Tag Archives: Coen Brothers

Top 15 Comedy Road Trip Movies

Road Trip movies are some of the most unexpected gems over the past decades, as they usually sneak up on you–but they are definitely at the top of my list as some of the greatest comedies of all time.  Here’s my list for the top 15:

15 – Oh Brother Where Art Thou (2000)

A Coen Brother’s classic, you probably wouldn’t think about this being a road movie…but it is.  It’s also based on, arguably the biggest literary road trip…Homer’s The Odyssey!  Although Homer is given a co-writing credit on the film, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen claim never to have read “The Odyssey” and are familiar with it only through cultural osmosis and film adaptations. The title of this movie didn’t come from the book at all, but rather another movie. “O Brother Where Art Thou?” comes from the title of the movie-within-a-movie in Preston Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels (1941). John Turturro has called this movie “a hillbilly musical comedy adventure.”

14 – Sideways (2004)

You would probably be surprised to find out that Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church had to audition for their roles in the film. You’d be even more surprised to find out that for the scene that Thomas Haden Church read for during the audition, it called for the actor to strip naked, which he did and was later surprised to find out that out of all the actors who auditioned for the same part with the same scene…he was the ONLY one to strip naked. And it got him the role. George Clooney campaigned for the part of Jack, but Alexander Payne thought Clooney was too big a star. However, Clooney got to play the lead in Payne’s next full feature, The Descendants (2011). Paul Giamatti admitted to faking every bit of wine knowledge, and not understanding why anybody would care about it. He also claims he was shocked that he was cast in a lead role and initially thought it was a practical joke. Paul Giamatti admitted in interviews that he doesn’t like wine.

13 – Kingpin (1996)

The Farrelly brothers bowled a strike with this one. It came out the same year as the Big Lebowski and I have to admit liking this one just a touch better. As is the case with most of his films, Bill Murray ad-libbed virtually every line he spoke. He would read over the script, get the “general” idea, and then discard it. The Farrelly brothers, on the DVD commentary, said that they’re very glad he did because it was funnier. Turned out, Bill was also a very good bowler. Bill Murray really bowled three strikes in a row in the scene where his character, Ernie McCracken does the same. The crowd’s reaction is genuine and is actually for Murray. Woody Harrelson, on the other hand, was a terrible bowler and according to the Farrelly brothers maybe got one or two strikes throughout the filming.

12 – Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

Steve Carell, at the time he was cast for Little Miss Sunshine (2006), was a relative unknown in Hollywood. According to an article in Entertainment Weekly, the producers of the film worried that he wasn’t a big enough star and didn’t have much acting experience. However, between the time the film was shot in the summer of 2005 and its release in the summer of 2006, Carell became a huge success as the star of the high-grossing film The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005) in August 2005 and the leading character of the popular NBC Emmy-winning television series The Office (2005), which premiered in March 2005 and for which Carell won a Golden Globe in 2006 for best lead actor in a comedy television series. In the span of just one year, Carell had become such a star that the producers had gone from protesting his casting to tapping him to do prominent promotion for the film. Bill Murray was the original choice to play Frank. The second choice was Robin Williams.  Thomas Haden Church turned down the role of Richard Hoover, a decision he said he later regretted.

11 – It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963)

Stanley Kramer, who was known for doing serious films like Inherit the Wind (1960) and Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), set out to make this the ultimate comedy film. It became well known that Stanley Kramer was casting nearly every comedy performer he could think of. Some famous stars actually contacted Kramer to volunteer for the project, or to inquire as to why they had not been contacted. When this film was made there were about 100 stunt performers in the US. About 80 of them worked on this film. When the cast first assembled for a meeting with director Stanley Kramer, they were shown the stunts and second unit footage that had already been shot. Buddy Hackett was so impressed that he went to Kramer and asked, “What do you need US for?”

The film was so crammed with action that each leading actor was given two scripts: one for the dialogue and one for physical comedy. For one particular stunt, a billboard that the twin-engine Beechcraft flies through was made of thin balsa wood, except for a thicker frame for support. Stunt pilot Frank Tallman had to fly the aircraft directly through the center of the billboard or the thicker frame would shear off a wing. The billboard was located in Irvine, at what is now the intersection of Interstate 405 and Hwy. 133 (Laguna Canyon), near Lion Country Safari, just east of John Wayne Airport. They had practiced with paper signs but used balsa wood for the actual movie stunt. The wood stopped one engine and the other was sputtering enough that the plane barely made it back to John Wayne Airport.

10 – Midnight Run (1988)

The boxcar scene where Jack Walsh (Robert De Niro) and John Mardukas (Charles Grodin) discuss whether or not they could ever be friends, was almost entirely improvised on-set. As regards Grodin’s famous, “You ever had sex with an animal, Jack?” line, he was told by Director Martin Brest to come up with something that was guaranteed to make even Robert De Niro laugh. The scene where John Mardukas (Charles Grodin) falls off a cliff was shot in the Salt River Canyon in eastern Arizona. However, the conclusion of the scene, the shots of Mardukas and Jack Walsh (Robert De Niro) crashing through the river rapids, was shot in New Zealand, because the water was too cold in Arizona. I have to pause here…too cold. In Arizona.

9 – Paper Moon (1973)

I talk about this movie in a post about Madeline Kahn, you can read it here: KAHN  Ryan O’Neal and daughter Tatum O’Neal are both excellent as well as Madeline Kahn, in this. Tatum O’Neal was 10 years old when she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in this movie, making her the youngest person ever to win an Oscar in a competitive category. As of 2018, she still holds this record. She was four years younger than her rival nominee, Linda Blair, in The Exorcist (1973). Some Hollywood insiders suspected that Tatum O’Neal’s performance was “manufactured” by Peter Bogdanovich. It was revealed that the director had gone to great lengths, sometimes requiring as many as fifty takes of some of her scenes, in order to capture the “effortless” natural quality for which Tatum was critically praised. Either way, Bogdanovich maintained later that working with the young actress was “one of the most miserable experiences” of his life.

Prior to finalizing casting, Peter Bogdanovich says he met with Ryan O’Neal and Tatum O’Neal at their Malibu home. When Ryan invited Bogdanovich to start an exercise regimen of running on the beach, Tatum countered he wasn’t the type. When she explained to Bogdanovich she said that because he wouldn’t take his shoes or shirt off, he told Ryan, “She’ll do.” Peter Bogdanovich didn’t think the movie would make much money or would be very successful. He certainly didn’t think Tatum O’Neal would win the Oscar.  The film spawned an unsuccessful TV series Paper Moon (1974) starring Jodie Foster.

8 – Cannonball Run (1981)

I talk about Cannonball run at length at a post you can read HERE. In one of the earlier scenes in the movie, J.J. McClure (Burt Reynolds) said “Could get a black Trans Am”, and then answers himself, “Naw, that’s been done.” This is a reference to Smokey and the Bandit (1977) and Smokey and the Bandit II (1980), which starred Reynolds, and was directed by Hal Needham, who directed this film. DeLuise co-starred with Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit II (1980).

7 – The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)

According to director Stephan Elliott, he took the three leads out in drag prior to the beginning of filming. None of them were recognized: Guy Pearce took the opportunity to be outrageously rude, Terence Stamp eventually forgot he was in drag and started hitting on girls, and Hugo Weaving got super-drunk and lay under a table for hours, tapping his finger in time to the music. This last detail was incorporated into the film in the hotel room scene.

6 – Dumb and Dumber (1994)

Harry and Lloyd are named after the (silent) comedy star Harold Lloyd. The feature film debut for Peter Farrelly and Bobby Farrelly. They said years later that the main reason they got the job was that Jim Carrey’s breakthrough film role in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994) had been directed by someone who had never done a feature film before (Tom Shadyac) and after a positive first meeting with the Farrellys, Carrey decided to give them the job in hopes of replicating that success. According to the Farrelly brothers, Jeff Daniels wasn’t wanted for the film, but Jim Carrey wanted him in it. In order to ensure a no from him, they offered Daniels $50,000 for the role. He accepted without any hesitation nor did he attempt to negotiate, despite insistence from his agent the film would “kill his career.” By 1994, the film was Daniels’ most successful.

5 – It Happened One Night (1934)It Happened One Night (1934) became the first film to perform a “clean sweep” of the top five Academy Award categories, known as the Oscar “grand slam”: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay. This feat would later be duplicated by One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) in 1976 and The Silence of the Lambs (1991) in 1992. However, It Happened One Night is the only one not nominated in any other category. According to Frank Capra in an interview with Richard Schickel for “The Men Who Made the Movies”, “We made the picture really quickly–four weeks. We stumbled through it, we laughed our way through it. And this goes to show you how much luck and timing and being in the right place at the right time means in show business; how sometimes no preparation at all is better than all the preparation in the world, and sometimes you need great preparation, but you can never out-guess this thing called creativity. It happens in the strangest places and under the strangest of circumstances. I didn’t care much for the picture, ] it turned out to be ‘It Happened One Night’.” Is often credited as the very first screwball comedy.

4 – Tommy Boy (1995)Rob Lowe played the supporting role of Tommy’s stepbrother and is uncredited. The reason for this is because Rob was contractually obligated to Stephen King’s The Stand (1994) at the time, so he took the part simply as a favor for friend Chris Farley. According to David Spade, he and Chris Farley got into a physical altercation on the set. Spade had gone out for a drink with Rob Lowe the night before. Farley had become very jealous and angrily repeated: “How’s Rob Lowe?”. David got so fed up with Chris hounding him on the subject that he threw his Diet Coke on him, to which Chris responded by throwing David into a wall and down the stairs. After the fight, Spade walked off the set and refused to continue filming. The pair would sometimes go for hours without talking to each other, talk to each other through the director, etc.

3 – The Blues Brothers (1980)During filming one of the night scenes, John Belushi disappeared and could not be located. Dan Aykroyd looked around and saw a single house with its lights on. He went to the house and was prepared to identify himself, the movie, and that they were looking for Belushi. Before he could, the homeowner looked at him, smiled and said, “You’re here for John Belushi, aren’t you?” The homeowner then told them Belushi had entered their house, asked if he could have a glass of milk and a sandwich, and then crashed on their couch. Situations like this prompted Aykroyd to affectionately dub Belushi as “America’s Guest”. John Candy orders three orange whips. This line was not scripted; Candy just improvised. While also a cocktail, Orange Whip provided refreshments for the crew, and Costumer Sue Dugan was daughter of the Director of Sales for Orange Whip, Kenny Dugan, who asked the brand be mentioned in the film.

2 – Smokey and the Bandit (1977)A majority of the lines and quotes spoken by Jackie Gleason character, Sheriff Buford T. Justice were improvised. Jackie Gleason reportedly modeled his character, Sheriff Buford T. Justice, after Burt Reynolds’ description of his father, a Florida police officer and Chief of Police. Among the character traits that came from this was the use of “sumbitch”, a colloquial pronunciation of “son of a bitch”. Jackie Gleason said the cafe scene with himself and Burt Reynolds was not in the original story, it was Gleason’s idea. Adding the Junior Justice character was Jackie Gleason’s idea. “I can’t be in the car alone,” Gleason said. “Put someone in there with me to play off of.”

Hal Needham was better known in the film industry as a stuntman and had great difficulty in getting any producers interested in this project. Only when his close friend Burt Reynolds agreed to star in the film did he manage to gain studio attention. Hal Needham asked Jerry Reed to write a theme song for the film. A couple of hours later, Reed presented “East Bound and Down” to Needham. With an acoustic guitar, Reed started to play it and Needham immediately stopped him. Thinking Needham didn’t like it, Reed offered to re-write the song. To which Needham replied: “If you change one note, I’ll kill you!” The song went on to become one of Reed’s biggest hits.

1 – Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)John Hughes, in an interview on the “Those Aren’t Pillows” DVD, said he was inspired to write the film’s story after an actual flight from New York to Chicago he was on, was diverted to Wichita, Kansas, thus taking him five days to get home. John Hughes wrote the first draft of the screenplay in three days. His average writing time for a screenplay in those days was about three to five days with twenty-some re-writes. Steve Martin was convinced to join the production after favoring two scenes he had read from the script; the seat adjustment-scene in the car, and the F-word tirade at the car rental desk. John Candy and Steve Martin’s favorite film that they have made. Although John Hughes was in a bad mood throughout the filming, as his life was falling apart, John Candy and Steve Martin had a great time together during production.

Top 15 Binge-Worthy One-Hour TV Shows

 

Looking for a good one-hour TV show to binge watch this coming weekend?  Look no further, here are my favorites:

15  Legion (2017)

On it’s first season on the FX Network, it’s just barely getting started, so it almost didn’t make my list, but the reason it did is because it’s a VERY strong beginning!  The real reason it is so good is because of Noah Hawley, who created the last 2 season of FX’s Fargo. He’s just brilliant.  It’s a Marvel Comics creation and the characters fill the same universe as the X-Men. The title of the show is based on David Haller’s (main character) code name in the X-Men Comics. David acquired the code name “Legion” due to having hundreds of multiple personalities each with his own mutant power. Essentially making him a one man army.

14  House of Cards (2013-Present)

This is widely considered to be one of the 1st shows that inspired the Binge-watch culture we enjoy today.  Thanks Netflix.  Netflix won the bidding war between the rest of the networks to produce the show because they committed to do two seasons directly. It’s about the Underwoods, a ruthless couple, working hard to attain and maintain the Oval Office. Director list in the first 3 seasons includes famous names such as David Fincher, Joel Schumacher, Jodie Foster and actress Robin Wright, who plays Claire Underwood.

13  Bosch (2014-Present)

Based on the Hieronymous “Harry” Bosch Detective novels by Michael Connelly, this series features the excellent Titus Welliver as Bosch. In the literary world, Bosch is the half brother of Michael (Mickey) Haller from The Lincoln Lawyer (2011). They have same father; also a lawyer named Michael Haller. Michael Jr is the legitimate son, while Harry Bosch is illegitimate. By the way, Michael Connelly is one of my all-time favorite writers. No one can put together a crime story as good as he can.

12  Dexter  (2006-2013)

Dexter Morgan is a Forensics Expert, but that’s what he seems to be, as that’s not what he really is. Dexter is a serial killer that hunts other serial killers. This series is also based on a popular book series, but my favorite thing about the series would have to be Dexter himself, Michael C. Hall.  He’s fantastic in this.

11  Boston Legal (2004-2008)

David E. Kelly’s best legal series. Features the classic law firm of Crane, Poole and Schmidt, with the fantastic William Shatner playing Denny Crane. The real brilliance comes in the form of James Spader as Alan Shore, who can fly through a 5 page closing monologue like a cheetah through a 30-yard dash!  Watching these two and a slew of the best character actors as guest stars on this show was a real pleasure!

10  Stranger Things (2016-Present)

In a small town where everyone knows everyone, a peculiar incident starts a chain of events that leads to the disappearance of a child – which begins to tear at the fabric of an otherwise peaceful community. Dark government agencies and seemingly malevolent supernatural forces converge on the town while a few locals begin to understand that there’s more going on than meets the eye. The Duffer Brothers originally wanted to make a remake of Stephen King’s It, but were turned down. The series’s logo resembles the font used on the covers for the original 1980s editions of Stephen King novels, notably Cujo and Christine. Of the many nods to Stephen King in this series, one of the most obvious is in episode 4 (“The Body”) when the kids travel a significant stretch along the railroad tracks. Much of the story in the film “Stand By Me” (and in the novella it is based on, titled “The Body”), includes kids traveling along railroad tracks.

9  Newsroom (2012-2014)

This show by Aaron Sorkin is just about the perfect 3 act season TV Show that you can find. It feels like the perfect beginning, middle and ending that could be possible.  I can’t recommend this series enough. Incredible cast all around. It’s about a newsroom, that undergoes some changes in its workings and morals as a new team is brought in, bringing unexpected results for its existing news anchor, played by Jeff Daniels.

8  Longmire  (2012-Present)

Walt Longmire is the dedicated and unflappable sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming. Widowed only a year, he is a man in psychic repair but buries his pain behind his brave face, unassuming grin and dry wit.  Great mystery show, based on another popular thriller series.  On its premiere in June 2012, the series became A&E TV’s most watched original series launch of all time with 4.1 million total viewers. Regardless of it’s great viewing numbers, A&E announced that they would only be concentrating on their own original series and cancelled the show after the third season. A few months later Netflix picked the show back up for its fourth and fifth seasons. Robert Taylor, who plays Walt, bases his performance of Walt Longmire largely on Indiana Jones and several of Clint Eastwood’s Western personas.

7  Prison Break (2005-2009) (2017)

Due to a political conspiracy, an innocent man is sent to death row and his only hope is his brother, who makes it his mission to deliberately get himself sent to the same prison in order to break the both of them out, from the inside. Great series, and it’s coming back for another season, after having been cancelled in 2009! I can’t wait! Paul Scheuring had said that the initial concept for the series (a man deliberately getting himself sent to prison in order to break out again) was suggested to him by a female colleague of his (Dawn Parouse). He thought it was a great idea, but was initially stumped as to why someone would embark on such a strange mission or how he could stretch the idea out long enough for a TV show. He later came up with the idea of the wrongfully accused brother, and the conspiracy subplot. He then started work on writing the pilot script for the show. Wentworth Miller was a last minute casting choice. He started filming about a week after auditioning/being cast.

6  Alias (2001-2006)

Sydney Bristow, Jennifer Garner, is an international spy recruited out of college and trained for espionage and self-defense. Created by the amazing JJ Abrams. Jennifer Garner and Victor Garber (Sydney’s Father) were the only two stars to appear in every episode. Right behind them is Ron Rifkin (Sydney’s Boss) who only missed 2 out of 105. For those of you that are Bradley Cooper fans, he’s prominently featured in 4 of the 5 seasons as Sydney’s best friend, Will Tippin.

5  Game of Thrones (2011-Present)

Nine noble families fight for control over the mythical lands of Westeros; A forgotten race returns after being dormant for thousands of years. Executive Producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss said the production of the show is a massive undertaking. It lasts the entire year and they shoot the show like a ten-hour movie. Season 5 alone was shot in five countries, on 151 sets, for 240 days, having 166 cast members, over 1,000 crew members and over 5,000 extras. George R.R. Martin once cited The Golden Compass (2007), the failed film adaptation of Philip Pullman’s novel “Northern Lights”, as one of the reasons he wanted his books to be made as a television series rather than being turned into movies. George R.R. Martin has stated that the infamous “Red Wedding” was the hardest chapter for him to write in “A Storm of Swords.” He was so emotionally attached to the characters that he actually wrote the rest of the book first, then that chapter last. Executive Producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, upon reading it, declared it was one of the major reasons they decided to option the books for a TV series.

4  Downton Abbey (2010-2015)

A chronicle of the lives of the British aristocratic Crawley family and their servants in the early 20th Century. This show has a great cast. According to Julian Fellowes, the parts played by Hugh Bonneville, Brendan Coyle and Maggie Smith were written for the actors that played them. All the scenes shot in the servants quarters are shot on a soundstage as the actual quarters at Highclere Castle, the filming location for Downton Abbey, are badly damaged. The TV series was inspired by the movie Gosford Park (2001), also written by Julian Fellowes, where Maggie Smith, Jeremy Swift, and Richard E. Grant also appeared. Maggie Smith and Jeremy Swift have similar roles in both.

3  Daredevil (2015- Present)

Matt Murdock, with his other senses superhumanly enhanced, fights crime as a blind lawyer by day, and vigilante by night. WAY WAY WAY better than the Daredevil movie with Ben Affleck!  This show, along with other Netflix series Iron Fist (2017), Luke Cage (2016) and Jessica Jones (2015), exist in the same continuity with one another and within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  All of them are pretty good and worth binge-watching, but this one is by far the best. All of the four main characters will be coming together to make the series, The Defenders and aired on Netflix, hopefully in 2018. It’s also rumored that The Punisher will have his own Netflix series after having appeared in season 2 of Daredevil.

2  Fargo (2015-Present)

BEST series on TV right now. Great stuff.  Every season is a stand alone story set within the world of the Fargo movie by the Coen Brothers. Various chronicles of deception, intrigue and murder in and around frozen Minnesota. Yet all of these tales mysteriously lead back one way or another to Fargo, ND. There are some reoccurring characters, so far, at least in season 1 and 2. The second season is kind of a prequel to the first season. Expanding on the Solversons’ family and their story, and Molly Solverson is seen as a young girl.

1   Justified (2010-2015)

If you haven’t seen this show, you just haven’t seen what is quite possibly the best show of the last 10 years. Some guest actors have said that the working environment on the show was very different from other shows, because the writers were really open to suggestions from the cast, even while shooting scenes, to the point of stopping shooting for a while and sitting around to discuss the scene if there was room for improvement. Walton Goggins, who was born in Alabama and grew up in Georgia, originally declined the role of Boyd Crowder out of concern that the character would portray a negative stereotype of Southerners. He changed his mind and did the pilot as a favor to Timothy Olyphant, whom he knew through friends. It was supposed to be one episode only; Boyd originally died at the end of the pilot, as he did in the novel the show was based on. However, when the character scored well with test audiences, it was decided to reshoot the ending of the pilot to allow Boyd to return as a recurring character. It was this relationship throughout the series, between Boyd and the lead character Raylan Givens, that makes me love this series so much. The character Raylan Givens was created by novelist Elmore Leonard, and has appeared in two of his novels, “Pronto” (filmed as Pronto (1997)) and “Riding the Rap“. Givens also appeared in Leonard’s short story “Fire in the Hole“, which was the basis of the pilot episode of this series.