Comedy is not usually a genre which I gravitate towards, but everyone needs a good chuckle now and then. My comedy taste lean towards the black but I do find myself enjoying some slap stick on occasion. Overall, these films make me smile, they make me laugh and offer lightness, when needed. With that, I offer up my comedy list – again, in no particular order. A side note…putting up numerous films in which I am completely in love with is a difficult task as…well…its difficult not to sound too redundant, so thank you for baring with the continuous praise of so many films that I love dearly and enjoy fully.
1. Young Frankenstein, Directed by Mel Brooks
Starting the list off strong with Young Frankenstein, that combines side-splitting humor with the horror legend of Frankenstein and Mel Brooks does not disappoint. Brooks has a plethora of successful comedic films but Young Frankenstein is my favorite for a number of reasons including; an excellent storyline, brilliant one-linners, entertaining and precise performances by Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn and Cloris Leachman, great setting and the marriage of the slap-stick and the black. Young Frankenstein is bawdy and light without being gratuitous or trite. This film is especially fun around the magic of All Hallows but strikes laughter at any time of the year. Gene Wilder manages to consistently deliver honest and energetic performances but as Dr. Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein his energy is electric and memorizing. And then theres Marty Feldman as Igor….and “abi-normal,”OY! Feldman is great in this film, so entertaining and just plain, hilarious. Young Shakespeare is a classic and certainly Brooks at his finest.
2. Inglorious Bastards, Directed by Quentin Tarantino
I didn’t expect to love this film as much as I do, but Tarantino converted me. I’ve always been a fan of Tarantino but I wasn’t sure how I would favor this film, particularly due to the casting of Brad Pitt. I don’t have anything again Pitt, but I found him an odd match for a Tarantino film. I also just didn’t know what to make of the film when I first saw the previews and the title struck me in an odd fashion but I never miss a Tarantino and I’m certainly glad I did not miss Inglorious Bastards. Tarantino really defined a whole new brand of comedy through Inglorious Bastards, though I dare not put a label on it. The comedy in this film is not something that will have you in side-splitting laughter but rather an underlying chuckle marked by astonishment and discomfort. Tarantino really understands dialogue and the extent to which it can shape a scene and a film, Inglorious Bastards is flowered with sensational dialogue brought to life by a thrilling cast featuring; Brad Pitt, Melanie Laurent, Eli Roth, Christoph Waltz, Michael Fassbender and Diane Kruger. Christoph Waltz shines in this film, he is so specific and smart about his performance, and I’m quite glad that The Academy agreed (though I do not always see eye-to-eye with them). The plot of the film is original and well, shocking. Let me leave you with a question. Who wouldn’t want to see Jewish-American soldiers spreading fear, panic and disorder through the Third Reich by scalping and brutally killing Nazi soldiers?
3. Away We Go, Directed by Sam Mendes
I may or may not own multiple copies of this delightful film. May or may not. I have not been able to find anything wrong with this film, it is truly lovely. It is a film which is light, uplifting, extremely funny and incredibly heartfelt, I could not be a bigger fan of Away We Go. Director Sam Mendes seemed to find the perfect combination of story, script and actors. Viewers watch as Verona de Tessant (Maya Rudolph) and Burt Farlander (John Krasinski) travel the country in pursuit of “home” as they prepare for the arrival of their first child. The material is so unbelievably familiar and plausible but highlighted with gentle humor and realism. The cast is consistently strong and balanced, every performance is important and well-played. Rudolph and Krasinski are so sweet and funny, some of their strongest work to date. Rudolph really shines in a very understated fashion that suits her comedic and dramatic abilities. Other acting highlights include; the wild Catherine O’Hara, the ever-lovable Jeff Daniels, the zany and outrageous Allison Janney and a surprisingly hilarious performance by Maggie Gyllenhaal – only surprising because I never thought this dramatically charged actress could be so funny. Away We Go might be one of those rare, perfect films, one that you simply must see.
4. Funny Girl, Directed by William Wyler
Okay, I cannot help myself…I do adore this film. And yes, occasionally I do enjoy a good musical comedy, but never fear, only in small doses. Funny Girl is just so damn clever, its true and the script, especially for a musical, is quite successful. It could be argued that Funny Girl should be placed under the Bio-Pic list, as it chronicles the life of the Jewish actress Fannie Brice but I place it in comedy because of the bliss I feel when viewing this film, because of the laughter that arises and the smiles that burst. Of course what makes Funny Girl so wonderful is the quirky, free-spirited and fiercely motivated Fanny Brice (apparently the altered spelling makes a difference), played by the Barbra Streisand. Streisand her certainly received her far share of criticism and the diva label, but like her or not, you cannot deny this magnificent performance as Fanny Brice. Streisand’s comedic timing and energetic performance seems effortless and its endlessly entertaining. Fanny Brice is both exciting and exhausting, funny and safe, beautiful and awkward – Streisand manifests all of this with grace and humor. You may not be a fan of the American musical, but if you find the urge to see one, make it Funny Girl. And…Barbra actually sings everything, sorry Audrey Hepburn.
5. Empire Records, Directed by Allan Moyle
It should be known, I may or may not have a love affair with the 90’s. Case in point, Empire Records. This film is a good time and threaded with clever wit. Empire Records is a film in which you want to jump right into their world; you want to rock the Empire lanyard, skip college and work for a record shop where the tunes are blaring 24/7 and your co-workers are one, large lovable dysfunctional family. The exceptionally rockin’ soundtrack is just the cherry on the lovely 90’s sundae.
6. Dr. Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, Directed by Stanley Kubrick
I have one word for you…okay…two words: Peter Sellers. This man is hilarious. Sellers is one of the greatest comedians of our time, right up there with Chaplin himself. Sellers fully commits to his comedy through voice, body and spirit; his performances are always three-dimensional, honest and utterly side-splitting. This movie is really just too goofy for words but completely delightful. Often times politically charged material can feel slightly forced but Dr. Strangelove is just…well…you really need to watch this one for yourself. I promise you that a viewing of this sensational film shall not be absent of rapturous laughter. And again, Peter Sellers.
7. The Royal Tenenbaums, Directed by Wes Anderson
I don’t know where to begin with this film – its one of the most beautifully crafted and conceptualized films I’ve ever seen, Wes Anderson at his finest, indeed. Many people are now familiar with Wes Anderson’s film style, but I do feel that The Royal Tenenbaums is the film that really defined the style and exemplified it in the best way possible. Naturally, this is a comedy of the blacker sort and I thoroughly enjoy every moment. Anderson crafts every moment of this film with exceptional musicality and strong storytelling. The cast…well…I think I will let the list speak for itself; Gene Hackman,Anjelica Houston, Ben Stiller, Bill Murray, Gweneyth Paltrow, Luke and Owen Wilson, Danny Glover and Alec Baldwin. Wes Anderson is a strong director and no films sings his voice with more poetic beauty that The Royal Tenenbaums.
8. Annie Hall, Directed by Woody Allen
I don’t think I’ve met anyone who doesn’t love Annie Hall. I think Woody Allen himself can be rather polarizing at times, but Annie Hall is certainly a romantic-comedy classic. Allen’s personal comedic style is on full display in this film, in all its Jewish-neurotic-anxiety-driven-energetic glory and you certainly cannot deny the laughter which ensues. I remember viewing this film for the first time and engaged from the top of the film when Allen delivers a cleverly crafted monologue. Annie Hall plays not only upon the personal comedic strengths of Woody Allen as an actor but his strengths as a writer/director, illustrated through the effortlessly witty dialogue, rhythm and light romantic quality captured in the film. Allen is truly gifted in the realm of dialogue which highlights his hopeless romantic nature. Another great thing about Annie Hall, it must be said, is the lovely Diane Keaton. Keaton is so sincere, lovable and effortless in this performance, drawing you in just as Allen himself is drawn in. Additionally, the character of Annie Hall a style inspiration, recalling the androgynous style first brought to us by the great Katherine Hepburn and Marlene Dietrich. Okay, so the style note bridges beyond the realm of the film, but it does illustrate the profound impact film can have on our culture. Annie Hall is as much of a cultural staple as it is a film classic and delightful to watch again and again.
9. What’s Up Doc?, Directed by Peter Bogdanovich
Alright, Barbra resurfaces on the countdown again but have you seen What’s Up Doc? I cannot get enough of this film whenever I am in the mood for excellent slap-stick, rapid dialogue, a crazy San Francisco cash scene and a good laugh. Barbra certainly is fun in this film but it is really the script, the direction and the efforts of the full cast (which includes the ever-hilarious Madeline Kahn, the charming Ryan O’Neal and the darling Austin Pendleton) that complete the wacky and delightful What’s Up Doc?. (Woah – double punctuation….? I’m not even sure how to deal with that – I’m an imperfect writer, what can I say?) For those of you familiar with Noises Off, What’s Up Doc? exists in the same comedic family of mix-ups, mayhem, rapid speed, farce, slap-stick comedy and memorable characters. Okay, the did fudge in a song for Barbra…must have been in her contract because its the only superfluous portion of the script, everything else is comedy gold.
10. Igby Goes Down, Directed by Burr Steers
Igby Goes Down holds a special place in my heart, in this case, I choose the best for last. This film is not only a favorite comedy of mine but an overall favorite film that I return to consistently, no matter the mood. Some might argue against placing this in the “comedy” category, which is understandable and I shall not disagree. However, Igby Goes Down contains a certain zaniness combined with sharp black humor that for me, makes it deserving for this list. I’m not sure I could place my finger on one element that really put this film over the top for me, rather its the combination of characters, storyline, excellent actors, style and direction that form a unique and sentimental film. There are a few heavy hitters in the cast but it is really just about the consistency that the actors offer as a collective; every actor is cast well and every part played with precision. The relationship work is strong in this film, probably as it deals with a family but I’ve often felt that…families like these really do exist – there is an element of realism that almost seem unbelievable because of the bizarre characters. I don’t know what to say about this film other than I truly love it…completely love it. It is certainly not your typical comedy, but I promise you will have an experience regardless.