Splitsider

 
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49 Funny Things to Look Forward to in 2012

"Don't Look Back in Anger" is a song by either Bob Dylan or Oasis. I can't summon the strength right now to find out which one. In any case, "Don't Look Back in Anger" is definitely also my advice toward people bickering about Year-End Best-of Lists. Hey eggheads: nobody cares how anybody ever sequenced their top 10 anything. Instead of looking back in anger, let's look forth in mild curiosity toward the coming year. Will we laugh harder than we did in 2011—the year of the Arthur remake? (Actually, the Arthur remake is shockingly not terrible. Handle it!) The answer is yes, we will laugh harder in 2012 than we did in 2011. And then, as many others have prophesized before me, we will all by consumed by the gaping maw of the oceans as they rise up collectively against us. It's gonna be a total bummer. At least some funny stuff will happen before then, though. READ MORE

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Why Derrick Comedy's Mystery Team Deserves Cult Classic Status

In case the picture to the left hasn’t made it abundantly clear yet, you are skimming reading an entreaty on behalf of the underrated Derrick Comedy movie, Mystery Team, which bears no resemblance or relation to Ben Stiller’s misfit superheroes flick, Mystery Men. Still with me? Great. Mystery Team is a gem that earned a limited release in 2009 in just about the scrappiest way imaginable. It was a success that the movie managed to sneak into theatres at all, but up until now it’s mostly been seen by just the group’s core fan base. Let’s change that! READ MORE

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For Your Reconsideration: Hamlet 2

It was supposed to be an underdog success stories everyone could get behind. Advance hype had Hamlet 2 pegged to be the 2008 model of Little Miss Sunshine and, more importantly, it had Steve Coogan positioned to finally break through as a bankable star of American comedy. He’d already cracked the mainstream that year with a brief but memorable turn in Tropic Thunder and a killer role in Curb Your Enthusiasm, but Hamlet 2 was set to be both his victory lap and a major crossing of the transom a la Sacha Baron Cohen. Unfortunately, this is not what happened at all. Instead, the movie bombed atomically, greeted by the kind of audience indifference that proves more poisonous than widespread scorn.

Hamlet 2 was never going to get nominated for Oscars or get your uncle whistling the music of Sufjan Stevens. It just wasn’t that kind of movie, even though it shared Little Miss Sunshine's team of producers and boasted the exact same back story. Both movies had, by all accounts, legendary screenings at the Sundance Film Festival, sparking bidding wars to the tune of several million dollars. The difference is that while one film was an uber-twee ensemble dramedy, the other was an irreverent, gag-filled satire and a showcase for one bravura performance. READ MORE

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For Your Reconsideration: Blades of Glory

The Will Ferrell Sports Movie craze spanned just four features, although it seems like there were so many more of them. Between 2005 and 2008, each year saw a new release right on schedule, like high school sports seasons. First came soccer (Kicking and Screaming), and then car racing (Talladega Nights), followed by figure skating (Blades of Glory), and finally basketball (Semi-Pro). By the time the last one had come and gone, though, the idea of Will Ferrell playing in organized competition couldn’t have been more groaningly familiar. An end had to be near, if for no other reason than the fact that he was running out of sports. We’d seen Ferrell take a nutshot from just about every flying projectile possible, and it felt like we’d seen enough. Public opinion all but demanded that he retire his jersey for good.

It’s now been three years since a Will Ferrell Sports Movie has been released, and the years have not been kind. Somehow Talladega Nights is the only one to be remembered fondly, while Semi-Pro and Blades of Glory are generally considered interchangeable markers of excess, and everyone pretends Kicking and Screaming didn’t happen at all. This is an unfair taxonomy. Talladega isn’t a great comedy, and Semi-Pro isn’t as bad as people make it out to be. Kicking and Screaming is remembered exactly correctly, insofar as it’s been completely forgotten. Blades of Glory, though, while not exactly in the all-time comedy pantheon, is easily the best of the Will Ferrell Sports Movies, and that’s why it’s the subject of today’s Reconsideration. READ MORE

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For Your Reconsideration: MacGruber

The Saturday Night Live adaptation is one of the most maligned of all movie genres, and not without justification. Excepting Wayne’s World, it’s been a mostly fruitless enterprise. The 1990s churned out would-be film franchises like an assembly line, whether warranted or not, and these struggled to connect with viewers. Watching something like Coneheads, for instance, one can only be left with the question: Why, Coneheads, why? In any case, it didn’t take long for audiences to grow disenchanted with the string of one-note jokes built on shaky premises, and after a while Lorne Michaels stopped financing them. Any SNL movie made in the post-Ladies Man era, then, would have to do more to justify its existence than merely present its source material writ large. Luckily, this message was clearly not lost on Will Forte.

Forte and his SNL collaborators, John Solomon and Jorma Taccone, couldn’t have made MacGruber as a stretched-out version of what they’d done on the show even if they wanted to—the sketch was as bare bones as these things get. A parody of MacGuyver, each installment consisted of a literally-down-to-the-wire bomb defusing scene, during which the resourceful hero proved fatally incompetent in a variety of amusing ways. A movie version could sustain neither 90 minutes of bomb-defusings nor a feature-length parody of MacGuyver, which had been irrelevant even as a punchline for at least a couple decades. It needed to be something different. READ MORE

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The Starting Lineup of Every Sports Movie Ever

When you’ve seen as many movies as I have—and I’d strongly caution against doing so—you start to notice the patterns. Through sheer repetition of stock characters and plot threads, Hollywood perpetuates a lot of myths about modern living that are not exactly true. Many of them are downright ridiculous. We Were Promised Hoverboards is a series in which I investigate these myths for sociological and comedic purposes.

Playing for a professional sports team is like living in an everlasting magic show filled with magic. You get to travel around the country, constantly getting into bar fights with rival teams and doing sex to people. If you’re lucky enough, you might even live to see the eerie phenomenon of sports fans wearing your jersey, either because they desire to live inside your face, or to make the vain suggestion that they are as good at sports as you. No matter how interesting the people you meet are, though, nobody will ever be as remarkable as your fellow teammates. Every sports team is a microcosm of different personality types and abilities, unique as Faberge Eggs. Some of the sports teams portrayed in movies do tend to have a shared detail or two, though. Here are some of the more common elements: READ MORE

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It’s Not Funny: How Comedians Transition Into Dramatic Roles

Like a lot of comedians, Chris Farley was more or less a gaping black hole of need. Although he had many other troubles, one particular torment persistent throughout the latter part of his career was that he’d become deeply pigeonholed. Farley was prone to condensing his entire comedic persona into the phrase fatty falls down, a rather reductive way of looking at the cinematic success spawned by classic Saturday Night Live characters like motivational instructor Matt Foley. Ultimately the comic’s own destructive ways proved him correct, and he never lived to develop the range he so desperately craved. However, not all comedic actors follow the same career trajectory. Will Ferrell, who once seemed to play uber-cocky, oft-shirtless naïfs exclusively, is now starring in the just-released Everything Must Go, an indie dramedy adapted from a Raymond Carver short story. His performance is earning rave reviews. Ferrell is only the latest in a long line of comedians to smoothly cross over into dramatic work, though, and Farley was certainly not the last who was unable to do so. Why do some comedians make this transition, while others do not? READ MORE

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The Fat Kid Conundrum

When you’ve seen as many movies as I have — and I’d strongly caution against doing so — you start to notice the patterns. Through sheer repetition of stock characters and plot threads, Hollywood perpetuates a lot of myths about modern living that are not exactly true. Many of them are downright ridiculous. We Were Promised Hoverboards is a weekly series in which I investigate these myths for sociological and comedic purposes.

At the end of the movie, Superbad, Jonah Hill’s scruffy, unapologetically overweight character, Seth, walks off into the sunset (technically a mall) with the object of his affection in tow: a hip, attractive, statuesque, red-head named Wilma. Her name isn’t really Wilma, of course, but Superbad is the rare exception to the pop culture rule that The Flintstones paradigm is for adults only. There has long been a double-standard in TV shows and movies: If the patriarch happens to be a very large grease-trap of a man, he is more often than not partnered up with an implausibly attractive woman, perhaps a younger one with gorgeous red hair.

There are several exact parallels to be found in cartoons directly spawned from The Flintstones, namely The Simpsons and Family Guy. But this trend is not just a cartoon phenomenon, it dates back to at least The Honeymooners, and your Jim Belushis and your Kevin James’ can still be found clogging up TV sets, trading quip-filled banter with their conspicuously hot wives. This wish fulfillment fantasy seems squarely aimed at audience members at home who are of similar girth to Kevin James, and that makes sense. However, this promise is only one side of The Fat Kid Conundrum. READ MORE

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When Heroes Fall in Love Under Wacky Circumstances, So Do Their Sidekicks

When you’ve seen as many movies as I have — and I’d strongly caution against doing so — you start to notice the patterns. Through sheer repetition of stock characters and plot threads, Hollywood perpetuates a lot of myths about modern living that are not exactly true. Many of them are downright ridiculous. We Were Promised Hoverboards is a weekly series in which I investigate these myths for sociological and comedic purposes.

It’s a rare, wonderful thing to fall in love. We should all be so lucky as to find someone we care about and walk off into the sunset together, in slow motion, the music of Josh Groban hanging softly in the breeze. For most of us, that would be enough to constitute a happy ending. Not for Hollywood, though. Hollywood is very, very greedy — which is why the friends of the two leads tend to get some action by the end of the movie as well, forming a multiplicity of happy endings. “Why should just two people fall in love,” Hollywood is always asking, “when four people could fall in love instead? It’s called mathematics, and it’s the language of the universe.” According to movie logic, if your friend embarks on an unusual courtship of some kind, you had better start hitting the gym because someone’s about to start seeing you naked a lot. READ MORE

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Pro-Tip for Job Interviews: Say Exactly What You Really Think

When you’ve seen as many movies as I have—and I’d strongly caution against doing so—you start to notice the patterns. Through sheer repetition of stock characters and plot threads, Hollywood perpetuates a lot of myths about modern living that are not exactly true. Many of them are downright ridiculous. We Were Promised Hoverboards is a weekly series in which I investigate these myths for sociological and comedic purposes.

A job interview is like a first date: you’re never going to get any tongue by just being yourself. Instead you’re expected to present a walking, talking encapsulation of everything about you that is awesome, only without overdoing it. You highlight your most positive qualities, downplay your flaws, and dress at least as well as 1983-era Elvis Costello (applies equally to M or F, really). If there was a period where you dropped off the grid because you got really seriously into Goa Trance music in Ibiza, you might not want to mention it in either scenario.

So why do movies often make it seem like the only requirement for a successful interview is a kamikaze ambivalence toward actually landing the job? READ MORE

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This Is a Review of This Is a Book by Demetri Martin

This is a review of a book entitled This is a Book by Demetri Martin. The book was written by Demetri Martin, of course. The title is not the only reason, however, why it could not have possibly been written by anyone else.

There has always been a matter-of-fact post-modernism to the way Demetri Martin packages himself, and his literary debut is a remarkable translation of that unique aesthetic into book form. (That the author designed the jacket and cover artwork himself suggests that this process was a labor of love.) Several self-aware touches adorn the book, poking fun at the medium: a sly mock-tutorial, “How to read this book,” a page that is blank except for the sentence, “This page unintentionally left blank.” From the title on down, this is clearly a product of the mind responsible for the stand-up album, These Are Jokes.

There’s much more than jokes on display here, though. READ MORE

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Pretending to Be a Couple Is a Sure Way to Fall in Love

When you’ve seen as many movies as I have — and I’d strongly caution against doing so — you start to notice the patterns. Through sheer repetition of stock characters and plot threads, Hollywood perpetuates a lot of myths about modern living that are not exactly true. Many of them are downright ridiculous. We Were Promised Hoverboards is a weekly series in which I investigate these myths for sociological and comedic purposes.

In movies, people are always forcing other people to pose as their lovers, for reasons far too complex for human brains to fully absorb. Sometimes these folks even hire someone with this express purpose, and it works like a charm. For a while. Then comes the inevitable realization.

You might find out plenty of things about a person from spending a large amount of time in close quarters together, not having sex. While pretending to be a couple in order to get a green card/fool the boss/exact revenge, you might learn how a person takes their coffee, handles rush hour traffic, and treats their mother. What you will probably not discover is what Jennifer Aniston found out about Jay Mohr in Picture Perfect, mainly that they are the love of your life. READ MORE

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Once Exposed to Small Town Life, It’s Impossible to Return to the Big City

When you’ve seen as many movies as I have — and I’d strongly caution against it — you start to notice the patterns. Through sheer repetition of stock characters and plot threads, Hollywood perpetuates a lot of myths about modern living that are not exactly true. Many of them are downright ridiculous. We Were Promised Hoverboards is a weekly series in which I investigate these myths for sociological and comedic purposes.

New York City is a cesspool. Everyone who lives there is keenly aware of such. It also happens to be an endlessly flourishing cultural environment, filled with opportunities for work and play unavailable anywhere else, but long-term exposure to NYC does tend to provoke a distinct spiritual crisis in most people. Could there be a way to adapt to one’s surroundings without turning into a total A-hole? If you’re a character in a movie, than the answer is no — you will remain a fast-talking caricature who treats people like those little stickers on apples for as long as possible until your inevitable comeuppance. That’s when you’ll learn about small town livin’.

When the hardened metro-professional character in movies finds him- or herself exposed to small town life briefly, it’s only a matter of time before U-hauls are packed, anchors retracted, and leases are broken. Not at first, of course. Initially, these new surroundings will seem hopelessly impoverished and backward, and the street-toughened professional will do anything to try to flee as quickly as possible. That is, until the realization that the thing they’ve been desperately trying to escape is actually where they have always belonged. READ MORE

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Workaholics: Responsibilities for the Irresponsible

To paraphrase Homer Simpson, the three leads on Comedy Central’s new series, Workaholics, just can’t live without workahol. By that I mean they are probably too dumb to understand what a workaholic is, and would probably confuse that word with another one. Those characters are Anders, Blake, and Adam — three recent college grads who are attempting to shoehorn jobs into the same schedule they kept during the latter-day National Lampoons movie in which they matriculated for college, apparently.

These characters are played, interestingly, by actors using their real given names. Usually, this is a move that signals to the people who pay attention to such things (i.e. nerds) that the characters’ personalities are not so far removed from the performers’, which I would go ahead and guess is probably true in this case. All three leads are viral video stars from the online collective Mail Order Comedy, and the fast-paced, zippy flow was made for people with YouTube-sized attention spans. The single-cam show moves quickly from one setup to the next, occasionally leaving casually uttered punchlines lingering like freshly exhaled smoke. This is Comedy Central courting the Adult Swim audience, no question, which is probably a smart thing for them to be doing. READ MORE