Sunday, April 18, 2004

Magazine: The New Yorker, 4/19 issue

The Spring Humor Issue. The Harold Ramis profile by Tad Friend is interesting. Numerous writers and directors cite the Ramis films that changed their lives. Producer Brian Grazer says: “The ideas behind most comedies now ... are all Harold’s. He is the father of modern Hollywood comedy.” Ramis might want to question the paternity. Not that he’s to blame. At least a number of his movies are funny.

Here’s writer Dennis Klein: “Sloppiness is a key part of improv. And Harold brought that to Hollywood, rescuing comedies from their smooth, polite perfection.” First, again, this improv-based style has become the default mode for movie comedy. This is a bad thing. Second, improv is a hugely overrated arrow in the comedy quiver. Not all of it is funny, and most comics are not very good at it. And third, what’s the matter with perfection?

In the article, we track Ramis’ efforts to cast his next movie, an adaptation of the Scott Phillips novel THE ICE HARVEST. If you haven’t read it, do so now, before the movie comes out. Then do yourself a favor and read Phillips’ latest, COTTONWOOD, one of the best novels I’ve read this year. The good news is that Ramis has cast John Cusack as HARVEST’s crooked lawyer Charlie Arglist. The bad news is that Cusack wants to change the ending (which the article gives away, so be forewarned). And Ramis is inclined to agree with him.

Another article focuses on the Farrelly Brothers’ attempt to bring back the Three Stooges with ‘real’ actors in the roles. Their choice for Moe is Russell Crowe, who’s apparently considering it. Their back-up is Benicio del Toro. I guess they don’t want actors who can play angry but actually ARE angry. They even float Sean Penn’s name to play Larry.

Nowhere in the article is there a reference to the 1992 movie BRAIN DONORS, which just reinforces my belief that I’m the only person who’s ever seen it. Pat Proft, who had a hand in writing the NAKED GUN series, set out to make a modern Marx Brothers-style movie with comic Bob Nelson as Harpo, Mel Smith as Chico, and, believe it or not, John Turturro as Groucho. They even got Nancy Marchand to take over the Margaret Dumont role. Everybody gives it their all; Turturro attacks his jokes with a gusto bordering on maniacal. But the movie is an almost complete failure. (Except for Turturro’s clothes. At one point he wears a maroon pinstripe suit that I have coveted ever since.) Somebody needs to bring this movie to the Farrellys’ attention before they proceed any further.

TV: Rock’d with Gina Gershon, 4/16

If your personal assistant can’t locate a sex toy store in San Francisco, it’s time to get a new personal assistant.