A funny thing happened on the way to 100

Radio and Television

June 14, 2000|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

No movie is perfect, but when it comes to comedy, apparently "Some Like It Hot" is close enough.

The 1959 gender-bending comedy, with Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis as musicians trying to escape the mob by posing as members of an all-girl band, was proclaimed the funniest American film of all time last night. Interestingly, "Some Like It Hot" was one of four films on the list that involved cross-dressing - reinforcing the notion that there's no more sure-fire way to generate laughs than dressing men in women's clothes. The other three (with where they fell in parentheses) were "Tootsie" (2), "Mrs. Doubtfire" (67) and "Victor/Victoria" (76).

The full list of the 100 funniest American films, unveiled on CBS last night (except in Baltimore, where WJZ won't air the special until 12:05 a.m. Sunday), should lead to all sorts of water-cooler grousing among film aficionados this morning. Some may wonder, for instance, why "Singin' In the Rain" (16) is considered a comedy; why "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World" (40) is considered funny; how 83 movies could actually be considered funnier than Albert Brooks' "Lost In America" (84); and what could possibly have kept "Analyze This" or 1990's "The Freshman," starring Matthew Broderick, Marlon Brando and a Komodo dragon, off the list altogether.

The list was put together by the venerable American Film Institute, and voted on by film stars, filmmakers, writers and critics. This is the third such list the organization has released (each of which has been unveiled during a splashy TV special), and let's hope they don't stop here. Certainly, there's room for a list of the 100 greatest directors, 100 greatest movie scenes and 100 best action films, not to mention 100 greatest foley artists and 100 best key grips.

As for the 100 worst movies, fear not: the folks who annually awards the Razzies for the year's worst films have promised that list for later this summer.

For those looking to pick fights over such matters of honor as whether "A Fish Called Wanda" (21) is really funnier than "National Lampoon's Animal House" (36) - and it isn't - here are a few random observations that might fuel some fires.

First, a few factoids: Woody Allen, with five films, was the most represented director, while Cary Grant appeared in the most films (eight). Katharine Hepburn and the majestic Margaret Dumont - Groucho's perennial foil - were the most represented actresses, with four films each.

As for getting the most bang for your buck, it would be hard to do better than Mel Brooks, with three films on the list, all in the top 15 ("Blazing Saddles," "The Producers," "Young Frankenstein").

The AFI's guidelines for what constitutes a comedy seemed to include any movie that any moviegoer ever laughed at. That's what accounts for such films as "Being There" (26), "American Graffiti" (43), "Shampoo" (47), "Diner" (57), "Broadcast News" (64) and "Bull Durham" (97). They're wonderful movies all, but labeling them as comedies is a great oversimplification - "Apocalypse Now" had some funny lines ("I love the smell of napalm in the morning"), so why wasn't it considered? To be called a comedy, shouldn't a film's main purpose be to induce laughter? As great a film as "The Graduate" (9) is, I'm not sure it's funnier than "City Slickers" (86).

Still, the list included pleasant surprises: five Marx Brothers films, and an acknowledgment that "Duck Soup," at No. 5, is a higher-quality gem than the more commercially successful "A Night at the Opera," at No. 12; "Airplane!" still the champion when it comes to most-jokes-per-minute, finished a solid 10; starring vehicles for W.C. Fields (58, It's a Gift"), Laurel and Hardy (96, "Sons of the Desert"), Mae West (75, "She Done Him Wrong"), Harold Lloyd (79, "The Freshman"), even Bob Hope and Bing Crosby (78, "Road to Morocco"); and such time-honored pleasures as "To Be Or Not To Be" (49), "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House" (72) and "Ball of Fire" (92).

Comic pioneers Charles Chaplin and Buster Keaton were each multiply honored, as well they should have been: Chaplin for "The Gold Rush" (25), "Modern Times" (33), "The Great Dictator" (37), and "City Lights" (38); Keaton for "The General" (18), "Sherlock, Jr." (62); and "The Navigator" (81).

Where are "Safety Last," "I Married a Witch," "The Brother From Another Planet," "Putney Swope," "The Blues Brothers," "My Favorite Year," "Sixteen Candles," "A Christmas Story" and "Splash"?

My own favorite, "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," was apparently too English to be included on a list of American films. I guess having one American in the group (Terry Gilliam) wasn't enough.

Did they absolutely have to include a Jerry Lewis film (99, "The Nutty Professor")?

But take heart: at least "Home Alone" is not on the list.

Special note: "Citizen Kane" topped the AFI's list of the 100 greatest American films, not "Casablanca," as was reported here last week; it was ranked No. 2.

Fan Jam

Country artists Toby Keith, Gary Allan, Rascal Flatts and Rebecca Lynn Howard will supply the music for WPOC-FM's annual Fan Jam concert, slated for June 25 at Oregon Ridge Park in Cockeysville. Tickets for the concert are $25 in advance, $30 at the gate, and are available through TicketMaster and at local Food Lion stores. Coupons good for $3 off the ticket price are available at Susquehanna Bank branches, and may be used at any Food Lion location. Picnic baskets will be allowed at the concert, although you should leave alcohol and glass containers at home. The gates open at 10 a.m.

In other WPOC news, morning diva Laurie De Young today wraps up her interviews from the International Fan Fair 2000. Her afternoon show from Nashville, will be broadcast from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

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