&t skeet on mischa: Chill Out, Telephone Tough Guys

skeet on mischa

i wouldn't have given you it if i didn't agree

Aug 7, 2006

Chill Out, Telephone Tough Guys

To be honest, I wasn’t looking that forward to Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. I was a fan of Anchorman, but when I first saw the trailer for Ricky Bobby, I thought that Will Ferrell had lost his touch. None of the movies he made in 2005 were funny and his cameo in Wedding Crashers just landed a big fat egg, but then again, Wedding Crashers was only pretty funny. So my expectations for Ricky Bobby were so low, I didn’t even play on watching, but I just went on a whim and the fact that Sacha Baron Cohen was in the film. I think the biggest problem I had with the film going in was the cast of the film. Too many regular actors, not enough comedians or at least comedic actors. Watching the film though, I realized that Will Ferrell is perhaps the worst part of an all around funny film.

A couple of months ago, I traded some emails with Jeff from The Passion of the Weiss about the difficulties of crafting a smart dumb comedy. It’s easy to dismiss a comedy as being dumb because it’s mostly a collection of low borrow jokes, but comedy regardless of being high or low is extremely difficult to write and create. Honestly, it’s a dumb move to call this film, ‘dumb’ (I’m looking at you, fake movie critic, Ben Lyons) because there’s a lot of smart writing in this film. The supporting characters surrounding Ricky Bobby make the movie enjoyable and more importantly, rewatchable. John C. Reilly as Cal Naughton, Jr was one of my biggest fears in the film; was he going to play it too straight, but he nailed the performance right out of the park. Over the top and hammy, but in an oddly subtle manner. A perfect compliant to Ricky Bobby. Of course, Sacha Baron Cohen delivers the best performance. The dude is just funny regardless of the material and very well may be this generation’s answer to Peter Sellers. Cohen has the ability to get lost in the character, but at the same time, the audience is aware that they’re watching a brilliant man.

The only problem with the film that I have and it’s such a minor note, but director Adam McKay overloads the films with music. Every minute and half or maybe every thirty seconds, there was a new piece of music. If he wants to develop as a filmmaker, just ease up for a minute, not shove some Kings of Leon song down our throats. Just because one has a music budget, doesn’t mean that they have to use all of it. Just ease up for a minute on the music and let the jokes play out.

A really weird thing happened when I was watching the film. You know how usually the sound at movie theaters is too loud. Causing ears to bleed and what not. When I went to watch Talladega Nights, I experienced the exact opposite. It began with the trailers. The first trailer, Stranger Than Fiction played at normal movie theater volume, but then the trailers for Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny and Borat played at like at 5 or even 3 or 4 in volume level. The audience, I want to believe freaked out because there was no mind numbing sound telling them it’s okay to laugh. Apparently, the movie theater doubled as a time machine and it took us to the era of silent films. During the film and perhaps one of the film’s biggest laughs, the knife in the leg scene, it goes nearly silent again and nobody laughs. Maybe, the scene just wasn’t funny, but you know, I’d expect a few laughs from people other than me and the eight year old kid quoting every other line a minute after it was said. It was just such a weird moment. Then again, I should’ve known I’d have a weird experience in that particular theater because it was the same place where I had an out of body experience while watching The Island.

Talk about Windy City Heat. And this should be the sequel.

On the new season of “Flavor of Love 2”: the favorite has to be Buckwild (have to scroll a bit), the girl who was raised by Oprah & Jerry Springer and she’s from the city of outlet malls. Did anybody else notice that a lot of the women had gaps in their front teeth? People got weird fetishes these days, but gap teeth fetishes? And the girl with the lisp isn’t going to get annoying in about two weeks from now. As long as Buckwild is there, mixing shit up and if Beautiful still has ‘Eddie Munster’ hair too, then yeah, I’ll be there for the rest of the season.

The problem with The Descent and they are rather minor and they may be a bit spoilerish, so read ahead; skip down to the next photo. Once again, SPOILER WARNING. The problem with The Descent was that the filmmakers were giving us Aliens before they gave us Alien; in other words, it would’ve been more intense and scary if there was one creature instead of an army of them. The director Neil Marshall has built a great deal of tension as the group of women goes further and further into the cave, but you know one creature after the next pops up, it loses a bit of tension. It’s a well-made film and it’s a breath of fresh air in the rather stale state of American horror films. The Descent isn’t a film with saturated colors and rough hand held camera movements. Sure, a cave isn’t the most attractive or sexiest of locations, but it’s better than watching some CW actor getting tortured with rusty blades in a dank, rusty basement. What happened to the days of the early/mid 1970s when there was a killer on the prowl in an apartment building full of models in Milan? It should be noted that Diorra Baird and Jordana Brewster are both in the new Texas Chainsaw Massacre film, but it’s still a movie about people getting killed in ugly basements with rough camera movements. What happened to the days of Dario Argento when it was horror movies with all style, beautiful locations, beautiful girls and no story, but more importantly, great kills. Yeah, the new breed of horror films have great cinematography, but shitty production design.

I’m just wondering if people would take less of a shit on Ashlee Simpson if she made quality pop songs like Lilly Allen or whatever. If her sister wasn’t famous, Ashlee Simpson would’ve probably gone the way of Willa Ford. Remember her? Also, remember Cheyenne Kimball, whatever happened to her? She had a TV show a couple weeks back, but then like, boom she went away. Crazy.

I’d do a review of the new Blood Brothers album, “Young Machetes,” but I’m not sure how many people who read this on a regular basis are into the Blood Brothers. Probably one of my favorite bands, the Blood Brothers are mostly definitely an acquired taste. It’s all over the place musically, but with the new album “Young Machetes,” it’s a little more focused. Not as many tempo changes and breakdowns in songs as on previous albums, but at the same time, it’s a lot faster and ‘thrashier’ than 2004’s “Crimes”. As it stands, it’s one of my favorite albums of the year.


At 2:51 PM , Blogger Passion of the Weiss said...

Nice line with the Sellers/Cohen analogy. I'm inclined to agree. As I said today, I think the only two choices I can really consider for funniest person on earth have last names that start with C, Cohen, Colbert, and Coulter. All three are brilliant actors and funny for wildly different reasons.

At 3:11 PM , Blogger Najork said...

i've never liked Will Ferrell much and i've been struggle-ing for a while to put my dislike into words. i think too much of the time, he's just trying too hard. his roles in films are always vastly overplayed; when he appears on something like conan he's often too busy trying to pull some weak anti-humor scene to be actually entertaining. Wedding Crashers, which i was enjoying plenty, went straight into the shitter when he appeared onscreen.

anyways, i generally make it a policy of not going to see "will farrell" movies unless i'm stuck on a plane, so i've skipped this one too.

also, the name "ricky bobby" drives me up the wall.

At 6:16 PM , Blogger Douglas Reinhardt said...

The name, "Ricky Bobby" is part of the joke and whole Southern thing. It's not a slam piece against the south, either which surprised me.

Ferrell can be funny when he's working with his own material and being goofy. Also, I don't think he'll go into that Jim Carrey terrority where he has to be serious for a couple of films.

At 9:06 PM , Anonymous Bonham Hathaway said...

It's funny that you provide a Jim Carrey analogy as I believe that Ferrell is represented by the same people who oversaw Carrey's move to more serious projects. I remember an interview where Ferrell basically admitted that he went out of his way to get Carrey's people because that's what he wanted to do. Also, Ferrell has a serious role in Winter Crossing.

The problem with Talladega Nights was the horrible editing, it felt like it was put together in 20 minutes.

And it's also funny you mention that this film has smart writing when I felt the worst part of the film was all the obvious improvising and ad-libs. Each scene was clearly improvised or had at least one ad-libbed line. They were mostly horrible, the praying to baby Jesus scene was way too long, watch John C. Reilly laugh as Will Ferrell utters "8 lb 6 oz baby Jesus." Does anyone else remember in the scene where they show Ricky his new cougar race car and somebody literally ad-libs over Amy Adams as she was about to provide exposition, and it was kept in the film!?!

That being said, the best scenes were with Cohen and Ferrell because they were clearly ad-libbed and hilarious.

And another thing...Cohen isn't in Sellers' league. Sellers had to play off people who knew they were the straight man. It's pretty easy to do what Cohen does in that Borat film. All you have to do is be a jerk nicely. Just say stuff you shouldn't say around people and its hilarious!

That being said, I do seriously find him hilarious and I will be seeing the film, but what Cohen does is a lot easier than what other comedians do, so I can't see him in the god-like standing as most do. When compared to trying to do comedy off of a straight man who knows that he's the straight man, being the clown off of the straight man who's thinking its entirely real, is like going from the advanced level down to beginner in a video game. There's really no difference to what Tom Green does. (Anyone can do it. Just be obnoxious around your mother or a waitress. Try doing it like your oblivious and innocent, and you're Borat.)

At 11:29 PM , Blogger Douglas Reinhardt said...

For me, the comparsion between Sellers and Cohen fits because both of them get so lost in their characters and well, both actors are mostly known for the characters that they have played. Sellers as Inspector Clouseau, etc, where as Cohen is simply as the Ali G guy. He hasn't been given the chance to act in a film where he can play off of other actors. Give Cohen some time, but the Sellers are there. Man, if Stanley Kubrick was alive today, he'd start to making funny movies again and work with Cohen.

Will Ferrell is doing the right move in moving over to serious stuff because it's usually a small or supporting part in a rather serious film with exception to the upcoming Stranger than Fiction, which is a diet Charlie Kaufman film even though it wasn't written by him. His M.O. in regards to more serious work is a serious one, a movie for me, then a couple of movies for the studio system. He's like Neil LaBute is his choices in a way.

The Baby Jesus praying scene went by the Trey Parker & Matt Stone rule of comedy; work a joke until it stops being funny because two seconds later, it'll be funny again.

At 1:12 AM , Blogger Najork said...

I'm abandoning this ridiculous fiction I had of not capitalizing things in comments. I don't know why I started doing that.

DR: Yeah, I sort of figured the Ricky Bobby thing would be a joke, not a straight attack. There is too much money at stake for them to make a NASCAR film and savage the South that way; the days when you could savage NASCAR and get away with it probably peaked with Wolfe's "The Last American Hero is Junior Johnson. Yes!" (which I've just discovered is online). That piece was both a love song and sort of a backhanded hatchet job, much like the rest of the stuff that ended up in The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby. The sound of the name, however, still bugs me.

I remember Jim Carrey saying a number of years ago that he was modelling his career off Tom Hanks, which makes it funny that Farrell is now referencing Carrey. This was back in the day when Hanks filmed a bunch of things like The Burbs and Joe vs the Volcano, sort of disappeared for a couple years, then made Sleepless in Seattle and Philadelphia and was suddenly bigger than Jesus. Before that time, Hanks seemed too kooky to successfully cross-over, even though in hindsight it's not like that at all. So maybe I shouldn't rush to judgement on Farrell (or Carrey, who despite some limited success in drama still doesn't do it for me). And yet, I do, and I will continue to do so until he pries an Oscar from the Academy's cold, unliving fingers.

At 4:06 PM , Anonymous Bonham Hathaway said...

I would argue that the work a joke until it stops being funny rule only works in cartoons or in scripted scenes.

Believe you me, I'm the guy that leaves theatres saying "Well, the running time was 3 hrs and 34 minutes but it sure didn't feel like it," and meaning it. But that scene felt way too long for me. For a bit like that to work, every little nuance, every little pause and beat has to be scripted down to a tee to get it to have the perfect timing and flow. I'm not arguing the idea, I loved it; I'm arguing the execution. It was poorly done, much like the whole movie.

If Ferrell comes up with the idea of continuing the baby Jesus bit on the spot, it's McKay's job to keep shooting it until its perfect. It may lose its "spontaneity" and "freshness" and the other actors won't be visibily laughing on the dailies but it will be better. I understand in seeing the bloopers over the credits you can see that they do reshoot a lot of stuff and keep the funniest lines, but it seems like they do that for greenlights only not just for whole scenes.

You say SB Cohen "hasn't had the chance to play off of other actors." He came up with those characters. He came up with the idea of playing them off real people/celebrity interviews. Take Pee-Wee Herman, one of the greatest characters of all time. Paul Reubens came up with the idea and played Pee-Wee off of other actors. He developed the character through working with other actors.

I hate to get all NBA analyst on you and say you can't compare Kobe to MJ yet, it's too soon. But that's what I'm doing with SB Cohen and Sellers.

I just can't say SB Cohen is this generations' Sellers because again its just different staying in character when no one else knows you're in character. I just can't compare him to Peter Sellers. It's just so much easier to be creative and hilarious outside of the box where anything goes, when it takes a real talent to be creative and hilarious inside the box. That's what made Peter Sellers, Peter Sellers.

At 10:41 PM , Blogger Douglas Reinhardt said...

Bonham, I get what you're saying about Cohen and Sellers; they're two completely different actors. I don't ever think Cohen could ever pull off a performance like Sellers did in one of my favorite films of all time, Being There. For me, I believe that Cohen has the potential to be a Sellers type of actor.

There'll never be another Peter Sellers.

Sadly, I went and watched the film again tonight because I love the scene where John C Reilly calls him Ricky Bobby talks about the haunted house, that scene is the best thing in the whole film. And watching that kissing scene again, I would agree that it's about 10 seconds longer than it needs to be.


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