Reading at the Movies: Howl’s Moving Castle

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Hayao Miyazaki is arguably the greatest animator alive today. He has created some of the most intricately beautiful scenes and characters known to the art, and he makes it look effortless. He attends each of his films with masterful detail, placing each from under an artistic microscope and attending to the seemingly mundane details that he thinks are true to the nature of the characters he bestows life. Howl’s Moving Castle, while not my favorite Studio Ghibli production, boasts his signature animation, lovable and broken characters, and a soundtrack that is capable of sweeping the most dedicated realist into a land overflowing with wonder and magic. While it’s a very unique film, like many movies these days, it was first a book.

 

Diana Wynne Jones was an author of fantasy novels, and in the case of Howl’s Moving Castle possessed a dry wit that translated spectacularly on the page, but seems to have been watered down for the screen. The novel version of Howl is wrought with play-on-words, twists, this was something not entirely lost in the film, but was a much larger tone. Her usage of words was to the plot like the perfect amount of spices to your favorite dish. Jones’ craft shines through at each turn of the page, not as a heavy handed fantasy that pervades the market today, nor as a light and substanceless young adult novel. Rather she finds a happy medium where magic is neither silly nor cataclysmic. It is an element that is neither rare nor extremely prevalent

 

The novel boasted a whimsical, albeit odd, tone with memorable characters and something that made the fantastical workings of an eccentric young wizard feel almost ordinary and apart of everyday life. Miyazaki has proven to excel at portraying the whimsical on screen, but he’s also proven to be exceptional at finding the beauty in the ordinary. Howl was the perfect fit for an adaptation. The truest bond to the book that the animated feature has is in the two main protagonists. Sophie, a teenaged girl that finds herself cursed so she looks and feels like an old woman. And the titular wizard Howl; a young wizard feared by the locals as a ruthless evil warlock, but in actuality is no more than an adolescent teenager himself. The two characters in both novel and movie bring out the best and worst in each other. The two artifacts of literature and film stay amazingly true to each other until about halfway through. The book focuses on the witch of the waste as the main villain, while the film focuses on a war between kingdoms and the destructive power of Howl’s powers. This was a mistake. While I love the movie, the direction that the book takes is more fun, it’s more interesting and it’s far less confusing.

 

You’ve probably seen Howl’s Moving Castle, and if you haven’t you should. It’s beautiful and one of the best animated films to come out in the last 10 years. That being said, the source that it gleans it’s inspiration is an even tastier morsel to consume. My friend and fellow writer, Paul Boyne, creates posts in which he compares and contrasts two films into a “double feature” his most recent also focused on my favorite Miyazaki film : Spirited Away

26 Movies That Made Me Laugh

My friend, Paul Boyne recently posted on his blog a list of his “25 Funniest Movie Scenes”. If you haven’t popped on over to Infinite Crescendo, I highly recommend it, if for nothing more than his fantastic lists. Anyway, that particular post gave me an itch to put together one of those newfangled “supercuts” where you take scenes from a bunch of different movies and cram them into a youtube video. So I did. While I can’t give a definite list of my 25 funniest scenes, I simply present to you: 26 Movies That Made Me Laugh.

 

I don’t thinkg it’s going to happen; Waking Ned Devine

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Cosmic irony is a very important comedic element in regards to film. One can’t help but laugh, despite how painful it may be to a character when something good is expected and something bad is given. For the most part, comedy relies on reversals of expectations. For instance, what would think that your entire life would just be starting had you won the lottery. The possibilities are completely endless, you’ve got a fortune at your hands and no one to tell you how to spend it. So, it would be truly ironic if, after having played the lottery your whole life, you died from the shock of finally winning it. And so goes the story of Waking Ned Divine.

In the small Irish town of Tully More there resides only 52 people. It’s a close knit community consisting of mostly older folk. Some of the residents play the lottery and dream of the riches it could bring them, among these are Jack O’Shea (Ian Bannen) and Michael O’Sullivan (David Kelly) two lifelong friends that make it their business to find who in the town was the sole winner of the last lottery. The news papers have announced that the winner comes from Tully More, but none of the residence fess up. It isn’t until Jack makes a house call to his last suspect that he realizes the winner, one Ned Devine, has passed away from the shock of victory. The rest of the movie the two friends come up attempt to claim the prize money, fooling the representative from the National Lottery Association, a feat that will take the cooperation of all of Tully More.

Ned Devine is similar to the town of Tully More, in that it is quaint, kind and darkly humorous. Death is a strong theme in this film, obviously, but it’s displayed in a way, not lightly, but unflinching. We all die, there is no backing away from that fact, and the residents of Tully More make the best of a bad situation, which sometimes results in funny, albeit morbid situations. For instance, Jack and Michael attempt to change the expression on poor deceased Ned’s face, and in doing so knock out his dentures and are forced to comically put them back in. The characters are the backbone of the story. Within the small confines of the town are numerous stories, a few of which are explored in depth. Life, love and death fill the screen for a genuinely feel good movie with plenty of charm. The cast is superb, particularly the two old friends, they completely encompass the roles in a seamless transition from actor to character.

I had heard of Waking Ned Devine but had never taken the time to sit down and watch it. For whatever reason, I am often times reluctant to watch movies with small stories and small characters. The events are not world altering, they affect only a small group of people in Ireland. It’s not necessarily exciting or thrilling, but it is genuine and heart warming. I make the mistake of assuming something with a small story will have a small heart, whereas this is showed me quite the opposite.

Revisiting the Patriarch: The Muppet Movie

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The Muppet empire was created by a group of incredibly ambitious dreamers that strove to perfect the art of puppeteering, making it something far more than an easy, cheap go-to children’s entertainment option. Jim Henson, known for being an avid perfectionist, was the mastermind behind the ordeal, and it’s thanks to him that some of my all time favorite movies have been made. The Muppets themselves have had a fantastic career in the film industry over the past few decades, most recently with their comeback hit The Muppets. The Muppets was a fun and lovingly crafted piece of work that pays tribute to the origins of the group, but it lacked two major components that can never truly be replaced; Frank Oz and Jim Henson.

The Muppet Movie was the beginning of the road for the motley crew of fabric puppets. Like quite a few movies I’ve watched recently, the overall tone is very self-aware. We quickly realize that we, the audience, are watching the screening of a film that tells the story of how the Muppets ended up in Hollywood (approximately). We’re introduced to Kermit as he sings and plays his banjo in the swamp. He’s accidentally discovered by a lost Hollywood agent who convinces him to audition for a movie role. Kermit then embarks on a cross-country adventure that gives a back story to the majority of the cast of the much beloved Muppet Show. Although filled to the brim with musical numbers and cameos, the movie really shined in it’s masterful use of the puppets that run the show.

As I mentioned before, Jim Henson was a perfectionist. He had a vision and he wanted to make sure that his vision was accomplished exactly as his mind saw it. So, when we watch the opening musical number that shows Kermit sitting on a log in a swamp playing his banjo and singing we think very little of what it took to accomplish a feat like that at the time. In truth, the scene took five days to film. Jim Henson was submerged under the water in a small metal container with an air hose and a monitor so he could watch his actions with the puppet. While watching it today may not have the same aw-inspiring effect he originally intended, this was the first time a hand puppet had performed on screen with its entire body showing. The intention of the film, aside from making people smile with fun music bits, corny puns and tons of guest appearances, was to wow the audience with what could be done with puppets. Little things were huge successes, particularly the scene where Kermit rides his bike down the street. It’s not a close up shot, it’s not cutting off his legs with the shot, it’s showing him riding down the street in full view. The ingenuity and creativity of Jim Henson is seen in full force in their first ever feature film.

Some might argue with my opinion that the pacing of the film is a bit slow thanks mostly to some less that incredible songs. Visually and technically it is a masterpiece, and most of the music in the movie is fun and engaging in the way it draws the audience closer to the story and the characters. However, some of the songs seemed a little out of place an unnecessary, proving to detract from the overall pace of the movie. It’s a very small gripe in comparison to the whole. The Muppet Movie has, and always will be able to impress me. It’s the original, the beginning to one of the most beloved media empires in our history, an empire headed up by a felt frog.

They’re pretty much all the same at this point: Scream 3 and 4

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I didn’t want to have to come up with two separate introductions for Scream 3 and Scream 4 because I watched them both close together and really all the Scream movies have the same premise. Where they long to be different is in their exposition of the horror genre, with each addition we learn film theory regarding the films location in the series. With Scream 3 we get to hear quips on trilogies, while Scream 4, which was released 10 years after Scream 3 relates to the re-boot of a franchise. They’re intriguing little films, and it’s almost like watching a set of serials as opposed to movies in that we have the same core cast of characters surviving a string of horrendous murders in which they’re the primary target. While I may be the minority in thinking that the second film was better than the first, it’s almost universally recognized that 4 is better than 3.

Scream 3 has Sidney Prescott in a protective environment where she’s haunted by the memories of the past few years. On the set of the latest Stab movie, a fake film based on the events of the previous Scream movies, characters start getting killed off in the order that was intended on the script. Sidney comes out of hiding to aid in the investigation, and we’re treated to duplicates of each character running around getting killed (thanks to the actors portraying the Scream characters.) As fun as it sounds, Scream 3 suffers from an uninspired and tired script, giving up on most of the film commentary that made the first two so enjoyable and succumbing to the tropes and tirades of a traditional slasher film. It’s not without its moments, but essentially we’re dealing with a fairly generic slasher/mystery movie.

However, Scream 4 attempts to get back into the swing of the Scream roots by revamping the rules for a newer generation. At this point in film history, Scream isn’t the only spoof of the horror genre, and it certainly isn’t the only one to lampoon the slasher genre. Taking into account this quasi-enlightened period in film history, we’re treated to the most bloody and confusing opening in the franchise. The opening sets up the tone for the rest of the movie. Yes, we’ve seen most of this before, but returning to the series so much later adds a breath of fresh air. We’ve had three films to get to know our primary players, and it’s fun to see where they’re all at in life. Returning to the town where it all started, Sidney soon realizes that another ghost face killer is out to get her. She, however, has been through this enough times to know how to stand her own. Sidney, along with Gale and Dewey (who are now married) attempt to apprehend and protect their friends and family, especially Sidney’s cousin and their group of friends who seem to be targeted this time around as well. Feeling perhaps a alittle too much like a holiday special than a full blown feature film, it still manages to hit the right notes to let us know that maybe this whole “reboot” thing is a good idea.

And I certainly hope the studios think so too. Scream, despite it’s weak moments, is one of the most solid horror franchises to date, each with a surprising level of depth and creative writing, they’ve tended to be both scary, funny and, to some extent, thought provoking. They’re created in such a way that it’s easy to see the thin mask of source material overlaying the sharp critique. Given that Scream 4 was absolutely meant to be a re-boot, I can only hope that Scream 5 gets it’s chance on the big screen; or even the little screen, at this point it’s like Scooby Doo with a decent production value.

 

*Edit* according to wikipedia that whole TV show thing is actually happening next year, so, yay.

Attending “Monsters University”

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It is a strongly held belief of mine that Pixar needs to stop making sequels. At least for a little while. While I loved every instillation in the Toy Story series, I was less than impressed with Cars 2 (or Cars for that matter). The iconic animation company is renown for creating some of the most innovative and beautiful computer animated films of all time. Yet, lately they have been piggy-backing on the success of their previous endeavors. Financially speaking this makes perfect sense. Whats even worse than piggy backing is falling back on the generic. While I certainly enjoyed Brave I did think it was one of their lesser films. So, when I heard that Monsters Inc. was getting a sequel, after my initial excitement I became skeptical, especially after finding out we were dealing with a prequel. So, this was a sequel that was going to be piggy backing on the success of it’s beloved original AND it wasn’t going to have much to do with the monsters interacting with the human world; my favorite aspect of the first movie. Coming away from my delayed screening, I was pleasantly surprised at both how much I enjoyed the film, as well as how much I missed the Monsters universe.

As the title suggests, University follows Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sulley’s (John Goodman) scholastic career before they make it to the big times. Primarily focusing on Mike as he strives to overcome his small size and lack of naturally scary traits. Mike and Sulley, in order to stay in the scaring program, must lead their fellow brothers in Ooza Kappa, to victory in the annual “Scare Games”. The games feature a series of events to test their knowledge and technique. Along the way everyone learns about being yourself, being kind to others and using the skills you have etc. etc.

Essentially, Monsters University is a college frat comedy for kids, but also with monsters. It’s an odd combination that the minds at Pixar handled extremely well. Obviously the drinking and partying was switched with partying and eating in a much more G rated sense, but it was done in a way that never took focus away from the story or the characters. As much as I wanted to be disappointed at the lack of interaction with the human world, I couldn’t help but appreciate the glimpse into the world of the monsters. The verity of the monsters was able to be used to produce large amounts of physical humor, and the challenges of the Scare Games were a blast to watch. The movie also did a lot for advancing our knowledge of Mike and Sulley in a way that seemed far more natural than I had anticipated. Adding a history of this kind made the original film all that much richer.

As usual with a Pixar film, the film was beautiful. Visually speaking, the Monsters universe is probably my favorite. The distorted lines, the vastly different architecture and the incredibly varied monster types. The idea that a parallel universe is connected to ours through the use of closet doors may not be new to fiction, but it’s certainly used to great effect here. The necessity of the screams to power one world never gets old. You realize truly how sadistic the movie is when witnessing one monster enter a child’s room and see in the background a crude crayon drawing of the beast. It’s the same monster scaring the same child over and over again! And no one believes him! It’s an incredibly dark presumption about an incredibly loveable franchise. I thoroughly enjoyed this prequel, I’m glad I caught it in theaters, but I still hold firm in my opinion that Pixar needs to take some bolder steps. I’m excited about The Good Dinosaur and Inside Out as they both sound like daring and challenging films to make, especially for a cartoon.

Laughing at “Scream 2”

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It’s no secret that I love horror comedies. Tucker and Dale vs Evil, Cabin in the woods, Army of Darkness are fantastic examples of a genre being able to simultaneously deliver on what is expected of it while offering up some serous lampooning at the cliché tropes that dredge some of it’s other offerings down. There are unspoken guidelines of the horror genre, and what is credited as one of the first real meta-horror films in the way that it critically looked at slasher movies by looking at itself was Scream. Scream is interesting because it not only was funny and well written, but it introduced us to a new icon of the horror genre, the easily recognizable “Ghost Face” has become a Halloween staple. Perhaps the best scene that describes the vibe of the movie is when a character, while watching a horror movie, yells at the woman on the screen to look behind her. Unbeknownst to him, the killer is sneaking up behind him, while his warnings to the woman on the screen go unheard. Scream was perhaps the first of its kind in the way it directly commented on it’s own actions. And then they made Scream 2.

Scream 2 picks up with Sidney Prescott is now in college, attempting to forget the horrific events that took place 2 years prior. Her attempt to leave the past behind her becomes increasingly difficult when a pair of students are killed in a screening of the movie “Stab” a fictional film depicting the events surrounding the first massacre… essentially, Stab is Scream 1. It soon becomes apparent that the ghost face killer is back to finish the job. The fun thing about this series is that it’s just as much a mystery as it is a horror flick. We’re introduced to a plethora of characters and we know, from experience, that the killer is mingled in somewhere. The movie progresses with blood and genuine scares and of course, some quality criticism of the very movie we’re watching.

Scream 2 really amps up the meta feel of the series. For example (and this could potentially be a spoiler, but you know it’s going to happen almost as soon as the movie starts) the opening scene is of an African American couple attending the screening of Stab. Their conversation is, as is most of the conversations in this film, about movies. Specifically the role of black characters in the horror genre. An often mocked trope is that the black person always dies first. The couple walk into the movie theater, where almost everyone in the theater, thanks to a promotion being run by the studio, almost everyone is has donned the costume that the killer wears in the movie. As the pair watches, we realize that what they’re watching is almost an exact replica of the opening scene in Scream just with a different actress. The scene ends the way anyone watching the movie knows it will, and as the woman screams the title flashes on the screen and we know exactly what to expect and it already feels like a better movie than the first one.

This movie has one huge advantage over it’s predecessor, and it’s an advantage that is normally a detriment to a series; it’s a sequel. The series takes the self awareness we enjoyed in the first movie and eases it into a more comfortable, natural setting. With the characters in college, a number of them indulge in classes such as Film Theory and Theater, the absolute perfect outlets to talk about what the audience is watching. This movie sounds like a thesis paper on the horror genre, and the effects it has on society. The wit is sharper, the jokes hardly fall flat and the killer has an even harder time getting their kill, but ultimately gets plenty as they get closer to their primary target; Sydney Prescott. Those that survived the original movie have pivotal rolls in this film as well and they all do a fantastic job adding to both the comedy and the creepiness of the film. Neve Campbell, as Prescott, attempts to perfect her signature look of half terror half sadness, something that she only improves on in later movies. David Arquette returns as Dewey the incredibly loyal but kind of dim cop. And Courtney Cox returns as reprises her role as Gale weathers.

With more material to work with and a richer back story and characters we’re already acquainted with, Scream 2 surpasses the original in both suspense and humor. Where Scream was a pretty good movie, Scream 2 I absolutely loved. It was the perfect setting for this series.

witnessing “The World’s End”

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It’s done. Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have completed their violently hilarious “blood and ice cream” trilogy with the aptly named, The World’s End. I was able to catch it this weekend with Ryan Partlow. We’ve seen the trio tackle that Zombie Genre with Shaun of the Dead, a hilariously British homage to the American Zombie flick craze that’s been steadily gaining in popularity for the last few decades and is now a full blown epidemic in and of itself. Then we saw them present one of the funniest and bloodiest takes on a buddy cop drama in Hot Fuzz. And despite there being an enormous amount of laughs and over the top sight gags, each of those films had a surprising amount of depth, creating dramatic moments shortly before someone got torn to shreds or had their head blown off… in a funny way, of course. Point being, Wright, Pegg and Frost know their craft, and rather than having the dramatic elements interfere with the humor, it mixes quite nicely, like hot fudge over an ice cream sundae. I was surprised to find that The World’s End explored themes of selfishness, friendship, depression and immense loyalty in such strong fashion, since the premise of the movie is about a group of friends attempting to drink 12 pints of beer at 12 different pubs throughout the course of one night.

    Gary King (Simon Pegg) opens the film by recounting the events of one night he and his friends spent attempting “the golden mile” a 12 stop pub-crawl in which they attempt to consume on pint at each stop. We watch the flashback happen in quick succession, ending with their failure. flash forward 20 years and Gary King has changed very, very little and wants to get “the gang” back together to give it another shot. Gary, who has stayed in his 17 year old state in every way except physically, coaxes his four friends into giving it another go using lies and cheap tricks to convince his successful friends to have another go at the debauchery that fueled their evening 20 years prior. As the title of the film and the trailers suggested, the five encounter more than just alcohol. Robots (but not really robots, because robot means slave, and they’re definitely not slaves) fights and blue blood abound in plenty.

First off, the cast embodies their roles perfectly. After we’re introduced to the young versions of the five friends, we’re caught up to speed with where their lives ended up 20 years later. Frost in particular plays an entirely different type of role than he has in the last two films. While he’s normally the dumb funny one, he plays a man that has been deeply hurt by Gary King, who was formerly his best friend. The film often alludes to an accident of some kind, but that isn’t revealed until later in the film. The lengths of which Pegg’s character goes to preserve the past is one of the funniest bits about the film, he embodies irresponsibility and spontaneity perhaps better than anyone I’ve seen on screen. Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg penned the script together, and it’s quite simply comprehensive proof of their ability to write and portray something different and multi-layered. Honestly, I don’t know how many genres this film would have to be categorized by.

As with the previous Wright, Pegg, Frost films the pacing took a little getting used to. While the advertising toted it as an all out action flick it does take some time to get to that point. I should have expected this, as it was the same with Shaun and Hot Fuzz. I’m in the minority, in that I liked Hot Fuzz better than Shaun of the Dead, but I don’t know where to place World’s End. As I think about it, I like it more and more. There is such a subtlety to these films, regardless of the body count. Each film in this semi-series is so different from each other that I feel like I need to sit down and watch the three of them one after the other. With a few Cornetto ice cream cones, of course.

Movie News Tidbits! 9/13/13

New Harry Potter Movie…Kind of.

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All you Pottheads out there should be squealing in delight with the announcement that the big-screen will no longer be devoid of the Wizarding world of J.K Rowling. I love the idea that it’s going to be in the same universe, but a different storyline and set of characters entirely. I think a major problem with some franchises is the unnecessary need to cling to the same set of characters. For instance, Amazon Video ran a pilot episode for a Zombieland show. The potential for the show was astronomical, but it was ruined by the creator’s desire to keep it focused on the same set of characters from the movie, with none of the returning cast. If you’ve got a setting as rich as the “Potterverse” you’ve got an infinite amount of stories, all of which can be stand alone. The thought of having a this thing set in 1920s New York sounds blows my mind!…which is hyperbole, because I actually just think it’s pretty cool.

 Star Wars: Episode VI

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The latest Star Wars trilogy has been a number of rumors floating around, some toting Abrams as the savior of the franchise, others not quite so optimistic in that they think he’ll ruin everything, which is silly because we all know that’s been done (all Lucas bashing aside Episode I was the best of the prequel bunch regardless of what you say to me). Still, what concerns me the most is the opposite of why I was so excited about the Harry Potter news. Star Wars has a massive extended universe, yet the rumors are that we’re going to have much of the original cast involved. This wouldn’t be detrimental in and of itself, but it could become a slippery slope of Star Wars nostalgia saturated crap, taking it from a potentially fun and exciting reboot, to something, still fun, but a little over the top on the winks and nudges (I’m looking at you Into Darkness (disclaimer: I liked Into Darkness, but come on!)).

*EDIT* We’re getting more prequels.

The Little Mermaid

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First they said they were, then they said they weren’t and now Disney is saying they will again! The Little Mermaid, my favorite of the Disney Princess movies is coming to theaters. Nothing new really to report except that they’re encouraging kids to download an app and bring their ipads into the theaters. I’m going to have to brush up on my half annoyed half out-of-my-mind-furious-that-someone-is-using-a-mobile-device-in-the-theaters look. Seriously, last time I went to a movie a kid was snapchatting pictures of himself wearing funny sunglasses to some jerk, if I hadn’t been so worried that the little punk would have had a better comeback than me, I would have confronted him! Honestly, my biggest fear is that I muster up the courage to confront a cell-phone-using patron only to find out their child was just in a horrible accident. I don’t know…maybe I’m just miffed there isn’t an android app for it.

 Jurassic World

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I’m optimistic about a lot of things. But seriously, Jurassic World? That’s the title of the fourth installment in the Jurassic park cannon. We can expect our favorite dinosaurs to (once again) get off the islands and into the wild blue yonder, aka highly populated areas. With each film we move further and further from Michael Crichton’s novels. If this movie looks anything like it sounds, we’re going to have the small world version of Pacific Rim, not that that’s a bad thing.

 Dredd 2

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Dredd 2

No word….yet. Bleeding Cool has the scoop on the latest gimmick to get the studios attention. *Spoiler, buy the Blu-Ray on September 18* Also, Shmee is calling you to action.

Avatar 2

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Season 2 of Avatar The Legend of Korra starts tonight!

Looking at Dark Comedy with Charlie Chaplin and Four Lions

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The most profusely used method of dealing with human tragedy is by laughing at it. Black comedies have a deliciously bittersweet way of dealing with, often times, very tragic circumstances in a way that allows the observer to scoff at the horrific reality that is life. I should specify, the comedies I will refer to in this post are specifically ones that mock the evil associated with the subject matter, rather than mock the victims. Pot-shots taken at innocents are par for the course. As with any comedy, humor is subjective and movies of this genre prove successful at offending as many people as they entertain. Today I will discuss two, very dark, films in the comedy genre. The first film is Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, a film I had the pleasure of discussing earlier this month on another blog that I write for. The second is a lesser known British film entitled Four Lions. Both focus on extremely dark themes.

     The Great Dictator is Charlie Chaplin’s world famous lampoon of Hitler. The movie was made before America had entered World War II and was at, more or less, peace with Germany. This didn’t stop Chaplin from creating a film that openly mocks the dictator’s of the time, with a character that is almost certainly representative of Adolf Hitler. The audience watches as the silly and self important dictator, Hynkel, oppresses the Jewish people by openly attacking them and putting them in concentration camps. It’s important to note that Chaplin didn’t know the extent that the regime went to to persecute the Jewish people when he made this film. That being said, he addresses one of the greatest tragedies in modern history with slapstick and pratfalls. Not only do we laugh at his barber character, but his depiction of Hynkel is downright hysterical. Chaplin’s portrayal is akin to something you might see on SNL, except perfected to an infinite degree, the man was a master at his art.

     Four Lions focuses on something much closer to us, historically speaking. Jihad terrorism, specifically suicide bombers. The movie follows a group of aspiring suicide bombers as they attempt to perfect their technique and hone their knowledge before choosing a target and carrying out an attack in the name of Islam. The humor in this movie is incredibly deadpan, as is often the norm with British cinema. The characters present their lines with such conviction and believability, that if you’re not listening to their absurd logic, you very well could miss the entire gist of the humor, which is that these men are complete idiots.  It was far more uncomfortable of a movie to watch than The Great Dictator, simply because it deals with something that’s historically closer in proximity to me.

     Both of these films have subject matters that, if taking a survey of 100 people would have a unanimous voice in saying that they are not funny. However, if film history has proven anything, it’s that you can make a comedy on almost any subject matter and it will sell tickets, often times the more offensive, the more it makes. The Great Dictator was well received by audiences, and became Chaplin’s highest grossing film, taking a very serious subject matter and making people laugh with it. Four Lions certainly hasn’t garnished the same attention or success as The Great Dictator, it’s a lesser known release with a relatively unknown cast. It’s violent and crass and as I stated before, very uncomfortable at times, particularly in the scenes where the would-be-terrorists are preparing for their attacks. But it uses the same methods as The Great Dictator to fuel it’s humor. Part of the fear that goes along with terrorism is how we view the culprits that commit the violent acts. Just as we laugh at the Hitler-like Character of Hynkel as he dances with a globe, we laugh at Omar and his band of Jihadist brothers as their stupidity and misguided attempts to reason through what they’re doing cause hilariously dark situations. Darkness is often accompanied by a face or a description. It is often the goal of dark comedies to warp that face or description into something goofy and laughable. Humanity, generally speaking, abhors tragedy, but loves laughter. If one can destroy the other, then we have an excellent understanding of why this genre thrives.