Of course I was spoiled growing up. We didn’t just have The Muppet Show (and Fraggle Rock!) on TV- we knew the name of the man who brought the Muppets to life; Jim Henson. We even knew that the man who voiced “Miss Piggy”, Frank Oz, guest-starred in one of the biggest sequels of all time, as a little green alien called “Yoda”.
Oh, and that sequel? We all knew whose baby it was. George Lucas. His film-school buddy Steven Spielberg was the mastermind behind E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Jaws, and the classic-styled anthology show Amazing Stories. (Just to name a few.)
A time slot on a major cable network is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, you couldn’t ask for a larger audience. On the other, you’re the property of the company store, and you bend to their whim.
For example, MTV aired Beavis & Butthead, but to pad out the episodes to sitcom-length, they inserted music videos with Mike Judge doing commentary in character. At the time, I could appreciate the necessity of this, being that ink-and-paint animation takes time to create. Still, it was obvious that the idea was cribbed from MST3K, and much of the music was unlistenable, or not worth the mockery.
MTV pulled the same jazz when they aired the extraordinary sock-puppet comedy The Sifl and Olly Show, from 1997 to 1999.
Videotape artifacts are subconsciously comforting.
Videodrome, my local video store, often features used DVDs at clearance prices. There was a copy of Mike Judge’s Extract for $3. I’m a huge fan of Judge’s film and television, so I Netflixed Extract upon its release, and truthfully, I was underwhelmed. But a friend who also enthuses upon Mike Judge loved it, and $3 was just right to give it another chance.
What happens when a company has no idea how to market a film.
“I didn’t really get this one,” the clerk said as he rang up my purchase, “and I love his other stuff.” I told him a theory I’d read that Office Space was for the workers, and Extract was for the bosses, reflecting Judge’s ascent in the studio system. I also noted that Idiocracy was an impossible act to follow, and that it wasn’t well-received upon its (delayed) debut. I figured if I remained ambivalent about Extract, I could gift it to my friend.
Here is a fine example of “apology culture”; I’m about to write an article about a Mel Gibson movie, and unless I want the average reader to think I’m misogynist, racist, or anti-Semitic, I have to open by addressing Gibson’s reputation outside of film.
You know what? I don’t care what people think. I’m not here to signal virtue. I’m going to discuss the Mel Gibson film Apocalypto based upon its own merits, which are considerable. Had Gibson never acted and spoke as he did, according to the police reports and gossip vultures, I’d be talking about an Oscar winner for Best Picture. Apocalypto is the kind of film John Boorman used to make. See it if you’re skeptical. If you have acquaintances who might look askance at you for enjoying the work of Mel Gibson, go elsewhere. Continue reading →