Thursday, August 09, 2007

Ken Levine's 20 Favorite Comedies

Kev Levine writes a column for Huffington Post. This is an interesting post if you can overlook the fact that it's way short on screwball comedies, my favorite. And if you don't have a quibble or two with his definition of the word "comedy." Maybe I like it so much because he puts "Heartbreak Kid" so near the top. Heartbreak has gotta be the most grossly overlooked great comedy in movie history. It's about to be remade--much as I like Ben Stiller it won;t come close to the original.

Ken Levine:

In honor of HuffPost's twenty great movie endings I have another list. My twenty favorite comedy screenplays. By favorite I mean the ones I wish I had written.

ALL ABOUT EVE - Joseph Mankiewicz. Sharpest dialogue I've ever heard. The film is 56 years old and still crackles. Saw it again recently. What a pleasure to watch, especially now during the dumbing down of America.

SOME LIKE IT HOT - Billy Wilder & IAL Diamond. Disproves its classic last lane. Somebody IS perfect.

HEARTBREAK KID - Neil Simon (although the hand of director Elaine May is clearly evident). Jewish men generally love this movie, Jewish women hate it. A young Charles Grodin gives the comic performance of his career. And Eddie Albert (yes, Eddie Albert) will make you laugh out loud. There's a remake coming soon. I shudder to think.

THE LADY EVE - Preston Sturgess, story by Monckton Hoffe & Preston Sturgess. Screwball comedy at its funniest and most sophisticated. Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda - not who you naturally think of as a comedy team but they pull it off with ease.

HIS GIRL FRIDAY - Screenplay by Charles Lederer, based on the play by Ben Hecht & Charles MacArthur. Cary Grant & Rosalind Russell trade quips at a pace that makes WEST WING seem slow. And every word out of their mouths is a gem.

ARTHUR -- Steve Gordon's masterpiece.

TOOTSIE - Larry Gelbart (although fifteen other writers also had a hand in it). If there seems to be a pattern in the comedies I like its men posing as women or "Eve" in the title.

TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN - Woody Allen. This movie was a revelation, especially when you consider that at the time (late 60's) most "comedies" were lame Doris Day type films.

SONS OF THE DESERT -- Stan Laurel for Laurel & Hardy. Features the famous line, "Life isn't short enough."

ROXANNE -- Steve Martin. He's not just an inspired comedy writer he's also a real romantic. And as I write this he's probably on his second honeymoon? Third?

YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN - Mel Brooks & Gene Wilder. "Putting on the Ritz" scene alone puts this in my top ten.

ANNIE HALL -- Woody Allen & Marshall Brickman. For my money the perfect romantic comedy. (How could the same guy write HOLLYWOOD ENDING?)

MOONSTRUCK - John Patrick Shanley. Okay, so there are two perfect romantic comedies.

CHASING AMY - Kevin Smith. Funny, real, pitch perfect, and you actually root for Ben Affleck. Now that's good writing!

AMERICAN GRAFFITI - George Lucas and Gloria Katz & Willard Huyck. A consistently funny movie that doesn't even try to be a comedy. And what a soundtrack!

DR. STRANGELOVE - Stanley Kubrick and Peter George and Terry Southern. The perfect black comedy. And there are no other perfect black comedies.

THE PRODUCERS - Mel Brooks. The movie not the movie of the musical based on the movie. That was dreadful.

LA CAGE AUX FOLLES - Jean Poiret, Francis Veber, Edouard Molinaro, Marcello Damon. Even the subtitles were funny.

FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL -- Richard Curtis. Even Andie McDowell couldn't kill this English confection. But boy did she try.

SHOWGIRLS - Joe Eszterhas. So unspeakably terrible on every level that you can't help but laugh throughout. (Okay, so that's one I'm glad I didn't write). It's a tribute to Elizabeth Berkley's talent that after starring in this movie she still has a career.


pattinase (abbott) said...

I'm always amazed at how few people have seen The Heartbreak Kid. I would also add Bringing Up Baby, It's a Gift, Lost in America and Groundhog Day but I don't know what I'd take away.

Anonymous said...

Showgirls - it's a shame so many place blame on Elizabeth Berkley. As if the movie didn't have a BIG name writer and a BIG name director who are due 99.99% of the blame. Elizabeth Berkley SHOULD have a career because she "acted" as she was directed and as the role was written. No one makes comments about Gina Gershon and Kyle Mclachen (spelling - sorry!). This movie is a tribute to how Hollywood places or misplaces blame. How in the world can Joe Esterhas ever write another word for sale?

Anonymous said...

I guess this proves that people have different tastes in comedy. About half the selections leave me cold, and I wonder why WC Fields, the Marx Brothers, the Zuckers, Blake Edwards, and Borat didn't make the list.

Joe Esterhas seems to be pretty much washed up, tho' I'm not sure "Showgirls" was a contributing factor.

Anonymous said...

Gina and to some extent Kyle knew what they were making...EB showed no signs that she didn't think she was in a masterpiece. But, indeed, it should be held against Eszterhas and Verhoeven.

Anonymous said...

"I'm a dancer" one of the greatest moments in that train wreck of a film Showgirls