Blake Edwards’ The Party

Anyone who’s been on a movie set, or any professional or social setting for that matter, knows that one lovable but clumsy wrecking ball who constantly trips over stuff, fucks shit up and inadvertently causes disaster wherever they go. In Blake Edwards’s brilliant 60’s screwball comedy The Party that someone is Peter Sellars as Hrundi V. Bakshi, a hapless Indian extra actor who just can’t seem to get it right, despite his best intentions.

Hrundi is blacklisted after causing what was probably a million dollar mistake on set, but the producer accidentally logs his name into the guest list of the swankiest party Hollywood has to offer, and he’s gonna crash the hell out of it. It turns out to be one of those straight-laced, button down industry affairs somewhere in The Hills, and he ends up standing out like an elephant at a house party (that later crosses over from metaphorical to literal, by the way). From the moment he walks through the door he’s knocking shit over, hitting the wrong intercom buttons, nosediving into the fancy indoor pool thingy and generally cultivating a level of uproarious pandemonium that reaches near maniacal heights in the third act. I’ve been to some barnstormer house parties in my day but never one with parrots, bows and arrows, rooms filled with soap bubbles and a painted elephant. Okay, maybe I have, but just not with the elephant.

The cool thing about this character Sellars creates is that despite being an outright moron and harbinger of unavoidable mayhem, he’s actually the sweetest, gentlest human you could meet and just seems cursed with the shitty luck of being the clumsiest guy at the circus. You can see by the way he protects a budding starlet (Claudine Longet) from the slimy sexual advances of a nasty mega producer and just in the simple way he treats people with earnest kindness that he’s a far cry from the polished but seedy diplomacy one usually finds at these events. He’s endlessly watchable and Bakshi is my favourite character he’s ever come up with, whether he’s literally talking back to a parrot who’s yapping at him (Birdy num nums!!), trying to fix the destruction caused by a severely liquored up waiter (Steve Franken) or fanboying over his favourite western movie star (Denny Miller), he’s an unbridled joy to watch and I still can’t believe this never got a sequel. The house in question is designed like a carefully primed mousetrap of pratfalls and slapstick hijinks and the script is a breezy, unconstructed playground for this guy to tear around like a driverless ATV in a Walmart. I used to watch this film with my dad all the time, it was one of his favourites and has become one of mine, the ultimate comedy of errors that has a beating heart and enough comic set pieces to blast the roof off the house. Brilliant film.

-Nate Hill

Barry Levinson’s What Just Happened: A Review by Nate Hill


Barry Levinson’s What Just Happened is an unfairly overlooked little Hollywood satire, a little less bombastic than his excellent Wag The Dog, but no less biting. It’s like Entourage on Zanax, a surprisingly laid back entry into an oeuvre that is usually foaming at the mouth with frenzy. Robert De Niro plays Ben, a very stressed out movie producer who is dealing with a zillion different things at once, most of which are going wrong. The character is based partly on real life Hollywood producer Art Linson, and his book. Ben has a lead actor (Bruce Willis playing Bruce Willis) who refuses to shave his bushy beard for a film. Anyone who remembers the film The Edge with Alec Baldwin and how big his beard was in that, well, that’s where the idea came from. That’s just a taste of how many weird things that both Hollywood and his personal life toss at Ben. He’s also in post production on a Sean Penn film (Penn also plays himself) with a very stubborn and flamboyant director named Jeremy (Michael Wincott) who refuses to cut the film in accordance with the studio’s wishes (here manifested by an icy Catherine Keener). Ben’s daughter (a weepy Kristen Stewart) is going through personal crisis, he’s also got a bitter rivalry with an obnoxious writer (Stanley Tucci) and has to babysit an anxiety ridden agent (John Turturro). It’s all a lot for him to handle and we begin to see the turmoil start to boil under Ben’s cool exterior. The cast is beyond ridiculous, with additional work from Moon Bloodgood, Peter Jacobson, Lily Rabe and Robin Wright as Ben’s estranged wife. Standouts include Michael Wincott who is a comic gem and gives the film it’s life with his pissy, enraged and altogether charming performance. Willis is also priceless as he ruthlessly parodies himself to the hilt. It’s slight, it’s never too much and is probably a bit too laid back for its own good, but I had a lot of fun with it, and it’s always cool to see meta movies about the inner workings of Hollywood.