I hope you’re not sick of Joker yet, because this movie is being bandied about as a serious Oscar contender, which means we have another four months of talking about it from several different angles – and that includes diving into hot-button comments from its cast and director.
Filmmaker Todd Phillips made waves recently by essentially claiming that “woke culture” is ruining comedy, but longtime comedian and Joker cast member Marc Maron strongly disagrees. Read Maron’s dismissal of Phillips’ viewpoint below.
“Go try to be funny nowadays with this woke culture. There were articles written about why comedies don’t work anymore—I’ll tell you why, because all the fucking funny guys are like, ‘Fuck this shit, because I don’t want to offend you.’ It’s hard to argue with 30 million people on Twitter. You just can’t do it, right? So you just go, ‘I’m out.'”
Maron responded to those comments on an episode of his long-running WTF podcast via The Playlist, calling Phillips’ stance “tired” and refuting his entire premise about comedians metaphorically taking their ball and going home:
“There’s plenty of people being funny right now. Not only being funny but being really fucking funny. There are still lines to be rode. If you like to ride a line, you can still ride a line. If you want to take chances, you can still take chances. Really, the only thing that’s off the table, culturally, at this juncture –and not even entirely – is shamelessly punching down for the sheer joy of hurting people. For the sheer excitement and laughter that some people get from causing people pain, from making people uncomfortable, from making people feel excluded. Ya know, that excitement.”
“As I’ve said before, it’s no excuse,” Maron continued. “If you’re too intimidated to try to do comedy that is deep or provocative, or even a little controversial, without hurting people, then you’re not good at what you do. Or maybe you’re just insensitive.”
I never would have thought that Marc Maron would be the voice of reason in the Joker discourse, but here we are. He finished up his point with one more observation:
“Bottom line is no one is saying you can’t say things or do things. It’s just that it’s going to be received a certain way by certain people and you’re gonna have to shoulder that. And if you’re isolated or marginalized or pushed into a corner because of your point of view or what you have to say, yet you still have a crew of people that enjoy it, there you go! Those are your people. Enjoy your people.”
It’s hard not to think of people like Louis C.K. during that last quote, and Maron’s points are solid here. It seems as if Phillips may not have been fully prepared to handle the intensity of the firestorm surrounding the movie he made, and Maron’s essentially saying that if you’re going to call down the thunder, then you can’t complain about it when you get soaked.
And as for “woke culture” killing comedy, what Phillips seems to be really upset about is that it’s killed a subset of comedy, one which just so happens to reflect the comedy on which he built his career. But that does not mean that there isn’t a vibrant comedy scene out there full of vastly different perspectives. For more on this, I’d recommend listening to this excellent episode of the Still Processing podcast, which touches on Dave Chappelle’s most recent special and digs into this topic even deeper.
A few questions might race through your mind during the hectic opening moments of Abe Forsythe's “Little Monsters,” in which an Australian couple shouts their way through an extended public breakup while bubbly piano music plinks by in the background. Questions like: “is that a Hemsworth?,” “can a zombie comedy perfectly split the difference between Edgar Wright and Taika Waititi?,” and “how are Lupita Nyong'o, Josh Gad, and an invasion of the walking dead going to factor into this?”
Like everything else in this funny, spirited, and frequently clever 93-minute romp, the answers come fast and furious “no,” “almost,” and “with the reckless abandon of a movie that doesn't have any time for nonsense like 'reasons' and 'logic' because it's too busy with a Neil Diamond singalong”. Alexander England — who honestly might still be a Hemsworth, despite what the internet and his birth certificate might tell you — stars as David, a scruffy blond musician with a bad case of stunted manhood. Forsythe's script doesn't get into specifics until the third act, but it's clear from the start that David might be a bit too invested in his “stadium rock/death metal” band God's Sledgehammer to really invest in a human relationship, or make room for the kids that sometimes come as a result.
Perhaps that explains why things don't work out with David's ex, and why he doesn't have the first clue how to deal with his ultra-adorable five-year-old nephew Felix a note-perfect Diesel La Torraca. Like seemingly every other director from his corner of the globe, Forsythe knows how to help a child actor thread the needle between cute and cloying; from the way Felix treats his pet tractor yes to his deep kinship with Darth Vader, La Torraca's performance is bright-eyed and open to the wonder of our world in a way that's sweet, hilarious, and ineffably real. England meanwhile becomes a most endearing foil, as he informs his character with such genuine indifference towards the guileless little boy that the scenes between them never feel like old schtick.
Forced to take Felix to school one day, David spends the whole time hitting on his nephew's teacher, Miss Caroline Nyong'o, who all the kids love and listen to without reservation. And when chaperones are needed for a field trip to a petting zoo called Pleasant Valley Farm, David only volunteers because he has hopes of touching something else along the way. He is, needless to say, not particularly well-equipped to handle the students nor their eminently capable substitute mom. The only person who might be more dangerous to have around those people might be beloved kids TV star Teddy McGiggle Gad, a noxious wannabe Mr. Rogers who's actually a sex addict who hates children. It doesn't really matter how he finds himself in a small wooden hut with David, Miss Caroline, Felix, and 20 other little tykes when a horde of zombies breaks out of a nearby military base, but he does.
Forsythe's sense of humor may be less referential and his filmmaking less refined than Edgar Wright's, but “Little Monsters” and “Shaun of the Dead” provoke a similar giddiness from trying to negotiate human relationships in decidedly inhuman times. The action that clutters the last hour of this movie is never compelling enough to feel like anything more than a bloody distraction, but the characters vibe together so well on their own terms that the walking dead only need to provide an existential threat.
For a ramshackle movie that can sometimes feel rushed and tossed off, Forsythe does an excellent job of balancing the various energies of his cast. Gad is most potent in small doses, even if there are only so many times he can drop nuclear-grade F-bombs on a room full of small children before it gets old. Nyong'o initially seems like she'll be stuck playing the proverbial straight man, but this brilliant actress is smart not to bait the laughs; there's something ambiently hilarious and movingly fragile about how dedicated she is towards keeping the students calm, even if that means leading them on a conga line through a field of zombies. By the time she's covered in blood and busting out a ukulele to serenade the kids with Taylor Swift covers, it's impossible not to be impressed with her range and not for the first time this year.
But the nucleus of “Little Monsters” exists in the space between David and Felix, and the movie is at its best when it hones in on the idea that having children — or at least having children around — can be a source of incredible strength. They don't judge adults with the same mercilessness that adults judge themselves, and it can be a total blast however sloppy to watch Felix innocently reveal the root cause of his uncle's fear. With a bit more craft and visual imagination, “Little Monsters” could have been something much bigger, but it has a very good time getting its point across. As one character puts it during a respite from defending themselves against hundreds of flesh-eating zombies: “There are plenty of things to be scared of in this world, but having kids isn't one of them.”
“Little Monsters” will play in theaters on Tuesday, October 8. It will be available to stream on Hulu starting Friday, October 11.
Todd Phillips got together with the good folks at Vanity Fair to break down the opening scene of his movie Joker. The scene is our first introduction to the tormented Arthur Fleck Joaquin Phoenix, the man who will one day become Gotham’s Clown Prince of Crime. Love or hate Phillips’ film, this is an interesting video and gives you a glimpse into what Phillips was going for with his ultra-dark comic book movie. Watch the Joker opening scene breakdown below.
Joker Opening Scene
According to Todd Phillips, one of the most important jobs of a director is tone, and the thing he’s most proud of with Joker – especially during its opening moments – is the dark, grim tone he sets for the rest of the movie to come. Phillips then takes us into the film’s opening moment, in which Joaquin Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck sits in front of a mirror applying his make-up. As Phillips explains in the video, this scene was shot on location in a real space in Harlem.
“Everything in the movie is meant to be unsettling,” Phillips says. “So anytime we move the camera…it’s meant to give off this unsettling vibe of this guy.” During the course of the scene, Arthur struggles to literally put a smile on his face. Arthur sheds a single tear during the moment which makes his make-up run, and Phillips adds that Phoenix did that on his own during one take. He also says that he had the movie’s score, composed by Hildur Guðnadóttir, recorded before the movie was even made – which is very uncommon. Phillips wanted to be able to play the score for Phoenix and the rest of the crew to set the tone and mood for the movie, and Phoenix was listening to the score during this specific scene.
There’s a lot more insight here, both into the making of the film, and into the Joker as a character. Phillips addresses the Joker’s constant, off-putting dancing – it’s all over the trailers – and says that he told Phoenix he saw Arthur as someone with “music in his soul.” And that music continues as he transforms into Joker, going from playful, comical dancing into something far weirder. “There’s a grace to Arthur,” Phillips says. A grace that Arthur doesn’t really find until he becomes the Joker.
I gave Joker a positive review, but I also think the movie has its fair share of problems – specifically the script. That said, this video gave me a greater appreciation for the film as a whole.
It’s the natural order of things: the world ends, the teens party. So many apocalyptic shows and movies take a dour approach to the end of the world, but Netflix’s upcoming apocalyptic comedy Daybreak imagines teens as the only ones unaffected by a zombie plague that renders all the adults brain-dead monsters. So naturally, they’re going to party it up and play with some cool swords. Watch the official Daybreak trailer below.
They survived the end of the world. I say they party. At least, that’s what the teens of Greendale, California say in the official Daybreak trailer released by Netflix. Based on Brian Ralph’s 2011 comic of the same name, Daybreak is described as “an art-house take on the classic zombie genre.” But as seen in the trailer, there’s something a little more Zombieland-meets-Ryan Murphy in this quippy, sarcastic adaptation of Daybreak. The series follows a slacker Colin Ford who must find his “own tribe” to search for the girl of his dreams while navigating the same cliques that dominated high school — except now they’re all dressed like they saw no other apocalypse movies except Mad Max: Fury Road.
The show stars Colin Ford Under the Dome, We Bought a Zoo, Alyvia Alyn Lind The Young and the Restless, Future Man, Austin Crute Booksmart, Sophie Simnett, Gregory Kasyan, Krysta Rodriguez, Jeanté Godlock, Cody Kearsley, and Matthew Broderick. Brad Peyton, who directed the Dwayne Johnson action films San Andreas and Rampage, directs several episodes of Daybreak.
Here is the synopsis for Daybreak:
High school isn’t the end of the world… until it is. In this post-apocalyptic, genre-bending series, the city of Glendale, California is populated by marauding gangs of jocks, gamers, the 4-H Club, and other fearsome tribes who are kicking a** as they fight to survive in the wake of a nuclear blast on the night of Homecoming…ugh. Following an eclectic group of survivors, as they navigate this strange and treacherous world, DAYBREAK is part samurai saga, part endearing coming-of-age story, and part Battle Royale. This Generation A series A for Apocalypse! Get it? is rated TV-MA.
Daybreak premieres on Netflix on October 24, 2019.
Maybe it's because of its Emmy categorization in drama, but recently, there's been a lot of discussion about “Succession” as though it's not intentionally funny; as though the idea that it could be looked at as a comedy — albeit, a dementedly dark comedy — is preposterous. It tends to end up being compared to very clear-cut comedies, especially its cable network-mate, the terrific “The Righteous Gemstones,” in a way that describes those series as “the funny version of ‘Succession'”… as though “Succession” itself isn't inherently the funny version of “Succession.”
“Succession” has always been a dark comedy masquerading as a prestige drama. HBO’s hourlong critical darling honestly has more in common with “Fleabag” or “Flowers” than it does “Ozark.” But that's also because it's specifically a dark British comedy conveniently masquerading as an American prestige drama.
Succession is just Arrested Development minus jokes.
fight me on it. Or plz make me memes!
— LONG LIVE THE DREW FLESH @videodrew September 22, 2019
FYI, “The Righteous Gemstones” = hilarious “Succession.”
— Caissie St.Onge @Caissie September 24, 2019
And it goes deeper than just the fact that the series comes from prolific British comedy writer Jesse Armstong. Well, it begins there, but it definitely goes deeper. The question is how an hourlong series that tackles topics like abuse, corporate espionage, drug addiction, and even murder — an hour-long series about truly deplorable rich idiots who genuinely use the terms “libtard” in conversation and arguably have no soul, assuming that this takes place in a world where souls do in fact exist — can be considered comedic in its own well-established soul.
The answer is that “Succession” is simply Armstrong's workaround at creating an American remake of his own original hourlong comedy, “Bad Sugar,” which told the story of “sexy and scheming heirs of a wealthy mining mogul as they battle each other to become the next head of his fracking empire.”
Created by Armstong and his regular writing partner Sam Bain, “Bad Sugar's” one and only episode aired in 2012. It was subsequently ordered to series in the UK, but due to the cast and crew's ever-growing schedules — the series starred Peter Serafinowicz, Sharon Horgan, Olivia Colman, Julia Davis, and Reece Shearsmith, who have all been pretty busy since — it was never able to come together.
In 2016, it was announced that Fox was developing an American remake. The remake was to be written by Patricia Breen, who had also written the unaired pilot for the attempted American remake of Sharon Horgan's “Dead Boss.” This remake also never came to fruition, but if it had, it wouldn't have captured the same magic as the original series, even if it were good.
So what's smarter than to bypass the “remake” stage altogether and Americanize your original vision as a new series? “Succession” simply infuses less parody into its formula than “Bad Sugar,” but the satire is still there, right down to the unfortunate souls who have ended up attached to the wealthy Roy siblings. Instead of a fracking empire, it's a media empire. It's all bigger — and with more of a budget behind it — which helps it feel especially epic.
Yes, “Succession” was nominated in the drama category at the Emmys, and yes, “Succession” is an hourlong series, and yes, there are a number of prestige dramas like “Mad Men” adept at comedy without shedding their more respected structures. But the fact that it feels epic seems to be the issue when it comes to classifying “Succession’s” genre. Because “epic” can't possibly equate to “comedic,” can it? Recently, there’s also been a lot of talk about the series in the context of the works of Shakespeare, also ignoring the inherent comedy in even Shakespeare’s most dramatic tragedies. That belief feels like the major reason people are quick to consider “Succession” a straight-up drama, as it's seemingly too poignant and pointed to be considered a comedy. Unless it was a half-hour, that is.
When people discuss “Succession” as a drama first and foremost, for some reason, the comedy of it all is treated as incidental, as a small part of the series. But even if you consider “Succession” a drama first and comedy second, it's worth acknowledging that its very existence is still very much rooted in comedy. Brutally dark comedy, but comedy nonetheless.
“Succession” airs its Season 2 finale on Sunday, October 13 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.
Before the many, many public relations controversies regarding Joker began flaring up, director Todd Phillips indicated in an early interview that he was willing to do a sequel if star Joaquin Phoenix was. Well, considering the movie’s opening weekend box office and the sheer amount of press it’s been getting, it sounds like Phoenix is interested in the possibility. At least, that’s what he said on a recent episode of Popcorn with Peter Travers.
Per The Playlist, Phoenix himself introduced the topic in a roundabout way while explaining why he thought the part of Arthur Fleck was a “dream role” for him:
“You know, I wouldn’t have thought about this as my dream role. But now, honestly, I can’t stop thinking about it,” admitted Phoenix. “I talked to Todd a lot about what else we might be able to do, in general, just to work together, but also specifically, if there’s something else we can do with Joker that might be interesting. So, it ended up being a dream role. It’s nothing that I really wanted to do prior to working on this movie.”
When Travers pushed the point further, Phoenix admitted he didn’t actually “know that there is” more to do after Joker but left the possibility open regardless. “Me and Todd would still be shooting now if we could, right?” he added. “Because it seemed endless, the possibilities of where we can go with the character.”
You can watch Travers’ entire interview with Phoenix below.