There’s a general opinion floating around out there that comedy is harder to tackle than drama, and it’s easy to give credence to that notion. Just think about it in everyday life – is it easier to make a group of people genuinely laugh than it is to just throw a self-righteous hissy fit that draws everybody’s attention to your duh-ramaaaaa? All you have to do is raise your voice and talk over people for the latter, but being truly witty is much harder to master. Timing, sensibility, word choice, delivery – it’s all a bag of tricks that it sometimes feels like magic. Thus, it stands to reason that if you’re talented enough to be funny on screen, you can find a way to pull off serious roles as well. Here’s a list of ten comedians who have proved their chops in notable dramatic roles.
1. Mo’Nique in “Precious”
It’s hard not to start with the recent and darkly powerful dramatic turn from Mo’Nique that one her the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She was famous for stand-up, sitcom work and hosting “Showtime at the Apollo,” but there was no humor in her performance as the broken, nasty, paranoid Mary Lee Johnston, the abusive mother of the title character. The soul-crushing darkness of her sickness made us squirm in our seats, and she deserved every accolade she got for that performance.
2. Jim Carrey in “The Truman Show”
Carrey was one of those guys whose comedy characters from “In Living Color” and movies like “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” were such crazily exaggerated caricatures that you couldn’t imagine him keeping the famous “rubber face” in place long enough to legitimately emote. But he proved the adage that it’s easier to get wild and crazy people to tone it down than it is to get more reserved folks to let it all hang out – although that’s not to say his performance as Truman Burbank, a man unknowingly raised on a reality television show who comes to realize his entire life has been a sham, was easy. See also: “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” because you should.
3. Bill Murray in “The Razor’s Edge”
Comic actors do find it important to prove before long that they do have dramatic chops, and that’s one thing Bill Murray has proven over and over. However, it started with this 1984 adaptation of Somerset Maugham’s novel about “one man’s search for himself.” While this film didn’t really find an appreciative audience, it marked a turning point in Murray’s career – and a final dramatic scene that weirdly echoes his famous “It just doesn’t matter” speech in “Meatballs.” Plus, this is the movie he got to make in exchange for starring in “Ghostbusters,” so without this, we wouldn’t have that.
4. Patton Oswalt in “Big Fan”
Oswalt actually got some Oscar buzz for his supporting turn in the Jason Reitman/Diablo Cody film “Young Adult,” but his performance as the obsessive New York Giants fan who gets assaulted by his favorite player and has to suppress his own dignity for the sake of the team was a real testament to his talent. He transferred his real life dork passion into on-screen sports passion, showing just how similar devoted nerds in both arenas really are – complete with the single-mindedness and social ineptitude.
5. Mike Myers in “54”
Another comedian known for over-the-top characters like Austin Powers or… *shudder*… The Love Guru, Myers turned his talent for impersonation towards drama as well when playing Steve Rubell of the legendary Studio 54. The lead story in the mixed bag of a film is a love triangle between Ryan Phillippe, Salma Hayek and Breckin Meyer, but it was Myers proving he doesn’t have to be a silly gag machine which got the only positive attention when it was released, although a director’s cut of the film has gotten a much more favorable response – enough that it might qualify as a cult following.
Spend Valentine's Day weekend with IFC's Underworld movie marathon.
Posted by Emmy Potter on Photo Credit: Screen Gems/courtesy Everett Collection
Romance takes many forms, and that is especially true when you have a thirst for blood or laser beams coming out of your eyes. It doesn’t matter if you’re a werewolf, a superhero, a clone, a time-traveler, or a vampire, love is the one thing that infects us all. Read on to find out why Romeo and Juliet have nothing on these supernatural star-crossed lovers, and be sure to catch IFC’s Underworld movie marathon this Valentine’s Day weekend.
1. Cyclops/Jean Grey/Wolverine, X-Men series
The X-Men franchise is rife with romance, but the steamiest “ménage à mutant” may just be the one between Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), Cyclops (James Marsden), and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). Their triangle is a complicated one as Jean finds herself torn between the two very different men while also trying to control her darker side, the Phoenix. This leads to Jean killing Cyclops and eventually getting stabbed through her heart by Wolverine in X-Men: The Last Stand. Yikes! Maybe they should change the name to Ex-Men instead?
2. Willow/Tara, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Joss Whedon gave audiences some great romances on Buffy the Vampire Slayer — including the central triangle of Buffy, Angel, and Spike — but it was the love between witches Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and Tara (Amber Benson) that broke new ground for its sensitive and nuanced portrayal of a LGBT relationship.
Willow is smart and confident and isn’t even sure of her sexuality when she first meets Tara at college in a Wiccan campus group. As the two begin experimenting with spells, they realize they’re also falling for one another and become the show’s most enduring, happy couple. At least until Tara’s death in season six, a moment that still brings on the feels.
3. Selene/Michael, Underworld series
The Twilight gang pales in comparison (both literally and metaphorically) to the Lycans and Vampires of the stylish Underworld franchise. If you’re looking for an epic vampire/werewolf romance set amidst an epic vampire/werewolf war, Underworld handily delivers in the form of leather catsuited Selene (Kate Beckinsale) and shaggy blonde hunk Michael (a post-Felicity Scott Speedman). As they work together to stop the Vampire/Lycan war, they give into their passions while also kicking butt in skintight leather. Love at first bite indeed.
4. Spider-man/Mary Jane Watson, Spider-man
After rushing to the aid of beautiful girl-next-door Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), the Amazing Spider-man is rewarded with an upside-down kiss that is still one of the most romantic moments in comic book movie history. For Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), the shy, lovable dork beneath the mask, his rain-soaked makeout session is the culmination of years of unrequited love and one very powerful spider bite. As the films progress, Peter tries pushing MJ away in an attempt to protect her from his enemies, but their web of love is just too powerful. And you know, with great power, comes great responsibility.
5. Molly/Sam, Ghost
When it comes to supernatural romance, you really can’t beat Molly and Sam from the 1990 hit film Ghost. Demi Moore goes crazy for Swayze like the rest of us, and the pair make pottery sexier than it’s ever been.
When Sam is murdered, he’s forced to communicate through con artist turned real psychic, Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg in her Academy Award-winning role) to warn Molly she is still in danger from his co-worker, Carl (a pre-Scandal Tony Goldwyn). Molly doesn’t believe Oda is telling the truth, so Sam proves it by sliding a penny up the wall and then possessing Oda so he and Molly can share one last romantic dance together (but not the dirty kind). We’d pay a penny for a dance with Patrick Swayze ANY day.
6. Cosima/Delphine, Orphan Black
It stands to reason there would be at least one complicated romance on a show about clones, and none more complicated than the one between clone Cosima (Tatiana Maslany) and Dr. Delphine Cormier (Evelyne Brochu) on BBC America’s hit drama Orphan Black.
Cosima is a PhD student focusing on evolutionary developmental biology at the University of Minnesota when she meets Delphine, a research associate from the nefarious Dyad Institute, posing as a fellow immunology student. The two fall in love, but their happiness is brief once Dyad and the other members of Clone Club get involved. Here’s hoping Cosima finds love in season four of Orphan Black. Girlfriend could use a break.
7. Aragorn/Arwen, Lord of the Rings
On a picturesque bridge in Rivendell amidst some stellar mood-lighting and dreamy Elvish language with English subtitles for us non-Middle Earthlings, Arwen (Liv Tyler) and Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) bind their souls to one another, pledging to love each other no matter what befalls them.
Their courtship is a matter of contention with Arwen’s father, Elrond (Hugo Weaving), who doesn’t wish to see his daughter suffer over Aragorn’s future death. The two marry after the conclusion of the War of the Ring, with Aragorn assuming his throne as King of Gondor, and Arwen forgoing her immortality to become his Queen. Is it too much to assume they asked Frodo to be their wedding ring-bearer?
8. Lafayette/Jesus, True Blood
True Blood quickly became the go-to show for supernatural sex scenes featuring future Magic Mike strippers (Joe Manganiello) and pale Nordic men with washboard abs (Hi Alexander Skarsgård!), but honestly, there was a little something for everyone, including fan favorite Bon Temps medium, Lafayette Reynolds (Nelsan Ellis).
In season three, Lafayette met his mother’s nurse, Jesus, and the two began a relationship. As they spend more time together and start doing V (short for Vampire Blood), they learn Jesus is descended from a long line of witches and that Lafayette himself has magical abilities. However, supernatural love is anything but simple, and after the pair join a coven, Lafayette becomes possessed by the dead spirit of its former leader. This relationship certainly puts a whole new spin on possessive love.
9. Nymphadora Tonks/Remus Lupin, Harry Potter series
There are lots of sad characters in the Harry Potter series, but Remus Lupin ranks among the saddest. He was bitten by a werewolf as a child, his best friend was murdered and his other best friend was wrongly imprisoned in Azkaban for it, then THAT best friend was killed by a Death Eater at the Ministry of Magic as Remus looked on. So when Lupin unexpectedly found himself in love with badass Auror and Metamorphmagus Nymphadora Tonks (she prefers to be called by her surname ONLY, thank you very much), pretty much everyone, including Lupin himself, was both elated and cautiously hopeful about their romance and eventual marriage.
Sadly, the pair met a tragic ending when both were killed by Death Eaters during the Battle of Hogwarts, leaving their son, Teddy, orphaned much like his godfather Harry Potter. Accio hankies!
10. The Doctor/Rose Tyler, Doctor Who
Speaking of wolves, Rose “Bad Wolf” Tyler (Billie Piper) captured the Doctor’s hearts from the moment he told her to “Run!” in the very first episode of the re-booted Doctor Who series. Their affection for one another grew steadily deeper during their travels in the TARDIS, whether they were stuck in 1950s London, facing down pure evil in the Satan Pit, or battling Cybermen.
But their relationship took a tragic turn during the season two finale episode, “Doomsday,” when the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and Rose found themselves separated in parallel universes with no way of being reunited (lest two universes collapse as a result of a paradox). A sobbing Rose told a holographic transmission of the Doctor she loved him, but before he could reply, the transmission cut out, leaving our beloved Time Lord (and most of the audience) with a tear-stained face and two broken hearts all alone in the TARDIS.
“Boogie Nights,” Paul Thomas Anderson’s devastating look at the porn industry at the end of the 1970s and into the 1980s, has earned an enduring place in the zeitgeist. Also, I just like using the word “zeitgeist.” The story of dim-witted Eddie Adams’ transformation into porn legend Dirk Diggler, thanks to the mightiness of his immense wiener (I also enjoy using the word “wiener”) fulfills his dreams of becoming a star, but like any story of success in the bright lights of California, the crash and burn is never that far off. Anderson’s film is funny in spots, twisted in others, and when it veers into the truly dark, those are the scenes that really stick with you. Well, those, and Heather Graham on roller skates casually flinging her clothes off. It’s certainly a cautionary tale as much as it is a retrospective drama, so here are ten lessons to be learned from “Boogie Nights.”
1. Porn stars tend to come from bad parents
Chris Rock once said a father’s job is to keep his son off the pipe and his daughter off the pole. In this case, Eddie’s mother is so verbally abusive and alcoholically crazy that she drives her son to make a living off of his pipe/pole. The stories of those in the sex industry with histories of virulent, unconscionable mistreatment from their parents are omnipresent, although a goodly number of them claim to simply be exhibitionists. The odds are good, however, that if this is your child’s chosen field – however noble a cause it might be to provide vicarious release to the anonymous lonely folk of the world – you may have messed up somewhere along the line.
2. Porn stars also tend to make bad parents
It seems that Amber Waves was born a few decades too early. In the early 1980s, being a porn star with a history of drug abuse and trouble with the law meant that you would be denied custody of and probably even visitation rights to your child, forcing you to cobble together what family you could amongst the people drifting in the same morass of emotional wreckage that you are. These days, it would probably land you, your child and your entire extended family a reality show on E! for fourteen seasons.
3. Do not repeatedly cheat on your significant other in public
Marital fidelity is a tricky thing to navigate in the porn industry, naturally, but it’s perhaps not a good idea to treat your partner’s concerns like this, as if they’re nothing more than the inconvenient distraction of a noisy yap-dog watching you have sex with other people as a form of public entertainment. Sooner or later, your henpecked Little Bill may deny you the chance to experience the 1980s, or anything else ever again.
4. There has to be a better way to come out than this
It’s certainly never easy to let other people know that you like them, and it’s much less so when you’re gay and you have no idea if they are. Although Scotty had plenty of filmed evidence to the contrary, he nonetheless bought a car because he thought Dirk would like it, all as an excuse to try to force a kiss onto him. If that’s the way you choose to come out of the closet, it will probably leave you believing that you’re a fucking idiot, too.
5. Crime doesn’t pay the people it’s supposed to
The allure of the gun-toting, fast-paced world of crime is that it seems like easy money, but you can never underestimate the chaos of gunplay. Buck Swope just went into Dunkin’ Donuts to get his pregnant lady some bearclaws, and thanks to an inconveniently-timed robber and an inconveniently-timed vigilante resulting in an all-too-convenient bloodbath, the only person that crime wound up paying was Buck, who happened to need some stereo equipment store capital.
You just don’t get them better than Bill Murray. A born comedian with a dramatic range, his relaxed demeanor, easy delivery and wiseacre nature make him a natural for whatever role you’d want him to take on. He can go manic and zany, and he can be so subtle you almost miss it. Always in demand, and always worth the price of admission, here are 10 essential comedies from the filmography of a man who should’ve won an Oscar by now. Before you ask, we’re considering “Lost in Translation” a drama, and as much as we’d like to include “Zombieland,” it wouldn’t seem fair to call it A Bill Murray Comedy. So this shout-out will have to do.
1. “Meatballs” (1979)
Murray’s first starring role in a movie is in a ridiculous slobs vs. snobs comedy directed by Ivan Reitman, who would work with him again to reach even greater heights of hilarity. Cut-rate Camp North Star counselor Tripper Harrison finds his misfit crew in a rivalry with the rich and fancy Camp Mohawk, and once the competition builds to a fevered pitch, he delivers one of the most demoralizing inspirational speeches ever.
2. “Caddyshack” (1980)
One could argue this isn’t technically A Bill Murray Comedy, given that he was seemingly intended to be more of a supporting goofball to the Rodney Dangerfield vs. Ted Knight country club conflict – not to mention Murray’s former “Saturday Night Live” rival Chevy Chase – but Carl Spackler’s ridiculously relentless gopher hunt steals the show with several big bangs. So he’s got that going for him.
3. “Stripes” (1981)
Murray reteams with Reitman, as well as with John Candy and future Egon Spengler Harold Ramis, for this army comedy about two guys with nothing to lose making the rash decision to join the military. A wild-eyed free-thinker like Bill Murray does not belong in basic training, hence the comedy. Incidentally, his character’s name is John Winger, and Dan Harmon has said he wanted Murray to play Jeff Winger’s father on the brilliant TV show “Community.” How great would that have been? Damn great, and that’s the fact, Jack.
4. “Ghostbusters” (1984)
If you didn’t already know this spook-hunting work of comedy gold was essential, something is wrong with you. Murray steps into a role originally intended for John Belushi and makes Dr. Peter Venkman very much his own – so much so that you can scarcely imagine it without him. Ramis and Reitman are in top form, as is Dan Aykroyd in a film that always has something new and funny for you catch each time you watch it, which should be a hundred times minimum. That’s how brilliant this is. Bustin’ makes us all feel good, and let’s all be glad that J. Edgar Hoover never appeared to destroy us.
5. “Scrooged” (1988)
“Groundhog Day” gets all the holiday attention, but this retelling of “A Christmas Carol” through the eyes of an asshole television producer trying to put on his own version of the same tale rides entirely on the force of Murray’s performance. Frank Cross is a loud, belligerent bastard that fights his journey toward the true spirit of Christmas tooth and nail every step of the way with an angry, manic vitriol that only Murray could pull off and still make us like him. Rare is the adaptation of Dickens that includes calling the Ghost of Christmas Future a “pussy.”