15 July 2008

The Best Years Of Our Lives

The Best Years Of Our Lives
07/15/2008, 9:51 AM

Typically, I find myself top-posting when I have something I really want to complain about. Last night I witnessed a travesty on television, courtesy of the Bravo cable network. I'll also call it "farcical", because it was a special entitled "The 100 Funniest Movies Of All Time", an apparently sincere effort to list filmdom's all-time top comedies. Emphasis on "Of All Time" for purposes of this tirade, because this list broke all previous records for the kind of indolent, ignorant, self- or youth-referential twaddle which usually infects lists of this nature. This program was blithely but profoundly disrespectful of the contributions of countless great artists, and the "serious" professionals who appeared as guest commentators, such as John Landis and Rob Reiner, should be ashamed to be connected in any way with this monstrosity, even if their own films were deservedly featured along the way.

Now then---am I simply complaining about the prevalence of recent films, or their relative preference over older classics? Not hardly, though that's been the typical failing in such lists, and it's certainly not absent here in this Bravo abortion. It's so much worse than that. Digest this slowly: 1964's Dr. Strangelove, coming in at No. 56, was the oldest film on the list. Nothing worth listing.....before 1964. Altman's M*A*S*H was second-oldest (1970), hitting the list at No. 17 (just a few yuks short of No. 16, Old School, that crazy 30-somethings frat-house romp with Will Ferrell and Luke Wilson). Toss in the wonderful Harold and Maude and a few Woody Allen and Mel Brooks masterpieces, and it turns out that a grand total of ten or tewlve of the greatest film comedies of all time were released before the 1980s. We've come a long way, baby.

The horror....the horror....of the youth-driven entertainment biz's "Eurasia has always been at war with Eastasia" consumerist mentality---and lack of integrity. It's not just that stars with current film contracts like Ferrell or Adam Sandler are favored over traditional fare: e.g. Sandler's The Wedding Singer at No. 6---yes, No. 6---edging out Blazing Saddles at No. 7, and WAY funnier than Young Frankenstein at No. 56, but less of a seminal comedy than There's Something About Mary at No. 4, or Shrek at No. 3.....all while Monty Python And The Holy Grail languishes at No. 40. No, not just unspeakably foolish gradations like that.

What about the fact that the likes of Will Ferrell's Anchorman rates the list, but Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot is absent? Eddie Murphy's Nutty Professor remake appears, but no films whatsoever starring Jerry Lewis, Charlie Chaplin, Judy Holliday, or the Marx Brothers. We've got Ben Stiller's Dodgeball at No. 37, and his Meet The Fockers at No. 25, but no room on the list for Peter Sellers in Being There or his genius turn as Clouseau in A Shot In The Dark. I was transported by incisive criticism on the Bravo countdown....not from Leonard Maltin or Devid Denby---hey, gimme David Edelstein!---but from assorted twenty to twenty-eight year-olds, the likes of TV's Bachelor Bob and Chelsea Handler, who let us know, condidentially but authoritatively, that films like Legally Blonde, Happy Gilmore, School of Rock are among the greatest all-time film comedies.....we suspect in part because they've actually seen those films, of course, as opposed to non-raters like His Girl Friday, Harvey, or The Philadelphia Story......and in part because the list-raters aren't (gasp!)......old.

Youth is always interested in youth, in earlier days as now. But the degree of navel-gazing indolence is greater than ever before---not merely ignorance in the sense of a gap in knowledge, but supercilious rejection of any value, for themselves or even others, in what is not within their own ken or interest. The wise lose their wisdom---with the comic geniuses Rob Reiner knew himself and from his father's generation, he should not have lent his face and words to any level of validation for this Bravo atrocity. But then again, perhaps Reiner's in keeping with the signs of the times, where emotion trumps or redefines fact, and history is boring and soooooo yesterday. As Reiner would doubtless say---Obama '08!


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