Archives For Judd Apatow


Steve Martin turns 70 today – August 14, 2015

For about the last four years of the 1970s and the first couple of the 80s there was no bigger star in comedy than Steve Martin. Somewhere around 1981 he decided to walk away from a stand-up career that was selling out arenas. Arenas. Before that he had been working on an act that was new, fresh and often not embraced by audiences. (The day after a Tonight Show appearance Martin walked into a store in Los Angeles. A woman behind the counter asked, “Are you the young man who was on the Tonight Show last night?” Martin, replied “Yes.” She uttered one work: “Yuck.”)

Martin walked away from a lucrative writing job in TV in order to work out the new kind of act he envisioned. There was a moment in the mid-70s when Martin says that after years of struggling he realized he “was no longer at the tail end of an old movement but at the front end of a new one.” And then he turned on the TV one October night in 1975 and saw the premiere episode of Saturday Night Live. The shock of seeing people he didn’t know performing the kind of “out there” comedy he was refining on the road was a momentary emotional setback. But soon the connection between Martin and SNL would be catalytic and no one could say whether SNL took Martin to the next level or if it was the other way around.

Either way, by the late 70s Martin was at the crest of a pop culture wave. He rode that wave to great success, inspired a lot of kids (read Judd Apatow’s thoughts about Martin in Apatow’s book, Sick in the Head), then got off and figured out what to do next. What he did next was make movies. He made lots of them. Some memorable, some not so much. Some experimental, some right down the middle. No matter what he did he brought an artist’s precision to his performance.

I’ve said for many years that Steve Martin is the most underrated dramatic actor in Hollywood. I love to see him in dramatic roles (Parenthood is a great one. See also: Shopgirl and The Spanish Prisoner). But even in some of his most comedic roles he brings a depth of humanity that rings true and deep. (Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Roxanne, L.A. Story and Father of the Bride, are just a few good examples.)

Martin’s memoir, Born Standing Up, is one of the best first-hand accounts of life in show business ever written. I highly recommend it if you’re the least bit interested in Martin, comedy and/or the 1970’s in the U.S. If there is still such a thing as a Reniassance man — Steve Martin is most certainly one. Actor, Comedian, Author, Musician, Collector of Fine Art, Student of Philosophy.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Martin. And, many thanks for all the joy you’ve brought us.


Micehelle Monaghan, Adam Sandler, Josh Gad, Peter Dinklage in PIXELS (photo: Sony Pictures)

Last week the Internet’s movie and pop culture neighborhoods were abuzz with a particular film critic’s existential meltdown over PIXELS (d. Chris Columbus, starring Adam Sandler, from Sony/Columbia Pictures). The aforementioned critic’s takedown of the movie got a lot of traffic and an almost equal amount of amens. I’m linking here but I warn you – it’s NSFW, NSFGrandparentsWithHeartConditions, NSFKidsWhoHaven’tDoneAStintInJuvie, and may be a trigger for rage-a-holics and movie bloggers who live in their mother’s basement.

I saw PIXELS on its opening day with my wife and 12-year-old son. I will grant for the record that the plot holes are huge and laughable. We laughed anyway. There’s not a single honest or honestly wrought emotion in the whole film. We get it. This ain’t REDS. In other words, PIXELS is no different from BILLY MADISON and HAPPY GILMORE. The jokes are the same. The holes in logic are the same. The Big Dumb Happy Endings are the same. The only difference between those Adam Sandler movies and this Adam Sandler movie is that today Adam Sandler is a well fed, 50 year old, multimillionaire Company Man and back then he was a hungry, 30 year old, up-and-coming Disruptor.

Sandler is doing the same thing he’s done for most of the last 20 years. His shtick hasn’t changed. He used to be young, subversive and on the vanguard of a fresh style of humor. Now his brand is safe for families and passé for a chunk of the public that lapped it up in the mid-90s, grew up and moved on. Times change, tastes change. Some performers and fans stick together, some don’t. Hey, 15,000 people filled Verizon Arena the other night to see the Eagles – much to the chagrin of Eagles haters who felt compelled to take to social media to question the taste of Eagles fans.

In Sandler’s case, I suspect he’s a guy who likes to work, likes to work with his friends and likes to deliver to his fan base what they expect and want. These days he only has to work when he wants to and only has to work with people he wants to. But to dismiss Sandler’s work and career because he’s figured out a way to do what he wants says more about us than it does about him. He’s taken some risks (REIGN OVER ME). He’s done some remarkable work (PUNCH DRUNK LOVE, SPANGLISH, FUNNY PEOPLE). FUNNY PEOPLE in particular explored the complexities of the real human being behind a one-dimensional movie star. That film was written and directed by Adam Sandler’s good friend and former roommate, Judd Apatow. FUNNY PEOPLE is not making a joke about Sandler’s career as much as it’s saying, look, there’s a human in there. (Read more about Apatow, Sandler and FUNNY PEOPLE in Apatow’s book, “Sick in the Head”)

I also suspect Sandler’s a smart guy who knows his fan base will shrink over the years. If he’s lucky, he and his fan base will fade out at roughly the same time. I don’t expect that PIXELS’ soft-opening means that Sandler is out of the dumb movie business and I don’t expect it means that studios won’t release more dumb movies. Not to worry, we will survive.

Last week I walked up to a ticket booth and bought tickets to see three movies in my local cinema: PIXELS, TCM’s Screening of DOUBLE INDEMNITY, and MR HOLMES. PIXELS did not inhibit my ability to enjoy the other two films, which are feasts for the eyes, ears, mind and heart – for me, anyway. I am neither threatened nor offended by PIXELS’ existence. You and MovieBob don’t have to be either.