Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Carry On, Jim Carrey

As of today, "Ace Ventura" can get mail from AARP.  Yes, Jim Carrey is 50.

True Story:  I started my professional TV career at WISN, the ABC affiliate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  I got plucked out of BeerTown by WPIX TV in New York City, making my bow on that local NY station in April 1985.  WPIX/Channel 11 had a public affairs show called Best Talk in Town.  I did celebrity interviews on that show.  What a time in NYC to have a gig like that it was!  I got to interview famous entertainment industry folks like Rosemary Clooney, Alice Faye, Geraldine Page, Tony Randall and photographer Francesco Scavullo.  I also talked to the (then) new faces like Kathleen Turner and Kevin Costner.  I was the first TV person to interview a new actress named Annabeth Gish as she promoted her movie debut in Desert Bloom. 
Lauren Hutton came in for an interview.  I'd interviewed her before, during my Milwaukee years, and she felt comfortable with me.  In the make-up room, she asked if she could bring one of the movie's other actors on with her.  She was the star but she wanted to give him some exposure.  Not scheduled for the interview, he'd accompanied her to WPIX and was going to stay in the green room.  I said, "Sure."  This young. tall, slim, very polite and a bit shy guy comes on so I could interview Lauren Hutton and him about the vampire comedy, Once Bitten.  Jim Carrey broke up the camera crew and me with his personality, loopy humor and seemingly made-of-rubber limbs.  The guys in the control room were laughing and a few came out to meet him.  The person who was not laughing was our boss, the producer.  A rather dry, not-as-hip-as-she-thought woman named Felicidad.  As Hutton and Carrey happily left our studio for the elevator, Felicidad glanced at me with flared nostrils and said, "He'll never get anyplace.  He's silly."

Starting in 1990, five years after Once Bitten, young viewers loved his silliness and physical contortions when he was an original cast member of Fox TV's hit sketch comedy show, In Living Color, with the Wayans Brothers and future Best Actor Oscar winner, Jamie Foxx. Remember Carrey as psychotic Fire Marshall Bill?
In 1994, he became the top comedy character quoted by males from high school boys to Al Roker on NBC.  Carrey scored a big box office hit with the low brow comedy of Ace Ventura:  Pet Detective.
More Hollywood success came with the comedies The Mask and Dumb & Dumber.  He was like a new Jerry Lewis, a new Robin Williams.  But, when his talents were reined in and disciplined, he proved that he was more than just a goofy grown-up juvenile.  There was depth and dramatic skill.  Look at his constantly cheerful Truman Burbank, unaware that his life is being exploited on television in The Truman Show. With reality TV shows still being churned out like sausage, The Truman Show should be re-appreciated today. Carrey did not get an Oscar nomination for that smart, mature performance in the 1998.  If he had, I would not have been surprised.  Exercising some different acting muscles, he did exceptional work in that movie, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and the very complicated I Love You Phillip Morris.  Honored in Europe in 2009, it still had not been released here in the USA over a year later.  Carrey played a character who seems the perfect picture of the Christian family man.  But he's in the closet and a scam artist.  He doesn't really live his life openly until he's behind bars and falls for Phillip Morris, another convict.  This satire might call to mind a bit of the Ted Haggard scandal.  It's an unapologetic look at this same-sex, in prison romance.  Performance-wise, Carrey fully commits to the role and gets kind o' raw.  He's really good.   Ewan McGregor, as the tender-yet-tough Phillip Morris, again makes you say "Ewan McGregor has never been nominated for an Academy Award?  Seriously?"
It's pretty bold and definitely not for the Ace Ventura crowd, unless that crowd has grown up.  It's not a great film, but I really dig seeing actors who've been stereotyped in one kind of comedy stretch and play the other side of the coin with a character that challenges them and the audience.  Carrey is fascinating to me when he takes a risk and goes to that darker, deeply human side with a mature script.  America wasn't ready for I Love You Phillip Morris.  France and Great Britain were.
I think Jim Carrey could land an Oscar nomination one day.  But he'll have to do something dramatic and heartbreaking -- like what Jack Lemmon did as the alcoholic in Days of Wine and Roses.  Think about it: Sally Field, Tom Hanks, Robin Williams, Jamie Foxx, Mo'Nique and Ron Howard are all TV sitcom veterans.  What did they get their Academy Awards for?  Dramatic work.  Ron Howard's Oscars were for directing and producing the Best Picture of 2001, the drama, A Beautiful Mind.

Jim Carrey is 50 today.  Every time I see his name on a big screen, I think of what my former boss said: "He'll never get anyplace.  He's silly."  I wonder what ever happened to her.  By the way, she didn't think Oprah would get anyplace either.  Happy Birthday, Jim Carrey.  Thanks for the laughs.  And drama.  And the hard work it takes to do both.

1 comment:

  1. Lauren Hutton is a vampire simply named "The Countess" who must bite a virgin three times per year (ending on Halloween) in order to retain her youth and beauty. However, living in California in the mid-1980s, it's becoming impossible to find a virgin.
    This is a horror comedy that's not exactly atmospheric, thrilling or suspenseful (it's also completely free of gore), and not exactly hilarious. Rather, it's just a very lighthearted, mostly enjoyable film that happens to be about vampires, although it's primarily interesting for a one of the earliest, pre-fame appearances of Jim Carrey, and for nostalgia, as Once Bitten is firmly mired in mid-1980s pop culture. The biggest flaw is that the mythology behind the film is not very well explained or followed. The Countess finds Mark Kendall (Carrey) fairly easily, but we're not shown her and her clan looking very hard until just before Halloween--they had all year. We're never told if the clan has to follow the same rules. It doesn't seem so in the end, but why not? It's never very clear why The Countess can't just go after, say, an eleven year old. When things are getting down to the wire near the climax of the film, there are other virgins around, but The Countess just ignores them as potential drinking fountains of youth. It seems like maybe she has to bite the same person, rather than three potentially different people, consulta medico pediatra medico doctor dermatologo veterinario veterinario psychologist consulta abogado abogado colombia abogado mexico abogado españa abogado psicologo doctor psicologo abogado abogado three times, but that's never directly stated. How long does it have to be between bites? Why couldn't she just bite the one person twice, then bite someone else three times within a few hours?


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