27 March 2012

Todd Holland and Amazing Stories, Episode 2.4, "Welcome to My Nightmare"

You probably didn't realize it, but director Todd Holland has been with you your whole life, if you were born in the early 80s. At his career's beginning he directed two tv episodes for the Steven Spielberg-produced Amazing Stories (including "Welcome to My Nightmare"), and an episode of Max Headroom (2.4). His moviedirector debut was the '89 videogame-spotlighting The Wizard (which movie famously [IMO?] revealed the SMB3 white-block warp). Then, two episodes of Twin Peaks (2.4 and 2.13), an episode of Tales from the Crypt (3.5), and (an) episode(s) of Eerie, Indiana; Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventures; and My So-Called Life. In 1998 he directed his second movie - which I totally remember seeing - the Richard Dreyfuss and Jenna Elfman family comedy Krippendorf's Tribe. Obviously, he then directed fifty-one (51) episodes of The Larry Sanders Show. He directed three episodes of Felicity, an episode of Friends ("The One Where Rachel Smokes"), and twenty-six (26) episodes of goddamn Malcolm in the Middle. I haven't seen his third movie, 2007's Firehouse Dog, but it's on my list because of its IMDb synopsis and theatrical poster:

Rexxx, Hollywood's top canine star, gets lost and is adopted into a shabby firehouse. He teams up with a young kid (Hutcherson) to get the station back on its feet.
Since then he (Holland, not Rexxx) directed some episodes of family shows I've never seen and two episodes of 30 Rock that I've also never seen. Truly an enviable career.

Holland received screenwriting credit a handful of times, including on "Welcome to My Nightmare."

"Welcome to My Nightmare" is a family story, i.e. a kids' episode. Anthology series are funny like that, seems funny to imagine turning on Mad Men one week for the kids' episode. Harry is a teenaged boy obsessed with horror movies. He's played by David Hollander, who was only a 17 year-old actor at the time, but had a bunch of credits already; strangely, seems this episode pretty much extinguished his acting career (recent credits are as music supervisor). One of those scary coincidences/curses, I guess.

Harry's mind is so fucked from horror movies that he has twisted-ass movie-fantasies during real life -- in the one pictured above some fratboy zombies spring out of trashcans.

Harry's mom and dad and sister Molly (Christina Applegate) and Molly's boyfriend Bud think Harry has problems, he shouldn't watch so many movies. They give him shit about it. Thing is, Harry in the realworld (the kid/adult watching this Amazing Stories episode who is exactly like Harry) is losing his noodle right now - this is exactly the same life realworld Harry lives(!). Holland knows the core demographic for this show will relate.

Bud: Hey Harr, how 'bout shooting some hoops later?
Harry: I'm going to the movies.
Younger brother: Surprise.
Bud: Harry, only molds grow in the dark. You gotta get some sun. Get out, work your body, and develop yourself. No girl's gonna wanna be seen with a half-bake loser-wimp.
Mom: This, uh, dance is for the entire school, isn't it Molly?
Molly: Mmhm.
Mom: Why don't you take some nice girl to the dance Harry?
Molly: Oooh, please. The last time all he talked about was being cloned from alien seed-pods.
Younger brother: Better than bowling or miniature-golf.
Bud: Mmm, let's face facts. Harry is a closet-sociopath, and I think it's time we all admitted that to ourselves and -- put Harry in an institution.

Fact: The boyfriend is played by Steve Antin. Random fucking name? Only kind of. He also had acting parts in The Last American Virgin, The Goonies, The Accused and other movies/shows, until switching gears to become a writer. Dude wrote the script for the '99 remake of the Cassavetes movie Gloria, directed by Sidney Lumet and titled Gloria. In 2003 a film he cowrote called Chasing Papi was released (which appears to be the only theatrical movie directed by busy tvdirector Linda Mendoza). In 2006 he directed a DTV movie called Glass House: The Good Mother, and then in 2010, at the age of fifty-two (52), the first theatrical movie he directed was released -- you fucking guessed it, I'm talking about: Burlesque. The movie with Cher and Christina Aguilera that you probably skipped in the theater 'cause you had no idea the director of the movie was the hunk bf in Todd Holland's episode 2.4 of Amazing Travels. DAMN. Fucking Hollywood. IMDb trivia says he was also the "[b]oyfriend of media mogul David Geffen during the mid-to-late 1980s."

Anyway, Bud (Antin) gives shit to Harry and makes him feel bad, telling Harry that he needs to take risks and do things because life is different from movies because in life you don't know what's going to happen.

Harry runs out of the house, pretty upset, and is like "Please God, why can't life be as good as a movie?"

So, via magical theater, Harry lands himself in Hitchcock's Psycho.
Fantasies merge with reality, that's what happens in family films -- being in one, Harry should have known.

In the end Harry returns to his life with a lesson learned, which is like what happens in It's a Wonderful Life, ISN'T IT??

26 March 2012

Amazing Stories, Episode 2.17, "Gershwin's Trunk"

It's been almost two hours since I was this excited about a tv episode. "Gershwin's Trunk" is the second episode Paul Bartel directed for the Steven Spielberg-produced Amazing Stories. It was co-written with John Meyer, who had co-written 1984's Not for Publication with Bartel (Meyer has no further IMDb credits).

Tempted to call this a more serious episode, prefer instead to call it the more deadpan of the two. Detective Watts (Bartel) witnesses the cover up of a crime committed by Broadway songwriter Jo-Jo Gillespie (Bob Balaban), and the episode is the telling of Gillespie's dark spiral.
The quick story is nimble and takes unexpected turns. There's rivalry, mysticism, betrayal, murder, housekeeping, detective work, songwriting, back-stage Broadway rehearsal, upscale NY restaurants, and everything in twenty-four minutes and played kind of straight (with Bartel winks); all together it's outrageously absurd.

Pretty sure the episode says that creative people who steal from the same source are bound to create derivative material, and also something about how often creative people steal from each other, and the shades of parasitism inherent to collaboration, and as Detective Watts says, "muses are fickle, Jo-Jo."

Again Bartel handles material with deep seriousness and complete ridiculousness, somehow, and with total understanding of, and control over, the magic of cinema.

Amazing Stories, Episode 1.20, "Secret Cinema"

The offices of Inner Genre (my skull) haven't been this surprised and delighted by a tv episode's existence since David Cronenberg's Friday the 13th: The Series episode. (Editor's note: hyperbole?)(Shawn's note: I'm the editor.) "Secret Cinema," Paul Bartel's episode 1.20 from the Steven Spielberg-produced Amazing Stories, originally aired on April 6, 1986 - The Longshot had been released on the 17th of January, same year. Bartel is the episode's writer; it appears to be a reworking of his early short film with the same name. If I owned a rowboat I'd send the errand boy (me) out across the flooded sidewalks of Los Angeles for champagne to celebrate this episode's availability on Netflix streaming.

Dr. Shreck: Jane, these feelings of confusion and inadequacy that you feel are easily explained.
Jane: Is it my infantile Oedipal complex?
Dr. Shreck: (laughs) Noo. No. No, Jane. The underlying fundamentals of your basic problem seem to me to be rooted in your clothes.
Jane: My Clothes?
Dr. Shreck: Mmm. And your makeup, and your hair.
Jane: But, doctor, don't my problems come from deep, deep inside me?
Dr. Shreck: Don't you wish! Psychological problems are easy to fix, it's very difficult to do anything about the way we look. Nevertheless, under my supervision - and with the help of the nurse - you will be cured, Jane.

Jane (Penny Peyser) seeks psychological treatment from Dr. Shreck (Bartel) over the trauma of her ended engagement to Dick (Griffin Dunne). Dr. Shreck casts her in a movie about her life, without telling her, and a fictional melodrama becomes superimposed over her realworld experiences. Is this a skewering satire on the patient or the institution? Based on Bartel's filmography I think the episode's target may be the entertainment industry and its exploitation of human emotions for the sake of entertainment. Tough for me to say however, because Bartel pokes fun at everyone, including himself.

It's such a weird fucking tv episode. At one point, the nurse (Woronov), disguised as a waiter, literally serves Jane turkey. Jane requests a green salad, but the waiter insists on serving turkey. For desert? Pie in the face. A later scene seems to be a possible recreation of a conversation Bartel possibly had with Corman over Death Race 2000 - a parsimonious producer accuses Dr. Shreck of making a 'turkey' (bad movie) and insists on shooting scenes of bloodshed.

IMDb user reviews reference The Truman Show and Ed TV, but this feels more like a precursor to Adaptation..

11 March 2012

Reform School Girl (1994)

Runaway Daughters (1994)

Mrs. Gordon: Any fun?
Angie Gordon: It was a drive-in movie. Not that I saw much of it.
Mr. Gordon: Ooo. Who was the lucky guy?
Angie: His name's Jimmy. He's a hood.
Mr. Gordon: Uh-huh.
Angie: No really, he is. He was arrested a couple of times.
Mrs. Gordon: I don't like the sound of that.
Angie: Well, Jimmy doesn't care what people like.
Mr. Gordon: Sounds a little like me. (laughs)

Angie: I thought you weren't gonna let him do it.
Mary: Well it's not like I planned it. I mean - we were out there on the hill, and he-he was talking about, you know, Sputnik, and how he thinks about it all the time.
Angie: He calls it his Sputnik?
Laura: Ewww.
Angie: Oh, god.
Mary: Nooo. The satellite. It was like he was really thinking about things in life, and he wanted to talk to me about them.
Angie: Men'll try anything. Pigs.

Roy: Mam, how well do you really know your daughter? You people ever sit down and talk to your kids? I mean really talk to them, about sex, and sexual diseases; about peculiar practices --
Mr. Gordon: Well we've
Mrs. Gordon: Yes
Roy: About the strange night world of twisted kicks, weird rituals, and equipment. Whips and chains and rubber balls and dildos and handcuffs. See we assume our kids know all these things, but they don't.
Mr. Cahn: Now just a minute --
Roy: Are you angry? That's good. 'Cause I can do business with angry people.

Cool and the Crazy (1994)

Joannie: Sorry guys. She don't know what she wants.
Joey: Oh, and that's - what makes her interesting

Jack: Loraine said you'd be here sooner or later, kid. It's, uh, it's the way you're dressed - it placed it for me. You're part of hidden America - that's lost for ideals yet is still trying to find out where it's at. But, still holding onto old, comfortable ways of American macho madness, forged in Iwo Jima.

Loraine: See, you've got these rules Michael; whose rules are they? I mean, whose dream are you buying into? You know, you've been angry for so long you don't even know it. We're all scared. But somehow we don't believe that babies, tv sets, two-car garages, and McCarthy are going to make us happy. You think Roslyn did something wrong - maybe in your world she did. But in our world, she's just fighting for some sort of freedom. Freedom from slavery she can't even explain. Don't you see Michael? Life is not wall-to-wall carpeting, with half-down, the rest of your life to pay. You and I had a good time. Some tenderness. But you can't even enjoy it, because somewhere in your mind it was dirty, un-American. Figure out what you want Michael. I'm not sure time is on your side. At any rate, adios. I'll send you the bill.