Archive for August 13th, 2012

95. Election (1999)

by Dean Treadway

Fittingly, Alexander Payne’s 1999 film Election kicks off with a decidedly penile lawn sprinkler shooting its payload over the fields behind George Washington Carver High School. All the trouble that pops up in this cynical, deceptively nasty comedy hails from unbridled male desire (the film is one letter away from being titled Erection). Even though it takes well-deserved potshots at almost any electoral process out there, Election really maps the twists and turns of crippling sexual politics just as much as it serves as an epitaph for the voting process.

Its lead character, Jim McAllister, is played by a frumpy Matthew Broderick whose pasty complexion, ratty haircut, and mismatched polyester ties place him eons away from privileged, ultra-cool Ferris Bueller (director Payne–a former teacher himself–has admitted, quite amazingly, that he’d not seen the John Hughes movie at the time of filming). A civics instructor, McAllister is the three-time winner of Teacher of the Year at the ironically nearly all-white Carver High, and the last person one would suspect of malfeasance, were it not for the foreboding narration that guides us through the opening scenes.  Actually, the story sports a jaunty, ’50s-era innocence in these initial moments. We see McAllister demonstrating a heartfelt dedication to teaching, and to his students. And when dowdy-haired student body presidential hopeful Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) shows up with her smiley-faced petition sheets and her bowlful of free Juicy Fruit sticks, the narration may shift to her supercilious voice, chiding all who were involved in the machinations we’re about to see. But an air of chastity is still felt–until it’s stenched up with that wide-lensed close-up of Mark Harelik, whose middle-aged-teen character Dave Navotny smirks as he confides to fellow teacher McAllister a shocking revelation about Tracy. This line of dialogue may be the film’s most memorable because it kicks our butts into the sordid undercurrent that flows throughout this well-observed comedy.


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Screen cap from exquisite French costume drama ‘Farewell My Queen’

by Sam Juliano

This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,

This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,

This other Eden, demi-paradise,

This fortress built by Nature for herself

Against infection and the hand of war,

This happy breed of men, this little world,

This precious stone set in the silver sea,

Which serves it in the office of a wall

Or as a moat defensive to a house,

Against the envy of less happier lands,—

This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.

                                           -Shakespeare’s Richard II

The closing ceremonies put the official lid on the 2012 London Olympics and for US and UK rooters it was a glorious affair.  Team US emerged from a back and forth medal count battle with China to vault ahead by a wide margin in the end statistics, fueled largely by resounding success in the team sports, swimming and track and field.  The Brits on the other hand, assisted in no small measure by a home crowd, enjoyed their finest overall performance in decades, dominating cycling and rowing, and making inroads into other events.  Collecting nearly 30 golds to finish in third place, one can say that the 2012 games were an unqualified triumph for the home team.  I spent the last several days closely monitoring the USA’s spectacular performance to finish on the top of the medal chart, and will always look back to the incomparable individual work of heroes Michael Phlelps, Missy Franklin and Gabby Douglas.

The comedy countdown has attracted some remarkable attention by way of insightful comments at each and every post during the first week.  The project got off to a thunderous start with essay by Tony d’Ambra and J. D. LaFrance on Miracle on Morgan’s Creek and Slap Shot respectively.  It continues today with another fantastic piece by veteran Dean Treadway.  The entire family will be away on a driving trip spanning five days to Chicago and Cleveland (and the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame at the latter) from Sunday evening August 19th till Thursday the 23rd.  I will do my best to keep track of the comedy countdown activities, and will be relying on Allan for some word press assistance. (more…)

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