[Film: The Night They Raided Minsky’s, William Friedkin, 1968]
Raiders of the Lost Art:

How The Night They Raided Minsky’s Uses a Disjointed Tone as an Asset Rather Than a Detriment

 

Introduction:

The Night They Raided Minsky's poster - William Friedkin, Ralph Rosenblum - burlesque, editing, toneSurely, most folks who are aware of William Friedkin know him only as the director of The Exorcist and The French Connection. Some may also know him for the controversies surrounding his movie Cruising, but virtually no one still knows him as the director of the subject of this article. The Night They Raided Minsky’s is a comedic (fictionalized) account of the unintentional invention of striptease dancing by a young Amish dancer at a burlesque theater in New York City in 1925—a film apparently saved from mediocrity in the editing room by Ralph Rosenblum.

People vaguely aware of the terms ‘vaudeville’ and ‘burlesque’ might be tempted to think of the former as old-fashioned comedy and the latter as old-fashioned pornography, but neither category is that narrow and there’s lot more overlap than one might think. Both are forms of live variety entertainment (meaning they freely incorporate musical numbers, comedy acts, and dancing in a non-narrative format), but you would only hear strings of lewd jokes and see women removing articles of clothing in burlesque. To put things in the terms of the modern American cinematic-moral paradigm, when it came to theatrical variety shows on late-19th-century and early-20th-century American stages (adapted from French theatrical concepts), vaudeville was like PG or PG-13 entertainment, whereas burlesque was R.

The Night They Raided Minsky’s is a touching tribute to the often-misunderstood practice of American burlesque, including all of its textures: its whimsical joys, its seedy inauthenticities, and its relationships to the morals and economics of its time. And that unique blend of dirt and glamor, lust and love, greed and sincerity—admirably spreads out of the substance of the film and into its style.

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[Film: The Night They Raided Minsky’s, William Friedkin, 1968]
Raiders of the Lost Art:

How The Night They Raided Minsky’s Uses a Disjointed Tone as an Asset Rather Than a Detriment

was last modified: March 26th, 2020 by Daniel Podgorski

{Guest Post} [Film: Who Killed Captain Alex?, Nabwana I.G.G., 2010]

Film-as-Theatre and the Cult Film Phenomenon:

A Study of Amateur-Film-Turned-Viral-Video Who Killed Captain Alex?

 

Who Killed Captain Alex? movie poster - Nabwana IGG - Uganda, theatre, action movie, cult film

Introduction:

I recently watched the film Who Killed Captain Alex?, a viral success on YouTube which claims to be “Uganda’s first action-packed movie.” It is a hilarious watch for most audiences due to its extremely low budget and the resulting creative special effects, not to mention the “video joker” VJ Emmie (the voice of a Ugandan, English-language commentary track which comments over the only existing version of the movie for the entire hour).

I have seen plenty of hilariously low-budget films, but what struck me about this one is one of the pre-show slides, which says, “He [producer/writer/director/cinematographer/editor Nabwana I.G.G.] never imagined anyone outside his own village would see this film.”

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{Guest Post} [Film: Who Killed Captain Alex?, Nabwana I.G.G., 2010]

Film-as-Theatre and the Cult Film Phenomenon:

A Study of Amateur-Film-Turned-Viral-Video Who Killed Captain Alex?

was last modified: March 26th, 2020 by Nabra Nelson

[Film: Hail, Caesar!, Joel and Ethan Coen, 2016]
Unmarketing:

Hail, Caesar! and Why You Should Trust Neither Trailers nor Reviews of the Coen Brothers’ Movies

 

Hail, Caesar! movie poster - Coen Brothers - marketing, trailers, themes

Introduction:

There is perhaps no other team in Hollywood so consistently reamed in reviews for misconceptions about their films resulting from their own advertising as are Ethan and Joel Coen. It happened with Intolerable Cruelty; it happened with Burn After Reading; it happened with Inside Llewyn Davis; and now it is happening with Hail, Caesar! as well. Whoever is in charge of marketing these movies is doing a comically bad job.

For the most part, the error is clear: The Coens’ nuanced dark comedies and comedic dramas keep being marketed as flat, uncontroversial, plain old comedies. In my personal opinion, the movie of theirs that was most affected by this disconnect between the total levity of the marketing and the deadpan satire of the film is Burn After Reading. But that’s water under the bridge by now, so instead I would like to spend this article saying exactly what Hail, Caesar! is, and exactly what Hail, Caesar! is not.

The nature of this article is such that it requires spoiling basic plot details of Hail Caesar!, so you should only continue reading after this paragraph if you either do not mind spoilers or have already seen the film.

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[Film: Hail, Caesar!, Joel and Ethan Coen, 2016]
Unmarketing:

Hail, Caesar! and Why You Should Trust Neither Trailers nor Reviews of the Coen Brothers’ Movies

was last modified: March 26th, 2020 by Daniel Podgorski

[Film: Duck Soup, Leo McCarey, 1933]
Jokes that Hit their Marx:

On Duck Soup, One of the Greatest Comedies of One of the All-time Greatest Comedy Troupes

 

Groucho Marx Sketch by Dusty - Duck Soup - Marx Brothers - Harpo Marx, Chico Marx, Zeppo Marx

Sketch by Dusty

Introduction:

Comedians and entertainers in motion pictures took at least 50 years after movies entered the mainstream before shaking loose of their direct vaudeville influences. One of the consequences of this fact is that we have a lasting record of the talents of some—though, as far as I can tell, not even close to all—of the greatest vaudeville acts.

One such great was an act consisting of a family of comedians and musicians operating a variety-show-style performance under the heading of ‘the Marx Brothers.’ Their antics found a natural match in the narrative format of the movie industry, and they became hugely successful, producing 13 feature films in a career spanning decades.

Perhaps their greatest success (though not financially, in its time) is a film called Duck Soup, which today stands on the American Film Institute’s list of the greatest 100 American films of the past century (in addition to being in the top 10 of their list of the 100 greatest comedy films of the past century). Duck Soup is a comedy classic from some of the all-time masters of early (anarchic) movie comedy, and no one with an interest in classic cinema, movie comedy, or theatrical comedy should miss out on watching it.

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[Film: Duck Soup, Leo McCarey, 1933]
Jokes that Hit their Marx:

On Duck Soup, One of the Greatest Comedies of One of the All-time Greatest Comedy Troupes

was last modified: March 26th, 2020 by Daniel Podgorski

[Film: Planes, Trains and Automobiles, John Hughes, 1987]
A Thanksgiving Given:

Planes, Trains and Automobiles as the Only Thanksgiving Classic

 

Introduction:

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles movie poster - John Hughes - Thanskgiving, sincerity, restraintI very nearly turned this Thursday Theater article into a list of 10 Thanksgiving movies for you to check out, but after some deliberation I realized that I could only cobble together 3 movies that were both actually relevant to the holiday and passable enough to recommend (if you’re curious, the other 2 movies are the movie version of Alice’s Restaurant and By the Light of the Silvery Moon).

In truth, I probably should have seen this coming, since there are fewer than 10 Christmas movies which meet both criteria for me. So, instead, I’m cutting out the passable or kitsch options and focusing on recommending the one movie which I feel deserves to be associated with the holiday in perpetuity: John Hughes’ Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

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[Film: Planes, Trains and Automobiles, John Hughes, 1987]
A Thanksgiving Given:

Planes, Trains and Automobiles as the Only Thanksgiving Classic

was last modified: March 26th, 2020 by Daniel Podgorski