House Logo
Explore categories +

White Elephant Blogathon (#110 of 5)

The White Elephant Blogathon: The Survivors

Comments Comments (...)

The White Elephant Blogathon: <em>The Survivors</em>
The White Elephant Blogathon: <em>The Survivors</em>

[This is a submission to the White Elephant Blogathon called by Silly Hats Only.]

The Survivors starts off rather well. Michael Ritchie’s 1983 comedy opens with a wide shot of New York’s financial district, as the camera pans slowly to reveal the various skyscrapers—including, obviously, the two towers—under a dull grey sky. Randy Newman’s 1974 recording of Huey Long and Castro Carazo’s “Every Man A King” accompanies the visuals; and its cheerful chorus nicely contrasts with a line of parked station wagons as mid-level executive Donald Quinelle (Robin Williams) arrives at work. Not very subtle, sure, but pleasant enough.

Then Donald gets sacked by a parrot, which was when I poured myself a large glass of whiskey. It would be the first of many.

My estimation of Robin Williams and his oeuvre, such as it is, differs from the generally accepted view that the broader his humor the less palatable the film, and, consequently, that he’s far more successful when he tones down his routine. That’s because when Williams decides to Act instead of go with his gut and explode on screen, an untenable bathos takes over his craft—this is true in the worst of his “serious” films (say, What Dreams May Come) as well as his best (say, Good Will Hunting). Whatever dramatic chops he might have, they’re unable to burst out of the pericarp-like image of Williams as first and foremost a funny-man. In his comedies, on the other hand, Williams manages to bring a pinch of truth in the middle of over-the-top formula, elevating drivel to the level of, if not art, then serviceable Hollywood fare, an underrated yet commendable achievement. And in The Survivors, too, Robin Williams shows a knack for finding the repressed insanity of the everyman.

White Elephant Blogathon: The Pest

Comments Comments (...)

White Elephant Blogathon: <em>The Pest</em>
White Elephant Blogathon: <em>The Pest</em>

[This is a submission to the White Elephant Blogathon called by Silly Hats Only.]

On the stage, John Leguizamo was something of a dynamo caricaturist. His one-man plays, like Freak and Sexaholix, were an explosive series of tirades centered around Leguizamo’s mixed ethnicity, effectively turning his insecurity into schtick by sheer force of will alone. On stage, Leguizamo looked like a caged cartoon animal pacing back and forth while tirelessly spitting over-caffeinated rants at his audience. No target was spared, especially not when it came to his parents. He was not Richard Pryor or Eddie Murphy, but he was loud and vigorous in his lampooning and the audiences and critics ate it up.

The producers of Paul Miller’s 1997 clunker, The Pest, and perhaps Miller himself, who had previously directed 15 episodes of In Living Color and 10 episodes of something called House of Buggin’, no doubt saw this angry young man and thought that all they needed to do was put a camera in front of him, wind him up and set him loose to get fans of “ethnic humor” to roll up. He acted like a living looney tune on film so why not on try doing the same thing for film?

It’s…the Return of the Curse of the White Elephant Blogathon!

Comments Comments (...)

It’s…the Return of the Curse of the White Elephant Blogathon!
It’s…the Return of the Curse of the White Elephant Blogathon!

3. Have fun!

So if you’re interested in taking part this year—and you know who you are—send your submission to me at lastwordsquiz@yahoo.com no later than May 1. Please don’t submit through the comments section—I’d like to keep this year’s selections a secret if possible. And if you’d like to know more about the White Elephant Blogathon, visit your local library. Or, failing that, leave a message in the comments box.

See you on June 15th! And spread the word, will ya? The more the merrier, says I.