Hearkening back to days of yore may be a foolish past-time in your personal life but it’s a worthy endeavor in the realm of cult films and classics. Time is kind to pop culture when its creator cared to preserve its appeal; idiosyncratic characters, universal stories and well-written comedy are the ideal mix for nostalgic indulgence. Be wise, choose something your conscious mind hasn’t registered in recent years in order to experience key moments as if they’re completely new to you. They won’t be but contentment comes from familiarity and we live in the Matrix anyway. (That one isn’t on this list).
My big brother and I adored this in our youth so I was praying for good things. Thankfully, the dumbass duo trope still amuses my adult brain: Garth’s ‘Foxy’ dancing and the Bohemian Rhapsody headbanging scene are still precious. All of the meta jokes in this self-referential comedy will make you chuckle knowingly as you yearn for Mike Myers to break down the fourth wall just one more time. It’s typically clever in having the social commentary exist in undertones that you can feasibly ignore if you’d rather just soak up the obvious stuff, yet we view our two protagonists as anti-heroes for revering self-expression. As such, I newly appreciate Rob Lowe’s nuanced portrayal of the textbook selfish yuppie who tries to capitalise on our protagonists’ romantic dreams. Less exciting is Meatloaf’s brief bouncer cameo as he’s inevitably overshadowed by Alice Cooper rocking up to perform another lyrical shit-show: Feed My Frankenstein to the infamous reception of ‘We are not worthy!’ Humorous ridiculousness.
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
I recently made a most excellent life choice to devour this alongside a beastly curry (chicken Jalfrezi). Whimsical japes include masquerading as medieval knights to re-enact the Luke vs. Darth Vader lightsaber duel. Nearly every adventure they have is typically tame 80s high school hedonism and yet you long to escape your mundane reality in favour of their random expedition. When you realise the similarity between a time-travelling phonebox and the Doctor’s Tardis a smirk will appear on your big, nerdy face. Silly and escapist, their characteristic goofiness is still most quotable. Examples include calling Socrates ‘So-cratz’ and miming air guitar to news of the ‘Iron Maiden’ like it’s a stage invite from Bruce Dickinson. It’s also notably unique in portraying metalheads as cool, laid back people who sometimes look like Keanu Reeves. To my surprise, Rufus was played by satirist George Carlin – a fact my child self didn’t know. Alas, I can now congratulate myself on my reformed historical knowledge like my heroes Bill and Ted.
It’s a rite of passage for every pretentious teen to watch Trainspotting in awe of the brilliant cast, innovative directing and stellar 90s soundtrack. Now you’re older, you may feel like you’ve recovered from your wide-eyed fascination with drug-fueled debauchery and wish not to return to such territory but have faith in its iconic reputation. You will still impulsively rave along with Born Slippy and recoil at the baby scenes in terrible enthusiasm before making a mental note that injecting heroin is clearly just not cricket. Inspiration is a lusted-after feeling and the brazen swagger of Diane is undeniably enviable. Danny Boyle’s low-budget triumph invokes the idea that you could go rogue and successfully film an indie adaptation of a new novel. It just seems likely for you. Besides the sequel, Porno, has a 2016 release date now so if you relive this arguable PSA against compulsively chasing the dragon, you can hype yourself up way ahead of time.
I think I enjoyed Life After Beth. It has no discernible genre; it’s an amalgamation of comedy, horror, drama and rom com that misses the mark on each one. A lot of independent films encounter the same identity crisis, but perhaps there’s little need for a definitive label when the plot centres on relationship exploration and the audience came prepared to meander through a slow-paced story. Sometimes we need a break from formulaic blockbusters to indulge in films demanding our patience unites with our stylistic appreciation for a 90 minute spell, and when Aubrey Plaza stars in a film you’re guaranteed deadpan delivery alongside believable characterisation.
We are introduced to Beth as recently deceased, and soon thereafter she’s reacquainted with Zachery; her boyfriend, in apparent zombie form, although she’s forgotten all about the time she clawed her way out of her own grave. When Joss Whedon dealt Buffy the same fate, he acknowledged the emotional trauma of resurrection by having her endure severe depression until an impromptu singalong eased her despondency. No such emotional intensity is reached in Life After Beth as the frequent tone changes interrupt the poignancy of mourning – for example, the poorly executed joke about Zach ‘fucking’ his dead girlfriend’s scarf. While I admire the brief foray into showing the unorthodox behaviour we might exhibit in our solitude, our voyeurism is soon interrupted by Zach’s pedestrian brother, Kyle, in what attempts to be a comedic moment. The trailer advertised a largely comedic tone but sadly a lot of the jokes are too obvious to invoke a reaction. There are a few subtle laughs to be had, but most of the comedy originates from characters such as Beth’s parents: Geenie and Maury Slocum, who are played by actors with vast improv’ experience (Molly Shannon and John C. Reilly). The only conventionally funny line arrives near the climax of the film: a character says ‘goodbye’ before intending harm and the other replies ‘where are you going?’ in a classic case of misunderstanding.
The dialogue is neither fantastic nor terrible, so the high-calibre cast reconcile the banal script. Matthew Gray Gubler is fascinating to watch in the role of gun-obsessed security officer Kyle, due to his earnest demeanour and excessively masculine mannerisms. Mid-way through, Aubrey Plaza’s real-life best friend Anna Kendrick shows up as childhood friend – film code for ‘potential love interest’ – Erica, to add another light-hearted dimension to the slightly tedious dynamic of Beth and Zach’s love affair; the cast get it right.
The script may lack originality, but the concept doesn’t. Plus, it’s a good first attempt from Jeff Beana at writing and directing independently. The film relaxes and hooks you to a certain extent, provided you don’t analyse the absurdity of sudden plot acceleration or watch with friends; it’s definitely a film best enjoyed alone. Hardly high praise, I know, but if you enjoy films that are a little imperfect and require some scouting for the hidden gem within, it could be worth your time.
Erratically paced and tonally imbalanced, watch Life After Beth if you’re a fan of Aubrey Plaza, study films professionally or need to zone out for an hour or so.
As the flippant title of her stand-up show suggests, Jen Kirkman isn’t afraid to get real with you. She speaks candidly about topics such as sexuality, married life, divorce, age, masturbation etc. with a clear foundation of autobiography. Anecdotes in comedy can border on boring when a comedian doesn’t know which bits to cut, but Kirkman’s delivery is concise and acerbic with frequent pay-offs. Plus, there’s nothing affected about her persona.
I confess to becoming aware of her through this special, possibly because she isn’t as famous in the UK yet. Only some sections of the hour-long set are observational, allowing her cynicism to sidestep any sense of superiority. While watching, I kept imagining her as a sarcastic work friend whose dry wit spares you from small talk. It’s frequently said of performers that ‘you want to be friends with them’ and this was the likely capacity in which I pictured our interaction. This may be due to her insightful perception of the everyday and her sharp analysis – she’s matter-of-fact without being crass and her viewpoint is especially accessible to deep-thinkers and realists.
Before we see the main show, there’s a naturalistic short depicting show preparation whereby she sits with a friend. The comedic tone is subtle and the audience experiences the first slice of her ‘show, don’t tell’ style. The same goes for the final 3 minutes of faux ‘behind-the-scenes’ footage, verifying our impression of her comedy as exploratory and nuanced. I also recently discovered her Twitter and Instagram pages are worth following if you want more truth-telling interspersed with silly jokes.