Dr. Rich Edwards

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

75 posts in this topic

1. Exaggeration reigns throughout the entire clip, from the "drawing straws,"  to the outrageous deli order.  While there is a suggestion of potential violence, this could be seen as an element of slapstick or parody. The musical interlude, twists on classic lines ("you better get some rest . . .) and the use of extras (the 'lookouts" smoking outside, the quirky mix of delicatessen delivery men and catering staff) are some of the details which made this an excellent send-off of the "guerrilla/rebellion" genre.

 

2. I would agree that "Bananas," has " . . .an apparent structure (peace corps schlemiel ends up fighting with rebels) and a real one (four wheelbarrows of coleslaw moving surreptitiously toward the secret rebel base).

 

 

That being said . . .anyone notice they missed something?

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I agree totally with you - the cerebral part is there but not the outright physical portion.

 

I'm wondering if Woody Allen is also a polarizing comedian...not just for his personal actions...but because of the very dry cerebral humor and lack of physicality.  His appeal has never seemed as wide to the masses as the others we have discussed.  His humor is a little exhausting at times because the viewer needs to be plugged in to what the gag is because he's not always going to tip his hat with the physical aspect.

 


 

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'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.

 

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I see more elements of Harold Lloyd and the Marx Bros. than I see Sennett comedy. Allen is sort of like the Lloyd 'glasses' character in that he is thrown into a situation where he is a duck out of water and often intimidated by those who are bigger and stronger but can find a way to triumph in the end because of his intelligence and maybe some lucky chance events. The Marx elements are in the dialog which seems to often make little sense but the viewer can still perceive an underlying element of satire and ridicule of things like war and revolution.

 

I can't really agree with Mast. I just don't see either the pacing or the continuous stream of gags that I associate with Sennett.

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The parody of war movies is in the absurd idea of a peace corps volunteer winding up as a guerilla fighter and the group  being in the jungle and yet close enough to a Jewish style deli where they can get take out food. I've never seen the entire movie, so I don't know how much more outlandish it gets.

 

There isn't really anything is this clip that I would identify as real physical slapstick, especially compared to The Great Race clip.  I did enjoy the give and take (the verbal slapstick)  between Allen and the counterman as Allen first orders a cup of coffee and then gives the crazy take out order.  The counterman asks all of the questions you would expect, acting as though there is absolutely nothing out of the ordinary about the order.  The sight of all of those wheelbarrows filled with cole slaw was hilarious. 

 

I did think of Sennett's Keystone Cops piling out of the police station when I watched all of the deliverymen marching out of the deli carrying bags and bags of food and then the guys marching down the road with the wheelbarrows of cole slaw,  But in general, this film clip is so much more low key in its type of comedy than the craziness of the pie throwing scene from The Great Race.

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

There is parody of the revolutionaries and also of the Peace Corps rep, who is trying to not make waves and seems wimpy compared to the soldiers that surround him.  There is parody of the old western "round the campfire" drawing of straws.  

 

As noted in Slapstick Spoofs Part 1 - Slapstick Goes Bananas - "[Bananas is a] comedy of ideas....that are closer to the springs of a truly political satire than most of the pseudo insight that passes for political satire in the media these days

 

But, there are also the elements of slapstick - exaggeration in the size and details of the food order, make believe that the situation would be dealt with by the cashier with no surprise,  

 

Also, in my very limited reading about Woody Allen, a common theme emerges - the man is complex, hard to categorize, does respect the pioneers of the past (Groucho), but whistles to his own tune - so given the question above, Allen probably operates in both of these spheres, and also in some I haven't even thought of!  

 

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 don't know that I can answer this question, since I have not seen enough of Sennett's parodies of DW Griffith or the DW Griffith originals to fully understand Sennett's style and spirit.  I do think The Great Race clearly makes no bones about it being a larger than large comedic spoof with old gags, whereas Woody Allen has always had a reputation as more cerebral and more difficult to categorize, 

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1.  In what ways does this scene from Bananas operate as both slapstick and a parody?  Fieldings' character was an overall loser, non achiever, like charismatic D.F. Lawrence, inasmuch as to state of the irony of it all.  His landing his first job as a revolutionary soldier for Castro's army.  Whereas, "comedy is the best medicine," as to state of how nobody's life is this bad.  Look at how fast he takes to these soldiers, connects with their faction, as if he known them all his life, as well as their ideals.  He leads these workers as if he is "a pro" at it.  "Gun toting" Fieldings obviously knows his way around a machine gun.

 

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 didn't see either film, you can base your analysis on today's Daily Dose vs. lat week's Daily Dose for the Great Race?  I must agree that the Great Race lacks structure, depth, theme, as well as character.  I found the Great Race to be nonsensical, as well as oddly ridiculous.  Fieldings seems to be a more realistic character than that Eric Von Whoopee, or whatever his name was.  The Great Race  was totally fun, colorful, action packed, loaded with spills, chills, and vaudeville style humor.  Bananas was more modern day contemporary than The Great Race.  I could better relate with Fieldings' down to earth character other than Von What's His Name.  Even though, it was a tight race, neck to neck, I'd chose Fielding by a nare.

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It serves as slapstick comedy and parody regarding the large amount of food ordered by Fielding at the local café. He shows his vulnerable side not quite knowing what to do when the rebels choose him to get the food yet manages to order the large sums quite naturally. The slapstick also came in the drawing of straws when Fielding deliberately got the shortest straw--a throwback to westerns.

 

"The Great Race" was one of the most over the top slapsticks with its tribute to silent comedies. "Bananas" challenges you regarding current events and the changes in society going on in the 1970's. It is more of a thinking person's slapstick whereas "The Great Race" practically throws it in your face.

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1. Exaggeration reigns throughout the entire clip, from the "drawing straws,"  to the outrageous deli order.  While there is a suggestion of potential violence, this could be seen as an element of slapstick or parody. The musical interlude, twists on classic lines ("you better get some rest . . .) and the use of extras (the 'lookouts" smoking outside, the quirky mix of delicatessen delivery men and catering staff) are some of the details which made this an excellent send-off of the "guerrilla/rebellion" genre.

 

2. I would agree that "Bananas," has " . . .an apparent structure (peace corps schlemiel ends up fighting with rebels) and a real one (four wheelbarrows of coleslaw moving surreptitiously toward the secret rebel base).

 

 

That being said . . .anyone notice they missed something?

Pickles?

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Now we are in my wheelhouse of comedy favorites. When I was a teenager I used to read all of Woody Allen's books. Without feathers, getting even, side effects etc. Although I prefer the movie " take the money and run". Bananas is awesome. This specific scene is definitely high concept. Of course it is visually very funny when the chef cook brings out their order. But the dead pan expression of the worker at the small sandwich shop is classic. He is doing his job. No questions asked when asked for 700 tuna sandwiches… Absolutely hysterical. You could watch the scene with the volume down, and still see the comedy in it. But of course Woody Allen ordering all the food and again the deadpan work or taking an order. That's the true comedy. And also the look on the workers face when Woody Allen pulled out his gun and demand them to deliver the food to the revolutionaries. Brilliant.
The great race is a wonderful film, and feels like a true tribute to slapstick films. Whereas Woody Allen's film feels like a true original. Using slapstick concepts. Visual funnies. But definitely more cerebral.

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

 

In Bananas, Woody Allen’s character as a revolutionary rebel soldier, with his looks alone, large hard rimmed glasses and coke bottle style lens makes for visual slapstick comedy.  His physical presence and look goes against the grain of the idea for a combat ready soldier making it a slapstick gag as well as a parody of a dramatic situation.  Seeing the exaggerated, long line of café workers delivering the food order, including coleslaw in wheelbarrows, at gunpoint covers the five conditions of exaggerated, physical, repetitive, make believe and maybe painful or at least with the threat of violence.

 

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 with Mast that Bananas would fall under the spirit of Mack Sennett in the way this clip plays we are seeing more of the visual comedy like a Sennett film but with the ideas of comedy from Allen’s comic personality.  If Gerald Mast is seeing Bananas as a conceptual parody of social attitudes and conventions, I would consider The Great Race and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World a more physical comedy in the traditional style of slapstick films in homage to an earlier era.

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1. In what ways does this scene from Bananas operate as both slapstick comedy and as parody? If we look back at Dr. Edwards points as to what defines slapstick we see that this clip from Bananas has exaggeration (wheelbarrows full of cole slaw); shows ritualistic in that Mellish and the waiter go through a ritualistic break out of exactly how many sandwiches, how many on rye, wheat,  on a roll etc.; physical in the sense that this huge number of cooks and waiters have to transport these thousands of sandwiches into the jungle and finally make believe in that what revolutionary army is going to order grilled cheese and tuna sandwiches?

The clip shows parody with all of the word play by Woody Allen. Such things as "as long it was fair" during the drawing of the short straw gag, the placing of the order for the sandwiches, and the mayo on the side and the gallons of cole slaw.

 

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 with Mast that we see the Sennett style in the  story structure (the Peace Corps worker helping the revolutionaries) and we see the repeated silly goofing. Whereas in "The Great Race" everything is structured to try and replicate and pay homage to the old time slapstick. It is perhaps forced and contrived. Woody Allen using his genius has the structure of a story but also all of the parodies and just miscellaneous repetitive goofing.

:wacko:

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Mellish is a blue collar worker from New York. He went to San Marcos to try to impress his former girlfriend, a social activist who dumped him. So the parody/satire extends to include not only war/revolution but also the popular social activism of the sixties and so much more as the movie continues in unexpected ways.The slapstick is combined verbal and physical and very easy to see in the deli scene. First we think he is going into battle where death is a possibility... and then they all creep along the village street until he walks into the deli and orders lunch for the rebel army. The man behind the counter doesn't bat an eye, which makes me think this ain't his first rodeo. The exaggeration of both the order and the avalanche of workers, the wheel barrels of slaw, with all of them wearing white cafe gear as they parade out to the hidden guerrilla camp...this is definitely slapstick. I think I will have to see the whole movie a few times to see where the spirit of it truly lies. Woody's movies are brilliant, where there are many layers to the comedy, they will make you think.

Oh, and the thing that someone guessed was a kazoo playing was a clarinet and mostly likely played by Woody. He loves music and prefers playing jazz to doing just about anything else. The music in his movies is amazing.

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1.      The jaunty music as Woody Allen and the rebels enter the diner signals that this is a comedic scene, although their action and appearance do not. The slapstick element of exaggeration is evident when Allen orders hundreds of sandwiches and coffees. The fact that the diner employee doesn’t seem fazed by this order makes us wonder if he’s in on the rebels’ plan, but it becomes evident later that he is not. Once again exaggeration provides comedy when we see the hundreds of lunches and especially the wheelbarrows full of cole slaw. In terms of parody, I’m not sure which revolutionary movies this scene is satirizing.

2.      I wouldn’t agree that Bananas captures the Sennett style more than The Great Race, but Mast’s point about both Bananas and Sennett films being a collection of gags is well taken. If The Great Race’s narrative is more cohesive, its style is intentionally closer to Sennett’s. Also, Allen’s intellectual, nervous persona is quite different than the typical hyperactive, more simple-minded Sennett protagonist.

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1. It operates in the level of exaggeration and repetition that makes it a slapstick comedy. As for Parody, it satirizes the idealism and the structure of a Marx Brothers picture with the anarchic style and attitude toward a tyrannical government or society, and it also spoofs movies about the revolution in far off countries that was taken down by an unstable and out of control person from another world.

 

2. I have to disagree with Mast's statement, while Bananas (1971) may come off as a more dramatic film with no humor at all whatsoever, it does not have that kinetic and fast-paced energy that the Mack Sennett comedies had in their early day making movies. The Great Race (1965), had that vim and verve that Bananas (1971) lacked in style and attitude. The Great Race was more of a tribute and homage to the Sennett and Roach films, Bananas felt more like a documentary piece that didn't have that feel of nostalgia.

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The routine of placing the deli order is an old standby, from vaudeville and the early days of TV.  It's hard to imagine now, but, before the days of party-trays at meetings, each person selected  their own meal, which was combined into a group-order for delivery.  Many an office---including the one occupied by the writers for "Your Show of Shows" (including Woody Allen)---would do this, and there would always be some chaos in compiling the list and distributing the food.

 

This made great fodder for comedy, and it appears in quite a few old comedy films and TV shows.  "My Favourite Year" (1982) has many scenes inspired by behind-the-scenes stories of "Your Show of Shows", and it has a "lunch order in a meeting" scene.  The film was executive-produced by Mel Brooks, who had been a "Your Show of Shows" writer.

 

Originally, the only restaurants that would do deliveries were delicatessens and Chinese.  (Being cultural "outsiders" and celebrating different holidays from the Christian mainstream society, united Jewish and Chinese people---a bond that continues today, with the Jewish tradition of celebrating Christmas by going to a Chinese restaurant (the only ones open on Christmas Day).

 

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

 

In terms of slapstick, there is the bit with the drawing sticks, because there are a lot of props used in slapstick. There is also the manner of the wheelbarrows of food. As parody, Allen pokes fun at Latin American politics, recalling the absurdity of how it is all played out in many of those countries. The slapstick isn't physical, it is more verbal, because the use of comical dialogue to explain what Allen was trying to do with the overall film. This is something that he does very well. He also captures the limited patience that is accurate with ordering fast food.

 

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 have to disagree unfortunately with Mast, because there no sense of the Sennett style in the clip. The comedy is real subtle than in The Great Race. The slapstick in 'Great Race' was more physical and outrageous than in Bananas. In Bananas, the slapstick is more satirical, being that it has more dark humor. The gags are not used physically; they are performed more in a highbrow nature. There is a difference between satire and slapstick.

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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.

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

It seems to me that the scene in the clip parodies Americans’ perceptions of Latin American revolutionaries and politics. I think that’s the biggest difference between Bananas and The Great Race: Allen doesn’t just parody Latin American politics; he parodies Americans’ perceptions of Latin American politics. It’s a step removed from simple physical humor, although there’s physical humor, too. The clip has exaggeration (and plenty of it), some physical humor, make-believe situations, and some violence (not sure it contains much ritual), so it also qualifies as slapstick comedy.
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 versus last week’s Daily Dose from The Great Race.

Bananas seems to capture Sennett’s style more closely because it’s so outlandish, and all the characters in the scene become involved. The Café El Verde in San Marcos has everything needed to make so many sandwiches, and not just any sandwiches: sandwiches that New Yorkers could expect to find in a typical deli. The music on the soundtrack helps to set the tone rather clearly. But I don’t think the gags in the clip from Bananas are discontinuous. They might be implausible and they may spring from Allen’s imagination, but they build on one another all the same. At least I think so.

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Having read the many well thought  responses to this question. I will try to not be a clown.

 

My first thought is what are we making parody of?  War movies?  Revolutions? Castro?  Peace corps?

 

For me this is not entirely clear.  Contrast this with Young Frankenstein which states in its opening credits that it is based on the characters from Mary Shelly. So while I don't contest the statement that this film is a parody i also cannot quickly identify the object of the parody.

 

So as a fan of this movie I have come to the conclusion that the parody is of taking life too seriously.

What could be more serious than a revolution and more routine than a take out order?

 

As for the second question I am also confused.  I have gone back to the presentations on Sennett  and carefully read the thoughts of Mast.

 

So while my admitted ignorance of this complex subject, i would have to say that Roach seems to be the more understandable comparison to me,  Roach encouraged comedians to find their voice, I would say Allen found his.

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This Bananas scene is a definitive political parody. Allen's attempts in subverting the stereotypical idea of a rebel force are clear and direct. The first attempt lies in the rebels appointing Allen as the soldier to "raid" the town for food after they hand him the short straw, with Allen sarcastically remarking "well, as long as it's fair." The rebel soldiers' lack of willingness to take charge with violent intimidation tactics display the lack of living up to their title.

Allen complies with their non-negotiable "demands", and assumes his role as the knighted soldier who shall raid for food. He nonchalantly walks around the corner into what appears to be a small diner and proceeds to order for each and every rebel. It is then only after the food is delivered to Allen do we witness the forcing of action against the diner workers.

The slapstick aspects of this scene lie within the dialogue exchanges in between the rebels and Allen (discussing the raiding for food) and the diner worker and Allen (discussing his ordering of 1000+ sandwiches and drinks.) I must note here, the scene is also accompanied by comedic music which is implicit in its assessment of the scene itself. We are somewhat guided by the music's tone with its effectiveness to relay the likely innocuous future events occurring shortly after the melody ends.

These so called "rebels" do not seem to have a temperament of any kind of typical rebellious behavior (i.e. violence). The current situation within this scene appears to involve men camping in the woods, around a corner from some kind of modern day looking small town or village. Having not viewed the film, I cannot state this with conviction, but I see no violent ordeal occurring, as this film will likely take the opposite route entirely.

In using the curator's note and quotations within alone, I agree with Mast's sentiments regarding Allen's conceptual approach. I do believe Bananas is likely in the spirit of Sennett due to this specific quote: "Both (Sennett and Allen) 'riff' and 'goof' in a string of fast, discontinuous gags; if you don't like one, there's another right behind it. But where Sennett's goofing takes physical form, Allen's takes conceptual form."

Allen's comedic approach is a revolving door or merry go round (whichever you choose) of gag after gag. There is absolutely no denying this as it's very clear, even from the beginning of the scene. Given this is also Sennett's comedic routine, only by way of physicality instead, I can be certain Allen's comedic concepts and approach lie in the spirit of Sennett.

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    This clip, from “Bananas” (1971), shows elements of both slapstick and parody:

 

     The slapstick can be found in the absurdity of the overall situation, with Peace Corps worker Fielding Mellish (Woody Allen) joining the revolutionary movement to impress his girlfriend (Louise Lasser).  The slapstick is heightened by the “coerced volunteering” of Mellish to make the food run.  After being threatened with violence, he accepts the “assigning of the straws” that gives him the short one.  Instead of drawing lots by chance, they are distributed according to a predetermined outcome.  Verbal slapstick is used when he says as a sarcastic aside, “As long as it was fair.”  The slapstick increases with outrageous exaggeration, when Mellish goes to a cafe and casually places a massive take-out order, after asking for a cup of coffee.  The humor is heightened by Mellish’s nonchalant attitude and the proprietor’s deadpan response.  The scene culminates with the procession of the cafe workers (exaggerated and make-believe in their absurd numbers) carrying bagged meals and wheeling barrows of cole slaw.  Over this scene plays hot jazz music with kazoo accompaniment.

 

     The parody is dual layered. The outer layer consists of a grand parody of a South American revolutionary movement struggling against an oppressive government, while the inner layer consists of a character study of those involved in 1960’s era American political activism to gain social acceptance and impress the opposite sex.  The two parodies combine, when Mellish gets involved in the revolutionary movement; a movement for which he is both physically and temperamentally unsuited.  Mellish concedes this, and comes to see the absurdity of this type of revolution that ultimately replaces one tyrant with another.  The parody skewers the political hypocrisy that was rampant in the popular support of revolutionary movements in the 1960’s and the 1970’s.

 

     I agree with Gerald Mast’s assertion that “Bananas” (1971) more closely captures the style and spirit of Mack Sennett than does “The Great Race” (1965).  By style and spirit, I assume that we are talking about more than a simple comparison of the content.  We need to look at the impetus and motivation behind the movie.  “Bananas” is a visually simple and unpretentious film.  The parody may be intellectually complex (even pretentious), but the slapstick is basic.  Like the early Sennett films, the sets are uncomplicated, even natural.  The whole thing looks like it was done “on a shoestring.”  While “The Great Race” could claim to be the most expensive comedy of its time, “Bananas” might be the least expensive comedy of its time.

 

     Besides the expense of “The Great Race,” the motivation of the film is different.  “Bananas,” as parody, has a story to tell; “The Great Race,” as homage, has a nostalgic journey to take us on.  Part of that journey is the look of the film, which is highly stylized and elaborate.  Another part of the journey is the acting, which is also stylized and exaggerated.  The slapstick is not inventive; it is imitative.  Because it is attempting to recreate (and exceed) the past as a tribute to the past, the film has a self-awareness that borders on pretension.  It is anything but a simple film.

 

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This clip in my opinion can be compared to Sennet's Keystone Kops with their physical slapstick ( bumping into each other, falling down, tripping on stuff etc ) to the ordering of tis absurd amount of  food which is more conceptual slapstick.

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