catharsis of the actor. Even Bruce Campbell’s My Name Is Bruce sort of worked, with the cult legend more than willing to laugh uproariously at his delusions of grandeur while secretly grinning at how fame once pulled a fast one on him about his place in cinema.

Despite not knowing if the director Judd Apatow intended to caricaturize Adam Sandler, I can’t but help nurse suspicions about it. Going by this alone, his film fell a little flat. The only musing I have ever done about Adam Sandler was whether or not the man is truly retarded. The characters he played in films like Billy Madison, Happy Gilmour and Waterboy seemed to be an extension of his real self minus the extraordinary savantism. His stand-up comedy too is centered on funny accents, childish cussing and penile jokes, something I’m sure his mates back home would testify to as a weekend by the couch with a couple of beers activity. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’d hate to think this didn’t affect my liking of this film. So, seeing his character supposedly bare his soul on the canvas didn’t do much for me.

Here’s what worked. Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman, Leslie Mann, Eric Bana and the ten or so brilliantly executed cameos. Rogen and Hill – who play standup comedians Ira Wright and Leo Koenig – are probably the most sought-after comedians in Hollywood right now. They’re pretty funny, if only they didn’t indulge in so much toilet humour (conveniently, George Simmons makes a mention of it). Here they are in form, especially Rogen with his man-child impersonations. Now I know that if Sarah Silverman and Will Ferrell ever had a child, it’d be really funny. Hollywood’s nerdiest prodigy Jonah Hill is going places with his obnoxious anti-frat boy comedy and he knows it; the arrogance is evident and well-deserved.

As for Jason Schwartzman (he plays Wright and Leo’s egomaniacal roommate), he has a little Bill Murray thing going for him. No matter how similar most of the characters he portrays seem to be, he still manages to make them engaging. In Funny People, the sympathy he shows for his roomies is subtly hilarious. There’s a scene in which he sits next to Rogen’s character and explains why he slept with his date…look at the expressions on Schwartzman’s face, I’m telling you, Mr Murray would be proud.

Leslie Mann’s character (Simmons’ love interest) was well crafted too. I really dug the confrontation scene, with the three men standing there, jaws open and fists raised, unsure of who to blame and for what. Eric Bana provides standard fare as the sweet and sour-tongued Aussie husband who has read too many self-help books. For me, the true highlights of Funny People were the cameos. The scene in which Marshall Mathers (Eminem) confronts Ray Romano (from Everybody Loves Raymond) is just about the funniest scene I have watched in a mainstream movie in a long time. Rap outfit Wu Tang Clan’s RZA, Andy Dick, James Taylor, Paul Reiser – all provide rib-tickling fastfood humour, with quick and to the point punchlines. The Sarah Silverman stand up bit about Kanye West and Obama also qualifies as a laugh out loud moment. (if you find it offensive, you’re a bigger jackass than Kanye).

I’ll say this too…Funny People could be the first step towards changing the public (for all those who care, at least) perception of Adam Sandler’s talent as an actor. Truth be told, it’s probably the most intense he has even been. Even in the vastly underrated Paul Anderson’s Punch Drunk Love, the tragedy of his character’s life seemed more odd than actually moving.

In Funny People, George Simmons desperately tries to take a step back, lose the jokes and get a bit more serious about his place in the world. I guess, in 2009, Adam Sandler tried that too. To quote one of his classically retarded characters – Billy Madison – “Well, I made the duck blue because I’d never seen a blue duck before and I wanted to see one”.

Well, you decide if you want to see this blue duck (I’m aware that at some level, I’m making no sense whatsoever).

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Zombieland: Zombies used to be funny because they weren’t really scary. Nobody ever appreciated a George Romero film during the Seventies because it frightened them. You’d have to be the in-bred child of a hysterical Jellyfish and an agoraphobic Pomeranian to actually fear those zombies. By the time Nineties hit, zombies had become more efficient. They changed their plan of attack; sprinting instead of walking real slow, ambushing their victims and such. Some even carried guns while others had ferocious pets. Their sense of irony seemed nastier than ever before too. Films such as 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later, I Am Legend and those George Romero remakes took themselves seriously, as was evidenced by their emotionally-cathartic climaxes and at least one genuine attempt at being mushy.


Enter Ruben Fleischer’s Zombieland. Nearly 87 minutes of back-slapping and sometimes stomach-aching fun. Not since Simon Peg’s outrageously original Shaun Of The Dead has a monster movie been this funny. Jesse Eisenberg (Columbus) is actually Woody Allen trapped in a 24-year-old indie actor’s body. Seriously, if Mr Allen was about 180 years younger and stuck in middle of a zombie wasteland, he’d act just like this. Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin act all unnecessarily mature, but it makes sense given their characters’ survival instincts. A minor quibble, if it qualifies as one, but more and more I have started to believe that Abigail won’t play the Bee Girl in Blind Melon’s comeback music video and that’s just sad.


Woody Harrelson is Tallahassee – a kamikaze killer a.k.a random zombie’s worst nightmare. His anger management issues are pure hilarity as is his obsession with Twinky bars; and I can’t even begin to mention how awesome that 5-second banjo tribute to John Boorman’s Deliverance was. The star of Zombieland however is Bill Murray who makes a cameo appearance as himself.  If John Hurt deserved an Oscar for 15 minutes of acting in History of Violence, then Bill Murray needs to be given at least two-thirds of a Polynesian Island and a lifetime supply of medical marijuana for the awesomeness he brings to Zombieland for about ten minutes.

As for the storyline, well here you go…two guys, two girls, 33 rules, and one zombie apocalypse.  Bring it fucking on.

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District 9: Aliens have been at the rear end of the deal with cinema. Films with aliens in them fall prey to either predictability or patriotism, both of which have been known to cause unparalleled damage to its kind. Steven Spielberg’s ET made me want to eat my face inside out. I wanted to chew through my cheekbones and pull my eye sockets out through my nostrils every time the camera zoomed in on the ghastly bugger and everyone else in the room went, “awwwwww so cute”. Independence Day was big dumb mediocre fun, but it had its share of unforgivable crimes – especially, the ‘let’s hug it out, you earthling…you’ climax.

Neil Bloomkamp’s District 9 side-steps such irksome details and then some to deliver a kickass film. The coolest part of District 9 is that it never takes itself too seriously; even in the false finishes that threaten to pull the curtains when you least expect it to. It even avoids the shock shtick that such ambitious directors have been known to fawn over. For instance, like Ebert mentions, despite making it clear that Nigerian prostitutes were doing it with the aliens, director Blomkamp merely makes an awkward joke about it and never bothers grossing us out with unnecessarily graphic imagery.


So the deal is that aliens have landed on Earth two decades earlier and after much diplomacy and brain cells-racking, the government of South Africa has decided to put them all in a “militarized ghetto” – where the only rule is that there are no rules…wait, there are a few rules like the aliens can’t purchase cat food without paying for it and kleptomania is generally frowned upon, but you get the picture. Pretty soon the lack of a civil and a maintainable social order in the ghetto drives the government to forcibly evict all the aliens.

Enter Wikus Van D Merwe (Sharlto Copley). A key player and bootlicker unparalleled in a premier ammunitions corporation – Multi-National United – who has been put in charge of the eviction formalities by his father-in-law. From then on, Wikus’ life becomes spectacularly worse than ever before, with aliens and humans conspiring to either kill him or dash his hopes of getting out of this mess, alive, well and almost human.


With an engrossing storyline, a suitable cast (Sharlto is awesome) and tremendous CGI effects, District 9 gets my vote for the ‘flick of the year’. It can’t get any bigger or funner (yes funner) and god bless Nick Blomkamp for that. The only thing dumb about District 9 is that some movie executive in Los Angeles is probably jerking off to the thought of casting Steve Carell in the Hollywood remake. Please fucking don’t.


Public Enemies: Two years ago, the sheer prospect of Christian Bale and Johnny Depp sharing screen space in a gangster film would have had me stalking YouTube and Daily Motion for every user-made promo video. Lately I have turned sour towards both of them. When the initial euphoria of Dark Knight faded away, I became increasingly cynical of it and especially of Bale’s performance. Much like Gerald Butler’s in 300, Bale’s overdubbed voice as Batman really really pissed me off. It sounded like he burped out Clint Eastwood after seven shots of single malt whiskey. In Public Enemies too, he sounds odd. So very odd that you almost forget that Bale is one of the top five method actors in his country; insert Dustin Hoffman quote (if there’s a method, where’s the acting?). As for Johnny Depp, well…part two and three of the Pirate series have made me rethink the whole ‘who’s my favourite American actor” business. If anything, it was a sign of an actor coming to terms with his own celebrity status.

Back to the film…I felt that Public Enemies showcased these two blokes quite poorly. It wasn’t as bad as Pirates III or Terminator IV, but it still was a pretty terrible way of utilizing them; especially considering how good director Michael Mann can be (Collateral).

Unless you have been living under a rock, you’d probably know the storyline by now…so I’ll close with something you might not know. Elliot Goldenthal’s original music for the film is brilliant and I really think you should go out of the way and buy the soundtrack. Matter of fact, it almost takes away the uneasy feeling that you have watched something mediocre by the time the end credits hit the screen.


Bronson: Director Nicolas Winding Refn has gone ahead and carved a nice little niche for himself in European pop cinema. His grim debut Bleeder and the Pusher trilogy have given him enough street credo and maturity to craft something as exquisitely brutal as Bronson. As for actor Tom Hardy, I have only seen him in the recent film adaption of Wuthering Heights, in which he plays Heathcliff. In this film, he plays the awesomely moustached and tough-as-nails – Charles Bronson– England’s most infamous prisoner and general pyschopath extraordinaire.

To call this a tribute to the real-life title character would be a bit short sighted since one gets the impression that it was more of a tribute to pulp cinema. The scenes in which Bronson addresses the crowd, dressed as a clown and drenched in existential ennui, are indicative of the theatrics that daftly help the film avoid genre classifications. The ending however made me feel a bit queasy with the melodrama and all, but as a whole – the film worked very nicely.

However once again, folks, life has asked art to sit the fuck down and observe. In 1994, the real Charles “Charlie” Bronson, whilst holding a guard hostage at Woodhill Prison, Milton Keynes, demanded an inflatable doll, a helicopter and a cup of tea as ransom. In 1998, he asked one of the Iraqis he had held hostage to hit him “very hard” over the head with a metal tray; when he refused, Bronson slashed his own shoulder six times with a razor blade.


Ed Wood: There is something very strangely beautiful about this one. Why, you ask? Johnny Depp stars as the worst film director ever in the history of moving pictures and halfway through decides to start impersonating the bastard child of Michael Jackson and Willy Wonka. Martin Landau plays Bela Lugosi – the actor who was the original Dracula – but with more self-loathing decay. Bill Murray is Bunny Breckinridge – the soon-to-be transvestite perennially getting screwed over by bad luck and worse makeup. Jeffrey Jones is Criswell, the man who can see into the future as long as the TV ratings go up. So that takes care of the strangeness.

As for the beauty, tiny moments of awkward sadness make Tim Burton’s Ed Wood prettier than I had expected it to be. When the character Ed Wood watches Bela Lugosi for the last time, a gloomy ethereal note pierces the scene and threatens to make us feel bad for laughing about them earlier.

Funny thing is in 1980 when this gentle and eccentric man was voted as the worst director of all time, the Carroll Ballard’s tortorously dramatic The Black Stallion won a friggin Special Achievement Award. Probably for making a shitty movie without even an ounce of the dedication that Ed Wood had for his films.

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session 9

Session 9: I didn’t know this until IMDB filled me in a few hours ago, but I have seen all of Brad Anderson’s films. In fact I have enjoyed everything he has done. Despite being little more than romantic comedies, Happy Accidents and Next Stop Wonderland escape the suck on the merit of its actors – Marisei Tomei, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Philp Kaufman. As many of you already know, The Machinist is fantastic and actually does justice to Christian Bale’s method acting shenanigans. Of course, there is that gratuitously updated Hitchcock train ride of 2008 – Transsiberian – which then brings us to Session 9 (co-written by Stephen Gevedon) that was released in the year 2001. I watched it a few days ago and I must say, it has left me in a deliriously creeepy state of mind (much ike Wolf Creek, Descent, Eden Lake). The sort in which, you are strangely at ease with not predicting false climaxes since you actually care about what happens to these characters; in which, you are also not cool with the director’s sense of justice, but you choose to make peace with it for the sake of cinema. Seemingly trivial stuff, but constant reminders that there’s more to the relationship between films and free time.


So, this five-member asbestos cleaning crew goes to work on the Danvers State Mental Hospital (now an abandoned asylum) and well, something’s not right. The boss man – Gordon (Peter Mullan) – seems to be a little over the edge, his best friend and crew chief – Phil (David Caruso) – has gotten secretive about his professional intentions while the other two – Hank (Josh Lucas) and Mike (Gevedon…again) – seem more troubled than ever before. Oh there’s Jeff (Brendan Sexton III) too, but he’s just a slacker who’s afraid of the dark. As the film claws its way towards a feverish climax, you are desperately unsure about what exactly is creeping you out; and when you finally realize the cause behind all the bloody carnage, you sigh and think about how enormously frightening it must be for blind mice to find love. If you are one of those normal people, you’ll probably recoil in terror and mumble, “oh that’s messed up”.

Ahem…anyway, Peter Mullan and Stephen Gevedon give fantastic performances with the latter proving his mettle in scriptwriting, as well. Tight, atmospheric, and gripping, Session 9 is definitely one of the creepiest films I have ever seen.


Quarantine: I love zombie films. If my fears about the swine flu were to ring true and the dead start coming back to eat the living, I would want George Romero to come over to India and shoot a film about that. Hell, he could even title the film as  Had To Joke About Pigs Flying, Didn’t You? and I’d still love it. Zombies = fun. Needles to say, I got a real kick out of Quarantine. John Erick Dowdle, along with his brother Drew, took the storyline from Jaume Balagueró and Luis Berdejo (who wrote the apparently superior Spanish original – REC) and gave it an ol’ American twist. For instance, they bring into account the distrust people had towards the Bush administration. In this case, a bunch of middle-class folks are trapped inside a building that has been sealed up by secretive government agents. Inside, a cop and a military officer try to rally up the forces to ward off those pesky zombies. I am pretty sure I have seen this a hundred times before in different films, but I have yet to dislike even one. However I must admit… The Poughkeepsie Tapes movie sounds infinitely cooler.


Dead Man’s Shoes: My consumption of Shane Meadows’ films begins with Dead Man’s Shoes. I have read too many nice things about him for me stay away from his work any further. I guess I’ll post a Shane Meadows edition in couple of weeks, so I’ll make this one brief. Dead Man’s Shoes is a tremendous low-key revenge thriller. The premise is not original, but the atmosphere certainly is. The lush sceneries that embrace the screen every ten minutes, along with the lovely music score, do wonders. The film begins with Richard (Paddy Considine) scouting lambs for the slaughter, as we are told that this former army officer is out to draw blood from all those who did horrible things to his younger brother. And then we meet the perpetrators – some callous, drug-addled men, others normal blokes who just had a wild night out. There’s almost this Woodsman effect (a film in which Kevin Bacon plays a sympathetic pedophile) which causes you to question Richard’s morality – and that’s exactly what makes this film utterly fantastic (and also why Azrael remains as one of the great Batman characters). I will write more about Shane Meadows soon.


Bottle Rocket: Wes Anderson’s films – Rushmore, Royal Tenenbaums and Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou – have redefined my expectation of humour from mainstream American cinema. Even the recent Darjeeling Limited was pretty great too. As much as I would like to habe them labeled as underground, they wouldn’t fit the billing. They have A-list actors, a decent budget and pristine production – elements that fortunately seem inept at tainting the humour quotient. Prior to watching this, I have heard a lot of nice people say that Wes was never quite as funny as he once was in Bottle Rocket. Well, I don’t know, man…I just wasn’t tickled by Bottle Rocket’s supposedly whimsical comedy. It was almost as though Wes Anderson let the more random of the Coen Brothers (not sure which one) take over the directing duties. While I could have thought of far worse directors to associate metaphorically with this film, it does lack the charm that accompanied his Wes’ films with Bill Murray.

The story is that Owen and Luke Wilson – two likable criminals desperate to play high stakes try to weasel their way into better lives. The jokes draw a laugh or two, but that’s mostly because of the over-the-top delusion of Owen’s character (Dignan). You can almost see where Wes Anderson got the idea for that Eli Cash character in The Royal Tenenbaums. Luke’s a miss in this one as his character channels the mild confusion that drives those kids in Beverly Hills 90210 and passes it off as existential grief. Together they get themselves entangled into silly situations until salvation reaches out to one of them. Unlike the film, life’s happy ending worked out much better. Mr Wes Anderson has grown to become an absolutely terrific director.

incident at loch ness

Incident At Loch Ness: So, this Hollywood producer (Zak Penn) ropes in Werner Herzog and a few others to shoot a film about the Loch Ness monster. Little does Herzog know that Zak just wants to make a blockbuster without actually giving a shit about cinema, art, German New Wave and all that. The thing is, another crew is already filming a documentary about Werner Herzog’s life so we, the audience, get to watch the making of The Enigma Of Loch Ness, and also the making of the making of the same. Of course, none of this actually true, so what we are left with is a confusing mockumentary that is both hilarious and silly in equal proportions. Directed by Zak Penn (who is friggin awesome as a mean-spirited asshole), and starring Herzog…wait, no really…dammit. Go watch Incident At Loch Ness and you tell me.

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Jim JarmuschTo be honest, never once have I wondered how awesome it would be to stumble upon a Jim Jarmusch collection. You see, a blinding light shone through the weirdly well-lit corridors of Parsons Complex when my eyes caught sight of the Herzog collection. There were fairies and elves prancing everywhere, tossing chocolate-flavoured gummy bears and brightly coloured yo-yos around. In comparison, the Jim Jarmusch DVD was met with a less enthusiastic response. Not that it takes away anything from my regard for the man’s brilliance. Jarmusch certainly rivals Wes Anderson when it comes to infusing films with gloriously offbeat, warm ambience. It should also be said that both the casting and the music in his films are zimbly amazing (most of my friends are mals, it was bound to happen sometime). Hence it is with much delay and delirious coffee-stained nights that I give you the collected works of Jim Jarmusch.

Permanent Vacation: Shot on 16 MM film, Jarmusch’s debut is a weird little feature that follows the trail of Aloysius ‘Allie’ Parker as he walks around Manhattan to find something warm stumble upon anything vaguely comforting. We find out precious little about Allie and the city, which has decisively decided to alienate him. He’s free between the ears (not vacuous), reads French novels, smokes cigarettes, listens to jazz and drifts along without too much fuss. As for Manhattan, well, we discover that she’s into jazz but we already know that from those countless Woody Allen films, don’t we? We meet a few of Permanent Vacation’s characters, as well…gentle, sullen characters who’d sooner light up a cigarette than romance a moment. No surprise it is that nearly a quarter of a century later, he would write an entire film around Bill Murray.

stranger in paradiseStranger Than Paradise: With his 1984 sophomore film, Jarmusch had clearly started believing that musicians would make fine actors; a belief that would yield wonderful results a few years later. In Stranger Than Paradise, musicians John Lurie and Richard Edson are focal characters in all three parts of the film. Lurie, a jazz composer for Lounge Lizards, plays a nonchalant New York hipster (Willie) who is a paid a brief visit by his sixteen-year-old cousin (Eva) from Hungary. And there’s Edson, ex-drummer of alternative gurus Sonic Youth, who plays Willie’s sweet-natured friend (Eddie). Digressive fact: Edson also played Turturro’s brother in Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing. After a hilariously dramatic note of transition, the film takes us on Eddie and Willies’ journey to meet Eva in Cleveland and then on a heartbreaking road trip to Florida. I must say, the characters have been crafted with such fragility that the adventures they go through seem less tolerant towards them. If you’ve never watched a Jarmusch film, start with this.

down by lawDown By Law: Despite Bill Murray’s greatness that elevated Broken Flowers to level of cinema that would humble most people, Down By Law smugly remains as my favourite film of the collection thus far. In this charmingly twisted tale that takes place in New Orleans, three goofballs – Tom Waits (Zack), Roberto Benigni (Roberto), and John Lurie (Jack) – inadvertently start a prison break, flee into the nightmarish bayou and then wad through the damp Louisiana marshes to escape a lifetime of confinement. Mr Waits is seven shades of awesome as a local radio DJ whose love for booze lands him severe trouble. He looks like a crazed version of Lyle Lovett and talks with the same gnarly lisp that drove some of his finest music (Alice, Rain Dogs). Roberto Benigni is the Italian arty version of Jack Black. He does the one thing that he can do really well – act goofy and silly.

I wasn’t entirely convinced about Lurie’s character but there was too much love that got in the way of such cynicism. For instance, the cinematography and the music are some of the finest I have ever seen in an indie film. Haunting black-and-white shots of the swamp and New Orleans’ weeping nights set to the tunes of dirty jazz and gnarly, whiskey-soaked ballads? Why, thank you, kind sir.

Mystery Train: Jarmusch’s maiden tryst with colour is a typically wisecracking tale involving foreign tourists in the state Tennessee, looking for their very own Elvis Presley experience in some crappy hotel. The tourists – a teenaged couple from Japan, an Italian widow and a British criminal – all get more than they bargained for, but thanks to Jim Jarmusch’s daft strokes, we somehow feel that they were better off prior to spending the night in Memphis. Don’t ask me how; it’s just one of those things that you suspect the director of. Mystery Train marked the first time (a suspicion, once again) that the director riddled his films with stellar cameos performances to egg the story further into the fantasy territory. Funk and soul legend Rufus Thomas, the ungodly cool Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, vice chancellor of punk Joe Strummer, Steve friggin Buscemi make memorable appearances as Mystery Train’s most delightful characters.Night On Earth

Night On Earth: Like Wikipedia says, it “is a collection of five vignettes concerning the temporary bond formed between taxi driver and passenger in five different cities: Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Rome, and Helsinki.” The thing is I liked only one out of five vignettes. The mildly passable Winona Ryder and Cassavettes’ muse Gena Rowlands sink the LA episode into the sort of dozy conversational piece that I’d expect from some dude called Leyfu Pierre who thinks that a master’s degree in advanced cinema would immediately make his short film infinitely more intelligent than it actually is. The Roberto Benigniridden Rome episode sucks too; gone is the charm that briefly engulfed him in Down By Law. I think it’s high time that Benigni remade Adam Sandler’s Waterboy. The nocturnal anecdotes from New York and Paris hardly pass for a silver lining with its momentary glimpses of sadness and humour. Thank heavens for the Helsinki episode in which the greatness that is Matti Pellonpää (from the fantastic film Leningrad Cowboys Go America) elevates Night On Earth to what it was originally intended to be. Mildly discomforting and thoroughly enjoyable.

Dead Man: Already reviewed here.

Year Of The Horse: Listen, I love me some Neil Young and the Crazy Horse Band. I mean, Rust Never Sleeps is one of my all-time favourite live albums. I have high regards for Jarmsuch too; his only mistake till date (1997) was casting Winona Ryder in a short film. Having said all that, I must question the wisdom of men, mice, horses, musicians and one Jarmusch himself for having released this documentary about the band’s 1996 tour. The audio is really, really bad and the video quality – all 16 MM of it – is unsuitable for capturing the live ambience of explosive bands such as the Crazy Horse. Call me whatever, but I also expected the godfather of grunge to be more insightful.

Ghost Dog, The Way of the Samurai: Already reviewed here.

coffee and cigarettesCoffee And Cigarettes: I’ll admit that I bought this film (or whatever it is) a couple of years ago on the weight of all the talent (actors, comedians and musicians) featuring in it. Iggy Pop, Tom Waits, Jack and Meg White, Bill Murray, RZA, GZA, Steve Buscemi, Steven Wright and a few magnificent others star in this series of black and white vignettes that all have coffee and cigarettes as common themes. While some of the vignettes in Coffee And Cigarettes tread dangerously close to the arty farty territory, a majority of them have enough off-kilter, almost nonsensical humour in them to make this an engaging 90 minutes. The inane conversations between Benigni (I don’t know what to do with this bloke) and Stephen Wright, Iggy Pop and Tom Waits, Bill Murray and Wu Tang Clan’s finest are perfect examples of Jarmusch’s brilliant pseudo-insider, deadpan comedy. Sort of like a Jerry Lewis film; with the physical humour being replaced by absurdist dialogues. I’m talking about a really, really good Jerry Lewis film.

Broken FlowersBroken Flowers: Oh crazy old Bill Murray, how I choose to admire the expressionless ennui with which you play all those wonderful characters that directors like Jarmusch and Wes Anderson craft for you. It’s no secret that Bill Murray is my favourite actor like ohmygod ever. In Broken Flowers, he plays Don Johnston, loner and self-loather extraordinaire. A spectacularly detached man who once made a busload of money through computers and then lived without ever owning one. As quaintly funny as that sounds, it’s not what the film is about. As fate would have it, Don gets a pink letter out of the blue that informs him about a son that he never knew he had. Don gives it a serious thought for a few fleeting seconds and then almost reconciles that it would take nothing less than being hit by a tsunami wave littered with ninja piranhas to disturb him from his disenchanted slumber (ok he doesn’t actually say that). Thanks to his hilariously intrusive neighbour Winston (a wonderful performance by Jeffrey Wright), an immigrant from Ethiopian who obsesses about detective stories, Don is forced to go on this road trip to discover his son and his elusive mother. I must reiterate that Jeffrey Wright kills it; in fact Ebert brilliantly describes the character as a “go-getter from Ethiopia who supports a wife and five kids with three jobs, and still has time to surf the net as an amateur detective.”

There is about a million other things that I want to appreciate in this film (stunning Ethiopian jazz, daft one-liners, great performances by the actresses, a Tilda Swanton sighting, and so on), but I fear that I might not have the space to further elaborate on why Bill Murray is the man. In the final scene when the camera pans 360 degrees around Murray’s face, I realized that for the first time in the film, Don Johnston is going through a specific emotion; for those few seconds, I stared at his weary eyes only to realize something far more important. When life gives you lemonades, ask Billy Murray to make rum cocktails.

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Bill Murray, William H Macy, John Goodman, Mickey Rourke and Michael Madsen – so reads the list of my favourite actors of all time. They are neither method actors nor have they showed any sort of affinity for Shakespearean shenanigans. With more wrinkles on their face than on the Queen Mother’s ass, these actors have been known for their portrayal of real men confronted by surrealism, self-sacrifice and several Coen brothers’ scripts.

Bill Murray is my top pick of the list; both for all the quirks he weaves into his characters with dissonant ease and for letting a cigarette dangle from his lips like no other actor could.


Director Wes Anderson is to Bill Murray as John Turturro is to the Ethan and Joel Coen. Having starred in four of his films, Murray has often saved his finest for this Academy-award winning director. Rushmore marked the first time these two brilliant minds came together and it also propelled one Mr. Jason Schwartzman forever into a hyperbole of misguided, uni-browed puberty. It’s an urban tale that draws little circles with its feet before proceeding with the storyline. Rushmore is not innocent enough to be labeled as cute; in fact a dark current of jealousy and alienation runs deep in the script and into the veins of all the lead characters. As for the story, well…so this unlikely duo of a detached industrialist (Murray) and a super geeky, super-enthusiastic student (Schwartzman) fall in love with an English teacher (a lovely Olivia Williams) and inadvertently set in motion a game of one-upmanship. It’s as simple as that…only that it’s not. Huge blobs of dry wit and harsh sarcasm float around throughout the film as the audience is amused to death by a set of characters who forsake civility for getting their point across. Brian Cox and Seymour Cassel are fantastic, as usual. As for Bill Murray, Rushmore re-launched his career and caused him to be pigeonholed for years to come. Thankfully, the coop has been large enough for Murray to shine like the crazy fucking diamond that he is.

lost_in_translation_still_1Lost In Translation

Sofia Coppola has made a career out of painting films. Much like Virgin Suicides, Lost In Translation moves at a pace that is normally reserved for brushstrokes on canvases. Bob Harris (Bill Murray) is an aging Hollywood star whose former laurels rested on a plethora of bad Eighties action flicks. Now he stays at the Park Hyatt Tokyo hotel to film a Japanese whisky commercial. We know that Bob Harris is a good man with a shaky marriage and an even shakier perception of Japanese culture. Through his eyes, we see a sprawling robotic landscape sprinkled with arcade parlours, flashy gadgets, karaoke machines and crazy hairdos. In another room at the hotel, we meet Charlotte (Scarlett Johannson) – the young wife of a hotshot photographer who often finds herself on the losing end of an existential argument. Her husband (Giovanni Ribisi) has left her alone in the hotel during one of his assignments. With one haunted by a failed marriage and the other forever on the throes of existential angst, their paths cross briefly at a pub in the hotel. The rest of the film shows the duo clinging on to each other’s pinkys against a backdrop of loneliness, desolation and xenophobia. Right before the end credits roll, Bob whispers something in Charlotte’s ear. We don’t get to hear it. In fact we can’t even be sure if they have decided to meet up after leaving Japan. What Wes Anderson has left us with is a gentle remainder that there are certain things better left unsaid…on and off camera.

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The man, the Murray

Bill Murray is one of my favourite actors, alongside William H Macy, Edward Norton and Tim Robbins. He is infatuated with deadpan comedy as we are to the quirky traits of his characters. His earlier portrays of forlorn middle-aged men with the penchant for the dire and the wry have been magnificently captured in films such as Groundhog Day and Rushmore. In the wonderfully weird mockumentary Coffee and Cigarettes. Bill Murray plays himself impersonating a waiter.

That’s Bill Murray for you. Excruciatingly funny without him wanting to be so.

Post-millennium he has been on a roll, starring a string of movies that someday will be clinically analyzed to understand human behaviour. If you ever need proof that time has a way with people, be it seconds, hours or years, watch films like Broken Flowers, Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, or Lost In Translation. Even his recent cameo in Wes Anderson’s Darjeeling Limited is unintentionally hilarious.

His eyes hold spoils of long years of indifference to life and art. Thankfully, his brilliance is such that the audience believes that his character requires him to do so. Almost all of his characters shed wisdom and woes for psychotropic drugs and disenchantment. He is one of the finest actors to have ever lit a cigarette.

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