12 July 2011

You Can Watch a Classic Film, a Great One or Just One That's A Helluva Lot of Fun, I Offer Ten Examples of the Latter

There are only so many films that a given cinephile will rank among the greatest of all time. Unlike in, say, choosing a life partner, you can afford to occasionally select a film  that you know going in is just for fun. However there is a hard and fast rule about just- for-fun films, they still have to be good. No need you wasting your time with rubbish. While there are few classics, there are enough fun films to keep you from knowingly dipping into the real stinkers.

Just-for-funs are generally light hearted fare. They may feature some belly laughs, toe tapping songs or exciting chase scenes, but they don't challenge you intellectually. There are some films that would seem to qualify as just for fun films that I don't consider as such. This would be a picture like Duck Soup (1933) which I hold in such high esteem that is more than just for fun -- it's sacred. In a similar vein Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and Cabaret (1972) are too important to qualify.

When I watch a just-for-fun film I need a gentle comfy experience, not something I'm going to be awed by. After all a body can only take so much lobster, occasionally one just wants a tuna sandwich. So now that I've beaten this point into the ground, I present ten examples of movies I watch....all together now: JUST FOR FUN!

High Society (1956). On the one hand its a musical remake of The Philadelphia Story (1940) that pales in comparison to the real Mccoy. On the other hand its got Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, Grace Kelly and Celeste Holm in the cast. Plus you get Sinatra and Crosby crooning. Their duet of Cole Porter's "Did You Evah?" makes it worthwhile to sit through the rest of the picture. This is such an light and airy film that you swear it can float away. But it is the very definition of what the posting is all about -- fun.

Follow the Fleet (1936). Really, any Astaire and Rogers film could qualify. They are all about fun and nothing else. The character development (such as it isn't) and the stories (as heavy as a 1950's sit com) are all just props around Fred and Ginger's dancing. And when they danced to a song it stayed danced to. I offer Follow the Fleet because the story (with Fred in the Navy) is particularly weightless and it has my favorite all time dance number done to the song "Let's Face the Music and Dance."

Dr. No (1962). Last Summer oldest daughter and I watched all the Sean Connery James Bond films (I refuse to acknowledge the others). Truly any one of them would qualify for this list but why not start with the first one? (However if you want the best of the lot I'd suggest From Russia With Love (1963)). The story lines of the Bond films strain credulity beyond the breaking point, the special effects look silly, but their is stronger emphasis on character development then you see today. And besides, it's Sean Connery for crying out loud.

The Jerk (1979). Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a stupid movie. True, true. But it is also a very funny one. Any film that starts with Steve Martin saying, "I was born a poor black child" is announcing itself as being stupid. And funny. It would be silly to describe The Jerk so I'll just leave you with this soliloquy from it:  I know we've only known each other four weeks and three days, but to me it seems like nine weeks and five days. The first day seemed like a week and the second day seemed like five days. And the third day seemed like a week again and the fourth day seemed like eight days. And the fifth day you went to see your mother and that seemed just like a day, and then you came back and later on the sixth day, in the evening, when we saw each other, that started seeming like two days, so in the evening it seemed like two days spilling over into the next day and that started seeming like four days, so at the end of the sixth day on into the seventh day, it seemed like a total of five days. And the sixth day seemed like a week and a half. I have it written down, but I can show it to you tomorrow if you want to see it. 

Catch Me if You Can (2002). Leonardo DiCaprio has surprised many of us by emerging as a serious acting presence, but in CMIYC he's more the adorable scamp. Steven Spielberg  directed this true story of one the great young con artists of any generation. Tom Hanks is the FBI agent in hot pursuit and he's wonderful too. It's a perfectly charming story and while meaty at two hours and twenty minutes, positively flies by.

After the Thin Man (1936). You'll note the presence of several sequels on this list, they almost never measure up to the original but as in the case of ATTM they're often okay. There were several Thin Man sequels and though I wouldn't swear to it I think they get progressively worse. In any event, this is the second of the series and it's good fun. Nick (William Powell) Nora (Myrna Loy) and Asta are in San Francisco. The story commences on New Year's Eve and don't you know it our heroes can't enjoy their homecoming without a murder needing investigation. There are suspects aplenty including one portrayed by a young actor named James Stewart (whatever became of the lad?). With Powell and Loy leading the way, and tippling away, these stories are always a delight.

Battleground (1949). Ladies and gentlemen I gave you the quintessential World War II film of the immediate post war period. It is also one of the best. This is good ole G.I. Joe at the Battle of the Bulge fighting Nazis and the elements. You have the wonderful stew of a bunch of different sort of Yanks being thrown together and fighting the good fight. There is the camaraderie, the squabbles, the sad death of buddies and heroic deeds. Battleground doesn't flinch at violence as many war films of its era did, but there's not blood and brain matter spewing every which way like in recent cinema. William Wellman directed so you know its good.

The Town (2010). Last year Ben Affleck wrote, directed and star in this wonderful heist film. Jon Hamm played the FBI agent pursuing our anti heros. Rebecca Hall and Blake Lively played the love interests and it is a testimony to Affleck's wisdom that he cast these two lovelies opposite himself. Hall has appeared in and greatly enhanced several films in the past few years. The Town is an improbable story but believable enough to make the action, romance and tension genuine fun. So, yeah, this is a fun movie worth a second look.

Aliens (1986). This is the sequel to the classic Alien (1979) from director Ridley Scott. It pains me to include a film directed by the odious James Cameron, but this is a lot of gory fun. While the original was more a Gothic horror film than sci fi thriller, this is played just for thrills and of those there are plenty. Sigourney Weaver is back and this time she is more the prototypical action figure than the gallant hero of the first film.

Rio Grande (1950). John Ford cranked out countless Westerns and its hard to find a bad one in the lot. Rio Grande is not among his best but it'll do. There is the wonderful teaming of John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara a few years before The Quiet Man (1952). Also much of Ford's usual players were in the cast including Harey Carey Jr., Victor McLaglen and a young Ben Johnson. Oh yes, there are Apaches on the warpath, battle scenes, laughs, beautiful scenery and another Ford tip of the cap to the cavalry.

Hey everybody, this was my 600th Post!!! In lieu of gifts please send money.


Millie said...

I always enjoy your list posts, but this one was particularly (I'm afraid I almost just typed "fun") awesome!

I love just for fun films - well-made or not - and this was a great list.

High Society is just lovely and I actually prefer it to the original (sacrilege, I know!).

And Fred + Ginger!

Dr. No is actually my favorite James Bond (evil mango song notwithstanding ;-D). I've only seen the '60s Connery though. I adore Roger Moore, but he's The Saint -- I can't imagine him as James Bond.

And After The Thin Man is my very favorite Nick + Nora besides the original.

Sorry for the rambling reply! I really enjoyed this post!

Byron the afro-filmviewer said...

May I add. My Favourite film to the mix. House party.

Here's the article I wrote about it.


You guys had Fred n Ginger. I had Kid and Play