Monday, January 18, 2010

Movie: Big Fan (2009)

The directorial debut by former Onion editor and screenwriter of The Wrestler Robert Siegel received only a token theatrical release. Now on DVD and streaming via Netflix, this unsettling, darkly hilarious film can find the audience it deserves.

Paul Aufiero (Patton Oswalt) is a 36-year-old parking garage attendant who still lives with his mother. Two things get him out of bed every day: the New York football Giants and the few minutes each week when he gets to be “Paul from Staten Island” on a sports radio call-in show. One night he has a chance encounter with his favorite member of the team’s starting line. Only his dream moment ends up going wrong. Badly wrong. Several days in the hospital wrong. What do you do when your one true passion in life literally and figuratively kicks your ass?

Big Fan is either the funniest drama of the year or the grimmest comedy. Siegel readily acknowledges the film’s debt to Scorsese movies like Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy (not to mention Billy Wilder’s The Fortune Cookie), but he makes the terrain his own and has a genuine feel for life in the outer boroughs. The movie is even better if you’re familiar with the charnel house that is NFC East football.

Co-star Kevin Corrigan tells a great story in the DVD extras about his own Big Fan-style meeting with Robert DeNiro. In a Q&A on the disc, Siegel says Paul had to be a Giants fan because he couldn’t imagine people being unable to get Jets tickets. Not after yesterday’s San Diego game. For the record, Siegel is right about Philadelphia Eagles fans.

Here’s Patton Oswalt deconstructing the hellish song ‘Christmas Shoes’ – now animated! And Roger Ebert on how Netflix streaming video may change the Academy Awards.