Tag Archives: Bill Murray

The Set of 400: #124 – My Favorite Can of Nickels

Today! Because one of these days, somebody’s gonna get pushed too far. And who knows what they’re capable of?

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Directed by Wes Anderson (x3)

Starring Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis (x4), Edward Norton (x2), Frances McDormand (x3), Bill Murray (x7), Bob Balaban, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman (x4), Harvey Keitel (x3), Lucas Hedges, Charlie Kilgore

As how none of Wes Anderson’s movies feel like they’re coming at us from the modern day, so gloriously does Moonrise Kingdom transport me back to the ’80s, even though the movie is set in the ’60s and was released in 2012. And while all the standard Anderson touches are there – the excruciating attention to detail, the almost unbearable preciousness of every prop and costume, the left field dialogue that somehow fits together comically and neatly – Moonrise finally put it all in a setting that worked perfectly. He gave the leads to children.

The greatest film couple in history?

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The Set of 400: #227 – My Favorite Put a Little Love in Your Heart

Today! Because I’m sure Charles Dickens would have wanted to see her nipples –

Scrooged (1988)

Directed by Richard Donner (x2)

Starring Bill Murray (x6), Karen Allen (x2), Bobcat Goldthwait, David Johansen, Carol Kane (x3), Robert Mitchum (x3), John Glover (x4), Michael J. Pollard (x2), Alfre Woodard (x2), John Murray, Brian Doyle-Murray (x2), John Forsythe, Mary Lou Retton, Lee Majors, Buddy Hackett, John Houseman (x2), Jamie Farr, Robert Goulet (x2), Mary Ellen Trainor (x3), Kathy Kinney, Tony Steedman, Anne Ramsey (x2), Joel Murray, Mabel King (x2), Pat McCormick, Bruce Jarchow, Jack McGee, Kate McGregor-Stewart, Wendie Malick

A Christmas Carol isn’t an inherently funny story, and yet there have been many, many attempts to make it so. Most are musicals, and that helps to lighten the mood, but anything attempting an even halfway accurate recounting of the book usually ends up relatively straight. Even the excellent Muppet version devolves into a typical Christmas Carol about halfway through. There has been better success on television, but usually they take the story pretty far afield to find jokes. The terrific British series Black Adder has probably the funniest rendition (it helps if you’re a little familiar with that show to begin with) which turns the whole plot on its head, making Rowan Atkinson’s Scrooge character the nicest man in the world, who is shown how things were for his evil ancestors by Robbie Coltrane’s Marley/Ghosts figure. Mr. Magoo’s is one of the best straightforward musical versions, but it relegates its Magoo-esque humor to the framing scenes.

“Well, bless my ten toes!”

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The Set of 400: #267 – My Favorite Life on Mars

Today! Because I’m going to find it and I’m going to destroy it. I don’t know how yet –

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

Directed by Wes Anderson (x2)

Starring Bill Murray (x5), Owen Wilson (x2), Cate Blanchett (x2), Anjelica Huston (x2), Willem Dafoe (x2), Jeff Goldblum (x3), Bud Cort (x3), Michael Gambon, Noah Taylor, Waris Ahluwalia (x2), Seu Jorge, Seymour Cassel, Robyn Cohen

Look, I needed some time for it to grow on me, too. On the heels of the dynamite, breakout combo of Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums, Wes Anderson went all-in on the Wes Anderson-ness, and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou was born. And I think that most of the affectations people associate with Anderson (the ones that really seem to bother some people) came from this movie. Sure, Tenenbaums kicked it off – it has that epic plot, litany of movie stars, excruciating attention to detail which became standard – but I don’t think anyone knew this would become the template for all his movies going forward until Life Aquatic solidified it.

And in fairness to critics, this is the weakest of his big cast, wide ranging films (Darjeeling Limited is a much smaller movie in almost every regard, outside the road-trippiness). So when I first saw it, I couldn’t help but be somewhat disappointed, given the highs of his first films. But over time, I grew to appreciate all the mannered performances, the single-minded revenge plot, and the greatness of Bill Murray in a live-action Anderson film – something that, while it continues happening to the present day, doesn’t tend to occupy a large portion of screen time anymore. He cameos in Darjeeling, has a very brief role in The Grand Budapest Hotel, and gets slightly more to do in Moonrise Kingdom, but is still a relatively minor cog. And fair, you don’t want the same lead in all your movies – it’s been 15 years since Life Aquatic, maybe time for one last Oscar run for Bill in an Anderson flick?

Glorious

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The Set of 400: #269 – My Favorite Non-Scranton Scranton Cameo

Today! Because sometimes a bowler just has to face the music –

 

Kingpin (1996)

Directed by the Farrelly Brothers (x3)

Starring Woody Harrelson (x4), Randy Quaid (x2), Bill Murray (x4), Vanessa Angel, Chris Elliott, Willie Garson (x3), Googy Gress (x2), Lin Shaye, William Jordan, Prudence Wright Holmes, Richard Tyson, Zen Gesner

The Farrellys direct precursor to There’s Something About Mary, Kingpin is cut from very much the same cloth, with slightly lesser results. However! While I recognize it seems borderline insane that the four current Two-Timer directors are Alfred Hitchcock, Woody Allen, Paul Thomas Anderson, and the Farrelly Brothers, rest assured, this is their last appearance on the list. Dumb comedies are only gonna rise so high! Or are they?

No, I recognize Mary as the superior film, to be sure – I guess I just got a little tired of it, as it became this giant, omnipresent comedy two years later, endlessly referenced and pointed back to for years to come. And this largely swallowed Kingpin, a movie I much prefer for two big reasons – 1) the fact that Woody Harrelson’s broken bowler Roy Munson is so defeated by life that he ends up in Scranton, PA to start the film (Shoutout, hometown!) and 2) Bill Murray is beyond words amazing as the villain “Big Ern” Ernie McCracken. Like a lot of ’90s comedies, it’s pretty mean-spirited in retrospect – not just Big Ern being a complete asshole, but the movie’s general take on everybody – but I think it works better than some because there is a genuine relationship that forms between Munson and Randy Quaid’s backwards Amish bowler Ishmael, so that the overarching takeaway feeling from the film is positive, as opposed to pitiable.

Bowling pals!

But yes, Big Ern is the greatest

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The Set of 400: #287 – My Favorite Do Wah Diddy Diddy Dum Diddy Do

Today! Because our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world –

Stripes (1981)

Directed by Ivan Reitman

Starring Bill Murray (x3), Harold Ramis (x2), John Candy (x5), Warren Oates (x2), Sean Young, John Larroquette (x3), P.J. Soles, Judge Reinhold, Joe Flaherty (x2), Dave Thomas, Timothy Busfield (x2), Donald Gibb (x3), Bill Paxton (x3), Robert J. Wilke, William Lucking, Conrad Dunn, Antone Pagan

Stripes gathered up half the cast of SCTV, added Bill Murray, had them join the Army, and the whole thing worked. Okay, the first half of the movie is the more memorable one – the second half has them steal a tank and invade Czechoslovakia, sort of, so yeah, if you mostly just recall the basic training sequences, you’re excused. And that part of the movie is terrific, Murray’s John Winger butting heads with Warren Oates’ Sgt. Hulka, the misfit group getting in trouble and rebounding to pull it together, that great graduation drill. Also, as the only movie where Murray and Candy share any significant screen time, Stripes would’ve been significant no matter what. But thankfully it still holds up, for the most part, as these comedians in this era made rare missteps.

Great, messy times!

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The Set of 400: #319 – My Favorite Meal Ordering

Today! Because I don’t know about his face, but I think his brain might be pretty traumatized –

The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

Directed Wes Anderson

Starring Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman (x2), Adrien Brody, Anjelica Huston, Bill Murray (x2), Kumar Pallana, Waris Ahluwalia, Amara Karan, Irrfan Khan, Barbet Schroeder, Natalie Portman (x2)

In many ways the forgotten Wes Anderson movie, The Darjeeling Limited is a terrific little character study of brothers Peter, Francis, and Jack on a spiritual journey across India that turns out to be much more. As it unfolds, the struggle each brother has gone through in the year since their father’s death gets magnified and fleshed out, building toward a reunion with their mother, played by a wonderful Angelica Huston.

In ’07 this movie had a decent run, for an Anderson film, and had a bit of attention from critics at year end, but it tends to get swallowed in any discussion of the director’s films, largely I feel because of the size of it. Even though it’s the rare sweeping travelogue film in his universe, Darjeeling is a relatively small movie, focusing largely just on the brothers (all giving tremendous performances, with Wilson’s frantic, shattered Francis standing out) and not a litany of movie stars in minor roles, like virtually all other Anderson vehicles. It also occupies the chronological spot between Life Aquatic (more talked about, considering it first followed Rushmore and Tenenbaums), and Fantastic Mr. Fox (Anderson’s first foray into animation), leaving it as the less remarkable middle film. Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #328 – My Favorite Explosive Matryoshka

Today! Because they had trouble with the surface to air missiles, so it’s in the shop –

The Man Who Knew Too Little (1997)

Directed by Jon Amiel

Starring Bill Murray, Joanne Whalley, Alfred Molina, Peter Gallagher, Richard Wilson, John Standing, Geraldine James (x2), Anna Chancellor, Terence Harvey, Eddie Marsan (x2), J.E. Freeman, Maxwell Caulfield

We finally reach the first film from future list frequenter William Murray, in what many consider one of his lesser efforts. Disagree! Sure, it’s kind of light, silly nonsense, but Murray’s committed performance as unwitting boob Wallace Ritchie, thrust into a real world spy adventure he thinks is performance art elevates what could’ve been trifling silliness to something often near absurdist brilliance. You don’t often think of Bill Murray as being overly adept at playing morons – his track record is mostly arrogant jerks rebelling against authority figures – but here and there across his filmography you’ve got Caddyshack and What About Bob? and The Man Who Knew Too Little and a few others, all solidly funny performances against type for the comic legend. Continue reading

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