Friday, October 5, 2012

The Cutting Room Floor

Today I read that Mel Brooks is being honored by the American Film Institute with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Good for him. Brooks has always been hilarious, a fact many of us take for granted. But he deserves kudos for his work and recognition for his sense of humor, both of which were way ahead of their time.

I recently saw an interview with Brooks and co-conspirator Carl Reiner by Jerry Seinfeld on his web series "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee." (If you have a computer or access to one, you must watch this series.) It is extremely entertaining as Seinfeld dines casually with Alec Baldwin, Ricky Gervais. Larry David and others in show business. The Brooks-Reiner episode is certainly one of the best, guaranteed to make the viewer appreciate what was going through the minds of these creative pioneers.

Mel Brooks talks openly about how some of his movies were not "politically correct" when they were released. No kidding. When his movies were made, people were aware of things which were not polite to say and do, although they may have done them anyway. Brooks' movies pushed that envelope and we laughed -- a lot. But that was then and this is now. We can't judge any movies or entertainment from decades ago by our hyper-sensitivity of today.

Recently I was watching a tribute to silent movies on Turner Classic Movies (TCM). It was vastly entertaining. The films were from comedy director Mack Sennett and some of those contained "bits" that made me uncomfortable. These were from the early 1920s and 1930s when life was far different than today. Sennett's bathing beauties caused scandals by showing their figures in tight-fitting but all-covering swimsuits when most women dressed in long sleeves and full skirts.

We can scarcely fault something that occurred nearly 100 years ago. We can overlook certain things in view of the period when they occurred.

What disturbs me is when a movie that I have seen in the theatre is shown on TV and edited so much that it barely resembles the original. Folks who haven't seen the movie can still follow the plot and most likely will find it entertaining. But it's not the movie that had been originally shown to audiences. It must be very frustrating to directors whose work has been chopped and spliced even after it is completely finished. Sometimes directors are eventually allowed to repair the damage with a so-called "director's cut" and replace scenes that were removed. Sometimes this occurs many years later, but filmmakers must feel vindicated to see their movie as they originally intended.

I wonder why some networks even show films which are so badly edited. For instance, I have always liked the original "Die Hard" starring Bruce Willis. It's shown often and has somehow taken on the overtones of a holiday movie, because, I suppose, the setting is at an office Christmas party. However, the mayhem that arises hardly resembles "It's a Wonderful Life." But the movie has remained fresh, with crisp dialogue and a story that moves right along. It is among the films that has stood the test of time, a stretch in today's society.

The movie has been bleeped and cut nearly to the point of being absurd. Certain words that Bruce Willis speaks are not often spoken in polite society. Despite that, Fox Movie Channel shows "Die Hard" with its entire original dialogue -- no bleeps. It was their movie to start with and I admire that kind of bravado. Heck, people have most likely heard worse words.

If a film can't be shown unedited by a network, it seems that the programmer has other movies from which to choose. There are plenty of them out there. Why show a movie where scenes might be deleted and the dialogue sanitized? It's a little like telling a joke and skipping the punch line.

Just a guess, but I would imagine a large percentage of folks might feel the same way. After all, most of us are grown ups. People might prefer to see a movie which was introduced by some type of disclaimer and realize that the kiddies should not be watching.

Send the kiddies to the family room to watch "Finding Nemo" again.

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