Mel Brooks

GUILTY PLEASURES – REDUX

Grateful and Guilty – Whether it’s a trashy TV show, extra-pulpy fiction, or nutrient-free candy, write a thank-you note to your guiltiest guilty pleasure.

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This prompt is 100% rerun. And this response is the identical (except for a teeny tiny bit of editing) response I made the first time around, on June 23, 2013. I keep saying: if you are going to re-issue the same prompts, I’m going to republish what I wrote in response. Not that anyone from WordPress pays the least bit of attention to what we write. You guys up there think we are really not very bright, don’t you.


No matter how sophisticated we become, how many degrees in film, literature or the arts we obtain, we keep our guilty pleasures. By which I mean the movies, books, books, and television shows we know aren’t great — and may be really dumb.

It doesn’t matter. We love them anyway.

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I have a whole bushel of them, ranging from television shows about vampires with glowing eyes (Forever Knight), to reruns of the original Lassie. I’m a sucker for any movie featuring a non-human, be it cat, dog, horse, or sea creature. I’ll watch pretty much anything in which Candice Bergen starred or was at least featured. I’ll watch anything from any season of any Star Trek, even if I’ve seen it a hundred times.

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I love comedies by Mel Brooks, even the bad ones because they make me laugh. Ditto the Zucker brothers for the same reason. If you can make me laugh, you’ve got me. Sometimes, I watch things that are unintentionally funny … Xena, Princess Warrior comes to mind. I don’t know whether it was supposed to be funny, but it made me laugh until I cried.

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My lists of favorite movies, books and television shows are a study in contrasts. I love The Lion In Winter and The Seventh Seal. I love Airplane and Hotshots Deux. I never miss a run of Best Of Show or A Mighty Wind. Or the original version of The Haunting.  From the sublime to the ridiculous, I will watch or read whatever grabs my fancy or makes me laugh without discrimination.

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It’s one of the reasons I think that “awards” like the Golden Globes and the Oscars need many more categories. How can you put a screwball comedy against a serious drama and have any kind of sensible outcome? It would be like having a dog show that included camels and goats. It wouldn’t matter how beautiful a goat or camel you have entered, it would never win Best of show.

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What makes you laugh? What cheers you up when you’ve got the blues? Are you a secret fan of Gilligan’s Island or Love Boat? Time to come clean!

EVEN MORE SHARING – CEE’S SHARE YOUR WORLD, 2014 WEEK 31

Sharing My World

If you had your own talk show, who would your first three guests be? (guest can be dead, alive, famous or someone you just know)

This was really hard! So many people with whom I’d love to chat, to ask questions. Or really, just hang out.

So at the top of this list, the late great Douglas Adams. I don’t know what I’d ask him, but I just want to be in his presence and smile.

For conversation, I first thought I’d invite a couple of favorite living authors. But there are too many. Many, many, too many. How could I possible pick just two?

TV Camera-25

So I’ll just invite Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner. They are — so far, so good — alive and funny. I will ask them to do “The 2,000 Year Old Man.” Then I can sit there and laugh until I cry!

With what can you always be found?

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A camera and spare eyeglasses. I don’t get along with bifocals, so I carry computer glasses (with which I can also read) plus prescription sunglasses and a spare pair of regular “seeing” glasses. And my Panasonic Lumix DMC ZS -25, my latest, greatest go everywhere compact super-zoom camera.

What is the most fun thing you did in school?

Being a pain in the butt. Then getting punished (?) by being sent to the art room where I could spend the day mucking around with paint, glue, scissors, and oak tag. I answered too many questions which interfered with the education of my classmates, so they got rid of me by banishing me.

I loved it. Just me and all that stuff. I didn’t even have to share. Yay.

What’s something you know you do differently than most people?

Since I have no idea how other people do stuff, I have no way to know if I do it differently. Whatever it is. I can’t think of anything I do in an especially unique way. But I’ll let you know if I think of anything.

What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward next week?

A new book — the first of two — by Carol Berg, one of my favorite authors, came out this week and I bought it on Kindle and as an audiobook today. I also have James Lee Burke’s latest waiting for me, as well as Gretchen Archer’s latest (not yet published — an advance reader edition of Double Strike) David Way caper. Next week, when Garry goes to New York to visit his brother, I am going to indulge in an orgy of listening to audiobooks and reading in bed.

This may not sound exciting to you, but to me it sounds like heaven.

MOSES, PETER AND MEL

Before I put one finger to type, I acknowledge this may be heresy to some people. On this day of days, one simply doesn’t make fun of religious movies. But I do.

Last night, Marilyn and I had our traditional viewing of “The Ten Commandments”. Marilyn has already posted a piece on this event which expresses our sentiments about Mr. Demille’s final epic. Cecil B was, once again, going for life altering moments. He gave us, instead, much-needed laughter.

Today’s lineup of movies on our favorite cable station includes almost all of the familiar biblical movies. Few stand the test of time. Some are really well intended like George Stevens’, “The Greatest Story Ever Told”. But the man who gave us classics like “Shane”, “A Place In The Sun” and “Giant”, wound up with a ponderous and static film in “The Greatest Story”. It’s biggest sin? It is boring!

As I write, we are watching Mel Brooks’, “History of the World-Part One” which is the perfect antidote to historical films that have become parodies or that were really never good. The ironic thing is that we have a greater appreciation of history because of Mel’s equal opportunity insults than the cardboard epics which play fast and loose with facts.

I must admit I love watching gladiator movies. It’s a guy thing like war films.  I also enjoy seeing semi clad (or even less clad) young women engaging us in erotic dances before evil monarchs who are not playing with a full deck. But we’re not talking about great cinema here.

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Charlton “call me Chuck” Heston was really honest when he talked about playing Moses. He told me it was a good gig. Working with Cecil B. DeMille (for a second time) was nice for his résumé. It actually gave him a boost for a religious film he really wanted to do. “Ben Hur” is one of the best religious films out of Hollywood. It stands the test of time because of William Wyler’s fine direction. And, yes, the chariot race alone is still worth the price of admission.

This really is obviously subjective. If you love Cecil B’s forceful (?) narration of his take on the old testament, so be it. So let it be written, so let it be done,

We’re back with Mel. Now, it’s the French Revolution and those girls in their generously cut costumes.

It’s good to be king!

Stay In The Car and Other Classic Lines – Marilyn Armstrong

In the spirit of clichés that pop out of the mouths of Our Heroes with alarming frequency, despite the fact that they have become standing jokes for the audience (apparently nobody mentioned this to the script writers), our personal favorite in this house is “Stay in the car.”

On the NBC TV series “Chuck.” it’s a gag line. Unfortunately, on most shows it is supposed to be real dialogue  and not cause hilarity … but it does. Every time.

I checked on Subzin, a movie database that lets you enter a piece of dialogue, then reports in how many and in the specific movies where you’ll find it. According to Subzin, “Stay in the car”  can be found in 356 phrases from 296 movies and series. Yet, they continue to use it.

Lethal Weapon 2: (1989)

uses the line a lot.

Then, there’s  Last Action Hero (1993), my favorite Arnold Schwarznegger movie in which the line is understood to be a cliché , which is more than you can say for most of the places you will hear it:

But don’t feel that this is confined to modern movies. High Sierra, with Humphrey Bogart and Ida Lupino, 1941 used the line too.
Speaking of Humph, there’s one great line in Treasure of the Sierra Madres that has become, by its utter perfection, a cliché or maybe … a laugh line?
And again, from Blazing Saddles (1974), a movie so quotable that we can recite the entire dialogue as we watch:
And then there is:
Ah, so many clichés. So little time. And then … they all walk away …

THE FUNNIEST YEAR – My Favorite Year

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This is one of those movies that I will watch any time it shows up on cable. No matter when (doesn’t matter since we have DVRs all over the house), it’s laugh-out-loud funny, funny enough to laugh at the jokes in advance after you’ve seen it a dozen times or move. Everyone in it gives a perfect performances. If you haven’t seen it, grab it before it gets away.

It isn’t merely funny. It’s also history, the history of comedy. The crazy kids who grew up to create the movies and television shows that made history and formed the comedy genre as we know and love it.

This is a wonderful, nostalgic, hilarious movie based on the “kids” who wrote the material for the “Show of Shows”, a live comedy show starring the great Sid Caesar. Among the many writers to emerge from this incubator of talent were Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Howard Morris, Neil Simon, Woody Allen, Norman Lear, Larry Gelbart (creator of MASH, the TV series) and many others. The writer’s room group reads like the who’s who of comedy.

Much of the story is based on an actual event, the week that Errol Flynn (Peter O’Toole) came to town to guest star on the Sid Caesar show. Mel Brooks, the kid in the movie was in fact assigned to “babysit” Flynn and make sure he stayed sober and showed up for the broadcast. Although the character is a bit of a composite, he’s mostly Mel.

Richard Benjamin directed it. Joe Bologna as “King Kaiser” (Sid Caesar) is wonderful. And as far as I’m concerned, this is far and away Peter O’Toole’s best performance. You may prefer Lawrence of Arabia, but this movie does it for me.

We never get tired of it. We never stop laughing. We watched it last night for maybe the 100th time and laughed as much as ever.

You WILL enjoy it. You have my personal guarantee on that. Or double your money back!

(Not really :-) )

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Weekly Writing Challenge: Reel Talk – My Favorite Year: A Favorite Movie

It’s laugh-out-loud funny. Great performances. Definitely see it. This is a wonderful, nostalgic, hilarious movie based on the “kids” who wrote the material for the “Show of Shows”, a live comedy show starring the great Sid Caesar. Among the many writers to emerge from this incubator of talent were Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Howard Morris, Neil Simon, Woody […]

Marilyn’s Desert Island Eight – Movies I never tire of!

Eight movies to have on a desert island? So many movies … but if I had to make the choice, here they are!

The Lion In Winter

The Lion in Winter (1968 film)

The Lion in Winter (1968 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Awesome performances by everyone, from Hepburn and O’Toole, to Anthony Hopkins in his first screen role. Wonderful script and matchless screen chemistry. It’s not accurate history … but the interaction of the members of the family is surprisingly close if you want to examine only the emotional content. In the end, it’s all about the performances. From top to bottom, every performance is extraordinary. Hepburn got an Oscar, one of three wins for the film. Many more nominations plus three Golden Globes. All well-deserved.

The Americanization of Emily

Cover of "The Americanization of Emily"

Paddy Chayevsky‘s script is among the best movie scripts of all time. Add superb performances by James Garner and Julie Andrews in her first dramatic role. The whole movie would be worth it just for Garner’s monologue on war. But there’s so much more. It’s funny, sharp, downright brilliant.

The cast knew they’d never have a better job. All of them list this movie as the favorite or as one of the top one or two of their professional lives. Roles like this don’t come along often in any actor’s career. The actors showed their appreciation by working their hearts out. Everyone is at the top of his or her game.

Tombstone

This is one of those movies that I like better each time I watch it … and I watch it often. We can recite dialogue with it. It’s got everything you want a western to have: passion, revenge, violence, humor and brilliant cinematography. It’s Val Kilmer‘s best performance and arguably Kurt Russell‘s shining moment.

This is my go to movie if I need a revenge and violence fix. It manages to have a satisfying body count without the gore. I like that in a movie.

A Mighty Wind

Maybe it isn’t one of the all time greatest films, but reminds me of some of the best of times in my life as well as music I dearly love. It’s funny, often laugh-out-loud hilarious, a loving parody. It’s a warm-hearted and nostalgic look at a time many of us look back on with great affection. The music manages to be humorous and good — a difficult act to pull off.

Casablanca

Not the most original choice, but it’s so good and it has worn well despite the years. We saw it on the big screen not long ago. Wonderful. It’s pure mythology, but it’s the way we wish it had been. I need heroes.

Three Oscar wins — Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay plus nominations for just about every member of the cast. Seeing it on the big screen was like seeing it for the first time and gave me an even better appreciation of the brilliant script.

Blazing Saddles

It’s hard to pick just one Mel Brooks movie, but if I have to choose, this has to be the one. It was a tough choice. “Young Frankenstein,” “High Anxiety,” and “History of the World, Part I” are right up there too. “Blazing Saddles” wins because it’s got some of the all-time great movie lines. That’s HEDLEY Lamar!

Starman

Science fiction movies usually disappoint me because they aren’t science fiction, but westerns in space using spacecraft for horses, featuring millions of dollars of special effects, but no script. This is all acting. A fine script, wonderful performances, romantic, touching and believable. A great performance — underrated — by Jeff Bridges. And I almost forgot to mention the haunting score. Rarely mentioned, it’s the best kind of science fiction … concept and character based. And unforgettable.

The Three and Four Musketeers (1973 – 1974)

I know they were issued as two movies, but they were filmed as one. The stars of the film(s) sued the studios since they had only been paid for one movie, and they won. Nonetheless, both movies play like a single film in two parts. You can’t watch one without the other. They keep remaking it, but none of the others come near this version. It’s fast, funny, and surprisingly true to the books. Dumas would have been pleased. I love the sword fights. I used to fence in college, and this has some of the best choreographed fencing I’ve ever seen. It’s not the elegant fencing you usually see, but brawling — the way men really fought — not to get points for good form, but to win without getting sliced up.

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And that’s my eight. If I could pick a hundred more, I wouldn’t run out of choices. Oh, and I might change my mind tomorrow!

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