Just a little fun to send you into the summer weekend. Above, we present the 1975 animated short, “Pink Da Vinci,” which IMDB frames as follows:
Another battle of the paintbrush between the Pink Panther and a diminutive painter, who this time is Leonardo Da Vinci, painting his masterpiece, the Mona Lisa. The little Da Vinci paints a pouting mouth on the Mona Lisa, but the Pink Panther decides to covertly replace the pout with a smile. When the smile wins the appreciation of an art patron, Da Vinci is enraged and repaints the pout. The Pink Panther repeatedly changes the pout to a smile while the little painter is not looking, and ultimately it is the Pink Panther’s version of the Mona Lisa that hangs in the Louvre.
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What makes for a good comedy film or show? Funny people reading (or improvising) funny lines is not enough; an good director needs to capture (or recreate in the editing room) comic timing, construct shots so that the humor comes through and coach the actors to make sure that the tone of the work is consistent.
Your Pretty Much Pop hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt are joined by Heather Fink to discuss the role of the director in making a comedy (or anything else) actually good. Heather has directed for TV, film, and commercials and spent a lot of time doing sound (a boom operator or sound utility) for productions like Saturday Night Live, Get Out, The Morning Show, and Marvel’s Daredevil.
We talk about maintaining comedy through the tedious process of filming, putting actors through sex scenes and other hardships, not telling them how to say their lines, comedians in dramas, directing improv/prank shows, and more. We touch on include Bad Trip, Barry, and Ted Lasso, and more.
Watch some of Heather’s work:
Alleged, a short about dramatizing accusations against Steven Segal
Inside You, a film she wrote, directed, and (reluctantly) starred in
The Focus Group, a short Heather directed written by and starring Sara Benincasa
We used some articles to bring various directors and techniques to mind:
TikTok, the short-form video-sharing platform, is an arena where the young dominate — last summer, The New York Times reported that over a third of its 49 million daily users in the US were aged 14 or younger.
30-year-old Brooklyn-based artist Tyler Gunther views his creation, Greedy Peasant, as “the manifestation of all the strange medieval art we now enjoy in meme form”:
Often times medieval history focuses on royals, wars, popes and plagues. With this peasant guide, we get to experience the world through the lens of a queer artist who is just trying to make sure everyone is on time for their costume fittings for the Easter pageant.
My quarantine plans had been to work on a massive set of illustrations and teach myself the entire Adobe Creative Suite. Instead I just wandered from one corner of the hotel room to the next and stared at the office building directly outside my window. About 4 days in, Robin texted, “Now is your time to make a TikTok.” I had avoided it for so long. I always had an excuse and I was genuinely confused about how the app worked. But with no alternatives left I made a few videos “just to test out some of the filters” and I was instantly hooked.
Now, a green screen and a set of box lights are permanently installed in his Brooklyn studio so he can film whenever inspiration strikes, provided it’s not too steamy to don the tights, cowls, wigs and woolens that are an integral part of Greedy Peasant’s look.
One of Gunther’s most eye popping creations came about when Greedy Peasant answered an ad post in the town square seeking a Spider Man (i.e., a man with spiders) to combat a bug infestation:
As a former costume design student, I’m intrigued by how superhero uniforms fit within the very conservative world of Western men’s fashion. We’re supposed to believe these color blocked bodysuits are athletic and high tech. These manly men don’t wear them just because they look great in them, they wear them for our protection and the greater good. But what if one superhero did value style over substance? Would he still retain his authoritative qualities if his super suit was embroidered and beaded and dripping with tassels? This medievalist believes so.
To me tassels represent ornamentation for ornamentation’s sake at its peak. This decorative concept is so maligned in our current age. 21st century design trends are so sleek and smooth, which does make our lives practical and efficient. But soon we’ll all be dead. Medieval artisans seemed to understand this on some level. I think if iPhones were sold in the middle ages they would have 4 tassels on each corner. Why? Because it would look very nice. A tassel looks beautiful as a piece of static sculpture. It adds an air of authority and polish to whatever object it is attached to. If that were all they provided us it would be enough. But then suddenly you give your elbow a little flick and before you know it your sleeve tassels are in flight! They are performing a personal ballet with their little strings going wherever the choreography may take them. It’s a gift.
He also shoots on location when the situation warrants:
Especially in New York City, where it seems like every neighborhood has at least one building dressed up to look as if it survived the Black Plague. I love this blatantly false illusion of a heroic past. We American’s know it’s a façade. We know the building was built in 1910, not 1410, but somehow it still pleases us. Even when I went home to Arkansas to visit family, we were constantly scouting filming locations which looked convincingly medieval. Our greatest find were the back rooms and the choir loft of a beautiful gothic revival church in our town.
While Gunther is obviously his own star attraction, he alternates screen time with a group of “reliquary ladies,” whose main trio, Bridgette, Amanda and Susan are the queen bees of the side aisle. Even before he used a green screen filter to animate them with his eyes, lips, and a hint of mustache, he was drawn to their hairdos and individual personalities during repeat visits to the Met Cloisters.
“As reliquaries, they embody such a specific medieval sensibility,” he enthuses. “Each housed a small body part of a deceased saint, which people would make a pilgrimage to see. This combination of the sacred, macabre and beautiful includes all my favorite medieval elements.”
The portion set to Chopin’s Waltz in E Minor, above, has earned the nickname The Mistake Waltz. It’s an anthology of screw ups that will be familiar to anyone who’s attended a few amateur ballet productions and school recitals.
When the entire ensemble is meant to be traveling in the same direction or synchronizing swanlike gestures, the one who’s egregiously out of step is a guaranteed standout… if not the audience’s flat out favorite.
Robbins generously spreads the clowning between all six members of the corps, getting extra mileage from the telegraphed irritation in every indiscreetly attempted correction.
Performed well, the silliness seems almost improvisational, but as with all of this legendary choreographer’s work, the spontaneous beats are very, very specific.
He had the unique ability to become kid-like in the studio, giggling with others and often laughing robustly at his own jokes. He was certainly his own best audience for The Concert. How many times had he seen those gags and yet fresh, spontaneous laughter erupted from him as if it was a first telling.
The ATTC’s repertoire consists of great works of literature, song and dance… performed exclusively in aircraft lavatories, a true feat when one considers that Turner, impresario and sole company member, is 6’8”.
2015’s inaugural production, above, remains among the company’s most ambitious — a 50th anniversary recreation of Bob Dylan’s 1965 promotional film clip for Subterranean Homesick Blues, shot on various flights throughout the Ukulele Orchestra’s US tour.
Before long, Turner’s carry-on was stuffed with props and costumes — a toga, three self-adhesive Abraham Lincoln beards, a fat suit, a plastic cigar, cardboard face masks of Jimi Hendrix and Queen’s Brian May, and a numbers of inflatables, including a woman, a horse, and a not particularly realistic handgun.
Staging solo, site specific mini productions struck Turner as a far more amusing prospect than remaining in his seat, watching a movie:
I don’t like passive consumerism — I’d rather make my own movie than watch some CGI blockbuster on a plane. 90% of touring is NOT performing but sitting around on a plane/train/bus staring into space — I’m just trying to do something creative to make the time pass.
With advance planning, the simpler productions can make it into the can on a single take.
The James Bond Tribute, below, which called for costume changes, puppets and cardboard masks of Sean Connery, Roger Moore, and Daniel Craig, was shot in segments — London to Frankfurt, Singapore to Auckland, and Singapore to London.
Rather than projecting for the benefit of folks in the non-existent back row, Turner prefers to lip synch prerecorded lines, fed to him via earbud. This helps dial down the suspicions of flight attendants and fellow passengers. Once the “occupied” light comes on, he reckons he has between 7 to 10 minutes to take care of business. Should anyone question the length of his stay, or his large bag of costumes and props, his excuse is that “I suffer from haemorrhoids and need to change my pants. (Believe me, this is a conversation no one wants to take further.)”
If it looks like the chaos after blackout where everyone is stumbling around in the dark under one solitary emergency light, it’s a Caravaggio.
If there’s at least one person looking to the camera like they’re on The Office, it’s a Velázquez.
If there’s a room with some nice furniture, a window, and some women just going about their everyday business, it’s a Vermeer.
Rather than the traditional chronological progression, McGillivray mixes and matches, often in response to comments and Patreon requests.
When a commenter on the Baroque TikTok took umbrage that she referred to Artemisia Gentileschi by first name only, McGillivray followed up with an educational video explaining the convention from the 17th-century perspective.
At the urging of a Patreon subscriber, she leaps across four centuries to discover an unexpected kinship between Cubism and Renaissance painters, using George Braque’s Man with a Guitar and Sandro Botticelli’s Four Scenes from the Early Life of Saint Zenobius. One is attempting to escape the shackles of perspective by showing surfaces not visible when regarding a subject from a single point. The other is using a single space to depict multiple moments in a subject’s life simultaneously.
McGillivray is willing to be seen learning along with her followers. She’s open about the fact that she prefers Giotto and Fra Angelico to contemporary art (as perhaps befits an art historian whose face is more 1305 than 2021). Artist Dominic White’s wearable, environmental sculpture Hoodie Empathy Suit doesn’t do much for her until a conversation with the exhibiting gallery’s director helps orient her to White’s objectives.
It’s got all the things you would expect from a 1970s BBC production – wide collared shirts, long hair, smoking on television – plus some of the most influential insights into how we look at art and also how we look at the world around us.
Watch Mary McGillivray’s The Iconoclass here. Support her Patreon here.
Smells Like Teen Spirit is an unusual anthem because it refuses the role of the anthem. It’s perfect for the generation it represented because this was a cohort that was so ambivalent about any traditional values [or] conventional success. — music critic Ann Powers
They started playing the new song and people erupted. We were being slimed on by shirtless guys, just moshing. My friend Susan started hyperventilating, she thought it was so good: ‘I can’t, gasp, believe what they just played!’ It was just instantaneous; it was crazy.
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” was unreconstituted rock bliss to us…
…and perhaps not the most natural fit for a ukulele cover?
On the other hand, what better instrument for those “ambivalent about conventional success” than the ukulele?
Orchestra founder Peter Brooke Turner‘s tribute to lead vocalist Kurt Cobain helps nudge the needle past pure novelty into the realm of credibility, or at least a sophisticated understanding of all the ways in which the original works.
Plus, his “yeah” at 1:52 transcends the era of flannels, harkening to a time when the unconflicted preening rock god reigned supreme. (We should note that he serves plenty of ham alongside that sausage.)
Best of all is David Suich‘s enthusiastic headbanging. Clearly a fellow who enjoys putting his long hair in service of his art! (We refer you to the Ukulele Orchestra’s interpretation of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.” below…)
It’s got so much heart, to me. It’s not about the sensuality; it’s really about people trying to find themselves, this young dance instructor feeling like he’s nothing but a product, and this young girl trying to find out who she is in a society of restrictions when she has such an amazing take on things. On a certain level, it’s really about the fabulous, funky little Jewish girl getting the guy because [of] what she’s got in her heart.
Nearly 35 years after the original release, another gifted male dancer, Brooklyn-based photographer Quinn Wharton, is tapping into that heart… and Grey has been replaced by a lamp.
Wharton once told Ballet Hub that his favorite part of dancing professionally with the San Francisco Ballet and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago was the access it gave him to the great names in dance — William Forsythe, Mats Ek, Christopher Wheeldon, Wayne McGregor, and others whose proximity made for “a remarkable education.”
The first few months of the pandemic forced him to dance solo, recreating memorable film moments in response to a friend’s challenge:
I was hesitant at first but thought I would give it a try to see what I might be able to learn from it. Turns out it was way more fun than I thought and the result was funnier than I could have imagined.
We agree that his Quinn-tessential Dance Scenes series is very funny, as well as beautifully executed in the twin arenas of camera work and dance. His self-imposed parameters — no outside help, no green screen, no filming outside of the apartment, and no special purchases of props or costumes, contribute to the humor.
His hardworking, disembodied, comparatively well-covered haunches elicit laughs when seen next to the much skimpier original costume of Flashdance’s “Maniac” scene, above. 18-year-old star Jennifer Beals had three dance doubles — Marine Jahan, gymnast Sharon Shapiro, and legendary B-Boy Richard Colón, aka Crazy Legs of Rock Steady crew. None of them appeared in the original credits because, as Jahan told Entertainment Tonight, the producers “didn’t want to break the magic.”
In other words, a lot of steamy 80s-era fantasies centered on Beals are now known to be a case — possibly three cases — of mistaken identity.
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