Garry Shandling was an innovator who turned a lot of comedy on its ear, but what’s more important to me is the raw, sometimes ugly emotional core of his humor. Fraying anxiety, sizzling jealousy, swampy deposits of depression—all served with flashes of that famous mile-wide grin. We hear Garry could be quite impassioned offstage, in the best and worst senses of that phrase, and that’s no surprise. It’s the nucleus of his work.
I was under ten when “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” was airing, and even though it was difficult to understand what I was watching, I loved tuning in because it was so different. Here’s this quote-unquote sitcom where every plot device and character takes a backseat to Garry’s ongoing conversation with the viewer, a conversation that is basically just, “Wow, look at my show, isn’t it strange?” It’s a minimalist, neurotic “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.” What if your neighbor thought he was on tv all the time but refused to play it up? What if he talked about it like the weather or a bake sale?
Later we got “The Larry Sanders Show,” a transcendent entry, a masterclass of meta comedy streaked with pathos. Garry won an Emmy Award for writing on “Sanders” but he should have received an additional one for acting. When he really wanted to, the guy could get it all into one glance or wordless aside.
Garry pops up in some of the Marvel movies, and that’s deeply satisfying. An entire generation will only know Shandling as the Senator giving Tony Stark what for in Iron Man 2, the same government creep who appears in Captain America 2. I have to admit I was waiting for him to turn to the camera in both films to say, “Can you believe this? Me, a Senator? I know, but listen, there’s some good stuff coming up, so don’t walk out yet.”
I’ll miss the Shand Man. Stormy genius. And funny as hell.
“My dog’s penis tastes bitter. Do you think it’s his diet?”
I checked out that Avengers trailer today because, duh, Captain America + Iron Man + Hulk. One moment in particular caught my eye during the onslaught of action snippets: ScarJo’s Black Widow standing (heroically?) in front of an exploding bus. Despite the massive ball of fire going on directly behind her, the Widow’s hair does not appear to move an inch. I’m glad they’re carrying over the follicle continuity from Iron Man 2. Remember in that movie when Black Widow somehow managed to perfectly crimp her hair in the backseat of a car during a high speed chase? That was amazing. They should make this chick’s super ‘do its own separate hero.
“Thanks for the dead on review. [Captain America] is a clunky film and if you go to my Facebook page you can read a few interviews I’ve done on the making of the film. It’s not pretty…someday I hope to get my director’s cut out there. Anyway, thanks for the review. Enjoyed it!”
– Albert Pyun, director of Captain America, on my review of said film
So far, I have uncovered no evidence to suggest this message came from Chuck Biscuits.
Starring: Matt Salinger, Ronny Cox, Scott Paulin, Ned Beatty
Directed by Albert Pyun
Captain America has always been the other white meat of superheroes, a dashing patriot who only crosses people’s minds when Spider-Man, Superman, and Batman have all gone on vacation. This movie even admits such in its first twenty minutes. One of the scientists working on turning young Steve Rogers into a chemically-enhanced super soldier literally says something like, “He’s no Superman, but Captain America can get the job done.” That’s some cold shit to say right in front of a masked do-gooder. Do you think Batman ever told the second Robin he wasn’t as good as the first Robin? I mean, he wasn’t, but telling him that would only work to demotivate the poor stupid kid.
There’s more embarrassment to come for Cap in this clumsy 1990 outing. Turns out Steve Rogers is directly responsible for the murders of JFK, RFK, and MLK (all because he failed to kill nefarious WWII villain Red Skull, who for some reason is Italian and not German in this movie). On top of that, the government sewed plastic ears onto Steve’s hero hood, and that’s really distracting when he’s trying to stand stoically in beams of light. According to legend, the ear holes originally cut into Matt Salinger’s Captain America hood chaffed the actor’s real ears too much. Poor baby. He’s lucky his dad is JD Salinger, or else they probably just would have let that hood chafe the damn ears right off his head. Michael Keaton doesn’t have a famous daddy, so no one listened when he complained his Batman boots were giving him gout. That’s why he hardly acts any more—Michael Keaton can barely walk.
I’m joking, of course. A lot of critics have dumped on Matt Salinger’s performance as Steve Rogers/Captain America over the years, but I think he does a pretty good job here. Heck, all the actors are alright in Captain America. The real problem is wonky camera work and editing. Half the time, you can’t really tell what’s happening in the action scenes. A lot of pivotal stuff is also merely implied. At the end of the film, we basically have to guess what fate befalls Red Skull’s evil daughter. Does she go flying off a cliff? Does Cap’s famous shield cut her body in half? No one knows, because they don’t show bunk. Of course, the couple times they do bother to show something, like when Captain America is strapped to the rocket that narrowly avoids hitting the White House, it looks about as true to life as your average episode of “Gumby.” So I guess that’s the trade off.
But hey, Darren McGavin is in this flick, and so is the lady who played his wife in A Christmas Story, Melinda Dillon! It’s like a little Christmas Story reunion. At one point, they almost trick you into believing you’re looking at Ralphie from that movie, but it just turns out to be Ned Beatty’s kid (and—surprise, surprise—he’s playing a young Ned Beatty). In the end, you could do a lot worse than Captain America when it comes to comic book entertainment. Of course, I liked Ang Lee’s Hulk, so what the hell do I know?
FINAL SCORE: Two and a half young Ned Beattys (out of four).