Tag Archives: richard ayoade

Movie Review: Submarine

I watched this movie for the simple fact that Richard Ayoade, who I have loved since episode 2 of The IT Crowd, wrote and directed it.

It’s a far cry from the occasionally broad comedy of The IT Crowd, and I suspect more accurately reflects Ayoade’s quiet, artistic, erudite roots. He went to Cambridge, after all, and a podcast featuring him that I recently listened to proved he is very reserved, self-deprecating, but also incredibly intelligent and well-spoken (though he mumbles like crazy).  This film sort of reflects that personality. It is smart, it is odd, and I think in ways it would rather be noticed for being odd than being smart. It is sort of a British equivalent of a Wes Anderson film. Odd, endearing, but also in some ways too quirky to take seriously.

The story centers around Oliver Tate, a very strange teenage boy. The two quests he undertakes during the course of the movie are to get Jordana Bevan to love him, and to fix his parent’s marriage. The first quest is threatened by the fact that Jordana is far more popular than him, and she also has a mother sick with cancer. What ends up being the more difficult of the quests is the second. His father is obviously suffering from depression, and his mother ends up giving a hand job to her ex-boyfriend (an incredibly ridiculous mullet-clad martial artist-mystic) in a creepy van.  It’s a weird movie.  But I think that sort of reflects the weirdness and absolute nonsensical nature of adolescence. In the same way that Dali paintings and Alice in Wonderland irk me as an adult, I think they reflect something surrealist and strange about the world before we truly grasp how it works. Some things will always mystify me (mass violence, Yanni fans, people who like roast beef), but when I was younger, I couldn’t do a damn thing right. I remember that feeling, and I think watching Oliver Tate sort of reminds me how truly fucking weird we are as teenagers.  Our actions are truly bizarre because we haven’t really figured out how things work in the world yet. Which is incredibly difficult for the teenager, but also kind of wonderful because for those fleeting years of adolescence you have the capacity to comprehend the world, but also the true ability to be original. You haven’t internalized the rules, yet.

This movie was not a slam dunk, I have to say. It was original, it was interesting, it was visually quirky. But quirkiness for quirkiness’ sake, makes me crazy. It takes place in the ’80s, so I may give it a pass on my usual pet peeve of arty people using 8mm film to record their arty world–when in reality no one uses that stuff anymore.  But each character has a sort of representative color–Jordana wears red always; she has red stationary, a red backpack. Everything is red. It makes her more of a token woman more than a real one. I suppose this reflects Oliver’s ideas about what women should be, more than his capacity to see what they really are. He wants to be the best boyfriend in the world, because of some pre- concieved notion of what that is.  When she really needs him, he’s not there for her. Typical high school boyfriend, yes?

As much as the overly goofy, quirky, parts of the movie irked me slightly, I would take this movie any day of the week over a lot of other slick films about adolescence, like American Pie or Juno (another movie with more quirk than substance, imho). It is at least original, it does have some really nice scenes and some scenes that will make you say WTF?

Another bonus is seeing people like Dave Coaches and Gwen from Gavin and Stacey thrown into the mix. The movie takes place in Wales, so that explains their involvement. Sadly, no one asked ‘what’s occurrin’ for the entire film. Apparently, a lot of the Gavin and Stacey dialect is indigenous only to Barry Island, and looked down upon by other Welsh people. Sad! I think it’s cute. But I digress.

It’s definitely worth watching if you like Wes Anderson stuff, like The Royal Tenenbaums or Rushmore. If you’re more annoyed than me by quirkiness, I’d steer clear. Then again, if you don’t like quirkiness, you might not be drawn to Richard Ayoade’s work in any form.

The IT crowd, Seasons 3 and 4

Well, I’ve finished watching seasons 3 and 4 of The IT Crowd, and I am gutted that it is over! Yes, they’re planning some sort of special sometime in the future, but it’s all so vague that I don’t really think it’s ever going to happen.

To continue my raving review from last week, I must say that this show gets funnier and funnier as the seasons go on.  As a result, the second to last episode of season four was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.  Yes, it’s unsubtle, it’s a bit predictable, but it is so good and the acting is so funny, that I absolutely adore it.

On a side note, I have done a bit of research and find that NBC made a pilot of an American version of this show.  What?  First of all, why do American networks just take shows from England and make them worse, then show them here?  (Have I mentioned, they are making some shite American version of Sherlock where Watson is a woman?) Can anyone think of an example of when we’ve taken a show and made it better? Ever? Secondly, I have learned that Richard Ayoade was still going to play Moss, but Joel McHale was playing Roy?!  what.

Also, as this video shows, just like with the first episode of the US Office,they have taken it scene by scene and recreated it, but worse.  Joel McHale is great at playing an incredibly self-absorbed douche on Community, because it seems believable.  No one believes he would be best friends with Moss, or would work in the basement in IT.  You can’t just slap a goofy t-shirt on him and convince us he’s socially awkward. Not with all that gel in his hair.

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So, pretending that travesty never existed, I return to the purity of the UK version. Season three features some great scenes, including one where Roy and Moss try to hang out with ‘real’ guys by memorizing some football speak from a website called Bluffball, such as “Did you see that ludicrous display last night?” and “The problem with Arsenal is they always think they can walk the ball in”…and the two of them end up aiding and abetting a ring of criminals, after Roy has called the police on those same criminals.  After that, they learn not to try to hang out with normals. Another highlight is Roy and Moss convincing Jen that the internet is this:

After promising to be careful with it, Jen is permitted to take it to give a speech after she wins employee of the month. Jen declares how important and valuable the box is to her audience, stressing the total shutdown of modern society if anything should happen to it. Roy and Moss thinks it’s hilarious, but the audience believes her completely. When the box gets smashed, they panic and start looting the place.

Season four includes an episode where Moss becomes a pseudo-celebrity after appearing on the brainy TV quiz show Countdown, and goes to a special Countdown groupies club. The greatest episode of the season, as I said, is the second to last one, where Roy and Moss skip out of work halfway through the day and Moss goes through a bit of a rebellious phase. Moss steals DVDs, the two attempt to help defuse a bomb, and the entire department is threatened with firings.

 

I am really sad that this show is over just when I discovered it, but that’s not unusual for me. I usually fall in love with things three or four years after they’ve stopped being on the air.  Still…here’s hoping they make that special after all.

TV Review: The IT Crowd, Seasons 1-2

I started watching this with my boyfriend because he is a big computer nerd and heard good things about it  I was unsure at first, because there is a ludicrous laugh track and I hate those on any show.  Technically it’s filmed in front of a studio audience, so it’s not a laugh track but is actual laughter.  Regardless, I hate it.  But, just like with other shows, I have eventually gotten used to it.  Still, I must say I do not comprehend why a laugh track is ever necessary, or why shows should be filmed in front of a studio audience.  What is this, 1950?

Sorry, that was a slight digression.   Anyway!  Sometimes I dislike shows like this because they aren’t…the humor isn’t surprising.  Sometimes I can predict the exact punchline in sitcoms, and I find them less funny because a large part of humor is the unexpected.  The point is that once I got about 5 or 6 episodes into the show, I found myself laughing hysterically at every episode.  The humor isn’t always surprising, but it is all done extremely well.  A lot of what is brilliant about this show is the comedic timing.

The show revolves around two computer nerds in the IT department of a large corporation in London, who get a new manager with zero technological knowledge.

Roy, on the right, is played by Chris O’Dowd, who got pretty famous last year as the Irish cop from Bridesmaids. He plays your typical slacker type, complete with nerdy t-shirts, a bad attitude at work, and general snarkiness.  At the beginning of the show, I imagined he would be my favorite character. This was before I knew how amazing Moss was.

Jen, the girl, is their new tech un-savvy manager, also known as a ‘normal’. She is disappointed to end up in the creepy basement with the creepy nerds.  She thinks she belongs up on the higher floors, where the pretty, successful people are.  Jen is obviously necessary for the show, and she can be quite funny, but she’s just not as interesting to me as the other two.

Then there’s Moss, on the left.  Played by Richard Ayoade, whose name will become more familiar soon, I think.  He directed a movie last year, Submarine, which is supposed to be a really good coming-of-age type film.  I’ve put it on my queue.  Later this year, he is starring in Neighborhood Watch with Ben Stiller, Jonah Hill, and Vince Vaughn.  The film has been pushed back because of the bad associations with the Trayvon Martin case in the news, but I think it is still coming out later this year.  Or maybe they have just pushed back the marketing side of things, I’m not sure.  News sources are a bit vague on what is going to happen in the next few months.  Anyway, I am hoping it will be pretty funny because, and let me be clear on this, this dude deserves to be really famous and really successful.  He is hilarious.  Moss is your typical complete and utter computer nerd.  Very few social skills.  Very few life skills, if it comes to that.  Ultimate example: He accidentally sets the office on fire and then emails the fire department.

The seasons of the show are short, so we watched seasons 1 and 2 in just a manner of days.  They’re both only 6 episodes long.  And now that I’m loving this show so much…I learn that they are not doing another season. Argh.  Season 4 ended last year, I think, and they are doing a special sometime this year, but then that’s it.

Anyway, back to my review! No more tangents.  This isn’t the sort of show with a real plot, so much so that you can watch most of the episodes in the wrong order and it won’t make much difference.  Each one is a stand-alone, and once again this is not something  I really like in shows.  But this show does it so well and makes me laugh so much that it negates all my previous feelings about the traditional ‘sitcom’.

In some ways, it resembles Seinfeld or Curb Your Enthusiasm, etc, because it features people who do one strange thing or tell a lie, and that forces them into stranger and stranger positions to hold up their original lie.  An example:  To avoid a bathroom at a theatre where there is one of those creepy attendants, Roy uses a handicapped bathroom.  He pulls on the cord to flush the toilet and then realizes that the cord is actually an emergency handle.  When stewards rush into the bathroom to help the handicapped person within, he lies on the floor and pretends to be disabled and that someone has stolen his wheelchair.  Moss, also to avoid a creepy bathroom attendant, uses a staff bathroom.  When someone catches him, he claims to be a staff member, and is put to work at the bar.  Here’s some bits from that episode, just the first 3 minutes of the clip.

Another incident involves Jen needing someone to pretend to be her husband to fool old classmates at a reunion.  Roy is busy on a date with someone he doesn’t care for, so she enlists Moss’ help.  Then Roy, wanting to get rid of his terrible date, turns up at the reunion claiming to be Jen’s lover, and the three of them have it out at the reunion in front of everyone.

I am not sure what about this show is so funny.  It has a lot of the qualities that I don’t like in a show, but it also has brilliant acting and timing that is unbeatable.  I find with a lot of British shows like this one, Black Books, and Spaced, I grow more fond of them as the seasons continue.  By the end, I love them, whereas my first impressions aren’t usually great.  So, if you give this one a try, give it at least three episodes to make you laugh.  If you don’t laugh by the point when Moss spreads a rumor throughout the office that Jen has died…then you’re not going to laugh at all.

At the rate I’m going, I expect to finish seasons 3-4 this weekend, so expect yet another blog post discussing the greatness of this show.