WeirdProfessorType.com is a website devoted to movie criticism,
where the author knows what really matters:
"The premise of all comedy is a man in trouble."
Comedy Is a Man in Trouble traces the legacy of physical humor from the performances of vaudeville actors and circus clowns to its ongoing popularity in the films of Jim Carrey and the Farrelly brothers.
Available at Amazon.com.
Alan Dale earned a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Princeton University and a J.D. from Yale Law School. He currently works as a corporate tax attorney in Washington, D.C.
Book and movie links throughout this site will take you to the Amazon.com listing for that title. When you click to Amazon.com from here, a percentage of your purchase goes to support this site.
Patrick Marber's Closer: Farce Served Cold
Marber's combination of "elegant structure" and "inelegant emotion" given new force onscreen.
— Posted May 28, 2007
Notes on a Scandal: You Were Temptation
Dench turns a parched, repressed crone into a confiding, self-defeating monster — Richard III in squalid middle-class miniature.
— Posted Apr. 17, 2007
Jacques Rivette's L'Amour fou: Mr. and Mrs. Natural
Husband versus wife in a masterpiece of narrative paradox.
— Posted Mar. 13, 2007
Dreamgirls: Half and Half
Soap opera eventually defeats the good musical numbers, and they aren't all good.
— Posted Feb. 15, 2007
Amy Sedaris in Strangers With Candy: The Imp of the Imperfectible
Borat is theatrical genius, but Strangers With Candy spanks the mind to attention.
— Posted Jan. 5, 2007
The Queen: Popular v. Sovereign
Illustration rather than invention.
— Posted Dec. 30, 2006
Stranger Than Fiction: No Defense
Just the kind of numbskull movie that critics call "smart."
— Posted Dec. 30, 2006
The Last King of Scotland: The Devil Wears Khaki
Ugandan history reduced to a Scotsman's romance of redemption.
— Posted Dec. 18, 2006
Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers: Foof
For this son of a Pacific-theater marine, far less moving than the National World War II Memorial.
— Posted Nov. 29, 2006
Douglas McGrath's Infamous: Crazy Lepidoptery
As much fun as a fundamentally disturbing anecdote could possibly be.
— Posted Nov. 27, 2006
Martin Scorsese's The Departed: (Good + Bad) x Cop²
Youth carries the day.
— Posted Nov. 1, 2006
Robert Towne's Ask the Dust: Laughing at Your Own Funeral
Colin Farrell, Salma Hayek, and Robert Towne in tragicomic sync.
— Posted Oct. 31, 2006
John Cameron Mitchell's Shortbus: It's All Porno
Skin doesn't need to be justified.
— Posted Oct. 30, 2006
Evelyn Waugh's The Loved One: The Artist's Load
Waugh didn't know America well enough to hate it.
— Posted Sept. 15, 2006
Oliver Stone's World Trade Center: Knights in Distress
At least it's not an "Oliver Stone movie."
— Posted Sept. 1, 2006
The Break-Up and Friends With Money: Men and Women Without Qualities
Jennifer Aniston is not a star; Vince Vaughn should be.
— Posted July 30, 2006
Jack Black in Nacho Libre: Or Is It Merely the Mock?
All it needs to be—ridiculous from beginning to end.
— Posted July 26, 2006
Danny Leiner's The Great New Wonderful: Afterlife
Maggie Gyllenhaal hits another peak.
— Posted July 26, 2006
Elaine May's Mikey and Nicky: Actor! Actor!
Whole lotta actin' goin' on.
— Posted July 20, 2006
The Devil Wears Prada: Apologies All Around
Promises more hell than it delivers.
— Posted July 20, 2006
John Hillcoat's The Proposition: The Frontier
The process of civilization in 1880s Australia: It's a ballad, it's a novel, it's amazing.
— Posted June 27, 2006
Elaine May's The Heartbreak Kid: Chasing
The Heartbreak Kid vs. The Graduate: Irony down to the "happy" ending, and presumably beyond.
— Posted June 25, 2006
Paul Greengrass's United 93: Guts
United 93 and Bloody Sunday: Almost like being there.
— Posted June 24, 2006
Sophie Scholl and József Cardinal Mindszenty: Interrorgation
Sophie Scholl: The Final Days, The Prisoner, Guilty of Treason: Two martyrs, three movies, and totalitarian "justice."
— Posted May 3, 2006
David Morse in 16 Blocks: The Man
Grand theft acting: David Morse boosts 16 Blocks from both Bruce Willis and Mos Def.
— Posted Apr. 11, 2006
Lajos Koltai's Fateless: Death and the Children
Fateless, Life Is Beautiful, Naked Among Wolves, Kapò: Individual experience and narrative after the Nazi Holocaust.
— Posted Mar. 22, 2006
Stephen Gaghan's Syriana and Steven Spielberg's Munich: Fuel for "Thought"
Underwrought, overwrought, rot.
— Posted Feb. 27, 2006
Woody Allen's Match Point: Not Enough, Already
Zelig, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Melinda and Melinda, Match Point: Woody Allen soars way beyond the level of his incompetence.
— Posted Jan. 16, 2006
Brokeback Mountain: In the Shadow of the Tire Iron
It's not a gay western, it's a gay soap opera.
— Posted Jan. 9, 2006
Joe Wright's Pride & Prejudice and Roman Polanski's Oliver Twist: Real/Ideal
A hit and a miss. The moral: know what kind of book you're adapting.
— Posted Dec. 26, 2005
Capote and Walk the Line: Two Kinds of Bad Boy
Text vs. performance: gimme the white-hot stars!
— Posted Dec. 11, 2005
Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic: Silversmith
A polluted oasis for refugees from "positive," heartwarming, family-friendly entertainment.
— Posted Dec. 1, 2005
Charlize Theron in North Country: Over the Waterfall
Victorian melodrama in feminist workduds.
— Posted Nov. 19, 2005
George Clooney's Good Night, and Good Luck.: "The half truth was elevated to the position of a principle"
The romance of Edward R. Murrow, and the misconstruction of the "McCarthy era."
— Posted Nov. 12, 2005
Flightplan and Proof: Blondes, Grim and Dreary
Lighten up, ladies.
— Posted Nov. 9, 2005
Julian Fellowes's Separate Lies: Precisely
A completely convincing portrait of a functioning comfortless marriage and a triumph for Julian Fellowes and his cast.
— Posted Oct. 26, 2005
Jun Ichikawa's Tony Takitani: One False Step
Aestheticism and the fallen man.
— Posted Oct. 25, 2005
The Constant Gardener and Lord of War: No Evidence
A melodrama, a comic book, and their authors' recreational politics.
— Posted Oct. 12, 2005
March of the Penguins and Grizzly Man: Pathetic, Fallacious, Poetic, Prophetic
Two animal documentaries: an ironist rushes in where romantics fear to tread.
— Posted Sept. 26, 2005
Maggie Gyllenhaal and Lisa Kudrow in Don Roos's Happy Endings: Not Nice
Roos's talent can be frustrating but works wonders here for his actresses.
— Posted Aug. 3, 2005
Romain Duris in Jacques Audiard's The Beat That My Heart Skipped: A Star in Fragments
It's nonsense, but Duris holds the screen like a natural.
— Posted Aug. 3, 2005
Gregg Araki's Mysterious Skin: Unf***ingbelievable
Recovered-memory theory, gay sex, and the reverse Midas touch.
— Posted July 19, 2005
Paul Haggis's Crash: First the Bad News
House of Sand and Fog and Crash and the principle of lose-lose drama.
— Posted July 19, 2005
Luis Buñuel's The Milky Way: Crucifiction
Two pilgrims to Santiago confront the puzzlements and contradictions of Christian doctrine and history in Buñuel's strangely festive all-clown parade of a movie.
— Posted June 26, 2005
Todd Solondz's Palindromes: Hopeless Times Eight
The problem isn't that we laugh at the travails of the 13-year-old protagonist, but that we don't laugh enough.
— Posted May 28, 2005
Oldboy and Sin City: Mutilation With and Without Redemption
Two shockers, less and more recommendable.
— Posted Apr. 27, 2005
Joan Allen in Mike Binder's The Upside of Anger: Pick Your Poison
Joan Allen in a landmark performance.
— Posted Apr. 25, 2005
Oliver Hirschbiegel's Downfall: Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down
A compendiously detailed epic of the Germans' deserved defeat.
— Posted Mar. 28, 2005
Sylvie Testud and Kaori Tsuji in Fear and Trembling: "Bow--Bow--To his daughter-in-law elect!"
The comic pleasure of watching two actresses face off in a satire of Japanese corporate life.
— Posted Mar. 16, 2005
Hirokazu Kore-eda's Nobody Knows: Watching the Children
The moving story of four abandoned siblings, and the difference between naturalistic technique and content.
— Posted Mar. 8, 2005
Hilary Swank in Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby: "Flicker, flicker, flicker blam. Pow, Pow."
Hilary Swank wins an award in a new category: the most winning performance in the movie I'm least likely to watch again.
— Posted Feb. 1, 2005
Johnny Depp as J.M. Barrie in Finding Neverland: 2004 Cross-Dressing as 1904
Occasionally moving but tediously reverential mythmaking about the writing of Peter Pan.
— Posted Jan. 26, 2005
Ray, Kinsey, The Aviator: Life Stories
In biopics romance almost always wins the battle with reality.
— Posted Jan. 13, 2005
Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo in Hotel Rwanda: A View from the West
When I say that I would happily watch Cheadle and Okonedo in anything I don't mean more movies like Hotel Rwanda.
— Posted Jan. 9, 2005
Pedro Almodóvar's Bad Education: Collage
It's hard to make a good film noir if you're uncomfortable with your audience's corruptibility.
— Posted Jan. 4, 2005
Against the Ropes
Aileen: The Life and Death of a Serial Killer
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
Better Luck Tomorrow
Beyond the Sea
Big Bounce, The
Bright Young Things
Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle
Day After Tomorrow, The
Dirty Pretty Things
Dirty Shame, A
Down With Love
Far from Heaven
Fast Times at Ridgemont High
50 First Dates
Fisher King, The
Gone With the Wind
Good Thief, The
Grosse Pointe Blank
Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Hero (d: Zhang Yimou)
House of Flying Daggers
I ♥ Huckabees
I'm Not Scared
In the Cut
Italian Job, The
I Think I Do
Kill Bill, Vol. 1
Laws of Attraction
Life Less Ordinary, A
Long Day's Journey Into Night
Look Who's Talking
Lord of the Rings, The
Lost in Translation
Lost in Yonkers
Manchurian Candidate, The (2004)
Man in the White Suit, The
Man on the Train
Man Without a Past, The
Maria Full of Grace
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Mighty Wind, A
My Best Friend's Wedding
New Age, The
My New Gun
Nicholas Nickleby (2002)
Opposite of Sex, The
Out of Time
Passion of the Christ, The
Quiet American, The
Raspberry Reich, The
Saddest Music in the World, The
Shaun of the Dead
Six Degrees of Separation
Sixth Sense, The
Sleepless in Seattle
Starsky & Hutch
Station Agent, The
Talk to Her
'Til There Was You
To Die For
28 Days Later
Two Girls and a Guy
Under the Tuscan Sun
View from the Top
Vile Bodies (book)
Wedding Singer, The
We Don't Live Here Anymore
Y tu mamá también
In the 1990s the bulk of our dramatic movies paled next to our most adventurous comedies, which by contrast continued to benefit from the post-Counterculture breakdown of censorship to stay freer, get wilder. In fact, the '90s was one of the stretches, like the teens through the early '50s, when the comedies were overall more satisfying than any other genre in American movies.
What people mean by "genre" when talking about American movies doesn't offer an intelligible account of why our movies have told stories in the way they have, or why any genre should be more successful than another. I would argue, in fact, that the failure to integrate the discussion of movie genres into the historical analysis of literary genres is the biggest gap in the writing about American movies.
In What We Do Best, I bridge that gap by exploring comedy in the context of other genres, seen in the widest perspective. And, in so doing, I make my case that over time American movie comedies have been more fully imaginative than American movies of any other genre.
Click here to read the full text of What We Do Best: American Movie Comedies of the 1990s.
— Alan Dale