Saturday, September 24, 2011

Airplane!, 1980

Directed and written by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker
Starting Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Stephen Stucker, and a lot of other people

The first time I saw this movie, I insisted to my mother that we stay and watch it a second time. Loving and supportive of her son's unbridled love of comedy, she agreed.

When we first got cable, HBO showed this movie over and over. I believe I watched it 14 times.

Since then, I cannot tell you how many times I have watched this. Laughing at the same great jokes over and over again.

In one sense, it's hard to know where to start with this movie. It's so funny, so goofy, so willing to do anything for a joke, such a complete encyclopedia of comedy, that it's completely irresistible. Of course it's dated in stretches (the From Here to Eternity reference and Ethel Merman cameo most notably); of course watching Peter Graves ask the boy Joey about Turkish prisons is unbelievably politically incorrect; and so on -- but this is a really funny movie. It's worth it to have to explain the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar section because it makes me laugh out loud just thinking of it.

I had a friend who told me I couldn't marry my fiance until she saw Casablanca. One might legitimately consider the same standard for Airplane!

Of course it's in the Pantheon.

Airplane! at IMDB.

Friday, September 23, 2011

(Not a review) George Clooney's favorites

I have to admit I'm surprised to be pointing to Parade magazine, but they have a list of George Clooney's 100 favorite movies. I like his movies a lot, especially Intolerable Cruelty and Oceans 11 (both of which should be listed as part of the Pantheon, and Oceans 11 is an accidental omission that I'll fix soon), so it's interesting to see what he likes. It's a little heavy on the bleak early '70's movies (like the Parallax View), but it's a good list of movies to catch up on (vs. my usual of the AFI top 100).

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Thirteen Days, 2000

Directed by Roger Donaldson
Written by David Self
Starring Bruce Greenwood, Steven Culp, Kevin Costner

This is a fine and inspiring dramatization of the White House view of the events of the Cuban missile crisis. It's important to see how JFK and RFK navigated a path that prevented World War III from erupting -- and that, along with everything else, there were those on both sides who would have preferred that. Aside from not-so-great Boston accents basically throughout the movie, things are very well done here. You might even argue that it's the responsibility of Americans to see this movie, so they can know how hard it is and how much bravery is required to avoid war.

Thirteen Days at IMDB.


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The Awful Truth, 1937

Directed by Leo McCarey
Written by ViƱa Delmar, Arthur Richman
Starring Irene Dunne, Cary Grant, Ralph Bellamy

This is a great divorce-remarriage screwball comedy. Leo McCarey jammed it full of all kinds of jokes, from clever wit to slapstick, and they're really good. Irene Dunne is great and got top billing as she was a bigger star than Cary Grant at the time And when you think of Cary Grant as suave and funny, it originated here -- this is the movie that made him as that kind of an actor.

The last few minutes is a little disappointing, but everything prior to that is hilarious. (And, on a personal note, I was continually writing requests for this to be shown around Boston in the mid '80's at places like the Brattle, the Coolidge Corner, and Somerville Theater, which I think helped it be shown -- and I'm glad it worked, because it's awfully funny.)

It's in the Pantheon, of course, along with another McCarey-directed piece of inspired comedy, Duck Soup.

Extra joke for literary geeks (like me): Irene Dunne's music teacher is named Armand Duvalle, which is the name of Marguerite's lover in Camille, by Alexander Dumas fils. 

The Awful Truth at IMDB.


The places to hear from me:
Food - josh lubarr food stuff
Geekiness - geekiness(josh lubarr)
Movies - Old Movies and New with Josh Lubarr
Politics - Progressive Politics (per Josh Lubarr)
Silliness and comedy - Le Repository du Silliness, avec Josh Lubarr

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Blazing Saddles, 1974

Directed by Mel Brooks
Written by Mel Brooks, Norman Steinberg, Andrew Bergman, Richard Pryor, and Alan Uger
Starring Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Harvey Korman

What happens? A Good Sheriff goes up against the Bad Guy.

Boy, is this a funny movie. Mel Brooks talks about how he put everything of himself in into this movie and you can tell. It has that kind of loaded, out-of-control feeling that distinguishes the very best comedies. It's got more great lines in its trailer than most comedies have in their entirety. Everyone in it is hysterically funny (though Harvey Korman stands out for me personally -- "Why am I asking you?"). It's like an encyclopedia of jokes and comic styles.

And all the material about bigotry puts it front and center, where you can't pretend you're just watching a silly comedy. In some sense, this is a movie about our American history. And while some of that history is very ugly, this movie finds a way to make it funny without making it vapid.

Obviously, a member of the Pantheon.

Blazing Saddles at IMDB.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Forty-Year-Old Virgin, 2005

Directed by Judd Apatow
Written by Judd Apatow and Steve Carell
Starring Steve Carell, Catherine Keener, Paul Rudd, Romany Malco, Seth Rogen

The most recently released member of the Pantheon, this movie kind of defines raunchy comedy. The other side of it is that it's actually a very sweet movie and completely depends on Steve Carell's eminently likeable Andy. Everyone does what they're good at here, but Carell really owns it, with everything from uncomfortable and idiosyncratic teeth-picking to goofy voices, all of which ride on good characterization.

The unrated version and extras are actually worthwhile on the DVD.

The Forty-Year-Old Virgin at IMDB.