1. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
2. Groundhog Day
3. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
5. The Big Lebowski
6. This Is Spinal Tap
7. Duck Soup
8. Young Frankenstein
9. Blazing Saddles
11. Annie Hall
12. Shaun of the Dead
13. The General
14. The Apartment
15. Sherlock, Jr.
16. Some Like It Hot
17. Raising Arizona
18. Modern Times
19. City Lights
20. A Fish Called Wanda
21. Monty Python’s Life of Brian
23. In The Loop
24. The Jerk
25. His Girl Friday
In this episode, Mat and Thrasher discuss Addams Family Values.
directed by Stanley Kubrick
While there can be a lot of humor in randomness, there’s something to be said for the importance of context. Whether it be emotional, historical, or intellectual, context can be the difference between hilarity and indifference. A petty disagreement between two people can be sort of funny, if done well. However, put in the context of the End of the World- when small arguments should really be put aside in acknowledgement of larger realities- and suddenly bickering can be the funniest thing we’ve ever seen, with a healthy dose of social commentary thrown in.
Stanley Kubrick understood this when he made Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, a film that was meant to be a serious exploration of nuclear war, but became funnier the deeper Kubrick delved into the material. In the midst of even the most harrowing drama, a little bit of comic relief can be both helpful and genuinely important in providing perspective. And, shortly after the Cuban Missile Crisis, we were actually living out an espionage thriller every day, with the threat of nuclear annihiliation hanging over our heads.
Some might say that to make a dark comedy about this possibility would be in poor taste, but Kubrick and his audience decided that it’s exactly what we needed, both as a release of tension and as a fresh perspective on the horrifying absurdity of being able to wipe out entire countries with the push of a button. History has shown just how vital this film still is, as the tunnel vision of the characters in Dr. Strangelove still resonates, through the Vietnam conflict, the War on Terror, and the general political discourse. There’s a lot we can learn from this film, and those lessons are pounded into us very thoroughly, not merely through scenes of tension, but with every bit of absurdity and silliness, which somehow manage not to undercut the horror, but enhance it.
Cinema has dissected modern war from every conceivable angle — from brotherhood in victory to the horrors in defeat. War films have taken us through basic training, into the trenches, and back home. The perspectives of the new recruit, seasoned general, and even the enemy have been fully explored. One sector of the war genre that hasn’t been given the same amount of study is the role of the female soldier. Until recently, female characters were mostly relegated to either homeside sweethearts or are absent altogether, but with women’s roles in modern warfare expanding, this perspective has become more and more important. G.I. Jane was the first film to tackle the subject, but it is mostly remembered as the film where the star of Striptease shaved her head and did pullups. The Invisible War, a documentary about the prevalence of sexual assault in the military, doesn’t feature any combat, but focuses on how women’s changing roles in the military has created perhaps unforeseen problems that affect our soldiers for the rest of their lives. Claudia Myers’ Fort Bliss is a much different film from The Invisible War, but has the same approach of looking at the particular complications a woman faces after serving in armed conflict.
directed by Harold Ramis
Is there any actor, comedian, person or living creature better at simply reacting to things than one Bill Murray? I think not, and if you dare field a competitor, I beg of you to re-watch Murray in Harold Ramis’ formative 1993 comedy Groundhog Day. When the radio alarm-clock strikes up “I Got You Babe”, Murray’s Phil Connor, a TV weatherman, finds himself stuck in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, inexplicably forced to repeat the same titular day again and again. With a relatively simple premise, the film lives and dies on Murray’s—as well as the enormously talented cast of supporting characters (including Battleship Pretension favorite Stephen Tobolowsky)—abilities to make the same scenes not just interesting but uproariously funny. The scenes that put Phil Connors in bizarre situations are as funny as to be expected, but Murray and the film really thrive on Connor’s reaction to the banal minutiae of day-to-day life that we wouldn’t think twice about (or three times, or four times, or five times, ad infinitum).
directed by Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam
Monty Python changed the world of sketch comedy in the 1960s, and The Holy Grail is my favorite of their forays into the world of cinema. Just as hilarious and irreverent today as it was in 1975, this is a masterwork of satire, silliness and non-sequiturs. It pokes fun not only at stereotypical epic heroics, but at the form of cinema itself, whether in the opening credit subtitles, or in the abrupt conclusion. Having been created by sketch comedians, it’s notable that the film is able to exist both as a series of vignettes and an overarching narrative. Monty Python and the Holy Grail finds six comedians at the top of their game, portraying (as usual) a seemingly endless slew of unforgettable characters, from the Black Knight, to Brave Sir Robin, to Dennis (who’s 37, he’s not old), to the Taunting French Guard… the list goes on and on.
directed by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker
Airplane disaster movies surely were serious business in the 1970s. The success of Arthur Hailey’s 1968 novel Airport birthed a quartet of films in which airplanes run into trouble in the clouds and under the ocean (!!). Inspired by these films and the 1957 flick Zero Hour!, the comedy team of David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker wrote and directed Airplane! Unlike modern cinematic spoofs, Airplane! has an actual plot with real characters at its core grounding the zaniness. Leslie Nielsen nailed his supporting role as Dr. Rumack so well that this same creative team cast him in the short-lived TV series Police Squad!, giving birth to a whole new comedic phase of his career. From an automatic pilot who can only be inflated with a tube below his waist to the infamous subtitled jive conversation between an old lady and two hip gentlemen, Airplane! is full of memorable scenes. The puns never stop coming, and the laughs are right on target. Remember, there’s never stopping in a white zone.
In this episode, Kyle and Lincoln discuss Crossworlds, starring Rutger Hauer.