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BP Top 50 Comedies List

18 Sep

1. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
2. Groundhog Day
3. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
4. Airplane!
5. The Big Lebowski
6. This Is Spinal Tap
7. Duck Soup
8. Young Frankenstein
9. Blazing Saddles
10. Ghostbusters
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
22. Anchorman
23. In The Loop
24. The Jerk
25. His Girl Friday

(more…)

1. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb

18 Sep

strangelove

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.

2. Groundhog Day

17 Sep

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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).

3. Monty Python and the Holy Grail

17 Sep

holy grail

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.

4. Airplane!

17 Sep

airplane

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.

5. The Big Lebowski

16 Sep

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directed by Joel and Ethan Coen

The Coen Brothers take the hard boiled film noir formula from The Big Sleep, twinge it just enough and somehow one the funniest movies ever pops out. The Big Lebowski isn’t exactly a spoof, and you need no real knowledge to its cinematic connections, but it plays with the tropes in a compelling way. Instead of being wrapped up in a murder conspiracy, The Dude (Jeff Bridges) must battle thugs and the occasional nihilist when he is mistakenly taken for the millionaire Lebowski, whose young wife, Bunny, has gone missing. The complicated plot of The Big Lebowski works to its advantage as it punctuates its craziness with conversation scenes with its cast of kooky characters. The film’s bowling alley scenes are particularly hilarious, with the low-key Dude and clueless Donny (Steve Buscemi) playing off John Goodman’s aggressive Walter Sobchak — the quick banter of the “shomer shobbos” is in the comedy pantheon. The Dude redefined Bridges’s career from the handsome A-lister to a grizzled comedic character actor. The Big Lebowski also gets bonus points for being a stoner comedy that is actually palatable.

6. This Is Spinal Tap

16 Sep

this-is-spinal-tap

directed by Rob Reiner

Rob Reiner didn’t create the mockumentary, but he created the most famous one in This Is Spinal Tap. With the help of genius improvisers Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer, Riener’s film gave us unbelievably inept characters who we just couldn’t stop watching. Nigel Tufnel, David St. Hubbins, and Derek Smalls are played with such sincerity that their idiocy is almost childishly adorable. These characters were so popular that they gained a life outside of the film, making public appearances and even recording multiple albums as Spinal Tap. And for a movie about a washed-up band, the songs are still pretty rockin’. Enough, say, to get you to turn your TV up to 11?

7. Duck Soup

16 Sep

duck-soup

directed by Leo McCarey

The Marx Brothers had a spark of impishness that none of their contemporaries could really touch. Their films always brought them into the world of high society, and watched them spin chaos just for fun. Duck Soup is probably the tightest, quickest example of their comedy, and the one where they were most able to skip some of the elements usually forced on them by the studio. There’s no love story this time around (unless you count President Firefly and Mrs. Teasdale – you shouldn’t), no long harp or piano solos. Just the four brothers running amok through presidential palaces, supreme courtrooms, and war zones. A nonpareil classic – hail Freedonia.

8. Young Frankenstein

15 Sep

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directed by Mel Brooks

Mel Brooks’ films are always funny and always clever but some of them really take the cake and Young Frankenstein is a stand out among his work. Not only is it the only film he directed in black and white, it is an adaptation/parody of a book, and it is one of the few movies Brooks didn’t make a cameo in himself. To me the most memorable scene has always been the “Putting on the Ritz” scene. There are many other stand out scenes and moments in the film including some hilarious cameos that Brooks’ films are famous for. Young Frankenstein displays the incredible comedic skills of Gene Wilder as Dr. Frankenstein, Pete Boyle as The Monster, & Marty Feldman as Igor but he also utilizes the comedic skills of comediennes; Madeline Kahn as Elizabeth, Tery Garr as lab assistant Inga and Cloris Leachman as the stoney-faced Frau Blücher (insert horse whinny here). Young Frankenstein is about the infamous Doctor Frankenstein’s grandson who is trying to separate himself from his family’s history. He returns to his family home in Transylvania and finds his grandfather’s notes only to successfully repeat his grandfather’s experiment and reanimate dead flesh creating a monster. Brooks uses Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein as an outline for the plot and also uses famous imagery from Boris Karloff’s Frankestein and other early adaptations for comedic effect and to anchor the story. Young Frankenstein is a “comedy-must” for any fan of Brooks, Wilder, or good comedy in general.

9. Blazing Saddles

15 Sep

blazing_saddles

directed by Mel Brooks

The King of Parody takes on the Western. Mel Brooks’ movie world is one populated with physical comedy, puns, sight gags, and all the trappings of broad madcap comedy. Blazing Saddles is one of his most delightful films. Here are some of the best performances from Madeline Kahn, Gene Wilder, and Brooks himself. While mostly being a send-up of western film tropes, Blazing Saddles also takes on racism – Brooks was one of the first to ridicule racism by putting racist words and opinions in the mouths of idiots. Interesting bit of trivia – in 1974 Mel Brooks was nominated for two Oscars, one for the screenplay of Young Frankenstein, and the other for the title song from Blazing Saddles. Charming little song, although it’s no “Camptown Races.”