My Name Is Bruce

Actually, I didn’t like Bubba-Ho-Tep.

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Reported on 26th of December, 2008

Many years ago, the LA Weekly review of Showgirls was struggling to explain how difficult this film was to categorize (and Showgirls is that). 

My Name Is Bruce

26 December 2008 @ Los Angeles NuArt


$14.50 or, if one must be quotidian, and one must... 
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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The reviewer explained (and I’m quoting from memory here), “At one point during the preview screening, a man behind me said, ‘This is the greatest movie I have ever seen in my entire life.’”

That man was me.

This may be difficult to believe, but I was at that preview screening, and anyone who knows me will tell you those exact words have tumbled from my mouth more than once (though I was slightly misquoted.  The exact phrasing is, “This is the Greatest Film.  I Have Ever Seen.  In My Entire Life”  Happy to set the record straight).  That being said, my friends are lying if they tell you that I say it about every movie I see.  That being said, it is a phrase I will use at least four or five times a year.  It is a statement reserved for the truly remarkable and wonderful, not the good.  And to be clear, I mean it each time I say it.  My Name Is Bruce is not a good movie.  It may even be terrible.  But that doesn’t stop it from being the greatest movie I have ever seen in my entire life.

Let me explain.

To be honest I wasn’t expecting much, and almost didn’t go, since in order to see it (at least with Bruce Campbell in person, and what’s the point of going if you don’t see Bruce Campbell in person), I had to go to an evening show, which I detest.  There’s people (yuck), it costs more, and it’s very inconvenient for dog feeding times.  I compromised on the 5:10p, and made the right call by buying tickets in advance.  Not only was I guaranteed a seat, my natural sense of cheapness meant that even though it meant doing something (also yuck), I was going to go to collect the tickets that I had already paid for.

The Ticket I had already paid for.

The Ticket I had already paid for.

It was a small crowd, not sold out, but a good crowd.  It’s been a while since I’ve seen a movie with a bunch of people who are really looking forward to that particular movie.  Not because some critic said so (and critics wrongly warned us away), or because there’s that guy in it who did that thing once (although technically speaking, Bruce Campbell is that guy), but because they were fans.  I knew I was in for a treat after rather pedestrian trailer about teens having sex and killing each other went over very badly.  That is, until the title card, which got a really big laugh.  Donkey Punch.

And then, My Name Is Bruce began, and I was instantly transported to another world.  It’s a world that you probably aren’t familiar with, but one which My Name Is Bruce recalls and mimics with great fondness.  It is the world of the low-budget early 80s movie, where it is perfectly acceptable to put the characters in a rigid line, facing the camera, like they’re standing under a proscenium arch. A world where the cuts are always on the lines of dialog, so if a character says something, there’s an eight frame pause, cut to the other character, who then says something, and so on.

And that’s the answer to why I liked My Name is Bruce so much. It’s just happy to be a movie.

[/pullquoteL]It is also a world filled with jokes that only work if you’ve seen a thirty year old horror movie and the attendant Campbell œuvre.  It’s not dissimilar from watching a corporate video in a conference room and saying, ‘There’s Sally from accounting!  Remember that time she wore that red top with a slightly different red skirt?  And now she’s doing it again!’.

The best one of these jokes comes early on.  As one character makes fun of another for loving Bruce Campbell too much, our hero defends the man who made The Man with the Screaming Brain (a real film), and Cave Alien (not a real film), and his friend responds tentatively, “I liked Bubba-Ho-Tep”, to which our hero exasperatedly replies, “Everybody likes Bubba-Ho-Tep!”

It’s a good joke, and it got a big laugh from the only audience who would get it. Bubba-Ho-Tep, if you don’t know, stars Bruce Campbell as an elderly Elvis stuck in a nursing home with a black JFK fighting mummies.  I know, I know, it’s sounds awesome.  But it’s just okay.  It wavers between genre movie, and parody, and some kind of meditation on old age, and just winds up being wanky.  And I was about to find out why My Name Is Bruce worked, and Bubba-Ho-Tep didn’t.

See, I had just finished watching the film, which was silly, and had a lot of dumb jokes in it, and I just didn’t understand: why was I smiling from ear to ear?  I almost left, because usually Q&As make me depressed, and I didn’t want to ruin the high.  But I was also afraid to leave, in case Mr. Campbell saw me go, which would have been awkward.  At least for me.  In any case, it was my duty as a reporter that kept me in my seat, and thank God for imaginary jobs.

Bruce Campbell, the ultimate gentleman and entertainer did not disappoint, and in fact provided the answer to the question I was seeking.  As he related tale after tale of horses (not donkeys) that he was told to punch, and mailmen who are now confused as to where to deliver the mail (to save money, they built the small town western set of My Name Is Bruce on Bruce Campbell’s actual property – it’s true dedication), he mentioned that Evil Dead was having its 30th anniversary, and someone asked if he would rather be back there, looking forward, or now looking back.

There was a hush in the audience, as the tone had suddenly got serious.  But Mr. Campbell was up to the task, and told how he was happily surprised to be there, 30 years ago, sitting in a theater in Detroit, seeing something that he had made, in the same mall where he saw Poseidon Adventure.  It was never going to get better than that.

And that’s the answer to why I liked My Name is Bruce so much.  It’s just happy to be a movie.  It was enough for the people involved to tell some dumb jokes and film them.  Bruce is happy grabbing the love interest’s ass and looking sheepish, the sheriff is happy singing a song about a bean curd loving homicidal ghost, Ted Raimi is happy doing whatever it is that Ted Raimi does, and the dog is happy drinking whisky from the bowl.  You feel like no one cares if the audience gets it, in a good way.  They’re happy for the chance to do stupid bits, and it shows.

Kane put it best when he said, “It might be fun to run a newspaper.”  It’s obvious that Orson Welles was talking about himself, having been widely quoted as calling the RKO Studios the biggest toy box a boy could have.   It might be fun to make a crazy movie; it’s certainly fun to watch.  This sense of fun is something Welles never really captured again.  Before Citizen Kane, he didn’t have to worry if he was going to make Citizen Kane.

With all the Sundance’s and awards and attention to ‘what film is’, and directors being the new rock star and all (like a rock star, but you don’t even have to learn to play an instrument – in fact, you don’t have to know anything at all), no one makes movies anymore; they have agendas, and movies are the result.  It’s the reason I didn’t like Bubba-Ho-Tep; it wants so much to be something else.  The sense of wonder at just getting something up on the screen is something we’ve lost without even noticing, so cheers to you Mr. Campbell, for the reminder.  I haven’t seen this kind of ‘let’s make a movie’ joy since John Waters, or Jean-Luc Godard or Truffaut.  I won’t argue to put Mr. Campbell in this pantheon; I’ll leave that to Jean-Luc Godard.

Profits!

As an actual movie.
$1.00
It’s desire to be a movie.
$14.00
Total Profits
$15.00

Losses!

In 2013, I’m deducting $0.50 for approving the execrable Evil Dead remake. I’m aware it’s not fair, logical, or even very nice.
$0.50
Total Losses
$0.50

$14.50

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