johnseury

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  1. johnseury

    Breakdown of a Gag, Episode 8: Spoofs since 1970

    All three clips were funny but I think that the Anchorman clips suffered from too much self-awareness. It was overall a funny film but like The Great Race and some of the other super slapstick films, it was bloated and ultimately weighed it (and the others) down. Sometimes you wink so hard that you can't see.
  2. 1. This scene reminded me of a coupled of scenes from the 1931 Frankenstein: the surgical removal of the brain (where in the movie, the brain is Abby Normal's) and the autopsy where the doctor tries to dissect the monster. Universal horror films had these classroom and lab scenes. Gene Wilder's disavowal of his family heritage reminded me of Basil Rathbone trying ( and failing ) to turn away from his family heritage. 2. Wilder tried to play it dry and straight in his delivery admist the whimsy of the situation and the material. The play on his name, his botched work on the old man, stabbing himself with the scalpel: these bits were the fusion of his and Mel Brooks' styles. 3. It wouldn't have been as funny or effective if filmed in color. Black and White gave it mood and setting and made the send-ups that much funnier. That's also why Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein worked.
  3. 1. This scene is very much in the slapstick tradition: exaggerated situation, clever wordplay, wild soundtrack music & generalized incongruity. The parody comes with the send-up of revolutionary politics & the transplant of Borscht Belt schtick south of the border. 2. I agree with Mast. Woody is more deadpan and droll than Sennett's gang but his spirit is very much evident. I thought that The Great Race was too much of a homage and was bloated and overlong. Bananas was short, fast moving and hilarious. Sleeper might have more of the manic spirit of Sennett but I think that Mack would see Woody as a kindred spirit.
  4. Like the verse from the book of Eccleastes, there is nothing new under the sun. Inventive comedians have always tried to give a fresh spin on their old material. The hammer bit from the Stooges was effective and funny, although I'm inclined to agree with Vince Cellini about Curly Joe. I hope to post something more in depth about the Stooges later this weekend. The pie fight scene was funny too, an obvious throwback to the past. At least there was an obvious backdrop for pie. And viewing that scene did make want some brandy.
  5. 1. The bright pastel colors, the exaggerated motions, melodramatic music and the long sweeping shore gives this scene a cartoon feel. It reminds me of a Roadrunner cartoon, especially with the balloon falling on Professor Fate & Max, like when Wile E. Coyote's schemes backfired on him. 2. The scene sets up its gags and it has that feeling and tenor of the past. 3. The Great Leslie is in white, pure and good with glistening teeth (one respondent mentioned Benny Hill using that bit-I thought of Lyle Wagoner as Steve Trevor in the Wonder Woman TV show.) Professor Fate and Max are in black accoplmanied by sinister sounding music. He reminded me of Snidley Whiplash from Dudley Do-Right, which was another homage to the silents and slapstick.
  6. johnseury

    Wes Gehring on Film Comedy, Episodes 1-9

    I picked up a lot from Dr. Gehring and have appreciated his insights and contributions. He has added background and context. I particularly liked his kind words about Red Skelton, who I think is under appreciated.
  7. 1. All of the bits in this clip are hilarious and priceless but I think that the one with the pool cue stands out. Clouseau nervous warps th cue and tries to play with it, damaging the carpet in the pool table and later knocks over the cue rack. Of course, he tries to explain it away. Peter Sellers demonstrates masterly of verbal and physical slapstick in this scene. 2. Clouseau is a well-meaning but bumbling, pompous idiot, in a good sense , of course. His verbal malaprops destroy both English and French and he is always a second away from a pratfall. Ten combinations make Clouseau almost the perfect slapstick character. 3. Clouseau adds an international dimension to slapstick's put down of the police. International intrigues, glamorous locales and conspiratorial plots serve as backdrops in the Pink Panther series and everything gets a once-over and comeuppance.
  8. 1. Because this scene is so dark, the colors are muted but it sets an intimate mood. I always thought that Lucy was a sexy actress in her own way and this scene shows it. 2. Most of the scene is shot at angle, which reminded me of the Batman TV show. Plot wise that was because the trailer was jacked up. But that accentuated the tipsy-turviness of the situation. 3. As seen on TV, Lucy was a brilliant physical comedian. Minnelli uses her slapstick chops to the fullest in the bit where she tries to flop into the crooked bed and then falls into the mud.
  9. 1. You can tell that Hulot is a decent, hardworking person, friendly and trying to get by. I loved the bit early on in the clip with the dog growling at that fish. 2. The building accentuates Hulot's decency as a normal Everyman trying to make it. It may take him a while to get there but he does. Seeing him walk up those crazy stairs reminded me of the opening of th Mr. Magoo cartoons where he driving through all kinds of situations.
  10. Epic spectacles of the 50s and 60s were chock full of cameos, like How the West Was Won or the biblical films. One of my favorites is The Greatest Story Ever Told. This might be tasteless and sacrireligious but I always crack up seeing John Wayne as the Centurion, munching on his dialogue in that unmistakeable voice during the Crucifixion. Same with Edward G. Robinson in the Ten Commandments, even though his was more of a small role and not a cameo. He and the Duke in Greatest Story were just out of place in those biblical spectacles. It's no wonder that comedic spectacles he cameos much like their more serious film brethren.
  11. 1. Groucho & Chico's bits were way out there, almost anarchic. They wandered every which way, hilarious but not really grounded in what passes for a plot. Abbott & Costello's interplay grew from their characters, like the Marxes, but the bits were very much in line with what was going on and helped advance the plot. They were two distinct personalites that played off each other beautifully. 2. I basically agree with Gehring's assessment. Many modern comedians have good material (even the potty mouths) but they are all schitck and no or little personality. They just say lines and there is little development beyond setups. 3. A & C interplay with each other was brilliant. It grew out of their characters organically. Who's on First is a brilliant routine, still funny name lively even now.
  12. johnseury

    Breakdown of a Gag, Episode 5: Playing Games

    Great scenes all. Babe Ruth did a decent turn in his reactions. Baseball was truly the national pastime in the first 2 scenes but not so much at the time of the Naked Gun. Another film worth a look is Three Little Pigskins, an early Three Stooges short where gangsters mistake the Stooges for some of the Four Horsemen. Hilarious takeoff on football that also features a young and blonde Lucille Ball.
  13. It's amazîng to see how complex and chreographed this scene was. It's a hilarious scene but so much work went into it to make it work. And it did! A work of genius & one of the funniest scenes ever.
  14. 1. Fields throws so many verbal gags under his breath that you have to listen carefully but the effort is worth it. He can be a bit hard to understand. Charlie Chase's comedy was more situational and the Marxes are in a whimsical world of their own. Fields likewise creates a world of his own, one grounded in reality but with his own wild twists and turns. 2. Where to begin: the doubleplay with names (Sosue, accent on the E, Snoopington the bank examiner, Joe Guelph the bartender), the bit about boondoggles, everything very steam of consciousness. Double enterdres, lots of sarcastic asides...Fields throws everything including the kitchen sink into the mix. The Lompoc brewpubs in Portland, Oregon are named after the town in this movie. Well worth checking out whenever your in the Rose City.
  15. 1. Dale's definition fits this gag to a T, a textbook example of verbal slapstick. 2. There was always an encounter between Groucho & Chico in every Marx Brothers movie. Their experiences on Broadway and vaudeville had them reined their routines down to a science. Groucho the wise guy would try to pull one over Chico but it woken never work out quite that way. W.C. Fields said that he hated to follow the Marx Bros. in vaudeville because they would always bring ten house down. This scene shows them at the top of their game. 3. Every element of visual slapstick is present in this example of verbal slapstick: An exaggerated contract negotiation, physical interplay by tearing up the contract, ritualistic back and forth, a farcical & make believe situation and Chico doing violence to the English language.
  16. 1. This scene meets all 5 slapstick conditions: an exaggerated situation (trying to sober and clean up for his hot date), physical contortions more than pratfalls, repetitive attempts to rinse off and shave, a farcical situation, & more comic violence with the water and the quick she. 2. It confirms that exasperation tag. He look exasperated trying spruce up & blow off the pip. He didn't show much of a personality in this clip but you could see how harried he was. 3. The music, especially with its repetitive themes, helped set a tone. Hal Roach productions often used the same music for its films; you could hear the same music in Our Gang & Laurel and Hardy films. The sound was mostly conversational (not great quality even when I cranked it up) but it was probably the best that could get done at the time.
  17. 1. Lloyd used Coney Island as one giant prop. The bit with the crab and roundabout ride throwing people around was quite inventive. 2. I agree with Schickel. As I mentioned above, Lloyd used Coney Island as a prop and all of the gags looked like something that really could happen but still have the comic exaggeration of slapstick. 3, Lloyd shows ten continued progression and development of silent filmmaking and comedy. Techniques and gags became more elaborate and sophisticated but still hilarious.
  18. 1. What impressed me about this clip was its vastness as compared to the Chaplin clip. It is much more wide open as compared to the claustrophobic set with Chaplin in Daily Doze #2. Keaton used the bigger sets and more props and bits of business to great effect. 2. In addition to what I mentioned in #1, I always thought that Chaplin could be heavy-handed in his social commentary. Keaton showed that Everyman could be overwhelmed but he would try with all of his might to succeed. He could still be funny with Chaplin could wallow in pathos. 3. Keaton showed the progression of slapstick comedy in how it progressed and make more elaborate and sophisticated but still funny.
  19. 1. Like I mentioned on Daily Dose #1, silent comedians had to exaggerate their actions visually to make up for the lack of sound. I don't necessarily disagree with Canaby but is is comparing apples with oranges to an extent with all of the developments in comedy and filmmaking. Nostalgia for those who did it first is often rosy. 2. The scene could be claustrophobic in such a small place but Chaplin and the rest of the cast pull it off and make the gag effective and funny. 3. It is interesting to see those who did it first and compare it with all these who have done similar things subsequently. It was original and inventive but not necessarily superior to what happend later.
  20. 1. I agree with Agee and Youngson that the silent era was the golden age of film comedy but not necessarily its greatest era. Many of the tropes and templates of comedy were created and developed there but the genre evolved with the times. This is similar to what happened with comic books. I have always heard that Mack Sennett was a jerk and shameless self-promoter but give him his due: he helped create so much we take for granted. 2. Visual comedy evolved and developed in the sound era and didn't disappear. It was refined and perhaps superseded with sound. Silent comedians (and silent actors in general) had to be more demonstrative to make up for the lack of sound. 3. Those documentaries and remember acres have kept silent comedy alive for future generations. They have created impressions for those who weren't around originally.
  21. Imitation is the sincere form of flattery and these two scenes show the similarities and differences not only in the basic gag but in the two comedians. In the first clip, Fatty Arbuckle is clearly the boss and Buster is the flunky who gets a knock in the noggin while Fatty gets the cigar. Harold Lloyd similarly gets his bell ring literally while showing the effects in the bit with the funhouse mirrors. His character is flushed out in this brief snippet. If Lloyd was a modern athlete, he would have to undergo the concussion protocol and testing.
  22. Wow! Even now those are great scenes, literally breathtaking and death-defying, precisely chreographed. No CGI! A word should be said about the woman in the scene from One Week, who likewise risked life and limb.
  23. It was interesting seeing the progression of complexity in Chaplin's gags and how he choreographed them to entertain and get his points across. Of course, you had to fall just right to not get injured. Chaplin also conveyed characterization in his gags and bit of business. There is loses going on and this analysis helps to see and appreciate many of the elements.
  24. The slapstick tropes are there in a nascent form but they are there nonetheless: an exaggerated situation, a pratfall, violence, absurdity and humor. The two protagonists turned the tables on each other. All in 44 seconds. Groundbreaking then and impressive now.
  25. The waiter's line "Rotten line of work, rotten class of people your have to put up with" sums up the noir world perfectly & serves as an epitaph to the class. The opening shot, going from an aerial view shrouded in darkness to the lighted closeup of the lovers, foreshadows that nothing good will come to this couple. There will be an explosion before long. I ha ve enjoyed this class & the daily doses. I wish that life circumstances would have allowed me to participate more fully, but that is a noir sentiment! I particularly wanted to discuss noir elements in the Three Stooges, of all places. But it was not meant to be. I have always liked film noir and the class an da daily doses have helped me gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of it.

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