Comedy; It’s No Laughing Matter

I was having a conversation with someone yesterday about script ideas when I mentioned I was working on a romantic comedy. The response I got was pretty much “why don’t you aim higher?”. I find that a little bit insulting, not to me, (I’m rather glad they think I’m worth something), but to comedy. People dismiss comedy far too easily; it’s rarely nominated for any major film awards (for example; the last comedy to win Best Picture Oscar was Annie Hall in 1977, unless you count The Artist, which I don’t, because the first thing you think of when you think of that film isn’t laughter). When people ask for the best films they’ve seen they tend to go with the serious artsy ones, maybe because they actually like them, maybe because they feel that’s what they should be saying. 

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“Ass-ablanca is the best movie ever made” “don’t you mean-” “I know what I said”

I don’t know why people are so dismissive of comedy. I suspect it has something to do with people assuming it’s too lowbrow. That “comedy” is just made up of swear words and slapstick; which is ridiculous (for one thing; they’re completely missing “puns” and “racial stereotypes that white people find funny”). I will freely admit that most of my favourite tv shows and films are comedies. And it’s not just because I haven’t seen the “classics”. I’ve watched Citizen Kane, I’ve watched 2001: A Space Odyssey, and I’ve watched Full Metal Jacket, and I did really appreciate them and loved them, but I didn’t ENJOY any of them half as much as I enjoyed films like Airplane, Lego Batman Movie or In The Loop. 

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Comedy can do (and does) a lot more than people think. It can change the way people think about the world, it can inspire ideas, it can affect you in ways that leave you emotionally devastated (I’m looking at you 50/50)

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I’m then looking away, because if I look too long I’ll cry

It’s not just comedy that gets a bad rap; anybody involved in comedy does too. If an actor known for comedy makes a comment about something he is instantly dismissed. We need to start taking things like that more seriously; let’s not dismiss Jim Carrey’s thoughts about vaccines causing autism just because he’s a comedian, let’s dismiss his thoughts because they’re wrong and he’s a fucking idiot about it.

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And for being a prick

Personally, I love it when comedy and comedians effect me in an emotional way. If something includes a little bit of light it makes the darkness seem more extreme (and therefore effective). On the flipside; laughter can also make something easier to take in. It’s why people will watch and read Horrible Histories and learn more from that than from A Complete History Of British Rulers.  One of the best examples of a comedian embracing the darkness a few years ago came from American tv personality Stephen Colbert. He took a week off from The Colbert Report to deal with his mum and her death. When he came back he opened the show, not with a roundup of the show ahead, not of a bunch of silly jokes, but with a heartfelt tribute. Here’s a condensed version:

She was born just a little ways from here in Larchmont, NY on Chatsworth Ave. in 1920, the same week women first got the right to vote. She spent her summers in the Adirondacks with her older sister Colleen and her younger brother Ed, who called her Snodgrass. She met my father James at age 12 at cotillion and she liked him, but she didn’t want him to know how much, so she would make her friends ride their bikes all the way across town to pass by his house, but then she’d never look to see if he was in the front yard, which of course drove her friends crazy. And evidently, she also drove my father crazy because they were married and promptly had 11 children. She made a very loving home for us. No fight between siblings could end without hugs and kisses, although hugs never needed a reason in her house. Singing and dancing were encouraged, except at the dinner table. She knew more than her share of tragedy, losing her brother and her husband and three of her sons. But her love for her family and her faith in God somehow gave her the strength not only to go on but to love life without bitterness and instil in all of us a gratitude for every day we have together. And I know it may sound greedy to want more days with a person who lived so long, but the fact that my mother was 92 does not diminish, it only magnifies, the enormity of the room whose door has now quietly shut. In her last days, my mother occasionally became confused, and to try to ground her we asked simple questions, like what’s your favourite colour, what’s your favourite song. She couldn’t answer these. But when asked what her favourite prayer was, she immediately recited A Child’s Prayer, in German, that she used to say to my eldest brothers and sisters at bedtime when they were living in Munich in the late 1940s. Her favourite memory of prayer was a young mother tucking in her children. We were the light of her life, and she let us know it ‘til the end. 

The fact that he went from this straight back to his usual jokey self made it mean more; the sudden mood whiplash caught you by surprise, and I only hope I could write anything half as beautiful. Until then, I’ll just have to settle for watching it here.

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Why We Love…Fever Pitch

I first got into Nick Hornby the same way I imagine a lot of people did; through his films. I watched High Fidelity and loved it so I read the book, and then read more of his books. Whilst it’s not hard to argue that he has somewhat lost his way in his later books (he can not write a book with a teenage main character; it always seems like an old person writing as a young person; which it is) there’s no denying that his early books are in a class of their own. He perfectly captures the insecurities and intricacies of the masculine psyche. It attacks masculine frailties with such finesse and skill that you feel like it’s about you personally. It’s like a really good song in that way, despite the fact it was written by someone you’ve never met, in a country you’ve never been to, in a town you couldn’t recognise on a map, when you hear it you feel like the lyrics are torn out of your own brain and put to a melody, it feels personal. It’s also incredibly funny, the humour very British (for obvious reasons).

Now a lot of people will be turned off by this book because they have no interest in football. My suggestion is this; even if you don’t like football it would be a good idea to read this book. You don’t need an expansive knowledge of football to understand and enjoy this book, it pretty much explains the important things for you. This book isn’t even really about football at all; it’s a tale of obsession and life, it’s almost like a philosophy book, albeit an introductory one, disguised as a biography. He discusses his life in relation to important football events, and vice versa, which is natural. When we discuss huge events of historical importance, it always feels more real if we discuss ourselves within the context. It’s why people always talk about where they were when things happened, how they found out, how they reacted etc. They personalise the impersonal to make sense and form an emotional connection. Your viewpoint on an event will be different depending on how you first heard about it and who you were at that point in your life; if you were a young child your view will be different than if you were an adult. My viewpoint on the death of Diana, for example, is probably shaped by who I was when it happened. I had just turned 11 years old and was starting to pay a lot more attention to the outside world, as well as starting to become the cynical asshole that I am today. As such when I think of that event I just feel the reaction to it was all a bit silly, a bit over the top. 9/11 happened when I was 15 whilst I was at school, so my main memory of that is fear. Whereas by the time 7/7 happened I had started to become more interested in statistical analysis and the application of probability, so despite the fact it happened a lot closer (and I was actually supposed to go to London that day as well), I wasn’t fearful. As such my mind views the event itself differently.

It works the other way round too. I distinctly remember the year my nan died Liverpool were set to win the Premier League. She was a Liverpool fan all her life so when it looked like they were going to win it felt good, it was like they were doing it in tribute to her. As such when they slipped up and lost it, it felt like a personal attack, like they had let her down somewhat. I was actually annoyed at them for doing that. I know logically I had no reason to, her death and their football were never linked in reality, but in terms of emotion and my life, they will be forever intertwined. And that’s the beauty of life.

So in summary; a fantastic book, and the film is one of the greatest sports films I’ve ever seen (Not quite as good as The Damned United though, but few films are). A story about how invested people can get in something they have no control over, just simply wonderful. But you still need to read High Fidelity as well.

How We Got Through: August 2017

47 Meters Down

Superbly done. Also had one of my favourite endings ever. It made it look like it had a “slightly unhappy but full of hope” ending, then it went the other way and made it super depressing. Most of the film takes place underwater, and it looks gorgeous. There’s one scene where a flare is going through the ocean water and you it’s almost complete darkness apart from the small flare making its way up. Since most of the film is underwater it relies heavily on performance. Luckily Mandy Moore completely knocks it out the arena with her performance in this.

Annabelle: Creation

Renders the original (which is technically the second Conjuring film, and a sequel to this, it’s odd) completely pointless as an origin story. Has some okay performances in it but most of them are just standard. No actual scares really, all jump scares. The scariest moments in this film had nothing to do with this film; 1) I thought there was only one other person in the cinema, who was sitting behind me. But near the end a phone went off near the front. Made me jump. 2) A seat was broken and had a white sheet covering it. Whenever someone opened the door (like when a cinema worker came in to check things were okay) it caused a draft which made the sheet rise, made it look like someone was standing up underneath it.

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She got better as the film went on, in the closing section she was superb.

Atomic Blonde

Like a companion piece to John Wick, looks superb and the music is brilliant. Had one of my favourite soundtracks of the year. And there’s one scene which everyone has to see; a single shot fight scene that lasts about 15 minutes, one of (in fact probably the) best fight scene I’ve seen all year. It doesn’t cut away before impact like most do, it’s mostly silent, no music so you hear every hit, and the fight has an effect on people, you can see them get gradually more exhausted as the fight goes on. Highly recommend seeing this.

Baywatch

Why? Why does this exist? Who is an r-rated version of baywatch for? People who liked the original won’t like it, and people who didn’t like the original won’t like this. Nobody was calling out for it and it feels like it was one of those films that was only made so they could hold onto the copyright. Also, does it need an R-rating? The only point of it would be nudity, to be as sexually exploitative as they can be, but it doesn’t really do that. Only has the rating because of the swearing, which I also have a problem with; there’s far too much swearing just for the sake of swearing. Now onto the actual film; the opening scene is basically “Look how fabulous The Rock is. He’s basically perfect”. Just full of other characters complimenting him so much that it almost seems sarcastic.

Black Dynamite

The closest thing I’ve ever seen to a Garth Marenghi movie. Very weird, but a lot of fun.

Bright Young Things

Some odd directing choices that don’t really work. Funny but don’t need to see it again.

Cars 3

A LOT better than the first two (although I hated the first two). Makes a better sequel to the first one than the second one did, links better to the original and continues the story arc started in that one.

CHiPs

Dumb fun that forgot to be fun.

Cockneys Vs. Zombies

See, now this is fun. Silly but brilliant. Extremely British. More zombie films should end with a Chas & Dave song. Also notable for being the only film I’ve seen this year where somebody dropkicks a baby into a billboard (although there’s still time for that to happen again).

Demetri Martin – Live (At The Time)

Great one liners, but kind of needed better connecting moments. Very one-liner which is funny, but won’t exactly change the way you see the world.

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Prevenge

The best horror film about a pregnant woman being controlled by a homicidal fetus that I’ve ever seen. I do love Alice Lowe, she makes amazing stuff. First Sightseers now this, she’s becoming Britains go-to female film-maker for smart, original dark comedies. She really needs to do a Black Mirror episode.

 

Shut In

Obvious twist ending is obvious. How did they get such a good cast in such a bad movie? Does the director have naked pictures of Naomi Watts or something? Her work is usually highly regarded so I can’t see why she did this.

The Big Sick

The best romcom I’ve seen all year.

The Drop

Considering how much I loved the film (and I did), it says a lot that this book is equally as good. Also, thank God for public libraries for giving me the chance to read this.

The Emoji Movie

So bland. Not even bad enough for me to say anything funny about it. Despite what some reviewers may say it’s not proof of all that is wrong with society, it’s not entirely evil, it’s just shit.

 

War For The Planet Of The Apes

A stunning end to one of the best trilogies of the last few years. Some people considered the franchise dead in the water after the Tim Burton version, the knives really were out for Rise, but it managed to become highly regarded not just by fans of the franchise, but by the general public. It made weirdly concept sci-fi cool again.