Friday, December 12, 2014
Louisa May Alcott's The Little Brats
For now, Olive's spared the indignity of it all. Popeye and his four nephews... or whatever the hell relation they are to him... they're all at the table, rudely slurping away at soup. That it's in time with the music only makes it worse... wasn't there a scene in A Serious Man that was kinda like this? And so, when the soup's finished, Popeye goes to get the gruesome foursome some spinach. Well, they'd rather go fishing, and they decide to do just that while Popeye's in the kitchen. See, they know the ritual very well, and while it may seem lazy to you and me, the way they're sneaking out right in plain sight of Popeye... well, Popeye apparently is so full of pride over his spinach that he keeps his eyes shut when doling out the four bowls of it. Why does this part remind me of that game, Lode Runner? Hmmm... Anyway, it's only at the last minute, when he's about to reveal that they'll go fishing anyway once the spinach is consumed, that he opens his eyes and sees that they're all gone. "Hey!" says Popeye. The four quicken their pace down the stairs... okay, that's kinda funny. But I still hate them.
And so, with the guilty party returned to the courtroom, Popeye has to once again plead his case to the world that spinach is good. His four nephews aren't buying it, however. Same thing happened in the 1980 Popeye movie. Poopdeck Pappy had to convince Popeye that spinach is good, but Popeye wasn't having any of it. Why, Robin Williams threw the can over his shoulder and out the contents went! That must've been tough to film. They had to put it on a wire or something.
The four little brats say "But we don't like spinach!" They split up the sentence amongst the four of them. Creepy. Even twins aren't that creepy. Popeye's pipe and hat both spin at this insurrection. Popeye begins his case. "Spinach can make ya strong enough to does impossikible stunks!" says Popeye. But it's early in the film yet, so let's start with something simple. First impossikible stunt:... playing the piano? Seriously? Has it become Linda Richman time already? Playing the piano is neither impossikible, nor a stunt. Discuss. I'll keep it brief: it just takes years of practice is all, and it also helps to start when you're young, probably, and you don't have access to the internet. That's kinduva time hog, in case you didn't know. Reminds me: better check my email, my Reddit account, all my new Pinterest pins... ooh, and it's been a few hours since I played Clash of Candies! Better upgrade my Flash player for that. And so, as in The Spinach Overture, Popeye eats some spinach and bangs away at the piano. A few years before both Rhapsody Rabbit and The Cat Concerto and we've already got some perspective shots that they used later on! Go figure.
Call me crazy, but you'd think that Popeye selling spinach would be able to make a fortune, but never underestimate the bounds of sibling rivalry in particular, or familial rivalry in general. Powerful stuff, take it from me. Despite its very, very obvious benefits, the four little chips off the old ugly, butt-chinned block aren't having any of it. They reiterate that they don't like spinach. Such unity from a four-mouthed multi-bodied organism. Apparently anything artistic isn't the nephew's skill set. No, arbitrage is more their focus. That's probably why I dislike them so much... or maybe it's just the jealousy talking. I still say the former.
Next stunt: dancing, which Popeye has done a few times with the aid of spinach. I actually got confused with his word-mangling when he said "How does ya think Fred Upstairs learned to dance?" Oh, he means Fred A-staire! That does it... four stars for this cartoon. Incidentally, check out that IMDb number. Yup, Astaire is #1. When they were first setting this thing up twenty years ago, they were going about it alphabetically. Now there's too many people on this damn thing. How can there be 10 million people in movies? I say, more elitism in Hollywood, damn it! And so, the theme song a second time, a second can of spinach in the same pic, then time for some fancy footwork. Alas, Popeye's no Bob Fosse, and the four little punks stand their ground all the firmer. Popeye's head starts shaking and damn near doesn't stop.
Popeye's head eventually stops shaking, and he tries a different tactic. Pugilism! That's the key! I think Popeye means Jack Dempsey when he mangles yet another name. Okay, he's got the four little pukes' interest this time, so time for an unprecedented third helping of spinach. Alas, Popeye probably needs a better boxing partner. He just has himself for this ad hoc demonstration. How does he ever expect to get through to his nephews all by himself and his many flat cans of spinach hiding in his shirt?
Okay, so he manages to give the appearance of two Popeyes, but he's no... Multiple Man? That's the character's name? Sheesh. I mean, why do any research? "Thousand-o"'s too dorky and "Mitosio" makes him seem too Greek. And so, for a bintel brief, Popeye ends up punching himself out, and apparently it was too effective, because he slowly picks himself up off the rug. I guess he had too much spinach or something.
The nephews are unmoved by Popeye's empassioned argument. At this point, Popeye takes the more direct approach and threatens a spanking. He's hesitant to do it, and barely gets the words out, but the anger on the nephews' faces is resolute. At this point, Popeye starts weeping, and frankly, I can't says that I blame him. He reluctantly gathers up the nephews, meanders over to the chair, and administers the spanking... hmm! Wonder whatever happened to Michael Fey. Is that the dude's name?
This is why the four nephews creep me out. The nephews are stacked on top of each other like some kind of awful centipede... I mean, spank-i-pede. Popeye spanks the top nephew, and it travels down to the posteriors of the other nephews. They each say "Ouch!" in reverse order, as though the spank is travelling back up to the top of the nephew stack. The scene is so creepy that I'm only going to watch it one more time... all the action seems to be timed at the old reliable six beats per second. Slightly less stress on the animators that way.
And so, like all kids and vegetables, the four nephews sit there at their respective bowls of steaming spinach and slowly and sadly eat. Alas, it can't all be ice cream. And then... by God! It happens! The awesome power of spinach is bestowed upon the four nephews! Of course, Popeye doesn't know his own nephews like I know them and... yup, sure enough, as sure as eggs is eggs, the very first item on the nephews' spinach-fueled agenda, in a word... revenge. For them, sweet, sweet revenge. For me, my loyalty lies with Popeye and not the hell spawn that he's forced to care for. Where is this so-called brother of Popeye? Why does Popeye have to be his brother's nephews' keeper? After all they have put him through up til now? And all the misery yet to come?
But for once, the nephews show a little finesse. Apparently they did indeed remember Popeye's piano lesson from earlier, and off to the piano they go to hammer out some notes. The song may sound sweet to Popeye's ears, but it's all sarcasm to me. Also, they seem to have sped up the piano music, so it sounds like a weird dwarf piano or something. Interesting choice. I know the nephews' voices have to be sped up, but the piano? Seriously?
And so, like Harpo in... I forget which one. I think it was A Day at the Races where he beats the sh... stuffing out of a piano until it's nothing but a converted harp, so too do the nephews break up their piano, and grab four switches from it. As they march towards Popeye, Popeye finally gets it. I mean, why give a blowtorch to an arsonist? Why? Alas, Popeye sees every problem as a nail, and up til now he's been able to hammer in most nails with a wad of spinach in his fist, but he's in a real existential crisis here, arguably even worse than in Hello, How am I? and that one seemed to rock Popeye to his very core. But he's about to be hoisted on his own petard, and even the father in The Omen was conflicted. Sure, his son was the devil incarnate, but kill a kid? That's one of those things one just doesn't do. I mean, that's just math... probably.
And so, the Passion of the Popeye begins in full, all to the tune of "Hold That Tiger." Now it's Popeye's turn to get spanked, and spanked he does. Under the fan, in the dumbwaiter, it's a little hard to watch. But it's still less sadistic than Two Gophers from Texas. Oh, and, of course, the nephews use Popeye's words against him, the little pricks. They say "We hates to do this..." Yeah yeah, we get it.
And so, the four little brats, having spanked Popeye all the way back out of their building and onto the sidewalk, go on that fishing trip all the same, stepping on Popeye along the way for good measure. There is no joy in Popeyeville, having been rubbed out like a cigarette butt on the pavement, and there is no ending theme because Popeye is clearly not strong to this particular finich. The iris closes and the nephews make one last appearance, reiterating that they don't like spinach. Which comes as a relief to me, because I don't think Popeye will be feeding it to them again any time soon. Maybe Popeye can treat them to some ice cream instead... with a dash of arsenic.
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan