Skip’s Quips: Help! My Ears Got Punished During ‘The Trip to Italy’

Blog Sketch 082813Who doesn’t like movies about a couple of guys taking a trip to Italy to dine at fancy restaurants while doing interminable impersonations of assorted celebrities?

I don’t. And consequently, I didn’t care for Michael Winterbottom’s disastrously unfunny The Trip to Italy at all.

I wasn’t a big fan of The Trip, the film’s picaresque predecessor, but at least the concept, which involved Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon doing impressions during meals at various restaurants in England, was somewhat novel at the time. Its sequel, however, is not so lucky. In fact, many of the impersonations (Michael Caine, Al Pacino) seem to be rehashed from the original film, leaving the viewer wondering if they have anything actually new up their sleeves to bring to the table.

It’s quite an awkward mix, this picture, what with the “comedy” (basically Coogan and Brydon talking over each other without offering much context) juxtaposed with shots of food and Italian landscapes … though the cuisine and scenery seem to be extraneous, playing second fiddle to the duo’s tedious, presumably improvised schtick.

I’m sorry, but I like my comedy cooked throughout, not half-baked. And The Trip to Italy is so underdone it’s raw.

One of the biggest problems with the flick is that it’s not cinematic. It’s a collection of episodes punctuated by flat humor and pseudo-philosophical asides. You’d be hard pressed to find another picture in recent years that dwells so much on quotes provided by Shelley and Byron. But you’d also be hard-pressed to find one that trivializes their work so frustratingly by making fleeting references to them and not following up with any further insight. That’s pretentious, fellow viewers, and makes for problematic movie-watching. I like my Shelley and Byron well-done, too. Not the way The Trip to Italy cooks them up.

I’m not sure what the market is for this kind of thing; it can’t be too large. It’s definitely not my kind of comedy. All I can say is I hope a third installment isn’t in the works. Making this series into a trilogy would just be too much cinematically to bear.

Setter’s ‘Spectives: On Israel, ‘Genocide’ and Celebrity Politics

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613I was not delighted to read the recent news report about Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Pedro Almodovar calling Israel’s ongoing Gaza Strip initiative a “genocide.”

These are very talented people, especially Almodovar, whose films I like very much. Unfortunately, calling Israel’s operation a genocide smacks to me of ignorance and anti-Semitism. It’s a way of turning around Jews’ experience in the Holocaust to suggest the victims of that era are now the perpetrators of an operation that seeks the extermination of a population, and that’s just not the case.

Full disclosure: I’m Jewish. I have positive feelings for Israel in my blood – my mother raised money for the country when I was an infant – and although I don’t agree with all of its policies, I support its right to exist. I also support the right of celebrities to say any ludicrous thing that comes to their minds, as everyone should have freedom of speech. Sadly, it has become fashionable to single out Israel as a “fascist” or “Nazi”-like state effecting a genocide in the Gaza Strip, despite the fact that Israel’s activities bear no resemblance to the Nazis’ attempt to eradicate Jews in the early part of the last century.

There’s no comparison. I know. I interviewed two Holocaust survivors when I was in seventh grade, and I’ll never forget the horrors they recounted to me. It’s not the same thing. The Nazis were a different animal. They sought the systematic destruction of the Jews, both physically and psychologically. They sought genocide. The two people I interviewed were witnesses.

I don’t believe in violence as a solution to the problems of living in this world. But I also don’t believe in the misuse of words to address political sentiments. Those who argue that Israel is committing genocide should reexamine their claims in light of actual attempts at genocide in recent history – including the Holocaust, the Turkish genocide of Armenians in the early 20th century and the Rwandan genocide in the 1990s. I encourage Cruz, Bardem, Almodovar and others to think further on these events, study them, before making a determination. Hopefully, they’ll come to a more educated conclusion.