Today! Because apes don’t read philosophy –
A Fish Called Wanda (1988)
Directed by Charles Crichton
Starring John Cleese (x2), Jamie Lee Curtis (x2), Kevin Kline (x3), Michael Palin (x2), Maria Aitken, Tom Georgeson, Patricia Hayes, Stephen Fry
You could make a case for a number of the Pythons having the best post-Python career – Eric Idle has worked consistently and to great effect in movies and TV, Palin has done extensive documentary work around the globe, Terry Gilliam is a world class director with a number of great films under his belt, but for my money the winner is Cleese, for two big reasons: 1) Fawlty Towers (okay, made sort of in the midst of Monty Python films in the ’70s) and 2) his writing, uncredited co-directing, and starring in this, an amazing hybrid of British and American styles of humor. This discounts his terrific cameo turn in The Great Muppet Caper, which I suppose is third.
“I thought you said the pets were dead.”
Today! Because he’s not the Messiah! He’s a very naughty boy –
Life of Brian (1979)
Directed by Terry Jones
Starring Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam, Sue Jones-Davies, Kenneth Colley, Spike Milligan
For the better part of my life, I swore I was more a Life of Brian Python fan than a Holy Grail one. And maybe coincidentally (but maybe not), for the better part of this same period of time, I considered myself somewhat more religious than I do now. I mean, I’m still kinda religious, in a very basic way, but not, like, going to church on Sunday and helping them fund the lawsuits. Still, I think when you’re more ingrained in the whole God culture, Life of Brian resonates in a wholly different way. Eight years of Catholic school, folks!
Nowadays, well – not to spoil it, but Holy Grail is a good distance down the road on this list, while Life of Brian is here. Not to take anything away from this movie – it’s still hilarious – but previously I regarded this movie as a brilliant, incendiary dismantling of organized religion and their somewhat ridiculous origin stories. In watching now, it doesn’t quite hit those notes as hard for me, and in comparison to the much more quotable and iconic Holy Grail, it pales a bit as a movie. Blow-for-blow it may be funnier, and has a far more satisfying ending, but doesn’t feel quite as earth shaking as it did when I was fifteen.
Still, that ending!