Hooray! We’ve reached number 200 on the list! 20% done! 200+ blog entries! And many, many hours spent in front of the TV! Tonight, we shall toast with bubbles and celebrate, but not before bringing you another very short film review of a very short film.
The Running, Jumping and Standing Still Film is a series of strange and absurd slapstick comedy skits shot in the English country side. The title is almost longer than the film itself, and there’s very little we can say about it other than that it was amusing and reminded us a bit of Monty Python, so we would not be surprised if this was an inspiration for the comedy group. Which, if we’d bother looking it up, we’re sure we’d find was true.
It’s vacation time in France, and everyone (in the upper middle classes) is getting on a train to sunny beaches. Headed the same way is a run down disaster of a car, threatening the peace of the holiday makers. An ill wind blows into the hotel – Monsieur Hulot (Tati), an OCD weirdo who’s very kind to animals, approaches.
Hulot, despite being a polite and well meaning character, has a tendency to exacerbate any problematic situation he gets himself into, of which there are many. Mainly because he causes them in the first place, such as unwittingly crashing a funeral, although often technology also plays a part.
M. Hulot’s Holiday is basically a silent slapstick comedy, 30 years after they were in vogue. It has lots of silly gags and characters and is just a jolly good time. Hulot himself could have been really annoying, but he’s oddly endearing (something we personally feel Rowan Atkinson failed to achieve with his similar character Mr Bean decades later, although we understand that may be a controversial statement).
This film is so, so silly and fun, with lots of nods to earlier silent comedy geniuses and the tradition of mime and physical theatre. In addition, there’s a series of eccentric supporting character, such as the British tennis referee and poor Arthur. All together, they make a hilarious experience for any comedy fan. Check it out!
Starring: W.C. Fields, Cora Witherspoon, Una Merkel, Grady Sutton, Franklin Pangborn
Runtime: 1h 12min
Note: since one sister (Sister the Youngest) fucked off to Oslo for a week, Sister the Oldest watched this one alone. Well, not alone, as she does have friends apart from her immediate family. So she watched it with a friend. Who’s real.
Bumbling buffoon Egbert Sousé (Fields) drinks too much, has no career to speak of and his family does not respect him. So he goes out in search of a drink. On the way, he stumbles across a film team whose drunken director is unable to work and naturally they hire Sousé.
After his short stint as director, Sousé finds himself in the vicinity of bank robbers trying to escape. He is credited with stopping them and so gets a job as a bank guard. His daughter’s fiancé Og Oggilby (Sutton) works in the same bank and after Sousé is offered the chance to invest in stock in a mining company, he persuades his future son-in-law to “borrow” $500 from the bank.
Unfortunately, a bank examiner, J. Pinkerton Snoopington (Pangborn) shows up the very next day and Sousé and Oggilby must join wits (of which Og especially has very little) to keep the examiner to discover the missing $500. Let the farce commence!
This is a very silly movie full of fucked up characters, over-the-top performances and slapstick humour. The main character is gullable, stupid and self-aggrandizing, yet he is also occasionally likeable, possibly because the way his family treats him makes you feel a bit sorry for him. But usually not for long, as he parries their attacks on him with attempted murder such as when he tries to throw a concrete vase at his youngest daughter.
The real gem here though is the car chase towards the end of the film. It is fast, funny and impressive in so many ways – such as the very real danger in which it must have put stunt performers. Even if farcical slapstick films aren’t your thing, it is well worth watching The Bank Dick for this scene alone. Or if you enjoy violence against 8-year-olds. And let’s face it – who doesn’t? Have fun!
What we learned: we still love the Marx Brothers. Groucho is still the most quotable bastard in movie history. Chico is still our favourite pianist. Harpo is still creepily likable. Zeppo is still oddly replaceable…
We have to be honest here, and say that this is not our favourite from the list. The opening scene is wonderful though. The “Sons of the Desert,” a second-rate freemason society, are having a meeting discussing their upcoming annual convention. Enter Laurel and Hardy (or Moss and Roy if you will), climbing over other attendees in order to get to the vacant chairs. This is by far the funniest scene in the film.
At the meeting, all members have to take an oath to attend the convention in Chicago the next week, and our two “heroes” have to figure out a way to go, given that they are both under the thumbs of their wives. Laurel, being an honest simpleton, gets permission from his wife just by asking, but Hardy tries too hard to be “the king of his own castle” and his wife forbids him to go. Thus, they must scheme and plot.
They manage to go under the pretense of traveling to Hawaii for Hardy’s health, but the ship they were supposed to come back on sinks and the wives (believing they might now be widows) go to the movies. Because that’s what you do when your spouse might be dead. There, a newsreel shows their supposedly drowned husbands at the Sons of the Desert convention and they realise they have been tricked.
There are some very funny scenes in this, some silly slapstick, a farcical plot, and a good musical number with a girl who looks like Olivia Colman and Mae Whitman had a love child (which is a good thing!) but on the whole we were slightly underwhelmed. Or possibly just whelmed. It’s OK for a hungover Sunday afternoon though.
What we learned: where the trope of nagging wives and lying husbands came from (although it’s possible that’s an even older stereotype). Also, spousal abuse is apparently hilarious if it’s from a woman to a man.
The country of Freedonia is in dire financial trouble and its main backer, Mrs. Teasdale, will only help if the government appoints Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) their new leader. The ambassador of neighbouring Sylvania is trying to take over Freedonia, and sends in spies Chicolini and Pinky (Chico and Harpo, respectively) to get information on Firefly.
The film is hilarious throughout, but worthy of special mention are a few scenes. Most notable is the mirror bit where Harpo, dressed as Groucho, has to mirror his movements after shattering the actual mirror. It’s wonderfully funny and very impressive. Other great scenes include the rallying of the troops during the battle, where stock footage is used to show fire engines and elephants, among others, coming to their aid, and the doghouse tattoo including a live, barking dog.
Another silly, silly Marx Brothers film – this time at sea. Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Zeppo play four stowaways who run around generally being disruptive and getting themselves into trouble on an America-bound ship. Nothing new there.
As always, the brothers are very entertaining and we could watch them just being the Marx Brothers all day. After about half an hour though, they decide to add in a plot where all the stowaways are roped into being bodyguards/”tough guys” for a couple of rival gangsters (two brothers on each side). Also, one of them (Zeppo, who actually gets to play a proper part this time) falls in love with one of the gangsters’ daughter. In between the great gags, excellent lines and equally brilliant music numbers, there is a kidnapping plot and a fight scene in a barn.
Some comparison to Animal Crackers, which we loved, must be made. We loved this one too, especially the stowaway-thing since we’ve both had a soft spot for stowaways since The Greatest Norwegian Movie of All Time: Haakon Haakonsen a.k.a. Shipwrecked (1990). Monkey Business feels slightly less theatrical than its predecessor, probably because there are more variations to the sets and locations. It features some amazing lines, such as “a man who’s licked his weight in wild caterpillars” and Zeppo gets to participate more – he even gets the girl!
Chico plays the piano again (yay!), Harpo attempts to rape random women (very much not yay!), Groucho is a cheeky fucker and Zeppo looks like their minder. In other words, it’s definitely worth watching. Although we missed the big musical number from Animal Crackers. And there’s no actual monkey.
What we learned: we need to step up our wordplay game.
And we’re back to silent films. This time a tramp, a blind flower girl and a suicidal millionaire point out the vast differences between the rich and the poor. There’s also some very aggressive twirling on a dance floor and a well choreographed boxing match.
City Lights is not as devastating as The Gold Rush (as in we didn’t have to take breaks to cry our eyes out), but it has some of the same melancholy and a certain sense of despondency.
The Tramp meets a beautiful, blind flower girl and (at first inadvertently, then knowingly) tricks her into thinking he is rich. He also befriends a millionaire by stopping him drowning himself and thus gets the means to woo her (note to self: be on the lookout for suicidal millionaires).
Unfortunately, each time the millionaire sobers up he forgets all about the Tramp, so his income is sporadic at best. Still, all our favourite scenes were with the two of them including the aforementioned aggressive dancing.
We kind of preferred the Tramp when he was a prospector, probably because this time he tricks the blind girl into thinking he’s something he’s not. He is still funny and sweet though, and he means well. After reading an article about sight-restoring surgery, he decides to get a job and help out the flower girl. Hence the boxing match (as well as an actual job as a street sweeper, but that is less well choreographed..).
There’s slapstick, lots of physical comedy and everything else you’d expect from Chaplin, including a soundtrack composed by him which works really well with the visual. The ending is slightly ambivalent so feel free to interpret that as you wish. An enjoyable watch, but not as wonderful as some of the other films we’ve seen for this project. However, given the awesomeness of the list, it’s still miles better than most films in the world.
Things we learned: drunk friends aren’t real friends. Unless you get them drunk again.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have moved on to talkies! And a talkie with musical numbers to boot!
This is a very different kind of absurd from Un Chien Andalou, and thankfully free from eye-stuff… Animal Crackers is a silly Marx Brothers comedy with lots of physical and verbal humour which made us both snort with laughter throughout (but, you know, snort in a very charming, feminine way). Despite Harpo’s quest to rape that poor girl, the film is funny, farcical and very silly indeed. You can clearly see Mel Brooks (among others) being influenced by the Marx Brothers, and never has the word “suicide” been pronounced better.
The plot goes something like this: a wealthy society lady throws a party in honour of famous explorer Jeffrey T. Spaulding (fittingly for this project, the T stands for Edgar). During the course of the party, a valuable painting is replaced and stolen several times. However, the plot is just an excuse to showcase the visual gags, brilliant one liners and general comedic and artistic skills of Groucho, Harpo and Chico Marx, with poor Zeppo having a small part as the straight man. I can see why Xander in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) would identify with him.
The film is whimsical, zany and hilarious as well as very quotable (our new chorus is “Pardon me while I have a strange interlude”). If comedy’s not your thing (really? You don’t like comedy? Who doesn’t like comedy?), then it’s worth watching for the musical numbers in the beginning as well as all the pretty dresses worn by the party-goers. Enjoy!
In this rollercoaster ride, the exquisite Buster Keaton portrays a slightly creepy hair-sniffing tintype photographer who falls instantly in love with a charming young lady played by the beautiful Marceline Day. He finds out that she works for MGM News Reel and promptly decides to get a job there as a cameraman. Which is kind of stalkery, but he is so nonthreatening that he gets away with it. He is also adorably uncoordinated with the camera, and slapstick ensues.
The characters are very likable. Probably for the first time (in terms of films we’ve watched for this project), the hero has fallen for a lady worth making good for. Sally is sweet and kind, and she tries to help him and give him advice when he accidentally double exposes all of his footage. She does not seem to care that he has very little money, and she appears to genuinely enjoy his company. No wonder, considering all the other douches creeping on her. At least Buster can do magic tricks!
The physical comedy is this film is wonderful. There’s an amazing one-man baseball scene, a hilarious stair-running bit, a brilliant scene on a bus and a very enjoyable running gag with a police officer. As well as a delightful scene in a dressing room, which I’m sure we would have enjoyed even if he didn’t get undressed…
Among its many merits, The Camerman has a shoot out scene which rivals that of Spaced (1999-2001), and there’s a bit with a monkey. It is considered by many Keaton’s last masterpiece as he lost creative control of his movies around this time and eventually descended into alcoholism. Which is not funny. But the film is. So if, like us, you have developed a major crush on Buster Keaton, this is a definite must-see.