Thursday, April 26, 2012

IFFBoston 2012 opening night: SLEEPWALK WITH ME:

IFFB opening night festival droppings =)

IFFB | site

An EXCELLENT opening night film! Funny, earnest, relate-able, and I don't know if it's Boston, or the IFFB, but having Ira Glass in the room amped it all up a bit, even for opening night. =) The film is a cinematic adaptation of comedian Mike Birbiglia's true story about a time in his life in which he made some radical changes and decisions regarding his career and relationship, a time which happened to coincide with an escalating sleepwalking problem. He's presented this as a stage show and collection of essays as well as as a segment on THIS AMERICAN LIFE. I'm not exactly sure whose head the light bulb went off over, but TAL's Ira Glass joined forces with Birbiglia to make the film happen. The result: a thoroughly entertaining film about a somewhat wishy-washy comedian whose bouts of sleepwalking may be an expression of his unacknowledged issues and anxieties connected to his relationship with longtime girlfriend Abby (the lovely Lauren Ambrose) and the (lack of) direction of his career.

At the start of the film, Mike Pantamiglia (Mike B.) and Abby are getting their first place together after a dozen years of, well, "going steady." (Do the kids still say that?) We then follow them to his sister's engagement party at their parents' home. Sis and her husband-to-be have been together for two years. You can imagine how the conversation turns when Mike's mother (Carol Kane) not-so-absentmindedly asks Mike and Abby how long they've been dating now. Mike feels like things are just fine the way they've always been, and believes (or needs to believe) that Abby feels the same way. For her part, Abby voices neither agreement nor disagreement but we know that she's ready for a next step.


When the subject of baby-making comes up after a night out with a couple of friends who have recently become parents, Mike automatically turns the subject into a joke, dodging the serious discussion bullet with some morbidly funny tangents. Their relationship continues to tread water. However, when Mike's sister's wedding day arrives, treading will no longer suffice. Wacky fun ensues.

Well, continues to ensue. =)

I couldn't help but be reminded of Louis C.K.'s series LOUIE, as SLEEPWALK peppers the unfolding drama of Mike and Abby's relationship with his live performances, from emceeing community college talent shows to debuting breakthru material on the road. It's only a barely a formal resemblance, really, and for me, not a bad thing at all for my experience of the film (I *love* LOUIE). The evolution of his comedic material, along w the material itself, is very funny and clever, and is actually a great manifestation of how he comes to understand his worries, doubts, and nature when it comes to committing to Abby.

*SPOILERS* follow as I just ramble a bit about the film...

*SPOILERS* follow as I just ramble a bit about the film...

*SPOILERS* follow as I just ramble a bit about the film...

SLEEPWALK WITH ME: Q&A with Ira Glass!

I would have liked to have been caught by surprise by more sleepwalking scenarios. We see Mike obviously experiencing unreal dream situations several times, but only once (that I can remember) are we led into what appears to be a a dramatic exchange between characters that is revealed to be a surreal vision of Mike's overactive REM sleep.

Oh, there is a fun bit of not-a-gotcha surreality when Mike is on the road, driving late at night, overtired, and listening to a book-on-tape about sleep disorders. He begins talking back to the book and finds the book talking back to him, with the book's reader/author joining him in the passenger seat, his voice modulated just as it is thru the car's speakers from the cassette tape. That's good crack! (Craic, I know, but crack is still how I hear and see it =)

During post-show Q&A with co-producer/co-writer Ira Glass, I had one question that I didn't think to ask until Ira announced, "Three more questions." Alas, mine was not one of those three. The question: when/how did Abby learn about Mike's breakthru material, which was based on his doubts about his relationship and the institution of marriage as demonstrated by his parents' 40 years together. It's not necessarily unflattering to Abby --he *does* love her-- but he ends up being more honest with rooms full of strangers than he ever is to his most loyal partner and lover. The film shows us their break up, but does not reveal if/when Abby learns about how their relationship has been fodder for laughs at the Comedy Barn. In the film, years after the break up, when Abby has married and had children, Mike explains that he visits her, his friend, to talk about why she/they stayed together as long as they did. Maybe she supported Mike's mining his real life and honest thoughts for comedy? Or maybe she resented it for years and then forgave him and moved on? Or perhaps the WAY she found out shaped her reaction to the revelation...? Perhaps I'll never know...

That visit DOES lead Mike to an explanation and an insight into human nature, tho. When he asks Abby why she didn't leave him, why she instead agreed to get married, even tho she knew that he could never marry her, she explains that she didn't want to hurt Mike. Mike turns that around and explains that he begged her to marry him because he didn't want to make her mad.

During the Q&A, Ira Glass reveals that this idea was originally encapsulated in a line delivered by Mike's sister that had to be edited out. Ira recognized the significance of this kernel of truth (which Meghna Chakrabarti identified as being very THIS AMERICAN LIFE) and got Mike to bring it back in as part of the closing of the film. What truth? Well, I don't know quite how to best put it into the words of a rule or truism, but I think you can capture it in the question: How many couples stay together when they shouldn't just because they don't want to hurt each other's feelings?

Followed by the evaluation: That's just crazy.


Although Mike's instinct to dodge and avoid keeps him from facing his sleepwalking as a legitimate health issue for too long, he *does* ultimately get medical help and direction to cope with it. In the process, he learns about many sleep disorders, including narcolepsy. This, of course, gets worked into his act...

There's this kind of narcolepsy that afflicts women... It's triggered when they achieve orgasm. So, when immediately after one of these women climaxes, she falls asleep. I've got a name for them: men.

It's funny cuz/and/but it's true. SLEEPWALK WITH ME. =)

Also from Mike B's material in the movie:

I can't heeeear you...!

That's a lip sync joke.


Keep on keepin on~

p.s. Ridiculous confession/bonus round. Until I saw Meghna Chakrabarti's name in the festival's film blurb copy, I always believed her name parsed out to Meghnachak Rabarti. I'm certain I've *never* heard her addressed by just her first name (would she answer to "Meg?").

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Boston Comic Con!

I've been a major slacker on the blogging front. How about I cheat making up for it with 240,000 words...?

Oh, you know, do the math:

1 picture = 1,000 words


240 pictures = 240,000 words

Right? Plus all these bonus words right here! Yeah, I'm too good to you. You totally don't deserve me.

Umm... You understand that last bit is supposed to *flatter* me, not inspire a moment of clarity within you that leads you to dump me...

Yes, you're right. It was better when I was saying nothing. Got it.

In any case, enjoy the 'con artistry! =)

Keep on keepin on~

P.S. Also — video of the costume contest group photo and awards!