Posted in Movies, Music, Televison, Uncategorized

Happy 40th Anniversary Blazing Saddles

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To celebrate getting over 40,000 views on my blog I decided to say Happy 40th Anniversary to Blazing Saddles. Is it even possible that Mel Brooks’ nod to classic Westerns was released in 1974?

I saw this Mel Brooks masterpiece when I was around young – it was different times, people didn’t assume seeing comedy, even crude comedy was going to affect anyone. I didn’t understand half the jokes, so when I re-watched it later I was more impressed and hurt myself laughing.

Blazing Saddles takes satire to fine art status as Mel Brooks takes us back in time to the American Old West, circa 1874. He pokes fun at Hollywood’s version of the Old West, especially the racism by making a completely implausible scenario – a small Western town hiring a black sheriff, even by mistake and the mayhem that it caused.

Brooks was a pioneer in using offensive humour to mock people’s prejudices. He felt it could make people realize how silly intolerance was by making it funny. Still not sure everyone got the point.

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Mel Brooks is a master at  breaking the Fourth Wall before it became the cool thing to do. Known for throwing in anachronisms to amuse, bemuse, and possibly defuse any tensions his deliberate political incorrectness could cause, Brooks went to ye olde town in Blazing Saddles with various references like: WW II, Laurel and Hardy, Gucci, Academy Awards, Cecil B. Demille, and The Count Basie Orchestra playing April in Paris.

Gene Wilder and Cleavon Little are an amazing on-screen bromance; it’s clear in most scenes there are many private jokes and difficulty keeping straight faces.

I can never decide who makes me laugh the most, Harvey Korman, Madeline Kahn or Dom DeLuise or maybe the combination makes it so absurdly perfect.

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Less Than 40 Fun Blazing Saddles Facts:

 The now defunct Pickwick Drive-In Theater in Burbank, California became a ride-in theater as guests rode in on horseback for the Blazing Saddles première.

Mel Brooks is one of a small group to have every won EGAT –  an Emmy, a Grammy, an Academy Award and a Tony.

Gene Wilder wasn’t the first choice for the Waco Kid, Johnny Carson among others turned it down and Gig Young became indisposed in early production with an elbow bending problem so Wilder was brought in.

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Blazing Saddles was the first movie to have foreground music instead of background music.

Madeline Kahn received an Oscar nomination for her role as Lili von Shtupp. So the Oscars used to be fun I guess. Love her song, I’m So Tired, cracks me up every time.

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Brooks’ wanted Richard Pryor who was one of the scriptwriters to play the Sheriff, but the studio thought he wasn’t as well-known as Cleavon Little.

Trailblazing Brooks made this movie the first to have on-screen flatulence. Come on, all those beans and coffee, yer dern tootin’ those cowboys would have been tootin’.

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There are 11 men sitting around the fire during the bean scene, Mongo is to the side or it could have been a dirty dozen.

1blaze17John Wayne said he found the script funny, but declined to actually appear in Blazing Saddles. How cool would that have been?

I always thought Slim Pickens name was funny.

Gene Wilder had the idea and a few pages written for Young Frankenstein and approached Brooks with the idea during filming of Blazing Saddles. They worked on the script together while filming. Blazing Saddles was released February 1974 and Young Frankenstein December of the same year.1blaze18

Mel Brooks received some hate mail about the horse being punched. He explained the horses were trained to fall, like horses in Westerns, they were acting horses, no one hurt the horses. Brooks always seemed confused because he thought everyone understood how much he loved animals.

He also received hate mail about using the ‘N’ word although he was assured by Richard Pryor, Cleavon Little and others he use it correctly. In retrospect Brooks says he would reconsider using it, but found it interesting he only got hate mail from white people about the word.

Anyone remember how many flavors of ice cream Howard Johnson’s Ice Cream Parlor sold?
How about what snack Hedley Lamarr purchased at the theater? I had to look this one up.

What is most or least favourite of this movie? Mine is when Cleavon Little/Bart takes himself hostage; I think it changed comedy forever.

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Posted in Books, Movies, Uncategorized

A Million Ways to Die in the West

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This is a light snack with a long title.

Not going to change the world, but it did brighten mine.

Found myself laughing out loud as I read this at the bookstore. Yes, that’s where I read this. As much as I enjoy MacFarlane’s work paying close to $30 for a book or almost $20 for an ebook (yes, I live in Canada where we have Universal Healthcare, but pay more for everything else) isn’t in my Broke and Obscure budget.

Adapted from the screenplay (written by Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, and Wellesley Wild), this comical jawin’ ya to death of the Old West is chock-full of anachronisms and absurdity including, but not limited to: the fake fight scene; the prostitute girlfriend who won’t have sex (not with her boyfriend anyway) because she’s saving herself for marriage; a Parkinson‘s joke (just another way God mysteriously shows that he loves us); and the stick-hoop-games-will-ruin-the-youth bit.

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Had a few problems reading this book. My fault really, kept hearing Albert’s voice as Stewie and there was a cute guy all in black nearby reading a Star Trek mag at the bookstore. Both obvious concentration blockers.

Full of cheeky MacFarlane humour, my fav example, when they’re talking about why Indians are always attacking and so mad – What’s their problem, we’re basically splitting the country 50/50 with them. I know, they’re so selfish. I love when humour is used to point out social truths or injustices or stuff.

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The cast looks flabbergastic – Seth MacFarlane as Albert, the sheep farmer, also Liam Neeson, Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Sarah Silverman, Neil Patrick Harris (moustache!), Gilbert Gottfried, Giovanni Ribisi, Bill Maher, Ralph Garman, Rex Linn

Like all MacFarlane’s work we see how watching too many TV shows and movies affect the brain. No complaints, I get every reference so obviously I have the same issue. This one has a Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles feel.amill3

As a fan of Western books, TV, movies, etc. I thought the line about something else to kill them so they should just wear coffins as clothes was brilliant.

So if you can’t wait for the movie coming out May 30, 2014, this companion novel should help tide you over.

Somehow I expected even more sheep jokes.amill4

Posted in Televison, Uncategorized

DEADWOOD

deadwood1Really? That was it? You get us all worked up, we’re right on the edge and then, what, leave?

Deadwood was an almost too good to be true show.
Grit piled on top of edge slithering into crass hobbled up to clench.
deadwood5The cast, headed by Timothy Olyphant, wait, let us just pause here for a moment of adoration…sigh, what was I writing?

Oh yeah, this cast was corker, simply one of the best ever assembled. And Ian McShane is so glorious I think he could just show up and any program gets a bang.deadwood4

Seth Bullock, Al Swearengen, Wild Bill Hickok, Sol Star, Calamity Jane, Wyatt Earp, George Crook, E. B. Farnum, Charlie Utter, Jack McCall and George Hearst were based on actual historical figures, fleshed out by using diaries and newspapers from the 1870s Deadwood. Of course, artistic license was taken, but it’s still fascinating.

Interwoven are themes ranging from Capitalism, morality, racism, sexism, sex, crime, formation of communities, law, order, and food supplies including canned peaches and what was fed to the pigs.

deadwood6Deadwood was filthy, in visual and audio. Granted, the somewhat cruder language was an anachronism; if they’d used real minerspeak they would’ve sounded more like Yosemite Sam, quite funny, but a detraction from the drama. Still, I doubt any of it would have been too clean.

Come on, one movie, you owe us that.

Posted in Televison, Uncategorized

Faux Ode to Breaking Bad

bb1Are you the viewer drawn toward us?

To begin, take warning, we are far different from what you suppose;

Do you suppose you will find in Walter White ideal?

Do you think it so easy to have become a Pinkman?

Do you think the familiarity of Hank would be unalloy’d satisfaction?

Do you look toward the Skyler when death is on the breath of life?

Do you see no further than a pink teddy bear façade, a smooth and tolerant manner?

Do you suppose money advancement toward a real heroic man would last?

Do you suggest the whities could have been tightier?

Have you no thought, O dreamer, that actions have consequences, this is all illusion breaking into bad?

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With a little contravention of Walt Whitman I say adieu to Breaking Bad. Like any good morality play, the lessons were many. I bet you can easily figure out what each character personified.

 Breaking Bad reinforced that two wrongs or many, many wrongs don’t make a right.

All actions have consequences, good and bad.

Doing the wrong thing for the right reasons still doesn’t make it right, right?

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While we will miss the show, the cast is brilliant and already on the move:
Bryan Cranston (Malcolm in the Middle, X-Files, Family Guy, Seinfeld – ‘Hey Denty!’)
Anna Gunn (Deadwood, ER, Six Feet Under, Seinfeld)
Aaron Paul (X-Files, Big Love, Bones, Family Guy)
Dean Norris (Under The Dome, X-Files, Lost, Castle)
Betsy Brandt, RJ Mitte, Bob Odenkirk,
Giancarlo Esposito, Jonathan Banks,
Laura Fraser, Jesse Plemons

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Creating, writing, directing, and producing the AMC drama series Breaking Bad was a masterstroke from Vince Gilligan, X-Files (Note the cast).

Hard to believe it and Heisenberg will soon go gently into TV history.

So long.

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