Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Underrated Comedies - Justin Bozung ""

Friday, April 26, 2013

Favorite Underrated Comedies - Justin Bozung

Justin Bozung is a recovering former podcaster and a featured contributor for SHOCK CINEMA magazine. He is currently collaborating with a Colorado publishing house on a book about the making of Stanley Kubrick's THE SHINING, and is about to start pre-production on a unique feature length documentary titled THE ENTERTAINER that will be executive produced by an actor or actors whose name (s) most everyone will know. Wink. Wink.



01. THE UNTITLED STAR WARS MOCKUMENTARY (2003)
Calling Damon Packard's film underrated seems a bit insulting. Instead it should be called underseen or misunderstood. Part experimental film, part satire and attack on George Lucas, MOCKUMENTARY is a painfully hilarious microfeature masterpiece. A cinephile of the same status as Quentin Tarantino, Packard has created a work that pre-dates the Youtube hipster explosion of re-editing film content or trailers for humorous purposes for the web.
With MOCKUMENTARY he not only orchestrates a comedic attack on the big business of George Lucas, his kiss-ass employees and THE PHANTOM MENACE, but he also creates a defensive Death Star like shield for his love of the films of Hollywood made during the '70s and early '80s.
Packard not only lampoons the making of THE PHANTOM MENACE by cutting and pasting himself into the making of footage for the film, but he also inserts his cinematic obessions for insane satirical and poignant effect like a home video introduction conducted by Tony Curtis to kick-start the work to the movie trailers for EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC and the Ken Russell film WOMEN IN LOVE onto the screen at the now infamous opening night screening of PHANTOM MENACE in Los Angeles.
See this film, and Packard's other great work. He'd be the future of filmmaking if someone would just give him a proper budget.
Watch The First 10 Minutes Of The Film Here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEJBghFLlIY
Or Download The Entire Film For Free Here:
http://archive.org/details/The_Untitled_Star_Wars_Mockumentary


02. DEATH TO SMOOCHY (2002)
Originally here I had written something that said that if you'd didn't like DEATH TO SMOOCHY you were stupid and had no understanding of basic film language. The sentence you just read summed up what I had previously written in 500 words. You're welcome. SMOOCHY is one of two films in the last twenty years that I've been compelled to see theatrically where I got up after the credits rolled and bought a ticket to the next screening. Its a masterpiece, a singular and striking comedic vision with a gaggle of characters that are all skirting on the edge of insanity. There's a particular desperation on screen that's addicting in SMOOCHY and its all up-for-grabs in a seedy noir world of drugs, pornography, blackmail and murder all set against an underbelly of the childrens programming television industry. Kiddie show hosts are trying to kill one another, their strung out on heroin, the mafia is blackmailing them..... There are career defining performances here for everyone involved too. A staggering work of comedy brilliance from start to finish that's just so one hundred percent perfect.


03. THE MALTESE BIPPY (1969)
My magazine editor told me a few months back that I'm the only person that he's ever met that actually likes THE MALTESE BIPPY. I'm totally fine with this. I don't see how you couldn't like a Dark Shadows esque black comedy about two pornography peddlers from NYC that leave to go upstate to stay in a mansion that supposedly has a bunch of gold hidden in it. Oh yeah..... A werewolf, Dracula, and a bunch of mafia goons come looking for the gold and hijinks ensue. Dan Rowan and Dick Martin of NBC's Laugh-In fame take to the big screen in one of the strangest films ever released within the studio system. On its release it was shamed by the film critics and it didn't stay in theaters for too long.
BIPPY is a blast. Not only is THE MALTESE BIPPY litered with Laugh-In esque gags, trap doors in the floors in all, but it has an all-star cast and some extremely surreal moments like Dick Martin and a werewolf man on a tandum bicycle having a rootin n' tootin gay ol' good time riding around together in Flushing, NY in a dream montage. The sequence could be edited out of the film and inserted into any epsiode of the classic '67 Patrick Mcgoohan series The Prisoner and it would fit just fine. You've gotta see THE MALTESE BIPPY. The setup is exquisite, the concept a swingin' '60s homage to the monster films of Abbott & Costello (even though the roles are switched here) and the comic finale is one of the funniest moments in the history of film obscura.
Here's Justin talking about THE MALTESE BIPPY with it's trailer:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zb5kuC2LD-Y


04. THE BIG MOUTH (1967)
I still hold a great deal of hope that the films of Jerry Lewis will be discovered by my generation before Master Lewis passes away. At age 87, the clock is ticking ever so quickly. More potent and surreal than Chaplin, more sympathic than Harry Langdon, and even quirkier than Buster Keaton, Jerry Lewis for my money is the greatest comedic filmmaker of his generation if not of all time. Lewis is truly the last of his kind. THE BIG MOUTH is a very different film in comparsion to his earlier cinematic masterpieces like THE NUTTY PROFESSOR, THE LADIES MAN or THE BELLBOY. It's a striking split-personality confessional slapstick crime caper set against San Diego that sees Lewis pullling double duty in the middle of a case of mistaken identity after literally catching his gangster doppelganger on a fishing line thrown out in the ocean. The premise is insane, and Lewis playing himself here (and a pushy redux of Professor Kelp from THE NUTTY PROFESSOR) in many respects is a sane man hung out to dry juxaposed within a universe of insane and oddball characters that are all out to get him or go crazy trying.
Perhaps more cartoon and surreal like than any of his other self-directed films, it's painfully obvious how a film like THE BIG MOUTH has influenced David Lynch and his TWIN PEAKS. You will find the similarities of ideas and gags in the narrative and the filmmaking style itself jaw dropping when you compare THE BIG MOUTH and TWIN PEAKS. THE BIG MOUTH is an important Lewis film, and it is a must see...as are all of Jerry's films.
Here's Justin talking about the brilliant 1961 Jerry Lewis film, THE LADIES MAN:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUp2lTP9PyY


05. MOVIE 43 (2012)
To be honest, MOVIE 43 was a film that had flown completely under my radar until one Saturday morning I awoke and read Roger Ebert's review of it. In the review he trashed the film. It's perhaps the nastiest Ebert review of a film I've ever read. Given Ebert's penchant for mistaking great works for trash I could only assume that MOVIE 43 was in fact not "one of the worst films ever made" but probably pretty close to a masterpiece. On that notion, I got in the car and went to the first showing of the day at my local multiplex. Ebert hated A CLOCKWORK ORANGE on its inital release, and until most recently he had hated Alfred Hitchcock's VERTIGO, but "found" its merits on a revisit of the film in a frame-by-frame capacity some years later. You're in the wrong business if you can't watch VERTIGO just once and not exclaim at the top of your lungs walking down a busy city street of its sheer greatness and personal audacity. Its an crazy notion right? How does one get a job as a film critic when they have no understanding of basic cinema language? It's beyond my understanding, but I disgress.
Ebert's review went on to call the film MOVIE 43 simply "Awful. Unwatchable. Non Sensical. Not funny." I decided I'd take on the role of judge and jury and do what I always do, find out for myself. I'll be damned if I'd ever let someone influence my thoughts or opinions about a film ever or a music album.
Following the screening of MOVIE 43 I rushed home and began to look at other reviews for the film. In doing this I realized something very strange. All the reviews via the major outlets in the United States and United Kingdom were very similar almost to the point that these reviewers all called each other on a secret film critic phone the night before and agreed that they'd all write exactly the same thing verbatim in regards to the film. Then something dawned on me, but more on that in a minute.
Seeing MOVIE 43 was like a swift kick in the balls. It was uncomfortably funny. It had me on the edge of my seat clasping my hand over my mouth in shock, but a fun shock -- thinking that what I was seeing and hearing in that moment was so very politically incorrect. I was thinking too about the fact that I was there in the dark in this big multiplex where across the hall there was a screening of WRECK-IT RALPH which probably contained dozens of children eating away at their popcorn and laughing to their hearts content and there I was in the next theatre laughing my ass at cheap jokes about the female menstral cycle, the objectification of women, and the shallowness of the human being. I was laughing my ass off at a vignette starring Hugh Jackman sitting in a restaurant with Kate Winslet and Jackman's got a pair of fleshy giant testicules hanging from his chin and there's soup dripping down them to Winslet's disgust. My god, how is this film even at the multiplex? I knew from this point that MOVIE 43 was a purely sociological satire work of greatness.
Yet, film critics didn't see that. The reviews were very cut and dry. It seemed to me that none of these film critics had bothered to read between the lines when it came to MOVIE 43. To them it simply just wasn't funny, and it was billed as a comedy. To them it seemed simple....They went to a see a comedy and they didn't laugh, and because of this, MOVIE 43 was a bad film plain and simple. It became clear to me that MOVIE 43 was now the nail in the coffin signifying the death of American film criticism.
As a film critic reviewing MOVIE 43, how could one not stop and ask themselves the following questions. Why is this so unfunny? Why is this film so bad? None of the reviews of MOVIE 43 bothered to ask these questions, and none of the reviews bothered to find out exactly how a filmmaker like Peter Farrelly, who's directly responsible for Hollywood comedy blockbuster's like DUMB AND DUMBER and THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY could have delivered such a mega misstep onto the doorsteps of the American movie-going public. What went wrong here for Farrelly?
In the first ten minutes of MOVIE 43, Farrelly tells you exactly what kind of film you're about to see. He tells you where he's at as an artist and how disenchanted he's become with the Hollywood system. Yet, this is a film that's been financed and distributed within the studio system, right? MOVIE 43 is a series of non-connected comic vignettes, seven to fifteen minute short films written and directed by a hodge podge of really inventive and up-and-coming filmmakers as well as veterns like Farrelly and Griffin Dunne. Because of it's structure, one must ask two questions like: Is Farrelly lampooning the modern era Hollywood Blockbuster comedy that he is almost solely responsible for creating for this generation? Is Farrelly satirizing the Sid Field structure of three act screen-writing predictability? Is he telling us that Hollywood comedies have become so formulaic and boring that you can almost time out the laughs? It's almost as if by creating a ninety minute film of comic vignettes Farrelly is telling us that today's comedies are so awful that you can literally take all of the best bits from the film and string them together and it would still be just as a effective film as one that had a formulaic three act structure like MEET THE PARENTS, THE GUILT TRIP or OLD SCHOOL. This is something that needs to be asked isn't it?
Regardless of whether you "buy in" to new age ballyhoo or not, there seems to be a meaning behind the film's title MOVIE 43 as well that critics never bothers to ask. After all, it's a title that has no connection to any of the story lines contained within the film. So, as a critic you'd think that you'd ask yourself to be somewhat curious about that, no? A friend recently suggested in conversation, that the title suggests a genericism, and while that's a great theory numerology suggests something different. Number theory implies that the number 43 is directly linked to a universal conflict between men and women. One clear commonality amongst all the vignettes of MOVIE 43 is exactly that, a major conflict of communication and general understanding between men and women. This is basic old-as-time sociological stuff, right?
But the number theory is just the tip of the iceberg in MOVIE 43, there's so much more. As a satire, MOVIE 43 bares it all. There may be more satire here than many can endure even in a fast seventy minutes. MOVIE 43 stabs away at the shallowness of human beings, our insistance and obsession on and with physicality, the objectification of women, disenchantment with traditional gender roles, the male ignorance of the female menstral cycle, and the personal connection lost to human over indulgence in modern technology.
How obvious and blatant does cinematic satire have to be for people such as film critics at Total Film or The New York Times when there's a 10 minute vignette starring Richard Gere as a technology CEO who's biggest problem in life is whether his company should put a cooling fan into the vagina of a life size fully nude female human turned living and breathing Ipod that people can take around with them that even allows for them the use of headphones. The debate of course was whether male users would cut their hands off or other appendages if the company placed the cooling fan into the nude female's vagina. Again this played in multiplexs across the United States. It doesn't matter if it was for 1 week or 2 weeks, the important thing is that it played nationally to the masses. How did something like this, something teetering on the edge of the experimental film make it out into national theatres. We will ever know?
MOVIE 43 is not a masterpiece. I'm not even certain that it warrants repeated viewings either after all is said and done, but it is a important film. It is an important satire that rings the bell loudly on contemporary society, and it's an important work because of the fact that its yet another pitch perfect example of exactly why film critics are the dumbest smartest people on the planet. 43 is a very funny film. I mean uncomfortable you're going to hell for laughing at that shit funny that speaks volumes, and I mean volumes. Will you be able to hear it?
MOVIE 43 TRAILER:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHQwLY0M-E8

HONORABLE MENTION:


SKIN DEEP (1989)
There's little to say about SKIN DEEP. You just need to see it. But here's a couple things you need to know about the film.

Blake Edwards directed. John Ritter in a tour de force performance that features him seething through new emotions on screen that he'd never reached before, and an insane scene that takes place in the pitch black between Ritter, a Brit heavy metal musican and a woman. They're all nude. Next thing you know the glow in the dark condoms come out and there's almost a "sword fight" amongst the ruckus. My god, you need to see SKIN DEEP for that scene alone. It's pee your pants funny.










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