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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014

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In Movies & TV Commentary

You don't need any liquid libations to find Peter O'Toole hilarious in "My Favorite Year."

We're going to need some aspirin: Five great drunken film escapades


"Bar Month" at OnMilwaukee.com – brought to you by Absolut, Avion, Fireball, Pama, Red Stag and 2 Gingers – is back for another round! The whole month of February, we're serving up intoxicatingly fun articles on bars and clubs – including guides, the latest trends, bar reviews, the results of our Best of Bars poll and more. Grab a designated driver and dive in!

Movies are fun. And drinking is fun (responsibly, of course). So the combination of the two should be … what's the word I'm thinking of … oh yes, fun. Of course, many great films take a look at the dangers and debilitating aspects of alcohol and feature terrific performances, such as "Leaving Las Vegas," "The Lost Weekend," "Days of Wine and Roses" and, most recently, the James Ponsoldt double feature of "Smashed" and "The Spectacular Now."

But this isn't a list for those kind of heavy, soul-searching and (sorry for this) sobering movies and performances (nor is it a list for drug-induced moments; sorry, Lemmons scene from "Wolf of Wall Street"). This is a list for the movie moments that got their characters drunk on booze and us drunk on laughter and excitement. And so, here are five of my favorite on-screen displays of drunken hijinks. Remember to eat well and build up a good base before reading.

"The Hangover"

2009's surprise comedy gold mine "The Hangover" is both an obvious choice for this, as well as dubious. After all, we never really get to see the drunken shenanigans; we only get to see their headache-panged recovery and the comically desperate attempts to piece the debauched evening's events back together … which, of course, only makes things worse.

However, as we and the Wolf Pack slowly learn about their insane night on the town, it's all too apparent that their hilarious post-drunken journey – complete with chickens, gangsters and Mike Tyson – is worthy of a place on this list, even if we the audience didn't really get to participate. It's good enough to experience the aftermath and see the brief, only occasionally revolting glimpses captured in the movie's now infamous photo reel in the end credits.

Of course, then Warner Bros. and director Todd Phillips had to ruin everything by making two sequels, which more closely resembled a painful, regret-filled real-life hangover than the movie that spawned them. But let's forget those and go back to the simple days of satchels, tigers and the three best friends that anybody could ever have.

"Animal House"

With all due respect to "Old School," when it comes to college frat movies, there is only one "Animal House." Director John Landis' 1978 comedy classic is a gleeful affront to good, decent behavior and an even more gleeful middle finger to pompous authority, led by the boys Delta Tau Chi. And who better to be their mascot than the affably drunk Bluto, played with a silent movie star's physical comedic brilliance by the late and great John Belushi.

Which of the filthy frat's drunken escapades deserves the gold medal? The easy pick is the toga party, scored by the slick sounds of Otis Day and The Knights' rendition of "Shout" and the short-lived sounds of a hippie's guitar before Bluto turns it into kindling. However, I'm going with the horse in Dean Wormer's office. The horse's shocked final yelp and hilarious fate gets me every time. I'm not quite sure the guys are technically drunk in that scene, but if it's a day of the week that ends with Y, my money is on yes.

"The World's End"

Edgar Wright's foamy finale to the Cornetto Trilogy, released just last year, is a very, very new entry, but it's also a very, very deserving entry. After all, few cinematic drunken shenanigans have the fate of humanity hanging in the balance. But that's exactly the case when Gary King and the Enablers hit their old stomping ground in order to conquer a pub crawl of epic proportions. And it only gets more epic when it turns out they've stumbled their way into an invasion by robots filled with blue stuff.

Even as their night spirals out of whack, Wright pieces together "The World's End" with energetic control. The jokes fly around just as furiously as the pints, which fly around just as furiously as the fists. The fights with the "blanks" – who occasionally look like one of Sid's creations from "Toy Story" – are choreographed to be drunken brawls, but they're still cool, clever and coherently shot.

Meanwhile, the at-first hesitant gang of former childhood pals, each one a memorable and meaningful character, soon morphs into a giggly, goofy bunch, barely able to keep a straight face even when confronted by an evil robot Pierce Brosnan.

"The World's End" gets dark and heavy near the end, but what makes Wright's film entertaining and impressive is its balance of tone, handling both real and ridiculous scenarios in a way that gives them both equal weight. It is nutty. It is hoppy. And it has a surprising note that lingers on the tongue. And if that's not enough, it has a climax where our heroes use nothing but their soused wits to battle a giant Bill Nighy-voiced robot lamp. Cheers to that.

"My Favorite Year"

When we lost Peter O'Toole last year, we lost one of our finest actors. He never won an Oscar (he won an honorary award in 2003) despite being nominated eight times in some truly classic films. Though "Lawrence of Arabia" will always be his most iconic role, it's his performance in "My Favorite Year," the 1982 comedy extremely loosely based on Mel Brooks' time writing for Sid Caesar, that I personally hold dearest to my heart.

He's a hoot the entire movie as the uncontrollably drunk movie star Alan Swann, throwing around wittier barbs than "Grown Ups 2" while barely standing up straight (no man has entered a ladies washroom with such hilarious confidence and aplomb). My favorite of his misadventures with his TV station watchdog/admirer Benjy Stone's is when the duo winds up locked on the roof on an apartment complex. While Benjy (Mark Linn-Baker) frantically attempts to find an open door, Alan tries to drop into a party a floor below in the most literal way possible.

His dignified drunkenness and Benjy's manic nervousness end up being perfect foils for one another, and O'Toole is wonderful with the soused up slapstick. Throw in a final perfect punch line and a few other witty O'Toole lines to punctuate the scene ("Ladies are unwell, Stone. Gentlemen vomit"), and you have a fine actor at some of his entertaining finest.

"Raiders of the Lost Ark"

I wouldn't say this scene technically qualifies as drunken escapades, since no one in the scene is actually drunk. Unlike the rest of the entries on this list, it's not a particularly funny sequence either, but it is a rather fun and clever scene. Plus, when it comes to the potent mix of alcohol consumption and cinema, this is one of the best combinations of the two.

In case the scene is still a mystery, it's Marion Ravenwood's night of drinking/failed escape plan against Indiana's Nazi-sympathizing rival Belloq (Paul Freeman). They set up the scene perfectly early on with her drinking match back at her bar. We know that she's a pro with a seemingly bulletproof liver. But Spielberg cleverly flips her ruse – and the whole scene – on its head when Belloq reveals he grew up drinking wine, so even though they've knocked back several glasses, he's just as sober as she.

It's not just drunken shenanigans. It's actually a tense, sneakily smart scene, that also happens to feature a lot of wine, stumbling and slurring speech.

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