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Posts tagged as comedy film school

The Subtle Brilliance of Jill Soloway's 'Transparent'

Transparent, Amazon’s foray into the Netflix-infested waters of quality internet binge watching, is deservedly the most critically-lauded show of this Fall television season (and was just renewed for a second season). Created by writer/director Jill Soloway (writer/producer Six Feet Under and The United States of Tara, writer/director Afternoon Delight, which won a directing award at Sundance in 2013), the show centers around the Pfefferman family, an affluent Jewish LA clan whose patriarch Mort (Jeffrey Tambor) comes out as transgender and begins to live as Maura in her late 60s.

Directed mostly by Soloway herself, (with the exception of three, credited to Nisha Ganatra), the direction in the show is [...]

How Richard Linklater Uses Naturalism to Find Comedy

Richard Linklater is having what can probably be considered the most visible period of his career with the release of his highly anticipated and equally regarded Boyhood. This marks the first time that the box office success and critical success of one of his projects coalesced into a true major cultural moment, prompting numerous career retrospectives and think-pieces. Common take on Richard Linklater is that his filmography is defined by unpredictability, never bound to one particular label and always willing to try new things as a director. Just when you think you can track his Rohmer-influenced style through Slacker and the Before Trilogy, you realize his name is [...]

David Wain and His Parodies of Exuberance

There are many ways to go about parodying a form, however from Mel Brooks’ smug send-ups to Nathan Fielder’s biting critique of the types of non-fiction programming available on modern TV, most of these attempts hardly come from a place of love. With Brooks and his ilk such as the Zucker/Abraham team, nothing is treated as too sacred to be made a mockery of with a oft-insensitive joke. Fielder is so mean-spirited in his treatment of the laymen he claims to attempt to be helping that my tricks-averse girlfriend cringed her way through one episode of Nathan For You with me before shooting me a look of severe disapproval and [...]

David Gordon Green and the Serious Foundations of His Comedies

If, in the year 2007, a reader wanted content on the films of David Gordon Green, a comedy website would hardly have been their first stop. At that time Green and his North Carolina School of the Arts production team had produced four small, subdued, critically-acclaimed indies in George Washington, All the Real Girls, Undertow, and Snow Angels. It was considered a prolific output from a promising, Roger Ebert-approved, young American auteur primed to follow in the footsteps of indie pioneers like Soderberg and Linklater before him. This is all to say that when Green signed on to direct Pineapple Express, a broad stoner comedy from the Apatow factory, the [...]

Applying the Auteur Theory to Kevin Smith

In the early '90s American Indie boom, auteurs like Quentin Tarantino and Steven Soderbergh emerged into the zeitgeist with personal, low-budget projects that ultimately  came to inform a larger body of work that made them the important film personalities they are today. In this same Sundance-fueled era, a 24-year-old Kevin Smith premiered his first film, Clerks. With the industry support of Harvey Weinstein and the critical support of the New York Times and Janet Maslin, Kevin Smith bullied his way into the rising star director conversation. His follow up films, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, and Dogma led to the creation of a connected Kevin Smith universe, or, the "View-Askewniverse" as [...]

What Does it Mean to Direct an Adam Sandler Movie?

The Adam Sandler assembly line began production in 1995 with Billy Madison and has since churned out over 20 films under the Happy Madison Productions outfit starring Sandler in his well-versed comic persona of the well-meaning, flawed, likable schlub. Sandler’s brand is a veritable cottage industry, almost operating like a mini-studio, attaching him and his team of writers and producers to his projects and the smaller projects of his friends. Yet, despite the films orbiting around Sandler and having massive control over their image and tone, Sandler himself has never had a director credit on his own project or any other for that matter. That distinction has been credited to [...]

How 'Nathan for You' Brilliantly Blows Up Reality TV

Popularized by The Office in the early 2000s, the “mockumentary” format has become the common TV style choice to tell loose, location-based, low-concept, character-driven comedies. However, aside from the interview cutaways and the cheeky Jim Halpert camera looks, shows like The Office and Parks and Recreation never truly embrace the idea that their presentation format is documentary or that their characters are anything but fictional.

Nathan For You, created, written, and directed by Nathan Fielder and now in its second season, is much more dedicated to being a true parody of the documentary/reality form both visually and thematically. Set up like a workplace improvement show in the vein [...]

How the Visual Direction of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton Inform Today's Comedies

Many of those with whom I interact on the internet have sent me this fantastic video essay by Tony Zhou in which he eviscerates the experience of watching many popular and successful American comedies for their lack of visual inventiveness. He then goes on to perfectly show why Edgar Wright (dir. Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, World’s End, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) is an exemplar of comedy direction due to his focus on actually framing exciting, active, and funny frames.

Zhou goes on to break down the tenets of Edgar Wright’s frame that to him, allow for increased visual comedy. Those are: 1) Entering the frame in [...]

Does FX's 'Fargo' Keep the Original's Darkness While Losing the Comedy?

Many words have been written this week about Tuesday’s premiere of the FX eponymous miniseries adaptation of Fargo, particularly in regards to its faithfulness to the classic and nearly universally adored Coen Brothers original. Critics seem to agree that the show, with the Coen Brothers blessing represented in the form of an Executive Producer credit, is faithful in setting and in certain character similarities to the film, but it is mostly not attempting to be an adaptation at all. Rather, it is its own set of stories that take place in the same snow-covered, “you betcha” oeuvre and the various criminals — hapless to exacting — that inhabit and pass [...]

How 'The Lego Movie' Manages to Keep a Bunch of Plates Spinning All at Once

While you certainly don't need me to tell you that the number one movie in the country three weeks running is a success, The Lego Movie seems to have struck a Pixar-esque chord in even the most skeptical corners of the internet. A certain amount of goodwill was always going to be garnered by the sheer novelty of seeing many people's favorite childhood toys (and I would suspect a disproportionate amount of people writing about pop culture on the internet) animated to life, but that same goodwill seemed potentially doomed to be destroyed by those shouting that we were just being suckered into paying for a 90-minute [...]

Is 'Modern Family' Really the Best-Directed Comedy on TV?

On Monday night, Gail Mancuso took home the Emmy for “Outstanding Direction for a Comedy Series” for her work the Modern Family season five episode “Las Vegas.” This was Mancuso’s second win in a row and the show’s fourth win in a row in this category. This year, Mancuso beat out Comedy Film School favorites Louis C.K. and Lena Dunham as well as seasoned film directors Jodie Foster (for Orange is the New Black) and Mike Judge (for Silicon Valley). Looking even further back, the last time a network show director, in which directing is historically more like house-painting than Picasso, lost to a cable director is in 2004, when [...]

'Annie Hall' and Woody Allen's Experimental Visual Film Style

The prospect of writing about Woody Allen has loomed large over my writing since the inception of this column last year for many reasons. First, I hold the non-unique position in considering him the greatest comedic director to ever work. Second, the last year has not been particularly friendly to Mr. Allen press-wise and I had little interest in stepping in those murky waters. However, it remains important that Allen is one of the most influential comedic directors and probably the most respected by the academy and The Academy and given that his new (not particularly inspiring seeming) film is coming out later this month, it seemed high [...]

How Nicholas Stoller Grounds 'Neighbors', 'Get Him to the Greek', and His Other Comedies in Real Life

Early in Neighbors, a new comedy by Nicholas Stoller, Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne), stuck in their carefully planned adult home with their new baby, Facetime with their single party-girl friend (Carla Gallo) while she prepares to attend, attends, and comes down from the “craziest rave she’s ever been to.” Throughout the scene, when they receive the calls we see the familiar shape of the iPhone appear in a corner of the screen and Gallo’s face smushed into the rectangular frame, giving the viewer the sensation of actually Facetimeing with the character. The structure and style of this interaction seems to encompass all of the visual and dramatic [...]

The Duplass Brothers and Bringing the Lo-Fi Mumblecore Aesthetic to Mainstream Hollywood

With the recent mainstream indie success of Mumblecore pioneers Joe Swanberg’s Drinking Buddies and Andrew Bujalski’s Computer Chess, it seems the poorly named but important movement has officially come of age. In the mid-2000s, the films and filmmakers broadly lumped into the sometimes pejorative term “Mumblecore”, were often low-budget, low-production value films with non-professional actors navigating the conflicts and relationships of middle-class white male Americans in their late 20s.

Mark and Jay Duplass’ first film, The Puffy Chair, is a quintessential Mumblecore entry. Low-concept, relationship drama-driven, and heavy on the zoom button, the film mixes the unpredictability and reality of a documentary with the character malleability of a narrative in [...]