You mess with Harpo Marx, you get the horns.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Best Be Moving Along Now!

It's that time of year again, the time when I suddenly remember, "Hey, we have a blog!" and "Oh yeah, the stupid Academy Awards are this weekend, and I haven't mocked it once yet!"

Fortunately for you, devoted reader (because there's only one of you), my OCD will not let me go a year without maintaining this, my annual ritual of confusing people who drunkenly Google about movies. Years from now, I'll be on my deathbed, struggling for my final breaths, and quietly whispering into my loved ones' ears, "Did I remember to mock the fact that Frozen 7 got nominated this year?"

There's a wide variety of cinematic selections on display among the Best Picture nominees this year, mostly because you can't help but have variety when you've nominated an absurdly high eight films. (Editor: They nominated nine last year.) Yes, but some of those were good films.1

Anyway, roll film, as they say... or digital, or whatever the hell it is these days...

A Star Is Born

Bradley Cooper's directorial debut treks the well worn path of cinematic iconoclast (or what producers call "cranks") Terence Malick in this dynamic tale of the birth of the star Sirius (Lady Gaga), symbolically depicted as the rising career of a pop music entertainer with a predilection for food-themed outfits.

Ally Sirius Campana, a struggling singer, runs into a big country music star named Sirius B. Maine one evening at a rather unique drag bar (cross-dressing funny car drivers). They quickly fall in love and have a lot of hot duet scenes under even hotter lights, with roadies fanning stage smoke across their sweaty, denim-covered bodies. The 20 minute scene where Ally pulls off Sirius's left boot while the band plays the extended guitar solo from Freebird is particularly salacious.

Even more impressive is the way the smoke (hickory) cures Ally's suit of bacon.

(While I know our astronomy buffs, even Neil De Grasse Tyson, can already see where this is going, please bear with me for the sake of our normal readers.)

Soon, it becomes clear that Ally's career is rising into the entertainment stratosphere like a brand new Vought Corsair, while Sirius's is spiraling in the opposite direction, like a not-so-new Vought Corsair whose propeller has fallen off.

Sirius takes to drinking, smoking, and other reckless behavior (handling angry cats) in a failed attempt to come to grips with their disparate fortunes. Eventually, he is reduced to doing intros for Sunday Night Football, and commercials for the General auto insurance, but even those indignities pale in comparison to the moment Dolly Parton mistakes him for Ryan Reynolds (an ad-lib by Parton, who didn't realize they were rolling).

On the other hand, Ally's fortunes take her to the Grammys, the Oscars, and even the rarefied air of the Kids' Choice Awards (where she is proclaimed "Queen of All that is Awesome Dude"). She never forgets Sirius though, as he is now her shoe butler. Cooper renders this final, tender scene as a lengthy zoom shot of a giant burning shoe orbiting around the star Sirius.


Spike Lee's riveting story (20 minutes of the film is a documentary about steel building construction) about an African-American police officer who goes undercover to join the Ku Klux Klan.

John Stallworth is an African-American police officer (or didn't you read the previous paragraph) who is investigating terrorist activity by the KKK. One day, he is cornered by angry (and stupid, which should go without saying) Klan members. Unable to escape, he accidentally falls into a vat of talcum powder and emerges, just as the Klan members catch up to him. Covered with the talcum powder, the Klan members mistake him for white and make him their Imperial Grand Wizard Dragon Vizier Poobah because he's whiter and smarter than all of them combined.

Stallworth uses this opportunity to probe the organization about their upcoming plans and learns they are preparing to attack a civil rights rally by dropping a 10,000 lb. bomb from the bottom of a Vought Corsair. Realizing the bomb is far too large for the plane, Stallworth allows the plot to go forward, which results in the Klan pilot blowing himself into a 1,000 pieces on takeoff. (Think of the Death Star at the end of several Star Wars films.)

The Klan's next 37 plots see similar results. Their plan to unleash a ravenous tiger in a multi-racial crowd fails when the three Klansmen who try to steal it from the zoo are savaged, because the tiger mistook their robes for a giant chicken. Their plan to lob grenades into a parade from a helicopter fails when the person handling the grenades counts to three by using Mississippis. (Also, they get stuck in his robe.) Their plan to roll a steamroller into a black church fails when they leave the steamroller in gear and their robes get caught underneath it (17 Klansmen are killed in this scene alone). Etc. etc...

Stallworth is finally able to arrest the two surviving Klansmen and their co-conspirators in the police department when he convinces them to walk into a jail cell disguised as a strip club.

Black Panther

Marvel Studios finally brings to vivid cinematic life it's first and most famous African superhero. T'Challa (Scarlett Johansson)... (Just kidding! It's James Earl Jones) is a prince of the majestic hidden nation of Wakanda who must rise to the level of king when his father (Eddie Murphy) is killed by horde of angry ants, upset that they were left out of the Ant Man films.

T'Challa takes on the mantle of the Black Panther, the legendary, super-powered defender of Wakanda (and not Huey Newton's grandson, President Trump), in order to lead the nation and investigate his father's death. Soon, he finds himself hot on the trail of a Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson), until he realizes he's wandered into the wrong film. He then takes a Vought Corsair (Stan Lee) back to the right film, only to find out that Wakanda has been taken over by Aquaman (Jason Momoa), who quickly realizes he's in the wrong film, and, after a lengthy apology and a fairly protracted arbitration between Marvel and DC Comics, muscles his way back to the famous water tower at Warner Bros., where they filmed most of his underwater scenes.

After this, the story (Academy Award Winner Mahershala Ali) gets really confusing, due to the fact this thing was largely plotted by comic book writers. T'Challa loses his powers, gets them back, dies four times, does a crossover series with Dr. Strange (Randy Quaid) and finally reclaims his throne back from a Dr. Evil (Albert Finney, in his final role). He also marries and divorces Mary Jane Watson, but who in a Marvel Comic hasn't?

Under T'Challa's beneficent rule, Wakanda can return to its primary economic activities: Hiding Vibranium from the world and selling Black Panther merchandise (Scarlett Johansson) to Amazon Prime customers (Stew Miller).

Bohemian Rhapsody

A literal depiction of the famous Queen song, the film begins with a guy (Rami Malek) confused about real life and fantasy, who spends the next 35 minutes complaining to his mom (Raquel Welch) about it, along with the spree killing he committed a few moments ago. It's at this point the audience (Gene Shalit) realizes this guy might be smoking some of the reefer.

He turns away from this domestic clustersquawk to assist famed astronomer Galileo (Jerry Lewis, in his final role) on an experiment involving electricity, lightning, and comic Italian dancing of the commedia dell'arte period. The highlight of this scene is when he is frightened by his shadow (Ellen Degeneres), causing the experiment to catastrophically fail, to which Galileo exclaims, "FLAAAVEN!"

The guy tries to flee his shadow, but is held in place by a crowd of choral singers (The Manhattan Transfer) who refuse to let him go until he explains his relationship to the devil (Bryan Singer) and also what the heck "Bismillah" means.

Unfortunately, all of the singing involved results in an excessive amount of spit (Kevin Spacey) being flung into the guy's eyes. This infuriates him, and he rips off his shirt, swings about his mic stand (striking Dr. Brian May right in the plectrum), and leaves his baby (a vintage Vought Corsair XF4U-4) to follow the wind (Saoirse Ronan) wherever it goes.

He then comes back out to roaring applause and does Fat Bottomed Girls as an encore.

The Favourite

The wacky story of Queen Anne and the rivals for her courtly affections.

Queen Anne (Gary Oldman, in a tour de force performance) is the ruler of the British Empire and has an obsessive mania for horse racing. (Her bookie is composer George Handel.) Depressed by her inability to correctly rate horse flesh (beyond spotting it in dodgy royal meals), she turns to making her ladies in waiting race one another across the gardens of Windsor.

Sarah Churchill (Cher) is rated the Queen's favourite, mostly because she gets 3-2 odds for every race. However, Abigail Hill (Dame Judy Dench) is a terrific mudder, and, after paying off 15-1 during a St. Crispin's Day downpour, AND, given that they are in England, where rain is as common as syphilis in the early 18th century, she quickly gains the Queen's favor, or as the English say, "favour."

Much plotting and scheming and weighing of jockeys (Elijah Wood and Tobey Maguire) ensues, and finally, after having the umpteenth bucket of troth water dumped on her head from buckets perched above doorways (the plotting and scheming being of a particularly low variety), Queen Anne decides to settle the whole thing by having Sarah and Abigail race across the English Channel.

Two centuries later, after Sarah and Abigail's drownings, the British government (Ralph Fiennes) issues a half-hearted apology to their families and names a Vought Corsair in their honor. The film ends with the RAF Horse's Ass flying off into the distance.

Green Book

This is the story of the publication of Monty Python's Big Red Book (which is blue in real life, but is violet in this film, because blue and green messed with the digital effects and caused all the books to look like Terry Jones's buttocks in the extended dream sequence).

Famous classical and jazz pianist Don Shirley (Academy Award Winner Mahershala Ali) is traveling the southern United States in the dark, oppressive era of segregation, looking for places to stay and eat. He hires a driver named Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortenson) to fly him by Vought Corsair from place to place. This proves impractical, as Tony does not have a pilot's license, but does have a pathological fear of heights (developed after reading the plot of Vertigo in a Wall Street Journal film review while being thrown into a ravine).

After selling the Vought Corsair to Elvis (Andy Kaufman), Shirley and Vallelonga travel the country by car (the Batmobile). They have many remarkable and improbable adventures together. At one point they nearly invent the "Surely you can't be serious" routine, except that Don keeps responding, "Well, my name is Shirley."

Eventually, they run into a very young John Cleese (Eddie Redmayne), who admires the Green Book that Shirley uses to locate hospitable accommodations on their travels. Cleese vows to use that experience in a joke someday, but notes he has a terrible memory for colors, and the film ends with all of them laughing in freeze frame.


Roma is director Alfonso Cuaron's deeply personal ode to his favorite variety of tomato (or as the British say, tomato). "They look like plump little red sausages!" he would squeal during the press junkets for the film.

He even had 40,000 of them dropped from an airplane (a Vought Corsair, natch) at the premiere. It looked like the conclusion of a Brian De Palma film.

Anyway, there are a lot of tomatoes in the film, so many that it really obscures the plot (ostensibly the rise and fall of a 1930's Mexican gangster with a massive Jones for pico de gallo, but really a wistful reboot of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes).

There's also a great deal of romance in the film, with everyone calling each other, "My saucy little tomato!"

The film ends with a whole lot of tomatoes blowing up in slow motion, which Cuaron says was inspired by the conclusion of Michelangelo Antonioni's Zabriske Point, as well as a YouTube video of guys shooting up jars of Ragu spaghetti sauce.


Christian Bale (or possibly Jim Carrey... it's hard to tell at times) plays Vice President Dick Cheney. Cheney is selected by President George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell or possibly Rich Little) to be his Vice President. After winning a contentious election in 2000 (2016 or possibly 1960), and facing the crisis of 9/11, Cheney decides to expand the role of Vice President in the U.S. government from its traditional conception of Presidential shoe polisher. (He is finally sent over the edge by Bush telling him to, "Wax my spats, Dicko!")

Cheney's controversial actions make many people mad and others happy, depending on their politics. At one point Cheney shoots one of his hunting buddies in the face with a shotgun, exclaiming, "I'm so sorry! I thought you were a basket of puppies," after which the screenwriter (John Doe, possibly Allen Smithee) is replaced with someone who takes their job a little more seriously.

Cheney is then proclaimed king for life, demanding that Prime Minister Tony Blair (whoever is hosting the Oscars this year) to kiss his boots, after which the screenwriter is rapidly replaced again.

The third choice satisfactorily changes Cheney's remaining dialogue to lines from Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. (The scene where Cheney tells Donald Rumsfeld [himself], "Swear to me!" is particularly droll.)

The stress of being Vice-President eventually catches up to Cheney, causing serious heart problems and also his heavy makeup to melt into goo.

In the end, Bush and Cheney's terms end, and they both fly away from Washington in a Vought Corsair F4U that is plastered with Haliburton logos, arguing the whole way over who has control of the joystick. A big chyron, which reads "SATIRE" runs across the bottom (Cheney's).

1 - There are no footnotes this year. Tough.

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