Monday, November 5, 2007

Top 5 Movies I'm glad my Cinema Professor Made Me Watch (and one I wish he didn't)

What kind of USC student were you if you didn't take Cinema 190 with Drew Casper? It was a gimme class. You listened to a kinda crazy, kinda brilliant prof who clearly loved his movies spout about theories and history and always sat in the back because the man was insane and lived to call on you and embarrass the hell out of you, and then afterwards, you got to sit in an awesome theatre and watch movies (or if you were me - you snuck out and then went to Rocket Video on Melrose and rented them all on VHS to catch up come final times).

Thanks to that crazy, awesome professor, I got to see some amazing films.

Thanks to Leonard Maltin, my OTHER cinema profesor, I got to see some truly crappy ones. One of them was Antitrust. Do you remember that one? It was that hideous hacker film with Ryan Phillip back when the internet boom was hot and it was just... blech. I feel dumber for having watched that film.

But First - the Classics:

1. A Shot In The Dark - imdb link - clip on youtube
The follow up to the fantastic 'Pink Panther' - Blake Edwards' A Shot in the Dark begins with a voyeuristic window into a priveliged household after dark - where all we see are shadows of laisons: affairs, passion, and murder. What follows is the saga of the original idiot - and Peter Sellers is never better (except, maybe in Dr. Strangelove). As the hapless Inspector Clouseau, who fumbles his way across this campy whodunit, Sellers is always brilliant, and even better, always funny.

Memorable Quote: Give me ten men like Clouseau and I could destroy the world.

2. The Miracle of Morgan's Creek - imdb link - clip on youtube
In cinema class, we learned all about Preston Sturges, and his love of situational slapstick. In 'The Miracle of Morgan's Creek', he gets away with the unthinkable in 1944: a movie about a one-night stand that's left a girl pregnant and jilted. The result? A hilarous send-up of a war film, where the heroes have gone to war and left a girl hung over, pregnant, and having no clue who her wartime husband is. With the help of her wise cracking little sister, and adoring geek best friend, she's going to try to get herself out of trouble before she lands in a whole heap of it.

Memorable Quote: The responsibility for recording a marriage has always been up to woman. If it wasn't for her, marriage would have disappeared long since. No man is going to jeopardize his present or poison his future with a lot of little brats hollering around the house unless he's forced to. It's up to the woman to knock him down, hogtie him, and drag him in front of two witnesses immediately if not sooner. Anytime after that is too late.

3. The General - imdb link - clip on youtube
Buster Keaton was always a genius, but this silent film, usually past over for Charlie Chaplin's 'Modern Times', will always cement him as my own personal geeky romantic hero. The simple story of a man and his two loves: an engine and a girl, is riveting, hilarous and sweet.

Memorable Quote: If you lose this war don't blame me.

4. A Foreign Affair - imdb link - clip on youtube
My 190 professer had a love affair with husky-throated, raspy-voiced Jean Arthur, and with good reason. The woman was a comedic treasure. In Billy Wilder's classic A Foreign Affair, she plays it straight opposite sex-hellcat Marlene Deitrich, as a public official sent to investigate allegations that officers occupying a savaged post-war Berlin have gone corrupt. The subject is particularly relevant today, and once again proves that comedy is political commentary's best friend.

Memorable Quote: Moral! Maybe someday we can send a little committee of our own investigating moral in Washington D.C.

5. The More The Merrier - imdb link -
What happens when a well-to-do retired millionaire ends up rooming with a beautiful single gal in the middle of a housing shortage in Washington D.C. and has nothing to do? He sets her up with a soldier, of course. Rife with physical comedy and amazingly funny preformances by all three leads, The More The Merrier is funny, sweet and romantic.

Memorable Quote: There are two kinds of people - those who don't do what they want to do, so they write down in a diary about what they haven't done, and those who are too busy to write about it because they're out doing it!

Thank you, Dr. Casper. You were crazy, but you were awesome. Without you, I never would have known and loved Howard Hawkes, Preston Sturges, Billy Wilder, and Fatty Arbunkle, to name a new.

You made me love cinema. And I'm sure you're still torturing general elective students as we speak.

In a way, that makes me happy too.

1 comment:

  1. "(or if you were me - you snuck out and then went to Rocket Video on Melrose and rented them all on VHS to catch up come final times)"

    Ooooh, ditcher!