Sunday, March 07, 2010

The Award For Best Carpet

I have been flooded with telegrams demanding a full report on the 2nd Annual McNeil's Movie Korner Film Festival. Let me put your anxious minds at rest. The festival began as promised with THE VILLAIN, followed by THE ERRAND BOY, a screener of A SERIOUS MAN, THE ATOMIC SUBMARINE, HOME FROM THE HILL (filmed in part right here in Oxford, including a scene inside City Grocery when it was a grocery store), LET IT RIDE, and MONSIEUR BEAUCAIRE. (I think the occasion demands some new, non-random illustrations.) Well, THE VILLAIN got things off to an abominable start, even though it featured cameos by "blog" objects of curiosity Foster Brooks and Ruth Buzzi. The term "thankless role" was invented for Ann-Margret, whose job in the film is to try gamely, though with evident exhaustion and diminishing returns, to get some simulacrum of a human response from her main acting partner Arnold Schwarzenegger. On the plus side, if you still have any doubts that Jerry Lewis is a genius, watch THE VILLAIN and then watch THE ERRAND BOY. Both films become, at some point, a series of independent vignettes. THE VILLAIN will help you appreciate the imagination with which Jerry sets up and shoots each standalone gag in THE ERRAND BOY. Even the ones that don't quite work are eminently bizarre, ambitious, and personal, as opposed to the flat anonymity of the former film. While there was no pervasive theme to this year's festival, such as "Psychiatrists and Turtlenecks," you can already sense to your great delight that there were small connections from one film to the next, and you are so excited that I am about to tell you what they were. For example, THE ERRAND BOY and A SERIOUS MAN both included the word "tsuris" in their scripts. THE ATOMIC SUBMARINE and HOME FROM THE HILL, while the production values and levels of awareness could not have been more different, were heavy on the Freud. In the former, there's a (SPOILER ALERT) long, cylindrical, threatening (partially bulbous?) one-eyed creature who gets his eye shot out! Okay? In HOME FROM THE HILL, George Hamilton and George Peppard love walking around with their shirts unbuttoned almost to their navels, a fashion statement repeated three decades later in LET IT RIDE by David Johansen of the New York Dolls, who plays "Loony." A prominent bit player goes for a similar look. At one point in LET IT RIDE, Richard Dreyfuss breaks the fourth wall, looks straight into the camera, and says (I think) "Am I having a great day or what?" This, of course, is a technique pioneered by MONSIEUR BEAUCAIRE star Bob Hope, such utterances most often occurring under potentially salacious circumstances, as indeed is the case in LET IT RIDE. I can hear you asking, "But what about carpet? We know how much McNeil loves good carpet in his movies." Yes, we should start giving out an award for Best Carpet. We'll call it the Carpie. This year's Carpie goes to A SERIOUS MAN. "Love that carpet," McNeil said while watching the film. He had some exactly like it when he was a kid. "I used to roll marbles on the flat part," he reported.