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Tony Grist

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The Cricklewood Greats [Feb. 6th, 2012|11:53 am]
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Parody is really hard to get right.  What you're aiming for is the smile of recognition. A good parody clings so close to its original that the unforewarned may be fooled into thinking it's the real thing. Good parodies are only ever moderately funny.  Go for the belly laugh, the knowing wink, the gag, and you risk breaking the gauzy illusion. Spinal Tap- perhaps the greatest of all movie parodies- is spoiled for me by the exploding drummers. 

The Cricklewood Greats is about as good as it ever gets. Capaldi and his team understand the grammar of the kind of reverential, fan-based documentary they've decided to take apart. They keep their faces straight, they stay in character.  There are flaws, of course.  The focus wobbles a bit. The British film industry never had a Melies or a Charlie Chaplin and it was a mis-step to include them in a mickey-take of British film (even though the pastiches are beautifully done).  With Jonny Puff  they seem to be trying to get at The Archers and Grierson all in one go- and the two are oil and water. But the slaps at Gracie Fields, Peter Cushing and Kenneth Williams are accurate and sufficiently cruel- and there's a delightful sequence in which Terry Gilliam enthusiastically rubbishes himself.  

Successful parody comes out of affection, but needs to be merciless- else it would turn to mush. It doesn't kill the thing it loves. It shows us how tawdry and absurd it is, but goes on loving it anyway.
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[User Picture]From: sovay
2012-02-06 04:07 pm (UTC)

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Spinal Tap- perhaps the greatest of all movie parodies- is spoiled for me by the exploding drummers.

Keith Moon almost blew up Pete Townshend on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. I didn't have any problems with that part.

But the slaps at Gracie Fields, Peter Cushing and Kenneth Williams are accurate and sufficiently cruel- and there's a delightful sequence in which Terry Gilliam enthusiastically rubbishes himself.

I do like Peter Capaldi . . .
[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-02-06 04:26 pm (UTC)

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Yeah, but he didn't actually do it. Now, if he'd blown himself up....

Peter Capaldi is splendid.
[User Picture]From: michaleen
2012-02-07 11:20 am (UTC)

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I can't give up on Spinal Tap, though. It's brilliant, exploding drummers and all.

My favorite parodists are probably Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear. Carroll's White Knight, I think, most effectively parodies Wordsworth, yet that one can hardly be thought subtle, can it?
[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-02-07 02:48 pm (UTC)

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Carroll's parodies are generally better than the poems they're guying. Mockery is just the jumping off point. Most of them have long outlived their originals. Who remembers "How doth the little busy bee"?

I think Lear is one of the greatest Victorian poets. The Jumblies brings tears into my eyes.

[User Picture]From: michaleen
2012-02-08 11:29 am (UTC)

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Agreed that Carroll's parodies are better than the originals. One of the few still remembered is Wordsworth's and it's just as ghastly and worthy of ridicule today as it was.

"The Jumblies" brings tears to my eyes, too, and how delightful to find someone similarly afflicted. It's Tennyson at his best, I think, liberated from the leaden imagery and sentiments of his age. Lear is one of the unsung greats of the English language. Utter nonsense is far more difficult than it looks.

"Cold Are the Crabs", for instance, is sheer, unhinged genius. How does he evoke melancholy with only cucumbers and an odd assortment of animals with which to work?