2010 • 100 minutes • Universal Pictures
Really, the best way to review Leap Year would be to open up Irish pop culture blog Culch.ie’s review of the film and Jesse Hassenger’s review of The Perfect Match at the AV Club in different tabs, put them side by side, and cross your eyes. Unfortunately, I am told that this is bad for your eyesight by “science,” so I will do the best impersonation that I can.
Leap Year, for those of you who don’t hoard bad movies and spring them on your friends when the occasion rises, is a 2010 romantic “comedy” built on the Irish and British tradition of women only being able to propose on Leap Day. You see, according to Irish folklore, St. Brigid once asked St. Patrick if women could propose to their menfolk. St. Patrick said only on leap day, and St. Brigid, strangely, did not smack him in the face. (As a McBride, I must protest hotly at this portrayal of my eponymous saint—good St. Brigid was ten when St. Patrick died, so they were probably not hanging out a lot.) After Anna’s longtime boyfriend Jeremy fails to propose to her at an appropriate time (“where do you get off putting earrings in a RING BOX?!” I yelled at the computer screen) and heads off to Dublin for a medical convention, she decides to be spontaneous for once and chase after him to propose on Leap Day. Unfortunately, her flight gets redirected and she ends up in Dingle. Declan, owner of the local pub, offers to drive her to Dublin for a price.
2015 • 124 minutes • Universal Pictures
Amy Schumer doesn’t punch hard enough for me.
Let me be very clear: on the basis of what I have seen of Schumer’s work, she does not punch hard enough for my taste. Unlike that Washington Post article, I am not going to pretend to judge Schumer’s comedy on the basis of her entire oeuvre when I haven’t seen most of it. But from what I have seen—“Last Fuckable Day,” “Celebrity Interview,” “Football Town Nights,” and Trainwreck—Schumer seems great at setting up scenarios where she can highlight problematic elements. For instance, in “Football Town Nights,” when a new football coach asks his players to stop raping, we are treated to the black comedy of teenage boys offering up scenario after scenario where rape is acceptable. (“What if my mom is the DA and she won’t persecute?”) But the conclusion, where the coach saves the game by describing football as raping the other team, is disappointing, because it just plays into rape culture. I think we are meant to read that conclusion as more black comedy (look, it’s embedded in the entire system of this game!), but it feels too subtle to conclusively make that point. Obviously, no creator owes it to an audience to be unsubtle, but it sits oddly with me. “Celebrity Interview” does the same; it feels like it’s mocking celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence instead of mocking the system that capitalizes on presenting women with non-traditional interests (but, of course, very traditional beauty) as rare and exotic.
Trainwreck, Schumer’s film debut as both a lead actress and as a screenwriter, falls into much the same category for me. Schumer gets a lot of comedic and dramatic mileage by genderswapping a common romantic comedy male archetype—Amy Townsend works hard, parties hard, and has no time for commitment. The film’s second scene, wherein Amy successfully gets her date to go down on her before she “falls asleep” so she doesn’t have to reciprocate, is a grand thesis statement for the film. But, like Amy in that scene, the film doesn’t go much farther than that.
1985 • 143 minutes • Universal Pictures
Oh, Terry Gilliam.
As Captain Cinema and I make our way through Monty Python’s Flying Circus as the appetizer portion of every Sunday’s Comedy Brunch, I am filled with nothing but fondness for the American Python. This may be largely motivated by my harsh disillusionment with Eric Idle, my childhood favorite, during Monty Python (Almost) Live, but the Terries (Jones and Gilliam) have proven to be the sweetly off-kilter secret weapons of the troupe this far into series one. Terry Jones’ beautifully daffy characters belie his role in establishing the Pythons’ peculiar brand of comedy; Terry Gilliam’s surreal, irreverent animation perfectly epitomizes the Pythons’ best comedy. The two ended up co-directing Monty Python and the Holy Grail and the rest, well, is their respective filmographies.
But well into my teens, all I knew of Gilliam was his work on Monty Python, and that only due to the fact that BBC America ran Monty Python’s Flying Circus reruns now and again while I was in middle school. While Madame McBride is an Anglophile par excellence, the Pythons have never been her cup of tea. (Although I have always thought that a lot of Eric Idle’s throwaway female characters have exactly the same avian quality she has.) So no Time Bandits, Brazil, and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen for me, let alone The Fisher King, Twelve Monkeys, or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. (And that last one despite the prerequisite Johnny Depp period for young male-attracted folks of the early aughts. Y’all, I don’t make the rules.) It was only the holidays that even brought me to Brazil, since Captain Cinema likes to start off the holiday season with a viewing of the film. (This is largely how it works here at the Church of Bowie; I rent books and leave them about for her to explore, while she commandeers our cinematic voyages. Friendship is a two way street, friends.)
The Bride of Frankenstein
based on Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
1935 • 75 minutes • Universal Pictures
In recent months, Captain Cinema and I had a week long Robert Downey, Jr film festival. It was a career view, by and large, starting with Less Than Zero and ending with The Soloist. (I mean, the good Captain did trot off to go see The Judge, a film I only ever refer to on the subway as “So which one of them has cancer?”, but that wasn’t part of the festival.) We were tracking several elements of Downey’s career, but we were looking for the moment, if it even existed, when Robert Downey, Jr’s current star image was codified into being. (It’s between Gothika and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. You’re welcome.) Everything is weird until it isn’t, as we say at the Church of Bowie, and that turn is both a fascinating and powerful force in our culture.
The Bride of Frankenstein is such a turn. While the original novel still exerts a powerful pull all its own, it’s this film—in concert with its predecessor, Frankenstein—that codifies so much of what we think of Frankenstein in pop culture. Even the title may have contributed to the much-despaired over nominal confusion between Frankenstein the doctor and Frankenstein’s Monster by teenage intellectuals. (The much more interesting and engaging answer, of course, is that we, as a culture, prefer our monsters easily identifiable and are timid of rebuking authority.) Here is a film so utterly recognizable as part of the Frankenstein ouevre that it supersedes the original. It teems with vaguely Eastern European mobs, torches, and mad scientists. It gives the monster his voice. And, most importantly, it gives us the Bride.
2009 • 99 minutes • Universal Pictures
When the MacGyver parody turned film MacGruber was selected as the Dissolve’s Film of the Week, there was a bit of an outcry, insofar as the Dissolve’s expertly curated and very polite commenteriat can cry out. Previously, most of the Films of the Week had been, if not recognized good films, at least films with either merit, undeniable cultural cache, or both. (Guess which one Top Gun falls under. Although Val Kilmer’s face in that film is plenty meritorious.) But what’s the point of discussing a film if we’re all just going to agree that it’s wonderful, so wonderful? There’s certainly a place and a time for it—there’s plenty of crying over Captain America: The Winter Soldier at the Church of Bowie—but it’s always more interesting to get multiple perspectives on something, especially something that’s often dismissed. I thought that highlighting such a divisive and largely derided film was a brilliant idea.
Although, apparently, not brilliant enough for me to go out and rent the darn thing immediately. No, it took the current throes of my second stab at Saturday Night Live fandom (this time, it’s personal) to drive me into the knee-high garden of mixed delights that is the back catalog of films based on Saturday Night Live sketches. My adoration of Will Forte’s tenderhearted madness, eighties pastiches, and the pop culture deconstructions of The Lonely Island (who only began to shine a light into the fascinating and horrifying remix culture depths currently mined by “Too Many Cooks,” Neil Cicierega, and their heirs on Saturday Night Live, Good Neighbor) had finally gotten the better of me. Or, more specifically, the better of Captain Cinema and I, because she’s the one who fetched the DVD from the public library.
2014 • 89 minutes • Universal Pictures
For me, there is such a thing as an impenetrable director. Simply put, I find some directors utterly bulletproof. I can’t find any openings to begin engaging with their work, be it positively, negatively, or complexly. (This is similar to the kind of close-endedness in a text that discourages fandom, but you can still talk about those films. See Cabin in the Woods, a thesis statement cunningly disguised as a film.) Their work is just too weirdly pure—their strange conception is perfectly executed, and I can’t find fault in that.
(There could also be such things as impenetrable writers and musicians, but I’ve never met such an author and music criticism is largely beyond me.)