Jack Black

Redeeming Features: "Bernie"

Welcome to Redeeming Features. The blog where I (poorly) review movies that are underappreciated, underrated or under the radar, in hopes of convincing you to give them a second chance. BernieThis week, we have, well, I don’t know; it’s not so much underappreciated, underrated, or under the radar – honestly, feels like it’s just flat unheard of. But it’s on Netflix, so, step away from The Pirate Bay!

This week’s feature is Bernie, starring Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, and oddly enough, Matthew McConaughey. OK, I guess it’s not that odd: Richard Linklater, the director, also directed Dazed and Confused. Also also, he directed School of Rock, so, you sorta see the pattern here.

Before we dive six feet under, know one thing: this is a true story. Albeit, a morbidly funny true story – but true nonetheless. So, just keep that floatin’ ‘round your noggin’ as we read through.

Now Bernie, being a true story, takes place in a true city – Carthage, Texas. Carthage is an itty-bitty baby town way out in East Texas; for frame of reference, if you’re headed to Tyler, you just keep driving right on past until you’re sad. That’s probably Carthage: a 6,500-person town whose only claim to fame is the death of some “sweet” little old lady. Riveting, right?

And again, being a true story, Bernie is based off a true person – Bernie Tiede (Jack Black). Bernie Tiede was a sweet little man, whose only love was the loving the people around him. That, and all the dead people around them – but only because he was a funeral director. And from what we gather, a darn good one, too. Not only does he walk us through the proper prettifying preparations before sending a cadaver off to casketing (in the opening scene), but through a series of interviews, we learn that, well, just about nobody in the whole city of Carthage has one bad word to say about Bernie. Painting him in such lights as, “Real people person,” “just makes you feel real good about yourself,” and “the nicest feller I ever met.” Awwww, cute.

So, now that we know our good, it’s time to meet our evil: Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine). Mrs. Nugent is, for lack of a better phrase: a stone-cold bitch. Painted in such lights as “just mean,” or “[someone who] would chew your ass out at the drop of a hat. I mean, she'd rip you a brand new, three-bedroom two-bath, double-wide asshole. No problem.” Awwww, cute. But in some weird, serendipitous fashion (when Mrs. Nugent makes a quick stop at the funeral home after her husband dies), these opposites (Bernie and Mrs. Nugent) attract like two overtly sexual band nerds. You remember those types, right? Always getting handsy in the practice rooms? Usually oboe players. Anyways, these two lonely saps find comfort in each other’s arms, only to become totes BFFs forevs. And they lived happily ever after. The end.

*cue Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar saying, “NAHT!”*

Just as quickly as it begins, we start to realize the sunshiny friendship laid out before us is merely light slipping through the cracks of an otherwise insidious relationship. The plot darkens more and more as the two begin to unravel more and more. Like a tugging thread of fraying sweater, Mrs. Nugent begins to come undone. Maybe it was out of fear of losing Bernie’s friendship, or maybe she’s just an overbearing control-freak psycho, but we start to see them grow further and further apart until the distance between them is so palpable, you could just shoot it in the back.

“Exsqueeze me? Baking powder? Did he just sorta vaguely give away the whole movie?” – you, right now probably, huh? And justly so, too. But remember earlier when I said Carthage’s only claim to fame was the death of some “sweet” little old lady? What I meant was the murder of some “sweet” (read: wretched) little old lady. She dead.

But who did it? Was it simply a break-in gone awry? Some small-town psycho set on stealing more than just Mrs. Nugent’s riches. Perhaps she keeled over unexpectedly from a heart attack, smacking her head on the corner of the dinner table? Or was it in fact Bernie? The man celebrated as being her fondest friend, her closest confidant. Or as Danny Buck (Matthew McConaughey), lead detective and district attorney on the case, so sweetly says, “[he’s] an angel……. Yeah, an angel of death!”

I guess you’ll just have to watch to find out, huh?

Well, actually, I guess you could just look it up on the interwebs. But what’s the fun in that?

TL; DR: true-crime story about a beloved funeral director, who, out of the goodness of his heart, befriends the town shrew, only to become the center of her murder investigation.

Spoiler: McConaughey’s shirt stays on the entire time.

Cody Tidmore is a Level Two sketch student at DCH. He’s been watching movies for as long as he can remember. Seeing it all – the good, the bad, even the ugly. And when it comes to annoyingly working movie quotes into regular conversation, he’s the reel deal.

What We're Loving: Comedy Legends, Angry Neurotics, Grammy Mistakes, Low Production Values

What We're LovingEach Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week Nick Scott praises a comedy legend, Sarah Wyatt celebrates anxiety, David Allison has a problem with the Grammys, and Ryan Callahan revisits an old obsession.

 

Albert+Brooks+Drive+Premiere+2011+Toronto+KM80ZsXRt5plMost of you youngsters probably know Albert Brooks from one of three things: the voice of the title character's dad in Finding Nemo, Paul Rudd's father in This Is Forty, or as the mob boss who soothes Bryan Cranston while murdering him in Drive. Originally I was just going to write about his latest novel, 2030: The True Story of What Happens to America, but I realized this wasn't enough. He has done too much great work that is almost completely overlooked by the current generation of comedians and comedy nerds. Brooks got his start as a stand-up comedian, deftly playing on audience expectations of what they were normally used to seeing from a stand-up set. His "completely improvised joke" bit using audience suggestions is one of my favorite bits of all time. He was hired to make short films for the early years of Saturday Night Live (all of which are worth watching) before moving on to become a filmmaker himself. The first film he wrote and directed, Reel Life, displayed one of his greatest skills: the ability to see trends in society and predict where they will go. Reel Life predicts exactly what television would become in the age of the reality show decades ahead of time. His next film, Modern Romance, is one of my favorite movies about relationships. Lost in America, a movie which has Brooks playing a man who along with his wife attempts to drop out of society and drive across America in an RV, is in my top 10 favorite movies. He's even recently embraced the modern age, as his Twitter account, @AlbertBrooks, is consistently funny. Throw in some great acting performances in Broadcast News, a small part in Taxi Driver, and his voice work as Hank Scorpio on The Simpsons and you've got an incredible body of work that deserves to be more widely appreciated. RUNNER UP PICK: For Colored Girl Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Not Enuf by Ntozake Shange. - Nick Scott

MV5BMTUwMjkxMTI5Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTU0NDAwNA@@._V1_SY1200_CR85,0,630,1200_Marc Maron is on one. The polarizing comic is having the most success of his career at an age when most comedians are making terrible romantic comedies or sad stand stand up specials that make you wish they'd stop. Instead, Marc Maron is filming season two of his IFC show, Maron and killing it on his podcast, WTF with Marc Maron. The show follows the troubled and contemplative Marc as he deals with fictionalized situations in his day to day life involving love, addictions, and recording his podcast. On his podcast, Marc interviews comedians, musicians, actors, anyone about the story of their life in a compelling and honest way that you don't normally hear. I learn a life lesson every time I listen to it and so recommend that you subscribe. Many of his famous friends that have appeared on his podcast are featured on Maron. People like Dave Foley and Dennis Leary fuel Marc’s anxiety and neurosis to a frenzied, hilarious peak. This show and this man make me laugh and give me hope that my life won’t end up as pathetic and spinstery as I sometimes imagine it. I often struggle with some of the same thoughts and issues that Marc does on the show. Sometimes it feels like he’s reading my mind. It’s messed up. I love it. I’m not sure if my current obsession with Marc Maron stems from wanting to be with him or wanting to be him. We both have huge hipster glasses, own multiple cats, and find it incredibly difficult to stop making the same mistakes over and over again. I’d like to think he’s reading this right now, thinking about sending me an email but then never following through. Because that’s what I would do if I were him. - Sarah Wyatt

tiglivemockup9-1.jpgThis past week, the Grammy’s made a gigantic mistake.  No, I’m not talking about this mistake.  I’m instead speaking of awarding best comedy album to Kathy Griffin instead of Tig Notaro.  Now, this isn’t going to turn into a piling on of Kathy Griffin, I think she’s underrated in the comedy community and tends to be marginalized as more of a reality star than a great stand up.  She’s very good at what she does.  But Tig Notaro’s album Live one of the most important comedy albums to come out in some time, is in a different league. If you’re not familiar with the legend of this album, it comes from a set she did at Largo in LA on August 3, 2012.  Tig was given the news that she had cancer (Among many other pieces of horrible news) about ten days beforehand and this was her first time going up after hearing the news.  After the show, Louis CK said “[Tig’s] was one of the truly great, masterful stand up sets.”  It was so good that CK released the album days later using his gigantic comedic social network and giving 80% of the gross dollars to Tig/Cancer Research.  This album alone cemented that the success Louis CK experienced wasn’t just a fad.  It also set in stone the idea that the public wanted honesty from their comedians, not just bits.  One thing I love about Live is listening to her apologize over and over again for just not being able to do routines like a bee passing her on the 405.  That’s not to say the set isn’t funny, it’s consistently hilarious. The biggest reason you need to check out this album though is because of the way Tig opened herself up for this show.  Even if you’ve listened to it before, it’s worth revisiting just to show how badly the Grammy’s screwed up.  Live is  streaming on music services like Spotify and Slacker, or you can just buy it for like $5 and support cancer research. - David Allison

The_new_Channel_101_LA_LogoA recent discussion about the improved quality of Community since the return of Dan Harmon led to a discussion of the talents of Dan Harmon which led to a discussion of some of his earlier, pre-Community work which led to a discussion of Channel 101 which led to me going down the Channel 101 rabbit hole, binge-watching old shows until 5 in the morning. For those who don’t know, Channel 101 was a TV-station-on-the-web created by Dan Harmon and Rob Schrab in 2003 as a place where writers and directors could bring their work directly to the audience without the interference of TV executives. New pilots, which had to be five minutes or less, were screened each month for a live audience. The top five shows were picked up for another episode and the rest were cancelled, their creators encouraged to submit again. The shows that resulted are some of the funniest, most original, comedy pieces I have ever seen. From the Harmon created Computerman, in which a drop of blood turns a desktop computer into an inquisitive, helpful, kung-fu fighting man-computer played by Jack Black, to The ‘Bu, a pastiche of The Hills from The Lonely Island in their pre-SNL days, to my personal favorite, Yacht Rock, which features the fictionalized exploits of Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins, and friends, each show abounds with an exuberance, an obvious love of comedy, so often lacking from bigger-budget, made-by-committee efforts. In the mid-00’s, these shows were my obsession. The creators and performers clearly had a blast making these shows, and that enthusiasm comes right through the screen. Do yourself a favor, set aside twenty minutes and dive in. The Wastelander. House of Cosbys. Kicked in the Nuts. You won’t be disappointed. - Ryan Callahan