Wednesday, March 27, 2013

After Hours - Another Movie Gem

Martin Scorcese’s 1985 black comedy “After Hours” is another one of those movies I love that was never what you’d call a smash hit, though it did win Scorcese a Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival.

It stars Griffin Dunne as Paul Hackett, a hapless word processor who meets a girl, Marcy (Rosanna Arquette) in a diner and agrees to a late-night date with her later on. He goes to her apartment, which she shares with a sculptor and on the way loses his only money, a $20 bill that flies out his taxi’s window. Stranded in the lower depths of Manhattan (probably TriBeCa, also the name of Scorcese’s production company) Paul’s only desire is to get back home, a desire thwarted at every turn as he runs into and frequently finds himself fleeing from, a variety of bizarre characters, most of whom are at once comic and vaguely sinister oddballs. There’s no plot in the conventional sense; it’s a series of misadventures that eventually turn hostile and sinister, thanks to Scorcese’s handling of the material. Still, you can’t help laughing as the misfortunes pile up against poor Paul, until he’s fleeing for his very life, encased in plaster like a statue. You have to see it to find out why.

The cast, which apart from Dunne and Arquette, also features Teri Garr, Cheech and Chong and Catherine O’Hara, is uniformly wonderful.

Most critics liked it when it first came out. Roger Ebert gave it four stars and said it "continues Scorsese's attempt to combine comedy and satire with unrelenting pressure and a sense of all-pervading paranoia." He later added it to his Great Movies list. But it never seemed to catch on, I think because it defies categorization – is it a comedy, a mystery, an urban fairy tale?  I don’t know and I don’t think I care. It’s a unique kind of dark, shaggy dog story. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Friday, March 22, 2013

My New Favorite Blog

I have been trying, with limited success, to start writing a play -- a farce really (the type of play, not the effort) -- and I've found it's very, very difficult. A farce operates on very different rules than a standard comedy, or any play, for that matter: it must be set up with the precision of a Swiss watch, plotted to within an inch of its life and should, if it's successful, leave its audience laughing so hard they gasp for breath. (The actors, too, should be gasping, but more from their exertions onstage.) I've seen several definitions, but one says something to the effect that a farce begins when Character A tells Character B that everything will be all right as long as Character C doesn't show up. Then there's a knock on the door and it's... Character C.

Anyway, I went to the Internet to search "farce plots" and was directed to an article in a blog by Ken Levine, named one of the best 25 blogs of 2011 by TIME Magazine.. I'll let his brief profile speak for itself:

Ken Levine is an Emmy winning writer/director/producer/major league baseball announcer. In a career that has spanned over 30 years Ken has worked on MASH, CHEERS, FRASIER, THE SIMPSONS, WINGS, EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND, BECKER, DHARMA & GREG, and has co-created his own series including ALMOST PERFECT starring Nancy Travis. He and his partner wrote the feature VOLUNTEERS. Ken has also been the radio/TV play-by-play voice of the Baltimore Orioles, Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres. and has hosted Dodger Talk on the Dodger Radio Network.

The article on farce was short, but sweet and, while there I took the opportunity to look through some of his other posts. Suffice to say, he's a terrific writer and covers the showbiz/Hollywood/pop culture scene brilliantly. There's lots of insider stuff about, for example, M*A*S*H -- the writing, the filming, the actors. Stuff, as they say, you won't find anywhere else.

Check out the following and see if you don't agree: