Watch it now: 1922, 78/52, Dana Carvey, and Dealt
78/52: A deep dive into the most infamous scene in cinema
Logline: Secrets scooped in the Psycho silver screen shower scene.
Verdict: 78/52’s title is a reference to the 78 camera setups and 52 cuts that occur during the shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960). The documentary catalogues the laborious, deliberate nature of filmmaking, but it’s also about the celebration and canonization of great film. 78/52 consists primarily of entertainment biz talking heads (such as Elijah Wood and Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh’s daughter), all of whom discuss the shower sequence in Psycho as a tectonic shift in filmmaking history. Director Alexandre O. Philippe (Doc of the Dead) celebrates the power of audience over author, suggesting that the way you interpret a film reveals more about yourself than anything else. While its core message still remains worthwhile, this movie’s singelmindedness struggles to rivet the audience. But what could have been a Kafkaesque hall of mirrors is ultimately a celebration of a hallowed corner of cinematic history. The overarching takeaway: content can create community, and one person’s creativity can spark endless conversations. Diamond memories indeed.
1922: An engrossing take on Stephen King’s pastoral killer novella
Logline: An egocentric farmer conspires with his son to steal his wife’s inherited land.
Verdict: Zak Hilditch’s take on Stephen King’s story follows farmer Wilfred James (Thomas Jane) and his struggling relationship with wife Arlette (Molly Parker) as his pride of land is threatened by her machinations. Their son Henry (Dylan Schmid) is a pawn in a game between husband and wife, as Wilfred’s own conspiracy takes on violent proportions and sprawls out of his own control. 1922 is packed full of gruesome imagery amid pastoral plains. The camera weaves in and out of the utterly dull depictions of the farming lifestyle, before dipping into good old horror cinema, a fantastic juxtaposition. Stephen King is having a super year thanks to the likes of It storming the box office, with 1922 happily joining the ranks of enjoyable horror. The latter film’s not afraid to juggle tones either, as it has its fair share of classic black comedy moments. Thomas Jane plays the central role with utter plainness, teeth gritted for every weirdly midwestern-inflected line, but doesn’t shy away from showing the violent temptations and guilt at work underneath Wilfred’s surface. 1922 is replete with disturbing imagery, but it’s all thankfully given human weight. The flow is unfortunately disrupted among a rushed ending and utterly laughable final note that fail to capitalize on the recurring creepy imagery permeating the film.
Too Funny To Fail: A hilarious view into comedy’s greatest failure
Logline: The Dana Carvey Show was literally too funny to fail – or was it?
Too Funny To Fail is a documentary from Josh Greenbaum (Becoming Bond) that takes a deep dive into the absurd world of 90s comedy, featuring interviews with Stephen Colbert (Strangers with Candy), Steve Carell (Battle of the Sexes), Jon Glaser (Human Giant), and Dana Carvey (Wayne’s World) as they attempt to untangle the mess that was The Dana Carvey Show. The brief run of the 1996 series was a critical and ratings failure that grabbed a small, die-hard fandom through its edgy absurdist sketches. For any geek of nineties comedy, and for anyone interested in a history of television, this documentary is pretty much a holy text. The Dana Carvey Show opened with a sketch about Bill Clinton taking hormonal therapy to breastfeed to puppies. Given a huge boost of support including a time slot following dull-eyed family “comedy” Home Improvement, it was expected to be a knockout success of the year. Instead, The Dana Carvey Show highlighted the line between executives and comedians over creative control, and how far comedy could go before the plug was pulled. In the eight-episode lifespan of the show, Dana and the team of writers headed by Robert Smigel presented a complete fuck-you to corporate television. Showing oddball footage and clips, the documentary applauds such actions with almost childish glee. It’s hard not to get caught up and be proud of this completely nonsensical achievement. Too Funny to Fail finishes with a note from Dana: “It’s just a television show.” He’s right – but this documentary shows off just how far a comedy television show can stretch.
Dealt: the small story tracing the big talent of a blind magician
Logline: Visually impaired card mechanic prepares for the big time.
Dealt is a documentary about sixty-two-year-old close magician Richard Turner and his incredible life story. Visually impaired from a young age, Turner turned his disability into “a blessing” and burrowed his focus down to the art of card tricks. Directed by Luke Korem (Lord Montagu), the documentary details Turner’s daily life, career, karate achievements, and involvement in the wider world of magic. With the help of his family, Turner practices his card tricks for over “16 hours a day” – and you don’t quite believe it until you see it. His tricks are mind-boggling, and whatever techniques he does reveal are stunning. The documentary explores how, as a young kid, Turner turned to the “tactile” nature of card mechanics to deal with a frustrating world. There’s a fascinating thread throughout about the relationship between Richard and his disability. Korem skips the sob story about a disabled guy who does incredible tricks, but frames it as a triumphant tale not of overcoming adversity but embodying it. Whether it’s winning his karate black belt, or being accepted into the world of professional magicians, his blindness doesn’t hold him back. In his view, it propels him. Dealt is a fascinating documentary that inspires us all to maximize whatever we’re given in life. Deal with it.