This Is Spinal Tap is my favorite movie. The 1984 mock documentary about England’s loudest rock band is something I quote chapter and verse. I almost named a child Nigel Tufnel Shayne, just saying, for Christopher Guest’s portrayal of a magnificently deluded guitar player.
It was Rob Reiner’s movie, but Christopher Guest wrote the screenplay—for a basically improvised movie, but whatever. I still think of it as a Christopher Guest movie. (Sorry, Rob Reiner!)
So when Christopher Guest shows up with a movie, especially his first new movie in a decade, I’m in. Mascots premiered on Netflix last week, streaming, just pouring right out of your computer—yet another movie that explores a subculture, this time the world of professional sports mascots.
Improvising a World
This is not the best Christopher Guest movie. (Sorry, Christopher Guest!) But at this point, with the same group of actors appearing from film to film, I watch to see how they will improvise their way through the lives of characters who are living out their dreams to wildly varying degrees of success.
It’s all improvised. Parker Posey, one of my favorites, says in Vanity Fair that Guest “definitely created his own formula with actors that only worked in a specific kind of way. It had to do with the creating of a certain character or persona. And you don’t know what you’re going to say—you’re just going to be in the moment with someone else . . . and then something happens.”
Guest is interested in very specific worlds where the stakes are low and the emotions run high.
Community theatre: Waiting for Guffman.
Dog shows: Best in Show.
Folk musicians: A Mighty Wind.
You know, sort of like . . . knitting.
PS Bonus content: Here are Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein (whose Portlandia owes a lot to Christopher Guest) on the brilliance of This Is Spinal Tap.