“Tired Feet Syndrome” – August 21, 2010

Well, the last few things I’d mentioned and a couple of other potentials are currently being tossed around the management behind Slant’s The House Next Door – although, they’ve already got more than their fair share of writ about Nolan’s Inception from every possible angle, so that’ll either go up here or on Blogcritics, along with a look at Michael Winterbottom’s uneven, though nonetheless unnerving for it,  piece of psychodrama The Killer Inside Me.  Those’ll be around in a few days – but, at current I want to talk about something else.

Mike Stoklasa’s name is making the rounds everywhere on the internet recently, it seems – predominantly for his Red Letter Media series of reviews under the guise of 119 year old grandfather-cum-monster Harry S. Plinkett. And, to be sure, they’re all great stuff – any one of them, but especially his reasonably epic hour and a half long examinations of the first two Star Wars prequel films, are prime examples of the New School of internet filmmaking, as concisely edited and tightly put together as any theatrical documentary.  But, let’s not forget he’s done a bunch of other stuff too, this guy. And, one of those things that I’ve been obsessing over a little bit these last couple of days is his micro-sitcom The Grabowskis, which is  something very much like a Married With Children as conceived by David Lynch. And, it’s quite possibly one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a good while.

It’s a strange, potent mix of non-sequiter, dead-baby humor and sudden, whiplash turn on a dime subversion – all so obviously cartoony and over-the-top that there’s no risk of any real disquieting pause at any of the implications held therein; the couple’s baby is an obviously plastic doll that looks like it was pulled from out of some toy-store dumpster somewhere, giving off  occasional coos and cries so shrill and exaggerated that it’s almost nightmare-fuel, coming from its dead, plastic eyes and unmoving mouth. Everyone indulges in a violent, bloody slapstick to be redeemed like Looney Tunes characters episode after episode –

– which is, I think,  one reason that certain episodes, like the Chad Vader and Hardware Store ones from the final season, are so effective. We become used to these zany, weird and obviously comedic characters acting in ways that don’t at all seem self-serious that when, for example, the wife receives news that “her entire family was killed,” the couple responds by breaking down and weeping in a fashion so  remarkably prolonged and  down to earth that it kind of takes us by surprise. It’s a weird splash of cold reality to the face – and, just for a minute, we start to reconsider everything else we’d seen before. The husband, Cliff’s actions and disregard toward the baby and his wife (who’s really only known as Honey – first it seems like a term of endearment, but no really, that’s her name), and so on, which were up to that point something that was treated as purely and blackly comedic starts to look a little sociopathic. And, this continues in the Hardware Store episode – where, what begins as  an initially outright comedic kind of thing with some general sitcom-esque dialogue suddenly becomes on the turn of a phrase a mind-bending, Lynchian nonsequential nightmarish chase sequence, which further casts the husband as some kind of psychopathic monster, now shambling and bow-legged, not unlike what the Plinkett character would become later on – who seemed to be, at that point, mostly an occasional bit character played by Rich Evans without the mushmouth tobacco-chew tang provided by Stoklasa.

There also seems to be some occasionally touched-on themes of real neglect, never fully in the dialogue and never so seriously that it takes you out of the moment – but, a large point is made that, even though the couple at the center of the series depends largely on welfare and state services and live in a pitted-out ghetto neighborhood, they somehow seem to have enough money for Bluetooths and IPhones, which they constantly disregard as if they were reusable plastic toys, as well as all manner of booze and drugs which, speaking from experience, can usually run you a fair bit of money, or horse cock, especially in the ghetto. This is something that kind of comes full circle in the last episode of the series –  all throughout the running time, we’re reminded that the baby’s on the counter just behind them, something they seem to be only vaguely aware of . The final shot sees the husband run back into the apartment, right past his baby in full view, and grabs the toaster off the top of the fridge, after which he promptly runs back out.

And, then the baby promptly catches on fire. See this show. Do it here.

The Hardware Store

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