Blazing Saddles

Avengers Shawarma

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Blazing Saddles

Coming off a successful career in television and two smaller pictures (The Producers in 1968 and The Twelve Chairs in 1970), Mel Brooks took a chance on a western comedy. This was before the days of Airplane! and The Naked Gun, decades before Scary Movie, and a generation of time (and quality) from Meet the Spartans and A Haunted House. Brooks broke all sorts of social and decency taboos with Blazing Saddles, from the subversive racial commentary to the orchestra of cowboy farts around a campfire. Blazing Saddles turns 40 this year, which makes it as good of a time as any to look back on the production with Mel Brooks himself. The commentary on the original Blu-ray release comes from the initial DVD release back in the late 1990s, but it still has a lot to say about this comedy classic.

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BlazingSaddles02

Blazing Saddles could be the most difficult movie to celebrate with a Scenes We Love feature. Not only is it a laugh-a-minute comedy with too many classic moments to narrow down from, but more importantly it is such a politically incorrect work that it’s hard to showcase excerpts that don’t play too offensively out of context of the whole picture. I realized this long ago while listening to shock jock radio and hearing many of the most hilarious quotes from the movie turned into uncomfortable soundbites. Yet this movie, which turned 40 years old this month, is a masterpiece of satire, slapstick and silliness. It’s one of the most important American comedies ever made, not to mention possibly the funniest in the last half century. Like another classic that recently celebrated an anniversary — Dr. Strangelove, which also features Slim Pickens — it played the nation’s fears and flaws for laughs. With Blazing Saddles, co-writer/director/co-star Mel Brooks lampoons historical and contemporary intolerance, among many other things, as well as the Western genre. And it remains as relevant as any of the countless movies that have been influenced by it, from near-rip-off comedies like Three Amigos! to fellow subversive takes on systemic racism in 19th century America like Django Unchained. I invite further discussion of Blazing Saddles after this look at a number of my favorite bits, and I welcome mention of any additional scenes you love that I didn’t have room to include.

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Being funny is never easy, especially when you’re being funny about unfunny things. As far as dark humor goes, death is actually a rather simple topic to cover. However once you start getting into the meaning of death, or mass genocide, or the afterlife, that’s when things start getting a little tricky. Sometimes you have to stop worrying about offending the people who won’t get it and start worrying about entertaining the people who will. So here are some movies that, no matter what your feelings on them are, managed to successfully make a mockery out of something quite serious.

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We rarely get to see movies being watched in other movies – probably because while it’s fun to watch films, it’s fairly boring to watch other people watch films. That being said – there are plenty of characters out there who would no doubt be a blast to watch movies with… Batman, for example. Anyway, when we do see a real life movie being watched in another movie it tends to be a film that most likely inspired the filmmakers either in their own upbringing or as a plot device in the film itself. Because of that one thing is certain – if you see a real movie being watched in the movie you’re watching, there’s a good chance that movie is awesome. Before anything though, I gotta shout out to Mr. Cole Abaius for coming up with the idea for this list. The man is a true demigod, and from what I hear the other half is pretty good too.

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Culture Warrior

Tomorrow, the Sacha Baron Cohen-starring, Larry Charles-directed The Dictator opens. Unlike the previous two docu-prank collaborations between Charles and Cohen, the humor of the fully staged Dictator doesn’t so much rely on the reactions of ‘real people’ to an idiosyncratic foreigner as it uses its fish-out-of-water arc to chronicle the pseudo-enlightened changes that its eponymous character experiences (this is all based on the film’s advertising – I have yet to see it). With its riches-to-rags narrative, The Dictator seems to be the newest iteration of a long tradition in Hollywood comedy: the story of the redeemable asshole. It’s rather appropriate that the teaser trailer for Anchorman 2 will be premiering in front of The Dictator.  Will Ferrell has made the redeemable asshole into something of an art form in his collaborations with Adam McKay. Ferrell’s often narcissistic, privileged, ignorant, and empathy-challenged creations should, by any measure of any other genre (audiences are far less tolerant of asshole protags in, say, dramedys) be reviled by audiences. But we ultimately find something redeemable, even lovable, in Ferrell’s jerks, even if this surface-level redemption overshadows the fact that they never quite achieve the level of self-awareness that would actually redeem one from assholedom. These are characters we would likely avoid in nearly any real-life circumstance, but yet we go see movies about them learning life lessons which add up to little more than common knowledge for the rest of us. The redeemable asshole is often a white male who is conniving, manipulative, entitled, […]

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So I was watching the film The Descendants, and I couldn’t help but to laugh my ass off when the grandfather points to Nick Krause’s dumb-ass character and says “I’m going to hit you.” – Then, without any room for discussion he proves to be a man of his word. It got me thinking about some of the other great comedic punches out there, and soon enough I was assigning my wonder into list form. Violence and comedy together at last!

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Culture Warrior

Had Leslie Nielsen never been cast in Airplane!, he still would have had a decent working career. He certainly never would have gone down as one of the great entertainers, but the man would have had work. After all, he did have a few noticeable (if not entirely notable) dramatic roles in genre fare ranging from Forbidden Planet (1956) to Prom Night (1980, the same year as Airplane!). But Nielsen did co-star in Airplane!, delivering one immortal line after another, which later catapulted his persona into legendary synonymy with contemporary cinematic parody. Jim Abrahams and the Zucker brothers may have been the minds behind what exactly the movie parody came to be, but Nielsen was undoubtedly the face and the voice. There is a reason that Leslie Nielsen happened.

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If you think that January is a complete waste for movies, you’re right. You’re just not as right as you thought.

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The director and producer behind The Goods discuss 19th-century American bearded philosophy, the joy of telling jokes at funerals, and talk about the dangers of doing comedy.

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