Thursday, December 1, 2016


The blog posts below were all written by undergraduate students at Bowling Green State University enrolled in an upper-level class in the Department of Theatre and Film

The opinions expressed on this site are those of the authors, whose work should not be reproduced without their consent. 

Lectures and other course material can be found above and in the column to the left.

Feel free to browse... and enjoy.

Monday, April 25, 2016

A Collective Dream

by Ian Opaczewski
In today's society many see the American Dream in a different way than the typical white picket fence. It has evolved, much like the culture of America itself over the decades since its inception. In It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (Kramer, 1963) a group a strangers happen upon a crash where they are informed of a great treasure buried under a “W”. The group of strangers end up racing, all trying to be first in finding the great prize. It is through the characters' journey to the $350,000 that we see the real meaning of today's American Dream.
The American Dream today focuses itself on a goal or specific status one wants to reach within their lifetime. Many see the white picket fence and family as a fragment of what the real dream could represent. The root of the American Dream is its promise of freedom to achieve these goals by our own means. We are able to choose which path we want to take in order to gain our goals. The group embodies this freedom when they abandon their original tasks in order to chase this (possibly mythical) treasure.
With each choice in gaining a step towards our dream we also gain new experiences. At the beginning of the film we see the group acting more selfishly and with this selfishness came comical mishaps. Their greed leads each to experience a different form of misfortune that causes a stall in their progress. Its not until they all meet up again and agree to work together when they are finally able to find the treasure. Life is a collection of experiences we share. We most often see the ones shared with others as greater ones because it was shared. The group gained an immense happiness when they found the money because they all knew they would be getting a piece of it. The aspect of it being smaller didn’t matter anymore because by gaining a share of the reward they are still able to fulfill their goal.
In the end however no one is able to claim the treasure because another chase for the treasure ensues after its unearthing. This chase leads to the money being thrown from the top of a building and spreading out to all the onlookers below. The group also ends up getting into an accident because the building the men went into was condemned causing them all to end up in the hospital. If we look at the money as symbolic to the America Dream, then its dispersion to the people is a way of showing how it is free for everyone to grasp at. As the money floated down so too did the hands of the onlookers raise up in hope to grab at least one bill. It is this action that fully shows us what the American Dream gives to us, the ability to dream of a goal, and the many different ways in which we can achieve those goals.

Dumb Luck

by Sam Bodette

The movie The Jerk is about a man named Navin Johnson. Navin is adopted. He’s a white man from an all black family. Navin is clumsy, and has no rhythm. At one point Navin is chosen as the target of a crazed gunman. The gunman misses his shot and Navin goes on the run. Navin hides out at a carnival where he meets his lover. Then he meets his love. His love Marie eventually leaves him due to issues with money. Eventually Navin gains a lot of money and Marie comes crawling back to him. Their life becomes a movie. They have parties and go wild. Soon someone sues Navin for all he’s got. Once again Navin is penniless and Marie has left him once again. Luckily for Navin his family picks him up off the ground and give him a home, along with Marie. The movie ends with Navin finally being able to dance. 

This movie characterizes the American Dream as freedom. Navin was able to leave his family and go and have wild adventures and when he fell his family was there to pick him up. The American Dream is going out and taking unexpected turns. Maybe it will end badly, maybe not. The only way to find out is to go and try. When all else fails and you feel as though you have nothing left, you will still always have your family. In the movie, Navin gave his family a small portion of money and eventually it became a lot. This ended up helping him in the end big time. It teaches that you have to be giving because you never know when things will turn around and those people you gave to are now willing to give back to you and help.

Monday, April 18, 2016

There's a New Sheriff in Town

by Isaac Bouyack

The film Blazing Saddles addresses racial issues throughout by poking fun at the ridiculousness of racism and prejudices.  The town people in the film request a sheriff but they are disappointed when they find out that he is black.  Even the nice elderly lady of the town addresses him with a racial slur.  Then he saves the town from Mongo so the elderly women decides to apologize, but not without additional racism.  She says, “Of course, you'll have the good taste not to mention that I spoke to you.” So even after he becomes a town savior, the community is still unable to accept him. The Waco Kid jokes, “See, in another 25 years you'll be able to shake their hands in broad daylight." This could be a joke at the expense of how slow racial equality progresses in the United States.

The movie not only addresses racism toward African Americans but also the victimization of several other races. For example, when Hedley Lamarr is putting together a gang to ransack the town, the camera pans over the line of villains. There is a group of Mexicans that are dressed in typical bandito outfits. There are also Middle Eastern men dressed in an extremely stereotypical way; they are even riding camels. Right along with these people are KKK members, Nazi Soldiers, and rapists.  The line of villain characters represents how Hollywood criminalizes certain races through stereotype.  Mel Brooks exaggerates this to a large degree in order to give it a comedic effect. 

Sheriff Bart does this as well by representing himself to the town people as the most racist representation of a black person possible. He acts like he is very unintelligent and lacks basic grammar in order to trick them, but it is always made clear that the only fools in this movie are the racists. Bart also tricks some KKK members by saying, “Hey, where are the white women at," feeding off of the racist idea that black men want to steal all of the white women. Overall, this film makes fun of racist actions in numerous ways throughout and uses exaggeration to show how ridiculous they are.

Crossing Borders

by Melanie Cross

Up in Smoke, released in 1978, was both written by and stars the comedy duo of Richard Anthony ‘Cheech’ Marin and Tommy Chong; more commonly known as simply “Cheech and Chong."  Tommy Chong is an Irish and Chinese Canadian born American actor, although in the movie he is referred to as the white guy who’s going to play the drums, and he gets mistaken for an illegal immigrant and deported alongside of his comedic sidekick Cheech, who happens to be an American-born Mexican American. 

Early in the film, the first time Cheech and Chong are about to get stoned together, Cheech makes the tongue-in-cheek comment to Chong, “Let’s get Chinese-eyed.”  This is just one of many jokes based on stereotypes that Cheech and Chong use to address the issue of race in Up in Smoke. Cheech also uses common stereotypes of Mexican-American people and turns them up a few degrees. His character, Pedro’s, thick Mexican accent, his exaggerated mustache, his obsession with his lowrider, complete with gaudy modifications and his machismo bravado with the ladies all poke fun at the mostly negative generalizations that are often associated with Mexican males, especially in American society. Geoff King discusses Cheech Marin specifically in his book, Film Comedy. “The exaggeration to the point of absurdity of negative stereotypes has also been identified, as a strategy of subversion, in the performances of Richard ‘Cheech’ Marin in the highly successful Cheech and Chong comedies.”  (King, 2002, pg. 152) 

Ultimately, it seems to me that Cheech and Chong use comedy to highlight stereotypes in order to challenge the mainstream way in which several different ‘groups and types’ of people are portrayed while pointing out the absurdity of these typecasts. This applies not only to racial and cultural stereotypes, but can also be seen addressing gender and stoner stereotypes as well.  For example, the females in this film all fall into one of two very distinctive caricatures: bimbo or nun. These exaggerations are used for comedic effect, since obviously not all women can be simplified and categorized in these ways. Stoners in this film, on the other hand, are portrayed as laid-back, somewhat forgetful, fun-loving people who enjoy the munchies from time to time; another exaggeration with only some basis in reality...

Monday, April 11, 2016

Nobody's Perfect

by Finnegan Burres

Some Like it Hot is a funny little window into a far less progressive time than we're living in now.  Films were still stuck in stereotypes that were simply used without question, where this film successfully examines those conventions in a way that draws upon the absurdity in the expectations held for women over the years.  This film presents our two protagonists, musicians who need to skip town after witnessing a mob hit, in their situation of having to dress as women to make their way to Florida with a group of female musicians.  Their journey introduces them to the discomforts of high heels, breezy skirts, and having to overcome their own urges to reveal their true identities.  
As the two men trot down the train station in their newly acquired disguises, one remarks about how difficult it is to walk in high heels.  He then mentions how vulnerable he feels wearing a dress, and how cold it is wearing what women were expected to wear at the time in order to appear "beautiful".  This technique is the first the calls into question normal conventions that men usually don't consider when watching films with women.  The reality that men don't see is that women wear heels for the effect of the accentuating certain parts of their body, but really those heels are difficult to walk in and really unnecessary when you really think about them. The film also features the lovely Marylin Monroe, who exemplifies several stereotypes of her own gender, including the notion that she's not very bright.  This makes a statement of how women think of themselves as a result of their dealings with men, particularly when she explains how her lack of control in the spell of men makes her dumb.  Again, these stereotypes contrast with reality, because obviously, women can have as much potential and intelligence as men.  
Alternatively, it depicts men in a ravenous light, having the disguised men drooling over the alluring females around them, and features them referring to their own hidden gender hairy, gross, and possessing eight hands.  We also see them slaves to their own urges as they are stuck in situations in which they must hide their desire to flirt with the women around them.  Popular stereotypes view men as more stable and put together, especially in the 1950's. However, when we see men as these apes who can't seem to complete the simple task of dressing up without inspiring women around them to drink and misbehave, it provides a contrast with the norms of the time, and therein we find the comedy.
So, what this film does in the context of feminism is draw attention to the major differences, and more specifically, the inequalities in the expectations of men and women.  The benefit of this is not to attack people with an opinion, as I think many people wrongly view feminism to be, and provides a funny contrast that allows people's laughter to act as a degree of consideration for the real reasons why women are expected to do what they do, say what they say, and wear what they wear.  And, of course, the result of this in an ideal world would be that people can come to the realization that women should really be allowed to wear, say, and act how they like to the extent that men do, because we are all just people at the end of the day. 

Seeing Through the Glass Ceiling

by Brittany Schmidlin

For this week’s assignment I chose to watch the film 9 to 5. The film’s main characters include three women that all work in a corporate office, Consolidated Companies, Inc.  Judy Bernly (Jane Fonda ) is the most recent employee; the office being her first job after her divorce from her cheating husband. Violet Newstead (Lily Tomlin) is a very organized office supervisor and Doralee Rhodes (Dolly Parton) is the boss’s secretary. Their boss, Hart, continuously disrespects the female employees; sexually harassing them, discrediting their ideas, viciously yelling at them, spreading sexual rumors, and being gender-biased regarding promotions. When all three of the women befriend each other at a local bar, they share their desire to seek revenge from their sexist boss that has made their workplace insufferable.

After a series of unforeseeable events regarding their believed-to-be-dead boss, the women recollect themselves in the ladies room.  They discuss their favorable luck of their boss turning out to be alive and knowing nothing of their scheme, until Hart’s sneaky assistant overheard their conversation while hiding in a bathroom stall.  Hart then threatens to have them prosecuted for attempted murder if Doralee refused to spend the night with him. 

The women then decide to kidnap him, of course, while trying to blackmail him through an embezzlement scam he was involved in.  Hart eventually succeeds in escaping and covers up his crimes of theft by returning the items. While their boss was kept prisoner away from the office, the women make several beneficial changes around the office that didn’t go unnoticed by the Chairman of the Board. The Chairman was so impressed with the office’s productivity that he employed Hart to work at their office in Brazil. The film ended stating happy endings for all three of the women; Violet was promoted to Hart’s position, Judy fell in love, and Doralee became a country singer. Unfortunately, Hart’s ending was not so happy due to the fact that he was captured in the jungle and disappeared forever. 

From a feminist perspective, 9 to 5 certainly challenged “conventional” gender norms. There are several gender-related issues that exist throughout the film that support the gender-gap in the workplace. Amongst many other social movements, the second wave of feminism began in the 1960s and sustained until the early 90s. During this time, issues such as gender equality were of upmost concern for feminists. This film emphasizes the frustrations of women in the workplace that were often overworked, poorly paid, and undermined by male employers and employees. 

The film did well in depicting gender inequality and the challenges women faced in order to gain respect in the workplace. The film’s female lead characters challenged stereotypical gender-norms by challenging their male employer and becoming “bosses” themselves.  They confront many feminist issues such as sexism, unequal pay, and gender-biased promotions. I found the film to be very entertaining and I enjoyed its historical relevance to feminist issues and the second wave of feminism.

Monday, April 4, 2016

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Appreciate the Historical Context

by Katrina Bertz
Dr. Strangelove does the extraordinary thing that film comedy tries frequently, yet rarely accomplishes; which is create a platform on which an audience can discuss important issues, while making you laugh hysterically at the same time. Released in 1964, the film delves deeply into the politics of that time. It is a satire of the American fear of nuclear war between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. Boskin says that "humor provides an unusual historical ray into the complex connection between society's concerns and issues," (Boskin, p.1). By that standpoint, Dr. Strangelove reflected society's fear of the bomb and how the future of mankind has been placed in the hands of a few, idiotic men.
Joseph Boskin, when discussing humor and why it is funny to a particular society, he states, "For to be understood and possess meaning, humor must relate to the customs, symbols, and experience of the people. In Dr. Strangelove, this can first be seen through the very names given to the characters. The insane Air Force General is nammed Jack D. Ripper, while our protagonist is named Mandrake. The soldier who is carrying the bomb to Russia is named Major "King" Kong, while the Nazi doctor in the wheelchair is the titular Dr. Strangelove. Each of these names resonate with the audience because we all are aware of them and their connotations, which makes them funny, yet satirical.
In the first half of the 20th century, the idea that comedy could be viewed as important as drama was not generally accepted. This changed during the 1960s, as "scholarly interest initiated a series of international conferences," (Boskin, p.4) and encouraged students and professors to analyze comedy as they would any other category. While satire in comedic films had existed well before the 60s, Dr. Strangelove could be seen as a product of this scholarly interest. A movie such as this may not have existed in any other decade due to it's content. However, as the 60s was a period of such change, this allowed Kubrick to explore such political humor.
One way that this film manages to create such a political satire is by covering it with outlandish scenarios. "In this sly way, humor confronts reality by wrapping it in a showy package, disguising it's contents," (Boskin, p.3). This can be seen through Major Kong, straddling the very bomb that will end the human race, riding it like a bucking bronco. It's funny because it's absurd that Kong would be able to straddle the bomb in mid-air. But the humor of it masks the notion that all of humanity, at that time, was straddling the bomb and laughing all the way to their deaths.
Boskin also talks about the 20th century and it's humor by claiming "In the latter half of the century, the flow of people's humor accelerated exponentially. Reacting to rapidly changing social mores and institutions," (Boskin, p.5). This can be seen through the use of Dr. Strnagelove and the "doomsday device." The Nazi doctor, after learning of the device, says that to make such a device would be pointless unless the public knew of it's existence. To which the Russian ambassdor informs him that they had planned on informing the public, on the Premier's birthday. This is funny, because it harkens back to something all audiences understood; the element of surprises and birthdays. What makes it so bitter is the fact that the characters would think that would be something fun to do in celebration; threaten the public with radioactive annihilation.
The end of the film sums up the mentality of the 1960s audience and their fears by showing a series of nuclear bombs exploding while Vera Lynn's "We'll Meet Again" plays. Throughout the film, we are laughing at the utter ridiculouness of the situation, however it may not have been so far-fetched during the time it was made. The sentiments reflected a need to aleviate some of the stress of possible nuclear war. Kubrick saw the fate of mankind in the hands of (literally) two men and chose to show America what happens when we give too much power to war-frenzied politicians and insane soldiers.

Boskin, Joseph. "History and Humor." pp.1-6

Monday, March 28, 2016

A Political Pawn

by Cynthia Baber

Citizen Ruth is a film about a woman who is homeless, addicted to huffing and has four kids that have been taken away from her. She ends up pregnant and in jail again. The judge who is aware of her current predicament and her past incarcerations advises her to get an abortion so she can start fixing her life.

Ruth meets some religious anti-abortion/pro-life women while struggling with her decision in jail. She is taken in by one of these women with the intention of Ruth to be the example for their movement despite her obvious character flaws. As the movie progresses, the pro-choice movement comes into play. They take in Ruth in hopes to help her get the abortion she wants. They also want to use her as a symbol for their movement within this small town.

The filmmakers don’t take a side or stand on this debate. However, there are some stereotypes that are presented in the film. In many ways I feel that the filmmakers are definitely playing up these typical ideals to further define each side of this heated debate. There are many instances of satire within the film, not only in what each side believes, but their actions and appearances as well.

The pro-life group is portrayed as frumpy middle-aged women and creepy men, all very religious and family oriented. The Stoney family has issues within their home despite their outward religious appearance. Their daughter is seen sneaking boys out of her room, partying and basically living a life opposite to what her parents are promoting. I think this shows an interesting take on how this family is so involved in the debate that they ignore the issues that exist in their own home. On the other side of the debate is the pro-choice group. Their group is made up of women and bikers with no religious foundation. The women are portrayed as lesbians who are independent and educated.

Overall to me, the movie indicates that the opinions and causes are more important than the actual person in the situation. Both sides treat Ruth as if she is important, but refuse to actually help her with her actual problems. They both take her in and want her situation to work for them despite her serious issues. In the end of the movie she is able to escape the clinic by walking past all of the protesters with no one even noticing her. This sums up her role within this debate. She is simply the generic woman to support one side or the other.


Citizen Ruth. Dir. Alexander Payne. Perf. Laura Dern, Swoosie Kurtz, Kurtwood Smith, Kay Place, Kenneth Mars, Tippi Hedren, Burt Reynolds, and Diane Ladd. Miramax Films Presents, 1996.

Fame, Glory and Suicide

by Paige Boos

World’s Greatest Dad was a film that dealt with the after effects of teen suicide... well, sort of. The suicide in question was in fact a perverse accident in which the son of Robin Williams’s character dies while trying to achieve asphyxiation during masturbation. When Williams discovers his son in this compromising position, he chooses to cover up the awkward situation by instead staging a phony suicide.

Not only does Williams’s physically change the scene but he also goes on to write a suicide note that would eventually surface and “inspire” countless students, teachers, and every day folks. What makes this comedy interesting is that Williams's son Kyle was well, a “complete douche”. In fact the scenes that Kyle does appear in are harsh, difficult to watch, and almost always completely and wildly inappropriate. Kyle starts fights sexually harasses classmates and even masturbates to the elderly lady across the street. He is misogynistic, egotistical, and overall unpleasant -- some even thought slow. However an interesting thing begins to happen when Kyle’s fake suicide note surfaces. Classmates who once hated him began to respect and relate to him. The men wanted to be him and the women wanted to be with him. Teachers who once believed him to be “special needs” were naming libraries after him.

Because of the serious nature of the issues I don’t want to make the statement that the directors chose to portray teen suicide in a way that “pokes fun” at the common responses people have to teen suicide because it isn’t fun and it isn’t a laughing matter. However that’s what makes this type of dark comedy successful. Suicide is a serious matter that can often illicit outrageous responses. When seen through the eyes of a serious drama the ridiculous nature can be easily missed -- as was parodied in the serious yet outrageous scenes in the movie. A boy that is so vile and clearly disturbed suddenly gains notoriety as everyone’s best friend? This example is exaggerated in a way that makes it obvious to us the insanity of the situation. Had Kyle been a stand up guy or even just a quiet loner the point would be missed. He had to be an ass to make the point valid. In a way his suicide is glorified. As the lecture states these films “show us other, more palatable ways of looking at the things that we may be otherwise inclined to ignore”. This dark comedy confronts the idea that we all look back and say we all should have known, what a great guy-taken too soon. That’s not to say that it’s not the truth, however it’s a bit like winning the lottery (in a very morbid and completely opposite way). You go from nothing to everyone’s best friend. In fact, your twice removed third cousin suddenly wants to be BFFs. It’s the glorification of tragedy or the need to feel involved, to say I knew that guy.

I think this message comes through most profoundly in the reading of Kyle’s suicide note. You
witness the words through the different characters who in turn see visions of Kyle reflected in their own personalities -- the goth girl sees gothic Kyle, the nerd of course sees nerd Kyle. Instead of seeing Kyle the way he was these characters give him a new personality, one that relates to their own.

Finally, I think it would be amiss to watch this film and not draw connections between the
themes and Williams own battle with depression and suicide. If psychoanalytic theory can be used to explain gross-out or man child comedies as relating to subconscious desire, what would psychoanalytic theory state about this film? An actor staring in a film portraying suicide who five short years later commits suicide himself? When researching the film before watching I stumbled on a piece of film trivia that stated Williams was only supposed to have a minor role until the script intrigued him to the point that he instead took the lead. Perhaps comedy (or film in general) not only portray the subconscious desires of the people who watch them but also the people who play or participate in them.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Welcome to America

by Isaac Bouyack

The film Borat acts as both a safety valve and also as a challenge to the rules of society; especially to the rules of American society.  For instance, the character Borat throughout the movie does things that are not normal conventions of America.  When he first arrives, he tries introducing himself to all of the people on the subway by saying his name and kissing them.  Obviously, this goes against societal norms as most people do not talk to each other while using public transportation and typically men do not kiss other men to greet one another in America.  The film is not trying to make Americans change their greeting from what it typical to kissing but it might be try to make people friendlier.  Most of the people he tries to kiss begin to yell and scream; some even threaten him.  The movie is full of little safety valves that just let off steam and most of the time they are not looking to make a change to society.  
On the other hand the film seems to be attacking how Americans think; in particular their perception of Middle Eastern countries.  When Borat sings that “Kazakhstan National Anthem” everyone obviously reacts badly.  However, they react that way because they think it really is the National Anthem.  Even though the song declares that Kazakhstan has the “number two cleanest prostitutes”.  Clearly the movie makes fun of how Americans do not think highly of the people from that region of the world.  No country would have the content that this so called National Anthem had.  As well when he goes on shows and meets people he acts ridiculously dimwitted.  All of the people act like it must just be normal for a person from one of those countries to act this way.  When he goes back to Kazakhstan and implements what he learned from America, he says that they are all Christians now; of course they are still killing Jewish people.  Really nothing changes from what he learned in America.  This might be a hint at how America thinks they are a far superior country but in reality they have a lot to work on.            

Ids and Fake IDs

by Alyssa Kapelka

The film that I watched for this week was Animal House. In relation to the question, I feel that the film is a combination of “steam valve” and a challenge on the norms of society. King describes the type of comedy in Animal House and other films like it as “Gross-out” comedy. He defines it as comedy based on “…crude and deliberate transgressions of the bounds of normal everyday taste” (King 63). This is very evident in Animal House. 

The film is about a rowdy fraternity on a college campus. They live in a broken down house, throw wild “toga parties” and are a disgrace to the campus. The film follows fraternity members and pledges to the Deltas as they go about their life on campus, playing pranks and in general being misfits in a place where there are high standards. But their way of life is being threatened by the Dean of the college, waning to shut down the Dealts as they bring a bad name to the college. This is a way that Animal House is a challenge to the norms of society. The 1962 era of Animal House’s setting was a time where fraternities were seen as very socially high standing groups. Back then, everybody who was anybody was involved in a fraternity or sorority or other type of group and were often seen as the cream of the crop at a college. Animal House and the Delta fraternity, I feel, really gave the party stereotype that frats continue to have to this day.

The film is also a “steam valve” of gross comedy, particularly on the part of John Belushi’s character Bluto. King describes those grosser acts of these types of comedies as acts that are often seen from a distance in the film: “The grosser acts are in some cases performed by secondary figures rather than the principles” (King 69). I watched this film before I took this class, and when I first saw it, I was surprised at how little Belushi’s part in the film really was. Posters with the character of Bluto in a sweater that says “college” are a classic to have in dorm rooms (I even have one). But the amount of lines that Bluto speaks in the film could only equal up to a page or two of dialog. The rest is just physical, often gross, acts; the grossest, in my opinion, in the lunchroom scene (“see if you can guess what I am now” **stuffs face with food and pops cheeks** “I’m a zit! Get it?”). 

In our class blog we look at the id, ego and super ego, the characteristics of human behavior thought of by Sigmund Freud. In Animal House, I feel that the Id is the character Bluto, performing the most grotesque acts of any of the other Deltas. The Superego would be Dean Wormer, trying to shut down the Delta fraternity. The Ego would be the character of Eric, often the one speaking up and trying to be the voice or reason. 

Animal House was different than other comedies at the time. The acts in the film were acts that many of us can relate to and have seen before, it was also a film that contained some gross elements that many may have felt were inappropriate in the 1970’s and the 1960’s when the films plot took place. Today the acts in Animal House are almost common place and not seen as gross anymore, but as King describes it, they are acts that twenty years on, or in this case almost 40 years, they are very innocent. 

There's Something About There's Something About Mary

by Jenna Schultz

The movie, There’s Something About Mary, stars Ben Stiller (Ted) and Cameron Diaz (Mary). Ted is somewhat of a nerd and definitely not Mary’s type in High School. Mary asks Ted to prom, but it does not end happening after a painful zipper accident. After several years, they cross paths again. Ted is still in love with Mary and the private investigator he hired to follow her, also falls in love with her. The private investigator, Pat, tells Ted that Mary has become overweight and had children, which was untrue. Ted goes to find her on his own to investigate. Pat and Ted spend the majority of the film trying to win Mary over, along with some other suitors who fall in love with Mary along the way.  Brett Favre is one of the suitors whom Ted tries to set Mary back up with because he feels unworthy for lying to her about hiring the private investigator. Eventually, Mary decides she would be the happiest with Ted and he wins the girl in the end.

There’s Something About Mary is a movie that is both a steam valve and a challenge to the rules of society. According to Geoff King, “Films such as Dumb and Dumber, There’s Something About Mary and Me, Myself and Irene revolve around familiar tales about losers or no-hopers who achieve success, of one kind or another, even if they do not always get the girl in the end (as in the former): very familiar Hollywood narrative stuff” (King, 69). King discusses the film as being appealing to mostly young men, even though it is a romantic comedy. Many men prefer the “gross-out” comedy films.  The material is usually offensive, but most find it hilarious. For example, when Ted experiences his zipper accident, it may be gross, but it is funny at the same time. Typically, people enjoy laughing at the pain of others, especially because it is not at their expense. Most people think, “How does that even happen?” because the comedic part is so overly dramatic and the idiocy is very apparent. The point is to make the targeted audience laugh and that is achieved through “gross-out” comedy in many ways. In fact, some individuals prefer that type of movie. 
King also discusses political correctness. He states, “A key measure of virtue in There’s Something About Mary, for example, is a positive attitude towards Mary’s brother Warren, a character with learning difficulties” (75). Many people find it offensive and crude when people with disabilities are made fun of or portrayed poorly in movies. There’s Something About Mary portrays Warren in a good light. Although there are some grotesque parts of the movie, it is still comedic and enjoyable to watch.

King, Geoff. Film Comedy. London: Wallflower, 2002. Print.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Outfoxing the Critics

by Terry Snyder
The movie I watched this week was After the Fox starring Peter Sellers. It was directed by Vittorio De Sica and released in 1966. It is the story of a thief who escapes from prison to take care of his mother and sister and winds up attempting to steal a boatload of gold bars under the cover of making a movie. 
This film has a great many elements of parody and satire. It is clearly a parody of many spy capers, where the villain turns out to actually be the hero; he may be stealing but it is for the right reasons and in the end, he confesses and sometimes gets off or returns to prison with the attitude that he has done the right thing. In this film, Aldo Vanucci (Sellers) hears that his sister is on the streets and, assuming the worst, breaks out of prison to save her, only to find out his mother is running a bingo game and his sister is actually trying to be in the movies. Despite his desire to “go straight”, Vanucci is lured back to crime because he thinks the money to be made will help his family. 
The satire of this film is the skewering of the behavior of egomaniacal directors, over the top film stars and celebrity crazed fans. De Sica himself has a bit part of a director who thinks the film is all about him and he and his film are literally blown away when the  giant fans he is using  for a sand storm blast everything away, including Moses, played by director John Huston. When Vanucci comes up with a plan to film a fake movie to cover up the gold heist, he uses a small town’s population to help him by using all the citizens to be in his movie. They are obsessed with the idea of a famous director and movie stars in their little town and even the police chief overlooks a needed permit when Vanucci gives him a part saying “Good Morning”. 
But the funniest part of this movie, to me, was Victor Mature. He played a parody of himself to perfection. As an aging actor named Tony Powell, who still sees himself as young, he and his agent (played by Martin Balsam) are bamboozled into appearing in this movie by Vanucci, now presenting himself as a neo-realist director (another parody of De Sica) Federico Fabrizi. Fabrizi promises Powell he will be the love interest of his young sister, boosting Powell’s vanity and his youthful image of himself. He also will get to wear a trench coat, something that Mature was known for. 
At the end of the film, Vanucci is exposed for what he is and is on trial for attempting to steal the gold. The film he made is shown in court. It is very choppy, cuts in and out of scenes and makes no sense at all. In a scathing mockery of film critics, one who is in the courtroom jumps up and proclaims this film as the greatest of all time and is dragged screaming its praises from the courtroom. 
This movie received a terrible review in the New York Times when it came out. At one point it said, “And where was Mr. de Sica while all this was going on? Evidently he had suspended his usual taste and was going along with it. His way with Italian actors in creating a rich comic style is nowhere evident in the work of Mr. Sellers and it only flickers in some of the small Italian roles.” I haven’t found anywhere what De Sica was thinking about when he made this movie, but in my opinion, he was lambasting Hollywood, actors, directors, and the cult of celebrity in the world. De Sica’s earlier neo-realist works were dark, intense and serious. Even the light, romantic comedies he made in Italy were highly praised and won foreign film awards. But I think After the Fox was De Sica’s way of parodying the way movies have changed and what currently was considered popular. 
I would highly recommend watching this movie, it is one of the funniest ones I have seen in this class so far. 

For the Love of Filmmaking

by Kristen St. John 
I chose to watch, "Be Kind Rewind" starring Jack Black, Danny Glover, and Mos Def, for my writing assignment. We have been asked to write about satire and parody in the movie we have chosen, which was basically the the entire plot of, "Be Kind Rewind".The comedic story line was very far fetched, but was also very entertaining and came with a good lesson in the end.
In the beginning of the film, video store owner (Danny Glover), is in danger of losing his shop to a real estate demolition. He decides to leave his store in the care of his employee Mike (Mos Def) while he goes on a trip to find a way to save his store. The only rule that Mike had to obey was "Keep Jerry Out", but obviously that wouldn't be the case or the story wouldn't be as it is.
Jerry (Jack Black) is Mike's, slightly off his rockers, best friend that lives in the junkyard next door. Jerry's character is very paranoid and believes his mind is being fried by the nearby electrical substation. I felt that this was in reference to our society's belief that cell phones and microwaves are causing this to happen in the real world. Mike attempts to help Jerry dismantle the substation, but decides it's too crazy for him to be a part of and leaves Jerry to fend for himself. Of course, comedy is about to come in to play again, because Jerry's klutzy character is inevitably electrocuted and tossed to the ground.
The next morning Jerry enters the store like any normal day to annoy Mike. What they don't know yet is that Jerry has been magnetized from the electrocution and it causes him to erase every VHS tape in the store. Mike can't let Mr. Fletcher down so he has to be able to still provide video rentals to the neighborhood. Now enters the parodies, they come up with the idea to rerecord the movies themselves with a camcorder. They even had a name for their new movie method, sweding. They told their customers that they were from Sweden, using it as an excuse to charge more and give reason for long wait times. I believe the movie was portraying that people will follow anything if the hype is large enough. No matter what it costs!
The first movie that they redid was, "GhostBusters". Jerry didn't know how to sing the theme song correctly, which was funny because who doesn't know the "GhostBusters" song? It was extremely cheesy, but it left the people wanting more. Soon the entire neighborhood was demanding films and they had to recruit others to help star in the films. A few of the other movies they recorded were, "Rush Hour 2", "The Lion King", "RoboCop", "Men In Black", and "Driving Miss Daisy". "Driving Miss Daisy" is looked at by some as a racist, one-sided movie and they portrayed this fact with comedy in their version.
They cleverly brought Sigourney Weaver in for a cameo, once again referencing "GhostBusters". She played an FBI agent shutting down their piracy business, she claimed what they were doing was illegal, and had all the tapes destroyed. This left them thinking there was no more hope in saving the Be Kind Rewind store.
Last minute they decide to make a documentary portraying their own neighborhood legend, Fats Waller. They realized they could say anything they wanted about him, even Jerry trying to wear black face, which is extremely controversial. Mike believed they could raise money to save the store, but unfortunately Mr. Fletcher knows in the end it will never be enough to stop the demolition. Us as the movie audience though, we know that a comedy will close with a happy ending.
In the finale, the movie ends up being projected outside for everyone to see. The neighborhood and many more are outside the store to witness the history of Fats Waller. Thus, in the end making it wrong to tear down a historical sight, the birth home of Fats Waller. Today this movie could be an example of how communities should come together as one to make great things happen. Our world wants to say change is happening. but I have yet to see any community around me come together, unless it is from a horrible tragedy. It makes me sad and, as this movie portrayed, we could all make it a whole lot simpler by just acting as one whole unit!

Don't Hate "The Player," Hate the Game

by James Knapke

While watching this film I was impressed with how many inside jokes, and Hollywood celebrity cameos were involved. One scene you will see Burt Reynolds and the next Whoopi Goldberg is a crime-fighting detective. The cast for this movie was crazy to read about with over 60 celebrities and actors making appearances. While watching this film it was not difficult to pick out why this film was a satire or a parody as it is a clear F*%# you to Hollywood and the way the make movies. Now as I watched I could tell that this film was out to portray just how these Hollywood people live and the types of lives they live. From the main character listening to potential screen plays every day to pool parties scattered with big names. One quote that I found was that it was like they were holding a mirror up to Hollywood and showing them just how crazy and out of control things were getting. It is a cutthroat place where dreams go to die and Griffin Mill was in charge of deciding of who lived and died. 

The film opens by going after the people who run Hollywood and the quote “it takes more than a dirty mouth to make it in this business” is a shot at those executives who are at the top. Throughout the film people are pitching sequels or spin offs of already existing Hollywood films. This is playing on the idea that all Hollywood uses are recycled, already popular movie plots and that the writers and producers lack the creative ability to create a film of their own. This film does a good job of showing how shallow and disheartening the film industry is, and the people that are involved. Overall I thought that this movie was very funny and after learning more about the history of it, and where the producer was coming from I respected it even more. I personally am a big fan of parodies and things that poke fun at others right in front of their faces. I thought that the film started off great and very funny, but I thought that it lost its true identity as the murder idea and then the parody aspect conflicted with each other. I enjoyed watching and learning more about this film and the many people it pokes fun at.

Monday, February 22, 2016

"Gitting" the Joke

by Cory Jackson II

1988’s I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, was written and directed by long time comedian Keenan Ivory Wayans. If you are a fan of all the Blaxploitation films from the 1970s, such as Shaft, Foxy Brown and Trunk Turner, I’m Gonna Git You Sucka serves as a parody to these iconic films. In most of the films I listed there are certain genre conventions that you are going to see. You may see a “ghetto” crime filled area, a protagonist who may be a black superhero here to kick some gangster butt, as well as some gangsters, pimps and foxy ladies. In this classic and very hilarious film, you see some genre conventions that makes this film what it is, a spoof to all those 1970s player films.
In most Blaxploitation films, there was always a funeral, and depending on the movie and who it was that actually died the funeral was almost an elaborate celebration, more than a funeral. For example let’s look at the funeral of Gator from 1974’s Truck Turner. In the scene you see some of the finest ladies and high rolling pimps come to send him off. It’s normal to see a funeral in these type of movies because of the nature in which they were portraying. In IGGYS, we see a funeral just a few minutes into the film. A young man is pronounced dead in the ghetto due to an overdose of gold chains, so we think. The pastor leading service is no other than the great, and one of my favorite comedians, John Witherspoon. The scene is hilarious because Witherspoon is saying absolutely nothing but instead is repeating himself in different ways. He says, “Death is serious, you have to prepare to die.” As he continues service he says a prayer for Junebug the young man murdered with all his gold on, but shockingly and very funny, the people attending isn’t there for Junebug, they’re there for Dr. Wilson, but Whiterspoon informs them that Dr. Wilson funeral was at 9 that morning. So what does everybody do? They get up and leave in the middle of the service, leaving Witherspoon and June bug’s mother and wife there, who just wants an Amen to rest Junebug peacefully. 
Now what’s a Blaxploitation film without some crooks undermining the abilities of a beautiful black woman? The rise of black women in strong yet nurturing, sexy yet sophisticated roles were a part of every film in the 70s under this genre. In 1976’s Velvet Smooth the case was no different. In this scene Velvet Smooth looks like she is about to end it all until she starts to kick some booty, soul sister style. Now in IGGYS, this was no different, except the scenario was a little different. June bug’s mother and widowed wife are talking about the funeral when they get a knock at the door. Damon Wayans (another talented and classic comedian) and Kadeem Hardison pays both ladies a visit to get some money Junebug had owed them. Wayans character Leonard is clearly the boss of the two but has to constantly remind his echo, I mean partner Willie of this. After the two ladies plea they have no money they start to vandalize Mrs. Spade’s house. That is until she opens a can of butt whooping on the both of them. After some comedic relief she asks them both to leave, either out the window or the door. They chose the door but from them rolling down the flight of stairs one can assume she didn’t let them walk away without knowing who was boss. Her poise, yet over protectiveness stayed true throughout the whole film and the genre convention that every black film in the 70s needed a poise lady who could take on some big boys every now and then.  
Without the villain, crooks, robbers, bad guys, however you want to categorize them, there wouldn’t be a reason for pretty much any storyline especially in this subgenre. After Jack returns home and gets word of what really happened to his brother from Chery, he goes out to uncover the truth and bring justice to his brother’s sudden death. But before he can get some answers he runs into some crooks, not your average crooks, but some crooks in training. The scene is hilarious because we see these young guys being chased by dogs while carrying big TV’s and also stripping a car within a time limit.  This was funny because I couldn’t believe how ignorant this scene is. Mr. Bigs a white guy who employs young black guys to carry out his work. In this week’s blog post we learned about satire and how it can be used in films to show major issues going on in society. At one point I didn’t feel like this was a parody. It’s funny but almost shameful to watch this movie because those watching this with no interaction with black males would think that we are like this. That’s not the case. So what was Keenan trying to expose here? Is it a broken system where black males are taught to be thugs and criminals and then are treated the way they are because they were trained to be the way they are? Or is it just some comedic relief? 

Where the Action Is

by Brittany Schmidlin

The movie that I chose to watch this week was Hot Fuzz, a very action-packed comedy. The film was a lot more cynical and violent than I had expected it to be, but was still very humorous as well. The film provides numerous cliché police/detective movie, but presented them in a knowingly comical way. There are many examples throughout the duration of the film that calls attention to specific genre conventions for comedic effect. One of the most obvious genre conventions to me was the film “unexpected” uncovering of dark mysteries in a small, seemingly harmless town. When Officer Nicholas Angel was transferred to the small town of Sandford, he believes it to be relatively calm and quiet. This makes the officer feel as though his efficient police work to be useless there. Numerous deaths start to occur and Nicholas eventually discovers the whole village is involved in a murderous conspiracy. The comedic effect of the conspiracy was the ridiculous motives behind it. People were killed for irrational things like being unattractive or having an annoying laugh.

A scene that I found to be humorous scene of relevance was the scene where Officer Angel and Officer Danny attempt to capture a swan that is loose.  They don’t successfully capture the swan the first time, but the similar conversation of the swan leads Angel to discover there is more than one murderer. When the duo fails to capture the swan a woman asks, “No luck finding them swans, then?” Danny replies, “It’s just the one swan, actually,” Later on in the plot, Nick and Danny’s murder investigation isn’t go that well. A clerk asks “No luck finding them killers, then?” Then Danny again replies, “It’s just the one killer, actually.”

The cast in itself has several well-known British comedians that brought a lot to each of their characters. Just knowing who the actors were made the movie way more humorous to me. I believe Nicholas Angel’s partner, Danny Butterman, made the movie a little lighter due to his lovable character. His character mentions the cop movies Bad Boys II and Point Break several times throughout the film, asking Nick if he has done any of the things that are included in the action films. Further linking themselves into the genre conventions, he ends up doing most all of the cliché actions by the end of the movie such as; firing guns while jumping in the air and being involved in a car chase. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Taking a Chance

by Terry Snyder

The movie I chose for this week is Being There. It was directed by Hal Ashby and starred Peter Sellers. It was released in December, 1979. It tells the story of a simple gardener who has lived a cloistered life in a Washington D.C. home his entire existence. When “the old man” dies, he is told he has to leave by a couple of attorneys who show up at the house. He packs a suitcase and starts walking. His life is changed when he is hit by a wealthy person’s car and he ends up at their home, where he inadvertently becomes a famous political advisor.

The parallels between this movie and what was going on politically in 1979 somewhat relate to the president, Jimmy Carter, who, like the character of Chance, is soft-spoken and a gentleman. But Chance really is a simple man who cannot read or write, and was mainly raised on television. He was a gardener at the house where he was raised and most of his opinions are based on gardening. But they are perceived by the people that are listening to him as much more profound as they really are. It becomes a case of some well-meaning people interpreting what he says in a good way to others exploiting him for their own gain. 

The president has his staff try to investigate his background and they are unable to find anything and eventually it gets blamed on some agency destroying his file for reasons unknown. In this day and age of instant access to anyone’s entire life, it seems dated, yet, as sometimes happens today, his words are used by some as wisdom and others as a reason for paranoia. Especially the media, who immediately request interviews and put him on talk shows and bob their heads like puppets, agreeing with everything Chance says. Despite the fact that most of his references are monosyllabic and only refer to gardening, he is described as having the ear of the president and a potential financial advisor to a large company. Even the Shirley McClain character finds herself falling all over him, when he obviously doesn’t have the slightest idea what she has in mind. 

I don’t think this movie is especially particular to the time it was made; it could very well happen now, because of the media and everyone being so anxious to latch onto “the next big thing”. Chance’s abilities get more exaggerated as more people talk about him and I can easily see various security agencies blaming others for hiding his background and then dreaming up ludicrous reasons for doing so. 

I had never seen this movie, and as I watched it, I was waiting for Chance to do something that would give away who he really was, an uneducated gardener who based his life on what he saw on television. But it didn’t happen. I think the filmmakers saw this as an extreme satire on politicians and the media at the time, of course not knowing that it would become common place. In the years since 1979, there have been many people who have exploded into the limelight for a few months or a year and then just as quickly disappear. Usually they are phonies or con men who manage to deceive to public and the media, but this movie shows an innocent, unassuming man who probably doesn’t even realize that he is famous or that he is being talked about as a visionary. 

In Film Comedy, author Geoff King says, “Chance the gardener becomes Chauncey Gardiner, a presidential advisor, chat-show guest and prospective future incumbent of the highest office, in a withering satire on politics, the media and the trope of childlike innocence/insight so widely employed in Hollywood comedy.” At the time the movie was made, that was certainly true, but now that there are many persons famous for absolutely nothing, it doesn’t seem as withering. But Peter Sellers played the part to absolute perfection. The way he spoke, smiled and was totally honest in his statements regardless of how others took them, made the film very believable. 

I am sure the ending has been interpreted many ways, but I think it means that, despite no one watching him at the time, they all thought he could walk on water, so he did. 

Spin to Win

by Paige Boos

In my opinion, more than anything, Wag the Dog was a satire on not only the electoral process and the sensationalized way in which our candidates gain or lose votes, but also a play on the political atmosphere at the time the film was made -- 1997. As stated by King in the book Film Comedy, Wag the Dog was produced during “ a period in which American faith in politics and politicians reached a lower than average ebb as a result of criticism of the role played by party funding and/or the revelation of sexual indiscretions during the Clinton era” (pg. 95). 

As the book explains, satire in film is often a way of exposing difficult or controversial topics that otherwise would not reach large audiences. It is no coincidence that the Clinton sex scandal took place around the same time as Wag the Dog. Unfortunately, however, Clinton was not the only politician to be accused of sexual misconduct. From the Illinois congressman Mel Reynolds and the accusations of rape that surfaced during his campaigning (from a young teen girl I might add) to the John Edwards scandal (more current) it appears that American politics are rife with sexual misconduct. In the film the President is accused of inappropriate behavior of the sexual nature with a young teen. Not only is the fictional president caught with his pants down, but he also enlists advisors and specialists to help him cover up the incident. In what I consider to be a critique on American political cover-ups, the specialists create a fake war with Albania to distract the American people during the election. 

Elections themselves are rife with corruption and cheap tactics. Elections are not only about the candidates and the issues but also about bad mouthing, disproving, or redirecting. We’ve all seen the commercials and gotten the phone calls. Campaigning is a play for popularity or to win the public. In the case of Wag the Dog this was accomplished by redirecting scandal from the candidate by means of “a fake war." Not only did they distract the people but did so by playing on emotions -- a popular ploy.  

From the beginning of the fake Albanian War the producers introduced a vulnerable girl who must hold a kitten, not a schnauzer, a kitten.  From there they found the hero Shumann who eventually died “a hero’s death”-- only after making a gut wrenching plea from captivity to his mother. Though these circumstances are untrue and likely highly dramatized in comparison to behind the scenes of a real election (let us hope) candidates do frequently play on the emotions of their voters. In fact picture this: an elderly widowed woman lives alone on Medicare and bill/act (insert arbitrary number here) proposed by (insert arbitrary candidate here) will rob her of her much needed medications and force her into a state run nursing home where she is forced to live on Jello and sleeping pills. Ok this might be exaggerated a bit but the point is these ads are commonplace and appear nauseatingly frequently.  

Finally, I think that the most important thing to notice in the film is the way everyone is always saying “wont the American people find out?” and the answer is always no and in the end, they don’t.  I think this is extremely important because it points out the ignorance that the American people either create for themselves or are forced to live in.  Such as Charlie Chaplin’s film The Great Dictator was a call to the Americans to answer the German threat, I think that political satires such as Wag the Dog are a call to the American people not to stand for ignorance. To ask questions, ignore the sentiment (and that kitten!) and don’t accept everything you are told.  

The Electoral High School

by Katrina Bertz

The best way to understand the film Election is to look at the novel of the same name that it was based on. The novel was written in 1992, during the election between Republican candidate George Bush Sr., Democratic candidate Bill Clinton and Independent Ross Perot. It was the first time in many years that an independent candidate had gained so much of a following that they stood a chance in the presidency. Perot’s platform was very different from both the Democrats and Republicans. His outsider status resonated with many disillusioned Americans. He and Bush, however eventually lost out to Clinton. So, although the film was released in 1999, its theme was related to the 1992 election. Through this perspective, we can now see the parallels employed in the film.

Because this film was not meant to be a very big, box-office film, the filmmakers had an opportunity to make the movie more of a dark comedy. King says that “satire of a sharply political nature is more likely to be offered as a niche-audience product than as the stuff of enormous box-office expectations,” (King p.94). While Election certainly is meant to satirize the political machine in America, it also spends a lot of time satirizing the dynamics of American suburbia and its high schools therein. 
The characters of Tracey, Paul and Tammy each represent an archetypical high school student; the over-achiever, the dumb jock and the outcast, respectively. The film examines common stereotypes and how they are often incorrect. At first glance, Tracey is seen as an insufferable, yet intelligent go-getter. It isn’t until the story digs deeper that it is revealed how manipulative she truly is. After confessing to her mother that she had an affair with one of her teachers, his life is essentially ruined. She loses herself momentarily and destroys all of Paul’s posters, only to allow Tammy to take the fall. This is all indicative of someone who is willing to do anything to get what they want, not that uncommon in most politicians. It also shows the dirty side of living in a small town with small town ideologies. King claims, “Varying stances are also found in Hollywood satires that focus on broader areas of American life, especially that of the well-heeled middle class suburban milieu,” (King p.106). And this can be seen throughout the film.
The most obvious would be the character of Jim McAllister (played by Matthew Broderick) and what makes the film so bitingly funny is what happens to him. This character has been established as the good guy. He has a loving wife, a good job and is genuinely well-liked by his students. Over the course of the student council election, however his entire life is ruined by a series of unfortunate, but hilarious events. He doesn’t want Tracey to win the election, so he gets Paul to run. He accuses Tracey of destroying the posters and she throws his skeletons (infertility) in his face before threatening him. Then Mr McAllister is seduced by his best friend’s wife, only to discover that she felt remorse and told his wife. He also gets stung by a bee on the eyelid and is eventually fired for getting caught throwing away two of Tracey’s votes. The best part about all of this is that everything that happens to him happens because of what he did. So, even though he is being punished for things he did to himself, we still feel bad for the pathetic, little man. 
He represents the average American. We all are aware of the corruption and ridiculousness of elections, however it is nearly impossible to do anything about it. And if we try to change it in our favor, the politicians manage to turn it around and make our situations worse than before. What makes this film satirical and comical is that it is an exercise in futility. We all knew that Tracey was going to win, but McAllister trying to stop her and failing horribly just made it hilarious. It reminds the audience of how most of feel during an election year, which is exactly what it was meant to do. 

King, Geoff. Film Comedy. Columbia University Press. New York. 2002. Print.