Saturday, July 31, 2010

37. Lady and the Tramp (1955)


As my grandpappy, Ol' Reliable, used to say... I don't recollect if I've ever mentioned Ol' Reliable before?

Not feeling too hot tonight... One of Disney's best.

Friday, July 30, 2010

36. Seven Samurai (1954)


This is the nature of war. By protecting others, you save yourselves.

The Magnificient Seven, Guns of Navarone, Ocean's Eleven, The Dirty Dozen, and even A Bug's Life. These movies all borrow heavily from Akira Kurasawa's masterpiece epic. A group of farmers recruit a band of ragtag samurai to protect them from invading bandits. Most movies are deemed critically successful if they truly draw an emotional connection between the veiwer and one or two protaganists. The character development in Seven Samurai is so strong that all seven protaganists not only are given their time in the spotlight but each carry a distinct and important role in the movie and in the viewer's heart.

At a little more than three hours and fifteen minutes this movie is definitely a chore of an undertaking, but I prefer to think of it as a much better alternative to any two random movies on TV or from your Netflix queue.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

35. From Here to Eternity (1953)


Well, what am I? I'm a private no-class dogface. The way most civilians look at that, that's two steps up from nothin'.

If you ever have the desire to watch the movie "Pearl Harbor" with Ben Affleck, I want you to pick up the dvd case and smack yourself in the head with it, and then I want you to find this movie and check it out instead. When people ask me what my favorite "war" movie is, this is my answer. It's kind of a cheaty answer because most of the movie is a prelude to the attack on Pearl Harbor, but, what can I say, I prefer the prelude to war (or the lack of it entirely for that matter) much more than its realization.

Most of the time when a movie feels "long" it is not a good thing, but this is one of the few situations where a movie feels utterly epic but squeezes it all into a little less than 2 hours. Military exercises, love stories, drunkenness, boxing, barfights, all leading up to the climax that brings everybody back together. This movie is also probably the best film work of Frank Sinatra (he won an Academy Award for best supporting actor).

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

34. High Noon (1952)


I've got to, that's the whole thing.

One of the most important movies of all time for being the first main-stream film to take place in real time. It is only 85 minutes which is incredibly short for a '50s western, but it is 85 minutes of story as well. I really need to rewatch this movie because during my blog research I discovered an entire allegory about the House Un-American Activies Committee. I also found out it was Bill Clinton's favorite movie, and his most watched while in the White House. Definitely makes this worth a Netflix bump for me...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

33. Singin' in the Rain (1952)


What do they think I am? Dumb or something? Why, I make more money than - than - than Calvin Coolidge! Put together!

Some movies are funny but lack substance (Billy Madison), some movies have great dance numbers but the story is subpar (An American in Paris), some movies have beautiful songs but nothing to back them up (A Star is Born), some movies have an interesting concept but can't seem to tie it together (The Cell), and every once in a great while a movie comes along that has it all. Not only does "Singin' in the Rain" do it all, it does it all better than 99% of movies of its day. This one has seriously got something for everybody. There are very few movies I would recommend to absolutely everyone, this is most definitely one.

Monday, July 26, 2010

32. The African Queen (1951)


Well I ain't sorry for you no more, ya crazy, psalm-singing, skinny old maid!

Probably my favorite "odd couple" romance of all time. I attribute this movie to my later love of "people talking" movies from Kevin Smith and Richard Linklater. Nearly the entire movie is Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn talking, arguing, solving problems and running from World War I era Germans. Hepburn plays a puritan, well-to-do charitable lady who needs transport out of enemy controlled east Africa. The only way out is on the jalopy of a ship "The African Queen" captained by a scruffy, grumpy, and most of the time drunk Bogart. I can imagine the title is a little misleading, but I urge you NOT to miss this movie...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

31. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)


It is no concern of ours how you run your own planet, but if you threaten to extend your violence, this Earth of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder. Your choice is simple: join us and live in peace, or pursue your present course and face obliteration. We shall be waiting for your answer. The decision rests with you.

There are so many lost and ignorant people in this world. The problem is not ignorance. The problem is when people learn the facts and continue to be ignorant of them. Most of us know about the problems on our planet with pollution, war, genocide, and starvation. The problems are compounded when we choose to ignore them and not take a strong stance against. It pains me to no end that this movies simple and elegant message has been perverted for an entire generation by a Keanu Reeves disaster porn vehicle.

Bottom-line: Watch this movie, show it to your kids, and then take its message and do something about it. Klaatu is still waiting for your answer....

Friday, July 23, 2010

30. Rashomon (1950)


We all want to forget something, so we tell stories. It's easier that way.

I will be the first to admit that I am way behind when it comes to the works of Akira Kurosawa. I have seen his two most famous films and they are both on this list. This is the first and, from what I have read, his most accessible. This is the simple story of a murder told from several different viewpoints. Telling the story this way, Kurosawa unravels the fact that the story is most definitely not simple and reveals quite a bit about how the human mind works.

29. Adam's Rib (1949)


Lawyers should never marry other lawyers. This is called in-breeding; from this comes idiot children... and other lawyers.

Quite a bit ahead of its time, this movie grants Katherine Hepburn the platform to lay the smack on anyone who ever doubted a woman. Spencer Tracy and Hepburn play married lawyers who happen to end up on opposite sides of a court case. What makes it even better is that the court case happens to be about a woman who is accused of attempting to murder her lying, cheating, no good husband.

Second late entry.... :( bonus entry in a few minutes to make up for it!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

28. A Night in Casablanca (1946)


From now on the essence of this hotel will be speed. If a customer askes you for a three-minute egg, give it to him in two minutes. If he askes you for a two-minute egg, give it to him in one minute. If he askes you for a one-minute egg, give him the chicken and let him work it out for himself!

Pretty much the last hurrah for the Marx Brothers. Nowhere near their best, but still more of the same slap-stick fun and machine gun rapid dialogue. One of my favorite chase scenes in any of their films is this films finale as a taxi chases down an airplane.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

27. The Best Year's of Our Lives (1946)


-This is when I know I'm helpless. My hands are down there on the bed. I can't put them on again without calling to somebody for help. I can't smoke a cigarette or read a book. If that door should blow shut, I can't open it and get out of this room. I'm as dependent as a baby that doesn't know how to get anything except to cry for it. Well, now you know, Wilma. Now you have an idea of what it is. I guess you don't know what to say. It's all right. Go on home. Go away like your family said.
-I know what to say, Homer. I love you and I'm never going to leave you... never.

I once worked with a pharmacist who was a retired Army Leuitenant. He also loved movies, and we shared many conversations across the filling counter. When I told him "From Here to Eternity" was one of my favorite movies he suggested this movie. Even though "The Best Year's of Our Lives" was released first, in his words it serves as the perfect bookend of World War II with "From Here to Eternity" as the starting point. This movie deals with three returning servicemen as they readjust to normal life. One is returning to his family and banking job but having trouble shaking the horrors of war, one misses the honor of his position in the armed forces as he is greeted with unemployment and marital discontent upon return, and one (quoted above) is returning to his girlfriend minus two hands that were burnt off as his ship sank below the Pacific. The actor who portrayed the latter character actually had lost in hands in wartime and is probably the most touching of the three stories because of its immediate realism.

It is easy to become disconnected with wars on the other side of the planet, but we must remember that these soldiers DO return home to what has now become an alien world. This is as relevant today as ever...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

26. It's a Wonderful Life


Isn't it wonderful? I'm going to jail!

Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
-Matthew 19:21

It doesn't even feel right talking about this movie in July, but here goes:

This movie is not really a "Christmas" movie in the sense that "A Christmas Story", "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation", or even "Home Alone" are. It does end at Christmas, but the majority of the film is most definitely not even December. Still, I believe that this is the perfect Christmas movie because it reminds me of Jesus. Life on Earth is not about things you have, but about how much you love. George Bailey learns this lesson in a way that has been copied over and over on big and small screens.

I think it is kinda funny that this movie and Charlie Brown are the great champions of Jesus' anti-capitalist ideal during the Christmas season. We have simply accepted that December represents a month that we should budget for because it is all about buying presents. Every year there stands George Bailey in our television sets bankrupt, broken, and facing possible jail time, but still "the richest man in Bedford Falls!"

Monday, July 19, 2010

25. The Big Sleep (1946)


My, my, my! Such a lot of guns around town and so few brains! You know, you're the second guy I've met today that seems to think a gat in the hand means the world by the tail.

Every once in a while, I'll tell someone that I didn't like a movie and they will respond: "You've got to watch it again." This usually implies that I must have "missed" something. Most of the time, this statement is pure rubbish (and I usually "got it" I just thought it sucked). An example of this would be Cronenberg's "A History of Violence". My problem with needing to rewatch the film to "get it" is that I did not enjoy the experience the first time. Still, every once in a while a movie comes along that is so puzzling and enthralling at the same time that rewatches are both a necessity and a joy. An example of this would be "Pulp Fiction" or "The Big Lebowski". Both fun movies that really require multiple viewings to truly experience.

"The Big Sleep" is the grandaddy of these intricate and thoroughly enjoyable puzzle-movies. The Coen brothers even admit that it is the main inspiration for "The Big Lebowski" (right down to the title). The movie itself is almost impossible to describe except to say that Humphrey Bogart returns to the private eye gig with a vengeance and solves mystery after mystery while playing off of two of Hollywood's finest leading ladies. There are even a few riddles that are left unsolved in the movie. When the screenwriter was asked who killed a certain character, he replied that even he didn't know...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

24. To Have and Have Not (1944)


You know you don't have to act with me, Steve. You don't have to say anything, and you don't have to do anything. Not a thing. Oh, maybe just whistle. You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and... blow.

My Grandmama Becton shares my love of movies. She usually watches one a night on Turner Classic Movies or Starz Westerns. She just turned 85 and is nearly the same age as Lauren Bacall. I share this because both Grandmama and Ms. Bacall look about twenty years younger than they are and she is the star of today's movie (Lauren Bacall not my Grandmama). I'm just going to put this out there: Lauren Bacall was NINETEEN when she delivered that famous line above. The film does the impossible. An unquestionably believable love story between a nineteen-year-old actress and a forty-four-year-old actor (Humphrey Bogart). Couple this with a script based on an Ernest Hemingway World War II era masterpiece and you have probably one of the most underappreciated films of all time (mostly due to the easy comparisons to the far more quotable "Casablanca").

Saturday, July 17, 2010

23. Double Indemnity (1944)


Who'd you think I was anyway? The guy that walks into a good looking dame's front parlour and says, "Good afternoon, I sell accident insurance on husbands... you got one that's been around too long? One you'd like to turn into a little hard cash?"

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people talk about the recent "moral decay" of society. It usually goes something like, "When I was young we didn't......" or "In my day people never....." or (my blood curdinly least favorite) "We need to go back to when our nation was right with God." We are lucky in our country to have a pretty good account of history. If someone is too lazy to research real history all you have to do is check out some movies. "Double Indemnity" is a movie about a woman having an affair with an insurance salesman, then killing her husband to collect the insurance, making it look like an accident to collect double, and then having an affair with her daughter's boyfriend to provoke him into killing her (the daughter) because she has become suspicious. Whew! IN NINETEEN FREAKING FORTY-FOUR!!!!! Affairs! Murder! IN 1944! And this isn't a sub plot, this is it! IN 1944!

-Rant Over-

This is the first of four movies that will make it onto this list directed by the great Billy Wilder (not because I only liked four, but I simply need to see more...). It has awesome twists and turns and is one of the most thrilling movies ever made. Proof that you don't need big explosions to build suspense.

Friday, July 16, 2010

22. Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)


You... Get out of here! D'ya wanna be poisoned? D'ya wanna be murdered? D'ya wanna be killed?

Old ladies killing lonely men and burying them in the cellar... 'Nuff Said, in a hurry today!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

21. Casablanca (1942)


-I've often speculated why you don't return to America. Did you abscond with the church funds? Run off with a senator's wife? I like to think you killed a man. It's the Romantic in me.
-It was a combination of all three.

Here we have one of my all time favorites. This is one of those special movies that has invaded the public consciousness so much that watching it feels like visiting an old friend even if it is the first time you've seen it. At its core Casablanca is a simple story of boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl, but it also includes elements of war, religion, charity, politics, gambling, crime, espionage, and patriotism.
If you haven't seen this movie you should immediately. Still, like I said above, you kinda already have seen this movie...
Contributions of Casablanca:
-"Round up the usual suspects"
-"Here's looking at you, kid"
-"Play it again, Sam" (note: not actually spoken in the movie... just goes to show...)
-"Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks in to mine."
-"Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."
-" doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. "
-I'm pretty sure that this was the first movie to use the "line connecting places on a map" method of summarizing long journeys a la Indiana Jones and many others

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

20. Citizen Kane (1941)


I run a couple of newspapers. What do you do?

Widely viewed by critics and movie industry insiders as the greatest movie ever made, this film is pretty amazing but also a tad overrated simply because of the hyperbole used to describe it. Let me just say that this movie made the 365 because of its importance to cinema. I DO NOT suggest this movie to most people because it can be a bit boring and it is the kind of film that turns people off of black and white movies altogether. Just FYI, here's the modern-day norms that Citizen Kane pretty much created:
-Non-linear storytelling/Flashback storytelling/multiple perspective storytelling
-"Deep focus" a method of lighting and camerawork that allows for both foreground and background elements of a shot to be in focus (this is huge, and most people never even notice it)
-Low-angle shots (with the ceiling in the background)
-Ultra-transformative makeup (Orson Welles plays Kane from the age of 25 until his death as an elderly man)
-Beginning the movie at the end of the movie

Bottom line- you should check this out if you are truly interested in the history of film and want to see some groundbreaking stuff.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

19. The Maltese Falcon (1941)


We didn't exactly believe your story, Miss O'Shaughnessy. We believed your 200 dollars. I mean, you paid us more than if you had been telling us the truth, and enough more to make it all right.

You like CSI, Law & Order, etc.? Thank this movie. The greatest crime/mystery movie of all time. Humphrey Bogart is Sam Spade the coolest, toughest private eye ever to grace the screen. He is bold, brash, politically incorrect, and not afraid of anybody. The movie also has great supporting roles from Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre (who'll join Bogart in a little bit on this list for an even better movie). Mary Astor plays Sam Spade's damsel in distress to perfection.

Anyone who avoids black & white movies because they are boring or outdated should start here.

Monday, July 12, 2010

18. The Philadelphia Story (1940)


Put me in your pocket, Mike.

Simply put, this is an absolute treat for movie lovers. Cary Grant, James Stewart, and Katherine Hepburn drink a lot, flirt a lot, and talk incessantly. If you don't like that, then you just don't know what's good. ;)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

17. The Grapes of Wrath (1940)


So good it gets two quotes:
I'll be all around in the dark. I'll be everywhere. Wherever you can look, wherever there's a fight, so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Wherever there's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there. I'll be in the way guys yell when they're mad. I'll be in the way kids laugh when they're hungry and they know supper's ready, and when the people are eatin' the stuff they raise and livin' in the houses they build, I'll be there, too.

Rich fellas come up and they die, and their kids ain't no good and they die out, but we keep on coming. We're the people that live. They can't wipe us out, they can't lick us. We'll go on forever, Pa, cos we're the people.

A second movie directed by John Ford to make the 365, this is one of my absolute all-time favorites. The story of the Joad family moving out west during the great depression because they have lost their family farm is a tale of woe, family, love, and the perils of capitalism. The two quotes above pretty much nail the way I feel about the movie. If you haven't seen this movie or read the book or seen the play, I suggest you do one of them as soon as possible. If you are completely lazy, then listen to "The Ghost of Tom Joad" by Bruce Springsteen (or if you are under the age of 30 listen to the same song by Rage Against the Machine).

Saturday, July 10, 2010

16. The Wizard of Oz (1939)


Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

Growing up my sister did quite a bit of the TV controlling. I think I was just happy to go along for the ride and watch pretty much anything. She had two VHS tapes that she completely wore out. One was a made-for-TV movie about Jessica Mclure (the little girl that fell down the well...) and the other was a copy of Wizard of Oz taped off of TV. What was most interesting about this tape though was that after the film there was an hour-long special on the "making of" the movie. I've always been pretty neutral on the movie, but I was simply awstruck and amazed every time I watched this special.

I don't think I need to recount any of the plot. I'll simply say to those three people out there who are over the age of twelve and haven't seen the movie yet, you probably should check it out. What I will do is tell you some pretty amazing things about the movie:
-Victor Fleming is credited as the director but was absent for most of the filming because he was also directing "Gone with the Wind". Three other directors worked on the film including King Vidor who was an absolute giant in the silent movie era.
-The writers and producers tried to lure W.C. Fields to play the wizard by creating more roles for him in the movie to balance screen time, but he still turned the role down over a dispute of $25,000. This is why the same guy plays the wizard, Professor Marvel, Emerald City's doorman, the driver of "the horse of a different color", and the wizard's guard.
-Buddy Ebsen was cast to play the tin man and almost died when he inhaled the aluminum dust in the makeup. He was quickly and quietly replaced without any public press or even informing Jack Haley (the new tinman) of the problem.
-A disgruntled munchkin DOES NOT hang himself in the background of the forest scene. It looks kind of like this happens on the old VHS versions, but in newer copies you can tell that it is simply an emu that strayed in the background of the shot.
-One producer of the movie wanted to use MGM's mascot Leo the Lion as the cowardly lion and dub in his voice later. Suffice it to say, this didn't happen...
-The munchkins were paid $50 a week for six weeks of work... Terry (the dog who played Toto) was paid $125 a week...

Friday, July 9, 2010

15. Stagecoach (1939)


Well, you gotta live no matter what happens.

I usually don't love Westerns, but this movie is pretty special. It has the unique distinction of kicking of TWO superstar careers. This was John Ford's first "talkie" western and he would go on to become the most copied and respected director of the genre ever. This was also John Wayne's breakthrough role as he shifted from low-budget backup roles to leading man for the following twenty years.

Set in 1880, "Stagecoach" tells the story of a journey from Arizona to New Mexico through Apache country with a prostitute, a drunk doctor, a "cavalry wife", a whiskey salesman, and an embezzling banker in tow. On the way out of town the driver picks up a U.S. Marshall who is on the lookout for "The Ringo Kid" (John Wayne). Drama abounds as this rag-tag group run into angry Indians, one of the group gives birth, and the multi-layered relationships between them on the cramped stagecoach.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

14. Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)


All right, fellas... let's go and say a prayer for a boy who couldn't run as fast as I could.

This is my first "make-up" post. Can't believe I missed this one when I was making my list of 365. Feel free to suggest another that you may feel like I have passed by along the way... I cut "Go West" for this film because I figured you had heard enough about the Marx Brothers... ;)

Throughout this list you'll probably see that I definitely lean towards certain genres of movies more than others. I usually don't like crime/mob dramas. That said, this is by far my favorite mob movie of all time. James Cagney is a caricature of a mob boss with "short-man" syndrome (probably because his roles in this, White Heat, and other films are the standard for the sterotype). He plays opposite Pat O'Brien who is a priest trying to help "at-risk" young boys. The interesting twist in this movie is that these two supposed polar extremes were actually childhood friends and delinquents. This sets up a very interesting dynamic that shows how much gray there can be when a situation looks black and white. The bottom line is that this is my favorite mob movie because it cares about its characters instead of simply dancing them around on the screen for our enjoyment (a'la "say hello to my little friend").

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

13. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)


You see, boys forget what their country means by just reading The Land of the Free in history books. Then they get to be men they forget even more. Liberty's too precious a thing to be buried in books, Miss Saunders. Men should hold it up in front of them every single day of their lives and say: I'm free to think and to speak. My ancestors couldn't, I can, and my children will. Boys ought to grow up remembering that.

Many of the movies on this list will fit the description of "ahead of their time". Once in a generation a movie comes along that is so far ahead of its time that it is actually MORE relevant years later. This movie is one of those. Frank Capra will show up many times on this list, but I believe this is his masterpiece. The viewer is invited along for the ride as a young activist (Jimmy Stewart) is whisked away to Washington to smile and wave and complete the term of a deceased senator. I'm not going to spoil this plot, because if you haven't seen this movie DO SO NOW!

This ideal of an average person who wants to make things right getting a job in Washington is appealing to all of us. The question that this movie brings up is this: "Can Mr. Smith make it to Washington today?"; and if he does, "Can he get anything done without sacrificing his innocence?". Sadly, I think these answers lean closer to NO with every election cycle.

!!!!POLITICS ALERT!!! Do not read further if you want to avoid Will's sometimes extreme political agenda!!!

I revisited this movie a couple of years ago and was so hopeful that Barack Obama was our modern day Mr. Smith (he even looks, walks, and talks like a real tan Jimmy Stewart). I was so filled with hope that I went door to door on Tobacco Rd. in Greenville explaining the early voting procedure. He took the majority of his campaign contributions from everyday people. He vowed to beat back special interests, realize universal health care, and rescue us from the war filled doldrums of the previous 8 years. As we near the two year anniversary of his election, I'm not sure whether Mr. Obama is entirely to blame, but we do have an answer to our question: Mr. Smith has no place in Washington today..... :*(

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

12. At the Circus (1939)


You know what I say. Whenever you got business trouble the best thing to do is to get a lawyer. Then you got more trouble, but at least you got a lawyer.

Only 3 Marx Brothers movies left... ;) "At the Circus" follows Groucho (a lawyer), Chico (a circus-hand), and Harpo (the strongman's assistant) as they try to save the riches of the circus ringmaster from the circus' owner so that he can afford to buy the circus and marry the love of his life (a singer and equestrian expert also in the circus). Usual Marx Bros mayhem ensues with highlights such as a Gorrilla sidekick, a search through the cirucs strongman's room while he is asleep, and the best song and dance number of any of their movies: "Lydia, the Tattooed Lady".

Monday, July 5, 2010

11. Bringing Up Baby (1938)


Now it isn't that I don't like you, Susan, because, after all, in moments of quiet, I'm strangely drawn toward you, but - well, there haven't been any quiet moments.

I made it through 10 daily posts without a late post... This one should post about a half hour late... Oh well.

This movie is really fun. Katherine Hepburn is absolutely divine and Cary Grant plays perfectly as her straight man. The story follows mild mannered, happily engaged paleontologist Dr. David Huxley (Grant) as he recieves and then loses a very important fossil. In his search, he is ambushed by super cool, leopard owning, golf playing Susan Vance (Hepburn). They continue on their trek as she continues to supposedly ruin his career until, finally, he realizes that maybe she is all that he is looking for in life anyway.

Maybe it's just for me, but Katherine Hepburn's character in this movie is one of the sexiest in ANY movie I have ever seen.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

10. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)


Marian: Why, you speak treason!
Robin Hood: Fluently.

Stealing from the rich and giving to the poor.... The story of Robin Hood is probably my favorite legend of all, and this movie does it the most justice. With nothing added and very little taken away, this is how you translate a beloved story to the screen. Errol Flynn cemented his place as the dapper, adventurous leading man of choice with this movie. Also, Michael Curtiz directed the movie and a few of his films will be appearing later in the blog (I know realize I need to see a lot more of his movies).

Saturday, July 3, 2010

9. A Night at the Opera (1935)


You're willing to pay him a thousand dollars a night just for singing? Why, you can get a phonograph record of Minnie the Moocher for 75 cents. And for a buck and a quarter, you can get Minnie.

A Night at the Opera was the first Marx Brothers' movie that I owned (on VHS). This allowed multiple viewings, which is really a necessity with the rapid-fire dialogue spewed by Groucho and the subtle cues from Harpo. This has become my favorite of the Marx brothers' movies, and, I believe, their most accessible. All the gags are still there, but this film has a much more coherent storyline. Many critics of the day bashed the brothers for not giving the audience something to root for. A Night at the Opera definitely finds the solution for this problem as the brothers stowaway on a steamship (much like in Monkey Business) to reunite two opera singing lovers.

The musical numbers in this film are treats on their own, and seque flawlessly into more ridiculous piano and harp from Chico and Harpo. Highlights include the classic scene in the picture above (stuffing 20 people into a 1 person stateroom), Groucho and Chico "writing" a contract for the protaganist hero, and the climactic opera in which Harpo swings from the stage like Tarzan, Chico plays baseball in the orchestra pit, and Groucho tries to woo the opera's owner.

If my Marx brothers posts have gotten you interested, this is probably the best place to start...

Friday, July 2, 2010

8. Duck Soup (1933)


I got a good mind to join a club and beat you over the head with it.

Most critics regard this film as the Marx Brothers' best. I'm not sure if I agree, but it sure is funny. The films "storyline" follows Groucho as he defends his tiny country of Freedonia from neighboring Sylvania. Harpo and Chico join in as Sylvanian spies and absolute hilarious ridiculousness ensues.

Duck Soup includes the Marx Brothers' most famous scene (pictured above). This mirror scene has been copied over and over, but, besides Harpo, I have always thought that the brothers were best when they used their sharp wit and humor over physical comedy. My favorite Marx Brother's film is tomorrow...

Thursday, July 1, 2010

7. Horse Feathers (1932)


Why don't you go home to your wife? I'll tell you what, I'll go home to your wife, and outside of the improvement she'll never know the difference.

This is the first Marx Brothers film to actually attempt a solid storyline throughout. The plot centers around Professor Wagstaff (played by Groucho) taking over as President of Huxley college. His son convinces him to hire a couple of "ringers" to defeat Darwin college in the rival football game. When he mistakenly hires two misfits (Harpo and Chico), he enlists their help in kidnapping Darwin's best players instead.

Highlights include a classic scene where Groucho attempts to enter a speakeasy to hire the players (password: swordfish), Zeppo's best performance of the movies trying to woo the college widow (whatever that is...), and a climactic football game involving cigars, cheating throughout, and a makeshift chariot race finale...