Tag Archives: John Goodman

Depression, the Genie and Me

Robin Williams wasn’t my favorite actor.

I mean, if you asked me who my favorite actor is, I’d say Johnny Depp (yeah, yeah, whatever). If you asked me to name some actors I would always go to see a movie they’re in, I’d probably tell you Alfred Molina, Julia Stiles and John Goodman.

But when I heard about Williams’ suicide, I stopped to think of all the ways he influenced me. And he really did. I can’t remember a single movie I’ve watched with him in it that I didn’t enjoy. I grew up watching “Jumanji,” “Fern Gully,” “Aladdin” and its sequels. I constantly watched “Hook” and quoted lines from it, though I admittedly more often imitated Dustin Hoffman chewing the scenery as Captain James Hook. I remember getting in trouble for repeating a line from “Mrs. Doubtfire” as a child. (The line was, as Williams imitated Porky Pig, “Bedabba dabba dabba, p-p-p-piss off, Lou!”, not that I actually knew the words I was saying.) In high school, I was introduced to the beautiful film “What Dreams May Come,” an interpretation of Dante’s Inferno. In college, I discovered “Patch Adams,” “Night at the Museum” and “August Rush,” as well as two of my favorite films of all time, “Good Will Hunting” and “Dead Poets Society.” It’s movies like those, especially the Academy Award-winning performance Williams gave in “Good Will Hunting,” that remind me that comedians often have a great capacity for drama. Even my lesser loved comedians, like Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler, have stunned me with their dramatic performances. But Williams had the special gift of making me love him both as a comedian AND a dramatic actor.

Even beyond acting with a bodily presence, Williams influenced me most notably with his impressions. Were they always great, pitch perfect imitations of specific people, like his John Wayne performs Macbeth? Nah. Could I always tell if it was Williams? Yup. I was the only one in my family that could tell from voice alone that Williams was not the voice of Genie in “Return of Jafar.” Even so, Williams had a talent for impressions and voices. His gift was in the total and complete dedication to the bit, as well as being able to switch from one character to another faster than should be humanly possible. I’ve always enjoyed doing voices myself, and it was Williams and Mel Blanc, the voice of many beloved Warner Bros. cartoon characters, that helped guide me in that direction.

He wasn’t my favorite actor, but that might be because I had trouble thinking of him as an actor. I thought of him more as a friend to hang out with, the funny guy with all the voices that could make me laugh. But there’s no denying that he was definitely one of the people I would always enjoy watching on screen.

That’s probably one of the reasons Williams is the only celebrity whose death I’ve cried over. It’s weird, right? Crying over someone dying when you’ve never even met them? There have been people I HAVE known in real life to die I haven’t cried over. I suppose that could very well be a testament to how powerful Williams’ gift of connection and humor and emotion was.

But if I’m going to be honest, that’s not the only reason I cried. That might not even be the main reason I cried. No, if I’m honest with myself, I think it was because Williams was depressed and almost no one knew.

Depression is definitely one of those things people at large are largely ignorant about, myself included. Part of it has to do with the fact that we use the word as a synonym for being sad. That ASPCA commercial with the Sarah McLachlan song? So depressing. Got an F on a paper you worked all night on? Now you’re depressed. Except there’s a distinct difference between momentary sadness, no matter how deep those moments get, and systemic depression. Depression isn’t cured by a funny movie or a pint of ice cream or hanging out with friends. It isn’t something you can just “nut up” and “get over.” And the worst part about depression? Based on my personal experience and the stories I’ve heard from other depressed people, depression is seen as undesirable and shameful, so the person that has it tends to do their damnedest to hide it.

Have you ever noticed that there are a lot of creative types, and often comedic types, that are on drugs or are depressed? Many of whom end up dead? People like Philip Seymour Hoffman (drug addiction) and Chris Farley (drug addiction) and Heath Ledger (couldn’t pull out of his roles). But everyone knows drug and alcohol addiction are things to seek help over. They’re obviously bad things, right? They’re self-destructive behaviors that can ruin your life. But when it comes to depression, most people shrug off the entire idea. Even though I am willing to bet that a large chunk of addiction is born of depression and the desperate attempt to escape that soul-crushing feeling.

Cracked.com, the source of many a funny thing on the internet, has more than a few articles about depression and anxiety in funny people. Here’s one by David Wong, who talks about why people constantly cracking jokes are often depressed. And here’s another one by Mark Hill, about misconceptions of depression. Wong’s article has many, many links to many, many other writings by comedians about depression, but these are the two I’ve read. And they have some good points, many of which I agree with, based on personal experience.

Yeah, I’ve kinda sorta admitted that I might be depressed before. Yeah, I’ve talked about it before. But people don’t seem to be too receptive to the idea until they see depression’s effects laid out in front of them. Until the man that never stopped being hilarious and bringing joy to everyone killed himself because he felt life had crapped on him one too many times, finally with a Parkinson’s diagnosis, people by and large ignore the issue.

I suppose it’s not anyone’s fault. In America, mental health and awareness has taken a veritable nosedive with absolutely no changes no matter WHAT happens. We have mentally unstable people shooting and killing in double digit numbers and nothing changes with our mental health system because the conversation become bluster about guns and gun rights. We have veterans returning home with PTSD and mental health issues, becoming homeless and forgotten, and nothing changes with our mental health system because the conversation becomes bluster about war and the people still fighting. And we have an Oscar-winning actor, a beloved father and husband, an immensely successful comedian, an intensely well-liked celebrity (which seems rather hard to come by sometimes), a man known for his voice who chooses to die by strangling that voice until it no longer exists… and likely, nothing with change with our mental health system because we’d rather focus on other stuff, be it injustice in Ferguson painting some bigger, disturbing pictures of America or be it dumping ice water on our heads to raise money for ALS and/or whining about people dumping ice water on their heads. Because as uncomfortable as those things might be, depression may be even more uncomfortable.

Here’s my personal experiences. As a kid, I was bullied for all sorts of reasons. I was too smart. I was weird. I looked stupid. I had glasses. I had a dumb haircut. I wore a suit to picture day. This caused me to develop a temper. And I got into fights sometimes, too. Not often, and I never went home bruised and bloody, but that’s because what fights I did get in I either refused to do much other than run away or, in one case, won by dropping a kid on his head. I didn’t have friends, either. Not really. There weren’t really any kids my age in my neighborhood, and my parents weren’t too big on my hanging out with anyone. That could be blamed on their being used to my older sister’s anti-social nature, but who knows. My one early creative outlet, playing violin, was taken away because I “didn’t practice enough.” When I eventually discovered acting, I fell in love with it. I got to be SOMEONE ELSE. That amazing feeling of escapism brought me so much joy.

This sort of thing continued for quite a while. My temper was an issue all the way into high school, with my father and I twice coming to physical altercations during my junior year of high school, altercations that were ultimately just him with his hand around my throat. My mother would take his side and say I shouldn’t have goaded him. That loneliness was not a good feeling. By this point, I’d buried myself even further into acting. While at the Alabama School of Math and Science, I finally found groups of socially rejected people who were just as nerdy, intelligent and ridiculous as me. My grades slipped as I focused my time and attention on the social connections I had never been able to have before. Eventually, I failed out, losing those connections.

In college, the struggle continued, but I found small groups to accept me, groups like the Quizbowl Team. A nerdy bunch, to be sure. And there were people on that team that made my social ineptitude seem like I was the most desirable socialite on the market in comparison. Plus, I had tampered down my temper throughout my time at college, and I started to find a way to be acceptable: Talk. A lot. Make jokes. Be interesting. Grab their attention for just a moment. Maybe they’ll just groan and roll their eyes, maybe they’ll laugh, but at least they’ll know I’m there. And I found people that didn’t outright reject me for that.

But it isn’t perfect. I’m not terribly funny. I consider myself a member of the school of quantity: If you crack enough jokes, eventually a good one will slip through. And it’s only through the past year of my job as a trivia jockey that I’ve become even remotely comfortable working a crowd directly, as opposed to in theatre when you work the stage/scene/character and the entirety of the performance works the crowd. I have tried to get better, to be a more desirable person to be around, et cetera.

And yet, I find that I’m still too honest for some people. On Twitter and Facebook, I was fully willing to admit when I was feeling crappy/lonely/hurt. Because I’m still trying to remind myself about the difference between a friend and a friendly acquaintance. Twitter followers, blog readers, Facebook friends… they aren’t the same as real friends. But I haven’t really had too many “real friends” growing up. I have my one best friend that I can call on whenever, and I only met her during my fourth year of college in 2010. I had a regular group of buddies I’d go out with to play trivia and board games, but jobs and distance have broken us up. At this point in my life, even more so than in college (though it was true in college), I don’t really have a group of friends I can say I’m truly a part of. I don’t have people I feel I can call up and say, “Hey, let’s hang out.” Maybe that’s due to years of being told, by words or actions, that I wasn’t desirable to hang out with. Maybe that’s because I just don’t understand social cues and don’t realize I do have friends like that. I dunno. But friends like that? Those are not the same as people you share internet social media information with, apparently.

Take a semi-recent example. A girl messaged me on Facebook to tell me I’m cute. I respond because why the hell not, what do I have to lose? We talk for a few months. We hang out a few times. She’s into me, I’m into her. All seems pretty great. Then, without any warning given to me, without any conversation about problems, she tells me we should stop hanging out. When I finally ask why two years later, she says it’s because I’m too depressing and self-deprecating. She suggests I see a counselor.

I would love to say this is some sort of isolated incident… but I know from my life and the lives of others it’s not. Misery may love company, but company doesn’t love misery. People don’t want to deal with miserable, depressed people. And why would you? Happiness is a good feeling. Sad people make YOU sad, and that sucks, right?

So, if you want to know why you’re shocked and surprised that someone you know was depressed and killed themselves, that’s exactly why. Because depressed doesn’t mean stupid. Depressed people know you don’t like to be around depressed people. Hell, I host trivia for 2+ hours five nights a week. Do you think I would still be paid if I told all of them how down I was? People don’t want a 2-hour sadfest. So those that are depressed, lonely, miserable… they tend to hide it. I’ve made the mistake in years past of thinking friendly acquaintances would care about my feelings, but they don’t. Those feelings are a drag. They’re a downer. So I’ve been teaching myself to try to keep my chin up, to “fake it until I make it” so to speak… and to really not announce my depression every time it hits me. And despite what those on my social media networks may think, I’ve been getting a lot better at just hiding my feelings in crappy eating habits and losing the desire to ever leave bed.

Am I depressed? …maybe. I’m too afraid to see a counselor and find out I am, that I’m not in complete control of my mind. Personally, I like to think I’m just having a slump. A really long one. There are good moments in my life that bring me cheer… and moments, even recent ones, that nearly kill me. I had one such moment last month. I asked two friends to kill me (only slightly joking before I broke down in tears). I ended up telling my tale to a cop that pulled me over for speeding later that day when my hand was shaking so badly I couldn’t get my driver’s license out of my wallet. He asked if I had any guns in the car. I didn’t get a ticket. To date, only 7 people, including the cop and the other person involved, know what happened. Not just because I hate myself for what happened and am afraid of what people will think of me… but also because I don’t know who’s there for me.

And that’s one of the worst things about depression. It blinds you to the people there for you. The lonelier moments are more clear than the ones with people who care. If someone like Williams, who had success and love in his life, couldn’t find a way out, what hope would someone like me, someone told to get over it, have?

So I hope I’m not depressed. Not just because it’s a pretty awful mental health disorder, but also because that’s a level of hopelessness I don’t want to think about. I’m not looking for pity. I’m not looking for close, buddy-buddy friends. I wouldn’t know what to do with them at this point in my life anyway. I’ve got some good things going on that I’m trying to focus on. The moral of my story, the point I’m trying to make, isn’t a personal one. It’s to say that I think everyone can do better. Everyone can be more diligent looking for depression. Don’t reject the funny person the day he or she drops the act around you and tries to tell you about his/her crap. We need to learn to accept the people we like for their good AND their bad. Don’t call suicide a selfish act. That’s like calling drowning after years of trying to swim to the surface a selfish act. The selfishness is in the people that see depression and ignore it. The selfishness is in people that don’t want to be sad so they give sad people distance. Some days, people want to be left alone. But it’s so much better to know someone is there when you walk back into the crowd than to know you’ll be alone whether you jump back into the crowd or not.

If we want anything to get better, we have to start taking steps on a personal level.

Robin Williams, you influenced me more than you will ever know, and the world will miss you. I hope maybe something good can come of all this sadness.

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Big Screen Ballyhoo – “Flight”

…well, that was a disappointment.

“Flight” looked to be like a possible tour de force for Denzel Washington as an actor, as well as for director Robert Zemeckis’ return to live action films. Now, I’m not 100 percent certain exactly whose fault it is that this movie kind of fell apart, but I can try to tell you where it did as best I can.

“Flight” is the story of an airplane pilot that kind of makes me nervous about flying anymore. Whip Whitaker (Washington) starts the movie off in bed with one of his flight attendants, clearly after a long night of sex and drinking. He snorts a line of cocaine before they both head off to their early morning flight from Orlando to Atlanta. After a bumpy take-off into a decent-sized storm, which confused me because I thought storms were basically reasons to call of flights for hours, the flight is smooth, the pilot has a few more drinks, and everything’s fine.

Meanwhile, there’s this redheaded crack addict Nicole (Kelly Reilly). She tries to get some drugs, but refuses to do porn, so I guess she’s being set up as someone that might be redeemable or something. She’s pretty, and I guess she’s had some family troubles based on the pictures in her house, and her landlord’s a terrible person, and oh no she’s ODing.

And then the plane starts crashing like crazy. And it totally crashes, but Whitaker managed to save all but six lives. Two of the flight crew, including the one he was banging, and four passengers died, but the rest were saved thanks to Whitaker’s crazy, intense, intelligent flying.

And, really, that’s the best part of the movie.

Whitaker ends up hospitalized, of course, as most of the people on the plane do. During his recovery, his drug dealing rasta-esque friend Harling Mays (John Goodman) comes in and cue “Sympathy for the Devil.” I note that because pretty much every single time he shows up, they play that song. I don’t even believe I’m exaggerating. Anyway, Mays brings Whitaker some smokes and tries to give him some alcohol and cocaine, but Whitaker turns those down. He sneaks out at some point to smoke in the stairwell, meeting Nicole, who was hospitalized after her OD. Together, they meet a cancer patient who basically suggests they should be together and then leaves.

Whitaker gets out of the hospital and goes to his dad’s old farm so the media won’t harass him. He gets rid of all the alcohol and drugs in the house, which is a big step for him. Then he goes and visits the representative of the pilot’s union, his old friend Charlie Anderson (Bruce Greenwood) for a breakfast. The meet a lawyer, Hugh Lang (Don Cheadle), who tells Whitaker that the investigation shows he was very drunk and he could be thrown in jail, even held liable for the accident. Which makes Whitaker sad, he leaves, he drinks, and that’s really the last character development we see from him until the very end.

He visits Nicole, who’s leaving her apartment. Whitaker lets her stay at his place. They sex. She sobers up. He doesn’t. Lang and Anderson tell him to stop drinking, he says he can stop when he wants, he doesn’t. Nicole leaves, he still doesn’t sober up. And he continues to lie and lie and not seem to care or have any real struggle and the moral of the story looks like it’s going to be “Do whatever, just get away with it.”

Honestly, the movie never really seems to know where it wants to go, what angle of Whitaker’s life it wants to cover. It bounces all over the place, seeming to invest in story lines that it abandons entirely not long after. Ultimately, Whitaker is very simply an unlikable character. Washington plays him well, but he’s written poorly. He’s a terrible guy. You see no real remorse, no sense of conscience or care, no sense that he understands consequence. As such, along with the bouncing story lines, we get a kind of bad movie. Really, probably the worst I’ve seen this year.

And other parts of the movie are so awkward they’re just hilarious. In particular, there’s a scene where Whitaker visits his copilot Ken Evans (Brian Geraghty) in the hospital. Evans is there with his wife. As they talk, she has this sort of wide-eyed blank-faced stare the entire time. At one point, Evans starts talking about the miracle of God saving them all and she just blurts out “Praise Jesus” in this excited monotone. And I couldn’t help it. I burst out laughing. And she did it again. And it was so absurd and awful that I couldn’t stop laughing. But I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the intended reaction, so…

All in all… it really just wasn’t that good of a movie. The ending was a cop-out way of forcing character growth on someone that simply never had any throughout the film, but even if they hadn’t ended it that way, the movie would’ve been frustratingly awful. I feel bad for Washington, who actually does a good job in the movie. It just wasn’t the right one to be in.

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Big Screen Ballyhoo – “Argo”

Sorry I didn’t have this up at the right time. As usual, I’ll backlog it so I can pretend I did. I started writing it, but a game of Munchkin with some friends got in the way. I lost. …stupid curses. Anyway, review of “Argo” up today/yesterday, and review of “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” up today today.

So, continuing my movie-laden weekend, I went to see “Argo” on Saturday. I know that’s when my review of “Seven Psychopaths” went up, but I’m a day off. Sue me. Anyway, “Argo” looked extremely promising from the trailer, and it did not disappoint.

The premise of the movie centers around a period in American history I realized is simply not discussed in history classes at school, with possible exception of specific history classes in college. Fortunately, “Argo” aims to fill in our ignorance.

After World War II, occupation of Iran by the British ended, and Iran attempted to become a constitutional monarchy. Votes on leaders were had in the late 40s and early 50s. Eventually, Shah Mohammed Mosaddegh came to power and, in 1951/1952, began to nationalize the oil fields in Iran, to the great ire of British and American petroleum companies.

In a great display of corporations influencing government decisions in ways that are STUPID AND IDIOTIC, the oil companies convinced Britain and the US, via the CIA, to instigate a coup in 1953, overthrowing Mosaddegh and allowing the CIA to place a US sympathizer in as shah. For 26 years after, the US backed the leaders of Iran and oil companies forced them to split profits on their oil fields, splits that were likely hugely unfair for Iran. Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi  was  put into power to support the US and force westernization of Iran. His policies and the atrocities under his administration eventually led to the 1979 revolution and installation of the Islamic cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as leader.

This is all background and history for the meat of “Argo.” During the revolution, the American embassy was invaded and overtaken. The Iran Hostage Crisis lasted 444 days and was one of the more lengthy, trying times for America. It was very public and very tense for the nation. Unknown to the nation, however, was the escape of six Americans from the embassy. They left in the chaos and managed to hide in the Canadian ambassador’s house. “Argo” is the retelling of the true story of trying to get them out of the country.

After the hostage crises reaches far beyond the number of days the State Department expected, they call the CIA for assistance. Jack O’Donnell (Bryan Cranston) taps the agency’s best ex-fil agent Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) to help. After talking to his son, he is struck with the idea of filming a sci-fi movie in Iran and pretending the six embassy employees are on the crew for the film. In order to pull this stunt off, they will need to make the movie look as real as possible. That means going to Hollywood, finding a producer, finding a script, faking the entire set up of this being a film they’re definitely going to make, then going to Iran and filling in the Americans.

“Argo” finds itself with a good amount of humor during the Hollywood portions of the film. John Chambers (John Goodman) is a makeup artist that has helped the CIA before and sets Tony up with Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin), a well-known producer willing to back this fake movie. They create a fake production company and go through all the steps to make the movie seem real. The three of them come up with the phrase “Argo f*** yourself” as a sort of humorous, three musketeers-esque rallying cry, likely to help take their minds off of how dangerous the mission is and how much people depend on them. Still, the dance required to move through Hollywood’s bureaucracy and the commentary of film, as well as the ridiculousness of 1980s sci-fi (seeing a recent explosion of interest due to Star Trek and Star Wars), creates a very humorous set-up.

The humor is mostly gone by the time Tony heads to Iran, dissipated and replace with tension that slowly grows throughout the film. Americans and anyone thought to be in collusion with Americans are dragged off the street and shot or hung many times. Tony, pretending to be Canadian, is forced to convince the six Americans to trust him and to learn their background stories as Canadian film makers in only two or three days. With the clock ticking until the Iranians piece together the mugshot diary with all the employees’ faces in it left shredded at the embassy and the danger of their discovery growing with each passing minute, “Argo” creates a tense, well-paced thriller you’re never 100 percent certain is going to end well.

“Argo” literally had me on the edge of my seat through most of the second half of the film. And I don’t do that for many movies. Against a backdrop of violence and fear, Affleck, who also directed the film, makes the audience desperately want to see these characters successfully leave Iran while forcing doubt to seep in their minds the entire time. Further, Affleck recreates the scenery and characters with an almost uncanny amount of attention given to detail. As the credits begin to roll, the film compares photographs taken from the time of the events with stills of what was seen in the movie, and they’re spot on.

This is the first Affleck directed movie I’ve seen, and it certainly makes me want to go back and view more. I can definitely see “Argo” getting a best director and best cinematography (for recreating the feel of the 1980s) Oscar nomination, if not wins for both. For a tense thriller that still gives laughs, and educates young Americans about a time they likely now little about, give “Argo” a go. One of the best movies of the year, undoubtedly.

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Big Screen Ballyhoo – “Trouble With The Curve”

So, I ended up going to see “Trouble with the Curve” today, which was nice. I don’t really get to go out and watch movies too terribly often. I’m usually too busy or too not-wanting-to-watch-it-alone-y. I was planning on watching this one alone, actually, but a friend of mine was there so we sat together.

…I don’t think I should need to say this, but there are spoilers, so.

The movie focuses on three different people, though I’m not sure focuses is quite the right word… we’ll get to that. First is Gus (Clint Eastwood), the stereotypical gruff old man who refuses to use computers and has really odd habits. He’s a baseball scout for the Atlanta Braves. Only problem is, his eyesight is going, likely from glaucoma or macular degeneration. But he’s stubborn, so he goes out to do his job and live his life, despite tripping over tables and running the car into the garage when he backs out. Then, there’s his daughter Mickey (Amy Adams), as in Mantle, a lawyer working her butt off to be the next partner, and only female partner, at her law firm. She clearly has some issues with her father, as they don’t ever seem to be able to talk about anything serious or emotional, due almost entirely to Gus. Finally, we have Johnny (Justin Timberlake), a former pitcher for the Braves that Gus scouted years ago. After he blew his rotator cup, Johnny was traded to the Boston Red Sox, where he now works as a scout with hopes of becoming the voice in the box.

Gus’ friend (and boss, I think?) Pete (John Goodman) is concerned with Gus’ behavior lately and thinks something is wrong. He calls Mickey to enlist her help. When she discovers his eyesight issue, which he refuses to get treatment for, she goes up to North Carolina to help him with his scouting, where they’re scouting a cocksure (and, frankly, egotistical prick) young hitter named Bo Gentry (Joe Massingill). The equally cocky and dickish Braves scout Phillip Sanderson (Matthew Lillard), who thinks all one needs to determine skill is to look at one’s statistics, is trying to oust both Gus and Pete, as well as make sure Bo is the Braves’ No. 1 pick, even though the Red Sox have the first pick.

Once it throws the influential characters into the same North Carolina plot, the movie kind of loses track of exactly which story it wants to tell. None of the plots ever feel like the leading plot. There’s the emotional problems between Mickey and Gus, the romantic growth between Mickey and Johnny, Gus’ eyesight slowly fading and getting him into trouble, Mickey’s rivalry with another lawyer, Todd, trying to get the partnership, Mickey’s relationship with a third lawyer (which is ended in a heavy-handed “symbolic” way, where they look good on paper, like Gentry, but don’t work out in real life)… The first is probably the worst, as it tends to bounce between extremes of “We’re alright, not perfect, but doing well together” and “We can’t be around one another.” Sure, sometimes that happens in real life… I should know. But the movie does it a bit sloppily.

Another problem is how heavy-handed the film is. You know from the beginning that Gentry and Sanderson are massive douches that will not get what they want. You know who the good guys are. And you know from “subtle” hints way early on that don’t return until the film’s end that the oldest son of the woman who owns the run down motel Gus, Mickey and Johnny are all staying at, Rigo Sanchez, will be the foil in Gentry’s path to glory.

The film is predictable and sloppy, and has some trouble with realistic dialogue at times. It seriously seems stilted and overplayed many times. However, there are some great witty lines, mostly for Johnny and some for Gus, that do well, especially in scenes where Johnny flirts with Mickey. And Mickey and Gus both have some solid emotional moments, particularly when Gus is forced to recall his wife or reveal to Mickey why he left her with her uncle at age 6. The acting is solid, the biggest problem is, I think, the writing. There’s a scene where Johnny is in a bar and starts acting, loudly, like the announcer at an old baseball game. And everyone in the bar applauds his performance. Maybe I’ve just been to the wrong bars, but most bars I’ve been to wouldn’t clap for a loud guy shouting about baseball. Maybe football down here, but I really don’t see that happening either.

Now, this was Randy Brown’s first professional gig as a writer, according to IMDb, so it’s pretty impressive that he got this produced with so many big stars. And it’s not a bad film, per se. It’s just your standard feel-good, popcorn-munching, movie-name-dropping summer drama flick. The jackwagons see things blow up in their faces, the good guys have things going right for them (though explanations are left dangling on some things), it’s like a Disney “true story” film that isn’t “Cool Runnings.”

All in all, I’d say it’s a 50-50 shot on whether or not it’s worth your money at the matinee. I’d say it’s worth a purchase at a bargain bin on DVD if you have some older/more mature kids (there is some amount of cussing) that like baseball and just want a movie to watch and fill in some time. Not a great movie, but not bad.

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Big Screen Ballyhoo – “The Campaign”

Last night, I had a good time out with a friend. We ended up going to see the new Will Ferrell comedy film, “The Campaign.” This is the part where I tell you about it.

The movie stars Ferrell as four-time North Carolina Representative Cam Brady, running unopposed for his fifth term. Still, he is forced to campaign because, hey. That’s the way politics works. When a rather lewd and crude phone call goes to a random family in the biggest city of his district instead of his mistress, Brady is forced by his campaign manager Mitch (Jason Sudeikis) to attempt to make an apology as numbers slip. He is, of course, wholly inept.

Enter the Moch brothers, a not-so-subtle nod to the GOP financial strong arms, the Koch brothers. Being quite direct with what everyone is pretty certain the Koch brothers do in real life, Glenn Moch (John Lithgow) and Wade Moch (Dan Aykroyd) declare Brady dead in the water and decide to throw their money and political strength behind a new candidate, the son of a former political heavyweight Raymond Huggins (Brian Cox). This happens after their opening scene where they’re seen basically blackmailing a Congressman into voting for a bill that will let them put “Made in America” on items that were actually made in Amer-kai (I believe), a province in China. I mention it because it’s important.

Anyway, they throw their money behind Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis). Marty always wanted to be in politics, to help his beloved town, but his dad never let him. And now he has his chance, though the Moch brothers send in a ruthless campaign manager, Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott), to completely change Marty’s image and lifestyle.

Then we get the back-and-forth politics is best known for: Dirty campaigning, mudslinging, digging up ridiculously old papers and the like and pinning the opponent to them, et cetera. With guest appearances from several political talking heads like Wolf Blitzer, Ed Schultz and the “Morning Joe” show commenting on their ratings in the polls, the effects of campaign ads and individual actions that are exploded into outrageous talking points.

The movie is a brief, satirical look at the political landscape of today, showing the more bitter, crazed, unfortunate and sometimes plain-old evil sides of how it all works. In my opinion, the movie was perhaps a tad short and lacking in just a little bit of poignancy. I feel like it could have been a slightly better, more intelligently crafted satire that covered more ground that this movie did, but it still works. It hits some big talking points, like where campaigns get money, who counts the votes and who owns whom in politics, as well as the purity of having a stance and a goal and driving toward that.

Beyond that, the movie does have some pretty daggum hilarious moments. It also has awkward and strange moments, like pretty much any Will Ferrell movie tends to have. The movie is definitely rated R for a reason, as the audience gets treated (unfortunately) to two Ferrell sex scenes, on top of a lot of sexual and profane humor. “The Campaign” has some great comic moments, brought on by great comic actors, including a brief showing by John Goodman (which I’m so glad about, since it seemed he was struggling to find work for a while). Even actors you don’t see in comedy, like Cox, have great moments. It’s certainly not the funniest movie in the world, nor is it the best, but I think if you go in without expectations beyond seeing a movie to munch popcorn to, you’ll enjoy yourself.

Or you’ll just get depressed at the state of our nation and politics. Whichever.

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