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Film / A Mighty Wind

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Back together for the first time, again.

"Oh, a mighty wind's a-blowin', it's kickin' up the sand...
It's blowin' out a message to every woman, child and man..."

A Mighty Wind is a 2003 mockumentary film about a reunion of Folk Music singers, directed by Christopher Guest. The movie's comedy is comparable to that of Guest's other films, This is Spın̈al Tap, Best in Show, and Waiting for Guffman, as well as having mostly the same cast as those films, including Guest, Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, John Michael Higgins, Jane Lynch, Parker Posey, and Fred Willard.

The plot is started by the death of Irving Steinbloom, a folk music producer, whose children plan a reunion concert with several of the bands he worked with to honor his memory. However, there are several things that make this difficult, such as the fact that once-married duo Mitch & Mickey (Levy, O'Hara) haven't spoken for decades since their messy breakup, and Mitch's resulting Creator Breakdown. Not to mention emerging tensions between the members of The Folksmen trio (Guest, McKean, Shearer), and the fact that the New Main Street Singers are an ersatz revival of the original group managed by former sitcom star Mike LaFontaine (Willard).

Presented as an Affectionate Parody of The '60s folk revival, the movie received largely positive reviews, with particular praise going towards the performances and the music within.

"A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow" earned itself an Academy Award nomination, making it somewhat of a Defictionalization.

Contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parent: Terry Bohner was subjected to a strange sort of abuse by his father—being locked in a room, made to listen to a single record on repeat, and then sent to bed with nothing but dessert.
  • Affectionate Parody: Of the folk music revival of The '60s and its personalities.
  • Author Appeal: Christopher Guest and company love folk music. Some have noted that that's the reason it's not as incisive or satirical as This is Spın̈al Tap.
  • Beard of Sorrow: Mitch sported one on the cover of his solo album Calling It Quits.
  • Bland-Name Product: The Public Broadcasting Network (PBN) is a stand-in for the Public Broadcasting Service.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Leonard shows Mitch his model trainset of "Crabbetown." It includes a mine, the logging camp... and the brothel downtown.
  • Casting Gag: The Folksmen are played by Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer, AKA Nigel Tufnel, David St. Hubbins, and Derek Smalls.
  • Creator Breakdown: In-Universe, Mitch Cohen recorded several solo albums (one of which provides the image source) when he broke up with Mickey. The names and themes get progressively more depressive.
  • Crossdressing Voices: Christopher Guest does the voices of both the man and woman who are making love in the hotel room next to Mitch.
  • Cult: The WINC (Witches in Nature's Colors), a coven that worships the power of color founded by Terry and Laurie.
  • The Ditz: Amber Cole.
    "Thank God for model trains, you know? If they didn't have the model train they wouldn't have gotten the idea for the big trains."
  • Dope Slap: Jonathan Steinbloom is on the receiving end of one of these after the stage manager gets increasingly irritated with his inane questions. The slap was entirely unscripted, and it broke up the entire crew. This is why the shot cuts away so quickly afterward, due to cast laughter on the soundtrack.
  • Fake Band: Several of them, in fact, but the performances are real. Much of the music was arranged by John Michael Higgins, who played Terry Bohner; and several cast members spent months learning to play their instruments, having never studied music before signing on for the movie. And, in something of a Defictionalization, most of the cast performed in character for a brief concert tour after the film's release. Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara also sang the movie's Oscar-nominated song in character as Mitch & Mickey at the 76th Annual Academy Awards. The Folksmen actually predate the movie, and have opened for Spın̈al Tap from time to time. Some Spın̈al Tap fans didn't even realize that they were the same people. As one might imagine, Tap fans tend not to be into folk music and sometimes indicated this rather vocally at the concerts, making Guest, McKean, and Shearer one of the few groups to ever be booed offstage in favor of themselves.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: When the Variety issue covering Wha' Happened is on screen, the review states the show was on air for only four episodes before being cancelled and was LaFontaine's third failed show in the past year and a half.
  • Genius Ditz: Mitch may be a bit empty-headed, but damn, the man can play.
  • Holding the Floor: Mitch goes missing during the concert, forcing the Folksmen to stall for time with extra songs and an extended monologue introducing their next one before Mitch is found and he and Mickey can go onstage.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: The Folksmen use a one-word title for their first five abums, with a missing final "g", eg. Pickin'. Their 6th album is titled Saying Something. They attribute the subsequent loss of their fanbase to that change in a scene cut from the theatrical release, but available in the DVD extras. That album was also the first where they used electric instruments, instead of strictly acoustic; parodying the fan and critic controversy over Bob Dylan's move to electric instruments on 1965's Bringing It All Back Home and the 1966 world tour.
  • Improv: As with Guest, McKean, and Shearer's other mockumentaries, the movie is composed of unscripted performances by actors who have gotten in-character.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Terry's rationalization of his and Laurie's cult religion.
    "This is not an occult science. This is not one of those crazy systems of divination and astrology. That stuff's hooey, and you've got to have a screw loose to go in for that sort of thing. Our beliefs are fairly commonplace and simple to understand. Humankind is simply materialized color operating on the 49th vibration. You would make that conclusion walking down the street or going to the store."
  • Master of the Mixed Message: Mitch. While in the hospital after being beaten severely while defending Mickey (whom he didn't know at the time), he wrote for her a romantic poem that she saved for decades, and read at the reunion concert. After she finishes reading, Mitch states, "I only wanted a drink of water." The song for which they were famous ("A Kiss At The End of the Rainbow") ended with a kiss, that was described by one critic as "the most important kiss in history." During the show, they do perform the kiss, and the entire cast of other musicians have come to the wings to see if they were going to do it. However, after the show, Mitch worries that Mickey might have been "caught up in the theatrics of the moment." Their album covers portrayed them as being in love, and the wonderful song "When I'm Next To You." (which didn't make the cut, but was played during the credits) described how the singer felt standing, holding hands with, kissing, and "lying with" his lover.
  • Mockumentary
  • Mood Whiplash: Hearty, wholesome Laurie's account of her earlier life has a Wait, What? moment fairly early on.
    Laurie: I was brought up in a very small town, south of the Chicago city limits. Just far enough away to have been peopled with pure, unadulterated white trash. And because I was one of so many children, I don't believe that anyone noticed when I blew town at 15 and ended up in San Francisco, California. [smiles] And it's at this point in my story that the dark clouds part, because I met a certain Mr. Wiseman, who gave me a job in his shop. And before long, he tapped me to do some small roles in some of his short films for more mature audiences. [cheeky wink] And before long, I had landed, if you will, some leads... and then I started to do some, uh, cameos. [Terry looks deeply uncomfortable] Well, I was known for doing a certain thing, that many of the other girls wouldn't do.
  • Musicalis Interruptus: 'The Skeletons of Quinto'. After a 20 minute (off-screen) introduction explaining the song while stalling for time, the Folksmen are rushed off-stage before they can sing it by the arrival of Mitch and Mickey.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: All the fictional acts are Affectionate Parodies of real ones:
    • Mitch and Mickey - Ian and Sylvia, and to a lesser extent Bob Dylan and Joan Baez.
    • The Folksmen - The Kingston Trio and Chad Mitchell Trio. (And possibly Peter Paul and Mary, per the closing gag!)
    • The New Main Street Singers - The New Christy Minstrels, Serendipity Singers, and Rooftop Singers.
    • Irving Steinbloom is based on real-life folk impresarios Harold Leventhal and Albert Grossman.
    • Ramblin' Jack Elliott is briefly represented with a character called Ramblin' Sandy Pitnik (mocking the fact that despite his cowboy person, Elliott was a middle class Jew).
  • Pretender Diss: The Folksmen see the New Main Street Singers as a cash grab with none of the passion of the original group. Doesn't mean they aren't able to play together.
  • Rail Enthusiast: Mickey's husband, Leonard.
  • Right Through the Wall: Happens to Mitch. Over and over again.
  • Runaway Train: "Blood on the Coal" by The Folksmen is a song about a runaway train in a coal mine. (The song actually predates the movie, and the joke is that all folk bands had a song about either a mine disaster or a train wreck, so The Folksmen had decided to combine the two by having a song about a train wreck inside a coal mine.)
  • Running Gag: Mike LaFontaine had once starred on a television sitcom called Wha' Happened?, in which he tried to make "Wha' happened?" a Catchphrase that would sweep the nation (the show was cancelled due to "complete lack of interest"). He continues to use the phrase throughout the movie.
  • Side Bet: One is made right at the end, regarding whether Mitch & Mickey would kiss at the end of their signature song.
  • The Stoner: Mitch comes off as either this or a suffer of a decades-long Heroic BSoD.
  • Take That!:
    "They're PBN viewers. I don't think they have remotes."
  • This Is Gonna Suck: After getting signaled to keep performing (while the crew tries to find Mitch), Alan Barrows and Mark Shubb take the opportunity to do "Skeletons of Quinto," which Jerry had shot down. When they begin discussing the history of the Spanish Civil War, Jerry slowly rolls his eyes shut.
  • Toilet Humor: Mickey is married to a catheter salesman. Also, the film's title refers to a song at the end of the film whose lyrics form a massive veiled fart joke.
  • Vocal Dissonance: Mark Shubb at the end of the film has transitioned to living as a woman (a new name is not provided for her) - but her voice is still as baritone bass as it was when she was when she lived as a man.
  • Wanderlust Song: "Never Did No Wanderin'" - parodied in that, as the title suggests, it's about all the traveling the narrator hasn't gotten to do.
  • Will They or Won't They?: An interesting case. The running emotional core of the film is Mitch and Mickey's relationship, being America's sweethearts in the past and famous for a song with a kiss but now having messily parted ways and moved on. The "will they or won't they" isn't exactly about them rekindling their romance, but there is tension about whether they will be able to re-create the famous kiss during their performance of "A Kiss At the End of the Rainbow" at Steinbloom's concert. They perform the kiss, with Mickey seeming to treat it as closure, while Mitch innocently says he felt nothing and treated it as part of the act.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Amber Cole's bizarre dialect, which sounds slightly like a cross between a Spanish and German accent. Lampshaded by Christopher Guest in the commentary: "You can narrow [her accent] down to a continent..."
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: As is customary with Christopher Guest movies. (Real documentaries almost always have them.)
  • Yiddish as a Second Language: Lars Olfen is the king of this trope, despite being so incredibly Swedish it hurts.
    "The nachesnote  that I'm feeling right now... 'cause your dad was like mishpochenote  to me. When I heard I got these ticket to the Folksmen, I let out a geshreeyehnote , and I'm running with my friend... running around like a vilde chayenote , right into the theater, in the front row! So we've got the shpilkesnote , 'cause we're sittin' right there... and it's a mitzvahnote , what your dad did, and I want to try to give that back to you. a kinnehuranote , I say, and God bless him!"