Oscar worthy

Posted on 16 Oct 2006 at 4:16pm

Guest and crew milk great laughs while mocking Academy Awards



SAPPHIC NOMINATION: Wayward lesbian Callie (Posey, right) introduces her lover (Harris) to the family.


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FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
Director: Christopher Guest
Cast: Jennifer Coolidge, Jane Lynch, Catherine O’Hara and Parker Posey
Opens Nov. 22
1 hr., 26 min. PG-13

When critics tout a film’s Academy Award chances in reviews, they often have an ulterior motive: To be quoted in ads, or to jog their own memories when they compile year-end “Best” lists.

“For Your Consideration” pokes fun at the idea that “Oscar buzz” has become as important as the award itself that “it’s an honor to be almost nominated.”

In comedy, as in horror, it’s an honor to be overlooked. And if the Academy ever recognized his mockumentaries, fans of Christopher Guest’s movies (“Waiting for Guffman,” “Best in Show,” “A Mighty Wind”) would probably be disappointed.

The wacky but incisive comic style is the same, and the repertory company is back, augmented by new and familiar faces. You still can’t tell what’s scripted from what’s improvised.

Oscar buzz impacts “Home for Purim,” a movie that’s still in production. Catherine O’Hara is the past-her-prime actress starring as the dying mother in a Southern Jewish family. She hopes her estranged daughter (Parker Posey) will come home for the holidays.

Harry Shearer, an actor best known for playing a hot dog in commercials, plays O’Hara’s husband and Christopher Moynihan their son. Moynihan and Posey have something going off the set: “Playing siblings, living the life of lovers,” he tells a reporter.

Posey surprises her family by coming home for the first time in 12 years and bringing along her lesbian lover (Rachael Harris).

The first mention of an Oscar comes from an anonymous Internet comment about O’Hara. She becomes obsessed and the word spreads. The rumor grows to include Shearer and Posey.

As soon as Posey’s name is mentioned in the same sentence with Oscar, Moynihan’s face becomes a composite of Chad Lowe’s and Ryan Phillippe’s.

Once this little art film begins to smell like money, the studio suits (Ricky Gervais, Larry Miller) take an interest and suggest “toning down the Jewishness” to attract a wider audience: “I don’t run around saying, “‘I’m a gentile. Here’s my foreskin.’ I don’t try to shove it down your throat.”

Among the many targets offered for your consideration are the shows that report on movies, from Ebert & Roeper-like critics to a Charlie Rose-type interviewer to a TRL-ish MTV show. Fred Willard and Jane Lynch are the hilarious hosts of an “Entertainment Tonight” clone.

Within the movie business, no department is safe: from the producer (Jennifer Coolidge) to the writers (Bob Balaban, Michael McKean) to the makeup artist (Ed Begley Jr.) to the publicist (John Michael Higgins).

A few gags may be too obvious: Agent Eugene Levy tells Shearer, “You’re my number-one priority,” when his cell phone rings and Shearer becomes a distant second.

And some may be too Jewish (am I the first to suggest an Oscar nomination for “The Purim Song”?)

But in this too-much-information age, most viewers will get most of the jokes. And the easy ones will placate those who miss the difficult ones. You don’t have to be Jewish to know that Yiddish words sound funny when spoken with a Southern drawl learned from watching “Jezebel.”

One wonders if Guest is making his own inside joke by having O’Hara emerge from a makeover looking like Coolidge usually does.

Like Guest’s other films, how much you love “For Your Consideration” will depend on your level of interest in the subject. But what moviegoer isn’t crazy about the movies?

“Oscar the backbone of this industry: An industry noted for not having a backbone.”

With lines like that, “For Your Consideration” bites the mouth it feeds. You gotta love it.



OUT ON VIDEO
Filmed in Dallas, the DVD edition of “Hate Crime” ($26.99, Image Entertainment) was released earlier this week.

The gay melodrama part love story, mystery, police procedural and vigilante spree focuses on Robbie and Trey the new couple in the neighborhood.

One evening, Trey sets out on his nightly walk with their dog and never returns. Immediately, fingers are pointed: partner Robbie and right-wing Christian neighbor Chris become prime suspects. With no support from the authorities, Robbie receives help from unlikely sources to execute a dangerous plan that uncovers secrets that will ultimately bring the perpetrator to justice.

DVD edition contains a making-of featurette, deleted scenes, commentary by director Tommy Stovall and more.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, November 17, 2006.

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