Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Underrated Comedies - Ariel Schudson ""

Friday, March 22, 2013

Favorite Underrated Comedies - Ariel Schudson

Ariel Schudson is the Student Chapter President of the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) at UCLA. She programs a cool series at the New Beverly Cinema called "Something Old, Something New", check it out!

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 KICKING & SCREAMING – 1995 – Noah Baumbach
I can’t tell/don’t know if this is underrated or if I just think it’s desperately under seen with the exception of a few choice individuals.
No, this is NOT the Will Ferrell sports film. This is the 1995 film by Noah Baumbach about the apathy of east coast college grads. It features Josh Hamilton, Chris Eigeman, Carlos Jacott, Parker Posey and Olivia D’Abo, and it is one of the few films I know by heart. Every line. Eric Stolz is damn good in this too. Great soundtrack, great cast, incredible dialogue. And I learned something about sports as well. I LOVE this film.

MONKEY BUSINESS – 1952 – Howard Hawks
Alright, alright. I have two favorite “Marilyn” movies and neither one is Some Like it Hot (even though Billy Wilder is one of my desert island directors). This is one of my favorite Marilyn movies, hands down. Hawks is an amazing director. This cannot be argued. But what I don’t like about Bringing Up Baby (the “wackiness” of a non-wacky actress) is used to absolute perfection in this picture. Marilyn was a wonderful dramatic actress too. My other fave is a noir she did. But if you have not seen Monkey Business, it is sincerely watchable and, like everything except (for me) Land of the Pharoahs, infinitely rewatchable.

THE MONSTER – 1994 – Roberto Benigni
So the idea of a crazed sex killer and mistaken identity may not seem hilarious it really really is. Take one Roberto Benigni, place him in an all-Italian production before the success of Life is Beautiful (1997) and it is amazingly funny. I realize that I have a very dark sense of humor. I also realize that I like Roberto Benigni. But I don’t apologize for the things that I find pleasure in and I find a great deal of pleasure in this film. This film made me laugh. A lot. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. I think my parents lost my copy when I lent it to them. Bummer.

CAT BALLOU - 1965 -Elliot Silverstein
This is a list of underrated comedies, a phrase that could also be interpreted as underappreciated comedies. Those who know me know my complete and utter adoration for Lee Marvin. I can’t get enough. In this Western (and I do love my Westerns) it’s a Lee Marvin Double-mint commercial: double your pleasure, double your fun! See the movie if you haven’t and then you’ll know what I mean by that. It’s by no means a great film but I love it because it is so much fun and I can always rewatch it due to the fact that it is so much fun.

If you have not seen this movie, do not pass go, do not collect $200, do not even think about a night of Netflix Instant. Go and buy this film. You will want to own it and watch it and love it and have it as a gauge of other humans. I don’t usually say things like that and…I don’t really mean it (or do I?), but this film is one of my all-time favorite pieces of cinema. If you don’t know about it, a) That’s ok. You’re lucky! I wish I could see it again for the first time. b) Fix the “not knowing about it” thing. You’ll be glad you did. I’m only pushy about a few films. This is one of ‘em. I love it A LOT.


Ned Merrill said...

Of course this type of thing--"underrated comedies"--is quite subjective and anecdotal by nature, but given its placement in the Criterion Collection, I'd hesitate to call KICKING & SCREAMING underrated. Additionally, though I'm not part of its cult, I happen to know a number of people who are, people who watched this movie with groups of friends throughout their college years, memorizing every line, etc. Recently, it was the subject of a SOLD OUT (very quickly, mind you) screening at BAM Cinemafest with cast and crew present.

WILL SUCCESS SPOIL ROCK HUNTER, and Tashlin by extension, is also highly, highly regarded, in my experience, by cinephiles the world over. Again, this is all anecdotal and your experience might be that you are alone or nearly alone in your love of the film. :-)

Anonymous said...

Just because something is on Criterion or has had a sold out exhibition doesn't mean it is well-known. K&S is primarily appreciated *by* those "college years crowds" (such as myself). Generally, in Los Angeles (a highly film-literate town), when I mention the title, I get: "Oh, the Will Ferrell film?" so...perhaps not underrated as much as pigeonholed.

Tashlin is also a very specialized arena. ROCK HUNTER is very under-appreciated. I have introduced nearly everyone I know to this film and very few people I know (some of whom are fond of Jerry Lewis) were even familiar with the fact that Tashlin used to work in animation or that he was his own moving image artist, really.

I think we need to remove our ideas and theories of ratings out of the cinephilic box and extend them to the larger community, lest these film maintain lesser and unknown stature :)

Ned Merrill said...

Wasn't trying to ruffle any feathers, of course, sinaphile. It's all subjective, my experience, neither of these is "underrated" or "under-seen" per se, but I guess I'm spending too much time with film-literate folks as opposed to the hoi polloi. :-) It's like that old quote supposedly said by Pauline Kael about how she "couldn't believe Nixon had won (in '72) because no one I knew voted for him."

Ned Merrill said...

An addendum: what I initially said was that I'd hesitate to call a film "underrated" that has a place in the (mostly very) exclusive Criterion Collection...and, I certainly don't mean to say that I think everything they touch is gold or "belongs." :-) That's different than "well-known."

As for ROCK HUNTER, it is generally thought of as Tashlin's peak and, in fact, like KICKING & SCREAMING, also holds a distinction belonging to relatively few's is in the National Film Registry. That is nothing to sneeze at, of course, and, again, wouldn't indicate, to me, something that is underrated. Underrated, to me, would be something else from Tashlin's oeuvre, for instance, that is generally forgotten, poorly reviewed or not reviewed at all, not generally mentioned in texts, etc., but in which a smaller number of viewers find true value, genius...hence, it's underrated.

So, again, these are under-seen by the masses, yes, I would agree, but we could say this about a good many films made before 1985 or in black and white. :-) I just wouldn't agree that these are "underrated," at least not in the way that I would use that term.

Anonymous said...

I think Benigni's IL MOSTRO is a pretty stupid movie. But, it is funny as hell at times. The curse and blessing of Benigni all in one. JOHNNY STECCHINO is even better, but, it too is uneven.