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Thursday, October 18, 2018

Fishing in the Discount Bin - The Mask

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin, where I watch a movie and blog about it.  Today, I'm re-watching the 1994 epic The Mask.  This is originally in my notes at May 21, 2018.

The Mask was one of those films I'd spied on my DVD shelf for a while and considered doing for this here blog, but I finally got off my butt and did it when I caught the last half on TV a few weeks ago.  I thought, "Hey!  I should finally watch that."  So I did. 

1994.  The year that made Jim Carrey famous.  The first actor to boast three films that made more than $100 million in a single year:  Ace Venture: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber.  Carrey famously made $350,000 for The Mask, then his asking price jumped up to $7 million for Dumb and Dumber.  As the directors of Dumb and Dumber lamented, "If we'd signed him before Ace Venture came out, we could have gotten him for $350,000, too." 

Kinda strange because the film was originally meant to be a slasher film.  New Line Cinema had made their name with slasher films -- they were known for the longest time as "The House that Freddy Built" because their top franchise in the 80s was A Nightmare on Elm Street -- and they were looking for new slasher franchises.  The eventually found potential in a Dark Horse Comic called The Mask.  In this comic, whoever wore a supernatural mask would be transformed into a wisecracking killer who dispatched his victims in cartoonish, over-the-top ways.  So they bought the movie rights and put one of their top slasher film directors -- Chuck Russel -- on the case. 

Thing was, though, Russel was getting kind of tired of doing slasher films.  After reading the comics, he was drawn to the comedy aspects, and decided to turn it into more of a comedic superhero film.  Up and coming comedian Jim Carrey was signed to star, and the rest is history.

Of course, there's another notable member of the cast, as this is officially Cameron Diaz's first film.  As they discuss on the DVD's bonus material, finding a leading lady proved to be problematic, until a modeling agency sent Diaz towards them.  She won the role about a week before filming began.  In fact, that's why after making The Mask, Diaz...took some time off from acting, and didn't make another film until '96.  She wanted to take some acting classes and build up her acting skills before plunging back into those waters. 

Those DVD bonus features are fascinating.  Because they had a couple of unknowns headlining their cast, New Line figured they needed some kind of star in the film.  So, they pursed legendary special effects house Industrial Light and Magic to do the visual effects, with the idea that ILM would be their star.  1994 was a good year for ILM.  They were nominated for Oscar for their work on The Mask, but lost to another film they did that  year, Forrest Gump

Carrey is Stanley Ipkiss, a lovable loser.  Always striking out with the ladies, always caving in to the demands of his boss and his landlady, the dude suffers from a serious lack of self-confidence.  Things are going well, when a somewhat famous local singer named Tina comes into his bank (that'd be Diaz), wanting to open a new account, and they kind of hit it off.  But, then, Stanley's car is stuck in the shop because of crooked mechanics, he gets bounced from a bar while his friends get in, and he's chewed out by his landlady.  But then, he finds a strange mask on the beach.  He dons it, and it transforms him into the Mask, a superpowered being that's able to live out all of Stanley's desired by dropping all his inhibitions.  In this new persona, he starts romancing Tina, but his antics soon piss off the local mobster, Dorian...who just happens to be Tina's current boyfriend.  Soon it's up to the Mask to save the day, and along the way, Stanley learns the confidence was within him all along. 

It's still a good movie.  Still funny, too.  After Ace Venture made him a star, The Mask showed us that Carrey was able to turn down his manic comedy, as he plays Stanley as a relatively normal guy and saves his trademark manic comedy for when he's the Mask.  And of course, he gets a great assist from the special effects.  Like a lot of early 1990s CGI, some of it hasn't aged well, but since the whole gimmick was that Stanley was a live-action cartoon, it kinda works.  I mean, the CGI would have dated even more if they tired to go super realistic, ya know? 

I still remember seeing it in 1994.  I went to a small, rural high school, so several of my classes were actually taught through correspondence, officially know as Distance Ed.  Our school had a "Distance Ed Coordinator," we'd get the module from her, we'd work on it for a few weeks, give it back to Distance Ed Coordinator, and get the next module.  Only actual test we took was the final exam.  I took Physics 20 through Distance Ed.  Being a core subject, that had the added bonus of a supervising teacher, which meant there was an actual class where we worked on the module, with a teacher available to help us. 

Anyway, because you're allowed to work at your own pace with Distance Ed, I hadn't finished Physics 20 by the time the school year ended.  With Distance Ed, you could keep working on classes throughout the summer.  So, I told my teacher and the Distance Ed Coordinator that I'd finish Physics 20 over the summer. 

I kinda dragged my heels that summer because, dude, it was summer.  About halfway through the summer of 1994 was when The Mask came out.  Now, living out in the country and not having my driver's license yet, and living as I do now -- a solitary life with few friends, my parents said they weren't going to take me into the city to see The Mask until I'd finished Physics 20.  It came down to the wire -- I wrote my Physics 20 final literally the day before the first day of school -- but I did it.  I got Physics 20 done over the summer.  My teacher even bumped my final grade up a couple points because every Physics 20 student said they were going to finish over the summer, but I was the only one who actually did. 

And my parents made good on their word and took me to see The Mask a couple weeks later. 

So, yeah.  I`ve got happy memories tied into that very fun film. 

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