My Big Fat Greek Wedding...And Other Stuff
With nothing opening here on the big screen that I thought was interesting enough to see, and with the Cinematheque taking a Spring Break hiatus, I went to visit some friends and party like a rock star instead of seeing any films. That was, until today. My friend had a DVD of the 2002 film My Big Fat Greek Wedding
sitting on his coffee table, and, with a mind perhaps still muddled by prodigious amounts of alcohol, I asked if I could borrow the film. I didn’t expect to like it, but I wanted to be fair and give it a shot. I should have went with my first instincts.
As I sat watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding
I considered the film’s supposedly universal appeal and I wondered if this was a kind of “chicken and egg” situation: was the film universally appealing because, yes, everyone with a big, crazy family can really relate to the situations depicted in the film, or was it universally appealing because 100 years of mass culture drilling all the chick flick, ethnic comedy, and sitcom clichés into our heads had created some kind of mediated deja vu? While I pondered that question, I realized I had already seen a 2002 film that examined many of the same issues that My Big Fat Greek Wedding
did (such as the collision of traditional and modern values, assimilation, and family sexual politics), but in a much more interesting, both emotionally and intellectually, and, in some bizarre twist of fate (given the way this other film presents its subject matter), funnier way. That film, Dover Koshashvili’s Late Marriage
Watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding
was like having two checklists in front of me, one for ethnic comedy clichés, and one for chick flick clichés; all I had to do was watch, and dutifully cross one after another off my list. Colorful and loud members of an extended ethnic clan, check. Repressed WASP family, check (incidentally, Woody Allen pulled this sort of stuff off in a much funnier and economical way in Annie Hall
, another, much better film that examines some of the same topics that MBFGW
does). An elderly woman who only speaks the native tongue, check (though Grandma cursing out the Turks, and slamming back a bottle of Miller Lite was kind of amusing). Decorating tastes which are an affront to the middle-class tastes of the other non-ethnic neighbors, check (you could politely call it “tacky”). Guys in wife beater t-shirts, check. Now switching gears, the wonders that a makeover can do to your life, popularity, and self-esteem, check. A hunky, sensitive dreamy guy with limitless patience who really fell for you while you were an ugly duckling, check (John Corbett was the best part of the film, I have liked his easy going charm and manner since his days on Northern Exposure
). Following your dreams, and thus inspiring others in your family to do so, check. Or how about tearful conversations with your parents where you are reconciled with your parents, and all problems magically vanish, check? Oh, boy, the list could go on and on....
All of which I could have forgiven had the film been funny. Well, no, it really didn’t even have to be funny, it could have been amusing, I would have settled for that, since I paid no money to see My Big Fat Greek Wedding
. Instead, we get some sitcom level banter, a few lame jokes, some wacky behavior (what the fuck was up with the Windex? I don’t care if it was true to Nia Vardalos life, it wasn’t funny), and an insane old woman, who actually got all the best bits. And I would have been really pissed (if I was a member of either family) to have been depicted in such a way for humor’s sake, as the Greeks bad taste was held up for ridicule, while the WASPs were held up as, well WASPs (that was until they magically came alive under the influence of the zestful Greek way of life). Of course, neither was funny, it was mostly painful to watch. Yeah, I did mention that the film was unfunny, right?
*Now, onto other subjects. My friend was showing us his new Digital Cable on Demand service, and told us about a Showtime series called Family Business
, which I had never heard of prior to yesterday. Having by that time drank an excess of fine barley malts, we started to watch it since my friend swore it was “funny.” The premise of the series (which is apparently composed of 10 parts, all 25 to 30 minutes long) is this, it’s a reality series which follows Adam Glasser, aka Seymore Butts, a pornography producer, distributor, director, and sometimes performer, as well as single father to an adorable moppet, and his crazy, mixed up family, who also work in the Seymore Butts empire (they include his adoring mother, and profane cousin, who seems to get a lap dance from a stripper in each episode). For all practical purposes, it’s like The Osbournes
, even down to the faux retro credits, but with explicit nudity, oblique looks at hardcore pornography, and unbleeped profanities.
The series isn’t very revelatory (we watched four episodes throughout the night), you could as learn as much about the pornography industry, and maybe more, from watching Boogie Nights
(and Adam, ever a perfectionist, had some of the same type of attitude as Burt Reynolds character in that movie), but it was pretty funny. Pornography seems to be a like, excuse the pun, a grind. What was really interesting about the series was when Adam and his family tried to interact with people outside the adult entertainment industry, especially when the inevitable question “What do you do for a living?” is asked. It’s really kind of sad, though not surprising, how much of a stigma becomes attached to Adam and family once the truth comes out (and it’s kind of unfair, because, as he is depicted in the series, Adam is a nice guy and good father). In the first episode, Adam tries to date outside the industry, and we get to see two disastrous dates; in another episode, Adam attends his 20 year high school reunion (some people are disgusted, others are elated to learn that Adam is really Seymore Butts); even his mother (who is her son’s bookkeeper, but who never watches any of his movies) gets all sort of weird looks from a new neighbor as they have lunch. Those were the most interesting parts of the series, a lot of which, truthfully, was devoted to a Howard Stern-esque examination of pornography, so we gets lots of nudity, irony, and a tongue-in-cheek attitude, some of which could be construed as offensive (I wasn’t really that offended, but some could be). There’s not really a whole lot of serious examination of the pornography industry, but then again, would I be watching this show half in the bag if it was.
*An Elegy for Farscape
Screw you Sci-Fi Network! On Friday, one of the best shows on television, and one of the best science fiction series ever, televised it’s series finale, and as expected it ended on the mother of all cliffhangers. For everyone who isn’t familiar with the story, the Sci-Fi Network committed to two additional seasons of Farscape
after the third season, but as the filming of the fourth season concluded, the powers that be at the network, citing poor ratings and large production budgets (Farscape
’s production design and special effects put many big budget films to shame, it’s quality stuff). Now, many additional bullshit excuses later (especially from network president Bonnie “I’m Being Burned in Virtual Effigy on Many Internet Boards” Hammer), the series has come to an end. What was really galling was the Sci-Fi Networks attempts at PR by plastering a final thank you to the credits. Good bye John Crichton, Officer Aeryn Sun, D’Argo, Chianna, Dominar Rygel, Pilot, Noranti, Sikozu, Scorpius, Moya, the list just goes on and on....(Sigh) Well, it’s going to be even tougher when Buffy the Vampire Slayer
ends in May. Oh yeah, Screw You Sci-Fi Network!