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Martha S.

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About Martha S.

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  1. Thanks to Dr. Edwards, Dr. Gehring, Vince Cellini, Greg Proops, and everyone at TCM, Ball State, and Canvas. Hope I'm not forgetting anybody. I really enjoyed the course and am looking forward to more. I look forward to looking back over the course and catching up on the readings I missed. Just wish I was a college student again instead of working full time so I could have spent more time on the class! Martha
  2. 1. 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. I say this without having seen Anchorman, or any other Will Ferrell movie, all the way through, but: In Anchorman, Ferrell and McKay aren't at all political or topical the way Woody Allen often is. Allen often comments on contemporary mores, especially in his later movies, whereas Anchorman seems 100% silliness to me. It makes fun of a bygone era, and one that's kind of an easy and popular target nowadays; it's not meant to be cutting social commentary. Anchorman doesn't sustain quite the same rapid-fire pace of jokes and sight gags that the ZAZ movies do, and because of that, it seems to me that Anchorman depends more on mining the era/genre (TV news) it's parodying--a lot of the humor comes from things like the passé costumes and sets--plaid jackets and permed hair, white shoes, mustaches, wide, flamboyantly designed ties, and lots of beige, brown and corduroy, Burgundy's desire to be a with-it single '70s guy. 2. 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? The cameos in each case are by the anchormen of each "gang." Vince Vaughn has played bad guys and tough guys before, in addition to comedy, so he fits right in as the bully/arch-nemesis who's supposed to be threatening (but is really laughable). Tim Robbins is known off screen for his liberal political activism, and his role as a public-TV news host seems to me like a nod to that, since watching public TV and listening to public radio are often seen as something liberals do. Luke Wilson seem like the least interesting of the cameo choices to me, but before Anchorman he's played a clueless character in movies like Bottle Rocket, and he has that puzzled squint that lends itself to that type of role. Most people would probably recognize Ben Stiller know from similar comedy movies, like Dodgeball and Zoolander, and from his TV shows, and this role is typical Ben Stiller--a caricature of a guy who takes himself very seriously. 3. 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. Ferrell often has a gross-out factor that a lot of classic slapstick doesn't seem to have. Pies mess up people's faces, but they don't get their arms chopped off. I guess I'd say maybe Laurel and Hardy, because their humor seems more aggressive and more often to involve anger. The rumble scene in Anchorman brings the violence of slapstick to a new era. And also maybe W.C. Fields, for the same reason. Ron Burgundy has an anger about him like Fields' characters often do. He's got a score to settle. Ferrell's not as physically adept as someone like Chaplin or Keaton, that I've seen, and he doesn't seem to go in for super-expensive, elaborate, or painstaking stunts, or ones that involve physical risks, like the falling houses in Keaton's movies or the train in The General. When crazy things happen, they're usually a result of the character's craziness, not happenstance, like the Keaton stunts just mentioned or the house falling off a cliff in Chaplin's film (I think it was The Gold Rush?). Edited to add: The student who goes by the forum name "Schlinged" pointed out the Three Stooges, because of the violence. How could I have missed that! I guess I was thinking back to the really early stuff. But the Stooges are the closest of the all the earlier slapstick acts/actors we've studied when it comes to the level of violence. And, as Schlinged pointed out, in Anchorman there's no real consequence to the violence, as is usually the case with the Stooges.
  3. 1. How would you describe ZAZ's approach to film parody or film spoofs in this scene? Cite specific examples. It's pretty much wall-to-wall gags, one after another, and they don't limit themselves to parodying a specific genre, but throw in slapstick elements and visual gags wherever they can, whether or not they further the plot (like the scene where "Al" walks in, the camera never moves to include his face in the scene, and when Drebin tells him he has something in his mouth, about a quarter of a banana falls out). Also, there's the random gag where two characters walk through a door while Drebin walks past the fake scenery half-wall (it calls more attention to the filmmaking, and to me has more of a surreal quality, than similar humor based on the scenery in Young Frankenstein). But character is still involved, as Nielsen plays it completely straight and his character remains pompous, but clueless, throughout. 2. How is ZAZ's approach to spoofing similar to or different from Mel Brook and Gene Wilder's approach in yesterday's Daily Dose? I'd say Young Frankenstein's gags are usually related to the genre, either playing with the conventions of the film (the scene in the science class) or the sets and scenery (like the exchange between Frankenstein and Terri Garr's character, Inga, when they arrive at the castle with its massive door ****--"What ****!" "Thank you, Doctor!"--the revolving bookshelf scene, or the scene when the table used for Frankenstein's experiments with the monster lowers from the ceiling to reveal Inga and Frankenstein, who've obviously just slept together.) With Brooks and Wilder, the gags are usually part of the plot, or further the plot--for instance, the "Puttin' on the Ritz" dance number doesn't come out of nowhere, as it might in a ZAZ film (say, the troopers in Top Secret!); it's Frankenstein's way of showing the world what his creation is capable of.) ZAZ films are more anarchic, I'd say. 3. In the context of slapstick comedy, compare Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau with Leslie Nielsen's Frank Drebin. Both characters take themselves seriously, but are constantly doing ridiculous things or leaving chaos in their wake. Both could be called pompous or pretentious, but I think Drebin is more so. Leslie Nielsen's deep voice adds to that pompous feel. Also, Drebin doesn't seem to notice his screwups, or be aware of how stupid he comes off. Like when he tries to look through the microscope with his closed eye. When he's corrected, he simply looks through the other eye, without reacting emotionally at all. And in the scene when the car's airbags inflate, I'm pretty sure we're meant to think he has no idea what happened--although at the very end it seems like maybe a look of recognition crosses his face at the end). Inspector Clouseau, on the other hand, is often seen trying to recover his dignity (as in the billiards Daily Dose scene, where he tries to blame his clumsiness on the designer of the cue rack and then on the house's architect). Also, from what I remember of the Nielsen comedies, the physical stuff usually happens around him, but he usually isn't doing a lot of physical acting (pratfalls, etc.) himself. Sellers is more adept at physical humor, I think.
  4. 1. How does this scene successfully parody the old Universal Horror films of the 1930s? Be specific. The scene parodies one we've seen before in horror films: the man of science presenting his ideas to an classroom of students or colleagues. In this scene, as in the similar scenes in real horror movies (can't specifically name any, but I know I've seen it multiple times in horror movies), we start to see the hints of the mad scientist that will emerge. But it's played completely for laughs, with Wilder trying desperately (but failing) to convince his audience (and himself) that he's a man of reason and logic, not a madman like his grandfather. I like the way Wilder's character starts off the scene very smug and self-assured, but by the end of the scene is unable to keep a lid on the craziness that's been just beneath the surface for the entire scene. 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. The beginning of the scene blends the two types of humor closely. From the beginning, Wilder's character is the smug modern man of science. That smugness becomes even more obvious, and veers into slapstick, as he blithely knees his volunteer in the groin (in the name of science, of course). His insults as he knees the guy are hilarious--as if that's part of the "science" experiment. The insults start to open up the cracks in his rational-scientist persona, hinting what a mess he is underneath. After the second time he knees the guy, the volunteer keels over, but Frankenstein seems to barely notice--it's all routine, part of the experiment. It's a scene that shows the scientist's arrogance, as similar horror movie scenes do--but in a very funny (and slapstick-y) way. 3. Would this film and its gags have worked as well if Young Frankenstein was shot in color? Defend your answer. The movie definitely wouldn't have worked as well if the film was in color. For one thing, the black and white takes you immediately (along with the nicely recreated sets) puts you immediately into the world of those old horror movies. For another, it gives the movie an understated, somber feel. Color would have felt more flamboyant, possibly recalling the over-the-top, campy Vincent Price-type horror movies of the 1950s through '70s instead of the black-and-white movies of a few decades earlier That somber atmosphere is all the more effectively undercut by the silly dialogue and action.
  5. I would call the bit with the fish and the dog slapstick. Or maybe "Implied slapstick" or "almost slapstick"? Nothing every really happened with it. I was waiting for the dog to grab the fish and for Mr. Hulot to walk away without noticing his fish was gone. The bit with the falling tomato was similar. It could almost be called violent (because of the fall/splat), but wasn't quite, and it didn't result in a full-scale food fight or a chase, as some earlier slapstick films might have. I'd say it's physical humor, but doesn't quite meet all the criteria laid out in this course to meet the definition of "slapstick."
  6. You learn that his character is kind (he gives the girl the apple) and unassuming. (When the grocery seller scolds him, he doesn't seem to get angry or protest.)
  7. Great points, wjones20. About practical jokes vs. things that happen to people. I don't know if practical-joke slapstick is the lower art form, but I tend to like it less because of the meanness/malice. Modern Times is a great example of slapstick being a way to work out discomfort with new technology, of course. I'm trying to think of any similar scenes more recent than IBM era and failing. The only recent movies/TV that deals with modernity I can think of are dark and/or apocalyptic science-fiction movies.
  8. I guess in "One Week" you could say the gags are the plot. Or you could say that they do interrupt the plot, since he's never successful at getting the piano into his house. And it looks like he's not even successful in building the house, since it's all off kilter and then gets further destroyed by Buster cutting a hole in it, holes being made in the roof, etc. I think I option #2.
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