The last week I have spent doing my least favorite thing in comedy: sending e-mails for 2011 work at clubs. To describe the feeling of this endeavor is to look into the eyes of a stripper at a strip club who keeps getting rejected by patrons. “Do you want a dance?” “Ugggggggh, no thanks.” The only difference is the stripper is able to never go back to that customer and salvage whatever pride her uncle did not already take from her, whereas in comedy bookings you keep e-mailing the same person who has ignored you 20 times in a row because
a) maybe they get a lot of e-mails and you just have to be persistent (2 years and counting on several clubs without a response)
b) some of your friends or acquaintances have worked a certain club and you think/know you are funnier than them so at some point you will break through
c) to quote Richard Gere – “I got nowhere else to go!”
So after 45 e-mails this week I have received two responses. One was entertaining because it would be opening for black comedian who has it in his contract that there can be no other black comedians on his show (making a half black, somewhat minority-ish looking comedian sort of a Plessy v. Ferguson test case for stand up comedy). The bottom line is that comedy is looking less and less like a tenable option for employment. Bookers seem to be 1/3 liars, 1/3 honest, but extremely busy and 1/3 indifferent. Perhaps I need to book my gigs old school. Like go to clubs in person. With Luca Brasi.
I thought this year was a really good year for movies, despite the garbage that was listed on this site yesterday. Before getting to the top 10 movies of 2009 (and the decade) here are some special (mostly positive) awards for movies in 2009.
Most Surprisingly Good Movies (in no particular order)
1)This Is it– Thoroughly enjoyed the concert (rehearsal) documentary about Michael Jackson. Great music and a worthy tribute to the fallen icon and aficionado of play dates with tweens.
2) Taken– The Liam Neeson film is a perfect example of how a movie that has no ambition, only one star and a simple plot can still deliver if it just tries to do the simple things well. And the scene where he shoots his friend’s wife to show that he means business was one of the best this year.
3) Crank 2– Either the most ingenious quasi-spoof of action movies ever or just a ridiculously entertaining goof. Either way I had no idea that I would enjoy this movie as much as I did. It now validates Jason Statham’s work visa to me, though his films have only grossed slightly more than my YouTube videos.
4) Drag Me To Hell – This Movie almost made the top 10. Funny, creepy, gross, and all on purpose. A good, but not great movie. However, there were very few movies I enjoyed more than this one.
The Any Given Sunday Award For Most Disappointing Movie Based On Awesome Trailer
Watchmen. Blue genitals and a waste of time is all I remember from this movie. The trailer, however, was perfection.
The Two Towers Award For Great Trailer That Delivered Great Movie
Nothing. But The Men Who Stare At Goats was my favorite trailer of the year and the movie was solid, but still did not meet expectations.
2009 Honorable Mention (A/K/A The Unpaid Guestspot of Movie Awards)
Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Two Lovers, Food Inc., State of Play
2009 Top Ten Movies
10) (tie) Sugar, The Messenger
Sugar is the story of a Dominican immigrant seeking to become a baseball star. Came out early this year to rave reviews, but has long been forgotten. Anyone who is a baseball fan or interested in the immigrant experience should see this. Or just hang out by Yankee Stadium.
The Messenger is the best war movie this year. It is about two soldiers who report to next of kin of the loss of loved ones. The things people do for work in this economy. Really strong and simple movie.
9)Capitalism: A Love Story.
This movie is a reminder that America used to be a place where a middle class person could thrive (middle class meaning one blue collar job with could salary and benefits, not $5 million dollars or less like John McCain seemed to think). Now thanks to a selfish, never too rich mindset the wealth is more concentrated at the top than ever before. Sadly for working Americans and Michael Moore, America is one big casino and the house always wins.
8) 500 Days of Summer
The fact that Music and Lyrics was my favorite romantic comedy before this movie came out (yes I have seen Love Actually, but have not seen When Harry Met Sally yet – gasp!) may diminish my credibility in this genre, but I am probably not the only person telling you how great this movie is. Funny, heartfelt and thoroughly enjoyable. And the lesson of the film couldn’t be more optimistic: if you find yourself in a relationship with a cu-t, don’t worry because eventually you may go out with Derek Jeter’s girlfriend.
The selection most likely to anger people. First, yes I thought it was funnier than Borat. Second, the best opening of any film since The Dark Knight. As the techno music began blaring and the words “black guys” and “taint” flashed on screen I could not stop laughing. For many the film was too crude. Other complaints I heard was that Borat had a point in showing some ignorance in funny ways, whereas this just went for cheap laughs. Probably true. Perhaps it was easier to embrace a character who was exposing racism and sexism and, most flagrantly, anti-Semitism in Borat and feel good about laughing than in Bruno, where you are just laughing at the absurdity of a gay character’s libido on steroids. My advice to the self-righteous – take the champagne bottle out of your ass and watch Bruno pour some champagne out of his boyfriend’s.
6) Precious Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire
Fat, pregnant by her father (again – fool me once shame on him, fool you twice… shame on him again in this rare exception to that saying), illiterate and Mariah Carey as your social worker. And I thought being a comedian was tough. This movie is a powerhouse and Mo’nique’s performance is one of my three favorite this year (Christopher Waltz in Inglorious Basterds and Paul Rudd in I Love You Man being the other two). And I would like this movie to win Best Adapted Screenplay so that Sapphire, who probably negotiated the self-indulgent title has to hear the dumbest phrase ever uttered at an awards show: The winner is Precious Based on The Novel Push By Sapphire Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire.
The opening to this movie may be the most touching sequence in movies this year. It is just another great movie from Pixar. Normally stories of old men hanging out with young fat kids is awkward (think Herbert the Pervert and Chris Griffin from Family Guy as one such pairing), but this movie is nothing of the sort. Plus it has a talking golden retriever, which will always get support from me.
4) Inglorious Basterds
Christopher Waltz was amazing, but surprising to me was how good Brad Pitt was. A funny, intense, enjoyable movie about Nazis and the Jews that hunted them. It was also a welcome relief from the usual parade of mediocre, maudlin films about the Holocaust that are raised to critical praise because of the subject matter. After Schindler’s List I think Hollywood could have just waited for this one . After all slavery has had what, Roots and Amistad? I think 6 Holocaust movies come out last year alone. But I digress. Basterds is awesome (and my favorite Tarantino film – that is what I think, but I am also writing it because I want to anger those who worship at the altar of Pulp Fiction).
3) Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs
Even more than Bruno, this choice is likely to bring on some WTFs. I did not even want to see this movie, but then reviews kept talking about how much fun it was. The biggest shock of the year for me was this movie. It was hysterical from start to finish. It was like the humor of Family Guy, but not as crude or easy. I flirted with putting this #1, but the last two choices, upon reflection, were the two best movies of the year.
2) Up In The Air
I am tired of the “this is the movie that defines our times” type quotes, but besides that this is a great movie. George Clooney’s best (unlike his win for Syriana, no complaints if he gets Best Actor) and a movie that is so good that I cannot exactly explain why it is so good. Perhaps it is because it is a movie that defines our times… oops.
1) District 9
The most original movie I have seen in a long time. The biggest crime of the Oscars could be if Avatar gets a best picture nomination and this does not (if they only feel like honoring once sci-fi-ish film). Since it is #1 I don’t think it needs any explaining, other than the fact that it comes out on DVD today so you should rent it if you have not seen it.
TOP TEN MOVIES OF THE DECADE
10) School Of Rock – Along with The Wrestler, no movie has matched an actor better this decade than Jack Black and SOR.
9) The Departed – I hate the Boston accent, but that was the only thing I hated about this movie.
8) Eastern Promises– Russian mob in London and the best fight scene in any movie ever. Sorry Bourne Ultimatum. You were second.
7) Million Dollar Baby – The only movie that made me cry this decade (joining E.T., Glory and Dead Poets’ Society on the career list). Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman and Hilary Swank all at their best.
6) Traffic – A decade later the violence in Mexico is worse and the liberal pot smokers who abhor the violence of war or the treatment of chickens that are not free-range, but still help fund the cartels that propagate massive bloodshed in and around the border. This movie would go under the category of wake up calls unheeded. Great movie.
5) Finding Nemo– My favorite movie from the most consistently great movie studio.
4)4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days – I am not a big foreign film guy, but this was so intense and so good I regretted not speaking (Romanian if my recollection is correct) the language because even checking the subtitles was too much attention away from the acting.
3) The Dark Knight – I have never seen a movie in the theaters more than this one. And it’s not even close. Die Hard, The Matrix and The Dark Knight are the three films that changed and elevated action movies higher than any others in the last 20 years. To me, it was even more impressive to take action, the way Christopher Nolan and Heath Ledger did, and turn it into art.
2) The Lord Of The Rings – Because of The Godfather III’s mediocrity this is the greatest trilogy of all time. Shut up Star Wars people. (and if I had to pick just one – The Two Towers).
1) United 93 – I have only seen two perfect movies in my lifetime. One was Amadeus, my favorite movie of all time. The other was United 93. I am not saying it is my favorite movie of all time; it would be hard to make that claim about a film focused on 9/11. But the realism, the intensity, the respectful rendering of an incredibly sensitive subject and the overall product was second to none this decade for me. In a sad way I guess it is fitting that the decade’s defining event yielded the decade’s best movie. Besides, a movie about our collective self-indulgence and self absorption called Twitter v. 3.05 would not be nearly as riveting.
I am about to engage in a round of calls to about 50 clubs around the country that I sent dvds, headshots, etc. I have also done a round of deliveries to comedy clubs in NYC. So far I have a guest spot (think immigrant labor, but much, much cheaper) at one club to show for it. Most likely a majority of these well put-together packets are sitting at the bottom of a desk or garbage can. I know this does not make me any different from a lot of comics. But sitting here and observing Joe The Plumber on television makes me wonder if comedy is the only way not to get success. After 6 years in this game I have come to a few possible movie-based (of course) solutions:
A lot more comedians are going to have to start embarrassing themselves (think Michael Richards) or die (think George Carlin) for me to move up the ranks any faster.
I think there is a 50/50 chance I may go D-Jay style on a club owner if I actually see my packet in a garbage can or on the floor somewhere (from the movie Hustle and Flow – where Terrance Howard sees that Ludacris’ character has thrown his demo in the toilet and goes Travis the Chimp on him – this would be a racist if I were a NY Post blogger, but I am just making a joke about Travis here). Sidenote – contact comedian Amy Carlson for the best chimp joke that I’ve heard.
Something like Airheads (Brendan Fraser, Adam Sandler) where me and a few friends take over a comedy club until they pass us and pay us the $25 we so richly deserve.
Or find a Godfather who can help me out like Don Corleone helped out Johnny Fontaine. Right now the one I have is a Haitian man in his early 70s. Not really a power connection in the entertainment industry.
Not only because it is the best film of the options I presented, but I feel like the last option may be the most effective. If only because I would love to hear a 7 foot goon (he would have to be bigger than me) saying to a comedy club owner: “Either J-L’s name or your brains will be on the lineup tonight.”
And it would be equally enjoyable to hear a comedy club owner say, “J-L Cauvin would be perfect for this club. It would make him a big star. And if I can be frank with you we had a girl we worked with for three years – acting lessons, improv lessons, comedy lessons. And along came J-L Cauvin with his buzzed hair and his guiney-looking charm and she threw it all away to make me look ridiculous. And a man owning a club where jokes are told every night cannot stand to be made to look ridiculous. And to be even more frank, she was young, she was funny, she was innocent and just to show you that I am a hard-hearted man that it’s not all talent and punchlines, she brought more people to bringers than anyone else and I’ve had bringers all over the world. Now you get the hell out of here!”
And then the next morning Carrot Top’s head is in the bed of the club owner. AAAAAGGGGGGHHHH
Ok – time to start making these phone calls. J-L Cauvin insists on hearing bad news right away.
I love blu ray dvds. They are so clear that they actually make movies, which are already awesome, better just by looking and sounding better. Sort of like love with a hot woman. If she is great already (Godfather, Shawshank, Transformers) then the experience is only enhanced, but even if she is not very good (Semi Pro, Hellboy, Terminator 3) the mere upgrade in looks can make you pay attention and appreciate much more than you normally would with a different exterior.
Well, having spent some time being lazy, in between writing and cutting carbs, I managed to watch the Godfather I and II on blu ray this week. Holy Sh*t it is fantastic. Moe Green’s bleeding eye, Senator Pat Geary’s sleaziness, Appolonia’s breasts – all in super clear picture (especially for a movie that is almost 40 years old). But in my renewed focus I noticed some things about the Godfather.
Who the fu-k is Cunio? When Michael is rattling off the list of 5 families (I think my uncle once asked me this as well) he mentions Barzini, Tataglia, Stracci and Cunio? Who is Cunio and why did he not get any screen time or mention until he was dead. I don’t think he even gets mentioned at the meeting Don Corleone calls when Sonny is killed. How much would it suck to be cast as Cunio. “Yeah, I was in the Godfather.” Really? What part? “I was Cunio.” He is not even in the deleted scenes you lying waiter.
The delted scenes should have all been restored. Extra fighting between Connie and Carlo. And the best – Michael has Fabrizio killed in Buffalo, NY in part II (the guy who sold him out in Italy) – it was intended as a compliment to how young Don Corleone tracked down his mother’s killer in Italy when he was grown.
What the fu-k happened to Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino? They went from the Magic Johnson and Larry Bird of acting to the New York Knicks of acting.
How the fu-k did Talia Shire squeeze her way into being a part of two of the biggest movie franchises of all time. Rocky Balboa’s wife and Michael Corleone’s sister. She was probably up for Karen Allen’s part in Indiana Jones and something in Lord of The Rings as well. If only she had been willing to exist nude in movies then she could have extended her career into her forties like Marisa Tomei.
Michael Corleone’s treatment of his wife is great, in that it would make Don Draper say, “Jeesh that guy does not treat his wife right.” How great would it be if you could simply tell your wife, not to ask about your business, then tell her one time, as if it were some gift, and then not tell her a thing for the next 7 years while you kill a bunch of people and do God knows what else. That seems a far cry from the “when will you be home for dinner” arguments.
And it has possibly my favorite quote in a movie, probably because I hope to find a woman who will allow me to write it into my wedding vows and/or wedding toast: “Just to show you I’m not all dollars and cents and a hard-hearted man – SHE WAS THE GREATEST PIECE OF ASS I EVER HAD AND I’VE HAD ‘EM ALL OVER THE WORLD!”
I have not watched Godfather III yet on blu ray because it may test my theory stated above. Sofia Coppola may actually become uglier and worse on blu ray with all the clarity.