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Jim Carrey (#110 of 11)

Chris Rock, Prince, & the State of Saturday Night Live

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Chris Rock, Prince, & the State of <em>Saturday Night Live</em>
Chris Rock, Prince, & the State of <em>Saturday Night Live</em>

Something intriguing seems to be happening to Saturday Night Live. There’s no denying that the departures of Fred Armisen, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, and Seth Meyers have overall drastically muted the show’s comedic palette, throwing it into a transitional funk. You’d think that booking names like Jim Carrey, Woody Harrelson, and Cameron Diaz to do some of the heavy lifting would help ease new cast members and writers into viewers’ minds. Instead, these recent episodes have felt mostly constrained by a soberness that’s prevented the 40th season of the program from finding its rhythm. But then it was announced that former cast member Chris Rock would return for the first time since leaving SNL to host the November 1st episode, with Prince as musical guest, what unfolded was one the show’s most engrossing episodes in a very long time, turning this transitional phase into a spectacle of its own.

Sinful Cinema Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Most Offensive and Homophobic Football Movie Ever Made

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Sinful Cinema: Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Most Offensive and Homophobic Football Movie Ever Made
Sinful Cinema: Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Most Offensive and Homophobic Football Movie Ever Made

One of my favorite things about recalling my movie-watching past is considering the ways I viewed certain films through younger eyes. To see these movies again, today, is often a wildly different experience. Back then, there were countless passages I didn’t get, and, surely, dialogue I couldn’t grasp. A childhood story I’ve recounted ad nauseam involves Batman Returns, and my recitation of the word “bastard” at a friend’s house during playtime. I was eight, and I was scolded by the friend’s mom, but all I knew was that’s what Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman said when she landed in a truck full of kitty litter. We all have stories like this, of course. But I recently discovered that, in my personal viewing history, perhaps no movie has played more differently for my current and former selves than Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.

Co-written by lead star Jim Carrey, this 1994 football-themed farce made the rubbery comedian a household name, and was quickly followed, within two years, by the onslaught of The Mask, Dumb and Dumber, Batman Forever, and the Ace Ventura sequel, When Nature Calls. I’m not sure if I ever loved Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, but I clearly absorbed enough of it to remember its hallmarks well: lines like, “Alrighty then”; Ace’s signature, tidal-wave up-do; and gags like Ace literally talking out of his ass. What I didn’t realize is that this movie is shockingly offensive, and not in the tongue-in-cheek, envelope-pushing way most modern comedies are. It’s set during the lead-up to a Super Bowl, and while I’m sure plenty of football films have delivered their share of queer slurs, I don’t think any are as homophobic—or, in large part, transphobic—as this one.

Summer of ‘88: The Dead Pool—Dirty Harry Gets Taken

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Summer of ‘88: <em>The Dead Pool</em>—Dirty Harry Gets Taken
Summer of ‘88: <em>The Dead Pool</em>—Dirty Harry Gets Taken

When Gran Torino was rumored to be the sixth Dirty Harry movie, I hoped Clint Eastwood wouldn’t make Charles Bronson’s mistake. Bronson’s Paul Kersey appeared in five Death Wish movies, each more preposterous and violent than the last. The final Death Wish film, The Face of Death, gave 73-year-old Bronson a much younger girlfriend and more people to shoot. Clearly too old to be chasing anything besides young punks off his lawn, Bronson looked ridiculous. I kept waiting for him to roll into the frame on a Hoveround tricked out with flamethrowers and ballistic missiles.

Since Eastwood was 78 when Gran Torino was announced, I feared the worst. Harry Callahan would fire his famous .44 Magnum, and the kick back would cause his arm to fly off. Running up those hills in San Francisco would kill him before anybody could “make his day.” Thankfully, Eastwood played a different sort of racist with a gun in Gran Torino. So 1988’s The Dead Pool remains the last we’ll ever see of Dirty Harry, at least until Warner Bros. inevitably greenlights a reboot.

Directed by Clint’s longtime stunt coordinator, Buddy Van Horn, The Dead Pool is a fitting swan song for the controversial police lieutenant created by Harry Julian Fink and Rita M. Fink. Coming 17 years and three sequels after 1971’s Dirty Harry, the film finds Eastwood and company still using the series’s tried-and-true formula: Criminals commit heinous crimes and Dirty Harry shoots them with his big-ass gun. Occasionally there’s a love interest and/or a partner to “soften” Harry’s rough edges and make him appear more human. These people are supremely unlucky and usually deceased; their demise is always foreshadowed by their pointing out that Callahan’s companionship is hazardous to their health. By film’s end, Harry has solved the crime, splattered the villains, avenged his lost lover/partner, and walked away while the camera pulls up for a final overhead shot of the carnage.

SXSW 2013: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone and V/H/S/2

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SXSW 2013: <em>The Incredible Burt Wonderstone</em> and <em>V/H/S/2</em>
SXSW 2013: <em>The Incredible Burt Wonderstone</em> and <em>V/H/S/2</em>

Another opening-night gala screening, another crapshoot. Two years ago, South by Southwest gave the red-carpet treatment of Duncan Jones’s entertaining time-travel thriller Source Code, but last year Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon’s irritatingly snarky horror-genre deconstruction The Cabin in the Woods got the top honor, and now this year we have The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, which, in spite of a nasty concluding punchline, can’t even claim the kind of cleverly subversive comic gusto The Cabin in the Woods has in abundance—for better and for worse.

15 Famous Masked Men

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15 Famous Masked Men
15 Famous Masked Men

In The Dark Knight Rises, a film that got a tragic boost of unexpected publicity yesterday, Batman returns in all his superheroic glory, a growly pariah back to restore the city for which he marred his image. The black-clad character emerges from the shadows, yet still keeps himself concealed, thanks to that trusty cowl that’s become one of pop culture’s most iconic disguises. Men in masks have been darting across the movie screen since the days of silents and serials, and their popularity shows no signs of diminishing. In honor of this crime-fighting, blockbuster weekend, we’ve rallied together 15 other films that also place masked men front and center.

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.”

Oscar 2011 Nomination Predictions: Actor in a Leading Role

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Oscar 2011 Nomination Predictions: Actor in a Leading Role
Oscar 2011 Nomination Predictions: Actor in a Leading Role

The second I heard Scott Foundas splooge over David Fincher’s The Social Network prior to the film’s New York Film Festival premiere for representing our cyber-obsessed times as importantly as All the President’s Men captured its own eight-track era, I knew we had our Best Picture Oscar winner. Even then, it didn’t seem like its star, a young Jewish kid who stammered his way memorably, if unimaginatively, through a handful of high-profile indies since 1999, would make it into the Best Actor horse race, even if the actor had finally, and scarily, succeeded in articulating on screen the sort of personal neuroses that might actually be attributed to someone other than himself. Flash forward four months and Jesse Eisenberg is the only actor standing in the way of Colin Firth’s regal march toward Oscar victory—and by standing in the way I mean the shadow cast by the topmost curl on Eisenberg’s head.

Take Your Carol: Robert Zemeckis’s A Christmas Carol

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Take Your Carol: Robert Zemeckis’s <em>A Christmas Carol</em>
Take Your Carol: Robert Zemeckis’s <em>A Christmas Carol</em>

The phenomenon of the holiday makes it necessary for practically everyone to get into the spirit of things. Spin the globe, drop your finger, pick a holiday from where it lands, and that’s what happens. That’s why it’s a holiday, not a personal day. On the one hand, this can be seen as a social necessity. Part of your acceptance in a social group or subgroup depends on your ability to play a role not only in day-to-day business, but also in rituals. Commemoration, observation, celebration—these are all rituals of a sort. For a little less than a third of the human race, Christmas is the largest and most concentrated matrix of rituals. A few key images tell the story: Decorations appear in advance of the two major holidays that precede Christmas. Theme music besieges the airwaves. Homes and trees are adorned with lights. Government offices, too. These days—at least in my neck of the woods, where Christian and non-Christian faiths share a large and more or less nonviolent space, where pretty much every possible reaction to Christmas is okay—you can celebrate it, piously or non-piously, you can hate it, or you can attempt to ignore it. If, on the other hand, you find yourself in London, in the middle of the nineteenth century, some ways of thinking about the holiday are okay, and some are not.

Which brings us to Ebenezer Scrooge, easily the best known anti-social in Western literature. He’s also a miser, and Charles Dickens was shrewd enough to dovetail his money-hoarding with his misanthropy, instead of stacking the character with unlikable, yet unrelated, characteristics. As Dickens saw it, Christmas was a prominent, cultural fixture, but, politically speaking, it was also an impotent one. Social injustice was defined as the poor treatment of labor, a policy of zero tolerance to debtors, and brutal indifference toward the less fortunate. The character who personified this would not simply hate mankind, he would also hold its purse strings. The character arc of A Christmas Carol traces Ebenezer Scrooge’s evolution from a very bad man to a very good one, the engine of his moral reeducation operated by no one other than the story’s author. (You cannot otherwise explain the employment of spirits and surreal, malleable environments.)

No Matter How Smallish: Horton Hears a Who!

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No Matter How Smallish: <em>Horton Hears a Who!</em>
No Matter How Smallish: <em>Horton Hears a Who!</em>

After the live-action debacles of The Grinch and The Cat in the Hat—bad bananas with greasy black peels—I approached Horton Hears a Who! with dread; I’m therefore torn between expressing relief that this cartoon version of Dr. Seuss’ classic exceeded my expectations, and conceding that my expectations couldn’t have been much lower. For what it’s worth, my kids, aged 10 and 4, were enthralled from start to finish, their dad found the experience mostly painless and sometimes pleasurable, and there weren’t any inappropriate sexual references to homina-homina through on the way home.