In Praise of Pee-wee

Probably everybody’s heard by now about the resurgence of Pee-wee Herman, actor Paul Reubens’ singular creation, who’s now enjoying a joyous renaissance on the Broadway stage after wowing audiences in L.A. with a new version of his classic stage show of the 1980s.  As a super fan of Pee-wee and Reuben I’ve been following the latest reviews since his show opened the other day.  While the Los Angeles critics seemed to be totally into the revivial, the NYC press is an interesting mix of reactions, from the adoring to the “Huh?”, which suggests to me that the latter reviewers simply never got into Pee-wee and his particular brand of absurdist amusement.  Not to say that everybody has to like the character or the show, but to not “get” Pee-wee…well, if you don’t buy into the premise, there’s no way his world view is going to make any sense, or more importantly, make you laugh.  But for those of us who love Pee-wee, and maybe even for people who don’t, 1985′s big screen success Pee-wee’s Big Adventure should provide enough evidence that Paul Reubens’ character of the child-man Pee-Wee Herman is a classic of movie comedy.

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The 30th Anniversary of Airplane!

On July 2nd, 1980, AIRPLANE! was released in the United States. For its 30th anniversary, the Film Society at Lincoln Center held a screening and a Q&A last night with directors and writers David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker (hereafter known as ZAZ). Ever since I stumbled out of THE NAKED GUN (1988) as a giddy seven-year-old, the ZAZ initials have been emblazoned in my consciousness, their screenplays replacing large chunks of my grey matter. I am not an impartial observer. But it wouldn’t be hyperbole to say that ZAZ’s peak equaled those of the Marx Brothers and Mel Brooks in the density of quality jokes-per-minute. Their approach was unique in that these comedies didn’t use comedians. Their laughs came from the cognitive dissonance of watching handsome leading men spout intricate absurdities. All of the performers play the straight man, while the writing is the star.

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The 32nd Starz Denver Film Festival

32nd Starz Denver Film Festival satellite screenings at The International Film Series in Boulder.

There are thousands of film festivals out there, and most of them are small D.I.Y. affairs that lean heavily on digital projection and extremely low-budget projects that happily take up any host that will notice them. And that’s fine. But I’ve also seen an abuse of local media by some of these overzealous festival promoters who know that the over-worked and harried journalists at shrinking newspapers often times won’t question their outrageous claims at being the “Cannes of the (your location here)” or other such nonsensical hyperbole. So it’s with great pleasure that I announce the return of a “reel” film festival that’s been around for several decades and that ambitiously brings in ten days of very eclectic programming, most of which is still on 35mm film: The 2009 Starz Denver Film Festival (Nov. 12 – 22). [...MORE]

Goldentusk Does The Movie Themes

YouTube sensation Goldentusk, a.k.a. Andrew Goldenberg, as Superman

Okay, so I’m again officially the last to know something.  This marvelous young actor/comedian named Andrew Goldenberg, a.k.a. Goldentusk, has been writing, producing, and starring in a series of imaginative original videos, taking movie theme songs and putting his own words to them, and playing all the characters.  Maybe you’ve seen them — I hadn’t until yesterday, actually — but I’m now officially in love. 

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The Madcap Mind of Juliusz Machulski

For aficionados of foreign film, great Polish cinema generally brings to mind such names as Wajda, Kieslowski, and Zanussi. Those are the directors who inspire retrospectives at film festivals and whose careers are studied in film schools. But, these type of directors no longer typify Polish cinema, which has managed to survive the many changes and struggles of the post-communist era with commercial fare often patterned after Hollywood genres.  The director considered the most commercially successful in all of Polish film history has dominated the Polish box office since the early 1980s, bridging the late communist era and the contemporary commercial industry. His name is Juliusz Machulski, and his string of oddball satires and genre flicks have such a madcap craziness about them that they are immediately recognizable as his.

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            The son of popular Polish actor Jan Machulski, Juliusz graduated from the famous film school in Lodz in 1978. In 1981, he made his first feature film, Vabank, a caper film in the spirit of Rififi or The Sting. Vabank starred Juliusz’s father, Jan, and it introduced the Polish audience to what would become the Machulski style—broad comedy, slick production values, a Polish twist on a familiar genre, a manic energy, and a preference for oddly imaginative production design.  

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