Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Tues Top Ten: Funny (?) Girls

for the list maker in me and the list lover in you

Today is the birthday of both Barbra Streisand (the Funny Girl herself) and Warren Beatty's Sister (like Babs, expert with the comic timing) so in honor of them and other funny ladies of yore (I'm partial to Carole Lombard, Irene Dunne and Judy Holliday) I thought I'd do a list of female comediennes. The only trouble was that once I started to form it I realized that I don't see a lot of what passes for comedy these days (mostly because it's male driven and those comedy stars aren't always that funny to me and some I'm straight up allergic to: David Spade and Jon Heder for example) so my list would have too many glaring omissions.

So, rather than do a list of the "funniest women", which might include a few SNL or sitcom alums or even Charlies Angels if I'm generous and would include everyone who works with Christopher Guest, I thought I'd do a list of people I wish would yuk it up more often on the big screen

Actresses Who Should Do More Comedies

10 Jamie Lee Curtis. It pains me greatly that her career ended with Christmas with the Kranks and not the one for which she shoulda been Oscar nominated: Freaky Friday. She never got the credit she deserved during her acting career. She was nearly always much better than she had any right to be given the films and the roles. Such a funny and unique talent. sigh. Well we'll always have Halloween, True Lies, A Fish Called Wanda and Freaky Friday

09 Anna Faris Perhaps I should have said "actresses who should do more good comedies" --I think she's quite funny in the bit roles in which I've seen her but it's not like I'm going to sit through most of the dreck she finds herself in to see if she's as funny as she seems. Can't someone who writes intelligent comedy (f.e. the Coen Bros, David O'Russell, Christopher Guest, Woody Allen, or Alexander Payne) get her some better material?

08 Christina Ricci. Now that she has taken a step back towards recovering her screen mojo (Black Snake Moan), I'd love to see her seize a comedic role with the same intensity and enthusiasm that she did back in her Addams Family Values days. That'd be off the chain. Get it? Um... Black Snake Moan plus... oh never mind.

07 Holly Hunter. More on Holly's best work here.

06 Rachel McAdams. I sometimes get the sense that we're all holding our breath for nothing. It's clear that should she want it, huge stardom is hers. But her career is awfully quiet in proportion to the enthusiasm from moviegoers. She proved she could carry films with Red Eye and The Notebook but my favorites in her filmography are in comedic supporting roles: the caustic sister in The Family Stone and that already classic queen bee in Mean Girls ("I know right?")

05 Meryl Streep. Last year's twofer (Prairie Home Companion and The Devil Wears Prada) confirmed what Streep fanatics have known for a longtime: her legend was built from drama but her delicious silliness deserves its own act in her career.

04 Lily Tomlin. Never mind those Huckabees videos... what matters is what ends up onscreen and Tomlin always delivers. So why is it that one of the best film comediennes only gets teensy roles once every three years or so? Huckabees, All of Me, Nine to Five and Flirting With Disaster are lonely for company in the great comedies playroom

03 Joan Cusack. She's the only female Saturday Night Live alum to win an acting Oscar nomination, two of them in fact (Working Girl and In & Out), marking one of the rare times that Oscar voters have really been wise to the skill and inspiration a comedic performer has brought to the filmmaking table. I wish she'd make more movies. It was good to see her again in Friends With Money.

02 Laura Dern. She's a subtle hoot in The Year of the Dog as an overprotective suburban mom. Pair that with her brilliant film carrying work in Citizen Ruth (1996) and be forcefully reminded that there's much more to this undervalued actress than playing formidable muse for David Lynch.

01 Reese Witherspoon. She's following up her somewhat divisive Oscar-win for Walk the Line with another teary drama (Rendition) and I get the sense that that's the direction she's headed in in general. But she's a spitfire in a good comedy, elevating both Legally Blonde movies and selling the heck out of her career breakthrough in Election. I had to "Pick Flick" for the top spot.

Who would you like to see in more comedies?

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

Those are some great picks, but I'd personally like to see Kirsten Dunst return to comedy, which is clearly her strong suit.

kokodee said...

Joan Cusack.
*sigh*

Anonymous said...

Joan Cusack and Holly Hunter are really great!

I think both Sarah Michelle Gellar and Britanny Murphy could be big stars if they did some good funny movies...

NATHANIEL R said...

anonymous #1 -kirsten was #11 ;) i love her in bring it on and in dick

anonymous #2 --smg really does have good comedic timing. there are certain moments in buffy that should have been mere chuckles that she elevates to guffaws.

as for Britanny i've been hoping she can pull it together for a while. we'll see.

kokodee --i know, right.

JA said...

Word on Anna Faris! She's so talented, but keeps making such godawful dreck. I've sat through way too many horrendous movies just because she's there lighting up the screen whenever she's on; I don't understand either why a good director (well, besides Sophia Coppola and Ang Lee, of course, but those were minute roles) hasn't latched onto her yet. I'm optimistic about Smiley Face, her Gregg Araki stoner comedy that should probably come out this year, even though the trailer's... not optimism-inducing.

All fantastic choices (though I hate, with a fiery passion, the Legally Blonde movies, so as much good will as Witherspooon's got from Election I probably wouldn't place her at the top of my list). Laura Dern was priceless in Year of the Dog; Joan Cusack is a god; Ricci and Curtis and Hunter and... well, like I said, GREAT list.

Beau said...

Joan Cusack is the shit. So is Jamie Lee Curtis, for that matter. Hell, all of those women have a touch of brilliance to them.
And Ricci needs to get back into dark humor territory. Votes should've been thrown her way for her work in 'Addams Family Values' and 'The Opposite of Sex'.

...speaking of 'The Opposite of Sex', Lisa Kudrow needs to make a return to her comedic roots. Seriously. Woman is DAMNED funny.

J said...

okay, her filmography isn't great but, I have to give some love to Tracey Ullman!

steve said...

Speaking of Anna Faris, I just saw "Just Friends" starring Ryan Reynolds. The movie itself is completely forgettable and a little embarrassing, though diverting enough. Faris is HILARIOUS in it, though. She's so funny throughout, making even the most cliched punchlines (which you see coming from a mile away) surprising and laugh-out-loud funny. I truly hope she's in a movie deserving of her gifts soon.

Love the rest of the list, too.

JA said...

Steve, that's EXACTLY the movie I was thinking of. She is SO freaking funny in it, and the rest of the movie is such dogshit. But I've seen it like 3 times now just for her.

J.J. said...

witherspoonickackughbarf.

How 'bout Michelle Williams. Sigourney Weaver. Regina King.

Nick Davis said...

Great calls on Lisa Kudrow and Regina King.

I also wish Anne Heche were cast in almost everything, but especially comedies.

Meanwhile, a list of actresses who could stand to Lighten The Fuck Up with a comedy, ever: Jennifer Connelly (stop crying!!!), Angela Bassett, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jessica Lange...

Girodet said...

Laurie Metcalf definitely needs to do more movies. I find her hysterical.

NATHANIEL R said...

Regina King is rilly funny in Year of the Dog but i think sometimes she phones it in: or the roles themselves are just nothing.

but Year of the Dog: really fun stuff from her therein

sigweavie --good choice jj. her and dunst i just left off the list but they probably shoulda been on.

am i the only one who likes Reese? I dont' even love her but my favorite part of her work is always the comedic part

Deborah said...

May I pause here to give big big comedienne love to the late Madeline Kahn.

And Terri Garr should return to comedy.

NATHANIEL R said...

notice how nice i was not to make this list about who SHOULDN'T do comedy. they probably already know who they are...

Anonymous said...

Wait... did I miss some kind of press release about Jamie Lee Curtis never working again? Your words make me think her careers is over and she will never find work again. Has something been said or is there an assumption that a woman of her age won't get a decent role ever again...?

Rob

Anonymous said...

And by 'careers' I meant 'career'. Obviously. I got over-enthused with my desire to be educated.

Rob

Marius said...

Yes, Joan Cusack! She's a great comedic actress. Good call. I'm not sure about Reese. Don't get me wrong; I really like her, but some of her performances seem a little contrived. I'm surprised she's at the top of your list.

JS said...

I miss Bette Midler. ;-;

Anonymous said...

Sigourney Weaver and Bette Midler are GREEEEEEEEEEAT in comedies. Jamie Lee shoul've been higher I think.

SMG is really funny I think, she sould stop making "horror" crap and do more comedies, good comedies. Emma Caulfield too.

NATHANIEL R said...

Rob
if i recall correctly she made some sort of a statement (a la Pfeiffer around 2002) that was vaguely of the "semi retiring" probably not going to work variety.

anyone know for sure. am i making this up?

N

P.S. I forgot emma thompson on my list.

kokodee said...

Re: Jamie Lee Curtis
She did say something along the lines of not accepting any new roles to concentrate on her kids and writing kiddie books.

PS: Reese = 'forced'.
PPS: Angela Basset??? (Nick, 1.20)

Dave said...

Cusack is funny, but her cell phone commercials pain me, largely because her speech impediment appears to be getting worse. Who decided to stick her in front of a revolving door, screaming "Charge," which is possible the most difficult word for her to say without sounding like that one babysitter from "South Park"?

If you were entering a building, and Joan Cusack pointed at you and screamed charge, the only correct course of action would be to carefully approach and ask slowly and loudly, "ARE YOU LOST? IS EVERYTHING OKAY? IS THERE SOMEONE WE CAN CALL TO COME GET YOU?"

amir_uk said...

Nat, I heart Reese too! How is her Walk the Line Oscar divisive? I haven't heard/read many detractors. Sure people say it's a thin/short performance - but I don't think anyone could offer-up a better, general consensus alternative for that year. Keira perhaps?

Glad she's top of your list anyhow. Would love to see her pull a Charlize and get nommed so soon after her win for Rendition. Who else has managed that lately? Just the Swankster, I think. Not Nicole, not Halle, not Julia. Not Gwyneth nor Helen Hunt.

PS. You forgot Trading Places in your list of Jamie Lee Curtis' greatest hits. That topless scene is surely one of the ages, non?

Anonymous said...

Bless you, thank you, Nick, for name-dropping Anne Heche. Although the movie sucked overall, she showed a lot of charm and terrific comic timing in 'Six Days, Seven Nights.' I wish Hollywood would get a clue and cast her in a plum supporting or, God forbid, lead role in a comedy, preferably the romantic variety. Just a thought...

Marco

Anonymous said...

P.S. Kirsten Dunst (as well as Allison Janney, Ellen Barkin and Kirstie Alley) is so brilliant in the criminally underrated 'Drop Dead Gorgeous.' Denise Richards is the only drawback -- and what a big one -- in that movie.

NATHANIEL R said...

when i was thinking about kirsten i totally forgot about that one i'll admit. i love ellen barkin --such sass. but yeah, denise richards is AWFUL in that movie. and somehow she doesn't even attempt the accent that the entire rest of the cast is doing.

amy adams is in that, too.

Beth said...

I love Reese Witherspoon--she's really great in dark comedies. Anyone seen Freeway? And I love Election.

Agree with many others that Kirsten Dunst should have been on this list. Bring It On, Dick, and Drop Dead Gorgeous are three of my favorite movies!

16 year old blogger said...

What about Nicole Kidman?? Her best work (To Die For) is one of the greatest comedic performances, EVER! And I was watching some Kate Winslet clips on youtube and she her timing isn't bad too...I wish she'd work with Woody Allen one day...

Anonymous said...

yeah Winslet is absolutely great in Eternal Sunshine... pure comic gold

RC said...

dead on w/ meryl...i love the scene were's she's imitating the dial tone in adaptation...it's hillarious.

totally agree about Joan Cusack as well.

Vincent said...

Kate Winslet was actually supposed to be in Allen's "Celebrity," (Winona Ryder's role) I think. She was brilliant in "Extras," which I also saw on youtube. If you haven't seen it yet, then you need to treat yourself now!

I think Jennifer Coolidge is brilliant, as well as Jennifer Tilly.

Kamikaze Camel said...

Every single one of those selections is so true. Although, to be honest, the selections of people like Joan Allen, Holly Hunter, Lily Tomlin and Rachel McAdams are more of the "Just make more movies period" variety for me.

It always amazes me that Joan Cusack has two oscar nods. For comedy. Including In & Fuck ("FUCK Barbra Streisand!").

Nick, maybe the reason those women haven't done comedy is because they know they can't do it. We've all see people like Julianne Moore fall on their face (literally in stuff like Evolution) when attempting comedy. Although Juli's perf in Freedomland was one of the comedy highlights of 2006.

Anonymous said...

Yo Nat! Here are my 10: Stephanie Weir, Cheri Oteri, Kathy Griffin, Margaret Cho, Laura Kightlinger, Lauren Graham, Alex Bornstien, Mary Walsh, Amy Sherman-Palladino and Emma Thompson.

filmfan said...

Joan Cusack ("Runaway Bride"), Resee Witherspoon and the wonderful Lily Tomlin ("Tea with Mussolini", sad film, she is funny!) are all great, Meryl Streep is a hilarious comedian ("Prime"!!).

Julianne Moore -
yeah, "Evolution" is bad, but sorry to say you're WRONG if you say that she can't be a good comedian: see "The Big Lebowski" by the Coens and "Cookie's Fortune" by Altman! Wonderful, funny performances.

Piper said...

Has Jamie Lee Curtis officially ended her career?

I would add Michelle Monaghan to that list. She is fantastic in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

Sam said...

It's already been said, but Sigorney Weaver has excellent comedic timing. See Working Girl again. She should have won the Oscar that year.

Emma Thompson is hysterical, subtle and intelligent. Can't get enough of her.

I'd love to see more of Christine Baranski but she seems to be more of a stage actress. When she's not on stage, she's mired in one bad sitcom after another.

NATHANIEL R said...

sam --yeah it's disappointing that the movies haven't happened for Baranski --she is great on stage.

piper --i really did think that monaghan would become a new star but it's been quiet.

anonymous --interesting list. though some of the names are unfamiliar to me: i'm looking them up!

Kenneth said...

Jessica Alba. She was hilarious in those MTV Award spoofs last summer. I laughed by butt off when she fell down the stairs in "Honey" in front of Chaz. (It was Alba's idea to put that scene in, according to the commentary) I have a feeling "Good Luck Chuck" and "The Ten" will catapult her as the queen of comedy by this year's end.

MC said...

Anne Faris has the talents to do a lot in comedy... and Meryl Streep is someone who is so experienced that in the right comedy, she would be absolute perfection.

Anonymous said...

Jennifer Jason Leigh has demonstrated crackling comic timing when given the opportunity. I'll never understand how she didn't at least get a Golden Globe nod for Best Actress in a Comedy/Musical for her hilarious, fast-talking Katharine Hepburn impersonation in The Hudsucker Proxy. It was one of the few genuine female comedy performances of 1994, rather than merely being the female lead in a romcom (i.e. Andie MacDowell in Four Weddings). Leigh was also very funny in The Big Picture, and certain parts of Miami Blues, Short Cuts and Mrs. Parker (not laugh-out-loud, but lots of deadpan wit). She should do more comic work.