By: Mackenzie Lambert
Being a fan of The Addams Family, I was looking forward to seeing the documentary, Funny Business. According to the BIFF schedule it was to be a film about Charles Addams. Having started out as a comic strip, the Gothic brood has since been adapted into a TV show, feature films, video games, a cartoon, and a musical and has featured prestigious actors such as John Astin, Raul Julia, Tim Curry and Nathan Lane.
You can imagine my surprise when I found that the documentary focused much more on cartoonists who were fortunate to have their work published in The New Yorker. It followed Lyda Ely’s journey through this world, which is considered by many cartoonists to be the holy grail of their craft. While the film wasn’t what I was expecting, it was an insightful look at the life and times of cartoonists trying to maintain their living in a realm quickly becoming engulfed by the internet.
In addition, there was a subplot that depicted Ely’s mother’s dream to have a cartoon featured in The New Yorker. Unfortunately, her responsibility to her family consumed most of her time and she was unable to fully dedicate herself to her work. Such has been the unfortunate case of many people who aspire to dreams that are unfulfilled.
Charles Addams was part of the film for all of five minutes. It showcased some of his classic cartoons, including those of his famous family, many of which would be used in the Addams Family films directed by Barry Sonnenfeld. There was also attention given to noted comedic artists like George Booth, Lee Lorenz, David Sipress, Matt Diffree, Roz Chast, and Sam Gross. Their work was featured in the film and received approving laughs from the audience in attendance at the Screening Room.
The message I took away from this film was to be steadfast in accomplishing your dreams. If you have the confidence and the dedication, then go for what you aspire to be. Be willing to not stagger or become discouraged. Be open to criticism. This can be applied not only to cartoonists, but to any aspiring writer, musician, entrepreneur, etc. In the words of Journey, “Don’t Stop believin’.”
Before the main feature, the audience was treated to a short film, Turning Japanese. The plot centers on a tenant who reenacts Japanese movies in her sleep. The films featured provide a full range of genres from Chanbara, J-Horror (specifically The Grudge), and Pink films. A couple who wishes to rent a room from the dreamer is played by 90210 alumni Brian Austin Green and Zibby Allen of Grey’s Anatomy. However, Genevieve Mariko Wilson steals the show as the genre-swinging tenant. She can go from dead serious to gung-ho charismatic on a dime.
Mackenzie Lambert is a Buffalo-based columnist. He has been
featured in such publications as Penny Blood and Pantechnicon. He is
also a movie columnist for The Men’s Room Today (www.themensroomtoday.com).
We regret that no images for Funny Business were available at press time.