47 posts categorized "Black Comedy"

February 13, 2017


Eating RaoulWriter/director Paul Bartell plays a (possibly closeted gay) L.A. wine collector with plans to open a restaurant with his hot-to-trot nurse wife (Mary Waronov). The platonic pair blunders into an unusual way of capitalizing on the early '80s swinging lifestyle of copious sex and drugs when they run BDSM ads in the local smut rag to attract wealthy perverts that they murder for their cash and cars. Cannibalism beckons.

“Eating Raoul” is an hilarious black comedy loaded with transgressive elements — Nazi-themed BDSM sessions, you bet. Paul Bartell is clearly cut from the same weird wood as John Waters. The vibe here is identical to "Serial Mom." What fun.

Who is "Raoul," and does he get consumed, you might ask. Well, you've got to watch the movie to find out the answer to that little buried lede. 

Made on a non-existent budget, here is a kick right in Hollywood’s bloated butt. There is noting politically correct about this comedy, and that’s exactly why you should watch it right this minute, that and because Mary Waronov is out of this world.


Rated R. 90 mins. (A-) (Four stars — out of five / no halves)

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January 08, 2017


Zero MotivationTalya Lavie’s 2014 black comedy, about a woman’s place in the Israeli Army, plays like a cross between “Reform School Girls” and “Catch 22.” Lavie skewers religious and military indoctrination in the context of psychological and physical abuses levied against female soldiers by male and female officers alike.

Writer-director Lavie takes inspiration from Jean Vigo's once banned 1933 film Zero For Conduct, about bourgeoning rebellion in an all boys boarding school, to transpose a narrative drawn from her experiences serving in the Israel Defense Forces. Although this movie might play as light comedy to Israeli audiences, the film echoes systemic abuses of female soldiers in the American military where rape is a common occurrence.


When our rebellious heroine soldier Zohar (Dana Ivgy) attempts to lose her virginity to a fellow soldier, she requests that he “be more gentle.” His callous response, “I’m combat, baby” speaks volumes about the sexist effect of his military training. Zero Motivation is a troubling movie in spite of its primarily comedic tone.

"War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing." —Edwin Starr

Zero Motivation

Not Rated. 97 mins. (B) (Three stars — out of five / no halves)

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April 30, 2016


The PlayerRobert Altman is the undisputed champion of multiple characters. No other filmmaker in history even comes close to juggling so many characters, and extracting so much personality from each one. Every Robert Altman film is akin to watching a perfectly devised kaleidoscope of unique motivations, behaviors, and character traits.

Altman opens the film with a virtuosic tracking shot to rival Orson Welles’s “Touch of Evil,” in which characters reference the cinematic technique. This is sly stuff. The movie could have been called “Hollywood Eats Itself.”

So it is in “The Player” (released in 1992) that Altman roasts the Hollywood system with loving authority. The story revolves around a Hollywood studio whose insipid motto is “Movies Now More Than Ever.”

You couldn’t ask for a more rollicking black comedy. Michael Tolkin’s screenplay (based on his own novel) gives Altman all the narrative ammunition he needs to take trick shots at Hollywood’s kneejerk money-pandering system that [currently] trades exclusively in superheroes and sequels.

Tim Robbins is perfectly cast as Griffin Mill, a slick Hollywood studio producer and narcissistic sociopath if ever there was. He’s in danger of losing his embarrassingly high-paying job to Peter Gallagher’s up-and-comer Larry Levy. He has other problems too.

Tim Robbins

Griffin gets pitched thousands of movie ideas every year. Of the 50,000 scripts that get submitted, only 12 get made into films. He makes 125 phone calls a day. If that number drops to 100 Griffin isn’t doing his job, which obviously requires him to say ‘no’ a lot. Making enemies comes with the territory. A rejected writer sends Griffin a stream of angry postcards that escalate into a direct death threat against the studio vice president.

Griffin is understandably rattled, but thinks he can resolve the matter by tracking down the menacing screenwriter (a man named David Kahane — played by Vincent D’Onofrio) and promising to give his script a shot. However, things don’t go as planned after Griffin discovers Kahane’s location from the writer’s artistically inclined girlfriend. Naturally, Kahane is in Pasadena for a screening of Vittorio De Sica’s “The Bicycle Thief.”

Tim Robbins

Here is a film-lovers’ movie that serves as a hilarious time capsule of early ‘90s Hollywood culture of conspicuous consumption. Garish ties, pastel-colored shirts, and double-breasted suits proliferate smoggy Los Angeles. The movie also serves as a who’s who of the era’s celebrities. It seems like every actor living in L.A. is in the movie. I’m certain there isn’t another movie in the history of Hollywood with more cameos. Everyone from Burt Reynolds, Rod Steiger, Lily Tomlin, and Bruce Willis to Julia Roberts, Gary Busey, Cher, and John Cusack show up on screen. The supporting cast is even more impressive. Richard E. Grant, Peter Gallagher, Lyle Lovett, Gina Gershon, and Fred Ward each make indelible impressions.

“The Player” was an instant classic when it was released, and it stands up to close scrutiny. There’s a dark joy in the film that is just so much fun to revel in. Robert Altman was a trenchant satirist of American culture, and a truly gifted storyteller. Both traits are on full display here. 


Rated R. 124 mins. (A+) (Five Stars — out of five / no halves.

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