Amoeblog

Get a Life - The Complete Series is coming!

Posted by Eric Brightwell, June 27, 2012 03:40pm | Post a Comment


Get a Life
is finally coming to DVD (and Blu-Ray?). For those that don't know, Get a Life was a sitcom that aired on FOX between 23 September, 1990 and 8 March, 1992. It also may very well be the best thing that ever aired. 



The show starred the comedic visionary Chris Elliott as a 30-year-old man-child paperboy named Chris Peterson who initially lived about his parents' garage. His father was unmistakably played by his real-life father, Bob Elliot of radio's Matinee with Bob and Ray and TV's The Bob & Ray Show. Peterson later moved in with a cranky misanthrope named Gus (played by Brian Doyle Murray) after his parents filled his bedroom with cement to prevent his living there further. 




The show was created by Elliott, fellow Late Night with David Letterman writer, Adam Resnick; and writer/director David Mirkin. Its writers included, among others, Charlie Kaufman and Bob Odenkirk. After the phenomenon of Twin Peaks had occurred, networks seemed to be willing to allow for a greater degree of quirkiness in shows (e.g. Northern Exposure, Eerie, Indiana, Picket Fences, David Lynch's On the Air, &c) but Get a Life was (with the possible exception of On the Air) the most bizarre of the bunch. For a protagonist, Peterson was extremely irritating, stupid  and there was very little continuity from episode to episode -- Peterson died in twelve of them.




Most of the suits at FOX hated it -- describing the show as "disturbing" and Chris Elliot's character as "insane." The first time I saw it was when it premiered -- with the episode "Terror on the Hell Loop 2000." I hated it. The second time I saw it was a re-run of the same episode but something about it made me want to watch it again. I loved it. It quickly became the ONLY show I got excited about airing and, working at the time at Blimpie (and later, Hardee's), I always tried to make sure I had the night off. It was cancelled in 1992 (even as Parker Lewis Can't Lose and Herman's Head survived the axe). I used to look at the Nielsen listings and it was almost always near or on the bottom.




Despite it's unpopularity, I long suspected there was a dedicated cult following for the show and that seemed to be verified in 1999, when Dan "Dan the Automator" Nakamura (Gorillaz, Dr. Octagon, Deltron 3030) and Prince Paul (Stetsasonic, De La Soul, Gravediggaz) teamed up as Handsome Boy Modeling School, a reference to the series' second episode, "The Prettiest Week of My Life." Their debut album, So... How's Your Girl?, was filled with samples and references to Get a Life.

 
A year later, in 2000, Rhino Home Video stingily released a DVDs with a mere four episodes on it. I bought it. One of the nice special features, however, was the option of watching the show without a laugh track -- which added a whole, new dimension. In 2002 they released another DVD with just four episodes. I didn't buy it. Since there were only 35 half hour episodes, I figured that someday a proper "complete series" release would happen. In the mean time I watched Cabin Boy, Get a Life on Youtube and read and re-read his tell-all autobiography, Daddy's Boy -- A Son's Shocking Account of Life with a Famous Father. I pretty much watched anything Elliott appeared in (thankfully, most of it was good). In 2007, I went to a taping of his series, Chrissy Plain & Simple, which didn't get picked up.


Get a Life - Complete Series - Shout Factory


Ten years of waiting are about to pay off. On 18 September, 2012, Shout Factory is releasing the entire thing in a 5-disc set. Break out your copy of Bent Fabric's Alley Cat and scream like you did when they cancelled Manimal!


*****


SOUNDTRACK SERIES #4

Posted by Job O Brother, March 28, 2010 04:44pm | Post a Comment
Directions: Imagine Mr. Brother living another day, as always, with music playing. Whether it’s one of his trusty iPods, or his home stereo, or working the soundtracks section of Amoeba Music Hollywood, Mr. Brother is eating, sonically, with the mouths of his ears.

To simulate this experience, as you read the below story of a day lived, you will be given certain music clips to play. These are inserted to provide you with the same tunes Job was hearing as he was doing what you’ll be reading.

For example, while he was writing the above directions, he was listening to this:


The other day… no, not that day – the other day… yeah, that one… I was painting my collection of pigments, when a car drove past, blaring its music so loud that it felt like an earthquake. But, y’know, an earthquake that could keep a beat.


I’m all for losing one’s self in music, but I do think it’s tacky to blast your car stereo so loud that anyone within an area code can hear it. I’m not talking about regular loud – I’m talking about these people who have pimped out their auto’s sound system specifically so that they can impose their roving, one-man rave on a neighborhood at a time. What if someone’s trying to sleep? What if someone’s trying to record music? What if someone’s being held hostage by a crazy person who’s got a sword pressed to their throat and is screaming:

District 9 Movie Review

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 16, 2009 08:53pm | Post a Comment


I will admit, I was very wary of seeing District 9 for a variety of reasons. For one, my exposure to South African films had led me to the conclusion that the South African film industry is the worst in Africa. Armed with relatively large budgets, South African films seemed technically solid but at best, soulless and at worst, odious. On a continent where countries like Senegal, Burkina Faso and Mali make amazing, artistic and entertaining films with a uniquely African voice, why would I want to see another glossy piece of crap from what seems like an ersatz Hollywood? Critical Assignment was one long and comically awful Guinness ad, Boesman and Lena an unwatchable minstrel show, Stander stultifying bland, Wooden Camera a ponderous examination of racial politics, and The Gods Must Be Crazy (I & II) ponderously racist. When Tsotsi was praised by the Academy, I wrote it off without giving it a chance. Only Richard Stanley's Hardware and Dust Devil did much for me. Also, I find South African accents (and all non-rhotic accents) rather unpleasant.


What's more, the premise of aliens living in townships sounded like a thinly veiled excuse for some heavy-handed sermonizing. Were District 9 to follow Hollywood rules, the film would inevitably follow the valiant effort of one member of the oppressors who, following a change of heart, would lead the helpless "Others" to victory after gaining their trust whilst the villains would embody absolute evil, therein allowing the members of the audience to feel good about themselves by making sure that they couldn't identify at all with the antagonists. Simultaneously it would allow them to feel down due to their acceptance by the authentic victims; a genre I call "Through Blue Eyes" (e.g. Dances with Wolves, Schindler's List, The Last Samurai, The Mission, Ghosts of Mississippi, The New World, Mississippi Burning and on and on). A human and an alien would come to love each other, profess to have one another's backs, and probably stand back-to-back with guns drawn on the opposition. If I want to hear shallow discussions about racial politics, I don't watch buddy films, I have a beer at the white house.


Fifteen years after the fact, a film telling me that apartheid was bad, I thought, would be pointless and annoying. Even the Israeli government can agree that South Africa's apartheid system was unjust. Do we need a sci-fi, a genre at often its best when examining our own failings, to tell us that discrimination is wrong? Furthermore, the message, if applied in District 9, wouldn't even seem very analogous. After all, the aliens in the film came to South Africa and are forced into townships. In South Africa, it was the pre-existing black population (who, it should be noted, had largely displaced and destroyed the indigenous one) who were rounded up by the new arrivals. If the film was going to draw simple parallels to South Africa, the aliens would be forcing the South Africans into concentration camps, not the other way around.


Then there was the Peter Jackson issue. Although just the producer, after the leaden, hokey and abjectly awful King Kong, I worried that his involvement might be a detriment (despite having never made a less than excellent film before).

Fortunately, District 9 is a thoroughly enjoyable film that works both as entertainment and thoughtful art. It does contain lessons about prejudice, but does so by creating an interesting scenario and then intelligently expounding upon it. And, with a paltry $40 million cost, it's a lesson in how sci-fi/action films should be and thus a towering middle finger to Michael Bay and Stephen Sommers. Even with its relatively meager budget, it serves up consistently amazing special effects and the result is the most enjoyable sci-fi film since 28 Days Later.


To start, Sharlto Copley as Wikus van der Merwe is pretty much perfect. He plays the protagonist as neither a sexy, roguish anti-hero nor a ethically spotless do-gooder. Rather, he's an unfailingly chipper, by-the-books bureaucrat who's devoted to his wife but at the same time, not completely likeable. He has a pronounced yellow streak and he doesn't, unlike say Matt Dillon's character in Crash, magically transform over the course of the film into a good person. In fact, no one in the film, with the exception of the alien, Christopher Johnson, is a shining avatar. In many ways, Wilkus reminded me of David Brent, an association re-inforced by the faux-documentary set-up that thankfully falls by the wayside after a methodically paced and protracted opening act. And even Christopher Johnson is so damned physically repulsive that the viewer's sympathetic connection to him is rather challenged. Even an intergalactic sex tourist like Captain Kirk would probably require a case of Romulan Ale before going there. One of the many clever and innovative (by Hollywood standards) aspects of the film is that the audience isn't let off the hook for its/our seemingly insurmountable prejudices. For example, when we're informed that there's a considerable demand for interspecies prostitution, it's hard not to wince at the thought, despite our valiant attempts to remain open minded. 


In doing so and in other ways, the film also suggests that discrimination and prejudice aren't the sole province of white people -- something so obviously true and yet still treated as controversial by the Kool-aid-drinking PC cult. It's rather laughable that more than one reviewer has knee-jerkily attacked the film for daring to depict Nigerian criminals as opportunistic villains, since we're only used to accepting black Africans as victims. In one of the only straightforward analogies in the film, the depiction of their cannibalism of the aliens is rather similar to the very real issue of some Africans' cannibalism of albinos for their supposed magical properties. District 9 is refreshingly and nearly completely devoid of simple, spoon-fed, race-based moralizing. It points fingers at all people complicit with concentration camps, occupations, townships, reservations, security fences and apartheid walls, regardless of skin color or hair type, instead equally implicating all humans for discrimination, xenophobia, tribalism and intolerance.


Filmically-speaking, director/co-writer Neill Blomkamp's sensibility is very African. The film is in no rush to get going. It doesn't use slow-motion or Matrix-style effects. It doesn't underestimate the audience's intelligence, explaining every aspect of the story which, for some viewers so used to Hollywood, may be misinterpreted as a technical failing. We are never told why the aliens came, why they chose Jo-Berg, how they have sex, why they like cat food, how many hours they sleep, what their favorite color is, &c. The film requires that the audience assume that a government figure specializing in alien affairs will, after a 28-year presence, learn their language, without showing us him buying and using Rosetta Stone software. Its only glaringly non-African concession to foreign audiences is in the use of subtitles to reveal information about the date and time of the proceedings.


As with all films, District 9 isn't flawless and viewers determined to find fault will invariably find enough in the film to justify their need to offer a voice of dissent against the overwhelmingly positive opinions of the masses. The two main standbys for these determined contrarians are usually bad acting and predictability. The acting is uniformly good, so only the most poorly reasoned wag will choose it as a criticism. Predictability, on the other hand, is a reality of all films. Yes, it's of a typical length, it tells a story, and there's a beginning and end. Just as Saturday predictably follows Friday, the ability to predict the inevitable isn't a sign of a reviewer's insight. As with all films, nor is District 9 completely original. The film echoes in varying degrees Enemy Mine, Alien Nation, The Fly, Iron Man and the Get a Life episode "Spewey and Me." It's also much better than any of them... except for, maybe, the under-recognizedly brilliant Get a Life. And it's not just because of lowered expectations stemming from Hollywood's near complete reliance on video games, pre-existing franchises, and old TV shows. District 9 is a breath of fresh air-- a fun, gorey, loud, gross, inventive and rousing mix of space opera and more speculative sort of sci-fi that examines issues that in many cases don't always have clear cut, real-world parallels. As such, I highly recommend it.

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Chrissy Plain & Simple

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 18, 2007 10:40pm | Post a Comment

The other night I went (blessed with the company of the amazing Ngoc em and her cousin, Bao -- and my co-worker Hiland) to see the filming of the pilot for a Chris Elliott vehicle called Chrissy Plain & Simple. I like the name and concept. Just pure, unadulterated Chris Elliot, without any bells and whistles and jangles and bangles and be-bops and re-rops and flee-flops... or something to that effect. If you're a fan, you know how he just stupidly starts rambling to that effect.

On the downside-- it's sketch comedy with pre-filmed satirical segments that we had to watch a couple of times and force some laughter for the second time around. At one point I looked up at a monitor and the entire frame was filled with my chin and some teeth laughing at nothing but the instructions of the episode's director, Bobcat Goldthwait.

The show takes place on a stage cluttered with Chris Elliot cut-outs of Chris in different poses, always wearing socks regardless of the character being portrayed and, I have to say, his stupid expressions forced me to smile over and over before filming whilst Jimmy Kimmel cracked jokes-- and talked about the fact that he, I and some other guys were all coincidentally wearing maroon shirts.

The show started with an introduction and the first skit was a parody of My Super Sweet 16, which gave Chris a chance to do his annoying, entitled brat shtick, which is one of my favorites but, of the MTVs, I only have MTV Trés, which seems to be mostly videos and not reality programming so some of it might've gone over my head.

The second skit was a parody of Deadliest Catch. Do I need cable? I don't think so. This time Chris and crew fished for eels in a la s behest, to love himself resulting in him having an affair with himself and subsequently shooting himself in jealousy that I found extremely funny.

So, there's pretty much no chance that the show's getting picked up, which is a shame, but I really would rather see Chris in a sitcom than sketch comedy anyway and I'm glad I saw a vastly under-appreciated comedic genius perform live.

Although one of my favorite characters of his is the Canadian hitchhiker on Letterman who foretold bad things happening before passing on; I've never been able to find any of those clips so I leave you with other highlights.












*****

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