Tuesday September 02, 2014

Perhaps nothing more subjective than comedy


View from the Cheap Seats is kind of an extension of the newsroom. Whenever our three regular reporters, Calvin Daniels, Thom Barker and Randy Brenzen are in the building together, it is frequently a site of heated debate. This week: What is your favourite comedy movie of all time?

Hardball pitch

Ah the world of a good movie comedies.

Is there a genre of movie whereby you will find greater divergence of opinion than the comedy?

I suppose at the heart of such arguments is that what makes one person roll in the aisles with laughter will be completely lost on someone else.

I know my son has a decidedly different vision of humour than I do. He falls out of his chair at something like the ‘Anchorman’, which I see as being simply dumb.

Of course my son likes movies along the lines of  ‘Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,’ well, maybe not that bad a movie, but close, so his taste is clearly suspect on this subject.

I guess that is probably the chasm of 28 years difference in our ages playing its role.

Or, maybe when we are younger we gravitate to dumb movies for laughs, and then years later hold them dearly as cherished moments to relive our youth through laughter.

‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ was released in 1986. I was 26. I laughed and laughed, and can sit through a rerun and still be totally entertained.

Stripes with Bill Murray, released in 1981, came to mind quickly writing this.

‘The Great Outdoors’ with the killer Canadian comedy duo of John Candy and Dan Ackroyd released in 1986, remains a near all-time favourite.

And I’ll add Ghostbusters in memory of Harold Ramis.

But in the end I have to go back to a baseball movie as my all-time favourite comedy flick.

I love baseball as a sport.

I can rattle off my Top-10 baseball movies easily.

And so falling back to the classic 1988 release ‘Bull Durham’ starring Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon, and Tim Robbins as the funniest movie ever is easy for me.

The mound scene talking about what wedding gift to buy, the scene where ‘Nuke’ LaLoosh (Robbins’ character), is putting on women’s underwear to help him focus on pitching, and a dozen other scenes are pure fun and golden.

I have watched ‘Bull Durham’ countless times, finding myself reciting many parts of the film in unison with the characters, and I still laugh, and that says it all.

 — Calvin Daniels

Legal tender

This turned out to be way more challenging than I originally thought it would be. Then again, when it comes to picking favourites of anything, I tend to equivocate.

In this case, there are so many comedies I can watch over and over again and laugh out loud every single time, it’s hard to pick a Top 10, in no particular order, much less best of all time.

There were a handful in the running: Monty Python’s Life of Brian, Princess Bride, This is Spinal Tap, Best in Show, Office Space, Tin Cup, Raising Arizona, Wayne’s World, Bull Durham and The Blues Brothers among them. Interestingly, there is quite a bit of Canadian content in here and two by Rob Reiner.

Finally, though, I had to settle on My Cousin Vinny. For the uninitiated, this is the 1992 film about a pair of friends (played by Ralph Macchio and Mitchell Winfield) from New York City who are arrested in Alabama for a murder they did not commit.

Enter Vincent LaGuardia Gambini (Joe Pesci), an untested lawyer fresh off finally passing his bar exam (“nope, for me, six times is the charm”), and Mona Lisa Vito (Marisa Tomei), his brash fiancée.

The film is brilliantly written, beautifully acted (Tomei won the best supporting actress Oscar for her gritty portrayal of Vito) and features one non-stop gag after another. The comedy spans the gamut from intellectual to slapstick to situational to character-driven. The interactions between the characters, all of whom are well-developed, is dramatic and intense.

The movie poster featured the statement, “There have been many courtroom dramas that have glorified The Great American Legal System. This is not one of them.”

But it is. Ultimately what made the decision for me is that the script could easily be adapted into a serious courtroom drama.

In fact, the ABA (American Bar Association) Journal ranked My Cousin Vinny third on its list of the 25 Greatest Legal Movies and Vinny number 12 on its list of the 25 Greatest Fictional Lawyers (Who Are Not Atticus Finch).

I never get tired of watching this film. In fact, now that I’ve finished writing this, I am going home to dig out the DVD.

— Thom Barker

Major offering

I’m a sports guy. No surprise there.

So with that being said, the greatest comedy movie of all-time, in my mind, has to be the 1989 instant classic “Major League” starring Tom Berenger, Corbin Bernsen, Wesley Snipes, the late James Gammon and pre-bat poop insane Charlie Sheen.

The movie is nearly as old as I am (it will be 25 on April 7... I’ll be 26 on the same day).  However, like myself, the movie has simply gotten better as it has aged (not-so-humble brag).

It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve seen it. I could have watched the movie yesterday, but if you put it on right now and I hear “Burn On” by Randy Newman (the song played during the opening credits), well, I’d be unavailable for the next two hours.

The reason that ‘Major League’ is the best comedy movie ever is simple. They cast the perfect actors for the roles.

Snipes as the always happy, extremely confident, yet initially terrible walk-on baseball player Willie Mays Hayes (who weasels his way into training camp despite not being invited) is hilarious.

Sheen as “Wild Thing” Ricky Vaughn, an ex-con fireballer who can’t see a darn thing and can’t hit the broad side of a barn with a handful of gravel without his goofy glasses (which he initially refuses to wear) was so good that just thinking about it makes me chuckle.

Gammon taking on the role of manager of a group of has-beens and never-will-bes was great as well.

All-in-all ‘Major League’ was the best comedy movie of all-time.

— Randy Brenzen



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