But Maybe They Didn’t Mean “Ha-Ha” Funny: Bravo’s 100 Funniest Movies of All Time

Marxbrothers_1Bravo TV has just aired another of those “Top Whatever List” shows that are so ubiquitous these days. In this case, it’s the “100 Funniest Movies of All Time.” And it’s had me foaming at the mouth for a week. (The list is at the end of this post, if you want to foam for yourself.)

Holygrail_1It’s not the prevalence of yahoo frat-boy sex/fart/pratfall movies on the list that’s irritating me. It’s not the obvious preference for relentless gag-a-minute flicks over smart, snappy dialogue. It’s not the fact that they included “The Birdcage” while somehow managing to overlook “La Cage aux Folles.” It’s not even the fact that they put both “Ace Ventura, Pet Detective” and “Arthur” in their Top Ten — yes, the Top Ten — while “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” clocked in at #40, and “Spinal Tap” earned a pathetic #64. Tastes differ, I get that. And I’ve certainly found the humor in more than one gag-a-minute yahoo comedy.

What’s irritating me about this list is the fact that not one single film on it was made before the 1960s.

Not one.

And damn few before the 1970s.

In other words, Bravo TV compiled a list of the hundred funniest comedies of all time, and didn’t include:

General_1The Marx Brothers
Buster Keaton
Harold Lloyd
Charlie Chaplin
Billy Wilder
etc.
etc.
etc.

Ingrid has been very amused by how irritated this has made me, and by how much time and energy I’ve spent nursing my irritation. (By blogging about it, just for example.) I’m not completely certain why it’s bugging me so much myself. After all, Top Whatever lists always provoke arguments. (Maybe that’s the difference between the good Top Whatever lists and the dumb ones — the good ones provoke smart, interesting arguments, while the dumb ones provoke nothing but the spewing of bile.)

But it’s not just that the list is irritating, or even that it’s dumb and irritating. It’s that it’s such a Perfect Symbol Of Everything That’s Wrong With Our Society. Well, maybe not a perfect symbol — global warming and secret prisons and the imperial Presidency and the increasing popularity of eating contests are probably better symbols — but a good one, anyway.

SomelikteithotIt’s the willful ignorance of it that really bugs me. I find it hard to imagine that the people at Bravo have really never heard of “Some Like It Hot” or “A Night at the Opera.” It’s much more likely that they considered them, and decided instead to pander to the 18-34 demographic. They didn’t want their audience to skew old, so they stuck their fingers in their ears and went “La la la la la” and pretended that no funny movies were made before the 18-34 year olds were born (thus insulting both the over-34 crowd for being irrelevant and the 18-34 crowd for being ignorant).

And as a result, they went on record with the assertion that “Dumb and Dumber” deserves a place in the pantheon of cinematic comedy, but “City Lights” doesn’t.

Blech.

Okay. Rant over. I’ll try to turn my outrage back to global warming and stuff now. Oh, yeah, here’s the list. Tell me what about it irks you the most!

100. Anchorman
99. The Birdcage
98. School of Rock
97. Happy Gilmore
96. Four Weddings and a Funeral
95. Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle
94. Waiting for Guffman
93. The Aristocrats
92. Father of the Bride
91. Revenge of the Nerds
90. Clueless
89. Slapshot
88. Team America
87. The Kentucky Fried Movie
86. Zoolander
85. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
84. Silver Streak
83. Sister Act
82. Tootsie
81. Half Baked
80. Lost in America
79. Three Amigos
78. Bananas
77. Flirting with Disaster
76. Ghostbusters
75. Dumb and Dumber
74. Trading Places
73. City Slickers
72. Moonstruck
71. Roxanne
70. The Nutty Professor (Eddie Murphy)
69. The Blues Brothers
68. Broadcast News
67. Kingpin
66. Dazed and Confused
65. Office Space
64. This is Spinal Tap
63. Manhattan
62. The Pink Panther
61. Election
60. When Harry Met Sally
59. Police Academy Series
58. Private Benjamin
57. Swingers
56. Young Frankenstein
55. Bull Durham
54. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
53. Dr. Strangelove
52. Meet the Parents
51. National Lampoon’s Vacation
50. The Princess Bride
49. American Pie
48. American Graffiti
47. 9 to 5
46. The Incredibles
45. Raising Arizona
44. Sixteen Candles
43. What About Bob?
42. Harold and Maude
41. Austin Powers
40. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
39. Mrs. Doubtfire
38. Best In Show
37. Dodgeball
36. Good Morning Vietnam
35. Beetlejuice
34. Rushmore
33. Clerks
32. Groundhog Day
31. The Big Lebowski
30. The 40 Year Old Virgin
29. Legally Blonde
28. Annie Hall
27. A Fish Called Wanda
26. Wayne’s World
25. Meet the Fockers
24. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
23. Big
22. Beverly Hills Cop
21. Shampoo
20. The Jerk
19. Wedding Crashers
18. Stripes
17. M*A*S*H
16. Old School
15. Fast Times At Ridgemont High
14. Napoleon Dynamite
13. Naked Gun Series
12. The Producers
11. Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure
10. Arthur
9. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
8. Blazing Saddles
7. The Wedding Singer
6. Airplane
5. South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut
4. There’s Something About Mary
3. Shrek
2. Caddyshack
1. Animal House

Dream diary, 5/12/06: Aaron Eckhart and the evil BART ticket machine

Aaroneckhart_2I dreamed I was having dinner with Aaron Eckhart (the actor: “Thank You for Smoking,” “In the Company of Men”). He was intelligent and charming, but also very snarky, and he kept asking trick questions and openly gloating when I answered wrong. He lived in this cramped, very messy apartment in San Francisco, and served me bacon and eggs and sliced bananas for dinner. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings by telling him I didn’t eat pork, and decided it was ethically okay to eat it if someone gave it to me who didn’t know that, so I ate it anyway.

BartAfter dinner, I tried to take BART home, but the BART ticket machine was dispensing candy and sodas as well as tickets: I pushed the wrong button, and the machine spewed out a huge stream of little hard candies, as well as a Coke. I spent most of the rest of the dream trying to make the machine give me an actual BART ticket, and trying to fit the enormous pile of candies into my purse.

Dream diary, 5/4/06: Voldemort’s glasses

PotterI dreamed that Harry Potter had found Voldemort’s glasses, and was convinced that this was a major key to defeating him. He was trying to contact the other members of the Order of the Phoenix to let them know about the glasses, but was having trouble getting around, since BART had just added a new line and the maps were confusing.

I woke up thinking, “I need to get a life.”

Dream diary, 3/14/06: Buffy vs. Voldemort

Harry_potterBuffy1I dreamed that Voldemort was preparing his final attack to take over the world, but instead of being fought by Harry Potter and company, he was being fought by Buffy and her gang (a gang which included me and a few of my friends). Voldemort’s attack was going to be launched from Central Park in New York, down near the museums, so the Buffy gang gathered on a street corner at around 75th and Central Park West to prepare for battle.

There were about a dozen of us, and we started to discuss tactics, but Voldemort’s followers began pouring into Central Park — there were thousands of them, marching naked in a zombie-like trance along the park’s trails and converging into the center of the park — and we realized that we hadn’t actually made a battle plan, and had no idea how to fight an army of this size with this degree of organization. We all sort of shrugged and said, “Oh, well, I’m sure we’ll win, we always do,” and barged into the park, but were captured almost immediately and imprisoned in a little shack behind the Metropolitan Museum.

We could see Voldemort’s army prepare for battle through the shack’s windows — they had now split into two groups, half still naked and half with skin-tight black body armor, and they were pairing off and morphing together into these weird mutant battle-horses. The Buffy gang was starting to get worried, but mostly we were standing around the shack pretty casually, going, “Well, I’m sure we’ll think of something.”

I think this dream is about George W. Bush and the Democrats. But I’m not sure how the Metropolitan Museum and the mutant battle-horses fit in.

Porn and Musicals: An Analogy

Topsecret_2So I was watching a movie musical on TV (actually, I was watching “Top Secret,” which has a sequence making fun of movie musicals), and it occurred to me that there’s an interesting similarity between musicals and porn.

Here’s what it is: Nobody watches musicals for their plot. With some notable exceptions, the plot of a musical exists solely as filler: to provide some sort of excuse for the music/dance numbers, and to get from one number to the next. And of course, the same is true for most porn. There are exceptions, of course; but in the overwhelming majority of porn, the plot — if there even is a plot — exists solely to set up the sex scenes.

So here’s what strikes me as unfair. Nobody really objects to plotless movie musicals. Many a musical ranks high in the pantheon among fans of the genre despite its laughably predictable story. As long as the music and dance numbers are superb, people are perfectly happy to grant full marks to a musical, even if the plot is a dumb, hackneyed, formulaic joke.

SlidebimeBut people constantly use the plotlessness of porn to point out its worthlessness or triviality. And I don’t think that’s fair. If you think “Gentleman Prefer Blondes” is a great musical despite its silly plot, then you should judge “Barbara Broadcast” or “Slide Bi Me” on the same basis. If a porn movie has great sex scenes — sex scenes that are passionate, enthusiastic, affectionate, fierce, beautiful, wild, or in any other way inspired and inspiring — then it makes no more sense to lambaste the thinness of its plot than it does with “Gold Diggers of 1935.”

After all, I’d sure rather see a porn movie with great sex and a dumb, pointless plot than one with a great plot and dumb, pointless sex. In fact, my biggest complaint about mainstream video porn isn’t the repetitive, predictable, formulaic plots — it’s the repetitive, predictable, formulaic sex. I have actually seen porn videos where I’ve fast-forwarded through the boring sex in order to get to the next bit of interesting plot. And I don’t count those videos as successes.

CabaretNow, it’s certainly true that a good, genuine plot can help a musical along. I’d even argue that it usually makes the difference between a good musical and a great one. A good movie musical can certainly carry itself on the strength of its music and dancing — but a great musical, a musical like “Cabaret” or “The Music Man” (or, I would argue, “Once More With Feeling” from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), is great because it’s a whole movie, a real movie, a movie that transcends the limitations of the genre even as it embraces it, a movie that expresses something other than “Singing and dancing is fun.”

And porn is much the same way. The rare examples of truly great porn are, in my opinion, the ones that work as whole movies, the ones where the sex is blended into the story as a natural next step for the characters to take, and you care about the sex more because you care about the characters. I agree that that’s a noble goal to reach for, and I’d love to see more pornographers reaching for it. But it’s also an extremely difficult goal, especially given the limitations of porn production (see my review of “Dream Quest” and my comments about the inherent difficulties of a collaborative porn medium). I applaud it heartily when I see it… but I applaud almost as hard when I see a series of vastly entertaining sex scenes, stitched together with a bit of dental floss.

Kirkus Reviews and the Hollywood Reporter Say “Make Greta’s Book Into A Movie!”

No, really.

This is probably the most hilarious review I’ve ever gotten.

Here’s the deal. Kirkus Reviews and the Hollywood Reporter apparently team up for a regular series of "books-to-film recommendations" — and my new erotic novella, "Bending" (part of the three-novella collection "Three Kinds of Asking for It" from Simon & Schuster’s Touchstone) recently got listed. It was part of a piece they did on sexy books that might make good movies, ranging from PG-13 to unrated. My book, needless to say, was one of the unrated ones. Here’s what they say:

"If you look carefully, you can find novels whose sexual charge makes them natural movie fodder in nearly every rating category… Contributors Eric Albert and Greta Christina provide an even more inventive pair of sex fantasies in Susie Bright’s latest collection of erotica, ‘Three Kinds of Asking for It’ (Touchstone, $14). A young man’s deal with a witch to make every woman he meets powerless to resist his advances? A young woman who can be satisfied only when she’s bent over and taken from behind? What would L.B. Mayer say?"

If you don’t believe me, see for yourself.

In case you’re wondering why I’m laughing my ass off about this instead of scrambling to find a movie agent, it’s because it’s so unlikely. Don’t get me wrong, I’m immensely proud of "Bending" and I think it’s one of the best things I’ve written — but it’s unbelievably smutty. It’s very sexually explicit; the sex is, shall we say, extreme; and there’s pretty much nothing in it other than sex. With the exception of a sentence here and a paragraph there, every word of the book involves either people having sex, talking about sex, or thinnkig about sex. It’s a little hard to imagine it being made into a movie directed by anyone other than Rocco Siffredi. (Even if the sexual climate were otherwise, it’s hard to imagine "Bending" being made into a movie, since so much of the book consists of internal monologue and mental landscape. Vividly depicted internal monologue and mental landscape, but still.)

But hey. What do I know. Any movie moguls out there who want to take a flyer on "Bending," drop me an email. We’ll do lunch.

P.S. "Three Kinds of Asking for It" comes out at the end of this month. You can get more info about it on my Website.