2:31 PM, Feb 26, 2014 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
Harold Ramis died on Monday morning. Having written, directed (or written and directed) five of the funniest movies of the last 40 years, I think it's safe to put him on the short list for Funniest Guy of His Generation.
You probably have your favorite Ramis movie. My own preference is for Ghostbusters. Vacation, Caddyshack, and Groundhog Day are all superior movies. Probably funnier, too. But Ghostbusters hit me at a perfect moment: I was 10 years old when it came out, and, for the first time in my life, I was sophisticated enough to understand comedy. And the movie just slayed me. I think I saw it six or seven times in the theaters.
Eight years ago I revisited it somewhat warily, certain it couldn't live up to the memory of the movie created by my 10-year-old self. But I was shocked at how well it held up. If anything, it improved with age.
If you have any affinity for Ramis's work, then treat yourself to this wonderful 2004 profile by Tad Friend. It's full—and I mean totally, completely chock-a-block—with wonderful vignettes. The greatest of which isn't even about him, but rather is a story told by Ramis about Bill Murray:
After a moment, [Ramis] continued, "One of my favorite Bill Murray stories is one about when he went to Bali. I'd spent three weeks there, mostly in the south, where the tourists are. But Bill rode a motorcycle into the interior until the sun went down and got totally lost. He goes into a village store, where they are very surprised to see an American tourist, and starts talking to them in English, going 'Wow! Nice hat! Hey, gimme that hat!'" Ramis's eyes were lighting up. "And he took the guy’s hat and started imitating people, entertaining. Word gets around this hamlet that there’s some crazy guy at the grocery, and he ended up doing a dumb show with the whole village sitting around laughing as he grabbed the women and tickled the kids. No worry about getting back to a hotel, no need for language, just his presence, and his charisma, and his courage. When you meet the hero, you sure know it."
Forget the short list, Murray is almost certainly the Funniest Guy of His Generation. (There's a story about Murray nearly getting into a fist fight with Chevy Chase in Live from New York, the oral history of Saturday Night Live. As the story goes, it was Murray's first season with the show and Chase was back guest hosting. No one in the cast liked Chase and moments before the curtain went up, he and Murray started shoving each other. The cast and the stagehands had to physically separate them and as they're being pulled apart, they're cursing and spitting. And in the middle of this, Murray shouts, "Medium talent!" Maybe the best insult in the history of insults.)
But Murray doesn't exist—not as “Bill Murray”—without Ramis. And in addition to that, Ramis was responsible for an awful lot of other funny, too. Cinderella story.
The ‘American dream’ survives an armed assault.May 13, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 33 • By JOHN PODHORETZ
Wildly successful movie directors often bemoan their successes and say they long for a time when they will be able to just make smaller and more personal films. Then they don’t.
Familiar premise (art heist) meets tired device (amnesia).Apr 22, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 30 • By JOHN PODHORETZ
Trance has to be judged one of the great disappointments in recent cinema, given that it is only the second movie Danny Boyle has made since Slumdog Millionaire. That Oscar-winning worldwide smash may have been the best film of the past decade.
4:49 PM, Apr 4, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Obama released the following statement on the passing of film critic Roger Ebert:
The busy life, and the busier television schedule, call for desperate measures.Mar 4, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 24 • By JOHN PODHORETZ
Someone living in Barack Obama’s America, circa 2013, says these words to you: “I’m so behind.” In previous epochs—say, the Age of Lewinsky, or of disco—this might mean any number of things. A person might have failed to collate the year’s receipts for his accountant. Another might not have completed the longitudinal analysis necessary for her dissertation. A third might not have cleaned out the attic.
No longer. In Barack Obama’s America, those words refer to only one thing: the inability to keep up-to-date with a serialized television program.
There are bumps along the way, but Les Misérables is worth the trip.Jan 14, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 17 • By JOHN PODHORETZ
Les Misérables grabs you by the lapels from the first moment and never lets you go. In this respect it is little different from the stage musical from which it derives—and not so different from the Victor Hugo novel from which the stage musical derives.
Brilliant cinema in the service of one-size-fits-all faith. Dec 24, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 15 • By JOHN PODHORETZ
"This story will make you believe in God,” says the title character in Life of Pi, the visually ravishing adaptation of Yann Martel’s 2001 bestseller. Apparently, Barack Obama himself thought the same thing of the novel: “an elegant proof of God,” the president called it in a note to Martel.
Philip Terzian, the non-moviegoerOct 15, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 05 • By PHILIP TERZIAN
I recall an interview with William Faulkner in which he said that he didn’t read books but read in books, the distinction being that he seldom consumed a volume from start to finish but preferred to stick his toes in here and there, read favorite chapters over and over, proceeding from finish to start if necessary.
Calculating the price of obsession. Oct 15, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 05 • By STEFAN BECK
"What really matters,” said Rob (John Cusack) in High Fidelity, “is what you like, not what you are like. Books, records, films—these things matter.”
An impressive rendition of nothing at all. Oct 15, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 05 • By JOHN PODHORETZ
When a movie receives rave reviews from critics who say they need to see it again to understand it fully, you should treat such a recommendation as though you were Will Robinson from the old 1960s TV show Lost in Space hearing his friendly robot companion as it flails its accordion-like arms and shout
Sometimes the trip back to the drawing board is worth the trouble.Sep 24, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 02 • By JOHN PODHORETZ
A new zombie movie called World War Z starring Brad Pitt and budgeted at $150 million won’t be coming to your local multiplex anytime soon, even though it was originally supposed to premiere this Christmas. Nor will the sequel to the G. I. Joe movie I’m sure you didn’t see, which cost $125 million and was due for release in June. And there’s a martial arts film with Keanu Reeves called 47 Ronin, which no sane person over the age of 9 would choose to see, originally set for theaters this year—and not in theaters this year.
Chu thumbs up!2:31 PM, May 18, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, a recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physics, takes to Facebook today to review the Avengers, a movie about a bunch of superheroes banding together to save the world, “which focuses on a new, limitless clean energy source called ‘The Tesseract,’” according to Chu.