Sunday, February 24, 2013

Alright, nothing to see here, move along...

This latest tribute (on my favorite 80's heartthrob-turned-90's-anti-hero, which I'm sure you all are DYING to read) is taking forever. Maybe one day when I'm unemployed, I can put more effort and time into this all-important project of mine, but until then, check out my BRAND NEW TUMBLR:

where in I illustrate voice actors as the characters they play in my favorite cartoons. THANKS ALL.

Monday, February 11, 2013

#2. Bob's Burgers

2. Bob’s Burgers 
(Created by Loren Bouchard) 

Instead of attacking this as a retrospective, I’ll (attempt to) keep this short. Bob’s Burgers is THE best adult animated program currently on TV. Now I’ll qualify this statement by making this a bit more clear: I am comparing the series to say, The Simpsons’ or South Park’s current output. But having said that, this could still probably contend with those guys at their peaks (time will tell on this one.) Never has a mainstream prime time comedy be both so irreverent and heartfelt. Burgers forgoes topical humor and pop culture references for honest-to-god jokes, basing gags and story lines off of wonderfully developed characters and amazingly conceived family dynamics.

Created by Loren Bouchard (he of Home Movies fame, another favorite show and possible future tribute), Burgers tells the story of a family operating a burger joint on a boardwalk in order to make ends meet. I could go on and on about what makes this series so strong; delightfully strange plot points, great guest appearances (a list that appears like a who’s who in alternative comedy), and a slew of secondary characters that rival The Simpsons or Parks and Recreation. But the shining star here is the voice work. The main cast carries this show. Not only have they perfected the improvisational humor that plays so well with a show like this, but in the process they have created an extremely strong foundation for these characters. The family, portrayed by comedians H. Jon Benjamin (Bob), John Roberts (Linda), Dan Mintz (Tina), Eugene Mirman (Gene), and Kristen Schaal (Louise), really hold this show up, so here they are playing their characters playing themselves… Or something like that.

Don’t sleep on this show, you jerk.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

#1 - An American Werewolf in London

This is a snapshot of me at a specific time talking about a specific movie. What movie, you ask? I have no idea… because this is probably the 176th time I have said this. I’m a hyperbolizer. I can’t help it. Why tell some one that a movie you love is really good when you can say it’s one of the best. It packs such a punch. You’re not necessarily lying; you just may have a list of the 176 BEST MOVIES OF ALL TIME. And that particular movie is on it. Or at least an honorable mention. Or maybe just in the running on eventually becoming a movie that may one day be considered an honorable mention for a list of the 176 BEST MOVIES OF ALL TIME.
Now, having said all of that, let’s get into the topic of our first discussion… 

1. An American Werewolf in London 
(1981, Written and Directed by John Landis)

 An American Werewolf in London is seriously (notice the italics) one of the BEST movies of all time... At least one of the best werewolf movies… That was filmed in the 80’s... And set primarily in London… And that also involved mutant Nazis:
No but for real. I will never claim any movie to be my all-time favorite of all time. I’m just not ready for that commitment. But if I was stuck on a deserted island for the rest of my life with a TV and 176 DVDs, this would be one of them. Okay, just 20 DVDs. Yeah, I’m THAT serious.

Everything I love about film shines through in An American Werewolf in London. Billed as a horror-comedy, it is THE stand out on what has become an ever-expansive sub-genre. I mean, let’s look at that term: horror-comedy. One would imply that a movie sporting that description would be both comedic AND horrific. But instead, we usually get this…
(Leprechaun, 1993)
Look, I love a slapstick gore fest just as the next guy. Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive is amazing. Two zombies have sex, give birth to a zombie baby, and that same zombie baby is later thrown into a blender to make a delicious zombie baby smoothie. Is that awesome and great and gross and hysterical? Yes! Is it scary? Not quite.

For you losers not in the know, Werewolf tells the story of two college students (David and Jack, played by David Naughton and Griffin Dunne, respectively) backpacking across Northern England. They get attacked by a lycanthrope and HIJINKS ENSUE. Writer/Director John Landis, coming off the huge success of both Animal House and The Blues Brothers, took his well-refined comedic skills to the horror genre, and crafted this truly expert tribute to the old Universal monster movies that he grew up on. The result is a blend of great one-liners, amusing characters, weird asides, and a truly devastating story. Oh, and my FAVORITE prosthetic make up effect ever…

 Check that excess skin out at 0:55. Flip-flap-flip-flap.....

Not only does the clip above showcase the true genius of make up artist Rick Baker, but it really sums up what makes this movie so amazing. In this 3-minute scene alone, Landis is attacking the audience from all angles. We get some truly dark twists injected into the plot, all layered with humorous quips and dangly flesh. He never underplays the gravity of the situation, but instead lets it naturally play out, all jokes still intact. 

And that’s the beauty of Werewolf... That delicate balance. Things certainly get batshit (looking at you again, Nazi-zombie.) But they’re grounded in this sense of reality and true care for these characters. Does it really matter which shitty teenager survives at the end of a Final Destination movie? Besides Ash, are we really concerned who else makes it out of the cabin without first getting assaulted by a haunted tree in The Evil Dead?

No, we don’t care. We want to see the decapitations and the dismemberments and the blood and the guts. That’s the thrill of most horror-comedies. But Werewolf packs in another layer. While the transformation from human to wolf is incredibly awesome and the gore is sometimes amped up to extreme levels (flip-flap-flip-flap), the end result is tragic and uplifting, heavy and exciting. Landis doesn’t use horror conventions as a crutch, but instead just an extra piece to the overall puzzle.

The story is definitely a gem, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about all of the other elements that coalesce into this classic. First, those visuals… THOSE VISUALS. Practical effects were at their peak in the 80’s and Rick Baker was certainly one of the best. You have already witnessed the masterpiece that is Jack’s living corpse (in his first phase of decomposition) but there is so much more for your eyes to feast on here. David’s transformation from man to wolf is still visually arresting after all these years. There’s something about how true light hits a physical effect that will always trump CGI for me. It’s hard for me to gauge the work and artistry put into certain computer-generated effects, while the magic displayed here is definitely a pure work of art. And as a testament to it’s sheer horrifying beauty, Baker took home the award for the Academy’s very first Best Make-Up category.      
I could drone on and on about how passionate I am about this film. Everything meshes so well; the hilarious character actors who play the very paranoid and amazingly English locals, the extremely charming Jenny Agutter (that accent!), and even a kind-of-shoddily-acted-but-fun-nonetheless cameo appearance from the great Frank Oz. Also, while the soundtrack choice seems kind of lazy, each song surprisingly finds its place in its respective scene. 
When starting this blog, which is pretty much a guide to my obsessions, it only made sense to tackle this beast (HA!) first. Not only is it a great movie, but seeing it at a young age, it really opened my eyes to what film can do. I want to laugh and cry and gag all in the span of 30 minutes. It played with my expectations, even at 15, and it still has an impact on how I watch movies today. So no, I still can’t make the jump to BEST MOVIE EVER. I will never make that jump. But I can say, with no hesitation, that An American Werewolf in London is my ALL TIME favorite HORROR COMEDY of ALL TIME.

Oh, never mind.