Planet of Sound: Chris Rock the Funniest Person in America? Huh?

In this edition of Planet of Sound, Darwin Mayflower disagrees with Entertainment Weekly’s top 25 funniest people list, talks about Charlize Theron’s new movie gigs, a proposed “Godfather” videogame, “The Passion of the Christ,” and the suicide of writer Drake Sather.

Lists, Lists, Lists
In the latest list emanating from Entertainment Weekly, the magazine has named Chris Rock the funniest person in America. If you find that absurd, you have a sympathizer in me.

Chris Rock is a really funny guy. No question. When he’s doing stand-up. Put him in a movie and he’s about as funny as your average CBS sitcom. Rock’s “Bring the Pain” comedy set goes down, in my mind, as one of the best stand-up routines ever. It was raw, angry, trenchant, brave and smart. The article skips over his awful films, seeming to blame their failure on everyone else. From early embarrassments like “Beverly Hills Ninja” and “CB4” (which Rock scripted), to big-paycheck jobs like “Lethal Weapon 4” and “Down to Earth,” Rock has proved himself to be a terrible actor, and an even worse screenwriter. It’s kind of amazing that he can blame “them” — white guys with money in Hollywood who fund his projects — for ruining his movies. How did they affect the low-budget, home video-like “Pootie Tangr” Rock wrote “Down to Earth” himself. Did the producers spring some unexpected edits that turned it into a piece of crapr And Rock had total control of “Head of State” — he wrote, produced and directed it — so whose fault was thatr In the article, they say Rock “resisted big money to do big crap.”

Man, that’s funnier than anything in any Chris Rock movie. I think Rock needs to figure out he’s just not fit for movies. When the guy who can explode on stage about race and world events with such ferocity fizzles with stale punchlines in films, something’s up. What Rock should be talking about is that, though he never proved he could carry a movie, a studio still gave him a stack of cash and the chance to direct a film, despite that he didn’t know what the hell he was doing, and all based on his talent. Hardly seems like something to bitch about. In fact, most people would kill for that kind of deal.

As for the rest of the list, the writers got some things right, but were also amazingly short-sighted. I mean, Aaron McGruder is one of the funniest people in Americar How many Thorazines do you have to drop to believe thatr They got it right about Larry David, Robert Smigel and David Letterman, but you have to wonder where Woody Allen is. Or John Hamburg. Christopher Moore. Howard Stern. (Stand-up comics create one hour of material and do it for two years; Stern creates five hours of comedy a day.) What about John Swartzwelder or any writer on “The Simpsons”r David E. Kelleyr How about Kevin Jamesr What about the magazine’s own Josh Wolkr His write-ups about reality TV shows are funnier than anything Scot Armstrong (“Road Trip”), who made the list, ever wrote.

The criteria for the magazine was people who “create their own material.” Using that, how do you arrive at Bill Murray, Jim Carrey, Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson (the latter two listed together)r That’s just a classic case of forgetting actors need screenwriters. Ben would be down a mountain of jokes if it wasn’t for John Hamburg, who wrote “Zoolander,” “Meet the Parents,” “Along Came Polly” and is now rewriting “Meet the Fockers”.

If Dave Chappelle and Ellen DeGeneres are really two of the funniest people in all of America, then I guess it makes sense why we’re all so damned depressed.

It’s amazing that all three African-Americans listed (including the group ego trip) had to keep everyone happy with some anti-white humor, since no one wants to believe black comics can do anything else but dis the white man. McGruder makes the comment that the point of his comic is to stick a “daily foot in the a** of The Man.” Which makes him unfunny and a jerk. Rock is forced to locate his drive and anger in being made fun of when he was the only black kid in a white school. As if you could really explain Rock away that simplistically. ego trip put out something called “Big Book of Racism!,” and in it had “20 Famous but Average-Looking White Girls Who White People Think Are Hot Just Because They Are White.” The list included Kirsten Dunst and Tara Reid. First, I’d argue that Dunst and Reid aren’t average-looking, and that it’s not odd to find twenty-year-old, well-endowed blondes hot, but what’s funny about this is that they don’t get it: people don’t find them hot because they’re white; they find them hot because they’re famous. It’s like what Uma Thurman said: there are waitresses across the country prettier than she is, but men are going to find her sexier and more attractive because they see her in movies. What does being white have to do with itr

The Passion of “The Passion”
Amazingly, “The Passion of the Christ” is still being discussed nightly on news programs. Opinions of it, and its director Mel Gibson, are still polarized. When the film first opened, and people were swept up in its bloody, violent power, things shifted Gibson’s way. Now, as things are calming, it’s reverting back to where it was before the film came out.

I think one thing is obvious: as a film, as a work of art, “The Passion” is a failure. Take away any ameliorating patina of religious fervor, and all you’re left with is a brutal, gory splatter film. And as a tale of Jesus, whose teachings were radical, it is an even larger failure. The feelings inspired by the film are the exact opposite of what Jesus believed in. You don’t leave that film loving your enemies. You’re left with a thirst for revenge. It’s impossible not to hate those that kill Christ in the film, because Gibson has made the Jewish Priests petty, stock villains and the Romans slobbering sadists. It would have been amazing if, after showing us this brutality, that Gibson lifted our souls with love rather than hate, but that doesn’t happen.

Gibson’s stunningly inaccurate film is too concerned with flesh being ripped apart and eyes being lashed. How can Gibson possibly think Jesus’ human suffering is the most important thing about himr How can you present a film about Jesus without telling us why he was so important at that timer And why in the world would you create a perversity as rank as a troubled, uncertain Pontius Pilater The debate goes on whether this film is anti-Semitic. The answer is: of course it is. It’s true that the Jewish High Priests wanted Jesus killed because he was a troublemaker and they couldn’t afford to stir up trouble under the Romans. But Gibson presents the Jews as delighting in Jesus’ torture. And while he makes the Romans mindless fools who take great pleasure in their work, he laughably makes it seem as though they were worried about a Jewish uprising, and shows Pilate somehow fearful of the Jews. Pilate, who was so atrociously violent he was removed, would have snapped his fingers and killed any number of people for a lot less than being mocked and laughed at (which we see in the film).

It’s not hard to see why people find faith through suffering. Because suffering is easy. It’s an infantile way of thinking. It’s a shortcut to “earning” your faith. For all the talk of Gibson’s religious devotion, there doesn’t seem to be much depth to his belief. That’s the only thing you can believe after seeing his film about the son of God, where you walk away with a lifetime of violence and absolutely nothing learned from it.

“Godfather” Videogamer
Yes, the apocalypse has arrived. Electronic Arts will be giving the world a “Godfather” videogame in the near future. No word on if the game will follow the movies’ storylines or simply feature the characters. The article in Variety didn’t mention if Francis Ford Coppola had anything to do with this sell-out, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he did. “The Godfather” and its (first) sequel are among the greatest movies ever made. That’s an outstanding accomplishment. So why is Francis always willing to make a buck and tarnish itr

What’s nextr A “Raging Bull” boxing gamer A “Blue Velvet” strategy gamer A “Bringing Up Baby” game for young girlsr This represents a dismaying precedent. What’s to stop them from making “Apocalypse Now” into a war gamer Don’t you think it cheapens “The Godfather” series to have the characters appear in a goddamned videogamer This is Hollywood’s make-a-dollar-at-all-costs way of thinking at its worst.

It makes sense to turn something like “Alias” or “Mission: Impossible” into a videogame. The same thing can be said about “The Thing,” “Minority Report,” “Hulk,” and “Starsky & Hutch.” But why something as sacred as “The Godfather”r

If the game’s a success, hopefully they’ll release “Godfather Part III”: in it, you toss undeserved award trophies at Sofia Coppola.

Only the Good Stuff, Thanks
Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron says she’s only making good films from now on. She can’t go back to “mediocre,” she says. Even if it means playing second fiddle to a guy. Exactly when did Charlize stop doing mediocrer We all know “Monster” is a sub-par, poorly-made serial killer flick which got attention because Charlize gained weight and got ugly.

Now she’s lining up “Class Action” for “Whale Rider” director Niki Caro (Theron plays the key plaintiff in the first successful sexual harassment prosecution in the United States) and “Aeon Flux” for Karyn Kusama (in this flick Theron is a superhuman assassin who has been programmed to kill a political leader).

The funny thing about Theron’s statement is that the first film she signed on for after winning the Oscar is a classic post-Oscar cash-in. Charlize will receive a career-high 10 million dollars to star in “Flux,” which is based on an animated MTV show. It’s some nonsense about a future world where humans have been wiped out by a virus and the last remaining folks hang out in a city enclosed in a protective bubble. She has to spend two months getting into shape to play an assassin who jumps around a lot. So you finally get the respect you crave from your peers, you get that shiny award, you have the world’s eyes on you, and you can do anything, absolutely any project you want, and what do you dor You get in shape for an action film! Action films being the exact thing you were so desperate to get away from when you made the low-budget “Monster.”

Charlize is following in Halle’s footsteps in more ways than one. Halle took her Oscar gold and has made commercial crap ever since (she even played a Bond girl, for the love of God). Soon she has the hugely mortifying “Catwoman” out. Maybe Charlize will star in the straight-to-video sequel.

Like Halle, people will forget, in about a year, that Theron won her award. But, if like Halle, she’s able to make a few hit films, it won’t matter, because she’ll be making a ton of money, and I guess that’s all that really matters.

It’s Always the Funny Guys
You probably don’t know the name Drake Sather, but you do know his work: he wrote for “Saturday Night Live,” “The Larry Sanders Show,” “NewsRadio” and “Ed.” Also, he co-created the character Derek Zoolander, and went on to co-write the screenplay about him.

Sather, who was 44, was distressed about the separation from his wife and four kids and shot himself in the head.

I only learned of this tragedy because of a one-line obit in a magazine. I guess Drake wasn’t a big enough name, and his story was too much of a downer (suicide and fatherless kids), for it to be a priority for anyone. I mean, Britney might have been getting married again, or Janet’s breast might have been making a reappearance, or Jessica Simpson might have been talking about losing her virginity again.

In today’s wall-to-wall media universe, there’s room for every possible piece of meaningless information. So how come there was so little love for Drake Satherr I wonder just how skewed thinking has become when your suicide going unmentioned is a posthumous insult.

There are few details here. It’s none of our business, but you can’t help but wonder why Sather’s wife left him. If a man’s devotion to his kids and wife was that intense — that he’d kill himself because he was separated from them — it certainly doesn’t speak of a person who was distant.

You’re supposed to end things like this by saying “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family,” but that always sounds like hollow BS to me. So I’ll just say that having one less funny guy in the world is never a good thing. Genuinely funny guys being in such short supply. Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the other FilmJerk.com writers, or of the site in whole.

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