Mel Brooks is more than just Space Balls amazingly enough. Not that I don't know this, but he's one of those guys that I'm always surprised is behind whatever work he happens to be behind. Except Robin Hood: Men in Tights. That's the kind of thing I expect Mel Brooks to have done. And I don't know why! Because he's done so much great stuff: Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, and The Producers to name a few. Of course, The Producers may be the best of his work (although I am very partial to Get Smart. That TV show was a work of genius).
Brooks won an Oscar for the original iteration of The Producers back in 1968. It was his first movie. It was adapted as a Broadway musical in 2001, and a film was adapted from the musical in 2005. In 2012, my son was involved in a production of The Producers (the musical) at his high school.
It was magnificent.
In fact, it was the best high school production I've ever seen. It was better than any college production I've ever seen. It was better than many professional productions I've seen including the production of The Pirates of Penzance that my son was in last summer. I wish you could all come and see it. (There's one more weekend of shows.)
My son is only part of the chorus (because he didn't try out for it despite urgings to do so), but that's okay, because he was a great part of the chorus. Especially his performance as a little old lady in the song and dance number with the walkers. The leads, however, were tremendous. The guy, a senior, that played Max was... well, I have no words. I would not have believed he was in high school; I'll just put it like that. And the entire show was choreographed by students. Amazing!
All of that to say, this musical production is an example of why we need to support the arts in our schools. The ArtQuest program at my son's high school is superb; it's sad that there is a constant need to defend the arts and such a struggle to get funding for them.
Anyway, like I said, I wish you could all come see this show and be as blown away by it as I was. Short of that, go rent the movie. The one adapted from the musical. It has Matthew Broderick and Will Ferrell. Although, even with Broderick, I'm not sure I can say that it's actually better than the high school production I just saw.
In the Heat of the Night
Sticking with our (not) theme of movies from the late 60s, I just watched In the Heat of the Night. It was the 1967 winner of the best picture Oscar, and, I have to say, it was well deserved. I've seen 4 of the 5 films nominated for that year, so I'm not just saying that.
Here's the thing that most impressed me about the movie in comparison to movies like, say, There Will Be Blood. It's about something and it has a story. As opposed to many newer movies (like Blood) which are clearly about something but don't have a story, a vehicle, for telling what the movie is about.
In the Heat of the Night is about civil rights and the racial inequality that was still clearly present in much of the United States at the time. Inequality that is still present even if it isn't present to the same degree. Still... drive through the deep south sometime, and I bet you can still find scenes that seem right out of the movie. I know you could 20 years ago, because I was still in the deep south back then. However, the story is a murder mystery. And a good one. (I'm used to pegging the killer in these kinds of things within the first 1/3 of the story, but I had no idea about this one right up until they showed whom it was.)
Sidney Poitier is quite good as Virgil Tibbs. I don't think he had to stretch much for the role (meaning he seemed much like he does in other movies I've seen him in), but there's probably not anyone else that really could have done that role at the time.
Rod Steiger got best actor for his role as Bill Gillespie. His was an interesting character to watch, and Steiger really pulled off the ambivalence he felt in dealing with Tibbs. The struggle between his dislike of blacks and his growing respect for this one particular black man. In that, Steiger was excellent.
It's a great movie, a movie that deserved its Oscar, and people still need to see it. Especially considering that it's more than 40 years later, and a movie like Red Tails can't get studio funding.