Today is Tom Hulce’s 64th birthday. After graduating from the North Carolina School of the Arts, he made his acting debut in the original Broadway production of Peter Shaffer’s Equus, as a replacement in the role of Alan Strang. He would remain active in theater while also pursuing a film and television career. He first became widely known for the role of Larry “Pinto” Kroger in Animal House, and won a Primetime Emmy for starring in a 1995 TV movie adaptation of Wendy Wasserstein’s The Heidi Chronicles. He was also known for starring in the 1988 film Dominick and Eugene (for which he was a Golden Globe nominee), and as civil rights activist Mickey Schwerner in the 1990 TV movie Murder in Mississippi (receiving Emmy and Golden Globe nominations), and for his Annie Award-nominated voice acting as Quasimodo in Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
The peak of his film career, however, was his Oscar-nominated performance as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in the 1984 adaptation of Peter Shaffer’s play Amadeus.
Judd Apatow turns 49 today. The producer, writer and director began working as a stand-up comedian while still in high school. In the 1990s he began working in television, serving as a producer and writer on The Ben Stiller Show and The Larry Sanders Show, and later as executive producer, as well as sometimes writer and director, for Freaks and Geeks. He also did some script doctoring during this period.
It was in the 2000s, and in feature films, that Apatow found his greatest success. In 2004 he produced the first Anchorman film, and a year later directed his first feature, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, also co-writing the script with Steve Carell. In 2007, he directed, wrote and produced what is probably his most successful film:
Katherine Heigl first came onto the scene with the cult TV series Roswell. She would go on to greater TV success with Grey’s Anatomy, which would win her an Emmy Award. From there, Heigl capitalized on that success with success in a trilogy of romantic comedies. In recent years, though, she became known as a cautionary tale about the dangers of biting the hand that feeds you. As a result, her most recent appearance was a commercial for NyQuil.
What the hell happened?
The television commercial for the new Jason Bateman/Melissa McCarthy movie Identity Thief makes the claim that it is “the first great comedy of the year!” Now I haven’t seen Identity Thief, so I have no personal experience to be able to refute this claim. Both Bateman and McCarthy are charming performers who have been funny in other stuff. So maybe that claim is fully reasonable. But somehow I doubt it.
This got me to thinking. How many “great” comedies are the producers of Identity Thief expecting to be released this year? Based on the history of modern English-speaking film, how many “great” comedies could reasonably be expected to hit screens in a single calendar year? Now, clearly this is a question without a definitive answer. What constitutes a great comedy will be very different from person to person. What I have decided to do is to look at film comedies from each year and select the best for each. At times I will also give my overall impression of the year in movie mirth. This first installment will cover the years 2000-2011, with future posts reflecting each decade. Right now, I expect to do five posts, with the last one covering the 1960s and 1959. If you can’t figure out why I would shoehorn 1959 in, keep reading and all will be revealed.