Wednesday, Jul 16 2014 10:17 AM

CESAREO GARASA: Pythons together one last time

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    By Zuma Press

    From left, Eric Idle, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Michael Palin and Terry Jones are inLondon to perform “Monty Python Live (Mostly),” from the O2 Arena. Edwards Cinemas will broadcast the reunion on July 20, 23 and 24.

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    By Gramercy Pictures

    John Goodman, left, and Jeff Bridges star in "The Big Lebowski." The film will be shown Aug. 3 and 6 at Edwards Cinema.

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By CESAREO GARASA, Contributing columnist

For those of us who keep a lumberjack cosplay in the closet (just in case) and can recite the world's deadliest joke, there will be much rejoicing Sunday, when Monty Python's global funeral will be shown on silver screens around the country, including in Bakersfield.

From the O2 Arena in London comes "Monty Python Live (Mostly)," the historic reunion fans never thought would happen -- and for good reason, since the iconic comedy troupe's various members have given us little reason to hope over the years, particularly since the 1989 death of co-founder Graham Chapman.

But here they'll be, all five of the surviving Pythons: John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin, with their absurd, irreverent sketches for what they say will be the last time.

The first episode of "Monty Python's Flying Circus" aired in 1969 on the BBC, laying the groundwork for their films: "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," "Monty Python's Life of Brian" and "Monty Python's Meaning of Life."

But to reduce Monty Python's legacy to an imbd.com resume is to miss, entirely, the troupe's influence on pop culture. Yes, it's true to say Monty Python inspired a cult following, but, then, "cult" like an understatement. The beauty of being a fan is finding kindred spirits with others who know what a "ka-niggit" is or all the words to "The Lumberjack Song." Being a fan is like gaining entry into a club of like-minded lunatics who tend to see life through a delightfully skewed perspective. You always know that a Monty Python fan is just the perfect level of kooky.

Various members have collaborated with one another over the years (most memorably on the 1988 film "A Fish Called Wanda"), but they always stopped just short by a member or two of going through with a full-fledged reunion; all of them had a foot in the pool, just never at the same time.

The specifics of the members' change of heart don't really matter, though it's been said that the reunion is part of a calculated attempt to pay legal debts over royalties for Idle's musical, "Spamalot," than to satisfy some existential nostalgic itch. Who cares? Monty Python is performing their last waltz.

Is the reunion appropriate for new Python initiates? If you couldn't care less about the great philosophers of the world playing soccer, silly-walking ministers and a certain pet shop that deals in selling a parrot that has shuffled off its mortal coil, probably not.

"Monty Python Live (Mostly)," rated R, broadcast from the O2 Arena 11:30 a.m. Sunday, and 7:30 p.m. July 23 and 24, Edwards Cinema 9000 Ming Ave. $18.

And now for something ... well, not really different.

A week after broadcasting the troupe's reunion concert, Edwards Cinema will screen "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" on July 27 and July 30, as part of the theater's "Classic Film Series."

The 1975 film was racked with problems during filming (the reason they banged coconut shells together wasn't an artistic decision but a practical one, since they couldn't afford horses). It came together at the last moment to eventually become one of the most acclaimed comedies of all time.

The basic plot: King Arthur and his men, the Monty Python troupe, go in search of the Holy Grail; hilarity ensues.

Its completely absurd humor and silly running gags (that poor cat) reflect the differing visions of the two directors: Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam, who later directed "Time Bandits," "12 Monkeys," "The Fisher King" and "Brazil." It's like two people writing in different rooms finding out they wrote the same book.

This is one of those rare movies that has been elevated over regular cult movie fare; it's even inspired it's own Tony award-winning musical, "Spamalot," to become a pop-culture lightning rod.

For those who haven't seen "Holy Grail," it gets a bit racy and a couple of scenes are a little bloody; it probably would earn a light PG-13 by today's standards.

Mostly, your attendance will serve as your induction into a fan club that's 45 years strong and shows no sign of fading away. You'll finally understand why people chuckle when they tell you "your mother was a hamster" in a really odd accent.

Speaking of pop culture lightning rods, the next movie in the classic film series, on Aug. 3 and Aug. 6, has become so revered it has inspired its own fan-hosted conventions.

The very same fervent level of fandom that inspires a person to learn Klingon is the same that makes converts of "Dudism."

Yes, that's right: "The Big Lebowski" has its own religion.

The 1998 film, a pastiche of Raymond Chandler-style noir, westerns, crime movies and stoner comedies, barely eked out a profit in its original release, but, oh brother, did it find success after.

Its main plot is about a case of mistaken identity between Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski (Jeff Bridges), a mellow Southern California slacker, and Jeffrey "Big" Lebowski (David Huddleston), a multimillionaire.

In between, there's a kidnapping, a ferret in a bathtub, a severed toe, nihilists and lots and lots of bowling. In fact, bowling is the real star of the movie, since filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen have found every possible way to shoot a bowling ball rolling, including one inspired shot where the camera is actually in the rolling ball itself.

My hope is there will be at least one person dressed as Walter Sobchak -- the unhinged, combustible character played by John Goodman -- holding a coffee tin filled with ashes. This movie is zen chaos.

The film is rated R, so this is one for the grownups. A warning though: Do not play The Eagles.

"Monty Python and The Holy Grail": 2 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Wednesday. Rated PG (more akin to PG-13, now); "The Big Lebowski": 2 p.m. Aug. 3 and 7 p.m. Aug. 6. Rated R. Edwards Cinema. Matinee $7.50; evening shows $10.50

Cesareo's picks

Reverse the Curse, Vinylgraph and Crime Bison, 9 p.m. Tuesday, Riley's Tavern, 1523 19th St. Free.

Tuesday, Riley's Tavern is hosting Ohio natives Reverse the Curse, who are stopping by to perform in support of their new release, "Existent."

The proto-post-punk band sounds musically like a more adventurous Sparta, with roots steeped in punk and grunge.

The lead vocals range from a smooth Jeff Buckley lilt to a throaty rasp that would make a young Stiv Bator proud, courtesy of 24-year-old vocalist and lead guitarist Ed Starcher.

The harmonies supplied by bassist Max Wesloski and guitarist/keyboardist Jack Musil are the secret weapon of this loud and sonically adventurous band.

When asked what the audience could expect, Starcher said, "ringing ears." But aside from the bombast, the singer looks forward to revisiting Bakersfield.

"(We played Bakersfield) four or so years ago," he said. "It was a great show. I'm excited to come back; there was a man with a parrot at the show."

Starcher describes his band's sound as "the woods."

Rounding out the bill are local indie-rock upstarts Vinylgraph, no slouches themselves, and Crime Bison, the busiest, scrappiest band in Bako, playing every chance they get.

The quartet is comprises the Dandy twins, 26-year-old James -- guitar and main vocals -- and Nicole, who plays guitar. They're rounded out by Tony Rinaldi, filling in on keyboards for the globetrotting John Calanchini, and 24-year-old Cameron Poehner on drums.

They play a clean, jazzy combination of the two main 5's -- Maroon and Ben Folds -- with a peppy zest and an improvisational bent, the sonic equivalent of a Gin and Tonic with a splash of lemon and club soda.

Contributing columnist Cesareo Garasa is a Bakersfield musician who writes about music, pop culture and life.

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