Whether or not you are Charlie Hebdo, current events make it obvious that comedy can be a lightning rod for dubiously justified anger. It’s always been so, as Mike Celestino’s ambitiously-scoped documentary That’s Not Funny illustrates, but the shock is that these days the expression of that anger can run the broad gamut from heckling a comedian to storming the offices of a leftist humor magazine with automatic weapons. Perhaps perversely, one aches while watching the film, which was produced before the Paris attack, wishing Celestino had just waited a few more months so he could include that most tragic of examples. But there’s enough grist for the mill in the history of American comedy to help him preach his sermon, and Celestino covers it all.
There was a lot that Billy said that was gibberish to the Trafalmadorians. They couldn’t imagine what time looked like to him. Billy had given up on explaining that. The guide outside had to explain as best he could.
The guide invited the crowd to imagine that they were looking across a desert at a mountain range on a day that was twinkling bright and clear. They could look at a peak, or a bird, or a cloud, at a stone right in front of them, or even down into a canyon behind them. But among them was this poor Earthling, and his head was encased in a steel sphere which he could never take off. There was only one eyehole through which he could look, and welded to that eyehole were six feet of pipe.
This was only the beginning of Billy’s miseries in the metaphor. He was also strapped to a steel lattice which was bolted to a flatcar on rails, and there was no way he could turn his head or touch the pipe. The far end of the pipe rested on a bi-pod which was also bolted to the flatcar. All Billy could see was the little dot at the end of the pipe. He didn’t know he was on a flatcar, didn’t even know there was anything peculiar about his situation.
The flatcar sometimes crept, sometimes went extremely fast, often stopped – went uphill, downhill, around curves, along straightaways. Whatever poor Billy saw through the pipe, he had no choice but to say to himself, “That’s life.”
Barney’s Version, based on a book I haven’t read, isn’t a very good movie. It’s a kind of legitimization of self-hatred and an apotheosis of The Curmudgeon As Suitable Suitor. The mid-movie revelation of the main character’s looming Alzheimers and the last minute litany of good things bestowed upon mankind by him all seem tacked on to make sure we get the point, which is this: there’s nobody in the world so ensnared by their loathing of themselves and others that they can’t be redeemed by a swelling orchestral cloud over their backlit headstone.
Mike Leigh’s new film, Another Year, is nominally a reflection on the ways in which we cultivate the relationships around us, but more so it’s a dissection of the prickly dynamic between the emotionally strong and weak. Fortunately the film overcomes the prosaic symbolism of a garden, managed over the span of a year, by burrowing into the disparity between those who wish to give others help and those who clearly cannot be helped until they first help themselves. It’s a set up of character conflict that promises drama, but Leigh doesn’t seem as interested in anything as fabricated as drama, in the sense of any “movie” drama we’re trained to expect. Instead, the four pieces of his story – each corresponding to a season of the year – demonstrate the filmmaker’s gift for recording simple life moments, some triumphant, some humiliating, all of it true and awkward and real.
Watched The Last Temptation of Christ for the first time recently. Made a murky impression on me. Thought it might be good to work that out. Not a lot of answers here, just some questions and observations. If you have any thoughts, find me. It’s an important movie. For those who believe, it challenges who we think Christ was in terms of his humanness rather than in the typical terms of his divinity. For those who think it’s all hokum to start with, it at least stretches out the plastic idea of Jesus the doe-eyed peacenik.