Funny and Serious: Christopher Guest's DVD Picks
Filmmaker and actor Christopher Guest is best known for his work in mockumentaries including This Is Spinal Tap, Best in Show and Waiting for Guffman. But ask him to name his favorite DVDs for personal viewing and his picks include not only comedies but violent and serious titles as well.
As he tells Steve Inskeep, some DVDs on Guest's list are suitable for family viewing, while others are clearly not for the kiddies.
Laurel and Hardy: 'The Music Box': This 1932 title, featuring the legendary comedy duo trying to deliver a piano, is part of a series of Laurel and Hardy short films that Guest remembers watching as a child. "I started showing them to my son when he was about 6," he says. "His response was interesting. He actually fell off the couch laughing .... What's interesting about Laurel and Hardy is that in most comedy teams, there's a straight man and then there's the funny guy. And with Laurel and Hardy, they're both the funny guy."
The Honeymooners: A collection of the 39 original episodes of the 1950s television comedy series starring Jackie Gleason, Art Carney and Audrey Meadows. "It has the feeling, very spontaneous," Guest says. "You see many times actors actually flubbing lines."
Why We Fight: The 2005 documentary about the military-industrial complex uses the same title as a World War II propaganda film. Guest says Eugene Jarecki's work is "a staggeringly good film. It's probably the best documentary I think I've ever seen, and I see a lot of documentaries."
Extras: Ricky Gervais, co-creator and star of the original British series The Office is back with Extras, a look at the pathetic life of a film extra trying to be much more. "Ricky has no fear of exposing this desperation that is so present and sad. In his case, he's a guy who has virtually never had any lines." Guest calls The Office and Extras "the best comedy that's been done in 25 years."
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb: Stanley Kubrick's 1964 classic black comedy about the madness of nuclear war starred Peter Sellers in multiple roles as well as George C. Scott. "Peter Sellers is my great comedy hero," Guest says.
Fargo: The 1996 Cohen brothers murder mystery starring William H. Macy and Frances McDormand is a confluence of black comedy and bloody violence, mixed with "strange moments of humanity," Guest says. "It's a remarkable feat."
Raging Bull: Martin Scorsese's brutal 1980 biography of boxer Jake LaMotta, starring Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci is "really quite a masterpiece in terms of everything working at the same time," Guest says. "It's infrequent that that happens — great performances and magical cinematography and great direction."
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