I just noticed this:
They all have basically the same design. I love all three of these films so I don’t really care, but I just thought it was curious.
I just noticed this:
They all have basically the same design. I love all three of these films so I don’t really care, but I just thought it was curious.
I think us moviegoers have caught on to the whole Superhero Movie thing. We’ve learned that comic book superheroes are born out of a freak radioactive experiment gone wrong, or out of childhood anger, yadda yadda yadda. We know that evil villains will eventually be outsmarted and killed due to excessive monologuing. We’ve caught on to the formula, which is why the summer Superhero Movie blockbuster was in danger of extinction.
Was. Was in danger of extinction. Thanks to Iron Man, the Superhero Movie has returned to glory. And I say, welcome back.
Robert Downey Jr. plays the billionaire engineer, genius, and playboy Tony Stark who runs Stark Industries, a weapons manufacturer and military contractor. After a demonstration of his highly destructive state-of-the-art missile called the “Jericho”, Stark is attacked and captured by terrorists in Afghanistan. He gets hit with shrapnel in the attack, but avoids death by creating a device that keeps the shrapnel away from his heart using electro-magnetics.
Stark’s captors force him to build a new Jericho missile inside a cave completely from scratch, but he instead builds an armored iron suit equipped with guns and missiles a plenty and escapes his captivity. But after seeing his own company’s weapons being used by the enemy against American forces, Stark returns home with a new mindset. He decides to no longer manufacture weapons. This moral transformation is the key to the entire film.
Stark secretly rebuilds the armored iron suit he created with new hi-tech features, intent on using it to destroy the enemy forces from which he escaped and the weapons they were using. The scenes where Stark perfects the design are full of slapstick and wit between Stark and his robotic lab assistants. The final product, the Iron Man, looks something like the Tin Man from the year 3000, outfitted with hyper-intelligent technology and a slick paint job.
Stark’s conversion from being a cocky showboat to a morally-conflicted superhero is what makes these kinds of films interesting to watch. He is tremendously flawed, even with his intelligence, but we still like him and want him to succeed.
Only a few people close to Stark see the transformation: his assistant Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow), who tries to balance her strong independence and her increasing attraction to Stark; his business partner Obadiah (Jeff Bridges), who tries to hide shady business deals from the newly-idealistic Stark; and Rhodes, Stark’s Air Force Colonel friend who is wary of Stark’s new crime-fighting methods.
Ultimately, Robert Downey Jr. is this movie. He’s funny, quirky, and a terrific actor. He’s also a unique casting choice for a superhero, which is why the film works so well. His troubled real-life back story helps his character seem all the more real. Story-wise, Iron Man isn’t revolutionary, but that doesn’t really matter. The characters are strong and relatable, so the story simply falls into place around them.
Downey and the director Jon Favreau, who also directed Elf and Zathura, allow the film to stretch beyond the normal guidelines of the typical summer action movie. There are the usual high-octane action sequences, of course, but the talented supporting cast makes each character vital and interesting. The last superhero film to accomplish that was Batman Begins.
I’ve already heard Oscar buzz for this film, and rightly so. I would fully endorse a Best Actor nomination for Downey. The Academy has snubbed summer superhero movies in the past, and for good reason. They are produced solely to make a profit, so sometimes a quality cast and story are lost between the ridiculous special effects sequences. But not with this film. I was fully engaged with Stark’s moral debate, but I also thoroughly enjoyed Stark-as-Iron Man battling his nemesis at Mach-speed in the Los Angeles night sky.
Iron Man is just about the best movie to kick off the summer season. After last year’s lackluster threequels failed to inspire, Downey and Co. have given us something to fully enjoy without sacrificing the crucial elements that make a good film. Two sequels have already been planned—the first is set to release on April 30, 2010—so it looks like we’ll be seeing much more of Stark and Iron Man. And I say, bring it on.
Originally published in the North Central Chronicle on April 25, 2008.
John McClane, Rambo, the Terminator. They are the American Action Hero: muscular, terse, a killing machine. They favor spouting clever catchphrases and blowing stuff up over expressing emotion. To them, women are hors d’oeuvres best enjoyed while they serve cold dishes of revenge to bad guys. In recent years, Hollywood has deconstructed this action hero archetype and rebuilt it into the more complicated and affected man.
Two such characters, Jason Bourne in The Bourne Identity (2002) and James Bond in Casino Royale (2006), inhabit the stereotypical macho man role but confront emotional walls typical in males and discover the pain that can come with true vulnerability. These men, however, are not just movie characters. They share the same struggle with identity and masculinity with males in the real world.
The James Bond movie lovers have come to know is a suave, martini-drinking womanizer who effortlessly shoots bad guys and jets around in sports cars. But the Bond in Casino Royaleis different. He’s still rough around the edges, an arrogant thug who cannot control his emotions or his actions. When he meets Vesper Lynd, the ravishing femme fatale, she sees through him easily: “You think of women as disposable pleasures, rather than meaningful pursuits,” she says.
After Bond realizes his transparency, he treats Lynd as a meaningful pursuit rather than a disposable pleasure. He begins to trust her. Eventually, he gives in to her. “I have no armor left. You’ve stripped it from me. Whatever is left of me, whatever I am, I’m yours,” says Bond. He finally drops his emotional armor and allows a woman in, becoming vulnerable for the first time.
But his vulnerability did not serve him well. He learns that she was using him all along for money. The one person for whom he opened his heart carves it up, so he closes it again and takes up the armor. “You don’t trust anyone, do you?” asks his boss. “No,” he says. “Then you’ve learned your lesson,” she replies.
Jason Bourne fights a different battle. When we first meet him he floats unconscious on the ocean with bullets in his back and a tracking device in his hip. When he comes to, he doesn’t know who he is or remember anything until that point, but does know several languages and hand-to-hand combat. He slowly learns that he is a killing machine that only functions because it cannot do anything else.
Then he meets a woman. She drives him on his journey to self-discovery, first by payment, then on her own accord. She helps him as he follows his animalistic instincts to find his identity and his purpose. Bourne finds the man who knows the answers and he tells Bourne the truth: “I don’t send you to kill. I send you to be invisible. I send you because you don’t exist.” After a death-defying search, he finds out that he is only a shell of a man, a blunt instrument of death.
Bourne’s confrontation with the mysterious man triggers a flashback to right before he was found floating in the ocean. He was ordered to assassinate a dictator but couldn’t pull the trigger because the target’s children were lying next to him. The one time compassion creeps into his heart, he is shot in the back and left for dead in the open sea. That is quite a lesson to learn.
Bond and Bourne experience the same challenges to their masculinity, yet they end up in different places. Bond starts as an emotionless brute, becomes softened by a woman, then is betrayed by said woman and shuts himself off from emotion again. Bourne goes through the same process, except at the end he remains open to Marie and at peace with his existence.
Through both stories run two constants: women and killing. These constants represent two big fears that men have: that if he opens himself up to a woman, she will rip his heart out; and that if he doesn’t fulfill the male stereotype of being tough and emotionless, he will be thought of as less than a man. Not necessarily by women, but by their fellow man.
These fears, at their full effect, can cripple a man’s masculinity and trust in women. They turn them into chauvinistic playboys, forever caught in a perpetual state of arrested development. They are the reason why so many single women claim that ‘there are no more decent guys’—they’ve been taken captive by the fear of being vulnerable.
James Bond and Jason Bourne may be fictional characters, but they have the same dilemma as real men. Not all men are lost causes, however. In fact, none really are. Modern males have a simple choice: remain shadows of men destined for empty relationships and guarded hearts, or fight the temptation to run from intimacy.
I got two of my Oscar picks wrong – not bad. I don’t remember why I didn’t pick Diablo Cody to win, but I’m glad she did.
Yay for Once! It was pretty lame that Marketa Irglova got cut off, but pretty awesome that Jon Stewart gave her time later.
The only reason why the ceremony keeps going so long every year is because of the pointless montages. Besides the standard In Memoriam and a fun one thrown in just for kicks, every one of them should have been cut. Though I did enjoy the “Salute to Binoculars and Waking Up from a Bad Dream” mini montages.
I love Jon Stewart, so I loved him tonight. If you don’t get or enjoy his humor, you probably thought he did poorly. But every one of his wisecracks were great.
I’m glad No Country won. Much has been said about There Will Be Blood, but that movie was Daniel Day-Lewis, and he was properly awarded for it. I think the right choice was made so that in 50 years, when they show another montage of past Best Picture winners, people will still actually like and remember No Country, as opposed to Crash, Around the World in Eighty Days, Million Dollar Baby, etc.
I love movies.
Published in the North Central Chronicle on Feb. 22, 2008, as part of a series called “Chad Picks Classic Flicks.”
I was about 7 years old when O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murder. I’ve seen the highlights—the slow-speed chase, O.J. struggling with the glove—but I don’t remember the sensational media coverage or the racial debates regarding the verdict. I can only assume the jury felt tremendous pressure to get it right; a guilty verdict would have sent Simpson to death row, while ruling him not guilty would set him free.
The question of guilty versus innocent and right versus wrong has captivated rational minds for centuries. In our justice system, the final judgment of wrongdoers is laid on the conscience and common sense of their peers. But when fallible and differing human beings must unite under one clear, unanimous decision, there is bound to be conflict. And conflict is exactly what happens in Sidney Lumet’s 12 Angry Men (1957).
A young ruffian has been accused of premeditated murder. The judge sends the jury into deliberation of what appears to be an open-and-shut case. The twelve jurors file into a cramped back room to debate the case, but 11 of them have already assumed the defendant’s guilt. The twelfth one, however, is not so sure. He, juror number 8 (Henry Fonda) is the only one who leaves room for reasonable doubt.
So they are forced to endure the stifling heat and convince Juror Number 8 to change his vote. As the tension builds with the humidity, the jurors sweat the details of the case and each man’s faults and prejudices surface. One man sees the defendant as a stereotypical child of the slums and makes his judgments accordingly. Another cares more about making it to a baseball game that night than deciding the fate of a man.
We learn of the case piece by piece through the jury’s deliberation, and slowly we see our own perceptions of the defendant’s alleged crime, and of the jurors themselves, change. Juror Number 8 is meant to be the hero of the film, but he represents more; he is willing to stand up for an unpopular belief amidst heavy and vocal opposition, and his voice of reason and empathy starts to convince other jurors to take change their vote. But I could see a part of myself in each one of the jurors; the reasonable, the indifferent, the stubborn, and the intolerant.
12 Angry Men is similar to Rear Window in that all but about three minutes of the film takes place in one room, creating a heightened sense of claustrophobia for the viewer and for the jurors. In a pressure-filled situation like that, the worst in a person spills out, resulting in ad hominem attacks and irrational behavior. It’s like The Real World, except well-made.
This film should not have worked. Watching twelve men sit in a room and just talk for an hour and a half does not sound very fun, but the actors inhabit their characters and make us believe we’re in that stuffy room with them. We are drawn into solving the murder mystery with the jurors, and we soon start to make our own conclusions, however unsubstantiated or unfair they are.
12 Angry Men succeeds were a good dramatic film should: it entertains us, with colorful characters waging a war of words in a stress-filled environment; and it also makes us think, about the concept of right and wrong and about our own prejudices. With a one-two punch like that, 12 Angry Men deserves no less than top billing on your Netflix queue.
My 2007 ACADEMY AWARD PICKS:
Who will win: No Country for Old Men
Who should win: No Country for Old Men
Who will win: The Coen Brothers for No Country for Old Men
Who should win: The Coen Brothers
Who will win: Daniel Day-Lewis for There Will Be Blood
Who should win: Johnny Depp for Sweeney Todd
Who will win: Julie Christie for Away from Her
Who should win: Laura Linney for The Savages
Best Supporting Actor
Who will win: Javier Bardem for No Country for Old Men
Who should win: Javier Bardem for No Country for Old Men
Best Supporting Actress
Who will win: Tilda Swinton for Michael Clayton
Who should win: Tilda Swinton for Michael Clayton
Best Animated Film
Which will win: Ratatouille
Best Original Song
Which will win: “Falling Slowly” from Once
Which should win: “Falling Slowly” from Once
Best Adapted Screenplay
Who will win: Coen Brothers for No Country for Old Men
Who should win: Coen Brothers
Best Original Screenplay
Who will win: Tony Gilroy for Michael Clayton
Who should win: Brad Bird for Ratatouille
The Turner Classic Movies channel is showing Academy Award winning films all day every day this month in a series called “31 Days of Oscar.” I watched Lord of the Rings: Return of the King last night and realized something.
I would remember that trilogy for the rest of my life.
I hadn’t read the books before I saw the first movie. I remember seeing the trailer and being very intrigued. Then I saw the movie and knew I had seen something incredible. I was in 8th grade when Fellowship came out. After that, my friend Tim and I became obsessive teen fanboys. He had read the trilogy plus the supplemental materials before, but we enjoyed the movies together.
I kept a daily countdown until the release of The Two Towers. Every day in chemistry class I would tell my friend Chris how many days were left; he wouldn’t care, but I couldn’t care enough. We bought our tickets in advance and went opening weekend I believe.
We repeated the same process for Return of the King, except I read all of the books before I saw it. I simply could not wait until December to find out what happened. (I’ve read the trilogy twice through since then.) So seeing Return, I had a different perspective, yet I enjoyed it as much as I did the others.
I remember being picked up from school with Tim by my sister Elise. Tim was just crawling into the back seat when Elise began to accelerate. Tim’s foot was not yet in the door, so it got caught beneath the moving tires for a moment. He was pretty jarred, but he made it, and we made to the theater to enjoy what we knew would be the final run-through of our annual ritual. Though we could extend our ritual further with the release of the extended DVDs. I’ve since watched the entire trilogy straight through with Tim—good times.
Lord of the Rings went on to box office and Oscar glory, but it also won the hearts of many youth. My dad never caught on to it; the weird names and twisting plot makes it hard for the Boomers to latch onto it. But it is essentially the Star Wars of my generation. Filmmakers will try for its revolutionary special effects and cultural impact for years. But above all, I will always associate LOTR with the fondness of my youth.
I will think of the great epic story, the lovable heroes, and the grand magic of cinema that creates a world out of nothing to entertain and enlighten the child in everyone.
Here’s lookin’ at you, Frodo.
Published in the North Central Chronicle on Jan. 25, 2008
“I have here in my hand…” said Senator Joseph McCarthy in February 1950, effectively hoodwinking the country into a hysterical anti-Communism era known as the Red Scare. McCarthy claimed the list identified 200 Communists within the American government, so he and the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) spearheaded a movement to eradicate Communist spies and sympathizers from the government.
The most infamous consequence of the Red Scare was the blacklisting of workers in the entertainment industry. Ten Hollywood screenwriters and producers refused to admit to HUAC that they were Communists or Communist sympathizers and in doing so were barred indefinitely from working in Hollywood. These “Hollywood Ten,” plus one hundred more working professionals, struggled to find work for many years following their blacklisting.
Loyalties within the industry became fiercely divided, and soon writers and directors directly affected by the blacklist voiced their opinions through their films. The two most notable films that resulted from the blacklisting gave sharply contrasting, yet oddly similar views of the ordeal. These films were High Noon (1952) and On the Waterfront (1954).
Fred Zinnemann’s tense Western High Noon tells the tale of Sheriff Will Kane (Gary Cooper) defending his Kansas town from vindictive criminals hell-bent on killing Kane. It’s a simple task, complicated by the fact that his new wife Amy (Grace Kelly) is a pacifist Quaker trying to talk him out of it. Plus, the deputies who were once loyal to him choose not to fight with him out of fear and cowardice.
Kane tries to rally support from the townsfolk, who cower in the shadows and resent his presence. Amy then threatens to leave him because of her pacifist principles (so much for “‘til death do us part.”) Ultimately Kane decides to take on the bandits alone, despite his wife’s wishes and despite knowing that if he left, the bandits would probably leave as well.
High Noon is the classic American Western. But unlike the traditional Westerns of the time, it takes place in almost real-time, heightening the tension for the viewer as we watch Kane desperately try to defend his town and his pride. Like Rear Window, not much action happens until the final act, when the boiler-pot full of despair and helplessness finally explodes. More importantly, it is an allegory of the fight against blacklisting, which I will discuss shortly
In Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront, Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) is an ex-prizefighter-turned-longshoreman who works for a gang that controls the New York City waterfronts. Terry inadvertently helps the gang kill a police informer, who happened to be his best friend, and his conscience starts to take a toll.
Terry is indicted by the police but refuses to testify against the gang, fearing deadly retribution. His friend’s sister Edie (Eva Marie Saint) and a local priest try to convince him to work against the mob, but it’s not until Terry’s brother Charley, a mobster who is ordered to kill Terry to stop him from testifying, is killed when Terry decides to become an informer. Terry eventually testifies against the mob, breaking the waterfront code of not ratting out one’s friends and earning the scorn of his fellow dock workers.
On the Waterfront won eight Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Actor for Marlon Brando. His performance is widely regarded as one of the best in history (you might recognize his “I coulda been a contender” speech), while the film itself placed eighth on the American Film Institute’s all-time list.
Another key reason for the film’s greatness is its symbolism: a train whistle blows as Terry “blows the whistle” on the death of his friend; Terry carries a hook on his shoulder after he is beaten up by the mob to signify a Christ-like suffering. The allegorical nature of this film elevates it from a by-the-numbers melodrama to a thoughtful masterpiece.
These films can stand alone as two classic and important American films, but they, as well as a few other films at the time, share a unique purpose in their making. Carl Foreman, the writer of High Noon, was a former Communist who was called before HUAC to identify other Communists in Hollywood. Foreman refused and was blacklisted, so he went into exile in Britain, recognizing a lack of motivation among his colleagues in Hollywood to combat the spread of McCarthyism and to speak up for their blacklisted friends.
With this in mind, the subtext of High Noon becomes clearer: the townsfolk (people in Hollywood) are afraid to support Kane (the blacklisted) when the criminals (McCarthy and HUAC) come to town. You’ll have to watch the film to see what happens, but rest assured, Foreman felt that he would survive the national nightmare, and did: he co-wrote the Academy Award-winning The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) with a fellow blacklisted screenwriter.
On the Waterfront tells the same story through a different lens. Director Elia Kazan and writer Budd Schulberg both named names at the HUAC hearings – like Terry did in the film –and their peers condemned them for it. By portraying Terry as the hero when he testifies against the villains in the film, Kazan and Schulberg justify their own real-life actions.
Since these films tell essentially the exact same story, which view is more justified? Both have a strong central character defying the persuasive masses to do what they think is right. Is the man who exposes injustice justified in his revelation, even if it means betraying his friends? Or are the masses, who refuse to help their leader because they don’t agree with him, more justified? It’s the job of the viewer to decide.
Fifty years later, these films are no less relevant today than they were back then. If anything, these films defend the right of art to give voice to a momentarily unpopular opinion that would have otherwise been ignored. They also demonstrate the power film has to launch new ideas into the public consciousness, ready or not. New and unpopular ideas abound in our culture, regardless of how many people vilify them (I’m talking to you, Bill O’Reilly), and it’s important for filmmakers to capture these ideas for humanity’s and history’s sake.
Originally published in the North Central Chronicle on January 11, 2008.
1) The Lives of Others
This German film won Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars last year, and boy, did it deserve it. Set in East Berlin during the Cold War, involving a member of the German secret police who spies on a dissident writer and soon finds his loyalties in a tug-of-war. It’s an intimate and compelling story, worthy of every penny when you rent it.
If I could watch only one movie before I die, it would be Once. The concept is simple: a guy and girl meet and make music. What transpires is an uplifting, unconventional journey through life and love that never succumbs to cliché. The songs tell the story much more than the dialogue, and seeing the story unfold is truly a delight.
The most pleasant surprise of the year. Keri Russell deserves an Oscar nod for her role as a pregnant, pie-making, emotionally-abused waitress who falls in love with her gynecologist. I instantly fell in love with Russell’s character and her supporting cast. Waitress is the sweetest and most filling story of 2007.
Despite its long running time, this film had me completely mesmerized. Scene after scene the intrigue builds as we watch detectives, reporters, and a cartoonist try to discover the identity of the Zodiac killer. It’s an old school whodunit story with great performances and a unique style, akin to other thrillers like Collateral and All the President’s Men.
5) Michael Clayton
It’s Erin Brockovich meets The Bourne Identity. George Clooney plays a fixer at a high-end law firm that has trouble fixing the latest case of malfeasance. It’s a tight, modest thriller that flew under the radar but deserves many awards. Clooney gives his best-ever performance, and the ending is the best of the year.
6) No Country for Old Men
Everything about this film is so good. The acting, cinematography, and writing crank this modernized western to eleven, keeping the tension building as a deadly cat-and-mouse game plays out in ways never seen before. The film is as violent as it is contemplative. Javier Bardem plays the best villain I’ve seen in a long time.
7) Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Johnny Depp commands the screen as a vengeful barber in 19th century London, slitting throats and hitting high notes in this gruesome, gothic musical. The costumes and sets are beautiful, but the singing shines, especially from Depp, whose haunting melodies are backed up by a lush orchestra. I saw many musicals this year; this one rules them all.
Pixar is so good that they could make a film about a homicidal drug dealer and still make it family-friendly. Of course Pixar’s animation is superior to its competitors, but this film transcends being simply an “animated movie” and thrives on the merits of its story alone. The voice work is top-notch, especially from Peter O’Toole who voices a food critic.
This year’s Little Miss Sunshine. After the first 20 minutes, Juno stops being insufferably twee and hip and settles into form, becoming hilarious and charming. The titular character, played by Ellen Page, is refreshingly frank yet oddly lovable, becoming the bedrock of a film filled with strong supporting characters.
10) 3:10 to Yuma
Westerns are back! Christian Bale and Russell Crowe maneuver an epic back-and-forth between Bale’s browbeaten farmer and Crowe’s swashbuckling outlaw he’s paid to bring to jail. Themes of loyalty, justice, and right-versus-wrong weave through this ruggedly gorgeous western. If you don’t usually like westerns, check this one out.
Published in the North Central Chronicle on November 2, 2007, as part of a series called “Chad Picks Classic Flicks.”
After tackling a few different genres—film noir, thriller, crime drama—all of which can take a heavy toll on your senses, I thought it best to visit a genre much older than the film medium and more eternal than the line at the bookstore: comedy.
There are many things that make me laugh. Some are obvious: Hans Moleman from The Simpsons getting hit in the groin with a football, Ron Burgundy repeatedly insisting that he wants to “be on” Veronica Corningstone, and G.O.B. doing his chicken dance on Arrested Development.
But other things that make me laugh are more subtle: Nigel Tufnel showing off his amp that goes to eleven in This Is Spinal Tap; Lloyd Christmas saying “follow me” to Harry Dunne in Dumb & Dumber; Dwight Schrute admitting to loving Count Chocula in The Office. Those not-so-obvious ways of making people laugh are certainly more difficult to create, and that’s why good comedy can be very hard to find.
Luckily, the American Film Institute has found it for us. They made a list of 100 American comedies worth their rental price, and my choice for classic comedy just happens to be number one on that list. That film is Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot (1959).
In Depression era Chicago, two struggling musicians, Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon), witness the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre between two rival gangs. When the gangster in charge spots Joe and Jerry, they flee in a hurry and try to arrange to leave the city to escape their pursuers. The problem is that the only available gig is with an all-female big band.
But that doesn’t stop the dynamic duo. They simply disguise themselves as females and raise their voices up an octave, effectively transforming from Joe and Jerry to Josephine and Daphne. They’re convincing enough to fool everyone in the band and are soon bound for Florida, safe from their chasers.
The “girls” quickly become popular among their female companions. They meet the ukulele player and vocalist Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe) and immediately beginning fighting for her attention, all the while struggling to maintain their feminine guise. This proves difficult as Jerry soon falls for Sugar and is tempted to blow his cover and run off with her, but he eventually accepts Sugar’s sultry demeanor as something he can never embrace—as a woman, at least.
Meanwhile, as the band arrives at a Florida resort, Josephine and Daphne discover that the gangsters they tried to evade had tracked them down. Soon they are running for their lives, all the while trying to sustain their alter-egos and survive unscathed.
Admittedly, this film doesn’t sound anything like a comedy, much less a good one. But, frankly, it’s hilarious. The Academy Award-nominated screenplay overflows with wickedly clever one-liners and double entendres. Jack Lemmon especially has a razor-sharp delivery. When Daphne and Josephine are first welcomed into the band, another girl asks if they are the new girls. “Brand new,” he says.
In addition to the superb dialogue, the actors maneuver through riotous sight gags and sticky situations. At one point, Jack Lemmon, who is enormously gifted at physical humor, is dressed in drag and an “uplifting” brassiere doing the tango with an eccentric millionaire. Any other actor would have overacted the moment, but Lemmon provides the perfect expression that becomes an uproarious moment.
Topping off at 2 hours, Some Like It Hot feels like a period drama that just happens to feature hilarious cross-dressing musicians jumping from one farcical scene to the next. But this film is unlike its comedy counterparts of today’s cinema. There are no penis jokes, no foul-mouthed perverts, no bikini-clad bimbos; just well-crafted, smart, knee-slapping comedy.
Billy Wilder, the director and co-screenwriter, was most well-known for his dramatic films like Double Indemnity (1944) and Sunset Boulevard (1950), which is why there is just as much plot as there is humor; a rarity in modern comedies. This characteristic is what sets Some Like It Hot apart from other comedies and why it topped AFI’s list.
If you’re looking for laughs that aren’t aimed at those who have been lobotomized, check out Some Like It Hot. Even if it’s not the funniest movie you’ve ever seen, it’s probably smarter than your favorite comedy. I realize that laughs don’t always coincide with intelligence (example: Epic Movie), but at least Some Like It Hot won’t cause your IQ to drop.