The funniest movie of 2003? There's no question about it, now that I've seen Christopher Guest's sly satire of the folk-world scene.
A Mighty Wind is droll and deft, two words you don't see used much any more for comedies. It's an absolute delight.
Of course, you'll have to be old enough to remember folk music and groups such as The Lettermen, The New Christy Minstrels and The Kingsmen. They were insipid white-bread performers who wore "dickies" (faux turtleneck tops) and appeared on TV shows like Andy Williams and Lawrence Welk.
When the Beatles and Stones came to town, they kicked the folk groups' collective butts, and that was it. These groups were finished. The Mamas & the Papas, representing new, hip, folk music, took over. The Lettermen joined the Lennon Sisters for the early-bird dinner.
Guest, who also made the wickedly funny Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show with the same actors, strikes again here with similar fervor. Indeed, Guest's movies are direct descendants of Rob Reiner's This Is Spinal Tap, which featured Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer in lead roles.
The Guest difference is adding members of the famed SCTV comedy troupe — Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara — to the aforementioned trio. He also throws in Bob Balaban, Fred Willard, John Michael Higgins and Parker Posey.
These people now comprise a nameless but scarily precise comedy troupe.
I saw A Mighty Wind last night because Balaban — who in the movie plays the role of a producer trying to stage a live reunion show of these acts for public television — screened it for donors to the Culture Project. That's the theatre group that produced The Exonerated, the important hit show Balaban directed.(There's talk now of The Exonerated expanding to London and other cities.)
Otherwise, I might not have seen it at all. Warner Brothers, expert in promoting movies such as The Matrix, is sort of lost when it comes to selling small comedies of Wind's gem-like nature.
Basically, Warner only has it because it's a Castle Rock film. Castle Rock, long ago bought by Warner, became well-known for producing Seinfeld.
Spinal Tap and Reiner's Stand by Me were the initial Castle Rock films, but that's long ago in the mists of time. The Wind release is like a nod to the old days.
Those who saw Wind last night mentioned over dinner later that the studio's TV ads are terrible and don't communicate the comedy in the movie.
I'm not surprised. Mighty Wind is for smart audiences. No one flies around on broomsticks as in Harry Potter. No one morphs or time-travels. The movie is just so funny that your cheeks will hurt from smiling so much.
What Warner should have done was to get the old folk groups out of mothballs, put on premieres in New York (where the movie is set) at old folk clubs and get feature stories about the old groups — and the movie's fictitious ones — in People, Entertainment Weekly and Dateline, etc.
Instead they're counting on the Best in Show audience to just show up. I sure hope it works. (For more information on the film, check out the excellent Web site.)
By the way, Catherine O'Hara is not only a great comic actress, à la Madeline Kahn, but she also wrote some of the songs her character sings. One of them, called "The Catheter Song," should be covered right away by Britney Spears. It's pure genius.
The Canadian people — the ones who watched the live Juno Awards on Sunday night — got a rude awakening from one American during their awards show.
Eminem — made into a billionaire by the American public — won Best International Album at the Canadian version of the Grammys. He didn't go, but he sent a tape just in case he won.
Unfortunately, the innocent Canadians who were broadcasting the show didn't bother to preview the tape. They're regretting it now.
When they popped the tape in after Eminem's name was announced, this is what they got to hear: "I'm sorry I can't be here," said the rapper. He explained: "I'm in the studio, picking my [expletive, expletive]."
The members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recently gave Eminem an Oscar over the more erudite Bono, an international goodwill ambassador. It's good to see Eminem has taken his responsibility as an Oscar winner so seriously.
Ailing Epic Records, which lost a great deal of staff in its merger with Columbia Records last week, didn't have such a great week in sales either.
Celine Dion, whose new album debuted last week with kind-of mediocre numbers, lost ground in her second week in record stores. The fall-off is pretty severe. It went from 450,000 copies to 100,000 — and that's being kind. The final figures may be lower.
On the other hand, it looks like Warner Bros. records may have used their temporary leverage -- thanks to rock group Linkin Park — to help Cher.
Yes, I said Cher. The pop icon, actress, and celebrity with a capital "C" has a hit with her new album, The Very Best of Cher. This is the payoff from a year of touring the world on her "Farewell" tour.
Cher will finish the week in the top 10, which is kind of unbelievable, but there it is. Long live Cher! Sonny would be proud.