Monday, March 30, 2015

Peck Up Your Troubles

Our next to last Popeye cartoon is called Wood-Peckin', and some might call it a thematic tour de force.  There's certainly a case to be made for that, as it represents Popeye's gain of an environmental footprint, where normally such things have mattered only slightly, and typically not at all, as in the classic Wild Elephinks, where the chaos of nature must be tamed by man, or the classic Shiver Me Timbers! where the chaos of nature and the afterlife get both their asses kicked by Popeye.


As with previous Popeye cartoons, we start with a close-up image that isn't quite what it seems to be.  In the case of Wood-Peckin', it's a boat that appears to be floating on the turbulent ocean waters... when, in fact, it's just being carried to the water over Mima Mounds-esque terrain, so that from our very specific vantage point it gives the illusion of being on the water.
Further partaking in the mysteries of world-class showmanship, Popeye drops his boat into the water, then says "Time to give it a mast!"  ...something like that.  Incidentally, the sound of the boat dropping into the water seems vaguely familiar.  It's probably a foley artist hitting a tub full of water with their hand, and it's probably been used before.  Just saying.
A lot of time-stretching in this one so far, but voice maven Jack Mercer gets to stretch his chops a little by playing a pelican with a dufus voice.  Spoiler alert: the song is "When the SWALLOWS come back to Capistrano," dude.  No pelicans allowed!!  Also, Popeye's up in the air, obeying the laws of cartoon physics, just as Elmer Fudd did in Wabbit Twouble... and yet, that upstart Wile E. Coyote is best known for it.  In Popeye's case, he falls and loses his clothes in the process... hmm!  That's been happening a lot lately.  Is Popeye turning into a compulsive nudist?  Good Lourdes.  The parts of him that we can see are bad enough as it is.
Next scene: Popeye's property proper... hmm!  I don't think we've ever been invited to that before.  Sure, we've been to plenty of boats and workplaces and apartments, and other peoples' houses... anyway, Popeye is off to find a tree worthy to be turned into a mast.  Again, the first tree he encounters isn't quite what it seems at first.  Well, if you've got a clever gag, beat it to death, I always say.


And then... the next tree we get to is the one that will consume the rest of the pic.  We find a rather handsome-looking woodpecker inside putting the finishing touches on its home within the tree.  I'm suddenly reminded of Olive's typing at the beginning of the one they did about Aladdin.  I'll post the link to my old review to help boost my hit count, heh heh heh...
And so, while the woodpecker's finishing up his homemade "Home Sweet Home" sign, Popeye throws the first strike with the axe.  Now, partly to save some wear and tear on the animators, and partly because there's darn good reason to, time is stretched on the resulting reverberations from Popeye's axe.  Clearly, the opposite focus as compared to Axe Me Another.  Needles to say, the woodpecker gets all shook up once the reverberation has risen to his level.
Furious, the woodpecker looks to see what the hell's going on outside.  The woodpecker spots the intruder and, acting quickly, flies down to ground level like a bat out of hell, but sounding like a B-19.  Now, for those of you who saw that documentary about hummingbird mating rituals, this next scene just might resonate with you, so to speak.  I'm no bird nerd, but the gist of it is that the male hummingbird flies high into the air, then flies back down as quickly as it can, making a loud chirp at just the right moment.  All that to attract a mate.  The poor things work so hard.  Well, they have no beef with humans because they're one of the cute, non-threatening species we love.  Woodpeckers, on the other hand, especially the cartoon ones... they're on their own.  Anyway, the unnamed woodpecker here does a similar motion, but pecks the metal head off of the axe before flying back up into the air.  Popeye never knew what hit him.  Why, I'm sort of reminded of that scene with the crowbar in The Big Lebowski... I know, I know, I've got to take my anti-Lebowski meds again.  Anyway, Popeye's still unaware of the woodpecker at this point... and I'm just going to leave the visual gag to brighter minds than mine to psychoanalyze... okay, I'll get the ball rolling.  Boy!  That tree's been working out!
Next scene: the woodpecker speaks!  As either Wikipedia or the IMDb will surely point out, it's a bad impression of Edward G. Robinson.  Not only that, it's Bogey's line from Casablanca that the little seagull uses!  What, no "Rocky's really mad now" action?  What, is Eddie G. molded whitefish or something?  But no sooner is the woodpecker finished complaining than it's time for another axe strike... two thoughts.  One, what is the deal with this whole "no sooner" and "than" stuff, anyway?  I tried reading this website and I still can't figure it out.  And two, boy!  That Popeye can really fix an ax!
Needles to say, the woodpecker's state of mind isn't getting less angry.  The woodpecker flies down again, does more pecking at the ax, then changes its strategy of dealing with Popeye.  The woodpecker states its case to Popeye, that the tree is its home.  For now, Popeye is unmoved, claiming eminent domain and property rights and what not.  Of course, Popeye's not one for nuanced debate, and he makes the mistake of calling the woodpecker a "squatter."  "Squatter?  I'm a woodpecker!" says the woodpecker.  The woodpecker then results to a spicier flavour of physical violence against Popeye; among other things, the woodpecker pulls Popeye's hat down over his face and honks Popeye's nose-horn.  A note to all the kids out there: never honk a nose horn angry.  When you honk a nose horn, you're supposed to be out of your tiny little mind.  This woodpecker's far too sober. 
Okay, I'm just going to assume that the woodpecker's a "he" from this point on out.  Okay, maybe he's a very butch lesbo, I dunno.  Either way.  And so, the woodpecker orders Popeye to leave the tree alone.  Doubling down on his efforts, Popeye says "No woodpecker's gonna make a monkey out of me!" ...oh, wait.  That's not the right line.  He actually says "No woodpecker's gonna stop ME from gettin' a mast!"  Oh yeah, that's a much better line.  Much funnier.  And it reminds us of the plot!  And so, Popeye chops at the tree a third time, ignoring the woodpecker's advice at his peril.  For you fans of realistic audio out there, you'll like this part: the woodpecker sharpens its beak in a pencil sharpener.  Take that, Walter Murch and Ben Burtt!
And so, this time the woodpecker pecks at Popeye's kidneys, sending Popeye flying very, very high into the air.  A tree slows Popeye's descent to the ground.  Boy, barnyard humour.  Someone somewhere got the idea that, in cartoons, the sharpness of axes can split a tree in half in a single blow.  I believe Popeye did that once in Axe Me Another.  I believe it also happened in The Eager Beaver... CHUCK JONES'S WARNER BROTHERS CARTOON, that is.  Boy, some people.  Anyway, to make a long story short, Popeye cuts down practically a whole forest before landing back on his boat.
"Hey, stupid!  Is this your boat?" asks the woodpecker.  Oh dude... spit just got real.  I think it's Act Break time.


Boy!  Tough to keep this blog clean.  It just gets harder and harder to do.  Anyway, as foretold by the line of questioning, the woodpecker proceeds to destroy Popeye's boat.  Not completely, just enough to really piss Popeye off.  In Popeye's heightened state of mind, the woodpecker's able to trick him.  I'm reminded of the Third Act of the Bugs Bunny cartoon the mortals call Easter Yeggs.  I hesitate to call it a classic, as it's directed by one of the McKimsons.  You can find it on YouTube because even the copyright lawyers looking out for Warner Bros. best interests don't give a sh... crap about that one.  Of course, unlike Easter Yeggs, the woodpecker rides on Popeye's back as Popeye heads left to his doom.  Popeye ends up running through an empty log, following it all the way to its narrowed top, getting stuck in the process.  Clearly this moment in cinema is so unique that it has no equal and has spawned no imitators... oh, wait.  Probably Wile E. Coyote... yup, that classic called Soup or Sonic.  Also a similar gag in either Odd Ant Out or I've Got Ants in my Plans, one of those two.  Then of course, there's the gag that sends Elmer Fudd off the deep end at the beginning of The Big Snooze.  But I digress.  Popeye tells the woodpecker "Get me out of here!!"  The woodpecker obliges, but in the worst way by sawing off the offending part of the tree.  Well, it's less psychologically damaging than that one Tom and Jerry... SHEEEEEESH!!!
And so, once Popeye liberates himself from the teeny hunk of wood his whole body was stuffed into, that's it.  All bets are off.  Popeye changes his tree-chopping strategy drastically.  He's no longer savoring every swing of the axe.  Without the aid of spinach, mind you, Popeye launches into the tree like a Bush-era environmental protection.  The woodpecker is unaware of the vibrations from this, and is only aware once the angle of the tree starts to change... you know, from Popeye pushing the tree over.  A tug of war of sorts erupts over the tree, with Popeye pushing this way, and the woodpecker pushing that... hmm!  I must be thinking of this disturbing Sesame Street bit.  Anyway, for a while in this test of strength, the woodpecker is somehow Popeye's equal, even employing a bit of technology to help out!  But ultimately, Popeye prevails, to the relief of some in the audience, but he's a good sport and he saves the woodpecker from getting crushed by the tree.  But they both end up running out of the falling tree's way.  Reminds me of that Roger Rabbit cartoo... focus, The Movie Hooligan!  Focus!


Ah, I love a good cry.  Even though Popeye and the woodpecker can see where the tree is going to fall, they end up in one of the tree's tiny "windows," much like Buster in Steamboat Bill Jr.,  I believe it was.  The woodpecker starts mourning the loss of his home, which makes Popeye cry as well.  Of course, it's probably not as good as the big tearful finale of The Old Grey Hare, but why pit cartoons against each other?  To add to the poignancy of the moment, one of Popeye's tears extinguishes the flame of his corn cob pipe.
As for the two-state solution to appease both sides, well... I'm sorry, I mean Popeye and the woodpecker.  Well, as you can see from the usual close-up, the woodpecker's got a home, but we pan back again to see the larger context.  The woodpecker's got a home that looks like a tree, but it's sitting atop Popeye's mast!  Somehow I don't think this arrangement is going to last.  And what with this being a WWII-era cartoon and all, the woodpecker makes explicit the point that a home is worth fighting for.  So the question is, does that make Popeye Hitler and the woodpecker America?  Or does it make Popeye America and the woodpecker Great Britain?  I think the lesson is a third option: once the humans get finished fighting... the animals are next.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Charles Clemmons

Well, without running my stupid software, I'm going to say that your best shot at Spielberg is via the Nick Cannon connection.  After all, Nick had that crucial scene in the Spielberg-produced Men in Black 2.  Now, I know you're probably not wanting to swallow your pride and do that, but this is no time to be proud!  Civilization's got about 20 odd years left before the ice caps are gone!  Get what you can while you can.  Carpe diem before God pulls the carpet out from under all of us.  Almost makes me wish I knew more Latin.
...or, failing that, you could try Bacon!  Randall Bacon, that is.  He's in a movie called Dirty People with Richard Portnow.  You might not get to Spielberg, but Portnow's pretty cool!  Love his Facebook page; what a crazy nut... oh yeah, that's right!  He was in Spike Lee's Oldboy!  You could get to Spike that way... of course, Spike's kind of a jerk.  Well, you have to be if you're a Spike Lee type, I guess.  Showbiz, baby!

I have to call you up, I think I've seen a vision of Woman in Gold

No cat dared ever move that way, no Klimt would dare to be so bold... something like that.  Anyway, I've given you enough to go on for Google.  Of course, my musical references are usually from the same shallow pool as it is.  But unlike the Drudge Report, I won't completely neglect the good news that the nation gives Paul Walker one last hurrah with the huge take for Furious 7, I believe is the official title.  Alas, the IMDb connections page is behind the times, so we don't yet know when the next few sequels will be released.  When you've got a primetime Talking Dead-esque special on one of the former major television networks (NBC)... well, I highly and/or seriously doubt that they're going to stop milking a cash cow of that magnitude.  I'm trying to delicately sidestep the cultural implications of replacing Paul Walker, but surely the networks and studios involved have thought about it.  Maybe that douchebag who's the new Robocop will do it!
Anyway, the other debut this week is Woman in Gold, and apparently America didn't want any dosage of castor oil at the theatre this week.  Nothing but sugar rush, sugar rush, sugar rush.  Or maybe Van Wilder let down his fan base for the last time.  I mean, for God's sake.  Not only is he tackling a serious role, but he's now a four-eyes to boot.  Double stab in the back.  We may be ignorant, but we're not stupid!  We know a bad time at the googolplex when we smell it.  But alas, even Van Wilder has to grow up eventually, I suppose.  After all, look what Taj is up to!  Big high-profile government job, all while working for Rupert Murdoch... oh, I'm sorry.  I thought he was hosting some new show on National Geographic channel.  We gotta keep hush hush about that.  As for Helen Mirren, well, I'm guessing she felt about as low as she did on the set of National Treasure 2.  But work is work.  Still beats complete retirement, I suppose.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Mouse that Narrated

I must not be looking forward to writing this review or something, as I can't seem to start it.  So let's get it over with.  Well, it is the last Tom and Jerry I'm planning on reviewing in the foreseeable future, as it is the last one on the DVD I got.  Then again, there's that time I bought a DVD recorder and started burning stuff left and right.  Incidentally, I think those are relationship killers, but maybe it's just me.  You'll probably do just fine in your life.  One of the DVDs I burned was one of a bunch of Gene Deitch Tom and Jerry cartoons.  Alas, I didn't get all of them, but why should that stop me from conducting a review?
But we'll save that dilemma for later.  For now, whosoever put together the Spotlight Collection DVD must have a rather warped sense of dark humour in picking this last Tom and Jerry cartoon to be the last one.  It's called Blue Cat Blues and, as you might be able to divine from the provided picture, 1) I'm having some trouble formatting the blog text, but 2) in the picture proper, Tom and Jerry look kinda depressed.  And once you start watching Blue Cat Blues, you'll see that clearly this is a 180 degree turn from the sickeningly sweet positivism of Smitten Kitten.  At least, not for our Tom and our Jerry...


Wikipedia's usually a help when it comes to figuring out the stuff for your next Comp. Lit. class, but yes, you're right.  Generally, these cartoons are non-trailblazers when it comes to setting the literary world on fire.  Only once in a generation does a writer like Tennessee Williams come along and turn the Puritan American culture on its collective head.  Or maybe Blue Cat Blues is doing Steinbeck's "East of Eden."  Then again, the story here is far too ordinary for Tennessee, at least until the end.  Alas, Wikipedia is no help.  But this cartoon still seems like Tennessee to me, and if memory serves, MGM owned his proverbial ass!
Nevertheless, it's a pretty simple love story.  You may have read it and/or experienced it: boy meets girl, boy falls in love, boy loses girl, ... and a few steps in between.  Of course, in this case, boy cat sees girl cat, boy cat falls in love, what have you.  Surprisingly, we start off much like The Truce Hurts in its Second Act, with mouse and cat being friends!  Drinking lemonade together!  Cue the watered down Itchy and Scratchy... And then, she walks by... and Tom notices.  As the voiceover narration informs us, Tom flips his lid... dayamn!  I'm kinda flipping my lid myself!


Of course, with a high maintenance gal like that, you must give your life over to her.  Every waking moment you once had to yourself, everything you own, everything you can borrow and steal... all must be sacrificed.  So worth it, though.  "Tom was putty in her paws... hands," the mouse informs us.  She molds Tom's face so that he looks like a donkey.  This is why the cartoon can never be shown in the South.  Evolution, my redneck ass!
And then... he shows up.  The white girl cat has found another guy that she likes better... well, actually, she seems unimpressed with either gentleman, but she likes the swag!  She'll gladly accept swag!  Tom tries flowers, but the other guy... "Butch," I believe his name is... has outdone Tom once again.  That Tennessee Williams guy was smart.  Tough names, memorable names.  Brick Pollitt.  Valentine 'Snakeskin' Xavier and his magic guitar and motorcycle.  Dr. Cukrowicz... I mean, Violet Venable.  Why, Tennessee's own first name was Thomas!  Boring!  How can you be a great writer if you've got such a boring name?  A much harder row to hoe... well, I still think I'm on to something here.


That poor fool Thomas Cat... he still thinks he can compete with the far richer Butch.  The big finale is that Tom spends his last nickel on a car.  Unfortunately, he's acting out of sheer desperation and gets the cheapest car he can find.  I believe it's an old steam-powered Newcomen.  Butch easily defeats Tom with one of those long stretch jobs.  I believe there was one in Lonesome Lenny and Peter Gabriel's video for 1992's Steam
And so, we end as we began, with the man in the woman and... oh, wait, that's Blood of Eden.  I mean, we end with Tom on the bridge of train tracks, with Jerry looking over him like a proverbial guardian angel.  That is, until Jerry Mouse realizes that his own love life is just as fragile as Tom's, and when he sees his own girl mouse driving around in some other dude's car, well... he's not one to engage in slut-shaming, but he's depressed as hell and sits by Tom's side as the train approaches.  We only hear the train's horn, and we don't get any light reflected off of the backs of Tom and Jerry.  But for those of you who absolutely need to see Tom getting hit by a train, perhaps I'm Just Wild About Jerry is right up your alley.  ...oh, do I have to do YouTube links for everything for you people?!!!
Well, cheer up, Tom.  Showbiz is a cruel mistress.  It's the price you pay most of the time.  Things work out for Butch and the crazy white girl cat, but you get your own piece of cartoon immortality, not Butch.  Butch (the cat, not the bulldog) is just a supporting player in your world.

Good double bill with: Symphony in Slang - similar premise, but the guy gets the last laugh... or does he?

BAD double bill with: Wild Orchid II: Blue Movie Blue

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Get Shorty

Well, Popeye's still in the Navy, but he's taken a long break from stereotyping either Germans or Japanese.  I'm starting to think that the studios got complaints when they made those few cartoons with extra-heavy stereotypes; otherwise, it seems like there would be a lot more of them.  But Popeye's got other thematic tricks up his sleeve, and the vaguely titled Happy Birthdaze might not prepare you for the darkness to come.  Even I was a bit taken aback!  Or maybe I'm just getting old and touchy.  Probably the latter, yeah, that's it.


Scene: the Naval shipyard, where everyone's getting a letter.  Popeye gets a letter from Olive about a birthday cake waiting in the wings.  It's Popeye's birthday; I guess he would have been around ten by the time this cartoon was released.  Sure, he was more like fourteen, but who cares about the original strip he appeared in?  Am I right?  The Fleischers are the thing!
And so, much like the Fleischers' earlier color classic, Dancing on the Moon, all is right with the world... except for one guy.  A guy we'll call Shorty, because that's what Popeye calls him.  Shorty didn't get a letter from the V-Mail truck, and so he has no other choice but to take out a gun and blow his own brains out.
But before that happens, Popeye takes Shorty's gun away and he tries to make Shorty feel better.  Surprisingly, it works!  That is, until Popeye says that Shorty looks like Bob Hope.  Shorty gets another gun out and places its barrel to his temple.  Popeye says "I mean... Bing Crosby!"  Ask your great-grandparents.  Shorty is once again in a swooning state, so much so that his face morphs into a Bing Crosby-type face.  Which is why this cartoon is banned from television.  We won't be having any four-eyed uggos changing their faces around without plastic surgery!  No sir!  Not on my watch.
And then, the mistake of mistakes: Popeye invites Shorty to his birthday party.  Cross-fade to Olive powdering her face... with makeup!  With makeup.  This is nothing if not a family picture... I mean, aside from the numberous suicide attempts.  And then... much like we found out about the Stooges, even a venerated institution like the Popeye shorts tries to cut corners every now and again.  But they gave the rostrum camera guys an extra couple hours of work with this scene: Olive walks to the front door.  We can hear it from out in the hallway.  Her footsteps are loaded with such enthusiasm that the entire building seems to tremble from it.  It's as if Olive weighs a few extra tons or something.  The door flies open and Olive gives Popeye a big kiss.  Tastefully, they go up the stairs and all we can see is Olive's be-shoe'd feet.  And yet, everyone goes on and on about how great the spaghetti "kiss" in Lady and the Tramp is.  Has anyone actually seen the movie?  I mean, have they seen it?
Popeye says "I want you to meet a friend of mine... Shorty!"  Olive lifts Shorty up and gives him a tiny kiss.  Shorty starts to float in the air.  I wonder if Popeye's regretting his decision to bring Shorty along yet.  Shorty keeps floating, but the promise of food brings him back to earth.  Specifically, birthday cake.  Olive hasn't finished making it yet.
But first, Shorty must wash his hands.  As Lord Lister says, cleanliness in all things, even the humblest of tasks.  Alas for Popeye, the water has multiplied exponentially-fold when Shorty runs the tap and, much like the big finale in the Laurel and Hardy classic, Brats, Popeye gets washed down to the ground floor by the water.  The water level in the bathroom slowly drops, and we find Shorty brushing his teeth.  Apparently, the kitchen is unaffected.


Scene: the gutter, where Popeye tries crawling out, but has to time his emergence from the gutter so that he doesn't get hit by a speeding car.  The city's crazy, but is now just crazy enough to drive sane people to the brink.  Popeye gets back upstairs and is ready to strangle Shorty, but changes his mind when he hears Shorty's sweet song about his pal Popeye.  I'm put in mind of Sloppy Moe's song in Wagon HeelsGod, I love cartoons.  Where else can you see a beard turn into a hand?  However, I don't think Sloppy Moe was voiced by Mel Blanc.  Clampett tended to use other voices.  Blanc could do quite a bit, but sometimes you just need an Arthur Q. Bryan to be Elmer... where was I?  Oh, right.  The cake.  Shorty's helping Olive in Popeye's inexcusable absence.  Shorty's got all the ingredients in one big, completely safe, tall stack.  Then Olive says "Oh, and a dozen eggs!"  In Shorty's nerd, fanboy zeal, he rushes to get the eggs, leaving Popeye to catch everything that's now flying in the air.  Upon Shorty's just-as-hasty return, Popeye ends up with the cake ingredients all over his dumb ass.
Next scene: Popeye's got all the broken dishes in his arms, and is ready to dispose of them... but he needs Shorty's help to open the door.  How can Shorty screw this one up?  Well, with a nerd like Shorty, you must be very specific and not allow them any freedom of interpretation.  Shorty opens the door closest to him, which happens to be the ironing board door, that cartoon staple of old, and to a lesser extent, Stooge-film staple.  Popeye drops the dishes anew, much like in Cops is Always Right.  "Go take a bath!" orders Olive.  "Oh boy!  I'll run the water," says Shorty.


An almost perfect place for an Act break!  The clarifying Noah-esque flood puts Popeye back in the ground-floor gutter, but he climbs out through a manhole cover this time.  I'll leave the fetishization of the policeman's moustache to blogs finer and more popular than mine.
Next scene: the cake is ready to be put into the oven, but Shorty's now depressed about Popeye not having any fun on his birthday.  Olive, in addition to trying to get that cake into the damn oven, has to take another gun away from Shorty.  See?  Suicide can be funny in the proper context!
And so, Popeye returns with a baseball bat in hand.  Shorty, in classical nerd fashion, misinterprets Popeye's intent of murder and mayhem for one of fun.  Shorty switches to game mode.  "You ever see Babe Ruth hit a homer?" asks Shorty.  Ah, those were the days.  Of course, according to the Wikipedias, the Sultan of Swat's last appearance was May 30, 1935 for the Boston Braves.  Better make sure I parse that right!  But whatever.  Even Skip Bittman knows an icon when he sees one.
In Shorty's excitement, we go from baseball to golf to ice hockey!  Ice hockey, for f... God'z zake.  No sooner is Shorty strapping ice skates onto Popeye's feet than Popeye's got the puck in his mouth... that sentence is probably not grammatically correct.  Oh well.  This is a blog!  Who's got the time?
The point being, Shorty's attempt to make Olive's living room into an infinite playing field have surprisingly disastrous consequences.  As opposed to, say, the infinitely large train set in that one Tom and Jerry cartoon, Kitty Foiled.  And, much like the principles of judo, Popeye's attempt to slow Shorty down a little bit invariably set the stage for his own downfall in the form of a circular hole in the floor.  Popeye takes a mighty swing, ends up twirling around really really fast, thereby cutting a hole in the wooden floor with those dangerous, dangerous ice skates.  But Jack Mercer does get to do a rare stuffy character in the form of a stuffy downstairs neighbour.  Actors like that kinda crap; D.Q.'ing something different now and again.


To cut to the chase, Popeye and Shorty end up in the basement furnace, Popeye with birthday cake all over his face.  Olive herself ended up in said furnace, and she emerges from it, covered head to toe in soot, telling Popeye to never darken her door again.  There's a joke there someplace.
Cut to Popeye and Shorty inside the furnace.  One candle is still lit on a bit of cake stuck to Popeye's head... I mean, it's in his pipe.  Just re-watched it.  Boy!  Some memory I have.  Ever the optimist, able to find a grain of joy on the proverbial Beach of Despair, Shorty says "Can I blow out the candle?"  Not waiting for Popeye's answer, Shorty blows out the candle anyhow.  Shorty may be a smart man, but he seems to lack the ability to read peoples' body language.  Or maybe, like all great entrepreneurs, maybe it's best to just ignore body language altogether and just concentrate on what it takes to get people to buy your product.  Your shoddy, popular product.  Alas for Shorty, Popeye's kind of not in the mood for what sweaty optimism Shorty's selling.  A shot in the dark rings out, and Shorty falls silent.  The words "THE BITTER END" fill the screen.  Maybe Shorty's sleepy!

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Noel Clarke

A. Sayeeda... oh wait, she's Moreno now.  So let's move on to Noel Clarke, mega-writer and director of the "Dulthood" series, of which there is Kidulthood and Adulthood, so far.  I'm sorry, the poster says that it's KiDULTHOOD and AdULTHOOD.  Now, if you notice the posters, the poster for KiDULTHOOD says "Before adulthood comes... KiDULTHOOD" and the poster for AdULTHOOD says "After kidhulthood comes... AdULTHOOD."  Now, you might be thinking, the filmmakers have painted themselves into a corner when it comes to the third installment, as we have the perfect yin yang type of thing working here.  Well, the simplest way out, perhaps the best, is to simply say, for the series-ending trilogy, "Well after kidulthood and adulthood comes... OLdULTHOOD."  Or as the British call it, Harry Brown... oops!  Clarke is British.  Okay, Gran Torino for the American audiences.
As for getting to Spielberg, well... screw that!  Check it out.  Star Trek Into Darkness?  That's better than Spielberg!  It's J. J. Abrams, the new Spielberg!  Power was transferred on the set of Super 8.  I read that in the tawdry pages of Variety.

Where I Want to Be, but I Guess I'm Already There

Well, the Wild and Crazy Guy's still got it, because Steve Martin's latest, DreamWorks' Home is #1 with a bullet.  Good luck enjoying the silence now, DUDE!!!  As for Bazinga, well... damn it, didn't want to say that.  But Jim Parsons is the new John Lithgow, no question.  An unqualified success, with nothing but awards shows, charity work and felony sexual assaults to look forward to for the rest of his career.  It's the new celebrity, or maybe it's always been that way.  I'm far too naive that way.
Meanwhile, at #2, it's Will Ferrell's latest called Get Hard, about a cop in the wrong place at the wrong time, and he's got to step on broken glass to get away from... oh, right.  That's Die Hard... like the Sears battery?  Whatever.  The point is, it's happening already.  Jon Stewart mentions in passing that he's leaving The Daily Show, and the rats are leaving the ship.  I mean, both Ferrell and Hart stop by the show to push this movie and... it debuts at #2?  Where's the influence?  Where's the church, where's Jon's sheeples?  The website is called Funny or Die, not Funny, Die or Wait til it's on Video!!! 
Of course, none of this is going to slow down Will Ferrell.  His next collaboration with Mark Wahlberg, tentatively titled Daddy's Home, is in production.  We might not see it in the theaters, but we're probably going to see it on video.  Or maybe just cable.  There's a Marky Mark fan in this house, they're just not terribly dedicated.  So much of his body of work that we're never going to see, so little time...
The last debut this week is the hot young horror film on the block called It Follows.  The synopsis sounds a little bit like 1982's The Entity, but with a twist, probably.  This surely marks the arrival of... oh, let's say RADiUS-TWC.  I saw their logo in the TV commercials.  I was going to say the arrival of writer director David Robert Mitchell, but he's been at this game far too long to be a fresh face.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Tommy Catter and the Wicked Pisser of a Broom

Can you believe I've only got two Tom and Jerries left?  How did they go so fast?  I don't get it.  ...incidentally, does anyone have any requests?  I'm trying to decide which cartoons to profile next: Pink Panther, Looney Tunes, Ant and Aardvark, or Monty Python?... THERE'S CARTOONS IN IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11

But the DVD compilers have saved the best for last, and by best, I mean the ones in widescreen.  This one, called The Flying Sorceress, is of a TV-safe thematic nature.  I'm told that Blue Cat Blues is not.  But I say let the kids handle the tough stuff, and early.  What kind of a world are we leaving our kids where AC/DC's "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" is censored at the gym?  The Gym, for f... goodness sake!  They gotta learn the truth about the classics someday, and when they learn that they've been neutered, stripped of all reckless spirit, well... I'll probably get blamed for it.
Well, far be it from me to speak for the jaded sophisticates out there, but it seems to me that The Flying Sorceress must have something that you might like!  Spoiler alert: it all turns out to be a dream, much like Heavenly Puss was, but I think the jaded sophisticates will probably like Heavenly better.
As for me, let's just dig into the plot.  Unlike the girl that Elvis sings to in that one song of his called You're So Square, I do like crazy music.  And once the credits of Sorceress are over, it's crazy music time!  Love it.  I gotta hear it again right now... ah, that's the stuff.  I don't want to hear it too much, lest it lose its craziness... damn it, too late.  Welp, it's all part of that drug we film enthusiasts call video.  Once the surface charms have worn off, it's time to mainline all the DVD commentary and documentaries you can about your favourite cinematic moments... not that I would know anything about that, mind you.  Yes, it's that ancient battle between the animal kingdom and domestic bliss.  Those durn animals just refuse to stay domesticized, and you wake up in the morning to find your cat sitting on the kitchen table, its porthole on the butter dish.  In Sorceress, it's a white lady doing the admonishing of Tom about the mess he's made.  The nice colored lady seems to be missing from this Tom and Jerry collection of mine.  They probably redubbed her voice and everything, too.  Oh well.  C'est la correctness politique.
And so, there's Tom with broom and dustpan, cleaning up the mess he made.  This guy needs a distraction, and fast.  Enter the newspaper want-ads.  And there, buried amongst the numberous real ads for clerk typists is the big fake one that sets our film in motion.  Ah, ambiguous language... is there any more tried and true comedy companion?  I'm suddenly reminded of The Big Snooze where Elmer has finally had enough of Bugs' antics, and decides to go fishing.  I was just about to call Bugs a drama queen, but I remembered that Elmer tore up his contract with Mr. Warner!!!!!  Ten-alarm fire, indeed.  Well, the situation's similar here, because Tom takes the whole newspaper and does the Lindy Hop right out of that house... okay, whatever it is... the Charleston, maybe?  Nobody corrects me anymore, waah.
And so, Tom goes to 13 Sunnydale Road and... ah, tempests in teapots.  Love 'em all... well, they used to be fun until CGI ruined everything.  I mean, the Men in Black series is full of tempests in teapots, but meh.  Who cares?  Anyway, even though Tom can read, he still hasn't learned about metaphors or similes, or even irony.  Alas, not interesting enough of an irony for the Jaded Sophisticates (TM).  But Tom will do anything to avoid a little housework, so to the porch of the haunted house he goes.  It's The 'Burbs all over again, I tells ya.
Tom rings the doorbell, which sounds like a big church bell.  Love it.  Take that, Barton Fink's bell gag!
And so, we finally meet the flying sorceress of the title.  And boy, does she fly!  Witches may be as old as colonial America, but in cartoons everyone keeps up with the times, so for this cartoon from the 1950s, she stays current with a jet-propelled broom.  The witch takes Tom for a test flight.  Tom ends up parachuting back down to earth with the witch's own hat, but he still gets the job.  Well, that was the problem back then: too few cats competing for too few sh... jobs.  Nowadays, it's too many too.  Now, there's a screenwriter's tip here someplace: sure, this flying sequence may seem too long in this, the era of the Internet and fast cuts, but some storytelling fundamentals never change.  I mean, I've seen Salt 1 and Unknown, but for the life of me I don't know what happened.  The taser sequence from Salt, that's all I remember.  Oh, and Salt blows up a floor and pretends to shoot somebody, something like that.  It comes up later.  Sorry... spoiler alert.  A little simplicity goes a long way.  Take Aesop's Fables, for one!  Simple!  Elemental!  Universal!  Game-changing... well, three out of four, anyhow.  But in the instant case, I think the storytelling fundamentals are this: if you have a witch, well, that witch gotta fly.  And fly she does.  The FAA will soon hear of this!  Alas, the witch's flight is fast and furious, and cut a little bit short, so there.  Fast cutting achieved.  Besides, there's still some plot to be had.
And so, Tom gets the job of witch's cat, with free room and board and everything.  Is Tom grateful?  Of course not!  Ooh, the bed's too creepy.  Next thing you know he'll be wanting to unionize, and billionaires tell me that that's a bad thing.  Well, not me personally... it's shouted through their megaphone at me, but same thing.  But like Ehrmantraut said, everyone wants to go home.  And so, with his toxic mix of boredom and fear, Tom quickly puts two and two together.  The witch left her broom out!  Can a cat fly a broom?  Well, surely a cat of Tom's stature can!  And fly he does.  Now, much like when he took flight in that one a few weeks ago, Tom faced the same dilemma.  You've got wings, and you can fly to anywhere in the world... so where do you go?  To harass your mortal enemy, of course!  Tom takes that broom and flies back to screw with Jerry's mind.  Jerry doesn't exactly rub his eyes, but mission accomplished.  Tom blew Jerry's mind before Train did with that song they play all the time at the gym that I now hate.  Well, I probably would of hated it before that.  This YouTube video purports to be the official music video for the song in question.  Well, it's not a documentary about churches in Seattle, so on the YouTube it must stay.  If they play a Mr. Mister song other than "Broken Wings" on the radio anymore, I'd be very very surprised.
Needles to say, witches don't care for it when you borrow their brooms.  Same thing happened to Bugs Bunny and that fat hairpin-losing witch he got paired with for a while... probably.  (also voiced by June Foray, incidentally)  One of Chuck Jones' less celebrated cartoon cereals.  And so, is a parade awaiting Tom's return to the witch house?  Short answer: no.  In fact, quite the opposite.  The witch turns the broom against Tom, and the witch risks significant damage to her very house to punish Tom.  And yet, nothing she does sends Tom to that grave especially dug just for him.  Maybe Tom's a warlock!
And so, much like in Heavenly Puss, Tom awakens from his dream, but unlike Heavenly Puss, the reality Tom awakens to in Flying Sorceress leaves something to be desired.  He certainly doesn't end up thanking Jerry to be alive, that's for sure!  No, it's time for a retreat from reality back into that world of fantasy.  In case you don't watch it, Tom was clinging to the broom at home in his sleep, with that nice angry lady shaking it up and down.  Tom goes back to sweeping... but he's just got to test out that broom to make sure it can't fly.  Whew!  It doesn't work.  Thank goodness... or does it?  Tom takes off flying, and he seems to be headed for the full moon.  Jerry watches from the door, as does the embittered housewife.  "Now what's that cat up to?" says the housewife as she watches the cat flying towards the moon on a broom... does anyone see the irony there?  Anyone at all?  No sense of whimsy?  The fantastical?  No sense of something beyond our five senses?  Boy!  And this was the 50s!  All was not well in the suburbs back then, or so it seems!

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

The Goat that Stares at Popeye there no other goat title?  Well, when you're king of your own little mountain, the Gods look down and laugh.  And they take perverse delight in who or what they send to try to dethrone you.  In Popeye's case, it was decided that an evil, ravenous goat was just what the doctor ordered.  Why, some might even say that The Hungry Goat is the perfect title for such a tale!  There's not even a hint of Popeye in it! least, not until we get to Act Two.


I think Fred "Tex" Avery's Tortoise Beats Hare came out first... yup, 1941.  In that cartoon, we immediately break the proverbial fourth wall with Bugs Bunny examining the cartoon's title card.  When he realizes what an insult to his rabbithood it is, he immediately tears it down... in three big, easy-to-animate pieces, then knocks on the turtle's door...  I mean, tortoise.  The tortoise lives in a tree, BTW, in addition to living in its shell.  Boy, some reptiles really know how to live.
The point being, maybe it's unfair to call The Hungry Goat laden with gimmicks, but the goat does ask the projectionist to rewind the film, the fourth wall is broken... I guess that's about it.  And who is this goat guy anyway?  Some have said it's Arnold Stang... at least, I thought I read that someplace.  Arnold Stang and Jack Mercer did work together, according to the IMDb's handy dandy "Credited With" function, just apparently not in a Popeye cartoon.  Here's one on YouTube called Naughty but Mice.  Even the copyright lawyers don't care about that one, as it flies well below their radar.  Go figure.  But they should leave it up since it's not scheduled to be put on a DVD until the year 2782!!!  ...where was I?  Oh, right.  The goat's voice.  Apparently, it's a fella by the name of Gilbert Mack.  So many names to learn, so little time and brain space.  Movie reviewing is hard!  I'm pushing out all my fond childhood memories and replacing them with B-listers!
Now, now, credit where credit's due.  This Gilbert Mack actor fella's working harder than he thought he would.  After seeing the title, much like Bugs Bunny in Tortoise Beats Hare, the goat takes the "hungry" part to heart and starts acting tragically.  This pain in my stomach... will nothing in this world fix it?  If only for a few hours?  Enter a pile of tin cans.  You see, films of this era often used some of the cultural notions left over from the 19th century: snakes have the power to hypnotize, goats will eat metal, certain non-white groups of people have funny, cinematic peculiarities, what have you.  The Hungry Goat goes with the second one.  Alas, fate intervenes, and the world's fastest crane grabs up the pile of cans and piles them into the back of a truck.  So, not only is this goat hungry, but it is also very easily discouraged.
I like this Wikipedia entry about "The Popeye Show."  They mention The Hungry Goat and that it wasn't shown much at first... I can't make heads nor tails out of it, but I think they're trying to say that they had a bad print of it.  That's the reason it wasn't shown a whole lot, not that the goat talks about committing suicide.  That's perfectly all right!  A nice way to kill some time, that's for sure.  The goat tries to blast out of this wicked world once and for all by jumping into the water.  Alas, the goat hits its head on a battleship, thereby causing it to get thrown back onto the pier... he's down by the water, you see.  Some more yammering, and then... boom.  The goat puts two and two together.  He may have hit his head on that battleship, but he can surely sink his teeth into it!  Why, it turns into the biggest pile of cans he's... it's ever seen.  Must be a dude goat.  A lady goat would never be so un-lady-like... and would probably never play the lead in a pic like this, anyway.  They're always relegated to the love interest roles.


Oh, I've spent far, far too long on this one.  And so, the goat gets two big eye-boners and boards the battleship.  And... FINALLY!  Enter the Popeye.  And where Popeye's playing checkers, the goat's playing chess... three-dimensional, ultra-laser chess against twenty people.  The goat sets up a booby trap for Popeye, then gets to work harassing him.  The goat eventually runs off, Popeye gives chase, and BOOM... right into the trap.  One reason to hate this goat.  He really gets my... something.  I forget what.  So let's move on.
This could go on forever, so another character is brought into the mix.  An authority figure is just what the Script Doctor ordered, because clearly this asylum is being run by the inmates, currently.  It's the admiral of the battleship, and the schmoozing goat makes fast friends with him because... ugh.  It's a long story.  The admiral admonishes Popeye and says "As for myself... I'm going to the movies!  Nyaah!!!!"  Apparently, Jack Mercer voiced the admiral as well; must be why the admiral's so funny.  And so, the admiral grabs a taxi.  The driver asks "Where to, bud?"  "To the movies!" says the admiral, in much the same inflection as before.  Popeye is once again at ease, unofficially.  Good double bill with Conrad the Sailor.  Love that cartoon.
And so, this opens the door for the Fourth Wall again.  See, Popeye can't kill the goat, because the Admiral is in the audience!  Why, look!  There he is finding his seat!  Anyway, it's about time for Act Three, but where to make the break?  If only there were some clarifying event... oh, right!  The goat takes the mallet from Popeye, winds up for the pitch, and hits Popeye in the head with a mighty swing... with the mallet.


You know... I hate to get all personal and all.  I know, ick.  Write a book for that kinda sentimental crap.  This is a blog, god Damn it!  Nothing but news here, folks.  But we were talking earlier about verbal ping-pong.  The example that was given to me was from an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm... a nurse with no sense of humor.  Where does he come up with this stuff?  Well, as Spock would say, it's an early 20th Century Earth phenomenon, referred to by the earthlings as "Verbal Ping Pong."  Thank God that Star Trek show dumbed down things for us humans, what with the universe being so vast and so filled with aliens with strange worlds and languages and all.  The one I thought of (not on YouTube, of course) is an exchange between Homer and Lisa, arguably much shorter in duration, in a Halloween episode the Mortals refer to as The Homega Man.  There are other examples, I'm sure... now to make it relate to The Hungry Goat.  Well, what Hungry seems to engage in at this point, after Popeye's head trauma, could quite possibly be referred to as Visual Ping Pong.  And it saved some wear and tear on the animators, which Famous Studios would be looking for from now on, it being a critical part of their business model.  It's this kind of sequence that sticks in my mental craw, but I think I've finally made my peace with it.  The music's good!
And then, more mayhem ensues.  Normally, I'd go through it point by point, but it's making me weary.  Besides, I'm too busy multi-tasking as it is.  But the major move in the Third Act is that the goat once again breaks the Fourth Wall with a note for the Admiral.  The last stroke of genius from the goat, because the Admiral's not going to want to see this part: the part where the goat starts eating the battleship.  I mentioned this before, but I finally figured out the genius of Sons of the Desert and my new fangled respect for Stan Laurel, apparently the brains behind Laurel and Hardy.  Ain't that always the way?  The stupid one's actually smart?  Well, Hungry's not quite as subversive, but close. 
Anyway, as prescribed by the Script Gods, the Admiral returns from his "phone call" none the wiser, and the kid sitting next to him has to verbally point out that the goat's eating the ship.  Well, the Admiral's fit to be tied, and about ten moments too late.  Well, he taxis his way back to the ship, calls Popeye to attention (what becomes of the plane with a bomb on it, we'll just never know) and asks "Where's that goat?"  Why, the goat's in the theater, of course, laughing his goat ass off!  And yet, he wasn't able to get his own series out of the deal.  Just a case of bad timing, I suppose.  Well, that's what you get when Vince Gilligan's not writing your scripts.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Good double bill with: ...what else?  Scrap Happy Daffy... I forget why, though

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Souleymane Cissé

Well, according to his IMDb Top 4, he's best known for his '80s and '90s work.  Ain't that always the way?  But the dude's keeping busy, and his latest, Tell Me Who You Are from 2009, seems to be his best shot at meeting Spielberg... apparently, Amblin doesn't get to Mali much.  He'll have to get to Amblin by way of France.  I suggest trying your composer on Tell Me Who You Are, David Reyes.  He did the music for something called The Fox and the Child, narrated by Kate Winslet.  I'm sorry... that's The Fox & the Child.  I always screw up the ampersands.
So, there you go.  Kate Winslet's not too shabby, right?  Good luck trying to be facebook friends with her, though.  She's probably way too serious about her account and stuff.  No room for the fans, eh?  Just people you actually know?  Even though they volunteer at the food co-op with you and everything?  Damn snooty movie stars.  Seriously, though, why do I even bother using my web crawler software anymore?  Had to do that all by myself!  Take that, computers.  Humans are still the best at finding human-related stuff.

Chick fight!

There.  In case I forget... I know, I know, the Cinderella staircase isn't even visible.  Nice job, The Movie Hooligan.  Really great.
(Sunday proper) Oh, but that was so last week.  What a difference a week makes, especially in Hollywoodland.  Learned that from The Larry Sanders Show.  It's all about access.  Any time there was a new guest host in Larry's chair, the network bigwigs got all excited and started thinking about what could've been.  Why, Dana Carvey could do his short list of SNL catch phrases every night!  Why, Hank could epically fail the second night every day! it epically or epicly?  The auto-spell check is telling me that "epicly" is not right... epic-ly?  Nope.  But, give it some time.  A few months from now, all the bloggers will be saying "epicly."  You'll see.
But I guess even the bigwigs at Disney are just hoping for the best, praying that they're never exposed for the frauds and charlatans that they are.  Maybe a reboot of Cinderella will make some money!  We don't know!  But the days of Aladdin and The Lion King are definitely over.  All we need is one Cal-Arts intern to do a bunch of green-screen crap, pay them $5,000, and boom.  We got us a bonafide two-hour masterpiece.  Do like Spielberg during Raiders of the Lost Ark!  Just eat Spaghetti-Os the whole time.  Suffer a little for your art! 
That being said, there's an even more beloved young girl on the block, and her name is "Insurgent"... I mean, Beatrice.  The movie's called Insurgent, and ... I'm just figuring all of this out my own damn self here.  It's a series of books by Veronica Roth, the hot new Stepenie Meyer on the block.  Well, give them bonus points for going public, unlike J. K. Simmons... I mean, Rowling.  But when you've got a blockbuster like Harry Potter on your hands, apparently that's the risk you have to take.  You can't risk alienating the potential boy readers if they find out an icky girl is writing their favourite books!  Ewwwwwwwwww!!!  That's been my big downfall in life; that kind of thing never mattered to me.  Anyway, so my best friend in the whole world, the Internet, tells me that the series of books goes like this: Divergent, Insurgent and the big two parter finale: Allegent... I mean, Allegiant.  HAH!  Some writer Veronica is!  Couldn't find a third word ending in "gent."  How about "detergent," which is what you'll need after rolling around in that big pile of dirty, dirty money you're making.  See, because in that commercial, when that person ate the wadded up dollar bill, they have to put up a warning.  "Warning: money's actually quite filthy.  Even the fresh stuff you just got from the bank; it's probably got trace amounts of cocaine and fecal matter on it.  DO NOT PUT IN MOUTH."
All I know is, the filmmakers are lucky they didn't make this during the previous administration, because back then, all the White House had to do was come up with the title of "Enemy Combatant" for something, and it's off to Gitmo you go.  Different era.  If you remember the 2000s, you probably weren't in that White House! 
Of course, looking at some of these IMDb photos of Veronica Roth, I can see that twinkle in her eye, much like Jennifer Jason Leigh's as she gazed upon Bridget Fonda in that one movie... Single White Female.  (thought I was gonna have to look that up!  Boy, that While We're Young is on to something)  But that's the unfairness of the world.  You have to pick one craft and specialize, and that takes time, and while Veronica wants desperately to play the role that Shailene Woodley gets all the credit for, she'll just have to resign herself to writing her dialogue instead, while Shailene swings around like Spider-Man far above the maddening crowd.  Okay, maybe it's just one scene, but still... what the hell?  Did you see the trailer?  Yeah, I like Spider-Man as much as the next guy, but I don't grab a rope and try to fly around my own damn self!  Because let's face it: movie star is kind of a craft, too.  Sure, trashing hotel rooms and dating supermodels looks like fun, but it probably has its own unique flavour of boring after a while.
...where was I?  Dang, that took longer than I thought.  Meanwhile, Sean Penn's latest, The Gunman, debuts at a disappointing #4.  Well, he wasn't expecting it to do that well, anyway.  The director, on the other hand...  The only other debut this week is the kind of thing I go to the A.V. Club for to read about how bad it is, and it's called Do You Believe? and it debuts at #6, but that's a six on the liberal Hollywood, reality-based scale.  Now, in the Christian community, on the other hand... oh, it's #1 with a thorny crown!  This is the kind of thing that bus trips are made for.  You know, where all the elderly residents of someplace get forcibly shuttled to a church somewhere in Far From Water, Wyoming, and they all sing and praise Jesus, and then the movie starts on the screen set up in the giant tent.  The old people who aren't already asleep look up at the screen and say "Isn't that Paul Sorvino's daughter?  Wow, has her career taken a dive..." and then they fall asleep.  Yes, poor Mira can speak seven different languages fluently; unfortunately, hit movies isn't one of them.  But, like father, like daughter, I always say.  Let's face it!  Paul Sorvino was foundering before GoodFellas came along.  Why, all you have to do is check out his IMDb Top 4!  What's in there?  Vasectomy: A Delicate Matter?  I think not.  And he was the star of that!  Ray Liotta's the star of GoodFellas!  Sorvino's just a bit player... nah, no one's going to respond to that, probably.
But Mira Sorvino's not the only fallen Hollywood star debasing themselves in Do You Believe?  There's quite a Who's Who.  There's Samwise Gamgee, Sean Astin, another child of Hollywood Nepotism.  I don't understand his thinking either.  Cybill Shepherd, Brian Bosworth, Lee Majors, sure.  I can see that, but... Delroy Lindo?  Really?  Seriously?  Oh, dude.  Dude, what were you thinking?  I'm sorry that Believe didn't become another J. J. Abrams TV mainstay, but did you really need to waste your time with this?  Why not just take a little time off with your family or something?  Anything?  You'll be working with Tyler Perry soon enough!

Monday, March 09, 2015

Here we go again............................

Our next Tom and Jerry cartoon is called Touché Pussy Cat.  And once again, it's French Revolution-era France, and once again a sword-swishing Jerry Mouse pairs up with a little French grey mouse.  Voiced once again by the talented Françoise Brun-Cottan.  Sadly, she only did five of these cartoons, then called it quits from the biz forever.  That's showbiz for ya!  It's got a bigger Discards pile than most.
Now, the DVD doesn't mention anything about it, but this seems to be one of those few widescreen Tom and Jerry cartoons.  It seems that only MGM back then spared no expense in making widescreen cartoons in addition to widescreen films.  But in doing so, they cut back on the animation expense as well.  You might not be able to tell from this one, however.  Maybe they recycled a few of the backgrounds from the other "mousekeeteer"... I mean, musketeer mouse one.  Don't wanna get sued!
Now, sure, this is arguably a carbon copy of The Two Mouseketeers, right down to the grey mouse's last line "C'est la guerre" (that's war!), but there's a few subtle plot differences.  First of all, whereas The Two Mouseketeers focuses on the protection and acquisition of foodstuffs, Touché focuses on, well, the ladies.  The lady mice out there.  Yes, we're moving a little farther up Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, let's say from red to yellow... wait, that dude's got a hammer named after him as well?  Niiiiice.  Of course, you can't top Hubble when it comes to having stuff named after someone.  Hubble's Law, Hubble Flow, Hubble Constant, the Hubble Telescope, not to mention Scientology... oh, right.  Wrong guy.
But then, once the courting's done... oh, also, in The Two Mouseketeers, the duo of brown and grey mouse was already together, and it was up to the announcer to announce them.  Here's it's Nibbles all over again, but without the food.  The grey mouse arrives at Jerry's doorstep with an introductory note.  It's like that Cub Scouts one, and there's no mention of how he's always hungry.  But the little grey mouse will end up getting a little drunk in this one!  Spoiler alert, sorry.
And so, once the formalities with the token lady mice is over and done with, it's time for the guy stuff: fighting and what not.  Tom Cat shows up and the grey mouse tries to start a fight.  Jerry intervenes in about as violent yet bloodless a way as possible, and it's time to send the little grey rat packing.  After all, after trashing all of Jerry's furniture and stabbing him in the ass, somehow he's just not ready to be a true Mouseketeer.
...or is he?  The grey mouse is on his way home with a freshly scribed note, when Jerry's in trouble!  The cat put himself back together (no stitches) and the swordplay begins anew.  To cut to the chase, the little grey mouse proves his worth, defeating the cat in a completely classy way with humour and all the wine in Paris, apparently.  Well, that's what they get for leaving that stuff out in the alley.  The two mice are now best friends forever, but Jerry might have to give the grey mouse a few more fencing lessons.

-so sayeth The Movie Maven Hooligan

Popeye the Giant Killer... Popeye the Giant Slayer... Life During Wartime: Popeye, Harrasser of Innocent Job Creators

Wendell Willkie will hear about this outrage!  Willkie is, of course, best remembered for his shout-out in Falling Hare.  Wikipedia knows it, and damn it, so do I.  Which brings us to our next Popeye short, Ration fer the Duration.  The "o"s in the title are made of tires, so clearly the filmmakers are thumbing their noses at the incessant domestic recycling campaign during WWII.  I mean, for God's sake!  Those tires should be helping our boys!
Anyway, on to the plot.  The plot of Ration is that old tried and true filmmakers' crutch... I mean, loving homage to a timeless classic: Jack and the Beanstalk.  Ah, the agrarian legends of old.  Why, it was practically made for cartoons: the fantastical elements, the suspenseful storyline... and mostly because conventional special effects at the time couldn't really do it justice in live-action form.
The only problem is that everyone has taken the climb up that beanstalk.  I heard some Disney characters tried it once, but I don't want to say anymore for fear of violating a copyright.  The Warner Bros. characters have used it quite a bit.  The best is probably Beanstalk Bunny featuring Elmer as the giant besieged by both a tiny Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.  Everyone's favorite moment of course is when Giant Elmer reveals the tiny twosome hiding in his cigarette.  Bugs and Daffy smile as big as they can, then Daffy points at Bugs and says "He's Jack."  Love that.  Does that make me a bad person?  Probably.  Then of course, there's Tweety and the Beanstalk.  I don't think I've ever seen that one, but it's on one of my five DVD box sets, languishing in obscurity.  The other one I was thinking of is called Jack-Wabbit and the Beanstalk. (now on YouTube someplace!  Google it today!) Arguably, more of the old-fashioned Vaudeville type entertainment compared to Beanstalk Bunny, if you had to pick just one.  Which you do.  There's just no time for variety anymore.
SPOILER ALERT: But one way in which Ration is sort of unique is that the Jack and the Beanstalk elements are put in the context of a dream sequence.  Anything to get away from his four annoying-ass nephews.  Did I forget to mention them?  I was just trying to delay the inevitable.  While Popeye's slaving away in the garden, the gruesome foursome's getting ready to go fishing, picking worms from the garden.  But credit where credit's due, of course: the four little brats invade Popeye's peaceful dream and plant the beans that grow into the beanstalk that reaches to the sky.  As any gardener worth their weight in salt will tell you, if you leave beans or peas in your garden for too long, they become quite inedible, but the bean/pea part becomes perfect for either soup or replanting next year!  Maybe that's partly where the fable comes from.
Now, screenwriters take note.  Well, first of all, I guess I should mention the slightly nauseating part where, mostly because it's close to the end of the film, the giant prepares to eat Popeye.  Just before that happens, Popeye somehow knows that it's spinach time, so Popeye starts chewing away at his spinach as usual.  He's stuck in a giant-sized sandwich, and the giant's chewing away at it while Popeye's chewing away at his spinach.  I know, I know... slightly nauseating?  But the spinach kicks in as usual at the last possible minute.  Don't procrastinate, kids!  Now my second point.  Either a spinach-induced Popeye just isn't strong enough to defeat this plus-sized giant, or Popeye's just being a true Movie Hero.  How, you might ask?  Well, Popeye puts a giant rug up in front of the giant's front door, and Popeye piles a bunch of pepper into a spoon and knocks it into the giant's face.  The giant sneezes, thereby blowing all the swag he stole from the earth below into the rug, thereby sending the rug back down to Earth, which Popeye rides down for a quick return to the ground.  I also forgot to mention that the giant is hoarding a bunch of stuff that could be used for the war effort.  It's a WWII thing; we wouldn't understand it today.  See also: the Old Mother Hubbard sketch in Foney Fables.
And finally, Popeye awakens from his dream to find that his four nephews have been hard at work.  As usual, they've been perverting the natural order of things, and the crops they have grown are these unholy hybrids that are inedible, but perfect for the war effort.  "Squashes" and "peaches" were apparently synonyms for car tires, and peaches were clearly preferable to squashes.  On the plus side, there's no ethnic stereotypes in it!  It's worth watching for that reason alone, right?.... RIGHT??!!!

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Alastair Christopher

...ah, he's a sports guy.  Who cares.

bo 3-15-15... wow! Two fifteens

...damn.  Should've done a picture of Kurt Vonnegut's lecture.  Next week. 
Well, as Walt Disney used to say, if you can't beat 'em, buy 'em.  Worked with George Lucas and Jim Henson, anyway!  Can't argue with success!  And so, Disney says, screw the 90s.  Nobody wants animation anymore.  The Little MermaidAladdinThe Lion King?  They had their moments.  But this Maleficent and stuff?  I think we've got something here.  Hence the new Cinderella.  And director Kenneth Branagh continues the Second Act of his career, already light years ahead of wherever Laurence Olivier ever was at this point in his life.  Maybe think of Branagh's appearance in that Danny Boyle Olympics thing as his version of a revamped The Jazz Singer with Neil Diamond.  Oh, they both do the occasional kitsch!  As for Cate Blanchett, well... somehow it makes me a little sad.  I don't know why.  But it's not the punch in the gut that Glenn Close in 101 Dalmations was.  Or maybe it was the sequel I was thinking of.  Did that one go directly to video?
Meanwile, at #2, it's the latest Liam Neeson / Jaume Collet-Serra collaboration called Run All Night.  Well, you can't work with Spielberg all the time.  Once is typically all you get.  The title, "run all night," is, of course, a veiled reference to directors and their work schedules.  I've heard that they have to make about ten thousand decisions per day when working on a movie.  Maybe that's hyperbole.  If you're lucky, you get to outsource the stuff to the second units that doesn't require the actual actors: car chases, some close-ups, what have you... save yourself a little wear and tear.  I keep forgetting that Liam's in the AARP.  That's just how good he is, but I'll bet he's getting a little tired of running all night.  Actually, D-Day and Ed Harris probably are too!  All part of God's plan. 
Well, those are all the debuts this week, but I would like to point out that Kingsmen: The Secret Service is hanging tough, this week at #3.  What's it gotta do to earn some respect around here?  ...wait.  It's only made $107 million?  Hmm.  Better get to $150 as soon as you can.  I guess we can't expect $200.  Meanwhile, at the other end, it's The DUFF, almost gone at #10, but $30 mill in the bank!  Of course, there were a lot of walk-outs by disappointed male customers who thought they were going to see Pants-Off Dance-Off: The Motion Picture.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Being Michael Keaton, or The Unexpected Value of Critics

SPOILER ALERT - Welp, I got caught up in a frenzy of second-hand excitement, enabling me to finally see what this Birdman fuss is all about.  Oh, how people tend to exaggerate sometimes.  They said that Birdman is a film shot in one long take.  Not true.  They called Birdman something like the greatest gift to the moviegoing public or to fans of comic books.  Maybe just a little hyperbolic.  I mean, were they on the phone at the time, and their dividend check from Starbucks just came in?  How do these things achieve critical mass, so to speak?  All I know is, G's got his Oscar now, and Alfonso Cuaron, but what about... wait for it... Del Toro?  What is he, chopped liver?
Yes, Oscar has been loathe to award comic book movies, but that was then.  It's all about context, and so, if it's in the proper meta-context, then there's no problem, which is the case with Birdman.  Alas, there's always a price.  Oscar gives your film the heavy metal, by which I mean the producer and director, and a few tech geeks... but the actors?  Oscar says "Don't push your luck."  Same thing happened with Schindler's List.  Or, in Michael Keaton's case, think Greg Kinnear and As Good as it Gets.  But Greg got to complain about not winning on Saturday Night Live soon after that!  That's... that's good, right?  Oh, I'll bet the Beverly Hills community didn't forgive that innocent trespass either.  He's kept quiet about the snub since, that's for sure.  Just remember, Michael... the work is its own reward.  His performance made me think of that time Johnny Depp got in trouble for trashing a hotel room while working on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas... yup, that's right.  I'm just a bitter old fogey now.  But it's the only example I could think of.  How times have changed.  Now we're all the Johnny Depp.  Clearly he was ahead of his time.  Should I have said Spoiler Alert?  Sorry.
As for Edward Norton, well... I'm actually not completely familiar with all his work, but really, should I be?  It's all good, right?  I'm just going to skip over American History X and assume it's good; after all, he got nominated for it.  His role here reminded me of his role in Rounders, another scoundrel that cannot be trusted, but he probably had more fun with Birdman.  He must've cast a spell on me because... he's more of a Hollywood blockbuster actor than a New York theater actor, right?  He's just that good!!!  I'm assuming the character is modeled on Dustin Hoffman; that's how familiar I am with the New York theater scene.  Maybe Craig Bierko.
Okay, I'll indulge myself in one major spoiler here, so it's time to stop reading.  As you may have heard from the plot, Michael Keaton plays a character not too far removed from his own self: a former Hollywood star who's trying to prove to himself that he's more than that by adapting Raymond Carver for Broadway.  Usually the projects in these things are lamer than that; take "A Match Made in Space," the book written by Marty McFly's dad in Back to the Future.  Now, HERE'S THE SPOILER: he's also got a few telekinetic powers to boot.  Surely, this gave him the self-confidence and that extra twinkle in the eye needed to land himself a big movie franchise, like "Birdman."  To balance this out, the id in his head is starting to talk to him.  Loud.  And it's using the deep voice that Batman uses when he's wearing the mask and costume... oops!  Sorry.  This is neither the time nor the place to bring up Batman.
Okay, I'll dabble in one more spoiler.  The Raymond Carver play ends with the main character (Michael Keaton) shooting himself in the head.  At the last second, Keaton gets a real gun and hurries on stage before the stagehand is able to give him the "squibb."  For those few of you who aren't familiar with showbiz terms, a squibb is a device for casting shadows... oh, wait, that's a cucaloris.  No, a squibb is a little packet of fake blood that explodes on command to simulate the shedding of actual blood.  Ah, showbiz.  The point being, Birdman pumps itself up, and delivers a nice short-term sleight of hand... but with such a bitter aftertaste.  It does a nice job showing that New York critics and New York theater actors kinda hate the Hollywood bigshots, and Michael Keaton turns in another fine performance... and maybe it should have left it at that.  Spoiler alert: Keaton gets a favorable review from the embittered New York critic, but on the other hand, he ends up in the hospital, with a new, scarred nose, no less!  I'm guessing that even he doesn't want to go that far for eight nights a week, even on Broadway.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

A Mouse in the Crowd

Another hectic week, so I gotta cut these short, and this is probably an ideal one to do that to.  No, Pecos Pest isn't a Speedy Gonzalez cartoon as the title might suggest, but quite the opposite.  The Tom and Jerry Universe keeps expanding, as all good cartoon serials do, and this time, Tom is visited by an adult grey mouse named Uncle Pecos.  Uncle Pecos is the kind of Country / Western Type-A personality that grabs a well-established brand like Tom and Jerry by its proverbial throat and threatens to not let go until it has attempted its conversion of the audience.  But I will admit that I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would, due mostly because the personality taking us hostage is a feller by the name of Shug Fisher, according to the IMDb, and his infectious stuttering through "Froggie Went A-Courtin'", apparently written by the performer as well.  Double the ASCAP fees!  Cha-ching!
But in order to better incorporate the duo, there's gotta be some kind of gimmick.  Jerry Mouse is relegated practically to a token girlfriend role, as he sits by and listens to Uncle Pecos' pluckin' and a singin'.  AND THEN... TWANG!  His guitar string breaks.  But where is he supposed to get a new string?  And then... the necessity of invention intervenes... something like that.  Uncle Pecos spies Tom and his whiskers, and goes over and plucks one right out of Tom's face.  There's a metaphor for American Imperialism buried in there someplace.  Tom is outraged at first, but his anger is dulled by Uncle Pecos' sweet, sweet music.  And then... another guitar string breaks.  Eventually, Tom tries to run away, and is pretty successful at it for a while.  But then, he waits by the door, right next to the mouse-sized peephole.  Gee, I wonder what's going to happen?  Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm......
Needles to say, this turns the whole five stages of grief paradigm completely on its head.  Instead of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance, it seems to be more like anger, acceptance, denial, running away, depression, and not just acceptance, but complete complicity, as Tom pulls out HIS OWN second to last whisker.  And screenwriters, take note here.  I know you're all sitting by the TV watching to see how Better Call Saul unfolds and all that, but the old timers know a thing or two about setting up the dominoes involved in screenwriting!
...where was I?  Oh yeah.  As you can see from the picture I have provided, Uncle Pecos is on television the next night, performing the songs we already heard.  The string breaks, like what once happened to Don McLean on PBS, I believe it was.  Now, he's a true professional and was prepared with a backup string.  Uncle Pecos?  Not so much.  And so, Tom gets close to the tv and laughs, thereby creating a visual moment that seems to be used to frame Tom and Jerry cartoons for showing on YouTube.  Silly boy, that Tom, he thinks he's safe from the almost God-like reach of Uncle Pecos..............

Good double bill with: ...what else?  Stan Freberg's The Yellow Rose of Texas (Don George).  I tell you darlings, the YouTubes gets away with more murder than Napster ever did.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

...oh, I get it!

Maybe it's happening anyway, but I blame the internet nevertheless.  I almost totally forgot "For he's a jolly good fellow."  Strange, because it sure is used in cartoons a whole lot.  And so, A Jolly Good Furlough is the pun we get for our next Popeye cartoon.  Yes, we took a little break from the racial stereotypes last week, but we're making up for lost time now!
We start with Popeye single-handedly taking on a miniature version of Iwo Jima by himself... as in, he's in a rowboat, punching giant battleship-sized shells to fire them.  His torpedoes scare the enemies' torpedoes, thereby doubling his firepower against the enemy.  The whole island blows up in a semi-giant explosion, and the island sinks into the ocean, again to the sound of a toilet flushing.  Boy!  We must be in for an even bigger ending to the cartoon proper!
And so, thanks to Popeye's hard work against the enemy, he's granted some time off to rest up (his fist must really be sore).  I believe the carrier pigeon that brings the message is supposed to sound like Ed Wynn.  Where would cartoons of this era be without him?  And so, we move from the frenzy of war to the even worse frenzy of adjusting to domestic life.  I don't know if this is groundbreaking stuff, plot-wise, but it seems to me that it's unusual for a kid's cartoon.  Is it The Best Years of Our Lives?  Or, more currently, Stop-Loss or The Hurt Locker?  Popeye should know better than to be such an optimist when it comes to visiting his nephews, but there we are.
Trouble starts courtesy of Olive and her tire-less car... what IS it with these wagon wheels on cars with shoes on them?  First time was funny two cartoons ago, this time's supposed to be silly, but the next one gets a spanking.  Popeye gets run over by Olive's very fast car, and she lovingly says "I'm glad I ran across you!"  Well, can't argue with a good punchline.  That's just the beginning, of course.
To cut to the chase, after Popeye's four nephews almost hit Popeye with an axe and various garden implements, Popeye finds out what the nephews have been up to on the domestic front in the war effort.  As it turns out... well, frankly I just don't know how to assess whether what they're doing is good or bad.  Ultimately for Popeye, bad.  For one thing, one of the nephews is going crazy with a can of invisible paint.  I know it says "Camouflage Paint" on the can, but we've seen Popeye using camouflage paint before.  You get four shades of grey out of it, and they're in interlocking leaf shapes... something like that.  The stuff the nephews are using is stone-cold invisible paint, and they're using it on everything.  Popeye gets painted with it and finds himself in a dilemma similar to what Bugs Bunny finds himself in in Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid.  Oh yeah, one or two of you out there know what I'm talkin' 'bout!  One of the nephews says "Enemy plane overhead!" and that really kicks in Popeye's PTSD.  Popeye starts freaking out and trying to free himself from the hole he ended up in.
And it goes on and on like that.  There's some bees, there's a nice Hoover joke... isn't it about 11 years after all that was over?  Oh well.  Risk vs. reward.  To cut to the chase again, much like Betty Boop found the country much more annoying than the city, Popeye decides to cut his "vacation" short and head back to war, where the dividing line between good guys and bad guys was a little clearer.  I guess it was wisdom on the filmmakers' part to include the wacky carrier pidgeon to lighten things up a bit.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Tina Gordon Chism

I get the feeling that Tina's in a bar with Deb Hagan right now, bemoaning the state of cinema, wondering why there aren't any good projects for women, stuff like that.  I hear it's mostly luck.  Actually, Deb's probably trying to get Tina to give her a Second Unit job on Tina's next project, because look!  Peeples?  And I'm not talking a VH1 doc about Nia.  It's kind of a Guess Who's Coming to Dinner kind of thing, but everyone's black.  But check this out... Craig Robinson!  He's still hot, right?  He's like Anthony Anderson, but without the rape charge.  I just still can't believe they made an installment of the Hot Tub Time Machine series without John Cusack.  What a diva.  But back to Robinson, the new star of the HTTM series.  Surely there's a way to get to Spielberg through Craig Robinson?  Well, Craig was in This is the End with Seth Rogen, who provided the voice for the alien in Paul.  And if you scroll down the list of the credits of Paul... voila!  Spielberg.  Well, Tina, I've done the heavy lifting for you, so the ball's in your court.

The Restructuring of Hollywood

I hate to include two pictures in my posts as some of you may know, but the world has just gone that crazy.  I mean, if you can't trust a TV media blitz, what can you trust?  Clearly not the American moviegoing public to do their jobs, to take their little brats out to the movies on a weekend!  I mean, just look at these numbers.  LOOK AT THEM!!! (warning: link only good for week of March 8th, 2015)  LOOK UPON THEM!!!!!!!!!
All I know is, if I was performing that badly at work, the boss would have to pull me aside and talk to me.  This, of course, has happened at multiple workplaces.  Clearly I should have taken a page from some of my high school teachers who were busy writing their million dollar novel on the side.  You could tell that us mere peasant students weren't good enough for them.
Well, all I know is that Sigourney Weaver went on the Stew Beef show to help push Chappie, and it worked... in a way.  I mean, #1 with only 13 million dollars?  That's unlucky, and not just for the Jesus reason.  Meanwhile, everyone but James Lassiter... oh, wait, he might be a little happy about it.  The Fresh Prince's new movie, Focus, has slipped to #2.  Lassiter didn't produce this one, so he don't care.  Well, I hate to break it to my friends who don't like Will Smith, but it is indeed true.  Even I can't deny that the less-than-stellar performance of this movie at the box office is going to put a dent in the five movies that Will Smith is currently working on.  How that dent will manifest itself, I don't exactly know.  The Fresh Prince is probably just happy that people have stopped mentioning After Earth for a while.
But back to this week's debuts!  We got a couple more.  At #3, the story of a hotel in India frequented by British people continues, and it's called The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  So it's slightly surprising that it debuts at #3 this week.  As for Vince Vaughn's little movie, well, I was going to say more, but seeing as how it debuted at #10, I think I'm just going to say that Unfinished Business is finished.  Poor Tom Wilkinson!  He should've done the Marigold Hotel sequel instead.  As for the poster with the guy with a beer for a head, well... all I know is that Europe is a much more liberal society, because the poster for the movie over there has Photoshopped in a picture of a penis instead of a beer.  Arguably, it's more apt.