Dr. Rich Edwards

Daily Dose of Doozy #13: Conceptual Parody: Woody Allen

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We are now heading into the next Module (#5): Slapstick Spoofs - Films from the 1970s and Beyond.

 

First up, Woody Allen's Bananas and the idea of conceptual parodies in slapstick. 

 

As usual, if you didn't receive a Daily Dose by email, check out our Daily Dose archive at Canvas.net.

 

Happy Discussions!

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Sorry to be a pain - but i can't locate Daily Doozy #13.  Is anyone having this problem?

I don't believe it has been posted yet...
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Like my classmates have noted, no Daily Dose #13 in the form of an email or on the Canvas site....

Guess the jokes on us!

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Thanks everyone!

 

We hit a small delay in today's Dose!

 

I am aware it hasn't been sent out yet - I am being assured that it will go out in the next hour (by 2:30pm Eastern)

 

Thanks, as always, for giving me a heads up!

 

And I swear you will be able to laugh and reflect on a great Woody Allen bit from Bananas shortly!

 

Just got to figure out where Charlie Chaplin left his wrench in the machine :-)  and the Doses will flow again shortly.

 

Best, Dr. E. 

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After watching all the previous forms of slapstick, verbal and physical, this is probably the most cerebral example.  There is something about Woody Allen that, for me at least, takes a while to warm up to.  The slapstick is there in the choosing of the short stick wherein the leader of the rebels hands it to Allen.  The restaurant owner doesn't really get outraged with the food order as he writes down what may be his biggest take out order to date!  Parody?  The exaggeration is there in homage to the great slapstick of yesteryear and Woody Allen's expression and demeanor remind me a tad of Buster Keaton's stone face.

 

I think the spirit of Sennett's and Blake Edwards's style is there in a very subdued manner.  It IS a funny scene and it's a very nice, slick and stylish form of slapstick.  Had the deliverymen dropped the bags, then it would be traditional slapstick.  Again, Woody's style is very cerebral, perhaps a bit ahead of it's time.  You might label it as "critical thinking" slapstick.

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I see more Hal Roach comedy in Woody Allen. Woody does have a character. He is a reluctant hero. Nervous but finds a way to make it. He uses "verbal slapstick". He enhance his comedy with jazzy music just like Hal Roach L&H films. Some of the physical comedy is based on being clumsy. The Great Race is more like Sennett because of the explosions, fast pace car gags and zany fights.   

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Allen isn’t so much parodying film (although there are film references, like to The Quiet American and The Green Berets) as much as he is parodying the sturm und drang of the idealism of revolutionary politics ala Franz Fanon, Che Guevera and Eldridge Cleaver. He uses slapstick clearly here and we can see the five elements at work in the over-the-top exaggeration of the delicatessen order, the make-believe element in it in the utter implausibility of it’s being created and catered at the end, the implied and impending violence required to have it “paid” for and served up, the physicality of all these machinations. The only element missing (and replaced) is that of ritual, now supplanted by the invention of such an impossible gag. That Allen would go so far in making intellectual demands upon his audience, rather than simply playing on their memories as Blake Edwards did a few years earlier, is testament to his trust in their intelligence.

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(FYI - seeing some are having trouble, but perhaps it's fixed now. I was able to link and view from the email without issue).

 

I'd have to re-watch Bananas again to form a final opinion, but I disagree with Mast - I find The Great Race to contain far more allegiances to Sennett - much more physical comedy like pie fights and crashes, and Professor Fate is basically Wile E. Coyote come to life. Maybe a touch of Roach, as even the villains turn out to have elements of humanity when the **** hit the fan.

 

This clip from Bananas is more funny for the deadpan and droll delivery of an absurdist situation than slapstick:

 

  • First, the counter man doesn't even bat an eye at the ridiculous order - let alone that there is a deli nearby.
  • Absurdity within absurdity (mayo for 1000 sandwiches "on the side", the leader "wants his on a roll", etc.)
  • Sight gags of 1000 sandwich bags (and finding the "one on the roll" quickly), wheelbarrows of cole slaw, etc.
  • There's a minimum of verbal slapstick, and it's merely a couple of Woody wisecracks.

 

As a parody it is really just the framework - a situation comedy by definition - with nebbish Woody as a jungle revolutionary and normally dramatic moments played for laughs (rigging the "short straw"). But he was far more successful mining this format (both the documentary and crime story genres) with "Take The Money And Run". And frankly this "food order for an army" gag was done better and funnier by Don Imus ("1200 Hamburgers to Go").

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1. In what ways does this scene from Bananas operate as both slapstick comedy and as parody?

 

Slapstick exaggeration for certain with the outrageous numbers of food ordered. I'd say the parody is in Woodie Allen playing a soldier (gorilla soldier) which likely is spoofing all the famous war comedies where the comedians were always the mismatched characters to be in their particular outfit. Not sure the subject is exacting to the classic war-comedies but the parody can be just that with a twist on the genre.

 

2. Do you agree or disagree with Mast in his view that Bananas more closely captures Sennett's style or spirit than The Great Race?

 

I would agree with that but don't think I can back it up with obvious examples other than the structure fits Sennett's style seemingly. I'd need to watch all of the Great Race to make a better case with examples

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1. In what ways does this scene from Bananas operate as both slapstick comedy and as parody?

 

I believe from the standpoint of the music used, plus the absurdity of the situation - compounded by the calmness of the restaurant owner in taking the order in a way that it implies that 'this sort of thing happens every day - nothing out of the norm' manner.  The parody would be in Allen's reaction to militia interaction - as if he were dealing with bank tellers, for example - handling a transaction with normalcy - in an abnormal situation.  The rest is psychological slapstick.

 

2. Do you agree or disagree with Mast in his view that Bananas more closely captures Sennett's style or spirit than The Great Race? Even if you haven't seen either film, you can base your analysis on today's Daily Dose vs. last week's Daily Dose from The Great Race.

 

I'd say from a cerebral standpoint, there is mirroring of the Sennett style - but from a physical standpoint, definitely 'no.'  I'd have to split the difference between the two films. The physicality of Bananas is greatly restrained in comparison to the Sennett years and even to 'The Great Race.'  Woody Allen's brand of humor really pushes toward the cerebral aspects of humor without the overt physical slapstick that we know so well from historical slapstick cinema.

 

Just my two cents... (not counting for inflation!) :P

 

As I've seen mentioned, I too have problems with Allen on a personal level - but have tried hard to separate his professional away from his personal foibles.

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From all modern directors, Woody Allen is by far the one with the most knowledge, respect and passion for classic Hollywood, and this is demonstrated in many of his films. What he's magically able to do, though, is making films which are both a homage and a parody of these classic films, and Bananas is just the case.

 

The scene is structured in typical Woody Allen style: people talking nonsense with casual style. First, we see a group of rebels making Allen's character go to bring them food, and also make him believe it was luck who picked him of all others. Then, Allen opts not to rob the food store in the first place, but make an impossibly large order, which, paradoxially, the store owner has no trouble to fulfill and takes it as completely normal. Only after everything's ready, the rebels do rob the store. Everything is ritual, exaggerated and make-believe just like in classic slapstick gags, yet the scene and dialogues in it are self-conscious and admit that their happening is something weird.

 

Allen relied much more on verbal than visual humor, and one could argue that he did with words what Mack Sennett and other silent comedians did with just the view. His comedies all have a definite plot but short, weird deviations are frequently made and they provide most of the laughs. However, I don't totally agree with the view that his films are closer to Sennett's view than The Great Race and It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, because this films used more or less the same techniques, combining visual and verbal gags.

 

 

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1. In what ways does this scene from Bananas operate as both slapstick comedy and as parody?

 

To begin with, the humor of the scene is predicated by Allen’s dialogue.  Ordering an inordinate amount of food for a rebel army from a restaurant is absurd.  With this in mind, Bananas operates as a parody by lampooning war and armed rebellion.  The visual of restaurant workers bringing in wheel barrows of cole slaw and thousands of sack lunches prepared for the rebels makes the scene work as a slapstick.

 

 

2. Do you agree or disagree with Mast in his view that Bananas more closely captures Sennett's style or spirit than The Great Race? Even if you haven't seen either film, you can base your analysis on today's Daily Dose vs. last week's Daily Dose from The Great Race.

 

I disagree that the scene from Take The Money and Run captures Sennet’s style.  Again, the majority of the is predicated on dialague with the visuals of thousand of lunch sacks and wheel barrows of cole slaw as the payoff.  In my opinion, this scene from Allen’s movie

better reflects the slapstick from the early days of silent movies.
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1. I think the conceptual parody in this scene is the preconceived notion of how a rebel would raid a town for food for the guerrillas in the hills as seen in spaghetti westerns and other b movies. Instead of swooping down on horses or motorcycles with guns firing, Woody makes almost a generic deli order but multiplied in grand fashion. This results in the slapstick in the form of the delivery of the order with wheelbarrows of cole slaw and each sandwich in its own bag. Also, there is almost a clown car effect of several white-clad kitchen workers coming out with food from what seemed like a one-man operated diner in the set-up.

 

You could provide lots of examples of Woody Allen in his movies up to Annie Hall having the clown's body: the playing the cello in the marching band and the soap gun getting wet in Take The Money And Run. the simultaneous lawyer and defendant on the stand in Bananas, the robot at the party in Sleeper plus many more. He of course changed course later, but those early movies aren't THAT cerebral.

 

2. I remember the New Yorker review of David Cronenberg's Naked Lunch said (quoting from memory so not exact) "A control freak's portrayal of an anarchist." And there's something analgous to The Great Race. It tries to capture a tone by recreating it, not rethinking it. And excess gets in the way of a key ingredient in comedy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(timing)

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1. In what ways does this scene from Bananas operate as both slapstick comedy and as parody?
 

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that this scene operates as neither.  I'd argue that this is more surrealist or absurdist comedy than what anything that falls within the definition we've established for slapstick. As mentioned previously the counterman doesn't bat an eye and the cantina's staff, kitchen and pantry are able to fill this order. The whole scene is underplayed and I would point out that an underplayed performance and something called "slapstick". (This shouldn't be confused with Buster Keaton's underplaying his facial expressions since he would usually be running, jumping, falling or riding a tree in a hurricane at any given moment.)

 

As to the other, there has to be an object for parody. I'm at a loss to think of what this scene could be parodying. The closest example I can think of as a target is Pontecorvo's 1966 The Battle of Algiers but that was about urban guerrillas. 

 

Slapstick within a Woody Allen conceptual performance for me is better represented by the Life and Death scene in his 1986  Hannah and Her Sisters

 

See how the carbine spontaneously starts going off on its own as neighbors start showing up at his door ringing his doorbell and so on.  This is even an example of how the ensuing slapstick gags are superfluous to the plot at this point. 

 

 

 

2. Do you agree or disagree with Mast in his view that Bananas more closely captures Sennett's style or spirit than The Great Race? Even if you haven't seen either film, you can base your analysis on today's Daily Dose vs. last week's Daily Dose from The Great Race.

 

I disagree with Mast. Bearing in mind I don't think that this week's Doozy is in fact slapstick, I can prove my point by asking you to turn off the sound while you watch the two clips again to where we can find Sennet's style.  mast is welcome to his perception but I'll need more than his say so to see it for myself. Look at this clip from Bananas where we see a lot of absurd situations, but basically no slapstick until around 3:30 in the clip

 

 

 

 

I still don't see the "dizzy symphony" that Mast told us to look out for.

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1. In what ways does this scene from Bananas operate as both slapstick comedy and as parody?

 

Although there is no actual violence there is the threat of it. The exaggeration and make believe includes the revolutionary leaders and a coerced Fielding Mellish who all live in the jungle going to a bodega deli to get food. It is outrageous and funny in its ridiculousness. "The short straw. Well, as long as it was fair." The music is so disconnected to the action. What is that sound? A kazoo? The physicality is not in pie fights or banana peel pratfalls but in the line of cooks and waiters under armed guard forced to deliver deli sandwiches and wheelbarrows full of cole slaw to the guerrillas. Even the reaction of the owner in taking the outlandish order is so surreal as if the order is nothing out of the ordinary. "...1000 7ups...mayonnaise, on the side..."

 

2. Do you agree or disagree with Mast in his view that Bananas more closely captures Sennett's style or spirit than The Great Race? Even if you haven't seen either film, you can base your analysis on today's Daily Dose vs. last week's Daily Dose from The Great Race.

 

I agree. Sennett also was a master of parody. He loved to parody his mentor D. W. Griffith whose large scale stories of melodrama and last minute rescues were instant classics and familiar to most moviegoers of the era. Sennett also developed many of his stories on the fly much as Allen did. Though Sennett is also famous for traditional "old time" slapstick more reminiscent with the physical gags of vaudeville, the circus and other traveling tent shows of which he was a veteran, the majority of his work predated sound pictures so it is unrealistic to not relate physical gags to his legacy.

 

So, I believe, at heart, Allen better represents Sennett's spirit of film production by parodying outrageous situations and stereotypes such as a Jewish man charged with feeding an army electing to go to a Jewish style deli miraculously operating nearby and ordering food one would expect to find in NYC instead of a San Marcos jungle. So yes, this clip is more aligned with Sennett than Edward's, "The Great Race." "The Great Race" does parody the actual race and other situations but the experience of the movie is one of nonstop violence and physical gags. It is so over the top the parodies get lost in the extreme physicality of the story. There is no subtlety as in Allen's films where the parody takes center stage.

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I think it operates as a parody in the fact that these are (gorilla) soldiers trying to decide who buys the food by drawing sticks. Then Allen's character  proceeds to go into the restaurant and order absurd amounts of food. I think,  I agree with Mast because the slapstick gag in "The Great Race" with the pie fight was similar to Allen's ordering of the absurd amount of food in "Banana's".

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1) It operates as parody, but I don't see the slapstick element in this. It is not violent and the exaggeration is downplayed in a quiet, almost serious way. And the food ordered would be from a Jewish delicatessen, not from a restaurant in a South American jungle. Does this make it funny? Yes. Does this make it slapstick? Not in my mind.

 

The deli owner's seriousness in taking the order made me smile and I laughed when the coleslaw is taken out in wheelbarrows. (I thought that joke could have been improved on by the deli owner counting the wheelbarrows as they go by and then, just as he is about to say they are short, have another deli clerk come out with ONE SMALL one serving container of coleslaw to complete the order.)

 

2) The Great Race is more closely like a Sennett comedy that this film. Allen's "Take the money and Run" and "Sleeper" are, to me, closer to Sennett. The gags are "louder" in those films than in this one. For me, parody alone is not necessarily slapstick. It depends what you do with the situation that you are doing the parody of. Ben Turpin played those situations with broad strokes, where Allen is using dialogue and minimal physical action in this clip, for the comedy. I don't see much of Sennett here at all. 

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I find the music disconcerting and unconnected to the action .,I also think if the man taking the food order would have shown more exaggeration in disbelief of Woody Allens , order it would have been more enjoyable as slapstick.

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The fact that Allen is involved with revolutionaries trying to figure out how to get some food and decide by drawing sticks. Allen draws the short stick and goes to the cafe and orders a ridiculous amount of sandwiches and drinks with a straight face as a matter of fact. It is verbal slapstick in the way it is done.

 

It was not as over the top as The Great Race was. With it's cartoon feel The Great Race was more classic slapstick than Bananas. Bananas is more like watching a docudrama than a slapstick. I suppose that is the parody of it. Very dry humor with straight lines..

 

 

 

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I can see both slapstick and parody in this clip. The slapstick comes in the form of drawing sticks and then when Allen is ordering at the bodega. The size of the order is a subtle verbal slapstick and when the owner actually delivers the insane order it adds to the obscurity of the scene. The parody is in the setting of the film with the gorilla warriors or jungle warfare

I also disagree with Mast. I don't see Sennet in the clip. It does have the story line but Allen's comedy is much more subdued and subtle. Sennet displays not only a story line but it's physical with chases and other gags.

 

I have to admit that Allen is not one of my favorites. I do like his film Radio Days a parody of his childhood, radio programs and World War II. Again in that movie it's not so much physical slapstick but subtle verbal.

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I would definitely come down on the parody side more than SS, and that's why I love Woody Allen.  I like the incongruity and outrageous situations, and the verbal asides.  The very idea of a peace core volunteer rounding up lunch for hundreds of rebels is very unlikely, especially set to the snappy dixieland music.  Not so much physical here, but the sight of wheelbarrows of slaw is pretty thigh-slapping!  Woody is always true to his down-trodden, nervous, Jewish character that he did in stand-up.

 

I don't see much connection here to the Sennett films, though some of the members have had some good insights.

 

As for judging artists on their personal life, we wouldn't be able to enjoy a whole lot of art, would we?

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1. The reality of a robbery is very terrifying, but considering they are stealing wheelbarrows of cole slaw and 390 tuna fish sandwiches, the effect is both parody and slapstick, because the situation is outside the realm of reality. Today, it's hard to divorce Woody from his terrible deeds in the real word, but the man was a master of mixing high and low comedy.

2. Bananas' music, situation and antics all feel much more in line with the Sennett studio style than The Great Race, because the plots aren't the silly aspect, the reaction to those plots are the comedic engine.

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