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Jerry Seinfeld (#110 of 8)

Louie Recap Season 4, Episodes 1 & 2, "Back" & "Model"

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Louie Recap: Season 4, Episodes 1 & 2, “Back” & “Model”

FX

Louie Recap: Season 4, Episodes 1 & 2, “Back” & “Model”

Possibly a wry acknowledgment of Louie’s return after a year-and-a-half hiatus, the title of the season-four premiere, “Back,” principally refers to the pulled muscle that hampers Louie (Louis C.K.) halfway through the episode, the latest in the show’s unending humiliations heaped upon its mastermind. True to C.K.’s extreme self-deprecation, Louie injures himself doing nothing more strenuous than pointing at a sex toy he wishes to buy out of curiosity. The midlife anxiety that pervades the series has manifested in grander crises of confidence in the past, but this may be the most scathing assessment yet of Louie getting old.

Louie‘s Big Stakes

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<em>Louie</em>‘s Big Stakes
<em>Louie</em>‘s Big Stakes

Real creative success is something that has to be won. It isn’t a ribbon you get for having just enough noble intent in your heart. If you followed the third season of FX’s Louie, you’ll know that comedian Louis C.K. passed noble intent a long time ago.

After two seasons of steady brilliance, season three of Louie continued to tread some fantastic dimension where a half-hour television comedy is about real discovery. The stand-up bits about uncomfortable blowjobs and the theoretical upside to pedophilia would never fly on a network show, but you remember the jokes more for their perspective than their lewdness. You can watch Louie and be struck with the sense that its artful handling of moral struggles and carnal impulses requires some deep philosophical reflection. At its best, though, the line between C.K.’s visceral humor and his brooding is hard to define. It’s not always obvious what you’re laughing about, but you do laugh.

The Indelicate Delinquent in Manic Winter: An Evening with Jerry Lewis

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The Indelicate Delinquent in Manic Winter: An Evening with Jerry Lewis
The Indelicate Delinquent in Manic Winter: An Evening with Jerry Lewis

On the occasion of his 86th birthday last Friday night, Jerry Lewis was in his element: water. He was drooling it onto his feet, wrapping his lips around the rim of a glass, and drinking from a pitcher. Abetted by his on-stage interviewer, comedian and TV cop Richard Belzer, the legendary nightclub performer, jack-of-all-film-trades, and philanthropic veteran of the Muscular Dystrophy Association met the expectations of fans who packed 92nd Street Y’s Kaufmann Auditorium on Manhattan’s Upper East Side by cutting loose with the brand of shameless clowning that has kept him rich and famous since the Truman Administration. Casually crossing his legs and sending a shoe flying into the first row, musically cutting off a Belzer follow-up question with “Was I throoooough?”, and fixing the perpetrator of a solitary laugh with a cartoonish, sneering turn of the head that dates back to his white-hot dual act with Dean Martin, Lewis was primed to give his audience a good time, and what was billed as a tribute by the fraternal comedians’ group The Friars Club morphed into a two-hour reciprocal love-in between childlike idol and uncritical idolators. “I’m nine, and I’ve always been nine,” Lewis self-diagnosed during a breather from his antic agenda. “The beauty of nine is that it’s not complicated.”

A Movie a Day, Day 27: Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

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A Movie a Day, Day 27: <em>Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work</em>
A Movie a Day, Day 27: <em>Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work</em>

As she keeps pointing out in this clear-eyed documentary, Joan Rivers is 75, but she’s as driven as ever. Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work shows its subject running after the electric rabbit of fame, with insecurity, resentment, and an insatiable need for acceptance nipping at her heels. It would be a tragedy if she weren’t so damn funny.

Surprisingly funny, in fact—and surprisingly angry. If you’ve only seen her on network TV, A Piece of Work has news for you: Rivers can swear like Richard Pryor, her live act includes jokes about anal sex, and when a heckler attacks her, she rips him to shreds. Talking about her early career, she tells filmmakers Ricki Stern and Ann Sundberg how transgressive she was for the times in the ’60s. What she doesn’t have to say, since the film says it for her, is that she still has the power to shock, and Lord knows that’s not easy to do these days.

No sting: Bee Movie

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No sting: <em>Bee Movie</em>
No sting: <em>Bee Movie</em>

Bee Movie, in which a winged, striped hero voiced by Jerry Seinfeld sues humanity for expropriating his people’s honey, is a satire afraid of its own sting. Co-written by Seinfeld and three collaborators, and directed by Steven Hickner, it’s funnier, more visually imaginative and more engrossing that its backhanded positive reviews have suggested. It’s guaranteed to satisfy any parent looking for well-done escapist humor, and it’ll probably please kids old enough to understand the film’s plot and get at least half of its jokes. The movie’s pleasures are technical, superficial: a brilliantly timed line-reading (a mosquito voiced by Chris Rock shows up at the end as a partner in Barry’s newly-founded legal clinic and explains, “I was already a bloodsucking parasite…All I needed was this briefcase!”), a smartly-executed action sequence (the hero flitting through Central Park and midtown Manhattan during a rainstorm) or a marvelous throwaway sight gag (in the background behind two conversing bees you briefly glimpse a bee newspaper vendor, his display board trumpeting today’s top headline, “Bee stings seven, then self”). Unlike DreamWorks’ rousing and passionate Old Testament musical Prince of Egypt and the stealthy-serious Shrek films—which mounted a radically aggressive, sustained, internally consistent rebuke of the received ideas of beauty and cultural superiority ingrained in almost every animated feature since Snow WhiteBee Movie is content to be a sweet diversion. But even with that implicit caveat, there’s something fundamentally disappointing about the film, because it clearly could have been a lot more daring and memorable than it is, and chose to distrust and downplay its freshest impulses.