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Episode 119 - Friday (w/ Ben Westhoff)


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Poll: Episode 119 - Friday (w/ Ben Westhoff) (28 member(s) have cast votes)

Should "Friday" enter The Canon?

  1. Yes (17 votes [60.71%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 60.71%

  2. No (11 votes [39.29%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 39.29%

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#1 Dalton Maltz

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Posted 10 September 2017 - 09:50 PM

Former LA Weekly music editor Ben Westhoff joins Amy this week to discuss the 1995 Ice Cube film “Friday” They talk about the movie’s cultural timing, how it subverts audience expectations, and the power in writing characters that aren’t cool. Plus, they note the change in weed culture since the 90s and try to answer the question: How did Ice Cube get dumber?

#2 phred2321

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Posted 11 September 2017 - 04:28 AM

I agree with Amy on this. It's fine but I found it dull in places

#3 sycasey 2.0

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Posted 11 September 2017 - 09:09 AM

I will take it even further than Amy: this is a bad movie, and that's why it shouldn't be in the Canon.

Criticizing comedy is hard, so if Friday legitimately makes you bust a gut every time, then I can't deny that it's effective for you. Personally, I have never found it very funny. It gives me a few chuckles, but mostly I sit there stone-faced. This was true when I first saw it back in the 90s and it was true again when I re-watched the film last week.

I don't think there are any actual jokes in this movie. I was surprised to hear the hosts agree that Friday has a "sharp" script, because I don't think it does. Scenes just aimlessly wander without any structure to them. Whatever is "funny" about these scenes is entirely about the visual presentation (Gray shoving the camera up someone's nostrils or putting in a "gong" sound effect because an Asian person showed up) or cartoonishly exaggerated performance. Would there be any actual comedy here if not for Chris Tucker screaming every one of his lines, John Witherspoon making funny faces, etc.? I'll grant that performance is part of comedy, so I don't want to discount what the actors bring, but my point here is that on a script level Friday doesn't have much going on.

Does it have a story? I'll grant that plenty of indie comedies of the mid-90s got by with a certain level of plotlessness, but in the best of them there is some kind of central idea that is driven home at the end. Clerks is telling you to stop whining about your situation and take responsibility. Dazed and Confused is about the freedom and open possibilities of youth. Their final scenes drive those points home. Friday ends with Ice Cube deciding to fight the neighborhood bully and beating him up. How does this drive home any of the film's thematic concerns? Even Ben, the film's champion on this podcast, admits that this sequence is unearned and that the father's speeches about "get beat up like I did" or "fight with your fists" come from nowhere. Ben glosses over this as something minor, but it's not minor. It's the climax of the movie. And it's empty as hell.

No, no, a thousand times no.

#4 Sarah Nicks

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Posted 11 September 2017 - 04:43 PM

Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamn!

I hate to disagree with Amy but this is one of the greats - a super relevant film in it's time and one continues to influence ~bye Felicia. This is Chris Tucker at his best and (i mean) Ice Cube is totally adorable! Def. among the ranks of the best slacker films.

What's not to love?
Hell yes to Friday!

:)

#5 Dale Cooper-Black

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Posted 11 September 2017 - 09:48 PM

Here's a quick test to help expedite the decision-making process:

1. Have you ever watched this movie when you weren't high?

If you answered "no" to any of the above questions, vote "no."
Guy Fawkes in Socks

#6 Johnny Pomatto

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 01:10 AM

The only other previous time I had ever seen FRIDAY, was when I was 15 years old, when stoner comedies were more in my wheelhouse... and I still didn't much care for it then. I'll admit that watching it closer now I found some things I appreciated about it. I think Ice Cube's home life is refreshingly grounded even while being broadly comic, as is his interactions with Nia Long and Felicia. But I find Chris Tucker incredibly obnoxious in this film. Yes, he's a ball of energy and it's undeniably a star-making performance, but a little of him goes a long way for me. The perfect amount of Chris Tucker is his sole scene in JACKIE BROWN. Once he enters the film, the world becomes a cartoon and never returns to reality. I actually find this to be (to the best of my recollection) even broader than DON'T BE A MENACE..., which is designed to be purely comedic. And I actually find the lighter moments of a more dramatic film like BABY BOY to be funnier than most of this film. For an 89 minute movie, it's painfully slow at times. When Ice Cube finally smokes weed, the movie just stops for 10 minutes as he literally looks at cereal boxes and wood carvings. I felt stone watching this, but far more sleepy than giddy. When the film tries to turn serious at the end, it feels unearned and without the realistic stakes of a true violent threat. When Tiny Listers is ultimately knocked out, I half expected to see cartoon birds start to circle his head. I did get a few laughs from John Witherspoon, though he instantly made me think of Robin Harris in HOUSE PARTY, (i agree, Amy. Definitely Canon-worthy). And what does it say that my favorite thing about this film featuring young 20-somethings getting stoned and having adventures, is the parents? Sigh. I must be getting old. I can appreciate that this film holds a special cultural relevance for some, but it doesn't do much as a comedy for me, and I'm going to have to vote NO for its Canon entry.

#7 bleary

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 12:43 PM

Part of why I'm hoping this gets in is to hear Amy react to the fact that Ice Cube has more films in the Canon than Tom Cruise.

I've never seen House Party, so I have no idea if they did the idea of a slice of life, hangout comedy better than Friday. But I liked Friday for being that, and sort of taking the air out of that deadly serious view of South Central LA that's depicted in Boyz N The Hood (and Menace II Society, and South Central, and Poetic Justice, etc.)

As mentioned above, criticizing comedy is hard. I personally laughed more at this than I did at Real Life, but it's not like you're wrong if you experienced the opposite. I don't know how useful it is to break down comedic elements, but I mostly loved the small sight gags that were mentioned in the episode, like Craig's girlfriend jealously calling him while lying next to another guy. Also, Amy and Ben talked about "Bye Felicia" as sort of a throwaway line, but I have to say that Cube's delivery of the line was absolutely perfect and had me cracking up.

I get the complaints about the tone problems, particularly about how any ostensible arc Craig has is about learning to not use a gun and learning how to dump his girlfriend. (Even the last fight could be seen as funny if the film weren't taking it seriously; Craig finds that hitting an unarmed guy with a two by four is much manlier than using a gun.) I actually wouldn't even throw the drive-by into that tone-deaf category though, because the film mostly plays it for laughs, and you get the sense that maybe that actually is part of the lives of these characters.

It's far from a perfect movie, but I think it's good, and it has certainly had a lasting impact on some aspects of film/society. I'm a soft yes on this one.

#8 Riot71

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 05:27 PM

Friday was a breath of fresh air when I first saw it. I was in my 20's in the 90's, so it spoke to me as a youth growing up in a black, working class neighborhood. As much as I enjoyed important "hood" films like Boyz and Menace, it was nice to see a comedy for a change that reflected the lives of people in my community. Yes, it did have cartoonish elements and some people were written as caricatures. But for me, that was part of Friday's charm.
I could have done without the side plot of Smokey owing money to Big Worm. But I guarantee the suits at New Line needed a drive-by scene to "appeal to the urban movie goers." But Craig finally sticking up for himself and his community against Deebo was needed and, contrary to Ben's assessment, was Craig's arc. It also brought to mind that during Jim Crow we use to police our own communities and look out for each other. And I believe the film was sending the message that we should get back to that.
One thing that wasn't mentioned in the discussion was the soundtrack. Friday had a spectacular soundtrack. It had the greats of Hip Hop like Dr. Dre, Cypress Hill, Scarface, and of course Ice Cube. It also had classic artists like Rose Royce, Rick James, Roger Troutman, and The Isley Brothers. It was the sound of my neighborhood and others like it.
Friday isn't perfect. But it's impact on culture is still felt today. It's highly quotable, follows in the footsteps of Blaxploitation comedies of the 70's with crazy characters, and levels up with a great soundtrack. Like the teen comedies that came before it (American Graffiti and Fast Times), Friday is a time capsule. This is why it belongs in The Canon.
Take note that I didn't mention the weed smoking. I don't consider this a stoner comedy like Half Baked. Drugs were just a small part of the story just like drugs don't define an entire neighborhood.

#9 DrEricFritz

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 07:17 PM

Rather than finding this movie boring, I find it a fun hang-out-with-some-fun-characters-movie. It's enjoyable and INFINITELY quotable. The film was criticized for being a movie that you can walk into the kitchen and grab a snack, but I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing or a disqualification for the Canon.

Maybe this points to the trickier aspects of what makes a great comedy. I think this film is an excellent example of a laid back, low stakes comedy, that has the broad appeal to be a blockbuster film. For an African-American comedy to be successful in the mainstream seems important.

AND it has a killer 90s soundtrack. After Top Gun and it's excellent soundtrack, this one gets high marks as well.

#10 daustin

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Posted 13 September 2017 - 06:05 AM

I agree with Amy on Chris Tucker’s character being more annoying than funny. Tucker has some funny moments, but I find his whole motormouth schtick exhausting. And I think the drive-by, the gun, and the serious fight at the end give the movie severe tonal whiplash and really don’t work in the context of the low-key story the rest of the film is telling. I actually expected the film to reveal that the drive-by was just a stoned dream for a few minutes, and was surprised and disappointed when it didn’t. That said, it’s still a really fun and funny hangout comedy with some great performances. Soft yes.

And I definitely prefer House Party. Fond memories of that one, though it's probably been 25 years since I saw it as a kid.

#11 Salamander Salad Days

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Posted 13 September 2017 - 07:39 AM

I was never a huge fan of Friday. Its alright but for me, the jokes and pace of the film fall flat, definitely not canon worthy. I would have rather House Party be up for debate or if we are just talking about 90's hazy hangout films then maybe Half Baked.

#12 Nathan Roberson

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Posted 14 September 2017 - 10:40 PM

The jokes are often cheap. Nothing feels earned. Talk on the podcast was though this is some revered comedy these days. I haven't had this movie be a constant presence since the days of friends going into a Blockbuster stoned and not knowing what to walk out with. It's OK. It has a few good laughs. Not worthy of The Canon.
Check out my podcast, He Hates Superhero Movies, where I hate superhero movies and my friend tries to prove their merit--one movie at a time.

#13 MegadethOfSuperman

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Posted 15 September 2017 - 11:18 AM

I was very curious to hear what arguments would be made in either direction. While I personally love this movie and see it as an indie oddball that touches from black filmmakers who are constantly underrepresented, I completely get why it's not an easy yes for a lot of people. It touches too many genres and is often falsely categorized as a stoner comedy. To be completely honest, I was worried I wouldn't like it upon rewatch because I don't smoke weed anymore. But I can gladly say that I still find it an odd curio with a great deal of heart and simplicity that has more than enough laughs and cultural relevance to merit it's place in the canon. It's the other side of the Boyz N The Hood coin. Yes for me

#14 Dave Grohlitzer Prize Winner

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Posted 15 September 2017 - 03:38 PM

I first recognised the popularity of "Bye Felicia" when I was teaching high schoolers in 2013, and that's a testament to the longevity and breadth of this movie, that it transcends generations and still seems new today. Sycasey 2.0 says this movie isn't funny because there aren't "any actual jokes" in the movie, but this is precisely WHY the movie is still funny. Jokes get old. This movie busts your whole shit up as a 30 year old, or as a 15 year old, because the movie has very well cast and utilised actors who are genuine and hilarious, simply reacting in relatable moments. Maybe not everybody can relate to the movie, but for a lot of us, maybe most of us, of almost any age now, this movie really hits home. At one point in my life I watched it a few times a week.

Also this movie can't just be generalised as a comedy. The critique of the gun moment as feeling misplaced I think misses the point--this is not a movie which just wants to make you laugh. I've always seen this movie as a re-telling of a very similar story to Boyz N the Hood, but from a less biased perspective, or a more realistic one. Yeah, the neighbourhood is tragic, but that tragedy is really blended with a lot of comedy, just people living normal lives and covering up their shit with air freshener, like I'm about to do any minute. Friday doesn't depict a world where young black men don't feel the need to carry a gun, or where drug dealers don't react with violence to seemingly small offences. That world doesn't exist, it would be a cartoon. It depicts our world through literally a more natural aperture, with more diagetic and representative music, and with a perceptibly broader point of view. It presents a critique of all the same shit as Boys N the Hood does, but in a fairer more objective style.

p.s.,
I love House Party, and Class Act was one of my favs growing up. Kid N Play are fucking awesome.

#15 sycasey 2.0

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Posted 15 September 2017 - 03:48 PM

View PostDave Grohlitzer Prize Winner, on 15 September 2017 - 03:38 PM, said:

Also this movie can't just be generalised as a comedy. The critique of the gun moment as feeling misplaced I think misses the point--this is not a movie which just wants to make you laugh. I've always seen this movie as a re-telling of a very similar story to Boyz N the Hood, but from a less biased perspective, or a more realistic one. Yeah, the neighbourhood is tragic, but that tragedy is really blended with a lot of comedy, just people living normal lives and covering up their shit with air freshener, like I'm about to do any minute. Friday doesn't depict a world where young black men don't feel the need to carry a gun, or where drug dealers don't react with violence to seemingly small offences. That world doesn't exist, it would be a cartoon. It depicts our world through literally a more natural aperture, with more diagetic and representative music, and with a perceptibly broader point of view. It presents a critique of all the same shit as Boys N the Hood does, but in a fairer more objective style.


Not sure I'm buying the "realistic/objective" argument here, given the broad and cartoonish acting styles employed by many in the cast (Tucker and Witherspoon especially). Still, that's an idea maybe worth exploring, that the movie isn't supposed to be a strict comedy.

#16 Nathan Roberson

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Posted 16 September 2017 - 09:54 AM

View Postsycasey 2.0, on 15 September 2017 - 03:48 PM, said:


Not sure I'm buying the "realistic/objective" argument here, given the broad and cartoonish acting styles employed by many in the cast (Tucker and Witherspoon especially). Still, that's an idea maybe worth exploring, that the movie isn't supposed to be a strict comedy.


There is a man taking a shit with ridiculous foley work. Twice. It's a comedy.
Check out my podcast, He Hates Superhero Movies, where I hate superhero movies and my friend tries to prove their merit--one movie at a time.