Friday, August 05, 2005
The "Lawrence Of Arabia" of Film Comedy (My Favorite Films #'s 1 thru 10)
#1- "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World"
As I may have mentioned before, this is my favorite film of all time, and I'll tell you why. A lot of my criteria for this (because usually I can never make up mind) has to do with the question of whether I can watch it over and over again and find something new each time. I like a lot of films, I can find something to appreciate about almost every film, but I rarely want to watch them over and over again.
Call it "former movie theatre employee" syndrome.
With "Mad 4" (as no one ever calls it), I am able to find something great in almost every viewing. And I've seen versions of it since I was six. I remember it premiering on an ABC Sunday Night movie and loving all of the stunts in it, all of the people falling down, banging into things/each other/themselves/complete strangers/etc. And, of course, Jerry Lewis' 3 second cameo as "Guy Who Runs Over Spencer Tracy's Hat".
A bit about what it's about. Directed by Stanley Kramer (according to legend, as a rebuttal to a critic who claimed Kramer could never direct a comedy), this film is over 3 hours long, with intermission. It involves a group of strangers who hear, in the last words of a dying gangster, the location of $250,000 buried under a "big 'W'". They then, united at times, competitively at other times, go off to find it. Comedic chaos ensues and, far being Kramer's only "non-message" movie (he had made "Judgement At Nuremberg", "Inherit The Wind", and the anti-nuclear "On The Beach") it is, quite simply a film about the lengths humans will go to for "easy" wealth.
Greed, in other words, is not good, and actually can be quite painful.
Now, all of this sounds a little dry, and I don't want any of the four of you who regularly read this to think for a second that this film is a heavy moralistic exercise. It is, instead, one of the funniest, and certainly biggest comedies you will ever see. Starring most of the premiere comedic talents around at the time (one wonders where Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Danny Kaye, and Alec Guiness were at the time... "Working" would be the cutting reply, I suppose), this film was a challenge for both director and performers alike. Kramer had never had to deal with a group of specialists like this before (usually his films cast dramatic actors for the dramatic material, with one or two "stunt" castings... think Gene Kelly as the muckraking, cynical reporter in "Inherit The Wind" or Fred Astaire as the depressed scientist in "On The Beach") and the cast ( I know I haven't named anybody, but it's a huge, huge, huge, huge cast and I want to finish this before my child is born) were made up of the biggest hams and scene stealers in the business.
And yet, somehow Kramer got them to stick to the funny script and got a classic comedic epic done.
Think about what he accomplished... try to imagine someone making a three-plus hour comedy, filled with stunts, with Steve Martin, Bill Murray, Ben Stiller, Jim Carrey, Eddie Murphy, Bill Nighy, Mike Meyers, Adam Sandler, Ricky Gervais, Vince Vaughn, Martin Freeman, Bernie Mac, Bonnie Hunt, Larry David, Drew Barrymore, Bette Midler, Steve Coogan, Robin Williams, Chris Rock, Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson... and me, of course. Couldn't be made without me. ("But didn't they already make both 'Rat Race' and that Glad bag sponsored "Million-Dollar Giveaway" movie?"... "I believe my point is made", I retort, eyebrow arched)
As much as you may not agree with some of those casting choices, my point is these people are all, to a degree, bankable and would be the ones you would want for a huge comedy.
And you would never be able to pull it off.
Stanley Kramer did.
The fact that this film still makes me laugh ( and cry... don't get me started on Spencer Tracy's speech at the end), the fact that I can still sit through it, the fact that it still works...
Watch it if you haven't.
future jones update
My wife had another ultra-sound Tuesday, which I couldn't attend because of work, and she said that Future apparently likes to move around quite a bit. Like flipping and jumping. Which means we're pre-signing up for baby's gym and dance classes... but not Ritalin.
Because Tom told me that was a street drug and Tom does not lie.