Monday, April 30, 2007

ONE-LINERS -- PART III


WHAT'S YOUR LINE?


The deadline for participating in Needtovent's amazing One-Liner Contest is rapidly approaching. As you know, all entries must be posted by midnight CDT, Saturday, May 5th. There will be no exceptions.

Let us repeat: There will be no exceptions although we have received dozens of formal requests to extend this deadline from a number of prestigious think tanks including:

American Enterprise Institute -- Washington, D.C.
Heritage Foundation -- Washington, D.C.
Instytut Spraw Publicznych -- Poland
Instituto Liberdade -- Brazil
Savantas Policy Institute -- Hong Kong

Joining these internationally renowned organizations are two local centers for research and analysis: The Binkley Foundation of Bulverde and the New Braunfels Schutzenvereine. (Unlike the five think tanks listed above, these are actually located in the United States.)

Apparently three-plus weeks is not enough time for any of these pandering policy pundits to come up with anything original or appropriate or, especially, thought-provoking. Alas, this is nothing new.

Remember, there is still time for you to send in your one-liner. Time is running short, however, so be sure to send in your entries as soon as you can. Dorothy would expect nothing less...

Thursday, April 26, 2007

DEATH OF A PRESIDENT


Where's Jack Ruby when you need him?

Controversy swirled more incessantly than a Margarita machine during spring break at the past Toronto International Film Festival. Making its North American premiere was Gabriel Range's DEATH OF A PRESIDENT, the British television "documentary" positing what would happen if President George W. Bush were to be assassinated. Alas, even though the film is now available worldwide on DVD, the answer remains a mystery, shrouded by inept filmmaking and gutless convictions.

There is, of course, the issue of bad taste, and some would argue this is taboo subject matter while we are fighting a War on Anxiety. Just like the unwritten rule in cinema that decrees you don't kill the dog if you want your audience to stay with you, one can argue that it is totally irresponsible to kill a president while he's still in office -- even if his approval rating is less attractive than a diseased rutabaga.

Surprisingly, Bush is not seen as a villain. In fact, he is depicted more as a tragic victim of circumstance. Unfortunately, it takes approximately forty minutes of mundane foreplay for us to get to the primary plot point and by then most viewers will not care one way or another out of sheer boredom. And this is the good half; from this point on DEATH OF A PRESIDENT is like sleeping on the wet spot.

Instead of the anticipated incisive exploration of American politics and worldwide consequences such an act would produce, we are merely presented with three possible suspects turning DEATH OF A PRESIDENT into an uninspired, clumsy and forgettable "who done it." Talk about chickening out; one would almost believe that this DEATH was at the hands of Sir John Tyson. And since Mr. Range provides so little background information on these characters and virtually no insight into their personalities, we learn less than the Warren Commission.

In the end, the reigning Cheney Administration is seen as doing everything in its power to make the Syrian suspect appear guilty so as to further advance their efforts at saber-rattling and, surprise, surprise, the Patriot Act is amended to strip away even more constitutional liberties. This unsatisfactory denouement is not only lame, it is impotent by every sense of the word.

Given all the ballyhoo preceding the release of DEATH OF A PRESIDENT one can readily see that the buffoon here is not King George but Writer/Director Range. This Gabriel's horn bloweth shrill and oh-so-hollow; may he never set his sights behind a motion picture camera again.

Yes, where is Jack Ruby?

Monday, April 23, 2007

THE HISTORY BOYS


Is all human knowledge precious whether or not it serves the slightest human use? A. E. Houseman, the acclaimed English poet, among others, certainly thought so. Or is it more important to simply focus on knowledge that is both quantifiable and directly relevant to one's place in the world, as many current institutions of learning believe?

These are important questions, possibly more so today than ever, and they are brilliantly explored in Alan Bennett's award-winning play, THE HISTORY BOYS. The winner of six Tony Awards (the most in 50 years) and England's Laurence Olivier Theatre Award for Best New Play, the stage version was successfully brought to the screen in 2006.

The transition from stage to screen is often a tricky one, and there have been far more misses than hits. In this case not only was the screenplay written by Bennett, but the film was directed by Nicholas Hynter, the director of the original stage production performed at the National Theatre in London. And here's the biggest surprise of all -- the entire cast from the original stage production was signed to do the movie, a rare and risky undertaking given the fact that most had no previous film experience.




Set in the summer of 1983, eight working-class students from Cutler's Grammer School in Yorkshire are chosen for special tutoring to help prepare them for the rigorous entrance examimations at England's two most revered schools -- Oxford and Cambridge. Up to this point in time they have been well schooled by the existing faculty, especially the "general studies" instructor simply known as Hector.




In a film that is flawlessly cast, Richard Griffiths' portrayal of Hector as Cutler's corpulent, compelling and caring teacher is among the best acting performances since the days of Charles Laughton, another astounding endomorph of stage and screen. His exceptionally touching scene with the shy, introverted Posner ("I'm a Jew...I'm small...I'm homosexual...and I live in Sheffield. I'm fucked.") is one of the most introspective and heartfelt seen on the big screen in years.

Hector loves teaching; he treats it as an art form. For him, the classroom is the gateway to the soul, both his and those he is entrusted to challenge on any topic, even if the subject matter has nothing to do with passing the upcoming "Oxbridge Entrance Exam." And while the students love his unorthodox style which bewitches, bothers and bewilders them, this unwavering romanticist's time is quickly coming to an end under the shadows of Margaret Thatcher's England.

"Shall I tell you what is wrong with Hector as a teacher? There is inspiration, certainly," declares the Headmaster, "but how do I quantify that?"

Cutler's results-oriented Headmaster is effectively played by Clive Merrison. While having eight of his lads qualify for the Oxbridge is gratifying from both a personal and professional perspective, he is driven to have as many of the boys pass as possible. To accomplish this he hires a new faculty member who is far more pragmatic than Hector; someone who will "teach to the test."


Enter Irwin (nicely portrayed by Stephen Campbell Moore), a young, no-nonsense teacher who is the very opposite to Hector in every way imaginable. He epitomizes the educational philosophy that cares less and less about scholarship while obsessing over purely quantifiable results. For him, education is merely a tool for personal advancement where you should spend time learning only what you think you need to know; everything else is unimportant.

THE HISTORY BOYS is raunchy, reflective, even raw. The film may offend some by treating student/teacher flirtation in a surprisingly unconcerned, casual manner. Rogers & Hart's "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" has new meaning when Posner sings:

"The way to my heart is unzipped again...
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered -- am I"

But THE HISTORY BOYS is also inspirational, invigorating and intellectual. It energetically explores the moral consequences of shaping reality -- where one can posit history as the infinitely malleable interpretation of past events simply to suit one's needs. In an early scene one of the boys says, "How do I define history? Well, it's just one fucking thing after another, isn't it?" Or is it?

At it's core is the central debate about what education is for, who owns history and, in a thought-provoking way, how we should conduct our lives. When was the last time you saw a movie that tackled such heady stuff?

The SAT results are in -- THE HISTORY BOYS scores a perfect 2,400.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

ONE-LINERS -- PART II


In keeping with the theme of our EXCITING NEW CONTEST the staff of Needtovent has elected to unveil a new style of movie review. It's the way we think Henny Youngman would review films if he were still alive. The intent, of course, is to make these "One-Liners" as entertaining, insightful and expedient as possible. We also hope they will inspire additional entries before the May 5th contest deadline.

Without further ado, here are a half-dozen ONE-LINER MOVIE REVIEWS from the Needtovent archives:


WHAT DREAMS MAY COME -- The equivalent of a Technicolor pap smear

CASINO -- Scorcese's three-hour long journey into the underbelly of the American Dream is as slick as the salt shaker at Church's Fried Chicken

JUMANJI -- Just one of many disasters produced by Interscope Communications, a company that has released more crap over the years than Ex-Lax

LOLITA -- "Lolita's going to have a cavity filled by her Uncle Ivar" -- there was no mention of a dentist

THE WEATHER MAN -- Winner of the annual Schiavo Award for the most pathetic, lifeless and brain dead movie of the year

CECIL B. DEMENTED -- Movies about the film industry are more plentiful than pubic hairs on Osama bin Laden's daughter


In closing, we encourage all of our readers to submit their own one-liners by clicking on the "Comments" link at the bottom of either this posting or the previous one dated April 12th. Remember, one-liner entries can be about any topic whatsoever; they are by no means limited to movies or the entertainment industry. Additional prizes may be announced shorty, so please check back frequently for the latest contest developments.

Bonus: Our favorite one-liner analogy -- They lived in a typical suburban neighborhood with picket fences that resembled Nancy Kerrigan's teeth

Holy Gillooly...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

ONE-LINERS

NEEDTOVENT HEADQUARTERS ANNOUNCES A NEW CONTEST!




We recently ran across a list of the "Top Ten Comedy One-Liners In Movie History." Perhaps not too surprising is the fact that two of the selected one-liners came from Peter Sellers:

"Gentlemen, you can't fight here -- this is the War Room!" President Merkin Muffley in DR. STRANGELOVE (1963)

"Do you have a license for your minkey?" Inspector Clouseau in THE RETURN OF THE PINK PANTHER (1975)

This got us to thinking...

and so the Staff of Needtovent is proud to announce a contest Henny Youngman would love. (His wife, too.)

We hereby invite all of our loyal readers to send in their favorite one-liner by clicking on the "Comments" link below. We will accept entries until midnight, Central Daylight Time, Saturday, May 5th -- that's Cinco de Mayo (aka Cinco de Mayonnaise for the Hellmann Family in Englewood Cliffs, NJ).

The winning entry will receive a panoply of prizes, including a specially selected gift from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago worth approximately $364 (assembly required) and a damn near priceless bumper sticker from www.flyingcracker.com (the "Dangerously Informative" website located in Crested Butte, CO). Additional prizes, many of truly indeterminate value, will be announced in the days ahead.

This contest is open to anyone not associated with the mortgage banking industry since "it takes more training to become a hair dresser than it does to become a mortgage broker." (Quote from a unidentified guest on the Paula Zahn show).

I say this because I am personally looking for the most intelligent, humorous and/or insightful entries possible. Also be advised that the subject matter of the one-liner does not have to be associated with movies or television; any and all subjects and/or references except "nappy-headed hos" qualify. Hey, Imus draw the line somewhere...at least that's what my minkey said.

Let the fun begin!

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

CONSPIRACY THEORY: DID WE LAND ON THE MOON?


Who doesn't love a good conspiracy theory?

As you know, some have withstood the test of time and will continue to intrigue millions for many years to come. The JFK assassination and the mysteries surrounding Marilyn Monroe's death are just two examples.

Others are quite controversial today, but they haven't yet grown into legendary status. For example, the events of 9/11 have spawned a dozen or more proposed conspiracies, but whether any of these remain hotly contested a generation or two from now is uncertain.

And, of course, there are some conspiracies that you simply have to love even if they appear quite wacky. One of my favorites claims that The Colonel's secret recipe of eleven herbs and spices contains one ingredient that will make black men impotent. Hmmm... Let's just say that it is well known that the original handwritten recipe is locked in a high-security vault at the KFC headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky, thereby insuring that one of the world's best-kept secrets remains secure. If only our government could do as well at Los Alamos, but that's another story for another time and place...

In a documentary that aired on the Fox Network in 2001, it is suggested that the most expensive movie ever made was that of the Apollo moon landing in 1969. Even if a large part of the forty billion dollar budget was actually spent by NASA trying to do the damn near impossible, there was plenty left over to dwarf previous big budget extravaganzas like SPIDER-MAN 3 at $250,000,000, or KING KONG (2005) at $207,000,000 or TITANIC (1997) at a mere $200,000,000 once the need to fake the whole deal became apparent. Or so declare Producers John Moffet, Bruce Nash and Craig Titley.

Speaking of things that are hard to swallow, it should be noted that the entire budget for DEEP THROAT (1972) was a mere $25,000. Once again, that's another story for another time...

I know some of you are laughing at the audacity of anyone who attempts to debunk NASA's crowning accomplishment. Not so fast...

CONSPIRACY THEORY: DID WE LAND ON THE MOON? is a very persuasive, well-crafted look at many highly disturbing anomalies in what we have seen and what we have been told. And, unlike Michael Moore who all-too-often strays off the subject thereby diluting his point of view, Moffet et al stay focused and will leave you scratching your head in wonderment. That's a promise.

With computers that are less advanced than the cheapest Nokia cell phone and with Mission Control scientists wearing clip-on ties, the Apollo moon landing was either the greatest accomplishment against all odds in human history -- or -- it was the single greatest cinematic hoax of all time. It is for you to decide, but don't do so until you have seen CONSPIRACY THEORY: DID WE LAND ON THE MOON? Orson Welles, Sidd Finch, P. T. Barnum and D. B. Cooper would all agree.