Booze News: Classic Soused Slapstick from Flicker Alley

>> Sunday, April 27, 2014

Greetings, fellow inebriates,

Fans of soused slapstick and silent comedy take note!  Flicker Alley, the video label that brought us the magnificent Chaplin At Keystone box set, has announced two newly restored collections of silent film shorts on blu-ray: Chaplin's Mutual Comedies (Limited SteelBook Edition) and The Mack Sennett Collection, Vol. 1.  These blu-ray box sets will be released on July 29th, but you can pre-order them now at a discount.  Even better, you receive an additional 10% discount if you pre-order the sets together from this page by April 30th!

Chaplin's Mutual Comedies is a 5-disc Blu-ray/DVD box set featuring the twelve classic Mutual shorts (including alky classics One A.M. and The Cure), all scanned under the aegis of Association Chaplin at a resolution of 2,000 lines from original 35mm prints gathered from archives all over the world, then digitally assembled and restored.

The Mack Sennett Collection, Vol.1 features the first 50 of 100 of the best surviving Sennett comedies that have been gathered from around the world, fully restored, and digitally re-mastered in HD for home video.  This includes the work of Chaplin, Fatty Arbuckle, Mabel Normand, Harry Langdon, and W.C. Fields (specifically the funniest short of all time, The Fatal Glass of Beer).

Click on the collection links above for more info on the contents and special features, but if you plan to buy both, be sure to use the combo page to get the deepest discount!

Cheers,
garv

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A Toast to DEADWOOD on its 10th Anniversary

>> Thursday, March 13, 2014

A LIE AGREED UPON: DAVID MILCH'S DEADWOOD from RogerEbert.com on Vimeo.

Greetings, fellow inebriates,

David Milch's television masterpiece, Deadwood, may not precisely qualify as a "booze movie."  However, it was one of the most cinematic and liquor-laden series to have ever graced the small screen; so excuse me if I go ever so slightly off-topic for this post.

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of what in my opinion was the most literate, humane, and engaging show in the history of television, RogerEbert.com and HitFix.com have teamed up to present a 26-minute celebration of Deadwood, narrated by series regular (and fan favorite) Jim Beaver.  The video is embedded above, courtesy of Vimeo.  For Dead-heads like me, this brief documentary is sure to stir up sublime memories and renew the heartbreak that the series was cancelled after airing 36 near-flawless episodes (although I would argue that the final line of dialogue in the last show was the perfect coda for a work of fiction that always told the truth).

A word of warning for the uninitiated -- The video above contains a number of series spoilers, so if you have not yet enjoyed this television masterpiece, by all means buy the Blu-rays or stream the complete series (on HBO Go) before you watch this remembrance. Trust me; you will not be disappointed.  Deadwood was the only show that was so good that I would watch each episode twice on the night it premiered.  Like a premium whiskey, a single shot was not enough.  This is a show that should be savored again and again.  God bless you, Mr. Milch!

Cheers,
garv

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A Toast to Charlie Chaplin on His Centennial

>> Monday, January 20, 2014

On February 2nd, 2014, 100 years will have passed since the release of Charlie Chaplin’s first film.  To mark that momentous anniversary, Booze Movies raises a glass to the movies’ first megastar—the man that popularized soused slapstick.




W.C. Fields is the comedian whose film persona is most strongly associated with strong drink—a position that is certainly well deserved.  However, no comedian did more to popularize booze-related humor than Charles Spencer Chaplin, the comic who Fields derisively referred to as “that ballet dancer.”  Taking into account both short subjects and features, Chaplin produced more alky comedies than any other major movie merrymaker.  This output of staggering slapstick had a tremendous impact on the direction that film comedy would take, due both to Chaplin’s astonishing popularity and the simple fact that his films came so early in the history of the medium.

Chaplin certainly didn’t invent drunken humor.  The comedy inebriate was a staple of theatrical entertainments on stage and screen prior to the arrival of “the Tramp.”  Chaplin simply played drunk more hilariously than anyone that had come before him.  The fact that his pickled pantomime holds up to modern viewings, after one hundred years have passed and thousands of intervening comedies have flashed in front of our ocular orbs, is testament to the mastery of Chaplin’s art.

It was Chaplin’s excellence in imitating an inebriate that facilitated his entry into the movies.  In 1913, Mack Sennett saw the then-unknown British comedian perform his signature stage sketch, “Mumming Birds,” as part of the American tour of Fred Karno’s comedy troupe.  The sketch, later adapted for film by Chaplin as A Night in the Show (1915), involves a well-dressed and well-oiled audience member (Chaplin) that drunkenly interacts with a variety of rotten onstage acts.  Sennett was spellbound by Chaplin’s physicality and signed the comedian to a contract with Keystone studios.

With Chaplin’s second film for Keystone, Mabel’s Strange Predicament (1914)*, Chaplin assembled the iconic wardrobe, hat, cane, and toothbrush mustache that he would use for the next twenty-six years.  As Chaplin was required to ad-lib most of his part, he naturally relied on the drunken shtick that had worked so well for him on the stage.  Thus, Chaplin’s first use of “the Tramp” or “the Little Fellow,” as he usually referred to the character, was as a bothersome drunkard irritating residents of a hotel.

The character connected with audiences almost immediately, and by the end of 1914, Chaplin was Sennett’s biggest star.  The early comedies Chaplin made at Keystone often employ boozy business to garner guffaws, but Chaplin was always interested in experimentation, and he was no one-trick pony.  Consequently, as he moved from studio to studio for bigger paychecks and increased artistic control, the alcohol-centered comedies became more infrequent.

Still, the funnyman’s origins as a comic drunkard, informed his comedy throughout the remainder of career, resulting in liquored laughs in some of his greatest pictures.  These include the tour de force one-man-show, One A.M. (1916); the “dry out” comedy, The Cure (1917); Chaplin’s last few forays into short subjects with The Idle Class (1921) and Pay Day (1922), and his feature film masterpiece, City Lights (1931).  Even Limelight (1952), which most critics consider Chaplin’s last major work, is the story of an alcoholic clown trying to make a comeback.

Chaplin may be remembered more today for his pioneering melding of pathos and humor, for expanding comedies to feature-length, for his part in founding United Artists, and for attacking Hitler with savage satire more than a year before America entered World War II than for his use of booze-based humor to elicit laughs.  Still, his impact on soused cinema was tremendous.  The landscape of motion pictures history would be far drier without the comic invention of Charles Spencer Chaplin.  Here’s to you, Charlie!


*The movie-going public was actually introduced to the character of “the Tramp” in Kid Auto Races at Venice (1914), which was filmed after Mabel’s Strange Predicament but released to theaters a few days prior to the character’s true debut film.

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Booze News: A Drunk History Christmas

>> Saturday, December 21, 2013

Greetings, fellow inebriates,

'Tis the season, and I can think of no better way to celebrate than with this lovely Christmas present from the masterminds behind Funny or Die's "Drunk History."



Have a safe and enjoyable holiday!

Cheers,
garv (the boy that put the "X" in Christmas)

P.S. -- A big thank you to Frank Thompson of "The Commentary Track" (my favorite classic film podcast) for alerting me to the video above.

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Review: The World’s End (2013)

>> Monday, December 16, 2013



UK/C-109m./Dir: Edgar Wright/Wr: Simon Pegg & Edgar Wright/Cast: Simon Pegg (Gary King), Nick Frost (Andy Knightley), Paddy Considine (Steven Prince), Eddie Marsan (Peter Page), Martin Freeman (Oliver Chamberlain), Rosamund Pike (Sam Chamberlain), Pierce Brosnan (Guy Shepherd), David Bradley (Basil), Michael Smiley (Reverend Green)

There are no better comedy writers working today than Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright.  While most movie comedies are disposable fluff that barely merit a single viewing, the Pegg/Wright collaborations -- Shaun of the Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz (2007),and The World's End (2013)-- are infinitely re-watchable, like the best films of Preston Sturges or Billy Wilder.  The screenplays are so brilliantly layered and meticulously thought out (stuffed with foreshadowing and comic callbacks) that they reward multiple viewings.

After the brilliant one-two punch of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, it was hard to imagine that the pair could concoct another comic brew that would be anywhere near as intoxicating as what came before it.  However, The World’s End, the final film in the loosely connected “Three Flavors Cornetto” trilogy,is the best and booziest of the bunch.  It is arguably the funniest and most quotable of the three films.  Best of all, it is the most emotionally resonant and mature.

Simon Pegg plays against type as alky ne’er-do-well, Gary King, who persuades his more responsible childhood friends -- Andy Knightley (Nick Frost), Steven Prince (Paddy Considine), Peter Page (Eddie Marsan), and Oliver Chamberlain (Martin Freeman) -- into joining him in recreating an epic pub crawl that they attempted but never completed twenty years earlier.  The so-called “Golden Mile” requires the downing of a pint in twelve taverns, ending at the fatefully-named pub, “The World End.”  Along the way, the “five musketeers” face old loves, inner demons, and exterior threats that require every ounce of their liquid courage.

For a silly action/comedy, The World’s End has a lot on its mind.  Fundamentally, it is about the point in life when living in the past becomes pathetic.  However, it also juggles the themes of mid-life crisis, corporate homogenization of local culture, the nature of friendship, the choice between ignoring or facing your personal demons, and the idea that “you can’t go home again.”  Yet, despite the abundant dark subtext, Pegg and Wright manage to meld the disparate elements into a fresh and funny brew.

Not only is the script exceptional, the cast is first rate.  Supporting actors Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan, Martin Freeman, Rosamund Pike, and David Bradley all make the most of their moments to shine.  As for the leads, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost turn in “career-best” performances.  In the hands of a lesser actor, the role of Gary King could have been insufferable to the point of repugnance; but Pegg’s comic timing, natural likeability, and ability to show the trampled heart beneath his bluster keep the audience rooting for the delusional drunkard. Nick Frost is just as good in the more buttoned-down role of the reluctant companion, seething below the surface.  Frost’s restraint during the first half of the film makes his Sammo Hung-like "hulk-out" in the film’s action climax all the more ferocious.

Unlike many writer/directors, Edgar Wright is an adept visual stylist as well as a wordsmith.  Whether a scene calls for a simple dialogue between two actors or an action free-for-all à la Jackie Chan, Wright finds imaginative ways to view the setup. The way scenes are composed and edited gives added punch to the punchlines, and even the most frenetic action scenes are always fully comprehensible.
 

The World’s End is the ultimate bar crawl movie and an instant classic.  I hope this isn’t the final partnership between Wright, Pegg, and Frost; but they couldn’t have ended their “Three Flavors Cornetto” trilogy on a more intoxicating note.  Like their previous cocktails, I anticipate revisiting this brew again and again.     

Drinks Consumed--Beer (Crowning Glory, Foster’s, and unnamed), wine (red and white), and unspecified shots

Intoxicating Effects--Swearing, slurred speech, staggering, stumbling, belching, vomiting, loosened inhibitions, soused sex, sneaking sips, the giggles, bickering, brawling, physical violence, destruction of property, bar tossed, and drunk driving

Potent Quotables--B&B LANDLADY: Have you got any plans for dinner at all?
GARY: Tonight, we will be partaking of a liquid repast as we wend our way up The Golden Mile.  Commencing with an inaugural tankard at The First Post, then onto The Old Familiar, The Famous Cock, The Cross Hands, The Good Companions, The Trusty Servant, The Two Headed Dog, The Mermaid, The Beehive, The King’s Head, and The Hole in the Wall for a measure of the same.  All before the last bittersweet pint in that most fateful terminus, The World’s End.  Leave a light on good lady, for though we may return with a twinkle in our eyes, we will, in truth, be blind… drunk.

Video Availability--DVDand Blu-ray(Universal)

Similarly Sauced Cinema--Taverns and pubs also played major parts in the first two installments of the Cornetto Trilogy, Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007).

The World's End / Hot Fuzz / Shaun of the Dead Trilogy (Blu-ray + Digital HD with UltraViolet)

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I like to drink. I like to watch movies. I like to watch movies about drinking. I like to write about the movies I’ve watched, but only if I’ve had a drink first.

All text including the title "Booze Movies: The 100 Proof Film Guide" Copyright William T. Garver

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