Daily Archives: February 17, 2021

Slum Chums [LIFE STINKS]

I’ve been getting a lot of pleasure lately from the new Blu-Ray Mel Brooks box set, especially in catching up with the two Brooks features I hadn’t seen before, The Twelve Chairs (1970) and Silent Movie (1976). The only gaping absence for me in this deluxe collection isn’t so much The Producers (1968), his first feature, and certainly not his most recent and weakest, Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995), but Life Stinks (1991), which in retrospect I may have underrated — and which Kino Lorber is bringing out this July. Which is largely why I’m resurrecting my mixed review of it. This originally appeared in the Chicago Reader’s August 2, 1991 issue. — J.R.


** (Worth seeing)

Directed by Mel Brooks

Written by Brooks, Ron Clark, Rudy De Luca, and Steve Haberman

With Mel Brooks, Lesley Ann Warren, Jeffrey Tambor, Stuart Pankin, Howard Morris, and Rudy De Luca.

“Tragedy is if I cut my finger. . . . Comedy is if you walk into an open sewer and die.” —Mel Brooks

For a long time now Mel Brooks has been one of my guilty pleasures. It’s difficult to refute the protestations of friends and colleagues about the general feebleness of History of the World–Part I and Spaceballs — his previous two features as writer-director, and the only ones that appeared in the 80s — but there are moments in both films that I deeply treasure, not so much as evidence of a writer’s, director’s, or performer’s craft, but rather as moments that make me laugh hard and long and make me feel good afterward. Read more

1000 Favorites (A Personal Canon), part three

This is the third part of the Appendix of my 2004 collection Essential Cinema: On the Necessity of Film Canons. — J.R.


1000 Favorites (A Personal Canon), Part 3

The criteria I’ve used for inclusion on this list are pleasure and edification; I haven’t factored in any sense of historical importance that might exist  independently of these factors. I’ve incorporated shorts as  well as features, both animation and live-action, and  videos as well as some works made for television, but not anything made for a TV series.

Broadly speaking, this list would comprise what I’d want to have on a desert island were it not for the fact that I’d want to bring along many other things that I haven’t already seen — including some of my more conspicuous omissions. No one who claims to have seen all possible candidates for the greatest films ever made could possibly be telling the truth, even in relation to a single year, and many of the exclusions here are things I haven’t yet caught up with. Many others are absent simply because I don’t value them as much as those I’ve included, and the most obvious limitation of this list is that it won’t be apparent in most cases whether I’ve excluded something because I haven’t seen it or because I don’t rank it highly enough. Read more