“Hail Caesar!” (2016) scr./dir. The Coen Brothers

Just saw “Hail Caesar!” … Absolutely loved it!   If the Coen Brothers’ brilliant, but ultra-bleak 2009 film “A Serious Man” was about an absent, or indifferent God, “Hail Caesar!” concerns the opposite.  Easily their sunniest, most upbeat film …  “Caesar” could be the first Coen Brothers film that could be screened in churches.  Of course, it won’t be, because it’s the Coen Brothers and it’s highly irreverent, off-kilter, and weird.  But … it’s the first film in their 32-year filmography that indicates their hearts are not as black as they’ve always implied.  I’m a religious skeptic these days, but if there is a God, you could do a lot worse than Josh Brolin’s Eddie Mannix character.  Trust me, this is a VERY deep film if you analyze it, but it’s done with such a light, goofy touch, it’s incredibly entertaining and fun even if you don’t dig deeper.   There’s even some affectionate digs at Hollywood liberalism gone amok … with George Clooney front and center gleefully sending himself up.   Critics and audiences have been lukewarm about “Caesar,” but you need to remember that “The Big Lebowski” had the same reaction when it first came out and is now one of the Coen’s most beloved films.  Mark my words, “Caesar” is one for the ages.

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“Flirting with Disaster” (1995) dir. David O. Russell

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Director David O. Russell is currently enjoying a critical (and increasingly popular commercial) hit with “Sliver Linings Playbook.” While Russell has directed some great films in his career (“Three Kings,” “The Fighter”), my favorite is the nearly forgotten “Flirting with Disaster” from 1995. Easily one of the best comedies of the 1990s, Ben Stiller plays a new father who can’t bring himself to name his new child until he discovers who his real parents are. His journey leads him down some very bizarre and hysterically funny detours. Everything about “Disaster,” from the script to the casting (Stiller, Patricia Arquette, Tea Leoni, Josh Brolin, Richard Jenkins, Mary Tyler Moore, George Segal, and several other terrific character actors) is flawless. Aside from the generic title (which is pretty terrible, in my opinion), I don’t know why this film was not a commercial hit. While it has become a minor cult favorite, the film truly deserves better and is so goofy and weird, it will put a smile on your face, even if you’re in the worst mood.