LAFF 2008: I Can't Drive 66
Back at one of my previous journalism jobs, around 2000 or so, a colleague once tried to pitch a cover story about Largo, the comedy/music club that used to be at 432 N. Fairfax. The idea was that the place was kind of a nexus for everything cool in the worlds of comedy and music (and in fact I saw Tenacious D there a year before their album came out, so best of both worlds there). One thing I specifically remember about the story pitch was that it included the word “golliardship,” because it’s rare that someone comes up- with an English word I haven’t heard before, though Scott Foundas here at the Weekly recently used the word “medicament” on me.
Anyway, the pitch seemed pretty good, but then our designated arts/entertainment guy, a Silver Lake hipster with a soul patch, weighed in. His take, approximately: “Yyyyyyeahhhh, rrrriiight, uh-huh, people have written about it already. It’s not exactly the coolest thing any more, uh-huh, yyyyyeeeeahhhhhh.” That was the end of that story.
Except that I just saw a documentary called LARGO which proves that as recently as last year, the place was still cool and worth compiling a document about. Directed by Largo manager Mark Flanagan and Andrew van Baal, it’s in crisp black and white, mainly static shots, and consists of various music and comedy performances from the likes of Jon Brion, Michael Penn, Aimee Mann, Louis C.K., Sarah Silverman, Jackson Browne, and Flight of the Conchords. It also has the best performance clip of Fiona Apple I’ve ever seen, except maybe for that one video where she was in her underwear the whole time, but I can’t say I paid much attention to the song that went with that video. God, I miss music videos on TV. There should be, like, a TV channel that plays them all the time. Hell of a concept, that would be.
I don’t think LARGO (the movie) has any distribution – perhaps the music clearances are a pain in the ass, what with everyone being on different record labels. But the soundtrack would make a great CD, if anyone buys such things any more. The film has the added dimension of capturing a vibe and a moment from the old venue.
Less successful as a documentary is PAPER OR PLASTIC?, about national competitive grocery bagging. It’s all about speed and accuracy, and heaven forbid you miss that tiny roll of Life Savers, or you’re disqualified. The movie is extremely funny, whether we’re talking about the group of women who obsess over pink flamingoes, or the nervous 17 year-old who talks way too much (I suspect he may be different off-camera).
But this isn’t SPELLBOUND, where a seemingly trivial subject is dissected as the massive challenge it can be. The tone here is more like, ha ha, look at these dumbass rubes and how stupid they are for taking something like this seriously. The movie goes for cheap laughs by showing old family photos of competitors making goofy faces, or cut-aways to pet reaction shots. Great hilarity is mined from such things as a husband who hunts for food, and has a freezer full of freshly killed meat. Well, guess what, folks: that’s where meat comes from. People do have to go kill it.
Also, please stop using fake ‘50s instructional videos as a device, documentarians. It’s way old.
Dud of the day: SIXTY-SIX, a sloppily sentimental sports/comin-of-age movie from the director of MADE OF HONOR, billed as a “true-ish story.” Young Bernie (Gregg Sulkin) is due to have his bar mitzvah in 1966, but the day it’s supposed to happen is the day of the World Cup final. Shouldn’t be too much of a problem, he thinks, because England’s team is terrible, yet against all odds, they keep winning, and Bernie, who has planned everything to the last detail, begins to fear no-one will show up to celebrate his day.
If the cast had American accents, this wouldn’t even be considered for a film festival. It’s clichéd and gooey, but because it’s English, and has Helena Bonham Carter in a rare non-gothy role, viewers may be fooled into thinking it’s quirky. No.
Free snack-related thought of the day: the baked crisps available come in “Jamiacan Jerk” flavor. Once at a Comic-Con, I heard Jar Jar Binks referred to as a Jamaican jerk. Is this what he tastes like? I figure Gungans would have more of a seafood tang.
Bonus explanation for my UK readers: Yes, we call them “crisps” if they’re baked.
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