Bill Hicks & A Bittersweet Life

contains spoilers if text is not in bold, for more info check my intro, otherwise

Featured image

BILL HICKS & A BITTERSWEET LIFE

 

               There is no film by Kim Ji-woon that is representative of the director.  They are all beautiful and different.  There is no single act that will tell you who Bill Hicks really was.  And that’s okay.

               Some people just like to fight.  Sun-woo, played by Lee Byung-hun, is supposed to fight and keep order.  Mostly he’s supposed to obey.

               Bill Hicks fights everyone, rebels with animated conspiracy.  He fights his audience.  It’s not going to be entertaining for everyone, but Bill is a cult icon.  Being in a Tool song helps.  Being dead helps even more.  His act from the 90’s still translated into the year 2000.  Another Bush in office, another war with Iraq.  It’s more amazing than Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and the Wizard of Oz played together.

               Sun-woo comes back from the dead.  He’s been buried alive just to find the gangsters who smashed his hand and buried him are still there, waiting.  In a Hollywood movie you know everything is going to be okay.  Our hero will win.  This was something else, a frightening hands-to-face situation.  There is an exhilarating effect when Sun-woo escapes.  Grinding one of his enemy’s faces against the wall, fighting fire sticks with fire sticks.  It was nearly impossible and yet, he drives away.

               Reading Kevin Booth’s Agent of Evolution, about his friend Bill Hicks, is something I recommend, but it’s going to rewrite your brain.  Things you know from his act, you find are just an illusion.  It’s Bill as he wished to be.  Bill was someone else on stage.  He could have a conversation and thirty minutes later it could be in his act.  And he meant it.

               Sun-woo and Hee-soo (Shin Mina) meet.  This is before all of the violence.  His boss seems to prize Sun-woo over others.  He wants Sun-woo to watch over Hee-soo, his new, and very young girlfriend.  It seems that something isn’t right.  It doesn’t take long for the hit man to find her in the arms of another man.  He’s supposed to kill them both, but has them both separate forever.

               Though he was part of Outlaws of Comedy, Bill surpassed Sam Kennison by 666 light years.  Why scream so empty?  Bill wanted to fix the world while Kennison barely understood it.  Kennison screamed about starving third world people, GO TO WHERE THE FOOD IS!  Bill wanted all the money to be spent helping the people.  He wanted wars to end.  He was John Lennon as a comic with major leans toward conspiracy (Waco, JFK, The Bible). 

               Re-titled The Bittersweet Life, the original title is the Sweet Life, just like La Dolce Vita the bar where Sun-woo works.  This is one of the few alternate titles that worked really well.  The irony isn’t important here.  Nothing is fine.  Did Sun-woo have it all?  You watch him so bored, alone in his small place.  Sleeping on a couch.  Playing with a light.

               I’m actually at a loss.  There is a scene with Sun-woo where he watches Hee-soo play the violin.  He’s somewhere else.  We’re not in your average movie about a hit man.  I find both Bill Hicks and A Bittersweet Life beautiful.  I want to watch A Bittersweet Life while I build a time machine and go back to see Bill Hicks.  I just wasn’t old enough.  I only saw his censored televised act right before he died.  Cancer put his thoughts towards God (they weren’t friends in the act) at the end.  I really can’t shake a fist considering his age. He didn‘t make it to his 33rd birthday.  I just want to go in my time machine and see him, right before he was to weak, to watch some films.  I’ll have a Blu-ray player under one arm and Avatar in the other.  He said that no one was ever going to top Terminator 2.  I’d bring Terminator 3 and 4 (5 has Byung-hun!), but he’d probably just say he was right and go to sleep.

               The fighting could stop at any time.  Sun-woo and his boss just won’t give up.  It doesn’t end well, revenge and hate.  Some say it’s all just a dream in the movie.  Bill said it was just a ride. And we can change it anytime we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings and money. A choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love, instead, see all of us as one. Here’s what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money that we spend on weapons and defenses each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.

               Tell me that kind of thought comes from an average comedian.

Advertisements

Emo Philips & My Scary Girl

Featured image

EMO PHILIPS & MY SCARY GIRL

 

               I’d like to talk more about I’m a Cyborg but that’s okay, I won’t.  It’s not that Emo is crazy, it’s just I’m a Cyborg, but That’s Okay is such a lovely film.  And Emo is crazy.  Voted most popular in his ward, though admittedly, the imaginary friends’ votes shouldn’t be counted.  Anyway, I decided to choose something unique with subtle violence, something that made me happy.  My Scary Girl (My Sweet, Yet Brutal, Sweetheart) also fits that description.

               Emo Philips, I probably first saw him in UHF.  He cut off his own finger with a table saw and sprayed blood all over “Weird” Al.  He was just talking about how careful you have to be and then Town Talk’s George Newman screams.  Emo is not so emotional.  “I think it’s on the floor somewhere.  Is my face red.”  That’s Emo.  Violence and puns.  If you have a problem with that, I’ll stuff you in a giant kimchi fridge.

               My Scary Girl begins with a teacher named Dae-woo (Park Yong-woo).  He’s fine with his lonely life.  No, really.  Everything changes, though, when he’s morally forced to help an old delivery man with a large appliance.  He finds himself resting because of his bad back and looks around.  His new neighbor Lee Mi-na (Choi Kang-hee) seems cultured with intellectual interests.  She has no idea why Dae-woo is inside her new place, and he attempts to explain his intrusion with the delivery man magically out of sight.  He likes Mi-na.  Maybe our protagonist isn’t fine with his lonely life.

               I’d love to see Emo Phillips’ love matches.  He had a short marriage to Judy Tenuta, but he’s kind of the opposite of her type, straight with no muscles.  His hair used to look like Amelie (from Amelie) and his voice probably won’t be on anyone’s one’s Top Ten list concerning charisma.  It’s slow with each word pulled like taffy.  He takes little notice of how dark his material can get or how surreal as he plays with social norms.  It’s a web of educated weird and you’re stuck in it quickly.

               Having not done it, almost ever, Dae-woo loves to kiss.  We’re quickly moved by his infinite appreciation of Mi-na, but Dae-woo has no idea what he’s getting into when attempting to date her.  There is a nice symbolic back problem that he has when things aren’t going so well.  Like a headache or cracking your neck.  Mi-na has a secret that will stay bold.  Though she gets a bit sidetracked by the sweet English teacher, Mi-na is only in Dae-woo’s building to commit a murder.

               Though the amount of baby and child abuse, light-hearted racism and just plain darkness has gone up in the intellectual stand-up world, Emo was easily a pioneer of it.  Even that stated, it’s hard to look at any comedian and say, wow you’re like a young Emo Philips.  As he sings his jingle for a place called Downers Grove that had a contest, I consider it is impossible for smart people to perfectly contour themselves into society.  The rules must be bent to give life any interest at all.  The jingle ends with the loss of an eye, dragged away by way of a truckload of puns.

               Son Jae-gon’s My Scary Girl takes on romantic comedy with surgical precision, but in a slightly different way than a Jang Jin-style parody.  In the classic, My Boyfriend Is Type B, I was introduced to something I’d never heard about.  Blood type, like the month you were born, giving information about personality.  During a double date Dae-woo realizes that Mi-na knows nothing about art (one of her modern art prints is upside-down) and worse yet starts talking about blood typing.  Dae-woo is furious, knowing that besides it being a pseudo-science, eugenics is racist and has been abandoned by most of the world.  Everything about her starts to unravel.  In the end Dae-woo catches up with Mi-na after she has done a lot of body disposal in the mountains.  He meets her in Mina’s other more expensive apartment with a bullet-proof vest on.  Finding out who she is he finally leaves, but cries in the elevator.  “Why did it have to be so many?”  I love the idea that one death could be something he could work out.  He obviously loves Mi-na, just not the situation.

               Emo’s appearance is very different now, much like “Weird” Al.  In 2005 a joke he wrote was voted the best religious joke ever.  Sadly they didn’t credit him, so I won’t credit the people that had the contest.  Maybe they couldn’t find him, because he looks so different with his short grey hair and glasses.  You can him find at a website with a http://www.com as the bread and EmoPhilips as the crunchy peanut butter.  If you’re ever down you can push his random logic generator.  It’s better for you than an energy drink and hurts less than a slap in the face.

On lay over from a business trip in Singapore, Dae-woo runs into Mi-na two years later.  He thinks about her every time they find a body in the mountains.  Mi-na is on her way to Australia, she can’t risk returning to Korea.  Though fate brings them back to together, they probably won’t ever be a couple.  There is something personal that just happened that kills me when I think about it.  Life isn’t about the pieces that fit together.  It’s all the pieces from another puzzle that you just can’t throw away and you just can’t use.  You just put them back in the box with a sigh.

There is a glimmer of dark hope though.  Dae-woo says maybe they’ll meet again much later, though he’ll probably be with someone else.  Mi-na replies, “I’ll just kill her.”  She kisses Dae-woo and walks off.

Janeane Garofalo & The Road Taken

(New? Click ME)

Featured image

JANEANE GAROFALO & THE ROAD TAKEN

 

               Janeane speaks with a huge vocabulary.  She’s one of the most serious comedians you’ll experience.  She’ll jump from speaking about important social issues to apologizing for how people may perceive her.  I first saw her on Comedy Central.  She was young.  She was taking about being on the phone with a parent and the parent wanting the noise in the background to be turned down.  It was R.E.M.  She finds this strange and ironic, not thinking of R.E.M. as a loud band.  Later in her life she speaks of leaving another alternative band’s show, Weezer, because it was too loud.  She repeats, too loud, for comic effect.  Her life is a circular joke.

               Kim Sun-myung’s (Kim Joong-ki) life was more serious.  He was a North Korean soldier, imprisoned for 44 years.  The original title of the film is The Choice.  Sun-myung could have left the prison and avoided over four decades of mistreatment.  His communist beliefs were the only things the South Koreans (and the U.S.) wanted him to denounce.  They’re still calling people socialists today.  I even call myself a socialist.  It’s good to be in my country at this time.  Not everyone is this lucky.

               Janeane calls herself a peace activist, an atheist and she’s very vocal in the liberal movement.  Rarely are comedians non-vocal.  Poor mimes.  Well anyway, she is one of my first favorites.  Her insecurities seem to not get in the way of her getting on stage and being in many successful television shows & films even though her father’s skull is trapped in a bowling ball.

               We stay in the cell with Kim Sun-myung and his friends.  I enjoy the film because of its rarity.  North Korean are usually not portrayed correctly, or just found in spy and war films.  They were and are people with lives and dreams, not faceless enemies being shot or sliced with swords.  They each get pulled out one by one, once in a while for a chance to change their thoughts and be free.  How can you be free if you’ve been forced to change your thoughts?

               Opinions aside I want to take a second to talk about Bathroom Monkey.  Wait, no, though that was hilarious, my favorite non-stand-up performance came from Janeane in Sweethearts.  A film for people who don’t need happy endings, it starred fellow stand-ups Bobcat Goldthwait and Margaret Cho.  It’s about a romantic night for a suicidal woman.  My lungs kind of give out as I watch the end, as the sun rises.  Of course no one pays attention to a piece of art like this.  Much better than any dog-pulled roller skates role.  Janeane doesn’t take acclaim as well as others though, so I’ll cut this essay short. 

               Kim Sun-myung watched many North Koreans come and go in his 44 years, as one would expect.  He never threw his ideals away though.  People were beaten over and over.  People died in prison, but it didn’t deter him.  He listened as unification seemed a possibility and then faded away. 

               He was finally released back to North Korea in the late 90’s after amnesty international put some light on him as the longest-serving political prisoner in the entire world.  In the late 90’s films like this probably would not have been made in South Korea.  A few years later it was made, nothing censored.  Times change when voices unite.  So if you really want a world full of hate and war, please keep voting for it, or not at all.  Until then peace activists like Janeane will speak loudly, without the big stick.  Maybe you’ll need us one day when all the guns and bombs don’t work.

Kevin Nealon & A Brand New Life

(Newbie?  Check out the INTRO!)

Featured image

KEVIN NEALON & A BRAND NEW LIFE

 

     A guy writes a book from his own perspective during his wife’s pregnancy, while a young girl is given away to an orphanage.

     I used to think adopting was the way to go.  I love kids, but I don’t think the world needs more of them.  There are lots of children.  I never understood paying though.  I mean, I’m taking the kid.  You should pay me!  I could have one for free.  I guess I can grow tomatoes for free or buy them.   I’m talking myself out of my own point, while A Brand New Life is making me think that adoption is horrible.

     Dana Carvey said, hey man, I can’t do this Pump You Up stuff alone.  You need this guy Kevin Nealon.  He’s tall and super calm.  He’s been on Carson.  These aren’t exact quotes, but a nine year career was born.

     Ounie Lecomte’s personal project really captured me.  It’s about her real experiences being given away to an orphanage and adopted abroad like many Korean children.  The camera is always on the level of the heartbreakingly fragile Jin-hee (Kim Sae-ron).  This isn’t a film about anything except her confusion and pain over being given away by her thoughtless father (a cameo by Sol Kyung-gu).   

     Yes, you’re pregnant, but what about me?  This is the question asked by Kevin Nealon.  He decided to write a book, rarely written.  The thoughts of a man as his wife is pregnant.  As women read and obsess about their upcoming pregnancy, most men do not.  Nothing is happening to them.  They are busy getting a second job or running away and then impregnating someone else like a human dog.  Kevin is a pretty different guy, a very unique comic.  He’s serene like a Hawaiian breeze.  He’s done his stand up laying down.  That’s relaxed!  It’s probably all the subliminal messages that make me like KOREAN FILMS his act so much.

     Adopting a baby must be much different than a nine-year old girl, but that was my plan when I was younger.  I considered how great it would be to know the human I was buying.  I want the one with the glasses and the book!  There are some girls at the orphanage that are well versed in English and are totally selling themselves, but people want Jin-hee.  She’s adorable.  She’s the one you can’t have.  Of course not, her father is coming back.  This is just a vacation.  The original title of the film is Traveler.  I don’t know how a child deals with abandonment issues.  Even when new parents are wonderful, you still must wonder who gave you away and why.  To start again would be too much.

     In the mid-80’s Kevin Nealon made is way to the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.  He still calls this one of the (if not the) proudest moments of his career that goes on to this day.  On the show he’s a bit speedier, the energy of youth and probably the stress of being on the famous talk show.  There is a point where he’s telling a story and has a map.  The map isn’t the correct map though.  The act becomes some of the most intellectual prop comedy I’ve ever seen as he folds the map a bit and it instantly becomes the shape of Nevada.  The comedy of Kevin Nealon is a bit off, but that is always a positive factor for me.  Off is my on.

     The success of Brand New Life abroad will be helped considering the short length of the film.  It’s rare to even find a less than two hour comedy, let alone a drama.  Ounie is a woman of two worlds and they collide well.  Her decisions, though personally driven, are thoughtful and pull you in well.  Though as Jin-hee makes a friend and starts to adapt you know by the end, with her foreign adoption, that there will always be a small hole in her heart.

     I enjoyed Kevin Nealon’s book.  It’s good to hear a male’s voice, a male who not only wanted to have a child, but planned it out.  Everything in his life seems rather thoughtful.  When he sucker punches you in comedy you smile.  He’s hitting you in the head and not the kidney.

 

Charles Fleschier & Someone Special

(Newbie?  Check out the INTRO)

Featured image

CHARLES FLESCHIER & SOMEONE SPECIAL

 

     Seemingly a comedian has just walked on stage.  Seemingly another Korean rom- com has started.  The difference is in the writing, the thoughts, the strangeness.

     Most of you will know Charles Fleschier from his voice, rather than his face.  Even then his voice is pretty odd and different from what you know.  He voiced Roger Rabbit, a groundbreaking hybrid of real life meets animation and Warner Brothers meets Disney.  This has never been done before and hasn’t been done since (though there may be a sequel).

     Someone Special (A Girl I Know) is written and directed by Jang Jin.  Never one to cuddle with clichés (except the film being a remake of a Bob Hope film from the 30’s), the movie is a hybrid of a traditional romantic comedy and a satire of it.  He brings along Jung Jae-Yung, who is in most of his projects, and the model Lee Na-Yung, who loves to make herself appear average or worse.  They are two perfect character actors that really should have done more work together.  Lee Na-Yung seems to make one film per leading man.

     What is Charles Fleschier?  Is he a scientist?  Maybe a mad scientist, throwing out moleeds at you.  Is this what you paid for?  Charles makes you think in all sorts of ways, possibly trying to connect, hoping your brain will do a third of the work his is doing all the time.  He’s in his sixties and still as hyper as an animated rabbit.

     After some fantastic screaming, the catalyst being his girlfriend leaving him, Dong Chi-Sung (Jae-Yung)’s nose starts bleeding.  The doctor tells him he’s going to die pretty soon.  He’s a baseball player, but not the professional he used to be.  He has nothing to do, but drink in Han Yi-yun’s (Na-yung) bar.  He wakes in her home after she carries him there in a bag.

     Charles Fleschier is that post office employee that is about to go postal in Demon Knight.  He’s a possible (and creeeeeepy) suspect in Zodiac.  He’s over eighty more characters, but his most interesting is himself.  He’s one of the few comedians I’ve ever seen play a harmonica and keep me hypnotized.  He’s making connections and scaring people away at the same time.  I think he’s just fun.

     When a man thinks he’s going to die he does some pretty crazy things.  There are many tear-jerking romantic comedies in Korea where one (or both) members of a couple are going to die.  They grow to love each other, we grow to love them and then they’re taken away from all of us.  Jang Jin seems to look at this concept like a Zucker brother.  There’s room to poke fun and room to improve.  The secret is this film is so good, I’m surprised to no else thought of it (except the in the 30’s).  In this way the film is something special.

     By the way, if you find yourself really connecting to what I’m saying please call me, my number is oot oot oot – oot oot oot oot.  Area code oot oot oot.

Maria Bamford and A Fun(ny) Movie

(check out the intro if you’re new)

Featured image

MARIA BAMFORD & A FUNNY MOVIE

               How do you get into Korean films?  My knowledge of Korea itself was pretty low when I ordered A Funny Movie.  I bought a multi-region DVD player and wanted to get the most of it.  I was into parody at the time.  It was Korea’s first parody movie and my first Korean film.

               So basically I was laughing, but I didn’t know why.  I hadn’t seen any of the films they were sending up, but I knew those desires were forming.

               Usually you see Maria alone, acting like lots of other people, or she’s surrounded by guys.  She’s a comedian of comedy, she’s onto her third album and she’s got some major problems that she’ll sometimes sing about.

               The first time she mentioned Unwanted Thought Syndrome, I thought it was a joke, more of the act.  I still do, even though it isn’t.  Hey Maria, lick the toilet seat.  Vomit into a cup and drink it.

               It’s hard to forget the subway scene in Sassy Girl, but A Funny Movie tops it.  Kim Jung-eun is spraying her liquid vomit through her teeth into a cup while Lim Won-hee covers his mouth about to lose it.  All the success Korea had from Swiri is skewered like a street vendor’s fish cake.  The chaos is loosely based on Swiri, but A Funny Movie parodies or references about thirty films including the Foul King, Attack the Gas Station, Lies, Ditto, Peppermint Candy, Friend and Nowhere To Hide.  Like impressionists, parody is often not respected.  There is a line between referencing and parody you must cross.  Some even venture into satire, which makes it even harder for makers of parody.

               It must be considered that Korea isn’t well known for freedom of speech, especially in the North.  The South has become more and more open though, and this movie is symbolic of it during a parody of Ditto where the North Korean dictator and South Korean President become friends over a ham radio.

               Maria feels like a friend during her act.  She lets you into her adorable mind.  She magically becomes all that she knows and sees.  Most impressionists go on to SNL or MAD TV.  I like that she only seems to appear on cult programming instead like Tim and Eric Awesome Show or Catdog, not counting the recent Target ads.  Bill Hicks is turning his head.

               I’ve heard often, while growing up, people (males) asking others to name one funny female comedian.  Just one.  You’d say Garofalo back in the day.  Back in the same day I’d say Laura Kightlinger, Elvira Kurt, Ellen DeGeneres, Paua Poundstone, Margaret Cho, Phyllis Diller!  I won’t even use the term comedienne.  If you’re funny you’re a comedian.  Here is Maria’s personal list: Amy Anderson, Rosanne Barr, Karen Bayley, Elizabeth Beckwith, Sandra Bernhard, Bethany, Elayne Boosler, Mary Bourke, Alex Borstein, Jen Brister, Brett Butler, Allison Castillo, Margaret Cho, Chocolate, Mo Collins, Jane Condon, Whitney Cummings, Diane Ford, Ellen Cleghorne, Tanya Lee Davis, Ellen DeGeneres, Becky Donahue, Susie Essman, Tina Fey, Hope Flood, Small Frie, Girl’s Guitar Club, Janeane Garofolo, Adele Givens, Judy Gold, Whoopi Goldberg, Kathy Griffin, Natalie Haynes, Sally Anne Heywood, Melinda Hill, Claire Hooper, Mary Ellen Hooper, Hazel Humphreys, Victoria Jackson, Diana Jordan, Jackie Kashian, Laura Kightlinger, Laurie Kilmartin, Tina Kim, Jen Kirkman, Elvira Kurt, Lisa Lampanelli, Cathy Ladman, Heather Lawless, Carol Leifer, Kerri Lendo, Natasha Leggero, Leighann Lord, Kathleen Madigan, Monique Marvez, Bonnie Mcfarlane, Mo’Nique, Etta May, Jan McInnis, Felicia Michaels, Jodie Milks, Morgan Murphy, Rosie O’Donnell, Fiona O’Laughlin, Becky Pedigo, Tammy Pescatelli, B-Phlat, Amy Poehler, Paula Poundstone, Caroline Rhea, Joan Rivers, Rita Rudner, Amy Sedaris, Rhonda Shear, Sarah Silverman, Traci Skene, Bridget Smith, Margaret Smith, Sommore, Pam Stone, Wanda Sykes, Judy Tenuta, Jane Turner, Aisha Tyler, Thea Vidale. Betsy Wise, Casey Wilson, Jane Edith Wilson, and Kristen Wiig.

               Like the secret plot of Swiri, a detective’s girlfriend is actually a North Korean spy.  This makes watching A Funny Movie like a giant spoiler.  It’s like if you saw some kind of Epic Movie or Date Movie called Ghost Movie and it had a scene where Bruce Willis was dead.  They blatantly give the secret twist away as they send up the detective passes his assassin wife on the stairs.  They hide their faces humorously.

               Maria uses voices of other people telling her to stop doing voices.  That has to be somewhat ironic.  I’m constantly looking for some irony.  She’s been doing voices since her age was in the single digits.  Her act also makes fun of her lack of range.  It explores her loneliness from several angles.  It even might teach you How To Win while Burning Bridges.  I really don’t think that there is anything offensive and at the same time the act is true and quite original. 

               Making a parody was a new adventure in Korea.  It was a new time for their exploding cinema and I think the film is important.  It probably shouldn’t be witnessed until you see most of the films, but I’m telling you, I turned out fine.  Parody may not be deep, but most of the New Wave films already were.  It was time to relax a bit.  Comedy knocks us down so we can see witness what we built from a new angle.  We then can start over building better and stronger.  Make fun of THAT! 

               And they will.