Cinematic Convolutions: The Collapse of Comedy

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It seems that we’ve misplaced our age old slap stick.

In this modern day, we’ve kind of lost our old comedic edge in cinema, especially here in America:

The Interview

Neighbors

Grown Ups 1 & 2

This Is The End

The Other Woman

These are some of the more prominently featured American comedy films in the last few months/year. To be honest, I found all of these movies generally funny, but as I kept watching though, I felt a longing for something more.

The jokes were funny, and of course the actors were fine, but….to be honest that was it. Just jokes and actors.

It seems like in this modern day era, comedy films have become incredibly dependent on dialogue comedy: jokes, puns, gags, etc. Most of these movies are really just two hour long collections of improv with transitions in between.

You can see this in the movies themselves. Most scenes from these movies place two or more actors in the same area talking and talking and talking, and this is where they deliver the most of the comedic payoff.

These scenes are dialogue heavy and,true to their purpose, funny. But cinematically, they are BORING. Mostly, these scenes are shot in shot reverse shot, where the camera is just switching back and forth from actor to actor; no innovation or creativity, just relying on the writers to give good jokes.

There’s SO much more to comedy than just dialogue! ┬áThere are so many avenues that modern comedy films are missing out on: visual comedy, sound effect comedy, special effects comedy, and especially cinematic comedy, where you can create comedy through the use of editing, blocking, and framing!

For example:

To create a comedic effect, one of these movies, This Is The End, actually gets inventive with its cutting! Watch:

Look at that! By matching backgrounds and scene transitions, using those repetitious cuts in tandem with the commentary creates much better comedy than just dialogue! They even threw in a zoom! Why couldn’t they utilize cinematic strategies like these more?!

So I guess after talking about those who’ve done it wrong, its time to talk about who’s doing it right. And the one king of cinematic comedy is Edgar Wright.

Edgar Wright, when it comes to visual and cinematic comedy is a mastermind. He’s done hilarious films like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. They’re no masterpieces, but they’re damn funny, utilizing all aspects of comedy; not just dialogue.

He masterfully uses music, cuts, framing, and blocking to create honest to god some of the funniest scenes I’ve ever watched. He takes those scenes you saw up above, and tabs his own flair onto them, gets inventive and innovative, to create “total comedy.”

Take a gander:

Some other great uses of total comedy:

Comedy is not just in the lines that actors say. There can be humor in effects, sounds, and visuals. Its possible to intertwine laughter in filming, blocking, and editing. Comedy is a multi-layered art form, and film is the means by which those layers are wrapped together. Don’t limit yourself to one layer, that just makes you a joke.

-Corey

Credit: Thanks to the Youtube Channel “Every Frame a Painting” which I just recently discovered, which is a great resource, go check it out.

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