Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Immortal Meh-loved

And so, the Tom at the piano trilogy is complete... probably.  Was it just a trilogy?  And will we ever see a time in the future when a serial like Tom and Jerry will hold the Oscar voting block hostage?  Short answer, no, because today's studio moguls don't seem that interested in the category anymore.  No, it's Eastern bloc countries that submit entries for the Best Animated Short category these days.  Grim, character-driven tales with one word titles like Cabbage and Freedom/Depression.  No, the days of Oscar hogs like Fred Quimby and Louis B. Mayer are long gone.  Now it's all about cooking the books and not pissing off Zen master Michael Ovitz.
...darn.  I might have to watch this with the sound.  I'm watching this at school without the sound.  I forgot my stupid earbud headphones.  It's your classical Three Act structure, as David Letterman might say, but he doesn't want to seem that bookwormish.  Can't get any bad girls that way!  Anyway, we find Tom and Jerry living in the house of... probably Johann Strauss, playing away all day at his piano.  Jerry can't help but get swept away by the music, which Tom tries to use to his advantage.  But as blissed out as Jerry gets, he still manages to outrun the cat back to his hole in the wall.  Tom tries several times, but like Mitt Romney, consistently fails at the modest task that is his charge... well, they can't have the whole script online, can they?
ACT TWO - Time for Tom to change his tactics.  Screenwriters take note: this is one of the secret cornerstones of the Tom and Jerry cartoons... except for that one, Putting on the Dog.  That's just straight-up slapstick.  And so, Tom decides to learn to play the piano.  Which he does, of course!  And quickly, because this is a one-reeler.  Tom plays well enough to get Jerry back into his blissed out state of dancing to the music and kissing green tassels.  Still, Tom can't get close enough to catch that mouse... or can he?  Tom does eventually grab hold of Jerry... AND THEN, fate intervenes!  All of Strauss' human servants were observing this spectacle.  And so, like Bugs and Elmer in What's Up Doc?, Tom and Jerry find themselves instant stars, and quickly rising to the top of the 1800s equivalent of going viral and Vaudeville: an audience in the King's Court.  Let's hope they don't f... screw it up!
ACT THREE - Tom and Jerry emerge in full tux and tails.  Unlike the other two, The Cat Concerto and ... you know, that Hollywood Bowl one, Tom emerges a wide-eyed innocent, still trying to figure out what's going on, but by the time he gets to the piano, he's got the closed eyes of a piano-playing world-weary expert.  Tom's able to stay in professional mode as Jerry doesn't do anything but dance around, like the eye candy he thinks he is... but then, his cat-ly instincts kick in!  Awright!  The music stops, Jerry looks over in concern, then gets what's going on.  Time to head for the wall again!  BAM!  Whether that snooty audience knows it or not, that's the part they were really waiting for: the proverbial fiery NASCAR crash... does that make sense?  Of course, they didn't keep good records of the entertainment acts back then.  You'd think a dancing mouse and a piano-playing cat would've gotten more historical traction than that!
(after viewing with sound) Yup, Johann Strauss' house.  And Tom changes tactics because Strauss goes on vacation.  No one to play the piano!  Well, mother is the invention of necessity... sumpthing like that.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

The Stereotyping of the Japanese Male, Pt. 2

Well, it can't all be mother-in-law jokes and Wile E. Coyote-type antics, with cartoon characters thumbing their noses at gravity, can it?  No, sometimes world events cast their long shadow over the cinema, and even the shorts for the tiddly-winkies find their plots adapting to the times.  Of course, being the old-timer that I am, I can't help but reflect on how the (American) cinema has more recently been influenced by American national politics.  More specifically, movies during Clinton's second term, and of course the 2000s, during Clinton's third and fourth terms.  Well, it worked in Wag the Dog, right?
As for the here and now, I'm boldly facing the future by putting both feet firmly into the past with our next Popeye short, Scrap the... hoh boy.  Now, the word "scrap" in the title is no accident, mind you, as one of the themes of the cartoon is a slight shout-out to the, um, aggressive recycling campaign that occurred in America during World War II.  One reason there was apparently a plot to assassinate FDR.  That and food and gasoline rationing.  I mean, do without my San Marzano arrabiatta sauce and my Loacker Quadratinis?  I could kill somebody!
...oh, right.  Back to Popeye.  Once again, as with The Mighty NaVy so many moons ago, we find that Popeye is once again a round peg in a square wheel.  He's once again getting reprimanded by the Navy uppers (voiced by Popeye voice Jack Mercer?).  Boy!  This guy's getting more second chances than Alec Baldwin!  I nearly Baldwin'd in my pants, indeed!  But Popeye's one to whistle while he works, and he puts that old Fleischer ingenuity into swabbing the deck, but I dunno... when I see how he repurposes a Navy plane as a tool to swab the deck, I can't help but think to myself, isn't that also what one of the Japanese soldiers would do?
Also, Popeye sweeps some dust under a part of the ship.  He lifts up the whole upper deck, puts the dust in the space, then drops the deck back into place, which makes the same metal clanging sound that will be used in every Popeye cartoon afterwards.
BUT THEN... the Japanese attack.  And even in the heat of battle, a disgraced Popeye's still way way better than some dirty... enemy soldier.  But this is still at heart a comedy, and Popeye's a pre-Superman Superman, and Popeye takes off in a Naval plane... without the plane!!!!!!!!!  Popeye catches back up to the plane and flies on.  Meanwhile, a non-Kamikaze Japanese pilot is tailing Popeye, disguised as a cloud.  As thick-headed as Popeye is (even after several direct shots to the head... with a giant cannon... you have to see it to believe it) it takes him a while to figure out what's going on.  This might be a good metaphor for American Imperialism for some.
Popeye finally figures out that the cloud isn't what it seems, but if only he could get a good glimpse of what's behind it as confirmation.  There's a rich comic tradition at work here, of course.  I couldn't help but think of a similar sequence in A Feather in His Hare.  And, of course, the mirror sequence from Duck Soup.  ...those are the only ones I can think of.  And so, Popeye begins his attack in proper.  And even though the enemy has no redeeming qualities at all, it still takes three shots to blow the Japanese plane out of the sky!  They must be doing something right!
In Popeye's fury and zeal, he flies alongside the plummeting Japanese pilot and walks out on the wing of his plane to take a swing at the guy.  Popeye notices he's falling and does a little plummeting to Earth himself.  Wotta goof.  There's some Judo at play here as well.
The falling Popeye ends up losing his parachute, so he slows his descent to Earth with a very elastic boot.  Kinda sad, really.  Unfortunately for Popeye... or fortunately, there's passionate arguments for both cases at this point... he ends up landing on the deck of a... hoh boy... enemy scrap ship.  Japanese soldiers start beating up Popeye, Rodney King style, as the soldiers all seem to have nightsticks.  Oh, it's so spinach time.  Which, in terms of timing, makes this more of a normal Popeye cartoon.  Popeye usually eats spinach well into the Third Act, as opposed to the other Japanese-themed one so far, You're a Sap, where the spinach happens at about exactly the half-way point.  Now, if the filmmakers really wanted to be insulting to the enemy, they'd have Popeye eat spinach in the last minute of the film, and have Popeye flick the noses of one of the enemy, thereby causing their whole army to perish.  No, the war effort is to be taken more seriously than that.  Popeye throws his can of spinach into the water, and all the Japanese dive in after it.  What an insult!  Popeye finishes chewing and gulps, making that same gulping noise you'll hear in every Popeye cartoon afterwards.  He transforms into the Statue of Liberty... in a patriotic, heterosexual way, of course.  Popeye makes his way to the main Japanese battle cruiser, and he makes a "V" on the side of their ship... and in Morse Code as well!  Reminds me of a similar sequence in Can You Take It.
For Popeye's final big act, he makes an old-fashioned can opener and sinks the Japanese battleship by opening it like a giant can.  You know, the shabbiness of Japanese-made products.  But the American system of justice is still the best way to go, and Popeye ends up hauling in a bunch of Japanese POWs, who morph into a bunch of mice running around in their cage.  I know, I know, they're supposed to be rats.  But I thought the rats only went after German grain!  Hence my confusion.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Dave Chappelle

I've beat this drum already, but what the hell.  The timing's perfect for me... I forget why.  But just as Gilbert Gottfried is now and forever going to be known as the guy who blew the Aflac contract, so too is Dave Chappelle and the sum of fifty million dollars forever linked in the National Consciousness, if not the world.  I feel your pain, if only from my remote corner of the world.  In some circles, I am known as That Thing with a Massive Gut, and here I am, swimming against the cold, strong, rocky upstream current to reverse the trend.  How does a dude fight back?  Well, in Chappelle's case, it's gotta be something big.  Something epic.  Something Hollywood.  Maybe take a page from the book of Stew-Beef and direct a film, even if it is Rosewater.  Oh, but this can be no mere Half-Baked 2, as you can probably guess.  It's gotta be something you can shout from the rooftops.  Like Rosewater
Anyway, finer minds than mine will put the pieces into place for you.  After all, even Michael Cimino and the sum of fifty million dollars didn't last forever.  He found his muse in a young, human-looking Mickey Rourke and went from there.  Break down some barriers, man!  Do something big!

A Million Little Lies

Welp, it's fitting that the IMDb would say that American Sniper has been out for SIX weeks instead of just three.  It seems that this Chris Kyle was a pathological liar.  But you gotta hand it to him!  Kyle got out of the Army, unlike that fool without a lucrative book deal Pat Tillman.  Tillman was just lucky he didn't run afoul of Chris Kyle, because Kyle would've kicked his ass, too!  Just like Jesse "The Body" Ventura... oh, right.  Apparently, that didn't happen.  See, this is why fact-checking is kinda important.  Journalism 101, people.  Of course, the Army tends to stay away from controversy when it comes to fact-checking.  Where were they when the Swift Boat Veterans for "Truth" were attacking John Kerry?  I guess they thought, well, let's let the free market decide what to do about John Kerry.  And on top of that, there's the absolute horrifying alternate reality where George W. Bush is a one-term president.  Boy!  Who would want to live in that world?  Which reminds me.  Among its crimes against the truth, American Sniper apparently also makes the case that there's a link between Saddam and 9/11.  And when you get right down to it... there is a link, now that I think about it!  It's George W. Bush.  After all, Saddam tried to "kill his daddy," right?  What more of a link do you need?
In other news, the debuts this week are kinda weak, to make a bad pun out of it.  There's something called Project Almanac at #3.  And I thought Chronicle seemed derivative!  I owe it an apology!  But it's always nice to see A Serious Man's Amy Landecker getting work.  She's a sweetie pie. 
At #4 it's the latest Mike Binder-Kevin Costner collaboration called Black or White.  A nice, PG-13 rated romp at the movies.  None of this James Toback Black & White crap.  No sir!  The '90s is over, my friends!  Way way over.
And finally, at #10, it's a film called The Loft.  Well, as someone once said, tis better to have loft and lost than never to have loft at all.  I forget who it was... maybe Wheeler or Woolsey.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Larry Niven's Richworld

Well, I think I'm overdue for posting a review of a film longer than eight minutes, and believe it or not, I used to have time to see a couple, and I did!  One was the Mel Brooks classic, High Anxiety, and the other was Elysium, the highly anticipated sophomore slump of writer-director Neill Blomkamp, who seems to be specializing in the re-burgeoning Sci-Fi genre.  I just saw that he was a 3D animator on the Kevin Costner classic 3000 Miles to Graceland.  Which just goes to show you that even in Hollywood, when a special effects person talks about telling a story, every once in a while they mean a story that people who read books can take seriously.  I'm still stuck on the résumé of Eric Brevig who tried his hand at directing, then went back to the day job of visual effects supervisor.  Oh well.  Raja Gosnell just makes it look so easy; how does he do that?
Oh, right.  Back to Elysium, named for... whatever.  One of the Greek gods or something.  Well, one thing you gotta give him credit for in the story.  None of this Back to the Future Part II crap, being overly optimistic of the advance of technology within Marty McFly's lifetime.  Or, for that matter, Blade Runner, where robots are so people-like that even the cops can't tell them apart.  Yes, 2019, where the flying blimps simulcast in English and Japanese, and there's an Atari store on every corner, and the flying cars look like they're out of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  No, this is the year 2154, where the rich live on a spinning ring in the sky between the earth and the moon, and the earth looks kinda grungy.  And even though Matt Damon's getting on in years, he's as tattooed and bacon-eating as the rest of them.  In fact, he's got street cred.  He used to be some kind of Vin Diesel-esque hotshot criminal.  Much like the protagonist in District 9 eventually finds himself between worlds, Damon's character starts out between worlds.  He's trying to go straight with a sh... crappy job with boring hours and a d... Richard for a boss, rather than for the adrenalin rush and similar wages of a career criminal's lifestyle.
BUT THEN... Damon has himself an industrial accident.  He's given a couple pills, but it's a temporary fix for your typical movie deadline: three days to live, something like that.  His dreams of taking his favorite girl to the distant Elysium have just been given the fast track.  Still, there's the evil Jodie Foster to contend with.  She helps Blomkamp give a shout out to his native South Africa with her unusual accent.
Sure, Elysium is lacking the punch and originality of District 9 and it's probably more similar than I realize, but it's still pretty top shelf, and looks great in HD!  Why go out to the theater at all?  Still, there's something nagging at me.  See, in addition to living high on the hog on Elysium rather than earth, the rich seem to have eliminated doctors altogether with a special Catscan-like machine that can apparently repair any damage to people.  And I mean any damage, even the kind suffered by Damon.  Why, cigar smoking just doesn't have the same thrill anymore, if you can just lie away the tumors while you're on your back.  Earthlings risk an illegal journey to Elysium to use the autodocs, but apparently there isn't one on earth.  This situation put me in mind, either fortunately or unfortunately, of that one joke Seinfeld told about a toothbrush "on loan" from Neil Armstrong, which makes me say... Elysium!  Give 'em the autodoc!

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Cat Who Loved People Dancing

You can tell that it's a compilation cartoon because there's only one animator: Kenneth Muse.  Apparently he wrote a book or two about animation way back when, in between drawing the little rat and the constantly abused cat.  But this time, however, it's time to sit back on the hammock and get some dividends from all that built-up capital.  This was before reruns on TV, of course.  So the animators might not be working as hard on Smitten Kitten, but it still presents a challenge for the screenwriters.
And so... how do we string all these clips together?  Well, Popeye did it by explicitly taking a tasteful highlight reel to a Hollywood executive in... gotta look it up here... Doing Impossikible Stunts!  That's the one.  But while Popeye had climbed to the summit of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs in that instant case, for this compilation Tom and Jerry outing, we're going to stick with the yellow middle of "love/belonging"... hmm.  There's just gotta be a way to abbreviate that.  Anyway, we start with a typical classic beginning: Jerry holding a pair of scissors.  Angry Tom emerges onto the porch; the punchline is too good to spoil.  Back to the chase.  Screenwriters, take note of the transition.  Tom catches up to Jerry, grabs the scissors, and is just about to use the scissors on Jerry when.....
A couple of examples spring to mind. 1) In Ghost Dog, Ghost Dog is just about to explain to young Pearline (dayamn!  Remembered her name.  Didn't have to look it up!  Camille Winbush was the thespian) what the Hagakure is.  I believe he says "Well, it's not a book, it's more of a....." before he gets cut off by Louie, Ghost Dog's master.  John Tormey's my new hero, BTW.  Apparently he started his acting career at 60 and never looked back!  Incidentally, was Armin Mueller-Stahl ever a young man?  Apparently so, just not in the American market.  The point I was trying to make is... something about leaving the audience hanging.  Alas, we'll have to wait for Tom and Jerry's Vegas show to get a chance to see Tom cut Jerry's tail with a scissors.
So, that was a good example of plotting.  Here's the bad example... in a recent episode of Person of Interest, the bad computer, Samaritan, tries to arrange a Non-Bush collapse of the world economy.  The episode turns into ... I mean, devolves into a lame excuse for dragging out a bit of story.  Very, very lame.  I know J. J. Abrams is the newest, hottest 50-year old reincarnation of Irving Thalberg, that he's Coppola, Spielberg and Lucas all rolled into one, so I'm going to hold his feet to the fire for this one.  See, it's okay for the home viewer to rewind the tape, not so okay when the filmmakers do it for us.  If it's Phoebe Cates' nipples in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, okay.  When it's just another day at the office for Person of Interest, not so much.
...anyway, the point I was trying to make for screenwriters is about story element equilibrium.  When you propose something as devastating as crashing the world economy, you have to balance it out with something cheesy.  A little vinegar at first, followed by a virtual drowning in sugar.  Take Wall-E for another example!  We start with the ecological collapse of earth, followed by robots chasing each other around for... however long.  Two thirds of the picture, seems like.
Of course, in this case, it's a bit like working backwards.  In Smitten Kitten, the filmmakers started with the premise of a love-themed rehash of old Tom and Jerry clips, so we gotta balance it out with the threat of violence.  You know, a little something for the hardcore fans.  How about Tom just about to kill the mouse with a pair of scissors?  Another example: that Simpsons episode where the nerds living with Homer have to find an electrical outlet for their rock tumbler, thereby causing Bart, Lisa and all of us to miss the only Itchy and Scratchy episode where Scratchy finally kills Itchy.
Anyway, on to the romance.  At the last second, before Tom's about to chop Jerry's head off with the scissors... I can't think of a finer babysitter for our nation's children... when BOOM!  There's the hot cat next door sitting outside reading a book.  Tom throws the mouse and scissors away and starts his mating dance.  And frankly, it's a little sub-par compared to previous efforts.  Well, he's got no zoot suit or cowboy outfit this time.  It's just him all by himself and his sense of urgency.  Even more surprising, the girl cat sees Tom on the porch going gaga, and she giggles to herself... boy, something's just not right.  For one thing, she's clearly not the stand-offish girl cat of Salt Water Tabby.  She had Tom's number, all right.  And second... what's with that giggle?  Kinda high-pitched and mouse-like!  At least, that's what I found myself asking, dear reader, the first time I watched this.  And you'd be right too, but not to worry, for it's leading to Coen-esque synergy, to give this otherwise nondescript Tom and Jerry cartoon a strong recurring thread to it, for lack of a better term.
And so, Tom begins his courtship in earnest by standing right in front of the girl cat and making the pointer dog stance.  Jerry looks on in disgust.  Their interspecies bromance has been temporarily discontinued.  Screenwriters take note... CUE THE DEVIL MOUSE!  At least, I think it's a devil mouse.  I was confused by the ears.  The devil mouse has got cat ears.  For all I know, maybe it is actually supposed to be Tom's devil talking to Jerry.  That'd be a good twist, right?  I'm going to use that in a project, I think.  And so, to get this highlight reel cartoon started, the devil mouse says to Jerry, among other things, "Remember the time when..................................."  Hoh boy, here we go.
And so, we get highlight reels of the various times Tom fell in love, and took it out on Jerry in various love-themed ways.  This is one of the reasons why the aristocracies of the world failed.  Now, I haven't seen the one yet where Jerry is carrying a tray of olives around upon his head, but I think Tom should stick with that girl.  It's a trait the two cats have in common: no empathy for the mouse!
Now, according to the IMDb Connections page for Smitten Kitten, there's four cartoons that highlights are taken from and used to pad out Smitten Kitten to one-reel length.  They're at the bottom of the page, and I'd like to take this opportunity to throw a gentle criticism at the editors of IMDb who've been extraordinarily good to me over the years.  Seriously, though, dudes, someone went crazy on these Tom and Jerry "connections" pages.  These pages aren't supposed to be that long!  We already know that there are other Tom and Jerry cartoons!!!!!!  Take a typical Stooge short, for example.  Does their connections page list all 190 Stooge shorts?  No!  Take a Popeye cartoon, for example #2.  Does that connection page list all 10,000 Popeye cartoons?  No!  I rest myc ase... my case.
I know.  I barely care myself.  Anyway, I'd just like to point out that the audio on the clip of Texas Tom was changed!  I can't vouch for the others.  Well, I'm pretty sure the audio for Solid Serenade is the same.  Very sure.  The devil mouse makes a point to mention the song, for devil's sake!  I think the audio from Salt Water Tabby's the same.  The tomato seems to make the same raspberry noise when it hits Tom in the face.  No, Texas Tom has livelier music, and the sound effects have more punch.  Case in point: Tom rolls a cigarette and uses Jerry's tongue to moisten the paper so that the cigarette will stay rolled.  In Texas Tom, when Jerry gets squeezed, he sounds like he's trying to induce vomit by sticking two fingers down his throat.  In Smitten Kitten, when Jerry gets squeezed, he makes a much louder "PLEAH!!!!!" noise, in order to drive home the point better.  Also, the various twanging noises used in Texas Tom are subtler, when Tom flicks the cigarette butt away, for example.  The gunshots sound the same.

...okay, back to the cartoon.  We've gone through the rehashed clips, so now what?  Well, Jerry's devil hands him some teentsy mouse-sized firecrackers, a book of matches, and a pin.  Oh, with tools of mischief like that, handed to you by a devil?  Jerry knows what to do.  Wink, wink.  Rudyard Kipling taught us all that.  And so, Jerry goes off to draw Tom's attention away from the girl.  WHEN SUDDENLY... why, look!  Some jailbait for the mouse!  Jerry falls in love, and the girl mouse ... gives that same giggle!  All the puzzle pieces are falling into place.  Watching this from afar but in full focus, Jerry's green devil walks away, disgusted.  I should point out that the devil sounds like Jimmy Durante, a fitting use for Durante's voice IMHO.  I kinda doubt that Paul Frees did a good Durante, but I'll go with the IMDb's judgment.  No voice credit for Slicked-up Pup, incidentally.
And so, as the green devil walks away, disgusted, a green devil girl magically appears.  I guess they do, huh?  Just like the boys.  But just before the green devil boy falls in love, he asks, much like Daryl van Horne after him, "Why do we need dames anyhow?"  Trust me, devil boy, the dames ask themselves a similar question all the time.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Towed in a Hull

Ah, the comforting Yin and Yang of Bluto and Popeye.  How I've missed it.  They're out of their sailors' uniforms, if only briefly, and have moved higher up the corporate food chain to become industrial-grade ship builders in A Hull of a Mess.  Alas, they've also set aside the rampant racial stereotyping common in WWII-era entertainment for a bintel brief.  There's still a war to win, but for now it's time to focus on the infrastructure necessary to achieve victory.
In a premise that even Amory Lovins could like, it's a rather simple setup of conflict, when you get right down to it.  Bluto and Popeye stand before the man, and the man says that whoever builds their battleship first wins the big contract to build ships for the war effort.  It's a bit like Dizzy Pilots, except that the Stooges were competing only with themselves.  And even then, they probably had unseen outside help.  Thankfully, Bluto and Popeye still keep their roots in comedy, even though the stakes couldn't be higher, and the simple act of leaving an office can be disastrous and funny.  I got an unexpected laugh out of it, what can me say?
And so, much like My Pop, My Pop, the building of ships commences.  And much like The Two-Alarm Fire, Bluto and Popeye have their shipyards side by side.  Awwww.  Easier to inflict damage on each other that way.
Popeye has more style and panache in his process, as usual.  But Bluto's got the desire to cheat in his toolbox; even in wartime, you still gotta try to get ahead.  Bluto has a moment that seems to happen more often to Popeye: Bluto thinks he's still holding a steel panel and bends down to put it into place, but falls through the hole in the floor instead.  They spare us the resulting carnage visually, but you can tell from the sound effects that some bad stuff's going down under our eye level.  I guess the camera guy got tired of doing so much panning work.
Popeye accomplishes other feats of derring do, like spitting rivets out of his mouth, knitting a Navy-grade anchor chain, and even an episode involving invisible paint!  But the most troubling for me is the bit with an acetylene torch.  Bluto puts the torch in Popeye's pants, thereby getting Popeye to do some of Bluto's welding work for him... well, work smarter, not harder, right?  Nevertheless, I'm reminded of a similar incident from Buster Keaton's classic The Blacksmith.  Naturally, Popeye's torch work is flawless in comparison.  There's of course a similar incident in the Stooge classic, A Plumbing We Will Go, but you gotta pay for that one on the youTubes now.  Better go with Vagabond Loafers instead.
Now, bear in mind, this is World War II, and there were shortages of everything, as well as spinach!  Probably!  So far there's no Nazis or Japanese on the horizon.  Surely there's no reason to squander spinach now?  Alas, that's where Bluto comes in.  Having finished his battleship early, Popeye proudly calls out to Bluto to admire Popeye's work.  Pride goeth before a fall, but Bluto knows that it doesn't happen on a consistent enough basis.  Sometimes you just gotta make your own Armageddon... boy!  YouTube's got a lot of links that say "Armageddon - Full Movie".  And yet, the running times of these "full movies" is less than 2 hours and 20 minutes!  Who do they think we are exactly?  I guess Golan and Globus must have made a film titled Armageddon in the 80s or something, with Charles Bronson and Jill Ireland and probably some X-rated rape sequence that got an R for some inexplicable reason... where was I?  Oh, right.  As alluded to earlier, it's Bluto's time to play dirty.  And with the help of an empty champagne bottle and some full containers of nitroglycerine, the Trojan horse is bourne in Bluto's mind.  And soon enough, to cut to the chase, Popeye's battleship is a smoldering mess.  Well, sometimes you need more than one person to build a battleship.  Besides!  If it can't stand up to one little champagne bottle full of nitro, how's it going to make it in the real world?  Still, Popeye's in a tight spot, much like RoboCop in RoboCop (1987) after he gets that giant crane of metal girders dropped on him in the big finale.
Meanwhile, Bluto christens his ship and heads out for the big waters.  Seeing this, Popeye finds his motivation to engulf his can of spinach.  Making his usual new trademark gulping sound, the time for Popeye's revenge is at hand.  But even for Popeye, sometimes living well is the best revenge.  Also, it's World War II, for God's sake!  We should be fighting the Japs and the nasty Nazis, not each other!  I guess the Italian soldiers were a little less ambitious or something... Anyway, and so, Popeye turns into a veritable battleship factory, and he pushes out a baker's dozen of battleships while Bluto sits there twiddling his thumbs and going "do doo doo dooo....."... sigh.  This is where it's supposed to be.  YouTube lets me down again as well.
For those who swear by the Famous Studios Popeye cartoons of the 1950s, you might be pleased to see that these 1940s era Popeye cartoons are finally starting to start like your favourites.  However, much like when the series was first gearing up, the note that Popeye strikes with his pipe is much lower than the trademark G sharp he normally seems to hit; F sharp when his pipe's twirling in his mouth.  Also, this is another story credit for Jack Mercer, the voice of Popeye himself.  Wait a second... are these stories so easy to come up with that even a voice actor can concoct them?  Ouch!

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Aleta Chappelle

I'm RICH, b'atch!... oh, wait, different one.  Welp, a brief glance at Aleta's IMDb page, and I can tell that I don't even need to run my software for this one.  Between Coppola and Eddie Murphy, who's got time for Spielberg?  Funk dat!

Year of the Snipe

American Sniper continues its reign of terror and political divisiveness at the box office... well, the political divisiveness may have died down a little, but dayamn!  200 million?  The young whippersnapper that directed that will be able to write his own ticket!... oh, right.  Meanwhile, everything else is down.  Down, down and terribly down.  Blackhat is already gone, with no signs of returning.  Still, they're going to run ads that say "It's the #1 movie about a computer virus gone wrong" and maybe a couple that say "Anyone remember Heat?  ANYONE??" and "You ungrateful bastards!  When did you get so picky about Chris Hemsworth?"  Anything that's not Thor related and they stay away in droves!  What snobs.  What a bunch of film snobs.
The only other debuts this week are the Wes Anderson-ish Mortdecai and Strange Magic... oh, what a strange magic, got a strange magic.  Something like that.  The ads tell me that it's from the mind of George Lucas.  The IMDb page tells me that he's through giving second chances to Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck.  They must've wanted too much money or something.
Oh, how could I?  I totally forgot about The Boy Next Door.  If it did indeed cost only $4 million, then who knows?  Maybe it'll make a profit.  Boy, I must be out of touch with morality, because I don't remember the last time a self-respecting leading lady actively sought out a Mary K. Letourneau-type role... okay, there was To Die For, but that was a satire... right?  Anyway, this is also a bit of a comedown for uber-director, and frequent collaborator with Vin Diesel, Rob Cohen.  Nothing's going to slow this guy down.  Not sagging box office receipts, not age, not his ashamed alma mater... nothing.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Bloody Oscars

Okay, I'm out of my Oscar funk now for some reason.  I've grown a little weary of trying to predict what the Oscars are thinking these days.  For example, I thought it was supposed to be ten nominees for Best Picture now.  I thought that that was the new rule of the land.  And yet there are only eight.  MAKE UP YOUR DAMN MIND ALREADY!!!!!  And I never thought I'd live to see the day, but ex-Daily Show correspondent Steve Carell is up for an Oscar.  Maybe now he can stop being so humble when he goes back on that show to kiss Stew Beef's ass.  I'm just saying.  And isn't this going to cause a rift in the whole Anchorman gang?  Next thing you know, they'll be giving Judd Apatow the Irving Thalberg Award for Lifetime Achievement.  Lord knows he's made enough money to get it!  They'll just have to be very very careful when they edit his highlight reel together.
Okay, I'll make one Oscar prediction.  The winner for cinematography?  NOT Roger Deakins.
But in general, it's a big year for "independent" movies, and by that I mean non-superhero related movies.  And the academy sure seems to have gotten over its love of Tolkien and his custodians thereof in a big way.  But Birdman is a film about superhero movies, so strides are being made.  Maybe Marvel can host its own superhero movie awards show on Fox or something.  Lord knows they have the money.  I mean, lavishing trophies upon the special effects industry somehow just isn't enough.  Maybe I'm out of my Oscar funk this year because I never thought I'd be living with a champion of the cause of Wes Anderson.  It seems like it's his time.  Or Richard Linklater's.  I think the academy's just happy that Wes is giving smaller parts to Owen Wilson and Bill Murray.
Anyway, I've found a new wrinkle on my face... I mean, a new wrinkle on how to go about predicting these Oscar winners.  I'm merely going to comment on that old Oscar gap.  By which I mean what the nominee's really getting the gold statue for.  Take Jeremy Irons, for example.  He won for Reversal of Fortune, but really, it was for his performance in the previous year's Dead Ringers.  Or Burl Ives!  He won for his supporting role in The Big Country, but really, it should have been for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.  I mean, c'mon!  He's Big Daddy!  Non-Adam Sandler Big Daddy!  I swear that this is a phenomenon people comment about, but Yahoo's just not bearing me out right away on it.

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year: The big surprise?  Pixar doesn't have an entry!  Well, Oscar didn't care for cars with eyes on the windshield.  What hope do planes with eyes on their even smaller windshields have?

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year: whichever one won the Golden Globe

Best Documentary, Feature: It used to be that one about the Holocaust was a sure win, pretty much every time.  This time, however, we must go to a different metric.  The one with the best title for me would have to be Last Days in Vietnam, a title that seems vaguely familiar, and a film about an American-made Holocaust. 

Best Documentary, Short Subject: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1.  Great title!

Best Short Film, Animated: Don't care.... sure, I say that now, but fifteen years from now, how sorry I'll be when the winner's directing Pixar films.  But really, Wallace Shawn as the cowardly dinosaur pretty much directs himself at this point.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score: I don't know why, but I don't like Alexandre Desplat.  And now, here he is, competing against himself.  I wonder what he'd rather win for.  The Grand Budapest Hotel?  Or The Imitation Game?  Well, if American box office is an indication, then definitely Budapest.  An important consideration among the Oscar voting block, apparently, according to one of the talking heads I saw.  As for me, I think that that Johann Johannsson should win.  Great name.  Plus, Johann is a name fraught with musical history.  Meanwhile, Hans Zimmer is nominated once again for his score for the 1996 movie, The Rock.  May the incessant throbbing action movie musical score never ever change.  Ever.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song: The category gets interesting for a change!  I guess Peter Gabriel and Sting have given up trying to win.  I say give it to Common and John Legend.  Otherwise, it's either going to Glen Campbell for lifetime achievement or to The Lego Movie.  After all, the latest Muppet movie got one a couple years ago, right?

Best Achievement in Makeup AND Hairstyling: The three nominees couldn't be more opposite: one superhero movie, one relatively current offering, and one early 20th century period piece. Whichever won one... one won the Golden Globe... oh, they don't honor makeup with a Golden Globe.  Well, the previous Oscar winners were Dallas Buyers Club, Les Misérables and The Iron Lady, amongst many many others.  My money's on the early 20th century period piece... Grand Budapest?  Sheesh.  They'll get a special Oscar for Best Achievement in Severed Fingers.

Best Achievement in Visual Effects: probably Guardians of the Galaxy.  Number one for nine weeks!!

Best Achievement in Sound Editing: probably The Hobbit.  Gotta give it something, right?  I think The Two Towers won for something like sound editing.  I mean, after all, the Black Gate of Mordor didn't sound itself!

Best Achievement in (Film) Editing: um... Boyhood?  Hel-LOOO?!!

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing: probably Birdman.  I've heard it was all done in one Unbroken take!  Drumroll...

Best Achievement in Costume Design: I think Milena Canonero should win again, if only so I can see the looks on the faces of the people in the front row.  Like what happened in 2006... dayamn!  If looks could kill...

Best Achievement in Camera Aiming and Filming: definitely not Roger Deakins.  No, this year it's going to go to Dick Pope, and here's why... at the unveiling ceremony, what's her name pronounced his name "Dick Poop... POPE!  Pope."  Reason enough for me and the ASC.

Best Adapted Screenplay: ...sheesh!  Wotta mouthful.  The actual category is apparently called "Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published."  And I'm actually going to say... Paul Thomas Anderson, because I've heard Thomas Pynchon is a bitch to adapt.  But basically it's his Oscar for either Boogie Nights or Magnolia, depending on your POV.  Probably Boogie Nights.

Best Screen Screenplay: probably... ...sheesh!  Wotta mouthful.  The actual category is apparently called "Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen."  It should probably go to Boyhood, but it depends on how the WGA feels about that.  They don't care for the phrase "it happened organically."  Screw that.  Man, typewriter, cigs and whiskey.  That's the screenplay way.  My prediction is E. Max Frye and Futterman for Foxcatcher, but really, it's the Oscar that Frye should've got for... Amos and Andrew?

Best Director: I'm going with Linklater and Boyhood, but really, it's the Oscar he should've won for... Boyhood.

Best Supporting Actress: probably Patricia Arquette for Boyhood, but really, it's the Oscar she should've won for... Holy MatrimonyGoodbye LoverPretty Smart?  Who's the Zero now, bitches?

Best Supporting Actor: I want J. K. Simmons to win for Whiplash, but really, it's the Oscar he should've won for... The Ladykillers!  That's right.  I don't care who knows it.

Best Actress: (female actor) I want Rosamund Pike to win for Gone Girl, but really, it's the Oscar she should've won for Doom.

Best Actor: probably Michael Keaton, because people of his age are gobbling up all the awards these days.  But really, it's the Oscar he should've gotten for... BeetlejuiceSwing Shift

Best Motion Picture: oh, just give it to Oprah Winfrey's picture already!  Let her do all the talking during the acceptance speech!  Doesn't she deserve that?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Tom-idorian Reaction

Our next Tom and Jerry is called The Two Mouse-keteers and, given the whole Charlie Hebdo tragedy... no, better not go there.  Anyway, this Tom and Jerry takes place around the time of the French Revolution.  Or maybe the French just know how to live in style.  They don't use guillotines anymore, though, right?  It's a good incentive to obey the law, though, you gotta admit!  That's why I only run the yellow lights at intersections without those stupid cameras.
And so we start with the usual introductions.  Jerry is a master swordsman, and even though he's just a mouse, you'll find that he's strong enough to block the sword strikes of a cat.  How that works exactly I'll never know.  Maybe it's a mitochondria-type deal, as with the residents of The Phantom Menace.  But every strong, skilled Yin needs a bumbling Yang to provide completeness and to tackle the really big bad guys in these things, and that comes in the form of French Nibbles.  At least, that's according to the official IMDb page.  Voiced by the lovely Francoise Brun-Cottan... oh, this kid's going to be a star!  Apparently, she got typecast a little bit.  Nibbles became Tuffy in all the other Tom and Jerry as Musketeers shorts, but she was Fifi Le Flea, the love interest in The Flea Circus.  Only a star could get a role written for her like that.  My favourite part in this cartoon would have to be at 4:02 when Nibbles says "PUSSYCAT!!!" on the double take.
Anyway, it's pretty standard stuff, plot-wise.  Think The Little Orphan, but transposed from Thanksgiving to your typical French lunch.  This time, however, Tom is officially tasked with guarding the food, unlike in The Little Orphan where it's just implied.  And this time, the stakes couldn't be higher.  If Tom fails, it's the guillotine for him, which they pan over to.  Tom gulps quietly to himself.
Soon enough, however, Jerry and his little gray partner are inside the walls of the dominion.  Their mission?  To liberate the state for the commoners?  To turn this monarchy into a democracy, if only in fits and starts?  Well, sure, all in due time, but for now they just wanna get something to eat.  Especially that little French Nibbles.  As we learned from the orphan versions of Nibbles in previous celluloid incarnations, he's always hungry.  But no ordinary food will do for this little guy.  The tallest Swiss cheese in the history of the world will have to do.  The holes in the Swiss cheese actually are windows next to a staircase, and Nibbles quickly climbs to the top, thereby inspiring Jacques Tati and one of his films... I forget which one.  I know, I should know that.  Nibbles falls and lands on a banana, which Jerry ends up ingesting, and quite against his will, if I'm reading that facial expression correctly.  Boy!  Always with the bananas in these things.  I don't get it, and I never will.  What's wrong with starfruit?  What is that, chopped liver?  Molded whitefish?
Soon enough, however, Tom gets wind of the two mice, and a mighty battle ensues.  I'm pressed for time, so the highlights escape me at the moment.  Jerry does manage to step on a spoon and send something splatting into Tom's face.  I remember that.  Also, the little grey mouse sends an axe falling in Tom's direction.  Tom doesn't get split in half this time, but just loses the back of his outfit.  No reason not to be polite in these things from time to time!
Oh, it just came back to me.  Here's another instance of where Tom gets stabbed in the ass and tries to hold in his scream for as long as he can, face turning red, mouth clenched like a fist, what have you.  It's not as tastefully done this time, as we can see where Jerry is sticking in the sword, more or less.
To cut to the chase, a cannon is loaded up with food, and Nibbles lights the fuse.  I'm reminded of one of the main criticisms of the plot of The Wizard of Oz (1939).  Well, it's more of a stand-up comedian's snarky beefs, really, about the bucket of water that gets thrown at the Wicked Witch.  Maybe that's not a valid comparison, but it's what came to mind.  Maybe it's a good rule in general.  Basically, never keep a cannon near the banquet table.  If you're going to have a food fight, just use your hands.  Anyway, Nibbles must've used too much powder, because when the cannon goes off, the explosion is so large that the entire screen is engulfed in clouds.  It goes too far and all the kids end up crying and playtime's definitely over, but it's the end of the cartoon, so it's appropriate in that respect.
And so, happy music plays, and both of the mice walk away from the crime scene triumphant with food in hand.  See, the funny part is that Jerry's got a teeny piece of cheese, while Nibbles has about five links of sausage to munch upon.  Meanwhile, off in the distance, there's a dramatic drumroll and the guillotine drops.  Both mice take a brief moment to look on in horror and gulp for their fallen comrade.  But that lasts for a couple seconds, and Nibbles shrugs off the death of the cat by saying "Pauvre, pauvre pussycat.  C'est la guerre!"  And off they happily go again.  Well, that didn't last long!
One interesting feature of the DVD is the closed captioning, as you might have been able to tell from the provided image.  All of Nibbles' lines seem to be in French, but they print them in English for the benefit of rubes like you and I.  Never did get around to those French subtitles.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Popeye Versus the Volcano

Well, it can't all be about fighting the Axis Powers, can it?  Popeye takes a break from fighting them, mostly the Japanese for now, and his thoughts drift from fighting to loving in our next Popeye short, Alona on the Sarong Seas.  (not as racist as I thought it was going to be, BTW!  But maybe that's just me)  But Popeye is a monogamist at heart and, in a similar vein as the Beach Boys, Popeye wishes that all goils were Olive Oyl goils.  And so, Princess Alona is a more tropical version of Olive.  Still, when Olive finds out about her, she's going to be pissed.
As in the rest of the animal kingdom, however, there's fierce competition over increasingly scarce resources.  Anyway, what is love without risk?  Why, what about the thrill of the chase?  What I'm trying to get at is, Bluto's right there at Popeye's side, but somehow his heart's just not in it.  Also, Bluto seems to have a new different voice.  Sounds a bit like the great Jackson Beck, but no credit is given!  Also, the IMDb page for Sarong Seas says Margie Hines does the voice for OLIVE and not Princess Alona!  Sloppy work, guys and gals.  Sloppy work.
So not only is Bluto's heart not in it, but Princess Alona goes surfing right by the battle cruiser that Popeye and Bluto are languishing upon.  Popeye sees his destiny and dives in the water, with Bluto soon after... incidentally, how do they arrange these things so people don't get hurt?  Take Blues Brothers 1, for example, and the part where all the Illinois Nazis dive into the water.  Did they all jump in different places?  You're telling me not one Illinois Nazi hit another Illinois Nazi?  I highly doubt it.  Highly.
Anyway, I'll just stick to the highlights for now.  It's a pretty standard story otherwise.  I'm reminded of that one about the conga café.  There's courtship, there's ritual dancing, what have you.  Popeye and Bluto emerge from the water and do the conga to get the fish out of their sailors outfits.  There's a little bit of tawdriness, however!  The three do a dive off of a high cliff at different intervals, and when each lands in the water, their clothes float to the surface.  Thankfully, the Hays Code keeps it tasteful.  These days, Lord knows.  Even on Cartoon Network!
Screenwriters, take note.  I would like to give a shout-out to banana-related gags.  It escapes me at the moment, but Stan Laurel did his take on the banana gag.  One time he peeled a banana to find it empty, and the accompanying background music underlied the horror of the situation, as well as Ollie's expression.  And I believe it was in Horse Feathers where Adolph... I mean, Harpo had a banana with a zipper on it.  Let's see if Yahoo bears me out... tvtropes.org will bear me out!  Then, of course, there's the giant futuristic bananas of Woody Allen's Bananas... I mean, Sleeper.  Here, in Sarong Seas, there's a new take on the banana gag, the likes of which I've never seen.  Olive / Princess Alona dives off a rock and starts to eat a banana.  She's falling through the air, you see, and as she's peeling the banana, the wind pushes the peel back into place!  GENIUS!!!!  Unadulterated, Jack Brown Genius.  Real Genuis.  Flash of Genius.  Terminator GeniSys... wait, skip that last one.
As an online movie critic, I would be remiss if I didn't point out that, much like the Iago to the bad guy of Aladdin 1 (1992), Olive/Princess Alona has a pet parrot as well.  Well, they seem more like brother and sister actually, especially since the parrot can talk and all.  Probably voiced by Jack Mercer.  And so, Popeye and Bluto eventually get close enough to touch Princess Alona, when the parrot has to intervene and hold up its hand/wing to say "STOP!"  Then the decree is laid down: you two better be nice to Princess Alona, or the volcano on the island will get mad and blow up.  Why, it rumbles in response, as if to say "The parrot ain't lyin'!"  Bluto ain't buying it, of course.  To cut to the chase, Bluto's got Alona cornered... oh, which reminds me.  To get back to the laziness of Bluto in this one, Sarong Seas seems to contain the laziest reason for Popeye to eat spinach and subsequently beat the crap out of Bluto.  Let's say that We Aim to Please is a 9 and Shoein' Hosses is a 10 (but it goes to 11) in terms of Bluto's cruelty to Popeye, I'd say that this is about a 1 or a 2.  Sure, Bluto pulls back the tree as Popeye climbs up it and lets it go, a move seen way more often in these Tom and Jerry cartoons, but in terms of cruelty, doesn't seem that cruel.  Maybe I'm just a sadist at heart, I don't know.  But back to the nitpicking.  Bluto sets Popeye in motion, and Mother Nature adds the cruelty.  Popeye slides up a coconut tree, and here's where the filmmakers let us down yet again.  See those coconuts all lined up like bowling pins?  Well, when Popeye hits them, it's going to sound like bowling pins, right?  WRONG!  Epic fail.
Okay, I'll really cut to the chase this time.  Bluto's nearly at Alona's side.  The volcano starts to erupt.  Meanwhile, a whole herd of alligators is about to eat Popeye.  Somehow, the parrot knows that Popeye's the good guy in this story.  Maybe just the lesser of two evils, I don't know.  Again, American Imperialism.  And so, the parrot goes to revive the knocked-out Popeye.  Gets the can of spinach!  Opens it with its can-opener-like beak!  Popeye springs into action.  Oh, what Popeye does to that line of alligators... too cruel.  Let's just say that we need a new ouroboros-type word for crocodiles eating their own tails.  Let's leave it at that.


And so, Popeye gives Bluto one good sock to the jaw, and Bluto flies far far away up to the volcano.  Bluto drops into the mouth of the volcano and plugs it up, thereby preventing a further eruption, and also giving birth to any number of similar gags involving Homer Simpson.
And so... at last, Popeye and Princess Alona / Tropical Olive are alone.  Popeye goes in for the big kiss and... what's this?  SPOILER ALERT: It was all a dream!  He ends up kissing Bluto instead.  Bluto hits Popeye over the head with a guitar, but Popeye's so blissed out thinking about Princess Alona that he doesn't care!  But really, when you get right down to it... aren't all relationships like that?

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Thomas Carter

Well, for someone like our next auteur, Thomas Carter, who grew up during the go-go 1970s, you'd think that it would be their favourite decade.  You know, the decade of your adolescence, disco and bad clothes everywhere... but I guess when you're living in it, you might not be aware or fully appreciate that you're living in the greatest decade in the history of mass entertainment.  In fact, your life might be less like Saturday Night Fever and more like My Bodyguard.  But this particular Carter seems to have made out okay.  And, why, I hardly have to run my software at all, for he's got a Spielberg connection already embedded in there!  My software should've been able to find that right away... two, count 'em, TWO episodes of Amazing Stories!  Sure, they're probably not as amazing as the ones that Spielberg himself directed, or as well-budgeted, but still!  He was good enough for Spielberg, so nyaah nyaah to you, haters!
Carter seems to prefer TV work, and has quite a lot of it, but there is the occasional theatrical release.  There's 1993's Swing Kids... apparently, he took over for Kenny Ortega or something.  There's also the critically well-received Metro from 1997 which I'm told does smart twists on the old movie clichés.  Then, of course, there's 2005's Coach Carter!  Alas, the Carter in the movie's named Ken, but whaddayagonnado.  When a dude gets bitten by the sports bug, you just gotta direct another, and so we've got 2014's When the Game Stands Tall, another entry in the burgeoning new PG-rated sports movie market.  I guess Coach Ladouceur would have insured boffo box office in Louisiana, but nowhere else.  Je suis Ladouceur!

Je suis Charlie

... I know, a little late and more than a tad disingenuous of me, but hey.  I gotta take my coattails where I can get 'em like everyone else these days.  Although I must confess, I never heard of Charlie Hebdo before that terrible tragedy, and I still have yet to make time to look them up on the web... anyway, time to put my high school French to good use and say nous sommes Charlie!
Meanwhile, in movie-type news, I've just been handed this important email bulletin from Danni Ashe's Nippleodeon... I mean, from Nickelodeon, an MTV network.  To the Marmalade Sandwich-mobile!  It's the big Paddington weekend!  Gotta get that ticket.  Gotta get it right now!
In other news... stand your ground, Dish Network.  Don't let billionaire octogenarian tyrant Rupert Murdoch and his unholy minions extort money from you.
(Sunday) ...WOW!  Je veux être à Bradley Cooper!!  I have yet to process all the data, but I think that American Sniper just broke a new record: the most money raked in for a director so old.  Not that any of this is going to slow a juggernaut like Clint Eastwood down.  Why, American Sniper has made one million for each of Clint's birthdays!  Practically... practically.  Of course, it cost about 200 million in advertising to get that 90 million, but damn well worth it I say.
There's a couple other debuts, however, so Sniper didn't totally kill the competition.  As you might be aware, January is the time of weddings.  I seem to recall that 2009's Bride Wars was a January release.  This time, we've got something called The Wedding Ringer.  As it happens, it's Kevin Hart's latest movie.  Think of it as Think Like a Man 2.5, apparently.  So very soon now, in about three months, you'll be able to go to Costco and buy the following DVDs all shrink-wrapped together: The Wedding Singer, The Wedding Planner, The Wedding Date, The Wedding Chapel, The Wedding Pact and now The Wedding Ringer!  Uh... not Wedding Crashers.  They wanted too much money.
Meanwhile, marmalade sandwiches take third place with Paddington and finally Michael Mann's latest, Blackhat, comes in at a very very disappointing tenth place.  He should really go back to film, or at least get a better grade of HD video to shoot with.  I dunno.  Maybe he should have waited for next week or something.  But I think the real hardcore nerds out there are sold.  They'll get this on Blu-Ray and dream about being like a Hemsworth.  They'll put it on their video shelves right next to Out of Africa and Highlander... not the Christopher Lambert one, but the TV series with Lorenzo Lamas.  Lorenzo makes a better man-crush than ol' Frenchy, dontcha think?  I wouldn't know.  I never got hired into those cursed inner circles.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Unruly Cat

Ah, the pieces of my film education are all falling into place.  Our next Tom and Jerry, The Flying Cat, has some really nice backgrounds.  The first one where Tom removes the bird cage from its hook almost looks like a photo.
That's right, folks.  It's time for the MGM Tom and Jerry equivalent of Tweety again.  But this is a Tweety equivalent you can be proud of, a Tweety substitute you can leave alone with your kids.  I mean, those Warner Brothers cartoons.  They should be ashamed of themselves.  Tweety's gutter demeanor.  Tweety's X-rated jokes.  No, only the cleanest, most savoury characters can be friends with Jerry Mouse, and have Tom Cat as a common enemy.
The bird and mouse help each other out right away.  Jerry trips Tom while he's running with the birdcage.  Tom falls, but that birdcage skids along the grassy ground and crashes into a tree as though it were a car with no tires on a road.  Still better than getting eaten by the cat!  The bird helps out the mouse by pulling down a clothesline.  The cat ends up getting cut into sections by the four clotheslines.  Maybe they're actually piano wire or something.  In any case, a nice shout-out to Tom's ocean crash in Cat Napping.
The bird and mouse eventually claim the high ground, in the form of a birdhouse atop a very high pole.  It's rent control, comes fully furnished, which the teeny duo will enjoy later.  For now, the turf must be defended.  The cat easily climbs up the pole to the birdhouse, but the bird gives the cat a 2000 pound weight as a greeting present, thereby forcing the cat to use more creative measures.
For me, the most interesting attempt involves the swing.  Tom uses a swing to get back up to the birdhouse.  Alas, the swing's just barely not long enough, and Tom ends up clinging to the birdhouse's platform by his fingers.  The bird and mouse jump down on the cat's fingers with enough force to cause the cat to scream in pain like a man and fall back down to earth on the swing.  Either that cat's a big wuss, or that bird and mouse are just that strong.  Where's the determination, Tom?  If you're going to bruise so easily, maybe you should just pack it up and go home right now.
A pole-vaulting mishap leads to the premise inherent in the film's title.  I'm going to criticize the sloppy editing here, because the cat doesn't scream or react before bashing through the window of the longest house in the world.  Sloppy editing, guys.  Also, the house is a repeating background.  You can tell more easily if you have the DVD, rather than watching this on the YouTubes or the Vimeo, or whatever the next hot YouTube wannabe is.  Whatever it is, it won't last.  But this cartoon is directed by Hanna and Barbera, whose stock and trade is repeating backgrounds... and repeating loops of animation in general.
After Tom destroys the top floor of that long long house, he ends up wearing a kinky pink girdle.  But this is a kids' cartoon after all, and so the thought to use it to fly takes hold.  This puts me in mind of one of the Road Runner cartoons where the coyote gets a flying suit.  Especially so because the same thing happens to Tom here.  While Tom is learning the art of flying with his new pink suit, Tom beams proudly at the audience... just before crashing.  But this isn't a Road Runner cartoon, so we're going to spend the rest of this cartoon with Tom flying around.  But here's the link to the soundtrack information.  I don't know my classical music like I should.
Tom quickly masters the art of flying in a girdle, but his ambitions are sadly limited to scaring and or eating that mouse and bird.  If this were one of those shows like Survivorman, we'd get to see what that would look like.  Jerry tries to warn the bird through the art of cartoon pantomime that the cat is now flying around through the air.  Why, Jerry couldn't believe his own eyes at first!  Lol.  The bird has to find out for himself, and does so in the worst way, damn near losing all its feathers in the process.  Now, the bird could have gone back inside the birdhouse and been okay, but for two reasons: 1) it was scared, and 2) there'd be no cartoon.  It's a tension building technique, like how scared victims fumble with the car keys in low-grade thrillers.
Here's a nice touch the storytellers go for.  Screenwriters, take note.  The bird heads back to the birdhouse.  Without batting an eye, the mouse and bird turn the roof of the birdhouse upside down, exposing all the long nails previously holding it in place.  Tom tries to slow down and keep from hitting it, but it's to no avail.  Tom lightly bounces off the nails with his ass.  That guy must have iron in his blood, because the nails get all crooked.  Tom lands in a fountain of water on the ground.  Now, here's the nice touch: as Tom sits in the water, bubbles gently rise up from the water around Tom's ass.  This lasts for a few brief seconds.  Tom jumps out of the water and ends up watering a few flowers with his ass.  Alas, the flowers are part of the background, so they don't immediately perk up.
Now, I don't ask often, but I ask you now... is this genius or what?  Scientific precision to the cruelty!  That's the thing.  Well, it's still less cruel than Two Gophers from Texas... I'm going to keep referencing that til someone complains.  I'm sorry.  Preferably, one of Art Davis' aggrieved ancestors.
Now it's the bird's turn to save the mouse.  The bird gets smart and considerably less afraid, and unties the string of Tom's girdle.  The bird ends up catching Jerry from Tom's grip and flies him to safety.  Alpha bird!  Tom plummets to earth and ends up splitting a whole tree in half with his crotch.  Maybe I was wrong about Tweety earlier.
Now you'd think that that's the finale, but alas, dear reader, you and I were wrong.  Tom quickly ties his girdle back together and the chase is on again, as fierce as ever.  Why, only an oncoming train can stop Tom now, so that's where the bird heads: to a train tunnel.  Tom doesn't get out of the way in time, and POW.  Tom ends up hanging from a train signal like one of them old timey swinging signals for trains... maybe they're still used, I don't know.  Or are they all just like traffic lights for cars now?  Anyway, Jerry and the bird end up taking that train out of town.  I think this means that Tom won, because usually it's Tom that ends up leaving town... isn't it?  Seems like it.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

The Stereotyping of the Japanese Male, Pt. 1

Our next Popeye cartoon is... hoh boy.  I should probably find this more personally offensive than I do, because a few of my close relatives ended up going to an internment camp in Arkansas, so I'll only give this a short review.  It's not one of the classic Popeye cartoons anyway.  It departs from the formula ever so slightly, as Popeye eats his spinach at about the midway point.  Well, this isn't Bluto he's beating up, after all.  This is WWII he's fighting!  Tactics must be altered.
Popeye runs afoul of a small Japanese fishing boat in international waters, apparently.  The Japanese are portrayed as sneaky and conniving, of course, with buck teeth and glasses.  But they do have quick reflexes!  The one Japanese guy holds up a peace treaty first, then a bouquet of flowers with a lobster hidden in it awfully fast.
A mighty chase ensues around the tiny fishing boat.  The two Japanese aboard it hide, after one of them blows a horn.  This signals a giant battleship underneath it to rise up out of the water.  The Japanese may be grotesque stereotypes, but they're still a force to be reckoned with.  The giant battleship sounds like busy traffic, I guess to make it more grotesque.  They quickly blow Popeye's tiny ship out of the water and send Popeye to the bottom of the ocean.  Spinach time.  Popeye's arm muscles are especially spherical now, and his whole arm turns into a giant neon 'V' for victory.
I'm a little confused by the quick fade to black at 4:13.  The music doesn't change, so that must've been deliberate.  I don't think it was done later, as they say on the DVD that these cartoons were preserved as they were.  Anyway, Popeye quickly defeats the crew of the boat, dodging all size of missiles and bullets in the process.  I hate myself for finding the epithet "Ja-pansies" funny, but what can I say?  I got caught up in the jingoism of it all.  I would never use it myself, of course.  The ship half-crumbles, and Popeye quickly crumbles a part that says "Made in Japan" in his hand.  How things have changed.
The ship's still intact enough for Popeye to defeat one last enemy.  This part's a little strange to me, but it was probably included on purpose.  Popeye hears the captain of the Japanese ship down below.  I'm just assuming it's the captain.  The captain decides to commit suicide to "save face."  He does so by ingesting a big thing of gasoline and a thread of what appear to be tiny firecrackers.  Daffy Duck did a similar act on stage... the problem was that you could only do it once.  His ghost said so as it was floating to Cartoon Heaven!  Strange; you'd think he'd be sinking to the other place.  Alas, for the Japanese officer, the firecrackers don't provide enough of a kick to blow him completely up, but he ends up popping and kicking his way up to Popeye.  Popeye tries to look down the guy's throat with a match, smells the gas, and takes off for safer waters.  So the message is: the Japanese are not only the bad guys, but they're crazy as well. 
The Japanese ship blows up and ends up sinking in the ocean... to the sound of a flushing toilet.  Some might think that that's a little bit tasteless, but audiences at the time must've eaten it up, especially after Pearl Harbor and all.  Again, not one of the timeless Popeye cartoons.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Terry Carter

Née John Everett DeCoste, this Mr. Carter took up directing once he grew tired of being at play in the fields of '70s icons... your Pam Griers, your McClouds, your Benjis, what have you.  He just did one episode of American Masters, and apparently that experience was enough of a taste that he decided never to direct again.  No, acting's the thing.  And he's of a certain age to consider Spielberg a young whippersnapper, but if you do need a meeting, I suggest going the Pam Grier route.  Don't even need my b.s. software for that!

Pam Grier starred in Jackie Brown directed by
Quentin Tarantino... surely he's a springboard to Spielberg, right?  You might have to endure a lot of fawning over, however.  I've heard he's kind of a film geek.

A little Fantasy, a little History are Top of the Pops

Mildly interesting dichotomy at the American box office this weekend.  But the numbers indicate that fantasy is still the theme of choice.  As usual, I missed the conventional and unconventional ad channels for Taken 3.  I'm told by the poster that the story of Bryan Mills is only going to be told in three installments, which is probably for the best.  At 62 years old, Liam Neeson's probably getting too old for this s.... stuff.  I mean, didn't he star in Schindler's List once upon a time?  He should think about retiring again!
Meanwhile, a story about Martin Luther King Jr. takes second place this weekend with Selma.  I dunno.  Maybe it's just me, but I'd feel a little better about seeing it if it were based on a book.  Plus, MLK's portrayed by a British dude!  If Colbert were still on the air, he might complain about that.  Guess it's up to me to fill the void.  Also, I'm probably just a racist cracker at heart, but I'm reminded of the performance of John Hancock in The Bonfire of the Vanities as a corrupt reverend.  He sadly passed on soon after that movie, but dayamn, he had a voice that sounded a bit like MLK to me.
Those are the only two debuts this week.  Generally, however, now that Christmas is over, everything's down.  Down, down and dreadfully down!  Why, The Hobbit made less than 10 million!  What's Peter Jackson going to do ten years from now to revitalize his career?  He's got too much pride to do the last installments of Narnia if those ever get green-lit.  I gotta go...

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Short Reviews - January 2014... 15! 15

...nope!  Nothing yet.  But I will ask this rhetorical question... is the "p.g.a." credit on movies really necessary?  Is the Producer's Guild that insecure?  Is producing a technical, meticulous craft like "a.c.e" and "a.s.c" all of a sudden?  Is that what we're led to believe?

Stripes - Let me just say this random brain fart thing about Stripes.  At one point, a girl breaks up with Bill Murray, saying "We're not going anywhere, Bill!"  ... I mean, "We're not going anywhere, John!"  I wonder if that was Len Blum's contribution to the screenplay, because his career seems to have done just that.  Ouch.  But he came back to do the commentary!  That's... that's something, right?

Outland - This movie says the pronunciation of Io is "Eye-Oh."  That's the correct one, right?

Jurassic Park 3 - I wonder what a Jurassic Park movie written by Alexander Payne would look like... holy crap!  He DID write one!

Target - I wonder if Josef Sommer and Gene Hackman ever did a movie together.... GADZOOKS!  MY PRAYERS HAVE BEEN ANSWERED!!!!

The Chamber - I wonder if Josef Sommer and Gene Hackman ever did a movie together.... EGAD!  MY PRAYERS HAVE BEEN ANTSWERED!!!!

Reds - I wonder if Josef Sommer and Gene Hackman ever did a movie together.... GADZOOKS!  MY PRAYERS HAVE BEEN ANSW0RD!!!!

Dracula Has Risen From the Grave - I dunno... an awful lot of blood and cleavage for a supposedly 'G'-rated picture

The Boy Next Door - J. Lo goes cradle-robbing

Micah the A$$#0le Ghost - What the F is with these movie titles?!!!!  I mean... WHAT THE F------ IS WITH THESE MOVIE TITLES?????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

"Fargo" - Billy Bob just won the Golden Globe, and he said "Thank you."  ...what's THAT supposed to mean?!  What a pretentious ass!

The Pick-Up Artist - This Molly Ringwald is something else, yes?

Malicious - .....OH MY GOD......................

Dead Man Walking - With Margo Martindale as the pudgy best friend and/or disappointed mother

Mortdecai - Boy!  That was quick!  Wes Anderson's next film already... oh, wait, it's just David Koepp.  Get back to writing Indiana Jones 5 already!

Crooked AKA Soft Target - Awright!  Carlos of the Valley!  Local boy makes good!  Leaving the Seattle market paid off big time.  Welp, at least you're striking out on your own, and not phoning it in like the KOMO... I'm sorry, I mean K'Q'MO team in Life or Sumpthing Like It.

Next Stop, Greenwich Village - Inside Larry Lapinsky

Too Young to Die? - With Michael Tucker as Barry Sonnenfeld (note to self: add Robert Markowitz to list of directors who did one theatrical release, got tired and stuck to TV movies)

Two of a Kind - Wow.  Wow, wow and double wow.  Well, this answers the latest mutation of the age old question.  When you get a film like Grease and the chemistry of the two leads like Travolta and Olivia-Newton John... surely it'll work again in a second film, right?  ....RIIIIIIGHT????????

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies - Pride goeth before a fall, indeed!

All the President's Men - I dunno.  I thought the 'f' word wasn't supposed to even be in a PG picture!  Must be that pesky liberal bias again... not to mention the word "chicken$#..."  Maltin guide says PG!

I Served the King of England - Albino Rob Schneider.  How and why that that's so sexy is a mystery I will take to the grave, unresolved.

The Banger Sisters - Who's the Penny Lane NOW, bitches?

Seventh Son - Another Lebowski reunion!  More please.  Also, if there's a better poster shot of Julianne Moore than this one, I don't wanna know about it

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - I hate to say it, but that White Witch was pretty hot!  Loved her hair.  Something was happening in my Narnia, I can tell you that!  On the flip side of that coin, I just wish they got James McAvoy some pants.  I thought this was a kid's movie, for Christ's sake!  I mean, the lion's sake.

Guilty by Suspicion - Lemme just say this about Guilty by Suspicion.  Forget The Front with its left wing bias and its Jewish actors.  Guilty by Suspicion is the one to have up there on your DVD shelf next to Out of Africa and The Great Gatsby.  A nice, clean, classy evening at the movies to make your friends jealous.  Why, it looks more like one of the good books than a movie!  And sure, even though it's a PG-13 movie it's got the 'f' word in it nine times, and sure, the filmmakers made Abraham Polonsky cry, to put it mildly, but I mean, what did that guy ever do?  I mean, besides being an actual victim of the Blacklist himself?

Contact - Meh.

Double Trouble - Not to mention script trouble, acting trouble, directing trouble...

Mercury Rising - Welp, it took seventeen years, but the film's finally got casting value.  Of course, it already had that for appropriating most of the cast of Fargo, but now it has it because of Camryn Manheim and John Doman, both now on Person of Interest!  I'M FREAKIN' OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Adventures in Babysitting - Ah, God, I love the Facebook.  Probably spend too much time on there... but it's not all good.  Dangers lurk everywhere, like Russian mobsters promising free Zynga poker chips.  And clubs, clubs, clubs.  So much stuff to like, so little server space to store billions of peoples' "like"s.  One of the hot ones vying for my attention was called "Elisabeth Judson Shue."  And I'm all, 1) you know, I've got too many likes as it is.  Besides, I'll never beat Chrystal Jordan and what's her name in terms of sheer likes.  They "like" everything.  Wind power, McDonald's, you name it.  Plus, Brian Harrod's got a new facebook site every week, and you have to like all of them, and 2) ...her middle name's "Judson"?  Good Lourdes!  Somehow I didn't want to know that.  Incidentally, where does she get off, trash-talking her former co-star Ralph Macchio?

Fight Club - His name is Robert Paulsen.  His name is Robert Paulsen.  His name is Robert Paulsen.  His name is Robert Paulsen.  His name is Robert Paulsen.  His name is Robert Paulsen.  His name is Robert Paulsen.  His name is Robert Paulsen.  His name is Robert Paulsen.  His name is Robert Paulsen.  His name is Robert Paulsen.  His name is Robert Paulsen.  His name is Robert Paulsen.  His name is Robert Paulsen.  His name is Robert Paulsen.  His name is Robert Paulsen.  His name is Robert Paulsen.  His name is Robert Paulsen.  His name is Robert Paulsen.  His name is Robert Paulsen.  His name is Robert Paulsen.  His name is Robert Paulsen.  His name is Robert Paulsen.  His name is Robert Paulsen.  His name is Robert Paulsen.  His name is Robert Paulsen.  His name is Robert Paulsen.  His name is Robert Paulsen.  His name is Robert Paulsen.  His name is Robert Paulsen.  His name is Robert Paulsen.  His name is Robert Paulsen.  His name is Robert Paulsen.  His name is Robert Paulsen.  His name is Robert Paulsen.  His name is Robert Paulsen.  His name is Robert Paulsen.........................

Hook - Hey, HookThe Godfather called.  Wants its font back.

I Dreamed of Africa - Even true stories are susceptible to those awful movie clichés.  I Dreamed of Africa, much like The Dead Zone (1983) before it and The Lookout after, starts with a car crash... holy crap!  It's James Bond!  No more sixth place billing for him, that's for damn sure!

John Q - Another huge crash

The Earthling - Winnebago crash in the Outback

Deep Impact - Car crash delays the telling of the world about a deadly comet headed right at us.  This was in the days when MSNBC would scoop big stories about 2 seconds ahead of NBC news.

The Appointment - I think I've blogged about this one already, but I think this is the film where a guy spends about thirty minutes in a tree, upside down in his car...  AWRIGHT!  It's online!  God bless the YouTubes.  Not for long, though.  The Copyright Police seem to go after anything I make a reference to, so I won't post the link.

Garage Days - How is it that the son of Bruce Lee is killed on set, yet all the people in Garage Days are probably still alive?  Boy, God sure has a sick sense of humour.

We Need to Talk about Kevin -Yeah, I was friends... I mean, next door neighbours with a Kevin like that once.  For me, I think the highlight would have to be when our two cats were fighting.  I tried to break up the fight, and sure, arguably because his cat seemed to be winning.  So I go to break up the fight, but then he takes out a pair of scissors and holds it to my flesh, saying "Don't move."  Ah, the time period they call childhood.  Why do we only get two?

The Princess and the Warrior - Tom Tykwer's Franka Potente-based sophomore slump

A Very Long Engagement - Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Amélie-based sophomore slump

Desperate Hours - Michael Cimino's Mickey Rourke-based junior slump

Seven Years in Tibet - Hey, Seven Years in Tibet!  John Carpenter called, wants his font back.