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Andy Bluff the Film Buff: Gets Ironic

by Andrew Smith

Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, they say. To which I sardonically reply, "Yeah, sure." Irony, on the other hand, is an altogether more sophisticated device. To which I arch an eyebrow and say, "Yes. But of course."

Oh yes indeed. For it is a truth universally acknowledged that we Brits are masters of irony, though personally I'm not convinced this is the case. My mother's a dab hand but I can't get it right. Especially the shirt sleeves and collars. No, seriously, there's little difference between our (Britons') celebrated understanding of irony and yours (Americans'). Though it must be noted that this little difference alludes to a complete ignorance of the concept on your part.

Only joking. Or am I? Maybe I'm employing ironic exaggeration to highlight my point. I don't know myself, caught as I am in a mesh of post-modern, ironic, post-ironic, half-deconstructed double-thoughts that befuddle my mind and end up on the page, unresolved, as THIS SHIT. That is what media studies does to a fellow. That and a fondness for funny little toadstools.

In Britain we get irony shoved down our throats like a big fat greasy sausage. It all starts at school; in my case it began with a damnable creature called Mr. Blubber. He insisted there was a big difference between the blunt sarcasm of playground retorts ("yeah, like I'm shaking in my boots" etc) and the subtle irony of Jane Austen. Nobody could properly grasp the distinction, save that playground jibes were often quite funny while Pride and Prejudice most definitely wasn't. Then one day some wag called out, "Mr. Blubber... you are a fine teacher. And I mean that most ironically," and suddenly we all got it. Irony is just another way of taking the piss.

But what has any of this got to do with films? I hear you whine. Well, admittedly not a lot. Most American blockbusters are about as subtly ironic as a slap on the arse. Which may be no bad thing: if the alternative is some farty little Hugh Grant/Emma Thomson/Jane Austen costumed misrepresentation of Englishness, give me Hollywood bombast any day.

Anyway, on to some reviews.

Police Academy

Hugh 'The new Billy Wilder only better' Wilson
Steve Guttenberg; lots of other funny folk

This superbly crafted action-comedy might well be the funniest picture ever made. Steve Guttenberg, a man for whom the word 'genius' seems barely to state the case, stars as a young prankster who joins the police force. His fellow cadets, all reporting to an amusingly testy Lieutenant, are equally hilarious. They include a joke 'tall man', a rib-tickling 'timid woman' and a side-splitting fellow who can seemingly imitate any sound known to man, woman or beast - perhaps the best comedy character of all time. The plot combines belly-laughs with genuine dramatic tension as the cadets exceed expectations in a thrilling dénouement. When I watched this for the first time I laughed so hard I literally pissed in my pants and stunk out the cinema. A second viewing had exactly the same effect. Whenever this film is shown on TV now, I reach for my catheter - it is that good. A must-see film which spawned a number of brilliant sequels.

The Silence of The Lambs

Jonathan Demm Bones Demm Bones
Anthony Hopkins; Jodie Foster parent; a man with no penis

A delightful bittersweet comedy of manners, with a natty turn by Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lector, the charming psychoanalyst who woos FBI agent Starling (Foster) but tragically never gets to fuck her. I mean sleep with her. It's a story of unconsummated love in which the two protagonists are separated by the iron bars of injustice. Lector is serving time for some trifling offence (something to do with eating people) and the poor bugger is forced to live next door to an inmate who does nothing but wank. Meanwhile Starling is preoccupied with finding a man named Buffalo Bill who makes coats out of people's skin. I don't know why she bothers, the jacket she was wearing to begin with seemed okay to me.

Bram Stoker's Dracula

Francis Ford Coppola
Gary Oldman; Winona Ryder; Anthony Hopkins; Keanu Reeves; Sadie Frost.

Despite Oldman's attempt to grab centre-stage by sporting a ridiculous array of hairstyles, this is Keanu Reeves' film. Alongside Sylvester Stallone, Reeves is perhaps the finest actor of all time, a performer of near unparalleled range. He has that rare ability to inhabit roles with total conviction, imbuing characters with subtlety and depth. A master of dialogue and inflection, his English accent in Dracula is so good, so convincing, that when I first watched it my eardrums imploded in disbelief, rendering me quite deaf . His co-stars must shine in the shadow of genius, but they cope respectably, Oldman's showboating notwithstanding. Ryder, in particular, is radiant, though sadly she refrains from lowering her bodice to reveal the ripe fruits of her bosom beneath. Not so co-star Sadie Frost, who despite being bed-ridden winds up having sex with a wolf. It's not fair. I spend half my life grooming and practising chat-up lines yet she manages to pull one just by lying down.

Leaving Las Vegas

Mike Figgy Figtree Figgis
Nicolas Cage; Elizabeth Shoo, now, Shoo

This screwball comedy had me rolling in the isles. The film kicks off when Cage jacks in his job and goes to Las Vegas on a whim. Here he meets Shoo, a randy lass if ever there was one, bit of a tart really, and together they set up home and have a right old laugh. Cage, who likes the odd drink, gets into some amusing scrapes, such as throwing a tantrum in a casino while falling over, and copping off with another women right in front of Shoo. Things take a darker turn when Shoo is gang-raped, but the jaunty tone is soon resumed when Cage, this time having one too many, dies in his sleep! What a lightweight! Rollicking entertainment for all the family.

The Remains Of The Dead

James Ivory
Anthony Hopkins; Emma Thomson; Christopher Reeve

This blood-spattered, gut-churning horror shocked audiences around the world. After making a splash (as it were) with hard-core sex flicks Heat and Thrust and Howard's End, director James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant changed tack to create seminal shocker A Room With Spew. Then came this, their biggest, most controversial hit to date. Anthony Hopkins stars as a butler with a dark secret: he is really on a mission from Hell to corrupt and ultimately impregnate housekeeper Emma Thomson with the seed of Satan. Christopher Reeve plays a demon in disguise who feasts on the maggots that breed on the festering corpses of abducted babies in the cellar. The film has many memorable set-pieces, including Hopkins' flagellation of Geoff the gardener in which the hapless horticulturist is whipped until his intestines spill out like big black bulbous worms, and Thomson's energetic sex scene with Bob the possessed sheepdog.

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