#22 The Hangover: “Stu’s Song”
When VH1 does “I Love the 00’s” in a couple of weeks, Hal Sparks or Chuck Nice will inevitably talk about 2009 in a “we’re aware how dumb this is to reminisce on the current calendar year” kind of manner. And the movie that will represent 2009 better than all will be The Hangover. Ed Helm’s missing tooth, Zach Galifianakis’ pager not getting a sig at the hotel, Baby Carlos playing with himself at the table. It’s the sign of the times truly.
What was so brilliant about The Hangover besides the initial premise (people want to see wild shit happen in Vegas after all) was director Todd Phillips of Road Trip and Old School . He’s like a brilliant A&R putting together a classic album; Phillips plays exclusively to the strengths of his script by filling it with the best possible comedic actors who previously had not been giving a shot. Every unknown commidity he brings out tends to double their value after the release of his films. In other words, Dane Cook would do well letting Phillips cast and direct him.
Phillip’s debut Road Trip may not have aged well but back in 2000, Tom Green and Sean William Scott were surging thanks to MTV and American Pie. Breckin Meyer still sucks though. Anyway, Green, playing possibly autistic super senior Barry Manilow, and Scott, typecast as the obnoxious fratty asshole, carried a college movie to $120mill and allowed then unknown DJ Qualls to subsequently get his own flick The New Guy. Sure, Tom Green would later vanish and Sean William Scott has been playing variations of Steve Stiffler for almost 10 years now, but Phillips kept them in line and maximized their potential rather than only exploiting their personas in the film.
There would be no Anchorman or Talledega Nights without Phillips casting Will Ferrell as Frank the Tank in his second film 2003’s Old School. Vince Vaughn might’ve still considered making cruddy dramas to prove he was a thespian if not for Phillips casting him as the creepy funny speaker salesmen Bernie. Luke Wilson still sucks though. Anyway, Old School did almost $90mill and Ferrell, Vaughn, and Wilson ended up in hit comedies for the rest of the decade. Ferrell has now maxed out at the box office and Luke Wilson is doing AT&T commercials though Vaughn is still afloat. Phillips wins again for keeping those fools on a leash.
The Todd Phillips Formula will most definitely pay dividends for Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, and Bradley Cooper (who’s already filming The A-Team as we speak — zoinks!). Surprassing Beverly Hills Cop as the top grossing Rated R comedy of all time (and only trailing Passion of Christ and Matrix Reloaded for biggest R movie of all time), The Hangover has ushered in three more unlikely and previously untested comedic leads, and the best scene of the raucous flick might even be nomiated for Best Song at the Oscar’s this year (fingers crossed).
Yeah there’s a cameo from Mike Tyson and Ken Jeon and Mike Epps and a Hispanic cleaning lady who likes south to mouth, but the sticking point is a quick piano ballad delivered by Ed Helms famed previously for The Daily Show and currently The Office. Helms’ character Stu is a tight ass in every sense who loses the most, namely a tooth and all self dignity by unknowingly marrying a skanktastic Heather Graham. As the movie dances along frantically for over an hour straight, we get a brief pause in the action for Stu to quietly serenade Doug, the missing groom. Helms originally improvised the song on set as a joke, but Todd Phillips (remember: master A&R) decided to not only keep it in the picture but treat it like a Meatloaf video with syrupy lighting and, for good measure, a chicken just hanging out. It’s the perfect balance of ridiculous, self-indulgent tenderness that balanced out the wacky physical comedy of the film.
When they take a little tiger snooze
Do they dream of mauling zebras
Or Hallie Barry in her catwoman suit?
Don’t you worry your pretty striped head
Were gonna get you back to Tyson and your cozy tiger bed
And then were gonna find our best friend Doug
And then were gonna give him a best friend hug
Doug Doug Oh Doug Doug Dougie Doug Doug
But if hes been murdered by crystal meth tweekers…then we’re shit out of luck!”
#21 Gone Baby Gone: “Life’s a Motherf*cker”
Here’s what I learned from watching 2007’s excrutiatingly good Gone Baby Gone:
1. Unless Kevin Smith gets serious about jokingly remaking Good Will Hunting 2, Ben Affleck never has to act in film again. Directing movies is clearly his calling. Even though he was shooting loaded dice in a sense by filming a movie set in his old neighborhood starring his kid brother and heavyweights like Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris, Affleck delivered the goods through and through. At no point during the flim did I ever note the work of a famous tabloid magnet indulging in his first pet project.
2. Casey Affleck is, according to Ben himself, “the better Affleck” at acting.
3. Amy Ryan was so convincing as full-time Southie dirtbag/coke head/drug mule Helen McCready that I had to really concentrate on separating her from that character when I see her pop up as single mom officer Beadie on “The Wire” or goofball nerd Holly on “The Office”.
4. Ed Harris is actually 38% creepier with a hairpiece.
*SPOILER* 5. Morgan Freeman has built this goodwill covenant with audiences for so long that even when he plays a lying, scheming, kidnapping son of a bitch police captain, you still kinda like him.
Above all, Gone Baby Gone is, at least for now, Casey Affleck’s breakout party and signature role (though I’m sure this will change with time). Playing local private investigator Patrick Kenzie working the case of a local girl gone missing, Affleck’s babyface looks and average joe Boston apparrel makes his character work harder for respect. He’d probably get carded buying cigarettes. Instead of overcompensating with balls of steel and flashing a big gun, Kenzie uses his quite confidence and razor sharp street smarts to show and prove.
This sets up the #21 scene of the decade. Kenzie follows a lead to the loft of Cheese, a drug kingpin in South Boston who just might’ve taken a little girl hostage amidst all the money changing hands and double crossings that come up when said money is being transported by scheming low lives. Kenzi likeable and respectful; he needs these relationships with guys like Cheese and his underlings for future cases, after all. But anytime someone wants static, he responds swiftly never recklessly. Cool heads do prevail.
Here is the dialogue between Kenzie and Cheese after Cheese has been arrogant and dismissive towards Kenzie and his girlfriend/investigative partner:
“Cheese, if you ever disrespect her again like that, I’m gonna pull your fuckin’ card, okay? So you’re saying you didn’t do it, fine. We’ll take your money, and we’ll be on our way. When it turns out you’re lying, I’m gonna spend every nickel of that money to fuck you up. I’m gonna bribe cops to go after you, I’m gonna pay guys to go after your weak fuckin’ crew, and I’m gonna tell all the guys I know that you’re a C.I. and a rat, and I know a lot of people. And after that, you’re gonna wish you listened to me, ’cause your shitty pool hall crime syndicate headquarters is gonna get raided, and your doped-up bitches are gonna get sent back to Laos, and this fuckin’ retard right here is gonna be testifying against you for a reduced sentence, while you’re gettin’ cornholed in your cell by a gang of crackers. ‘Cause from what I’ve heard, the guys that get sent up Concord for killing kids, life’s a motherfucker.”
The greatest aspect of this piece of dialogue is how matter of fact and sincere Casey Affleck delivers it. Put this in the hands of Al Pacino and imagine the levels of volume and emphasis he’d place on damn near every 4 words. Though we never see Patrick Kenzie as Beantown Headrusha, we believe every word he says to a very very dangerous man. And at no point does he raise his voice or stand up to puff his chest out. In that moment, Cheese realizes that this punk ass mick from around the way can’t be underestimated again. Kenzie’s aura, delivered unflinchingly by Casey Affleck, is summed up earlier in the film: “When I was young, I asked my priest how you could get to heaven and still protect yourself from all the evil in the world. He told me what God said to His children. ‘You are sheep among wolves. Be wise as serpents, yet innocent as doves.’ ”
#20 Clerks 2 “There is only one trilogy”
I used to be an uber Kevin Smith fan. Hell, I even got to meet him once and I can say without a doubt it was one of the biggest fanboy star struck moments of my life. I owned all of his movies. I was ecstatic for the animated version of “Clerks” when it debuted on ABC after the Super Bowl years ago. My only contribution to my high school newspaper was a review of Dogma. And I’ve been told I look like Ben Affleck from Chasing Amy when I’m in goatee mode.
“Having said that”, I really did not want to see 2006’s Clerks 2. As much as I loved Randal and Dante and Jay and Silent Bob, I never watched the first one and thought “I really want to see what these twentysomething bumps on a log become when they hit their 30’s”. Kevin Smith thought otherwise.
Like Tarantino, Smith is a master at writing dialogue. Whereas Tarantino spews out hip offbeat quips that are cocksure and quotable, Smith writes eloquent monologues sprinkled with enough foulness that even Lil’ Kim, at her height, would be reluctant to say outloud. Combine that with hyper self-awareness of his comic book and movie nerditry and you understand why Smith has built a sizeable fanbase with his View Askew empire: there’s a lot of folks out there who care about this stuff too.
Randal and Dante had an ethical discussion about Star Wars in the original Clerks, one of the most memorable scenes he’s ever written. Star Wars apparently is the defining piece of culture for alot of 70’s babies. Smith has unabashedly promoted this fact with a bevy of Star Wars homages throughout the years, from the poster art of Mallrats to Mark Hammil being cast in the George Lucas approved title Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. It is his life force, pun intended.
The new school equivalent SW is by default the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Thanks to the internet, LOTR diehards can obsess about the films instantly and infinitely. SW fans had conventions and toys and comic books for years to hold them down, sure, but that shit wasn’t as gratifying for the geeks. Plus, SW was viewed as a kids movie loaded with furry things and robots with lazers while LOTR ended up winning a buttload of Oscar’s including Best Picture for Return of the King. SW carries overt themes taken from Greek and Persian mythology coupled with Taoist philosophy and Zen Buddism. LOTR has gay hobbits jumping on beds and a flaming eyeball in the sky that looks like…well, you’ve seen it. Needless to say, there is an entire generation that might feel a bit bitter about the whole thing. Kevin Smith is their spokesman.
This grudge is aired out in Clerks 2. This was Kevin Smith’s “Takeover” though Peter Jackson, director of LOTR, never claimed to have wanted it with Star Wars, George Lucas, or Smith…NOOOOO!!!! Luke Skywalker is running this nerd shit.
Dante and Randal, now working the counter at a fast food joint, have to nitpick something to compensate for their shitty lives. In this case, Randal takes umbrage with Elias, a doofy burger flipper who makes an offhand joke about a customer ordering onion rings (“One ring to rule them all“). This begins a nerdcore beatdown of D&D fantasy fags from devoted sci-fi galaxy herbs: