Young Frankenstein Review

During the month of October, I had the incredible experience of viewing Mel Brook’s 1974 comedy classic Young Frankenstein on the big screen. Sitting in an almost completely empty theater, I watched in admiration as one of my favorite actors played out one of his most famous roles, just as people did in 1974.

The story, a comedic spoof based on various film adaptations of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, focuses in on the well-educated medical doctor Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder). Frederick discovers that he has just inherited the Transylvania castle of his famous grandfather, who conducted experiments in attempts to reanimate the dead. Initially hesitant, Frederick decides to recreate his grandfather’s experiments with the help of an unlikely group of odd individuals.

If there exists a film that is so universally hailed as comedic and undeniably hilarious, then it was probably directed by Mel Brooks. Brooks utilizes every level of humor to its fullest effect, whether it be simple slapstick or a subtler humor that takes a couple of viewings to fully appreciate.

Discussing humor can be a difficult and daunting task, partly because of the subjective nature of comedy. There are only so many ways that I can say a scene from Young Frankenstein is funny, and only so many ways I can say entire films made in its image are not. Yet, with that established, I believe Young Frankenstein to be comedic genius. Brooks takes a beloved source material and handles it with such care, delicacy, and most of all, lunacy.

Pondering such questions as, “What if Igor was in denial that he had a hump?” Or even, “What if Frankenstein’s monster meeting the blind man had a more comedic punch to it?” It’s questions like these that any individual can conjure up in their heads, but only Brooks has the audacity to carry it out on the big screen.

Playing the role of Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, Gene Wilder gives what I would argue the best performance of his career. The frantic ravings and occasional lunacy of a mad scientist in denial about his family heritage is about as outlandish as imaginable, and Wilder fits the bill. Not only that, he becomes the character, going beyond the call of duty to give the audience an unforgettable experience. And is it surprising for me to say that whenever I hear somebody talk about Frankenstein, I first think of this movie, rather than the Universal classic?

One can hardly forget the enigmatic supporting cast, who help make this lovely masterpiece what we know it as today. My personal favorite would be Igor (Marty Feldman), a dimwitted wisecracker with a knack for making the situation worse. Something about Igor has always appealed to me unlike anyone else in the film. His onscreen presence alone is enough to elicit hysterical laughter from yours truly.

Young Frankenstein is a film I re-explore at least once a year, typically around the Halloween season, and for good reason. It’s listed as one of the greatest comedies of all time by the American Film Institute (14th), Bravo TV (56th), Rolling Stone (5th), and was even selected for the Library of Congress National Film Registry. It’s a beloved masterpiece that will hopefully be respected by moviegoers for years to come.

The Verdict: A

-Zachary Flint

 

I, Tonya Review

There were many films of 2017 that I regrettably almost missed the first time around. Whether it be theatrical release delays or my inability to get out to the movies, I just about skipped out on some excellent film-going experiences. Including such wonderful hits as The Shape of Water, The Post, and the film I’m reviewing today, I, Tonya. 

I, Tonya captures the rise and fall of the Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding, from her rough early years growing up to her participation in the 1992 and 1994 Olympics. Also, to receive a lot of focus was the controversial assault on rival skater Nancy Kerrigan during the Olympics, and the unknown level of involvement Harding had in the attack. From here we see not only the aftermath of the attack, but how many of Tonya’s life events led up to that controversy.

The story takes a rather interesting mockumentary perspective in its storytelling, mixing the events of the past with fictional interviews of the present, all while frequently breaking the fourth wall. Through this, the audience is given great commentary (and surprisingly, plenty of laughs) on the contentious assault of Nancy Kerrigan, an incident that many are still confused on.

Margot Robbie as Tonya and Allison Janney as her mother LaVona were two noteworthy performances among a plethora of convincing, superb acting. What I particularly liked about Robbie’s performance was how very real she portrayed Tonya. The viewer felt every painful moment she experienced, and I’m sure her very real-life conflicts resonated with a lot of people.

I, Tonya has this crude, dark sense of humor that it wears like a badge in many situations. Even when discussing sensitive topics and ideas, the tone remained oddly tongue-in-cheek. Themes of domestic violence, abusive parenting, and working-class woes are treated with witty tastelessness. It’s this kind of macabre humor that I appreciate seeing, specifically because it’s so difficult to do well without coming off as repugnant. Films like The Belko Experiment try to capture it and fail miserably. Films like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and A Clockwork Orange utilize it effectively and in return get a great payoff.

The conclusion of I, Tonya was admittedly the most disappointing part of the film for me, mostly because it takes such an apologetic tone towards Harding. A film that, up until then, seemed to relish in its own impartiality towards the events and people depicted, ended up resorting to Hollywood schmaltz. By this point in I, Tonya the audience already felt sympathy towards Harding and her unfortunate position, so there was no point in manipulating the audience into believing she was some persecuted angel.  In fact, portraying her in this light was a complete one-eighty from how they’d been portraying her previously.

At the heart of it all, Tonya Harding was an unconventional individual, and far from the American sweetheart people and judges wanted her to be. I, Tonya accurately depicts her for who she is, a human. Not only in her faults, but her tragically flawed upbringing that is a reality for so many people.

Throwing in plenty of tongue-in-cheek humor and terrific portrayals, I, Tonya turned out to be one of the best biopics of 2017 and is definitely worth a watch.

The Verdict: A-

-Zachary Flint

Motion Picture Association of America: History and Controversy

Introduction

The Motion Pictures Association of America has stood the test of time as one of the most influential companies in the world. With control over the film ratings process, as well as strong political ties with the United States government, the MPAA has the power to manipulate how the world views the medium of motion pictures.

Maintaining this kind of power, you would think most people would have basic knowledge of the MPAA. When in reality, the MPAA remains unknown to many, often staying out of the Hollywood limelight.

Therefore, I find it essential that people have a general concept of who the MPAA is, what they stand for, and what they mean for the film industry as a whole. I will briefly discuss the history of the company, major criticisms they face today, and the impact film ratings have on the box office and the art of filmmaking itself.

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