Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mock Mocking

Saturday Night Live didn't invent the snarky-affectionate pop culture spoof -- it was following in the grand tradition of Mad Magazine, Ernie Kovacs, Laugh-In [above] the National Lampoon and Monty Python.

But last week I was reminded of one reason why SNL has outlasted them all -- 37 years and counting -- in creating (and re-creating) satirical memes before we ever starting using that word.

On Weekend Update, Andy Samberg donned his Nicolas Cage makeup for the umpteenth time to spoof the actor's over-amped style and seeming inability to reject any script. But there was a new twist: Cage, who had another crapola movie opening that weekend (Ghost Rider II), showed up in person to participate in his own caricature.

This is the kind of water cooler moment that the show loves to create, the "did you see that?" freak-out that, in the era of Hulu and YouTube, keeps a show current even when people miss the original broadcast.

But this kind of codification seems counterproductive.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

World War Wonder

25-year-old Gary Cooper's indelible bit part in Wings
Today came the news that the last surviving World War I veteran died at the age of 110.  This reminded me how, suddenly, World War I seems to have re-upped in pop culture consciousness. It's been a wakeup call for me, as for most of my life I have been swamped by Baby Boomer novels and movies romanticizing World War II (and codifying Hitler as the bad guy of all time).

"The Great War," in contrast, had faded to a kind of dusty prelude -- perhaps in part because there were less photos and films of the battles.

Georges Méliès sets the moon afire in Hugo
The current revival round up has to start with -- I'm almost embarrassed to mention -- the ubiquitous Downton Abbeythe BBC miniseries airing on PBS.

But it's also the setting for Spielberg's movie War Horse (which, sorry, I couldn't get through), and even Hugo finds its historical footing in filmmaker Georges Méliès falling into despair and disfavor after the "Great War" and burning all his movie props [above].

Yet the depiction of WWI I enjoyed more than all these recent examples was a restored print of the first Oscar-winning best picture, 1927's silent Wings, just released on DVD.

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