Everyone knows, if something's trending on Twitter, it's probably the most important thing ever and it demands that we stop everything we're doing to read every last tweet branded with the corresponding hashtag. This week, those magnetic topics include the Grammys (hosted by professional Grammys host LL Cool J), the State of the Union address (or the two-and-a-half hours we spent trying to solve the mystery of Joe Biden's sparkling demon eyes), the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show (won by a huggable ball of fluff named Banana Joe), the never-ending Carnival Cruise from hell (but hey, they all get another free cruise!), Lady Gaga's canceled tour (does she even have a new album out?), and of course, the Pope quitting Pope-hood (to do what? Doesn't he already spend all day reading and praying?). Naturally, we were able to gauge our interest in these topics based on the level of funny being churned out by our favorite Twitter personalities.
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Without further ado, here are our favorite tweets of the week:
1. Joel McHale (@joelmchale): "Why are there asterisks in the song title for Jay-Z and Kanye's "N****s in Paris"? You can't say "Nachos in Paris" on TV? #GrammysWithJoel" on Feb. 10
2. Danny Zuker (@DannyZuker): "Saw Chris Brown on the Red Carpet so to recap: Side Boob not allowed, but Full Asshole totally cool. #Grammys" on Feb. 10
3. Mike Birbiglia (@birbigs): "Downton Abbey just won best show to change the channel to. #Grammys #DowntonAbbey" on Feb. 10
4. Michael Ian Black (@michaelianblack): "Somebody got a new hair dryer, Eric Cantor!!!" on Feb. 12
5. Billy Eichner (@billyeichner): "Did Obama mention House of Cards? #Netflix" on Feb. 12
6. Josh Groban (@joshgroban): "Right now Ted Nugent is strolling around our nations capital with a crossbow lookin' to make some pigeon jerky! #tourism #hunger #insane" on Feb. 12
7. Julie Klausner (@julieklausner): "President Banana Joe will be giving his #SOTU in ten minutes. It will be abut squeaky toys mostly. Good bye." on Feb. 12
8. Kristen Schaal (@kristenschaaled): "If she wants, I'll step in and finish the rest of Gaga's tour. For her fans. And for a chance to wear the tuna tartar tutu or whatever." on Feb. 14
9. Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt): "HUMAN CENTIPEDE 3: CARNIVAL CRUISE" on Feb. 15
10. Stephen Colbert (@StephenatHome): "It's Ash Wednesday-- and we all know what the pope gave up for Lent!" on Feb. 13
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[Photo Credit: WENN]
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Mike Birbiglia isn’t out to mess with anybody. It is the nature of standup comedy Birbiglia’s being no exception to be pretty direct and clear with its themes and meanings. Standup doesn’t really have a terrific opportunity for mystery and subtext — if you want to deliver a message you put it right out there on the surface. Sleepwalk with Me employs the same mentality. It doesn’t force its audience to work to devise to really dig all that deep. We know right away what it wants us to think about and feel: it practically tells us. It wants us to laugh — we know that because jokes are delivered in pretty clear standup form right from the beginning through Birbiglia’s humble good-natured narration. He tells us his story right after telling us that he’s going to tell us his story. He’s straight with us throughout. We can relax and watch peaceably as bullet points are placed neatly and feelings are spelled out.
For many of us this might be a deterrent. We’re averse to such an easy approach to watching a movie — we think “Shouldn’t I be trying harder to get what’s going on?” Or “Isn’t a film that practically tells me what it wants me to feel not doing its job?” We’re inclined to believe that the more “layered” pictures are better. But not every movie sets out with the same goal. Ultimately a movie’s job is to make us think about and feel something. To teach us something. To tell us a story. Well Birbiglia’s movie is a story about storytelling. It’s only natural that the storyteller be an engaged and ever present aspect of the story in this case.
Sleepwalk with Me derived from Birbiglia’s one-man play book and (originally) actual life chronicles a young man’s ascension toward the role of successful standup comedian. Matt Pandamiglio is the comic’s pseudonym — when we meet him he’s moving in with his long-term go-getter girlfriend Abbey (Lauren Ambrose) despite a heap of uncertainty about their relationship. His state as an aspiring standup is rickety at best and his parents (James Rebhorn and Carol Kane) are hardly abettors to his psyche. And oh yeah… he sleepwalks. Scratch that — he sleep-goes-crazy.
We learn early on in the film that Pandamiglio (much like Birbiglia himself) suffers from a rare REM disorder wherein individuals act out the dreams they are having often quite dangerously. It is understood that Pandamiglio’s sleepwalking is linked to the anxieties he is having about his relationship and career; we are treated to an ominous (yet never obstructively heavy — even the darkest and saddest moments in this movie are peppered with some delightful yet humane comedy) tone regarding his disorder.
Pandamiglio’s comedy starts off as nothing to sneeze at either. At least until he embraces the true humors in his life: his relationship troubles and his nighttime disease. Pandamiglio finds the honesty in the sharing of intimate stories to be an unexpected goldmine for humor. As his relationship grows jagged his profession starts to kick off (treating him to an eclectic array of experiences on the road) we quickly learn what the movie is selling.
It’s selling honesty and it is doing so quite honestly. Just as Pandamiglio cannot subdue himself from telling this true forthright stories the movie does not subdue itself in sharing this message. No we do not really have to invest ourselves ardently to earn this message but we are not cheated out of an emotional experience. From beginning to end Sleepwalk with Me is so incredibly pleasant that it almost warrants thoughts of pessimism throughout: “When is this movie going to stop being so enjoyable?” It never reaches that point. The laughter doesn’t die out — the top-notch performances don’t valley. Sleepwalk maintains a humorous sentimental perfectly honest and open charm that makes one recognize just how valuable this kind of storytelling can be. It changes things for Pandamiglio; and it gives us a piece of film so candid unpretentious and human that you might literally not be able to stop smiling from titles to credits.
February 07, 2011 12:46pm EST
When a dramedy gets too sentimental it quickly becomes sappy but with the right balance – and the right actors – it can work well enough to entertain on multiple levels. Alexander Payne’s Sideways is a perfect example of tonal equality; bittersweet in every sense of the word but outright hilarious when the comedy gets going. I thought the best qualities of his direction would carry over into his latest production the recent Sundance entry Cedar Rapids. While his influence as producer is identifiable (particularly in its score) director Miguel Arteta (The Good Girl) made a more conventional film than I expected to see.
Our story begins in Brown Valley Wisconsin where the dignified Tim Lippe (Ed Helms) works lives and loves his former 7th Grade teacher (a dull Sigourney Weaver). When the top dog at the insurance company he works for dies it’s up to him to represent at a do-or-die insurance convention in Cedar Rapids Iowa a bustling metropolis compared to the small town he’s never left. Once there he befriends a pair of agents (Isaiah Whitlock Jr. and John C. Reilly) cavorts with another (Anne Heche) and parties with a local prostitute (Alia Shawkat). When it comes down to business however he learns quickly that the insurance racket isn’t the noble industry he once thought it was.
Though it has some heart the film doesn’t hit the funny bone like its trailer teased. The biggest laughs don’t come organically; instead Reilly’s crass Dean Ziegler (the best part of the movie) spews them from every orifice he exposes. Most of the other jokes are flat including the bulk of Helms’. Lippe’s naivety is all too reminiscent of Andy Bernard his beloved character on The Office and though you’d think that would be a good thing it just feels stale. Heche gives the best performance of all portraying a melancholy working mother who’s both vulnerable and independent but her character doesn’t have much effect on the narrative. The most fun comes via a series of supporting roles and cameo’s from the likes of Thomas Lennon Stephen Root Rob Corddry Kurtwood Smith and Mike O’Malley but none of them have enough screen time to leave a lasting impression.
Lack of humor aside the film suffers most from trying to tackle too many topics at once. Screenwriter Phil Johnston stuffs many themes into the 87-minute feature including the growth of the man-child (an indie cliché at this point) corporate corruption and separation of church and office but no single subject is developed enough to care about. Had the filmmakers stuck to their guns and delivered an all-out comedy be it conventional or quirky Cedar Rapids would be easier to endure.