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Duck Soup (#110 of 6)

Summer of ‘88: Big Business

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Summer of ‘88: <em>Big Business</em>
Summer of ‘88: <em>Big Business</em>

The premise of Big Business is so preposterous and shaky, it simply needs to be swept under the rug as soon as the film begins. The idea of two sets of identical twins separated at birth, and who then unwittingly run into each other when older, is such a blatant device for manufacturing confusion, it works best when accepted at face value. While Shakespeare made a single monologue do all the heavy plot-lifting in the first scene of The Comedy of Errors, Jim Abrahams orchestrates the film’s elaborate switcheroo under the opening credits, timing it to Benny Goodman’s version of “Sing, Sing, Sing (With a Swing)”—and achieving full transparency without a single line of explanatory dialogue.

No sooner are the twins mismatched by an absent-minded nurse than we flash-forward to contemporary—that is to say, late-’80s corporate-happy—New York. Sadie and Rose Shelton (Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin) are heiresses to the huge corporation of Moramax, about to chop off an unprofitable branch in the form of backwoods-based Hollowmade. Local resistance to the move is organized by none other than Sadie and Rose Ratliff (played by…you guessed it), who decide to take a desperate step and go right up to Moramax HQ to “raise some hell and kick some snooty New York ass.” Thus the two pairs of twins are set on a slow-burning collision course toward their inevitable reunion.

If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Budd Wilkins’s Top 10 Films of All Time

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If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Budd Wilkins’s Top 10 Films of All Time
If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Budd Wilkins’s Top 10 Films of All Time

Bearing in mind the fundamentally mercurial nature of any such list (at least as far as I’m concerned), apt to alter its constituent membership with the swiftness of a weathervane buffeted by hurricane-force winds, I hereby present the 10 films that rank as my current favorites.

If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot Elise Nakhnikian’s Top 10 Films of All Time

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If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Elise Nakhnikian’s Top 10 Films of All Time
If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Elise Nakhnikian’s Top 10 Films of All Time

Maybe it’s just coincidence, but the most creative periods for the movies seem to occur about every 30 years, usually triggered by the advent of some new technology. First came that short burst of experimentation by people like Georges Méliès during the last few years of the 19th century, right after the medium was invented. The latest is the digital revolution that started around the turn of this century, making it possible for almost anyone to make a movie (and enabling a whole new level of intimacy between filmmaker and subject) by eliminating the need for expensive film processing and slashing the cost and size of professional-quality cameras. But my favorite golden age is the one that stretched from the late ’20s to the early ’40s in Hollywood. Old pros who’d cut their teeth on countless shorts showed us what could be done with silent film while upstarts like Howard Hawks and the Marx Brothers played with synchronous sound, that shiny new toy, in movies crammed to the brim with fast, funny talk. That probably explains why half of my 10 favorites were made during a 14-year period that ended as WWII began.

15 Famous Movie Mustaches

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15 Famous Movie Mustaches
15 Famous Movie Mustaches

Brightening theaters this weekend is Illumination Entertainment’s take on Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax, which features Danny DeVito as the voice of the fuzzy and colorful eco-guardian. DeVito’s Lorax sports one bushy tuft of facial hair, its overgrowth stretching past the width of his waistline. The rest of cinema’s most memorable mustaches can’t boast that same disproportionate bulk, but they’re not to be undervalued. Two are among the most iconic physical traits in film history, four make up one big whiskery package deal, and one is so indelible that its wearer spawned the name for a whole style of ’stache.

5 for the Day: Death by Laughter

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5 for the Day: Death by Laughter
5 for the Day: Death by Laughter

Today’s topic is scenes or sequences from movies and TV shows that made you laugh so hard that you fell off whatever chair you were sitting in, had trouble breathing or suffered abdominal cramps so severe you had to look away from the screen for fear of sloughing off this mortal coil. Comedy as health risk.