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Your April 2010 Unrandom Movie Club Results Are In!

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Pizza: Quickies

Preshow Entertainment: WOODSTOCK: THEN AND NOW


Woody changes it up all the time. He did it with his motion sickness verite HUSBANDS AND WIVES. He did it with INTERIORS when he switched gears (planets, actually) and went from slapstick to Bergman. And in this month's selection, the overlooked EVERYONE SAYS I LOVE YOU (1996), he's once again shifted, this time making his one and only musical. And he wastes no time doing so, for the very first shot is of Edward Norton and Drew Barrymore singing the standard JUST YOU, JUST ME, shot through fountains on a busy New York street. It's a little jarring, coming out of the gate with these two unlikely crooners, but jarring in a good way. It will make you smile.

Because this is a musical comedy (using standards from Porter to Kahn to Rodgers and Hart) store mannequins come to life, nannies and homeless men join in the refrain and production numbers can pop up at any moment, like at a Harry Winston's. Why, even the dead in the funeral home have a number. Yes, in this movie, people can even fly.

Usually it's Woody who narrates his movies, but we're walked through ESILY by Natasha Lyonne, a wonderful actress who seems to have had her fair share of struggles (drunk driving, hepatitis, replaced on more than one movie). I think she's a natural actress. Have you seen SLUMS OF BEVERLY HILLS and/or BUT I'M A CHEERLEADER? Anyway, she plays D.J., just one body in a patchwork family that includes her mom Steffi (Goldie Hawn), stepdad Bob (Alan Alda), half-brother Scott (Lukas Haas), and half-sisters Skylar (Barrymore), Laura (Natalie Portman, who calls this her worst performance) and Lane (Gaby Hoffman, whose real mom, Warhol girl Viva, was in PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM).
Holden (Edward Norton) is Skylar's boyfriend, and he's about to pop the question. D.J.'s real dad is Joe (Woody Allen), who was once married to Steffi. And everyone is rich, or as D.J. puts it; "We got dough." So much dough that guilty liberal Steffi's fundraiser features Itzhak Perlman performing in the living room. So there you have it. Pretty great cast, no? And that's just the family.

Now living in Venice, Joe spots Von (Julia Roberts), a visiting American, and is instantly smitten. As Movie Luck would have it, D.J. (there visiting her dad) knows who Von is because Lane and Laura's best friend's mom is Von's shrink. So D.J. hips her dad to everything she heard Von say in the psychiatrist's office. It's almost as if D.J. swiped Von's playbook.

Rounding out the players are Holden's parents Lynn and Arnold, played by Scotty Bloch and Alda's M*A*S*H* buddy David Ogden Stiers (is it pronounced Steers or Sty-ers, I always wanted to know, which oughtta give you an idea exactly how exciting my life is).

Nearly everyone sang their own songs. Woody didn't tell them about this until after they signed up, but they were all troopers. Even Woody sings, and though his song I'M THROUGH WITH LOVE is meant to be sad, I couldn't help laughing. I mean, Woody singing is gonna do that to me. Drew Barrymore is the one actor who was dubbed (she begged Woody).

The comedy in this underrated movie can be spotty but make no mistake, it's there. When D.J. suggests that Joe go for a jog:
JOE: "I'm out of shape, I can't jog...I haven't touched my treadmill in weeks. 572 weeks."
And when she tries to get him to learn about art to impress Von:
"My knowledge of art is limited to Kirk Douglas as Vincent Van Gogh."
When parolee Perry kisses Skylar, he says,
"I kissed you the best I could, considering the only practice I had kissing in the last ten years was with Vincent 'The Thumb' Addato."
And I defy you not to laugh when Von talks to Joe about eating snails.

In some ways, ESILY is like a Woody's Greatest Hits album, borrowing lines and bits from many of his movies, like LOVE AND DEATH ("I can get the same rings for you for 6 [thousand dollars] from my brother in law."), PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM (the way he tries to impress Von is the same show-off-y, stuttering patter that he used on Sharon), SLEEPER ("If I were you I'd start hiding the silverware.") and TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN (the frivolity of the getaway music).

In this outing, the camera is almost always moving. No, not moving as much as exploring the surroundings, whether it's people's reactions while listening to someone sing or the foliage in Central Park. It's patient. It doesn't matter how many walls or lampshades are in the way, the camera sees what it wants to. And some of the musical numbers were done in one shot. MAKING WHOOPEE, for example, was performed in a hospital corridor, a complex feat that has people dancing over their crutches, bouncing off the walls (literally) and even having a baby (that's what you get, folks, for making whoopee). All done in a single two minute and forty second shot. Wow.

Again, Woody's Marx Brothers influences are not veiled. They even dress up like Groucho at a party, and if that isn't enough, Norton does a purposely (I think) awkward Groucho corkscrew dance. Oh, and of course, the movie's title is a song from HORSE FEATHERS.

Though it's Woody's only musical, I say that a lot of his films are musicals. Or perhaps I mean lyrical, and for better or for worse, feel like no other film around. You can always tell you're in Woody's world. People speak a little differently and behave just a bit off center, not enough to not function, but enough to know you're watching Woody.

There have only been two Woody movies that I absolutely loved since 1987's RADIO DAYS, and EVERYONE SAYS I LOVE YOU is one of them (DECONSTRUCTING HARRY's the other, if you're curious). It's wispy and fun, perhaps even charming. It has a flavor. People fall in and out of love as if it's the cool thing to do. While Joe pines for Gisele, who recently dumped him (before the movie starts), he's puppy-dogging for Von, and secretly still flaming for Steffi.
Holden and Skylar find themselves in trouble when she falls for Charles Ferry, the criminal that her crusading mom helped release from prison (Tim Roth is terribly funny in this role). D.J., who swears she won't get married until she's 35, wants to marry a gondola guy after only five days. Even teens Lane and Laura gush after the same boy (one of them is gonna cry). And it's all because love, or "luff" as Woody calls it in ANNIE HALL (because love is too weak a word), is a mysterious yet wonderful thing in movies, in musicals, and let's face it - in life.

Preshow Entertainment: WOODSTOCK: THEN AND NOW

This was a TV special on the History Channel that I recorded back in August of '09, which was the 40th anniversary (remember? New CDs came out, too?). I was too young to attend, but some of my counselors at sleepaway camp bailed and went to Woodstock. Now that I think back, I bet they were lying. Okay, maybe they weren't. I just MapQuested it and my camp was only 28 miles from Bethel, where Woodstock actually took place. Anyway...

This show talked to some of the people involved, including Woodstock "Chief of Staff" Stan Goldstein, Woodstock producers Joel Rosenman and John Roberts and farm owner Max Yasgur's son Sam. And some who were not involved, like Rock School honcho/goofball Paul Green and his amazing kid musicians, like the D'Addario brothers Brian (killer vocals/guitar) and Michael (a pint sized Keith Moon. Jeepers.), two kids to watch out for (remember, you read it here first!). And it all began with a guy named Michael Lang, who looked about 13 years old in the '69 footage, and like Billy Squier today, but still boyish and cool.

No other festival has come close to WOODSTOCK, and I don't believe one ever will (that's me being cocky again). As usual, we only got about one quarter of the way through before the pizza arrived. But it's a really great documentary, so I'll watch the rest on my own time. Groovy, man.

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