Tag Archives: Ben Stiller

The Set of 400: #21 – My Favorite Closet Full of Board Games

Today! Because I’ve always been considered an asshole for about as long as I can remember. That’s just my style –

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Directed by Wes Anderson (x4)

Starring Gene Hackman (x5), Angelica Huston (x4), Ben Stiller (x3), Luke Wilson (x4), Gwyneth Paltrow (x6), Owen Wilson (x5), Bill Murray (x11), Danny Glover (x2), Kumar Pallana (x2), Seymour Cassel (x3), Alec Baldwin (x4), Stephen Lea Sheppard, Andrew Wilson (x3)

Back in #267 The Life Aquatic, I posited that Wes Anderson’s distinctive style truly began with that film, but the entire blueprint was in place in The Royal Tenenbaums. While Aquatic often feels like an over-directed showcase of filmmaking more than a cohesive movie, Anderson hadn’t gotten all that carried away with himself when tackling his third film, and first after his big breakthrough on Rushmore three years earlier. It would take a little time after Aquatic to reconcile the manner of hyper-detail oriented production design with large idiosyncratic cast to compelling storylines – arguably until Moonrise Kingdom in 2012 – but the rougher version of this concept is fully on display here.

And while most of Anderson’s films work best due to their expertly crafted screenplays and oddball twists, Tenenbaums might be the only one primarily driven by the slate of tremendous performances across its eclectic cast. Hackman was purportedly a nightmare to work with on this film, but he delivers his career best comedic performance as the half charlatan patriarch Royal, in one of his last roles before retiring in ’04 (thanks for nothing, Welcome to Mooseport!). He was snubbed by the Oscars, thanks to that enduring bias against comedies, but did get a Globe nomination, plus wins at the AFI Awards, the Chicago Film Critics, and the National Society of Film Critics. The rest of the cast is no slouch either – Stiller’s apoplectic track-suited Chas, Paltrow’s morose theater maven Margot, and especially Luke Wilson’s shattered tennis pro Richie – the inspiration for one of my many failed Halloween costume efforts of years past.

It’s okay, I know I look more Bjorn Borg than the Baumer

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies

The Set of 400: #29 – My Favorite TiVo Contract Clause

Today! Because the one man who made a difference five times before is about to make a difference again. Only this time, it’s different –

Tropic Thunder (2008)

Directed by Ben Stiller

Starring Ben Stiller (x2), Robert Downey Jr. (x10), Jack Black (x7), Jay Baruchel (x2), Brandon T. Jackson, Tom Cruise (x5), Nick Nolte (x4), Steve Coogan (x2), Matthew McConaughey (x2), Danny McBride, Bill Hader (x3), Brandon Soo Hoo, Reggie Lee, Maria Menounos, Christine Taylor, Tyra Banks, Tobey Maguire (x5), Yvette Nicole Brown, Jennifer Love Hewitt (x2), Jon Voight (x3), Lance Bass

Hang on a minute – a movie about movies and it was in the epic summer of 2008? There was no way Tropic Thunder wasn’t making this list, right? Maybe it seems a touch high to you? Are people still talking about this film a dozen years on? I think it’s safe to say that even though this movie isn’t all that old, it already feels like something that wouldn’t be made today. I mean, it’s got the universal comedic concept of egomaniac actors and how completely out of touch with reality they can be, but it also has legitimate black face throughout the movie, even if RDJ got nominated for an Oscar in the role. Could this get made right now, given the changes in the world over the past decade? I’d say maybe, but only a 50/50 chance.

Because the movie really does work hard to handle this issue as being actor ridiculousness, and not even remotely a cool thing to do. Brandon T. Jackson’s rapper-actor Alpa Chino is there half the time to keep Downey’s Kirk Lazarus in check, even as he effectively steals the movie. And while this character seems to popularly be the movie’s lasting cultural impact, it is stuffed with tremendous comedic turns – from Matthew McConaughey’s loopy agent Rick Peck to Danny McBride’s special effects expert Cody to Steve Coogan’s Brit director Damien Cockburn. Stiller’s work as over-the-top action hero Tugg Speedman is spot-on, but a touch thankless, as the nominal lead more or less swallowed in the plot, by being the de facto damsel in distress. Jack Black’s Jeff Portnoy gets largely overlooked, which I think is really unfair, as his typically hyper-invested work as this wacky, drug-addled Z-grade comedian delivers a bunch of great moments. And none of this is to ignore the literally amazing work of Tom Cruise, unrecognizably transformed into the vulgar uber-producer Les Grossman – by far the funniest role Cruise has ever played.

His end credits dance sequence is incredible

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies

The Set of 400: #92 – My Favorite Jazz Flute

Today! Because the Human Torch was denied a bank loan –

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)

Directed by Adam McKay

Starring Will Ferrell (x5), Christina Applegate (x2), Steve Carell, Paul Rudd (x4), David Koechner (x2), Fred Willard, Chris Parnell (x2), Vince Vaughn (x3), Kathryn Hahn, Fred Armisen, Paul F. Tomkins (x3), Bill Kurtis, Jack Black (x5), Luke Wilson (x3), Ben Stiller, Tim Robbins (x4), Missi Pyle (x2), Jerry Minor (x2), Ian Roberts (x3), Danny Trejo, Seth Rogen (x3)

Meeting Sarah in 2004 as I did, the comedies of those early years of the relationship that stuck really stuck. I’ve mentioned #134 Wedding Crashers, #130 Napoleon Dynamite, #189 Team America, #184 Super Troopers, to a lesser degree #313 Fever Pitch – but at the core of the entire era was Anchorman. Not unlike your Austin Powers and Napoleon Dynamites, Anchorman suffers somewhat as the years go on due to its endless quotability. Sure, it stays in the public consciousness and thus sells t-shirts or whatever, and afforded us that okay-ish sequel, but really, I think the details of the original film get a bit lost in the “Scotchy scotch scotch,” “I love lamp,” “Afternoon Delight” of the whole thing. Does everyone recall the whole panda plot of the film? I mean, the less said about pandas the better, just as a general rule for living, but that’s actually the driving through line of the story. Sure, it doesn’t really matter, but it gives a little structure to the wild Burgundy/Corningstone relationship and that epic multi-network news team free-for-all.

But seriously, and I can’t say this enough, fuck pandas.

The only good panda

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies