The film and TV world was hit hard last weekend. On Saturday, it was announced that beloved comic actor Fred Willard had passed away at the age of 86 from natural causes. Then, almost immediately after that news broke came word that indie filmmaker and prolific TV director Lynn Shelton had died unexpectedly at age 54 from a previously unknown blood disorder.
Shelton’s shocking death is truly a tragedy. She’d been making films and directing TV for 15 years, and it seemed like she had decades more work in her. After recently directing “Little Fires Everywhere,” she was at work on a script with her partner and creative collaborator Marc Maron, and on Monday, Maron released an episode of his long-running podcast, “WTF with Marc Maron” in tribute to Shelton, a rerelease of their very first conversation, recorded in 2015.
Shelton burst onto the indie scene with “Humpday” in 2009 (available free on Tubi), and then followed that up with a prolific burst of filmmaking. The love triangle dramedy “Your Sister’s Sister” starring Rosemarie Dewitt, Mark Duplass and Emily Blunt (available for rent on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, Google Play) is one of her best, as is the incredibly moving “Touchy Feel” (free on Tubi), in which Dewitt plays a massage therapist who loses her ability to touch others, and tries everything to get it back. The utterly charming “Laggies,” starring Kiera Knightley in an understated indie role, is available to watch on Netflix.
For a few stress-relieving laughs, celebrate the career of the inimitable Willard. His longtime collaboration with Christopher Guest started with a small but memorable role in Rob Reiner’s “This is Spinal Tap” (rent it on iTunes, Vudu, Google Play, YouTube), and he co-starred in “Waiting For Guffman,” “For Your Consideration” (both free on Vudu, available for rent on all other platforms) and “A Mighty Wind,” but he is totally unforgettable as the unfiltered announcer in Guest’s best film, “Best in Show” (both are available for rent on Amazon, iTunes, YouTube, Vudu, Google Play). Now is a great time to introduce your teenager to the comedy of Christopher Guest, which is basically required for life, and extremely funny.
Binging all of Willard’s work, it’s clear that no one delivered a punchline like he did.