Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Underrated Comedies - Jack Criddle ""

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Favorite Underrated Comedies - Jack Criddle

Jack Criddle is a filmmaker, video editor and cinephile based in Brooklyn. His senior thesis film at City College was a short biographical documentary about 1930’s sleaze director Dwain Esper. He has since produced promotional videos for the Massachussetts Museum of Contemporary Art and stained glass artist Debora Coombs. Some of his work can be seen here: http://www.vimeo.com/jackcriddle https://twitter.com/southboundsix
 
Underrated Comedies


The Smallest Show on Earth (1957)
A young British couple inherit a “fleapit” movie theater from a long-lost uncle, but after discovering the poor state of the place, they work their way through many comical obstacles to get it running again. The ancient theater staff, including Peter Sellers, in old-age makeup as the alcoholic projectionist, form an uneasy alliance with the new owners. The film is steeped in a warm, nostalgic glow – even more so today, thanks to the prevalence of digital projection over 35mm. I know of no film that better celebrates the magic of the movie theater.


Make Mine Mink (1960)
Americans probably know Terry-Thomas best from the Abominable Dr. Phibes films and maybe Disney’s Robin Hood. In Britain he is well-loved for playing a career-long slew of upper-class twits and buffoonish ex-military types. This heist comedy may be his finest hour, as he leads the women who live in his boarding house in a plot to steal fur coats and donate the proceeds of their crimes to charity. The ensemble comedy between Terry-Thomas and the gaggle of dotty women is great, and there’s an inspired spoof of The Third Man in one scene. Also watch out for a young and very gorgeous Billie Whitelaw (Hot Fuzz) in an early supporting role.


Toys (1992)
While it tanked at the box office, earned its director a Razzie nomination, and only holds a 26% Rotten Tomatoes ranking, for me, this is far and away Barry Levinson’s best work. It’s a grand, allegorical tale of a Strangelove-ian general (a fantastic Michael Gambon) who takes over a toy factory, placing his na├»ve nephew as the only one who can stop him. It came out at the height of Robin Williams’ popularity, although it’s miles away from his formulaic comedies in which his ad-libbing wackiness is anchored by the buttoned-down real world. Here, Williams is only one of many wacky things onscreen, in a film which includes Jacques Tati-like machinery, Rene Magritte-inspired set design, and a grand, Shakespearean, dynastic-drama plot. It’s a film ripe for reappraisal if there ever was one.


Nosey Parker (2003)
John O’Brien is a Tunbridge, Vermont-based filmmaker whose movies delicately tread the line between fiction and reality through casting non-acting locals alongside professional actors, and heavily relying on improv as a storytelling tool. His 1996 mockumentary A Man With a Plan made a minor celebrity out of elderly dairy farmer-turned-senatorial candidate Fred Tuttle, but it’s his third film, Nosey Parker, that I think is the real jewel. Natalie Picoe plays the trophy wife of an older psychiatrist, both of them just moved to the area. She strikes up a flirtation with salty old-timer George Lyford, which eventually blossoms into a platonic friendship. It’s a sweet tale of coexistence between recent transplants and salt-of-the-earth natives, and captures the mood, speed, and feeling of Vermont so well that it feels like a cinematic countryside vacation.


Magicians (2007)
David Mitchell and Robert Webb, of British comedy programs “Peep Show” and “That Mitchell and Webb Look” star in this terrific comedy, which more than holds up to the quality of their TV work. A former double act, now rivals after a freak onstage accident, are reunited at a magic contest in Edinburgh, providing an opportunity for bitterness, awkwardness, and the reopening of old wounds. What makes the film work so well is that the magicians are a metaphor for comedians – much like the clowns in Shakes the Clown – so the characters’ jealousies and squabbles feel real and hilarious. Skip Burt Wonderstone and give this one a spin on Netflix.





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