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EZ Viewing IV: A Mighty Wind

October 28th, 2009

The third film we screened at EZ Viewing IV was A Mighty Wind.

A Mighty Wind is another fine film that I have a distinct memory of seeing for the first time (when I caught a sneak peek here in Boston) – although I have seen it many, many times subsequently!!

Businessman Jonathan Steinbloom (Bob Balaban, so great as wimpy NBC executive Russell Dalrymple in Seinfeld) decides to put together a memorial concert for his father featuring as many of his dad’s favorite folk musicians as possible. As he sets out to recruit the “talent,” what follows is a delightfully bizarre and wonderfully entertaining tour through the universe of folk music and the many, um, let’s say “quirky” folks who inhabit it. The world of folk music isn’t something that was necessarily crying out for parody – but that might be part of what makes A Mighty Wind so memorable.

The “mockumentary” format has become a bit overused in recent years, but there does not exist a greater master of the format than director/writer/actor Christopher Guest, and in my mind A Mighty Wind is the pinnacle of his work. (Let the debates begin!!) Much has been written about the improvisational manner in which Guest and his actors find the characters and the shape of their films – the result is a film that is filled to the brim with indelible comedic performances. And what an ensemble of actors Mr. Guest has assembled: Harry Shearer (the voice of Ned Flanders, Montgomery Burns, Waylon Smithers, Principal Skinner, Kent Brockman, Rev. Lovejoy, Dr. Hibbert, Rainier Wolfcastle, and so many more on The Simpsons) , Michael McKean (spreader of a vicious rumor about Larry David on last season’s finale of Curb Your Enthusiasm), Eugene Levy (American Pie), Catherine O’Hara (SCTV), Jane Lynch (The 40 Year Old Virgin, Role Models, Talladega Nights), Parker Posey (Superman Returns), Fred IWillard (Anchorman, Wall-E), Ed Begley Jr. (The Pineapple Express, hairless Stan Sitwell on Arrested Development), Jennifer Coolidge (Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me), Larry Miller (a familiar face from so many comedies, but I’ll always think of him as the overly forward doorman on Seinfeld), John Michael Higgins (Walk Hard, deadpan attorney Wayne Jarvis on Arrested Development), Paul Dooley (spymaster Enabran Tain on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), and so many more.

There are so many pleasures to be found in this film. The fanatical happiness of the New Main Street Singers. The reunion of Spinal Tap (Shearer, McKean, & Guest), albeit now in the form of a group performing an entirely different form of music! (Though who wouldn’t have killed to hear the Frontiersmen cover “Big Bottom??) Fred Willard’s catchphrase. Ed Begley Jr.’s constant use of Yiddish. The flashbacks to Jonathan Steinbloom (Bob Balaban)’s sheltered youth. Eugene Levy’s Shatner-esque pauses. I could go on!!!

I’ll be back here tomorrow to discuss the fourth and fifth films from this year’s EZ Viewing! (Click here for my thoughts on Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Run Lola Run!)

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