The best way to learn about something, as I was taught early on in life by a derelict who lived in my neighborhood laundromat, is to dive into it headfirst. To throw caution to the wind and embark upon whatever adventures this subject matter might hold without so much as a crinkle of your brow. He might have just been trying to sell me whatever it was that he kept in that gym bag, but the sentiment holds true — and it's one that has reared its head again in association with the mystery that is Brad Bird's developing Disney epic Tomorrowland.
We know very little about the upcoming picture, which is set to star Britt Robertson and George Clooney. We know it features a young girl with big dreams and a knack for the gadgets. We think it involves a washed up genius on a quest resolve his banishment from the titular kingdom. We hope it involves a pre-pubescent robot, however little sense that seems to make. All that, and a box of nebulous junk, are all we have to go by. But the good graces of the Internet are bequeathing unto us interested parties some new hints in the form of a digital treasure hunt.
By taking the first step and heading over to The Optimist, you'll begin your journey with an introduction to the story of Walter Elias Disney "an optimist who believed in creating a living blueprint for the future." Get in on the game, which is adding new segments every day (so even if you hit a wall now, check back tomorrow!), and learn everything you can about the invigorating new Disney movie.
And keep an open mind. As the laundromat hobo said, "Anything is possible." He also said, "Cranberries are tiny cameras that the government uses to monitor our insides," but they can't all be winners.
Follow Michael Arbeiter on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter | Follow hollywood.com on Twitter @hollywood_com
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In the fall of 1995, I witnessed the funniest thing I have ever seen in my entire life: Jim Carrey emerging from the anus of a fake rhinoceros.
Sure, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls' "birthing" scene is not the most inspired gag of all time. But looking back, I can't think of a time when I've laughed more. Even today, watching Carrey emerge from the back of the rubber beast through a hole the size of his pinky cracks me up. Back then, no one could have pulled it off but Carrey.
In 2013, no one could have pulled it off, period.
A decade and a half after Carrey's silly display of physicality, "slapstick" comedy has all but faded away. Make no mistake: There's a difference between what Kevin James does in Grown Ups (oh, he fell off a rope swing and hurt himself — hilarious!) and what the best of the best physical comedians have committed to film in the past 100 years.
The legendary Charlie Chaplin is revered for his accomplishments in the early days of cinema. A refresher of his 1936 film Modern Times reminds that his directorial nuance and crowd-pleasing performances were vaudevillian stunts not far removed from what Carrey was doing in Ace Ventura.
When did slapstick take a turn for the worse? In March of last year, Aardman Animation co-founder and director Peter Lord described to us why physical comedy has teetered out of today's live-action features, but continues to function in animation (like in his 2012 film Pirates! A Band of Misfits): "Some people have the timing, but none of them have the physical bravery." Cartoon characters can do anything, their puppeteers taking full advantage. There's a precedent for outlandish animation; its appeal to younger generations is what Hollywood hopes to capture.
Slapstick is essentially that animated spirit brought to life by actors. Like the meticulous timing and craftsmanship involved with even the goofiest toons, it's an art form that cannot simply be executed, but needs to be mastered in order to work at all.
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Comparing physical comedic highlights to "great performances" might be hard to swallow, but the slapstick masters of the '90s — Carrey, Chris Farley and, hell, even Rowan Atkinson as Mr. Bean — were tapping into the same vein that helps a method actor like Daniel Day-Lewis bring Abraham Lincoln to life: commitment.
This was Farley in a nutshell. He wasn't just the big, wacky dude. He was the big, wacky dude who would go there.
The truth is, we have performers today who possess the abilities to push boundaries. James is the butt of more jokes than he is the deliverer of them, but he knows how to operate in the frame of a comedy.
Commitment is twofold: you need the gags, and you need quality material. James surrounds himself with junk — Here Comes the Boom quickly turns him into a hero and smooth operator, even when overpowered by professional MMA fighters.
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Farley's characters were lovable losers. Instead of finding empowerment from leading man status, he found it in laughs. Tommy Boy, Black Sheep, and even Beverly Hills Ninja — Farley's creations were idiotic and larger than life, but they always had the best intentions.
The scripts didn't shame him. Black Sheep stands out as the epitome of this attitude: Even when Farley is cast away from his family, minding his own business playing checkers, he's decimated by bad luck. And owns it.
This weekend, Melissa McCarthy works her magic in the Identity Thief, which pairs her with Jason Bateman for a road trip movie that feels spiritually connected to the Farley/David Spade days.
In my mind, McCarthy is a potential harbinger for a return to physical comedy, the kind of performer who knows how she appears on camera and can push material to fit her style. Unfortunately, Identity Thief is not that movie — it's more Jamesian low-brow than deranged Farley or Carrey-like material.
McCarthy call pull off big and broad humor — see Bridesmaids for photographic evidence — but Identity Thief takes a wrong turn by making her completely unlikable, and forcing the dumb jokes into a scenario that doesn't make any sense.
For now, we can relish in McCarthy's moments of genius in Bridesmaids:
One reason Hollywood may not be pushing itself to improve the state of slapstick is that the audience has no taste for it. In 2012, the Farrelly brothers recreated the wild romps of yesteryear in The Three Stooges. The movie split critics down the middle — for every review that championed its faithfulness to the Stooges' old material, another ripped it apart for the same reasons. In the end, the movie grossed a middling $40 million and disappeared into obscurity.
Blame the cultural shift on the great comedy of the last decade: With strong voices emerging in the world of television and film — Judd Apatow, Tina Fey, and the bizarre antics seen on FX, Adult Swim, and the Internet — slapstick is losing its footing.
Acting wacky looks dumb in comparison to well-crafted wordplay and a swift reference. The plentiful options have turned comedy fans into subsections. It's hard to imagine anyone enjoying Farley crashing through a table as Matt Foley, motivational speaker on a '90s episode of Saturday Night Live, with the current standards set by intellectually driven comedy.
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Late Wednesday, The Hollywood Reporter announced that McCarthy was preparing to launch her own company, On the Day, that would culture material created and approved by the up-and-coming comedic star. Michelle Darnell is based on a character created by McCarthy; Just Do It is derived from a sex-help book, with McCarthy attached to write and star; Cousin Irv From Mars will see McCarthy lend her skills to a children's movie.
By cultivating her own projects, McCarthy has the opportunity to reclaim physical comedy, melding it with her sharp wit, and reintroducing slapstick to audiences who pine for the long line of cinematic history that allowed for comedic agility that would make Stretch Armstrong's jaw drop.
As a slapstick fan, I want that moment I had nearly two decades ago: sublime stupidity provoking laughter in its rawest form. It doesn't have to be someone emerging from the anus of a fake rhinoceros, but that's where the bar is set.
Now it's your turn: what was the last great moment of movie slapstick comedy? Let us know in the comments, and please, don't trip on your way down there.
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
[Photo Credit: Universal Pictures]
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Ah, the good ol' days when our nightly viewings of Boy Meets World and Salute Your Shorts were interrupted by the most unhealthy of sugary snacks. Gushers! Butterfingers! Dunkaroos! You name it, we saw advertisements for it. Of course, this led to emergency trips to the grocery during which you would pull off an Oscar-worthy performance that would make Meryl Streep look like a theater dropout in order to convince your parents just how desperately you need these high-calorie purchases.
It was a beautiful relationship, but one that was not destined to last forever. Now junk food companies will have to find some other way to reach the childhood masses because, according to the New York Times, Disney is planning to ban junk food ads from its child-focused TV networks, radio stations, and web sites, as a way to help fight childhood obesity. From now on, all food commercials must comply with strict nutritional standards. The new rules also apply to Saturday morning cartoons shown on ABC stations, which are also owned by the conglomerate. This ban could be the death of the classic junk food commercial we've come to know and love.
And while this precaution is well-intended, those of us who came of age in the '90s can't help but mourn the loss of the awesome junk food commercials we grew up with. So as a way to honor the ghosts of junk food's past, we're counting down some of our favorite childhood ads. This list proves to be a real treat.
They may have made your tongue all sorts of crazy colors, but boy did they taste delicious.
More frosting with my cookie? Don't mind if I do!
Next: Nobody better lay a finger on my... Butterfingers
This commercial made kids love Butterfingers just about as much as Homer loves donuts... and Duff.
This must be what the Silver Surfer used to drink.
Pizza Head Show
It's not exactly appetizing, but you have to admire the vocal theatrics — from a kid's perspective, of course.
Keebler Elves Cookies
Remember when the Keebler elves needed your help to fix fudge mountain? I never wanted to win something so bad in my life.
Nothing sounds sweeter than M&M Boot Camp. Also, I may or may not know all the words to that march song.
Next: Feed The Rush.Surge
I present to you every parent's worst nightmare:
The commercial may have been fun to watch, but actually eating those Lunchables pizzas was anything but. Can you say soggy crackers with tomato paste?
Anything involving Aretha Franklin's voice is highly refreshing.
These are insanely delicious. Just remember kids: Real money will not taste like this. Trust me.
Just think of these as the liquid version of Skittles. Taste the high fructose rainbow.
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