I was recently asked by the film blogger extraordinaires at Wonders in the Dark to submit a ballot for the Top 60 Comedies of All-Time in preparation for their next feature which will tabulate the ballots and produce a definitive list later in the summer. At first I found the task daunting – as many will remember guest-blogger Nicky D’s hotly contested and wildly popular Top 47 Comedies of All-Time that graced The Spin not so long ago. For me, comedy is the most subjective and generational-based of genres – and it’s hard to judge films on personal tastes in humor. However, the always generous Sam Juliano at WitD invited balloters to adopt an “anything goes” policy – meaning – if it’s a comedy to you! – put it on the list. This opened up the door for me to include some of my favorite accidental comedies as well as satires and dark comedies that many would judge as dramas. One will see my love for the darker side of comedy in this list, as well as my love for Woody Allen and those rascally kids that had me in stitches when I was a kid – yup – short films are allowed – hence the love for Our Gang. At any rate…let the debate that started with Nicky D’s list continue as I present to you my official rebuttal and ballot for the Wonders in the Dark polling. I will provide no additional commentary and let the list speak for itself… Continue reading
It’s the long overdue return of The Schleicher Spin’s Guest Blogger Series!
The gauntlet was laid down, and guest blogger Nicky D was asked to make a list of the best comedies of all time.
Which of these films will top Nicky D’s list?
Hello, my name is Nicky D and I am the smartest man alive. I work alongside of Mr. Schleicher on an everyday basis. Mr. Schleicher can’t seem to get over the fact of how brilliant of a man I truly am. I have completely annoyed him with the mentioning of my top lists of movies, especially comedies. So he challenged me to come up with a top comedy list, and I came up with a nice uneven number for you to review and comment on. I love movies and not just comedies either. I am into most genres except for romance, family, documentaries, musicals, and westerns. I still do watch them and try to give an honest opinion on them. My favorite actor is Daniel Day Lewis and my favorite movie is The Last of the Mohicans. I have very strong opinions about movies in general, so if you want to have a spirited debate, as I always say, “Bring it On” (not on the list, by the way). There may be some movies that I left off of the list because of the fact that I might not have seen them, but if you mention a movie I will absolutely check it out and respond with my opinion. Thanks to Mr. Schleicher, and have fun with my top 47 comedies all time.
Parental Guidance Suggested: Raw, uncensored comedy quotes below. Continue reading
Family, friends, co-workers and psychiatrists have often questioned my taste in comedy. I consider Woody Allen one of the funniest men alive, but I’m also a sucker for lowest-common denominator gag-o-second spoof films from the original Airplane! (still a masterpiece) to the past decade’s awful trend of “Fill-in-the-Blank” Movies. I despise the recent trend of uber popular gross-out bromantic comedies (I Love You Man, The Hangover) but I love anything from David Wain (The State, Wet Hot American Summer, The Ten). When I first heard about Hot Tub Time Machine six months ago, I hadn’t been this excited about a comedy since Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. Sadly, though, what was once thought to be a can’t-miss piece of pure cinematic gold turned into another haphazardly executed Snakes on a Plane style hatchet-job. I mean how could you go wrong with a movie called Hot Tub Time Machine?
Do I even need to go over the plot here? Continue reading
A review of IN THE LOOP:
Satire is so hard to pull off. It’s so far from being “easy peasy lemon squeezy” I would go as far to say that it’s “difficult difficult lemon difficult.” It’s a British term, you’ll catch on soon.
For the past ten years satire has been regulated to animation (the South Park movie), puppetry (Team America), and well, something called Sacha Baron Cohen, and let’s be honest, is that even real satire, or just mockery? We really haven’t seen anything live-action of this sort since Wag the Dog, which is why it’s so refreshing to be back In the Loop. And guess what? Politics are funny again!
In the Loop is the minor masterstroke of Armando Iannucci, and his central conceit is to imagine a Dr. Strangelove “rush to war” scenario done up in a modern context and filmed like an episode of “The Office” — the British version. Jesse Armstrong and Simon Blackwell provide the fire power through their whiplash inducing witty dialogue that in turn is spewed forth by a live-wire cast of American and British veterans all playing their A-game. Continue reading
“I’m not a likable guy…”
Author: David H. Schleicher
Woody Allen’s alter ego, Boris (a bitterly good and sardonic Larry David) makes this statement to the audience rather early on in Whatever Works. The truth is, no matter how misanthropic, sarcastic and neurotic Woody Allen is, he ultimately is a pretty likable personality…if you like that type. Allen’s return to Manhattan after three stays in London and a wonderful stop-over in Barcelona is yet another niche film. Fans of Allen, as well as fans of Larry David’s “Seinfeld” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (which not so ironically should be the same folks) will find plenty to laugh at here, while others will inevitability whine, “I don’t care for Woody Allen…and oh, that Larry David! Can’t stand him!”
The plot of Whatever Works is irrelevant. Boris is some sort of genius-level physicist trying to speed his way to death, though those metaphors are never explored as poignantly as they should be. It all just serves as a soap-box for Allen (through David) to funnel his usual dialogues about relationships, love, luck and the meaning of life. It’s all very broad and obvious this time around, but it’s sometimes nice to still be laughing at the same old feel-good shtick. It should come as no surprise that Boris also tells the audience this isn’t a movie designed to make you feel good, unless you’re Allen fans, and then you’ll feel pretty swell afterward. Leave it to Allen to infer moviegoers are inherently morons, but we’re sophisticates for watching his films.
Apparently this is a reworked screenplay from the 1970′s and the Annie Hall style monologues to the audience are evidence of that. In the jokes department you’ll find old standards mocking the French and suggesting kids should attend “concentration camps” for the summer mixed with modern humor about the Taliban and Viagra. There’s also one hilarious throw-away/blink-and-you’ll-miss-it reference to James Cameron’s The Abyss that makes you wonder if perhaps the screenplay was first reworked in the 1980′s before its final incarnation here.
In the casting department we find Patricia Clarkson, yet again, is a delight in her curiously under-written over-written role (which is far too simply complex to explain in a traditional review) and continues to build a case for herself to be declared this generation’s “Best Supporting Actress” twenty years from now. Evan Rachel Wood is cute-as a-button (oh, as her character might declare, what a cliché) as a Southern cutie-pie who runs away to New York City and meets up with the suicidal Boris. Allen, as always, is luminous with his photography of the “young lady.” And unlike the similarly dumb motor-mouthed funny-voiced Mira Sorvino character from Mighty Aphrodite, Wood’s character is actually given an arc here and proves not to be as shallow and moronic as Boris originally assessed, which indicates maybe Allen is growing just a teeny bit in his view on women…or maybe not.
Ultimately this is yet another testament to Allen’s worldview, which is summed up here as do whatever works for you to trick yourself into believing you’re happy in this miserable world. Sure, there are times when Boris’ diatribes run a few lines too long, or when the film stops dead when he is not on screen, but for the most part, this is Allen doing what works best for him. No other director can call himself out on all his personal pratfalls and annoying quirks yet still find a way to endear himself to the faithful who are ever patient with him and his films. No other director can be so charmingly mean-spirited and self-deprecating yet still find a way to declare his alter ego a genius at picture’s end. And that’s why we’ve always liked you, Woody, for better and for worse. For what it’s worth, when it comes to Allen’s better and worse, Whatever Works falls happily in between and works just fine, thank you very much.
Check out some of my reviews of past Woody Allen films:
Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)
Match Point (2005)
Melinda and Melinda (2004)
Annie Hall (1977)
CAPTION: We’re laughing at Clooney and McDormand laughing at us laughing at them, see? Ain’t movies neat?
The Coens Take a Hatchet to their League of Morons, 14 September 2008
Author: David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA
*** This comment may contain spoilers ***
The Coen Brothers’ Burn After Reading is one of those movies with a farcical and convoluted plot involving idiotic one-up-manship that is essentially an excuse for the filmmakers to poke fun and for their stars to have a great time doing silly bits. Here our zany Brothers return to one of their favorite themes: what happens when simpletons get in way over their heads with a cynical league of morons. Clooney, McDormand, Malcovich, Swinton, and especially Pitt, all whip out their best comedic timing and smarmy facial expressions in this tale of misguided blackmail and bumbling counter-intelligence. Unlike their last two comedic travesties (the barely there Intolerable Cruelty and the wacko Ladykillers), the Coens’ focus is sharper and crueler in this Reading and pointed directly at the government, society, themselves and their audience.
I’ve seen four out of the last five Coen Brothers’ films in crowded theaters where their faithful often laugh out of turn at some of the most unfunny of moments. Burn After Reading has plenty of those moments, as well as some truly funny ones, but one has to wonder why such a talented pair would shoot so low as to desire the elicitation of that “solo” laughter from the loons in the audience that constitute the filmmakers’ personal league of morons. When Clooney’s hardwood floor-loving womanizer unveils his “special project” to McDormand’s plastic-surgery obsessed internet speed dater, it’s a hilarious anti-climax to what had been a long build-up in previous scenes that had the whole crowd groaning and giggling. But isn’t Clooney’s rear-entry sexual-aid device a bit emblematic of how the Coens’ have been treating their audience lately? Later, when Malcovich’s alcoholic ex-CIA analyst literally takes a hatchet to another character, it again elicits uproars, but I couldn’t help but think the Coens’ were symbolically taking out their frustration on the faithful who have been befuddled by their recent offerings. We’re a cynical bunch, and so are the Coens, and whether they see themselves as the simpletons in over their heads and their audience as the league of morons, or vice versa, is never clear.
At least with this slow Burn we don’t have to deal with the pretentious philosophical ruminations of their literary bound and insanely overrated Oscar-winner, No Country for Old Men. While this might not recapture the pure joy of their original dark comedy, Raising Arizona, this star-studded and occasionally hilarious Burn After Reading is the Coen Brothers’ most entertaining film in years, even if we’re all a little more bruised from the wear.
Originally Published on the Internet Movie Database:
Check out my archives for past Coen Brothers’ reviews:
O Brother, Where Art Thou? : http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0190590/usercomments-616
Are you part of The Coen Brothers’ League of Morons? Feel free to share your rankings of their films. Here’s my rankings from best to worst:
Blood Simple 10/10
Miller’s Crossing 9/10
Barton Fink 9/10
Raising Arizona 9/10
O Brother, Where Art Thou? 9/10
The Big Lebowski 8/10
Burn After Reading 7/10
The Man Who Wasn’t There 7/10
No Country for Old Men 6/10
The Hudsucker Proxy 5/10
Intolerable Cruelty 5/10