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Archive for October 10th, 2012

Note: Today there will be two reviews on the same film in deference to the two requests made in the early stages of the project, but also to continue a tradition started in last year’s musical countdown where certain films will receive multiple treatments.  It happened twice last year and will be happening twice during this countdown.  Personally I love the idea.  Mr. Treadway’s review was sent to me first so I set it first, but Sachin Gandhi sent his on shortly afterwards.  Readers are urged to take a look at both pieces, and to comment on both threads if possible.

by Dean Treadway

My first solid memory of BLAZING SADDLES–a movie that absolutely shaped my view of movies–came upon its 1974 release, when my young eyes paid note to its dazzling one-sheet. The film‘s rustic logo was set upon a background that reflected the film‘s unique structure. There was its hero, Sheriff Bart (played by a dauntless Cleavon Little), riding a rearing steed, wearing incongruous mirrored sunglasses while a silvery boom mike hovers overhead. This image was backed by an Indian nickel featuring Mel Brooks, the film’s co-writer, co-star, and director, as a war-painted Native American (a role many Jewish actors filled in the Western genre’s heyday). Around the edges of the coin ran the words “Hi, I’m Mel. Trust Me.” Even though I didn’t grasp all of its implications, the colorful chaos of this ad sent my movie-loving mind into a tailspin, and I had to know more.

But, generous as my parents were about taking me to any movies I wanted to see at the drive-in, they never gave in to my request to see this one–perhaps because of its R-rating but most probably because of my mother’s abject dislike of almost all comedies. It would be years until I finally saw BLAZING SADDLES properly projected in widescreen 35mm, probably on a double bill with Brooks’ twin 1974 hit YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN or maybe with his 1976 film SILENT MOVIE (both of which I also love). This first REAL viewing insisted on my adoration of the film’s underappreciated photography, sound, art direction and location work (aspects that are usually lost on pan-and-scan TV prints). (more…)

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by Sachin Gandhi

Mel Brook’s madcap Western spoof Blazing Saddles not only pokes fun at conventional sequences found in Westerns but manages to generate laughter at serious topics of racism and rape with a rapid fire sequence of over-the-top crude and cartoonish jokes. The jokes spare no one, not even cows and horses, and result in multiple outrageous scenes that strip away all logic. The removal of any rational explanation allows the film to pile on a series of improbable moments thereby entering a cartoonish territory. By the time the film reaches its conclusion with a free for all pie fight, the only surprising discovery is that no aliens have landed to crash the party!

The film contains a traditional western outline where two opposing groups have a stand-off but the rivalry does not follow a conventional path. Instead, the rivalry is created when an evil plan blows back on a scheming villain. After quicksand blocks a railroad construction site, the only viable option is to route the rail track through the town of Rock Ridge. Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman), assistant to the state governor, senses an opportunity to strike it rich as the passing of the rail through Rock Ridge would make the land worth “millions”. So he devises a plan to drive out the residents to grab their land. His assistant, Taggart (Slim Pickens), volunteers to scare the residents and rape the women so that the people will leave. However, despite Taggart’s efforts, the town folk decide to stay and request a new sheriff after their current one is killed by Taggart’s men. Lamarr then forges another plan to appoint a sheriff that would cause the residents to revolt. He convinces the governor to make a black worker (Bart played by Cleavon Little) the new sheriff so as to infuriate the close-knit white folk of Rock Ridge (where everyone is a Johnson). The plan backfires as Bart, with the aid of Jim “The Waco Kid” (Gene Wilder), becomes the main opponent to Lamarr and fights to save the town. (more…)

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by Jaime Grijalba.

a.k.a.11.25: The Day He Chose His Own Fate

(Japan, 119 min)

The Valdivia International Film Festival was one of the best experiences I’ve had in a long time, 5 days devoted entirely to the watching and conversation about film with people you know and don’t know, from your city or even from another countries, all coming down south to enjoy and receive the hospitality of this city and its people, as well as acknowledging this film festival to be one of the most important in Latin America. There you have the oportunity to see the new voices of Chile, Latin America and the world in a friendly competition that lasts the whole week and that manages to bring up the most intelligent of the issues and filmmaking conversations, as well as theorical. It is one of those few festivals in which you can actually find a stance, an editorial of sorts, that they will always prevail the auteur content abova all, as well as contemplative narrative, and to top it all: an abundance of documentaries, put along side fiction works competing for the same prize. This year, the competition was great and the winners in both competitions (international and chilean) were my respective favorites of the competition films I saw: ‘De Jueves a Domingo’ (International) and ‘Where the Condors Fly’ (National), which I rate **** and ****1/2 stars respectively. Now, outside the competition, its obvious that we will find many other screenings, and while the special showings weren’t as star-studded as years before (they managed to bring ‘Film Socialisme’ forward before many other countries in the world), it managed to have ‘Holy Motors’ (one of the most talked about films of the year, and that I rate ****1/2) and this film, that also played in Cannes Un Certain Regard with other films. While not as good as the other films that I watched in the festival, it is still a must watch to many people that are interested in japanese culture, history and film. (more…)

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