Steven Wright

appointments of dennis

This is another edition of Short Starts, where we present a weekly short film(s) from the start of a filmmaker or actor’s career.  You may not think there’s anything worth knowing about the director of Red 2, which opens this Friday. But Dean Parisot, who is best known for helming Galaxy Quest, is an Academy Award-winning filmmaker. He got his start by directing two excellent, slightly surreal shorts in the 1980s, the second of which, The Appointments of Dennis Jennings, won the Oscar in 1989 for Best Live Action Short. (That was a great year for short winners, by the way, as it saw Pixar’s John Lasseter receive his first with Tin Toy and documentarian Bill Guttentag win his first with You Don’t Have to Die.) Parisot shares his honor with comedian Steven Wright, who co-wrote the witty little movie with Mike Armstrong. The acceptance speech was a highlight of the year’s ceremony, in part because it was so brief and also because of Wright’s amusing comment that “we’re really glad that we cut out the other sixty minutes.” Wright also stars in the 30-minute film as the title character, an obsessive, paranoid and shy man who begins seeing a disinterested shrink played by Rowan Atkinson. A lot of what Dennis tells the doctor in his sessions is straight out of Wright’s stand-up, his shtick involving dry ironic wordplay and absurd philosophical questions. Atkinson’s character is also seeing Dennis’s  girlfriend, who is played by Laurie Metcalf, leading to a deadly climax. The […]

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Over Under - Large

Comedic actor Mike Meyers has had an interesting film career. On the one hand he can be considered an amazing success, because he has three huge franchises under his belt. On the other hand, he sometimes gets looked at as something of a failure, because everything he’s done outside of those franchises has been less than stellar. The first two franchises Meyers launched were Wayne’s World and Austin Powers; moneymaking juggernauts in their own rights for sure. But it was the third series of films he was involved in, the animated Shrek movies, that really broke the bank. This tale of an overgrown ogre finding true love managed to connect with children and parents alike, and the original spawned a series of sequels that broke all sorts of box office records and pushed mountains of merchandise. I’m sure Meyers was a rich man already, but Shrek made him very rich. One project that didn’t do so well for the guy was So, I Married an Axe Murderer. It was Meyers’ big followup to his breakthrough success with Wayne’s World, the movie that could have  seen him moving away from the heavy character work he did on Saturday Night Live and moving closer to taking more mainstream roles playing regular guys. Unfortunately it didn’t even make a tenth of the money that Wayne’s World pulled in, it’s been largely forgotten over time, and Meyers hasn’t been accepted in a role where he plays a regular guy since.

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