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May 27, 2014 2:21 PM   Subscribe

How to do visual comedy like Edgar Wright.
posted by JoeBlubaugh (44 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
And this just in after Wright had to leave Marvel's long-gestating Ant-Man movie to remind us of what could have been. No wonder he looks so sad in this since-deleted selfie.

Now excuse me while I nip round to the shop for a Cornetto.
posted by Doktor Zed at 2:31 PM on May 27 [1 favorite]


Great breakdown of why he's doing it Wright.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:44 PM on May 27 [1 favorite]


I never noticed the greater similarity between the Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson shot in Shaun of the Dead.
“Viewers of British television might notice an extra parallel between the shots. The actors playing each of the group leaders, Simon Pegg (Shaun) and Jessica Stevenson (Yvonne), were the leads in the sitcom Spaced (also directed by Edgar Wright, the TV predecessor to Shaun). Also split between the two groups are Lucy Davis (Shaun’s Group, hat) and Tim Freeman (Yvonne’s group, second in line), from original The Office and Dylan Moran (Shaun’s group, glasses) and Tamsin Greig (Yvonne’s group, hat), the leads of the sitcom Black Book. Yvonne’s mum (second matron) is played by Julie Deakin, who played the drunk and desperately lonely/horny landlady in Spaced.”
It's sweet touches like this which make Wright such a genius.
(and the Ant-Man news such a shame)
posted by fullerine at 2:49 PM on May 27 [8 favorites]


I just rewatched Shaun of the Dead the other day for the first time in years. I had had no idea that Shaun's mum was Mrs. Crawley.
posted by dfan at 2:55 PM on May 27 [1 favorite]


It's the money!
posted by absolutelynot at 3:00 PM on May 27 [2 favorites]


Oh if you like this shot in Shaun of the Dead, fullerine, you should be fan of this conversation foreshadowing the whole plot.. ;)
posted by bigendian at 3:02 PM on May 27 [19 favorites]


see also, The World's End Pubs:

The First Post = The first leg of the epic pub crawl.
The Old Familiar = The pub where the group notices everything is different about the town.
The Famous Cock = A run-in with Oliver’s sister Sam, who once had sex with Gary.
The Cross Hands = The group fights a band of teens in the bathroom, who they realize are actually robots.
The Good Companions = The group decides to stick together and continue on the pub crawl to stay alive.
The Trusty Servant = Gary confronts his former drug dealer, who is human but works for the robots.
The Two-Headed Dog = Gary and Sam get in a fight with Sam’s friends, the twins (who are robots).
The Mermaid = Three girls from the group’s past try to seduce Gary, Andy, and Peter.
The Beehive = A bunch of robots swarm the group in a fight.
The King’s Head = On their way there, Gary smashes his head on a wall to prove he’s not a robot.
The Hole in the Wall = Stephen drives a car through the pub’s wall to help Gary and Andy.
The World’s End = Obviously, the apocalypse.
posted by jazon at 3:06 PM on May 27 [14 favorites]


The problem is that Ant Man's origin is too complicated to make a good movie. And Metafilter is a flat circle.
posted by The Bellman at 3:10 PM on May 27 [3 favorites]


OK, I have now actually watched the video, and it's really good. The Cornetto movies in particular are all incredibly well crafted, and this does a great job of showing how.
posted by dfan at 3:13 PM on May 27


The fact that anyone, including Edgar Wright, is sad that Edgar Wright got fired from a superhero(?) comic book movie is absurd. Hopefully he'll be forced to go back to making modest budget masterpieces instead of high dollar blubber.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:14 PM on May 27 [10 favorites]


I don't know enough about film to expound on stuff like this myself, but I love hearing about it from people who do.

I've seen films that manage to be worthwhile in spite of uninspired cinematography, but I've never seen a great film that didn't actively embrace and exploit the camera's power to help tell the story and shape the audience's experience of it.

This guy is absolutely right about mainstream American comedy movies, which are rarely shot any better than the horrid SNL skits that inspire them.

Thanks for the link!
posted by escape from the potato planet at 3:18 PM on May 27


Incidentally, I checked the "film" tag here on MeFi, which led me to this video by the same guy, which led me to realize that he has a whole bunch of videos like this. Time to dig in!
posted by escape from the potato planet at 3:30 PM on May 27 [4 favorites]


I think the deal with the ant-man movie was that he wasn't interested in making a 'marvel universe' movie, and the studio kind of forced him into it with re-writes.
posted by empath at 3:33 PM on May 27


I find Edgar Wright's films to be pretty unfunny. I like the stories and feel engrossed throughout the movie, but I might laugh once or twice during an entire film. That is not to say American films are any better, but quick cuts do not equal comedy gold.
posted by cloeburner at 3:36 PM on May 27


Something tells me a lot more of these visual whatnots show up in the "parody" branch of the modern comedy family tree.
posted by tew at 3:40 PM on May 27


Wright works cause there isn't a wasted second, even in his looser stuff there is a terrible and magnetic amount of STUFF crammed into every scene, call backs, call forwards, references, in-jokes. Shaun Of The Dead is like a beautiful relentless clockwork machine.

The only reason I was interested in Ant Man at all is cause of Wright cause I have never disliked anything he's done or has produced.

I am considerably less interested in it now.
posted by The Whelk at 3:49 PM on May 27 [2 favorites]


I find Edgar Wright's films to be pretty unfunny. I like the stories and feel engrossed throughout the movie, but I might laugh once or twice during an entire film. That is not to say American films are any better, but quick cuts do not equal comedy gold.

I've generally enjoyed Wright's movies, but find them uneven mostly. I would probably be less charitable if he wasn't as good a cinematographer. Same goes for someone like Ridley Scott -- the visuals are always impeccable, often propping up a mediocre story.

All this video does is provide a list of cheats to gussy up tepid writing.
posted by 99_ at 3:51 PM on May 27


Wolf of Wall Street, oddly enough, is the most recent live-action movie I would name that had visual comedy that I actually laughed at.

(Ssssstevve Mmmmmaddden!)
posted by FJT at 3:57 PM on May 27


While I agree that current American comedies are visually boring and stupid and often times not all that funny, I don't think everyone should strive to copy Wright's style. It seems like he rehashes a lot of visual tropes (maybe in the interest of having a stylistic connection or just, theme and variations), instead of finding new touches for each film.

But still, I just honestly screamed with laughter yet again for the "Are they still there?" bit from "Shaun..."
posted by ReeMonster at 4:05 PM on May 27


cloeburner: "I find Edgar Wright's films to be pretty unfunny. I like the stories and feel engrossed throughout the movie, but I might laugh once or twice during an entire film. That is not to say American films are any better, but quick cuts do not equal comedy gold."

I found Scot Pilgrim pretty funny. I've only seen Shawn of the Dead out of the Cornetto movies and I don't think that it was intended to be laugh-out-loud funny.
posted by octothorpe at 4:11 PM on May 27


The problem is that Ant Man's origin is too complicated to make a good movie

1. Nutty scientist invents a device that lets him shrink to size of an ant, and also talk to ants


...seriously, that's all you actually need. Yes, there's more cruft in the Marvel canon, but that's true of every character, and I don't think we need to worry about Werewolf Captain America or Iron Man's rollerskates either. Good editing is basically 90% of the battle.
posted by Shepherd at 4:20 PM on May 27 [3 favorites]


One of my favorite comedies that uses everything to tell the story is The Graduate. Such fantastic visual storytelling.
posted by dobbs at 4:29 PM on May 27


Disappointed he didn't include any Anne Hall in his examples of visual comedy. The scene where Christopher Walken blows through a red light at night after talking about committing suicide is brilliant. Also, the scene where interposes himself and his classmate's futures in his childhood classroom. Or the scene where Diane Keaton isn't into the sex and you see a personification of her mind wandering around the room as she thinks about other things.

Don't get me wrong: Woody Allen loves to talk at you in films. But I always find his cinematography top notch.
posted by sbutler at 4:35 PM on May 27


Oh, man, I so needed this today.
posted by Sara C. at 4:44 PM on May 27


The heavily mustachioed detective re-entering the shot in Hot Fuzz was improved by the actor. If this guy was up on the 250 commentary tracks Wright does for his movies, he'd know that.

/that guy who went on vacation to Wells to buy a cornetto in Sandford.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:44 PM on May 27 [5 favorites]


But it was Wright who told the script supervisor to make a note that he really liked that take, and then had the editor put it into the final film.

That's the whole point of making a series like this about directors as opposed to cinematographers or camera operators or actors or location managers.
posted by Sara C. at 4:47 PM on May 27 [2 favorites]


I knew I picked the wrong day to go for my Um, Actually License!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:50 PM on May 27 [4 favorites]


The best thing in any Wright film is Cate Blanchett's uncredited cameo in Hot Fuzz
posted by The Whelk at 4:52 PM on May 27 [2 favorites]


I've only seen Shawn of the Dead out of the Cornetto movies and I don't think that it was intended to be laugh-out-loud funny.

Is this thread full of pod people? "I'm not sure Airplane! was going for laugh-out-loud funny, I think it was more of a proto-cringe-comedy thing, like a precursor to Girls"
posted by furiousthought at 5:53 PM on May 27 [14 favorites]


I love Shaun of the Dead, and I didn't think it was laugh out loud funny, for the most part. It's a really tightly plotted zombie flick that happens to have a lot of humor in it. There's barely a wasted moment in it.
posted by empath at 6:21 PM on May 27 [1 favorite]


furiousthought: "Is this thread full of pod people? "I'm not sure Airplane! was going for laugh-out-loud funny, I think it was more of a proto-cringe-comedy thing, like a precursor to Girls""

Well obviously it's not as funny as Airplane! but what is? I didn't say that it wasn't humorous, just not the kind of movie that actually gets you to actually laugh out loud. It's certainly clever but way too cool to be a real comedy.
posted by octothorpe at 7:17 PM on May 27 [1 favorite]


Too right. Edgar Wright may be a little prone to repeating himself visually (but almost always on purpose, for effect, it must be said), but he's one hell of a director.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:00 PM on May 27


One point the video makes, which is absolutely spot on, is that Wright is great largely due to the absence of other great comedic directors. The point early on about most American comedies really just being extended improv sequences -- living in the limitations of a black box theater for no particular reason -- is dead fucking on, and it's embarrassing. And probably partially why comedy features do so poorly and are such a stagnant art form at this point.
posted by Sara C. at 10:17 PM on May 27 [1 favorite]


When he was talking funny ways to exit a scene I thought he was going to show this bit from Scott Pilgrim.

The bit with all the characters looking at each other is pretty much straight from the comic. My point being give O'Malley some of the credit for the visual gag.


Also a bunch of the early Ant-Man comics ended with him riding off into the sunset on the back of an ant, so I was kind of hoping/expecting that's how he'd end the movie.
posted by RobotHero at 10:51 PM on May 27 [1 favorite]


I think I like this Tony Zhou guy.

Actually, I'm sure of it. I *really* like this Tony Zhao guy.
posted by Didymium at 1:20 AM on May 28


living in the limitations of a black box theater for no particular reason

Well, it's not for no reason. Mainstream comedy in the US has largely been driven by Second City and the Groundlings for the past several decades. The actors, writers and directors and audiences are all comfortable with that style of comedy.
posted by empath at 1:20 AM on May 28


Man, Scott Pilgrim has so much funny stuff. That "Is Scott here" bit is just one scene (although one of the better ones) in a constant, never lets up sequence of things that make me laugh.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 1:38 AM on May 28


While some of The World's End felt like Edgar Wright fanservice, I didn't mind because I am a fan of Edgar Wright. At least he has a recognisable visual style, whereas the US comedies seem to come form the school of Lucas. The recent X-Men film also suffered from this.
posted by asok at 2:55 AM on May 28


Empath, that I know. When I said "for no reason" I didn't mean "completely divorced from all rationality". I meant no cinematic reason. It's not a deliberate choice, like Kevin Smith's decision to shoot Clerks in black and white for budget reasons, or the way that Speilberg avoids showing the shark in Jaws because the animatronic monster they ordered looked like shit.

I wouldn't even chalk it up to "because of the influence of Second City", which frankly is too charitable. It's because most Hollywood comedy films are produced as vehicles. Let's make a movie where we get Will Ferrel and/or Melissa McCarthy to be funny! Who to bring in as director is completely beside the point. So, yeah, you get some hack hired hand who, himself, probably came out of SNL or sitcoms. And that's the best comedy film directors right now. You also have people like Anne Fletcher (director of The Guilt Trip and some shitty romcoms) who is a choreographer. A lot of these people aren't really filmmakers, which is why their films might as well be radio plays or SNL sketches or sitcom pilots.
posted by Sara C. at 11:13 AM on May 28


Well, I'll defend the improv-based genre a little bit, but in this way. I recently caught up with This is 40, which had some decent jokes and performances, but was 134 minutes long. Wright's four features average 110 min. And I really think 90 is a good length to shoot for in comedy, but it seems with ticket prices and multiplex logistics (traffic, parking, popcorn lines) people really want to get more for their money and that makes most comedies overstuffed with empty fluff.

I think Paul Feig is one of the better comedy directors right now -- he was certainly responsible for many of the best episodes of The Office (especially my favorite, "The Dinner Party") -- but he's not particularly visual. There's something to be said for character-based comedy but I don't think Wright is overlooking that while using his highly visual technique. Sight gags are as old as mud (and vaudeville), after all.

I think Zhou missed calling out a key Wright technique, though -- dramatic irony, where say one character is hitting a particular pose or tone and another character is playing off that in a potentially completely unrealistic but funny way. In this way he allows, say, Pegg to be sentimental or selfish or something else unattractive and play it up. The primary way this is used in American comedy, though, is the undercut expectation and a -- usually bluntly telegraphed -- reveal, which is usually much more sympathetic to the main character. It can be funny, of course, but it's become heavily overused.
posted by dhartung at 2:12 PM on May 28 [2 favorites]


It's because most Hollywood comedy films are produced as vehicles. Let's make a movie where we get Will Ferrel and/or Melissa McCarthy to be funny! Who to bring in as director is completely beside the point.

Yeah, I agree, I was also going to say it's because they're actor driven and people don't think about comedy directors the way they do about dramatic directors.
posted by empath at 7:24 PM on May 28


So I actually got around to watching the video and I'm not really sold. The gimmicky little director's quirks that Wrighte uses are cute and inventive but not really very funny. If anything, they're kind of distracting and take you out of the film when you want to be focusing on the characters.
posted by octothorpe at 7:11 PM on May 29


Shaun Of The Dead is like a beautiful relentless clockwork machine.

And I think it's that really tight plotting that makes SotD work so much better for me than Wright's later films. It's impeccably written -- clearly they spent a long time on the writing process. Nothing is wasted, and almost every joke in the second half is paying off a setup in the first half.

The later films feel a lot more baggy, almost self-indulgent, in comparison.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 1:32 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


Finally saw World's End just now. It had some clever bits but it's way too smug and pleased with itself. I think I liked the one with Seth Rogen and James Franco better.
posted by octothorpe at 7:51 PM on June 18


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