Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Short Reviews - August 2014

Nothing ever happens in August!!!

The Good Doctor - This just in: Legolas just threw a punch at Justin Bieber!  Street cred achieved.

Inventing David Geffen - On PBS.  Remember PBS?  Doing stuff the private sector would never do, like pay tribute to David Geffen.  Just started watching it, and somehow I don't think Monkey Zetterland's going to be a part of it.

Jayne Mansfield's Car - AKA Even More of A Family Thing.  Good double bill with Parkland

Monty Python's Flying Circus - Well, I hate to go to war with the A.V. Club, but I think they're being far too hard on the "Mr. Neutron" episode.  The fact that it's being reviewed some forty-odd years after it first aired is testament to ... something!  Okay, so all the Python episodes weren't great.  I like the Mr. Neutron one, damn it.  Besides, it fits in all too well with our now comic-book and Star Wars-dominated culture.

The Brothers Grimm - Good double bill with... what else?  The Adventures of Baron Munchausen!  Can't remember why, though............................................

Fifty Shades of Grey - What is it with peoples' fascination with billionaires?  We gotta get over this together, people.  I wonder if millionaires ever feel left out.  They should, because they're losers.  Mere millionaires just will not do anymore.  Bore-ring.

Mr. Saturday Night - Alas, more melodramatic than everyone expected, but maybe time will be kind to this one.  As film critics often have to do, they have to boil a film down to one scene, so for me, here it is: Buddy Young, his brother and his wife are all sitting on the couch watching the classic "This Is Your Story" sketch with Sid Caesar.  The brother and the wife are laughing and enjoying themselves, but Buddy Young (Billy Crystal) is sitting there, stone-faced.  Why?  Because Sid was the man, that's why, and Buddy knew it!  This just might be Billy Crystal's masterpiece.

The November Man - Matador 2?

December Boys - Oh, Harry Potter.  The work of undoing Harry Potter never ended, did it?

The January Man - Probably a classic

Summer in February - It's not global warming, that's for sure!  Hah hah hah (nervous laugh)...

The Ides of March - Well, it got Beau Willimon the House of Cards gig, so that's worth something, right?  RIGHT?!!

April Rain - For those of you who think that those Expendables movies are bad... how sad is it to have these sub-par imitators?

Mother, May I Sleep With Danger? - I say let 'em learn the hard way.  Maybe that makes me a bad parent, but so be it.

Henry & June - Wait a minute, that wasn't about the calendar...

Born on the Fourth of July - I was going to launch into giving this thing more Oscars.  What a strange year!  Stone won for directing, but Driving Miss Daisy won for Best Picture.  Why, the guy who directed that didn't even get nominated!  Go figure.

August: Osage County - Meh

The Teahouse of the August Moon - That's more like it!  This is one of those films that people always say they watched, like Lawrence of Arabia or Gone With the Wind or The Wizard of Oz (1939).  But I bet they were texting the whole time, or whatever the equivalent activity was at that time

September - Fare thee well, Elaine Stritch.  So much for the cast reunion of this one... oh, right, and Mia Farrow as well

The Hunt for Red October - Hooray for Mace Neufeld's kid or grandkid, the greatest freakin poker player on TV right now!

Sweet November - I think I've said this already about Pat O'Connor's movies, but it bears repeating, and for two reasons.  I know, there's always two reasons, so here they are. 1) Someone seems to have secret access to my blog and they seem to be taking down stuff they find objectionable, like my diatribes about Pat O'Connor, and 2) his movies are the stuff that classy DVD collections are made of!  You got your Lawrence of Arabias and your Out of Africas.  Every collection must have those two.  And from there, it's nothing but Pat O'Connor.  What more do you need?  You got your Inventing the Abbotts, you got your Dancing at Lughnasa, you got your Stars and Bars.  You know, movies about photogenic white people doing photogenic white things.  Okay, sure, if you're black it'll be Tyler Perry in your collection, so just think of Pat O'Connor as the white Tyler Perry.  Sure, he's not as prolific, but there's probably a holier-than-thou quasi-racist reason for that, who knows?

A Warm December - I go back to December all the time...

The Story of Us - Looks a lot like a tragedy now!

Syriana - You know, the meek shall inherit the earth... but only after the oil billionaire douchebags have raped every last square inch of it

Picture Perfect - Oh, Jennifer Aniston... if only you could make this movie for the rest of your life

Just Go With It - ...close enough

Main Street - Boy!  Mo warehouse, mo problems.........

Roman Holiday - With Gregory Peck as Cary Grant

Brass Target - On TCM?  Yuck.  The AMC-ification of Turner Classic Movies has begun...........

The Maze Runner - America's Next Hunger Games has arrived!!!!

Hey Bulldog

We leave the world of money behind and get back to fundamentals with our next Tom and Jerry cartoon, The Bodyguard.  I'm guessing it's the mouse's bodyguard... just a wild guess.
(after viewing the short) It's a semi-familiar theme in these one-reel cartoons, but when it's done this well it's hard to complain.  It's the proverbial lion with a thorn in its paw... ah, Christians.  What is your obsession with the iconography of the Roman Empire?  Then again, there's Androcles, and there's Aesop.  And there's my résumé for Senior Researcher at the Rachel Maddow show.  Symbiosis, baby!  Attraction of opposites!  And that thin line between Plagiarism and homage.
The point being that somehow Tom and Jerry instinctively know that they alone aren't enough to carry a one-reeler.  New characters need to be added to the mix.  After Jerry Mouse hides himself in a garden behind the sign for potatoes, he sees the new character: a bulldog trapped in the back of a dogcatcher's van.  Jerry Mouse liberates the dog, and the dog is grateful.  "If you ever need me, just whistle!"  And of course, the great Billy Bletcher does the voice of the bulldog... and at one point, Tom the Cat as well!  Double duty!
After a couple poundings, one with alliterations based on words beginning with 'P', (the twitch of the cat's whiskers at 1:48 ought to put you in a digital-type mood!) the cat eventually figures out what's going on, so he comes up with an ingenious ruse to thwart the mouse's ability to whistle.  As if that wasn't bad enough, the bulldog can't quite figure out what's going on.  They're apparently kinda dumb, you see.  Ain't that always a trade-off?  Why can't you have both brains and brawn?  Like Jillian Michaels?  Anyway, I further hate to spoil the ending, but just as Stella got her groove back... I confess, I haven't read the book or seen the movie, so I don't know if she actually did get her groove back or not.  Besides!  It's not the destination, it's the journey! ... so too does the mouse get his whistle back, and after the resultant hurricane winds subside, the cat prepares for the worst.  Also, how does a mouse have the strength to lift an anvil?  I mean, seriously?  Anyway, we're all expecting the worst... but that wouldn't be too funny, would it?

Good double bill with: Bad Luck Blackie or Scratch a Tiger (not on YouTube)

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Besser-ella, or Zircon Girls Are Easy

Well, it's a Joe Besser Stooge short, so there's a high mathematical probability that it's about flying saucers.  This will be their third and last ever, and it's called Flying Saucer Daffy.  I said short, so Have Rocket - Will Travel doesn't count.
Well, now that I've actually watched the short... I couldn't help but notice the production values!  Really, it's been a trend with these Besser shorts.  To put it bluntly, was this actually directed by Russ Meyer?  I don't remember the Stooges relying on tit jokes so much.  I mean, in the vast history of Curly and Shemp, they must have said "I'm happy to see them!" at least once or twice.  There was that one Shemp short where Christine McIntyre offers Moe some cookies, and he quips "I love cookies!  Especially blond ones."  And of course, Shemp flirting with the curvaceous devil in... I forget which one, but it was quite integral to the plot... wasn't it?  My point being, somehow the Stooges' own showmanship always kept the boys above water.  Here, they're obviously furiously dog paddling to merely stay afloat, and the lead weight tied to the ankles of Moe and Lawrence that is Joe Besser isn't helping.  And so, the American preoccupation with bosoms (kewl!  Right at the top...) comes to the rescue in Flying Saucer Daffy.
Not that the film doesn't have charms on its own.  Maybe I just can't admit it, but this one's rather inspired in a few spots.  We meet the Wicked Stepmother first, and then her two proverbial daughters (Moe and Larry).  The three of them are sorry excuses for packrats, as it were.  Once again, everyone else has to afford Joe the opportunity to appear the virtuous type, as he makes his entrance with his arms full of groceries.  Already there's a wasted gag opportunity: "Did you wipe your feet?" asks the aunt.  Joe says "Yes."  ...oh, so we're not going to be full-on Bizarro World here?  Wotta ripoff!  Not even a "I told you to never wipe your feet!"  There's a funny joke about TV dinners.  Oh, I'm just enjoying myself way too much with this.
There's a sink full of dirty dishes that Joe has to clean up; it looks like dishes from a different movie, but oh well.  Soon after, Joe makes the literary reference complete by wishing for his fairy godmother to come along.  It happens later.  And of course, what Joe Besser Stooge short would be complete without his whining?  He gets particularly whiny here when a struggle erupts over his camera.
Let's move on.  So, the premise is that Joe's got two weeks paid vacation at his job... whatever that might be.  Ah, the good old days of strong unions.  He's forced to bring Moe and Larry along.  Fade-in on the camping grounds... hmm!  Another new vista to the world of the Stooges.  Maybe Besser's not all that bad.  This sequence with Moe's a little strange because it appears that all of Moe's lines were re-dubbed later.  His mouth must've been full of saliva from holding the cigar in his mouth, lol.
And so, the notion is bourne.  Instead of their usual plot of getting some quick money from a reward for catching a criminal, now it's for a snapshot of a U.F.O.  And, in another inspired moment, a strong wind starts to blow, and a pair of picnic plates stuck together starts to rise into the air, much like one of Ed Wood's spaceships!  Joe Besser aside, how can you not like that?
And so, Besser snaps a photo of a squirrel as the plate flies by.  Besser's got some strange Polaroid camera that can develop pictures instantly.  Besser sees the plate in the photo, gets mad about it and walks off, giving Moe and Larry a chance to plan on getting that reward money all for themselves.  Here's kind of a funny gag where Larry grabs hold of this blanket over their car... it caught me off guard at the time, but now that I think about it, I think it was used in one of the Home Alone movies.  Yucch.
Ah, the old branch gag.  How I've missed you!  Anyway, business experts Moe and Larry end up using Joe's photo to get riches and fame.  I say Joe's photo, because justice is universal and harsh, and it comes up later.  Also, there's indeed nothing new under the sun, but as far as I know there's still no biography of a successful famous person that says "Their business empire grew out of a photograph of a flying saucer."  A whole fictional movie, sure, but not a factual single photo.  And so, several headlines and one wheelbarrow full of money later (Me Wantee!), Moe and Larry are on Easy Street with a capital E and a capital Z, so they either stretched that $10,000 further than I thought, or maybe they picked up some other lucrative deals along the way while they were at it.  Either way, Moe's got the new, sleeker haircut (apparently on Besser's insistence) and he's got a lot of eye shadow now!  What's up with that?  Anyway, vengeance comes to the door at this point, and Moe and Larry try to pin it all on Joe.  Of course, Joe's not having any part of that, and Moe and Larry have to go to jail... that instant, of course.  Emil Sitka takes the wheelbarrow out of the room, and Joe grabs a couple bucks from it on the way out.  I've never seen Joe so happy.  If that doesn't sum up what's wrong with Joe Besser in one moment, I don't know what does.
Next scene: Joe's all alone back at that camping site.  Must've filmed that part in the same day.  And so, since a fake spaceship caused all these problems, surely a real one will set things right again.  Well, when seeing spaceships is your drug, it can be a long, hard road for a long long while.  Just ask Roy Neary!  Fortunately for Joe, he doesn't have to wait long for his fix, as his extraterrestrial Fairy Godmother comes right away, from a planet called Zircon, incidentally.  But the two babes piloting the ship are far from nesosilicates, baby.  Nothing but sexy carbon for ol' long suffering Joe.  And so, Tyra and Elektra come up to Joe.  He looks at their tits and says "Wow!  What mamas!"  He may be fifty years old and act like a pre-tween infant, but he's not dead.  Not that I'm not happy for Joe.  Why look!  He even gets a moment to pad out the length of the film by cleaning up his campsite.
Next scene: we end as we began, with the Wicked Aunt sitting in a chair and drinking, but at least the surroundings haven't gotten completely run down just yet!  Lol.  The spaceship money cleaned up the place a little bit, but don't worry; she'll have it back to Grey Gardens in no time.  And once again, Besser proves himself a stone cold killer when he gets rebuffed by Moe, Larry and their screen mother.  She's about to hit Joe over the head with a bottle, but Joe accidentally knocks her out first with his bottle.  Joe eventually gets all the headlines re-heaped upon him, and we see him riding in the back of a limo with a big fat cigar in his mouth, and his arms around the two Zirconian space babes.  "Boy, this is the life!" exclaims Joe.  The only problem with this scene is that he looks more like a corrupt mayor in a regular film than like a Stooge in a Stooge film.  The short ends showing Moe and Larry sharing a cell in jail, apparently just off the parade route, as there's some confetti in the air.  Now I feel more at home!

Epilogue: This may not be the last, but it's definitely the first Joe Besser short where he tells himself "Ow!  Not so hard!"  Now, if that isn't what's wrong with Joe Besser all summed up in a single moment, I don't know what is.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Hamateur Day

This is another one of those Popeye cartoons with extra commentary on the DVD, so it's either good or historically significant.  At this point, probably the latter.
And so, we start with Olive running at top speed, holding... nay, clutching a newspaper.  She gets home to Popeye and Swee'Pea in the crib (I assume) and we finally see the headline: "Vaudeville Coming Back."  Hmm!  Maybe I should listen to that commentary!
Ouch.  Well, here's a damning comment: I was watching the DVD on the television, and the way our house is, you can do the dishes and see the television out of the corner of your eye at the same time.  The person who was doing dishes at the time said that it didn't seem like the greatest Popeye cartoon in the world.  Oh, s'z'nap!  Sure, it's awful, and sure, the Fleischers had seen better days, but... oh, there's just no getting around it.  Why, it's nothing but a series of plot left-overs strung together like some kind of plot blood sausage!  I HATE things like that!  Like that Pink Panther cartoon, Pink-Outs... man, they got everything on the YouTubes.  But to be fair, as the commentary guy points out, there's no spinach in this one... I don't think that's a first, though.  But I think it's the first imitations that Popeye does.  He imitates Jimmy Durante (meh), Stan Laurel (good, but juggling was more of W.C. Fields' shtick) and Groucho Marx, and I dare say they've got a gag worthy of the Marxes: a pool cue comes out from Stage Right, and Popeye as Groucho says "I think that's my cue to leave!"  Ah, Vaudeville.  If you didn't make it there, you probably didn't make it in film or on Broadway.  Take the Cherry Sisters, for example!  Never mind, I've heard they're the pits.  Ha-cha-cha-cha!

Good double bill with: Hamateur Night

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Jim Brown

...the boxer guy from Mars Attacks!?  He's a director, too?  Well, he ought to be able to get to Spielberg through his connection to Tim Burton.  Lucky guy.

Battle-Guard Galactica

Oh, I just remembered the thought I had for my burgeoning stand-up comedian career... what's the deal with these digital characters anyway?  I know, they prefer to be called "Virtual Americans."  Well, I'll be damned if that raccoon and Celery Head don't rule the box office this weekend.  They've been running ads for Guardians of the Galaxy for a couple months now.  Alas, director James Gunn was legally prohibited from mentioning the other stuff he's directed before this.  But why is it that all these digital characters have to do stuff like karate and gymnastics?  When are we going to have a Pixar film of Chekov or about the Holocaust?  Only then will we achieve true equality for Virtual Americans.
[Sunday] The other debut this week is Get on Up, the latest from The Help director Tate Taylor.  It's the story of James Brown, and I'm sure it spends a lot of time dwelling on the '60s and '70s as much as possible.  Hippie culture!  Afros!  Shoes with goldfish in them!  And spangles, spangles, spangles.  Just don't be surprised if they gloss over those pesky domestic violence charges.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Director Is In

It's been a while since I sat down with the fam and watched a movie.  That was a couple nights ago, but I think I still remember most of it.  The film?  The 1997 Oscar-worthy classic, As Good As It Gets, a title which apparently didn't wow the Oscar community as much as a film called Titanic did at the time.  I mean, it doesn't get any better!  So why so few nominations?  It's AS GOOD AS IT GETS, for God's sake!
And apparently, it was also describing the directing efforts of James L. Brooks, who so far has done Spanglish and How Do You Know since... and I don't think they've been referred to on The Simpsons yet.  But let's leave the title aside for now.  Let's move on to the cameos of the directors, specifically Lawrence Kasdan who plays a psychologist (this obviously gave him the idea for Mumford about a small-town psychologist) and Harold Ramis who plays a ... pediatrician?  But a damn good one, a damn good, pricey one... is Brooks trying to say that film directors are like doctors in a way?  What does that say about Albert Pyun then?  He must be the Nick Riviera of film directors... let's see if he writes back to me.  Nah, I guess that's over. :(  Oh, right.  Todd Solondz is on a bus at some point.  So, he must be playing a pre-med student who hasn't been told to go into acting yet.  Owwch!  Turns out Todd studied with Strasberg, right?
Anyway, the plot.  Spoiler alert: it's a movie about romance.  Sure, a romance with characters more fleshed out than a Nicholas Sparks novel, and more damaged than your average romance pic, but a romance nonetheless.  I think these things have a shelf life.  In our age-obsessed-on-overdrive internet culture now, I couldn't help but not stop thinking... for God's sake!  Jack Nicholson's old enough to be her... her grandfather!  But he tries nonetheless, as his life's kinda boring and there's not much else to do but wait for death.  Oh, and Greg Kinnear plays a gay guy.  I couldn't help but think of old Hollywood.  You know, how Burt Lancaster used to play Indians, that kind of thing.  Or a fat Midwestern white guy would be Charlie Chan.  I wonder if the gay and lesbian community feel that way about Greg Kinnear in this movie.  If not, I will on their behalf.  I know, I know... bad way to start a sentence, but hey, I didn't say "Let me tell you something I know about the Negro..."  Man, Sean Hannity misses that guy.  I mean, I just saw an SNL documentary where the "token gay guy" and unofficial Sweeney sister Terry Sweeney complained about typecasting.  Doesn't he deserve a shot at playing a Simon Bishop-type Oscar-worthy role?  I think the casting director's answer is ultimately... short answer, no.  Long answer, no, because we don't want an actual gay guy.  We want a heterosexual man that the audience can relate to to play the gay guy.  It was a different era.  Now, as for how you explain this, well... I'll leave that to the experts.
And so, we have a damaged love triangle.  At the center of it all is Job Creator Melvin Udall, played by Jack Nicholson, who's apparently a fill-in for Mickey Spillane, but who suffers from some flavour of OCD.  And he's well off, because he can afford to live alone in an apartment in New York City, and he's got money for extra soap... a lot of extra soap.  We meet Helen Hunt, Melvin's favorite waitress.  For him, the only living waitress in New York, as it were, if you will.  Just think of this as a precursor to The Sessions.  She does.  Her son is allergic to everything, so New York's the perfect city to live.  We meet Greg Kinnear's character tangentially at first, through his dog... his lovable, lovable dog, who, God bless it, can't seem to stay in the apartment.  Jack Nicholson's character puts it in the garbage chute when it tries to urinate on the wall.  Man!  He's worse than Helen's kid!
Now, I don't mean this in a negative way.  I'm trying to be perfectly objective here, but I won't bring up Ayn Rand's name... damn it!  I don't know what exactly she has to do with objectivity.  She's one of the strangest things to ever exist, person or object.  But we do get a glimpse of Kinnear's life.  It's a douchebag-y life, a hot New York artist, throwing a douchebag party for all his douchebag friends.  As it turns out, douchebag friends are also quite the fair-weather friends.  I probably should of... HAVE... stuck with that phraseology, but "fair-weather" is just so... pre-20th century and non-douchebaggy.  Then again, maybe his character's not enough of a douchebag.  If you want to be a douchebag, the first thing you have to do is be careful... especially when you live in New York City, one of the world's great capitals, and therefore one of the world's great gathering places for the world's douchebags.  Simon Bishop (Greg Kinnear's character) is not careful, and he doesn't vet his models carefully enough.  See, he likes to paint live people.  But you got to give him credit, as he tries in his own way to help the less fortunate... so no hanging with Ayn Rand, that's for sure!  His acknowledging of the lower classes ultimately leads to his demise... well, near demise.  Spoiler alert... c'mon, do you really need spoiler alerts for a movie that's 17 years old?  He gets beat up by his subject's friends, a couple of real lower-class douchebags... was that Jamie Kennedy?  Hah!  Wonder if he was acting burned out.  Oh, s'z'nap!  Anyway, long story short, Kinnear ends up in the hospital with his face looking like a pink baseball and... boom.  Out of the ranks of the upper class douchebags he goes.  They hate reality... which is a good segue, because we get an introductory romantic scene for Helen Hunt.  She has her hands full with the waitressing job and the adult baby that is Melvin Udall, and she has to come home to her allergic son.  What's a girl to do?  What, is she consigned to a lifetime of she-bop forever and ever amen?  She doesn't think so, and she attempts a date with a hot young stud who looks like either Peter Krause or Christen Hayden... Hayden Christensen!  That's it... boy, was I way off.  This is the guy, billed as Carol's Date.  Some part he's got in this picture!  As usual, vomit is the penultimate date-ender, just like this one SNL skit with Chris Kattan.  "Too much reality," the guy says.
To quickly summarize, the film kinda goes on too long.  Think of it as Brooks' nod to Say Anything... , which also kinda goes on too long, and which he produced!  Also, these three people seem to be amateurs when it comes to relationships, and the way they can change your life.  Sure, they say some romantic things, and Simon Bishop and Melvin Udall eventually have one of the pre-Judd Apatow bro-mances that pollute the cinematic landscape these days, but...  Everything is a revelation, and everything is new and scary and they can't handle it.  My God!  Caring for a dog is different if you've never had one!  My God!  Men can say some stupid, awful things!  Clearly these three were made for each other.  But don't worry, One Percenters, your representative Melvin Udall comes out looking okay, especially since his financial situation doesn't seem to change all that much.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that Jack Nicholson's character is kinda like Archie Bunker.  Now, I don't know if he deserved the Oscar, but it looks like he did some research into OCD, and he got to stick it to Burt Reynolds yet again!  Tee hee hee.  And Lisa Simpson got to play something different for a change, which is cool.... City Slickers 1, not so much.  But if she's happy, I'm happy.  I guess what I'm trying to say is I had an okay time.  And I'm freaking out because screenwriter Mark Andrus has a new movie out called And So It Goes... is it a sequel, perhaps?  ...nope, but similar plot.  Michael Douglas is the Jack Nicholson character, and instead of a dog, he has to care for a granddaughter.  Basically a sequel.

good double bill with... what else?  About Schmidt!!.. or maybe Something's Gotta Give

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

It's a Million Dollar Mystery to me how I got this far......................

Well, Tom and Jerry live on on YouTube, good news.  The bad news is: they apparently have to appear in some sort of window box.  Nothing creepy about that!  Also, the audio cuts out at the two minute mark... Still, beggars (with the DVD) can't be choosy, so let's take a gander at our next non-Disney film with "million" in the title, and it's called The Million Dollar Cat.  Keeping in mind, of course, that back then a million dollars just might be closer to a billion today, give or take a few hundred million.
On to the setup.  It's quite simple, really.  We start with our usual opening high-jinks: in the instant case, Tom the cat is chucking darts at Jerry Mouse, with only an apple to protect him.  And then... the telegram arrives, which changes everything.  Why, we'd all still hope to get a telegram like this, or even a letter or phone call!  Alas, the rich only say they believe in "trickle down" economics.  Let some other sucker do the actual trickling, am I right?  Needles to say, the stages of becoming part of the upper class seems to come in five distinct stages, and it's basically the Kübler-Ross model, with the order slightly changed.  First comes acceptance: "It's going to be okay.  This sudden change in my economic standing in society's going to be okay.  I can't fight it, I might as well prepare for it."
Then, comes anger... usually over the unintended consequences: inheritance tax, greedy relatives coming out of the woodwork, the fine print.  Much like Warner Brothers' The Wabbit Who Came to Supper, the money is contingent on an extremely binding "non-cruelty to animals" clause which, of course, is part of the bedrock foundations of these animated toons.  Tom soon finds himself saying unto himself, "Why would God let this happen?  It's not fair!"  Anger leads to denial, denial leads to bargaining, and bargaining leads to depression.  If you're lucky and you still have some of that pile of money left, depression may lead to some more bargaining, or you might just have to keep writing checks for "one dollar and NINE CENTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
Fortunately for Tom Cat, no greedy relatives come out of the woodwork, and we learn secondhand that, indeed, excess money is always a positive influence on people, as newspaper headline after newspaper headline shows the progression of Tom Cat from relatively normal housecat to eccentric socialite.  He bathes in cream for the cameras!  "Sips while he Dips" says the headline above the picture.  But as the wise man once said, mo money, mo problems.  The high on life that excess money provides can't last forever, and it seems like no matter where Tom Cat goes, Jerry Mouse is right there, with that handy telegram, of course.  Boy!  Worse than lawyers, he is.
So, for a while, Tom really, really tries to stay the hell away from the mouse, and be on his best behaviour, but the mouse persists on being a di... a jerk.  I'll spare you the gory details.  Also, I hate to sound like a jaded sophisticate, but ... SPOILER ALERT... Tom finally has enough and, after filling up with angry red juice... so creepy... he tears up the telegram and tries to beat the s... stuffing out of the mouse.  Of course, he's unofficially obligated to point out to the audience the sacrifice he's making... but I dunno.  Are the neighbours really that great?
You can skip this last part, because I'm going to put my own amateur "lawyer" hat on.  First of all... since when does a telegram become a legally binding document?  And why in the world does the mouse hang on to it?  I mean, besides for protection?  The cat didn't think to steal it for himself?  That's just stupid.  I mean, cat plus telegram equals... something.  That's just math.  I know, I know... I'm just not thinking in terms of plot.  And second... if this is a legally binding document, how does the disbursal of funds work, exactly?  Same thing happened to Yosemite Sam in... let me look it up... From Hare to Heir.  And here it is on the YouTubes!  Go figure.  They have to gussy it all up with extras, of course.  That all ends when Rupert Murdoch buys TimeWarner, of course.  And he can do it, too.  He's got clout!  HELLA clout.... what was I saying?  Oh, right.  In Hare/Heir, Bugs moves in with Sam and does much the same routine, pissing off Sam to no end, and Bugs has the right to deduct from the million pound total as he sees fit.  Oh, and he sees fit, all right!  In The Million Dollar Cat, apparently Tom can spend as much of the money as he wants up until the moment of truth... that's what he gets for not investing, like John Candy tried to do for Richard Pryor in Brewster's Millions.  I wonder if he'd lose all that too?  Personally, I'm in favor of secrecy clauses.  We need more people acting weird in front of their friends for reasons that they are legally bound to not disclose.  How else are our new surveillor Overlords at the NSA going to have any fun?  How else are we going to have dumb movie plots?
So, for me, Tom's a hero for damning the devil's deal and giving the mouse his comeuppance... sort of.  The mouse is very strong and fast, and can only get hit by the cat when the plot allows it.  Alas, Tom didn't lawyer up like Bill Gates or Howard Stern.  The Fisher King?  Puh-leeze.  Jack Lucas was an amateur.  He should've stuck with the physiological rung of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs like Howard does, which is partly why I'm still pissed off at Howard for giving Tina Fey a pass on the toilet questions!  Does she listen to the show?  Does she?... did I do my riff on Zeno's Paradox yet?  I'll just stick with the Dichotomy Paradox, because I'm no mathematician.  See, it seems like a grammatical problem to me.  Here's the Dichotomy Paradox, according to the gospel of Wikipedia: "Suppose Homer wants to catch a stationary bus. Before he can get there, he must get halfway there. Before he can get halfway there, he must get a quarter of the way there. Before traveling a quarter, he must travel one-eighth; before an eighth, one-sixteenth; and so on."  See, this Homer's a chump, and needs a good lawyer, who would change it to "Suppose Homer wants to catch a stationary bus. Before he can get there, he must get halfway there... then, he must get the other half of the way there."  Problem solved?  I think so.  I may be the only one on the web who does, but so be it.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

You know we're getting Hotter and Hotter, Sweeter and Hotter - Let's shut it down!

Our next Stooge film is called Sweet and Hot, and it's basically 16 minutes of the Stooges enjoying some Chinese food... I'm sorry, actually it's one of those weird ones where they don't play their usual selves.  Even the Stooges get tired of playing the Stooges all the time!  Wheeler and Woolsey, not so much.  Yes, like Sylvester Stallone in Driven, the Stooges realize that they're no spring chickens anymore, and that maybe mentoring's not such a bad thing.  Of course, Sly still thinks of himself as the senior in high school rather than the aging principal.  The mentoree?  A plus-sized farm gal with the voice of Susan Boyle.  She's played by... let me check IMDb here... Muriel Landers, star of stage and screen, who also appeared in Stooge director Jules White's previous Tricky Chicks, from which some footage was apparently clipped to reuse here.
Now I understand the Stooge fan's complaints, Joe Besser aside.  The Stooge formula is actually a rigid one, so when they depart from it, typically by playing characters slightly other than their usual selves, it can be a bit unsettling.  But when you're sitting through all 190 of them, your perspective might change a little bit.  Just think of it as a poke in the chops of all those high-falutin' Hollywood musicals that fill peoples' heads with all sorts of false promises and unattainable goals.  Why, even you might be the next Cary Grant or Marilyn Monroe, no matter how untalented or Morluk-like you are.  All the American Dream asks of you is a little ambition and elbow grease!
And so, we find ourselves on a family farm, where 'Tiny' Landers whistles while she works, as do all the barnyard animals.  Some of these animals look like they're also imported film clips from other movies, but who can say.  Even I'm not that much of a student of Cannery Row.  Larry plays a hometown boy who made it big in the big city as an entertainer.  Go figure.  He comes back to find Joe and Tiny stuck in their same agrarian rut.  Larry tries to convince them that showbiz is the way to go.  Maybe it's just me, but you don't see this sales pitch so much in modern televised or filmed dramas anymore.  Frankly, there's too many people in showbiz these days, and not enough people helping out on the farm.  And even if you were to see this sales pitch being made to someone, they would of course have to ultimately refuse.  No, no, my meager lot in life is all I need.  That and the love of my Vogue model partner is all I could ask.  So bear in mind that this film was made in the late 1950s and social mobility was still an achievable goal back then.
Anyway, back to Larry's sales pitch.  He tries to sell the virtues of New York to Joe and Tiny.  Nothing about New York sounds terribly appealing to them... except the food.  Glorious food!  Hot sausage and mustard!  At long last, someone else will do the cooking!  They're sold.  Off to show business they go.  But there's one problem... 'Tiny's crippling stage fright.  Well, Larry knows a good head shrinker that will fix her right up.  That oughta eat up some time!
Next scene: the big city, and the offices of Hugo Gansamacher M.D., played by none other than Moe Howard.  As Wikipedia rightly points out, Moe dons his German accent for this character work.  Again, even Moe gets tired of playing the same old Moe over and over again.  To cut to the chase, Moe talks to Tiny in her sleep to discover that her abusive father (played by Moe) is the cause of her crippling stage fright.  Mel Brooks stole this idea for his High Anxiety, obviously.
And so, with her stage fright cured, Tiny goes on to wow a small audience at an upper-class dinner theater someplace.  And why look!  Here come Joe on newspaper and Lawrence on violin to help her out!  The show is a sensation!  Then again, the number she sings is something apparently titled "The Heat is On," a gentle reminder that girls just wanna have som fun sometimes, too.  Of course, if you're part of my generation, there's only one "The Heat is On," damn it.  And sure, it's as forgettable a number as the one in this Stooge film, but it's our forgettable number, damn it.  Ours.... yecch, what a terrible music video.
...what else?  I must be forgetting something.  Oh, okay.  Here's one for the Creepy Police.  After the success of their show, Tiny's just gotta kiss someone.  In this case, it's Uncle Larry.  Ewwwwwwwww!  And on the mouth, no less!  And on a lesser note, we end with Moe Freud saying that there's nothing to fear but fear itself... and maybe mice.  I always thought that that FDR line was bulls... B.S.  Still, a nice slogan when gearing up for war.  As for my collection of Stooge sound effects, that overused "Oof!" sound is used here, so there's another one to add to the pile.  The master list is in here somewhere.
Sweet and Hot's script is credited to Jerome S. Gottler who, once upon a time, worked on the script for the very first Stooge short, Woman Haters.  Ah, that takes me back.  Apparently he's a song-and-dance man, so perhaps he's responsible for the musical numbers in Sweet and Hot.  Interesting bookends to a Hollywood career, these two Stooge films.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

At the Corner of Ford and Sexism

Our next Popeye short is called... hoh boy.  It's called Wimmin Hadn't Oughta Drive.  I know, I know... such atrocious spelling.  The Popeye shorts didn't start out this way! ... I stand corrected.  Oh, and they were way way more politically incorrect.
But let's dive right into the plot.  Things have changed a lot since the days of The Spinach Roadster.  The novelty of owning a car, any piece of.... junk car has grown commonplace.  Now it's a matter of having the latest and greatest.  Popeye now has a slick-looking car, not as long as the one that Bluto had in Roadster, but with a similar exterior.  The engine, however, is one that he probably feels at home with: it sits in a bath of fluid!  And so, he picks up Olive and they head off for a drive.
Now, as with all these Popeye shorts, the main characters start off with a blank slate.  Olive's driven before, but she doesn't seem to know it here.  She wants her turn at the wheel, and resorts to ultimatums to get her way.  Being a gentleman, Popeye naturally gives in to Olive's wishes and she takes over.
She has a little trouble at first.  It's a stick shift, so that takes some getting used to.  I tell you one thing, she did a lot better than I ever did with a stick shift!  God, I hate those things.  Isn't driving hard enough as it is?  Maybe I'm a philistine for thinking so, but so be it.
Next challenge: turning the car.  Popeye's got the teacher attitude, but he's really just a bad teacher.  He tells Olive that when you turn, "You put your hand out!"  After the crash, Olive helpfully says "I put my hand out, but the car didn't turn!"  Popeye's also not terribly good at impending tragedies.  Look how he handles this one!  Eventually, he takes matters into his own hands, especially when he turns the body of the car around.
As you can imagine, things get out of hand quickly.  Popeye has to jump out of the car to lift up a policeman directing traffic as Olive drives by.  See, he says "Give me the wheel" and... oh, never mind.  Anyhow, I think this is a first: here, Popeye takes out his can of spinach, but doesn't eat it right away.  Olive's headed up a dangerous mountain road at this point in the film.  Popeye has enough strength to run ahead of the car, but apparently not enough to stop it.  So, spoiler alert: Popeye gets to the very tip-top edge of the road and, just before Olive's about to drive right off the mountain, Popeye eats the spinach and instantly turns into a giant rock that stops the car when the car lightly crashes into it.  Just remember, kids: procrastination is bad... but it can also be quite cinematic.
As for the ending, well... Wimmin Hadn't Oughta Drive was made in 1940.  America hadn't entered into World War II left, and I think nice cars were still a luxury item at this point, so the masses always liked to see movie stars getting into car wrecks, and even when it was on the silver screen, too!  As for Popeye cartoons, the template was set.  Note the endings of Taxi-Turvy (1954) and Car-azy Drivers (1955).  All three involve a close-up shot, then pulling back to a wider shot, showing how Popeye and Olive opt for less technologically dangerous means of travel.  A classic... I guess.

Good triple bill with: Car-azy Drivers and Taxi-Turvy

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Jim Brown

Yes, Jim Brown.  Director extraordinaire of scads of documentary films on only the worthiest of subjects: Pete Seeger; Peter, Paul and Mary; Harold Leventhal, the list goes on and on... actually, the list is a little less than finite.  So with such a magnificent body of work, surely it falls to someone else to do the Jim Brown story?  Ken Burns?  Ross McElwee?  Well, not Ross.  He's still working through his own issues.  I mean, Jim would do it himself, but no.  He's no narcissist.  Even he knows his story's not that compelling.  He'd probably tell you it's just a job like any job.  He might as well be working the deep fryer at McDonald's for all he cares.  You turn on a camera, and you put something interesting in front of it.  That's the job.  If it's interesting for you, all the better.  It's a reward in itself... and it'll have to be, since national recognition seems to elude him, even to this day.

The French, They Are a Profitable Race or No, No Threats, No No Fights...

[Sunday proper] it just me, or are all these movie posters using the same graded shade of blue?  Well, we got four debuts this week.  For some reason, people weren't as excited to rehash the boring old adventures of the new Hercules as they were to see ScarJo's latest, called Lucy.  Yes, it's Luc Besson's latest variation on La Femme Nikita and... and my internet's slow right now, so I have yet to determine if Besson has officially split up with Robert Mark Kamen or not.  Let's hope those two patch things up, as no one else in Hollywood wants to work with that guy.  You know, people think that everyone in Hollywood knows each other.  Not true!  Why, Hollywood is as divided up into regimented partitions as the rest of society, maybe even more so.  But instead of promotions and pay raises, it's all about which parties you get invited to.  And you'd better dress up nice, or you're out.  Out with yesteryear's moldy old scripts.
Anyway, Hercules came in second.  I guess Brett Ratner didn't want to have his name mentioned in the TV ads or something.  It's kind of a jinx, even though Ratner is a modern day Hercules of sorts.  Oh, he can hold his own in the Douchebag Trenches, even at his age, I can tell ya!  Another debut this week is music video director turned film director Anton Corbijn's latest effort called A Most Wanted Man, one of the five or six last films of Philip Seymour Hoffman.  Boy!  Even now that he's passed on, the guy's still not getting any rest!  And finally, a movie I haven't seen any ads for: it's Rob Reiner's latest, called And So It Goes.  Well, he hasn't given up on directing yet like father Carl seems to have.  Maybe this will do it.
[before Sunday] Well, I assume the Transformers movie is still hanging in there.  Well, that irresistible combination of Mark Wahlberg and the giant robots is nothing short of breathtaking.  One is the latest hottest digital model rendered with the latest incarnation of Renderman... and the other is the Transformers.  Drumroll please!  But competition is indeed upon the horizon.  You got Guardians of the Galaxy coming up, Luc Besson's latest (which he actually directed this time!) and director Tate Taylor's latest non-boring period piece called Get On Up.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

DIY - Zoot Suit Edition

Ah, the dual temporal nature of courtship.  Romance is older than Heloise and Abelard... but there's also the need to keep up on current trends.  That's the cat's dilemma here in The Zoot Cat, our next Tom and Jerry cartoon.  It must be a good one because cartoon historian Jerry Beck does a commentary for it on the DVD.  It's essentially a one act play that takes place at the girl cat's house, except for the brief introductory scene where Tom's preparing a package to take to his girl cat.
Spoiler alert: all that grooming for nothing!  He curls his whiskers, for God's sake!  And strums a ukulele!  You know, just like on that awful song by Train!  The girl is summarily unimpressed and tells Tom and his "rat" to take a hike.  A mighty chase ensues on the girl cat's porch.  Lucky for the cats, the humans are out for the day.  On his way away, Tom hears the radio.  He peeks in the window and watches as the girl cat listens to the radio... well, it was a different era, and guys were allowed to be creepier than today.
There's an ad on the radio for a zoot suit.  Chicks dug them at the time.  Fortunately for the cash-strapped Tom, he already knows how to make one!  Go figure.  He manages to steal the girl cat's lampshade, and turns it into a hat, and the hammock on the porch becomes the source of fabric for his zoot suit.  Tom also manages to find a clothes hanger to give him wider shoulders.  After a few furious seconds of stitching and cutting, the suit is ready and Tom is dressed to impress.
Now for the final test.  The girl cat opens the door a second time, and boom!  It worked!  Time to dance!  Jerry the mouse is also quite impressed by Tom's new duds.  Why, you might say they have... no, I won't go there today.  But Jerry Mouse finds himself cutting in on the dancing.  I don't get how the girl cats in these things seem to prefer the mouse to the cat.  They never get around to eating the mouse, anyway.  Tom's caught up in the adrenaline-fueled frenzy, but he does manage to be affronted by the mouse's intrusion, which takes precedence over pitching woo in this picture.
As usual, the mouse gets the better of the cat and... we go back to the girl cat dancing with the mouse!  What's up with that?  Oh, and there's a piano number, where the cat plays the piano, and the girl cat sits and swoons.  Only one way to break that up... yup, you guessed it, the old hot foot routine.  Because this is a Tom and Jerry cartoon, the number of matches well exceeds the required amount for a hot foot.
The finale is reminiscent to me of another Tom and Jerry cartoon where the mouse gets ahold of some strength vitamins... but we'll save that for later, if it's on the DVD, anyway.  Anyway, Tom ends up getting caught on one of those comedy curtains, snaps back and gets dunked in the goldfish bowl twice.  This causes his suit to shrink... and shrink... and shrink.  Will Tom be choked to death by his makeshift zoot suit?  Hoisted on his own petard, as it were?  Spoiler alert: no, the suit snaps off.  It's very tiny now, and it slowly floats down to the ground... hmm!  Why, you might even say it's mouse-sized now!  GENIUS!  The little rat steals the suit, puts it on and sashays off into the proverbial sunset, as it were... meh!

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Oh, a Pies Guy, eh?

Our next Stooge short is called Pies and Guys, a reworking of the plot elements and actual footage from Half-Wits Holiday.  And once again, a couple of Ivory Tower professors have a spirited debate about the major factor that leads to success in high society: environment or heredity.  Of course, these days these sorts of debates don't seem as public anymore.  Now the upper one percent just seems concerned about tax breaks, both privately and publicly.  Actually, not just tax breaks, but completely dismantling the government so that there's no taxes to get a break from to begin with.  And to them I say: guys, just think of it all as Angry Mob Insurance.  One of your handmaidens appeared on Bill Maher's Real Time once and said that that's the nightmare: you're sitting there in your nice, safe gated community one night, when here comes an angry mob with torches and pitchforks and, worst of all, grievances.  Where's that 401K that vanished?  Where's the dental plans that seem to be separate from the rest of my health care coverage?  What about weekends?  And this is past the point of shaming.  It's time to draw some blue blood.  I guess you can only do so much until people get mad.  The veterans understand this.  "Oh, I guess you need a functioning, Legionnaires Disease-free Walter Reed Hospital... if you're a pussy!!!" or "Oh, I guess you need prosthetic arms and legs... if you're a pussy!!!!!"
It's all about walking that fine line of when pussies turn into straw dogs, but I think I got off topic a little bit.  The point was that Joe Besser tries to ruin another Curly classic.  Under Joe's thumb, every punchline gets drained of its potency, and becoming gentlemen is now a good thing.  In Half-Wits Holiday, the Stooges hang their heads in shame when they accept the wager, and when the thousand dollar wager is first offered, Moe asks "Who do we have to murder?"  Too dangerous a line for the tepid Besser, apparently.  But there's at least one improvement on the original: the "oof" sound when Gene Roth gets hit in the stomach with a sledgehammer.

length of Pies and Guys: 16m28s
without old footage: 14m4s

percentage of new footage: 85.4%

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

To Dream the Impossikible Dream

I forgot to call Fightin' Pals a bromance, didn't I?  Anyway, it's back to the same old same old for these Fleischer Popeye cartoons.  They've traded top-notch production values for wacky, misspelled title credits, and Popeye is reduced to peddling his wares to two-bit directors who seem to make it a point to never miss meals.
Yes, despite promise in the title, Doing Impossikible Stunts is, in fact, another one of those stitching-together-of-old-Popeye-clips type of deals!  Something that the Stooges never tried to do.  No, the Stooges just jump headlong into their old scripts, after giving them a few new twists, and then the editors go to work, furiously trying to slap together that uneasy combination of old clips and new.  As for our current Popeye cartoon, well, we see Popeye and Sweet Pea walking along.  Popeye's got a demo reel under his arm of his stunt work.  Yes, despite his near-superhero powers thanks to spinach, he's gotta hustle for a buck and a dime along with everyone else in Hollywood.  Popeye apparently doesn't realize he's being followed, but once he does, he pooh-poohs Swee'Pea's own dreams of being a top shelf Hollywood stunt person.  I must be getting more jaded as time marches on, but I figured out what the punchline was going to be.  Of course, I think I saw this a long time ago anyway, so that also helped.  It's a testament to Popeye's faith in Sweet Pea, however, that he just tells Swee'Pea to go on home by himself rather than take him back home himself.  Oh, he's a tough kid when you get right down to it!
And so, Popeye arrives at the office with a projector in it to peddle his wares.  Like the rest of us, the director's impressed (but in that phony-baloney Hollywood way, which the rest of America is slowly catching up to thanks to YouTube and the like) ... but do you have anything fresh and new, Popeye?  Do you have film of a cute cat playing the piano?  Oh, right... stunt work.  Do you have any cutting edge-type stuff here, man?  Barnstorming and stunt dives are old hat, man.  Anyway, it's at that critical juncture when the ever resourceful Sweet Pea hands Popeye his own reel of stunt stuff.  Sure, it's just a rehash of Lost and Foundry, but still.  Take that, Jackass!
And so, Sweet Pea gets to sign on the dotted line instead of Popeye.  Take that, old man!  Even the iris out disses Popeye... you know, that circle effect?  Instead of a fade-out, one of those circles leaves a black background behind it, and Popeye gets stuck in the black void between the end of the cartoon and the Paramount logo.  A lonelier place he will not find.  As for me, I don't feel like going back and checking on all of them, but I know the end of Bridge Ahoy! has different music and voices for sure.  The Fleischers may reuse old film clips, but they always do fresh music and voices for them... maybe not for Olive, but again, I don't feel like checking.
Oh, yeah, almost forgot.  They use Disney's sound effect here.  Why, Disney oughta get the copyright lawyer's on someone's asses over that!

length of cartoon: 7m 12s
without old footage: 3m 38s

50% NEW FOOTAGE!!!!!!!!!

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - G. S. Brown

That's Georg Stanford Brown to you, honky!  Yes, with our perpetual love for '70s TV shows, where's the love for Mr. Brown here?  Mannix!  The Rookies!  Roots... we still like Roots, right?  It hasn't been remade yet... has it?  Well, my stupid new software program wasn't able to find a connection between him and Spielberg, but this is pretty close: one of his last directorial efforts was The Reading Room, starring no one less than the voice of Darth Vader, the talented and insistent Republican James Earl Jones.  That's... pretty close, right?  Of course, the dude's over 80 years old, so you might have to shout in his ear a bit.

Fiscal Solvency of the Planet of the Apes

Now THIS is how you know a film's made it.  Sure, there's Lebowski Fest and all that, but to have a quote on the IMDb's 404 Error page?  I've actually just seen it for the first time tonight!  Usually I'm too busy browsing around, and not trying to type in my own new links.  Anyway, there's a lot of new movies out there on that horizon.  You got your Boyhood on one end of the spectrum, a film that took 12 years to shoot.  Then there's Sex Tape, the latest from Jason Segel and Lawrence Kasdan's kid.  Plus, there's probably some superhero movies on the horizon... oh, right.  That one with the raccoon called Guardians of the Galaxy.  Probably another hit for Marvel, I'm guessing.  Even Motley Fool can see that.

(Sunday) No, Guardians is still about 2 weeks off.  Meantime, Apes is top banana this weekend.  Apparently, people got tired of seeing giant robots beat each other up, so let's see some digital apes beat people up instead.  At #2, The Purge: Anarchy reigns supreme.  For those who couldn't take the digital apes, they went to see people beat up other people.  Creepy!  Well, from an anthropological perspective, I think it speaks well about us that these Purge movies are doing way better than these Human Centipede movies.  I hope that series is finally over.  At #3, it's the continued decline of Pixar's hegemony with a sequel to a film that no one cared about, and it's called Planes, Trains & Automobiles... I mean, Planes: Fire and Rescue.  Oh, Dane... Jimmy Kimmel's about this close to turning his back on you completely.  You were Tank, for God's sake!  TANK!  Now you're doing kid's movies!  I mean, how cool can Planes 2 be if Dane Cook came back to play the hunky older lead, Flint Brickman?  I mean, Dusty Crophopper?... seriously?  Dusty Crophopper?  Fortunately, that will also sub as a porn name when the Chinese start making porno versions of our beloved Pixar classics.  Oh, it's out there, people.  It's still the fringes, but once the smog clears in China, there's no telling what that sleeping giant will come up with.
The other debut this week is Sex Tape, or Bad Teacher 2, the same filmmaking team of Cameron Diaz, Lawrence Kasdan's kid and Jason Segel spitting out their latest shockfest.  My God!  Kasdan and Segel have been working together now for 15 years!  Where does the time go?  Oh well.  Jake's still doing better than his dad lately.  Oh sure, Lawrence apparently is hard at work on the script for the next Star Wars movie, but really, how hard will that be to screw up?  Besides, is Lawrence Kasdan good enough for J. J. Abrams?  If you're working for Abrams, you gotta have layers, man.  Lots and lots of layers.  Layers is a young man's game, my old friend.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

How to Nurse an American Cat

Well, the DVD's in there already, so why don't we just get it the hell over with?
...ah, I remember parts of this one.  These were in the old days when Cartoon Network used to show old cartoons.  Now it's all anime and Genndy Tartakovsky's stuff.  But once upon a time it was MGM and WB, and I must've liked this one a lot because I recall fondly the Spanish / Mexican song sung in it, and the wind instruments at the end filling in for the laughter of Jerry the Mouse.
Anyway, here's the setup.  Just as Tom the cat was torturing the mouse in our last cartoon, Sufferin' Cats!, now it's Tom's turn to be tortured by a little girl playing dress-up with the cat.  And, as with all Tom and Jerry cartoons, you can't see the faces of the people... just like the teacher in E.T.  Good cinematic convention!  And so we go through the proverbial Kübler-Ross stages of grief, but as an animal Tom is in no position to bargain, so we're basically stuck in the depression phase, with a little anger mixed in for good measure.  However, when the milk arrives, things change.  Depression and anger eventually give way to acceptance: sweet, milky acceptance.
And frankly... it gets a little creepy!  Thank god Jerry the Mouse shows up!  Jerry can't believe it at first, and I mean really can't believe it, slapping his face a couple times to make sure he's not dreaming.  Lol.  Now, some say revenge is a dish best served cold.  But then again, these days everyone's a comedian and everyone's got a blog for fighting the Phrases of Old handed down by our stupid, unquestioning elders.  Take "dog eat dog," for example.  That must've been one hungry dog!  And why do we still call things "mainstream" anymore?  The Mississippi River barely exists anymore!  But back to the instant case.  While Jerry's not exactly seeking revenge yet, Jerry proves that imitation isn't always the sincerest form of flattery.  There's another one of those phrases.  Jerry turns on the record player; fortunately for him, "Rock-a-Bye Baby" is already on there.  The music blares and Jerry starts crying like a baby.  Tom is instantly ripped from his state of nirvana, and a mighty chase ensues.
Now, normally these episodes come in threes, but the right two will have to do.  The girl comes back in and puts Tom back into the crib, etc. etc.  It's a white girl, so I'm assuming it's the same voice from the '40s.  And so, Tom's back on the bottle, and now happy to play the baby to the young girl's domineering mother figure.  Time for Jerry's Second Act.  Fortunately, Jerry doesn't have to go too far, but Jerry lures some of the neighborhood cats in to check out Tom.  Tom gets furious, but it's three against one... maybe two and a half against one, but he's still outnumbered.  These new cats need to have some fun with this be-diapered guy.
Now, it's been a while, but some of you might know that I'm just a sucker for a good audio clip.  Not like I used to be, of course, now that they're more at my fingertips than ever.  Still, I'm always on the lookout for one I may have missed, and here's one right here.  What can I say?  I am a bit of a sadist.  Fortunately for Tom and unfortunately for the rest of us, the girl comes back.  The other cats run away, and Tom gets all the blame as usual.  No time to hunt down the other cats, I guess.  Is no one going to demand justice for poor ol' Tom?  Apparently not, and so it's time for the dreaded castor oil.  Without the little girl ever knowing, Jerry helps Tom open his mouth to take the dreaded medicine.  Apparently, the filmmakers felt that this snarky act needed to go punished, so gravity ends up giving the mouse some of the oil as well.  We end with both cat and mouse vomiting out of a windowsill.  A fine ending to a fine Tom and Jerry cartoon.  Four stars.
Oh, I forgot to mention.  I should be more freaked out because I just watched Quiz Whizz where the Stooges found themselves in a similar age-defying predicament... but for some reason, I'm not.  Call the Creepy Police!  Lock my ass up forever!  It's the least I deserve.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

"Fifi" Blows

That framing was probably Besser's idea.  Anyway, it's time for our next Stooge short, Fifi Blows her Top.  It uses footage from Love at First Bite, but the story has been altered rather drastically.  In fact, the second half of the story has been cribbed from a Laurel and Hardy short... but these connections are rather hard to make using the internet, so I'm forced to drag out the 10-disc DVD collection of Laurel and Hardy that I have access to.... never mind.  Boy, did I get that wrong!  Apparently it's from one of their first, called Unaccustomed As We Are.  Which of course is a variation on The Front Page... this could go on for years!
Anyway, the plot.  Moe and Larry are doing all the work, while Joe's sulking about Fifi, his lost love.  The First Act is the repeat of Love at First Bite, with film clips from it spliced in.  Larry's section is clipped with rare incidental music added (as any Stooge fan will tell you, the only incidental music that should be in a Stooge film are the various sound effects, like head bonks, damn it!), and it has to be frozen to avoid the cross-fade on the Stooges with Shemp.  Moe, not so much.
As usual, Joe has to illustrate his inherent smugness when he tells his Fifi story by saying "You guys were having fun, but with me it was serious!"  Yes, Joe, we know... you're not just a Stooge, and so very much more.  However, the waitress has a little truth-telling fun with Joe in his be-haired flashback.  She was Moe's Sunev girl in the previous Outer Space Jitters.  They keep the dog angle from Shemp's story, but with one problem... Joe's eating inside the Café La Mer Essen, while Shemp and his babe were outside!!!!!  Oh well, this is a remake.  Buyer beware.  See, if they were really good, they would make the husband the MP that manhandles Besser.
Okay, Second Act.  They kept the chewing gum wrinkle, but only so they could reuse footage of Moe struggling with said bubble gum.  Larry takes over for Shemp as the Chewing Gum Chewer in Chief.  And then, the conflict.  Fifi is now living in America, and next door to the Stooges in the same apartment complex, right across the hall.  She gets locked out, and has to go to the Stooges for help.  They manage to soak her with a shaker full of coctail mix, and they burn her dress when they attempt to iron it.  Ironic maybe?  Always count on the Stooges to put out a fire with a bucket of gasoline.
Wikipedia informs us that potential long-time collaborator and future Jerry Stiller-lookalike Philip van Zandt killed himself shortly after this film was finished.  I think I can appreciate his frame of mind.  Anything to get out of working with Besser again.  I'm kinda glad they didn't make him the MP that roughs up Besser during his flashback sequence.

Full length: 16 m 32 s
Old footage removed: 13 m 27 s
Percentage of new footage: 81.3 %

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

I Love You, Bluto ... or Amaranthaceae Now

Well, I certainly can't speak for Famous Studios or Gene Deitch, but I don't think they're the type to march headlong into the heart of darkness as the Fleischers do with our next Popeye short, Fightin Pals. (no apostrophe)  It's the Popeye cartoon you may have heard about, but not necessarily the one you've been waiting for.  As for me, I think I'm ready for it.  It may take me a couple days to adjust, having just seen it all the way through.  The point being, we've been through Popeye cartoons with no Bluto before, and no spinach before... but no Olive?  And Popeye actually longs for Bluto's company?  Has the world gone mad?
Let's start from the beginning.  In this particular clean slate, "Doctor" Bluto is heading out to sea on an African expedition.  I never did figure out if Bluto is a sailor like Popeye.  If so, he never seemed to be affiliated with the Navy.  If he had the means and the inclination, though, he might start his own navy, being the aggressively entrepreneurial type.  (Forgot the last 'e' in entreprenurial!)  And so, Bluto bids Popeye farewell, and they sock each other a few more times for good measure.  Bluto gets the parting shot by throwing an anchor at Popeye, which hits Popeye in the head.  Next scene: Popeye sulking at home.  He mutters to himself "I wish Bluto was here!"  We've gone through the looking glass here, people.  I'm telling you.
And then... the radio!  There's a news flash.  Doctor Bluto has gone missing!  "WHAAA?" says Popeye.  "You heard me," says the radio.  Ooh!  Good distortion.  I love a good viral-type audio hunk.  Anyway, Popeye finally has his mission in life for our current cartoon.  He will go to this distant land the mortals have named Africa, and he will find his Fight Club sponsor, Doctor Bluto!  This was in the days when cartoon characters would travel to "Darkest Africa."  Not so much anymore.  Why, Wackyland is located in Darkest Africa!  Alas, Popeye's adventure isn't as wacky.  More of the fraught with danger type.
First up: a rhino.  But Popeye soon dispatches of this large vicious beast, by turning its horn into a statue.  The rhino sulks away sadly.
From there, we get some of the beasts from Wild Elephinks.  The elephink certainly looks familiar, even if it skews a little Seuss-ish.  Before that, a lion, and this king of the jungle takes a little more time to defeat than the one in Wild Elephinks.  Go figure.  Well, Popeye's stopping to smell the fights this time.  Oh, and he finds clues of Bluto's presence.  Shyeah, right, like he's the only one in Africa with a shoe and a cigar.
And so, after many a weary mile, and imagining the worst (Was Bluto felled by a lion?  Or a happy-looking snake?  Did Bluto die playing Pitfall?), Popeye finally happens upon Bluto.  Bluto is flanked by cartoon babes catering to his every whim.  Well, fanning him and fawning over him, that kinda stuff.  Bluto runs over to the fatigued Popeye.  One of the girls pours coconut juice onto Popeye.  Bluto says "Stop that!  I know what this guy needs" and Bluto takes a can of spinach out of his own shirt pocket.  This is similar to the 1980 Popeye movie, but still different enough.  Popeye is invigorated by the infusion of spinach and, after a Tarzan yell, the situation gets a little formal, as in Learn Polikeness.  There's also another one where Popeye, like a gentleman, invites Bluto into the next room for an ass-kicking, but I forget which one that was.  The internet will surely remember for me?  Anyway, the old chums start beating each other anew, and we iris out to black.
A grand psychological experiment all around.  Where else can you go from there?  Well, there's still seven more on this one, then a whole other volume.  I'm sure the Fleischers will surprise me.  Then again, there is that Famous Studios one where Bluto poisons a spinach crop, and another one where the spinach can develops a mouth.  Whoa, bad acid trip.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Dylan C. Brown

I was going to use this opportunity to unveil a new tool to help me collate and collect filmmakers' information... but it's not written yet.  It basically revolves around the idea of social mobility in Hollywood, and how one goes about achieving it.  For Dylan C. Brown, it shouldn't be too hard.  I mean, the dude just did a picture with Snoop Dogg!  My advice?  CLING TO HIM for as long as you can.  Sure, he goes through directors like rolling papers, but if you can make him laugh, he'll be yours forever.  Just ask Dave Chappelle!... wait, that might be a bad idea.  Has Chappelle gotten back into the fold yet?  Anyway, if you can get your film gestation period down to less than seven years per film, that'd be a good start.

Damn Dirty Apes!

Sunday the Thirteenth!  Mwa-ha-ha-ha... I'm bored, so let's get these placeholders up early.
Well, the apes have it this weekend.  Pierre Boulle once again has the last laugh from beyond the grave with the latest incarnation of his ongoing anthropological experiment, and it's called Dawn of the... yada yada yada.  But the filmmakers already knew that, hot dog!  They have a weiner on their hands.  And why, look!  There's already yet another sequel in the works.  Right now, it's called Untitled Planet of the Apes Sequel.  Now, I know the spineless studio executives will run away from that title, but let's think about this for a second... what if we stick with it?  You know, a little wink to the internet-based film geeks out there?  After all, didn't the Simpsons have their "Untitled Robot Parody," AKA "Snort Farmers"?  And don't you like to see all these local news anchors squirm a little bit?  Think of what they'll do with that title!  They'll think Hollywood's gone totally bonkers!  And isn't that in the spirit of these Apes movies to begin with?  The world turned totally upside down?
Okay, my second choice: a reboot of Life, Liberty and Pursuit on the Planet of the Apes.  Even your hardcore strict Constitutionalists oughta like that one.  Third choice: do like the Simpsons again and just call it Dr. Zaius, as you'll probably never go with Stop the Planet of the Apes, I Want to Get Off.  Wotta mouthful!  The American moviegoer can't handle a title more than two words or five syllables.
The only other debut this week is female Inside Llewyn Davis, and it's called Begin Again.  Everything else is down, down, down.  Even Earth to Echo didn't enjoy a slight rise in rank!  Plus, it's SO DAMN HOT!!!

Friday, July 04, 2014

Suffer the Animated Cats

Our next Tom and Jerry cartoon is called Sufferin' Cats!  And like our previous one, I noticed it's directed by Joseph Hanna and William Barbara.  That's right... before they were known for television animation that was ubiquitous and cheap, they were part of that golden era of animation when it was relatively fresh and new and I guess everyone was trying to keep up with Disney's state of the art, if not Disney's storytelling ethos.  And I'm pretty sure Disney would never attempt the positively ribald wordplay that's attempted here!  You see the one to the left, and there's one at the end which I'll leave for you to behind.
Anyway, the plot.  Our origin point of the vector, so to speak, is the usual opening high-jinks.  Tom the cat has managed to tie a fishing line to Jerry the mouse's tail, and he's making Jerry Mouse run away as far as he can so he can reel him back in.  This happens once.  The second time, the mouse gets away, and a mighty chase ensues.  Tom Cat goes to the window.  He looks left, then right, then left again... then does a double take.  That seems to happen a lot in these Tom and Jerry cartoons.  Tom takes off after the mouse.
And then... we get the direction of our vector.  Jerry Mouse runs into... another cat!  It's subtle at first, but we slowly realize that this mouse is as strong as the cats, if not stronger.  The mouse runs into the new cat, and the new cat falls into the garbage can that it was picking stuff out of.  Our cat, Tom, comes up to this scene.  Jerry Mouse plays a nasty game of arbitrage and kisses the other cat, pretending to have a new BFF.  Tom fights to get Jerry back but is out-hissed by the new cat.  Jerry knows that this means trouble, but fortunately this new cat is a gourmet and likes his mouse sandwiches with lots of pepper.  This could go on for years!
Now, we've seen this kind of thing before.  And by we, I mean me.  I wouldn't dream to speak for you... yet.  Anyway, I'm thinking Putty Tat Trouble, for one.  Lots of WB cartoons have used the two cats formula.  A Gruesome Twosome also comes to mind.  Then there's Odd Ant Out and I've Got Ants in My Plans, where the blue Aardvark does battle with a green aardvark over one ant.  Oh, what is it about ants that sound like Dean Martin that make you just want to eat them?  But I suppose that Sufferin' Cats! came first.  Gotta give 'em some credit.
Besides, it's nothing if not violent.  The big climactic finale involves the two cats agreeing to split the mouse.  Unfortunately for Jerry, they got an axe right there and everything.  And more important, a stump for a cutting board.  Tom's conscience gets the better of him.  It's just a devil cat, and no angel cat.  Sounds about right.  Even the Coen brothers might like this twist.  The devil cat tries to tell Tom to use the axe to split open the other cat's head, and not split the mouse in half.  It's a one-shot type deal, I suppose.  How are the filmmakers going to keep this from being an X-rated bloodbath?  Well, you can probably figure it out... so I'll leave that up to you.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Brain Cells Splattered on the Walls of Encyclopedic Knowledge... May be Barbaric, But It's Fun

...I think they're on to me!  That Besser is a clever little sod, ain't he, folks?  And so, the Stooges get another stab at easy quiz show riches with Quiz Whizz.  For $64,000, they better ask the meaning of life!  Actually, it's just $15,000... which today would be worth about half a million dollars.  Alas, because the Stooges have done quiz show shorts previously, we have to skip over all the excitement, and get to the intrigue part where unscrupulous third parties try to get their hands on the winnings.  Ah, doesn't money bring out the best in humanity, folks?
And while Joe Besser wants to be the smart Stooge, alas, he's apparently only blessed with the book smarts that can win quiz shows.  He doesn't seem to have the street smarts that can hang on to the winnings.  As soon as he gets home, he's informed Larry and Moe that he has stocks in... something.  Guess I better watch it again.
Good thing I did!  Boy, but Besser brings out the best or worst in Moe... definitely the loudest.  Moe yells "SMOG BAGS!" and goes to get his revolver.  Even Larry's stepping up his game.  I've never seen someone want to kill the Stooges since... well, this goofball, if he's still on the YouTubs.... nah, you gotta pay for it now.  Boy!  So picky!  They won't even let me link to the proper part of the "minisode"!  I would boycott if I were you... well, they're anxious for me to get out of here for the day, so I'll have to finish this up later.  But Joe's not taking it lying down, lemme tell ya.  He'll use a cigar butt to give Moe "the hot face"?  Cold-blooded!  Pure gangsta!  The Stooges are now officially a bad influence.
...where was I?  Oh yes!  But that's not the last we'll see of cigars.  Like all Stooge films, we need a scene we can stretch out to make this thing about 16 minutes long.  Well, long story short, the three of the Stooges are pretending to be kids.  They got the clothes and everything.  It's got something to do with getting their money back.  Alas, Kenneth MacDonald was unavailable to play the bad guy.  He would've been the perfect embezzler, as he's played similar roles several times before.  But, we've got the next best guy: Gene Roth, who also acts as a replacement Vernon Dent in his veritable Big Daddy role here.  And speaking of good casting, we've got Greta Thyssen filling in for Christine McIntyre.  If nothing else, she's got a deer-caught-in-the-headlights look on her face in her introductory scene... my God!  She's still alive!  She probably doesn't want to talk about this, however... or the other two Stooge films she did.
Anyway, the scene to be stretched: Joe goes for a cigar, but Moe says "Oh, no!  He doesn't smoke 'em... he eats 'em like candy!"  Now, as dumb as Joseph is, even he knows that that's not a good idea.  But Moe insists that Joe play along and do it anyway.  That oughta kill some time!  Meanwhile, Moe and Larry look for the clue that will bust this case wide open.  But before that, Larry acts like Curly, and Moe and Larry share a tender kiss.
I hate to say it, but there's actually a moment here where I feel kinda sorry for Joe.  But I know, I know... he doesn't want my pity.  But he does bring up an interesting dilemma: in lieu of no tasteful place to throw up his digested cigar, how will he alleviate his mild food poisoning?  Oh, that's easy.  The liquor cabinet!  Ah, sweet liquor eases the pain.  Meanwhile, Moe and Larry come to after being conked on the head, and I don't mean the hair treatment kind.  They find Joe hitting the sauce and try to convince him that they gotta go.  "C'mon!  We're LEAVING!" hisses Moe.  I've never seen Moe so desperate!  Trying times, indeed.  And once again... is Joe trying to tell us that he's a burlesque artist at heart or something?  What's with the breakaway pants?  I sure don't remember Curly trying that sort of thing, and certainly not Shemp.  Well, if ya got it, flaunt it, like they say in The Producers... the original.
Anyway, it increasingly looks like the boys won't get their quiz winnings back, but at least they might be able to avoid imminent death.  In a slight variation on the old James Bond Talking Killer trick, Moe opens the door to find Gene Roth and his busty henchwoman planning to poison the boys with poisoned milk and cake... well, maybe the cake's okay, but definitely not the milk.  They hide behind the door as the whole plan is quietly whispered by the bad guys for the audience's benefit.  How sweet!
The Stooges' hearts are in the right place, but they're a little too late.  Rather than face the wrath of milk and cake, they decide to bolt... but the other bad guys show up.  Four on three!  The Stooges need a little help.  Joe's probably no good at all in a fight... hey!  Isn't that Terry Hargin?  IT IS!!!  Played by Tiny Brauer, a veritable Stooge short veteran... and yet, I don't seem to recall him in any titles other than Sing a Song of Six Pants.  Some Stooge maven I turned out to be!  Harumph!
And so, it's a knife fight.  Never bring a fake gun to a knife fight.  The bad guys almost hit the Stooges, but they're at least good enough to get the knives to stick in the wall... thanks to the wire guys, I know, I know.  Moe gets especially scared by his knife, so much so that his hair does that vacuum thing again.  He gets a little bewildered because it makes the knife wobble around... but this quickly gives way to anger.  Moe's face crinkles up like a Burger King wrapper.  Turns out the Stooges are as bloodthirsty as the bad guys, and maybe more so!  They're better shots, anyway.  And soon enough, before you can look up 'Ticonderoga' in the dictionary, the bad guys have their own knives sticking out of their glutes.  End game in a Stooge film.
But wait!  Time to get the masterminds.  Gene Roth gets beaten into submission by his own tray, and Greta Thyssen gets a face full of cake.  She doesn't take this too well, but she is the bad guy and the Stooges are nothing if not gentlemen... in their own way.  But wait!  There's still too much time left.  Well, getting the check from the bad guy could probably be stretched out a little bit.................
You know, all in all... maybe I'm just in a good mood or something, but this is one that Joe couldn't totally ruin.  Now, the remake of Oily to Bed, Oily to Rise... that one I'm not going to be too kind to.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan