Tuesday, February 03, 2015

The Long, Dark Night of the White Jazz

Welp, our Popeye and Tom & Jerry shorts once again have similar plots this week.  I swear I didn't plan it this way.  In this case, it's youth run amok.  Try as we might to shepherd the next generation, they gotta do their own thing.  Wasn't it that way when we were kids?  If not, then it's too depressing to contemplate.  Reminds me of that short sci-fi story we read in school that one time, about the planet where it rains for seven years at a time, and then there's this one hour break when the sun comes out... you know, kinda like Seattle.  Anyway, so there's this one kid in the group that all the other kids hate, so they decide to lock this kid in the closet for that hour while the rest go out and enjoy the sunshine.  I think the story was supposed to be about guilt.  It was a different era.  Nowadays you'd get some lip service about the closet kid's injuries carry an inherent nobility.  Nowadays it's just "Hey, at least it wasn't me in that closet!"  In fact, they just turned it into a series on Spike TV called "IN THE CLOSET, BITCH!!!!!"  Maybe on the new "SyFy" as well.
...did I mention this short film about a guy in an elevator already?  Might as well take care of all my nostalgia points while I'm at it.  & ¶ Okay, back to the instant case, entitled Me Musical Nephews.  The setup's quite simple, really; it's another Popeye cartoon that's like a bad One Act play.  All the action takes place on one "set" and... spoiler alert... no Olive Oyl, no spinach, no Bluto.  Just Popeye and his four Hellspawn.  We start with Popeye falling asleep on his comfy chair, while the four little brats play away on their various instruments.  Kinda reminds me of I Love to Singa where the young owl opera singer in training likes to break out in the occasional jazz riff, singing a song called "I Love to Singa."  Boy, those were the days.  Nowadays we can't get people to shut up.  I mean, when Peter Gabriel says "This display of emotion is all but drowning me," something's wrong in the universe.  Enjoy this YouTube link while you can, because in about 48 hours the Copyright Gestapo will shut it down.  Sorry about that!  :\  Of course, modern audiences know it better from the South Park reference... you can look for that one yourself.  I feel filthy enough as it is.  I mean... I LOVE those South Park boys!  Seventeen seasons!  BASEketball and Orgazmo are revered classics now!
And so, Popeye's trying to stay awake, but sleep seems to be winning.  I would've loved to see some of the original footage that got Rotoscoped on this one, if they still did that.  Also, nice to see that the hideous Junior Popeye quartet seems to have mellowed a bit since their last spinach-fueled concert which ended with beating the living crap out of Popeye.  Popeye's learned his lesson this time: no spinach around for miles!  Anyway, on to the next demand: the four little sweetie-pies want Popeye to tell them a bedtime story.  But first, they must get ready for bed.  They of course let the tap run for a long, long time, and only use a couple drops on their faces... wait a tic!  They're actually brushing their teeth?  Maybe they're not so dumb!  Also, they apparently had a lot of dirt on their faces, but unseen like the detritus that gets onto cars, which I don't understand.  How can the dirt catch up to the cars?  It doesn't make sense!  Cars go faster than dirt!
And so, the seeds of Popeye's destruction are sown when he fails to tell the four little cutie brats a sufficiently entertaining bedtime story.  It's more of a Shrek-like mashup, but alas, Popeye will get no credit from his four devious nephews.  It's all instant gratification for them, God bless 'em.  Popeye hauls them off to bed while they complain about getting screwed.  I mean, they brushed their teeth for God's sake!  Nothing less than the Iliad will do!
So many rituals.  They're really padding out the time on this one.  Now it's time for the little brats to say their prayers before they go to bed.  They find a way in even this pure and simple ritual to stick it to Popeye, but spoiler alert, I guess Popeye doesn't believe in saving the best for last.  Now it's Popeye's turn to go to bed.  He probably should've said his prayers, though, considering what he's about to go through...
SECOND HALF - Even though this is basically a One Act play, it still at least has two halves.  I just... I can't bear to break it down into three Acts.  Maybe someone else can do that for me.  Anyway, the four little pukes can't sleep, and so there they sit, trying to figure out how to pass the time.  Eventually, a notion is bourne... MORE MUSIC!  They initially start much like Grandpa in ... Betty Boop and Grampy?  Not a very creative title, is it?  Well, Grampy makes up for it with all his crazy ideas later on.  Enjoy that YouTube link while you can, BTW.  I'll have to refresh it in about 12 hours as the link will get shut down.  Sorry about that! :<  And so, the four little darlings start out slow with instruments they create out of ordinary bedroom items, but eventually prestidigitate their brass arrangement for a full-out orchestra blasting away.  Popeye eventually gets woken up by it, but confuses it for the radio.  Boy, they're really padding out the time on this one.
And so, we get a slight variation on that earlier Fleischer classic, The Kids in the Shoe.  In that one, once the junior orchestra starts up, it just can't be stopped... except by the threat of castor oil.  Here, Popeye's four sociopathic nephews have a more devious plot in mind.  By some Black Magic, they're able to stop their loud playing on a dime.  Schrodinger's Cat, indeed!  Popeye eventually figures out that the boys are playing a trick on him, but no matter how hard Popeye tries, no matter how Popeye sneaks into the room (window, floorboard... everything but the kitchen sink!) he's unable to catch them playing.  They're craftier than the Japanese pilot in that last one, Scrap the... you get the idea.  Surely they engulfed some spinach on the side that gives them Dashiell Hammett... I mean, Parr-type speed?
Now sure, Popeye could've eaten some spinach, but this is family, not another beating for Bluto.  Also, Popeye maybe could've moved his bed into the nephews' room, forcing them to pretend sleep... but that would just be creepy.  Frankly, I'm sorry I even made the suggestion.  Someone get the Creepy Police down here immediately?  Please?  And so, Popeye retires to his bedroom, a beaten man.  A thoroughly beaten man.  How's he going to report to the ship in the morning now?  ...ah HAH!  There is one way out... that's right, it's time to break that old Fourth Wall.  Anything to get away from his four adorable nephews.  Alas, they're on top of that, too.  It's all Popeye can do to run out of the theater, as far away as possible from his four little... adorable nephews who he loves very much.
Ah, memories.  Not so long ago, on one of Ted Turner's networks for cartoons... maybe Boomerang, they had a promo that featured part of this cartoon in color.  And a good version of it, too!  Not a version that looks like it was colored in with crayons by five year olds.  And so, even though I don't care for Poopeye and his three brothers, there's just something about Me Musical Nephews.  Maybe the music, maybe the trickery... oh, I remember now.  I guess it's like Alfred Hitchcock once said about competence, that the audience can love a bad guy if he's good at his job.  Here, the four little pukes are good at their job.  At this point in the Popeye franchise, I'm just desperate for any sign of life, what can I say?

Good double bill with: that earlier Fleischer classic, The Kids in the Shoe. (go right to the fun part)  Enjoy this YouTube link while you can, because it'll get shut down in about 36 hours.  Sorry about that. :/

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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