Wednesday, June 27, 2012

WHY AREN'T YOU WATCHING...NORA'S B-SIDES?


This edition of Why Aren't You Watching? honors the late, great writer/director Nora Ephron. You know what made her famous - now let's turn focus towards three of her lesser-known films: This is My Life, Mixed Nuts, and Hanging Up. B-Sides to most, they're still classics in their own right - and unmistakably Ephron.



Yesterday's passing of Nora Ephron came as quite a shock - to most, I imagine. Illness aside, I had no idea that she was 71 years old! Her career in Hollywood was impressive to say least. She would define a generation of strong female characters (not to mention the very genre of romantic comedy itself) in When Harry Met Sally..., and would capture lightning in a bottle once again with Sleepless in Seattle.

Those are the types of things you'll probably be reading a lot over the next few days, right? It's not to say they're not true, but three films sprang to mind immediately when I knew that I wanted to write something - and they definitely weren't the ones you'd expect. 



You see, if you dig a little deeper, you'll find some forgotten treasures among Nora Ephron's time in the industry. Without question, my personal favorites are This is My Life, Mixed Nuts, and Hanging Up. All for different reasons, and not even because they share much DNA (beyond them all being written by Ephron). Let's take a look!


This is My Life (1992)


There is unfortunately no trailer available for this one, which I guess is relatively unsurprising given that the film has been out of print for a couple decades on VHS and has never been released on DVD. Dottie Ingalls (Julie Kavner, voice of Marge Simpson) is an aspiring stand-up comedienne. Her daughters Opal (Gaby Hoffmann) and Erica (Super Mario Bros.' Samantha Mathis) adore her, but begin to dislike all of their mother's time away from home.


This was a movie I remember watching countless times on cable as a kid, and always enjoyed. Maybe it was because Dottie was funny. Maybe it was because Opal's outfits were insane. Hell, maybe it was because Dan Akroyd plays Dottie's manager (and his assistant was Carrie Fisher).


 Even in 1992 Ephron could command a great cast, and This is My Life is a sweet story about parent-child relationships. Hopefully its day will come soon for DVD!

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Mixed Nuts (1994)




A classic in my family since the good ol' days of VHS, Mixed Nuts was one of my first views of California life. In retrospect, it's kinda weird that I still moved here. What can I say? I love colorful characters. 



Not so much a Christmas movie as much as a movie that happens to take place during Christmas, we also get Madeline Kahn as "Mrs. Munchnik" and Liev Schreiber as a transvestite. Did I mention they work for a depression hotline, and there's a murderer on the loose?


Just wait until he starts charming Adam Sandler!

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Hanging Up (2000)






Ah, to look back on my teenage days working at Blockbuster! Having five free rentals every week as an employee perk, there really weren't many new releases left behind. I sorta accidentally fell in love with this one, and on paper it's not hard to see why: Georgia (Diane Keaton) is an egomaniac with her own magazine, Eve (Meg Ryan) is a high-strung event planner, and Maddie (Lisa Kudrow) is a flighty weirdo who sometimes wears crazy clothes. 

Do any of those things remind you of anyone? If you said "all of them", then you're likely talking about me. Right on.



This is the only one of my B-Sides presented here that wasn't written and directed by Nora Ephron. Though she did write it, the directing duties went to Diane Keaton, herself. Walter Matthau rounds out the cast as their senile father, who is sometimes a horrible person but usually a sweet guy.


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RIP, Nora Ephron. You made some touching films, funny films, and also Bewitched - but as far I'm concerned you get a full pardon on that one. Anyhoo, thank you for your making romantic comedies a real thing. Meg Ryan thanks you, too.

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