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Russell K

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About Russell K

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  • Birthday 04/23/1952

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    Indianapolis, Indiana

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  1. Loved Jersey Boys on stage, but was bitterly disappointed in the movie by Clint Eastwood. My reaction in the words of Clint himself:
  2. Gypsy, Wizard of Oz, Sound of Music, Singing in the Rain, Music Man, Les Miserables, White Christmas, Mary Poppins, West Side Story, any Fred/Ginger, any Busby - for starters I am powerless over musicals and my life is unmanageable, but singing and dancing in the living room help!
  3. 1. Do you see the beginnings of the "Hitchcock touch" in this sequence? Please provide specific examples. ​Most of the examples I saw in the clip were already mentioned in previous posts. 2. Do you agree or disagree with Strauss, Yacowar, and Spoto assessments that this sequence contains elements, themes, or approaches that we will see throughout Hitchcock's 50-year career? ​There appears to be much agreement on this. From http://www.openculture.com/2013/09/the-pleasure-garden-hitchcock.html, 1925's , viewable free in full at the top of this post. This silent adaptation of an Oliver Sandys novel, a British production meant to showcase American star Virginia Valli, plunges into the romantically turbulent milieu of London chorus girls.It takes that plunge by opening with a sequence critic Dave Kehr calls "a clip reel of Hitchcock motifs to come." Clearly the 26-year-old Hitchcock arrived with his skills and sensibilities in place, but when he took on this project in 1925, he'd already had a bad experience in the film industry: 1922's aborted Number 13 would have given him his first directorial credit, but that production ran out of money when photography had only just begun. The Pleasure Garden itself wouldn't get publicly screened until 1927, after Hitchcock had already had some success with his third feature The Lodger. 3. Since this is a silent film, do you feel there were any limitations on these opening scenes due to the lack of synchronous spoken dialogue? ​I didn't see any limitations in this scene, but am posting this article on Hitchcock and sound I found which was interesting. http://borgus.com/hitch/sound.htm
  4. WOW! What a wonderful experience this has been! The credits are starting to roll and the exit music is playing! Like others, major kudos to TCM, Ball State, Dr. Edwards, Vince Cellini, Dr. Wes Gehring, and Greg Proops for a month like no other. Having used Canvas for my own classes, I also appreciate - aside from the instructional design, interesting content, engagement of learners, and the enlightenment and fun of it all - the hard work that it takes to structure such an online learning experience. The mechanics behind the scenes are much like the production of the many movies we have seen and been exposed to. I sincerely mean it when I say: I wonder what Tuesday and Wednesday nights will be like without this course, since it was both a pleasure and privilege to spend those evenings with like minded individuals across the globe. I was never much of a twit (if that is the proper name of a Twitter subscriber) until this course, but have enjoyed tweeting while we watch the movies together. (This is starting to have the length of an Oscar acceptance speech, when the orchestra is playing the GET OFF THE STAGE music!, yet it is heartfelt!) While I was not able to see ALL of the films, I did see the majority of them. Some I liked better than others, but that is to be expected. I am facing some involved sinus surgery in the month of October - and as they say laughter is the best medicine, so I have my list of unseen movies from the OUCH! list (how appropriate!) with which to mend. I just hope after surgery I don't die laughing or snort (since that may be painful!) while making my way through my Letterbox watchlist. Well, enough of profuse praise. I do hope we have another class of this nature - personally, I vote for one on musicals in film, since I am a junkie of that genre. But in closing, I want to share this from You Tube: I do love to laugh, and again - thank you ALL for that!
  5. How does the spoof style of Ferrell and McKay differ from or compare to the styles of Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, or the team of ZAZ? Be specific. Ferrell does not have the cerebral, dry aspect of Woody Allen. Ferrell’s humor does not seem to make a political statement. I do see some limited Mel Brooks influence in Anchorman. Just as Brooks took on the horror films in Young Frankenstein, westerns in Blazing Saddles, and Broadway musicals in The Producers, Ferrell takes on television news in the late 1970s. There is some of that element of Brooks, in that the viewer has to understand the source of the gag to fully appreciate the humor of the gag. There is also a good deal of influence from the ZAZ team, and this makes sense to me, considering that many of their films were released and major hits during Ferrell’s formative years during the 1980s. Some of the scenes in Anchorman are way over the top. There is some of the deadpan of Leslie Nielsen seen in Ferrell as Ron Burgundy. Clueless, bungling, and surrounded by idiots. We first saw a portion of this clip during our Breakdown of a Gag on Cameos – in the full context, what do the cameos add to this fight scene? As noted by others, the cameos add to the fun of the fight scene. As was mentioned in the Slapstick Spoofs Part One content, “A film spoof will mischievously wink at its audience, and we are supposed to notice those ‘winks’ since we are in on the joke.” All you have to do is change the words “film spoof” to “The use of cameos in film”. Of the slapstick influences we covered in this class, who do you think most influenced Will Ferrell as a slapstick comedian? You can select for your answer any of the studios, directors, writers, or actors covered in this course. In reading about Ferrell, it is noted that he was heavily influenced by television, particularly Johnny Carson and the early years of Saturday Night Live! As mentioned above, the ZAZ team no doubt influenced Ferrell, particularly Leslie Nielsen. Given that his roots were in improvisation with The Groundlings, (much like early SNL members were alums of Second City), it is hard for me to point to one overriding influence, since improvisation - by its nature draws – on all available sources of humor at a moment’s notice and goes with the flow of the scene. And this reflects what we have learned in the course content regarding the later years of slapstick – it becomes more difficult to point to one identifying influence since comedians today have a century of material to draw from.
  6. These were so great to watch and I am already starting to go into withdrawal, knowing this is my last fix. Maybe it is Gag Reflex! The telestrator was a great way to see these film clips in a different way. And just as slapstick had many great pairings over the century - the OUCH students have had a great pairing in Cellini and Edwards. Well done and truly memorable!
  7. 1. How would you describe ZAZ's approach to film parody or film spoofs in this scene? Cite specific examples. Hitting the trash can, air bags deployed, drive engaged by air bags, Drebin unaware car is in drive and following him, Drebin showing his badge, firing his gun - all within the first 28 seconds of the clip - and all with Nielsen maintaining his wonderful deadpan throughout. (I will leave the remaining 2-3 minutes to others for examples.) Again, crammed full of comedy gags amidst the deadpan detective. A much faster pace than Pink Panther, with a focus on visual and verbal slapstick. 2. How is ZAZ's approach to spoofing similar to or different from Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder's approach in yesterday's Daily Dose? You can tell with both Young Frankenstein and Naked Gun that there was a great deal of study of the originals in order to spoof them. In Frankenstein, it seems to be more the entire decade of 1930s horror films via set design, shooting in black and white, original props, story line, and broad characterizations of the 1930s horror films, whereas Naked Gun seems to focus more on the PACE of the Dragnet series and its original Jack Webb. Naked Gun seems to focus more on a central buffoon, where the comedy in Frankenstein is drawn from all elements of the original. 3. In the context of slapstick comedy, compare Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau with Leslie Nielsen's Frank Drebin. Leonard Matlin in his 2013 Media Guide called Nielsen "deadpan, dead perfect" as Drebin, who Matlin described as "the stupidest law officer since Inspector Clouseau. Clouseau, to me, seems more stylized, while the zaniness of ZAZ takes Drebin over the top in situations. While we have Clouseau struggling with pool cues in our earlier Doozy, Drebin faces challenges second after second in this clip. As mentioned in the Doozy, the jokes (both verbal and visual) are crammed into the film - making it difficult for this audience member, at least, to catch his breath from laughing at one gag before moving to the next. This breakneck pace is what I view as the single most distinctive difference between these two bozos of law enforcement. Drebin evolved from his original character in TV's Police Squad as the straight man to the bumbling cop in the movies. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Drebin) Nicholas Laham in his 2009 book, Currents of Comedy on the American Screen: How Film and Television Deliver Different Laughs for Changing Times, has entire chapter devoted to what he calls "suspense comedy" that emerged in the 1980s. He cites this genre's roots go back to Maxwell Smart in the Get Smart TV series of the 1960s. He says that Pink Panther and Maxwell Smart were isolated comedic characters in the 1960s and 1970s, and it wasn't until the 1980s that the "dumb cop" and "dumb spy" premise became a dominant trend in film comedy. Laham argues that this new form of comedy emerged in response to growing awareness of government ineptitude from Vietnam, Watergate, etc. The focus he claims was on ineptitude versus government corruption.
  8. 1. How does this scene successfully parody the old Universal Horror films of the 1930s? Be specific. “The film is an affectionate parody of the classic horror film genre, in particular the various film adaptations of Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein produced by Universal in the 1930s. Most of the lab equipment used as props was created by Kenneth Strickfaden for the 1931 film Frankenstein…. and the film employed 1930s' style opening credits and scene transitions such as iris outs, wipes, and fades to black. The film also features a period score by Brooks' longtime composer John Morris.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Young_Frankenstein 2. In keeping with Gene Wilder's own observations about the writing of this film, how does this scene move between comic subtlety and broad slapstick humor? Be specific. Broad slapstick This scene meets all of our criteria from week 1: 1. Exaggeration – facial expressions of the medical subject, scalpel into leg, my grandfather’s work was doo-doo 2. Physical – verbal and physical – filthy rotten son of a ****! 3. Ritualistic – repeated physical attack on the medical subject, repeated visual reaction of disbelief by the medical subject; facial reaction of medical subject once the shut off valve is connected to his neck, relentless questioning by student 4. Make believe – Dr. Frankenstein story to begin with is fantasy, facial reaction of medical subject once the shut off valve is connected to his neck, medical students lack of reaction to subject’s pain (applause even) 5. Violent – kneeing of the medical subject, scalpel into leg Noted in articles about this film is how cast members ad libbed some of the scenes, resulting in broad comedy – similar to the flavor of the early slapstick filmmaking. Comic subtlety · Boredom of the scientific subject in initial demonstrations · The professor continuing his lecture in mild manner after violently attacking the medical subject · Give him an extra dollar! · Are you speaking of a worm or spaghetti? · Complete seriousness of Wilder as the professor, as well as his lab assistants – who are stonefaced in the Keaton tradition · To dissociate himself from his forebear, Frederick insists that his surname is pronounced "Fronkensteen." · His hunchbacked, bug-eyed servant named Igor (Marty Feldman) insists on his name being pronounced differently (in this case "Eye-gor") · The professor’s comparison of the inquisitive student to a worm – a worm, with very few exceptions, is not a human being! · Crossing of legs after scalpel – class is dismissed! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Young_Frankenstein In a 2010 interview with Los Angeles Times, Mel Brooks discussed how the film came about:[10] I was in the middle of shooting the last few weeks of Blazing Saddles somewhere in the Antelope Valley, and Gene Wilder and I were having a cup of coffee and he said, I have this idea that there could be another Frankenstein. I said not another — we've had the son of, the cousin of, the brother-in-law, we don't need another Frankenstein. His idea was very simple: What if the grandson of Dr. Frankenstein wanted nothing to do with the family whatsoever. He was ashamed of those wackos. I said, "That's funny." Lacher, Irene. "The Sunday Conversation: Mel Brooks on his 'Young Frankenstein' musical". Los Angeles Times, August 1, 2010. Retrieved November 8, 2010. 3. Would this film and its gags have worked as well if Young Frankenstein was shot in color? Defend your answer. “Beautifully filmed in black and white on some of the original Frankenstein sets, using the old 1:85 aspect ratio and a similar film stock, the movie displays a thorough knowledge of and respect for the old films, along with a deliciously heightened sense of their more ridiculous aspects.” http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/96522/Young-Frankenstein/articles.html To help evoke the atmosphere of the earlier films, Brooks shot the picture entirely in black-and-white, a rarity in the 1970s. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Young_Frankenstein The atmosphere provided by black and white sets the backdrop for all of the humor, parody, and slapstick of the film. I cannot imagine this film in color, but of course – the musical version (2007) is live and in color – and the jokes work! But, then again, the audience was conditioned for that, knowing the past film and the flavor of it. SORRY SO LONG – BUT CAN EVERYONE TELL I LOVE THE LATE GENE WILDER AND MEL BROOKS!
  9. 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,
  10. Just finished watching THE GREAT RACE. I am sure if I had seen this film when it was released, I would have remembered. So it was a treat! Yes, it was way over the top, yes it was a bit long, but the cartoon characteristics as noted in class this week made it enjoyable and amusing. Reminded me of my passion for Rocky and Bullwinkle, Boris and Natasha, and Fractured Fairy Tales - cartoons I loved even more than my Looney Tunes. I enjoyed the bouncing ball to the music of The Sweetheart Tree. The Mercer- Mancini tune is a pretty one, and while it ultimately defined the relationship between Curtis/Wood in the film, to me - the song seemed out of place with the rest of the film. With as manic as the rest of the film was, I think the primary song for the movie should reflect the overall pace and style of the film. Just my opinion. Certainly, the film reflected the attempt of this time period to be grander than television. The color was magnificent, the scenery on such a grand scope, the visual design of the scenes - all impressive. And the homage paid to slapstick was evident - meeting the criteria we discussed in week 1. And Jack Lemmon in two roles - twice as much fun! Glad to be exposed to this film!
  11. I think everyone has said what is needed to be said in response to the questions. I am grateful, however, to have learned this week of Frank Tashlin, referenced in this Doozy. I had never heard of him until this week and amazed at what a historic figure he was with both live action and animated films. Another bonus of this course!
  12. Interesting to note from the attached from Wikipedia that the Stooges were first on ABC in 1949, but did not enter syndication until 1958. Again, studios holding out, until they saw that money could be made. (see Television section of the article) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Three_Stooges Also that they did several other space movies prior to Have Rocket Will Travel (a pun on the TV show - that ran from 1957 to 1963) - from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Three_Stooges_filmography (see below) 1957 178 Space Ship Sappy (April 18) 182 Outer Space Jitters (December 5) 1958 187 Flying Saucer Daffy (October 9)
  13. 1. Select one gag from this scene and describe why it is effective as visual and verbal comedy? (You can include discussion of performance, costume, props, set design, sound design) Gag - Sellers playing pool with crooked cue, rips fabric of pool table, attempts to fix it Performance - Sellers attempts to maintain composure as bumbles through his attempt at playing pool, deadpan expression reminding of Keaton, so much expression in Sellers eyes, word use - realous jage! - wringing of the pool cue prior to making the shot, taking time to set up the gag Costume - all are dressed in black, restrained in contrast to the ridiculousness of Sellers and the mishaps he finds himself in Props - the pool cue (crooked) - he uses it in two ways Set design - color in contrast to the characters in the scene. Makes the props stand out even more Sound design - little in the way of sound thus emphasizing the ripping of the fabric on the pool table 2. From this scene, what are key characteristics you would use to describe Inspector Clouseau? Based on those characteristics, what makes Clouseau an effective slapstick character? Definitely see exaggeration, physical, ritualistic, and make believe in this character. Branding of a character like we saw with Chaplin as the tramp, some of the deadpan of Keaton. He is such a klutz, people have trouble understanding his accent, jokes are repeated throughout the series of Panther movies. And let's not forget the wonderful music that came to be associated with this character. More on Clouseau as a character found here: https://en.wikipedia...pector_Clouseau 3. Making fun of police/detective work is a line of slapstick comedy that stretches all the way back to Mack Sennett's Keystone Kops in the silent film era. What does Inspector Clouseau add to the history of slapstick characters in law enforcement? As noted in the website above, despite being a klutz, he is successful in solving cases whereas others in the history of slapstick police work, often did not. Consider how Chaplin outsmarted the police. Sellers opened the door to a tradition we still see in film with movies like Jump Street, The Heat, etc.
  14. Mon Oncle (1958) While the use of sound and scenic design was commendable in this film, I just didn't get it and by 70 minutes into the film, I gave up! It struck me as interesting that Dr. Edwards was the primary one tweeting during the live broadcast. Don't know if it was a slow night for Tweeters, but seemed that those of us on line did not respond to this film as we have to earlier live tweet nights. I see that there are many Tati devotees from the posts - maybe it is more of a cult following thing? But I guess I am a more simple guy - personally, slapstick and its humor have to grab me without explanation - and the old saying goes, if you have to explain it, it ain't that funny for the audience. The Long, Long Trailer (1954) No, "splaing" to do here, Lucy! - as Ricky would say. This is one of the best! The color is majestic in the mountain scenes. The plot is plausible. As I shared with some online in Tweets last night, my family took a seven week trip in 1961 from Indianapolis through the Rockies, down to southwestern US, up California coast, and back through Yellowstone. Kudos to my parents for taking a 9 year old and his brother - 11 - in a non-air conditioned car for that time. Particularly since the two of us did not get along. Remember first day of the trip spending most of the day with car repairs and Dad trying to hide his frustration. Also, remember our making those steep inclines in the Rockies and getting lost on the LA freeway - pulling a trailer. And to add to this - as a 9 year old - I collected rocks during the trip! So art DOES imitate art! Many memorable lines and scenes, just a treat - as Lucy and Desi always were! How my father considered a trip like this 7 years after seeing this film is beyond me! Was one of my mother's favorite films! Saw some of the meet the family scene from this film in National Lampoon's Vacation. Also noted in tweet last night the return of the stateroom scene from A Night at the Opera when the helpful neighbors in the trailer park assisted and met Taci and Nicki.
  15. 1. What do you think the addition of color adds to this scene and its gags? The use of color as a technique to combat the rise of television is obvious in this clip. Seeing Lucy's red hair, color contrasts within the trailer itself at the dinner table, use of color in Lucy's pajamas and the comforter, and of course - the mud at the end, which - without color - would lose some of the texture of the gag. These are just a few. 2. What are some of the techniques that Vincente Minnelli uses in this scene to make it more cinematic than a TV show such as I Love Lucy? Consider, for example, camera angles, depth of focus, or editing strategy. Depth of focus on the trailer itself in the opening scene from dining area to the kitchen - adding to the fact that it is THE LONG LONG TRAILER. Would be difficult to shoot such a scene in a smaller television studio and with the technology of TV cameras at that time. Ability to cut back and forth from Lucy and Desi to register each other's reactions in color - audiences loved the two of them and seeing them up close and in color had to be a treat for audience's in the early 50s. Use of color in make up to accept Lucy's wonderful eyes and also her bright red lipstick that of course was lost on B/W television. More intimate scene at dinner table shot in tighter frame so we can focus on the comedic pair. Very tight shots in the bedroom scene to emphasize both the tilt of the trailer and the tight living space of traveling in a trailer - everything is compact. 3. What are some of Lucille Ball's contributions to the history of slapstick comedy, and how does Minnelli use her physical comedy in this clip? For a thorough list of Lucille Ball's contributions to the history of slapstick, I found this article worth reading: https://travsd.wordpress.com/2013/08/06/stars-of-slapstick-139-lucille-ball/ Use of physical comedy - Lucy's balancing act as she prepares dinner,use of the straw during dinner as she waits for Desi's replies, tight space as they get ready for bedtime, her pause to set up the gag of getting into bed (facing her opponent - the bed at an angle), gripping the night stand and bed in order to make a second attempt, getting out of bed and stumbling and losing balance, as the jack falls, and Lucy goes out the door and into the mud. Lucy wiping her face and giving small smile to Desi. And of course, those wonderful Lucy facial expressions throughout!
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