Two Saturdays, Two Extraordinary Films

The first one, last Saturday, I was waiting for. The Aristocrats is a documentary about perhaps the foulest joke ever told. It's the ultimate in-joke, the joke that comics tell amongst themselves but rarely in front of an audience. The punchline is a throwaway--some of the comics try to justify it in the film, but I suspect even they know they're making excuses for a weak ending, but that's just fluff. The important part of the joke is the journey it takes you on, a journey through the darkest recesses of your unconscious, through the scatalogical into incest, bestiality, and every other possible taboo.

There's a cast of what seems to be thousands--instantly recognizable faces like George Carlin, Penn and Teller (Penn is one of the producers, along with Paul Provenza), Drew Carey, Paul Reiser, Bob Saget--and some you might not know if you don't follow standup closely--Judy Gold, Taylor Negron, David Brenner. There are surprises as well--Carrie Fisher pops up and tells a particularly foul version of it, and includes her mother in the joke, Larry Storch does a fantastic British accent (I didn't know he was still alive) while doing his version, Howie Mandel looks completely different with a shaved head. And Comedy Central does a brisk business with Jon Stewart being interviewed while getting his Daily Show makeup applied, Lewis Black is on there, as is Sarah Silverman, who may turn in the creepiest version of the joke.

My only complaint is that it felt like they tried to get a little too cute with the camera. It wanders a lot, does extreme closeups at times, and the editors do a lot of quick cuts for no apparent reason other than perhaps to add to the nausea you're feeling from hearing about repeated references to shit-eating and dog-fucking.

Yeah, it's plenty gross, and I wouldn't suggest going to see it right after eating, but it is a recording of standup comedy as jazz improvisation--the singer rather than the song--in action. And it is extraordinary to watch.

The other film is The Forty Year Old Virgin, starring Steve Carell. I wasn't so eager to see this one until I read the reviews, and hey, the reviews were right on. Carell is extraordinary in this film, as are his supporting actors and actresses.

I have to admit, I've never been a big Carell fan, but that may be because he's better in large doses than small ones, and this is the first time I've seen him in anything other than a Daily Show bit part, where he is routinely outshined by Stephen Colbert and Rob Corrdry. He becomes this character, he acts through his eyes he's so damn good as this character. His chemistry with Catherine Keener feels genuine, even though the situatiion they're in seems utterly ludicrous.

This film could have gone horribly wrong so many times in so many places, and yet it never does. It is a complete film, in every sense of the word.

And the chest waxing scene will make you piss yourself.

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