Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Austinpussy (from Austin Powers in Goldmember)
Directed by Jay Roach
2003, USA

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I’d blog about Goldmember in an academic setting, but sometimes the gods of bad cinema shine their light upon thee, and it’s all one can do to take advantage of this moment. There are very few shorts within a feature that seem like a non-sequitur to the rest of the film, but then again there are very few films that seem to be composed of a string of non-sequiturs itself. Austin Powers in Goldmember could be defined as so, a post-modern clusterfuck that sheds more insight into the way Hollywood perceives the general public’s notion of entertainment than the average big-budget abomination. The opening Austinpussy, without having relevance to the plot (which is flimsy at that,) actually instills the tone for the rest of the film, as the audience is treated to a movie within a movie for the first and not the last time throughout.

Grounding most of its action film parody in Mission Impossible 2-era John Woo, the film’s style is notably different than any from the previous episodes of the franchise. Helicopters explode, a high-speed chase ensues through the badlands, and Austin Powers skydives into action. Basically, this is not anything likely the comedic style of the first two films. However, it all makes sense when the main characters are revealed to be various mega-stars, such as Tom Cruise, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Spacey, and Danny Devito. Before the audience is able to grasp the situation, it’s revealed that it’s a clip from the Steven Spielberg directed Austinpussy, and the real movie begins.

These are the first images of the film, and they star none of the actors who dominate the next 90 minutes. This parody is more indebted to the previous films in the series than Interestingly enough, compared to The Larry Sanders Show or Tropic Thunder, the humor isn’t in how these Hollywood superstars lampoon themselves, but in how they satriize characters the audience is familiar with. Cruise doesn’t even attempt to affect a British accent, toothily smiling his way through a “yeah baby.” Paltrow, pre-Chris Martin’s daily inspiration, fills the role of vapid but dangerous femme fatale with the thinly-veiled double entendre of a name. Spacey laughably hams it up as Dr. Evil and Devito is short, so he makes a perfect fit as Mini-Me. As if the audience doesn’t know who these celebrities are, they add titles to a freeze-framed image of each. We laugh because we know who these people are, and they don't belong in an Austin Powers film.

Numerous reviews of the film commented that there was more quality comedy filmmaking in the opening parody than in the rest of the film. And they’re right— there’s something inspired in these three minutes of absurdity, as if the filmmakers themselves took a step back from joylessly force-feeding absurdist tripe, and enjoyed the scenario they present: a star-filled Austin Powers sequel that actually exceeds expectations. What does it say when the peak of a feature film is a short parody of said film? I wouldn’t go so far as to say that we might look more fondly on Goldmember if it just consisted of the aforementioned three minute short— then we wouldn’t have so many great Pepsi Twist and Beyonce musical numbers— but what it does call to question is the relationship between short and feature, one we’ve delved into numerous times this semester. Especially the idea that of importance attributed to each; if the feature is supposed to be what brings audiences in, why was the word of mouth revolving around the cameos in the opening short likely the inspiration to those on the fence about paying to see another Austin Powers film?

The final twist regarding their relationship is when at the end of the film, the main villain Goldmember, played by Mike Myers throughout, turns around and reveals himself to be played by John Travolta. We’re back to Austinpussy, and even the characters of the film are watching. Has the feature actually been within the short? WHY IS AN AUSTIN POWERS MOVIE SO COMPLEX?

Monday, November 24, 2008


Grindhouse--Fake trailer
Directed by Eli Roth

Thanksgiving is one of the five fake trailers featured during Tarantino's /Rodriguez's feature exclusively called Grindhouse. The double feature consists of Rodriguez's Planet Terror followed by Tarantino's Death Proof. I have a pretty good feeling most, if not of all of this blog's viewer's have at least heard of this gruesome duo, so I'll restrain from getting into the gory details of either film.

The great part of this nearly 3 hour double feature wasn't the crazy, disgusting, almost vomit inducing special effects, but instead, the advertisements for fake trailers that are featured before each segment. According to Rodriguez, the original plan was to make both films fake trailers reflecting those of the early 1970's, but clearly that didn't happen.

The trailers were all shot in two days, but the short time spent on these films doesn't reflect their quality, whatsoever. (wink)

The trailer I chose was for the fake slasher movie called Thanksgiving, directed by Eli Roth. The trailer was produced in the style of holiday type slasher movies like the well known Halloween.The trailer stars jeff rendell as a killer who stalks and kills people as if he is carving a thanksgiving turkey. Jordan Ladd, Jay Hernandez and Roth himself play Rendell's intended victims.

Not only is the voiceover ( Roth, himself) extremely creepy, but the mere sound that the killer's weapon makes as he kills each of his victims makes me close my eyes in disgust every time. The worst scene, by far is the last scene of the actual thanksgiving meal where all the family is gathered around the table and..well.. you'll see when you watch the trailer yourself.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Itchy and Scratchy (from the Simpsons Movie)

Itchy and Scratchy (from The Simpsons Movie)
Directed by David Silverman, United States, 2007, running time 2:24
20th Century Fox

This short comes at the beginning of the highly anticipated Simpsons Movie. The Simpsons television show had been around for many years before this and though there were previous talks about making a movie, they never panned out, until this. With a cult following surrounding the television show, there were a lot of expectations seeing these characters on the big screen for the first time. Ironically the first images we see are not the Simpsons themselves. Instead the movie opens with an Itchy and Scratchy short film.

For an epic movie release, the filmmakers decided to open with an epic feat: a moon landing. Dramatic music paired with dramatic visuals sucks the audience in right away. Just as Itchy and Scratchy are about to claim the moon in peace, Itchy (the mouse) uses the flag to stab Scratchy (the cat) in the chest repeatedly before hitting and breaking his astronaut helmet causing his eye to bulge and seemingly die. Itchy returns to Earth and is framed as a hero. He “did everything he could to save cat” and eventually runs for President with Hillary Clinton and wins. While in office he looks up at the moon and panics. He sees the cat, who is still alive, hold up a sign that reads “I’m telling.” After a bit of Nixon-esqe worrying, pacing, and thinking he has an idea. He moves painting to reveal the nuclear missile control board, sets it to “accidental launch”, and presses the button that sends countless nukes towards the moon. The cat panics and when he screams all of the missiles except one enter his body making him bigger than the moon itself. Then the last war head stops in front of him, and opens its front to let a small boot kick him causing a huge nuclear explosion. As the spectacle of the short sets in we hear Homer booing the short and he address the fictitious movie theater saying, “I can’t believe you paying to something you get on TV for free, everyone here is a giant sucker,” and then he looks directly into the camera, “especially you.” Then the familiar Simpsons title sequence begins.

This is a welcome treat for Simpsons fans and serves as a great opening for the film. It is very cinematic and sets up an epic frame that is immediately destroyed which lets the audience know that it will be the same old Simpsons. Also, I look at this a masterful pivot point into a movie that has so much expectations and fan fare. I think it would be impossible to start the movie with the title sequence like the television show. This separates it as a movie event, and acts as a sort of ice breaker for the audience. This serves as an interesting parallel when held up to Warner Brothers’ playing of Looney Tunes before features in the past. Although it’s not exactly the same, because Itchy and Scratchy are in the show and the short isn’t held up as its own entity, it works in a similar vein. It is a source of small non-linear laughs that engage the audience.

The humor is classic. Think of it as Tom and Jerry on steroids. It is basically the escalation from one physical gag to another. It starts with an unprovoked physical attack and ends in blowing up the moon with nuclear weapons. Of course, being the Simpsons, there are pop-culture references that make us laugh. When Itchy runs for office he runs with Hillary Clinton, which is a quick, simple, and contemporary bit of humor. They then hold is in suspense before the ultimate gag, the explosion. Also, during the landing, the juxtaposition of the calmness and epic nature associated with going to the moon and the unprovoked and over the top physical violence provides a great source of laughs. Overall, this short is entertaining in and of itself, but it also serves the greater good of the feature in which it resides.