Ivan Jandl

31 Days of Oscar: The Search (1948)

The Search (1948)

In mentioning my guessing game above I must say that upon checking the IMDb I was astonished by all the nominations this film got. I knew of this film because of the fact that it featured one of the rare Juvenile Award winners, a now defunct non-nominated category that was occasionally awarded to a deserving youth. However, Fred Zinneman, a talented director perhaps best known for High Noon the writing and Montgomery Clift were all also nominated. Now I do like the film but only by the skin of its teeth. I will grant that shooting in occupied Germany and dealing with displaced children so soon after the war is commendable and it does tell a good tale but not as tightly as it should and with truly intrusive narration. The flip-side of the equation (German children in post-war Germany is handled so much better in Germany Year Zero). The film means well and is enjoyable but some of its fumbling I can’t chalk up to merely being dated, there’s a fine line between simplistic storytelling and spoonfeeding information, between being direct and bad dialogue and this film crosses it on a few too many occasions.

Oscar Nominations/Wins: 4/0 (1 Win in a special non-nominated category)
Score: 6/10

The White Cliffs of Dover (1944, MGM)

31 Days of Oscar: The White Cliffs of Dover (1944)

The White Cliffs of Dover (1944)

This is a film that suffers somewhat from its preachiness which can be overlooked for the most part when you consider its release date both in a historical context and a film history context. The start is also a little slow considering the fact that you know where the story is going in a lot of cases. One other quibble aside most of it works quite well and is entertaining. Irene Dunne does wonderfully as do Roddy McDowall and Elizabeth Taylor in fleeting parts. It’s lengthy but moving in spite of some of its faults.

Oscar Nominations/Wins: 1/0
Score: 8/10

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When Trump is Dumped on Film

 

Introduction

This is a film blog, it still is, and always will be. However, wherever there have been opportunities to discuss other topics where they intersect with film I have taken them, be it books, television, any of the other arts, and occasionally even other things.

I will try to avoid an all out rant. Instead consider this a slow burn.

Preamble: Politics Aside, When Persona Usurps Platform

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In the interest of full disclosure, when I’m honed in on politics I’m there a lot and fervently, 2016 more so than ever before, fear and hope (fope?) have me atwitter. Part of why I’ve turned off politically at times in off-years is how consumed I get around Presidential elections and midterms. This piece has been simmering for a while. I’ve had it, and films, as well as some other of his business dealings I know of, provide great parallels and insights I find.

And to be further straight forward, this isn’t fueled so much by Trump’s current politics, but rather Trump himself. For as the below video shows even his politics will change depending on which way the wind is blowing, and who he thinks can secure him favors.

 

If all these current views of his are his views he’s had quite a metamorphosis from these kinds of statements – it’s terrifying either way.

During the first debate he left the door open for a third-party campaign if needed.  A month later that tune changed, why? Because it suited him as did the situation.

When Trump is Dumped on Film

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Being a native of New York I couldn’t help but always have been familiar with Donald Trump whether I wanted to be or not. Either through fodder for the tabloids, papers, or SNL I’ve always known more about him than I ever cared to. I, who swore off giving a damn about celebrity marriages after Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas split, can still name most of his spouses, still recall how incongruous a persona Ivana seemed to be paired with him, at least in how she portrayed herself in the media. Maybe she just played it better than even he does.

My six degrees of separation story with him is that I couldn’t convincingly feign enthusiasm about working as an intern on The Apprentice. Therefore, I didn’t get an internship at NBC. So as self-deprecating as that is, it does go to show I’m not new on the anti-Trump bandwagon. This is well before he had any political aspirations real or otherwise. The political game is one where you need support, since he’s getting it he’s gonna run with it.

Nine years before he earned a swastika on his star on the Walk of Fame, Trump earned the star itself (though there is ample proof that money is involved), and he said this:

[when asked if he would run for President of the United States] People wanted me to very strongly and I decided I didn’t want to do it. I sort of enjoy what I’m doing and I continue to enjoy what I’m doing. I have never had more fun. And then to cap it off with a star on the walk of fame today was just a lot of fun. And, you know, it’s just — it’s just very sad to me what’s happening with this country in terms of world and in terms of world perception.

 

It felt to me after he announced his candidacy in the most asininely comedic fashion he could have that he had already run. That was because he nearly incessantly floated the idea even a gubernatorial run in New York.

Even liberal Manhattanites, as most are, will tolerate and admire a Republican leader (e.g. Giuliani and Bloomberg whom were both re-elected), but Trump? No. Not him. He doesn’t even really understand pizza.

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At the risk on a personal/political rant and not even getting to movies, however, my history and his factor in because here’s the truth about Donald Trump on film and television: he always plays himself, or better the version of himself he wants us to believe is true. Although, based on his first appearance in the New York Times in 1973 (life inspires fiction).

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New York Times, 1973

So, how has this image been cultivated through his cameos? He plays himself, or a version of himself he likes to project, an egocentric jerk who doesn’t care what people think about him.

This supercut has some insights:

What sort of acting can one expect from a man who cannot even play himself, and can’t see the artfulness in humanity but sees it in real estate:

It’s tangible, it’s solid, it’s beautiful. It’s artistic, from my standpoint, and I just love real estate.

The ones that hurt most are: Little Rascals and Home Alone 2, and Woody Allen’s Celebrity. Eight years after he made the front page of the Times he was in My Hero and The Jeffersons (one of two appearances), The Jeffersons in an of itself is key because sociopolitically it was a significant show as it spun-off characters from All in the Family and “moved them on up.”  Ghosts Can’t Do It, Across the Sea of Time, Eddie, The Paul Lassiter Story, 54, Good Will Hunting, Sabrina the Teenage Witch (both times playing an alter ego Daniel Ray McLeech); Marmalade, and Horrorween.

He’s clearly typecast himself as himself or people like him. Slight evidence:

Even the outtakes of The Little Rascals show the kind of immature, annoying personality he can have. Not to mention I can just imagine the crew not even wanting to respond to those questions, just thinking: No, Donald we go through a procedure before every take for everyone else except you. You will not hear ‘action’ or any other cues. You just have to guess.

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Regardless of how much he plays himself up, he does think a lot of himself. Just read him analyze the simplistic phrase that’s part of American English vernacular that he claims as his catch phrase:

“I mean, there’s no arguing. There is no anything. There is no beating around the bush. ‘You’re fired’ is a very strong term.”

It’s tantamount to Mary Poppins trying to claim responsibility for inventing the word sacked.

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If you won’t take my word on it, why not someone who actually is a real New Yorker and an entertainment figure Rosie O’Donnell:

The retort replete with trumpery:

Rosie O’Donnell called me a snake oil salesman. And, you know, coming from Rosie, that’s pretty low because when you look at her and when you see the mind, the mind is weak. I don’t see it. I don’t get it. I never understood — how does she even get on television?

Trump Dumps on Football

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Hershel Walker, New Jersey Generals (USFL), team owned by Donald Trump.

“It’s no trick to make a lot of money if all you’re trying to do is make a lot of money.” is one of my favorite lines in Citizen Kane. Furthermore, Kane’s impression that it would be “fun to run a newspaper” seems kind of like the whim Trump is trying to enter public office on. Except now he’s nearly 70 not a young man like Charles Foster Kane.

As someone who is a self-professed business genius, a man whose name name appears on seven books with seven different co-authors, and thus assumes himself to have the economic acumen to run the country simply because he came from money (and would’ve had even more by investing it conservatively), and despite his bankruptcy history. Donald Trump is largely cited as one of the main reasons the USFL (the last serious challenger to the NFL’s dominance) went under as cited here, mainly because he foolishly insisted the league should go head-to-head with the league and play in the fall.

This was also touched upon in ESPN’s 30 for 30 Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL?, which chronicled that it had a powerful short stint that could’ve lasted.

Trumping Up Marriage

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“I wish I’d had a great marriage. See, my father was always very proud of me, but the one thing he got right was that he had a great marriage. He was married for 64 years. One of my ex-wives once said to me, ‘You have to work at a marriage’. And I said, ‘That’s the most ridiculous thing’, because my parents, they didn’t work at the marriage. If you have to work at a marriage, it’s not going to work. It has to be sort of a natural thing. But my ex-wife would say, ‘You have to work at this, you have to do this, you have to do that’. And I’m saying to myself, ‘Man, I work all day long, well into the evening. I don’t want to come home and work at a marriage. A marriage has to be very easy’. My father would come home, have dinner, and take it easy. It was the most natural marriage I’ve ever seen. And Melania (Melania Trump) makes my life easy; one of the things I so love about her is that she makes my life easier. I’ve never had anybody that made my life so easy. Now I hope that continues. Perhaps that will change. I intend to find out!

Trump on his marriages

Ivana Trump’s big screen debut was deliciously in The First Wives Club. Marla Maples landed roles without Trump being an actress in her own right. Melania has has thus far only had an appearance as his arm candy in Zoolander.

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However, this is unsurprising coming from the man who once said this:

You know, it really doesn’t matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.

Even the Zoolander gang have bagged on Trump lately.

 

Trump: The Human Soundbite

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Admittedly it’s easy to cherry pick quotes but if you believe that he throws the word “loser” around for lack of thought, think again. One of his credos is:

Show me someone without an ego, and I’ll show you a loser.

So here he freely admits not checking his ego, and yes, every one has an ego in the sense he’s referring to, but here he admits his axiom is if you’re not this you’re that, it’s binary. If you don’t have an ego (like me) you’re a loser (like you are).

He may have the papers that say he went and graduated from prestigious places, and speak about it “not hurting to get more education,” but he sure doesn’t act like it, despite his claims “to have the best words.”

Donald Trump is A WWE Hall of Famer. Yes, World Wrestling Entertainment, that WWE. That is the intangible accomplishment he’s most deserving of. He’s about self-promotion, self-aggrandizement, and appearances over substance. When he randomly shows up and body slams Vince McMahon that works for wrestling.

Mind you this video is dated after he announced his candidacy and is in New Hampshire. If you need more of that insanity go here.

If that doesn’t convince you he’s not presidential, even discarding partisan takes on his viability like Bill Clinton’s or Rand Paul’s, consider these gaffes in interviews on the constitution, appointing judges, and even if you can overlook that can you really overlook a man thinking he could “shoot up Manhattan and not lose support” or panders to supporters who shout obscenities and repeats them when the mikes don’t pick them up, or condones his supporters beating a protester.

Conclusion

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A man running for president you might not ever expect to be in a film, has been and its similarity and difference to Trump’s myriad appearances are telling.

In 1999, Bernie Sanders was in a film called My X-Girlfriend’s Wedding Reception. Bernie Sanders plays and actual character in the film and speaks for a while. It’s Bernie Sanders, sure but as a Rabbi complaining about free agency in baseball. A character suited to his diction, persona, and stump-speech approach to public speaking.

Trump’s best performance is one he didn’t fashion. It’s this. All hail editing, it can literally create a perfromance.

 

Trump is no showman in the controlled environment of a film set. He is one on reality TV and in his carnival barking rallies and in his debating technique which is tantamount to the middle school one-upmanship of trying to come up with the most debilitating dis.

However, this is more real than a lame, lifeless cameo; a mostly-staged reality competition or some other form or attention-getting, this is the presidency. The real one, the one venerated in fact, fiction, reality or hagiography; serious inquiries only, please. To underscore the ludicrousness, the incredulity of Trump’s foray I leave you with Scott Thompson’s version of the Queen of England. Imagine this lunacy happened, for real, and here in Murica of all places! It sounds outlandish but so did the idea of Trump 2016 in June.

 

Joke goes poof, indeed. Just ask Guatemala in a few years.

Postamble: “I Like the Mexican People They Are My Amigos,” or Dubya’s America over Trump’s

“I wanted to close with the above but realize some people will claim we’re not the UK, we’re not Canada or Guatemala. Fine. I give in. In closing, I will state that I actually wish the following was real and not just Will Ferrell being hilarious.

 

Three Smart Girls (1936, Universal)

31 Days of Oscar: Three Smart Girls (1936)

Three Smart Girls (1936)

In watching films grouped together by the sole fact that they were nominated for Oscars you will inevitably watch a little differently. In many viewings I would try to start guessing (if not already told) what a film was nominated in. I say this because on the rare occasion you don’t really get it. With this film I didn’t at all. Save for the sound recording nomination. I refuse to merely attribute it to the film not aging well, because the dated argument is a substitute for thought. I’d have to research and watch more, but in an age with myriad musical romantic comedies this one, that I didn’t even care for, was a Best Picture nominee baffles me.

Nominations/Wins: 0/3

Judgment and Nuremberg (1961, United Artists)

31 Days of Oscar: Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)

 Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)

It was bound to happen at some point: I saw this film but just didn’t vote for it at the IMDb and didn’t recall having done so. Part of the reason was because I viewed it in a social studies class in grade school (Junior High or High) I forget which. Regardless, I watched again it anyway because that is not way to have watched this film and it is great enough to revisit. In Night and Fog one of the narrator’s asides discusses responsibility and that’s the crux of this film how far up or down the line does responsibility for the holocaust lie and it’s examined brilliantly with superlative acting. Those interested in film or history should watch this film.

Oscar Nominations/Wins: 11/2
Score: 10/10

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Mini-Review: The Activist (2014)

The standoff between federal agents and Native Americans at Wounded Knee is an under-discussed event in American history, as well as being under-dramatized especially in Hollywood. However, a recent indie film seeks to remedy that.

The burn on this film is not a quick one, however, it does bear sticking with and being patient for as the film is seeking to explore character rather than exploit sociopolitical situations for cheap drama. The structuring of both plot and persona is not simplistic and seeks a rounded portrait of the figures who are bearing the brunt of systematic marginalization and those who must question their mindless obedience of nonsensical orders.

In a refreshing change of pace the only place the film really struggles in three-dimensional characterization is with the caucasian characters. Most notably with the characters of the Senator and Frank McCarthy.

The standout performances in the film are those of Chadwick Brown in the lead role of Marvin and King Orba as Brando, a character who is insinuated as being Marlon Brando, but not explicitly said to be until the credits. This is a credit to his rendition of the actor’s speech and mannerisms.

Ultimately, this one does come together powerfully well as a prison-set chamber drama surrounding the 1973 Wounded Knee standoff. It takes some sticking to as it seems it may not follow-through on its vast potential. However, as the plot unravels the characters reveal more of themselves and all their interactions become more nuanced. The end is truly memorable, and for a film that readily admits to be a fictionalized retelling based on actual facts; it does well to relate the events therein to the present with end titles such that it may inspire new vigilance and activism rather than just striking people with a passing fancy inspired mostly by an ain’t-that-a-shame sentiment.

Pit Pony (1997, Cochran Entertainment)

O Canada Blogathon: Pit Pony (1997)

Introduction

This is my second contribution to the O Canada Blogathon hosted by Speakeasy and Silver Screenings.
Synopsis

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Pit Pony (1997)

Glace Bay, Nova Scotia Canada, 1901. Willie MacLean is a 10-year-old boy with a love for horses and liking to school to cape the difficult times his family has. Willie’s stern, but benevolent father is a coal miner in a local mine along with his older brother John. But when Willie’s father is injured and John is killed in an accident at the mine, Willie is forced to step into his brother’s shoes to support his older sister Nellie, and two younger sisters until their father recovers. Willie soon finds work at the mine lonely (aka: the pit) and unfriendly in which he forms a bond with a pit pony horse in order to make it though each day.

Background

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I wrote about this property for my Cinematic Trip Around Canada:

Pit Pony is one of those properties that you come across by chance. I first became familiar with it due to the television series that expanded upon the story, which bounced around several different US broadcasters. It’s one of the few shows I’ve seen in its entirety on multiple occasions. It reaffirms my belief that, although rarely implemented, the half-hour drama, especially when shot single-camera, is the most effective TV format. You have in this series palpable drama, romance, all in a turn of the century mining town so there’s a Dickensian struggle to is also.

Eventually, the TV show lead me to seek out the novel upon which it was based, and also the feature film that kickstarted the series. The film is essentially very faithful to the book and the series picks up from there spinning out new tales. In some ways the film isn’t as cinematic as the show is at its best. However, the emotional truth is there owing mostly to the fact that is shares many of the same actors. The various incarnations of the story but mainly the series is why Nova Scotia is near the top of my list of places to go; those vistas need to be seen in person.

On the subject of the book, I enjoyed it a great deal and may share it with my own child.

Movie/Show Ties and Differences

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There are far more similarities in the film and TV series than there are differences. From the top Cochran Productions to the cast featuring a young Ellen Page (credited as Ellen Philpotts-Page), to Heather Conkie writing the script to Eric Till directing, then helming five episodes. The most notable differences are Ben Rose-Davis as Willie, not Alex Wrathell. Gabriel Hogan as Ned Hall, not Shaun Smyth.

Inherent Conflicts

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Within the framework of this tale there are a lot of inherent conflicts built in. Conflicts that can be examined in further detail and can fluctuate in importance. This is one of the strongest indicators of how strong it could be (and was) as a TV series. Among these struggles are:

  • Carving out a living in a mining town where the company controls your fate.
  • The clash of working class and educated.
  • Management vs. labor; strikes (here Ned’s past haunts him).
  • Coming-of-age.
  • The threat of disease, namely consumption.
  • The tug of an important industry that is unsafe.
  • Fear, best illustrated by the fact that the Ocean Deeps mines actually extend out under the Atlantic.
  • Rebelling against the family business.

Even the love interest subplot well folded in, as to get something he wants (driving lessons from Ned and a new position) Willie must put in a good word for Ned with Nellie.

Themes

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Just as the conflicts in the narrative are varied so are some of the themes ever present in this story and stories like it. The film seeks to free both a boy and a horse from the mine, so much so that the title could just as easily refer to boy or horse. There are losses of family members to deal with, and the ever-present danger. The earth is quite literally a player as the miners go deep beneath the ground being symbolically interred, and as Ned states; he wants to work above the ground not beneath it. The boy and his horse, as well as the threats to the horse are commonplace but combined with all these other factors and permutations it stands out as a unique layer.

Ending

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This is the only part of this piece where I may have to warn you away with a spoiler alert. They’re vague but there. For the brave you may read on.

Many elements work in the climax’s favor:

  • It’s thought to be bad luck for a woman to be seen at mine, then Nellie comes to talk to Ned this occurs right before the climactic events.
  • A shot of rats running, which was foreshadowed as a sign of impeding trouble.
  • A growing flame, foreshadowed as how miners detected leaks; the alert whistle rings through town and silences every one.
  • Ned heroically goes after Willie.
  • Willie attempts to rescue his bully, Simon, and his horse, Gem.

The realizaton that nearly all is well is dramatically rendered also. The rescue scene is cutaway from so we wait with those worried, then there are shots of entrance pulley and rope; the survivors are in the last coal car that surfaces.

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The mine collapse claims Willie’s horse, Gem, but one of the surprises, and an uplifting bittersweet note is that Gem, who was pregnant, delivered a foal. Whereas working the mine was the only way he could be with Gem as the horse was property of the mine, this foal was given to Willie as a gift/reward for his valor in rescuing Simon.

Further uplifting the conclusion is the return to health of Willie’s dad (not unlike in Flipper) there will be a change in the characters between the movie and the film, but this one is at least explained in the writing of the show). Lastly, and most importantly, it’s out of the mine and back to school for Willie, as his dad arranged to get him out while he finished his recovery at home.

The film ends on a gorgeous silhouette shot at magic hour. The 4:3 cinematography is good but the show, likely endowed with a bigger budget, had far more consistently brilliant imagery. At the very end are two title cards that drive home how commonplace the practice of employing minors in the mines was. In 1923 boys were no longer allowed in the pits. It is estimated that around 100,000 had worked in them in Canada to that point.

Conclusion

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It’s not just a primal gut reaction to the thought of working in subterranean climes, or the simpler, harder times that make something like Pit Pony a success. Even the film, as quickly and broadly as it paints its many conflicts and relationships, pulls on the heartstrings. The sense of place is evidenced not just by how lovingly Glace Bay is portrayed but also by the common ancestry (Scotland) many characters share that grounds it. It’s a provincial portrait, a subcultural one, a loving one, but like most specific tales there’s a universality within it that transcends borders and time periods.

Some stories in many versions are ones you cling to because they mean a great deal to you and they’re well known. Others you may cling to more tightly because they’re not as universally known and they seem to call out and speak to you in a unique and special way. Pit Pony is one of those stories I consider myself fortunate to have encountered. I know I’m not alone in admiring it, but I also know there aren’t throngs who know it, nor is it yet classic. However, that just makes me want to hold it more dear and share it with those who would hear.

KIDS IN THE HALL: BRAIN CANDY, Dave Foley, Mark McKinney, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Scott Thompson, 1996, (c)Paramount

O Canada! Blogathon – Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy

Introduction

This is a post that is part of the O Canada Blogathon hosted by Speakeasy and Silver Screenings. I will have another contribution to it soon!

Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy

This is one of those films that I’ve written about some in the past but never dedicated and entire post to it. So here it comes, and I discuss the plot in some detail, and if that matters to you even in a comedy, consider this your spoiler alert.

This is a film that in the retroactive days was added to the BAM Awards roster of nominees in 1996 for Best Original Screenplay.

I discussed it when I decided to take a Cinematic Trip Around Canada on Canada Day:

“I have said previously how underrated and amazing I think The Kids in The Hall: Brain Candy is. While it too falls into the vague category and does make a lot of commentary apropos of ‘90s America, it’s still The Kids in the Hall, in my head (where it’s 72 degrees all the time) this movie is in Canada.”

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And this is true, within the framework of the narrative the film never explicitly states where its set. However, having the Queen of England (Scott Thompson’s version) make a cameo approving the drug is the only time that the film being set in Canada is hinted at. It is definitely shot there as the cities of Toronto and Mississauga are both thanked in the end credits.

Later, I went on to lament that this attempt at the end of the run of their show fell on its face and didn’t spawn other Kids in the Hall (KITH) films:

Why this film received such a cold shoulder and is largely overlooked is beyond me. The Kids in the Hall probably could’ve made a slew of films with a colon and their troupe’s effort following it in the title. They could’ve become the 90s incarnation of Monty Python. This film is hugely overlooked and vastly underrated. The franchise here is not the Brain Candy concept but rather the troupe’s brand of comedy transposed onto the big screen. Perhaps in the economically affluent, blasé, Generation X 90s a droll, snide stab at pharmaceutical companies and anti-depressants was not the way to go but it is hilarious. If you haven’t yet checked out their one and only feature length film to date please do. They still do shows and have appearances in Canada and each member does individual projects but perhaps the harsher times will reawaken the need for KITH as a unit.

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Lastly, while still on a high from The Avengers (the first one, obviously) I imagined other properties who could benefit from a similar build-up in phases. KITH was one of them:

I preface this choice by saying I adore Brain Candy, I know I’m in a minority when I say that but I do. However, that’s not to say I wouldn’t love to see a Kids in the Hall film where they play say 995 out of 1000 characters and bring in many of their famous characters. One needs to only see the rendition of a film not unlike Kiss of the Spider Woman that Bruno Puntz Jones (David Foley) and Francesca Fiore (Scott Thompson) do to know how cinematic they can be and how easily they can pull it off.

The film expectedly and boldly uses the kids as a number of characters each:

Dave Foley as Marv / Psychiatrist / New guy / Raymond Hurdicure;

Bruce McCulloch as Alice / Cisco / Grivo / Worm pill scientist / Cop #2 / Cancer boy / White-trash man;

Kevin McDonald as Dr. Chris Cooper / Doreen / Chris’ dad / Lacey;

Mark McKinney as Simon / Don Roritor / Cabbie / Gunther / Cop #1 / Nina Bedford / Melanie / Drill sergeant / White-trash woman;

and Scott Thompson as Baxter / Mrs. Hurdicure / Wally Terzinsky / Malek / Big Stummies scientist / The Queen / Raj / Clemptor.

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I’ve completed the Megaset of the entire series since watching this film last (just to make sure I’d seen them all) and, thus, the characters from the show making an appearance are more noticeable now. They are the Cops, White-Trash Man and White-Trash Woman, The Queen, and Cancer Boy, and we’ll get to him more later. All the other characters listed above were creations made for the film, some are variations on types the Kids already played some were entirely new.

As per usual with the show as well all five kids are rarely in the same scene, on the odd occasion some of them even play against themselves. However, what makes this film work is far more than the KITH being up to their usual tricks.

The Kids in the Hall

Firstly, they found in this story of those developing a revolutionary anti-depressant and those who may or may not need to use it a way to tell a unified story and still keep a sketchy-feel to it. Therefore, it’s the perfect transitional project from one medium to another. Since then I met someone who happened to work on the film and they told me how frustrating it was to have to incessantly run off copies of new script pages due to frequent rewrites. I can see how this could be frustrating and how this could happen. You craft a sketch and if it works great, that character may recur, if it fails you can move on and hope it’s forgotten. Film, for those used to getting a reaction from a live audience is a tough medium, and this perfectionism is nothing less than I’d expect from these five.

The film works because in large part there are memorable, hilarious moments in all the various prongs this story tackles. However, as silly as it can be it is a moderately-positioned send up over-medication; the fine-line between wanting to be happy all the time and depression. It takes a hard, skeptical look at the pharmaceutical industry, as one of key plot points is that they are pushing for the drug to go non-prescription, that in the light of the comas the drug is inducing. It’s set up to go there as budget cuts in research pressure the lead character Chris, played by Kevin McDonald, to state the drug is ready when they clearly need to do more testing on it. His becoming a rock star for inventing the drug and the eventual, final coup of critique wherein the coma victims are venerated like deities.

Flashbacks and memory are two great motifs that can be uniquely used in film, if not unique to the medium itself. I usually respond very well to both and the film uses both prominently and perfectly as the drug seeks to have the depressed subject “lock on to their happiest memory chemically.” It’s a great set-up that makes for some hilarious (and depressing) happiest memories.

Some of the memorable moments in Brain Candy include but are not limited to:

“I’m Gay!”

“Happiness Pie”

I remember watching this with my uncle in Brazil and he cracked up at this part. Sadly, we’re not yet living in a world that will shot “Who cares?” at such an announcement.

“You are gay!”

“This urine is great!”

“A Pill That Gives Worms to Ex-Girlfriends”

“I wanna talk about drugs…”

The film tanking is actually unsurprising considering this article. As they were set to reunite for live shows (one of which I saw!) Bruce confirmed Paramount wanted Cancer Boy cut from the film, they wouldn’t budge, and Paramount retaliated by cutting their advertising budget, and many screens for the film vanished. Sadly, I get the reaction on both sides. The Cancer Boy scene is one I laugh at while shaking my head and saying “That’s so messed up,” but I still laugh. I get Paramount wanting it cut but am not sure I get them cutting off their nose to spite their face. The article also features a video Siskel and Ebert battling over the film, as per usual, I’m with Gene.

I also love some of the more hidden jokes in the film like Drug Variety magazine, cameos by Brendan Fraser, Adam Reid of You Can’t Do That On Television (“Chris Cooper signed my scar!”) and some others like Missus Hurdicure’s tea never stops falling or “Ne allez-vous pas au media,” and Don Roritor being essentially another rendition of Lorne Michaels.

Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy (1996, Paramount Pictures)

The three month time leap the film takes is risky but allows it to be a rise-to-and-fall-from-fame story as well for Cooper’s character and underlines how humanity often doesn’t listen to advice that’s given to us in out own best interest. The hidden coma victims, then the spin of comatose living communities is genius and fitting. As is when Roritor tries to certify Chris as being clinically depressed, thus, forcing him to take his own medication. Another gamble was that the film features a stinger, which was a bit more unusual in the mid-to-late ‘90s than it is now.

The Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy may not have been a hit even if Paramount dedicated more resources to it, maybe it was always destined to have a cult status because The Kids in the Hall aren’t for everyone. And that’s OK. If there’s one mistake this Canadian troupe never made it’s that of pandering. They do material they believe in and if you don’t like it, that’s fine, there are plenty of other safer, more boring acts out there. Always daring and avant guard, I’m grateful for this film maybe more so than the series as I’ve enjoyed it several times over.

I now leave you with some thoughts Dave Foley shares regarding the differences between the US and Canada. Per the set-up most of the Canadian facts are fabricated, as it’s KITH most are hilarious and it ends perfectly and with a point as Brain Candy does. It’s a great sketch and this is a great film by my favorite troupe.

Gate of Hell (1953, Criterion)

31 Days of Oscar: Gate of Hell (1953)

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school 31 Days of Oscar post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Gate of Hell (1953)

As seems to be the case with a lot films set in feudal Japan, it did take a few minutes to get my footing and keep names and clans orderly in my mind. When I had my bearings it did become a very touching and involving film that is fairly universal and requires minimal existing knowledge of Japanese custom and history. Most of what you need is found within the story. It’s worth noting this film won the color costuming award and won a special award for foreign films and was one of the titles that lead the way to a full category being added.

Wins/Nominations: 2/2

The Fallen Idol (1948, Selznick Releasing Organization)

31 Days of Oscar: The Fallen Idol (1948)

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school 31 Days of Oscar. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

The Fallen Idol (1948)

This is the first film I’ve seen in this year’s run I’d truly call great. Carol Reed, a director with many great titles to his credit, does a wonderful job building the tension in this film and creating doubt there’s also some great writing of conversations overheard or purposely cryptic. The Kordas always had great sets and the design of the film factors into it as well. It’s no wonder that this film is in Criterion’s library.

Oscar Nominations/Wins: 2/0
Score: 9/10