The TV Land Awards are not an “and the winner is…” kind of award show extravaganza. They’re more a series of honorary nods to the very popular shows of television’s illustrious, time-killing past with an emphasis on glitz. And so a bunch of us media types were invited to add to the hub-bub at the Sony Studios back lot on a breezy April, waiting on a red carpet for whichever celebrity was escorted to our assigned spots, with those from famed print and broadcast outlets obviously getting the first dibs. In the case of this lowly pixel stained wretch, I felt honored to chat with a few really terrific performers who, each in their own way, had made quite an impression on me personally.
That most definitely applies to Jane Leeves, the comedically gifted actress best known as Daphne, Niles Crane’s Manchester-born one-true-crush and eventual wife from “Frasier.” After confessing that I’d had a crush of my own on her since before her famed “Seinfeld” turn as “Marla, the Virgin” her response was typically blunt-yet-charming. “I’m not that old!”
“Neither am I!,” I blurted. (I later learned that Ms. Leeves birthday was the following day. My own birthday was two days prior. I guess age was on both of our minds.)
Aside from being no non-TV star herself, Ms. Leeves was there to promote her now show, coincidentally to be aired on TV Land in a rare foray into original programming, “Hot in Cleveland.” The show teams Leeves with Wendy Malick (“Just Shoot Me”) and Valerie Bertinelli (“One Day at a Time”). The three play “very L.A.” career women with show business-related backgrounds of various types. (Leeves plays an “eyebrow plucker to the stars.”) Feeling a bit aged out of the L.A. game, they attempt a trip to Paris, but instead find themselves marooned at the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They quickly realize that beautiful, middle-aged women who can refer to celebrities by their first name are actually in fairly short supply in the midwestern metropolis and they decide to stay and be big fish in a smaller glamor pond. Betty White costars as a neighbor, perhaps a wacky one. Cue the glib comparisons calling this a “younger ‘Golden Girls.'”
Nevertheless, fans of Ms. Leeves should rest assured that her character is no retread of Daphne Moon. “She’s focused her whole life on her career and has forgotten to have a life. She’s the sort of smart aleck, wise-ass of the group, so it’s very different.”
Then, perhaps feeling a bit star-struck, I went with the fallback question I frequently steal from our esteemed Will Harris. What project has she done that she doesn’t feel has gotten enough attention.
It takes a lot to make me laugh out loud at something a person says. Witty is one thing, but genuinely funny is another beast altogether. And when I say laugh out loud, I’m talking about involuntary spasms of laughter, the kind that take a couple of minutes to subside. There is no formula for it, and I have no criteria for what form it takes. I just know it when it see it. Unfortunately, I don’t see it often enough. Sometimes they appear in otherwise unfunny movies, at which point I usually get angry, but that’s a subject for another day.
In the first of a long list of decade-oriented blog posts about the movies of the 2000s, here are the lines that made me laugh the hardest at the Googoplex. Be advised, potential SPOILERS abound here, so I don’t want to hear that I ruined such and such movie for you. What are your favorite lines? Let’s hear ’em in the comment section.
#10: Up – Somebody always loves you
This is more of a laughter-through-tears kind of thing, but it’s my list, my rules, so it counts. Pete Docter goes straight for the heart in this movie, almost mercilessly so. The “married life” sequence makes me cry like a little girl every time I watch it, and this scene, where the loyal Dug comes to comfort Carl, is quite possibly the “Awwwwwww” moment of the decade.
#9. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story – Peter La Fleur learns just how small his problems really are
Next time you think about quitting something, anything, remember this exchange between the defeated gym owner Peter La Fleur (Vince Vaughn) and cyclist Lance Armstrong:
Lance Armstrong: Could I get a bottle of water. (Looks to his left) Hey, aren’t you Peter La Fleur? Peter La Fleur: Lance Armstrong! Lance Armstrong: Yeah, that’s me. But I’m a big fan of yours. Peter La Fleur: Really? Lance Armstrong: Yeah, I’ve been watching the dodgeball tournament on the Ocho. ESPN 8. I just can’t get enough of it. But, good luck in the tournament. I’m really pulling for you against those jerks from Globo Gym. I think you better hurry up or you’re gonna be late. Peter La Fleur: Uh, actually I decided to quit… Lance. Lance Armstrong: Quit? You know, once I was thinking about quitting when I was diagnosed with brain, lung and testicular cancer, all at the same time. But with the love and support of my friends and family, I got back on the bike and I won the Tour de France five times in a row. But I’m sure you have a good reason to quit. So what are you dying from that’s keeping you from the finals? Peter La Fleur: Right now it feels a little bit like… shame. Lance Armstrong: Well, I guess if a person never quit when the going got tough, they wouldn’t have anything to regret for the rest of their life. But good luck to you, Peter. I’m sure this decision won’t haunt you forever.
#8. The Simpsons Movie – Albert Brooks loses his mind
Albert Brooks is the fifth Beatle of the “Simpsons” writing staff. The writers love him, and he loves the show. No guest performer has played more characters – the RV salesman, Brad Goodman, Jaques the bowler, the megalomaniacal Hank Scorpio – but his role as the power-mad director of the EPA vaults “The Simpsons Movie” to another level. The scene where he tricks President Arnold Schwarzenegger into doing his evil bidding is the better overall scene, but as single lines go, my favorite is when he’s confronted with his thirst for power. As Fat Tony once said, it’s funny because it’s true.
EPA Officer: Sir, I’m afraid you’ve gone mad with power Russ Cargill: Well, of course I have. You ever tried going mad without power? It’s boring, no one listens to you.
#7. Zombieland – Woody Harrelson settles a debate the old fashioned way: by threatening an ass kicking
With apologies to when Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) tells Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) that he’s “like a giant cock blocking robot, like developed in a secret fucking government lab,” my favorite bit is this sly moment where Columbus tells Tallahassee that he’s heard there’s a place where there are no zombies, at which point Tallahassee assures him that such a place doesn’t exist.
Tallahassee: You know, you’re like a penguin on the North Pole hears the South Pole’s really nice this time of year. Columbus: There are no penguins on the North Pole. Tallahasee: (pause) You wanna feel how hard I can punch?
#6. Burn After Reading – Tilda Swinton forcefully illustrates that thing she…doesn’t do
She won the Oscar for “Michael Clayton” – which, in my mind, was a totally unwarranted example of the Hollywood welfare system at work – but this is bar none my favorite Tilda Swinton performance to date. As Katie Cox, Swinton is the coldest, most humorless succubus of a human being that you’ll find. (Even better, she’s a pediatrician.) Why George Clooney’s character Harry would choose her for an ongoing affair over the other women he beds during the movie is a mystery, but their relationship does produce the movie’s funniest moment, when Katie discusses destroying her husband while Harry suggests playing it cool and not hammering him while he’s down. “Is that how you see me? Hammering him?” The rest speaks for itself.
#5. Get Smart: Driving range car crash
All hail Alan Arkin. No one else could have made this line as funny as he does.
#4. 1408 – John Cusack speaks a universal truth
Mike Enslin (Cusack), a man who writes about supposedly haunted locations, wants to check into room 1408 at New York’s Dolphin Hotel. Hotel manager Gerald Olin (Samuel L. Jackson) tries to talk him out of it during a meeting in his office.
Gerald Olin: You do drink, don’t you? Mike Enslin: Of course! I just said I was a writer.
Saw this at a critics-only screening. Big, big laughter followed that exchange.
#3. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters – Billy Mitchell equates himself with one of the most hotly contested issues in our nation’s history
Arguably the greatest movie villain the ‘00s had to offer – even more terrifying when you take into account that he’s real – video game wizard and restaurant magnate Billy Mitchell is awesome. Just ask him, and he’ll tell you. Hell, you don’t even have to ask him. He lays it all out on the table in this one line:
No matter what I say, it draws controversy. It’s sort of like the abortion issue.
That’s right, people, he compared himself, and his status within the video game community, to Roe vs. Wade. To be that fond of yourself, yet be completely lacking in self-awareness or tact, that is a gift. A gift wrapped in a denim shirt and a feathered mullet. Thank you, God.
#2. Finding Nemo – The seagulls
It’s one of those head-slappers of a commentary. But of course that’s what seagulls are saying when they crow. What else could it be? It’s not as if they’re picky about what they eat or anything. Even better is the line from the pelican Nigel (Geoffrey Rush), where he calls them “rats with wings.” Even the animal kingdom hates seagulls.
#1. Sex Drive – Andy and Randy hitting on the church girl
It made about a buck and change at the box office, but “Sex Drive” is without a doubt my favorite comedy of the decade. I could have made a list of nothing but quotes from this movie alone, but if I have to choose one, it’s unquestionably the scene where Lance (Clark Duke) has his shy friend Ian (Josh Zuckerman) observe the seduction technique of classmates Andy and Randy, in order to convey the message that confidence is a powerful aphrodisiac. That it doesn’t work on our little donation-soliciting friend only makes the exchange funnier. Imagine what Andy and Randy will be able to accomplish once they learn how to close.
Welcome to a new installment we like to call “What Else Ya Got?” The market of home video is about much, much more than just owning your favorite movie these days; if a studio skimps on the bonus features – “What do you mean Alfred Hitchcock wasn’t available to do an audio commentary?” – some view it as nothing short of ripping off the customer, as if owning the movie were suddenly beside the point. We find this phenomenon amusing, but we also understand it; it’s what kept this writer from running out to buy either “Kill Bill” movie when they were released. Years later, he’s still waiting for the combo set that features Quentin Tarantino’s cut of both volumes together.
Our inaugural subject for What Else Ya Got? is “Get Smart,” Peter Segal’s high-octane reboot of Maxwell Smart’s Agent 86. Let’s get to it, shall we?
There are two versions of the movie; the theatrical release, and the “Get Smart Takes” version, which has over 20 minutes of added jokes, alternate takes, etc. When a guy like Steve Carell is your lead, there is surely some comedy gold on the cutting room floor, so it makes sense that they would include a feature like this. The problem is that the only way of seeing these features is to watch the entire movie, meaning you’ll need two hours and ten minutes to watch 20 minutes of funny. Why they didn’t include the alternate jokes as a stand-alone piece is a mystery.
“The Right Agent for the Job”
This is a making-of featurette featuring interviews with Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson director Segal and the movie’s producers, and includes screen tests between Carell and Hathaway, where they realized that the two had incredible chemistry.
“Man in Moscow”
A quick featurette about shooting in Red Square, which features Hathaway again sparring deftly with Carell.
Steve Carell pretending to speak French, Italian, German, and sign language
A quick gag reel.
“Spying on Get Smart’s Bruce and Lloyd Out of Control”
Shameless plug for the straight-to-DVD release featuring Masi Oka and Nate Torrence, the gadget makers at CONTROL. But hey, the movie also features the lovely Jayma Mays, so perhaps it’s worth a look.
There is also a digital copy of the movie on Disc Two.
That’s it, kids. We’ll see you soon, covering something other than “Meet Dave,” which has one, count it, one featurette. And a lame one at that. But hey, can you blame them? The movie stunk on ice, and made about six bucks at the box office.