In a predictably contentious interview with The Guardian, Anthony Hopkins caps off an eminently readable series of straightforward admissions about his alcoholic past, estranged daughter and disdain for the British tabloids by denouncing what’s going down in the UCLA acting classes he teaches. “There are a lot of young kids, good actors, but they are so macho they think it’s sexy to whisper. I don’t know what the hell they are talking about. They may as well put subtitles on them. I teach acting classes at UCLA, and I stand there and say: ‘I can’t understand one word you’re saying, so how d’you expect me to sit in the audience?'”
Now, I don’t know what Hopkins is talking about, if he’s teaching theatrical or film acting, nor could I find evidence of said acting classes online. And I don’t remember a swarm of recent Hollywood performances specializing in whispering. The tentative, awkward shuffle, sure — I used to want to slap some decisiveness into Tobey Maguire until he snapped out of it, Jake Gyllenhaal has run with it pretty well, and Paul Dano’s brilliant turn in “There Will Be Blood” pretty much took it into the realm of self-parody. But I don’t think that’s what Hopkins is talking about, nor, I suspect, is he being inundated with a new breed of mumblecore actors.
Hopkins’ complaint, nonetheless, seems curiously anachronistic. He began stage-acting in the early ’60s and was on film by 1967, making him probably the most successful British screen actor of his generation. His compatriots included the largely now-forgotten Nicol Williamson and John Hurt, both of whom he acted against, but Hopkins eclipsed them both for sheer fame. (Michael Caine’s of the same generation, but his insistence on keeping his own accent rather than the Queen’s English makes him a whole other story.) Hurt has proven himself adept at sinking into characters; Williamson, primarily a stage actor praised by the likes of Samuel Beckett, never could tone it down for film.
Hopkins gets to have it both ways, as pretty much every profile notes. He’s overwhelmingly associated with either his quiet Merchant Ivory turns (“The Remains of the Day,” “Howard’s End”) or scenery-chewing on a massive scale (Hannibal Lecter, his enjoyable hammy tête-à-tête with Ryan Gosling in “Fracture,” being Richard Nixon). But if you look at his overall body of work, it’s clear Hopkins is kind of an anomaly, splitting the difference between the old-school theatrical training he had while learning to adapt to new screen conventions. Which makes his grumbling about mumbling even more puzzling. He had to learn to take it down a notch to continue a successful screen career; surely, he doesn’t expect the new generation of kids to start from where he started 40 years ago? Besides, his turn in the underrated “The World’s Fastest Indian” is as mumbly as it gets.
[Photos: “Hannibal,” MGM/UA, 2001; “Nixon,” Buena Vista Home Entertainment, 1995.]
Doctor Who is one of the most influential shows in all of spacetime. Before you step into the TARDIS for IFC’s Doctor Who Season 9 marathon, check out some fantastic parodies and tributes to the Time Lord.
1. The Lenny Henry Doctor
UK comedian Lenny Henry spoofed the Doc way back in 1985. Starring alongside genuine Doctor companion Peri, it’s an ode to everything wonderful about the old series.
2. My (Re)Generation – Shooting Stars
Anarchic UK comedy quiz show Shooting Stars featured a music video by The (Doctor) Who, a band built from four versions of the eponymous character, with their hit song “My (Re)Generation” filmed in black and white inside an old TARDIS.
3. Doctor Who Anime
Fan-made anime “Space-Time Adventure DOCTOR WHO” is a labor of more love and skill that pays tribute to both the Doctor and anime tropes with equal measure. Paul “OtaKing” Johnson combined the Third Doctor with late-’80s style cyberpunk anime, crafting custom-made animations to turn a harvest of authentic quotes from the original series into all-new jokes. You gotta love the Doctor addressing a scantily clad anime protagonist with,”Oh for heaven’s sake girl, go and put something warm on.”
4. The Web of Caves
Part of the BBC’s “Doctor Who Night” in 1999, “The Web of Caves” was a work of love so intense it affected the future of the real series. The black-and-white parody of the early Doctor’s trials — complete with unbalanced audio, ill-considered evil plans and the eternal stone quarries — was co-written by and starred Mark Gatiss, who would go on to write several genuine Doctor Who episodes as well as appearing in the official series.
5. Kit Kat Daleks
Kit Kat’s “Take a Break” advert arrayed characters taking a break from their usual behavior. A needlepointing rugby player, classically violining metal-heads, and considerate sitcom husbands were flanked by Daleks charging through a shopping center with Hare Krishnas crying “PEACE-AND-LOVE! PEACE-AND-LOVE!” Their brief bliss-break was reduced even further when the rights-holders noticed that the Daleks were being used without permission. Because the only thing more terrifying than Daleks are lawyers.
6. Do You Have a License To Save This Planet?
As you can probably tell from their name, the BBV made a business of skating so close to BBC licensed properties.They had permission to make many spin-off productions, and they didn’t have official permission to make many more, but made them anyway. The most blatant was “Do You Have a License To Save This Planet?” starring Sylvester McCoy, but definitely legally not as the Seventh Doctor. No, he was the Foot Doctor, travelling time and space in a washing machine and fighting threats to the authorized canon in a half-hour adoring mockery of his own role.
7. The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot
To celebrate the “Day of the Doctor” 50th anniversary episode, past Doctors attempted to sneak onto the set to make their mark from the past. A gloriously self-aware comedy written and produced by the Fifth Doctor, and a must-watch for fans of the series.
8. The Curse of the Fatal Death
“The Curse of the Fatal Death” combined Doctor Who with the Comic Relief telethon, and the combination of classics with charity was anything a Whovian could have dreamed of. The multi-part mockery starred Rowan Atkinson, Richard E Grant, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent, and Joannna Lumley as regenerations of the world’s most famous time traveler.
There’s just something likable about Jake Johnson. Sure, he often plays surly drunks in everything from indie films like Drinking Buddies to Fox sitcoms like The New Girl, (heck, he’s even the inspiration for Drunk History) but off-screen he’s known as one of the nicest guys in Hollywood. In honor of Jake’s guest spot on this week’s Comedy Bang! Bang!, we thought it was high time to share some of his most quotable moments from film and TV. See if you can spot just how drunk he is below.
1. On his resemblance to a turtle…
2. In rain or shine, the sex mail man will always be there.
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3. Beware Jurassic World’s most fearsome dinosaur!
4. Outer space horse = unicorn?
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5. Wasn’t there a “Real Sex” episode about that?
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6. Jake always has your back.
7. Age is just a number. A large, scary number.
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8. Personal hygiene is important.
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9. To be fair, John Lithgow’s minister character was pretty scary.
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10. Always drink responsibly, lest you forget where you put your keys.
Proving the old adage that anything is possible if you wish hard enough, this month marked the return of comedy pioneers Bob Odenkirk and David Cross to the TV sketch arena with their new Netflix show W/ Bob and David. Featuring many of the writers and cast members (including Comedy Bang! Bang! host Scott Aukerman) who made the ’90s sketch program Mr. Show such an indelible cult classic, the long-awaited follow-up possesses the same sharp, satirical eye as its predecessor.
But in case you’re unfamiliar with Mr. Show and how culturally significant its comedy still is two decades later, here are the 10 most important sketches the series produced. And for more David Cross, be sure to catch the return of Todd Margaret on IFC beginning January 7th at 10P ET/PT.
For every faceless, multinational, multi-billion-dollar conglomerate, there are countless daily meetings just like this one: corporate pitchmen and bottomliners brainstorming ways to humanize their company’s image while tapping as many markets and demos as possible. And who better to accomplish this herculean task than a magical, pansexual, non-threatening spokesthing named Pit Pat?
9. The Mr. Show Water Cooler
Not too long ago, CNN was a trusted news source, Fox News languished in cable obscurity, and non-substantive political commentary based on monologue jokes and stand-up bits was relegated to variety shows like Politically Incorrect. But in the years since this sketch aired, comedy news outlets like The Daily Show, The Onion, and Last Week Tonight have become far more in-depth than our current cable news offerings and, according to multiple studies, they command a much more knowledgeable audience. Today, the “Mr. Show Water Cooler” sketch is more of an indictment of the “uninformed, unrehearsed political jam sessions” from the mainstream media than the satirical news shows that skewer them.
8. The Story of Everest
Lanky Jay Johnston undercuts his triumph of scaling Mount Everest by repeatedly falling against two racks of his mother’s thimbles in a mesmerizing display of physical comedy. And the fact there’s not much more to the scene makes it incredible. The overall simplicity of the premise, the realistic bewilderment and frustration of the parents, and how the basic tenets of comedy — timing, heightening, misdirection, etc. — are warped or outright abandoned makes this sketch a fascinating study of subtlety within slapstick.
7. Fairsley Foods
Without the financial resources, tax loopholes, and teams of lawyers that your average retail giant maintains, small family-run shops don’t stand a chance in most free market scenarios. So when a humble local supermarket chain is put in the sights of a mega-mart’s cutthroat smear campaign, there’s not much to do but close down locations and spend a fortune on child-sized tracking collars. The satire of mom & pop’s losing ground to mega-chains is just another example of Mr. Show eerily predicting the future.
6. The Prenatal Pageant
Years before Toddlers and Tiaras and Honey Boo-Boo popularized the alien world of child pageants and pushed the lowest-common denominator to record lows, a sketch like “Prenatal Pageant” seemed like a farfetched (albeit hilariously astute) portrayal of pageant families. But with 21st-century hindsight, Bob and David weren’t too far off from how those starry-eyed, reality show parents would treat a potential embryonic meal ticket.
5. Ronnie Dobbs
Once again, Mr. Show — the satirical prognosticator that it was — anticipated the precipitous decline of our celebrity tabloid culture. Ronnie Dobbs, the oft-arrested redneck who’s had brushes with the law in every state, achieves fame and fortune by simply being a petty criminal on a Cops-like reality show. And honestly, is that really different from today’s reality stars who get ample airtime and exorbitant per-episode paychecks?
4. Mr. Show Boys’ Club
In this biting take on the swinging-’60s sexism that predates Mad Men and is still present in many institutions, “Mr. Show Object” Jill Talley discovers that the Mr. Show Boys’ Club not only parades women around in skimpy outfits and deer antlers (a thinly veiled dig at the Playboy Club), but also offers meager concessions to its young female members. At a time when women are still fighting for equal pay and adequate health care, the sketch is sadly still very relevant.
3. The Teardrop Awards
As a stand-up, David Cross has railed against the cynical marketing in the wake of a tragedy. (Check out his thoughts on American flags post-9/11.) And playing a singer-songwriter who lost his five-year-old son a year prior, Cross explores similar exploitative territory with jubilant acceptance speeches after winning awards for his commemorative songs. A cathartic sketch for anyone who has felt gross after seeing suffering and misfortune capitalized on in the age of knee-jerk social media reactions.
2. The Last American Indian
The last living descendent of an ancient tribe is close to death as government agents watch over him and wait to take his land. All that’s left of his rich and storied culture is the foggy memories of a man in his twilight years — ones that could be confusing history with the film Billy Jack. It’s an incredibly dark and poignant reminder of the civilizations that have been lost and forgotten in the annals of war and subjugation.
1. Pre-Taped Call-In Show and The Audition
While these two sketches may not have the satirical edge of other Mr. Show scenes, they’re both master lessons on sketch writing that have inspired countless comedians. Both penned by Dino Stamatopoulos of Community and Moral Orel fame, “Pre-Taped Call-In Show” and “Audition” feature multiple layers of meta-comedy and gut-busting rage that stems from casually benign misunderstandings. To make a diehard fan out of a person unfamiliar with Mr. Show, simply show them these two sketches that continue to influence everything from Adult Swim to IFC’s own Comedy Bang! Bang!.
Want more comedy from the mind of David Cross? Check out the trailer for the return of Todd Margaret.
7 Mismatched Buddy Cop Duos Who Play By Their Own Rules
Catch IFC's Lethal Weapon movie marathon Sunday, November 22nd starting at 8:30AM ET/PT.
Posted by Luke McKinney on Photo Credit: Warner Bros./Everett Collection
Mismatched buddy cops are a staple of action flicks, because “putting unstable people into high-pressure situations with guns and hoping things work out” always leads to comic mayhem. You know the trope — a beleaguered police chief assigns polar opposite detectives to a case that nobody wants to solve. They start out at each other’s throats before a begruding respect leads to geniune comraderie. (Nothing like blowing away some bad guys of vaguely European origin to stoke the fires of friendship.) In honor of IFC’s Lethal Weapon movie marathon, check out our tribute to the mismatched cop duos who play by their own rules and leave an epic body count in their wake.
7. Hammond and Cates, 48 Hrs.
Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte invented and mastered the art of buddy comedy, and they didn’t let little things like Eddie’s Reggie Hammond not being a cop stop them. The premise of “I’m borrowing this convicted thief from jail for a couple of days so he can be a peace officer” violates pretty much every law we know about. But the results (and Eddie’s Reggie) convincingly speak for themselves.
6. Lee and Carter, Rush Hour
Rush Hour‘s combination of Jackie Chan’s high-flying kicks with Chris Tucker’s motormouth means this movie never stops for a single second. Whether it’s action-packed set-pieces, turbocharged wise-cracking, or the wonderful novelty of clashing characters where neither is playing the straight man role, this duo is always going full tilt.
5. Raymond Tango and Gabriel Cash, Tango & Cash
Tango and Cash are forced together fairly quickly even by buddy cop movie standards thanks to falsified murder charges and a maximum security prison full of every perp they’ve ever put away. Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell bring high-tech attack vehicles and self-destruct sequences to the genre and the results, which are so not by the book they aren’t even fit for print, are all kinds of awesome.
4. Sykes and Sam Francisco, Alien Nation
Alien Nation took the mismatched partner genre to its ultimate conclusion by importing an alien “Newcomer” from an entirely different planet specifically to annoy James Caan’s grizzled cop. Oh, and also to fight an alien dealing “xeno-drugs” that make aliens immensely strong. Mandy Patinkin stars as the super-strong, ultra-helpful, and ridiculously named Sam Francisco.
3. Angel and Butterman, Hot Fuzz
Edgar Wright’s love-letter to buddy comedy moves London’s top cop Nick Angel (Simon Pegg) to the sleepy town of Sandford where PC Danny Butterman (Nick Frost) has nothing better to do than watch buddy cop movies and dream of action sequences. A hilariously self-aware parody of the genre pits both against a gloriously greasy Timothy Dalton.
2. Friday and Streebek, Dragnet
Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks is the kind of super-cinematic dream team that used to happen all the time in the buddy action comedy heyday of the ’80s. Aykroyd plays possibly the Akroyd-iest character of his career with Joe Friday, who has apparently replaced his soul with “the book” and doesn’t understand how silly he sounds when he reads from it. Hanks counters this with his streetwise Streebek, whose loose charm serves as Friday’s comedic foil. The classic mismatched pair join forces to fight P.A.G.A.N., the People Against Goodness And Normalcy, which should tell you whether you or not you want to watch this underrated ’80s comedy.
1. Riggs and Murtaugh, Lethal Weapon
Hammond and Cates were the original buddy cops, but Riggs and Murtaugh are the icons. In retrospect, pairing the almost-retired Murtaugh with suicidal loose cannon Riggs seems more like a scheme to avoid pension payouts than any way of fighting crime, but the results birthed an action comedy franchise that inspired more than a few imitators.