Well, after that all-too-ponderous post (and generous comments from y'all, including my first from an unknown-er (thanks Reel Fanatic -- more on Babel/Inarritu/Arriaga, next post...), I pick up where last Sunday's New York Times left off. A top-five list. The magazine section was devoted to comedy, and they published a lot of top-five lists as answers to the question "Which comedies would you want on a desert island?"
Among those surveyed: Will Ferrell, Christopher Guest (nice articles on both of them, too), Ricky Gervais, Catherine O'Hara, Bernie Mac, a bunch of other performers, writers, and directors. The most frequently listed movie was "This Is Spinal Tap." I was surprised to see some brilliant comic minds with "Dumb & Dumber" and "Team America: World Police" on their top fives.
Surely some of that's due to physical comedy getting the big laughs. This subject is taken up in the magazine's lead-off article by A.O. Scott. He's never been one my fave film reviewers (even less so after his lukewarm, miss-the-point-entirely review of Big Bad Love), but it's a pretty good piece on why "Borat" works and why something like the VW microbus gag in "Little Miss Sunshine" keeps getting funnier as the movie goes.
I'm tempted to do a top ten. Top fives are too hard. And the desert island factor means each movie must reward repeated viewings. So uneven movies tend to fall out. I still laugh as hard at the funny stuff in Woody Allen's "Love and Death" as I do at anything, but it has moments I find so lame, it's embarrassing. I have to eliminate things like "Harold and Maude," which I probably saw a dozen times as an adolescent, in favor of what I'd be willing to see again and again now, as an incredibly sophisticated adult with laser-like, irony-clad perception...
I really would rather watch "Jackass Number Two" than "Room With A View" on a given day. But top five?
My first attempt will be chronological:
1. Steamboat Bill, Jr. (Buster Keaton)
2. Sleeper (Woody Allen)
3. Fast Times At Ridgemont High (Cameron Crowe, Amy Heckerling)
4. Flirting With Disaster (David O. Russell)
5. High Fidelity (John Cusack, Stephen Frears)
That looks pretty close. I can't believe the Coen bros. aren't on there somewhere, but... "Raising Arizona"? "The Big Lebowski"? "O, Brother...?" and what would I take out? Maybe "Fast Times..." Or maybe I'd have to admit that stretches of "Steamboat Bill, Jr." are dull and not worth the great rewards of its high points. Maybe I'd have to include "Groundhog Day," a nearly perfect movie, especially for a desert island situation.
My friend Matt used to review films for a newspaper and says there are at least two John Cusack movies that are better and funnier than "High Fidelity." Them's fightin' words.
Man, this is hard to do. Each movie I love that I have to leave out is like a kick in the groin of my personal aesthetic. It hurts, man!
Go ahead. I dare ya.