Cinema Toast

Not an Easter Egg

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I Love Easter Eggs in Movies

I do love them. Those little inside jokes that seem perfectly placed for the super-fans are just that extra, This one’s just for you, to make you feel as though the movie makers know and appreciate the audience.

I keep seeing articles about all the Easter eggs in one movie or another. Especially with Rogue One. I saw Rogue One. I did not, however, see too many Easter eggs. I saw lots of references and allusions to the other films in the Star Wars universe, but referencing Captain Antilles, showing a ship from another SW movie or series, or including the line, “I have a bad feeling about this,” does not qualify as an Easter egg. That’s simply called connecting the dots.

Don’t get me wrong. I really loved Rogue One, but it was not heavy on Easter eggs.

Here’s a Great Example

I recently saw Favreau’s 2016 The Jungle Book, and it contained a perfect example of an Easter egg.

Mowgli is abducted by monkeys and taken to see King Louie, voiced by Christopher Walken. When the boy gets to the palace, he approaches a pile of treasure and picks up a cow bell. He plays with it for a moment, trying to figure it out, and then puts it back down. Why is this an Easter egg? Because Walken is widely remembered for the silly “more cowbell” SNL skit with Will Ferrell. What does that have to do with The Jungle Book? Nothing. That’s the point. It’s only there as an inside joke for the portion of the audience who delighted in Walken’s SNL appearance. That’s what an Easter egg is meant to be.

So Why the Chip on My Shoulder?

I really don’t have a problem with bloggers bringing attention to fun facts they may have noticed in a film that others may have overlooked. I appreciate them helping other connect the dots and show continuity, especially in a series. Just don’t call it an Easter egg if it’s not one. It’s like using the wrong homonym in a sentence. It’s unprofessional. And people do notice.

 

 

Cinema Toast

The Usual Suspects

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I love acting troupes—the small bands of “regulars” that perform skits and movies together and make the world smile. From my early childhood, I wanted to be a part of that family.

I watched The Carol Burnett Show every week. If I want a quick laugh, all I have to do is think about Tim Conway interrogating Lyle Waggoner with an Adolf Hitler hand puppet singing “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” I imagine Carol Burnett dressed up in curtains with the rods still attached and a tassel hanging in her face. “I saw it hanging in the window and just…  had to have it.” I loved when she spoofed the classic movies! I adored the Momma’s Family skits, and still crack up when I think about the Siamese Elephant improvisation that had multiple cast members in stitches.

I enjoy watching Monty Python’s Flying Circus episodes, too. Most of the skits they strung together had no definitive end, but instead just changed direction and carried on with silliness. “And now for something completely different.” Seeing John Cleese as a cowboy in “Rogue Cheddar” or Terry Jones competing in the World Hide-and-Seek finals gives me the giggles. My whole family tosses Flying Circus quotes around on a daily basis. It’s funny how other people react.

Another favorite growing up was SCTV. Rick Moranis, John Candy, Andrea Martin, Harold Ramis, Gene Levy, Catherine O’Hara and others kept me completely tickled. I recall one late night when I had a friend over, and we were preparing for an End-of-School luau, making paper leis and watching SCTV. The premise of this particular episode was “Preteen Telethon for Preteen World.” All of the actors dressed as eleven and twelve year-olds complete with bad complexions and retainers/ head gear. Their “preteen” band played Chilliwack’s hit “My Girl (Gone, Gone, Gone).” We laughed so hard that couldn’t string our leis. How many people can say that?

Saturday Night Live has had some amazing talent in their casts as well. Chevy Chase’s President Ford, Steve Martin’s King Tut, Gilda Radner’s Roseanne Roseannadanna, Eddie Murphy’s Mr. Robinson, and Dennis Miller’s anchorman make frequent appearances in my home. “That’s the news, and I am outta here.” My boys’ favorites are the “More Cowbell” skit and “I Wish it was Christmas Today.” They watch for Jimmy Fallon’s giggles in every skit he’s in.

Another acting troupe that thrilled me was the constant cast of A&E’s A Nero Wolfe Mystery series. Rex Stout is one of my favorite authors, and Timothy Hutton, Maury Chaykin, Colin Fox, Bill Smitrovich and Kari Matchett did a wonderful job of staying true to Stout’s characters. They charmed me with every novel they adapted.

If you love sketch comedies and seeing the same great actors playing a variety of characters, skip over to youtube.com and search for Tales from the Pub videos. Larry Blamire has assembled a fantastic troupe of players that spoof  Twilight Zone-type stories hilariously. Blamire leads Jennifer Blaire, Andrew Parks, Alison Martin, Brian Howe, Fay Masterson, Dan Conroy, Trish Geiger, and Kevin Quinn to create a world of silly spookiness that will bring a smile to your face. Since laughter is the best medicine, just think of it as a prescription for a joyful, healthy week!

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading!

Cinema Toast

Can We Be Silly for Just a Moment?

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This morning I’m having a difficult time being serious. Last night our family watched Ladyhawke from 1985, starring Matthew Broderick, Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfeiffer. Now when this film came out, nobody considered it a comedy—at all. It’s a tragic love story, a fable perhaps, about a couple cursed by an evil bishop. It’s set in medieval France, and features sweeping vistas and castles and monasteries in ruins.

Why did I giggle nearly all the way through the movie?

I watched it with my husband (we were married the same year this film was released), my two sons, and my older son’s fiancé. The “kids” had never seen the movie, but they love Broderick from Ferris Bueller and Pfeiffer from Stardust.

Sam (son #1) says something like this: “This is one of those eighties movies that’s set in the dark ages but the music is still done with electric guitars.” Sean (son #2) leaned against my shoulder and he and I whispered silly comments throughout the show. He’s seventeen years old, and I really love that he still leans on my shoulder.

We appreciated that though the names were very French—Etienne, Isabeau, and Phillipe—the accents were all over the place. The boys especially liked that in the end credits, under “Titles and Visual Effects,” there was only a list of three people. Though IMDb.com credits a total of twenty-two people in that category, it’s still certainly a far cry from the hundreds of technicians listed in today’s movies. It’s especially remarkable when you consider that this is a film in which two of the main characters transform from humans to animals multiple times in the story.

This movie isn’t silly. We made it silly, with our “enlightened sophistication” and goofy mood, a la Mystery Science Theater 3000. The point is that sometimes, despite the way things actually are, we need silliness. It’s good for us. Laughter is healthy exercise. Smiling keeps us young.

My family has a nice collection of silly movies and TV series. We enjoy the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, Abbot and Costello, and especially the Bing, Bob and Dorothy ensembles. These are the masters of the classic madcap comedies. The one-liners and physicality of their shtick keep us giggling.

The same goes for Monty Python productions. They introduced the “Ministry of Silly Walks.” They understand and embrace the ridiculous. In the same way, Mel Brooks has assembled casts of comic geniuses for films like Young Frankenstein, High Anxiety, The Producers, and Spaceballs. Every one of these movies showcases the recommended daily allowance of stupid.

Larry Blamire’s casts of characters pay homage to the best of the B Movies, and provide us with memorable lines that embroider even the most serious situations with smiles. “Ranger Brad, I’m a scientist, I don’t believe in anything.”

Saturday Night Live (SNL), SCTV (Second City), MADtv, and In Living Color have also graduated celebrated idiots like Steve Martin, Martin Short, Rick Moranis, Gene Levy, Andrea Martin, Catherine O’Hara, Chevy Chase, Eddie Murphy, Jane Curtain, Gilda Radner, Jimmy Fallon, Tina Fey, Mike Myers, Jim Carey, Michael McDonald, the Wayans and many others.

This morning I asked Sean about his favorite silly movies, and I must say that my husband and I have raised our boys well. His favorites—in his own words—are “all of the Larry Blamire movies, The Three Amigos, and Princess Bride.” Good boy.

Comedy helps us deal with situations. It diffuses tension. It provides common ground with others. Highbrow comedy tests us, dark comedy reveals us, but slapstick comedy just allows us to be, and to enjoy it. Hooray for hilarity!

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.

Cinema Toast

How Movies Could Change the World?

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A while back I read an article stating that the college-aged/ young adult demographic claims to get most of their news and current event information from late night talk shows and variety programs like Saturday Night Live. I laughed. I cried. I was afraid.

Do these young ‘ens understand that these shows do not employ journalists? They have a staff of comedy writers! You don’t get news stories from these shows. You instead find spoofs, satires and all sorts of silliness.

What if this same audience learned history from movies like Year One (2009), History of the World, Part 1 (1981) or One Million Years B.C. (1966)? Yikes!

What if we got all of our literary education from watching movies?

In the 1999 made-for-TV presentation of Noah’s Ark, based loosely—and I mean VERY LOOSELY—on the Biblical account in the book of Genesis, we find Noah and his wife dealing with Lot and his pirate friends. Now I’m not sure if the writers of this story ever read the Bible, but I have. I can tell you with certainty that Lot was a relative of Abraham. He had pretty much nothing to do with Noah. Hmmm….

Okay, but that’s just one movie. Let’s look at Disney movies. They have deep pockets. They’ll be true to the original books, right?

The Little Mermaid (1989) is probably the biggest offender. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a precious movie, and I adore the fish song, particularly. However, anyone who has ever read Hans Christian Andersen’s original tale knows that it does not have the happily-ever-after ending of the movie. The poor little mermaid does not marry her prince.

What am I saying? Should we not enjoy movies based on books? Should we completely disregard all films that are based on events in history? Should we never make political decisions solely based on information we get from SNL’s “Weekend Update”?

All right, that last one—I am saying precisely that.

For the others, though, please enjoy the movies. Just understand that historical events depicted in a two-hour film probably took much longer to develop. Characters may be an amalgamation of several different real people. Movie producers tend to like happy endings, especially for children’s stories, even when the books don’t have cheerful resolutions.

When you’re done with the movie, read the book. Look up what really happened in history. Watch the evening news—the one with real reporters and no musical guest stars. In other words, keep reality and entertainment separate.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading!