“The Interview” (2014) dir. Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg, scr. Dan Sterling

You’ve all heard about the controversy surrounding this one ad nauseam, so I’ll cut to the chase … “The Interview” is one of the ballsiest, funniest movies I’ve seen in years and the best satire of American media since Oliver Stone’s “Natural Born Killers.” Having said that, let’s discuss further.

Yes, the premise is tasteless, considering it involves the assassination of a living world leader.  Yes, I would probably be outraged if another country made a similar film about our president.  But the North Korean government is not above parody or satire. If anything, a government that has been as secretive and oppressive and delusional about their world image is begging to be made fun of.

To the filmmaker’s credit, the portrayal of Kim Jong-un in “The Interview” is kinder than any other way he’s been portrayed in the world media, including by the North Korean government itself. The portrayal may not be accurate, but the filmmakers identify a humanity in the North Korean leader that very few have bothered to acknowledge.

“The Interview” is less an attack on North Korea or even Kim Jong-un than on the American media for the degradation of news into infotainment, the hubris of modern-day journalists, and our obsession with celebrity. Yes, there are some crude jokes typical of the Rogen / Goldberg wheelhouse. But there’s far fewer of them than in their other films. “The Interview” isn’t a perfect film, but a lot of the more critical reviews I’ve read miss the mark entirely, coming off more outraged that the likes of Rogen / Goldberg attempted a political satire than by anything in the film itself.

I realize that the controversy over “The Interview”‘s release is going to cause some people to overvalue and undervalue this film. In our current climate, it may be impossible to review it objectively. I’m a fan of Rogen’s / Goldberg’s, but wasn’t expecting a lot given the mixed reviews. However, I’m trusting my gut on this one. This film made me laugh … frequently and very hard. I enjoyed it more than their previous film “This is the End.” “The Interview” may not be “Dr. Strangelove,” but what’s here is extremely funny and smart much of the time.

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Seth Rogen v. Ray Liotta in “Observe and Report” (2009) dir. Jody Hill

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One of the greatest fight scenes in recent film history from Jody Hill’s terminally sick and brilliant comedy “Observe and Report.” Seth Rogen’s mentally ill mall cop does battle with real cop Ray Liotta and several of Ray Liotta’s fellow cops in a fight to the finish … with Queen’s incredibly cool hard rock anthem “The Hero” from the 1980 cheese film classic “Flash Gordon” playing full blast behind the mayhem.

“The 40-Year Old Virgin” (2005) dir/scr. Judd Apatow

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After watching this again recently, I’m happy to report that Judd Apatow’s directorial debut is still as fresh and funny as it was when it was released 8 years ago. Based on a routine that Steve Carrell did back when he was a member of Second City, “The 40-Year Old Virgin” pulls off an extremely tricky balancing act: an extremely raunchy, painfully funny film that also contains a lot of heart. I realize the “raunch with heart” genre has become a cliche unto itself, but Apatow perfected this genre and in my opinion, has a better batting average than most directors.

The scene above is the now-classic scene where Steve Carrell’s 40-year old virgin character tries to fake his way through a bull session with “the guys.” As a late bloomer who suffered through many of these sessions in high school and college, the only thing I can say about this scene is … Carrell’s character pulls it off way better than I ever did. Though I think every guy, regardless of the age they lost their virginity, was in Carrell’s position at some point.   And, this is why the scene is a classic.

As a bonus, I’ve also attached the scene where Carrell’s character attempts a hook-up with an extremely drunk woman he’s met at a bar, played by Apatow’s wife Leslie Mann. According to the DVD commentary, Mann prepared for this role by getting s–tfaced with Seth Rogen and having Rogen videotape her so she could later imitate her drunken self for the film. She said it was one of the most painful things she’s ever witnessed, because before then, she said she was under the delusion she was funny and charming when drunk.

The Oral History of Freaks and Geeks, Vanity Fair, January 2013

www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2013/01/freaks-and-geeks-oral-history?mbid=social_mobile_email

The best TV show about teenagers of all time (and arguably one of the best TV shows about any subject, ever), “Freaks and Geeks” is one of those shows that continues to amaze, even after it was yanked after one season in 2000. If you’ve never seen it, the entire series is available on Netflix Instant and is a must-see. It’s one of the truest and painfully funny things you’ll ever watch. At the link above is a terrific and lengthy oral history of the show from the January 2013 issue of “Vanity Fair.” If you’re a fan of the show, or are fascinated by the severe ups and downs of the creative process in the entertainment industry, check it out.