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SLEEPER by Random Movie Club
Your October Unrandom Movie Club Results Are In!

Tagline: A love story about two people who hate each other. 200 years in the future.

Preshow Entertainment: ALL TOGETHER NOW

Pizza: Valley's Pizzaland


Crap! Did I not just say, only one month ago, that LOVE AND DEATH is the funniest movie I've ever seen? What was I thinking?? Was I just caught up in the moment, having just watched it? Nope. The truth is, I do believe that LOVE AND DEATH is the funniest movie I've ever seen. But I think that its lead-in, SLEEPER, is also the funniest movie I've ever seen. But you can't have two funniest, right? Well, you can, depending on what mood you're in when asked. It's like having two favorite pizza places. But really, if you want to buy some laughs, I'm here to tell you that SLEEPER sells.


Great. I wrote the words "sleeper sells," so now all my e-mails will be read by the NSA (even though I used "sells" and not "cells"). And now that you're reading this, yours will be read as well. Coincidentally, that's the o-, re-, and unim- pressive government that Woody Allen wakes up to in 2172, after being cryogenically frozen for 200 years. It's an H.G. Wellsian/Orwellian/Asimovian totalitarian world of telescreens, robot servants and a populace that plays follow The Leader. And everyone's okay with it. Of course, Woody makes his commentary in words ("What kind of government you guys got here? This is worse than California.") and sight gags (that Wile E. Coyote-like Federation Security team never seems to get their gun to work), and it all makes as much sense now as it did when SLEEPER was released in 1972. Maybe more so.

I remember seeing SLEEPER in the theater. It was wall-to-wall laughter. I'd never heard anything like it. When the gay robot enters or when the two Jewish robot tailors bicker, well, you couldn't hear any dialogue for what seemed like years. Then, when HBO was young, with just one channel that wasn't even 24 hours, SLEEPER seemed to play every day. They played it so much that a lot of us high school kids had it down word for word. Me and Michael Gerrity would stroll down the halls of Syosset High School reciting lines, doing bits, and even questioning character motivations. I lost touch with Michael over the years (if you're reading this, Mike, contact me...we'll do some SLEEPER schtick!), but I never lost the fact that SLEEPER means so very much to me. It was a part of my Wonder Years. It even taught me a shaving trick - purse your lips, cover your entire face with shaving cream, then remove the shaving cream from over your lips by gliding your index finger across them.

For a balls-out comedy, SLEEPER starts off very serious. But the stage is set, and once Woody enters from the wings (or in this case, from frozen inside a tree stump), all bets are off. But that's one of the things I love (and have learned) from SLEEPER - for as silly and infantile as a premise can be ("My god, I beat a man insensible with a strawberry."), it works as long as everyone commits and plays their roles with the utmost respect. Plus you have great actors in bit parts, like Don Keefer (who'll be 95 in August and lives near me!) and Mary Gregory.

Foil Wrapped Woody
In the year 2172, 1973 health food store owner Miles Monroe (guess who) is being thawed out from his cryogenic state (he's actually wrapped in aluminum foil). The thawing crew is part of the Underground who needs an unregistered person to join the Resistance, and Miles becomes their unwilling candidate. He's comedy's version of NORTH BY NORTHWEST's Roger Thornhill, an ordinary, innocent guy who suddenly finds himself pursued by people who want him dead. And what wrong man wouldn't be complete without a wrong woman along for the ride, though against her will. Luna (frequent Woody love interest Diane Keaton) is kidnapped by Miles, but just so he can get away from the Federation and join the Resistance. But again, like in these wrong man movies, these two will learn to understand each other. Perhaps even fall in love. "Come along, Mrs. Thornhill."

Robot by Random Movie Club
Miles escapes by ducking into a Domesticon van, a company that manufactures robot servants. When Security stops the van, Miles disguises himself as a robot, only to be delivered to Luna's house. This is some of the funniest stuff there is, which I suppose you have to take my word for...or better yet, see for yourself. Later, in a role reversal, Miles gets caught and reprogrammed while Luna escapes and becomes part of the Underground. And if things aren't complicated enough, Miles gets cock-blocked by rebel leader Erno (DALLAS stud John Beck).


Together, they'll try and thwart the Federation's "Aries Project", which plans to clone The Leader (to mention cloning in 1972 was ahead of the curve, especially for a comedy) from his nose. NOTE: The term The Aries Project was slyly used in the American version of the TV show LIFE ON MARS, itself a time-bending show.

Surgery Prep


At one point, the Underground deprograms Miles back to his old self by reenacting his life in Brooklyn at his parent's house. And if that yid-centric scene isn't funny enough, they then reenact a scene from STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, with Diane Keaton doing Marlon Brando, which is great as she was actually between the two GODFATHER movies at the time.

The future is a perfect place to mine humor. Not only can you joke about how things turned out, but also about how things were back in the past (1972). Woody does a lot of both, turning our civilization on its head. When declining a cigarette, the doctor says to Miles: "It's tobacco, it's the healthiest thing for your body." And when Miles requests wheat germ (he owned a health food store, remember?), one doctor is surprised - "You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies or hot fudge?", only to have the other doctor reply, "Those were thought to be unhealthy. Precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true."

When Miles first awakens, he's a mess of neurotic rebellion (I believe I lived through The Neurotic Rebellion in the 80s). Here are some tidbits:

"I can't believe this! My doctor said I'd be up and on my feet in five days. He was off by 199 years."

"I knew it was too good to be true, I parked right near the hospital."

"I wanna go back to sleep. If I don't get at least 600 years, I'm grouchy all day."

When Luna comments that "it's hard to believe that you haven't had sex for 200 years," he responds, "204, if you count my marriage."

"I never did anything wrong in my life. I ran a health food store in Greenwich Village. Occasionally a customer would get botulism but that was very rare."


Two of my favorite sight gags are a McDonald's sign displaying "Over 795,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 served and never, I repeat, never has a movie featured a "slip on a banana peel" scene so hilarious. See for yourself: http://tinyurl.com/39a296

There's also a (maybe?) improvised scene where Miles is explaining to a doctor from the Underground about people from the past by looking at their photos and videos. When Howard Cosell pops up in his mono-drone, the doctor tells Miles "We've developed a theory. We feel that when citizens in your society were guilty of a crime against the state, they were forced to watch this." And after a beat, Woody happily concurs.

SLEEPER no longer takes place 200 years from now. Now it's more like 161 years, and just like the flying cars promised and not delivered to us by the year 2000, I'm skeptical about having things like the Orgasmatron booth (in the future everyone is frigid, except those whose ancestors were Italian). Or getting high by rubbing a metal sphere called The Orb. But he was on the mark, for just like after the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks (are you still reading, NSA?) when people said everything is going to change...nothing has changed. In 2173, we'll get high, have sex, and people will still question the government, just like they did 1973, 1873 and 1787. Also remaining unchanged, the pseudo-intellectuals, poets and artists who have parties every day. I guess until we blow ourselves up, there will always be fabulous people.

Sleeper House
Among all the futuristic gizmos in SLEEPER, like hydro-vac suits, jet packs and other flying machines, for reasons unbeknown to me (except that it's really funny), there'll be an anachronistic whisk broom or an aluminum ladder. Also, you'll notice that the sets will feature the out-of-element grandfather clock or a pitcher and wash bowl. And speaking of design, for a low budget like SLEEPER, it sure has some great (okay, and some not-so-great) props, wardrobe and production design. Even the vehicles are cool. And most of the people (and many of the sets) are dressed in black and white. A statement on the future or a nod to the silent films Woody is updating?

SLEEPER holds up well, though you can't help but sometimes grimace at obscure and outdated references to things like Albert Shanker and the A & P Gypsies, which I just looked up online so I, at last, can understand the joke. Sadly, it wasn't worth the wait.

I've noticed that TV viewings cut out lines like "Pope's wife gives birth to twins." and when he murmurs "Goddamn cheap Japanese flying packs" when his jet pack refuses to fly. Maybe the networks were afraid of offending their Japanese sponsors.

SLEEPER's the first movie Woody co-wrote with Marshall Brickman (ANNIE HALL, MANHATTAN). I heard Marshall Brickman cry once. Perhaps if you're nice I'll tell you that story one day. But what makes me cry is that the wonderful ragtime score featuring the great Preservation Jazz Band and the New Orleans Funeral ragtime orchestra, with Woody himself on clarinet, has never been released...ever...at all...in any format. Good thing I know the movie so well and can use my Head CD Player to play it whenever I like.

Okay, I'll stop swooning. Because really, SLEEPER doesn't need me to romanticize it. And as I sit here deconstructing Woody, I realize there's no way for me to actually relay how funny this movie actually is. I probably just sound like anyone who is in love.

Preshow Entertainment: ALL TOGETHER NOW

I can be stubborn. A pig-headed pinhead, I. So when people I know told me how much I'd hate Cirque Du Soleil shows, I decided they were right. Wait, that's not even stubborn, that's just dumb. I like to think I make my own decisions on my likes and dislikes, and here I was taking people's word as if it were my very own. I would even call the shows Cirque Du So What or Cirque Du So Little. Then I thought about it. I don't let Entertainment Weekly tell me what I should like, why do I let my friends? And then I thought about it some more...

I love bombast. I love spectacle. And Cirque shows, from what I know, are loaded with both. I'm not even sure there's anything else but. So why haven't I gone? I mean, besides those ridiculously high ticket prices.

But now I'm curious. Being twenty years late to the party (I was once told to always arrive at a party late), I recorded a documentary called ALL TOGETHER NOW about the making of Cirque's Beatles show called LOVE. I want water flowing and stages moving and hydraulics hydraullicking, but I was spectacle skeptical about this incarnation done to a Beatles show.

We're told at the beginning that it was George's idea to collaborate with Cirque. There are new interviews with Paul and Ringo, and footage of the genesis of the show from the first listening session on. Original producer George Martin is on board and he brought his son Giles to be his ears (George is pretty deaf these days). And they brought cameras, too, so we could watch. All this is cool, as The Beatles (and their estates and handlers) are notorious for not letting people exploit their material and images.


We only got to watch the first 30 minutes of the show before our pizza arrived, but that was long enough to see some clips from the movie LET IT BE, which isn't available to the public. But I have it, so stick that up your jumper!

ALL TOGETHER NOW also features Olivia Harrison and Yoko Ono who are partners in the show. You just know when they're all sitting around discussing the staging of LOVE and one of them says, "Can I speak freely?" there's gonna be trouble...just not on camera. But it turns out The Beatles were wrong. For when it comes to launching a show like this, love is not all you need. You'll also need, as Cirque did, a 180 million dollar budget.

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