Movies and TV

Brain Waves and Belly Laughs

Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams in "Midnight in Paris" (2011), courtesy of Sony Pictures

I’ve read quite a few articles of late about the connection between comedy and creative problem solving. One piece even argued that people are more likely to buckle down and get work done after hearing a stand-up-comedy routine than after listening to a motivational speaker. The reasoning behind this theory is that humor opens our minds, inviting us to think outside the box and beckoning for unconventional solutions to just come to us. As someone who puts a lot of stock in encouraging/inspiring words (as well as in good-ol’ work ethics, noses and grindstones), I have a hard time accepting comedy as a solution to all my creative problems. However, my skepticism didn’t prevent me from pondering the way my thought patterns were affected by watching two recent releases of the humorous variety.

The two movies I speak of are “Horrible Bosses” and “Midnight in Paris,” which could not be more different from each other in tone or in the way they deliver laughs. “Horrible Bosses” is a mainstream comedy about three men who band together to kill their insufferable bosses, and – although I appreciated the fact that the film mostly steered clear of the womanizing and pat sexual politics that is common in male-driven humor – I felt there were a few too many easy fixes in the storyline and not enough laughs were mined in certain moments. Thus, “Horrible Bosses” left me mulling over movie structure and animatedly explaining my own alternate endings to anyone who would listen – not a bad cognitive exercise creatively speaking, eh?

Where “Horrible Bosses” had me rolling from several strong one-two punches to my funny bone, “Midnight in Paris” made me titter in a much more cerebral way. A “quiet romantic comedy” would be the best way I can think of to describe Woody Allen’s latest writing/directing (but not acting) work, which stars Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams. Characters in this film include F. Scott Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso, and Salvador Dalí just to name a few, and the premise (which I refuse to spoil) is both far-fetched and relatable. On the surface it is a story about a man’s humble struggle with love, art and materialistic 21st-century culture, and underneath the surface Allen manages to make some pretty insightful points about these topics; this is to say, the film caused me to connect dots between pithy lines said and left unsaid, and I actually found myself thinking about my duty as an artist while watching this simple comedy. As a result, I would say “Midnight in Paris” was the more inspiring film for me and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes their funny served with a generous side of smart. “Horrible Bosses” is a great pic as well if you’re looking for some solid comedic chemistry and laughs…Have you seen either of these flicks? Did they get you laughing, thinking, creating or all of the above?

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