UHF [1989)

Here’s a masterpiece of a movie.

I didn’t think so the first time I watched it.

I was a little preoccupied.

But this time I had a reason to be more emotionally invested.

Mops!

That’s right, mops.

Mops play a big role in this movie.

Spatulas also make a sort of cameo.

But mops predominate.

In particular, there is a special mop which is almost like a character in this film.

It doesn’t talk.

It doesn’t have a name.

But it is more than a MacGuffin.

Stanley Spadowski (the true star of this movie) received the mop in question for his 8th birthday.

And, apparently, he used that mop well into adulthood.

He decorated it with various bits of colored electrical tape.

And it was with this mop that he dutifully fulfilled his role as janitor at a major local TV news station:  Channel 8.

But one day, Spadowski (played brilliantly by Michael Richards) found himself to be, in the tradition of Hitchcock, “the wrong man”.

Spadowski did nothing wrong.

He was not careless.

Even though he didn’t possess a notable intellect per se, he gave his all to his janitorial profession.

…and he actually enjoyed it.

Mopping.

Scrubbing.

Stanley Spadowski took pride in his work at Channel 8.

But, as “the wrong man”, he suddenly found himself blamed and scapegoated.

Though his unscrupulous employer made no effort to prove Spadowski’s guilt, Spadowski could not PROVE his innocence.

It was a quick exchange…

Q:  Did you do this?

A:  No.

Q:  I don’t believe you.  You’re fired.

Something like that.

Very capricious.

And, thus, Spadowski was crushed.

But the most crushing blow for Stanley was when the station owner’s son (also an employee [l’il bit ‘o nepotism]) confiscated Stanley’s mop as “station property”.

It was not.

But Stanley was helpless.

Thunderstruck.

Aghast.

Stanley had no one to stand up for him.

Yet, though he didn’t get what the wanted (to retain his job at Channel 8), he got what he needed:  a new job as janitor of the UHF station 62.

And all of this because one man observed the pitiable scene of Stanley being deprived of his tool of the trade (which he had used since childhood).

That man was “Weird Al” Yankovic.

As in the movie (where “Weird Al” is the station manager of “U62”), Yankovic was also the brains behind this movie itself.

He wrote it.

With someone named Jay Levey.

Mr. Levey directed this “cult classic”.

If it tells you anything, Levey still does not have a Wikipedia page in English…41 years after this movie came out.

So I am going to assume that Levey did not go on to bigger and brighter things in the film industry.

That being said, it appears this film actually realized a 20% profit (box office – budget = x [x/budget = profit as a %]).

But let’s get back into Stanley Spadowski (a character “Weird Al” or Levey must have invented).

I’d bet money that Yankovic came up with this character.

But this character could not have come to life without the talents of Michael Richards.

No one, and I mean NO ONE, could have pulled it off.

Michael Richards is a very underrated actor.

If you look on iTunes, you are apt to see a mere two films in which Richards plays anything approximating a significant role.

One is this:  UHF.

The other is another sort of “diamond in the rough”:  Transylvania 6-5000.

The latter would be a mostly-unwatchable, tedious comedy were it not for Richards’ breakout performance.

Richards distinguished himself as Fejos in that film four years prior to UHF.

Indeed, just a fortnight before UHF was released in 1989, Seinfeld premiered as The Seinfeld Chronicles.

Richards played the role of Kessler.

As The Seinfeld Chronicles became Seinfeld, Kessler became Kramer.

The world, in general, knows Michael Richards as [Cosmo] Kramer.

The show ran for nine years.

But let’s adjust our tack a bit here.

Who is Stanley Spadowski?

I would argue that he is the “cousin” (so to speak) of Carl Spackler:  the groundskeeper in 1980’s Caddyshack.

Where Spackler is laconic, Spadowski is prone to frenzy.

And yet, these two characters are cut from a similar cloth.

Spackler (Bill Murray) always has his impermeable camouflage bucket hat.

And usually a dirt-and-sweat-stained T-shirt.

Baggy cargo shorts.

And combat boots.

Appearing in 1980, Carl Spackler would have probably been seen as a nutty Vietnam vet.

Indeed, Spackler is tasked by his boss (the HEAD groundskeeper) to take care of the golf course’s gopher problem.

In hilarious fashion, Spackler goes after the gophers…even employing plastic explosives.

Spadowski is also a T-shirt guy.

With suspenders.

Always suspenders.

And whether they are real or fake (I think fake), Spadowski has noticeable (and endearing) bucked teeth.

He can hardly keep them in his mouth.

He is awkward.

He usually speaks slowly.

But when he gets excited, he is like a fire hydrant that’s just been opened.

What’s important about Spadowski and Spackler is that they are everymen.

They are most certainly underdogs.

And UHF, at its heart, is an underdog story.

U62, the channel, is an underdog.

It is not a network affiliate.

UHF (as opposed to VHF) was the television equivalent of AM radio (as opposed to FM).

Local stations.

Questionable programming.

Shoestring budgets.

You could find ANYTHING on UHF television or AM radio.

Anything was possible.

There was less control.

Today, in my town, my favorite radio station is run by a Methodist church.

Their format (vaguely) is “oldies”.

But their programming swings a bit wildly…and usually I love them for it.

They play songs I’ve never heard.

Occasionally a similar station will pop up in the same range of the dial using this “none of the hits–all of the time” approach (only to disappear back into the ocean of static which separates one clear-signal island from another).

U61 is this sort of beast.

Which makes sense.

Because it is run by a dreamer:  George Newman (“Weird Al”).

George starts off this film flipping burgers.

This may be a reference to the 1982 film Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

“Weird Al” gets fired.

The tone of the scene is very similar to Fast Times…

Which brings up an important point.

UHF is a pastiche.

It is stream-of-consciousness.

The narrative shifts wildly with non sequitur episodes interpolated here and there.

UHF makes continuous reference to the pop culture of its day:  the 1980s.

And this makes sense because the creator of this film was “Weird Al”:  best known as a musician specializing in parodies (usually of contemporary hits).

I hate to get all artsy-fartsy here, but I would dare say there is a modicum of post-modernism in “Weird Al”‘s filmic approach.

And, perhaps more importantly, a noticeable measure of Thelonious Monk (autism?) in Stanley Spadowski.

Idiot-savant.

And so UHF is a work of art which captures awkwardness in some of the same ways that Napoleon Dynamite and Poto and Cabengo do (respectively).

The message is:  be yourself.

You have value.

There is a person out there for you.

There is a job that is right for you.

There are no guarantees.

But you won’t be happy anyway if you’re not being yourself.

 

-PD

This Beautiful Fantastic [2016)

I must admit, I didn’t expect this film to be good.

At all.

Indeed, the thumbnail seemed to indicate that Elizabeth Hurley was the star.

And so this makes two recent movies for which the adverts capitalized on the similarity of their leading ladies to actresses more famous than themselves.

But I am thankful.

Because Elizabeth Hurley could never have pulled this off (though she be a completely competent actress).

No.

This Beautiful Fantastic needed a magic beyond its worldly resources.

And Jessica Brown Findlay brought that magic.

Which is not to say that Simon Aboud did not do a fine job directing our film.

He most certainly did.

One might say this film is about gardens and gardening.

And in a way, it is.

But it is much more about love.

Loss.

Awkwardness.

Work.

Bad luck.

Innocence.

Purity.

Friendship.

OCD.

Introversion.

Jerks.

Coping.

So many strands.

Tom Wilkinson is fantastic here.

But Andrew Scott is equally good.

Wilkinson grounds this production.

Scott is perhaps the prodigy.

Brown Findlay is some pure substance which elevates everything.

She needs these two actors.

But they need her as much if not more.

Jeremy Irvine also has flashes of brilliance here.

I quite enjoyed this movie.

I’m thankful it exists.

So we must delve deeper.

We must admit that Brown Findlay’s lips are to this film as J. Lo’s ass is to Ali G.

Which is to say, Brown Findlay’s lips are almost an additional actor here.

They have a life of their own.

You might call this poor fetishism, but it needs must be said.

These are on par with those of Angelina Jolie.

But there’s a difference.

Brown Findlay’s lips are not freakishly large.

And yet, they draw the eyes.

One cannot look away.

They are always the quivering point of focus in this gossamer production.

Which is also to say, Brown Findlay is really really beautiful.

That is a factor in and of itself.

I seldom say this about any actress.

But it almost goes without saying here.

She is freakishly beautiful.

By which, we mean, breathtaking.

Natural.

Astounding.

And a damn fine actress!

 

-PD

Medianeras [2011)

Here is as close to perfect as I can imagine.

When I clicked on this film on Hulu (translated as Sidewalls), I just expected it to be another film that I would stop watching after 30 seconds.

It vaguely looked like it had Eva Green in it.

Or Natalie Portman.

Thank God it doesn’t.

Instead, it stars Pilar López de Ayala as Mariana and Javier Drolas as Martin.

Indeed, this is the second Argentine film I’ve found which borders on sheer perfection.

The other is El Crítico (which followed two years later in 2013).

It’s true.

Both these films are introspective and self-reflective.

In Medianeras, this is more subtle.

Martin carries around three Tati films in his backpack (the topmost [visible] one being Playtime).

But all of this is academic.

What is important to say is that Medianeras is a cosmic, transcendent romance for the 21st century.

The composition is taut.

The cinematography is deft.

The montage is formidable.

But equally, the writing by director Gustavo Taretto is pristine.

You can look him up.

He’s a big, bushy-bearded 53-year-old.

But I highly admire the mind which came up with this film.

And the eye which brought it to life.

Pilar López de Ayala is magical here.

So many beautiful touches of storytelling.

Sure.

Taretto owes a small debt to Jeunet’s Amélie, but it is ever so small.

Indeed, it is mostly the music (the precious, tick-tock minimalism of the harp) and a pair of sequences involving humorous litanies.

The latter is achieved through copious edits of visual images to match the speaker’s rather cumbersome list(s).

It makes sense.

Amélie was a huge hit on the international stage just ten years prior to Medianeras.

And it too was an excellent film.

So Taretto has borrowed from a source which also indicates his good taste.

But our director has gone much further than merely borrowing.

He has created his own coherent language.

There are amazing sequences with Pilar López de Ayala in her apartment as her next-door neighbor wades through Beethoven and Chopin on a hoisted piano.

It is such that Mariana’s isolated life becomes a sort of postmodern ballet.

Sans dancing.

More brooding than anything.

Playing.

But, above all, being lonely.

And that is what drives this home.

We have a lonely man.

And a lonely woman (Ornette).

And paths which cross.

It’s not just sexual tension, but philosophical tension.

We really don’t know if these two perfect lovers will ever meet.

They are so dangerously close to colliding.

Like electrons.

We want these characters to live forever.

And they do.

In that they are composed of real life foibles.

As both watch Woody Allen in the dark.

And cry.

[as I cry watching them]

And both turn up Daniel Johnston singing “True Love Will Find You in the End”.

As I live with my parents.

[as the late-Daniel Johnston lived with his]

I think.

But I do know this.

That the sidewall in Austin has said, “Hi, how are you?” for so long.

And I am stuck in San Antonio.

Probably a much shittier city than Buenos Aires.

No doubt.

But so achingly-close to my old haunts in Austin.

And I don’t know if I will ever see them again.

Because life is hard.

And my life is generally shit.

“Working” at Starbucks.

Soon enough.

Again.

Not sure.

If my fiancée is dying.

And I am weeping.

Because I can relate to Martin and Mariana.

I can’t sleep.

It is 5 a.m. and I am writing a movie review which probably no one will read.

But I am happy in a strange way.

Because I found a film that reflects my life and makes me feel like all of my romantic longings and eccentricities are not for nothing.

So thank you, Gustavo.

Amazing film!!!

 

-PD

Permanent [2017)

I’m sad.

Are you sad?

But.

Do you know what REALLY sad is???

I think I know.

Second-hand.

It’s a vast collection of symptoms.

Things that can pop up.

Maybe we don’t usually associate these.

“Anger or irritability”

Let’s focus on that one for a second.

Is it possible that someone who seems like a jerk (or a bitch) is actually just really depressed?

I think it’s possible.

It may not explain everything.

But when this anger and irritability is found in concert with other symptoms, the quality of diagnosis goes up.

“Feelings of hopelessness”

Uh huh.

“Nothing will ever get better”

Sounds familiar.

“Loss of interest in…sex”

Yes.

“Lost your ability to feel joy and pleasure”

Sounds familiar.

“Appetite changes”

Certainly.

“Agitated”

Yes!

“Your tolerance level is low”

Amen!!

“Your temper short”

I know that’s right…

“Everything and everyone gets on your nerves”

Hallelujah!!!

“Loss of energy”

Yes.

“Feeling fatigued”

Um hmm.

“Physically drained”

Yep.

“Harshly criticize yourself”

Probably.

“Concentration problems”

Yeah.

“Trouble focusing”

Sounds familiar.

“Trouble remembering things”

Yeah.

That sounds like the stuff.

The dysfunction with which I’m familiar.

And it’s easy to think someone just hates you.

But they may be going through a whole bunch of shit.

And they don’t even have the capacity to give you a thought.

Still feels like shit though…

But if you can recognize it, then maybe it makes it better.

Fuck if I know.

But in the meantime, watch Permanent.

A unique little film.

Redneck Virginia done lovingly (more or less).

Some bitter memories it seems.

Colette Burson does a nice job as both writer and director here.

Chicken shack.

Fleetwood Mac.

Feet sore.

I’ll pay you to rub my feet.

R.I.P.

Farah Fawcett feel-alike contest.

Discount shit don’t always work.

Discount virus scan.

Sometimes you gotta shell out a little dough to fix your problem.

Can do a bunch of free stuff, but it’s a waste of time.

Kira McLean is wonderful here!

Why isn’t she in more stuff?!?

Somebody tell this girl to get back in the acting arena…PLEASE!!!

A motherfucking Michael Bublé song…

SMH.

Get a great actress like Nena Daniels and it don’t matter.

Rainn Wilson is really good here.

This guy is a heck of an actor.

I don’t give a fuck about politics, for once.

Whatever.

Rainn Wilson is a special dramatic talent.

Likewise, Patricia Arquette is pretty fucking stellar here.

A LONG way from True Romance.

This is Act II shit.

Well-done!

Damn good acting!!

Honorable mention to Abby Wathen who does a great job as the schoolteacher.

Quite a good film!

 

-PD

Eagle vs Shark [2007)

One of the finest films ever made.

Loren Horsley is so cute working at Meaty Boy.

Like me at Starbucks.

So endearingly pathetic.

I hope.

Jemaine Clement is fucking genius here.

Those sideburns!!!

Let’s be frank.

This is quite fucking obviously the New Zealand version of Napoleon Dynamite, BUT IT DOESN’T FUCKING MATTER…BECAUSE IT’S STILL BLOODY AMAZING!!!

Eagle vs Shark is about pathetic life.

In pathetic places.

Pushing wheelchairs around.

Places where everything sucks.

But it’s also about complicated love.

And how that might look in an environment where everything sucks.

Such as a town where no one has hope.

Provincial nightmares.

One further qualification…

Eagle vs Shark is JUST AS GOOD as Napoleon Dynamite in its own way.

It is a must-see.

It is that good.

Excellent job by director Taika Waititi.

 

-PD

Two Night Stand [2014)

This year has sucked.

But maybe the past sucked more.

Writing lonely movie reviews in the middle of the night.

Again.

Because antidepressants are a motherfucker to get off of.

I haven’t written like this in a long time.

Because I haven’t been lonely enough to hunt through piles of movies to find a gem.

This is a gem.

Do you know that feeling?

Has a movie ever saved your life??

Elton knows that feeling.

I bet.

Sometimes we get degrees without thinking our lives through.

Reincarnation.

Me?

I have two such degrees.

And the first one makes more sense.

Because I DO love music.

But I live in Texas.

Don’t let anyone tell you that Austin is the capital of dick as far as music goes.

It’s mediocre.

Modestly vibrant.

Business makes less sense.

I can’t get a job at a bank.

I am weird.

Like our lead character Megan.

It’s embarrassing as fuck.

To be unemployed.

When you want to work.

I want to work.

Let me tell you.

I stopped drinking.

I stopped using tobacco.

I got off of Ambien.

I got off of Xanax.

And now maybe I’m on the last part.

But it’s taken 8 months.

And my insomnia has gotten worse.

That’s a good first draft of a life.

A story that might connect.

Who knows?

It is my story.

And absolutely true.

But it will float in the ether.

Probably until the Internet ceases to exist.

I am as close as you are going to find to Herman Melville.

Or Henry Miller.

I am a film critic.

And a musician.

And a recovering drug addict.

It’s fucking embarrassing.

Maybe it helps my street cred.

Have you ever had a verbal altercation?

A really nasty conversation.

Where two sides are trying to demoralize each other.

Are you familiar with those?

There is some great acting here by Analeigh Tipton and Miles Teller.

God damn.

And some great writing by Mark Hammer.

The story takes it a long way.

But having really inspired, talented actors is necessary to take it over the top.

And we shouldn’t forget director Max Nichols…who made this all fit together.

Hammer gives us “Please be a crossdresser.”

There is, in fact, a Psycho reference earlier in the film.

Part of some witty banter.

God…relationships are complicated.

And this film takes weird romance to a whole new level.

It is very inventive.

And, frankly, heartwarming.

Have you ever done something stupid in love?

Ever regretted anything?

Ever almost lost it all???

Maybe like It Happened One Night.

But hell if I know.

Because I’m a lousy film critic.

I just do it for the fun.

For the expression.

To express.

No other realm will have me.

Those who can’t, critique.

Yep.

But I’m a feisty little devil.

As Roger Moore said in For Your Eyes Only, “We’re not dead yet.”

That’s right.

Special ed forces.

Survival.

Positive mental attitude.

The Spy Who Loved Me.

And, in case of a blizzard, “shared bodily warmth”.

Stalking is a skill.

Google.

And some duct tape to fix the neighbors’ window.

Pretty bad ass.

Megan is PISSED OFF.

Great acting!

Yep.

I’ve done that.

Hundreds of songs.

Some not even listened to.

Why?

Is it because the rest of the world are morons?

Perhaps.

Drozd.

Maybe because I’m so captivating.

Self-harm tattoos.

Reliving childhood trauma.

I’m still working.

Hollywood can go to hell.

I’m still here.

I came out the other side.

[more or less]

I almost blacked out there in the middle*

I guess there is a connection to Austin.

But not me.

Down here living in bumfuck San Antonio.

Sitting on my luggage.

With my Stetson.

Done been run over by a stagecoach.

Horses.

And manure in the air.

Yeah.

I was in Brooklyn when this film was shot.

But I had no idea it was being shot.

Back when I was a professional musician.

It’s true.

And sad.

But I’m still here.

Rotten Tomatoes can kiss my ass.

I don’t need anybody to tell me what’s good.

I waded through a ton of crap tonight to find Two Night Stand.

It is a fine movie.

Inspired.

Clever.

It will last.

Fuck everybody else.

 

-PD

Miranda [2009-2015)

Here is a lovely TV show called Miranda starring the inimitable Miranda Hart.

A big, goofy, awkward, and endearing woman.

I share a birthday with her.

Tom Ellis is quite good as Gary.

I hear he’s gone on to play Lucifer.

Yikes!

Sarah Hadland is good as Stevie (the titular Miranda’s best friend).

Tit-ular.

Patricia Hodge plays Miranda’s mum.

Such fun!

Sally Phillips’ character Tilly punctures the romance of this sitcom with her ridiculous, Joycean patois.

Bear with.  Bear with…

James Holmes (not the Colorado movie theater shooter) has a few good bits as Clive.

Adrian Scarborough is strangely essential.

He bloody loves crisps!

I was so glad to see Mark Heap here as the therapist.

I had missed him since binging Spaced.

I must admit:  I had many laugh-out-loud moments while watching this series.

There is quite a bit of physical comedy.

Miranda Hart really is a special comedienne.

And while Belinda Stewart-Wilson’s small role as Stinky might cause you to pine away,

Miranda is really the winner here.

Beauty is, indeed, deeper.

 

-PD

Bowfinger [1999)

Chubby Rain.

A brilliant bit that.

Stealing studio time.

“Borrowing” equipment.

Scrimping and saving.

And breaking just about every law.

SOCIAL ENGINEERING.

The con of Bobby Bowfinger.

Getting people to do what you want them to do.

FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT.

What Dave Chappelle has become.

Keep It Together.

Candid Camera.

Allen Funt.

RUnt.

Scientology.

Early jab.

Tom Cruise in vampire movie.

Bless your heart!

Film really gets going with the introduction of Jiff.

Julius Kelp.

Some genuinely brilliant scenes here.

It takes a certain amount of originality to get a laugh-rise out of the jaded.

Laugh out loud.

Bloody jaw-dropping.

Good acting by Steve Martin.

Such a unique character.

Total bastard with scruples.

Son-of-a-bitch in vain.

Eddie Murphy rather brilliant as Jiff.

The key role.

Out with Fake Purse Ninjas.

Not bad.

 

-PD

A Fantastic Fear of Everything [2012)

I found this one difficult to watch.

Multiple attempts.

I’m still alive.

Lon-don.

Tell them I’ll call them back.

Hackney.

Hacked.

Hanoi.

Humbert Humbert.

This is a rather inventive film.

Insular.

Wrapped up in web mind.

Cobwebs.

Webby.

Super glues a knife to his hand!

For fuck’s sake!!!

That’s when it started to get good.

But God knows how long it took me to survive the punishing beginning.

Boredom.

My Beautiful Laundrette.

[sic]

Working Title Films.

Jackpot!

Bean, Lebowski, Ali G., Johnny English, Shaun, Fuzz, Paul, World’s End, Grimsby, Saoirse Scots…

These are my films.

The auteurs of comedy.

Bona fide.

The twins.

And the muse.

My journey through addiction.

Knowing you’re an addict.

And not a patient on medicine.

Step 1.

Can I recapture?

Which way?

What???

Scissorhand.

Shatterhand.

Forgot the soap.

An opera.

Slow-motion underwear.

Soiled with blood.

Dust.

Attic.

Beautiful curry.

Had burned off the hair on one side of his head.

Scrotum.

FaTE.

Very much like lovely bones.

Hatch.

Soft bulletin.

Swung open.

Brochure.

Kiss to remove my gag.

Little ‘Nam.

Indeed.

Martin Rev suicides the wrap arounds from Wal-Mart.

Blinking LEDs chasing across the brow.

Creepy as fuck!

But bathos.

Bathetic.

Maudlin.

Yet in the mold of Frank Giustra (suing Twitter for comments I and others made).

Free speech, mate.

Yes, you have a psychopathic vibe.

It is my human right to state so.

Fuck Canada!

Hackneyed serial killer.

Trite.

Headbutt dog and duck.

Scotch egg.

1001 nights…

The star here (besides our subject of study, Simon Pegg) is the beautiful Amara Karan.

Breathtaking!

Sri Lanka.

Bikini.

Atoll.

Darjeeling.

Investment banker (!):  M&As.

Get the fuck out!

Oxford,

not a terminal degree, but quite academic for iTunes fare.

Pegg’s least-purchased movie (it appears).

But really a fine job by Crispian Mills (Kula Shaker, wot?!?) and Chris Hopewell.

 

-PD

The Bellboy [1960)

This one is pretty good.

I didn’t give it much of a chance at first.

Sometimes black and white movies are hard to watch.

[if you grew up on color]

Kinda like silent films are hard to watch.

[if you grew up on sound]

And sorta how Shakespeare is hard to read.

[if you grew up on comic books]

This one doesn’t rival the top dog [The Nutty Professor].

It doesn’t begin to touch the neck-and-neck silver medalist Cinderfella.

But it’s a whole lot better than The Family Jewels.

Which is to say, black and white sometimes trumps color.

The Family Jewels had everything it needed.

Except that it’s a mediocre film.

The Bellboy has nothing it needed.

Kinda like Psycho.

But it OVERACHIEVES for its resource level.

What is most significant about The Bellboy is that it truly has NO PLOT.

It does, however, have characters.

[particularly Stanley (Jerry Lewis)]

So then, taking the French love of Jerry Lewis into account, one might say that The Bellboy is a rather intellectual (!) series of situations after the manner of Debord.

Or further, that The Bellboy is a long-form work of nonsense in the mold of Finnegans Wake.

Whichever comparison is most fitting, The Bellboy stands up as a watchable, enjoyable movie.

One more thing…

There ARE true (true!) flashes of genius in this film.

The sequence with Milton Berle.

Bits with Stan Laurel (and Stanley [Lewis]).

Prefiguring Peter Sellers by way of multiple characters (Lewis playing himself as well as the bellboy Stanley).

The Jerry Lewis oeuvre is very interesting indeed.

 

-PD