When TV Characters Become Movie Critics: Part 1

I have long been amused when a character in a television show gives their opinion about a popular movie – sometimes while the film is still playing in theaters. In many cases, the criticisms echo those of many people in the audience, which helps to blur the line between fantasy and reality. 

On the NBC sitcom, Community, Annie (Alison Brie) gives her study group friend Abed (Danny Pudi) DVDs of three of the Indiana Jones movies because, as both say in unity, “The fourth one blows!” This is a sentiment that both holds consensus in the show’s world, and the real one’s – especially the online community. 

Community (now streaming on Netflix) was full of such moments in which pat put downs of many movies were offered (see Den of Geek’s The 68 Movie References in Community), and the same goes for such shows as The Simpsons, Big Bang Theory, Rick & Morty, and countless other pop culture-minded programs. 

But here I wanted to look at the shows that have character’s point of views on certain movies come up more organically – for the most part. 

The first such moment of movie appraisal that I remember noting was from the late ‘70s to early ‘80s soap opera satire, Soap. In an episode towards the end of the first season (airdate: March 14, 1978), a character named Flo Flotsky, played by television veteran Doris Roberts, perhaps best known for her role as Ray Romano’s mother in the CBS sitcom Everyone Loves Raymond, deflects from her son, Father Tim Flotsky (sal Viscuso), telling her he’s fallen in love with Corine (Diana Conova) by spouting out her critique of the massively popular space epic that was still reigning at the box office when the episode aired:

Flo Flotsky: “Y’know I finally saw that ‘Star Wars’ movie they’re all ravin’ about. I dunno. In my day if they had a leading man it was Clark Gable. Today they got a little machine that goes ‘boop.’ I mean, frankly, I could have stayed home and looked at my upright vacuum cleaner.”

Later, another shot at a mega movie hit, happened during the last season of the NBC show Seinfeld (a mega hit itself) that was broadcast on March 19, 1998. Like STAR WARS, TITANIC was still in theaters when this exchange took place:

George Costanza (Jason Alexander): “I saw ‘Titanic.’ So that old woman, she’s just a liar, right?”

Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld): “And a bit of a tramp if you ask me.”

In the episode “The Rat Pack” from The Sopranos’ fifth season (broadcast: March 14, 2005), most of the female contingent of the cast gather for a Film Club night in which they watch Orson Welles’ CITIZEN KANE. Carmela (Edie Falco) hosts the screening, which takes place in the family’s swanky viewing room, and even reads aloud from Leonard Maltin’s review of the film from one of his yearly guides before it begins.

After they watch the film, the reactions from Carmela and her fellow mob wife group members are priceless:

Adriana (Drea de Matteo): “So it was a sled, huh? He should’ve told somebody.”

Gabriella Dante (Maureen Van Zandt): “I think it’s fascinating that man had all that stuff, but he died alone with nothing and nobody.”

Carmela: “Good. Prick.”

Rosalie Aprile (Sharon Angela): “I hated it. ‘You supply the war, I’ll supply the headlines.’ How conceited.”

Following these comments, the ladies run out of things to say except to briefly compliment the cinematography (“That was very good”) so they fall back into their regular gossiping. The show never reveals whether they have another Film Club, but my guess would be that it was a one-time thing. 

While The Office US (2005-2013) regularly highlighted the absurd, insensitive, and just plain wrong utterances of its protagonist Michael Scott (Steve Carrell), every now and then the character would say something that was actually on point. One such moment was when he shared his thoughts on the fourth entry in the DIE HARD franchise (LIVE FREE AND DIE HARD): 

Michael: “You know what, here’s the thing about ‘Die Hard 4.’ ‘Die Hard 1,’ the original, John McClane was just this normal guy. You know, he’s just a normal New York City cop, who gets his feet cut, and gets beat up. But he’s an everyday guy. In ‘Die Hard 4,’ he is jumping a motorcycle into a helicopter. In air. You know? He’s invincible. It just sort of lost what ‘Die Hard’ was. It’s not ‘Terminator.’” 

Following this, one of his co-workers says “Dude, you should review movies.” Yeah, maybe he should. 

Finally, there’s this conversation from The Handmaid
s Tale (“Womens Work, June 6, 2018) between June (Elizabeth Moss) and Janine (Madeline Brewer) about childbirth: 

Janine: “You’ll probably get to the cool part soon – the baby’s foot pushes out of your stomach, like in ‘Alien.’ (laughs) Charlotte used to do that all the time. (awkward pause) You haven’t seen ‘Alien’?” 

June: “I just thought the sequel was better.” 

These are just several instances of TV characters giving us film critiques, I know there are hundreds, and as the Part 1 implies Ill be posting more, so if you know of any please place them in the comments below or email them me via the address above on the right. 

So I’ll leave you now with this quote from Seinfeld, where the STAR TREK movies frequently came up. Jerry on STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN: “Well, it was the best of those movies.” 

I completely agree. 

More later…

The Colony Theater Closes Tomorrow So One Last Ditch Plea For Stories

fter tomorrow night’s showings of BROOKLYN (at 7:15 and 9:20) and TRUMBO (7 and 9:30), the Colony Theater in Raleigh will be ceasing operations. Tonight’s showing of the 1988 action classic DIE HARD, which I wrote about in the N & O last Friday, will be the last Cool Classics screening at the theater (the series moves to the Rialto in January).

A couple of months back after it was announced that the theater was closing, I posted asking local folks to send in their stories about their experiences with the venue, but I only posted a few of them for a few reasons.

First, there were pesky rumors that the rent might be re-negotiated or that new owners would swoop in and continue its long run as an indie theater. I didn’t really believe they were true, but I still had some small hope that the Colony could be saved.

Second, I didn’t get that many stories. My friend, Anthony Rhodes, who worked there several years ago shared several entertaining ones, and there was a funny anecdote that Brian Hill shared about going to see PULP FICTION there with a girl who was tripping on mushrooms, but mostly I got folks emailing that they were sorry that the theater was closing, and that they went to many movies there.

So, in one last ditch effort to try to job folks’ memories I posted this on Facebook today:

The Last Days of The Colony Theater Thread: I was hoping I could get folks to share their favorite movie experience at the Colony as they are closing tomorrow. I’ll start: Three or four years ago, I attended the Colony’s Cool Classics screening of Ridley Scott’s sci-fi horror classic ALIEN.

I sat up close and got more engrossed in the film than any other time I had seen it. Of course, this was largely because I had never seen it on the big screen before, but it was different this time because this time I felt like I was watching the movie back in 1979 when it first came out.

That’s right, I seriously felt transported into not just the world of the movie but the world of the theater that had probably shown the movie back then. Those who are well acquainted with the décor of the shag carpeting on the walls can probably imagine the feeling somewhat as the theater never lost its ‘70s looks. This vivid memory of that ALIEN screening is one I’ll never forget – when the Colony became a time machine.

Anybody else got a favorite movie experience at the Colony story?

Here are some responses:

Matt Pennachi (Former Cinema Overdrive Series curator): I’m not sure how to craft it into a story that is actually interesting to read, but having a chance to run SLAP SHOT on 35mm was a real thrill to me. In particular, having the opportunity to run the National Film Board of Canada cartoon of “The Sweater” (which was a childhood favorite of mine) before the film was awesome…..particularly when I had to manually chance the masking from scope to flat as we transitioned from the cartoon to the feature.

Jennifer Love (Rialto Theater Manager): When Ambassador first bought the Colony, I remember being there when the new floor carpeting was being installed and helping paint the restrooms. Someone had decided to be creative on the stalls and go for that speckled look. We had old toothbrushes and dipped them in white paint and splattered spots onto the stall walls. That’s how we did it and why there are so many different sizes of spots. I think I had more white paint splatters on me than the stalls!

I also worked matinees back when Colony ran them everyday. Food lion was being constructed next door at that time. Clif and I worked the unexpected hit, LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL and a sold out show around the holidays (can’t remember which) of SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE. just the 2 of us! I still don’t know how we did that. My favorite memories are of the midnight late shows. They played in house one: THE ABYSS, HEAVY METAL, THE SHINING and so many more. I know everyone will continue to love the Colony and all the memories made there. Good times.

Daniel Matti (Schoolkids Records Manager): I saw 13 ASSASSINS twice there. The only Takashi Miike film I’ve seen in theaters. I will miss the Colony.

Joel Frady (Fellow Film Critic): REQUIEM FOR A DREAM in 2000 –
there must have been 50 or so people in the right theater, and when the credits
rolled not a single person moved. Then, when the lights came up everyone slowly
exited – but nobody said a word. We were almost back to NC State when I finally
broke the silence with “Who wants a fucking Dairy Queen Blizzard?”

Joe Corey (Cinema Overdrive host): Fond memory of going over for a midnight screening of FASTER PUSSYCAT KILL! KILL! for the projectionist inspection. Also the joy of attending my first Cinema Overdrive and feeling at home. It was good to attend a program where I had utter trust in whatever Adam (Hulin) and Matt (Pennachi) programmed. Was so grateful for the months that I hosted the series while Adam was away.

Goodbye, Colony Theater (1972-2015). I, and many others, will miss you greatly.

More later…