The Lawyers and the Pigs

Posted in FILM, literature, Television with tags , , , , , on June 15, 2019 by dcairns

I picked up Levinson on Levinson secondhand because I was sure there’d be some good stuff in it. And sure enough, as soon as he starts talking about his days in live sketch TV comedy alongside Craig T. Nelson ~

“There was a sketch called ‘The Doctors and the Vikings,’ and it became like a running soap opera from week to week. Quite simply, we would do a lot of doctor talk, all very dramatic and serious, and then periodically a Viking would come through the operating room, blowing his horn, look at the situation, shake his head and then leave. That was the gag, and it became very popular. Popular, that is, for a local station, with maybe the fifty people who watched it.

“Then one week we decided to do an encore, called ‘The Lawyers and the Pigs’, with lawyers in suits speaking a lot of legalese as normal, but carrying a lot of little piglets under their arms. We’d make no reference to the piglets, and that would be the joke. When we rehearsed on the Sunday, we didn’t bother to get the piglets, as we thought that was just the gag, no need to bother. When we went into the show, and it’s live, we ran to find our piglets. Only these were not little piglets, but huge, 70-lb pigs! I could just about carry mine to the defence table — he was so heavy — but Craig’s started to crawl over his back. The judge had more sense, he actually got a piece of rope for his pig, but they started squealing and then peeing all over the stage. The audience began to laugh so loud they couldn’t hear us and we couldn’t hear each other. This was meant to be a quickie sketch, run two minutes and then boom and out, but it went on for thirteen minutes, with the pigs trying to break free and us trying to grab hold of them, but never talking about the problem. It was absolute anarchy, with the audience screaming with laughter. People tuning into the show were going, ‘My God, they’ve really gone off the deep end with this piece. This is the sickest thing on television!'”

Notes: The Lohman & Barkley Show ran on KNBC. This sketch, tragically, has not made its way to YouTube. But it makes me think of this famous bit of British children’s telly.

The Viking thing seems very Pythonesque, and indeed Levinson would soon be writing for Marty Feldman.

This is the only representative bit of Lohman & Barkley I could find. Quite dark.

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Feed the Clown

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on June 14, 2019 by dcairns

“My analyst says I exaggerate my childhood memories, but I swear, I was brought up underneath the rollercoaster in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn. […] My father ran the bumper car concession.” Woody Allen, ANNIE HALL.

I don’t know why I was so entranced by the sign saying Feed the Clown in this shot from WONDER WHEEL. Maybe it made me think about the fact that I haven’t given Woody Allen any money in years. Though I didn’t believe Mia and Dylan Farrow’s accusation of child abuse at the time, and now I don’t know what I think, I did stop going to see his films a couple of years later. And the last one I saw on the big screen was BULLETS OVER BROADWAY, which I loved. But obviously something was making me uncomfortable.

On the small screen I have seen only DECONSTRUCTING HARRY and bits of some others. And yet I’ve had long, heated discussions with an online friend who urges me to admit that Allen is guilty, and I won’t, because Mia Farrow weirds me out, and I don’t know these people so I am not required to have a firm opinion, OK? Dylan is obviously completely sincere, her parents less so. If I met any of the principles, I would probably have to form a definite opinion. I don’t have a problem with other people feeling certain.

So I watched WONDER WHEEL and was very impatient with it. The theatrical borrowings were obvious, the repetitive use of two damn songs for the whole movie infuriating, and I was unmoved. It looks AMAZING, but still feels mostly like a bad play.

It looks amazing due to Vittorio Storaro — so amazing that I went on to watch CAFE SOCIETY, which is even worse. Allen plagiarises the romantic triangle of THE APARTMENT and ruins it. He also narrates, which proves to be a big mistake. If we could see him, maybe we could get used to how old he now is. But his mushy-sounding voice, robbed of all its former precision (those over-enunciated Ts, for instance), is just disturbing, because it makes you try to imagine what he looks like. A mumbling memento mori. And he’s too often describing plot developments you get through visuals or dialogue anyway,

Allen has always favoured on-the-nose dialogue. I discussed this with a friend back in the nineties and proposed that maybe it’s OK for Allen characters to talk this way because they’re all in therapy and are used to unpicking their every emotion. But it seems very un-OK for the working class characters of WONDER WHEEL. They might do it, but not like this, and even if we decided it was realistic, it’s not FUN because it removes all subtext and so we don’t get the pleasure of working to understand. That’s where jokes used to be useful, but can Allen still do jokes?

Maybe I do feel he’s guilty — certainly he’s guilty of cheating — because I feel more cross than sorrowful at his apparent loss of facility.

But I have a heap of other Allen films available to watch, so maybe I’ll try some of the more acclaimed ones from a few years back.

Why am I torturing myself?

Oh, and Storaro is at the top of his game, somebody else hire him, quick!

The Five Ages

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on June 13, 2019 by dcairns

The Forgotten this time follows up on my recent chat with Bill Forsyth, of which more later. BEING HUMAN now looks like a sweet, beautiful, but very direct route out of the Hollywood mainstream, and certainly fulfilled that role for its director. It’s well worth your time.

Link.