Or “new” within the last few months, at least. I haven’t really posted a non-biz thing since SXSW so I guess basically I wanted to write about some new things I’ve been getting excited about over the last couple of months. It is going to be too long. Cool?? Cool.
So there has been one TV show and one movie over the last little while that I have been totally losing it over. I mean really, I can barely hold it together how excited I am about these things. It’s weird.
The TV show is PARTY DOWN.
OMG. You guys. Do you know about this show?? If you’ve talked to me in the last couple weeks you probably do. I haven’t been this excited about a TV show since Pushing Daisies. I tell everybody to know I watch it, and then they do, and thank me. Go watch it. You will thank me. Here are some reasons why:
a) the team behind it. really just “Paul Rudd” should tell you all you need to know, but also Rob Thomas (not the Matchbox 20 guy but the guy behind Veronica Mars, which I’ve been told might actually be great) and 2 other dudes (John Enbom and Dan Etheridge, also of VM) have apparently formed a production team called “tree” which is I guess is an acronym of their last names. Tree’s little tag at the end of the show changes every episode which I think is pretty funny. Like you know how “it’s always sunny in philadelphia”s end thing, with the picture of the guys and the voiceover of some backwards-masked sounding thing, changes every season? Maybe you don’t know that, I guess I am seriously a dvd geek. but anyway I’ve never seen a series where this changed every single show, and at the one on the last episode, I actually laughed out loud. Weird. OK I digress, this isn’t a great opening argument… Anyway also, speaking of “it’s always sunny,” and good things, Fred Savage directed half the episodes of the first season of Party Down. A+.
b) the writing is EXCELLENT. The jokes are hilarious and original. It’s a tiny bit reminiscent of shows like The Office, in that it’s a workplace comedy centered around a loveable insane loser boss played by a charismatic actor in his (hopefully) breakout role, but it is NOT shot as a mockumentary and I think that really helps its cause; things are fully scripted and seem really tight. So more like Arrested Development and Flight of the Conchords (without music) in that sense. And the characters are complex!! Amazingly so for a 10-episode first series actually. If they were one-dimensional, this show would be much less interesting, but instead they often act in the opposite way you’d expect from cartoony versions of characters who’d fit their general descriptions. Also their relationships with each other are complex! So that is really cool. They all interact with each other in very specific ways that have a lot of depth and warmth. I love the Kyle/Constance relationship. And the Henry/Ron relationship. Which brings me to:
c) the cast. They are absolutely incredible. Almost everybody from this show – from the main characters to the one-episode-each guest stars – comes from one (or more) of three camps/previously awesome teams (either as a main player, or at least has had some bit parts): The State (can’t-fail winners; I just pre-ordered the dvd coming out in july!), Team Apatow (almost always yes), and Veronica Mars (which I guess I’ll be watching soon). THEY INCLUDE:
Ken “as a god damned goof” Marino as Ron “soup’r crackers is the fastest growing non-poultry non-coffee franchise in all of southern california” Donald,
a former screw-up who is trying to get his life on track as team leader of Party Down Catering with aspirations to run a crappy chain restaurant. He’s fanatical about his job, and at first you think he’s gonna be the stereotypical taskmaster boss, yet he still manages to constantly fail in surprising and hilarious ways.
Adam “a cappella sweet child of mine” Scott as Henry “are we having fun yet?!” Pollard,
a failed actor stuck with an awful commercial catchphrase who returns to Party Down after 8 years trying to “make it”. He’s cynical about his life yet somehow still endearing. For some reason I identify with his character best just like I did with Jim/Tim of The Office, like I usually think of him as the main character even though like Steve Carrell/Ricky Gervais, Ken Marino is really the “star”. I like my life and also I am not a dude so I have yet to figure out why this is, so I guess maybe we are set up by the writing to do so.
Lizzy “jason segel’s other freaks&geeks girlfriend” Caplan as Casey “let’s go rub our parts together” Klein,
Henry’s love interest in a relationship that is played out in a really interesting way that really holds your attention even though they get together right away and avoid that will-they-won’t-they sitcom junk. Also it takes up a very small percentage of each episode so it really leaves you hanging on wanting more. She’s a struggling comedienne who keeps missing out on her big break while dealing with her soon-to-be ex husband.
Martin “i think bill’s drunk” Starr as Roman “i’m into hard sci-fi” De Beers,
a nerdy wannabe screenwriter who takes some things way too seriously and has some of the best lines on the show (“I don’t know, a squid? There are other options…”) He’s also got a crush on Casey, with whom he imagines he has a chance.
Ryan “i guess he was on veronica mars” Hansen as Kyle “so you’re in the overall handsome business” Bradway,
Martin Starr’s foil who loves to jab him as a shallow pretty-boy with a shit-eating grin who enjoys the most success of any on the crew in getting roles as an actor, mostly by sleeping with people.
Jane “i’m a mole, george” Lynch as Constance “why do you have a picture of joan rivers” Carmell,
an aging former actress who had a few crappy background-player parts, the experience of which she draws upon to act as Kyle’s mentor.
And Jennifer “from the christopher guest movies along with jane lynch” Coolidge as Bobbie “usually when i’m in nature i drop a cap” St. Brown, Constance’s roommate and Jane Lynch’s replacement for the last 2 episodes. She was great but I’d love to see them both together; I wonder if Jane Lynch is gone for good now that Glee is looking so great? (Ugh why can’t I find a screenshot of Jennifer Coolidge’s character?? I’ve been googling for like half an hour!)
Did you like how I quoted/referenced my favorite projects of each actor and sweet lines from each character? Probably not, I bet that looks confusing.
d) the guest stars. The show is about a catering company, so it makes sense that each episode is set at a different party that they work, so there’s always something interesting going on in the setting. And thus a new slew of guests in each one. Rob Corddry shows up, as do Ed Begley Jr, Sulu (George Takei), and Jo Lo Truglio. Dr. Ken Jeong has a recurring role as Ken Marino’s boss. My favorites are JK Simmons as a foul-mouthed movie exec throwing his bratty daughter’s Sweet 16 on a boat, and Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars/Sarah Marshall) as an uptight and more-successful leader of a competing catering company.
And lastly e) the whole show is on Netflix Instant Watch. AKA The Best Idea The Internet Has Had Yet. If you don’t have Netflix I’m sure it is elsewhere on the internet too, which is where you’re gonna have to find it, because it airs (aired actually, last week was the last episode of the season) on Starz and who in the world actually has Starz?
I think that’s probably about enough on this show. I could spend hours talking your ear off about it but really you just need to go watch it before I ruin it. If you’re interested in further reading, though, I’d recommend this surprisingly funny Vanity Fair interview with Adam Scott (or maybe Vanity Fair is always funny?), this interview with Martin Starr, this one with Rob Thomas, and this videogum post I’m ashamed I didn’t beat to the online-posting punch, since they apparently dragged their heels for so long even to watch the show.
Okay. There is some other new TV I’ve been enjoying, by the way. I have a night job that makes me watch TV constantly now so I actually have real legitimate opinions on a lot of it I’d otherwise never have heard of, but usually I still have to go out of my way for the good stuff. So I thought Cupid was great, and it’s a real bummer it got canceled; that was somehow also helmed by Rob Thomas, and starred another State friend (at least he was in The Ten), Bobby Cannavale. Along with Endless Mike Hellstrom!! And Amanda Peet’s best friend Elisa from Jack & Jill. Ha. Fine, I used to watch the WB. Didn’t you?? Anyway apparently this was a sometimes word-for-word remake of an earlier short-lived series that starred Jeremy Piven. I don’t really know anything about that so I’ve got no basis for comparison, but I liked this one.
Delocated was also really great, and Parks and Recreation (aka what my friend Brian calls “the rebranding of The Office”) will probably be better next season (I’m really rooting for it!)…I also liked Kath & Kim so I’m sorry that one got canceled too, although those who have seen the Australian version have strong opinions to the contrary. I’m into Eastbound and Down although I’m not sure I think doing that thing about being as offensive as possible on TV, “pushing the boundaries” or whatever is really that exciting this late in the cultural game, and also shows about rednecks almost always annoy me, but I do like how dark it is. Sit Down, Shut Up, although involving about 80% of the Arrested Development crew AND Will Forte and Kristen Chenoweth, somehow sucked, so I’m sorry it got canceled after 4 episodes, but not that sorry. Time to focus on the AD movie now you guys.
As for movies: I saw Rudo y Cursi and sort of half-assedly attended a Tribeca Q&A with Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal (swoon into a faint) and the director Carlos Cuaron (whose brother teamed up with Guillermo del Toro AND Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu to produce the film – WHOA those guys are ALL friends?!? EVERY Mexican filmmaker and actor I like worked on this movie?!). I thought the movie was very good although some people seem to think it lacked enough depth for what that excellent team should be capable of. That might be true; I was busy trying not to faint so I didn’t notice. Even though Gael had stupid cheetah hair for over half the movie, and Diego had a ridiculous moustache throughout the whole thing, it was pretty hard for me to get past how nice they are to look at. What a girl, right.
They also really did have interesting and intelligent things to say about the state of filmmaking in that Q&A though, I wonder if there’s a transcript. If I remember correctly I was especially impressed with Diego Luna’s thoughts, which was cool since Gael seems to be more the American indie sweetheart for a lot of “us”. I think I love them equally. As if it matters. Oh also, Gael’s character Cursi’s music video for an interpretation of “I Want You To Want Me” was AMAZING.
Also I Love You, Man and Observe and Report were both pretty funny, although not knock-me-over funny like I was hoping they would be. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s up with The Hangover and Funny People and maybe possibly Year One though.
But the BEST movie I’ve seen this year by far is ADVENTURELAND.
Have you guys seen this movie?? After this videogum post about an early trailer, I was not that excited. But as it turns out, that trailer completely misrepresents this movie, including basically every gross gag or ‘adult’ joke from the whole thing packed into a minute and a half. In fact it contains some stuff that didn’t even make it into the final cut that I saw, TWICE, in the theater. The rest of the movie is a thoughtful, warm, intelligent portrayal of a group of friends in the summer after college, working a crappy job at an amusement park apparently based on one on Long Island but actually shot at Kennywood near Pittsburgh, which I’ve been to as a kid and my friend Caleb used to for real work at. I went with Caleb and his wife Casey to best enhance the viewing experience. It worked.
Anyway. Much like with Party Down, the writing in this movie is superb. It’s incredibly funny – I was laughing constantly throughout the whole thing – but it’s also got a real emotional core. Basically it just felt profoundly “real” to me in a way that’s rare to encounter, especially in films lately. I guess this is mostly due to the subject matter – haven’t you had a crappy summer job like this, too? Where you’re stuck doing stupid menial tasks, with a group of people you don’t even necessarily like but who basically become your surrogate family, and maybe you come away with a huge romantic crush and grow up a little? I think most of “us” have (do you like this “us” that I’m developing?). But beyond that, how well this movie came together is also a credit to how well-developed the characters are, how spot-on the dialogue is and also how well it’s acted. Jesse Eisenberg RULES as the lead character James. I loved him in Squid and the Whale, he was definitely the best part of the otherwise-depressing Roger Dodger (in fact he does a really hilarious walking tour of NYC in that DVD’s bonus features…uhhh sorry) – basically what I’m saying is I was a fan of Jesse Eisenberg before. But now I am like a SUPER FAN. I totally want to marry the guy. He is perfect in Adventureland. He is ready to go for lead roles from here on out, attention Hollywood (or non-Hollywood please). His mannerisms are recognizable from his earlier work but his face is more mature here than it was before (well duh, he’s older), you can see he is all grown up. After the movie, Caleb called him “the serious Michael Cera”; I’ve since seen him called “the Jewish Michael Cera” (specifically in this review which I otherwise 100% agree with). I’m not sure how far either of those qualifiers really go but I certainly agree that his style is of a similar ilk, although he’s older so really George Michael is some version of him (the suburban southern Cali Jesse Eisenberg?) and not the other way around.
As for the rest of the cast, they were all perfect too. Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig are hilarious as the managers of the park. Are those two dating? If not maybe they should be, they make such a good team. Also Kristen Stewart (of Twilight I guess? which confuses slashfilm) was GREAT as James’ love interest (NOT a manic pixie dream girl, in fact just the opposite). Matt Bush was really funny as a minor character named “Frigo”; I hadn’t heard of him before (although he was on one episode each of Scrubs and Veronica Mars – it all comes around!) but I kept wondering if he was Jorma from Lonely Island/SNL. He was not. Okay and the biggest shocker: Ryan Reynolds was also great! Whuuut. He played his role perfectly, delivered a few funny lines very well, and did not suck at all! Is he the next Seann William Scott? I am not sure if I can handle this. OH AND, MARTIN STARR was the bomb as Joel, a buddy who gets rejected by a girl for being Jewish (which is funny since in Knocked Up he gets picked on for NOT being Jewish)…I also, by the way, recently watched for the first time and promptly purchased Knocked Up, and also bought and started re-watching Freaks and Geeks. I did not mean to do this, but there is so much Martin Starr in my life right now. He is going to start showing up in my dreams or something. I feel weird about it.
One little thing I think is really cool about this movie is that the actors are actually playing characters who are relatively close to their real age. I’m so used to seeing twentysomething actors playing high school students that for a minute when the main characters go out drinking or something, I automatically think “yeah okay, how did they get into that bar? Movies are so unrealistic about this stuff” – and then I remember that they are actually playing recent college grads. It’s refreshing! Good job writing+casting that, you guys.
The music in the movie is spot on, too. I’ve been listening to the soundtrack a lot. It’s heavy on Lou Reed, as are the references to him in the movie. Oh yeah the movie is set in the 80s. I think it’s maybe semi-autobiographical about writer-director Greg Mottola, who also directed Superbad and a few episodes each of Arrested Development and Undeclared. I like you Greg Mottola.
Okay I think that’s all I have to say about this. Like I said I saw this movie twice and I am still not over it. I wish I could buy it on DVD right now so I could watch it every day. There’s about one movie every year that I get just crazy fanatical about, last year it was The Fall – this year it is Adventureland. Accept it.
I think I had some other stuff to talk about but this is getting WAY too long. Oh yeah real quick, music!:
Did you guys hear that Merge compilation they put out recently? Non-Merge artists covering some Merge favorites to celebrate 20 years for the label. The whole thing is REALLY good, but my favorite is surprisingly not the Mountain Goats’ East River Pipe cover – it’s The National and St. Vincent covering Crooked Fingers’ “Sleep All Summer”. I like the original, but I like this version MUCH more. “I would change for you but babe that doesn’t mean I’m gonna be a better man.” wow. I listen to it seriously every day, often two or three times in a row. I can’t believe I’m not sick of it yet. It is that good. When Annie Clark starts her verse-piece that goes “There must be a better way to pull a whole apart/To keep a world from caving in/Another way to while away from you, frozen and blue”, I get chills all over. Every time. Like two months into this. What is going on? So I guess even though it’s a cover, this is pretty much definitely my favorite song of the year.
I also really loved Casiotone for the Painfully Alone’s Vs Children. It took me WAY too long to get it done, but I even finally reviewed it for the Tripwire. So check that out if you haven’t gotten enough of reading things by now. What’s up there is pretty much what I meant to say; a little bit of the sense was edited weirdly I think by the removal of some paragraph breaks (an editor TOOK OUT line breaks between thoughts? Whuut), and my intro isn’t as strong as I meant for it to be because a chunk was taken out although I understand why and do think that was largely for the best (just wish I got the chance to rewrite myself a little). Anyway that’s how it always goes when things get edited. The Tripwire is much better about that kind of thing than other sites I’ve written for.
Alright you guys. That is enough. I’m not sure why I wrote all this, I’m sure you did not read it, but somehow it feels nice to have out there anyway. Blogging!