Top 100 Comedies and More

On Film / The Daily — Aug 22, 2017

BBC Culture has polled 253 film critics from fifty-two countries to come up with a list of the “100 greatest comedies of all time.” Nicholas Barber argues the case for the film that’s come out on top, Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot (1959): “It is structured so meticulously that it glides from moment to moment with the elegance of an Olympic figure skater, and the consummate screwball dialogue, by Wilder and I. A. L. Diamond, is so polished that every line includes either a joke, a double meaning, or an allusion to a line elsewhere in the film. To quote one character, it’s a riot of ‘spills, thrills, laughs and games.’”

Guy Lodge adds praise for “the unexpected tenderness with which the director treats his characters even at their most absurd.” His comments appear on a separate page where individual critics offer a paragraph or so on each of the top twenty-five comedies on the list. You’ll find Jessica Kiang on Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), Ann Hornaday on Woody Allen’s Annie Hall (1977), Laura Kern on Leo McCarey’s Marx Brothers classic Duck Soup (1933), Vivienne Chow on Jacques Tati’s PlayTime (1967), Ty Burr on Howard Hawks’s Bringing Up Baby (1938), David Ehrlich on Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Jr. (1924), Molly Haskell on Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights (1931), Ali Arikan on Bruce Robinson’s Withnail and I (1987), and more.

You can also scan all the ballots. On adjacent pages, Miriam Quick asks, “Do male critics have a different sense of humor to female critics?”; and Christian Blauvelt notes that “looking at how the votes came in country by country or region by region, one . . . cliché does appear to be supported: some jokes just don’t translate.”

More Reading

“Is there a blog in this class?” is an annual index of links to entries by David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson related to chapters in their essential textbook, Film Art: An Introduction. With the fall semester approaching, this year’s guide has just gone up.

In his latest column for Sight & Sound, Brad Stevens makes the case for Ted Kotcheff’s Wake in Fright (1971) as a forerunner to Martin Scorsese’s After Hours (1985). “It is easy enough to see how the director of Who’s That Knocking at My Door (1968), with its violently ritualized male camaraderie, would have recognized a kindred spirit here.”

In 1988, Serge Daney proposed that Laurent Heynemann’s Stella (1983) “forces us to take on . . . this difficult question: does television exist, and if yes, how do we know?”

The New Yorker’s Richard Brody revisits Josh and Benny Safdie’s Daddy Longlegs (2009) starring Ronald Bronstein, “the director of Frownland, which is one of the great modern American films, and one of the seminal independent films of the century,” and he discusses the Safdies’ film in an accompanying clip (2’20”).

Brody thinks far less of Bertrand Bonello’s Nocturama: “The frivolity of the film’s unexpressed political earnestness—Bonello’s unwillingness to give voice to his or his characters’ ideas—is matched by the emptiness of its aesthetic. . . . Nocturama is an act of vanity, in which Bonello elevates his own familiar and unquestioned cinematic system through his pseudo-political, pseudo-radical, pseudo-social display.”

Writing for frieze, Saul Anton finds it “tempting to argue that [Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets] is a defining work for the 3D film genre in that it sets the bar for the liquid shapelessness and spacelessness of the virtual as such.”

At MostlyFilm, James Moar looks back on the four television series that Studio Ghibli founding directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata worked on from 1974 through 1979.

In Other News

Russian film and theater director Kirill Serebrennikov, whose film The Student won the François Chalais Award when it screened last year in the Un Certain Regard program at Cannes, “was detained early on Tuesday on suspicion of a role in the embezzlement of government funds.” As Vladimir Kozlov notes in the Hollywood Reporter, this is “a claim that many, including Serebrennikov, dismissed as ‘absurd.’ . . . Many well-known Russian culture personalities have expressed support for Serebrennikov, who has often been critical of the Russian authorities.”

The European Film Academy has presented a list of fifty-one narrative features now in the running for the European Film Awards 2017.

In the Works

Asghar Farhadi has begun shooting his Spanish-language thriller Todos Lo Saben (Everybody Knows) with Javier Bardem, Penélope Cruz, and Ricardo Darin, reports Variety’s Elsa Keslassy. “Written by Farhadi, Everybody Knows follows the journey of Carolina as she travels with her family from Buenos Aires to her hometown in Spain for a celebration. Meant to be a brief visit, the trip is disturbed by unforeseen events that will completely change the lives of Carolina and her family.”

“Krzysztof Zanussi is working on Ether (Eter), a film that will tell the story of a military doctor who conducts medical experiments in order to gain power over people,” reports Ola Salwa for Cineuropa. “Set at the beginning of the twentieth century, Ether is said to be Zanussi’s rendition of the legend of Faust.”

Rebecca Thomas, whose debut feature Electrick Children was a favorite at SXSW in 2012, is “one of only two people outside the Duffer brothers and Shawn Levy to direct an episode of Netflix’s Stranger Things,” notes Rebecca Ford in the Hollywood Reporter. Now she’s taking over Intelligent Life from Ava DuVernay. “The story centers on a United Nations employee who monitors outer space and makes contact with a beautiful woman who may be an alien.” Thomas has two other projects in development, a live-action version of The Little Mermaid and Looking for Alaska, an adaptation of Jon Green’s 2005 novel.

Obit

German actress and singer Margot Hielscher, who appeared in more than fifty films and 200 television productions, has passed away at the age of ninety-seven.

Listening

Karina Longworth tells two stories on the latest You Must Remember This podcast (57’15”): “Jean Seberg, now plagued with mental illness and alcoholism, comes to a tragic end in Paris. Jane Fonda reinvents herself, once again, for the 80s.”

On a new episode of The Canon, Amy Nicholson talks with Matt Zoller Seitz about John Frankenheimer’s Seconds (1966) (71’15”).

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