Films of the Decade: Comedies

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Top Five Comedies

5. Burn After Reading

Similar in tone to The Big Lebowski, Burn After Reading isn’t the equal of that comic masterpiece but it’s still fucking hilarious. Again it’s a Coen Brothers film that focuses on a group of imbeciles. Nearly all the people here are colossal idiots. For instance, the protagonist wants money for cosmetic surgery and then goes along with a blackmail scam so that she can pay for the work. It’s a scheme that only a moron could come up with and of course little good comes of it. Sure the woman eventually gets the money for her surgery but lots of people have to die for it to happen. It just shows that if you go after your dream with enough zeal, you can accomplish anything. It doesn’t matter if you’re a fuckwit. (Btw – Clooney’s fuck seat seems poorly engineered. Would it really hit the right spots?)

4. 24 Hour Party People

I was always going to be partial to this, seeing as late 80s/early 90s Manchester is one of my favourite music scenes. After all, it gave birth to the best band that ever walked the planet – The Stone Roses. Alas, they only briefly get a mention in this film, but the movie is still comic gold. It manages to capture all the madness and stupidity of the era, and also some of the genius. A lot of the people the film portrays are clowns (the Happy Mondays and Tony Wilson in particular), but they still managed to make some great music. And there’s also a wonderfully naive/idiotic ethos to Factory Records (Tony Wilson’s label) – he gives his artists all the power and half of the money. As you’d expect, this is a recipe for disaster. But what a magnificent disaster it is.

3. The Royal Tenenbaums

Wes Anderson didn’t cover himself with glory when he made The Darjeeling Limited, but The Royal Tenebaums is a great example of his talent. Kind of like a Salinger book brought to life, it’s a bittersweet tale of broken dreams and failed expectations. All of the prodigies here are colossal fuck ups and there’s a lot of humour to be mined in their exploits. But the reason that I like the film so much is because it has a huge heart. As opposed to The Darjeeling Limited, these are people that you come to care about. The film has an emotional weight that is missing from most of Anderson’s oeuvre.

2. Adaptation

At the beginning of Adaptation, a Nicolas Cage-shaped Charlie Kaufman says that he doesn’t want to ruin the adaptation of a novel by giving into Hollywood convention. He doesn’t want there to be car chases or lessons learned. This would be untrue to the source material. By the end though, because of his crippling writer’s block, this all happens. There’s action and there are hokey life lessons. It’s a wonderfully inventive and amusing way of portraying a writer’s despair – almost every writer wants to be original but so few have the ability. In light of this it’s easy to fall for tired clichés, something that this film does to marvellous effect.

1. In the Loop

One of the smartest films of the decade, In the Loop is also hilarious. It deals with an obscure British minister who makes a small slip in a radio interview (he says that a war in the Middle East is ‘unforeseeable’). The result of this is that he gets bollocked by the Prime Minister’s enforcer Malcolm Tucker but he also gets invited to Washington where he stars as a pawn in an international game of political shenanigans. The use of language and the twisted motivations all feel unnervingly realistic and Malcolm Tucker, the Prime Minister’s Scottish Rottweiler, is one of comedy’s most fantastic creations. Full-mouthed and bad tempered, he has a piece of everyone’s arse, even James Gandolfini’s American general. But my favourite line comes right at the beginning when Tucker is laying into a female civil servant. ‘Does that not fit within your purview, Marie Antoinette? Why don’t you just scuttle back off to Cranford and play around with your tea and your cakes and your fucking horse cocks. Let them eat cock!’ Brilliant!

Five Worst Comedies

5. Jersey Girl

J-Lo dies (yay!) and Ben Affleck becomes a single father to a sickeningly cute child. Oh, what’s that? I hear some life lessons skipping round the corner… Would you believe it, Affleck becomes a selfish father. He’s much more focused on his job as a publicist than he is on his job as a dad. However, Affleck’s daughter isn’t going to accept this. She bullies her father into continuing his aimless existence. Apparently there’s nobility in poverty. Careers are something to be suspicious of. And so Affleck ends up caving in. It’s supposed to be heart-warming, but you might as well be watching a movie about a little girl cutting her daddy’s testicles off. Choppy-choppy your pee-pee (and balls)!

4. Bridget Jones’s Diary

Oh look, Renee Zelwegger does fat! Isn’t she brave? Fuck off! She’s only fat if you’re regularly puking your lettuce leaf and rice crackers up because you’re ashamed of the caloric intake you’re ingesting. God, isn’t Bridget Jones the exact type of woman that every man avoids? Self-loathing and narcissistic, she’s only good company if you can deeply identify with her insane need to judge the worth of her life entirely on the size of her bum and whether she’s in a relationship or not. Please, send her to the dole office. Maybe if she’s unemployed she’ll eat less pies, lose some weight and stop writing her fucking diary.

3. Maybe Baby

A depressing tale of marital sex. Here we have a couple who are desperate to have a baby and as a consequence every session revolves around their desire to have a wee ankle biter. In one hideous moment the wife even phones the husband to tell him that her ‘eggs’ are done and that he should come round and screw her. Could you think of a bigger turn off than to have schedules and charts and ovulation dictating your sex life? It also doesn’t help that the couple here are smug middle-aged cunts. Yes it must be horrible not to be able to have a child if you really, really desire it, but must the people here be so obnoxious? There’s one bit where the wife keeps a journal: ‘Keeping a journal certainly has helped me. Whenever I want to cry I just write down my thoughts. The only problem is that when I write down my thoughts I just want to cry.’ What a horrible catch 22. But the worst thing is that the couple splits up and the woman gets impregnated by some actor. The husband then forgives the woman and says that he’ll bring the child up as his own. Pussy-whipped fool.

2. You Got Served

Is this even technically a comedy? I think it’s supposed to be one. But then again, maybe it’s supposed to be a drama. It’s hard to tell, so shit is this abortion of a film. You Got Served concerns a couple of numbskulls who want to open a recording studio. They decide to fund it by winning dancing competitions. Holy shit, the dance scenes are atrocious. How many times can you watch someone spinning on their head or doing the robot before you decide it’s a good idea to impale yourself on the nearest shish kebab skewer? Even worse than this, though, is the middle class obsession with ‘street’. The kids here live in a very comfortable home and yet they’re obsessed with the streets. Yeah, dance offs are how they settle things in the hood. Word life!

1. Gigli

Believe it or not, this is actually the second time in cinema that horseface Ben Affleck has converted a lesbian into a straight woman. The first time occurred in the execrable Chasing Amy. Here though things are a lot worse. Affleck shacks up with a lesbian Mafia problem solver (yeah, I’m not kidding) and then proceeds to be emasculated by her. Marvellous! Oh, and did I mention that the film features a half-wit that allows the characters to gain important life lessons? Fuck me running.

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