The Bicentennial Production Design - Can we just give a standing ovation to the 1976 Academy for giving the award to a contemporary movie? They had a Western, a period drama about the theatre...
Thursday, June 2, 2011
It was a subtle event. So subtle, in fact, that movies still aren't aware of it. One might even imagine that if they were aware of it, they wouldn't really understand it. A simple change in expression was all it took. The substitution of inaction for reaction; and with it went one of the cornerstones of comedy: slapstick.
Since the dawn of stage and street performers, slapstick has been an essential component of the comedy circuit. From little pops upside the head to the outlandish buffoonery that would give birth to the likes of Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and the Three Stooges. It was a sight gag. Built on the guilty pleasure derived from watching someone else harm themselves through their inability to be aware of their surroundings. And people lapped it up.
So why then did slapstick slowly fade out of the limelight? Is it because we have become more civilized and now only entertain high minded satirical humor? Hardly, one look at the latest batch of comedy releases can tell you that. Is it because we found an alternate form of comedy of equal value? Perhaps, there is no denying that the modern 'dude' and drug laden comedic styles derive most of their setup from old school slapstick.
There just isn't anything funny about watching someone scream in pain. Like a vacuum it sucks all the humor out of the scenario. It's a cap placed right above the base level of laughter than can be derived. Gone were the flamboyant, harmless, whimsical expressions of the classic greats, in are the grunts, groans, and cries of torment of the new-age humorists.
Sure, I'll grant you a couple rare performers have been able to find the right balance between reactions and laughter (Chris Farley in Tommy Boy comes to mind). But their acts have been replicated to death. Honestly, how many times can someone watch an overweight male fall down the side of a hill full of bushes and trees before they tire of it? Or see a man get hit in the groin by a kid, as people look on and laugh? For me, I was tired before even the first effort, let alone the twentieth.
It's not my intention to demean the comedies of these days too much. They simply weigh in a different audience. Ones less keen on dealing with frolicsome affairs, and more interested in out and out shock value. As if the world of comedies is in a dogmatic duel to discover the uncrossable line so that Hollywood will once and for all know where they cannot journey. I for one, find this a cumbersome exercise in futility. Give me the lackadaisical hero unaware of the world around them over the inebriated crier lamenting their own stupidity any day of the week (twice on Sunday).