Monday, November 29, 2010

Leslie Nielsen has passed away, aka "Why couldn't you take David Spade instead?"

Since we're not in heaven, it's the fun and funny guys who die first, leaving we the living with a bunch of jerks. Leslie Nielsen, known best to me as Lt. Frank Dreben (or even Enrico Palazzo), died this past weekend. I hope that he really pigged out this Thanksgiving, and passed on with a delicious and huge meal under his belt.
I come here to praise Leslie Nielsen, not to bury him. Sadly, I have a daytime job, so there's a limit to how long I can write about this actor who will be deeply missed. I won't give Leslie sub-standard coverage or writing, but I haven't the time, so I leave it to my (professional) colleagues in film review: try this link, this other link, and this third one. Those writers have time to/are paid to cover these sorts of things, and probably none of them woke up and got to work at 5 this morning.

I will have more to say about the man later - and I will do it well. Let me say for now that Leslie Nielsen was a fine working actor who was freakishly gifted at comedy. I've caught him in random episodes of Columbo, Police Squad, and Creepshow, but I'll always remember him for Airplane! and the Naked Gun pictures. I know next to nothing about Nielsen's personal life, but I respect him enough that I'll watch more of his work - starting with Forbidden Planet - before the year is out.

In the end, one of the most impressive things about Leslie is that his appeal stayed so strong for so many years - and the success of movies like "The Naked Gun 2 & 1/2" and "Scary Movie 3" meant that this seriously un-young man had a big number of fans in age groups far younger than you would expect. He may have been typecast in comedy, but Leslie's career must've seemed a little blessed because he was so good in movies that were so well-known, his popularity never died out. Certainly not in the 1980's and after, anyway.

Leslie, I am so sorry that you're gone. I will always remember how funny you were, and how up for anything you were. I will try to keep this memory alive by hunting down a video clip of you appearing on MTV with Ed Lover. You did the Ed Lover Dance with him, on the beach, and it was bloody hysterical.

Because today is an awful, unfortunate day, Irvin Kershner has also died. Yes, the man who directed "The Empire Strikes Back" has gone from this world, leaving George Lucas even more reason to continue keeping his head up his own backside. The man who out-classed Lucas in his own work is now gone. I guess there's nowhere left for George to look and realize that he no longer produces work of real quality (beyond fx, of course). Ainticool has a great writeup on him here.

Irvin also deserves to be remembered better, though. Please follow this second link, and learn a little more about him. There's also this great set of pictures of Kershner on the set of "tESB." I have fewer reasons to respect IK than Leslie Nielsen (20+ performances versus 1), but I won't let Lucasarts dominate what should be a kindness to Mr. Kershner. So, I will try once more, and please keep in mind that I'm not good at these:

Irvin Kershner was a very skilled director, with the respect of his co-workers and the admiration of film fans everywhere. He put a masterful level of genuine artistry into a movie that otherwise would have likely turned out sloppily, just like its descendants would... In a gradually-rising tide of disappointment, he was responsible for really giving the 'Star Wars' franchise some legs." I'll try to do justice by you, Mr. K, if only in a later post...

12/4/10 Late addition: kudos to my friend Scott, for pointing out that I should've used Andy Dick instead of David Spade. Spade can actually be pretty funny, his "persona" is just horribly annoying. But Andy really sounds horrible as a person and fairly unfunny... So, yes, please give us back Leslie Nielsen and take Andy Dick.

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