A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 320 – Sleeper

Sleeper – January 14th, 2011

Perhaps tonight was a bad night to watch this movie. It’s been a very long day for me and I needed something that was not this. Perhaps I’m biased, after Play It Again, Sam grated on me so. I’m not sure. But I can say that this movie is not for me. It was not made with me in mind. It is not my taste and I did not enjoy it. Sorry, Woody Allen fans. Sorry, folks who think this is a fantastic and hilarious comedy. It just didn’t make me laugh.

Oh, I cracked a smile once or twice, usually due to a clever-but-not-dated line from Allen. But for the most part I felt like I was watching a science fiction Benny Hill episode, but without the breasts. I’ve never been big on Benny Hill, and not just because of the breasts. It just isn’t the sort of thing that makes me laugh. It’s not my sense of humor. So when the jazz started up in this movie, signaling another scene of wacky slapstick antics starring our bumbling non-hero, Miles, as he mucks up yet another bizarre and outlandish aspect of the future, or runs away from the equally bumbling cops, I tuned out. I couldn’t help it. Maybe it’s my aversion to Benny Hill, but that music just immediately makes me want to pay attention to something else. And a hefty chunk of the movie is that sort of stuff. Looking at the trivia for the movie, it seems that Allen originally conceived of it as a modern silent film. That makes the musical interlude bits make a lot more sense to me, though they still aren’t my cup of tea.

Aside from the slapstick, there’s a lot of what I believe is fairly typical Woody Allen babbling. Whenever there’s dialogue for him he’s rambling on about something, usually something dated and/or self-referential. It’s sort of like an on-going stand-up act, performed in the midst of a sci-fi plot. And to be honest, those are the bits I liked. I don’t dislike everything about Woody Allen. I just find his routine a little grating after a while. But sometimes he did have a bit or a line or a moment where it wasn’t too dated, or if it was it was still something understandable and amusing, and it would make me smile. But then there’d be more attempts at being zany. I guess I’m just not big on zany.

I can say I liked the concept for the movie, with a “modern” man being frozen and then woken up 200 years into the future, but with a comedic spin on it. None of it is particularly revolutionary, but the tobacco being healthy for you type stuff is fun. All the future gags play into my amusement with dated sci-fi and retro visions of the future. I thought the plot with Miles getting sent to join the resistance against the police state overlord and ending up a happy citizen was a little sloppily executed, but a good little satirical commentary at its core. But well, there’s a lot more tossed in there.

It’s not just the zaniness or the wackiness or the jazz slapstick antics. It’s the flustered yelling and flailing that happens when Woody Allen and Diane Keaton are both on screen, which feels to me so very self-indulgent, like they both were so convinced of their own ability to make such things happen that they just got in front of the camera and shouted a lot and called it done. It happens multiple times throughout the film and I kept feeling like I was watching rehearsals or outtakes. I kind of wish that Allen had been able to go with the original concept of a future world where no one could talk, making it actually silent, or close to. I’d have dealt with the jazz because it would have been a cleaner concept than this mix of stand-up, slapstick, musical hijinks, and shouting layered over some basic sci-fi.

January 14, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

Sleeper

January 14, 2011

Sleeper

This is going to be one of those reviews where my take on the movie diverges somewhat from Amanda’s. As we were watching she was rolling her eyes and making fun of the Benny Hill inspired chase scenes and I was grinning and laughing to myself.

It has been many years since I last watched this movie. I wasn’t sure quite what my feelings would be watching it again a couple decades after the last time I had a chance to watch it, but I was pleasantly surprised. The movie was every bit as silly, stupid and hilarious as it was when I first saw it at twelve years old. Most of the movie I remembered well, but there were bits that I had forgotten which delighted me. For example, I had completely forgotten the upbeat jazz soundtrack. It seems that every time Allen wrote himself into a corner here he would just star up the dixieland jazz and have everybody run around like crazy, and everything would turn out just fine.

There is a plot here. It’s about a clarinet player and health food store owner who is frozen in 1972 when a routine surgery goes wrong and is defrosted two hundred years later by a group of rebels who want to overthrow a totalitarian government. But none of that really matters. It’s just a setting for Woody Allen to be insane on film. He pokes fun at modern culture (well 1972 culture, which was modern at the time) and plays with sci-fi tropes, and generally has a lot of fun making a fool out of himself. Amanda pointed out that several parts of the movie had the feel of bits of his stand-up act wedged into the movie.

I definitely get a chuckle out of all the references to 1970s pop culture. At one point in the movie one of the doctors who defrosted Allen’s character Miles theorises that Nixon might once have been a president but that he did something so awful that all records of his presidency have been expunged from the history books. You have to understand this joke was written in 1972 – two years before the Watergate scandal reached the point where Nixon was forced to resign. Allen makes fun of other easy targets like Howard Cosell and Joseph Stalin.

There’s also a lot of fun made of science fiction movies. The bulbous cars and jet packs. The domestic robots, orgazmitron, and “orb.” It’s all very familiar stuff from the sci-fi worlds of the seventies. (I’m amused to note that Logan’s Run came out three or four years after this movie, because they almost feel that they could have had the same production designers.) But in Sleeper these sci-fi tropes result in hilarity. I still love the shots of Allen with the helicopter backpack fleeing across the field from the red jumpsuited security guards. The inflatable space suit is as funny today as it was back then. I laughed all over again at Allen doing battle with the instant pudding.

I’m less entranced by his interactions with Diane Keaton, whose character Luna is shrill, annoying and fairly stupid. The two of them do have some inexplicable chemistry, but I found myself wincing a lot when she was on the screen.

There’s also a lot of just plain weirdness. Allen’s character (who, let’s face it, is the same stuttering, bumbling, hyper neurotic character that Allen always plays) at one point thinks that he’s won a Miss America contest. At another point he starts quoting Blanche’s lines from Streetcar Named Desire.

I laughed a lot while watching this tonight. Sure there are a lot of jokes that don’t work, but the fun soundtrack, silly antics and most of all Woody Allen’s hilarious stupid grin, which he uses many a time in this movie, all still amuse me. It doesn’t bother me that the movie is dated. Hell, it was dated when I first saw it in 1984 – it’s a sort of frozen time capsule of early seventies humor. But I’d argue that this is far and away the funniest Woody Allen movie. Because it doesn’t do anything at all except try desperately to make you laugh. For me, at least, it still does.

January 14, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment