Day 20 Sunday Dinner: From eating scenes to full on foodie fodder
Mike Nichols, who dominated early ‘70s cinema with the box office hits The Graduate (1967) and Catch-22 (1970), and received multiple award nods for Silkwood (1983) and Working Girl (1988), decided to make a comedy, a sci-fi comedy—a 2001: A Not-So-Funny Space Comedy that needed Leslie Nielson.
Written and produced by the poignant-hysterical Garry Shandling, What Planet Are You From? was a $60 million bomb with a worldwide theatrical gross of less than $15,000. Guess who didn’t write or produce another film, ever again?
The same can’t be said for Madeleine Olnek, an extremely talented, independent American film director, producer, screenwriter, and playwright with 24 plays and three feature films to her credit. Critics universally describe her work as “madcap comedies with absurdist leanings.”
That rule applies to this, her fifth film, and her first feature-film overall, which effectively utilizes its parody of ‘50s sci-fi films—Ed Wood’s in particular—to address the up and downs of lesbian culture.
Three lesbian space aliens come to Earth to have their hearts broken in order to save their planet’s ozone layer—that’s being depleted by “too much emotion.” Zoinx, one of the aliens, falls in love with the greeting-card store employed Jane, who begins a romance with the alien—who looks (just not-so-pointy headed) and sounds like Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtain’s SNL’s Coneheads—and makes “love” by rubbing noses, as is Zoinx’s custom. When the Men in Black show up, Jane needs to decide: stay on earth and be miserable—where she’s alienated—or go to a planet where she’ll be the “alien,” but be happy?
As with the Coneheads, who bypass the Earth’s vast cuisine and cultural eats for a steady diet of beer and potato chips “for survival” (with the occasional “Bass-o-Matic’d” or “Bat-o-Matic’d” fish or Chiroptera shakes), jokes are abound by the new, strange foods Earth has to offer, such as alcohol, coffee, and desserts—instead of the need of sex or chomping down on human flesh, as is the case with most-otherworldly aliens.
Hey, at least Commander Balok admits to his love of alcoholic beverages and isn’t ashamed of his bald head. You know he ain’t wearing no Wookie fuzz on his dome when the Fesarius makes the Kessel Run back to the “First Federation.”
So raise your Tranya and toast this film. I hope you relish it as much as I.
Madeleine Olnek’s latest and second feature film, Wild Nights with Emily (Wikipedia), is a biographical comedy based on the life of poet Emily Dickenson starring Saturday Night Live alumna Molly Shannon. You can learn more about the multiple award-winning film—90% “Certified Fresh” by Rotten Tomatoes—at the film’s official website.