Monday, December 31, 2012

Funniest film of 2012: This is 40 by Judd Apatow

We saw five films this last week: The Guilt Trip (Barbra Streisand/Seth Rogan), Parental Guidance (Billy Crystal/Bette Midler/Marisa Tomei/Tom Everett Scott), Argo (Ben Affleck, John Goodman, Tate Donovan, Victor Garber, Chris Messina, Bryan Cranston and Alan Arkin), and finally, the funniest movie in 2012 (IMHO), This is 40, (Paul Rudd/Leslie Mann/Melissa McCarthy/Albert Brooks/John Lithgow/Megan Fox/Jason Segel/Chris O'Dowd).

The film was produced, written, directed by Judd Apatow, of Bridesmaids (producer), Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, among many successful movies.

I think this film was remarkable on many levels. First, the script. Even though it chronicles of a white privileged couple in LA with very priveledged lives, compared to the ruinous world most of live in, I still found the film to be something I could relate to (even though I'm now 50) and very erudite.

This film is so funny because of the talents of the two leads (as well as Apatow's
script and direction). Paul Rudd (the most under-lauded actor on the planet in my opinion and a total hottie) and Leslie Mann. This was perfect casting because both actors have consummate comedic timing and a great onscreen chemistry. They carry this movie with a cast of supporting brilliant actors.

The movie is the story of Pete (Rudd) and Debbie (Mann) who are celebrating their 40th birthdays in the same week. They have two daughters (brilliantly acted by Appatow's daughters) and a number of mounting adult problems all very timely whether you are poor or previously rich: debt, flagging careers, serious in-law challenges, mortgage payments in arrears, amongst many others. The movie shows both the strength of the marriage but also the weaknesses of the marriage, which by the movie's end almost breaks them up.

I must say that there were moments that I was in gut-wrenching tears laughing. There are so many brilliant bon mots:

Question: "What's the difference between a gay man's beard and a straight man's beard. Answer: "The smell."

I HOWL just writing this.

There have been many funny films this year. Perhaps the one that I think truly is a close second to This Is 40 was the brilliant Bernie (Jack Black/Shirley MacLaine) which is a faux documentary film that uses real-life people from the original story and incorporates actors who play the leads (Black and McLaine and Matthew McConaughey who hails from the state of Texas). Perhaps, I appreciated the humor even more so because I am a former Texan. Anyone from Texas can enjoy the film, though. Although sometimes Texans lack the ability to have any sense of humor about themselves and their beloved state.

Besides Jack Black who has an amazing singing voice and La McClaine, this movie succeeds and is most humorous because of the real-life town of Carthage, Texas characters who are interviewed. Most them are also stars of the movie because of their unique Texan eccentricities. My favorite line is:

"Anyone in town would 'ave shot 'er for five dollars."
I simply adore this character.

Go see This Is 40. And rent Bernie.

Another honorable mention in comedy was TED. I can't believe that I enjoyed this film because it has so much scatological, straight boy humor, which I normally find repulsive. But I truly laughed throughout the movie.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

ARGO with Ben Affleck: one of this year's best films

I went to see Argo this week. It is at this point the best film I've seen this year, however, I have yet to have see some of the other front-runner, like Lincoln or Les Miserables.

This film is not the type of film I usually go to or enjoy, because these films can be very intense and nerve-wracking. I don't mind sadness, I don't mind dark or esoteric films. I want to be transported out of my own dreary existence when I watch a movie.But being nervous isn't my idea of an alternative state. Thus, I typically shun testosterone films.

But Argo is just so damned good, in every way that I have to rave about it (good script, good directing, good performances, good casting, fascinating and riveting story) because it transcended my usual dislike for "thrillers". I hate to even use that term because it really is so much more than the typical thriller. So much more and so much better.
If you didn't already know it, the movie was produced by (along with George Clooney), directed by, and stars Ben Affleck. It is a complete virtosity of multi-tasking and talent.

The movie also includes an all-star cast including: John Goodman, Tate Donovan, Victor Garber, Chris Messina, Bryan Cranston and the most ubiquitous actor of the year, Alan Arkin.

The movie is loosely based on the true story about six staff members who escape the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979 when the compound was stormed by Iranians and the 54 staff members were taken and held hostage for 444 days. These lucky staff members who escaped capture were working in the embassy's visa applications offices which opened directly onto a street. They were able to escape easily, unlike the hostages who were in more remote locations on the embassy compound. They find refuge at the Canadian Ambassador to Iran's private residence.

Ben Affleck portrays Tony Mendes the CIA agent who was assigned to devise and execute the harrowing responsibility of rescuing the six staff member from the Canadian Ambassador's residence and then getting them out of the country. This story is so extraordinary.

Affleck delivers a performance that is as masterful and nuanced, similar to George Clooney's performance in last year's The Descendants. Affleck certainly deserves an Oscar nomination for Best Actor and Best Director and the film will most assuredly be nominated for Best Picture, at the very least (although I suspect Affleck will be nominated only for Best Director). It currently has four Golden Globe nominations (Best Picture - Drama, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor for Arkin).

This is such an entertaining and intelligent film. Don't miss it. I also should say that another of my favorite movies this year, surprisingly, was Skyfall. Two non-chick flick favorites in one year for me....that's unprecedented.

Oh, and "Argo Fuck Yourself" (see the's utterly charming in this movie the use of my favorite work "fuck").  Best line of the decade!

As an aside, I should mention how fantastically good-looking Affleck is in this film. He has a shirtless scene which displays what is one of the best hairy chests in Hollywood (and under seen), in my opinion. He is simply magnificent looking in this movie, especially his full, dark beard. He is complete eye-candy every moment he is on screen, despite that his character smokes (which true for the time--I did the same thing in the late 70s). Sorry for gushing. But he deserves it.

Affleck in his younger days. Age has definitely been kind to him.

Watch the trailer below