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By Alden Ford on The Finally Screenings: I Just Saw Stripes For the First Time

Thanks for the comment. But you don't need to point out the fact that I write these pieces in a vacuum - that's sort of the point. As I said in my first article, I'm not writing this column from the angle of defending any of these films - either from the perspective of a lifelong fan, or of a comedy historian. I would be happy to write - and would certainly have plenty of fuel for - a column dissecting these same films and discussing what was iconic, revolutionary, or culturally relevant about them. But those articles have already been written many times over, and there aren't, in my experience, many pieces looking at these films in, as you say, a vacuum. I'm definitely, and defiantly, not blind to whose shoulders I stand on as a comedian, writer and filmmaker. The histories of comedy and of film are very compelling and important to me. But watching these movies without any personal loyalty to them outside of an understanding of their influence and context is, more than a reflection on whether or not the movies are objectively "good," a look at how comedy works NOW, how writing works NOW, and what has changed since John Belushi crushed that can against his head. Are those changes good or bad? I don't really know. But what little I know, and value, as a writer and comedian and filmmaker, has a lot to do with the power of solid characters who are capable of growing, good relationships, decent timing, editing and filmmaking, and surprising and timeless (as opposed to topical) jokes. That's what I think makes a good comedy, and I think it's reflective of the priorities of today's best comedies (Arrested Development, for example, has an objectively substantial amount of all of these) - and, I've found, many of the best comedies of all time (Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, etc. all have a lot of these elements as well). So when I see movies like Stripes or Animal House, which seem staunchly against their characters changing, don't prioritize editing or pacing, and rely on a number of punchlines that are specific to their time periods or what their intended audiences would find shocking or topical, it's interesting (to me) to discover that they doesn't resonate with someone unfamiliar with them (me), especially since I'm pretty easy to please when it comes to comedy. Long story short, the context of these films is not lost on me, and I have a great deal of respect for them and their cast members - Bill Murray in particular; I'm a huge fan of in everything I see him in and consider him to be a substantial influence on my personal sense of humor (it's worth mentioning that if you'll notice I specifically noted that he's great in this but just given too much responsibility to carry the whole film on his character's back). Bill Murray is not what doesn't hold up about Stripes, or Caddyshack for that matter. It's the film as a whole that doesn't resonate with me now. Which is only interesting, I suppose, when I also have seen so many other classic comedies for the first time that so solidly do. I don't write this column to talk shit about classic movies - statistically speaking I've loved the vast majority of them, and elated to have finally seen the rest. Hope that makes some sense, and I hope it helps you understand that nothing I write reflects a desire or decision to be close-minded about these films.

Posted on November 10, 2010 at 1:33 pm 1