Seminar: Raising Arizona


What’s the connection between cartoons and live-action comedies? And what exactly is a “live-action cartoon”? One answer to both questions is Raising Arizona—and this Coolidge Seminar will explain plenty more!

Once he decides to give up crime, a small-time robber (Nicolas Cage) proposes to a pretty cop (Holly Hunter). But when the newlyweds learn they can't conceive a baby, they decide to steal one from a couple who seem to have one to spare--since they just had quintuplets. With its outrageous plot, fast-paced action and even some wild pyrotechnics, Joel and Ethan Coen’s Raising Arizona will forever have a place in the hearts of lovers, and film lovers, everywhere.

Film critic Jake Mulligan’s seminar on Raising Arizona will begin with a look at the shared history of cartoons and feature-length comedies, which have been paired together and influenced one another since the silent era. The seminar will also explore the Coen brother’s own early days working on another canonically cartoonish genre movie, Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead, and then explain how Raising Arizona helped kicked off an enduring tradition of “live-action cartoons” that continues into the present day. By considering all that connects animated short films and feature-length comedies, this seminar helps us to understand what makes both forms so uniquely cinematic!


Jake Mulligan is the film section editor and critic at DigBoston, is a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics, and has taught many classes and seminars at the Coolidge before, including “Defining Screwball Comedy” in 2019 and “Roger Corman, Producer” in 2020. His film criticism and reporting has also been published in The Boston Globe, The Boston Phoenix, and Filmmaker Magazine.