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Episode 135 - Monty Python and the Holy Grail vs. Monty Python's Life of Brian (w/ Graham Skipper)

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Poll: Episode 135 - Monty Python and the Holy Grail vs. Monty Python's Life of Brian (w/ Graham Skipper) (44 member(s) have cast votes)

Which Monty Python movie should enter The Canon?

  1. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (23 votes [52.27%])

    Percentage of vote: 52.27%

  2. Monty Python's Life of Brian (21 votes [47.73%])

    Percentage of vote: 47.73%

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#1 Dalton Maltz


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Posted 31 December 2017 - 08:32 PM

This week, filmmaker Graham Skipper joins Amy to pit Monty Python’s two greatest comedies against one another: “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” vs. “Monty Python’s Life of Brian.” Graham details a brief history of the sketch group before they get into “Holy Grail,” nothing its hilarious teardown of the Arthur legend and how it frames its own subversions within the movie. Then, they tackle “Life of Brian,” discussing its relevant social politics and how it nails religious satire. Finally, they make their closing arguments as to whether “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” or “Monty Python’s Life of Brian” should enter The Canon.

#2 Threshold

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Posted 01 January 2018 - 05:49 AM

Great great sketches in Holy Grail, but its filmmaking limits really are on show- particularly with the extremely frustrating ending.

But Life of Brian definitely trumps Holy Grail even though the sketches are on roughly the same level. Just such a terrific cultural artefact in regards to comedy and its connection to religion.

As a young Catholic, I watched it enjoying it immensely without recognising anything really controversial in the film; but I guess that's the point. The reaction is so out of proportion to what the actual content contains.

Life of Brian by a mile.

#3 Merle Haggard


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Posted 01 January 2018 - 04:43 PM

Life of Brian is almost unanimously the Python's personal favorite, so I'm loathe to disagree with them. Chapman was a functioning member of the group again and it shows in his performance and the quality/maturity of the writing.

As for the early meeting with Gilliam, in was in the mid-60s when Cleese was touring NY with the Cambridge Footlights and Gilliam was a young artist with Help! magazine (founded by Harvey Kurtzman after he left Mad), Cleese did a human comic strip (fumetto) for their May 1965 issue (photo attached). Posted Image

#4 ActualButt


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Posted 02 January 2018 - 06:44 AM

LIfe of Brian is a better, tighter, and arguably funnier movie by a mile, yes. But for me, that's not what the canon is always for. Sometimes it's for great film, but sometimes it's for the film that stands as cultural icons.

Holy Grail is the one you show your friends to introduce them to this wonderful thing you love called Monty Python. It's the one you discover at sleepovers, or get handed in high school. It's the primer. It's more classic Python and more representative of that chaotic sketch mentality that they embodied. It also better represents the two-mindedness of their absurdist/punk viewpoints. Furthermore, it's broader, appealing to a wider age range, broader levels of education, and marginally more cultural identities.

Life of Brian may still be the greatest example of how one sketch concept can be made into a cohesive feature length film, but Holy Grail is more canon-worthy for being a cohesive enough concept that frames a variety of sketches, and that's what Python was after all: a sketch show.

#5 Lawbster31

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Posted 02 January 2018 - 08:52 AM

Still completely unsure how I'm voting on this one, for all the reasons mentioned in the podcast and in the comments. One thing it sounds like everyone agrees on so far is that both films deserve to be in The Canon, and I'd love to hear from someone who thinks one is (or both are) utterly unworthy, regardless of being in a VS episode where one is destined to get in.

#6 sycasey 2.0

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Posted 02 January 2018 - 10:19 AM

This is a Sophie's Choice of a vote. Both of these movies are all-time Top Five comedies for me. Either would be a slam-dunk "Yes" for the Canon if considered by itself.

I see and even agree with the argument that Holy Grail is the more iconic film and better entry point for people new to Monty Python, therefore it should be Canon. But I have to go with my heart, which says that Life of Brian is the better film and possibly the greatest film comedy ever made. People need to be steered towards this movie, the most brilliant satirical treatment of religion and politics (and the intersection thereof) ever put to screen. Put it in the Canon!

Everyone also needs to watch this debate program about Life of Brian, done around the time of its release. It features John Cleese and Michael Palin defending their work against two stubborn older religious men (Mervyn Stockwood and Malcolm Muggeridge, which sound like names for Harry Potter characters) who see it as blasphemy. The debate section starts at around 18:30.

Cleese seems to decide very quickly that these guys are lost causes and starts having fun with them, while Palin looks like he's about to blow his top at any moment. The crowd is clearly on the Pythons' side.

#7 mjwilson


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Posted 02 January 2018 - 01:19 PM

Usually I listen to the podcast but don't get around to watching the film in time, so I rarely vote. However this time, with two films I know very well, I was gearing myself up to coming here and posting my opinion...

... however Graham was so clearly right that there's no point. Brian is a better film BUT if we can only put one major Python film into the canon, then it should be one that represents the nature of Python better, and that is Grail.

#8 Johnny Pomatto

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Posted 02 January 2018 - 06:19 PM

Perhaps we should continue this theme and have next week's film up for debate in the Canon be SOPHIE'S CHOICE. How can one choose between LIFE OF BRIAN and THE HOLY GRAIL? LIFE OF BRIAN is without question the better film. One with a voice and ambition that I'm still in awe of. Saw it recently on the big screen, (my first time watching it start to finish in many years) and even knowing some stretches by heart, I still can't believe what the Pythons got away with, and very nearly didn't. The fact that the film encountered so much controversy and became part of the political and religious discussion for years after its release is likely enough to declare its importance. I wonder if Martin Scorsese, (no stranger to controversy himself), would have been able and allowed to make THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST if LIFE OF BRIAN hadn't already struck such a blow within the world of religion. I do think that THE LIFE OF BRIAN is the funnier of these two movies... but it's not the silliest.

Although I prefer THE LIFE OF BRIAN, it is not the first Python film that I would show to someone who had never encountered them. THE HOLY GRAIL was my original entry point into their world, and the anarchic and bizarre tone changed my comedic sensibilities forever. Though I think most of the comedic bits in LIFE OF BRIAN are sharper and have more to say, THE HOLY GRAIL scenes are probably more iconic and recognizable. I think getting that silly, irreverent perspective first makes THE LIFE OF BRIAN so much more enjoyable and impressive. I could flip a coin on this, or at least be happy with either victor, but I'm going to vote my heart and go with MONTY PYTHON AND THE LIFE OF BRIAN.

#9 Paul


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Posted 03 January 2018 - 05:22 AM

Life Of Brian.
It's a better film.
I don't think this canon needs to reflect non-film arts - like the TV show. It's a film canon. Hence my vote.

Do I love both these films? Yes.
Do I love Meaning Of Life as well? Yes.

But Life Of Brian is on its own as far as film quality goes.

#10 Che_the_Fey


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Posted 03 January 2018 - 05:47 AM

Obligatory "I love both films why-does-this-show-like-hurting-me" caveat, but I have to go with Life of Brian.

When I was growing up, Holy Grail was the more frequently quoted and widely seen movie in my hometown. Even my undergraduate program put on an annual "Holy Grail" viewing party, where professors and students would pause the movie to act out their favorite scenes together. I feel like Holy Grail is definitely the more communal movie of the two - to kind of paraphrase Graham, Holy Grail was the movie you took to sleepovers and shared with everyone.

But Life of Brian isn't just the better film, it's the film that moves you and gives you content to think about. I would be surprised if anyone watched Holy Grail and started thinking deeply about forms of governance, but it would be hard to watch Life of Brian and not think about the ways in which we can create our own prisons of faith and/or ideology. LoB is still funny and still offers little bits that can be posted as clips or enjoyed on their own, but watching the entire film is just a more rewarding experience when you see how all the skits and jokes are directed towards a cohesive theme. I also can't help but feel that it's a better movie because it's a film that got me thinking critically about the role of religion in my life at a young age. It's an influence I still can't shake.

Holy Grail is the movie I'd show to aliens if I wanted them to know who Monty Python was, but Life of Brian is the movie I'd show aliens if I wanted them to know more about humanity itself. Ra Ra Ra for the very naughty boy.

#11 FictionIsntReal

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Posted 03 January 2018 - 05:24 PM

This was a much easier decision for me than others. Holy Grail is THE Monty Python movie. When I first saw it I was angered by the ending, because everything preceding it (including the credits, which at best produce a mild grin in Life of Brian) was hilarious and I was expecting more movie. But merely having the better ending doesn't elevate Life of Brian above it to me. Life of Brian may have something to say, but Holy Grail makes me laugh more. Part of it may be that there's more Terry Gilliam in it. Terry Jones' subsequent directorial career hasn't been nearly up the standards of Gilliam. Grail has multiple animated bits, and they manage to fit in the film because EVERYTHING, no matter how absurd, can go in.

#12 bleary

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Posted 04 January 2018 - 11:34 AM

I'll buy the argument that Life of Brian is a more cohesive film. I won't be upset if it wins this vote. But Holy Grail seems to be clearly more Canon-worthy in my opinion. It has had a larger cultural impact by far, with things such as "shrubbery", "I'm not dead yet!", or "African or European swallow?" being instantly identifiable pieces of pop culture. (I remember when people were arguing for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes on the basis of the iconography of the pink dress; how many more people have heard, or said, "It's just a flesh wound" than could identify that dress?)

And as good as Life of Brian is, it's still a rather ordinary film (with over 10 times the budget of Holy Grail, by the way). Meanwhile, Holy Grail truly is, for lack of a better phrase, something completely different. That's what I want to see in the Canon.

#13 robert-cop

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Posted 04 January 2018 - 08:59 PM

When it’s a versus between two movies that I love this much, I often fall back on cultural importance. However, I have a hard time deciding which of these films is more culturally “important.” On one hand, the controversy/backlash/banning of Life of Brian seems pretty significant, but, on the other hand, multiple scenes/quotes from Holy Grail have become cultural touchstones and I can’t think of anything from Brian that has.

I just gotta go with my gut and vote Holy Grail. I find it to be the funnier of the two films. It feels a little less polished, but a little more Python.

#14 sycasey 2.0

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Posted 04 January 2018 - 10:41 PM

View Postrobert-cop, on 04 January 2018 - 08:59 PM, said:

I can’t think of anything from Brian that has.

Probably just the end song.

#15 Dale Cooper Black®

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Posted 07 January 2018 - 02:21 PM

View PostJohnny Pomatto, on 02 January 2018 - 06:19 PM, said:

Perhaps we should continue this theme and have next week's film up for debate in the Canon be SOPHIE'S CHOICE.

"Sophie's Choice" vs. "Killing of a Sacred Deer"