Complete Lineup for “Laughter in the Dark” Film Series at The Greensboro School of Creativity

Laughter in the Dark – A Film Series of the Darker Side of Comedy Presented by Budd Wilkins, M.A., Staff Critic for Slant Magazine

Monday evenings beginning February 6, 2012 – come laugh the Monday blues away with darkly funny films you may have never seen before!

Meet & Mingle – 6:30 pm – bring your own refreshments!

Film starts promptly at 7:00 pm

Educational discussion to follow film

Admission:  FREE with donations accepted to the Greensboro School of Creativity

Film Schedule:

FEBRUARY

February 6 – We kick off our series with a delightful double-feature of Duck Soup (1933) starring The Marx Brothers and Sherlock, Jr. (1924), directed by and starring Buster Keaton.  Duck Soup is widely considered to be a masterpiece and the Marx Brothers’ finest film.  It’s filled with political disregard, buffoonery and cynicism, and tons of laughs.  Duck Soup was selected in 1990 for preservation in the National Film Registry.  Sherlock, Jr. a silent film, was also selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 1991, and is ranked #62 on AFI’s list of the funniest films of all time.  Keaton performs all of his own difficult stunts and the film is noted for very funny sight gags, slapstick and innovative technical accomplishment.   Our rating: G

February 13 – Valentine’s Special – Unfaithfully Yours (1948), a screwball black comedy starring Rex Harrison and directed by the inimitable Preston Sturges.   Sir Alfred De Carter suspects his wife of infidelity. While conducting a symphony orchestra, he imagines three different ways of dealing with the situation. When the concert ends, he tries acting out his fantasies, but things do not go as well in reality as they did in his imagination.  Remade in 1984.  Our rating:  PG.

February 20 – Trouble in Paradise (1932) Ernst Lubitsch directs this saucy comedy where a gentleman thief and a lady pickpocket join forces to con a beautiful perfume company owner. Romantic entanglements and jealousies confuse the scheme.  Made before effective enforcement of the Hays Production Code, Trouble in Paradise is an example of pre-code cinema containing adult themes and sexual innuendo.  In 1935, when the Production Code was being enforced, the film was not approved for reissue and was not seen again until 1968.  Our rating:  PG-13

February 27 – Boudu Saved from Drowning (1932) – French comedy directed by Jean Renoir on which Paul Mazursky’s Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1984) was based.  Boudu, a tramp, jumps into the Seine. He is rescued by Mr Lestingois, a gentle and good bookseller, who gives shelter to him. Mrs Lestingois and the maid Anne-Marie (Mr Lestingois’ mistress) are far from delighted, for Boudu is lazy, dirty and salacious. Famed film critic Pauline Kael called Boudu “not only a lovely fable about a bourgeois attempt to reform an early hippie, but a photographic record of an earlierFrance.”  This film is subtitled, and our rating is PG-13.

MARCH: 

March 5 – Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) – Alec Guiness liked the screenplay so much that he requested to play eight parts in this Ealing Studios black comedy.  A distant poor relative of the Duke of D’Ascoyne plots to inherit the title by murdering the other eight heirs (all played by Guiness) who stand ahead of him in the line of succession.  Original British version will be screened as opposed to the American version which was censored to satisfy the Hays Production Code.  Therefore, our rating:  PG-13

March 12 – The Apartment (1960) – Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine and Fred MacMurray star in this Billy Wilder-directed comedy-romance-drama.  Bud Baxter (Lemmon) is a struggling clerk in a huge New   York insurance company who has discovered a quick way to climb the corporate ladder – by lending out his apartment to the execs looking for a place to take their mistresses.  He often has to deal with the aftermath of their visits, and one night finds himself with a major problem to solve. Nominated for ten Academy Awards and winner of five, including Best Picture.  The Apartment was the last film shot entirely in black and white to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.  Our rating: PG-13

March 19 Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) – Stanley Kubrick’s black cold war comedy co-written by Terry Southern has Peter Sellers playing three roles and contains riotously funny performances by Sterling Hayden, George C. Scott, and that infamous end shot with Slim Pickens.  Released the same year as the nuclear war mistake drama, Fail-Safe starring Henry Fonda and Walter Matthau, the resemblances are obvious but Kubrick and Southern make mutually assured destruction much, much funnier. Listed as #3 on AFI’s list of funniest films of all time, and an Academy Award-nominated film for Best Picture.  Our rating: PG-13

March 26 – Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice (1969) Director Paul Mazursky’s favorite film (and Natalie Wood’s) starts us on a three-movie run of films starring Elliot Gould, a most underrated actor who was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for this film, and Dyan Cannon’s performance garnered her an Oscar nomination as well.  This hugely-popular sex romp tells the story of a documentary film maker (Robert Culp) and his wife (Wood) who attend an Esalen-like retreat and try to convert their uptight friends (Gould and Cannon) to “free love.”.  Our rating:  R

Spring Break – April 9 and 16 – No Film Screening

APRIL

April 2– Little Murders (1971) – A very hard to find film directed by Alan Arkin and containing some of the blackest humor ever committed to celluloid, and based on the play by Jules Feiffer.  Elliot Gould stars as a photographer who is hounded by Marcia Rodd to marry her and join her dysfunctional family, against a background of random shootings, garbage strikes and electrical outages inNew York City.  Vincent Gardenia and Donald Sutherland deliver incredibly humorous performances, and interestingly, the DVD version was released and taken off the market twice during the G.W. Bush Administration.  Arkin himself and Doris Roberts also co-star.  Our rating:  R

April 23 – M*A*S*H (1970) – Robert Altman’s satirical dark comedy about a Korean War field hospital unit also stars Elliot Gould and Donald Sutherland, and led to the hugely successful television series.  Altman’s film is a series of episodes in which you won’t recognize the Hawkeye and Trapper John of the TV series.  Tom Skerritt, Sally Kellerman, Robert Duvall and Rene Auberjonois round out the all-star cast.  Our rating: R

April 30 – I Love You, Alice B. Toklas! (1968) A return to the genius comedic acting of Peter Sellers, who stars as Harold Fine, a 35-year old Los Angeles lawyer and self-described “square” who is not looking forward to middle age or his upcoming wedding.  His encounter with a beautiful young hippie and some interesting brownies changes his life, but for how long?  Jo Van Fleet and Joyce Van Patten render some very funny performances in this ‘60’s comedy.  Our rating:  PG-13

MAY

May 7 – Harold and Maude (1971) – Hal Ashby directs this unusual comedic romance between teenager Harold and septuagenarian Maude (Ruth Gordon) whom he meets at a funeral for a total stranger.  Obsessed with death and hounded by his mother, Harold spends his time watching buildings being demolished, visiting junkyards and simulating suicides to get his mother’s attention until he meets and falls in love with Maude.  Our rating:  PG

May 14 – Shampoo (1975) – Another film by Hal Ashby with a bit more bite, Shampoo depicts a straight hairdresser (Warren Beatty) with multiple female clients and bed partners while the men all believe he is gay.  Set during a 24-hour period on the eve of the 1968 Presidential election, Warren Beatty uses his sensuality and sexuality to get what he wants while leaving a string of lovers and great hairstyles in his wake, proving that “only your hairdresser knows for sure.”  Star Wars’ Carrie Fisher’s debut role as a teenager and love interest of Beatty, and the all-star cast includes Lee Grant (Oscar winner for this performance), Julie Christie, Goldie Hawn, and Jack Warden.  Our rating:  R

May 21 –Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979) – Monty Python’s Terry Jones directs the Python comedy team in this hilarious satire of over-the-top Biblical films and religious intolerance.  As per usual, the Python cast play multiple parts in this tale of a reluctant Messiah.  Ireland andNorway banned the film because of its religious satire.  The filmmakers used that fact to their advantage on their promo posters which stated, “So funny it was banned inNorway!” Our rating:  R

May 28 – Memorial Day – No Film Screening

JUNE

June 4 – The King of Comedy (1983) – The first of two comedy films directed by Martin Scorsese, The King of Comedy stars Robert De Niro and comedy legend Jerry Lewis.  De Niro plays Rupert Pupkin, an aspiring comic who stalks his idol, talk show host Jerry Langford (Lewis) with disastrous results.  Our rating: PG-13

June 11 – After Hours (1985) – Another Scorsese-directed comedy starring Griffin Dunne, Rosanna Arquette, Cheech and Chong, Teri Garr and SCTV’s Catherine O’Hara.  A comedy, drama and thriller in one, Dunne plays a word processor who travels impulsively toSoho to date an attractive but apparently disturbed young woman, only to find himself trapped in a nightmarishly surreal vortex of improbable coincidences and farcical circumstances.  What if the date you thought would never end, didn’t?  Our rating:  PG-13

June 18 – Sleeper (1973) – We begin a 3-part series examining the films of comic genius writer/actor/director Woody Allen with an early sci-fi comedy film depicting a clarinet player who also runs a health food store who is frozen and brought back in the future by anti-government radicals to fight an oppressive government.  Also features Allen’s long time co-star and former lover Diane Keaton. Our rating – R

June 25 Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) – The film that blends Allen’s touch for comedy and drama best, Crimes and Misdemeanors has it all – dark comedy, suspense, subterfuge, and an all-star cast including a stunning performance by Martin Landau.  Alan Alda, Anjelica Huston, Clair Bloom, and Sam Waterston also star in this tale of blackmail, marital infidelity, murder and unrealized dreams.  Our rating – R

JULY

July 2 – We end our love affair with Woody Allen with his darkest comedy to date, Deconstructing Harry (1997).  Allen plays Harry Block, a well-regarded novelist whose tendency to thinly-veil his own experiences in his work, as well as his unapologetic attitude and his proclivity for pills and prostitutes has left him with three ex-wives who hate him.  As he is about to be honored by the college that expelled him for his writing, he faces writer’s block and his best friends are about to become his worst enemies.  Co-starring Richard Benjamin, Kirstie Alley, Billy Crystal, Judy Davis, Bob Balaban, Elisabeth Shue, Demi Moor, Robin Williams, Julie Kavner, and Mariel Hemingway.  Our rating – R

July 9 – “Laughter in the Dark” begins another three-part series of a favorite writer/actor/director, Albert Brooks, Golden Globe-nominated for his recent performance in Drive and interviewed by Budd Wilkins for Slant Magazine.  Real Life (1979) stars Brooks as a pushy, narcissistic (but very funny) filmmaker trying to persuade a Phoenix family to let him and his crew film their everyday lives.  Brooks got the idea for this film from PBS’ groundbreaking series An American Family.  Our rating – R

July 16 – We continue with Albert Brooks in his 1981 romance-comedy Modern Romance (1981), where Brooks plays a film editor constantly breaking up and reconciling with his long-suffering girlfriend, a bank teller played by Kathryn Harrold.  The movie also provides insight into film editing as Brooks and his co-worker edit a cheesy sci-fi movie.  Our rating – R

July 23 – Our final Albert Brooks offering is Lost in America (1985) which has Brooks and his wife (played by Julie Hagerty) quitting their jobs to live as free spirits and cruise America in a Winnebago in a bungled attempt to emulate Easy Rider.  Our rating – PG-13

July 30 – Team America: World Police (2004) – From the writers who bring you South Park comes this feature with crude humor all involving puppets.  Lots of celebrity imitations by Trey Parker and Matt Stone.  The recently-deceased Kim Jong Il, a world-famous film buff, never publicly commented on this film, in which he has a highly prominent role.  Guaranteed to offend, so our rating:  R – Persons under 17 will not be admitted.

August 6 – We conclude our series on a hot summer night with Hot Fuzz (2007) a smart Irish action-comedy that spoofs the buddy-cop genre, including Point Break.  Gunfights, car chases, explosions, and laughs as a good cop – too good – is transferred from his high-pressure city environment to a quiet small town and paired with a partner who is star-struck by his abilities and reputation.  Once the real crimes begin in the small town, the real action and laughs begin. Our rating:  R

About Budd Wilkins

Budd Wilkins is a writer, film critic and instructor. He is a Staff Critic for Slant Magazine, and his work has also appeared in the Nordic Issue of Acidemic Journal of Film and Media. He is currently writing a chapter for an anthology on international horror directors to be published by Intellect Press and distributed by University of Chicago Press. Mr. Wilkins was born and raised in Hollywood, Florida. He attended Penn State for several years before moving to North Carolina in 1994, where he earned his Bachelor's in Religious Studies and a Master's in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Film Studies from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. His primary focus is film history, film literacy and criticism, with the goal of bringing obscure, foreign and films that are labeled "difficult" to the attention of film aficionados of all kinds. Other interests and focus of critique include comparative religion, black humor, 19th century European literature, horror and graphic novels. Mr Wilkins lives in Greensboro, North Carolina with his wife, Tina. Follow @buddwilkins on Twitter.
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