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Posts Tagged ‘Ricky Gervais’

Christopher Guest

Best In Show: Christopher Guest has a weird sense of humour. My guess is that he just wants to have a good laugh and in the process let us in on the joke as well. Personally, I find a lot of Herzogian elements in his mockumentaries. Take away the poetry, the boorish (justifiably so) intellectualism and captivating music that fuels Herzog’s films and you are left with snippets from Guest’s improvisational humour. They both seem to share a view on humanity that is constricted by its tendency to overlook some of life’s inconsequential details; the major difference being only of them thinks it’s rather funny while the other suffers because of it. In the 2000 ensemble comedy – Best In ShowChristopher Guest calls back his favourite actors (Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Michael Hitchcock, Parker Posey and the rest) and casts them as delightfully crazy masters of best-in-breed mutts that compete for the top prize at the annual Maryland Dog Show.

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Eugene Levy and Fred Willard have had some elaborately unfunny moments on silly teen comedies and terrible Jay Leno skits, but in Best In Show – they tickle our funny bones with the audacity of a haywire buzz saw. The ‘expert’ commentary between Fred Willard and Jim Piddock along with Larry Miller’s hostage negotiation 101 is perhaps the funniest I have ever seen in any of his films. Despite the towering expectations, I am completely excited about watching A Mighty Wind tonight. Oh, Christopher Haden Guest also happens to be one of founding fathers of Spinal Tap.

waiting for guffman

Waiting For Guffman: This was my introduction to the world of mockumentaries. I watched Waiting For Guffman on Star Movies years ago and I found myself incredibly amused by its central character – Corky St Clair (a star performance by director Christopher Guest). As a director, the man has crafted one heck of a small town parody of community theatres; I mean, you almost hesitate to let it tug at your heartstrings considering all the good-natured silliness involved. But it does, and more importantly, it also makes you laugh out aloud. So this failed Broadway director (Corky) visits Blaine, Missouri and gets himself to direct a full-blown musical tribute as part of the town’s 150th anniversary celebration. Without access to actual talent (and with questionable talent himself), he looks to hire the town’s eccentric citizens and teach them the finer nuances of theatre against a dreaded ticking clock.

See, the catch is he has also invited Mort Guffman, a famous Broadway producer to critique the show, so to say that Corky is under pressure would amount to little else than a gross understatement. Once again, Eugene Levy and Fred Willard are hilarious as harmless buffoons looking to elevate themselves beyond the ordinary, as is Johnny Savage who has a stomach-achingly funny confrontation with his Corky. As slapstick as the premise maybe, the nuances of Waiting For Guffman are cleverly crafted with aplomb. So clever that even I was waiting for Mort Guffman by the end of the film.a-mighty-wind

A Mighty Wind: Remember when I mentioned ‘towering expectations’? Yeah, A Mighty Wind builds a friggin castle on top of such preconceptions, decorates the terrace, stands on the edge of it and laughs at me. Thankfully, it also happens to be my favourite Christopher Guest film yet. I can’t began to explain how over-the-top awesome this film is; so I’ll skim right past stating the obvious about the director’s comic timing. Watching Guest’s familiar ensemble cast do their thing in A Mighty Wind almost made me forget that this was a mockumentary. Well, it is indeed one, but it has so many ‘oh but it feels so much more than that’ moments than most face cream and ass wipe company executives would cry themselves to sleep thinking about it.

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Eugene Levy reels in, I think, the finest performance of his career; it almost erases my memory of him a fathering an imbecile and mentoring viler ones in the grossly unfunny American Pie series. In A Mighty Wind, he plays Mitch Cohen – a folk legend back for a folk reunion concert after decades of self-loathing and eventually, silence. So here’s the deal…Jonathan (Bob Balaban), son of legendary folk music promoter Irving Steinbloom, wants to put on a reunion show at his city’s Town Hall in memory of his dad’s contribution to the art form. Apart from Mitch, and his co-singer Mickey Crabbe (Catherine O’Hara), he also invites the famed folk triad The Folksmen (Harry Shearer, Michael McKean, Christopher Guest), and The New Main Street Singers (a bunch of fantastic actors).

Like I said, Eugene Levy is fantastic as a crazed genius songwriter; he channels the auras of Lennon, Sonny and even Ringo with a twist of wry humour that the film’s characters are known for. Catherine, Parker Posey, MckKean, Shearer, Rachel Harris, and Michael Higgins are hilarious too. Once again, Fred Willard gives you cramps with his one-liners. As the obnoxious manager of the squeaky-clean New Main Street Singers, he steals the show from under the nose of his fellow comedians. The recurring ‘Wha Hoppened’ joke wakes up from its slumber and hits that sweet spot in our funnybone that secretly thinks Jim Carrey is sort of funny. Of course, there’s also that great story that Steinbloom Jr (Bob Balban) tells about his overprotective mother.

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Bob Balban: You could say she was overly protective – I just like to think she cared about me, which she did, a lot. And I was a member of the chess team and whenever we would have chess tournaments I had to wear a protective helmet . Now who knows what she was thinking? Maybe she thought that we might have fallen maybe and impaled our heads on a pointy bishop or something, I don’t know.

And the hits just keep on coming, folks.

for your consideration

For Your Consideration: Someone over at IMDB commented that “movies with real bad actors aren’t fun to watch; strangely, neither are movies with fake bad actors”. Unfortunately, he’s right, which perhaps explains why For Your Consideration is a step down for those appreciative of Christopher Guest. It’s not like he humour pales in comparison to his previous films, it’s just that it doesn’t occur frequently enough. Like that fellow said, a talented actor playing a horrid one doesn’t really present itself to many funny situations. In fact it is a stark reminder that people like Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, Charlize Theron and Barbara Streisand are encouraged to continue acting, thanks to those award ceremonies. For Your Consideration is a story about an independent film that generates Oscar buzz despite featuring hyper-dramatic performances by its barely talented cast. Catherine O’Hara and Harry Shearer play veteran thespians, who are on the verge of being nominated in the primary Oscar categories. Shearer can’t be unfunny even if he tried really hard, so may the good Lord bless him. As for the rest of the cast, they start off on a funny note, but fizzle down towards the end of the film. For instance, both Catherine and Fred Willard are tremendous as Meryl Streep in Death Becomes Her and a potty-mouthed Ryan Seacrest after about seventy shots of distilled rum, but their antics start to wear thin, as do the countless jabs at Hollywood.

The estranged wooing of a dim-witted film producer (Jennifer Coolidge) by Ricky Gervais, a sly and sleazy Hollywood executive is the only stand-out joke and even that isn’t really funny. Having said all that, it is still a safe bet to assume that For Your Consideration is funnier than most of the comedies that were released in the year 2000. Of course, don’t watch this if you haven’t seen any of his other works. You may think Christopher Guest is not all that funny.

Well, he is.

If mockumentaries were to epitomize a perfect marriage between nonsense drama and a really funny film, then Christopher Guest would be the proud old dad walking her down the aisle.

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