I went to the movies the other day, which is a rare and coveted treat for me, as you well know. I was so excited to see The World’s End. Like, unreasonably excited. And about fifteen minutes in, the film went negative and started to skip. It was really trippy. I thought for a second I might be having another flashback, but no! It was an actual technical difficulty. So, the lights came up and we waited for a while, and then the movie started back up. And then, ten minutes later, it happened again! (I feel like I should use extraneous exclamation points, I was so mad, but I shall restrain myself.) We waited. They fixed it. And then it happened a third time! By this point the Husband, who is the most laid-back guy you’ve ever seen, was squirming and huffing in his seat, so I knew the situation was legitimately out of hand. The little man finally came into the theater (or theatre, if you speak real English) and told us that the movie was broken, that we could get a refund or raincheck tickets or blah blah blah.
Now, I know that this is not the fault of the theater minions. I understand that shit breaks. All the time. We live in a world based on capitalism based on obsolescence. I get it. But doesn’t it seem to you like the bonus of the Digital Age is not having to sit through things like, say, for example, broken film? Shouldn’t we be past that particular inconvenience? As a species? Not scratching a dvd is a fuck of a lot easier than not damaging reels upon reels of real film, you guys. I mean, come on.
But I hold no grudge. It’s really fine. I’ll see it eventually.
I must! It’s going to be so good. The first twenty minutes (which took me an hour to watch) were great. Here’s the thing about this movie and its cohorts in the Cornetto Trilogy: I didn’t realize when Shaun of the Dead blew my face off that it would be part of a trilogy. I didn’t even realize it was a trilogy when Hot Fuzz disappointed me (but made bank at the box office). To be honest, I’m not sure that those gentlemen even realized it was a trilogy at that point. But when I finally found out that it was a trilogy? I squeed like the squeeing fangirl that I am. I couldn’t help myself.
But you get the joke, yeah? Cornetto Trilogy? Does that joke play in America? A Cornetto is a kind of ice cream. It’s like a Drumstick, Yanks. It’s also called the Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy, if that helps.
Point is, it’s a trifecta of rabid mutant fandom: the zombie film, the buddy-cop film, and the creepy alien/robot film. What more do you really need? Rom-coms? Fuck ‘em. Slapstick with bonus fart jokes? I’d rather have an encounter with my friendly neighborhood gallows. Arthouse films? Yes, I love them, but the Venn Diagram of filmdom/fandom isn’t appropriate in this case. Because comedy. Arty movies are usually a downer. A useful and beautiful downer, but a downer nonetheless. Why is that?
So, I’m looking back, over the history of my admiration for Simon Pegg and Nick Frost and Edgar Wright, and I’m realizing that it’s out of order. Because I, like most Americans, fell in love with these guys because of Shaun of the Dead. It’s an incredible film. It’s a departure from both comedy and zombie movies. In the wake of things like 28 Days Later and all the Romero reboots, a zombie comedy was a delightfully fucked up breath of fresh air, a hilarious and disgusting palette cleanser that kept my head in the zombie game when I would have otherwise checked out. Of course, this is before I started writing reviews of horrible zombie films for a website which was using zombie films as a metaphor for American society as a whole (and brilliantly, I might add, winkwink, nudgenudge), and didn’t understand how bad zombie movies could really get.
There’s that, the overt and unabashed hardcore fandom. And then there’s my preexisting inexplicable soft spot for funny gingers. Where does that come from? Is it because gingers are dying out? They possess sexy comedy on a genetic level, to help them keep their numbers up? I call unfair bullshit, DNA! That’s sneaky. But effective.
Anyway. Skip ahead a few years, to when we all know and love the Pegg/Wright/Frost combo. And here I am, browsing ye olde Netflix, and what do I run across? Spaced. You may not have heard of Spaced. Because Americans have little to no appreciation for the BBC unless it’s shoved down our throats. There’s good stuff there, y’all, even if you haven’t heard of it. (See also: Jekyll, Hustle, Black Books. Check it out. You have the interwebs.) So I saw Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright and clicked the thing and watched every episode of Spaced like a horrible, couch-dwelling glutton.
Don’t judge me.
It’s hard to describe this show. I would say it’s a sitcom, but that’s not quite right. It’s comedy based on two people forced to live in a house together, with concomitant shenanigans because their lives and friends are suddenly intertwined. Fallout comedy, would be a good term? Maybe? The girl is a tortured writer played brilliantly by Jessica Hynes (I identify with her, but I’m not nearly that funny). And Simon Pegg plays a comic book artist trapped in a tangential career, working in a comic shop and bitching about the Phantom Menace to anyone who will listen (I identify with this character also, but for a whole different set of reasons). You should definitely check it out. It’s awesome, but not just because of the setup. I think American television has a whole lot of “Oh, let’s all wait and see what funny thing will happen because of this situation” going on, while British television is funny because of good writing and great characters, plot twists and cunning wordplay. Not to beat a long-dead horse of a stereotype, but they’re just smarter than we are. Sorry. Culturally speaking, anyway.
They have Monty Python! What else do you want me to say?! For fuck’s sake. I have no defense against British comedy. It’s just too good. Dry. Witty. Acerbic. I love everything about it.
Here’s the thing that’s weird about this situation, though: I was already a fan of the people involved, but because of their later work. It’s like discovering that a band you really like has an early album you’ve never heard of. It’s different. It’s nascent. They were just getting their feet under them, both as artists and writers and creators, and as a team. That’s important here. The teamwork. Because Pegg, while a brilliant comedian, is not a director. And Wright, while a ninja director, is not an actor. But together, they’re nigh unbeatable. Then you throw in Nick Frost, who is one of the most hilarious improv performers ever, and the volume just gets cranked way up because he plays off both Pegg’s and Wright’s talents. Not to mention all the other fantastic people involved. Writers, actors, crew, etc. It takes a village to make comedy gold. I guess what I’m trying to say, in my hamfisted way, is that these sorts of people are great on their own, but as part of a team they’re amazeballs. A very specific, particular, mind-blowing brand of amazeballs.
Not to change the subject and/or make everything all about me, but that group dynamic thing makes me kind of sad that I don’t have anyone to bounce ideas off of right now. I miss my writer’s group. I miss my friends. I miss people who get my jokes. Shit, I even miss copyediting bad term papers. I’ve put everything but the blog on hold because there’s just no way I can do this on my own. It’s sad to admit, being that every writer of my generation holds those venerable recluses of old as the highest standard. Kerouac, Bukowski, Thompson, Hemingway. Those guys didn’t need anyone to be a sounding board for them. They just sucked it up and did what they were going to do, and criticism and teamwork be damned. Also, healthy livers and mental stability be damned, too, I guess. That’s probably not a great tradeoff. Whatever.
Why can’t I do that? I don’t know. Doesn’t mean I’m wrong, but it does make me feel weak, I’ve got to tell you. But, I do what I can. Maybe it’s good enough. Maybe it’s not. I do it anyway. One day I might find a team of like-minded weirdos who can help me be my best. I hope I can do the same for them. (Which is not to discount the folks I can email or call on the phone, obviously. Because I love all those people. But I need friends in meatspace who I can drag out for a cup of coffee and hand a stack of paper and squirm while they read it right in front of me and then have a conversation about it. You see the difference? It’s an important difference.) I’ll keep you guys posted. Of course I will. What else am I going to do with my time?
Wow, I took a weird hard turn there, didn’t I? Maudlin. Sorry.
Anyway, go watch Spaced. Or Shaun of the Dead. Or The World’s End. But do not spoiler this movie for me! I’ll be so, so mad. Let’s give it a few months until we’re sure we’ve all seen it, and we’ll revisit this conversation. And while you’re at it, go read Simon Pegg’s book, Nerd Do Well. It’s a smart, hilarious, articulate read. Worth your time, for sure.