Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Art & Fart: Louis CK on The Daily Show

This clip doesn't have a lot to do with Screwball Comedies, but it has much to do with the whole intersection of highbrow and lowbrow comedy that is an element of Screwball (filed on this blog under "Art/Fart").

I don't imagine any Screwball will ever boast a 42 second long fart, but it's possible.  Perhaps there will be a Millennial Recession Screwball Renaissance and audiences will be delighted by that and more.

"You don't have to be smart to laugh at farts, but you have to be stupid not to." (Louis C.K.)

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Great McGinty | 1940 | Screwball-free Sturges

The Great McGinty is a political satire, but it's still awful fun - if you're into that sort of thing.

This film is neither Screwball nor Romantic Comedy, but it's here on this blog because it is one of the Seven Wonders of Sturges.  It belongs here out of respect if nothing else.

According to the lore on the Internets, Sturges sold this story as a package deal - the studio got a solid screenplay for $10 and he got to direct his first feature.  If not for this Oscar winning screenplay there might not be as many as seven wonders, there might not be any.  This is the start of Sturges as we know him.

Though without this film there could have been more plays.  And maybe some Tony awards too.

Monday, June 13, 2011


If you're thinking of going to see THE TREE OF LIFE, consider watching THE POWER OF ART first.  You don't need to watch the entire eight hour series, maybe just pick one or two artists.  I think Rothko is an especially appropriate episode, but you can't really go wrong with any of 'em.

I spent the first 30 minutes of THE TREE OF LIFE talking myself into staying in my seat.  Part of me really resisted it, and found the whole thing annoying, pretentious, indulgent, unfocused, and/or possibly a brilliantly subtle satire of a bad art-house film.  The more adventurous part of me found a way to silence all of that bluster, and I eventually relaxed into the film.  I won't go so far as to say that I got it, but I think I got a hint of the essence of the thing.

Both Simon Schama and Terrence Malik are focused on transcendence through art - Mr. Schama analyzing, and Mr. Malik creating - potent images used to evoke huge sensations, and to put a person in mind of the big, the eternal...  life.

I frequently hear people referencing the E.M. Forester quote, "only connect," as if it were the final word on the goal of any creation.  It is a top-notch notion, but its significance has been diluted through overly generous interpretations.  Now, it's as if a shared chuckle over a spit-take counts as such a connection.  And it does, but there's so much more that should be going on at the same time.

This is dicey territory for me, this blog exists because I wanted to examine the value of the comedy and sundry things that are often dismissed as frivolous or devoid of cultural value.  And this film and mini-series are kind of the opposite.

For now, I'm going to take the easy way out and say that there is commercial art of cultural significance, and there is art.  I think THE TREE OF LIFE is, or at least strives to be, art.  Not an art-house film, or a significant film worthy of academic study and/or screenings at universities and museums, but plain, flat-out, art.

As per usual lately, I am having difficulty being articulate.  And, obviously, individual results with this sort of Extended Play DIY Double Feature will vary.  But, if you've ever played a Beatles record backward, if you've ever watched THE WIZARD OF OZ while listening to DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, and especially if you've never done either of these - you owe it to yourself to watch an episode or two of THE POWER OF ART, then go see THE TREE OF LIFE.

If you're lucky, like me, your experience will be something like this:  You'll watch THE POWER OF ART and wish that your teachers had zipped-it and run Simon Schama DVDs all semester, because - odds are - your entire life would be better; and then while watching THE TREE OF LIFE you will feel conflicted and uncomfortable and awestruck by Stan-Winston-meets-KOYAANISQATSI images that shouldn't work, but really do (cumulatively if not immediately); and then you'll leave the theater to sit in your car and cry.  Just for a little bit.  Just enough.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Variety Review of MY MAN GODFREY: Genesis of the Genus?

On Blogdanovich today, Peter Bogdonavich writes that Screwball as a genre got its name from a 1935 review of MY MAN GODFREY (full review and link to Variety post is below the clip).

Actually the brief Variety review just says she's a screwball character, but I don't have a reason to argue with the assertion that this ultimately defined the genre.  In younger days I might have gone in pursuit of "fact" or "truth" but this assertion seems as good to me as any other possibility.  Besides Bogdanovich is a fan of screwball, plus the guy kinda knows a thing or two about film, and so it feels like I should be deferentially collaborative.  At least until I have a good reason not to.

As a reward for skimming through the blah, blah, blah above, here's a fun clip:

MY MAN GODFREY | by Variety Staff | December 31, 1935 
William Powell and Carole Lombard are pleasantly teamed in this splendidly produced comedy.  Story is balmy, but not too much so, and lends itself to the sophisticated screen treatment of Eric Hatch's novel. 
Lombard has played screwball dames before, but none so screwy as this one. Her whole family, with the exception of the old man, seem to have been dropped on their respective heads when young. Into this punchy society tribe walks Powell, a former social light himself who had gone on the bum over a woman and is trying to become a man once more in butler's livery. He straightens out the family, as well as himself. 
Alice Brady, as the social mother in whom the family's psychopathic ward tendencies seemingly originate, does a bangup job with another tough part. Gail Patrick, as Lombard's sparring partner-sister, is excellent. Eugene Pallette, as the harassed father, and Mischa Auer, in a gigolo role, a beautiful piece of sustained comedy playing and writing, are both fine. 
1936: Nominations: Best Director, Actor (William Powell), Actress (Carole Lombard), Supp. Actor (Mischa Auer), Supp. Actress (Alice Brady), Screenplay

Earlier post on Screwball Study:  MY MAN GODFREY | 1936 | Then and Now