Let the Muppets host the Oscars!


Eddie Murphy recently decided not to host next year’s Academy Awards ceremony, for reasons which are a little murky, but seem to involve his loyalty to Brett Ratner, the show’s director, who was fired after he got a little frisky in a couple of interviews.

I like Eddie Murphy, I suppose; I got a few laughs out of “Bowfinger,” anyway. Oh, and he was cute as the voice of the donkey in “Shrek,” and the mini-dragon in “Mulan,” although it was sort of the same performance in both movies. But I was out of the United States during a key period in the 1980s – the period during which “Ghostbusters,” and “Miami Vice” were popular, and during which Joe Piscopo and Eddie Murphy were the new faces of television comedy. As a result, I am more or less apathetic about Eddie Murphy in general. Let him go, let him go, God bless him, I say.

More importantly, however: whatever shall we do for an Academy Awards host? (You know how strongly I feel about the Oscars.) We could pray for the wiry Hugh Jackman, or the nimble Neil Patrick Harris, I suppose. And I hear that Billy Crystal (who must be eighty years old by now) has already been approached, and has mumbled and clicked his agreement through his ill-fitting dentures.

But I just saw the best idea of all online recently: let the Muppets host the Oscars!

Think of it! Kermit cheering and leaping around on Julia Roberts and Emma Stone. Miss Piggy doing at least one (and maybe all) of the musical numbers (with Doctor Teeth and the Electric Mayhem as backup), and making out (or trying to) with George Clooney. Statler and Waldorf heckling the performance from the audience. Fozzie doing comedy relief in tandem with Zach Galifianakis. We could even have some crossover Muppets: the Count! Big Bird! Grover!

If you don’t agree with me that a touch of Muppet improves almost anything, please to watch this clip from “WWE Raw,” in which lab assistant Beaker gives a wrestler a Secret Energy Drink!

So let’s dump tired old Billy Crystal, and let him go back to Boca, and give the Muppets a chance.

Wocka wocka!

Sunday blog: Frank Zappa’s “200 Motels”


One of Frank Zappa’s dearest wishes was to make a movie called “200 Motels,” about how tours make musicians go insane. Zappa finally made the movie in 1971, and it’s a raggedy mess, but there are some brilliant moments, and this video gives you the heart of the movie: a six-minute animated nightmare called “Dental Hygiene Dilemma,” in which bass-guitarist Jeff Simmons is torn between Good (personified by an incense-burning Donovan) and Evil (personified by a Zappaesque demon wearing a crash helmet).



Take some of your favorite medication and watch it. It’s a good old time.



God, I wish it were 1971 again.



What am I saying?  No, of course I don’t!






The perfect movie: “Annie Hall”


We have talked a lot about movies recently: good, bad, memorable, unmemorable. Movie-lovers get a little crazy about movies.



How about this, then: is there a perfect movie?



There are all kinds of quantifiable / describable things that make a movie truly great. It needs to be fun, and watchable, and susceptible to interpretation on many levels, and engaging, and contain excellent performances and clever / memorable dialogue, and be directed compellingly . . .



I have a short list: “The Red Shoes.” “The Lion In Winter.” “Casablanca.” “Citizen Kane.” “The Maltese Falcon.”



But the other day I walked into the house, and I could hear the TV in the next room: Partner was watching a movie. Diane Keaton and Woody Allen were arguing, and . . .



Well, of course, “Annie Hall”!



I have seen it more times than I can count – probably (I kid you not) a hundred times. I know most of the dialogue by heart. I had a friend who, when she phoned me, would not say “Hello,” but rather a random line of “Annie Hall” dialogue; my response was supposed to be the next line of dialogue in the movie. One call went like this: “Hello?” I said.



“Are you getting your period?” my friend rasped.



Too easy. “I don’t get a period!” I said. “I’m a cartoon character!”



Woody achieved – to use one of his own expressions from the movie – maximum heaviosity in this film. The brittle chemistry between Woody and Diane makes everything work. The dialogue is perfect: witty without being arch. Woody had fun using every film technique of the last fifty years – split-screen, subtitles, animation – for a minute or so each, and they work beautifully. Woody actually speaks to the camera frequently, and it’s not stupid or uncomfortable, it works: it makes the movie personal and engaging. The characters walk freely into scenes from their own past, and comment on them, and observe them. (Woody’s classroom scene at the opening of the movie is a classic: he actually joins his own nine-year-old self in an argument with a smartassed nine-year-old girl.)



Okay, so it’s a funny movie about a twice-divorced guy from Brooklyn who gets into a relationship with a not-so-dumb girl from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.



It’s also a bittersweet/sad movie about a twice-divorced guy from Brooklyn who gets into a relationship with a not-so-dumb girl from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.



I remember watching the 1978 Oscar ceremony about a month before I graduated from college, back at Gonzaga in Spokane, with my friend George. George is (if you can believe it) a bigger Woody Allen fan than I am. When the Best Picture award was given to “Annie Hall,” George actually shed a tear. I’ve never forgotten it.



If you’ve never seen this movie, do yourself a favor and see it.



It’s perfect.



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