7 items from 2015
By 1935, the Marx Brothers already had five movies to add to their already extensive Broadway and Vaudeville resume, among them the legendary Duck Soup and the near-classics Animal Crackers and Monkey Business. As we’ve often seen, however, some of our most beloved Hollywood favorites flopped upon first release. 1933’s Duck Soup, specifically, was the last of a five-picture deal the Brothers had at Paramount, and its commercial failure would spell a parting of the ways between the studio and the iconic comedy team.
Enter Irving G. Thalberg, the wunderkind who helped build MGM into a powerhouse. Perhaps best known today for the namesake honor given to producers at each year’s Academy Awards, Thalberg left an indelible mark on Hollywood before his untimely death in 1937 at the age of 36. In addition to launching such innovations as the first production code and the use of audience response questionnaires to hone »
- M. Robert Grunwald
Perhaps the most subjective genre in cinema, the same comedy can cause one viewer to have tears of laughter and another to not crack a smile. So, while knowing there can be no definitive list of the finest in the genre, the Writers Guild of America attempted to narrow down the 101 funniest screenplays. Noting the distinction from the best in the genre, these 101 films should simply produce the most laughs.
Topping the list is Woody Allen‘s Best Picture-winning Annie Hall, a choice difficult to argue with. Rounding out the top five were Some Like it Hot, Groundhog Day, Airplane! and Tootsie, while films from the Coens, Stanley Kubrick, Wes Anderson, and Edgar Wright were also mentioned. There are also some genuine head-scratching inclusions, including The Hangover at 30, and, as much as I enjoy the film, Bridesmaids nearly making the top 15, but overall, if one is looking to brighten their mood, »
- Jordan Raup
“Annie Hall” has been named the funniest screenplay in voting by the members of the Writers Guild of America.
The script by Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman topped “Some Like it Hot,” “Groundhog Day,” “Airplane!” and “Tootsie,” which make up the rest of the top five. “Young Frankenstein,” “Dr. Strangelove,” “Blazing Saddles,” “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” and “National Lampoon’s Animal House” rounded out the top 10.
The awards for the 101 funniest screenplays were announced at the Arclight Cinerama Dome in Hollywood at the conclusion of two hours of panel discussions and clips, hosted by Rob Reiner. He noted that his “This Is Spinal Tap” script had finished at the No. 11 spot — a coincidence that recalled the “go to 11” amplifier joke in the film.
- Dave McNary
Some people in the 21st century think “Hollywood blacklist” refers to hot-but-unproduced screenplays. Others have vague notions that the “Unfriendly 10” screenwriters were denied work because they were Communists.
Many misperceptions or forgotten facts are clarified in Bleecker Street’s film “Trumbo,” which screens Saturday at the Toronto Film Festival and opens nationwide Nov. 6. Adding to those details are five other points worth remembering.
1. It didn’t start in the 1940s.
The House Committee on Un-American Activities (later known as Huac), was formed in 1938 under Martin Dies Jr., who said Hollywood was filled with Communists. Two years later, the mainstream press printed 42 names under investigation, including Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney and Katharine Hepburn. On Feb. 16, 1940, Daily Variety editor Al Unger mocked the senator, saying Dies was just seeking publicity and had no facts, just suspicions. In a short time, Dies concluded that he had met with the 42 and they were fine, »
- Tim Gray
Groucho Marx in 'Duck Soup.' Groucho Marx movies: 'Duck Soup,' 'The Story of Mankind' and romancing Margaret Dumont on TCM Grouch Marx, the bespectacled, (painted) mustached, cigar-chomping Marx brother, is Turner Classic Movies' “Summer Under the Stars” star today, Aug. 14, '15. Marx Brothers fans will be delighted, as TCM is presenting no less than 11 of their comedies, in addition to a brotherly reunion in the 1957 all-star fantasy The Story of Mankind. Non-Marx Brothers fans should be delighted as well – as long as they're fans of Kay Francis, Thelma Todd, Ann Miller, Lucille Ball, Eve Arden, Allan Jones, affectionate, long-tongued giraffes, and/or that great, scene-stealing dowager, Margaret Dumont. Right now, TCM is showing Robert Florey and Joseph Santley's The Cocoanuts (1929), an early talkie notable as the first movie featuring the four Marx Brothers – Groucho, Chico, Harpo, and Zeppo. Based on their hit Broadway »
- Andre Soares
If the problem with too many literary adaptations is a failure to capture the author’s voice, then that shortcoming turns out to be the single greatest virtue of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” the hotly anticipated first film inspired by E.L. James’ bestselling assault on sexual mores, good taste and the English language. In telling the story of a shy young virgin and the broodingly handsome billionaire who invites her into his wonderful world of hanky-spanky, director Sam Taylor-Johnson and screenwriter Kelly Marcel have brought out a welcome element of cheeky, knowing humor that gradually recedes as the action plunges into darker, kinkier territory. Glossy, well cast, and a consistent hoot until it becomes a serious drag, this neo-“9½ Weeks” is above all a slick exercise in carefully brand-managed titillation — edgier than most grown-up studio fare, but otherwise a fairly mild provocation in this porn-saturated day and age.
Still, any »
- Justin Chang
Duck Soup, 1933.
Directed by Leo McCarey.
Freedonia and Sylvania are forced into war due to the insults of Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx) and the spies of Sylvania (Chico and Harpo Marx).
When told about the Marx brothers, I often think of Groucho. Until I watched Duck Soup, I didn’t know what his shtick even was. Were they silent comics, akin to Chaplin and Keaton? Did they transcend the talkie-divide like Laurel and Hardy? Were they lightning-fast talkers, in the same vein as Woody Allen or Henry Youngman? It turns out that the family of the Marx Brothers – Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Zeppo – are a bit of everything. Each sibling either prefiguring or directly influenced-by a specific comic of the past. Chico, the smart-talking but not-so-clever one. Harpo, the physical silent one. »
- Simon Columb
7 items from 2015
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