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2013 Lake Placid Film Forum: Reviews of Mel Brooks and North Country Shorts

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Documentaries and Local Filmmakers at the LPFF

Mel Brooks and North Country Shorts, Reviews

Writer’s note: So sorry this was not posted earlier! Having been officiating at a figure skating competition and as secretary of the Skating Club of Lake Placid, I have had to delay this review until now.

The Lake Placid Film Forum continued at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts on Saturday, June 15th. I took in a documentary about a legendary comedian, and the popular North Country Shorts.

American Masters—Mel Brooks: Make a Noise

Mel Brooks directing Silent Movie in 1976.When I was twelve years old, I saw my first Mel Brooks film. It was History of the World—Part 1 and although many of the jokes went over my head, I enjoyed the slapstick, silly brand of humor. I had never heard of the man who directed the film, Mel Brooks, although I did spot him in the movie itself playing several characters, a common occurrence in his movies. But I did know that his humor was daring yet innocent, and trusted the audience’s intelligence. Like any good writer or artist, Brooks respected his viewers, and trusted that they could “get” the jokes or references in his movies. No doubt he has served as an inspiration to actors, comedians, directors, and writers everywhere.

I was intrigued by the story of Brooks’ life a few weeks ago, when I heard an interview with him on public radio. It seemed like serendipity when I saw the Film Forum schedule, which included this film on Saturday.

The documentary delved mostly into Brooks’ career, and only spent limited time on his personal life. I was expecting a more traditional biography that progressed in a more linear fashion, from his youth to the beginning of his career in show business, but this documentary switched frequently from personal life remembrances to career anecdotes, which could be disorienting.

Another strange feature of the documentary was the way the interviews were staged. Brooks, perhaps one of the most vibrant people in showbiz, was placed in front of a white screen, which seemed an odd move. Although the interview took place in an environment in which Brooks was no doubt comfortable, (a soundstage), it was still a very flat place to talk to such an energetic and unique man. Personally, I would have interviewed Mel in his home (if it was permitted), or somewhere less dull that was more meaningful.  However, the choice to use medium shots of Brooks was a good one, as they perfectly framed his lively mannerisms.

Collaborators and friends including Tracey Ullman, Carl Reiner, Cloris Leachman, Nathan Lane, and Joan Rivers contributed to the documentary, providing more information and perspective on Brooks’ incredible career. The documentary was especially interesting because it was the first time any of Brooks’ friends or collaborators were willing to talk about him in an interview setting.

Overall, I enjoyed the documentary, and found it fascinating and inspiring. Brooks says that he decided after seeing Ethel Merman in Anything Goes at age 9 to be in showbiz. “”No factories for me. no driving a cab… I’m going to write things that are in my soul and in my heart, and I’m going to be in show business… and I was going to enjoy my life and have fun… and I did”, he says in reference to his ambitions. It was this confidence and resolve that made him a comedy legend, and continues to make him a fascinating—and funny—entertainer.

Rating, (out of 1-5 Georges): 4.5

North Country Shorts

This was the first year I attended the North Country Shorts event, and I realized how much I had been missing. From the playful to the philosophical, the short films were all engaging. My personal favorite was The Come Up, about a production assistant’s attempts to get his screenplay into the hands of a producer. It was the audience’s favorite also, and won the Audience Choice award. Fort Apache, a film directed by Addison Mehr, was the Tony Lucas Award Winner. According to the Lake Placid Film Forum website, the accolade “celebrates the cinematography and use of location / production design in a short film,” I enjoyed each film, and I highly recommend the North Country Shorts event as a “must see” part of the Lake Placid Film Forum.

Rating, (out of 1-5 Georges): 5

Christie Sausa is a Contributor to The Free George.

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.

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