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Saturday, May 25, 2024

REELS WITH REIS: Return of the Mike — Last Month Now


The “Reels with Reis” column is near and dear to my heart— and has hereby returned to The Messenger after a brief hiatus.

Just as Adam Sandler’s Henry Roth prepared for Drew Barrymore’s retrograde amnesia-stricken Lucy Widmore in 50 First Dates (2004 a year in review montage recapping all what she missed, enjoy my breakdowns of the following movie news I would have covered when they first made headlines had I not been working on a film myself (stories to follow next week).

Sandler Serenaded Shoobedoo!

In a half-roast, half celebratory clapback at The Academy for Oscar-snubbing his electric Uncut Gems (2019) performance, the funny man who occasionally flexes his serious side was honored by his family, friends and The Kennedy Center with a most prestigious honor in D.C. last month.

P.B.S. premiered its Sunday, March 26 special that opened up with an Idina Menzel-led, fittingly operatic ode to Sandler’s early ‘90s Saturday Night Live character, Opera Man. Bites of Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, Big Daddy and more played throughout the night as well.

Sandler co-stars and best buds across several generations of his comedic reach and overall influence took turns taking their tongue-in-cheek ribbings at he who gifts them luxury cars upon the wrap of every Happy Madison Incorporated film vehicle before commending him for changing their lives in infinite ways. Some of the most memorable speeches came from old friends turned fellow famed comedians who can attest that Sandler was, from the get-go, certain of his looming stardom despite his off-kilter, zany and alternative brand of silly.

“This prize rightly celebrates giants of American humor, each distinctive in their own way. And in that regard, no one is more deserving of this honor than Adam Sandler,” Conan O’Brien spoke of his former SNL co-writer turned neighbor of many years after jokingly calling the proceedings “an abomination.”

He added, “Adam is a uniquely American voice— big-hearted, joyous, outrageous, angry, absurd. And more insanely prolific than any of his peers. Adam’s comedy doesn’t preach or instruct. Like Twain, he’s down in the muck with us— laughing at himself.

“He is creatively restless, a giant film star of comedy and drama who still tours the country like a vaudevillian. I don’t know what drives Adam— frankly, I don’t want to know, I’m scared. But he is beloved around the world more than anyone I can think of.”

When “The Sandman” accepted his prize at the culmination of the event, he too came out swinging, joking that the bronze statue of Twain he had just received “one day might be the weapon used to bludgeon me in my sleep.”

“I think the reason I get to say [criticisms of his films] didn’t hurt me is because so many of you guys in this room make me feel great about what we’ve done together,” Sandler concluded. “And all my fellow comedians, actors, writers, collaborators, crew members, people on the streets, my family, my kids, my forever girl Jackie, all make me feel like the critics didn’t know what the hell they were talking about. So thank you all for that. Thank you for creating a delusional, psychotic man who is now the proud owner of the 2023 Mark Twain Award for athleticism; math, sexual prowess, guitar virtuosity and best cheek smell.”

The ceremony was an ample reminder that award-worthy comedy does not require satirical devastation categorically disguised as a comedy due to a tight runtime to make its dent in the universe. Take it from Sandler and fellow comedians of his, and several other generations’ North Star, Mel Brooks, comedy can still be that thing you rely on to escape and/or reflect upon the stresses of the real world without driving yourself mad. Sometimes all you need is a good laugh, or several on top of each other in short order, to get by.

Sandler’s former roommate, frequent collaborator and comedy director extraordinaire Judd Apatow, also a Massapequa native, said of the Mark Twain Prize Award winner that night:

“He’s our Eddie Murphy, Our Marx Brothers, and in many ways he’s becoming our Jack Nicholson too,” alluding to the airborne belief that there’s a new Sandler era on the horizon.

So don’t stop looking at him, swans. He’s just teeing off.

Tarantino’s Next Movie Gets a Title

And we say next, and not last, because there’s going out on top, and then there’s going out prematurely. Although, Quentin Tarantino, 60, now feels more assured than ever that he can walk away without regret as he’s long threatened.

The book sales on Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’s novelization and his Cinema Speculation essay compilation accurately indicate he’s got an author in him. Additionally, his Video Archives Podcast with co-Pulp Fiction scribe and video store clerk partner-in-crime Roger Avary has equally convinced him he could tell stories more frequently and instantly mass distributable in alternative mediums.

After all, writing books and fostering podcasts don’t demand that he donate nearly half a decade’s worth of time and resources, and a couple hundred million dollars’ worth of budget for his few and far between feature efforts, in order to entertain the masses with a quality tale.

But we damn sure hope he continues to do the latter long past his self-imposed expiration date.

Nevertheless, the news that an upcoming Tarantino film is making the rounds with a shooting window already envisioned is music to the ears of his fandom who grow impatient every time he’s on deserved sabbatical. Coming off a work of equal-parts hangout, historical fiction and homage ingeniousness that was 2019’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Tarantino has teased, per The Hollywood Reporter, that what could be his final “10th” film – with both Kill Bill volumes considered one — is tentatively entitled “The Movie Critic.”

Little is known, but there are reports that its late 1970s Los Angeles-set and sports a female lead— with professional dot-connectors settling on a biopic of real-life film reviewer and essayist Pauline Kael as the likeliest bet.

Kael, who died in 2001, was known for getting embroiled in heated fights with editors and filmmakers. She even worked as a consultant for Paramount in the 1970s at the request of movie star Warren Beatty, which could be a plot point addressed in the film should it indeed tackle Kael as its primary subject matter. Perhaps Brad Pitt or Leonardo DiCaprio, or leading men of equal stature who’ve yet to collaborate with QT like Tom Cruise or Bradley Cooper, could step into those shoes for further Oscar glory by Tarantino’s words and commands?

“The critic that’s had the most impact on me is, hands down, Pauline Kael,” the director stated on the Pure Cinema podcast in 2020: “To me [she] was my film professor, and at the end of the day ended up being more influential to me as a filmmaker than any director.”

Kael called Tarantino talented in a Pulp Fiction review, but stated “it’s too early to say if there’s any depth to that talent.” She added, “I laughed a lot at Pulp Fiction. It tickled me the way Paul Morrissey’s 1970 porno-absurd Trash did, and Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator. There’s nothing under Pulp Fiction, no serious undercurrents.” It was this back-handed compliment mixed with a tough love approach to measuring Tarantino’s iconic work that may have inspired him to dive into a more mature execution of his own hallmarks with Jackie Brown as his next directed feature in 1997.

Though Tarantino denied rumors The Movie Critic would be about Kael to Cannes Film Festival director Theirry Fremaux in Paris weeks after THR’s initial mid-March article publication, still expect any combination of Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio, to be attached in some way shape or form. And it could ultimately still end up being about Kael, given Tarantino’s experience with The Hateful Eight, having to re-strategize relations with the media and the configuration of his own text in the wake of pre-production script leaks.

“I have finished the script of what will end up being my last movie. I imagine we’ll probably shoot it, I guess, in the fall,” Tarantino told Fremaux, per The Playlist and France24.

No studio is attached yet, but Sony would be foolish to let the project fall to a competitor after 10 Oscar nominations and $377 million worldwide came in for the last Tarantino brainchild they shepherded.

I’m sorry? Did I break your concentration?

Tarantino (L) and Pauline Kael (R).
Michael J. Reistetter
Michael J. Reistetter
Mike Reistetter, former Editor in Chief, is now a guest contributor to The Messenger Papers. Mike's current career in film production allows for his unique outlook on entertainment writing. Mike has won second place in "Best Editorials" at the New York Press Association 2022 Better Newspaper Contest.