drzhen

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  1. From Robert Benchley's 1937 essay, "Why We Laugh - Or Do We?" "In order to laugh at something, it is necessary (1) to know what you are laughing at, (2) to know why you are laughing, (3) to ask some people why they think you are laughing, (4) to jot down a few notes, (5) to laugh. Even then, the thing may not be cleared up for days." It's been a pleasure interacting with you, Mandroid51.
  2. The desk bit also harkens back to the "feeding machine" in Chaplin's "Modern Times".
  3. Thank you Dr. Edwards, Dr. Gehring, Vince Cellini and TCM for the films, the forums and the insights. Big thanks also to Ball State University and Canvas for not only making this class possible but for making it work. I've been fascinated with movies since I was a child, took a film class in college eons ago and am fortunate enough to know a few people who have worked in the industry so I wasn't sure I would gain many new insights into film let alone a genre I've always been especially fond of. I was wrong. This class has been incredibly informative and surprisingly comprehensive given the compressed time frame. Kudos to everybody for doing a great job and keeping it fun at the same time. I was afraid that the laughter might evaporate once put under a microscope but that, thankfully, turned out not to be the case. Most of all I'd like to thank my fellow classmates for making these message boards so insightful and entertaining. It's been a privilege to share a little bit of cyber space with such a well informed and civil group of people. Your enthusiasm has been contagious and everybody brought something to the table. I'm honored to have shared this experience with you all. It sure beats arguing with strangers on facebook. And re CynthiaV, I was fortunate enough to see the earliest restorations of Buster Keaton's films with a series of appreciative audiences in that film class I took so long ago, an experience I'll never forget. I agree, Keaton rules, but as magical and revealing as the study of these films is, I urge everyone to seek them out in theaters and share the laughter.
  4. I have nothing to add except this; in my opinion "Young Frankenstein" works on every conceivable level. The writing, casting, editing, music, cinematography, set design, and attention to detail make it one of the best overall films screened in this series. And Mel Brook's direction strikes the perfect tone, atmospheric yet affectionately funny. Few comedies are as well made as this one. Spoof, parody and homage are seamlessly intertwined. It's so good, it probably would have even worked on a purely comedic level in color, although the element of homage along with the effect of the pristine lighting would have been lost. Did you know blucher (as in Frau) means glue in German? No wonder the horses were freaking out.
  5. Well, as usual I'm late to the dance again and the many knowledgeable responses that precede me have pretty much covered all the bases. The clown car equivalent of all this food and all of these workers coming out of this humble cafe qualifies this as slapstick. The absurdity of the size of the order itself is treated ritualistically, as if this could be normal. The music also does much to punctuate the situation. Without it the shot of the rebels crossing the field returning to the jungle with their order would look like it came out of a documentary. It affects how we see the gag. The earnest treatment of the food run, starting with the variation on the time honored drawing straws bit to determine who undertakes such a dangerous mission to the documentary like insertion of the pan of the rebels waiting outside for their food, establishes the parody aspect. I do agree that this scene specifically does more to honor the tradition of slapstick exaggeration and make believe than "Mad World". While it is physically possible to demolish a gas station or destroy the basement of a hardware store, where the hell could anybody possibly come up with that much coleslaw?
  6. The villain in black, the hero in white, and the garish, primary colors of the announcer's clothing are all cartoon visuals. The gleam in Leslie's smile and the bluster in Professor Fate's manner tell us that these aren't real people inhabiting a real world. In fact, Lemmon gives the most over the top comedic performances given by a great actor since Cary Grant In "Arsenic and Old Lace". The moving bush, daring stunt and the inevitability of the balloon falling on Fate and his assistant all harken back to silent film. While I find films like this one and "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" to be excessive and somewhat forced, I appreciate the love that went into making them, this one more so than "...World", where, for all of it's comedy superstars, the funniest thing for me was the manic Dick Shawn dancing with the deadpan Barrie Chase. There's no denying the epic scale of the pie fight but Laurel and Hardy did it better in "Battle Of The Century", something I think even Blake Edwards would agree with.
  7. The bit with the pool cues is very funny. Whether he's fracturing the English language with his dysfunctional French or embroiled in physical mayhem, Clouseau is so steadfastly earnest that it underscores the gag. This is not Jerry Lewis bumbling apologetically from one situation to another, this is a man blinded by his own sense of self importance blaming a world that does not accommodate him. Blake Edwards did more than anyone else in the sixties to revive and revere slapstick tradition in American cinema. He and Sellers created the modern equivalent of the time honored knocking-a-top-hat-off-of-a-pompus-man's-head gag with a great, sustainable character twist; Clouseau himself is the pompous man, and the dignity he's unwittingly skewing is his own.
  8. For me, the brilliant "Mon Oncle " and "The Good Humor Man" were the highlights of the evening. One subtle and thoughtful, the other outlandishly cartoonish (is that even a word?), between them they spanned the broad spectrum of slapstick film comedy in the fifties. Smack dab in the middle was the pleasant "The Long Long Trailer", one of the first successful bridges between early television and the movies. "Scared Stiff" is not one of the better Martin and Lewis vehicles. Hope and Goddard did it better. One laugh out loud highlight was Lewis doing Carmen Miranda. The Stooges film was made for children, to capitalize on their new found popularity with them, myself included, thanks to television. I love the Stooges but they lost a lot when they lost Jerome "Curly" Howard. I've noticed that quite a few folks didn't warm to "Mon Oncle". Having seen it a few times I can tell you, it grows on you with repeated viewing. Nothing is wasted, and the party sequence always kills me. While we in America were getting faster, louder and broader in order to compete with television, the French were going in the opposite direction, making simple, intimate comedies that didn't bludgeon an audience. Pierre Etaix, slated to be showcased in Tuesday's lineup, is another example of France's understanding and reverence for this kind of comedy. I haven't had a chance to view the "Carry On" film from Great Britain but have seen others in the series and wasn't too impressed. Maybe they were inferior entries. I'll give it a chance. I suppose it says more about me than the films themselves, but I'd rather meet a filmmaker halfway and be rewarded for my attention and patience than have someone in my face shouting, "THIS IS FUNNY!" Speaking of which, brace yourself for Jack Lemmon in "The Great Race".
  9. There really isn't much I can add to this discussion. The combination of Lucy, Desi and Vincente Minnelli makes for a pleasant film with some fine slapstick bits and a genuinely suspenseful climax. Lucy was brilliant but Desi's mounting frustration adds much to the comedy. Minnelli's use of color is always impeccable and he does a fine job of contrasting the vastness of the countryside with the confines of the trailer.
  10. Hulot is established as kind by his interaction with the girl and his accommodation of the canary. His ascent to his apartment is ritualistic and proper. The scene itself requires a bit of patience but the careful placement of the windows in relation to the stairs make his intermittent appearances somewhat surprising and amusing. The building, like Hulot himself, is eccentric but inviting. Thank you for selecting this film. I highly recommend Tati's innocent brand of comedy to any who might be interested. There are four Hulot films written and directed by Tati and all have something to offer if you're willing to give yourself to his kinder, gentler form of slapstick. I'm also looking forward to the Pierre Etaix film on Tuesday. Cheers.
  11. drzhen

    Wes Gehring on Film Comedy, Episodes 1-9

    I find Dr Gehring's observations to be valuable and informative, and the "Breakdown Of The Gag" videos have given me a few fresh insights into bits I've seen many times throughout my life. In general, I have to say that so far, I'm really enjoying this class and the message boards. It's a joy to be communicating with so many people who are so knowledgeable and who truly love the films as much as I do.
  12. One film I'm seeing that's been largely overlooked on this thread is Danny Kaye's terrific "The Inspector General". If an analogy can be drawn between miraculous physical stunts and vocal calisthenics, Kaye has to be the vocal equivalent to Buster Keaton. He can be silly at times but when given the proper vehicle, he proved himself a multi-talented performer capable impressing and amusing simultaneously. I do find it interesting that Bob Hope isn't included in TCM's great overview of important and influential performers. Without Bob to pave the way with his fast talking wisecracks, performers like Kaye and Red Skelton might not have been sought out by the studios. In one review of Skelton's "Whistling In The Dark", he was labeled by critic Bosley Crowther as the latest "Bob Hopeful". Although not primarily thought of as a slapstick performer, most of Hope's pictures contain sublime moments of slapstick and at his best, he was second to none.
  13. Eddie Cantor, whose pre-code films were as risque as anything put on screen at the time.
  14. Abbott and Costello brought rapid fire, split second timing and an exaggerated (there's that definition again) verbal disconnect to their routines. Not only did childlike Lou misunderstand what sharpie Bud was talking about but Bud often was oblivious to Lou's confusion, compounding the problem to the nth degree. Their contrasting physical appearance perfectly matched their characters, and Lou Costello had a flare for taking the most outrageous pratfalls, making their successful transition from radio to film possible. Costello was a marvelous, old school physical comedian and created an endearing man-child character that ranks with Langdon, Harpo Marx and Curly Howard. In fact, Moe was convinced that Costello was stealing some of Curly's shtick. From the very beginning, comedy has always pushed the envelope and flirted with the boundaries of good taste. As offensive as this may be to many people today, one day this era will no doubt be remembered as fondly as the twenties and thirties. But we have lost a great deal of the brilliant physicality. The training ground of vaudeville and burlesque are long gone and the comedy clubs have become the place where comics hone their skills. As a result a more conversational, less grandly theatrical form of comedy is evolving, like it or not. I believe that this makes the understanding of slapstick more valuable, rewarding and yes, magical. Who among us has not watched these films and at some point, in response to a clever bit of business or an outrageous stunt, said either out loud or to themselves, "Wow!"
  15. Fields got away with with so much, one of the subversive pleasures of studying his work, and then you have Danny Kaye fantasizing about being a bureaucrat and giving the people, "The fist, the wrist and the finger" in "The Inspector General". Yes, they got away with a lot more in comedies than any other film genre.

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