Wednesday, April 05, 2006

West Hollywood


The 1970's where by far the strongest decade for the work of Mel Brooks, and while I had seen most of his films of that era until tonight my major oversight was Blazing Saddles. A 'spot-on' spoofing of films about the American west from John Ford to Sergio Leoni there are a few good belly laughs in this picture. The most delightfully subversive aspect of the film though is its look at the stereotyping and casual racism that mark both the real old west and much of the historic western genre. The plot deals with a black man (Cleavon Little) appointed by a an inept politician (Mel Brooks) at the behest of a corrupt swindler (Harvy Korman) as the sheriff of a small western town. The villain hopes that the presence of a black sheriff will alienate the towns folk and make it easyer for him to run the locals off of their own property so he can make money in a railroad scam. Of course the plot itself isn't that important, as with all Brooks films its the comic performances and the gags that count. Madline Kahn is great as a Marlene Dietrich-style saloon girl, right down to the low German accent and promanite use of her legs. Young Frankenstein is still probably the best Brooks film, though this movies 'western brawl in the Warner Brother studio' sequence is arguably the funniest thing he's ever done. Finally notice must go to Slim Pickins for so masterfully making fun of his own persona.

Also seen by me recently:
  • The Fifties- Taken from journalist David Halberstam's book of the same title, this 1997 History Channel documentary series explores the zeitgeist of one of the most mis-understood decades of the 20th Century. Over seven episodes topics examined include teen culture, sexuality, advertising, the beatnik's, race relations and McCarthyism. Generally informative and entertaining, though some episodes do tend to drag, this is a good introduction to the era and would be perfect for high school use. The one area in which I must find fault with Mr. Halberstam and the producers is their over focus on the 50's as 'pathing way' for the 60's. While a lot of what exploded during the 60's was building up steam in the 50's, you almost get the sense that the makers of this series felt they had to justify taking a look at the decade based on later events. The fifties stands on its own as a fascinating era to explore, no excuses are needed. Narrated by Edward Herrman.
  • Erin Brockovich- Julia Roberts and Albert Finny make an entertaining team in this inspiring Academy Award winner based on a true story. I watched this in my 'environmental communication' class and quite enjoyed, though I am aware that some things about this movie and about Ms. Brockovich herself have been questioned by John Stossel and others.


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