Sunday, December 18, 2005

THE ARISTOCRATS

Director: Paul Provenza
Cast: George Carlin, Gilbert Gottfried, Sarah Silverman, Billy the Mime

Tagline: No Nudity. No Violence. Unspeakable Obscenity.

As most of BBC, Channel 4 and especially VH1’s talking head shows so frequently reveal, comedians tend to make the least competent experts in every subject, making such brilliant observations as “When Michael Jackson held his baby child out of that window, I was like ‘Oh my God! You can’t do that! Nice parenting skills buddy!’” or “and he goes ‘Is that your final answer? Is that your absolute final answer? Is that your completely, absolutely…’ Yes, it’s me bleedin’ final answer!” or “Monica Lewinsky? Now dat’s a real weapon of mass destruction, bitch!”. As this documentary shows, they’re even more inept when required to explain humour.
The Aristocrats is a badly edited sequence of people badly explaining a single bad joke, but it’s tremendous, both as a unique exposé of the comic circle’s pretentious, unimaginative, often delusional approach to analysing its own excrement, and a celebration of the comedy of variation, or lack thereof. The tales of bestiality, violent incest and attempts to swim in puddles of bodily fluids make things tedious and occasionally harrowing enough to induce walkouts. Three self-congratulatory luvvies reference John Coltrane (the joke is improvised, and hence, considered jazz), another three do digs at Gallagher, a one-joke-wonder from the eighties whose gimmick was hitting fruit with a hammer and at least five don’t get the joke. There are some unique tellings though, such as Steven Wright’s version, which is more disturbing than anything he talks over in Reservoir Dogs and is also bereft of anything remotely humorous, Sarah Silverman’s ‘It really happened, I was there’ tale, or Billy the Mime’s hysterical silent account of the baby buggery. The climax, Gilbert Gottfried’s rendition is one of the best, and it works so well because it is a statement of how safe non-consensual sexual perversions are in comparison with speaking against your nation in a time of uncertainty (and because it makes literal the expression ‘enough to make Hugh Hefner blush’). We still have a long way to go in taboo distortion; comediennes are still segregated, Islam is still unmentionable and 9/11 and race only come up once each in the finished joke. The spirit of change may be muted by stupidity, but hopefully the next time a family walks into a talent agency, the outcome will be altogether more dangerous.

Monday, December 12, 2005

2005: Bum Notes

I don't think I'm going to see another film this year that will make it into the sordid half of my end of year review. I don't think I'm going to see another movie whose plot doesn't revolve around computer generated mythical animals either. Narnia (hmm) and Kong may affect the top ten, but the bar has been set jolly low for good films this year. Thankfully the criteria is very very high at the other extreme. Alarmingly, films like Comic Strippy shambles The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse, Scientology/Intelligent Design allegory Doom, the inconsistently corporate The Fantastic Four, the Knightmare-borrowing Mirrormask and waste of talent The Wedding Crashers just don't cut it in this, my bottom ten of 2005:

10. White Noise- Keaton goes bananas without Herbie. Bad effects, worse science, worst plea for a sequel of '05.

9. Saw II- Unravels everything its flawed predecessor achieved with bad storytelling and some Hannibal/Highlander II style 'filling in of the gaps in the mythology' scenes. Still considered brilliantly clever by thousands.

8. Save The Green Planet- A Korean light comedy which, ho ho, spends more time on graphic torture scenes than Ichi the Killer. An hour too long and the second worst movie this year to contain a slow escape from crucifixion.

7. Land of the Dead- Long awaited racially patronising apocalyptic piss.

6. The Island- Easily ignored Red State sci-fi. Ewan McGregor and Scarlet Johannson have big heads and tiny bodies.

5. Red Eye- Jackson T Ripner is his name and avian sexual harassment his game.

4. National Treasure- Nicolas Cage tries to justify the Iraq war, ape The DaVinci Code and be Indiana Jones in this theoretically ambitious, but really just goofy Hallmark-esque thriller. Better (and similar) MacGuyver movies exist, I've seen them.

3. Dukes of Hazzard- A civil war re-enactment so the south get it. Acting and direction are Ed Wood bad, comedy is unbearable.

2. The Man- Two greats meet in the absolute worst film of their already quite upsy downsy careers. Heavy on fart jokes, racial fish-out-of-water humour and things even Steve Martin wouldn't do to get a crowd to laugh. A real curiosity, such a contradictory mix of adult and family-orientated content hasn't existed since the days of Kindergarten Cop.

1. Wolf Creek- Unlike a couple of bits of Australia, this film is completely pointless, inhabited only by grizzly sexist racist bastards and witless, shallow, overgrown surfer children that no-one would want to sympathise with in any situation and the prolonged periods/areas of bugger-all that separate them.