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04/20/2016

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I have only watched snippets of the Marx Brothers, never an entire movie. What I have found in my watching is that I love Groucho, am slightly annoyed by Chico, and really can't stand Harpo at all. But I am always reminded of the Lucille Ball/ Harpo Marx thing...was it on an episode of I Love Lucy?

With that said, and as much as I hate to always bring things back to Woody Allen ... He is a YUUUUUGE (I do love the Trump way of saying huge) fan of the Marx Brothers and will allude to them from time to time. His biggest would be when his character in one of his movies is feeling suicidal, like there is no God, the usual existential angst that a Woody character is likely to feel. He goes walking the streets of New York and comes across a theater playing a Marx Brothers movie. Just being able to sit in the dark and watch all of them, how great they are, how much fun they are having, makes him feel like life is worthwhile even if nothing happens after death and this is all there is.

I always think of that scene when the Marx Brothers are brought up.

"can't stand Harpo"?!? Well, I said I would try not to judge, but I didn't expect to be tested to that extent.

I vaguely remember the Woody Allen bit you're referring to. I agree with him, of course. Which movie is that?

Because of Chico's character I thought the Marx Brothers were Italian until I was well into my 20s. It probably had something to do with growing up in an Italian atmosphere,too. I knew that character. I may be related to him. ;-)

Stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason. They are accurate often enough to smack of truth and they are funny for that reason. You can laugh at the characteristics of another culture as long as you don't do it in a mean way. In fact, as far as I can see, every culture mocks itself in this way--and with a kind of pride. And you see it within families, too.

I really miss this kind of humor, and as I've said before, the lack of it is one of the things that makes our current culture so deadly boring.

AMDG

Agreed, completely. The effort to stamp out all stereotyping ends up being an effort to get people to deny or suppress innate functions of the human brain. It creates an awful lot of tension, which I guess finds some release in the fact that it's perfectly acceptable to stereotype and vilify certain groups.

I mentioned when I reviewed the Apu trilogy that I watched a short documentary on its restoration. The actual frame-by-frame work was done by an Italian company, and so they talked to several of the people involved. Most (all?) of them spoke English, and I was greatly amused to hear several of those stereotypical Italian-accent notes in their speech: "And now we make-a the copy..."

I really love that routine with Lucy and Harpo, by the way, and my kids did too.

AMDG

My dad was a big fan of all the old time comedy teams, so I was fortunate enough to have grown up watching them. My first exposure to the Marx Bros. was probably when I was about ten years old. He took me to a theater in the Jewish section of the city where once a year or so they'd run a Marx double-bill. The place was packed and everyone had a great time. I think we went to at least three or four of those double-bills over the years. Eventually the theater closed and was converted into a restaurant.


Sounds nice. I mean up to the point where the theater closed.

I haven't seen this Harpo-Lucy thing. Perhaps I'll shock some of you by saying I never found Lucy very funny.

I think I see it on YouTube. I can't watch it right now, but it appears to be based on a classic Groucho scene from Duck Soup.

It doesn't shock me, but I think she was frequently funny.

Awhile back, we were planning to watch the series from the beginning and I didn't like the first episodes at all. Then we never got the next ones. I wonder if I would still think they were funny.

One thing Lucille Ball always makes me think of is the woman who was the mother in A Good Man is Hard to Find. When you read the description of how she dressed, it was exactly the way Lucy dresses when she is cleaning house.

We have watched the beginning of several TV series that we used to think were very funny and didn't like them. Dick Van Dyke for instance, and the first Bob Newhart Show.

AMDG

The Woody Allen movie is Hannah and Her Sisters, and the Marx Brothers movie he watches is Duck Soup.

I haven't seen more than clips of their movies for a very long time. I know when I first saw some of them when I was a teenager that I found both Groucho and Harpo rather creepy, in a dirty-old-man kind of way; maybe it's all the leering. And that hold-my-leg thing Harpo always did.

Anyway, I'm of the opinion that Margaret Dumont was the best part of their movies. ;)

She's great, for sure. In the Wikipedia article on her there's some discussion about whether she really knew what she was doing--some people apparently thought she was as clueless as her character. But she seems to have known exactly what she was doing, and was good at it.

Groucho's leering is just comical to me. But then just looking at him in character makes me laugh.

I guess it almost had to be Hannah, Stu, as I think I've only seen three post-Annie-Hall movies by Woody Allen, and I remember some of that existential angst in it.

Lucy always seemed kind of abrasive to me.

I for sure would not want to be married to her--or be her best friend. I actually did have a best friend in my young married days who was always getting me into things--not trouble, but sort of evangelistic activities and when she would start telling me what we should do, I would say, "Luuuuuuucy!" just like poor Ethel.

I really like You Bet Your Life.

AMDG

I haven't seen that since I was a kid.

We used to watch it on cable when we had cable.

That and Burns and Allen. Do you like Burns and Allen?


AMDG

Never saw it enough to have an opinion.

Never was much of a Lucy fan. Burns & Allen are great however -- some of Gracie's non-sequiturs are just brilliant.

A lot of the old TV comedies don't hold up very well, unfortunately, but there are some that I still enjoy. Andy Griffith and Gomer Pyle remain entertaining, imo, and that surreal, bizarro world which is Green Acres (although the laugh track on that one is quite annoying). And I still like Leave It To Beaver a lot.

I watched all of this stuff you all are mentioning as a kid probably on those high numbered channels on the TV, can't remember what they were called, after school. I love the description of Green Acres as "surreal, bizarro". I find myself singing that song sometimes out loud in the car...weird how things from 40 years ago just stick.

Even people like me who don't really know Burns & Allen know "Say goodnight, Gracie."

Eddie Haskell is a classic character. I might like Leave It To Beaver if I saw it again. But really I didn't see all that much TV, and very little from about 1965 on.

One night we were watching Burns and Allen while assembling Christmas presents and the big joke on the show was that someone wanted to invest in frozen yogurt.

We used to stay in a little motel in Gatlinburg where I had stayed with my parents when I was about 4. It hadn't changed at all as far as I can tell. Paint-by-numbers pictures on the wall and pine panelling. The only TV channel you could get was one that showed 50s TV shows and B&A was one of them. We loved it. It was like letting the children visit our childhood. It was the best family vacation we ever had.

AMDG

Sounds great. And I think my family may have stayed in that motel once, too. Funny about the frozen yogurt. Your Lucy friend was funny, too--sometimes I forget people can't hear me laugh.

Little Pigeon River Motel at the last intersection before the park. Now they've torn it down. Stupid progress.

What if we all could hear each other laugh?

AMDG

"I don’t see many contemporary comedies, and the reason is that when I do I usually don’t care much for them. I’ve occasionally wondered if this indicates some deficiency in me, or a development in the direction of Humorless Old Man. A great deal of contemporary humor seems to be more or less on the level of boys laughing at dirty words. And even when it’s more intelligent, there’s often a meanness about it that I tire of very quickly, even if it’s funny—mean in both senses of the word. There’s little joy in it. It makes light of serious things, but it’s rarely lighthearted. The Simpsons, for instance, is very funny sometimes (in my limited experience), but I’ve never watched it regularly because its cynicism is so thorough that it begins to feel oppressive."

I was wondering why I generally don't like comedies much any more. I really don't find cynicism to be funny.

"The movie opens with the standard Groucho character, Otis B. Driftwood here, engaged in one of his scams with the standard Margaret Dumont character, Mrs. Claypool here. Dumont appears in most of the films playing a wealthy woman from whom Groucho is trying to extract money, pretending to romance her while making fun of her in ways that she doesn’t always get. She is so important to so much of the humor that Groucho once called her “practically the fifth Marx brother.”"

This already sounds funny.

"The rich snobbish lady still exists, of course, but now she wears jeans—though very expensive jeans—denounces the rich, takes off her clothes for photographers (if she’s beautiful), and has written a book about her extensive sex life. You can’t mock the dignity of someone who has none (though you can certainly mock her pretensions)."

Too depressing for words.


"The risqué touch at the end is pretty frequent in the movies, and is generally funny without being crude—in other words, risqué in the former sense of the word, before it started being used for anything sexual up to and including pornography. Reportedly the brothers were frequently forced to tone down their sexual humor, and their work is probably better for it."

Undoubtedly.

"The anarchy of the Marx Brothers is of the latter type, and it’s joyful. Its essential lightheartedness reminds me of P.G. Wodehouse’s work. And while there is nothing of religion in either the Marx Brothers' or Wodehouse's work, the sheer levity of it, its suggestion that much of what we take seriously is actually ridiculous, sometimes seems to hint at something cosmic."

Lovely. Sounds rather Chestertonian.


"Objectively, I recognize that a fair amount of the Marx Brothers’ humor falls flat—some of it’s just corny, some of it’s dated—so if you don’t like them as much as I do, I will try not to judge you."

LOL!

Thanks Maclin, I really enjoyed this review.

Seems like Chesterton might have enjoyed the Marx Brothers. I guess it's possible that he saw them, in fact, since he lived well into the motion picture era. Now that I think about it, I can't remember ever reading anything by him in which he discussed movies at all, though he must surely have at least mentioned them in his journalism. He managed to denounce jazz.

I wouldn't have any idea where that motel is, Janet. I was about 12 years old.

If we could hear each other laugh, but nothing else, it would be spooky.

Have any of you seen Look Who's Back?

AMDG

Not I. Movie or tv show?

Movie. Streaming on Netflix.
AMDG

Somebody besides me needs to watch it and write about it.

AMDG

The best comedy film I've seen in a long time is The Grand Budapest Hotel. It's got a bit of lewdness, and some crude language, but these things don't dominate, and while it does have a bit of that modern ironic wink to it, it's used in a different way than that of, say, the Coens. There's no meanness to it -- you get the sense that Wes Anderson cares about his characters in a way that the Coens don't, which makes the human element in the film far stronger.

He's the guy who did The Life Aquatic, right? I didn't especially care for it. It seemed to fall between two stools--not really involving as a drama, not really funny as a comedy. But maybe that was me. I felt like I was somehow not getting it.

I usually find the funny bits in Coen films pretty funny.

So is Look Who's Back funny, Janet, or just interesting in some way?

It's a movie about Hitler finding himself in 2014. When Bill said we were going to watch it, I could not imagine how it could be any good. But I think it is pure genius, and very troubling in many ways, but also very funny in places. I hesitate to say more, because it's one of those movies that require you to come to it pretty much ignorant of what's going on. I would say that it's a good movie to watch immediately because it's rather timely.

AMDG

I didn't see Life Aquatic, as I wasn't thrilled with his earlier movies, but this one I really enjoyed. I've heard good things about Moonrise Kingdom too, but haven't watched it.

Wes Anderson's films are variable. The Life Aquatic I didn't watch to the end, it just seemed tedious, and his adaptation of The Fantastic Mr Fox was extremely annoying, but The Grand Budapest Hotel (a sort of hommage to Stefan Zweig) is quite entertaining. So is Moonrise Kingdom. Not that I'd recommend either entirely without reservations.

A propos of nothing in particular, I've just watched the German Cold War spy series Deutschland 83, and thought it was great fun. It's not in the Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy style, but more light and swashbuckling. The premise is a little like The Americans, but the execution is very different (and it's about a German spy in Germany, rather than Russian spies in the USA).

I watched the beginning of Moonrise Kingdom (as Craig had highly recommended it) and like it, but there was a scene that made me nervous with two young teenagers together alone in their underwear kissing, so I just stopped watching. Craig says that there's nothing to worry about, so I have been meaning to try it again.

AMDG

A mini-series based on John LeCarre's The Night Manager just started on AMC. We watched the first episode. It's well done and pretty gripping. I'm a big LeCarre fan. We watched the first two seasons of The Americans, not because we liked it so much but because once you're in you want to know what happens.

They don't go beyond kissing. But that scene is the main reason I wouldn't wholeheartedly recommend that film.

I'm sorry to say that I've become much more jaded and indifferent to such scenes.

Between 12 year olds? That's what I can't take.

AMDG

Oh, I didn't realize you meant *that* young. Yeah, that would bother me, too.

I don't know that I'd "highly recommend" Moonrise Kingdom, but I did like it. The kissing scene didn't make a big impression on me; as I think I've said before, the film has about it a certain spirit of innocence, and I interpreted the scene in that light. As I recall, it's more of a peck, isn't it?

Perhaps I was just glad it wasn't the underwear scene in Let the Right One In. That was creepy.

What I really like about Moonrise Kingdom is the music, much of it by Benjamin Britten, including a really nice glimpse of a production of his children's opera Noye's Fludde. I was delighted when I saw that.

I watched The Grand Budapest Hotel in bits and pieces, on three different flights, and had trouble keeping up with it. Maybe mostly because of the alcohol consumption that gets me onto and keeps me on a plane, but it is a very busy film. My blurry impression of it was that it's Ralph Fiennes who makes it all work. Just the right mixture of eccentricity and sadness, I think.

Moonrise Kingdom and Grand Budapest are both wonderful. But I loved Fantastic Mr Fox too! Life Aquatic is not as good, for sure, nor is Darjeeling Limited. Royal Tenenbaums is my favorite Wes Anderson, and Rushmore is pretty good. But I think all in all the Coen Brothers make better movies. Fargo is one of my all time favorites, and both series on TV (FX maybe?) are great too.

Had not realized we strayed so far from the Marx Brothers, or I would have checked back sooner. :)

Learned your lesson? :-)

I didn't really like Rushmore, Tenenbaums, or Darjeeeling at all, which is why I skipped Life Aquatic. Actually, I only went to see GBH because I loved the trailer, and because the initial reviews were strong.

I didn't know he made Rushmore. I've seen it and I think I had a mixed reaction, but it was over ten years ago and I don't remember it very well.

Come to think of it, it wasn't 'Rushmore' that I disliked, it was Alexander Payne's 'Election' I was thinking of, which came out around the same time. 'Rushmore' actually wasn't bad.

Watched Look Who's Back with a friend last night. Very funny, but also very disturbing, like good satire should be. I did feel that it got rather heavy-handed at the end, however, which was a let-down. All in all, though, very much worth watching.

We started watching Crash last night. It's been sitting unwatched on the dvr for a long time, taking up a lot of space, so I decided to either watch it or delete it. I don't think I would have recorded it in the first place if you hadn't recommended it, Rob. I had the impression that it was just Hollywood racial preaching. So far (not very) it's much better than that, though. All about ethnic conflicts but in a reasonably honest way.

Watched Look Who's Back with a friend last night.

I'm so glad somebody watched this. I get the feeling that the whole beginning of the movie was in service of the heavy-handed ending.

I can't remember if it was here or on Facebook--must have been the latter--that Maclin posted something talking about everybody you hate being Hitler, which was a joke, but when I watched the movie I was thinking, "Well, maybe there is a bit of Hitler in everybody I hate." ;-) The thing is, it doesn't originate in Hitler.

AMDG

"I get the feeling that the whole beginning of the movie was in service of the heavy-handed ending."

Exactly. It would have been much more effective, imo, if the ending had been played like the rest of the film. As it stands, the ending considerably detracts from the movie's thought-provoking aspects.

Glad you're liking Crash so far, Mac. I think Roger Ebert was correct when he described the movie as basically a parable, with each of the sub-stories being a parable as well.

Just finished Crash. Wow. Sure glad I took your recommendation.

Glad you liked it -- I thought it was a very powerful, well-done film.

Indeed. I realized afterwards, when I looked around on the net for info about it, that part of my negative impression about it (apart from the fact that it won an Oscar :-)) came from confusing it with another movie by the same name which is about people being sexually aroused by car crashes, or something.

Right -- never saw that one. It's based on a J.G. Ballard novel.

I remember that when 'Crash' won best picture, there was a lot of huffing and puffing because it beat out 'Brokeback Mountain.' In fact, it comes up on several of those "movies that should have never won an Oscar" lists.

I keep not checking in.... I liked Crash a lot too, but what is funny here is that you took multiple nights to watch it, Mac. I don't remember it being particularly long.

I would put Forrest Gump somewhere near the top of Oscar winning movies that didn't need to be. But there are so many... Gladiator! Chicago! Yikes.

Never saw Forrest Gump, and don't really have an interest in it. Ditto Chicago.

Gladiator was basically a sword-and-sandal remake of Braveheart. It was okay but not great.

But sometimes some of these films win because the field is weak.

It's Wednesday. I really look forward to Wednesdays.

AMDG

Janet is more of a middle of the week gal, as opposed to an end of the week one. :)

I saw Forrest Gump. The best I can say for it is that it was enormously over-rated.

The main reason for the two-night viewing of Crash is that my wife and I have gotten into the habit of watching something or other every night, but try to keep it to an hour or less. For that reason we've tended to watch more tv-series type stuff (e.g. Better Call Saul, House of Cards) than movies. Crash, as recorded, with commercials, was two and a half hours. I guess then that the actual running time of the movie itself was two hours at the most.

I envy you your discipline. It's rare that I can make myself stop in the middle of a movie, even if I had intended to, and sometimes I can't stop at one TV show. I have been trying to just not watch anything on some nights. We went for many years with no TV or videos at all, and I didn't really miss it.

AMDG

It kind of drives my wife crazy that I can have a bag of M&Ms in my desk drawer and eat two a day. But I assure you I don't have that kind of discipline in a lot of other areas. Anyway, maybe it's just a form of ADD that makes it fairly easy for me to stop in the middle of a movie.

I'm a little embarrassed to say that we watch that one hour while we're eating dinner. We both seem to find it weirdly relaxing. On weekends we often do whole movies, btw, or multiple episodes of a series.

That's how it starts. We watch while we're eating and it tends to go on. I'm trying to make myself get up after an hour and go get my stuff ready for work the next day. So far, I've done it one day in a row.

When I was in the hospital after my first was born, someone brought me a box of chocolates. My mother, until the day she died almost, would tell the story of how she and Bill were sitting in the hospital room and it took Bill three bites to finish a piece of candy. It drove her crazy. ;-)

I could maybe do that 3 M&Ms thing for a few days and then something stressful would happen and I would eat them all.

AMDG

I do the same thing as Bill. Same reason I eat slowly in general: to enjoy it longer.

I emailed you Howards End, Mac.

See, if I could do that, I wouldn't have to eat more to enjoy it longer.

AMDG

I'm uncontrollable with popcorn. Just keep stuffing it in until there's none left.

Got your post, Stu. It should be up sometime this afternoon.

Oh, Howards End! Years since I've seen that. Did enjoy it.

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