Dying Is Easy, Comedy is Hard: Freeloaders (dir by Dan Rosen)


Supposedly, the great comedic character actor Edmund Gwenn once said, “Dying is easy.  Comedy is hard.”

I have to agree because I’ve seen a lot of comedies in 2013.  A few of them — like This Is The End and The World’s End — have worked.  However, the majority of them have not only been bad but they’ve been so bad that they’ve invited audiences to wonder if comedy is a dying art form.  For every genuinely clever comedy, it seems like we’ve had to sit through a dozen Movie 43s.  These are movies where genuinely funny people get together and proceed to prove that they can be just as unfunny as the obnoxious cousin that everyone avoids at the family reunion.

Case in point: Freeloaders.

Even Movie 43 made me laugh once.  That’s one laugh more than I got out of Freeloaders.  Freeloaders is quite possibly the least funny comedy that I’ve ever seen.  Freeloaders almost feels like a social experiment, a test to see what would happen if an audience, expecting to see a silly and crude comedy, instead found themselves trapped in a laugh-repellent environment for 80 minutes.

Freeloaders tells the story of a group of stereotypes who have spent the last six years living in a mansion owned by “rock star” Adam Duritz.  It turns out that one of them is a childhood friend of Duritz’s and, since Duritz has been out touring for the past decade, he’s allowed his friends to occupy his home rent-free.  However, Duritz is getting married and planning on moving to New York City and, as a result, he’s selling his mansion.  The freeloaders are told that they have a week to get out of the mansion.  Well, since everyone in this film is basically a total and complete dumbass, nobody can figure out how to rent an apartment.  So, instead, they come up with some painfully wacky schemes to raise the money to buy the mansion themselves.  Standing in their way is Adam’s real estate agent who …. well, it’s never really all that clear why she’s standing in their way.  Presumably, it’s because there wouldn’t be a film unless she was standing in their way and then we would have all missed out on the chance to watch Freeloaders.

Why doesn’t Freeloaders work?

Well, let’s start by considering the fact that Adam Duritz plays himself.  I actually had to go on Wikipedia to remind myself who Adam Duritz is and I discovered that he’ was apparently a big deal back in the 90s and that he’s responsible for that painfully annoying cover of Big Yellow Taxi that was playing everywhere back in the summer of 2003.   Unfortunately, as both an actor and as a “fictional” character, Adam Duritz is so bland that his character serves mostly as a distraction.  The use of a real celebrity (if Adam Duritz can legitimately be called a celebrity) should have provided the filmmakers with a lot of comedic opportunity but that opportunity is pretty much wasted because Freeloaders seems to be obsessed with letting us know that Adam Duritz is a really great guy.

(That might be because Adam Duritz was one of the film’s producers.)

While I doubt that Adam Duritz has ever been a funny guy, Freeloaders is filled with other actors who have proven themselves to be funny in the past.  I, for one, was excited to see the name Nat Faxon in the opening credits because, while he might not be a household name, anyone who has ever seen Nat Faxon in a movie knows just how funny he can be.  However, both Mr. Faxon and the rest of cast struggle with the fact that they’re playing a collection of one-dimensional stereotypes.  Everyone has one overly defining, predictable trait to help us keep them straight.  There’s the nice guy, the stoner, the womanizer, the nice girl, the hoodlum, and the girl who will inspire some in the audience to say, “Is that Olivia Munn?,” largely because she is Olivia Munn.  Since they’re never allowed to become individual characters, all of their attempts at humor fall painfully flat.  It doesn’t help that director Dan Rosen directs without any hint of timing or originality.

Freeloaders was produced by Broken Lizard, the comedy troupe that’s developed a large cult following as the result of films like Super Troopers and Club Dread.  However, the members of Broken Lizard did not write or direct the film and they only appear in a rather brief cameo where they parody Boogie Nights.

The Boogie Nights parody is actually fairly clever but it also highlights this film’s biggest problem.  Freeloaders was originally filmed in 2009 and then sat on the shelf until it finally got a very limited theatrical release earlier this year.  (Perhaps that’s why one of the film’s characters worries about getting sent to Iraq if he joins the army.)  However, the script feels like it was written back in the 90s.  Everything from the premise of slacker stoners being forced to raise money to Adam Duritz being described as a world-famous star to Broken Lizard parodying a film that came out in 1997 serves to make this film feel as if it was made about 14 years too late.

I love a good comedy but, by that same regard, there’s nothing a i hate more than a really bad comedy.  However, as a film lover, I will always be willing to take chance on comedy.  Comedy may be hard but the rewards are great.

Sometimes, you end up with something really special.

Sometimes, you just end up with Freeloaders.

freeloaders

Here Are The 2012 Critics’ Choice Movie Award Nominees


Earlier today, the Broadcast Film Critics Association announced their nominations for the 17th Annual Critics’ Choice Awards.  The BFCA is the largest of the so-called “major” critics’ groups (and, interestingly enough, it’s also the newest and the least prestigious) and it has a fairly good track record of predicting the actual Oscar nominations.  The awards themselves will be handed out on January 12th, 2012 in a self-important, kinda seedy ceremony that will be broadcast on VH-1.   

BEST PICTURE
The Artist
The Descendants
Drive
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
The Help
Hugo
Midnight in Paris
Moneyball
The Tree of Life
War Horse

BEST ACTOR
George Clooney – The Descendants
Leonardo DiCaprio – J. Edgar
Jean Dujardin – The Artist
Michael Fassbender – Shame
Ryan Gosling – Drive
Brad Pitt – Moneyball

BEST ACTRESS
Viola Davis – The Help
Elizabeth Olsen – Martha Marcy May Marlene
Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady
Tilda Swinton – We Need to Talk About Kevin
Charlize Theron – Young Adult
Michelle Williams – My Week With Marilyn

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Kenneth Branagh – My Week With Marilyn
Albert Brooks – Drive
Nick Nolte – Warrior
Patton Oswalt – Young Adult
Christopher Plummer – Beginners
Sir Andrew Serkis – Rise of the Planet of the Apes

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Berenice Bejo – The Artist
Jessica Chastain – The Help
Melissa McCarthy – Bridesmaids
Carey Mulligan – Shame
Octavia Spencer – The Help
Shailene Woodley – The Descendants

BEST YOUNG ACTOR/ACTRESS
Asa Butterfield – Hugo
Elle Fanning – Super 8
Thomas Horn – Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Ezra Miller – We Need to Talk About Kevin
Saoirse Ronan – Hanna
Shailene Woodley – The Descendants

BEST ACTING ENSEMBLE
The Artist
Bridesmaids
The Descendants
The Help
The Ides of March

BEST DIRECTOR
Stephen Daldry – Extreme Loud & Incredibly Close
Michel Hazanavicius – The Artist
Alexander Payne – The Descendants
Nicolas Winding Refn – Drive
Martin Scorsese – Hugo
Steven Spielberg – War Horse

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
The Artist – Michel Hazanavicius
50/50 – Will Reiser
Midnight in Paris – Woody Allen
Win Win – Screenplay by Tom McCarthy, Story by Tom McCarthy & Joe Tiboni
Young Adult – Diablo Cody

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
The Descendants – Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close – Eric Roth
The Help – Tate Taylor
Hugo – John Logan
Moneyball – Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, Story by Stan Chervin

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
The Artist – Guillaume Schiffman
Drive – Newton Thomas Sigel
Hugo – Robert Richardson
Tree of Life – Emmanuel Lubezki
War Horse – Janusz Kaminski

BEST ART DIRECTION
The Artist – Production Designer: Laurence Bennett, Art Director: Gregory S. Hooper
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 – Production Designer: Stuart Craig, Set Decorator: Stephenie McMillan
Hugo – Production Designer: Dante Ferretti, Set Decorator: Francesca Lo Schiavo
The Tree of Life – Production Designer: Jack Fisk, Art Director: David Crank
War Horse – Production Designer: Rick Carter, Set Decorator: Lee Sandales

BEST EDITING
The Artist – Michel Hazanavicius and Anne-Sophie Bion
Drive – Matthew Newman
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
Hugo – Thelma Schoonmaker
War Horse – Michael Kahn

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
The Artist – Mark Bridges
The Help – Sharen Davis
Hugo – Sandy Powell
Jane Eyre – Michael O’Connor
My Week With Marilyn – Jill Taylor

BEST MAKEUP
Albert Nobbs
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
The Iron Lady
J. Edgar
My Week With Marilyn

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Hugo
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Super 8
The Tree of Life

BEST SOUND
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Hugo
Super 8
The Tree of Life
War Horse

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
The Adventures of Tintin
Arthur Christmas
Kung Fu Panda 2
Puss in Boots
Rango

BEST ACTION MOVIE
Drive
Fast Five
Hanna
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Super 8

BEST COMEDY
Bridesmaids
Crazy, Stupid, Love
Horrible Bosses
Midnight in Paris
The Muppets

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
In Darkness
Le Havre
A Separation
The Skin I Live In
Where Do We Go Now

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Buck
Cave of Forgotten Dreams
George Harrison: Living in the Material World
Page One: Inside the New York Times
Project Nim
Undefeated

BEST SONG
“Hello Hello” – performed by Elton John and Lady Gaga/written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin – Gnomeo & Juliet
“Life’s a Happy Song” – performed by Jason Segel, Amy Adams and Walter/written by Bret McKenzie – The Muppets
“The Living Proof” – performed by Mary J. Blige/written by Mary J. Blige, Thomas Newman and Harvey Mason, Jr. – The Help
“Man or Muppet” – performed by Jason Segel and Walter/written by Bret McKenzie – The Muppets
“Pictures in My Head” – performed by Kermit and the Muppets/written by Jeannie Lurie, Aris Archontis and Chen Neeman – The Muppets

BEST SCORE
The Artist – Ludovic Bource
Drive – Cliff Martinez
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
Hugo – Howard Shore
War Horse – John Williams

The BFCA has obviously made a lot of nominations and some of them are interesting but I have to be honest: the BFCA as an organization annoys me with how they’re always bragging about how big they are and how they’re so good at celebrating the conventional establishment wisdom.  So, I’ll just say that its nice to see Hanna getting at least some sort of recognition (even if that recognition is kinda minor.)

The New York Film Critics Online Are Spunky For The Artist


Even while critics in both Los Angeles and Boston were separately meeting and voting today, yet another group of film critics was announcing their picks for the best of 2011.  This group is known as the New York Film Critics Online and, quite frankly, it sounds kinda made up to me.  But what do I know?  I’m just a country gal living in flyover country who has rarely agreed with any of the critics — online or not — this year. 

But anyway, here are their picks:

Best Picture: “The Artist”

Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”

Best Actor: Michael Shannon, “Take Shelter”

     Runners-up: Michael Fassbender, “Shame” and Gary Oldman, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”

Best Actress: Meryl Streep, “The Iron Lady”

     Runner-up: Viola Davis, “The Help”

Best Supporting Actor: Albert Brooks, “Drive”

Best Supporting Actress: Melissa McCarthy, “Bridesmaids”

Best Screenplay: Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash, “The Descendants”

Best Foreign-Language Film: “A Separation”

Best Documentary: “Cave of Forgotten Dreams”

Best Animated Feature: “The Adventures of Tintin”

Best Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki, “The Tree of Life”

Best Use of Music: Ludovic Bource, “The Artist”

Best Ensemble Cast: “Bridesmaids”

Best Debut Director: Joe Cornish, “Attack the Block”

Breakthrough Performer: Jessica Chastain, “The Tree of Life,” “The Help,” “The Debt,” “Take Shelter,” “Texas Killing Fields,” “Coriolanus”

The National Board of Review Gives It Up For “Hugo”


 

It took them a while but, earlier today, the folks who made up the National Board of Review (nobody’s quite sure who they are) finally announced their picks for the best of 2011.  And the winner is — Martin Scorsese’s Hugo!  As anyone who was on twitter earlier today knows, this was something of a surprising result and most of the self-appointed film experts out there seemed to be convinced that the NBR would honor either War Horse or The Artist.  Seeing as it took the NBR longer than usual to announce the winners, I’m assuming that the voting was fairly close.  The NBR is usually considered to be a precursor to the Academy Awards so, if nothing else, this result would seem to bode well for Hugo‘s chances to pick up a best picture nomination.  Here are the winners with the occasional editorial comment from me:

Best Film:
Hugo

(I loved Hugo, though my favorite film of the year remains, at this point, Hanna)

Best Director:
Martin Scorsese, Hugo

Best Actor:
George Clooney, The Descendants

(I may be the only person in America who thinks that The Descendants is overratedCertainly, the members of the NBR disagree with me on that point.)

Best Actress:
Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin

(This was kind of surprising since I think the conventional wisdom was that Meryl Streep would win everything for The Irony Lady.)

Best Supporting Actor:
Christopher Plummer, Beginners

(I have a feeling that Plummer’s going to be the sentimental favorite at the Oscars.)
Best Supporting Actress:
Shailene Woodley, The Descendants

Best Original Screenplay:
Will Reiser, 50/50

(Yay!  This film has been strangely underrated as an awards contender but it deserves a lot more attention.)

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon & Jim Rash, The Descendants

Best Animated Feature:
Rango

(Another yay!)
Breakthrough Performance:
Felicity Jones, Like Crazy

Breakthrough Performance
:
Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

(Bleh.  On twitter, I already went into a rant about how too many of my fellow film bloggers have allowed themselves to be co-opted into a conspiracy to both  force The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo remake down our throats and to try to make us forget about the original trilogy and the fact that Noomi Rapace gave a brilliant performance as Lisbeth.  I’ll hold off on going into that again until it’s time to review the remake but seriously, people — the Hollywood establishment is not going to give you a promise ring, I don’t care how much you kiss their ass.)

Debut Director:
J.C. Chandor, Margin Call

Best Ensemble:
The Help

(Believe it or not, I still need to see this one.)

Spotlight Award
:
Michael Fassbender (A Dangerous Method, Jane Eyre, Shame, X-Men: First Class)

(Oh. My. God.  So.  Hot.)

NBR Freedom of Expression
:
Crime After Crime

NBR Freedom of Expression:
Pariah

Best Foreign Language Film:
A Separation

Best Documentary:
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory

Special Achievement in Filmmaking:
The Harry Potter Franchise – A Distinguished Translation from Book
to Film

(This is probably my favorite award to be given out by NBR.  Seriously, the Harry Potter franchise provided me — and so many others — such a blessed escape whenever life seemed overwhelming.)

Top Films (in alphabetical order)

The Artist (Can’t Wait To See It)
The Descendants
(Overrated)
Drive (Yay!)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Bleh)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (Yay!)
The Ides of March (One of the worst films of the year)
J. Edgar (Bland and forgettable but well-made)
Tree of Life
(Yay!)
War Horse
(Going to see it but I feel obligated to do so and I resent it, to be honest)

Top 5 Foreign Language Films (in alphabetical order)

13 Assassins
Elite Squad: The Enemy Within
Footnote
Le Havre
Point Blank

Top 5 Documentaries (in alphabetical order)

Born to be Wild
Buck
George Harrison: Living in the Material World
Project Nim
Senna

Top 10 Independent Films (in alphabetical order)

50/50 (Yay!)
Another Earth
(Whatever, this was a terrible movie)
Beginners (A good film that deserves to be seen)
A Better Life
(Overrated)
Cedar Rapids (Likable but nothing spectacular)
Margin Call
(Need to see it)
Shame
(Fassbender!)
Take Shelter
(Yay!)
We Need To Talk About Kevin
(Looking forward to it)
Win Win
(Yay!)