Kurland On Film TOP TEN: Favorite Comedies

By Scott Kurland

I’ve been waiting a while to do a top ten list. When “Inside Out” was released I almost did a list of top ten animated films, but I knew people would be horrified to see “Watership Down” make the list. I almost did a top ten teen list when “Me and Earl and The Dying Girl Was” released. Yet, once again, nothing came to fruition...until this week. With “Trainwreck” being possibly one of the funniest films of all time, I decided to look back at my top ten favorite comedies.  Remember, these are just my picks. I’m not saying these are hands down the funniest films ever to appear on screen. I had plenty of comedies that didn’t make the cut, like “The Naked Gun”, “Airplane”, and ““Dr. Strangelove, Or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love The Bomb”. With that said, I give you my top ten comedies of all time.

11.  “This Is Spinal Tap” Embassy Pictures, 1984 - Dozens of people spontaneously combust each year. It's just not really widely reported.” I know I said this was a top ten, but I had to crank it to eleven for “This Is Spinal Tap”. Im sure you can understand why. What is so amazing about “This Is Spinal Tap” is people in America actually thought this was a real band. They simply had no idea what a mockumentary was. Rob Reiner, Christopher Guest, and Michael McKean have crafted one of the funniest films about a fake band to ever be depicted on the screen. Nigel Tufnel, David St. Hubbins, and Derek Smalls are not only superb musicians, they are so obliviously funny that you can’t help but laugh at their struggles. Whether it is cold sores, or a miniature version of Stonehenge, these guys are golden Gods.

10. “Some Like It Hot” United Artists,1959- “I’M A MAN”, ‘Well...nobody is perfect’ .This might be Jack Lemon’s greatest film, though I do have a soft spot for “The Great Race”. “Some Like It Hot” was shown to me at a very young age, and I learned two lessons from watching it. First, even if a film is in black & white it can still be incredibly entertaining. Second, never has anyone been more naked on film but was wearing clothes. That’s right, Marilyn Monroe became my first movie crush. Furthermore, she showed me that the ditzy girl is as funny as the guys. Marilyn holds her own with Lemon and Curtis, and I laugh every time she fogs up Tony Curtis’ glasses.

9. “Duck Soup” Paramount Pictures, 1933- Gentlemen, Chicolini he may talk like an idiot, and look like an idiot, but don't let that fool you: he really is an idiot.” This was the first film I ever remember seeing. When I was 4-years-old, my dad showed this film to me as a test. If I couldn’t sit still through “Duck Soup” then I could sit still in a theater. Not only did I sit still, I laughed at all the jokes. Which shocked dear old dad, but my little secret was that I only laughed because he was laughing. Three years later I saw it again, and it was still funny. The Marx brothers know how to deliver jokes and tell stories. To this day, I have no idea how Harpo and Groucho pulled off the mirror scene. Some say it is movie magic, but I believe it is Marx magic. These were men way ahead of their time. They said jokes that were risqué for 1933. “I welcome you with open arms.” “Is That so? How late do you stay open?” “Duck Soup” is not only one of the funniest movies of all time, it is the Marx’ masterpiece.

8. “Top Secret” Paramount Pictures, 1984- “Sunday? That’s Simchas Torah!” Of all the Zucker brother films I could have put on this list, there is none I love more than “Top Secret”. I know people would have picked “Airplane”, “BASEketball”, or any of the “Naked Gun Films”, but “Top Secret,” in my opinion, is their funniest film. They took the idea of making a World War II POW film like “The Great Escape” and blended it with an Elvis-style musical, genius. This might be Val Kilmer’s funniest role as well- sorry to all my “Real Genius” fans. What makes “Top Secret” so hilarious is how serious everyone plays their roles. Its that combination of humor and melodrama mixed at the right level. Not to mention that underwater fight scene that, still to this day, baffles me on how it was accomplished. “Top Secret” earns its number 8 spot with all the comedy it brings to the table.

7. “Caddyshack” Warner Brothers, Pictures, 1980- “How would you like to make fourteen dollars....the hard way?” There’s plenty of stories and rumors about the difficulty of making “Caddyshack.” Whether it is the tale about  a majority of the film being cut for time, or certain roles being cut and Bill Murray getting their lines, none of it matters. “Caddyshack” is one of the funniest films of all time. No one would have guessed that a film about a summer golf course could be so enjoyable. What is great about “Caddyshack” is how, after so many years, this movie is still relevant and quotable. “It’s in the hole!!! It’s in the hole!!!” “I want a hamburger, no I want a cheeseburger, I want a milkshake, and a hot dog... ‘YOU’ll GET NOTHING AND LIKE IT!!!’”, “Be the ball Danny, be the ball”. I was recently watching “Caddyshack,” and it ages so well. It's full of nostalgia and laughter.

6. “Monty Python and The Holy Grail” Cinema 5, 1975- “We Are The Knights Who say NI!!!” The boys at Monty Python have always been brilliant out-of-the-box thinkers. The idea of taking the story of King Arthur and making it a comedy, by all accounts, sounds like something that should never be done. The Python boys not only made that movie, but it has become a timeless classic. Anytime you hear someone yell “RUNAWAY!!!”, you know they’re quoting “Holy Grail”. If I’m being perfectly honest, “Monty Python and The Holy Grail” should not work as a film, not at all. There’s too many storylines, too many actors duplicating themselves into different roles. It’s a hot mess on paper, but the execution and final product really deliver. “Monty Python and The Holy Grail” is one of the greatest comedies of all time, and probably the greatest comedy to come out of England.

5. “Harvey” Universal International, 1950-I always have a wonderful time, wherever I am, whomever I'm with.” “Harvey” was one of my favorite films growing up as a child, and continues to be a favorite of mine. James Stewart’s performance as Elwood P. Dowd is one of the greatest performances of all time. Stewart is unintentionally funny, which makes him more endearing as a character. The humor in “Harvey” isn’t as absurd as the rest of the films on this list, but it is incredibly sweet and that is where the humor comes from. The jokes are earned and never forced. What you also have to remember about “Harvey” is that everyone is crazy, but they believe Elwood is the crazy one. Ultimately, Elwood and Harvey prove to be the only sane ones in this realm of nut jobs and its what makes this film such a classic.

4. “Groundhog Day” Columbia Pictures, 1993- “BING!!!” In a premise that seems like something out of “The Twilight Zone”, Bill Murray plays a man stuck to live the same day over and over again. I love “Groundhog Day." This might be both Bill Murray and Harold Ramis’ best film to date. I’ve seen this film probably as many times as Bill Murray’s character has lived it. I notice new things every time I watch it, like how all the clocks except for Phil’s are stopped. Or, the fact that Phil has probably been stuck in the same day for almost a century because it takes years to get really good at anything. Ramis went the extra mile to put little details like these into this film. That might be why “Groundhog Day” is such a classic. So much was put into it and we get so much out of it.

3. “High Fidelity”Touchstone Pictures, 2000- I can't fire them. I hired these guys for three days a week and they just started showing up every day. That was four years ago.” Of all the John Cusack films “High Fidelity” is the funniest, and besides “Say Anything...” is his best film. We’ve all been to comic book, video, and music stores where clerks act like they are better then you. What Cusack and director Stephen Frears do is give us the audience insight into the minds of the self-entitled know-it- alls. The dialog is smart, the jokes deliver, and we end up feeling for these characters even though they are soooo pretentious. Somehow they find a way to wedge themselves into our lives. Top five reasons I love this movie 1.) The soundtrack is amazing. 2.) The cast is perfect and they all fit their roles. 3.) The love stories of the exes are fleshed out and developed, even if it is like five minutes of screen time. 4.) It’s the film that made Jack Black a star. 5.) Cusack is just so endearing, even when we want to hate him. “High Fidelity” is another comedy that is well on its way to becoming a classic. Its also proof that the academy snubs really great comedies.

2. “Arthur” Orion Pictures, 1981- “Thank you for a memorable afternoon, normally one would have to go to a bowling alley to meet a woman of your stature.” I could watch “Arthur” everyday and not get sick of it. Not only is it Dudley Moore’s funniest role, it is also his most sympathetic role. Arthur is a womanizer and an alcoholic, but it is only to mask the pain and loneliness he feels. “Arthur” is full of laughs and heart, and I still think that John Gielgud’s Hobson is one of the greatest father figures ever to be depicted on screen. “Arthur” is my second favorite comedy of all time for all of these reasons. I dare all of you to watch this film and not cry at least once. There are over a dozen tearjerking moments, mixed in with the humor. This is also the film that proves the academy occasionally gets a film right. Both Gielgud and song writer Christopher Cross won Oscars for this film. Yet, awards aren’t important for this list; laughs are important and this film is full of them.

1. “Blazing Saddles” Warner Brothers, 1974- What did you expect? "Welcome, sonny"? "Make yourself at home"? "Marry my daughter"? You've got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know... morons.” That is, by far, my favorite line from our number one comedy “Blazing Saddles”. This is Mel Brooks’ crowning masterpiece. Not only is a hysterical film, but also a great western full of commentary on race rights. No one can dispute how funny “Blazing Saddles”is, and no one would dare. The jokes are so over the top, the casting is bizarrely inspiring, and lets not forget Madeline Kahn’s performance as Lily Von Shtupp. Kahn and Clevon Little are the two unsung heroes of this film. Little, because he had the hard task of filling a role written for Richard Pryor. Kahn had the harder role of pretending to be Marlene Dietrich, and she pulls it off. I laugh every time she tries to lean against the wall and misses, and lets not forget the eye roll when she is brought back on stage. Those reasons alone are why “Blazing Saddles”...in my opinion is the best comedy of all time.