Saturday, September 19, 2015

#42Movies, Day 9: That's Funny

To be clear, I mean funny-ha-ha, not funny-strange.

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
Galaxy Quest (1999)

Laugh it up, fuzzball:

Here's why these are both classic comedies: because they work as whole stories. The fact that both trailers give away many of each movie's specific gags doesn't diminish the enjoyment of actually watching them. They're not just frameworks on which to hang a string of jokes; they are deep, insightful satires which have great fondness for the source material they're riffing on.

The James Bond and Star Trek franchises were both very much products of the 1960s. (Galaxy Quest dials its show-within-a-show forward to the 1980s, but I suspect that was mostly for production design reasons—i.e., so the "old" footage wouldn't look too ridiculously cheesy, like some episodes of TOS do now.) And Austin Powers and Galaxy Quest, respectively, have things to say about how those franchises have aged and how they're still relevant in some ways, but very much outmoded in others.

One of my happiest memories is of watching the first Austin Powers movie at home with a group of friends. We literally could not stop laughing at certain points. I very clearly remembering Karin doubled over behind the couch, convulsing with laughter during the bathroom scene ("Who does Number Two work for?!"). Good times, y'all.

The sequels were not nearly as good overall, but they did have their moments. The opening of Goldmember in particular is a brilliant send-up of modern spy movies.

DeeAnn and I saw Galaxy Quest in the theatre on opening day: December 25, 1999. (I don't think we were doing #XmasMovieThon yet, but I could be wrong. Twitter didn't exist yet, so who knows?) It was a perfect Christmas Day movie. I also got to share it with my Clarion West classmates last summer, as part of our impromptu cinematic outreach series, which was great fun. (But Rich Larson still has a lot of catching up to do. STOP WRITING SO MUCH AND WATCH SOME DAMN MOVIES, RICH, GEEZ.)

Sadly, one of my favorite things about GQ is lost in the home video version. The movie actually starts in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, so the entire picture is "windowboxed," but it's not so noticeable in a darkened theatre. It doesn't change to the wider 2:35:1 image until about twenty minutes in, when Tim Allen's character is being transported back to Earth from outer space. The Thermians escort him to a dark room, the lights go out, and then the walls slide apart to reveal a dazzling, full-widescreen view of outer space.

It's a subtle difference, but makes for a glorious effect in the theatre. On home video, the entire film is presented in 2.35:1, and it loses that moment of wonder—you may not have noticed that the picture didn't reach all the way to the edges of the screen before, but at that point you become fully aware of how huge it is. (If I'm ever lucky enough to own a movie theatre, I will screen Galaxy Quest every Christmas Day. BELEE DAT.)

Finally, how excited am I that Galaxy Quest might become an actual television series now? I mean, I'm not holding my breath—"in development" is Hollywood-speak for "somebody might be working on this maybe but nobody else really cares that much"—but Amazon's been pretty aggressive about getting into the content game. Here's hoping they manage to pull off a GQ series that doesn't suck.


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