DISCLAIMER: This is not a series dedicated to proving men shouldn’t cry, or to suggest ONLY women cry and are therefore inferior. The goal of this series is to dispel the pre-established (yet flawed) notion that being “manly” and being disconnected from your emotions go hand-in-hand. Even the most macho of men enjoy and even shed a tear at films, and the sooner we can admit that the sooner the concept that one sex is better than the other can go away. While the approach to these articles is one of light-hearted comedy, the emotional core is valid. While men might be more hesitant to admit it, movies often times have the potential to make us cry, for example:
Last week the topic was stupid comedies, films meant to make us laugh with no pretenses of being well-crafted pieces of cinema. Movies that get put on during a late night laundry folding/potato chip eating sessions. This list is the ying to that yang. Every so often a comedy will come along that actually tries to make an impact. Not just “how gross can we make this gag” impact, but if aliens landed and wanted an example of human comedy at its pinnacle, we’d plop their tentacles down on the couch and show them these films. Every aspect of the following movies worked, sometimes on purpose, sometimes by lucky accident. The actors were giving their all, the stories resonated with not only the audience at the time but subsequent generations since release. Just seeing their titles in print might make some of you fire up your copies, because you better believe they’re in your home movie collection. And for all that funny, and all that perfection, we find notes of sadness.
Many people feel that the new Ghostbusters movie in the works is insulting to the memory of the original (actually they think it’s the most insulting, unnecessary gender equality advocating without admitting to it, cash-grabbing travesty ever to hit the silver screen, but who’s counting?). Fact of the matter is, the only reason people feel so passionate about protecting the original is that the original is really that good. Go check out MovieBob’s Youtube video on that very subject if you don’t believe me. Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and the late great Harold Ramis were at the top of their games (nothing against you Winston, but what movie did you write/direct/star in?). The plot is unique yet easy to grasp and the jokes are lobbed with such speed that repeat views years later still unearth new nuggets of comedy.
Is there a moment of sadness in this golden gift of comedy handed down from the gods? In fact there is, in the form of Walter Peck. I say that name and you instantly have Bill Murray in your head proclaiming “Yes, that man has no dick.” Admit it, you did. But didn’t he? He wanted to make sure this new business wasn’t hurting the environment. He literally asked nicely but was ridiculed, so he came back and shut the business down LIKE A GOOD ENVIRONMENTAL AGENT WOULD DO! Then the Ghostbusters’ building exploded, and when the Mayor asked what happened, Peck rightfully said it was the Ghostbusters’ fault. IT WAS, they didn’t have a permit for something that could generate such a huge explosion! Sure he was a dick, but he was never really doing anything evil or wrong.
2. Blazing Saddles
Mic drop. A film that somehow is about racism and greed in the old west yet continues to be both funny and applicable to modern audiences. This is for my money the best Mel Brooks film, and Mel has made some of the greatest comedies of all time. The movie is one part vaudeville, one part fourth-wall breaking, and all the other parts are absurdity. It doesn’t tether itself to pop culture references (unlike Spaceballs) which is why it’s aged so well. The composer didn’t know it was a comedy so the musical score is one of the most epic western themes out there. Just…just perfect.
Does perfection hurt? It does when we talk about the other dirty reason why the film’s aged so well. The movie makes a big howdy-do about a black man being in a position of authority, and continues that theme surrounding institutional racism with an old white businessman trying to keep him down…in the old west. That should not be applicable anymore. You can watch a Holocaust movie and explain to your children “They used to do this,” using the past tense. With this comedy, all you can say to your kids is “In real life a white police officer would have just shot him and gotten away with it.” I’m sorry, it’s true.
The film so funny, it fooled decades of directors into putting up with Chevy Chase and made us think golf could be zany years before Adam Sandler. Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight, and Bill Murray (again, he’s very funny) running around being some of the greatest comedians of all time. The backdrop: a story of defending a beloved golf course from being lorded over by a jerk. Between Murray trying to murder a gopher and everyone else making wisecracks nonstop, it’s perfect. Plus the movie ends with Rodney Dangerfield yelling “Hey everybody! We’re all gonna get laid!” for no reason…and it’s glorious.
There is a moment of sadness to it though, specifically behind the camera. Harold Ramis, to our modern awareness, is a comedy titan but this was his directorial debut. He was horrible at it in the beginning. Between looking through the wrong part of the camera to yelling “cut” instead of “action,” it’s rumored that the studio wanted a backup director ready and waiting for Egon to fail. If that had happened, his career would have been drastically altered. No National Lampoon’s Vacation, no Groundhog Day, potentially not even Ghostbusters or Meatballs…it’s a world we don’t want to live in.
4. The Princess Bride
It’s the movie with a name that doesn’t properly represent its contents. Are you quoting Inigo Montoya? Or perhaps saying “inconceivable” over and over again? That’s the power of this movie. A movie truly available to all genders, sensibilities, and moods. Want action and heroics? Done. Want a princess and a love story? You got it. Want a pro wrestler and Columbo? Sure, why not? It’s confident in itself, highly quotable, and just plain funny.
But also sad. Who’s the sweetest person in the whole film? The main character? No, he went on to do Saw movies. I’m talking about Andre the Giant. Much like Heath Ledger, Andre made this film that mostly defined him to the masses and then died shortly after. Sure, he had six years of wrestling afterwards, but still. This movie is a testament to his talent, kindness, and above all, why we miss him so much.
You know all those Scary Movie, Date Movie, and other crap Movie comedies? Did you laugh at them? No? Wonder why studios ever thought they would be a good idea? This movie: Airplane!. A movie based off constant lampoons and sight gags with almost no connective tissue. Somehow lightning struck and everything worked. If anyone has every remarked that “Surely you can’t…,” and your response was “Don’t call me Shirley,” then you have this film to thank. The jokes come so fast that even if some of them don’t land, there’s still hundreds more that do. Fact of the matter is, most all of them land.
The sad part? The formula, much like the original Captain America super soldier serum, has been lost from Hollywood. All the copycat parody and lampoon movies made by the same crew have been pale shadows of the original. Leslie Nielsen, the amazing comedian of the “Shirley” quote? He was later in Superhero Movie. Blecchh. That’s real tragedy.