The Kids in the Hall,
and a few movies

#211  [archive]
NOV. 10, 2023

The Kids in the Hall (1988-95, 2022)  

I never watched this sketch comedy show when it was on TV from the late '80s to mid-90s. Saw their movie, Brain Candy, a while back and found it funny but freaky. So my intent here was to check out the first episode, and also the first episode of the show's 2022 revival.

That plan didn't work. Some of the sketches in those two debuts were giggleworthy, some weren't, but I liked the low-key feel of the joint, so I've been watching more episodes at random, from both the old and new series. 

I've watched about twenty episodes so far, and keep getting the impression that The Kids in the Hall are a bunch of guys having fun, doing silly stiff that makes them laugh. They're not trying to make me laugh, they're trying to make themselves laugh. Probably that's nuts, but it feels low-key, as opposed to screaming Laugh at this! And the show is definitely funny more often than it's not.

Other than wrinkles, there's no difference between the old shows and the new shows. Where they're young, The Kids in the Hall remind me of hanging out with wacky buddies 40 years ago, and the shows where they're old remind me that all those buddies are dead now. 

Why does it have to be 'Lorne Michaels Presents', though? Lorne Michaels is where comedy goes to scratch its ass, but somehow this show gets past the ass-scratching Michaels and earns laughs.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦

Kiss and Make-Up (1934)

Cary Grant plays a Parisian plastic surgeon who makes plain women beautiful, and all of them swoon for him. The never unamusing Edward Everett Horton plays a plain man, infuriated that his plain wife has been re-sculped by Grant and become too beautiful.

“Men are selfish brutes, and they demand beauty.”

This is dated and shallow, and adds up to barely a puff of warm wind, but sue me, I liked it. It's not even unpleasant when Mr Grants seats himself at a piano, and plays and sings the movie's theme song, "Love, Divided by Two."

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦

The Manhattan Project (1986)

There's this high school science whiz (Christopher Collet, annoying) whose mom is dating a nuclear weapons designer (John Lithgow, pretty good). The kid, being a whiz and all, decides he'll build "the first privately produced nuclear device in the history of the world," and to do this he needs to break into Lithgow's super-secret lab and swipe some newfangled liquid plutonium. 

His plan isn't to blow anything up, only to blow the lab's secret cover as a medical tech factory. I had a hard time with the logic and plausibility of it, though. Even a dumb science whiz has to know that building a nuclear bomb will either kill him with radiation, get him sent to prison, or go boom and do some damage.

It's lightly comedic, but I lagged behind at the part where we're supposed to root for the kid — as he too-easily circumvents the lab's security, steals the plutonium, builds a nuclear warhead, and takes it to a national school science fair in New York City. We're supposed to root for him as he runs from the feds, carrying the nuke in a wooden box that triggers Geiger counters across the street.

Sorry, I was never rooting for the kid.

The movie's a good time, though. Even as improbabilities are piled atop impossibilities, all leading to the inevitable 'defuse the bomb' sequence at the end, I was tense with the drama, and laughing at the silliness. 

It's reminiscent of WarGames, with young Cynthia Nixon in the Ally Sheedy role. Written and directed by Marshall Brickman, who was once Woody Allen's writing sidekick, on Sleeper and such. 

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Street of Crocodiles (1986)

The Brothers Quay, identical twins Stephen and Timothy, are widely hailed as brilliant animators. I read an article about their brilliance, and decided to illuminate myself by watching what's assessed as their masterpiece, Street of Crocodiles.

Terry Gilliam says it's one of the ten best animated films of all time, you know. 

It's only about 21 minutes, wordless, and almost entirely comprised of stop-motion animation that's extremely well-done — better perhaps than I've ever seen before.

Screws and dolls come to life, walk around, do calisthenics, stick sewing pins into beef, etc. There's no plot, and what it's supposed to mean remains a mystery, until a cryptic explanation at the end, which doesn't explain much.

The film feels European, with a bleak pessimism that cries out 'Czechoslovakia during the Cold War', though the brothers are from Pennsylvania.

It's accompanied by music akin to audio waterboarding — the same note repeated twice, and those two notes repeated over and over. ••  ••  ••  ••  ••  ••  ••  ••  ••  ••  ••  ••  ••  ••  ••  ••  ••  ••  ••  ••  ••  ••  ••  ••  ••  ••  ••  ••  …

Verdict: MAYBE.


• • • Coming attractions • • •

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) 
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)
Taken for a Ride (1996)

... plus occasional schlock and surprises 

    • • • But wait, there's more  • • •

Alexander Nevsky (1938)
The Bat People (1974)
Berkeley in the Sixties (1990)
Brainwaves (1983)
Cellular (2004) 
The Dark Glow of the Mountains (1985)
Dark Star (1974)
The Day My Parents Became Cool (2009)
The Decline of Western Civilization (1980)
Downsizing (2017)
Frankenhooker (1990)
The General (1926)
Get Shorty (1995)
Hugo (2011)
The Importance of Being Earnest (1952)
The Internet's Own Boy (2014)
Line of Duty (debut episode; 2012)
Love Happy (1950)
The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
The Man Who Thought Life (1969)
The Man with Nine Lives (1940)
Not Wanted (1949)
Nothing But a Man (1964)
Phone Booth (2002)
PickAxe (1999)
Poison (1990)
Revelations (1993)
Ride in the Whirlwind (1966)
Romper Stomper (1992)
Room Service (1938)
Same Kind of Different as Me (2017)
Saved! (2004)
Scared to Death (1947)
Secret Weapons (1985)
The Shooting (1966)
The Soloist (2009)
The Train (1964)
Welcome to New Orleans (2006)
Who Farted? (2019)
Wristcutters: A Love Story (2006)

There are so many good movies out there — old movies, odd or artsy, foreign or forgotten movies, or do-it-yourself movies made just for the joy of making them — that if you only watch whatever's on Netflix or playing at the twenty-plex, you're missing out.

To get beyond the ordinary, I recommend:

AlterCineverseCriterionCultCinema ClassicsDocsVilleDustFandorFilms for ActionHooplaIHaveNoTVIndieFlixInternet ArchiveKanopyKinoCultKino LorberKorean Classic FilmChristopher R MihmMosfilmMubiNational Film Board of CanadaNew Yorker Screening RoomDamon PackardMark PirroPizzaFlixPopcornFlixPublic Domain MoviesRareFilmmScarecrow VideoShudderThoughtMaybeTimeless Classic MoviesVoleFlixWatchDocumentaries • or your local library

Some people even access films through shady methods, though of course, that would be wrong.

— — —

Illustration by Jeff Meyer. Reviews are spoiler-free, or at least spoiler-warned. Click any image to enlarge. Arguments & recommendations are welcome, but no talking once the lights dim, and only real butter on the popcorn, not that fake yellow stuff. 
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