Wednesday, May 25, 2011

It's fancy jam time

Through the natural order of things, tonight turned into an Albert Brooks double feature night. Naturally. There may have been some whiskey and peanut butter pie (homemade, I'll tell you what!) involved.

Now, I'm no Albert Brooks expert. In fact, for years I only knew him as the guy who repeatedly voiced some of the best characters on The Simpsons - Hank Scorpio, anyone? From one of the best episodes ever, You Only Move Twice ? And from season 8, no less (for those of you who stubbornly hold to the notion that the show lost its steam after season 7...Oh you foolish fools).

Over the past few years I have been trying to add to my A Brooks movie knowledge. I had seen clips of his old standup, I had watched a few more films, although I still have yet to see Lost in America or Defending Your Life -ah the shame!- and I started to realize that indeed, I had seen him in a number of things and I had lumped him into a small hammock district of actors/writers whose work you see repeatedly without taking notice of their name.

That's a bold confession, and I actually feel better getting it off my chest. I was completely blind to weight, the distinction of comic, actor and writer,  and east coast-seizing supervillain : Mr Albert Brooks. Now, I suppose we could go through and list his faults as a writer;  It was pointed out to me that he really does create these superbly crafted scenes, but then he'll get lost in his own story and all of a sudden tack on an ending just to wrap things up. Okay, well, sure.

But man, when he gets something right, it is so so right. I can't truly pin it down what those things are- it is a lot of little things. And you can't argue with the little things, it's the little things that make up life. For example, tonight I watched two films of his that I'm sure are not the shining beacons of his career, but they were enjoyable nonetheless. He fairly consistently portrays this neurotic, nebbishy, somewhat sentimental guy that quite a lot of us can relate to (I'll be surprised if one day my tombstone doesn't simply read "Neurotic and sorta sentimental"), but his work is surprisingly daring and subtly bold... like a gentle enema or something (perhaps this is a failed analogy).

Okay, maybe "subtly bold" is a bit of a stretch for Mother, one of the movies I watched tonight. But  you will notice, my new best friend, it is good in the sense that it has a common theme fleshed out with talented actors and some excellent scene work. It is a bit of a time capsule, what with the picture phone and those nineties character actors; Rob Morrow is perfectly needy and whiny as the brother. And what has happened to this guy? I mean, I am assuming we all had a special relationship with Northern Exposure at some point in our lives, yes? Yes, and he was great on that.

Oh god, and it had a brief dinner scene with Lisa Kudrow, wasn't that fun? Back before we all realized she was kind of limited and we were all charmed by her? Oooh, I honestly can't see her without wanting stop whatever it is I'm watching and put in Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion .

But I digress.Well, actually, there isn't much of a point to digress from- I just wanted to talk about watching Albert Brooks movies tonight. Stay with me, we'll go bowling, I'll get back on track. So moving on to the other one, Searching For Comedy in the Muslim World .

Talk about a movie that fell under the radar. And y'all, that is a pretty solid little film- again, a tacked on ending, but at least you have Penny Marshall in the beginning letting you know what to expect. If you get a chance to netflix it, I say go for it. Yes, it is another film where comics talk about comedy, and the idea is a little Curb Your Enthusiasm-esque (Brooks and others play elevated, or characterized versions "themselves") but it manages to take miscommunication, ego, and sense of humor (or lack thereof) and make it a universal thing, in art, religion and politics. It's a charmer. I mean, in what other movie are you going to see Al Jazeera try to commission Albert Brooks to star in a sitcom called That Darn Jew ?

It looks like the next Brooks hit on my list is going to be Lost in America . Tonight was a welcome distraction from the unwelcome news we've had lately. It is official- I am now the owner of a diabetic cat. And despite the dread that fills me as I begin to broach financing the constant attention and treatment this cat will need, I am grateful that it isn't a kidney problem. I've given him his first few injections without passing out and as the pile of syringes grows, I am filled with a sort of sick fantasy that people will see them and believe that my cat or myself are dangerous junkies and that we are to be treated with fearful respect.

I like being treated with respect, even if it is fear-based (Although, it would be preferable to not have to scare people into believing they can't walk all over all five feet of you. Yes, five feet.)

So. Anyway........Oh dear.

I am having my own Brooks moment where I realize I have no idea how to wrap this all up.

But truly, I've gotta go- somebody ate part of my lunch.

I should post a small addendum to say that if this seemed a little more wackadoodle than usual, it was because I was desperately trying to squeeze in all of my favorite Hank Scorpio quotes into one piece and it really didn't matter to me if they made sense within the context of a thought or if they ruined the entire structure of a sentence in fact I didn't even give you my coat!

(Can you pick out all those quotes?)


Diane Vallere said...

Mother might seem dated, but "the protective layer of ice" has become a standard term when discussing ice cream 'round my house. And Lost in America has a couple of gems, too; the nest egg part had me laughing for about 20 minutes straight!

Nice post!

Jessica said...

Thank you! I just went grocery shopping and looked all over for that Sweet Tooth ice cream!

Fox said...

I for really real serious just watched "You Only Move Twice" for the thousandth time last night! "Sugar? Sure. There you go. Sorry it's not in packages. Want some cream?" I hear that Brooks' scripts are always full of notes and additional line ideas, so part of the fun is imagining which lines he brought to the table. He even shines in a late-season episode, "The Heartbroke Kid".

Spangler: Son, I'm gonna tell you a story about a young man who came here and failed. Well, that is the story. I shouldn't call a sentence a story. Anyway, it's you!

I hope you like Lost in America (especially the scene with that other Marshall, Gary), but I think Defending Your Life is the better film, so don't put it off for too much longer.

Jessica said...

They are both securely tucked away in my netflix queue. I can't wait to see both!