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Author Topic: Albert Brooks appreciation thread  (Read 9323 times)
Holden Pike
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« on: April 26, 2005, 08:25:25 AM »



I flat-out love Albert Brooks and consider him among the comic geniuses of his era. Starting out as a stand-up comedian, then moving from television to feature films to becoming a writer/director with a strong comic voice all his own, he’s done it all and has maintained his career for over thirty years. If you’ve never heard his stand-up material or seen his guest shots on "The Ed Sullivan Show" or Johnny Carson’s "The Tonight Show", you’ve missed the beginnings of his brilliance. Very smart stuff, often dissecting his own jokes or having the deadpan cheesiness of the Vaudeville-style gag be the joke. Watching his lack of ventriloquism skills or doing celebrity impressions with food has to be seen to be appreciated, but trust me the guy was out there and hysterical. One of his two comedy albums is available on CD, Comedy Minus One, and it’s worth a listen if you can track it down. His crank "Kooky Krazy" phonecalls cluelessly asking businesses for things they have plenty of is typical of his early humor, and still works today.



After a couple guest spots as a pushy photographer on ‘70s staple "The Odd Couple", Albert was part of the original "Saturday Night Live" broadcasts the first couple of seasons. He wasn’t one of the regular Not-Ready-For-Primetime Players, but his series of short "autobiographical" films ran periodically. Very funny little vignettes if you ever get a hold of the unedited old shows (his pieces are usually excised in the syndicated airings these days). As that project was ongoing he also got his first acting gig in a feature film. His comedy skills were called upon of course, but it wasn't a comedy. In Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver (1976), Albert's few scenes with in the campaign office with Cybil Shepherd are among the only moments not seen from Travis Bickle's perspective. Allowed to ad lib his material, it is quintessential Albert. The one-sided phone conversation about the wording of the buttons and his attempted explanation of the newspaper vendor’s missing fingers are hysterical, and the only real comic relief in the film. As part of his process, DeNiro said hardly two words to Brooks on the set, making the confrontation they have in the office after Betsy has spurned him all the more charged, and Albert looks frightened by Bobby DeNiro in the moment as a raging Travis.



His next film was also his writing and directing debut, Real Life (1979). A mockumentary inspired by the landmark PBS series "An American Family", the simple premise has Brooks as himself embarking on a mission to film the life of the average American suburban family for one year. He has designed special cameras to make the process unobtrusive. That’s their stated goal anyway, but they look like something from NASA, or at least Robby the Robot, and couldn’t be more distracting. It’s a funny idea, obviously years ahead of its time with the now widespread popularity of so-called "reality" programming, and it mostly works. Charles Grodin plays the patriarch of the Phoenix family Albert is to observe, and of course he deadpans it the whole way. There are some good swipes at pop psychology and the need for fame, but overall it’s a bit thin for a feature and plays like his "SNL" bits expanded…but not quite far enough. However, the finale, where Albert goes more than a little nuts to heighten the reality of the project, is worth the ride. Not a masterpiece, but when it works it’s fantastic, and it’s a more than respectable first film.

Next after Real Life he has a cameo-sized role in Private Benjamin (1980 – Howard Zieff). He’s in the opening of the film, before the spoiled Judy (Goldie Hawn) joins the Army. He's her new husband, a horny man named Yale Goodman who can’t wait to jump his new bride. He suffers a heart attack on their wedding night, on the bathroom floor throwing a hump into his sweet Judy. The shock and depression over this turn of events is what sends Judy Benjamin to enlist in the Army – after an unscrupulous recruiter (Harry Dean Stanton) convinces her today’s military is akin to Club Med. Anyway, Brooks is only in the first ten minutes of the film, but as always he’s funny.




Albert’s second film as writer/director/star (BTW, most of Brooks’ own films are co-written with Monica Johnson) is my personal favorite: Modern Romance (1981). Here Albert is Robert Cole, a successful Hollywood editor who cannot stop obsessing over his relationship with Mary, played by Kathryn Harrold. As the film opens he breaks up with her…again. Then spends the next few days trying to forget her, get back together with her, keep her, spy on her, and generally drive himself crazy with his own raging insecurities and complete inability to enjoy what he has or put any kind of trust in love or Mary herself. This is Albert at his neurotic best and darkest. A woozy and depressed Albert high on a couple Ludes making phonecalls is one of my favorite scenes, but unlike Real Life everything comes together perfectly. There are some great inside knocks at Hollywood too, and writer/director/producer James L. Brooks (no relation) plays the insecure director of the cheap Star Wars rip-off Albert’s character is editing. Bruno Kirby plays his assistant editor, and George Kennedy has a fun little bit playing himself, the star of the film within the film. Brooks and Kirby trying to re-record the footsteps with nonplussed veteran soundmen looking on is maybe the funniest scene, but I love the entire movie.

Modern Romance was definitely not a financial success, and Columbia more or less tried to bury it. But it did get some good reviews, and even more encouragement came from a surprise phonecall from the reclusive Stanley Kubrick, who he’d never met. Kubrick told him he’d 'been trying to do a movie like Modern Romance forever' and asked how he was able to make such a funny and true movie about a subject as dark as obsession. The two filmmakers continued to correspond for a few years, until Albert asked to meet him once while in London. Apparently that violated whatever comfort level Stanley had with his privacy, and they communicated only a couple more times – once Stanley asking Albert’s opinion of casting Steve Martin in a film.


So while considered a dud in Hollywood money terms, Modern Romance is a great movie, still my favorite of his, but it didn’t exactly have studios lining up to get into the Albert Brooks business. The next couple years he spends writing, looking for backing, and appears in a couple projects just as an actor. He has a very funny cameo opening Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), in a segment directed by John Landis. Albert plays a man driving across the desert in the dead of the night who stops for a hitchhiker, played by Dan Aykroyd. At first they enjoy singing along to Creedence, but when the tape is eaten they start playing a game of guessing the TV theme the other is humming. Great stuff, and it feels like it must have been at least partially improvised by Brooks and Akyroyd. Lines like "It sounds like it was on CBS" are just too Albert not to have come from him. This lasts until they get to the old "Twilight Zone" theme and an argument over which episode was from that series or "The Outer Limits". And that’s before Aykroyd's passenger asks if he wants to see something REALLY scary.

He also plays a supporting role in the re-make of Preston Sturges’ Unfaithfully Yours (1984 – Howard Zieff), with Dudley Moore, Nastassja Kinski and Armand Assante filling the immortal roles played by Rex Harrison, Linda Darnell and Kurt Kreuger. Albert plays the equivalent of the Rudy Vallee character. It’s not horrible for a re-make, but totally unnecessary, and doesn’t come close to the perfection of the 1948 original. Albert also has a trivia question of a vocal cameo in James L. Brooks’ first feature, Terms of Endearment (1983). He is only heard off-camera in the very opening of the movie, as the husband of Shirley MacLaine’s Aurora who chides her for being smothering as we see her climb into the crib with her infant daughter. Just a little favor done between friends, and one that would pay huge dividends later.


CONTINUED...
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« Reply #1 on: April 26, 2005, 08:25:51 AM »



Brooks finally gets the financing together for another film of his own, and it’s another great one. Lost in America (1985) is the story of a couple, played by Brooks and Julie Hagerty (Airplane!, What About Bob?) who decide to alter their lifestyle drastically after Brooks is fired/quits in angry disappointment when he is passed-over for a promotion at his advertising firm. Rather than buy the big house they were about to move into, they liquidate all their assets – totaling upwards of $180,000.00, buy an RV motorhome and hit the open highways, intending to drop-out of society and find themselves as they wanted to do as naive idealists in the ‘60s. Brooks' character keeps referring to his inspiration, Easy Rider, and with their giant nestegg of secutiry in tow they travel America. Only things don’t go as planned, due mainly to a gambling addiction he’s not aware that his wife has been keeping from him. Great, great stuff throughout, and Brooks is hysterical, especially in anger after their money is all gone ("give or take a thousand") and trying to coinvince the casino manager he should give them all their money back. While not a hit either, it does generate a bit more mainstream appeal than Modern Romance, delighting critics and gaining a cult following. No matter what the boxoffice figures may say, both Modern Romance and Lost in America are first-rate and intelligent comedies.



Next after the artistic triumph of Lost in America James L. Brooks really does Albert a favor of a lifetime: he casts him as one of the three principals in his second film, Broadcast News (1987). Very clearly Jim had Albert in mind all along for Aaron Altman, the brilliant but insecure network news reporter who is one point of a romanctic triangle filled out by Holly Hunter’s spirited and insane producer and William Hurt’s dim and incredibly successful camera-ready anchor-to-be. Albert has some of his greatest big screen moments, and the movie is rewarded with a slew of Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actress, Best Actor and one for Albert as Best Supporting Actor. It is the highpoint of his career in the mainstream, though he loses the award to Sean Connery (clearly given some points for career achievement and longevity) in The Untouchables.



Even with that success and the artistic merits of his first three films, Albert still has trouble getting his own films made. He prevails in 1991 with Defending Your Life. Set in the afterlife where each newly dead person must prove their worth to the universe based on their deeds and attitude on earth, on first flush the fantasy seems like a wild departure from his previous entries. But the sharp, subtle and smart comedy is the same, and the same kinds of neurosis are being examined, just through a slightly different vehicle. Meryl Streep co-stars as a fellow dead person he meets during the “trial” process, and a pre-"Larry Sanders Show" Rip Torn steals every scene he's in as Brooks' cosmic defense attorney. Another great, understated comedy, and once again it makes almost no dent at the boxoffice, though it is far and away the most successful of his self-directed films to that point.
 


He also re-teames with pal James L. Brooks a few times by lending his vocal talents to "The Simpsons". He joined in the fun right away on two episodes in the first season: a small cameo as the RV salesman (an allusion to Lost in America) in "The Call of the Simpsons", and more prominently the lecherous Jacques, the French bowling instructor tempting Marge in "Life on the Fast Lane". He's had a couple more cameos over the series' long run, but his crowning achievement is as Hank Scorpio in "You Only Move Twice" from the eighth season. Scorpio is an incredibly understanding, affable and supportive boss who lures Homer away from Burns' power plant assuming he's knowledgeable about nuclear fission and such. The Simpsons move to a seemingly idyllic private town, and at first it is everything they could have dreamed of and more. But paradise always comes at a price, the main one being that the jovial and casual Hank Scorpio is actually a Bond-type super-villain bent on world domination. Great work by Albert in the episode totally playing against the archetype ("My ass is for sitting, not for kissing", "On your way out, if you want to kill somebody, it would help me a lot", etc.).

Albert also co-stars in Jim Brooks’ third feature, the infamous I’ll Do Anything (1994). After the one-two punch of Terms of Endearment (which won J.L. Brooks Best Director) and Broadcast News, his long awaited next film was looked at with much promise. Set in Hollywood following a struggling, aging actor played by Nick Nolte who’s daughter is unexpectedly made an overnight star, it was originally shot as a Musical, with Albert Brooks co-starring as a Joel Silver-like producer being brought back to earth by Julie Kavner’s character, who is unimpressed by his lifestyle. The movie was finished and in the editing room when Jim Brooks realized he had overreached and the film simply didn’t work as a Musical. He went back and reshot parts of it, eventually releasing it as a non-Musical. I like the movie as is. It’s definitely not on the same level as Broadcast News, but it has a charm to it, some very good performances, and Albert is good stretching a bit to play someone gruffer and suffering from slightly different neurosis than his pervious characters. But the movie is a disaster, financially and critically, I think largely because it was pre-reviewed as a “troubled” production. Check it out sometime, it’s worth a look. Certainly miles better than Jim Brooks’ most recent entry, the shrill and annoying Spanglish. But I digress.

 

After decent work starring in the slightly disappointing The Scout (1994 – Michael Ricthie), Albert gets another of his personal films made in Mother (1996). While it doesn’t have the same consistency and brilliant vision of his second, third and fourth films, Mother is a nice little movie, with a good performance by Debbie Reynolds returning to the screen, and what it has to say about seeing our parents as people rather than our folks is a strong and well defined message. The points of humor that do work best are as good as anything in Albert’s canon, and business-wise it does the best yet of his features – though still next to nothing in Hollywood terms. The wait for his next film is considerably shorter when The Muse is released in 1999. Dabbling with some of the fantasy elements that worked so well in Defending Your Life, Albert returns to the world of Hollywood, this time playing a once successful screenwriter who is being pushed out of the business for supposedly “losing his edge”. Desperate he appeals to his buddy (Jeff Bridges), who has had a string of recent successes. He confides that his secret is that he has hired his own personal Muse – as in one of the nine daughters of Zeus, who has inspired him and given his career a creative burst. Brooks’ character is skeptical, but agrees to try anything. The Muse is embodied as Sharon Stone, and before she can get to inspiring him he has to shower her with the expensive gifts she is accustomed. Again the movie mostly works and has moments of brilliance sprinkled throughout, including some more nice little digs at the Hollywood system, but it simply isn’t the same level of quality as his earlier pictures. One of the mini-highlights is Martin Scorsese appearing as a fast-talking parody of himself (obviously in gratitude for Albert’s work on Taxi Driver), seeking the guidance of Sharon’s Muse for his rambling ideas. Worth a look, but not before the must-sees of Modern Romance, Lost in America and Defending Your Life.



CONTINUED...
« Last Edit: April 27, 2005, 02:50:27 AM by Holden Pike » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: April 26, 2005, 08:26:22 AM »

In the few years in between those two films Albert worked as an actor-for-hire a couple times. He’s very funny and almost unrecognizable under heavy age make-up in Sidney Lumet’s uneven but interesting medical satire Critical Care (1997), starring James Spader as a young doctor facing a few crises of conscience. The movie got almost zero distribution, and while it’s not going to challenge Paddy Chayefsky’s The Hospital (1971) for sharp satire, it’s a decent little flick, and Albert is hysterical in his cameo. Much more visibly, Albert has a terrific supporting role in Steven Soderbergh’s Elmore Leonard piece Out of Sight (1998), as an unscrupulous business man befriended by George Clooney’s career criminal in the joint. He’s only got a few scenes of any meat, but when he’s let loose Albert is still able to bring the laughs.



In this century so far he has only appeared in other filmmakers’ projects. He’s quite good with a layered dramatic performance in Christine Lahti’s directorial debut My First Mister (2001), as a sadsack manager of a Mall clothing store who becomes involved with a troubled young girl played by Leelee Sobieski. Not exactly groundbreaking stuff, and the film was hurt by coming out around the same time as the similarly themed Ghost World (2000), but it’s sincere and Brooks is strong stretching dramatically. 2003 saw his most high-profile role in years with the tepid reworking of The In-Laws (2003 – Andrew Fleming), with Brooks and Michael Douglas filling the roles so indelibly created by Alan Arkin and Peter Falk in the much better 1980 original. But Brooks does still prove he has comedic chops, and despite the tired goings on manages to wring some genuine laughter from the material. And though only involved as a vocal talent, Albert is attached to a bonafide blockbuster when he gives life to the animated Marlin the clownfish in Pixar’s Finding Nemo (2003). The millions of children who enjoyed the movie and will continue to enjoy it for generations will have no idea that the voice of that fish is a brilliant comedic mind of his own. The banter between Brooks’ Marlin and Ellen DeGeneres’ forgetful Dory is the spine of the film.

After all these years Albert is finally back behind the camera in an as yet untitled project that should be in theaters the second half of this year. I know nothing about it, other than he is once again star/writer/director and it was filmed in Los Angeles, California and New Dehli, India. I’m a fan of his for life, so I can hardly wait to see what he’s done this time.
« Last Edit: August 16, 2006, 08:12:56 PM by Holden Pike » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: April 26, 2005, 09:32:12 AM »

I was lucky enough to catch  Defending Your Life at the cinema and never forgot it. A very funny film...
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« Reply #4 on: April 26, 2005, 09:41:32 AM »

holden did you post somewhere before that his real name was einstein, and what would you recommend as the foirst film to rent to a total brooks newby
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« Reply #5 on: April 26, 2005, 11:01:23 AM »

Holden did you post somewhere before that his real name was Einstein?

Yes. Here are some Albert Brooks trivia nuggets...




Albert Brooks and Bob Einstein (aka "Super Dave" Osborne) are brothers. And yes, that does mean Albert's birth name is Albert Einstein. And yes, his parents did have a sense of humor. Dad was Borscht-Belt comic Harry Parke (aka Parkyakarkus), who literally died on-stage as he had a heart attack on the dias at a Friar's Club roast. This makes a particular line in Defending Your Life extra...funny I suppose. In the afterlife of that world, Brooks' character is at a comedy club, where he meets Meryl Streep. The comedian on-stage is horrible, not getting a laugh even by accident. As he tries working the crowd engaging the recently deceased patrons, he asks Brooks, "So, how did you die?". His reply is a quick, "On stage, like you." Great line in the context of the movie, and a little weird given his father's personal history. But that's Albert's sense of humor for you.

And brother Bob Einstein has a hilarious cameo in Modern Romance as a salesman at a sporting goods store, talking Albert's character into buying hundreds of dollars of new running equipment he doesn't need or want.

There's a Graduate parody in Albert's film Mother, but originally he wasn't able to get the rights to the song "Mrs. Robinson", which he wanted to rework in his film. Friend Carrie Fisher, and daughter of the film's titular star Debbie Reynolds, called her ex-husband Paul Simon and personally pleaded that Albert be allowed to parody the song to his music. Permission was granted, and he was able to use the music for free.

Albert turned down the lead in Rob Reiner's When Harry Met Sally... (1989), which propelled Billy Crystal to superstardom. He thought it was too obviously a take on Woody Allen movies, and a comparison between Brooks and Allen had dogged him his entire career, some critics even labeling him "the West Coast Woody Allen". It was a good move for Billy Crystal anyway.


Quote
What would you recommend as the first film to rent to a total Brooks newby?

I think Modern Romance will be a little tough for most to locate at their local video shops, but Lost in America and Defending Your Life are easier to find and great movies. And if you've never seen Jim Brooks' Broadcast News, that's a must-see too.
« Last Edit: April 27, 2005, 02:46:57 AM by Holden Pike » Logged

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« Reply #6 on: April 26, 2005, 12:22:33 PM »

yeah.. I forgot about Broadcast News. He's great in that..
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« Reply #7 on: April 26, 2005, 08:32:17 PM »

Wow, Holden ... great essay. Thanks for sharing it with us. I have a lot of Brooks catching up to do!
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« Reply #8 on: April 26, 2005, 09:44:53 PM »

Holden, thanks for all the pics and information.  I am going to try to see his movies.  Albert Brooks looks like one funny guy.  Thank you for introducing me to him. O0
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« Reply #9 on: April 28, 2005, 10:21:33 AM »

From Lost in America...


DAVID
Oh, god. I guess this was my fault, that's what I'm thinking.
Maybe I just didn't explain the nestegg well enough? If you
had understood, it's a very sacred thing, the nestegg. And
if you had understood the Nestegg Principle, as we will now
call it in the first of many lectures that you will have to get.
Because if we are ever to acquire another nestegg, we both
have to understand what it means. The egg is a protector,
like a god, and we sit under the nestegg and we are protected
by it. Without it; no protection? You want me to go on? It pours
rain, hey, the rain drops on the egg and falls off the side.
Without the egg; wet, it's over. But you didn't understand it, and
that's why we're where we are.

LINDA
I understood the nestegg.

DAVID
Please do me a favor: don't use the word. You may not use
that word, it's off-limits to you. Only those in this house who
understand "nestegg" may use it. And don't use any part of
it either. Don't use "nest", don't use "egg". If you're out in the
forest you can point, 'That bird lives in a round stick!' And
you have things over easy with toast! Oh, gee. You know what
I'd like to do? I'd like to give you a small punishment before
lunch, and I'd like to have you write a thousand times on the
pavement, "I lost the nestegg"! Come on. "I lost the nestegg".
Say it first, say it five-hundred times. "I lost the nestegg, I lost
the nestegg, I lost the nestegg, I lost the nestegg". I'm startin'
it for you, you jump in anywhere. "I lost the nestegg, I lost the
nestegg, I lost the nestegg, I lost the nestegg, I lost the nestegg,
I lost the nestegg...!"

LINDA
Shut up, the nestegg!



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« Reply #10 on: May 01, 2005, 04:22:51 PM »

And speaking of Albert Brooks as a recurring guest voice on "The Simpsons", he's back on one of the two new episodes premiering tonight (May 1st, 2005). On the 8:30p.m. episode, titled "The Heartbroke Kid", Albert appears vocally as Tab Spangler, the director of a fat farm called Serenity Ranch where Bart is sent after suffering a junk-food-induced heart attack. This is Albert's fifth time on the show, and his first return since the peerless Hank Scorpio of "You Only Move Twice" back in 1996.
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« Reply #11 on: November 19, 2005, 01:49:43 AM »

Oh, my goodness. Albert Brooks is SO back at the very top of his game. Here's the first trailer for Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World...

http://www.comingsoon.net/films.php?id=10398 




And here's a story from about a couple months ago when it looked like the future of the movie itself may be in jeopardy after Sony backed out of the distribution deal. But the appearance of the trailer, with the original title now carrying the Warners Independent tag, looks like everything worked out for the best. Thank goodness....


Quote
Studio sees no humor in 'Muslim'[/font]
Albert Brooks seeks other distribution for new film[/font]

Thursday, September 29, 2005

LOS ANGELES, California (Reuters) -- Comedian Albert Brooks says a very unfunny thing happened on his way to making a new film called Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World -- the studio panicked over the title.

Brooks says the studio -- Sony -- got so worried the comedy's title, with its use of the word Muslim, might bring reprisals that it decided not to release the picture. That forced the comedian to find a new distributor for a movie that pokes fun at American ignorance of the Muslim world.

"Fear is playing a major part in Hollywood production," Brooks said in an interview, adding he started getting bad vibes when the studio "jokingly" asked him if the movie could be called Looking for Comedy.

He said the suggestion came after Newsweek triggered a storm in May by publishing a short item that a Koran was flushed down a toilet by guards at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The magazine later retracted the article, saying it could not substantiate the report.

Sony said doubts about the title were only part of much larger problems. Sources close to the company said executives did not find the movie funny and passed on it.

Sony, which is owned by Sony Corp., said in a statement, "To those looking for truth in this manufactured controversy, here it is: We made our decision to pass on Brooks' movie the same way we did to accept Fahrenheit 9/11 -- on the merits, with neither fear nor favor."

Brooks is an old hand at making sweetly satiric comedies like The Muse, Modern Romance and Lost in America that poke fun at himself, his anxieties and the narcissistic show-business world he inhabits.

In Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World he plays a comedian sent by the State Department to India and Pakistan with a couple of minders to find out what makes Muslims laugh, so everyone can get along better in the post-9/11 world.

He says he got the idea before U.S. President George W. Bush appointed close adviser Karen Hughes to be undersecretary of state for public diplomacy charged with countering the negative U.S. image among Muslims.

Brooks says most of the jokes in the movie are aimed at Americans and there are no religious references at all, even though he was allowed to film in a mosque in India.

"I steered clear of religion in this movie. There's no mention of the Koran -- the whole point of the movie is looking for comedy, not looking for God. I was allowed to film in the biggest mosque in India and when I told the imam the plot of the movie he started to laugh."

Brooks added studio executives at Sony were not as supportive as the imam. "One told me that if a mullah in Iran saw a poster for the movie and took it the wrong way, I could be in deep trouble. I told him that I have trouble getting posters put up for my movies in Sherman Oaks," a Los Angeles suburb.

The film will now be distributed by Warner Independent, the art-house unit of Warner Brothers, with a January release date. It says it likes the title because it tells the story of the film and is funny.
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« Reply #12 on: November 19, 2005, 01:50:12 AM »



Looks like Januray 20th is official release date for Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World, though it'll be opening in limited markets and expanding slowly.

And great news: Sony may have dumped Muslim World like hot nan, but they have finally gotten around to releasing the one Albert Brooks movie to DVD that wasn't yet available: January 24th, 2006 will see the R1 DVD of Modern Romance.

This one is my favorite. No word on specs yet, but at the very least it should be presented letterboxed (the old LD wasn't).

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« Reply #13 on: January 20, 2006, 10:54:17 AM »


Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World[/font]

After the one false note in his filmography as a director (namely The Muse), Brooks returns to what he does best: self deprication and the annoyances of human nature. Like his first film Real Life, Albert plays himself. The movie begins with poking holes at the state of his own career as he meets with Penny Marshall in hopes of securing the lead in a re-make of Harvey. But that disappoinment is soon negated as he is invited by the U.S. State Department to a special meeting in Washington, D.C. Seems there is a small Presidential commission, chaired by Fred Dalton Thompson (United States Senator, Die Hard 2, "Law & Order") that wants to tackle the issue of our basic misunderstanding of the Muslim population of the world with something other than are usual techniques of "spying and war". No, this time the U.S. Goverment wants to know what makes the Muslims laugh. Perhaps humor can be a common language for both cultures? Charged with this task, Albert (the best-respected American comedian the commission could get a meeting with) is sent to India and Pakistan for one month to research and complie a five-hundred-page report.

Wonderfully filmed on location in New Delhi, what follows is Albert's wry, deadpan sensibilty as he awkwardly tries to connect to the common Indian or Pakistani with his humor - a humor which, quite frankly, the majority of Americans don't really "get" either. Which is one of the central jokes of the movie. Fairly early on there's a comedy concert Albert puts on for his research where he does a few of his classic routines from the '60s and '70s, including his brilliant "Danny" the Dummy and Improvisation Blackboard. But these are routines that, when they work at all, only work if the audience is already familiar with ventriloquists and comedy improvs. "Ed Sullivan" or "Tonight Show" audiences generally are. A school auditorium outside of New Delhi filled with random residents induced to a free show by a flier...not so much.

As always, many of the highlights are hard to describe; subtle facial expressions or line infelctions that slay me. As a fan I felt this was a great showcase for what Albert does best. But because there's a lot of self-referencial stuff going on, probably not the best place to start in his filmography for the uninitiated. It doesn't quite have the narrative throughline strength that his best movies do, but it's darn good, and for any fans out there this is a must-see.


So this is how I'd grade and rank his filmography to date...

1. Modern Romance[/b][/size][/color][/font]
GRADE:[/font] A
2. Lost in America[/b][/size][/font]
GRADE:[/font] A-
3. Defending Your Life[/b][/size][/color][/font]
GRADE:[/font] A-
4. Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World[/b][/size][/color][/font]
GRADE:[/font] B+
5. Mother[/b][/size][/color][/font]
GRADE:[/font] B
6. Real Life[/b][/size][/color][/font]
GRADE:[/font] B
7. The Muse[/b][/size][/color][/font]
GRADE:[/font] C+

« Last Edit: January 21, 2006, 09:06:15 AM by Holden Pike » Logged

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« Reply #14 on: January 25, 2006, 10:31:48 AM »

Albert Brooks is sort of tangentially in The Aristocrats....on DVD anyway.

Albert is one of the few living comedians who doesn't participate in the 2005 documentary The Aristocrats (see my original review of the movie HERE). A few dozen others do, and one of them is Kevin Pollak. Pollak is a stand-up turned actor who most of you probably recognize. His best-known role may be as one of The Usual Suspects, but he's been in lots of movies of varying quality including Avalon, L.A. Story, Willow, A Few Good Men, Grumpy Old Men, Casino, The Whole Nine Yards and Hostage, to give but a sampling. But before his acting career took off, he was a terrific full-time stand-up. I've seen him live a couple times, and he's hysterical.


In The Aristocrats he performs the infamous joke, a joke that is retold about two-hundred ways in the movie, as Christopher Walken. Pollak's Walken impression is good, and it is part of his act. But everybody, including Kevin, knows Jay Mohr is the first comic to do the Walken impression, and Pollak's is really just Mohr's impression (and Jay does it better). Kind of the way that after Dana Carvey did Geroge H. Bush on "SNL" and ever since then every single person who has done an impression of the former President simply does an impression of Dana Carvey doing Bush, it's the same thing with Mohr's Walken. But Kevin does it well enough, and in The Aristocrats it's definitely funny.

HOWEVER, as a Kevin Pollak fan I know he has a few other impressions which are not only much better and flawless, but are all his and his alone. His very best impression is Alan Arkin. He can do a flat-out PERFECT impression of Alan Arkin. Truly. He does it so well he's even fooled Alan Arkin himself with it (long story - go see Pollak on stage in a club to hear the details). His second-best impression is Albert Brooks. Pollak does a great Albert. Both of these impressions are pretty specialized obviously, but if you're a fan of either Arkin or Brooks they are a magnificent thing to behold.

Which finally brings me back to The Aristocrats. On the R1 DVD, among the numerous special features are outtakes of many of the comedians from their taping sessions. Included there is Kevin Pollak doing The Aristocrats joke as Albert Brooks. Very, very funny. I know why the directors (Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette) decided to use the Chris Walken for the film, as certainly more casual and younger audiences will identify Mr. Walken waaaaaay before they'd even know who Albert Brooks is, much less whether or not it's a good impression. But thankfully being comedians themselves, they did include Kevin's Albert - which is a comedian's comedian kind of appreciation if ever there was one, as a DVD extra feature.

After he's done with the joke as Albert, Kevin Pollak laments that he is conflicted about doing Brooks because he finds himself at his funniest and can most easily improvise when he's deep in that impression.
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« Reply #15 on: May 22, 2006, 09:54:51 PM »

Yippee! Well, yippee for me, anyway...

Quote from: DVD TImes
Warner Home Video have announced the Region 1 DVD release of Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World for 29th August 2006 priced at $27.95 SRP. Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World is the story of what happens when the U.S. Government sends comedian Albert Brooks to India and Pakistan to find out what makes the over 300 million Muslims in the region laugh. Brooks, accompanied by two state department handlers and his trusted assistant, goes on a journey that takes him from a concert stage in New Delhi, to the Taj Mahal, to a secret location in the mountains of Pakistan. Written and directed by Albert Brooks, Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World is a funny and insightful look at some of the issues we are dealing with in a post-9/11 world. The comedy also stars Sheetal Sheth, John Carroll Lynch, Jon Tenney, and Fred Dalton Thompson.

Features include:
  • Anamorphic Widescreen
  • English DD5.1 Surround
  • English, French & Spanish subtitles
  • Additional Scenes
  • Trailer



http://www.dvdtimes.co.uk/content.php?contentid=61512
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« Reply #16 on: August 16, 2006, 08:13:46 PM »



By the by, the eighth season of "The Simpsons" was released on R1 DVD this week. That's the season that holds the episode "You Only Move Twice", with Albert providing the guest voice of Hank Scorpio, affable and generous boss to Homer, evil genius bent on world domination to the rest of us. Unfortunately Brooks doesn't particpate in the extras, but on the audio commentary track the writers, producers, director and actor who are there are all in awe of Albert's improv abilities. Most of the great lines that made it to the show were not scripted but came from Al, and he gave them a couple hour's worth of material to choose from.


And also a reminder that Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World gets its release in a couple weeks.

« Last Edit: August 17, 2006, 04:18:09 AM by Holden Pike » Logged

"We're not gonna get rid of anybody. We're gonna stick together, just like it used to be. When you side with a man you stay with him, and if you can't do that you're like some animal, you're finished. We're all finished."
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