Happy Halloween! A Zombie Film Excerpt

Happy Halloween! As the new season of The Walking Dead is going strong, we’ve decided to celebrate by giving you an excerpt from The Zombie Film!

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One of the highest rated shows on television, cable or broadcast, The Walking Dead is adapted from the popular graphic novel of the same name and with the same set-up: Rick Grimes is a former cop who has been in a coma for several months after being shot while on duty. When he wakes, he discovers that the world has been taken over by zombies and that he seems to be the only person still alive. Returning home to discover his wife and son missing, he heads for Atlanta to search for his family.

By the end of its third year episodes, The Walking Dead had refocused on the same ironies Romero had suggested in 1968. The core group of survivors, with whom the audience had traveled through zombie land for two seasons, WDhas taken refuge in a prison guarded by implacable ghouls. It’s a bit larger than the farmhouse in Night of the
Living Dead but the emotional situation and the bickering amongst themselves is much the same. What’s more their main conflict is no longer with the “walkers” or “biters” but another, larger group of humans ensconced in a fortified town, who are more numerous, better armed, and lead by a sociopathic control freak that needs to kill them so that he can continue to rule his little world unchallenged. While that character may not yet have become Dennis Hopper’s Kaufman in Land of the Dead, he is getting close.

Zombie Apocalypse (2010), Zombie Apocalypse (the television movie), and Zombie Apocalypse: Redemption (both 2011) reflect and exploit the growing millennial anxiety around an increasingly dangerous world and the fascination with zombies on the Internet as well as in the news. All three rely heavily on the same low-budget rendering of a dystopic future, the zombie world established from Night of the Living Dead through 28 Days Later in which humans are outnumbered by zombies and in a continual state of anxiety and outright combat, much like the “war against terrorism.” In a period context, Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies (2012) hoped to coat tail on the success of the bigger-budgeted Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter in the same year. Unfortunately neither met with either critical or financial success.

Even as a spate of ultra-low-budget projects over the last decade have infested the genre (and our Filmography) as thoroughly as the aimless hordes in The Walking Dead have overrun the Deep South, some filmmakers have found an alternative to the standard “don’t get bitten before you shoot those snarling zombies in the head” scenarios without needing a lot more money.

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Interview with Ryan Finnigan

The Room: The Definitive Guide author Ryan Finnigan was interviewed by Rob Aldan of Backseat Mafia about his organization, The Five and Dime Picture Show, and his new book!

If you don’t know, The Five and Dime Picture Show takes place every few weeks at The Film Unit in Sheffield University. It specializes in screening cult and unusual films at affordable prices.

Read the rest of the interview HERE.

How did Five and Dime come into existence?

00127688In a pretty convoluted way… Matt and I met at the Lantern Theatre some time ago, I wrote a short film and we needed a theatre location and ended up shooting there, with Matt hosting and providing technical support. At that point, I had been shopping around a cult film night idea unsuccessfully to some local cinemas, I found out that Matt was screening some films at the Lantern including The Room and so I harassed him by e-mail into letting me get involved, although it eventually just faded out… we met again by chance when I was looking at putting together a film show with Adam Batty (of Hope Lies… ) and eventually, we resurrected the idea of working a film night together and wound up meeting with Richard Clesham, then of Film Unit, to pitch our idea to their committee… and the rest is history.

Have cult films always been a passion of yours?

I think both Matt and I have long been attracted to anything off-the-beaten track, which probably comes from each of us having seen so many films over the years. It’s refreshing to see anything “weird” or challenging. Personally, I’ve also found something quite thrilling about finding something obscure or outrageous and I think once you find other people who are like-minded, discovering oddities and sharing them has an almost addictive, competitive element akin to treasure-hunting and the more people you introduce it to, the better.

Was there one film that started it all off?

I don’t especially remember one title, but more of a feeling. I was and still am a night owl and as a teenager, late night TV discoveries were particularly influential. I vividly remember seeing late night screenings of both Videodrome and Evil Dead 2, which were so unexpected and thrilling in different ways, that they remain two of my very favourite films. Channel 4 was particularly excellent in my youth and their weekly double-bill of Troma’s Edge TV followed by a Troma film had a big impact on my passion for the independent film world and cult-trash, and with titles like Chopper Chicks in Zombie Town and A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell, it was hard not to love the cut of their jib as a teenage boy. Aside from that, buying and collecting VHS and swapping them with friends was a big thing – I particularly remember the early Peter Jackson films like Bad Taste and Braindead, as well as more widely-respected titles like Leon and Blade Runner doing the rounds.

You have your third annual screening of The Room. Why is it clearly so close to your heart?

It’s completely unique. There is nothing at all like the experience of both the film and the screening environment – there’s so much energy in the room. Pun intended. We’re both ex-film students and I think for me, there’s something rebellious about The Room. Not only does it break every single rule of filmmaking in 100 minutes but it’s certainly far, far away from silently and academically pondering over say, the Bergman oeuvre and there’s something liberating and curious about interacting with the film, in a way that’s not always the same.

I think it took a while for me to analyse what it is that really motivates my own passion for the film, beyond the fact that it’s absolutely hilarious and a wild ride in company. Essentially, I think it comes down to how touching it is that Tommy Wiseau went to such great, misguided lengths to try and get the world to notice and love him, which I think is in turn both very silly but also incredibly sad. Over time, I think a lot of people find that from their initial reaction of laughing and mocking the Hollywood alien who doesn’t fit the mould, they actually wind up kind of identifying with Wiseau. I’ve definitely seen the film a lot of times and have watched it from a lot of different perspectives, which I can’t say about any other film. Also, I suppose that I just fell completely in love with Tommy and find him fascinating on a day-to-day basis, so I guess his plan worked.

Speaking of which, you’ve written a book about the film. How did that come about?

Well, I’ve been a fan of the film for years now and ahead of our last screening, I became incredibly obsessed with it for a 10th Anniversary feature for my website and contacted cast members and started to do features, with Alan Jones beginning an extensive analysis of the film too and Mute providing some graphics. The enthusiasm never really died down after and was only exacerbated by the release of Greg Sestero’s The Disaster Artist and eventually meeting Tommy and Greg in London, at which point I kind of thought, “what if we compiled all this stuff into some kind of a guide?” So, I pitched it to a handful of publishers on a whim and found myself in negotiations to produce it within a couple of days.

What can fans expect to see in “The Room: The Definitive Guide”?

A lot of our collective blood, sweat and tears! Seriously though, it’s a comedic reference guide to the film and the Room/Tommy Wiseau phenomenon. I essentially contacted as many people from or involved with the film as possible and interviewed them, from cast members to celebrity fans and the people screening the film, there’s people involved from all over the world.

The book is in three parts and opens as a guide for people who have never seen the film with guest chapters from Juliette Danielle (Lisa in The Room), Michael Rousselet (the inventor of spoon-throwing), Steve Heisler (The A.V. Club/Rolling Stone) and James Durkin (the guy who introduced me to the film). Part Two is interviews with cast members and an extensive, hilarious analysis of the film by Alan Jones and Part Three covers life after the film and the fan culture that has grown around it, with loads of interviews with notable fans like Paul Scheer (How Did This Get Made?), Payman Benz (Director of the Tommy Wi-Show) and Alison Goertz (Cossbysweater).

On top of that, it’s filled with eye-popping graphics and design from Mute, which really brings it to life. We basically threw in as much fun as we could.

 

Read the rest of the interview HERE.

Saturday Night Live Turns 40

Saturday Night Live will begin its 40th season tomorrow! Saturday Night Live FAQ author Stephen Tropiano tells us all we need to know about the new season.

Saturday Night Live is Turning 40!

Stephen Tropiano

Saturday Night Live’s 40th season begins on September 27th with host Chris Pratt and musical guest Ariana Grande. They are both smart choices for the season opener: Pratt is the star of the summer blockbuster, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Grande’s album, My Everything, debuted last month at #1 on the Billboard Chart. Pratt and Grande will be followed by two former SNL cast members: Sarah Silverman with musical guest Maroon 5 (October 4), and Bill Hader with Hozier (October 11). This is Silverman’s first appearance on SNL since her short stint as a cast member in Season 19 (1993-1994). Hader is a veteran cast member (Seasons 31-38, 2005-2013) currently co-starring with fellow SNL vet Kristin Wiig in The Skeleton Twins.

As expected, some cast changes and shuffling occurred at SNL over the summer.

  • Nasim Pedrad has officially left the show to join the cast of former SNL head writer John Mulaney’s new sitcom, Mulaney. Lorne Michaels is the executive producer, which explains why the Mulaney cast also includes former SNLer Martin Short (Season 10, 1984-1985) as Mulaney’s boss, a legendary comedian turned game show host, and Elliot Gould as Mulaney’s gay neighbor. The first member of SNL’s “Five-Timers Club,” Gould hosted the show five times during Seasons 1-5 (1975-1980) and the season opener for the disastrous Season 6 (11/15/80).
  • Three of the eight-featured players–Noel Wells, John Milhiser, and Brooks Whelan– will not be returning. A fourth, Michael O’Brien, who wrote for the show for four years, will be returning to the writer’s room full time. It’s not entirely clear why Wells, Milhiser, and Whelan’s contracts were not renewed, though it is safe to say that due to lack of airtime, they probably didn’t stand out enough compared to the two returning featured players, Beck Bennett and Kyle Mooney, who, filling the void left by Andy Samberg and his Lonely Island collaborators, showcased his comedic talent in a series of quirky shorts. Bennett and Mooney will be joined by Sasheer Zamata, who debuted in January, and head writer/Weekend Update anchor Colin Jost.
  • Two new feature players, Pete Davidson and Michael Che, will be joining the cast. Twenty-year old Pete Davidson is a young stand-up comic from Staten Island whose credits include Nick Cannon Presents: Wild ‘N Out , the MTV series Guy Code, and an episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Che will take over for Cecily Strong as co-anchor of Weekend Update with Colin Jost, marking the first time the news has been co-anchored by two males. Che, a stand-up comic, was a SNL writer last season and spent the last three months as a contributor to The Daily Show. Apparently Cecily Strong has no hard feelings–hopefully she will return to Weekend Update soon as “The Girl You Wished You Hadn’t Started a Conversation with at a Party.”
  • Darrell Hammond, whose tenure on SNL was the longest in the show’s history (14 seasons, 1995-2009), will be replacing the legendary Don Pardo as the show’s announcer. There is likely to be a tribute to Pardo, who died at the age of 96 this past August, sometime soon. As Hillary Clinton will no doubt be running for President in 2016, Hammond will hopefully also be appearing on-camera as the man who may become America’s “First Gentlemen.

South Park FAQ

New season of South Park starts tonight! Dave Thompson, the author of the South Park FAQ travels through the lives, times, and catastrophes that have established the tiny mountain town of South Park, Colorado, as America’s favorite dysfunctional community. There are few modern animated television shows that could survive over a decade and a half and remain as funny… or as stupid… or as sick… or as depraved… today as when they started. Read an an excerpt below!

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Increasingly, we live in a world where opinion is pinioned by the need not to offend, nor even risk offense, by saying—even lightheartedly— something that someone might feel belittled by. Including people who aren’t actually present when the remark is made.

The soccer manager who told his charges the old joke about a monkey and an astronaut, and was promptly accused of racism by somebody else entirely.

The teen playing a video game who made an off-the-cuff remark about shooting up a school and eating his victims’ hearts. A fellow player over- heard the exchange, and the kid was arrested and threatened with eight years in jail.

The … and so on and so forth. All it takes is one person who doesn’t understand, appreciate, or maybe even acknowledge the existence of humor (however humorless the humor might be), and it doesn’t matter if he is the only person in the world who doesn’t sneak a smirk at the gesture. One complaint is worth a thousand chuckles, and the only positive that comes out of the experience is the possibility that maybe one day, the rest of the world will tire of these petty-minded dictators and start complaining about them instead.

Which is why we love South Park so much.

For there, exaggerated political correctness and microscopically focused nitpickery are already like a red rag to a bull in the eyes of creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

Like Cheesy Poofs to a big-boned eighth grader.

Totalitarianism is totalitarianism, no matter how loudly you condemn the people who actually point that out, which is one of the reasons why South Park has never rested in its campaign to highlight humbuggery wherever it may dwell.

True political correctness means respecting other peoples’ right to say whatever they like, no matter how much it might offend you, because that is the only thing that guarantees your right to say whatever you want to. Chip away at other people’s right, no matter how worthy your intentions may be, simply opens the door for other, perhaps less worthy people to take the process to its logical conclusion and outlaw free speech altogether.

Matt Stone outlined South Park’s approach.

“On one hand, it’s really fun when you flip off the principal and the principal yells at you. But in general, we do the show because we want people to like it. We are entertainers. We’re trying to entertain people. At the same time, we’ve been doing it long enough to realize we’re still not a mainstream show … we’re still on cable, we still consider ourselves an alternative show.” Far more people, he acknowledged, dislike South Park than enjoy it, but unlike most television shows, that was fine. “Twenty percent of people got this joke, and they love us for it, and we’ll piss off the other 80 percent just for them.”

The very best of South Park teases, as well. But it’s a knowing tease, a worthy tease, taunting the viewer with just enough information that you think you know where the story is going … but you cannot believe anybody has the balls to take it there. Again, a lot of the targets are as ephemeral as the headlines they are drawn from, but that is not an issue. The fact that … to draw a cultural irrelevance at random from the stockpile … Honey Boo Boo is even sufficiently well known to be considered a worthy target for the South Park sniper is itself sufficient condemnation of the culture that the show so gleefully ridicules, and of course she is not alone.

To concentrate on South Park’s status as the devourer of worthless worlds, however, is to overlook its other primary purpose, to act as a mirror to what we might call everyday society. South Park itself is Anytown USA, as accurate a reflection of small-town life as any live-action television series has ever mustered, and a lot more honest as well.

 

 

 

 

Women’s Comedic Monologues – Introducing Jenny Yang

And here it is, folks. The last in our monologue series for Women’s Comedic Monologues That Are Actually Funny! Watch Jenny Yang perform her original monologue, “Asian Goggles.”

Be sure to check out more from Jenny at her website  and don’t forget to follow her @jennyyangtv

Women’s Comedic Monologues – Introducing Jessica Glassberg

It’s a whole new week, which means we have a brand new video for Women’s Comedic Monologues That Are Actually Funny! Here is Jessica Glassberg reminiscing about the traumatic days of adolescence in her monologue “Always Awkward.”

 

 

To see more from Jessica, check out her website.

And don’t forget to follow her on twitter!