Monday, July 25, 2011

Jason goes to Jewfest--Day 4

It's Comedy Night, woo hoo!

But first, I wanted to add a little something I forgot to write about Kirk Douglas. He had a second Bar Mitzvah at age 83. And he promised if he lives another 13 years--to age 96--he'd have a third. He is currently two years away, and looks spry enough he could make it. And that, at least from what I've been able to find on Google, would be a world record (I found articles about a WWII veteran who had a Bar Mitzvah at age 91). But the coolest part about that is my grandfather. He has always promised if he lived to 113 he would have a second Bar Mitzvah, which would shatter the old record. He's got a bit further to go, but I love the fact that my grandfather and Kirk Douglas are in competition (although neither of them know it) to become the oldest Bar Mitzvah boy in history. Awesome!

Okay, on to the movies:

First up, a compilations of Jews in Toons. Three of the funniest cartoons on TV today, showcasing Jewish themed episodes.

Family Guy: "When You Wish Upon a Weinstein" was controversial enough Fox didn't show it during the original run, it was a DVD extra (it has since aired on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, at least). Peter gets a Jew to help him with his money and then decides to convert and get Chris a Bar Mitzvah in Vegas so he will be smart. I really don't see the controversy, they're actually making fun of some of the most positive stereotypes of Jews (whether they're true or not is another subject). And Seth McFarlane consulted a rabbi on the episode who approved the script because "Peter learns the right lesson in the end."

South Park: "The Passion of the Jew" the infamous episode where Cartman goes all Hitler after seeing THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, while Kyle is moved to apologize and Stan and Kenny just think the movie sucks and track down batshit-crazy Mel Gibson for a refund. Like the ADL said, perhaps the sharpest critique of THE PASSION ever.

The Simpsons: "Like Father, Like Clown" was a very touching episode where the Simpsons learn Krusty is Jewish (real name, Herschel Krustofsky) and Bart and Lisa reunite him with his father (Jackie Mason). I still tear up a bit when they sing, "Oh, My Papa" at the end.

And let me say, seeing them with a big audience, roaring with laughter (particularly at the Jewish content) was quite a treat.

Then we had a talk from writer and producer Mike Reiss (The Simpsons, The Critic, Queer Duck). Despite opening by explaining he's a comedy writer, not a comedian (like the difference between real sex and phone sex), he essentially did about 20 minutes of stand-up comedy with some clips from The Simpsons, The Critic, and Queer Duck (who did a musical number about coming out at his bar mitzvah). Hilarious man.

Oh, and let me also take this opportunity to say I like the festival's trailer, starring Queer Duck.

Then the next program started with the short GRANDPA LOOKED LIKE WILLIAM POWELL. A poignant and funny animated short about the director's grandfather, set on the pages of his autograph album.

Then the feature, with previous Freedom of Expression winner Dani Levy (GO FOR ZUCKER! and MY FUHRER: THE TRULY, TRUEST TRUTH ABOUT ADOLF HITLER) back with LIFE IS TOO LONG. I shall start by saying I love Levy's previous work. But this is too self-indulgent to be interesting too anyone who isn't actually Dani Levy. He puts up an alter-ego, Alfred "Alfi" Seliger, and if that sounds suspiciously close to Woody Allen's ANNIE HALL character Alvy Singer...well, the similarities don't stop there. It's an odd choice, because I've never thought Levy was anything like Woody Allen, but his alter-ego is a total Allenesque nebbish film director (with one hit to his credit). In the beginning of the movie, he suffers a fall from a window that leaves him limping around with a crutch and his arm and foot in casts. His children hate him, his wife is having an affair, he's trying to get a comedy made about the caricatures of Mohamed (working title: MO-HA-HA-MED), which everyone takes as either a bold move or a suicide attempt. Turns out, the later is closer to reality, but during a coma from an overdose he makes an important discovery: director Dani Levy is hiding behind the scenes, directing the movie. And the rest of the film is a muddled mess of him attempting to confront the director and/or convince everyone else they're in a movie. This could be an intriguing premise (and has been in past films), but he just uses it for vague and unfocused navel-gazing. I've loved Dani Levi films in the past, and I wanted to give this a chance, but it was so idiosyncratically self-indulgent that I just couldn't get into it. Which is a shame.

On a barely related not, years ago I heard that Levy was making a film about the Ritchie Boys (Jews who escaped Germany and joined the U.S. Army as spies). I hope he's still making that movie, he could be good at that. There's just enough dark absurdity (with limited English and thick German accents, they were in as much danger of being captured and killed by Allies as by Germans) to suit his sensibilities.

Total Running Time: 160 minutes
My Total Minutes: 244,727

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