If, like me, you grew up a weird kid compulsively watching the Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy and, yes and alas, the Three Stooges, then you might well enjoy “Backwash,” an enjoyably dippy web series with its final episode to be uploaded on Crackle this Monday night, December 20. The series stars Joshua Malina, who also wrote it, as the grumpy and conniving Val, who is, for whatever reason, charged with the care of the childlike and lovably idiotic Jonesy (Michael Panes). When they accidentally rob a bank with a sausage — you kind of have to be there — and hook up with a flamboyant ice cream truck driver, Fleming (Michael Ian Black, who I was unable to nab for a quick interview), the on-the-lamb trio begins a cross-country odyssey of sorts.
The enjoyably lowbrow but sometimes surreal silliness is book-ended by introductions from a rogues gallery of comic and acting talent, the funniest being a mysteriously bearded Jon Hamm, Allison Janney, John Cho, Dulé Hill, and Sarah Silverman. Somehow, Victorian author William Makepeace Thackeray is maligned as being the originally author of this more or less contemporary travesty lovingly directed by Danny Leiner, who also helmed “Harold and Kumar Go to Whitecastle.”
It was my privilege to chat with with some of the actors and creators of “Backwash” at the theatrical premiere of a somewhat shortened feature-length version of the web series. I started with Josh Malina, an actor I’ve been rather fond of since I stumbled over “Sports Night,” the show that convinced me that the writer of “The Social Network” was something more than an entertainingly glib semi-hack, actually a lot more.
* Could the ultimate case of movie development hell finally be unraveling? We’re told that Ewan McGregor will star in Terry Gilliam’s “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.”
* Lionsgate may be on the block with all kinds of possible ramifications for hardworking and often underpaid workers there. However, just in case you were worried, they’ve got $16 million set aside for five executive golden parachutes if Carl Icahn’s attempt is successful. Whew!
* Anne Thompson discusses the people who didn’t show up at Cannes. Somehow, she overlooked my absence.
* One of the people who isn’t showing up is living cinema legend/bad boy Jean-Luc Godard, who is citing the chaos in Greece as his reason. Yeah, I have only the vaguest possible idea what he means by that myself. Meanwhile, the Playlist’s Christopher Bell reviews a new documentary about the severed friendship between Godard and Francois Truffuat, who were respectively the Rolling Stones and the Beatles of midcentury French New Wave cinema and, alas, finds it lacking.
* Marina Zenovich, the woman whose documentary many credit/blame with restarting the Roman Polanski mess — and, yes, that’s the “evil profligate dwarf” himself next to Godard, Truffaut as well as Claude Lelouche and Louis Malle in the picture above — will next be doing the film version of Mark Harris’s widely acclaimed book, Pictures at a Revolution, which looks at the remarkable five best picture nominees from 1968.
* Speaking of Polanski, Oy vey, Woody. (Via FilmDrunk whose headline repeats the obvious, but still hilarious, joke here.)
* Cameron Crowe, who was on an amazing run of movies like “Say Anything” and “Almost Famous” until suddenly, he wasn’t, is getting back on the horse with a fact-based tale that involves all kinds of animals, possibly including horses. It does sound like a heck of a story.
* Nikki Finke thinks James Robinson should pay up before showing his face at Cannes.
It’s late. I’m tired and I want my turkey burger and an Old Fashioned. More to come later.
A few remaining items worth mentioning this late evening/early morn…
* RIP John Forsythe. The watchably stolid actor with a nice touch at both melodrama and low-key comedy and a memorable voice passed away at 92 late Thursday. He worked a great deal on stage and in kept his hand in at the movies, but he’s did most of his work in multiple television series and, ironically, is probably best known today as the disembodied voice of Charlie from “Charlie’s Angels.” Still, he was a strong presence in a number of notable movies, including playing opposite a very young and very adorable Shirley Maclaine in Alfred Hitchcock‘s black comedy, “The Trouble with Harry” and as a vicious judge taunting a youngish but far less adorable Al Pacino in Norman Jewison’s “And Justice for All…” He also dealt with a murderous Robert Blake in “In Cold Blood” and fended off a nasty, nasty Ann Margaret in, yes, “Kitten with a Whip.”
* Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg — the Jewish-American twosome who struck a blow for the depiction of Asian-Americans as actual human beings, albeit hilariously stoned ones, by creating “Harold and Kumar” — are set to reboot the “American Pie” franchise with a film that is also a sequel. Also, the third go-round with ‘Roldy and Kumar is in motion, even if Kal Penn is currently employed outside of Hollywood. I mean, good roles for Asian American males should not so rare that they are all forced to go to work at the White House.
* The lovely and talented Emily Blunt will not be romancing “Captain America,” according to the Playlist’s Edward Davis. I’m not sure why he’s so convinced it won’t be a very good movie except for the fact that, of course, most movies aren’t very good and the bigger the budget, the more often that turns out to be true. But even so, I don’t quite get it.
On the other hand, I completely agree with the premise of another post by Davis: Yes, the thought of Tom Cruise uglying himself up in a major way to play Phil Spector really does have some demented genius to it. I’m not Cruise’s biggest fan but, well cast, he can be brilliant and playing lunatics seems to work for him. I have no idea why that might be the case.
And, yes, I like a third Davis post about a long-delayed movie being labored over by Cameron Crowe about the equally great and equally demented Marvin Gaye. Re: casting, I’m rooting for Jesse L. Martin of “Law & Order” — a terrific actor and the physical resemblance is pretty eerie.
* Don’cha just hate it when a star and director team up, get plenty of compliments, and then just repeat themselves? Well, fresh off their mostly good reviews and general decent business on “Greenberg,” about the personal travails of a bitter forty-something musician-cum-carpenter, the two are simply rehashing the same basic premise with “Mr. Popper’s Penguins.” Oh, wait…
* From a couple of days back, Anne Thompson nicely summarizes the spreading conventional movie-geek wisdom on the making and consumption of 3-D films. Shorter version: really, not every movie should be in it, it’s worth a little extra to see movies actually shot in 3-D in 3-D, but the conversions from 2-D to 3-D are pretty much best ignored and may even end up ruining the fun.
* Sharon Waxman writes that a mystery bidder has entered the fray to purchase the studio original named for the Weinsteins’s parents, Mira and Max. Could it be Harvey and Bob W.’s long lost older brother, Mogul X, who fled in shame after his first producing effort sold exactly three tickets at Sundance, and vowed only to return only after he had become the world’s greatest movie executive? It’s a thought.
After reading Bill Simmons’ tribute to “Almost Famous,” which he deems the quintessential movie of the aughts (a.k.a. the ’00s), I felt compelled to track down the “Bootleg Cut” (a.k.a. “Untitled”) to see what the hullabaloo was about. Here is what Simmons had to say about the extra footage in the DC.
Best four extra scenes from the director’s cut: Russell and William talking music before the first Stillwater concert; Jeff Bebe’s interview with William during which he utters quote No. 23; Penny’s birthday cake scene; and Russell and Jeff making up at the end and botching their man-hug. There’s also an 11-minute scene in which William makes his mother listen to “Stairway to Heaven” — yes, the entire song — in an attempt to get her to understand rock ‘n’ roll. It’s indescribable. I loved it; some hated it. Crowe couldn’t get the rights to the song, so it didn’t matter. More importantly, how is this not on YouTube? Wasn’t YouTube invented for stray clips like that?
FYI, quote No. 23 is…
Show me any guy who ever said he didn’t want to be popular, and I’ll show you a scared guy. I’ve studied the entire history of music. Most of the time, the best stuff is the popular stuff. It’s much safer to say popularity sucks, because that allows you to forgive yourself if you suck. And I don’t forgive myself. Do you?
A few thoughts…
– The version I saw had a running time of 2:41 and didn’t include an 11-minute scene where William plays his mother “Stairway to Heaven” in order to convince her that he should be able to complete his assignment for Rolling Stone. I’ve only been able to find that scene here, and since Cameron Crowe was unable to get the rights, the viewer has to play his own copy of the song. I always felt that it was out of character for William’s mother to let him go on tour with a rock band with so little discussion, and this great “Stairway to Heaven” scene fills in some of these blanks. In the version I saw, Elaine’s decision still seemed rushed.
– I have mixed feelings about the other four scenes that Simmons mentioned. I thought Penny’s birthday cake scene was terrific, especially towards the end when Jimmy Fallon’s character broke the news that she wasn’t going to with the band to New York. Kate Hudson’s reaction was a nice bit of acting and the movie is better as a whole because it’s clear that inside the tough exterior of Penny Lane, there is just a normal girl — and she’s in love. I also thought Bebe’s quote about popularity was insightful but not crucial. The other two scenes — Russell’s first interview with William and Jeff and Russell’s make-up scene — were extraneous. Russell’s eagerness and availability to talk contradicted the sense throughout the remainder of the movie that William wouldn’t be able to get his interview with Russell.
I’d recommend “Untitled” to fans of the original that haven’t seen it in a while. Jeff’s problems with Russell seem more fleshed out and the relationship between the two has more closure. In fact, all of the various storylines seem a little deeper, and that’s no surprise since the DC runs about 38 minutes longer.
Does it make it better? I’ll let you be the judge. The movie worked really well in its original form, but after watching the DC, I certainly wouldn’t say that the extra footage hurts the film.
Although Campbell Scott is one of those actors who’s been happily flying under Hollywood’s radar for the past several years (he estimates the time frame as somewhere between eight and ten), his appearance within the ensemble of the buzz-heavy indie flick, “Phoebe in Wonderland,” may change that. And if it doesn’t…well, as he reveals in his interview with Bullz-Eye.com, it’s not like he doesn’t enjoy being able to ride the subway in relative anonymity.
Campbell Scott on “Singles”:
“I’m 47, I have gray hair, and yet people still come up to me on the street who are in their twenties, who weren’t even born when ‘Singles’ was made…well, they were pretty tiny, anyway…and they say, ‘Oh, I love that movie.’ And I always say, ‘How OLD are you?”
Campbell Scott on “Phoebe in Wonderland”:
“When you go and watch it, even if you’re thinking about being a parent or if you have a little sister, anything like that, it becomes this little journey. And people either go for it or not. It ain’t ‘Die Hard,’ let’s face it! But it’s very, very provocative, I think.”
Campbell Scott on “The Spanish Prisoner”:
“Steve (Martin) is fascinating. I really like that guy. He’s really smart. You know, the thing I always think about Steve is that, like most really, really brilliant comedians, he’s a very serious dude. People who are funny in a profound way, when you meet them, they are totally serious. I don’t mean they’re severe or boring or unfunny to be with – they’re hysterical – but they are definitive in their work habits.”
Check out the entire interview by clicking right here…or, of course, you could always just click on this big ol’ image below: