Well, this week is Jamie's birthday and this is one of her favorite movies, and it's also still adjacent to Jamie Lee Curtis winning an Oscar, so it seemed like a great chance to celebrate Jamies, so our Jamie picked this film to watch.
It was funny - we generally watch a certain grade of film for watch parties because we're all chatting, but the chat was pretty quiet as everyone was engrossed with the film. In general I knew it would be a challenge as (a) it was a movie someone genuinely loved (b) it's a comedy, which is hard to comment on and (c) it's actually good, so what does one say?
As far as I know, I hadn't watched Heroic Trio (1993) all the way through since some point in college. I know I saw it in the theater with JAL during a student sponsored film series where we'd all go to the old Hogg theater in the middle of campus and ignore the bats flying around overhead and throwing little batty shadows onto the screen. I recall watching part of it with The Admiral and Steanso on broadcast TV in about 1996. And I'm pretty sure I saw it again on VHS at some point. Jamie tells me we watched at least part or most of it in Phoenix, which I don't remember - but apparently happened.
The film has been very hard to find in the US for years now. Or I would have bought it on disc - DVD or Bluray.* But now it's on Criterion Channel as part of the "Michelle Yeoh Kicks Ass" collection that spotlights her pre-US produced films as well as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which took her Bond-based running start and made her a full-fledged star in the West.
Heroic Trio is more or less a fantasy comic-book movie with some post-Burton vibes in set design, but nuttier and occasionally much grimmer than Marvel or even DC fare, featuring a story that would need tweaking to be remade in the states. It's mostly vibes, and those vibes will change at the drop of a hat throughout the film as it can't decide if this is tragedy, comedy, horror film or what. And a movie can contain all those things, but sometimes those movies also need to find a ramping up and down into the change of tone. This movie is slapping down moods like playing cards.
A few years ago, I listened to a podcast that discussed the history of Pornhub, how it impacted pornography distribution, how that impacted performers, etc... I won't get into it here, but that podcast was 2017, and this doc more or less blows past *all* of that in about twenty seconds to cover more recent history. Given the title and stated agenda of the doc, it's a wild choice. This doc is in no way a complete history of Pornhub, it's a dissection of a specific moment for Pornhub that is already fairly well known, was covered in the press, and which receives minimal new insight into the events probed, the inner workings of Pornhub, or much else.
Hulu now has a series running called History of the World - Part II, which has participation from the 96-year-old Mel Brooks. Jamie mentioned she'd never seen the movie, and I said "well, we can't have that" - even though I hadn't seen it since college - and so I put it on.
Right out of the gate, it's amazing how much this movie would not be made today. I know that's something you see in every post or article about a movie made during a certain window, but the self-censorship (not enforced by a code or Breen office) that's crept in during the past 10-15 years is somewhat shocking to some of us who lived in the long, long ago. That's not to say every joke can or does still land the way it would have 42 years ago, there's some that were not great in 1981, and there's some that just haven't stood the test of time.*
That said, as a satirist, Brooks' "ain't I a stinker?" delivery still cuts remarkably well. Whether you're taking the piss out of the self-seriousness of historical epics, actual history and historical figures, the folly of humanity through the ages from stone-age to French Revolution... Brooks' eye for the absurd still works.
My favorite bit remains the Spanish Inquisition, which - for a period of absolutely horror - has really managed to capture the imagination and create not one but TWO bits of classic comedy between the stunning musical sequence here and, of course, Monty Python.
I mean, there's so much to unpack here in commentary and the general "fuck you" baked into every moment is incredible, robbing the Catholic Church of its power and reminding people that Jews survived this bullshit, too. Maybe I grew up on too much Bugs Bunny, but this kind of thing is a 1000x more effective in communicating truth to power than yet another shame-troll reminding you "actually" something is bad.
It's also a delight to see Gregory Hines having a grand time in this movie, Dom Deluise, the beloved Madeline Kahn at the top of her game, Sid Caesar, Cloris Leachman, Ron Carey, Harvey Korman, Pamela Stephenson (of Superman III fame), the voice of Orson Welles and @#$%ing Shecky Greene.
No one is going to accuse Brooks of not playing for cheap laughs, but it's the cumulative affect of what he chooses to cover and how that
It doesn't work as well as some of his other films. But it works on that High Anxiety level, which is "enjoyable, insightful, but not as sublime as Young Frankenstein".
Anyway, the new series is on Hulu. I watched the pilot. It was hysterical.
*it's also depressingly necessary to note that showing a character (especially one who isn't our hero) engaging in bad behavior is not the same as endorsing that behavior. But that doesn't mean that the jokes don't feel a bit tired or still work