Cracking jokes as the noose tightens? Your ego doesn’t care if you’re about to die. Your ego thinks it’s entertainment. And everything is catering to the ego these days, to some degree or another. The news, politics, sports, gossip – it’s all spectacle. Jokes about any given catastrophe fly around the Internet mere hours after the tragic occurrence, many of them shocking in their flagrant disregard of respect for the dead. But it’s good to have a sense of humour! Whistling past the graveyard, we go to the movies. The best ones combine a dark (yet clear) vision, often a pointed commentary on human foibles and society, and a wicked grin. It’s a thin line, that noose around your neck; it’s a tightrope that can be as difficult to walk as a barbed wire fence. But ah, what flare is achieved by the properly placed last quip, how pleasurable is witticism in the face of death, how delightful it is to laugh with the recognition of truth as the bombs burst around us!
1. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) – A Stanley Kubrick masterpiece! Peter Sellers is particularly wonderful as the ex-Nazi Dr. Strangelove, struggling with himself not to Seig Heil the President of the United States, also played by Sellers.
2. The Trouble with Harry (1955) – Tagline: A comedy about a corpse! This is the most straight-up comedy of Alfred Hitchcock’s, but his films always have elements of macabre humour. He’s even described Psycho as a practical joke.
3. Fargo (1996) and 4. Blood Simple (1984) – The Coen Brothers seem to take their sadistic pleasure with prolonged scenes of murders gone awry, shovels and woodchippers…
5. Delicatessan (1991) – Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s gorgeous black comedy with cannibals and slapstick suicide attempts.
6. Harold & Maude (1971) – 20-year-old Harold is obsessed with death, until he meets and falls in love with 79-year-old Maude. A romantic comedy!
7. Apartment Zero (1989) – A great thriller with laughs falling into the category of “getting rid of bodies.”
8. Shallow Grave (1995) – Danny Boyle’s first feature, and more “getting rid of bodies” chuckles.
9. Stroszek (1977) – Though his films are hardly comic, Wernor Herzog always has a certain dark, ironic outlook on the absurd, and here, it’s a dancing chicken shown right after the final death scene.
10. Life of Brian (1979) – Okay, not very dark at all, but when crucified criminals start singing “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” it’s certainly gallows humour at its brightest!