Monday, November 22, 2010

"An Inspired Movie Moment"

Last time, I talked about my enthusiasm for repeat visits to TV series that explode with what I called “comic inspiration,” my examples being, Seinfeld and Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

Today, it’s the movies.

Still sticking with comedies. I wrote elsewhere about my near addiction to courtroom dramas. Can you have a “near addiction”?

“I want it so bad. But not so, so bad!”

Maybe a near addiction means you directed the needle towards your arm, but you missed, and you stuck a nearby pillow instead.

I believe I have seriously exceeded my area of expertise.

When I talk about movies, a disclaimer is always necessary, or at least I think it is, so here it comes. Though I tried writing movie scripts on several occasions, I was never successful, unless by “successful” you mean I completed writing the script. I did. But in no cases were there any takers.

As a result, when I say that there are few comedy movies I ever really liked, it would be advisable to take that with a grain of sour grapes. If there is such a thing.

As with Raymond and Friends from the television arena, there are comedy feature films that I enjoyed the first time, but am not crazy about ever seeing again. One of them is The Graduate, which was groundbreaking at the time, as when an adult friend of the family points the aimless college graduate in the career direction of “Plastics.” Today, The Graduate seems to me forced and steeped-in-sixties-angst dated.

Tootsie, with the exception of a single scene, also fits the bill of “Thanks, but once was enough.” The movie feels like it’s trying too hard, with the comedy, as well as the feminist message of “Only by being a woman, can a man be truly a man.” I think I’ll just let that stand.

The wonderful single scene exception, that I can watch again and again? I believe I’ve mentioned it before. The Charles Durning character is smitten with “Dorothy Michaels”, who’s really Michael Dorsey, to the point of his proposing marriage to “her.” When it all blows up, Michael (Dustin Hoffman) is obligated to return the ring. The inspired moment occurs when the Durning character spots Michael Dorsey, and realizes, to his embarrassment and rapidly rising rage, that the gentleman he is looking at is “Dorothy.” When I first saw this, the intensifying look of recognition on Durning’s face caused me to laugh myself into a coughing fit.

Butch Cassidy is a “tweener.” I delight in re-watching parts of it, but not the whole thing. As a westerns fan, I am eternally tickled by writer William Goldman’s parodying classic western movie moments, like when Butch attempts to scatter some horses tied up at a hitching post, and the horses, unlike in every western I have ever seen, just stand there. My problem with the movie is the obligatory late-sixties gore-fest. Everybody dies bloody.

The Three Amigos is also a “tweener”, not because there’s violence, but because portions of it are drawn out, and in some places, the comedy falls flat. But when Steve Martin, standing on the Paramount Studios wall, tries to draw the attention of his fellow Amigos with “bird signals” that the Amigos mistake for bird noises, I am totally, and repeatedly, on board.

This brings me to my oft-mentioned all-time favorite movie comedy, The Court Jester.

The Court Jester is replete – I tell you – with comic invention. There are multiple mistaken identities and storyline shifts, secret whistles, witty songs, a rescuing battalion of Little People, a “purple pimpernel on the royal posterior”, a hypnotizing enchantress who, with the snap of a finger can turn a hapless fumbler into a dashing lothario and swordsman.

And, of course, there’s this, “this” being the scene I am about to show you. Though the star, Danny Kaye, takes things a little too far, the verbal gymnastics of “The Vessel with the Pestle”, combined with the physical comedy of a magnetized suit of armor, gives you an imcomparable overlay of two types of comedy, both happening at the same time.

Tomorrow, another funny movie I’d be willing to watch more than once. And they’re doing a remake of it. Though I really wish they wouldn’t.

The trouble is, they never ask my advice.

Enjoy The Court Jester. It's dressed silly, but it’s smart. And, for me at least, it successfully endures the test of time.


Anonymous said...

Agreed, they go too far with the verbal circuitry, but overall, very amusing, plus, a young and attractive Angela Landsbury is always nice to see.

Max Clarke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alan said...

She'll jump!

Alan said...

I heard somewhere that it was originally to be a Bob Hope vehicle. Interesting to watch it with that in mind.

Max Clarke said...

Thanks for the Court Jester recommendation. Never heard of it till now.

There are lots of comedies I never tire of seeing. There are several by Woody Allen, the early stuff like Love And Death. There's The Princess Bride, which hasn't lost any of its brilliance.

You brought up the matter of inspired comedies on tv. Why do we watch that stuff over and over when we know all the punchlines and pratfalls? After all, the surprise is long gone.

A great comedy on tv or the movies has the quality of song, it has a musical quality in the timing of the scenes and the dialogue. There's a cadence which is enjoyable to hear again and again. We don't tire of favorite music, the same here.

You wrote a Cheers episode, How Do I Love Thee? I never tire of it. Hearing Diane say, "Hey, everybody, Sam can't say he loves me," I know it will be followed by Carla's "Who can?" It's still good because it's part of a song.

YEKIMI said...

Blazing Saddles. The "Bean Scene" gets me every time.