Category Archives: Movies

The Set of 400: #210 – My Favorite Condiment Flirting

Today! Because since I’ve met you, I’ve noticed things that I never knew were there before… birds singing, dew glistening on a newly formed leaf, stoplights –

The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988)

Directed by David Zucker (x3)

Starring Leslie Nielsen (x2), Priscilla Presley (x2), George Kennedy (x2), O.J. Simpson (x2), Ricardo Montalban, Nancy Marchand, Susan Beaubian, Raye Birk, Weird Al Yankovic (x2), Reggie Jackson, Lawrence Tierney (x2), Mark Holton (x2), John Houseman (x3), Ed Williams (x2)

I didn’t start this list with the intention of it devolving into a Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker fan page, but man, it sure feels that way sometimes, doesn’t it? Between #276 Hot Shots!, #355 Top Secret!, #218 The Kentucky Fried Movie, #398 Ghost, and #314 The Naked Gun 2 1/2, they are occupying a bunch of slots here in the first half of the list. Is it just me? Do these movie still hold up? They don’t really make this kind of comedy much any more, and the ones they do roll out are super low budget nonsense, in the Not Another… vein. Does this avalanche of sight gags and puns and boobs not play with the modern audience?

Angie Tribeca is pretty great, though

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The Set of 400: #211 – My Favorite Gorilla Impression

Today! Because I wish I had a sense of humor, but I can never think of the right thing to say until everybody’s gone home –

My Man Godfrey (1936)

Directed by Gregory La Cava

Starring William Powell (x2), Carole Lombard (x2), Alice Brady, Eugene Pallette, Gail Patrick, Mischa Auer, Jean Dixon, Alan Mowbray, Pat Flaherty, Robert Light, Franklin Pangborn (x2), Grady Sutton, Reginald Mason, Edward Gargan

Apparently my favorite movie from 1936 (suck it, #271 Modern Times and #303 After the Thin Man!), My Man Godfrey is the much-lauded screwballiest of screwball comedies from the late ’30s. The plot is pure pre-war, Great Depression social satire, with Lombard’s socialite Irene hiring Powell’s derelict Godfrey as the family butler following a somewhat cruel rich persons’ scavenger hunt to discover “the forgotten man.” We of course discover that rich people are bonkers and those falling on hard times in the decade were regular folks deserving of a break.

And were deserving of a bath!

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The Set of 400: #212 – My Favorite Tom from MySpace Cameo

Today! Because you’re my best friend, and I don’t even like you –

Funny People (2009)

Directed by Judd Apatow

Starring Adam Sandler (x3), Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann, Jonah Hill (x4), Eric Bana (x2), Aziz Ansari (x2), Jason Schwartzman (x3), Aubrey Plaza, RZA, Torsten Voges, Eminem, George Coe, Maude Apatow, Iris Apatow, Wayne Federman, James Taylor, Andy Dick (x3), Nicole Parker, Nydia McFadden, Charles Fleischer (x3), Carol Leifer (x2), Paul Reiser (x2), George Wallace, Norm MacDonald, Dave Attell, Sarah Silverman, Ray Romano, Justin Long (x3), Maggie Siff

This is forever my go-to example of a one-half amazing movie. There are certainly others – American Beauty jumps to mind, swerving into awesomeness halfway through, after that turgid opening hour – but this movie is an anomaly in that it appears separate film concepts were slammed together into a single piece, producing a movie that is at the same time insanely too long and way too brief in either of its disparate parts.

I guess this was supposed to be Judd Apatow’s masterpiece, and he almost got there. With 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up both terrific all-out comedies, he opted to laden this ostensible laugher with a grim, awards-baiting terminal illness subplot. That’s not so bad – all of that happens in the wonderful first half of the movie, which deals primarily with the world of stand-up comedy, and does it better than any other film in history. But then it goes really far afield into a locked-in family dramedy, losing most of the goodwill and momentum built up in the opening half.

The great Sandu

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The Set of 400: #213 – My Favorite Hockey Rink Striptease

Today! Because they brought their fucking toys with them!

Slap Shot (1977)

Directed by George Roy Hill

Starring Paul Newman, Michael Ontkean, Strother Martin, Allan F. Nicholls (x2), M. Emmet Walsh (x3), Melinda Dillon (x3), Swoosie Kurtz (x2), Paul Dooley (x3), Jennifer Warren, Jerry Houser, Ned Dowd, Lindsay Crouse, Jeff Carlson, Steve Carlson, David Hanson, Yvon Barrette, Andrew Duncan

It’s not much of a controversial stretch to declare Slap Shot as the best hockey movie ever made. That’s not a terribly deep well  to draw from. But how about one of the best team sports films of all time? Oh ho, now we’re getting somewhere! Team sports are tough to pull off in a dramatic film – so many characters, hard to focus on individual achievements. But sure, there’s some – Hoosiers, Miracle, The Natural. Sport comedies, however, are way better in a team setting. And coming on the heels of 1976’s Bad News Bears, they rolled out this hard R rated, violent, vulgar hockey flick that became the blueprint for everything from Major League to North Dallas Forty to Dodgeball to Kathy Ireland kicking field goals in Necessary Roughness.

It’s not a perfect film, but it was a deeply 1991 film

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The Set of 400: #214 – My Favorite Big Screen Tuberculosis

Today! Because there’s a cancer in the presidency and it’s growing –

Nixon (1995)

Directed by Oliver Stone (x2)

Starring Anthony Hopkins (x5), Joan Allen (x2), James Woods (x2), Paul Sorvino, Ed Harris, Powers Boothe (x3), Bob Hoskins, E.G. Marshall, David Hyde Pierce, David Paymer (x3), J.T. Walsh (x3), Mary Steenburgen (x2), Kevin Dunn (x3), Brian Bedford, Fyvush Finkel (x2), Annabeth Gish, Tony Goldwyn (x2), Larry Hagman (x2), Edward Herrman, Madeline Kahn (x2), Dan Hedaya (x3), Tom Bower, Tony Lo Bianco, Saul Rubinek, John C. McGinley, Michael Chiklis, George Plimpton, Marley Shelton (x2), James Karen (x2), Donna Dixon (x2), Sam Waterston, John Diehl, Robert Beltran

The last good-to-great movie Oliver Stone has made, Nixon is a surprisingly sympathetic portrait of the beleaguered 37th president, even while taking him to task for his many shortcomings as a politician and as a person in general. Throw in a bit of wild Oliver Stone-esque conspiracy speculation and a run time so bloated it manages to encompass decades of Tricky Dick’s life rather effortlessly, and you get a bombastic, overblown, sorta wonderful, sorta insane biopic unlike any other.

The performances carry through some of the more gymnastic directing – it’s a movie drowning in technique and style – with Hopkins’ amazing transformation into Nixon at its center. Many others have taken on this idiosyncratic role – Langella is fine in Frost/Nixon, Spacey a little less so in Elvis & Nixon, Dan Aykroyd’s terrific SNL take – but none were able to capture the manic nuance of the man, while also attempting to physically resemble him, the way Hopkins did. It’s magnificent. Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #215 – My Favorite Dog in High-Heels

Today! Because when the aliens come down to earth, they come inside raindrops, making the rain chubby. Chubby Rain!

Bowfinger (1999)

Directed by Frank Oz

Starring Steve Martin (x5), Eddie Murphy (x2), Heather Graham (x2), Christine Baranski, Jamie Kennedy, Terence Stamp (x3), Robert Downey Jr. (x8), Adam Alexi-Malle, John Prosky, John Cho (x2), Kohl Sudduth

The halcyon days of my second year of college and it’s a movie about movies? Oh man, was there any way Bowfinger wasn’t making this list? I’m not sure how well remembered or regarded this movie is now – it doesn’t seem to be on the tip of anyone’s tongue – but I’ve always been a huge fan of this wacky guerrilla filmmaking adventure. Martin plays the low rent producer/director Bobby Bowfinger, trying to scrape together a minuscule budget science fiction movie without the knowledge of the movie’s purported star, Murphy’s Kit Ramsey. They assault him with actors (who are unaware he doesn’t know they’re in a movie) and perilous scenarios, preying on his temporary psychological problems – exacerbated in no small part due to his affiliation with the Scientology-esque Mindhead. To help with this deception, Bowfinger enlists Ramsey lookalike/gopher/nerd Jiff – also Murphy – for help with doubling, especially in the more terrifying scenes, such as his bold dash across a busy Los Angeles highway.

“Heavenly God! Heavenly God! Heavenly God!”

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The Set of 400: #216 – My Favorite Projectile Vomiting

Today! Because it’s pretty much discarded these days, except by the Catholics who keep it in the closet as a sort of embarrassment –

The Exorcist (1973)

Directed by William Friedkin (x2)

Starring Ellen Burstyn (x2), Max von Sydow, Jason Miller, Linda Blair, Lee J. Cobb, Kitty Winn, Jack MacGowran, William O’Malley, Mercedes McCambridge

If you’ve managed to compartmentalize types of horror films to the point that you can place something ahead of The Exorcist in overall quality, okay. It is more a supernatural horror flick than a slasher movie, more a psychological thriller horror than a ghost story or a tale of creeping death. But this is a lot of mental gymnastics to avoid the obvious conclusion – The Exorcist is the greatest horror movie ever made, and it’s not even particularly close. Again, I’m not a huge fan of the genre in general, but I do tend to seek out renowned, acclaimed films of any stripe, and I’ve never seen anything that quite compares. Halloween is a great slasher movie, but it’s like comparing a small family drama to Citizen Kane.

Yes, even for all its wacko visuals

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