Richard Pryor

Why Did It Take Chris Rock So Long to Make a Great Movie Like ‘Top Five’?

The moment he dropped his 1996 breakthrough stand-up special Bring the Pain, Chris Rock was dubbed the heir apparent of Richard Pryor, one of the few comics on the scene to approach the king’s potent mixture of social commentary, personal confession, and performative brilliance. But that wasn’t all they had in common; Pryor spent most of his film career failing to find a vehicle that captured his unique gifts, and Rock has experienced much of the same struggle. “Richard Pryor has two good movies out of 30 or 40,” Rock told Rolling Stone. “Rodney Dangerfield had one. So it’s easy to look at history and go, ‘Maybe I’m not going to get one’… But I guess you’ve got to make your own history.” And Rock has done just that with his new film Top Five, writing, directing, and starring in a picture that plays like a cross between Stardust Memories, Funny People, and Before Sunset, but refracted through the prism of Rock’s distinctive comic sensibility. So why did it take him so long to make a movie worthy of his talent? … Read More

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Scott Saul’s ‘Becoming Richard Pryor’ Has a Complicated Relationship With Bill Cosby

There’s an anecdote in Scot Saul’s new Becoming Richard Pyror, where the heretofore straightlaced comedian punctured the solemn, celebrity-fund-raiser mood of a Hollywood Bowl event for 10,000 people after Martin Luther King’s assassination with just a sentence. “All these people here are giving money,” Pryor said, “but if your son gets killed by a cop, money don’t mean shit.” … Read More

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The Greatest Silent Comedians of the Sound Era

Attention cinephiles: your new must-have Blu-ray box set is Criterion’s Jacques Tati Collection, which assembles the six features and seven shorts of the exquisite French comic writer/actor/director, offering an immediate refuge from the cruelties of this ugly world. The first of them, the disarmingly lovely Jour de Fête, was released in 1949, which also makes Tati a bit of an anomaly: a performer leaning far more on physical than verbal comedy, yet working well within the sound era. The introduction of sound in the late ‘20s was, among many other things, a demarcation line for screen comedy: most of the silent icons struggled to make the transition (or chose not to make it at all; Chaplin was still making mostly-silent movies like Modern Times in 1936), as studios rushed to fill their talking pictures with talking comedians from the Broadway and vaudeville stage. But a few comic actors through the years have managed to preserve the invaluable comic tool of silence, even as sound raged around them. … Read More

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NBC Says Fuggit, Let’s Just Air ‘SNL’ Reruns in Prime Time

Saturday night is kind of a deserted, tumbleweed-y, post-Apocalyptic wasteland on television, from the standpoint of both ratings and… Read More

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10 Great New-to-Netflix Movies to Stream This Holiday Weekend

The long Memorial Day weekend is upon us, and you know what that means: cookouts, quickie getaways, watching some sort of organized sporting events on television (I think, maybe?). But the shut-ins among us — and your film editor would include himself firmly among that camp — will probably want to simply spend one more day doing what we do every weekend: queuing up a bunch of flicks online, surrounding ourselves with non-perishable food items, and locking the doors. Here are some of the recent(ish) streaming releases worth your Memorial Day weekend time; simply click the title to stream them right… Read More

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Revisiting Mel Brooks and Richard Pryor’s Subversively Brilliant Racial Satire ‘Blazing Saddles,’ 40 Years Later

For more than two decades now, the term “politically correct” has been, almost exclusively, the go-to refrain for reactionary scum and regressive cultural conservatives, bellowing self-righteously at the civilization’s hardheaded refusal to let them share their rape jokes or race gags or “feminazi” screeds in peace. Such complaints usually take a tone of wistful nostalgia, longing for a time when the “Thought Police” weren’t on constant patrol (and, thus, white men could pretty much do whatever they damn well pleased), so it’s with some care and concern that we take up the topic of one of the great comedy films, Blazing Saddles, which turns 40 years old this week. It is a film that, by almost any reasonable standard, is “politically incorrect”; likewise, it is a film that is all but impossible to imagine getting the green light today (from a major studio like Warner Brothers, anyway). But its genius, then and now, was the manner in which director Mel Brooks and his writers turned a broad Western spoof into what was, for its time, a revolutionary satire of race relations. … Read More

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