Cinematic Conventions

By Adam Lippe

wet_hot_american_summer_001

I have always appreciated the way that Wet Hot American Summer makes fun of not just summer camp movies, which is an easy target, but many comedy conventions that have long been overused. Especially funny is the mocking of the sports movie, where they actually discuss all the clichés, from the ragtag losers who become champions at the last moment, to the faceless evil villains. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, I won’t ruin the punchline. But the best scene n the film is where all the counselors go into town for an hour and we see them acting wacky, smoking cigarettes, then weed, then buying a huge bag of coke, getting strung out on heroin, etc., all set to happy music. I find that the musical montage is such a trite way of showing the passing of time, that I tend to reject them when they are not in comedies. So I will list the best, worst, and the most humorous mocking of said convention in a comedy.

Best: Pretty much all of Kingpin. The Farrellly brothers films apparently all clock in at 3-3 1/2 hours in rough cuts, and so the best way for them to cut them down (though they still tend to run about 25-30 minutes too long anyway) is by cutting the gags down to the punchlines and showing them in a musical montage. The only one of their films I really enjoy is Kingpin, since the humor is consistent, and the pacing problems that they have in their other films is smoothed over by the constant silliness. The final bowling sequence set to ELO’s Showdown is pretty much the apex of their skill (of course helped immensely by Murray’s combover).

MSDLOWH EC020Worst: Pretty much all of Look Who’s Talking Too. This entire 81 minute movie is padded with musical montages, I counted 8, simply to cash in on the success of the first film. There aren’t really any jokes in these scenes, they just show the characters doing things, like walking in the park or buying groceries. But apparently Amy Heckerling thought if she covered the scenes in popular 50’s music, no one would notice.

Parody: Wet Hot American Summer, or perhaps the romance sequence in The Naked Gun, where we see them coming out of Platoon laughing hysterically.

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Roadracers

By Adam Lippe

Whenever there’s a genre parody or ode to a specific era of films, such as Black Dynamite’s mocking of Blaxploitation films or Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof, the second half of Grindhouse, the danger is that the film might fall into the trap of either being condescending without any particular insight, or so faithful that it becomes the very flawed thing it is emulating.

Black Dynamite has nothing new to say about Blaxploitation films, it just does a decent job of copying what an inept [...]


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Featured Quote (written by me)

On Cold Fish:

Though the 16 year old me described the 1994 weepie Angie, starring Geena Davis as a Brooklyn mother raising her new baby alone, as “maudlin and melodramatic,” Roger Ebert, during his TV review, referring to the multitude of soap-operaish problems piling up on the titular character, suggested that it was only in Hollywood where Angie would get a happy ending. “If they made this movie in France, Angie would have shot herself.”

Well Cold Fish was made in Japan, where Angie would have shot herself and that would have been the happy ending.