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What I Learned From The Finally Screenings

Seven and a half months and 30 films ago, I began a mission to watch all the best comedies my sheltered childhood, lack of cable, and pop-culture cluelessness had prevented me from seeing until now. I think it’s safe to say I’ve accomplished my goal, in some measure. Not that I’ve seen every comedy, or even every great comedy, but I think I can safely say I’ve seen the same funny movies any healthy kid of my generation can reasonably be expected to have seen. Of course there are countless films I still have yet to see in order to consider myself any kind of authority on comedy films, [...]

Watching Arthur For the First Time

If it gives you any idea how inside-out my movie viewing track record was as a child, the only Dudley Moore movie I had ever seen until this week was 1988's Santa Claus: The Movie. You know, the one where candy canes make you fly for some reason. Oh, you don’t remember that? Neither does anyone else.

I'm glad to discover that Moore had a career besides that film. Who knew? And seeing how there's an Arthur remake coming, I felt like this was a perfect opportunity to check out the source material, a 1981 film about a drunken millionaire who must decide between marrying a girl his family [...]

Watching The Goonies For the First Time

The 80s were a great time to be a kid. High-concept comedies and sci-fi movies, loud, parent-maddening music, classic video games and cable TV. Compared to other decades, kids’ entertainment was unabashedly childish, insane, colorful, loud and ridiculous. Now that plopping your kids in front of the TV for hours on end while you do something else is sort of frowned upon, children’s entertainment has been forced to appeal, with widely varying success, to parents as well as kids, spawning a tiny amount of the best entertainment in the industry (Pixar, I’m looking at you) and a truckload of the very worst (insert your favorite squeakuel here). Gone are [...]

Watching Pee-Wee's Big Adventure For the First Time

I guess I just never got Pee-Wee Herman. As a kid his show kind of creeped me out. I didn't and still don't really get what's funny about him. The idea of a wide-eyed, unflappably optimistic kid in a grown-up's body, overcoming all obstacles with his infectiously silly energy, is a great bit in theory, but in execution I think Pee-Wee always rang false (and, as I said, a little terrifying) to me. I think for a bit like that to hold up, you need to commit to the character in a way Pee-Wee just never did. There was always something external, something dark and cynical about it that [...]

Watching Clueless For the First Time

Seeing as how it’s Women In Comedy week here at Splitsider, I thought it would be appropriate to watch a comedy from a female writer and/or director. Fortunately I’ve been staunchly gender-neutral in my gross negligence of cinema’s best comedies throughout my life, so there were plenty to choose from. But which one? A League of Their Own? Too obvious. Juno? Too recent. Clueless? Tailor-made for my generation, well-regarded among friends and colleagues, seen by almost everyone but me. Just right.

First, Clueless is a great movie, and very funny. It’s also a movie that is designed to make anyone born between 1975 and 1985 feel stupidly giddy. It [...]

Watching Bio-Dome For the First Time

The first half of the 90s was a fertile ground for comedies that exploited the popularity not just of a single comedian, but of a specific character — or type of character — portrayed by a single comedian; Carrey’s mugging wise-ass, Farley’s sweaty manchild, Sandler’s violent manchild. There was a big rash of these films, all clumped up together in the Nirvana years, a byproduct of the tonal shift in comedic film as comedies with big concepts gave way to the trend of popular comedians in a series of more or less interchangeable situations. Ghostbusters without proton packs and Zuul wouldn’t be Ghostbusters, but if Tommy Boy involved textiles [...]

Watching Police Academy For the First Time

The cadets who constitute the leading characters in Police Academy share many characteristics. They all have a lot going against them. They’re underachievers, weirdos, fuck-ups. They break or refuse to accept or are ignorant of most of the rules, and they are each at times obnoxious, incompetent and one-dimensional. But in spite of their many and consistent failures, they smile and struggle and goof around anyway and just barely sort of succeed on their own merits by the end of the movie.

By that measure, Police Academy itself could be a character in its own film.

It’s really adorable, actually. I almost can’t understand how a movie that [...]

Watching Fast Times at Ridgemont High For the First Time

Growing up, I didn’t realize there was an entire subgenre of movies dedicated to reminiscing about high school. I especially didn’t realize that there was an entire subgenre inside that subgenre dedicated to doing drugs and having sex in high school. The former never made sense to me because I didn’t do anything in high school worth reminiscing about, and the latter made even less sense for reasons that are probably obvious at this point.

High school wasn’t very fun for me, but it wasn’t traumatic or amusing either. I was really small, but it wasn’t a big deal. I was picked on, but not enough to complain about. [...]

Watching Top Secret! For the First Time

One of the most popular movie suggestions people have for me when they hear I’m writing this column is Airplane!, and I can't blame them for suggesting it. Airplane! is just like a lot of the movies I didn’t see as I kid — it’s racy, low-brow, full of double entendres, only rated PG because PG-13 hadn’t been invented yet — exactly the kind of movie that I wasn’t allowed to watch. I actually have seen it, though, but I remember it being right on the edge of what my tiny sheltered brain could understand as a child. I particularly remember being scarred for life by that scene where [...]

Watching Some Like It Hot For the First Time

In The Finally Screenings, Alden Ford is watching movies that he really should have seen by now, but hasn't for some reason.

I’m actually not sure how I managed to avoid seeing this week’s film. A household that forbade R-rated movies was naturally overflowing with G-rated black-and-white classics, and I’ve seen more than my share of them. Jack Lemmon, Gene Kelly, Katharine Hepburn. By high school I had seen most of the family films in my local video store made before 1980, scouring the “Classics” shelves and those huge white clamshell cases on the Disney Live Action rack every visit to see if I’d missed anything. Yeah, yeah, [...]

Watching Reefer Madness For the First Time

It’s safe to say that, upon its release, Reefer Madness was intended to be, on some level, serious. It’s a film that was originally financed by a church group as a morality tale about the dangers of marijuana (or “marihuana,” as the film calls it). Whether or not it succeeded in that goal, I can’t speak to, but as it was purchased before release and recut by noted exploitation producer Dwain Esper, it probably instead reached an audience more concerned with seeing a film not approved by the MPAA than having an educational sit-down with their impressionable kids.

It’s also safe to say that, upon [...]

Watching Slap Shot For the First Time

As The Finally Screenings have shifted from comedies that are at the top of classic-comedy lists to films that are found on more obscure or specific charts, I suppose it’s inevitable that there would be a higher proportion of films that I wouldn’t necessarily think to describe as comedies, per se. Light-hearted, fanciful, bizarre, stylish or satirical, maybe, but not funny-ha-ha. 1977’s Slap Shot is a perfect example, a film whose darker and more dramatic elements outweigh the laughs to a genre-stretching degree.

Which isn’t to say that Slap Shot is a bad movie. It has a lot of things going for it, and the laughs to be found [...]

Watching Quick Change For the First Time

This week, I watched Bill Murray's Quick Change. It's a movie I had barely heard of before having it recommended to me, but man — it's fantastic.

Murray plays Grimm, a guy so fed up with New York City that he devises a brilliant bank robbery followed by a permanent vacation to Fiji with his girlfriend Phyllis (Geena Davis) and best friend Loomis (Randy Quaid). The robbery goes perfectly, but as anyone who has lived here will tell you, just getting to the airport can be a nightmare.

It's Bill Murray's first (and so far, only) directing credit, and it really shows that this is a part he loves [...]

Watching Idiocracy for the First Time

Normally for this column I watch a comedy many people have told me to see, but this week I did something a little different — I watched a comedy just one person has told me to see on a number of occasions. He’s got a good sense of humor, so I knew it wouldn’t be a total waste of time. Plus, I figured if I liked it, this column would help him evangelize it vicariously through me, and if I didn’t like it, I could publicly shame his questionable taste in movies.

Fortunately for my friend, Idiocracy is a pretty good movie.

For those of you who haven’t seen [...]