Friday, May 8, 2009

Friday's Featured Film - 5/8/09

New movies are usually released to theaters every Friday, but who’s got 10 bucks these days to drop on a movie that may well be a load of crap? Given those odds, each Friday I offer an alternative on DVD that you can rent at your local video store (or in some cases, avoid at all costs). Some will be new releases, others you may have to hunt for, but all of them are available to light up your small screen should it be a lazy Friday night.

A Mighty Wind

I'm a huge fan of Christopher Guest and company's series of "mockumentaries." For those of you who haven't seen the likes of Best in Show and Waiting For Guffman, Guest and a group of actors including Eugene Levy, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Fred Willard, Catherine O'Hara, Parker Posey, John Michael Higgins, Jennifer Coolidge, and others collabortae on largely improvised fake documentaries exploring an eccentric array of characters. A Mighty Wind, released in 2003, is their send-up of folk music - with all music written and performed by the cast. It's a favorite of mine, but it had been years since I'd seen it until Heather and I watched it with a couple friends last weekend. To put it simply, it was even funnier than I'd remembered.

The movie is set in motion with the death of legendary folk music producer Irving Steinbloom. As a tribute, his children arrange a concert that will reunite three of Steinbloom's most famous groups. There's the Folksmen (a Kingston Trio-type group), The New Main Street Singers (a clean-cut, color coordinated nuftet), and Mitch & Mickey (the romantic darlings of the folk-music world). The cameras follow the bands as they prepare for the concert, reflect on the past, and renew lost relationships.

The hilarity of Guest's movies often comes from just how real, yet at the same time ridiculous, the characters are. Everybody perfectly toes the line that divides silliness from sincerity, and the results are a moving that is incredibly funny but also surprisingly touching. The music is incredibly well done (I dare you to watch this film and not end up with at least one song stuck in your head for days), with irony and subtle humor sprinkled throughout. Most of the dialogue is improvised (Guest and Levy sketched out characters and a general outline and left the rest to their actors), giving the movie an incredibly real feel. Much like Rob Reiner's This Is Spinal Tap (and by the way, The Folksmen are portrayed by the same Spinal Tap trio of McKean, Guest, and Shearer), if you were to stumble upon this unknowingly you'd almost believe you were watching a real, if strange, documentary. It's a difficult movie to explain, and it may not be everybody's cup-o-tea, but I'd encourage you to give this one a shot this weekend. - **** (out of 4)

A Mighty wind is rated PG-13 for sex-related humor.

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