Today’s match focuses on two high-concept comedies that have’t held up as well as audiences might have expected them to. Twins was a massive hit thirty years ago. More than The Terminator, Twins was the movie that established Arnold Schwarzenegger as an A-list movie star. But as big as it was back in the day, the comedy hasn’t held up especially well. When was the last time you even thought of it? Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, on the other hand, is still pretty well liked I think. But it probably isn’t as highly regarded as we all thought it would be in the late 80’s when it was being hailed as an instant classic.
Each of today’s headliners has a unique accomplishment in the history of the Academy Awards.
Italian filmmaker and comedian Roberto Benigni turns 65 today. He became well known in his home country as a film and television actor in the 1970s, and directed his first feature film, You Upset Me, in 1983. Followers of the indie film scene in the US will probably be aware of Benigni’s films with Jim Jarmusch, beginning with Down By Law in 1986. He also starred in Son of the Pink Panther, Blake Edwards’s final feature as a director, an unsuccessful attempt to revive the series (although it was a hit in Italy). More recently, he appeared in Woody Allen’s To Rome with Love.
Benigni’s best known film is the 1997 comedy-drama Life is Beautiful, which he wrote and directed as well as starring in. One of the most highly-regarded films of the last three decades, it won a long list of awards—the Grand Prize at Cannes, nine Donatello Awards, BAFTA and European Film Award honors for Benigni for Best Actor along with Best Film at the latter ceremony, and four Oscars, including Best Foreign Language Film along with another Best Actor honor for Benigni, the first, and so far only, winner of Best Actor for a non-English-speaking role.
John Cleese celebrates his 77th birthday today. His screen career began with a short-lived British television comedy series called The Frost Report; Cleese was one of the performers, while some others involved in various aspects of the show included Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin. In 1969, that quintet were joined by an American friend of Cleese’s, Terry Gilliam, in creating a sketch comedy series known as Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
In 1971, Monty Python released a movie that incorporated sketches from the first two seasons of their show, And Now for Something Completely Different. It was sufficiently successful that they made a second feature, a sweeping historical epic centered around Britain’s legendary hero, King Arthur, and featuring a major role for the brave Sir Lancelot:
Ivan Reitman began humbly, from the very earliest outset. His refugee family moved to Canada, which is where he received a degree in music. Having been introduced to filmmaking in college, he moved to Hollywood, comfortably moving into the director’s chair, where he fairly quickly rose to direct the top comedies being released. He was on top of the comedic world, working with Hollywood’s biggest stars churning out hits one after the other. Very gradually, his career tapered off. Although he still directs, Reitman has now seen his movies dumped into the bleak valleys of the early winter. We must ask:
What the hell happened?
One of the biggest and most dominant entertainment organizations in the United States of America is the National Football League (the NFL for short). The Super Bowl, in which the league crowns its champion, is routinely the highest rated television program of the year and 24 of the 50 highest rated programs of all time are Super Bowls. Americans love our version of football so much, in fact, that the NFL Draft has become a highly rated television property in its own right. The folks who made the new movie Draft Day are counting on this popularity rubbing off to the cinema. For the uninitiated, the draft is an event in which the league’s teams take turns choosing eligible college football players to be a part of their franchise going forward. Making the right choices and the right deals can spell huge success and glory for years to come, while making the wrong choices and deals can get you fired.
This is just part of what Cleveland Browns general manager Sonny Weaver Jr (Kevin Costner) is dealing with in Ivan Reitman’s new sports movie Draft Day.
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