Saturday, September 5, 2009
Movies That Make Me Laugh
So here we go, in no particular order.....with synopsis provided when possible. By the way, most lists that I found are very current, with no mention of past trail blazers in comedy, very sad.
This will be it for lists and back to my poetry, got that vacation writing out of my mind.
THE THIN MAN (1934) William Powell and Myrna Loy play Dashiell Hammett's married sleuths, Nick and Nora Charles. Notorious wisecrackers and party-goers (the film was shot during Prohibition), the Charleses solve mysteries between drinks: Nora: "What hit me?" Nick: "The last martini." The pair had such on-screen chemistry they went on to play in 13 other movies, including five more Nick and Noras, but none equals this one. Directed with panache by W. S. Van Dyke, and augmented by Asta, a dog with almost as much appeal as his owners.
IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934) A cynical newspaperman (Clark Gable) and a pampered heiress (Claudette Colbert) collide on an overcrowded bus headed from Miami to New York. It's hate at first sight as they share the last remaining seat. "Remember me?" Gable demands the next morning. "I'm the fellow you slept on last night." Predictably they fall in love, but not before a series of tight situations and colorful arguments. Director Frank Capra's screwball comedy remains fresh after six decades.
THE ROAD TO MOROCCO (1942) "Like Webster's Dictionary, we're Morocco bound," croon Bing Crosby and Bob Hope as they board a camel and head for adventure. Along the way, as always, they encounter Dorothy Lamour, triggering, as always, a battle of one-upmanship to see who gets the girl. In this, the best of the seven "Road" movies, the comedian and singer knock down the "fourth wall" to talk to the audience, kid Paramount studios, and ad lib relentlessly with the movie's splendid heavy, Anthony Quinn.
ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948) Universal Studios had the ingenious idea of mixing its comedy duo with its horror stars. Result: unsubtle but explosive humor, with Bud and Lou as baggage clerks delivering packages to a haunted house. The occupants are Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, Jr., Vincent Price and other ghouls who want to replace Frankenstein's malfunctioning brain with Costello's minuscule one.
HARVEY (1950) Jimmy Stewart plays a slightly addled gentleman, fond of the bottle and of a six-foot rabbit only he can see. Josephine Hull is his concerned sister; Cecil Kellaway is a shrink who comes to realize that the patient is saner than his critics.
THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH (1955) Tom Ewell's wife goes on vacation, leaving him alone in Manhattan. Marilyn Monroe lives in a neighboring apartment. The rest is history, particularly when she walks over a subway grating in her diaphanous white dress. Sophisticated laughter, the Billy Wilder way.
SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959) Director/co-writer Billy Wilder sends up gangster movies in this ribald adventure of two musicians (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon.) They witness a mob rubout and join an all-girl band to escape from their pursuers. On the way, the cross-dressers encounter a fabulous cast of caricatures including Marilyn Monroe, the band's lead singer, and smitten zillionaire Joe E. Brown, who plans to wed Lemmon, even when he learns the truth. "Nobody's perfect," claims Brown. This film is.
IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD (1963) Stanley Kramer's over-the-top chase movie, with top bananas of comedy, including Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Jimmy Durante, and Jonathan Winters, all outpaced by Mr. Cool himself, Spencer Tracy.
THE NUTTY PROFESSOR (1963) Jerry Lewis usually went overboard when he directed Jerry Lewis, but here he uses a laid-back approach to tell the story of a simpleton who becomes a sophisticate when he partakes of a magic potion. In a dual role, Jerry is laughable and/or loveable, without employing his customary frantic appeal to the audience. Stella Stevens is diverting; Kathleen Freeman is droll.
THE PRODUCERS (1968) The basis for Broadway's biggest hit musical. Two grotesques (Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder) produce a ghastly show, Springtime for Hitler, hoping it'll bomb. In the resultant confusion, they plan to steal the backers' money and get out of town. Behold! The thing turns out to be a smash, and the con men are hoist by their own petard. Mel Brooks's directorial debut.
AMERICAN GRAFFITI (1973) Another coming-of-age movie--with a big difference. George Lucas (Star Wars) directed, and chose a cast of newcomers with real talent, among them Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard and Harrison Ford.
MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL (1975) The inventive British sketch comedians (John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Eric Idle) do battle with the Arthurian legend, complete with a Trojan Rabbit and a Holy Hand Grenade. Tradition loses. We win.
THE BUGS BUNNY/ROADRUNNER MOVIE (1979) Disney films got applause and Oscars, but Warner Bros. cartoons engendered nonstop laughter. Some of the very best shorts were created by Chuck Jones, as this compilation demonstrates in overplus.
AIRPLANE! (1980) The ultimate send-up of the disaster genre. The directors/writers Jim Abrahams, and the brothers Jerry and David Zucker provide an avalanche of visual gags, parodies and puns. ("Surely you can't be serious." "I am serious, and don't call me Shirley.") Don't like a joke? Wait 10 seconds and there'll be a new one. With Robert Hays as a failed pilot, Julie Hagerty as a flighty flight attendant, and a grand cast of poker-faced stiffs, including Leslie Nielsen, Lloyd Bridges and Robert Stack.
TRADING PLACES (1983) The title represents the truth in labeling. Eddie Murphy, a streetwise African American hustler, exchanges jobs with Dan Aykroyd, a very proper Philadelphia stockbroker. The results are everything you'd expect from these two--and more. John Landis directed.
GHOSTBUSTERS (1984) House haunted? Hire Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray, who know how to dispel ghosts and dispense jokes. So do Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis and director Ivan Reitman.
GOOD MORNING, VIETNAM (1987) The story, much exaggerated, of Adrian Cronauer. This one-time disc jockey was the voice of Armed Forces Radio until he was forced out in 1965. Robin Williams takes the bio and runs with it. Uneven but inventive humor with a moral. Forest Whitaker offers strong backup; Barry Levinson directed with heart as well as funnybone.
BIG (1988) An unhappy kid wishes he were a grownup. And voilà! He magically becomes one--except that he retains a 12-year-old mind in an adult's body. Tom Hanks is just as magical as the premise. Penny Marshall directs a glowing cast.
BEETLEJUICE (1988) A young couple (Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin) are killed in an automobile accent, and return as ghosts, ready to inhabit their dream house. Alas, the place is occupied by live interlopers. The pair isn't skilled enough to scare a mouse, so they hire the evil Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton). Fine ensemble work, and director Tim Burton supplies so many sight gags and special effects that you might want to view it twice.
CITY SLICKERS (1991) Afflicted by various midlife crises, three urbanites (Billy Crystal, Bruno Kirby, Daniel Stern) try to sort things out on a cattle drive. The complications are unfailingly merry, and Jack Palance--as the rough-hewn, straight-faced head drover--makes John Wayne look like Shirley Temple.
GROUNDHOG DAY (1993) Egomaniacal weatherman Bill Murray spends a night in Punxsutawney, Pa., where the local groundhog is supposed to see his shadow and predict how long winter will last. Trouble is, Murray gets caught in a time trap, and keeps repeating the day, minute by minute, day after day. Scrooge becomes saint, but not before some funny and wise interludes, supervised by director Harold Ramis.
National Lampoon's Animal House 1978
Never was failure so celebrated as in John Landis' iconoclastic college comedy Animal House, launching the careers of John Belushi, Karen Black and Tim Matheson. Bonding through failure, a fraternity of social misfits wreck havoc on the institution of college after being dismantled by the evil Dean Wormer. Dead horses, drunken toga parties, and a performance by The O'Jays made Animal House a course study in funny.
Famous Quote: Over? Did you say "over"? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?
Young Frankenstein 1974
Dubbed "the scariest comedy of all time," Mel Brooks' version of the classic Mary Shelley tale takes liberties... to say the least. Upon inheriting his famous, late grandfather's castle, a brilliant young neurosurgeon discovers a book containing information about a "reanimation experiment," as well as some freakishly funny characters living within the castle grounds.
The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! 1988
There was no better cop than Frank Drebin - if by "better" you mean relentlessly bumbling and funny. Leslie Nielson's straight-faced portrayal of the outrageously outrageous police detective spawned two sequels and an indelible mark on the slapstick comedy genre. Honorable mentions go to great supporting comedic performances by Priscilla Presley, George Kennedy, O.J. Simpson, and... Robert Goulet?
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective 1994
Ace Ventura is a one-man wrecking crew for pets, and in it, Jim Carrey is a one-man wrecking crew for laughs. Carrey's Ventura became so popular after its release, it quickly spawned a sequel that - at the very least, deserves an honorable mention.
Blazing Saddles 1974
Gene Wilder's version of the wild, wild west is wilder and funnier than anything the Duke could've ever imagined. When a black sheriff is sent in to clean up a corrupted town, he crosses paths with a myriad of outrageous characters, situations, and even a horse who needs some tough love. Infamous for its outrageous "campfire dinner" scene, Blazing Saddles also blazed the first trail for an openly satiric western-comedy.
The Pink Panther 1963
Peter Sellers stars as the original, bumbling Inspector Clouseau, who's comic ineptitude leads him on an all-out investigation to track down a jewel-thief who's actually right under his nose. Throw in a kung-fu fighting assistant assigned to attack his employer and tons of dry wit and The Pink Panther became an instant comedy classic inspiring a sequel and a re-make.
A Night At The Opera - (1935) (Marx Brothers)
A Day At The Races - (1937) (Marx Brothers)
Caddyshack - (1980) (Bill Murray, Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight)
Wayne's World - (1992) (Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Rob Lowe)
The Three Stooges made 190 "short subject" episodes for Columbia pictures, but no "Great" full length movies. However their comedy on film deserves recognition