Friday, April 29, 2011

The King of Comedy

Martin Scorsese, 1982 (8.6*)
One of the most underrated of Scorsese's films. Robert De Niro plays Rupert Pupkin, a frustrated standup comic. (and with De Niro playing him, he's one of the creepiest standups ever) He wants to hit the big time, but seems to never get past the open mike level. He thinks if he just gets a few minutes on a major late night show, his natural comedic talent will carry him in a meteoric rise into stardom.

He tries to get a spot on a show hosted by Jerry Lewis, but never really gets a chance without any type of resume or a name agent. Harassing and stalking Lewis puts him off even more, so Pupkin decides that if he kidnaps the host and holds him for ransom, with the bounty being a five-minute spot on the show to do a standup routine, then he can break into the big time due to public acclaim.

Remarkably, Jerry Lewis actually shows some dramatic acting skills in this; I'd have to say it's his best dramatic acting that I've seen. So does comedienne Sandra Bernhard as a friend of De Niro's who becomes his willing accomplice in this plot. Just the very idea of this shows the type of half-cocked individual Rupert Pupkin is; he's just one gun shy of being Travis Bickle in Scorsese's Taxi Driver.

This is one of the more unusual crime films, as well as one of Scorsese's most unique. It's not a guns firing, blood on the wall kind of crime film - it's an almost too realistic, borderline psychotic type of crime, which has become all too real in the modern era.

This didn't go totally unnoticed, at least in Europe: the screenplay by Paul D. Zimmerman won a BAFTA award; Sandra Bernhard won a National Society of  Film Critics award for supporting actress, and the film won a London Film Critics award for best picture and was nominated for a Palm d'Or at Cannes. Awards page at IMDB


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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