Spotlight: Silent Comedy

Never was comic timing and sight gags at such a high point as in the silent movies of these comic geniuses.

Buster Keaton in The Navigator (1924). Spoiled rich boy Rollo Treadwell and his equally spoiled neighbor Betsy O’Brien find themselves adrift in the ship The Navigator. The two hapless drifters are at first completely at a loss when they have to try to feed themselves by opening cans of food or boiling water, but as the time goes by, they devise clever management skills and learn to work together to fight off swordfish and cannibals.

Charlie Chaplin in The Gold Rush (1925). The little tramp, Chaplin’s signature character, goes to the Klondike in search of gold. There he survives the bitter winter, makes his fortune, and wins the girl. Along the way he enjoys the famous boiled leather dinner and performs the dance of the dinner rolls.

Harry Langdon in The Strong Man (1926). At the end of WWI, a little, mild-mannered Belgian immigrant comes to America looking for his beloved pen pal, Mary Brown. All he knows is that she lives in America. He joins in the stage act of fellow immigrant Zandow the Great, the Strong Man, going on in his stead when Zandow is incapacitated. Langdon also performs his famous backwards climb up the stairs. Directed by Frank Capra.

Harold Lloyd in The Kid Brother (1927). Harold Hickory is the youngest and scrawniest of the Hickory boys whose father is the town sheriff. When his father is accused of theft, Harold sets out to prove to his family, his girl, and his town that he is the equal of any Hickory in Hickoryville.

ER. Season 1 (1994-1995)

ers1I recently revisited the medical drama that started it all. Set in Chicago, ER follows the personal and professional lives of the doctors, nurses, and interns working in the emergency room of County General Hospital. While much of the technology has changed, the fast-paced electrifying show still grabs your attention for the 44 minute episodes. Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park) created the show based on his own time as a resident in a busy urban hospital.

Season 1 garnered 8 Emmy wins, including Julianna Marguiles for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. Check out the Variety review of the pilot. And revisit the early days of ER to get a look at a young George Clooney (as playboy pediatrician Doug Ross), a baby-faced Noah Wyle (as trauma surgery intern John Carter), plus try to spot famous guest stars including Rosemary Clooney, William H. Macy, and Ming-Na Wen. Episode “Love’s Labor Lost” nabbed 5 Emmys, features a major turning point for Mark Greene (Anthony Edwards), and includes a guest appearance by Bradley Whitford.

Can’t wait to reacquaint myself with season 2!

What We Do in the Shadows (2014) R

whatwedoA “mockumentary” about (very) old-fashioned vampires living in a modern world. Fans of HBO’s Flight of the Conchords (which also stars Jemaine Clement) will love the similarly understated, dry humor of the film. Equally satirical of pop culture’s current love affair with the undead and our obsession with reality television at the expense of our privacy, What We Do in the Shadows has the making of a cult classic.

Beginners (2010) R

beginnersThis romantic comedy/drama tells the story of Oliver, reflecting on the life and death of his father Hal, and his new romantic relationship with Anna who is dealing with her own father issues.

Christopher Plummer won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance of Hal, the father. Shortly after his wife’s death, Hal came out as a gay man. He becomes active in the gay community, becomes more honest with himself and thus grows closer to his son. Shortly after Hal dies, his son Oliver meets Anna at a party and decides to pursue a romance with her.

Beginners is a personal story, a touching story. Described as a quirky comedy, the viewer watches a man in late bloom and his the effect it had on his son’s life.

Sense8. Season 1 (2015)

sense8Netflix’s newest original show Sense8 is an intriguing and addicting sci-fi drama about eight different people from all over the globe who share a connection. “Sensates” are individuals who are all born at the same time and later become telepathically linked. Their powers begin to reveal themselves as the sensates enter their thirties, and the individuals start hearing, seeing, and feeling things happening to the others, even in different countries. The eight begin talking to each other, sharing experiences, falling in love, and doing their best to escape being captured by those who want to eliminate sensates.

This cast is one of the most diverse and fascinating group of characters I’ve seen on anything in a long time. Riley is Icelandic, living in London, and becoming a DJ. Sun is the daughter of a prominent businessman in Seoul who spends her time fighting in the ring. Capheus is a bus driver in Nairobi who will do whatever it takes to get his mother her medicine. Lito is a dramatic actor in Mexico trying to hide his relationship with his boyfriend. Kala is in Mumbai, about to marry a man she does not love. Wolfgang is a safecracker in Germany about to pull off a major heist. Will is a cop in Chicago and Nomi is a transwoman in San Francisco. All of the stories alone are engaging and well-written, but together they form an emotional, dramatic, and even romantic and hilarious sci-fi thriller.

Check out one of our rokus to watch this show’s first season on Netflix.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) PG

nbcburtonTim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas  is timeless movie magic and a visual delight. Burton created this stop-motion animation film in which Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of dreary Halloweentown, finds a secret passageway to Christmastown. He likes what he finds so he decides to better himself by taking over for Santa! This ghoulish fairy tale is in no way mean-spirited. It is more playful than nasty so go ahead and add it to your Christmas movie list!

Olympus Has Fallen (2013) R

olympushasfallenWhen telling a friend about Olympus Has Fallen, I called it “Die Hard for the 21st century.” If you’re in the mood for an intense action adventure film (and don’t mind the implausibility), check this one out. Gerard Butler gives a strong performance as the disgraced Secret Service agent who penetrates the White House to save the president (Aaron Eckhart) after terrorists seize the building. Also starring Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo, and Dylan McDermott.

Forrest Gump (1994) PG-13

forrestgumpForrest Gump is told from the point of view of Forrest, played by Tom Hanks, and has a tall tale feel to it that will keep a satisfied smirk on your face throughout the movie. Forrest is born in Alabama, and he is not very bright, but despite this, or maybe even because of it, he throws himself into everything he does.

With extraordinary luck, he manages to appear at the scene of many pivotal moments in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, and the movie superimposes him into actual footage of these events—it’s a lot of fun. His one desire is to woo the girl he grew up with, the love of his life, Jenny. Though the movie is funny, it also deals with a lot of heavy topics, and the ending is bittersweet. Forrest has so much heart that you will cheer for him until the end.

Adventureland (2009) R

adventurelandThe year is 1987 and recent college graduate James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) is making big plans to tour Europe and attend graduate school in pursuit of his dream of a career in journalism. Big financial problems arise and he instead starts to look for a summer job. He finds one at a run-down amusement park in western Pennsylvania. He meets Emily (Kristen Stewart), a coworker and develops a relationship with her.

James falls in love with Emily but later finds out she is seeing another worker at the park. They break up while the whole entire amusement park knows all about them. Emily leaves for New York, humiliated and sad she broke James’s heart and lost the best chance at love. James shows up at Emily’s apartment in New York and tells her he sees her in a different way than she sees herself.

Adventureland is full of humor, nostalgia, a sweet coming-of-age story that adults and teens will enjoy.