Tag Archives: Bill Murray

The Set of 400: #14 – My Favorite Punctuality Pin

Today! Because I saved Latin – what did you ever do?

Rushmore (1998)

Directed by Wes Anderson (x5)

Starring: Jason Schwartzman (x6), Bill Murray (x14), Olivia Williams, Brian Cox (x8), Luke Wilson (x5), Seymour Cassel (x4), Kumar Pallana (x3), Mason Gamble, Sara Tanaka (x2), Connie Nielsen, Andrew Wilson (x4), Stephen McCole

On the high end of this list, historically, I go back and forth between my favorite Wes Anderson movie and my favorite Bill Murray movie. Anderson flip flops between Rushmore and Tenenbaums, while Murray as you may have noticed has like five films out of the last fifteen, so there is a constant rotation. But more often than not, it works out that Rushmore is the top film for both, as it is here.

As mentioned in probably all the previous four Anderson movie posts, his style would get solidified in the years immediately after Tenenbaums, even though most of the elements that would define his films were introduced there. Rushmore functions as more of the raw version of this concept – the heightened reality of his world isn’t as much on display, even though things are pretty aggressively off-kilter at Rushmore Academy. The likable asshole main characters here are probably just a smidge more likable than, say, Royal Tenenbaum or Steve Zissou or Gustave H, as at least Max Fischer and Herman Blume are driven and twisted by love, and who can’t relate to that?

Smooth use of Latin!

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The Set of 400: #16 – My Favorite Toast to World Peace

Today! Because we’d better get going if we’re going to stay ahead of the weather –

Groundhog Day (1993)

Directed by Harold Ramis (x3)

Starring Bill Murray (x13), Andie MacDowell (x4), Chris Elliott (x2), Stephen Tobolowsky (x5), Brian Doyle-Murray (x6), Robin Duke (x2), David Pasquesi, Rick Ducommun (x5), Marita Geraghty, Michael Shannon, Harold Ramis (x4), Rick Overton (x2), Willie Garson (x6), Angela Paton, Ken Hudson Campbell (x2)

The greatest pure comedy screenplay ever written, Groundhog Day is an unabashed masterpiece, forever imitated across genres and styles but never topped. I like Happy Death Day and Edge of Tomorrow as much as anybody, but the sheer brilliance of Ramis’s handling of this material (and extensive rewriting of the original script) coupled with Murray’s best performance will always give this movie the nod over the knock-offs.

Tough luck, weird baby mask killer!

What has certainly helped this movie stick around – besides its obvious greatness – is that it finally gave the rest of the country something to do on February 2nd. Punxsutawney is in the middle of nowhere in Pennsylvania, and appears wholly incapable of supporting any manner of major celebration. Once upon a time we happened to be driving across PA on 2/2, and would’ve needed to stay over somewhere in the western portion of the state anyway, and hotels were jammed literally everywhere around Punxsutawney. Who the hell actually goes to Gobbler’s Knob anyway? Lots of folks, apparently! Is this due to Groundhog Day? It wasn’t even filmed there, probably for the same reason you can’t just pop in on the holiday! Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #19 – My Favorite Mass Hysteria

Today! Because that was the whole plan, “Get her!” –

Ghostbusters (1984)

Directed by Ivan Reitman (x2)

Starring Bill Murray (x12), Dan Aykroyd (x7), Sigourney Weaver (x7), Harold Ramis (x3), Ernie Hudson, Rick Moranis (x4), Annie Potts (x3), William Atherton (x2), David Margulies (x2), Alice Drummond, Larry King (x2), Slavitza Jovan, Jordan Charney (x3), Jennifer Runyon, Casey Kasem, Joe Franklin (x2), Jean Kasem, Reginald VelJohnson (x2)

Show of hands – who hasn’t seen Ghostbusters a thousand times? Even if you didn’t grow up with it, that movie airs on television what, every week? Every few days? I solidly feel like this was the gateway to film comedy for virtually everyone around my age. I don’t distinctly remember when it first came out – as I was just pushing five at the time – but once it was on video, it was a solid household staple from that point forward. I can’t even guess how many times I watched Ghostbusters, but I’d say it’s probably among my top five or six films, along with the Star Wars movies, Indiana Jones, Young Frankenstein, and Monday’s film. Stay tuned!

Because what is there not to like about Ghostbusters? It’s just scary enough, just cool enough, and just funny enough to appeal to a wide variety of audience members. You don’t like horror? The scary ghost stuff is pretty fleeting. You don’t like ’80s action flicks? This doesn’t have all that much derring do! You don’t like comedies? What are you, a monster? Everybody likes comedies! Plus, while this movie is funny, has a lot of funny lines, has a lot of funny characters, it isn’t swinging for home run laughs on every beat. It is the quintessential action comedy from an era loaded with them, and the added bonus is that there happen to be ghosts. Fun!

And some of those ghosts are only around for prurient thrills!

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The Set of 400: #21 – My Favorite Closet Full of Board Games

Today! Because I’ve always been considered an asshole for about as long as I can remember. That’s just my style –

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Directed by Wes Anderson (x4)

Starring Gene Hackman (x5), Angelica Huston (x4), Ben Stiller (x3), Luke Wilson (x4), Gwyneth Paltrow (x6), Owen Wilson (x5), Bill Murray (x11), Danny Glover (x2), Kumar Pallana (x2), Seymour Cassel (x3), Alec Baldwin (x4), Stephen Lea Sheppard, Andrew Wilson (x3)

Back in #267 The Life Aquatic, I posited that Wes Anderson’s distinctive style truly began with that film, but the entire blueprint was in place in The Royal Tenenbaums. While Aquatic often feels like an over-directed showcase of filmmaking more than a cohesive movie, Anderson hadn’t gotten all that carried away with himself when tackling his third film, and first after his big breakthrough on Rushmore three years earlier. It would take a little time after Aquatic to reconcile the manner of hyper-detail oriented production design with large idiosyncratic cast to compelling storylines – arguably until Moonrise Kingdom in 2012 – but the rougher version of this concept is fully on display here.

And while most of Anderson’s films work best due to their expertly crafted screenplays and oddball twists, Tenenbaums might be the only one primarily driven by the slate of tremendous performances across its eclectic cast. Hackman was purportedly a nightmare to work with on this film, but he delivers his career best comedic performance as the half charlatan patriarch Royal, in one of his last roles before retiring in ’04 (thanks for nothing, Welcome to Mooseport!). He was snubbed by the Oscars, thanks to that enduring bias against comedies, but did get a Globe nomination, plus wins at the AFI Awards, the Chicago Film Critics, and the National Society of Film Critics. The rest of the cast is no slouch either – Stiller’s apoplectic track-suited Chas, Paltrow’s morose theater maven Margot, and especially Luke Wilson’s shattered tennis pro Richie – the inspiration for one of my many failed Halloween costume efforts of years past.

It’s okay, I know I look more Bjorn Borg than the Baumer

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The Set of 400: #26 – My Favorite False Teeth

Today! Because this is the one. This is the one I’ll be remembered for –

Ed Wood (1994)

Directed by Tim Burton (x5)

Starring Johnny Depp (x2), Martin Landau (x2), Patricia Arquette, Sarah Jessica Parker (x2), Bill Murray (x10), Jeffrey Jones (x5), Mike Starr (x2), George “The Animal” Steele, Vincent D’Onofrio (x5), Lisa Marie (x2), G.D. Spradlin (x2), Max Casella (x2), Brent Hinkley (x2), Juliet Landau, Melora Walters (x2), Bobby Slayton (x2), Rance Howard (x4), Louis Lombardi (x3), Ned Bellamy

The wife might disagree, but I don’t love all bad movies. Here’s how I figure it – if a movie has exceptionally terrible reviews – your Glitters and Battlefield Earths and Freddy Got Fingereds – I want to see that movie, just to try and understand how it could go so spectacularly wrong. The bigger the movie the better, too, such as, say, the 2015 Fantastic Four. I went and saw that in a mostly empty theater by myself, because I had to see how a potential tentpole/franchise flick could be so purportedly awful. Low budget awful, for the most part, doesn’t interest me. Anyone can make a horrible film given no resources. And mid-range bad also doesn’t hold a ton of appeal – 35%-55% Rotten Tomatoes – who cares? That just sounds boring.

Might be just bad enough to see, but I’d say not

But there are exceptions to this. Tommy Wiseau’s borderline genius disaster of a film The Room is the modern gold standard, clearly standing on the shoulders of the true champion trash auteur, Edward D. Wood, Jr. Plan 9 From Outer Space is so cheap and terrible as to be a thoroughly lovable film. Who doesn’t enjoy Plan 9, for all its cinematic faults? And that brings us to the truly best result of its existence – Tim Burton’s masterpiece biopic. If Wood had only made Glen or Glenda and Jail Bait and Bride of the Monster, his name might still get kicked around in nerdy film circles, but it’s Plan 9 that elevated him to worldwide acclaim – way, way after the fact. And it’s only because it became so embraced as the worst movie of all time that we got this goofy, sentimental movie about movies – my second favorite film in the mini-genre I love so much (next Monday crowns my top movie from this group – stay tuned!).

Wood dying before our time, here is the happy couple with the next best dude

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The Set of 400: #41 – My Favorite Free Bowl of Soup

Today! Because I got that going for me, which is nice –

Caddyshack (1980)

Directed by Harold Ramis (x2)

Starring Chevy Chase (x4), Rodney Dangerfield, Michael O’Keefe, Bill Murray (x9), Ted Knight, Cindy Morgan, Sarah Holcomb (x2), Scott Colomby, Brian Doyle-Murray (x5), Ann Ryerson, Albert Salmi, Elaine Aiken, Henry Wilcoxon, John F. Barmon Jr.

I’m guessing the main reason I didn’t see Caddyshack for long time was that I’d seen Caddyshack II first. And while to a ten year old II’s nonsense retread antics aren’t all that bad – oh, that funny gopher! Dan Aykroyd! Jackie Mason! Kenny Loggins’ “Noboby’s Fool”! – it obviously isn’t a movie that would inspire you to seek out others in the series (plus it thankfully murdered any concept of this becoming a franchise). So while I certainly caught heavily edited glimpses of the original, it was probably high school before I finally watched the whole bawdy golf masterpiece in all its glory.

I’ll admit, Caddyshack is a bizarre conglomeration of stuff that only barely holds together as a movie. The original concept just centered on the caddies, easily the weakest and most forgettable part of the final film, and probably recognizing this they enhanced the roles and importance of all the high caliber comedians brought in (you’d assume) to bolster this plot. Thus you end up with the disparate stylings of Rodney Dangerfield – never better than as boorish new club member Al Czervik, Ted Knight’s permanently outraged Judge Smails, Chevy Chase’s best non-Griswold creation of slick golf whiz Ty Webb, and the king himself, Bill Murray in the basically unscripted groundskeeper/gopher antagonist role of Carl, whose every line has probably found its way onto a t-shirt by now.

Lord knows I’ve got my share

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The Set of 400: #73 – My Favorite Bicycle Joust

Today! Because if it were our plane, it would be crashing –

Quick Change (1990)

Directed by Bill Murray and Howard Franklin

Starring Bill Murray (x8), Geena Davis (x3), Randy Quaid (x4), Jason Robards (x3), Phil Hartman (x2), Tony Shalhoub (x3), Philip Bosco (x3), Bob Elliott, Jack Gilpin, Reg E. Cathey, Jamey Sheridan, Kurtwood Smith (x2), Kathryn Grody, Stanley Tucci (x2), Victor Argo

If there was one Bill Murray movie that could be described as criminally underseen (for quality and also pun reasons) it would be Quick Change (with the possible exception of Nothing Lasts Forever). It wasn’t a big hit in its day – marketing issues, maybe? – but did land on cable repeatedly in that sweet spot period for me in the early ’90s, thus I began a long affection for this sorta dark, sorta zany bank robbery comedy. Because it has been a minor part of my life for so long, I have a random array of stories connected to it, so bear with me for a bit.

But first, hunt up Nothing Lasts Forever – it’s bananas

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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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Louis Tully: An Appreciation

LouisTully_2069You want to be Peter Venkman. Venkman was the only cool guy in the entire movie. It doesn’t get much better than Bill Murray doing his thing at the expense of whoever he shares the screen with. Everyone agrees on this – if you played that game with a group of your friends (“If this was Lost, I’m clearly Charlie!”) about Ghostbusters, everyone hopes their friends would go “Well, you’d be Venkman.” But no, you’re not, you poor delusional slob. None of us are. We’re Louis Tully.

“What?” you ask, outraged. “Louis?!” Yes. Louis. Egon was a goddamn genius. You might think you’re smart, and you might well be, but you’re not Egon. You’re not even Ray. He was the top man in his field almost without question. He didn’t have Egon’s overall brilliance, but he was still the driving force in all their paranormal dealings. You are not the top man in your field. Face it and accept it. And Winston? The paycheck Ghostbuster? No, you’re better than that. Come on! I mean, in the grand day-to-day soul crushing grind, maybe we all collectively identify best with Winston, but deep down, heart of hearts, in your soft squishy soul made of hopes and nougat, you’re Louis Tully, CPA. We’re all Louis Tully. And it’s high time we acknowledge it. Continue reading

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