The Impostors

The Impostors movie poster

 

Stan­ley Tucci’s The Impos­tors (1998) is with­out a doubt one of the fun­ni­est and most pure­ly enjoy­able movies I’ve ever seen. And that’s real­ly say­ing some­thing, con­sid­er­ing its milieu is the job­less­ness, des­per­a­tion, and loom­ing inter­na­tion­al con­flict of The Great Depres­sion. Bald­ly com­posed as a lov­ing homage to old-school Hol­ly­wood screw­ball come­dies, it has the feel of a filmed stage play like Peter Bogdanovich’s Nois­es Off (1992) crossed with the loosey-goosey, mak­ing-it-up-as-they-go-along feel of a Marks Broth­ers or Lau­rel & Hardy romp. The pro­duc­tion val­ues may be frankly rather cheap, but it turns its bud­get into a virtue as the same sets are redressed over and over to amus­ing effect, and final­ly as the entire sound­stage-bound façade is unveiled dur­ing a cel­e­bra­to­ry dance num­ber that breaks the fourth wall. Refresh­ing­ly, The Impos­tors is an affec­tion­ate pas­tiche, and not satir­ic or iron­ic in the least.

Olive Platt and Stanley Tucci in The ImpostorsTo life… and its many deaths.”

The free­wheel­ing farce is above all a love let­ter to the craft of act­ing. Arthur (Tuc­ci) and Mau­rice (Oliv­er Platt) are two per­pet­u­al­ly out-of-work actors so enam­ored of their cho­sen pro­fes­sion that they will not con­sid­er pur­su­ing any oth­er line of work even when faced with star­va­tion. Their dai­ly rou­tine con­sists of stag­ing act­ing exer­cis­es for them­selves in pub­lic, dup­ing passers­by into serv­ing as their par­tic­i­pa­to­ry audi­ence, like a pro­to­type of mod­ern-day pranksters Improv Every­where. An esca­lat­ing series of mis­ad­ven­tures final­ly deliv­ers them into a sce­nario in which their act­ing skills for once become use­ful: the oppor­tu­ni­ty to por­tray fab­u­lous­ly rich cruise ship pas­sen­gers, to save the day, and of course to die mag­nif­i­cent­ly heart­break­ing deaths while doing so. One could argue that what Arthur and Mau­rice want, even more than to eat, is the oppor­tu­ni­ty to die in front of an audi­ence. It’s worth not­ing that most of the legit­i­mate pas­sen­gers are any­thing but; most have either lost for­tunes dur­ing the Depres­sion, are con­spir­ing to steal new ones, or plot to wreak ter­ror­ist hav­oc in the name of fas­cism.

Lili Taylor and Campbell Scott in The ImpostorsThe dan­ger of the chase has made you per­spire. It has made me also… moist.”

Tucci’s paean to act­ing attract­ed an ensem­ble cast to die for, includ­ing a dream team of 1990s indie super­stars includ­ing Lily Tay­lor, Steve Busce­mi, Hope Davis, Isabel­la Rosselli­ni, Tony Shal­houb, and Camp­bell Scott (who shame­less­ly steals and runs away with the movie with a sub­lime­ly odd char­ac­ter that answers the unasked ques­tion: what if Mar­vin the Mar­t­ian were a lovestruck Nazi?). A great many oth­ers would achieve greater fame lat­er: Ali­son Jan­ney (The West Wing), Alfred Moli­na (Spi­der-Man 2), Michael Emmer­son (Lost), and Richard Jenk­ins (The Vis­i­tor — read The Dork Report review). And there’s still room in the souf­flé for wild­cards like Scot­tish come­di­an Bil­ly Con­nol­ly and a cameo by a man­ic Woody Allen in a super­flu­ous (but still fun­ny) skit.

Sad­ly, The Impos­tors was not near­ly as much of a crit­i­cal or com­mer­cial suc­cess as Tuc­ci and Scott’s acclaimed Big Night (1996), which may or may not have any­thing to do with the fact that Tuc­ci has only direct­ed two films since (Joe Gould’s Secret in 2000 and Blind Date in 2008). Let’s hope he and Big Night co-direc­tor Scott con­spire again soon in the future.


Buy the DVD from Ama­zon and kick back a few pen­nies to The Dork Report.

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Raiders of the Lost Ark

 

In order to catch up on the over­whelm­ing back­log of movies I intend to cov­er here on this blog, this Dork Reporter is going to keep it brief with a few dis­con­nect­ed bul­let points:

• The 2008 DVD reis­sues of the clas­sic Indi­ana Jones tril­o­gy have ter­ri­bly designed menus; it looks like everything’s been over­processed with Photoshop’s “Dust and Scratch­es” fil­ter.

• The zip­py, wit­ty screen­play is by Lau­rence Kas­dan, known to genre geeks as the beloved writer of the best Star Wars script, now and for­ev­er: The Empire Strikes Back.

• Hey, it’s that guy! A young Alfred Moli­na briefly appears in his first film role. In the DVD bonus fea­tures, he recounts an amus­ing tale involv­ing his lack of dif­fi­cul­ty in evok­ing fear in his per­for­mance as a batch of real taran­tu­las scram­bled across his face.

Raiders of the Lost ArkI like your hat.” “So do I.”

• Karen Allen is real­ly win­ning as the hard-drinkin’ Mar­i­on, and it’s a pity she nev­er became a big­ger star, or at least appeared in the sec­ond and third install­ments. She was robbed!

• Does the Indi­ana Jones fran­chise real­ly give the field of archae­ol­o­gy a good name? Indy is moti­vat­ed by mon­ey; he loots relics with­out the per­mis­sion of indige­nous peo­ples, and sells them to a muse­um asso­ci­at­ed with the uni­ver­si­ty where he teach­es (it’s implied his job or tenure — and that of his boss Mar­cus — depend on it).

Raiders of the Lost ArkRat­ed PG, my melt­ing face, suckas!

• I think I had the offi­cial col­or­ing book as a kid, and I recall being fas­ci­nat­ed by the con­cept of lost cities buried under sand.

• For bet­ter or for worse, the prac­ti­cal details of the phan­tas­magoric cli­max are left unex­plained: why is the Ark emp­ty, why does it make bad guys’ heads explode and/or melt, why does it mat­ter if your eyes are open or not, and why does Indy know that it does?

• There’s lot­sa drink­ing, gun­play, gore, and Ger­man pro­fan­i­ty — in oth­er words, all the stuff kids love! They don’t make PG movies like this any­more.

• Kids, the moral of the sto­ry is: any­one with an accent is not to be trust­ed.


Offi­cial movie site: www.indianajones.com

Buy the DVD from Ama­zon and kick back a few pen­nies to The Dork Report.