Tag Archives: Jack Warden

The Set of 400: #51 – My Favorite Champagne Improvement

Today! Because I wish I were you people seeing this for the first time –

The Great Muppet Caper (1981)

Directed by Jim Henson

Starring Jim Henson (x2), Frank Oz (x9), Jerry Nelson (x5), Dave Goelz (x5), Richard Hunt (x2), Charles Grodin (x2), Diana Rigg (x2), Jack Warden (x4), John Cleese (x4), Peter Ustinov (x2), Peter Falk (x5), Robert Morley, Steve Whitmire (x5), Louise Gold (x3), Caroll Spinney, Erica Creer, Kate Howard, Della Finch

The second feature Muppet film and the first released after The Muppet Show ended, The Great Muppet Caper had a higher degree of difficulty than any other film in the series, before or since. Figure, it’s the only non-adaptation film that doesn’t in some way incorporate putting on a show or show business as the backdrop (Muppets From Space is the only other one close, and that has a lot of Piggy’s aspiring journalism career at center). So they’ve crammed the familiar characters into oddball new roles – weirdly, again, journalism, but of the print variety, plus hotel management – albeit with their same names, and more fourth wall breaking than any other movie to explain this conceit. It had only been two years since the smash hit original Muppet Movie, and they didn’t have terrific Paul Williams songs to eat up a bunch of the run time (Muppet Caper‘s songs are still great, though). This one needed tons of jokes and cameos and a strong narrative to succeed, and it came through on all counts.

As a kid, I probably liked this Muppet outing best, or had it in a very close contest with Takes Manhattan. It’s a lot sillier than the original film, but still keeps the gang largely together unlike Manhattan. The England setting produces a bunch of fun gags (like The Muppet Show, Muppet Caper was filmed in and near London) and it features the most action packed finale of the franchise – a sequence not even attempted to be equaled by any successive movie until Most Wanted – which largely functioned as the Muppet Caper to 2011’s Muppets as Muppet Movie. Does that makes sense? I didn’t get to talk about Most Wanted on this list because it missed the cut off date, but I’m afraid people skipped it, as it got lost in theaters. Go watch Muppets Most Wanted, it’s pretty fun.

It’s the Kermit-goes-to-a-Siberian-prison-camp-run-by-Tina-Fey film you never knew you needed

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The Set of 400: #85 – My Favorite Knife Surprise

Today! Because ever since you walked into this room, you’ve been acting like a self-appointed public avenger –

12 Angry Men (1957)

Directed by Sidney Lumet (x3)

Starring Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb (x2), Martin Balsam (x4), Jack Klugman, E.G. Marshall (x4), Jack Warden (x3), Ed Begley, John Fiedler, Edward Binns, Joseph Sweeney, George Voskovec, Robert Webber

And we’re back to play-based movies barely doing anything to update the setting! But really, what all could they’ve done? You can’t very well stick the jury on a train and have them debate the merits of the case over a hot dog at Coney Island, can you? (Or, could you? Maybe as some sort of commentary on the judicial system, its role as some manner of funhouse stacked against the little guy? It being a rollercoaster to no where except back where you started, under the boss’s heal, busting your hump for King Business? Jesus, who’s ready to produce my crazy new plan for 12 Angry Men: Keep Your Hands and Feet Inside the Jury??)

No, Lumet’s 12 Angry Men is locked-in, and that’s the way it works best. The jury nearly eats itself alive in their discussion of the case, revealing all their hidden prejudices, grappling with the facts of the case and each other’s motives for wrapping this deliberation up. Things are shouted and twists uncoiled and minds won over – or at least persuaded for the time being – until they finally arrive at a decision. It’s a marvelously acted tour-de-force by everyone involved, especially the leads, with Fonda’s curious, questioning Juror #8 and Cobb’s volcanic, passionate #3 locked in epic cross-table battle.

100% on Rotten Tomatoes

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The Set of 400: #144 – My Favorite Surprise Poultry

Today! Because guilt is petit-bourgeois crap. An artist creates his own moral universe –

Bullets Over Broadway (1994)

Directed by Woody Allen (x7)

Starring John Cusack (x3), Dianne Wiest (x3), Chazz Palminteri (x2), Jennifer Tilly (x2), Mary-Louise Parker (x2), Rob Reiner (x2), Tracey Ullman (x2), Jim Broadbent (x3), Jack Warden (x2), Joe Viterelli, Harvey Fierstein (x2), Edie Falco, Debi Mazar, Tony Sirico, John Ventimiglia, Tony Darrow

If you were to take the entire Set of 400 up to this point, feed it into a computer, and have that parse out all the elements that might make up the perfect film geared toward this guy, it may well spit out Bullets Over Broadway. It’s the seventh Woody Allen movie on the list, it’s from a year I proclaim to love more than almost any other in cinema history: 1994, it’s a movie about a play, it’s a movie about gangsters, it’s a movie about writers, it features a ton of future Sopranos actors, it was nominated for and won a slew of awards – Bullets Over Broadway kinda has everything for me.

Ah, theater!

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The Set of 400: #206 – My Favorite Political Savant

Today! Because life is a state of mind –

Being There (1979)

Directed by Hal Ashby (x2)

Starring Peter Sellers (x2), Shirley MacLaine, Melvyn Douglas, Jack Warden, Richard Dysart, Richard Basehart (x2), James Noble, Alice Hirson, Elya Baskin (x2), Ruth Attaway

Hal Ashby’s brilliant decade came to an end with Being There, a character-based comedy featuring an absolutely brilliant turn by Peter Sellers as the simple minded gardener Chance. Upon the death of his boss, he’s thrust out into society, which he only knows from television, and while there are some fish out of water moments, the point of the story is more the way he looks at life. Sure, it can be a little schmaltzy, but figure, he’s surrounded by monstrous politicians and people who don’t understand who he is from the second he’s out in the world, and yet he’s not immediately crushed by the unbearable weight of foreign circumstance. He just gets by, unaffected, even though society is almost designed to destroy such a person. Chance the Gardener – later, Chauncey Gardner – makes it work.

Shirley MacLaine is also magnificent in this movie

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