The BAFTA LA Jaguar Britannia Awards last night saw the usual glitz, glam and speeches — with one exception: Sacha Baron Cohen accidentally killed an elderly woman by pushing her off the stage.
Well, not really. But the attendees definitely thought so — for a good couple of seconds.
Presented with the Charlie Chaplin Britannia for Excellence in Comedy at L.A.’s Beverly Hilton Hotel, Baron Cohen was joined onstage by Grace Cullington, the oldest surviving Chaplin co-star, who appeared in “City Lights” at the age of 5!
What started out as an “aww” moment for the audience as Cullington bestowed Chaplin’s actual cane from “City Lights” onto his comedy heir — which the “Borat” star used to pay homage to the tramp’s signature penguin waddle — quickly descended into complete and utter disbelief when he tripped and suddenly sent her flying into the crowd.
A wall comes to life. Arms appear in what had seemed like empty black suits hanging on them. The seven actors in the company, in evening dress, whom we’ve seen singing, playing with pieces of paper, join hands with the arms. Together the actors and the limbs on the wall do a kind of Hora. Later, a 17-foot high puppet of a babushka embraces, and menaces, a little clown. The clown is composer Dmitry Shostakovich. It’s like something from Dr. Seuss. It’s like a dream.
Though there are words in Dmitry Krymov’s “Opus No. 7,” both in the first part, titled “Genealogy,” and in the second act titled “Shostakovich,” much of the work’s punch lands through other kinds of theatrical language. Even the title evokes a piece of classical music, and the abstraction of painting.
The number 7 also refers to the seven members of the cast: Maxim Maminov, Mikhail Umanets, Sergey Melkonyan, Arkady Krichenko, Natalia Gorchakova, Maria Gulik and Varvara Voetskova. Krymov said in an email that it is also his favorite number. It is also Krymov’s seventh work. Another notable 7 is that Shostakovich’s seventh symphony was about war, Krymove pointed out.
Saul Austerlitz is the author of “Another Fine Mess: A History of American Film Comedy.” His blog posts are appearing this week on The Arty Semite courtesy of the Jewish Book Council and My Jewish Learning’s Author Blog series. For more information on the series please visit:
Being on tour for a book is simultaneously an exhilarating and a terrifying experience. Exhilarating because, after toiling so lengthily in the mines of authorial solitude, it is a pleasure of no small import to emerge to the surface, book in hand, and talk about it with friends, family, and total strangers. Terrifying because, as all authors who have ever done a book tour can attest to, the midnight panic that occasionally bubbles up, convinced you’ll give a reading and no one — literally not a single person — will show up.
Thankfully, that did not happen to me during my tour for my new book “Another Fine Mess: A History of American Film Comedy,” but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t something I occasionally broke out into a cold sweat at the prospect of.
Last August, during President Obama’s visit to Martha’s Vineyard, a protest erupted over a T-shirt being sold at the SunStations shop in Oak Bluffs that portrayed Obama as Moe, Vice President Joe Biden as Larry, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as Curly. The caption read: “The REAL Stooges.”
The storeowner said no malice was intended, and pointed to other shirts in the shop that praise the President. For us, however, there was no need to explain, as we see the comparison as complimentary. After all, the Three Stooges, who are being honored on December 13 at the Three Stooges Film Festival in Albany, as well as in a forthcoming Three Stooges Movie, were pioneering geniuses of comedy.
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