This isn’t a post about comics, but it’s one about raising awareness of something modestly wonderful, something that people might have no knowledge of. A PSA, if you will. A heads up.
You might have seen a fan-made review of The Phantom Menace that went viral in 2009, in which a serial-killing geriatric deconstructs all the ways the first prequel went horribly wrong. You never saw the mumbling, possibly inebriated Mr. Plinkett on camera — all you saw were clips from the film and some occasional graphics. The infamous Plinkett review let George Lucas’ wildly profitable dud speak for itself. The reason that 70-minute video caught fire instead of getting lost in the incessant din of bitching was that it not only vocalized criticisms that everyone had, but that it did so intelligently, with genuine insights on the craft of storytelling. And there was the biggest reason: it was funny. Roger Ebert once said, referring to the later Plinkett Episode III review, that he “was pretty much sure I didn’t have it with me to endure another review of this one. Mr. Plinkett demonstrates to me that I was mistaken.” I agree wholeheartedly:
[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/AYKYsh8C.x?p=1 width=”500″ height=”433″]
Mr. Plinkett was (and is — there have been more Plinkett reviews of Star Wars and other genre films before and since) a Wisconsin-based filmmaker named Mike Stoklasa. He and his filmmaker partner, Jay Bauman (both pictured at the top of this post), have a company called Red Letter Media, which puts out some really fine web programming. You come for the Plinkett, you stay for the rest.
Over the past three years, RLM has turned out 60 episodes of Half in the Bag, a review program roughly in the style of the classic Siskel and Ebert format, with episodes running from 15 minutes to upwards of an hour. The fictional conceit of the show is that Mike and Jay are two VCR repairmen (from Lightning Fast VCR repair) who scam the dotard Mr. Plinkett, played here by pal Rich Evans (more on him in a moment), by stringing out fixing his machine ad infinitum. The meat of it all is the two of them sitting around on a cheap sitcom set, sucking down beers and deconstructing movies in funny, sometimes profane, always quite intelligent ways. (An aside: Physically, the two of them look like a post-modern, alternate-universe version of Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble. A stretch, granted.) And it’s not just nitpicking that fills out the runtime, though there’s plenty of that. Take their discussion of Star Trek Into Darkness (Evans comes in out of character to join in the discussion):
This isn’t a full episode, but for someone who was intrigued and ultimately disappointed by Prometheus, this is manna — mockery with a point:
There have been oh so many attempts to replicate the winning At the Movies formula, and these two guys come the closest. And it’s on the internet. And it’s free.
The real RLM gem has only come out this last year: The Best of the Worst. Any fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000 knows the value of bad movies, and RLM has devoted 10 episodes thus far to deconstructing three god-awful movies at a pop (often on VHS), with a rotating panel of Mike, Jay and their pals. It’s great, really great — maybe there’s something in the upper-Midwestern air conducive to the ironic enjoyment of terrible motion pictures (MST3K was produced in Minneapolis). The highlights of all installments are clips of the panel watching the movie — which sounds like watching paint dry, but the contagious laughter on hand sucks you in. Seriously, in this episode at 24:30, during the viewing of the Playmate-infused Hard Ticket to Hawaii, I almost died laughing:
The star of these screenings is Evans. He has the laugh of an angel. It’s pure and sylvan. It’s positively elfin. Yes, it’s one that would drive you nuts in a theater, but it’s so unrestrained you can’t resist rolling along with it. Someone made a compilation of his high-pitched belly-laughs from the shows, and it’s glorious:
These guys have been bumping around the internet for a number of years now and have made a name for themselves, but it seems like they should be more popular. I really enjoy much of what they do (the films they make I could care less about), and would like to see them have a few extra views, a few extra clicks. Every little bit helps. RLM has a YouTube page, and their own site has a larger selection of videos, many posted on Blip.tv, a site which (one imagines) gives them a bit more revenue. Check them out. Or not. Whatever.