FilmJerk Favorites

A group of unique directors and the essential works that you've got to see.

||| Frank Capra |||
Frank Capra

It goes without saying that Capra is one of the greatest and most beloved directors of all time, especially renowned for his madcap romantic comedies. He is one of the few directors who ever managed to balance whimsy with meaningfulness without loosing the ability to entertain.

Only Frank Capra, with his light hand and good sense of allowing the actors to be their roles, could carry off this tale of a naive average American used by an unscrupulous politician through a nationwide goodwill drive. No one was ever better at having strong yet vulnerable women not only aid, but often come to the rescue, of the leading man.

Frank Capra's final film is a hilarious translation of a Damon Runyon tale set in 1930s New York, as gangster Glenn Ford repays street peddler Bette Davis for her "good luck" apples by passing her off as a well-to-do society lady for her visiting daughter (Ann-Margret in her film debut). This excellent and thoroughly enjoyable remake of his own 1933 "Lady for a Day" is a beautiful swan song to a master storyteller. Widescreen!

In this black comedy about two sweet old ladies whose basement holds a murderously funny secret, Capra utilizes star Cary Grant to his zany, patented “double take” best. Capra’s brilliance in comic casting is demonstrated with such reliable character actors as Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre and Jack Carson who manage to play their parts to the hilt without chewing up the scenery.

Recommended by CarrieSpecht

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The L.A. Riot Spectacular

By BrianOrndorf

August 4th, 2006

If you see “The L.A. Riot Spectacular” coming anywhere near you, run the opposite way. This no-budget, brain dead parody of the iconic 1992 Los Angeles disaster is such a monumental waste of time, I’m already sorry you’ve read this much about it.

The L.A. Riot Spectacular

When Rodney King was beaten in 1991 by the swarming LAPD, I bet he never knew that 15 years later, he would inadvertently inflict more harm on America.

“The L.A. Riot Spectacular” is conceived as a vintage Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker parody of the notorious 1992 titular incident crossed with Spike Lee’s more lofty aspirations for social commentary. In short, the film stinks like you wouldn’t believe, and to discuss it further lends it significance it doesn’t warrant; but hey, it’s better to make it perfectly clear that no one of sound mind should go near this appalling cluster bomb of awful.

Clearly first-time writer/director Marc Klasfeld must have incriminating pictures of the cast to rope some of these names into appearing. Not that we’re faced with A-listers here, but there are talented people who felt their time and energy was needed on this worthless endeavor. Actors like Emilio Estevez (as Laurence Powell), Christopher McDonald (sporadically lisping as Stacey Koon), Charles Dutton (The Mayor), Charles Durning (King’s lawyer), Ted Levine (a riot-lovin’ white supremacist), William Forsythe (the creep who taped the King beating), Ronny Cox (the racist LAPD chief), and Snoop Dogg (playing the rapping Greek chorus) all wander through the film with a confused look on their face. Inexplicably, they go along with every one of Klasfeld’s ideas, each one more humiliating than the last. It isn’t surprising to see that the two best performances in the picture come from adult film stars Ron Jeremy and Tabitha Stevens.

Because the picture is making fun of a situation that was riddled with racial tension, Klasfled is aiming to offend everyone with this film, so not to look as though he’s taking sides. The Caucasian cops are all bigots, the African-Americans are dim-bulb gang bangers or looting opportunists, and the Koreans are caught in the accent hell (one store sign reads: “Mrs. Kim’s Riquors”). Klasfeld pitches the humor as broad as it gets, which is like twisting a hot knife into an open wound. If the joke isn’t funny as a whisper, Klasfeld feels that blaring the punch line will make it hilarious. The film habitually tosses out “Bamboozled” style sight gags (malt liquor is called “False Hope,” white cops are afraid to attack a building with painting of a black penis on it) and slippery “Scary Movie” like ADR punch-ups to create what the filmmaker imagines as the ultimate send up of an American tragedy. Oh, the film is tragic, that’s for sure, but in the opposite ways Klasfeld intends.

Here’s a question: does depicting Reginald Denny’s beat down on the corner of Florence and Normandie as a main event boxing match between races (complete with Michael Buffer introductions) make for a creative bit of amusement, or rather a desperate attempt to push cultural buttons in today’s “Chappelle’s Show” marketplace? I vote the latter, and my sincere apologies to Dave Chappelle for associating his great name with this dreck.

Mentally, once the film depicted Mexicans in blackface looting freely in the streets, I checked out. If the filmmaker has to go there for a gag, then he’s abandoned all sense of competence. The film does eventually finish with an appearance by George Hamilton as the King of Beverly Hills, but if you get that far without becoming seriously ill, I congratulate you.

Stunningly, the end of “The L.A. Riot Spectacular” promises a sequel taking on the OJ Simpson trial. If I have to physically go to the west coast and prevent this from happening, I’m prepared to make that commitment.

The supreme twist of this whole 80-minute nightmare is that there’s more humor to be found the actual riots that burned and divided a devastated Los Angeles than anything in this film, which should give you a good idea of just how funny this production is.

My rating: F