Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The 15 Best Duos Of All Time

From New York magazine. They write:

Who are the best buddies of all time — in movies, literature, TV, and music?

We set out a few ground rules in making this list. To start with, no sidekicks allowed! Our buddies must be on an equal footing; so long Robin and DJ Jazzy Jeff. Romance is completely off the table, so off went Mulder and Scully, Fred and Ginger, and Ennis and Jack. And finally, the buddies must stand alone, not as part of some larger group of near-equal importance; adios to the Friends, the Flintstones, John and Paul.

The list:

Laverne and Shirley
(in "Laverne & Shirley," 1976–1983)

Why them? The chemistry between these Milwaukee brewery slaves — stick-in-the-mud Laverne and the flightier, prudish Shirley — elicited enough material to give L&S five good seasons (and only three crappy ones) and make it the best of Happy Days’ three spinoffs.

Signature moment: "Schlemiel! Schlemazl! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!"

Mike Nichols and Elaine May
(in their stand-up and improvisational comedy career, 1955–1961)

Why them? You can trace back most threads in contemporary comedy to the groundbreaking work done by Nichols and May, first at the Compass Theater in Chicago, and later around the country, on Broadway, and on a Grammy-winning comedy album. Ruthlessly honest and ironic, the pair used impeccable comic timing to pack every routine with tiny explosions of subversive hilarity, Nichols usually playing straight man to the flamboyant May.

Calvin and Hobbes
(in "Calvin and Hobbes" comic strip, 1985–1995)

Why them? Six-year-old Calvin, hero of Bill Watterson's beloved comic strip, was once described by his creator as having "not much of a filter between his brain and his mouth." But Hobbes, the anthropomorphic tiger who's his best friend, serves as counterpoint to Calvin's impulsiveness and conscience to his occasional cruelty. Hobbes is no sidekick; without him, there'd be no strip at all.

Signature moment: In Watterson's final strip, Calvin and Hobbes explore a fresh snowfall. "It's a magical world, ol' buddy," Calvin says to his friend as they leap on a sled. "Let's go exploring!"

Riggs and Murtaugh
(in Lethal Weapon, 1987)

Why them? Because among all the buddy action comedies that flooded theaters in the late eighties, Lethal Weapon was the smartest, the funniest, and the craziest. And the love-hate relationship between family man Murtaugh (Danny Glover) and loose cannon Riggs (Mel Gibson) — with Murtaugh teaching Riggs how to be a cop, and Riggs teaching Murtaugh how to be a killer — was snappy and surprisingly affecting, at least before three half-assed sequels spoiled it all.

Signature moment:
Murtaugh: See how easy that was? Boom, still alive. Now we question him. You know why we question him? Because I got him in the leg. I didn't shoot him full of holes or try to jump off a building with him.
Riggs: Hey, that's no fair. The building guy lived.

Andre 3000 and Big Boi
(on Outkast's Stankonia album, 2001)

Why them? Stankonia represents the Atlanta hip-hop duo's creative peak, a unified album that plays the pair's best qualities off each other perfectly, mixing Andre's wide-eyed absurdism with Big Boi's sturdier, hitmaking reliability. When the pair went their separate ways on 2003’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, it was quickly obvious that, without each other, Big Boi's just a good rapper and Andre’s just a Prince fan in a silly outfit.

Signature moment: The dizzying “Bombs Over Baghdad.”

Bert and Ernie
(on "Sesame Street," 1969–present)

Why them? Buddies, roommates, longtime companions: Whatever you want to call them, these two mismatched Muppets share the longest-lasting friendship on TV today. Fastidious, uptight Bert is driven crazy daily by Ernie’s cockamamy schemes; together, they’ve taught kids about compromise and comedy for almost 40 years.

Signature moment: “Bert, are you awake?” Ernie asks in the middle of the night. He can’t sleep, and much to his nightcap-clad roomie's annoyance, Ernie wants to count sheep, or sing a song, or play his drums. Soon Ernie is snoring happily while a distracted Bert sits up in his bed, diverted from sleep by his pal. This has happened 6,000 times.

Thelma and Louise
(in Thelma & Louise, 1991)

Why them? Because in Ridley Scott and Callie Khouri’s road movie, Thelma (Geena Davis) and Louise (Susan Sarandon) upend the familiar tropes of the buddy flick to tell a story of female empowerment that’s still fresh and surprising fifteen years later. Thelma’s goofy innocence and Louise’s hard-bitten wisdom combine in a flash to transform two lonely women into a raging force of nature.

Signature moment: After convincing a filthy-minded trucker to pull over, the two outlaws tell him off, pull out big-ass guns, and blow his rig sky-high.

Frodo and Sam
(in The Lord of the Rings; books, 1954–1955; movies, 2001–2003)

Why them? Scoff if you must at the hairy feet, the twee trappings, or the lingering looks that spawned a universe of hobbit slash. In J.R.R. Tolkein’s fantasy trilogy — and in Peter Jackson’s movies — Frodo and Sam’s is the epitome of a rich fictional friendship. We laugh with them, fear for them, and weep when they’re driven apart. Sam may start the trilogy as a sidekick, but he ends it a hero — and, surely, Frodo’s equal.

Signature moment: An exhausted Sam heaves an overcome Frodo onto his back for the last brutal steps up the face of Mount Doom.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
(in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, 1969)

Why them? Widely credited with the invention of the buddy movie, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid set the standard of which all others will fall short into perpetuity. Paul Newman’s Butch, the brainy bank robber, and Robert Redford’s Sundance, the trigger-happier of the pair, play off one another with such dexterous comic brio, it’s like watching a charisma tornado blow through the American West.

Signature moment: Holed up with an army outside, Butch and Sundance talk about the Australia they'll never see. "Well, I just don't wanna get there and find out it stinks!" insists Sundance. Then they go out in a blaze of glory.

For the rest, see the full article at New York magazine.


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