Christopher Guest

When Jeremy said he needed someone to fill in on Commentary Commentary so that he could focus his energies primarily on South by Southwesting, I simply replied, “As you wish.” But then I was left with a conundrum. What movie should I watch the commentary track for? After rifling through my DVD collection I ended up with a handful of possibilities, and I wound up choosing The Princess Bride for one reason: when else would I ever listen to the commentary tracks on this movie, if not now? The Princess Bride is so much fun, such a whimsical experience, that if you’re going to put the DVD on, you want to watch the movie. You don’t want to hear some old guy rambling over all of the classic lines. Consequently, this thing has been sitting on my shelf essentially since DVDs began, and I still haven’t listened to either the Rob Reiner or the William Goldman commentaries. So, here we go, I’ll take the hit and give them a listen, pick out all the interesting stuff, and you can go about your usual business of properly soaking in all the action, adventure, and romance the next time you need to get your Princess Bride fix.

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Over Under - Large

The mockumentary is a relatively recent genre of storytelling whose origins are probably as recent as the last hundred years. And that’s including all stories that could be considered mockumentaries by stretching the definition. The actual term, “mockumentary,” is even newer. By some accounts it first came into use when Rob Reiner used it to describe his 1984 cult classic This is Spinal Tap. Adding a word to the lexicon could be seen as a pretty big accomplishment for a goofy comedy, but, despite its subject matter, the legacy of this film shouldn’t be downplayed. Few movies live on as long and remain as popular as Spinal Tap has. Every few years a new generation of college kids discover this thing, and its legend just keeps growing. Far from being an originator, A Mighty Wind is a later film from the crew of mockumentarians led by Christopher Guest. And despite the fact that it’s full of a lot of good work, it often gets a bad rap. Guest and crew’s previous efforts, Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show, were so ridiculously funny that A Mighty Wind gets unfairly judged in comparison. And that’s unfortunate for a couple reasons. For one, those first two Guest-directed mockumentaries were such a high water mark for the genre that it was probably unfair to expect them to keep producing at such a level. And secondly, A Mighty Wind goes for funny a bit less that its predecessors, and plays a bit more in […]

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Criterion Files

Tune into VH1 Classics on any given day, and this is something you’re likely to see: a rock video of a mid-80s hair band playing on a giant stage, complete with sleek cinematography, wide camera angles, and a stadium-sized audience packed to the brim. At first you might be confused, thinking that this is possibly some Whitesnake or Guns N’ Roses song that somehow escaped your memory. But then the music video ends and in the bottom left corner the band’s name comes up. You’ve never heard of them before, and you’ve definitely never heard this song before. Yet this video depicts monstrous popularity that suggests nothing less than massive cultural phenomenon. While it’s possible for a one-hit wonder to develop this degree of renown for a certain frame of time, it becomes something of a schizophrenic moment when you consider that this hit single both inaugurated the now-forgotten band’s moment of popularity and depicted it simultaneously. With so many hair bands, how is it possible that every single one of them sells out stadium-size crowds? The answer, of course, can only be one thing: an association with mass popularity is, for hair bands, only a reality for the privileged few, but for the rest it’s a fabrication that’s all part of the musical aesthetic – it’s what makes this subgenre of rock that’s reliant on spectacle so spectacular. It’s fitting, then, that one of the landmark mockumentaries of American filmmaking chose as its subject a genre that itself relies […]

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Culture Warrior

Acts of spontaneity have been an essential component of artistic expression in the twentieth century, based in the notion of a perceived “purity” within the spontaneous act that allows art to be directly articulated without mediation or interference from social pressures and constructs. From the improvisatory paintings of Jackson Pollock to the idea of the rewrite as heresy within Jack Kerouac’s prose, spontaneity in many cases is seen as the only way to make art that has any “real” meaning. According to Daniel Belgrad, mid-century efforts toward artistic spontaneity provided a means of expression free from the constrains enforced by an oppressive, conformist hegemonic culture: “This new avant-garde shared the belief that cultural conditioning functioned ideologically by encouraging the atrophy of certain perceptions and the exaggeration of others…In the recovery of such an alternative “reality”…they saw the only basis for constructively radical social change.” Spontaneity through art then doesn’t alter perception as much as its restores it to its ideal original state, allowing artists and spectators of art to see beyond a regime’s oppressive confines.

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guffman

How cool would it be for Corky St. Clair and Waiting for Guffman to actually make it all the way to Broadway?

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Night at the Museum 2

USA Today has posted some first look photos from Night at the Museum 2, the family friendly follow-up to the hit 2006 film directed by Shawn Levy.

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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