I Like My Movies Like I Like My Coffee: 8 Great Black Comedies, Part 2

continued from yesterday…

Human Nature DVD Cover

Human Nature: Charlie Kauffman has written some outstanding movies, most notably Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Adaptation, and Being John Malkovich. Somewhere in between his writing successes, he wrote a great movie called Human Nature that not nearly enough people saw. Human Nature combines the talents of Michel Gondry and Kauffman, the great team that produced Eternal Sunshine. What’s different about Human Nature is how… normal it is. Well, it’s normal compared to the mind-erasing hallucinations of Eternal Sunshine and the orchid-snorting of Adaptation.

Human Nature is the story of three people who are trying to figure out what it really means to be human. Patricia Arquette plays a woman with a genetic condition that leaves here covered in hair, so she goes and lives in the wild. Rhys Ifans plays a man who has lived as an ape since he was a boy. And Tim Robbins really loves manners. Now that I think about it, this movie isn’t so normal after all. It’s bitter sweet and more than a little dystopian. I suggest everyone go see it. Also, we don’t call them pygmy chimps anymore. We call them bonobos, but whatevs.

American Psycho DVD Cover

American Psycho: I saw this movie in high school and didn’t get it, but thought I should like it because I didn’t understand what was going on. I knew, on the surface, what the real story was: an eighties-era yuppie played by Christian Bale is obsessed with killing people, especially women. He’s also a narcissistic asshole who likes to lecture prostitutes on how awesome Huey Lewis and the News is. Then the movie ends in a way that leaves you scratching your head. What, exactly, happened here? Who’s fooling who? Also, I love that this movie had a female director.

It’s Bale’s Patrick Bateman that really steals the show, not because of how well-placed he is in the scheme of things, but how misplaced he is. He is, in every sense of the word, a total dork. A homicidal dork, but a dork nonetheless. He’s obsessed with cheesy music and obsessed over New York yuppie things like getting reservations, snorting coke, and his expensive printed business cards. All this obsession is almost endearing, but ultimately funny in a very, very dark kind of way. Oh, and he kills people. Did I mention that?

Happiness DVD Cover

Happiness: Go, right now, and see this movie. Before I even introduce you to the story, go see this movie and come back to me with a report. What did you think? My husband and I have played this game with a lot of people, and are always amused at the great reactions by people who think they’re just seeing some indie Phillip Seymour Hoffman movie. Instead they travel to the depths of the human soul, the darkest of places imaginable in the human spirit. Plus, you know, it’s kind of funny.

Happiness is one of those multiple character movies, where several different people have interacting stories as each of the characters tries to figure out what happiness really means. The aforementioned Hoffman plays a pervert who’s deathly afraid of real women but loves to call them and, well, say inappropriate things. Laura Flynn Boyle’s character could have any man she wants, but chooses the company of… Hoffman’s character. The best character is played by Dylan Baker, a child molester who battles his demons but ends up failing miserably. All in all, this movie is set on full “creep out” mode. It’s dirty. It’s provocative. You MUST see it right away.

The Big Lebowski DVD Cover

The Big Lebowski: Apparently, this movie isn’t for children, because I recall vividly the first time I saw this movie, right after it came out of video. I didn’t like it. I hated it, in fact, but I was only barely a teenager at the time. This movie is not worth wasting on youth who won’t get it. Years later, late at night in someone’s college dorm room, I rediscovered The Big Lebowski and it changed my life. The movie is hilarious, don’t get me wrong, but it’s just the right kind of hilarious tragedy. Nothing seems to go right for The Dude: his car is stolen, then found, then crashed, then beaten, then set on fire. Thugs piss on his rug which “really tied the room together.” His friendships with Walter and Donnie are put on the line.

This movie is like Alice in Wonderland, but with pot, booze, bowling, Germans, and kidnapping. The Dude (the wonderfully red-eyed Jeff Bridges) must travel to all ends of the Earth when all he ever wanted was his rug back. The tale is really labarynthian, almost like a Greek myth set in early ’90s Los Angeles. The whole movie feels like an in-joke, the kind of joke you share with your friends that nobody else understands. You, too, can share this movie with millions of other fans, especially the ones that flock to Lebowski festivals all over the country. I kid you not. These people have conventions. That’s how good this movie is.

Grosse Pointe Blank DVD Cover

Grosse Pointe Blank: The year was 1997 and my parents decided to leave me at home alone all weekend while they went out of town. I was in high school, but insisted that this time alone for two short days would be good for me. However, as Saturday rolled around and there wasn’t anything good on TV anymore, I was starting to get really, really bored. We had the Internet, but we were cruising on ’97 speed pipes, a 56K dial-up connection that tied up the phone lines. About a mile away from the house was a little strip mall with a Wal-Mart, a Movie Gallery, and a small, hometown grocery store. I stopped by the Movie Gallery to rent a movie and ended up with a sweet VHS copy of Grosse Pointe Blank in my backpack. I also brought home some snacks from the grocery store, if that’s important.

Even at my young and impressionable age, I loved Grosse Pointe Blank. The story centers around Martin Blank (Cusack) who apparently freaked out on the night of prom and ran off to join the military, only to be trained as an assassin, now working freelance gigs. He decided to return to Grosse Pointe–a suburb of Detroit–in order to attend his high school reunion. I loved the terrific yet comic violence that was spattered throughout the whole movie. In one scene, John Cusack returns from killing a an assassin sent to kill him. He’s just stabbed him with a pen. He sits down at the bar, and casually orders a drink while glistening with sweat. He thanks the man who gave him the pen. The whole scene is so tragically comic, it’s a near-perfect moment. Makes you wish John Cusack was in good movies again.

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One thought on “I Like My Movies Like I Like My Coffee: 8 Great Black Comedies, Part 2

  1. Dang, girl, you just filled my Netflix queue. All of the movies you list that I’ve seen get a big fat “right on!” from me, so now I have to go get the rest.

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