The Comic Genius Discovered Too Late

Three things you might not realize about Leslie Nielsen, the comic spoof movie genius who died Sunday:

--He was Canadian. Never had a clue.

--He was a perpetrator of one of my least favorite TV tricks — he played different guest characters on the same TV shows. Not just little shows either, we’re talkin’ shows like Hawaii Five-0, The Virginian and the Mod Squad. On The Love Boat, Fantasy Island and Streets of San Francisco, he played three different characters! How stupid does Hollywood really think we are? Growing Pains was the worst with this, it had one guy who played about eight different people in guest starring roles. In the most heinous offense that is terribly clear now, Brad Pitt played two different people. He was a boy who tried to steal Carol away from Bobby Wynette and then was a big-time rock star Ben idolized. It’s not that noticeable when it’s just chumps you only see in those shows, but now the Growing Pains producers should be ashamed of themselves! Same for the people who employed Leslie Nielsen that way.

yes, yes, he's serious, and his name is really leslie.

yes, yes, he's serious, and his name is really leslie.

--Even after Airplane!, when he completely stole every scene he was in with impeccable comic timing and a sense of humor America really hadn’t seen before, it would be another eight years until we saw him again in a major starring role in Naked Gun. How is that even possible? Maybe it was his choice, maybe he didn’t want to be typecast. But geez, how the heck did Hollywood sleep on this guy? Between Airplane! and Naked Gun, the only thing that registered even a little was a five-minute role in Soul Man, which had been the most egregious use of Black Face before Lethal Weapon 5 came around. And in that he played a straight-faced, stern-looking dad whose lines weren’t designed to get one laugh. After Naked Gun he did just about every spoof movie for the next 20 years. It’s incredible and a little sad it took that long.

--As a bonus, Leslie Nielsen will always live on for me as long as Placido Polanco is playing baseball. Especially if he’s playing for the Phillies. When Polanco came back to the team last year, I didn’t care about the silly contract Ruben Amaro Jr. gave up for him or the fact that he would never have left in the first place if he just agreed to move to third base — which he did anyway when he signed with Detroit. None of that mattered. The important thing was that I got one of my favorite jokes back whenever Polanco did something good — “Look it’s Placido Polanco! Placido Polanco, Placido Polanco!” It always cracks me up that the guy who points out Enrico Polazo in the scene is Francis from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and grown-up Stillwell Angel from League of Their Own.

Nielsen wasn’t the only death over the weekend. Director Irvin Kershner, best known for directing Empire Strikes Back, died as well. The most fascinating thing I can say about Kershner is the shrapnel he caught during the Empire release because of George Lucas’s insistence that there be no opening credits in the movie, that the story appeared first like it did in Star Wars. The unions guilds went after Lucas — and Kershner, even though he probably was under orders from Lucas. Lucas paid the fines and left the guilds in a huff, but Kershner didn’t. Kinda tells me everyone knew who was behind the controversy. Maybe we should have known enough then to make Lucas sign some kind of contract that he wouldn’t eff up our childhood memories with supremely sub-par trash in the name of a couple of bucks.

this is only, like, the 12th reason to be excited for black swan. that's saying something.

this is only, like, the 12th reason to be excited for black swan. that's saying something.

Good holiday weekend to be a kid between Harry Potter and Tangled. Confirmed that I’ll be seeing Harry Potter on Saturday afternoon on an IMAX theater, my first IMAX experience. Needless to say, I’m super-psyched. This could be followed with my first 3-D theater experience which I think I’ll undertake with Tron Legacy. If I get around to it. That’s the problem, everything that’s been in 3-D so far I’ve had the “if I get around to it” attitude. Tron is the closest I’ve come to saying I’m actually going. Since Black Swan isn’t in 3-D, Tron is the only thing this holiday season I can think about going to see in 3-D.

Someone is going to have to explain to me why I’m supposed to care about Ghostbusters 3 rumors. Then again, as soon as you do, I’ll have to figure out some way to explain why I find myself strangely drawn to them. The movie is a complete no-win situation, being made only for the couple extra bucks it can make as a brand. Since the original still holds up remarkably well, it’s not time for a reboot and it will be harshly viewed because, well, frankly, there’s just no way it’s going to be as good as the original. Or even GBusters 2, which actually is a pretty funny movie. Now the involvement of Eliza Dushku, the hottest-worst actress in the world, pretty much guarantees bad things are going to happen to this movie and it shouldn’t be made.

This one is for the movie fans who are also artists, a contest to draw up concept art on the premise, “What if David Lynch directed Spider-Man?” There are some examples there, but here’s a gimme — Peter Parker with the crazy hair like the guy from Eraserhead, the only movie I’ve ever watched and have absolutely no opinion on because I can’t understand it. Bam. There’s your winner. Although the thought of Peter Parker in some kind of crazy threesome with Naomi Watts and Laura Harring like in Mullholland Dr. is weirdly tempting too.

shame on anyone who doesn't include cheers in their dream network schedule

shame on anyone who doesn't include cheers in their dream network schedule

It’s fun to eliminate people you never have to read again, who lose all credibility with their insane opinions. Congrats, John W. Kennedy. You just made the list of insanity by devising a dream network schedule and including Just Shoot Me but not Simpsons, Cheers or Seinfeld. This is like petition-level insanity where we should all sign something to get him to never write about TV anymore, but whatever. These couple of sentences and his story are all the proof we need.

Good for Ben Who-fleck for knowing his limitations when it comes to directing the new Superman movie. If he already knows he can’t do as good a job as someone like Zack Snyder, why would he bother going ahead with it when all he’s going to hear when it comes out is, “Zack Snyder would have been a better choice.” Affleck also has the luxury of wealth from his acting career. Directors could be living paycheck-to-paycheck, but Affleck has got to have a zillion trillion bucks in the bank, he doesn’t need Superman’s big payday if he doesn’t think it’s a slam dunk. So good for him not trying to fit his square peg into a round hole. He probably saved himself a ton of stress.

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