Written by William C. Benker Before Spider-Man took off, Sam Raimi’s distinctive eye for campy…
The Man Who Came To Dinner – 1942 – dir. William Keighley
We call a film ‘classic’, while sometimes forgetting why and how it came to be labeled that way. “Oh”, we say, “The Man Who Came To Dinner. A classic movie!!” But why?
In the case of this Epstein Brothers-produced gem, the answer is easy. A super boffo comedy romp, it follows all the rules of how to make a movie that lasts, past time, past fashion: keen direction, faultless dialogue and performances, perfect pacing, plus a theme whose lessons remain timeless.
By Christine and Robert Bamberger
The Thin Man – 1934 – dir. W.S. Van Dyke
Most people get a terrific kick out of the interplay between William Powell and Myrna Loy in the Thin Man movies, especially in the original, made just before the Production Code in Hollywood went into full force. But the film’s convoluted plot and numerous characters make it necessary to keep notes just to follow along. In getting a handle on the many personalities in the movie, it becomes increasingly apparent that this large cast of characters, spread all over the periphery of the plot, is not peripheral at all. Indeed, this bunch serves to draw our attention even more to Nick and Nora Charles.
Footsteps in the Dark – 1941 – dir Lloyd Bacon
A smart, breezy romp cut from the same cloth as The Thin Man series, Footsteps in the Dark marked a change in the actor Errol Flynn’s career. Until this movie was made, the very popular matinee idol was known primarily for his rousing, period piece swashbucklers and he jumped at the opportunity to trade in his Robin Hood tights and swords for a chance to prove himself as a deft comedian. He more than succeeds.
By Amy Tetreault
The Muppets Take Manhattan – 1984 – dir. Frank Oz
Muppets Take Manhattan is the third in a series of live-action musical feature films with Jim Henson’s loveable Muppets. Released in 1984, this is also the final film before Jim Henson’s sudden death in 1990. In 1992, Henson was posthumously awarded the Courage of Conscience Award for being a “Humanitarian, muppeteer, producer and director of films for children that encourage tolerance, interracial values, equality and fair play.” Muppets Take Manhattan is a great example of Henson’s renowned work for both kids and adults. In fact, at times, I thought the Muppets were better geared for adults than kids. Besides the fact that the Muppets are made of cloth, their story in Muppets Take Manhattan is totally relate-able. Especially right now.
By Peggy Nelson
Nashville – 1975 – dir. Robert Altman
Set in Nashville, Tennessee, home of the Grand Ole Opry, Nashville (dir. Robert Altman, 1975) follows musicians, con artists, politicians, and weirdos as their lives overlap and intersect over the course of a fateful few days. The film showcases Altman’s signature style of combining multiple story lines, noisy, overlapping dialogue, and realistic, scattered camera angles into a complex yet consistent narrative whole. Considered by many to be Altman’s best film, it sashays between dialogue and song, the individual and the political, and humor and tragedy, without missing a beat.
Monty Python’s Life of Brian – 1979 – dir. Terry Jones
In a motion picture “destined to offend nearly two thirds of the civilized world and severely annoy the other third,” you know to expect the Pythons on top of their game. Life of Brian, being the British comedy team’s farcical view of first-century Judea, parallels the life of Brian Cohen, born in the manger next door to Jesus. Mistaken for the messiah his entire life, Brian’s trials turn a camera squarely onto the audience, examining our hero worship and dogmatic obsessions, challenging us to laugh at crucifixion. And do we ever.