Ring in the New Year with Laughs

CLASSICMOVIEJUNKIEJohnny Hooker: He’s not as tough as he thinks.
Henry Gondorff: Neither are we.

From The Sting, 1973, Universal Pictures

A Look Back at the Future

Happy 2015.

Wow. Look at that number.  No, really. Look at it.

Is it just me, or does anyone else remember when the year “2015” would have looked like something out of a science fiction novel? I’m not sure it doesn’t still look a little like that to me. Then again, I’m no spring chicken. Maybe this has to do with age and perspective.

For example, once there was a novel titled 1984 by a fella named Orwell. I’m sure that title looked more than a little futuristic when it was published in 1949. (And, no, I wasn’t around back then.)

And ever hear of a movie called 2001: A Space Odyssey? By 1969, the prospect of a looming new millennium would have fired our imaginations and triggered predictions of a just-out-of-reach future that would look like something out of The Jetsons. (Speaking of which, I’m still waiting for those cool Jetson flying cars to make an appearance. George, Jane and Astro were living in 2062, so there’s still time.)

Then came Y2K.

Back then, I swear, “2000” sounded futuristic right up to the very day the millennium turned.

What do you think? Have we become jaded? What year can possibly look awesomely futuristic to us now? 2025? How about 2100? 3000? 🙂

Writing Comedy in Dialogue

Every writer has their strengths and weaknesses—the elements we love to write and the elements with which we perpetually struggle.

Me? I love writing amusing dialogue. I get so jazzed when my characters spout a smile-worthy line, I can coast on it for days.

So, what makes dialogue fun?

Timing, flow, conflict. I used to think it took a witty writer to write witty dialogue, but that’s not necessarily so. Dialogue that not only entertains and delights but propels a scene forward can spring up naturally when we put two strong-willed, colorful characters in a challenging new situation together.

No one teaches this lesson better than one of the most talented comedy playwrights of our time, Neil Simon.

We could do worse than to study Simon’s sublime comedic timing in the dialogue of opposites in The Odd Couple and Barefoot in the Park or the raw emotional vulnerability that underlies the deceptively light banter in The Goodbye Girl.

Lucky for those of us who appreciate fine comedic dialogue, there are some splendid movies to recommend this month on TCM, including three Neil Simon classics and the oh-so-clever Redford-Newman tour de forceThe Sting.

Laugh. Learn. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 6
Missed it? Catch it for a week or more on demand at Watch TCM)

8:00 pm The Sting (1973) Drama/Comedy TCM. Two confidence men concoct an elaborate con game to avenge the death of their friend at the hands of a ruthless gangster. Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert Shaw, Eileen Brennan.

Why? Newman and Redford. That’s enough, right? Oh, but there’s more. This outstanding Depression-era period film won seven Oscars, including Best Picture in 1973, and—if that ain’t enough– it’s in my personal top ten all-around favorite films. Smart, funny, suspenseful, and one of the best movie endings EVER.

Friday, January 9
Missed it? Catch it for a week or more on demand at Watch TCM)

Peter_Falk_-_19739:45 pm The Cheap Detective (1978) Comedy/Spoof TCM. A private eye becomes involved with more sultry femme fatales than he can shake a fedora at while trying to solve his partner’s murder. Peter Falk, Louise Fletcher, Marsha Mason, Madeline Kahn, James Coco, Ann-Margaret, Dom DeLuise, Sid Caesar, Eileen Brennan.

Why? Love Casablanca? The Maltese Falcon? To Have and Have Not? You’ll love this top-drawer send-up. (“You know how to dial, don’t you? You put your finger in the little round hole and …”)

Falk spoofs Bogart to perfection (“That’s just how it is, angel…”) and Marsha Mason is hysterical as his murdered partner’s faithless widow. In fact, you’ll find no weak links in this all-star ensemble cast. Guaranteed to tickle your funny bone.

Check out the trailer here: Peter Falk and Madeline Kahn in The Cheap Detective (1 min. 24 sec.)

Tuesday,  January 13

Rpbert Redford

Robert Redford in Barefoot in the Park

10:00 pm Barefoot in the Park (1967) Romance/ Comedy. TCM. Mismatched newlyweds adjust to married life amid odd-ball neighbors and broken plumbing in a tiny walk-up Greenwich Village apartment. Robert Redford, Jane Fonda, Mildred Natwick.

Why? Could there have been a better looking pair of young actors than Fonda and Redford to cast in this 1967 film adaptation of Simon’s hit Broadway play? Nope. And that’s just the icing.

Shining, sweet dialogue, fun 60s New York City setting, and just-this-side of understated sexy romantic chemistry between future mega-stars Redford and Fonda make this film an enjoyable watch even today.

Friday, January 16

8:00 pm The Goodbye Girl (1977) Comedy/ Romance TCM. A Broadway dancer/single mom is chagrined to learn that her ex-fiancé hasn’t only jilted her, he’s sublet their apartment to an out of town actor. Marsha Mason, Richard Dreyfus.

Why? You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll laugh again. Dreyfus (Best Actor), Marsha Mason, and Quinn Cummings soar in this funny, heartwarming, delightful Neil Simon gem. Nominated for Best Picture.

Have a great week!

Times listed are EST. Check here for your U.S. time zone Turner Classic Movie monthly schedule.

Photo credits:

Publicity Photo – Peter Falk – By TV studio (ebay) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 Redford – By Trailer screenshot (Trailer Screenshot) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons