Rupert Pupkin Speaks: March 2013 ""

Friday, March 29, 2013

Favorite Underrated Comedies - Jim Healy

Jim Healy is Director of Programming at the Cinematheque at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, as well as Director of Programming of the Wisconsin Film Festival. From 2001-2010, he was Assistant Curator, Exhibitions in the Motion Picture Department at George Eastman House in Rochester, NY. Prior to that, he was a Film Programmer for the Chicago International Film Festival. Jim is also currently the American Programming Correspondent for the Torino Film Festival in Turin, Italy.


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TAKING OFF (1971, Milos Forman) I hope someone contributing to this blog has some great non-English language titles to turn up, because I couldn’t think of many that I would consider underrated. I’m a big fan of Tati and Juzo Itami and I’m looking forward to discovering Pierre Etaix later this year. I also love the deadpan, anti-bureaucratic satire of Milos Forman’s The Fireman’s Ball, his last Czech production before coming to the States, but that’s certainly a film that’s received its due, what with the Criterion release and all. That said, I think Forman’s best film is his first U.S. production, a very funny and observant generation-gap comedy about what happens to a pair of suburban New York middle-class parents (Buck Henry and Faces’ Lynn Carlin) while searching for their runaway hippie teenaged daughter. Their odyssey takes them to several locales in 1970 Manhattan, then upstate to a Catskills resort where they take in a thrilling performance by the Ike and Tina Turner revue and Carlin has an unforgettable encounter with Allen Garfield. When the parents return to their own turf, the film climaxes with two hilarious sequences: a society dinner turned pot party for rich parents of runaways, and a strip poker sequence with a swinging couple. A lot of the humor comes from the great cast of New York character actors, including sitcom-stars-to-be Georgia Engel, Paul Benedict and Audra Lindley. Many of the absurd situations and slightly surreal bursts of humor are quite possibly the contributions of one of Forman’s co-scenarists, the legendary screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière, who, of course, also penned several of Buñuel’s scenarios during the same era. Shockingly, this masterpiece of 70s cinema has never been released on home video in the United States, but there’s a great blu-ray available from Carlotta in France. Buy it!


HOLLYWOOD OR BUST (Frank Tashlin, 1956). Of the two Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis films that Tashlin directed, it’s Artists and Models (1955), that tends to get more attention. That film is terrific and I suppose is the more visually interesting of the two (and it has the added bonus of Shirley MacLaine!), but I still prefer Hollywood or Bust. Dino plays a shady gambler who, because of his own con job gone bad, finds himself driving from New York to Los Angeles in a new car with cinephile Jerry and Jerry’s dog Mr. Bascomb (one of my favorite movie mutts). Along the way, the duo pick up the appealing Pat Crowley, who becomes Dean’s love interest while Jerry pines for Anita Ekberg (who plays herself ). Though Dean initially keeps trying to ditch Jerry, the two eventually become pals and they sing a lot of songs, most of which are more memorable than the ones in Artists and Models, especially the title tune and “The Wild and Wooly West”. What’s most surprising about this one is how well Martin and Lewis work as a team and how relaxed they appear to be, because apparently they weren’t even talking to each other during production! This would be their last big-screen pairing. Another underrated Tashlin-Lewis collaboration: Rock-a-Bye Baby (1958). Underrated Lewis movies: The Patsy and Cracking Up.


THE MAN ON THE FLYING TRAPEZE (Clyde Bruckman, 1935). I really love It’s a Gift (1934) and I suppose it’s my favorite W.C. Fields feature, but given the amount of revival screenings of that one, you’d think he never made another movie! For my money, The Man on the Flying Trapeze is almost as perfect. Fields is Ambrose Wallfinger, who is unappreciated by everyone at work and in his family, except his daughter from his first marriage. His job is a “memory expert” and the loosely structured plot revolves around his telling a lie in order to get to the wrestling matches, but it’s really just an excuse to hang a bunch of weird and funny Fields bits on. My favorite part is when he takes forever to go see about some burglars in the basement (one of whom is Walter Brennan!). When he finally gets there, he gets drunk with the thieves on homemade liquor and they have a sing-along! Fields takes abuse from almost everyone, but it never fazes him, and unlike the rather virtue-less family of It’s a Gift, Fields’ wife (played by Kathleen Howard) actually loves him for his oddness. The unconditionally loving daughter was a sweet recurring motif in Fields’ mostly unsentimental body of work, especially in The Old-Fashioned Way (1934), You’re Telling Me (1934), and Poppy (1936), all of which are underrated.


MOTHER (1996, Albert Brooks). Compared to the attention bestowed upon Woody Allen’s movies, all of Albert Brooks’ movies are underrated. I suppose I like Mother slightly less than his previous four features (Real Life, Modern Romance, Lost in America & Defending Your Life), but only because of a penultimate scene that shows Brooks finding “true love” at a gas station, a happy ending sequence that reeks of studio interference. This misguided moment is balanced by the fact that Brooks saves the final scene of the movie for Debbie Reynolds. It’s also easy to forgive because, before the ending, the movie has some of the funniest scenes in any movie ever made, especially the epic “food museum” sequence (“This cheese is very hard to find.” “How can it be hard to find, it’s all here!”). Other favorite bits: the trip to the supermarket (“What, did they run out of ‘Nu Nuts’?”) and the picture phone bit with Rob Morrow (“Get some help, buddy!”). Another underrated (and completely dark) movie about oedipal relationships: Carl Reiner’s Where’s Poppa? (1971).


QUICK CHANGE (1990, Howard Franklin & Bill Murray). In reviewing Martin Scorsese’s After Hours (another underrated comedy) in the Chicago Reader, Dave Kehr writes that Scorsese has transformed “a debilitating convention of 80s comedy—absurd underreaction to increasingly bizarre and threatening situations—into a rich, wincingly funny metaphysical farce.” I don’t know if Kehr had Bill Murray’s movies in mind when he wrote that, but it seems to me that Murray’s underreaction to the increasingly absurd situations in Stripes and Ghostbusters is precisely what makes those movies so hilarious. Kehr was a fan of Quick Change, which, in many ways, is a slightly more lighthearted version of After Hours: in both movies, the heroes mount an existential battle to get away from whacked-out New Yorkers. But it’s Murray’s presence in Quick Change, as a frustrated urban planner who plans an elaborate heist with two accomplices (Geena Davis and Randy Quaid), that makes it the funnier film. The opening 20-minute bank robbery sequence has more big laughs than most comedies have in their entire running time. Also, there’s not a single role of any size that isn’t perfectly cast and special mention must go to security guard Bob Elliott, cab driver from Mars Tony Shalhoub, and the late, great Jason Robards, who delivers perhaps my all-time favorite line (“They’re ON a blaftoni!”). More underrated Murray – and a real departure for him: Frank Oz’ What About Bob?

A few more for ya:

IT’S IN THE BAG (1945, Richard Wallace)

BREAKING IN (1989, Bill Forsyth)

SMILE (1975, Michael Ritchie)

ISHTAR (1987, Elaine May)

THE PARTY (1968, Blake Edwards)

SO FINE (1981, Andrew Bergman)

THE ‘BURBS (1989, Joe Dante)

HARD TO HANDLE (1933, Mervyn LeRoy)

KISS ME STUPID (1964, Billy Wilder)

THREE AMIGOS (1986, John Landis)

BIG TOP PEE-WEE (1988, Randall Kleiser)




Thursday, March 28, 2013

Lazy Sunday Afternoon Movie: SNOWBALL EXPRESS(1972)

From the opening Jew's harp laden strains of the score to this film, you know it's gonna be a hoot...of sorts. My fandom for Dean Jones goes way back. Like a lotta folks, I first saw him in Disney's THE LOVE BUG. He's an affable, functional actor. He did a ton of films for Disney in the 60s and 70s, so chances are if you were renting videos in the early 80s you probably saw him in something. This particular Disney/Jones joint had eluded me for some reason until it popped up on a list contributed to my blog by the wonderful Mr. Marc Edward Heuck:
http://rupertpupkinspeaks.blogspot.com/2012/06/bad-movies-we-love-guest-post-marc.html

Here, Jones plays a somewhat schlubby father of two, working for an insurance company at a lowly desk job in NYC. Jones' boss (Dick Van Patten) doesn't approve of his tardiness, but no matter, as Larry Tate from Bewitched(David White) has some great news for him. He has just inherited The Grand Imperial Hotel in Silver Hills, Colorado which rakes in $14,000 a month! So naturally Jones has gotta pack up his wife(Nancy Olson from SUNSET BLVD) and kids(son played by Jody from Family Affair) and move em out west! When they arrive of course the MONEY PIT scenario takes over. The one thing this movie could have used is a "Put One Foot in Front of the Other" style REVENGE OF THE NERDS fixing-the-place-up montage(but then I think even CITIZEN KANE could be improved by such a sequence). Disney(& M.A.S.H.) regular Harry Morgan makes a nice showing as a squatter and Keenan Wynn plays the Mr. Potter role. In a nutshell, this is your standard Disney family-of-underdogs-trying-to-turn-a-broken-down-hotel-into-a-cozy-ski-lodge story.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Favorite Underrated Comedies - Jason Hyde

Jason Hyde is a film lover of the highest order. It was he who first suggested years ago that I check out the Rathbone/Bruce Holmes films, starting with THE SCARLET CLAW(which I finally saw last year and loved:
http://rupertpupkinspeaks.blogspot.com/2013/01/my-favorite-film-discoveries-of-2012.html). He is a man whose cinematic tastes are certainly to be trusted.


 

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THE CHASER (1928; Harry Langdon)
Harry Langdon should have been allowed to direct more films. As it is, he only managed three, and one of them (HEART TROUBLE) vanished before anybody even got to see the thing. Both surviving films are still sadly overlooked. THREE'S A CROWD was Langdon's attempt at Chaplinesque pathos that somehow ended up bleaker than most people were probably ready for in 1928. THE CHASER's just as odd and visually striking as THREE'S A CROWD, but much funnier. In it, Langdon plays a carousing husband whose wife takes him to divorce court, but the judge instead decides that husband and wife should switch roles in a decision that I'm guessing doesn't have a lot of legal precedent backing it up. So in no time at all, Harry's wearing a dress and trying to avoid the unwelcome advances of every deliveryman who comes to the house until he gets fed up and tries to commit suicide. I know this probably doesn't sound funny, but it really is. In the end, THE CHASER didn't do any better at the box office than THREE'S A CROWD, and Harry was finished as a director. Langdon kept working in shorts and supporting parts (he's brilliant in the Al Jolson film HALLELUJAH I'M A BUM) and did some top notch gag-writing for Laurel and Hardy, but never got behind the camera again, which is really a shame. I wish there were more movies like this.


MOVIE CRAZY (1932; Clyde Bruckman)
Harold Lloyd's sound films don't get nearly enough attention these days. They were generally well-received in their day, but have kind of fallen off everybody's radar since then. But I've yet to see a Lloyd talkie that I didn't love. Even the much-maligned MAD WEDNESDAY or THE SIN OF HAROLD DIDDLEBOCK or whatever you want to call it is pretty funny. MOVIE CRAZY is the best of the Lloyd talkes that I've seen so far, although I still haven't caught up with THE CAT'S-PAW, which sounds very strange. Lloyd probably made the transition to sound more naturally than any other silent comedian. Where his silent films were famous for their stunts and elaborate physical gags, the physical gags in MOVIE CRAZY are much smaller in scale, but just as impeccably timed and executed. It helps that Lloyd's a terrific actor as well in the dialogue-driven scenes. And Constance Cummings was never better than she is in this film. There really isn't a single moment of MOVIE CRAZY that isn't absolutely perfect.


SH! THE OCTOPUS (1937; William C. McGann)
Movies don't come much crazier than this. I'm naturally inclined to love all of those Old Dark House comedies that were seemingly cranked out at a rate of about one per week in the '30s, but SH! THE OCTOPUS really goes the extra distance to stand out even within an already crazy genre. Allen Jenkins and Hugh Herbert star as a pair of dim-witted detectives stranded in an old dark lighthouse with a cast of eccentric characters, none of whom are what they seem. Also, there's a master criminal called The Octopus who's after a deadly new radium ray. And apparently a real live octopus with tentacles and everything that may be working for The Octopus, but it's not really clear because this movie makes no sense whatsoever until its final scene, and even then it's still pretty insane. I'm a big fan of Allen Jenkins these days after seeing him in Michael Curtiz's Perry Mason mystery THE CASE OF THE CURIOUS BRIDE, and I have to admit that I've always thought Hugh Herbert was pretty funny. I know this is not a popular opinion, but I think he's funny in THE BLACK CAT, I think he's funny in this, and I'm sure he's funny in other movies that I haven't seen yet. And I'm pretty sure that the exterior shot of the lighthouse was re-used by Raoul Walsh in THE ROARING TWENTIES.

 

THE COMEDY OF TERRORS (1963; Jacques Tourneur)
Lists of great comedy teams don't usually include Vincent Price and Peter Lorre, but maybe they should. THE RAVEN may be better remembered, but I'll always go to bat for their lesser-known team-up, THE COMEDY OF TERRORS. For starters, the humor's a bit blacker in this film thanks to Richard Matheson's witty screenplay. Price and Lorre essentially reverse their roles from THE RAVEN this time, with Lorre playing more of a meek straight man and Price tearing loose as the drunken lout. It's probably Price's nastiest character ever and he plays it to the hilt. Boris Karloff is great as Price's absent-minded father-in-law, but the biggest surprise here is Basil Rathbone. Not exactly known for his comic chops, Rathbone nearly steals the film away from his capable co-stars as Price's Shakespeare-quoting landlord who just won't stay dead. He manages to be incredibly funny and kind of scary at the same time. There's also a Joe E. Brown cameo, and it's all directed with style by the great Jacques Tourneur, who also wasn't exactly known for comedy.

 

DRAGNET (1987; Tom Mankiewicz)
I'm not sure exactly what the critical consensus on Dan Aykroyd is right now, but if it doesn't accept that the man was crazy funny back in the '80s, then the critical consensus needs to get its act together. Exhibit A: His perfect parody of Jack Webb's no-nonsense, straight-arrow cop Joe Friday in this spoof of the greatest of all cop shows. Every classic piece of the show is lovingly mocked here, from 'This is the city' intro to stentorian voice reading off the criminal's sentence outro. Tom Hanks in pre-serious actor funny guy mode plays Friday's hip new partner Pep Streebek, and he's funny enough, but this is Aykroyd's show from start to finish, and he doesn't disappoint. Also on hand are Dabney Coleman playing a sleazy jerk, which is pretty much how he spent the '80s, and Christopher Plummer (really, Christopher Plummer!) as a televangelist who's secretly the head of P.A.G.A.N. (People Against Goodness And Normalcy). Harry Morgan even reprises his role as Bill Gannon from the '60s version. There's so much good stuff in here that it's easy to overlook the fact that it all goes a bit overboard with the buddy-cop action/comedy stuff. But every time Aykroyd opens his mouth to rattle off some regulations or deliver a stern talking-to, all is forgiven, at least until he and Hanks start rapping badly over the end credits.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Favorite Underrated Comedies - Laird Jimenez

Laird is awesome. He's one heckuva an outstanding regular contributor here and I am very grateful he's always game for a new list.
Follow him on twitter here:
https://twitter.com/pobrecito
an Letterboxd here:
http://letterboxd.com/pobrecito/
also, read him here:
http://ourmovieislikethatmovie.blogspot.com/

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Hellzapoppin' (1941)
The title song promises "Anything can happen, and it probably will!" and the movie makes good on this claim a hundred times over. By the time a Frankenstein hurls a bear at a ballerina, you will know this to be the truth. Adapted from a popular stage show led by the Vaudeville duo of Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson, the movie version immediately announces its individuality by destroying the fourth wall spectacularly when the projectionist of the movie you're watching is introduced as a main character (played by Stooge royalty, Shemp Howard). It's a total gag factory that is only ever momentarily delayed by some passing lip service to the "story." The only thing it's comparable to is Tex Avery or Looney Tunes at their wildest. Probably more under-seen than it is underrated, it's in desperate need of a quality home video release.



Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)
The closest the 1990s ever got to Hellzapoppin'. I always liked Gremlins 2 as a kid, but when I watched it last year for the first time as an adult, I realized how previously underrated it was by me and just about everyone else. If it suffers in comparison to Gremlins, it's only if you think of it as trying to achieve the same ends. More so than Gremlins, the sequel feels like a personal film. One gets the feeling that Joe Dante made a list of everything he found amusing throughout the history of cinema, then threw caution to the wind and included everything on that list in this movie that is more of a satire of corporate culture and the entertainment industry than it is a rehash of the events of the first Gremlins. Infused with cartoon lunacy but grounded by real values, this is a masterpiece that deserves reevaluation by movie buffs that share Dante's passion.



The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz (1955)
Luis Buñuel's pitch black comedy is about a mentally disturbed man with a Giallo-esque origin story who one day decides he's going to become a serial killer. As the saying goes, "If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans." Luis Buñuel, devout atheist, did not believe in God, but he does find hilarity in the absurd situations people find themselves in when their desires are constantly frustrated. This one also needs a decent home video release in the U.S . (as does most of Buñuel's Mexican output).



Let's Go Native (1930)
Leo McCarey (whose Ruggles of Redgap I almost included on this list too) directed this Pre-code musical comedy that stars Jeanette MacDonald and Jack Oakie and features Kay Francis and Eugene Pallette in supporting roles. It's about as bawdy as 1930 allowed and continually interrupts its own forward momentum with what are essentially slapstick and gag-laden skits. Oakie steals the show as a cab driver named Voltaire McGinnis. Everyone he meets says, "You don't mean you're the French philosopher?!" By no means a masterpiece, but (surprise!) another title in need of a home video release.


The Great Garrick (1937)
David Garrick, star of the British stage, has been invited to perform at the Comédie-Française, but when word reaches the French troupe that Garrick plans to "teach them how to act," they decide they're going to prank him so hard that he'll learn some humility. What ensues is a prank war between actors that shows how funny it can be when real-life talented actors portray less than talented actors on-screen. James Whale's direction is elegant as always. This one is available through Warner Archive.



A Thousand Clowns (1965)
This film adaptation of a popular stage play doesn't overcome its "staginess," but what it lacks in cinematic quality it makes up for in pathos. Adapted for the screen by the playwright, the story depicts a shiftless manchild (portrayed by Jason Robards in one of his finest performances) who is tasked with raising his 12-year-old nephew despite his own apparent inability to take care of himself. There's something very Wes Anderson-esque about the characters, so... recommended if you like his movies. This one is available through MGM's MOD library.



Burn After Reading (2008)
While the Coen brother's ridiculous, satirical skewering of the intelligence community was not roundly ignored, I feel like it sort of slipped through the cracks by being sandwiched between the far more popular No Country for Old Men and the far more personal (though arguably underrated) A Serious Man. I'll admit I was a bit underwhelmed the first time I saw it, but it has gotten better with each subsequent viewing. Everyone is superb in it, but Richard Jenkins' tragically pathetic dope role stands out more and more for me. "You think I am a loser?... You know, I wasn't always the manager of HardBodies...let me show you something:" *produces photograph of himself as a Greek Orthodox priest.



In the Loop (2009)
If your eyebrow is raised at my inclusion of this on a list of "underrated" comedies, let me just say that no matter how well received this movie was, it wasn't enough. Possibly the closest my generation will get to an era-defining, political satire that is as funny as it is pointed (see for instance, Dr. Strangelove for the Cold War nuclear race era). Writer/director Armando Iannucci's gift for vulgarity is unparalleled. If you disagree, you can ram your opinion up your shitter with a lubricated horse cock.



Friday (1995)
Maybe not underrated, but probably under appreciated. Cinematic portrayals of the "ghetto" in the 90s that received widespread kudos from white audiences tended to depict urban, black neighborhoods as a hell of gang violence and misery (Boyz in the Hood, Menace II Society, etc). Friday doesn't necessarily reject that depiction, but it at least shows that within these neighborhoods, in addition to poverty and violence, there are also normal, working families with wholesome values and great senses of humor. Maybe the moral grandstanding at the conclusion is heavy handed, but also, maybe this movie was sincerely trying to reach an audience that, well, isn't you. I found this to be one of the most endlessly quotable comedies of the 90s. MVP: John Witherspoon.

Monday, March 25, 2013

WAC'd Out Sets: THE FALCON Mystery Movie Collection Vol.2. Tom Conway!

I was aware of the the original group of FALCON Mystery films(in WAC's Vol.1 set) starring George Sanders as the titular bird, but I'd never seen any of them. Having heard a few folks(including some of the Warner Archive guys themselves) say that they preferred Tom Conway's FALCON to Sanders' I decided to start with this set and perhaps work my way backwards. I'll certainly get around to the Sanders films at some point because my viewing of these six movies has me intrigued. Tom Conway reminds me a bit of Errol Flynn, but with a bit less charisma. That's not meant as a dig against the man really. After all, how many Errol Flynn's can there be? But yeah he resembles Flynn and bit but just comes off a bit drowsier or something.


THE FALCON OUT WEST(1944; William Clemens)
The death of a rich Texan in a NYC nightclub leads Tom back to the lone star state to find the murderer. Enjoyable slice of fried fish out of water. Sort of a mini-reversed COOGAN'S BLUFF. Tom Conways is...(not) Johnny Mack Brown. That being said, this was still one of my favorites in the set.

THE FALCON IN MEXICO(1944; William Berke)
Tom can't go 5 minutes without stumbling across a body. In this case, all the hubbub is about a mysterious stolen painting. Said painting causes a lot of ruckus for Tom as he's forced to make off with it himself to try to clear himself of the initial murder. Is the supposedly deceased artist who painted it really dead? 


THE FALCON IN HOLLYWOOD(1944; Gordon Douglas)
What starts as a simple racetrack purse swap mixup quickly escalates into a murder case at a movie studio for Tom Lawrence.  Light and fluffy like an omelette. The Hollywood backdrop helps make this one pretty fun. Director Douglas is also responsible for the giant ant classic THEM!(as well as VIVA KNIEVEL!, SLAUGHTER'S BIG RIP-OFF, IN LIKE FLINT, ROBIN AND THE 7 HOODS, LADY IN CEMENT, SKULLDUGGERY and several GILDERSLEEVE films...)

THE FALCON IN SAN FRANCISCO(1945; Joseph H. Lewis)
Tom meets a little girl on a train and her nurse is found dead. When Tom tries to take the girl home, he is arrested for kidnapping. Once cleared, Tom goes to see the little girl to investigate something she'd mentioned on the train about being imprisoned in her own home.
I'm a pretty big Joseph H. Lewis fan. Seeing Gun Crazy and THE BIG COMBO in close proximity will have that effect on you. He's a stylish auteurish director who made a lot of solid B pictures. So naturally when I saw that he had helmed this entry in the FALCON series, I was very excited. This is a relatively subdued film style-wise. I do love most films set in San Francisco though, so the locale helps.
 

THE FALCON'S ADVENTURE(1946; William Berke)
What starts as a fishing trip for Tom and Goldie turns into a kidnapping rescue and, of course, a murder. At the heart of the murder is a man's formula for a substitute for industrial diamonds. Through awkward happenstance, Tom is blamed for the man's murder and must flee(yet again) to Miami with the valuable secret. Lotsa folks want this formula and its a twisty-turny ride to the end.
 

THE FALCON'S ALIBI(1946; Ray McCarey)
A high society lady that Tom assists with a bet at the racetrack throws a big birthday soirée and invites him. During the festivities,  he learns of some missing pearls and yet another obligatory murder. Tom is obliged to set a trap for the murderer with the pearls as bait.
This entry has the best supporting players in a gorgeous Jane Greer as a female crooner and Elisha Cook Jr. as her hubby, a late night radio DJ. Both of them are great here, and their participation makes this my favorite film in the set. Cook's character here has some common ground with a certain other guy he played in a certain Kubrick film I love.
Note to self: I want to one day use Tom's trick here of pretending to be writing a letter when in fact he is actually writing detailed numbered instructions for his sidekick.

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!

AMIA Twitter-https://twitter.com/AMIAatUCLA
AMIA Facebook-https://www.facebook.com/amiastudentchapteratucla
AMIA Student Chapter Blog-http://amiastudentchapteratucla.blogspot.com/
Her film blog: http://sinaphile.wordpress.com/
Her Twitter: https://twitter.com/Sinaphile


 

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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.


WILL SUCCESS SPOIL ROCK HUNTER? – 1957 – Frank Tashlin
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.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Lazy Sunday Afternoon Movie: BACHELOR IN PARADISE(1961)

I think my initial introduction to Bob Hope was via his humorous cameo in SPIES LIKE US("Doctor. Doctor. Glad I'm not sick"). I never really paid him much attention at the time. It wasn't until years later when I would hear Woody Allen speak of him in reverent tones about just how big an influence he was. Allen cited Hope's performances in MONSIEUR BEAUCAIRE and THE GREAT LOVER as particular impactful and informative in terms of him developing his own comic persona. When I finally watched those films, I could absolutely see the through line. Those films also opened the door for me as far as my current fascination with Hope. He can certainly be kinda hit or miss, but in coming across other gems of his like ALIAS JESSE JAMES, I continue to sift through his filmography.
In BACHELOR, Hope plays a jet-setting author who writes books like 'How The Swedes Live' and 'How The French Live'. After a snafu with his business manager, he is put into a state of "instant poverty" and forced to write a new book called 'How The Americans Live'. His place of research: a family-focused tract development called Paradise Village in the San Fernando Valley.
This sort of 1960s suburban milieux is one I enjoy, so this film is disarmingly pleasant and funny enough. Henry Mancini adds a layer of lovely tonal ambience with his musical stylings. I'll be seeking out the score very soon without question.The crackerjack cast includes Lana Turner, Jim Hutton, Paula Prentiss & Agnes Moorehead. Director Jack Arnold, most known for his classic sci-fi films(THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE & THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN) handles the comedy well enough and I always love to see a full 2.35 to 1 frame. I was reminded of Frank Tashlin at points throughout, though this would certainly be considered Tashlin-lite(with a dash of MR. MOM).
Warner Archive put out a nice disc of this film a while back(along with several other Hope entries: http://shop.warnerarchive.com/search.do?query=Bob+hope).
My parting thought was that this flick would make a disturbing double feature with Martin Ritt's rare 1957 film NO DOWN PAYMENT...

The Warner Archive MOD DVD can be purchased: HERE