Monday Morning Critic – Memorial Day 2010 – Gary Coleman, Dazed and Confused and more!

Every Monday morning, InsidePulse Movies Czar Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings an irreverent and oftentimes hilarious look at pop culture, politics, sports and whatever else comes to mind. And sometimes he writes about movies.

Normally I’d start out with something funny, amusing and/or completely offensive. But this is Memorial Day, so instead I say this:

Have fun, have a good barbeque and remember why we take this day off. If you know someone who’s served in the armed forces, or is currently serving, give them a hug. And pray for everyone in the service, too, who is overseas fighting for and representing this country. Forget politics, et al, for the moment. These guys deserve are undying and unequivocal support no matter what.

Random Thoughts of the Week

With Gary Coleman’s death late last week, and Justin Bieber showing some diva-like behavior, there’s a nice parallel between them that I think that’s fair to explore for actors and musicians alike when it comes to fame: when it comes too soon it’s rare to see it work out.

With actors it’s always amusing because being a good child actor and being a good adult actor are two very different things. Being a good child actor is usually not being completely awful enough to kill a film/television series, be able to deliver a good one liner to please the audience and not be completely fugly. Don’t kid yourself: not all children or babies are beautiful and we need to call it like it is sometimes.

Being a good adult actor is a whole new mess to get into, and making the transition from being a good child actor to being a good adult actor is one 99.9% of child actors can’t do because they’re not very good actors to begin with. Coleman never had to expand his repertoire in the six years he was on Diff’rent Strokes and never had to afterwards, either. All he had to do is give a good one liner, look cute and not burn the set down. So when the show ended he can’t go back and be a child in another family sit-com because he’s too old for it. We’ve seen him grow up on one show and no one wants to see a child actor go through puberty on a separate show. Coleman was not a good actor but with children we overlook huge things when it comes to talent because they’re just that: children.

And the fact that we expect child actors to make that transition is amusing in and of itself. When people get famous in acting they don’t tend to really improve themselves in the ways they do when they’re struggling actors. It’d be rare to see Channing Tatum in an actor’s workshop, honing his craft, because we don’t expect him to take that kind of time out of his schedule. He does have some acting chops but we don’t expect him to stop being famous to start being a world class actor. It’ll either happen via good roles or it won’t. With children starting out with not as much talent, and not being challenged because children’s roles are not exactly super-challenging, any shot at being a talented actor is stopped early on.

We don’t expect much so when a legitimately talented actor like Dakota Fanning or Abigail Breslin (both who happened to be children at the time they come to fame) comes along we’re overflowing with superlatives because we’re used to child actors like Coleman or the kid that destroyed the first Star Wars prequel because of his sheer awfulness. So with kids getting famous, and having the money to make even worse decisions than children can make at that age, is a recipe for failure. It’s shocking that Fanning hasn’t done anything really stupid as of yet in her personal life because she’s been a working actress headlining films for some time now. Child actors destroying their lives is as American as apple pie, it seems, so the ones that don’t destroy their lives with drugs and booze are the exception and not the rule.

The amusing thing about all of this is that with the news cycle accelerating, as is everything else with the advent of the web and television, we’re seeing Justin Bieber’s strictly policed image being slowly shattered not even a year into his ascension into the spotlight. In the last couple months his alleged antics of being a pompous celebrity are coming out en masse. We’re probably six months away from him being caught on videotape trying to buy booze and screaming “Do you know who I am?” on closed circuit television being all over the web.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s DVD – Dazed and Confused

Richard Linklater is an infuriating director. Sometimes he’ll go out and make a masterpiece. Other times he’ll make a clunker. There’s no real in between, it seems. For every A Scanner Darkly, Slacker or Before Sunrise / Before Sunset there’s a Me and Orson Welles, Art School Confidential and Fast Food Nation. In this vein is maybe one of the great teen comedies ever made, Dazed and Confused, a film Quentin f’n Tarantino considers one of the best of all time. So it has a pedigree of some nature as Tarantino genuinely knows and love film.

Following the tale of teenagers in 1976 on the last day of school focusing on Randall ‘Pink’ Floyd (Jason London), star quarterback and friend to seemingly everyone. It’s the last night of school and the social order is changing, with a kegger in the woods the main reward for it all. It’s a wild ride through the mid ‘70s, warts and all.

The thing that stands out about the film is that this is a virtual who’s who of B-level actors in their 30s and 40s at the moment. You have Milla Jovovich, Adam Goldberg, Joey Lauren Adams, Parker Posey and Cole Hauser amongst others. It’s one of those “wow, they were in this movie” kind of films as you look at all the young talent in the film that has now become a large part of Hollywood as character actors, et al. Plus you have a pair of A-listers in Ben Affleck and Matthew McConaughey, who used the film as a springboard to fame.

McConaughey is a young Newman in spirit, at least, as he has that sort of insane coolness only a guy who is insanely cool can be while wearing pink pants and having the worst moustache ever. The fact that he looks so goofy and awful, yet manages to be so insanely cool and fun to watch, is a testament to his ability as an actor. It’s a bit of a shame that he’s coasted on that for so long, not really taking that final step to being the first rate actor he could be (instead of betting money on how quickly he takes his shirt off during a movie). Affleck is an interesting case; he had that special something that you could tell he could be a leading man, even then, but just didn’t have the right role yet to bring it out.

The rest of Dazed and Confused is interesting, to say the least. Why I loved this film because it’s a teen comedy that doesn’t pander towards teens, ala most of the John Hughes films, nor is it insulting like most teen comedies of the past 20 years (outside of Superbad and Sex Drive to a lesser extent). It’s honest and harsh about being a teenager in a way I always wished Hughes’ films really were. And it’s a great film, to boot, as it manages to take a relatively complicated plot and keep it moving, brisk and efficient while also being remarkably funny throughout. It’s ridiculously quotable, as well, and has a nice bit of dramatic tension throughout. Maybe the best rewatchable film I’ve ever seen, as there’s so much you notice the second and third times around that make it so much better.

Highest recommendation possible.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club

Get Him to the Greek – A fat guy (Jonah Hill) has to get Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) from London to L.A in 72 hours.

See It – There’s a reason all the trailers for this film have been awful; because it’s probably so incredibly filthy that all the best parts can’t be shown in theatres. Plus it has Russell Brand back in the role that made him famous, except this time completely out of his mind of drugs and booze.

Killers – Ashton Kutcher is a government assassin. Katherine Heigl is his blushing bride. Wackiness ensues.

Skip It – The poor man’s version of Knight & Day.

Maramduke – A live action version of the comic strip. Owen Wilson is the voice of the dog.

Skip It – Did we really need this? Nope

Splice – A human and animal get mixed. Wackiness ensues.

See It – It has an interesting cast and there usually is one horror film every couple years that doesn’t completely suck. This could be it.

Do you have questions about movies, life, love, or Branigan’s Law? Shoot me an e-mail at and you could be featured in the next “Monday Morning Critic.” Include your name and hometown to improve your odds.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz is bringing his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter. Follow him @MMCritic_Kubryk.

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