Sunday, August 13, 2017

Comedies You'd See Again

Are you familiar with the weekday NPR interview show, FRESH AIR, hosted by Terry Gross?  It seems you can always get booked as a guest on her show if your product includes one or more of the following three items: 1)  Non-mainstream sex 2)  Some history of Nazi Germany and 3) Anything or anyone connected to Judd Apatow.  If you had a relative who was a WWII vet and fought Nazis, got married and had a son who became a bachelor high school principal who loved to dress up in drag when going out on gay dates out of town and if Judd Apatow based a movie character on that vet's drag queen son, you'd be Terry Gross' special guest for one whole entire hour.
In my Twitter feed, I noticed a post from UPROXX called "Judd Apatow explains why great comedies like AIRPLANE! aren't honorable to critics."  I am one of those people who just about split his sides laughing at AIRPLANE!

Apatow produced THE BIG SICK, one of my favorite films of this year.  I wrote a recent blog post about that touching, smart romantic comedy.  Honestly, I laughed, I cried, I loved it.  And, during it, I realized how much I missed good romantic comedies -- good comedies in general.  Apatow is one talented man.  However, a few of his productions have element sof maybe why critics are so ho-hum about comedies.  They drag on like the drunken buddy who keeps repeating the same story.  FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL, KNOCKED UP and THE FIVE YEAR ENGAGEMENT made me laugh yet I did feel each had a good 15 minutes that could've been cut out to make the comedy tighter.  Those 15 minutes just repeated business about the lead male character we already new.  I was a background actor for THE FIVE YEAR ENGAGEMENT.  It shot in San Francisco.  I had a great time.  I watched one scene be improvised on the spot to highlight a star's comedy buddy.  The scene is the movie but it's not at all necessary.  THE BIG SICK is much better.

I thought of other comedies that were just as good, if not better than AIRPLANE! as I read Apatow's comments:  ANNIE HALL, TOOTSIE, the under-appreciated QUICK CHANGE with Bill Murray and Geena Davis.
Apatow gives his reason why studios aren't green-lighting more character-driven comedies that appeal to adult women and men and not just frat boys.  The article reminded me of those many lists of Top 5 or Top 10 on Facebook and Twitter.  If you asked "What 10 classic films would you take with you to watch on a 2-week vacation?," a lot of critics (mostly men) and acquaintances of critics would list 10 deep dish movies.  Classics like Ingmar Bergman's CRIES AND WHISPERS and THE SEVENTH SEAL, Buñuel's THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL, Bresson's DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST or Schlöndorff's THE TIN DRUM.  I've seen those kinds of lists and read the responses.  Rarely, if ever, does anyone include mainstream, highly entertaining, well-regarded comedies.  I was guilty of that once.  I was going to include my list of Top 10 Favorite Films I'd Take to Watch on Vacation...and I was going to list Abel Gance's 1927 silent film NAPOLEON.  It is a historical masterpiece.  Every time I saw it, I was lucky enough to see it on a big screen during a special engagement.  However, I have seen that 1927 French masterpiece four times in my entire life.
I've seen NAPOLEON DYNAMITE four times in one month alone.  I have rented NAPOLEON DYNAMITE on DVD so many times that I have memorized large chucks of dialogue from that 2004 indie comedy.  How many times have I seen NAPOLEON DYNAMITE?  I don't know exactly but the number is surely in the double digits.
That's the honest truth.  It would've been dishonest of me to list 1927's NAPOLEON.  I would've put it a list to impress the critics and the critics' high falutin friends.  Critics should come out of the closet about comedies.  I belly laugh at W.C. Fields in IT'S A GIFT and Jerry Lewis as THE BELLBOY and THE LADIES MAN.  TOOTSIE still breaks me up.  And if Jessica Lange got an Oscar for Tootsie, Marilyn Monroe should've definitely received an Oscar nomination for SOME LIKE IT HOT or her musical comedy brilliance in GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES.

So, if you were spending next week on vacation in a nice tropic spot and took 5 comedies with you, what would they be?

P.S.  If you saw NAPOLEON DYNAMITE and you left the theater or clicked off the DVD as soon as the closing credits started, then you haven't seen how it really ends.  There's one more fabulous scene.

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