Thursday, June 23, 2011

Conan O'Brien Can't Stop

Hey, remember how I mentioned being embargoed on Conan O'Brien Can't Stop a couple weeks-plus ago? Well, according to EFC, it's the movie's release date somewhere, so be free, review, be free!


Oh, you want more? Okay, funny group of odd connections here: While director Rodman Flender mostly does TV work, he's done a few features and documentaries before, including Let Them Eat Rock, a fun documentary on Cambridge novelty act The Upper Crust that was a huge success at the Boston Underground Film Festival five years ago. A fair amount of that film involved the band doing a spot on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. In my original review, I got a couple of the band members mixed up, only to be corrected in the eFilmCritic/Hollywood Bitchslap comments by Nancy Campbell, whom I can only assume is the same person I regularly say hi to at the Coolidge and serves as Managing Director of IFFBoston.

Small world, eh?

Oddly, Let Them Eat Rock never seems to have found distribution, which is a shame; it's a fun movie. Maybe it could be included in the deluxe edition of the Can't Stop DVD/Blu-ray.

Conan O'Brien Can't Stop

* * * (out of four)
Seen 4 May 2011 in the Coolidge Corner Theatre #1 (IFFBoston 2011)

People reading this in the future, or other countries, or who just have a more sensible relationship to pop culture may find this hard to believe, but for a good chunk of 2009 and 2010, a lot of people spent time obsessing over who should make jokes about the events of the day and lob softball questions at celebrities promoting new movies and albums on NBC at 11:35pm, even those not connected with the network. It was a whole thing. That's the background for Conan O'Brien Can't Stop, an entertaining documentary about a performer who needs a stage in more ways than one.

As mentioned, Conan O'Brien was the host of The Tonight Show until NBC opted to return Jay Leno to the job. He would soon find a new job, but a non-compete clause in his old contract would keep him off television until the fall of 2010. In between, he embarked on his "Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television" tour, a hugely successful comedy tour that was in many ways O'Brien's first real direct interaction with a live audience, despite his long tenure hosting late night talk shows.

Conan O'Brien is a funny guy, and since he's putting on a comedy show, he surrounds himself with other funny people. We see plenty of that in both the performance clips and the behind-the-scenes footage - there probably isn't a five-minute period without at least a small laugh. What we also see, though, is that comedy often comes from angry places and can often be a job that requires putting on a false face. O'Brien lets director Rodman Flender show us the man warts and all, giving us a close look at how much baggage he's carrying around from his long, public, losing battle with his former employers and how going on a tour around North America with very little down-time is perhaps not the best way to deal with it.

Full review at EFC.

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