Sunday, September 27, 2015

Born Freep, or Prayer of the Fanboys

And so I listened to the commentary featuring an important dude, who sounded like he was either chewing a big wad of gum, or nursing a wound where you bite the hell out of your own cheek.  Nothing but sympathy, bro.  I went through a phase where I was doing that to myself, obviously thinking the inside of my mouth either had bacon in it or was bacon in and of itself, and I kept voraciously biting my own lips and cheek.  The inside of my cheek has never completely forgiven me for that... hmm.  Okay, maybe the right one, but definitely not the left.
Anyway, the DVD commentary guy... I think it was Greg Ford, but he didn't feel the need to introduce himself... he and the director of High Diving Hare proper Friz (Isadore) Freleng swore on the bottom of their hearts, that High Diving Hare was a risky picture to make.  And why?  Well, it's basically a one-joke premise, beaten asymptotically to death as only the Looney Tunes can.  But I think that's part of their charm.  Now, you take a show like Limitless, on the other hand... I'm sorry, I mean "Limitless."  First of all, the idea of a virus that's engineered to kill one particular person... that was stolen from the last season finale of "The Blacklist," and probably somewhere else, for that matter.  But since J.R. Orci and his partner Alex Kurtzman seem to be producing every single television show right now, I guess that's okay, since they're just ripping themselves off.  And their mentor J. J. Abrams.  The point being, life gets frittered away by details, less is more, yada yada yada.  Sometimes you just want to sit back and let Bugs Bunny give you a couple yuk-yuks.  If you're at all like me, anyway... and you should be.
So, anyway, I disagree with the theories of Greg Ford and Friz on this one.  I think a better argument can be made that, sure, by the Third Act of Rabbit Every Monday, you can start to feel the flop sweat.  But arguably, the First and Second Acts are possessed of such genius, such Jack Brown Genius, that you can probably let the Vaudeville-esque Third Act go.  I mean, Yosemite Sam as Elmer Fudd, and bubble gum!  I'm laughing just thinking about it!  ...and I'm pissed off at the DVD makers, because I've got five volumes of these f... damn things, and Rabbit Every Monday's NOT ON THEM!!!!  What the douche! ...on the plus side, Catch as Cats Can isn't either, and it should never be.  Still, no Rabbit Every Monday.  For shame.
Also, I wish to issue a genuine complaint to the DVD makers over Looney Tunes Volume One.  I'll be more specific than I usually am.  It's easy to navigate with a DVD player through the various menus, but on my computer... not as easy.  And this seems to only apply to Volume One.  Say you're navigating through the list of shorts.  You get one menu page with five shorts on it.  No problem with a DVD player.  But on a computer... not so easy.  You have to go through it one by one, starting at the top.  Say you want to get to the fourth one on the list, for example.  Well, you have to click the top one, then the next one down, then the next one down, and so on.  As Bill O'Reilly might say... c'mon, guys.  Fix it.  Now.
Excuse me while I take a bath... (30 mins. later) that's better.  I really really gotta stop quoting that guy....
...oh, right!  The plot.  I should probably mention that.  Welp, my childhood memories of this cartoon are happy ones, of course.  Or at least, my adolescent memories.  Ah, the days of rewinding with a VCR.  It brought us closer to our favourite films somehow.  Now the filmmakers rewind and fast forward for you.  You know, through what they feel to be the boring parts.  Anyway, I don't recall having a problem with the one-joke premise-ness of it all!  I never really thought about it that way.  I mean, Ray-Jay Johnson apparently has one joke, right?  Yakoff Smirnoff is basically one joke, is he not? careful on that last link, BTW.  And, more to the point... the whole Charlie Brown and Lucy and football trifecta of evil... THAT was a one-joke premise, was it not?  It's all about style, when you get right down to it.  And the Looney Tunes have nothing, if not style.  Friz Freleng's style seems to be the old-fashioned Vaudeville showbiz style.  They pointed this other thing out on the DVD commentary, but I actually kinda remembered it myself, I swear.  The high-diving gag was also in Friz's other classic, 1944's Stage Door Cartoon.  The curtain rises, we see Elmer trying to choke Bugs Bunny to death, but is saved by Elmer's stage fright.  After gaining his own composure... you know, from BEING CHOKED TO DEATH (the hipsters oughta like that part of it) ... Bugs starts announcing the next act: the high dive act.  Elmer ends up making the dive... actually, Stage Door Cartoon may have been the first unofficial appearance of Yosemite Sam!  According to the IMDb, 1945's Hare Trigger is the first Yosemite Sam cartoon.  I rest my case.  Mel Blanc had the voice, and Friz put a cartoon character to it.  Friz grew tired of Elmer Fudd, it seemed.  Time for someone different, and a little more dangerous.  Not that Arthur Q. Bryan wasn't good, mind you.
But back to my childhood memories.  How they play tricks on us.  I don't remember the setup of High Diving Hare being my favourite section to re-watch on this one.  Maybe that's part of the genius of it (the cartoon).  But Yosemite Sam is a strange bird, and Friz himself kinda didn't consider Sam to be human, but more of a human caricature... just like the Texan he's based upon.  In each picture, Sam has a different motivation, but usually stemming from greed.  In Buccaneer Bunny, definitely old-fashioned pirate greed.  In Along Came Daffy, hunger.  In Ballot Box Bunny, political power.  But here, in High Diving Hare, he's just a crazed Fanboy, if I may apply that modern paradigm on this cartoon from the '50s.  All he wants to see is Fearless Freep and his trademark high diving act.  (Damn.  I KNEW I should've gone with the headline, "Wild Yosemite Sam CAN Be Broken.")  Thereby perfectly setting up the dramatic tension when the bad news arrives... this, I hate to spoil, for some reason.  The point being, Yosemite ends up trying to get Bugs to make the dive.
And so, as with the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, the battle of wills begins.  I hate to do a play-by-play, but I think you can probably guess how it turns out.  It's a lot like in Woody Allen's film, Play it Again, Sam... oh, wait!  Herbert Ross directed it!  My Appy Polly-logies.  It's a lot like in Herbert Ross' film, Play it Again, Sam... incidentally, Trivia Time, Bogey never actually used that exact phrase in Casablanca... I know, you already knew that.  People fritter away time obsessing over technicalities, don't they?  But in that movie, Woody goes on a date with a girl who... damn, it doesn't seem to be in the Memorable Quotes section.  This one gal wanted to go to a section of New York... probably Greenwich Village, to "look at the freaks."  Needles to say, the freaks struck back.  I think the point I was trying to make was the affable cartoon gun nut Yosemite Sam tries to get his way at gunpoint, but it doesn't work.  The flip side of the Cartoon Violence coin, if you will.  However, when the cartoon guns come out, the attitude of the cartoon character that the gun is pointed at usually changes.  And quick.  That part of it's pretty real!
Now, maybe my childhood memories are deceiving me, but I taped this off of free TV, probably TNT or TBS when they used to not be ruled by CSI reruns and Tyler Perry, respectively.  And I don't seem to recall the episode where Bugs dresses up as an Indian, or the part where Sam says "Open the door!" then says to the audience "You notice I didn't say Richard?", how many versions of that song are there?  And when's Mika going to cover it?  The editing of High Diving Hare must've been pretty slick.  The part in The Big Snooze when they just faded out, then faded back in to Bugs asleep... less subtle.  They had to cut out the part where Bugs deliberately gives himself sleeping pills, you see; he's not gifted like Dennis Quaid in Dreamscape, you see.  As for Hare Remover, where Elmer INSTANTLY switches from joy at having caught Bugs to angrily walking back to the lab... well, even Jerry Beck can't explain that one... can he?  The IMDb's no help!
Alas, I think it's well past time to deal with the finale.  ...oh, wait!  Almost forgot.  There's another similarity to The Big Snooze and High Diving Hare, because one of the ways that Bugs tricks Yosemite is by quickly turning the diving board around, just as Bugs quickly turns the log in The Big Snooze, thereby tricking Elmer to run off the edge of a cartoon cliff.
Okay, back to Finale Analysis.  I never did try to break this down into Acts, did I?  Well, the First Act is, of course, the setup.  Yosemite Sam buys a mess of tickets to see Fearless Freep.  The Second Act is Bugs having to fill in for the Freep-meister.  But how do you break this down into the Third Act?  Maybe that's what Greg Ford and Friz had trouble with.  The film seems to be mostly Second Act high-jinks, or perhaps the academic study of the situational heuristics surrounding two characters and a diving board way high up in the air.  They try to keep things interesting, anyway, the filmmakers; you gotta give them that.  But I guess you could say that the Third Act comes late, when Yosemite Sam seems to be like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day when he finally learns to conquer his situation.  The other example I couldn't help but think of is "No Country for Old Men"... there's another one?  Whoa.  No, I meant the Coens' Oscar-winning 2007 feature, No Country For Old Men.  I thought of that, mostly because yes, I am a Coen-head.  It's the way God made me, I can't help that.  But also because, at some point in the film, the victims of Anton Chigurh at some point in the Third Act... maybe it's just the guy with the chicken truck, but at some point it's understood that this guy is a serial killer, so they really don't need to show the gruesome details.  It's understood what's going to happen.  Anyway, Yosemite Sam is shown climbing up the ladder... in one instance, he fires both pistols as he climbs!  Dayamn.  That's talent.  But late in the Third Act, we just see Sam climb up the ladder on the right side of the screen, then a couple seconds later plummeting back to Earth to land in the tank (on the left side of the screen).  It's understood that he's getting fooled, the details don't really matter.  Or maybe they just ran out of gags to come up with.  This may be a unique moment in the Looney Tunes canon, but Jerry Beck would know for sure.  The one I want to see again is the one Sylvester and junior cartoon where Sylvester sounds drunk... is that asking so much?
Anyway, I guess what I'm trying to say is this: for the jaded hipsters out there, if you want one Looney Tunes cartoon that will reward your patience, this one is probably it, if only for that final sequence when Sam climbs up the ladder, then silence, then the sound of sawing.  I dare not spoil this ending for you, and Bugs' joke is pretty cornball, but I do like a good law joke.  Besides, the one about lawyers at the bottom of the ocean being a good start's getting a little overused... damn, they're good.  It's in the first of O'Donnell's examples of cartoon physics on Wikipedia, right there at the end.  However, I honestly don't remember another cartoon where that joke is actually used; let's see if Yahoo can retroactively remember it for me... ah, yes.  But the only other example seems to be the Road Runner holding up a sign that said it.  This is out of respect to the Looney Tunes, perhaps.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Auteur Watch - DeMane Davis

For some, the director's game is nothing but a bed of wine and roses... something like that.  Especially if you have an army of interns to take the brunt for you.  For most others, it's a thankless grind that keeps you up at night, mostly because of your ulcer.  Which leaves a third category of those who seem to have just dropped out of the institution altogether, due to the bitter aftertaste of the whole experience.  The third category seems to be the case for our next auteur, DeMane Davis, even though she got thanked for Boys Don't Cry.
But God bless her, she just couldn't take constructive criticism.  For example, one of the most crucial parts of a film is its title.  And DeMane's agent begged her... positively begged her to reconsider the title of her first effort, Black & White & Red All Over.  Of course, it was a group effort involving no less than three directors, and they were all sitting around, getting high and brainstorming for titles... it's in the plot, I swear.  The first title they thought of was "Fat Guy Sits Around The House."  It got a good laugh, but somehow it didn't stick.  Then they tried "The Chicken that Crossed the Road."  Then they ordered a pizza.  Then they tried "Two Peanuts Walking Down the Street."  And on and on and on it went for a couple weeks.
Alas, a screening at Sundance is never a guarantee of fame and riches.  And so, while everyone else was whisked off to either Hollywood or New York, DeMane spent the next four years... hopefully getting some sort of extra degree.  She is a big-time multitasker, after all.  And sure enough, at the end of four years, boom.  Another film to show for it called Lift.  But again, a bitter experience, everyone parted ways as quickly as possible after the last day of shooting, and no one showed up for the wrap party.  Bitter, sour, bitter times.  And what to show for it?  Nothing!  Nothing at all, because when they paw through the Wal-Mart discount DVD bin and find this paired with Gothika or some such thing, they look at the DVD cover and go "Oh!  Kerry Washington was in it!"  People think these things direct themselves... especially at Wal-Mart.  They don't know from the pain, the hot nights sweating over a rented Arriflex camera; boy, those were the days.

Ahhhhh-OOOOHHHHHHH, Werewolves of Hollywood

Okay, Adam Sandler... you win this round.  You know, Julia Phillips once called one of Hollywood's most powerful directors an "exploiter of children."  If you live inside the beltway, you'll know the name.  Well, I wonder what she'd think of Adam Sandler's various crimes against children.  Would she bemoan the state of children in the world today?  Or would she just raise her hands in disgust and say, well, children these days... maybe some of them need to be exploited, especially the growing number of them who knowingly wallow in the gutter, in blatant attempts to go viral.  Mostly the American and Russian ones, of course.
And so, with his "Dexter's Laboratory" glory days far, far behind him, but still sort of visible in the rear view mirror, Genndy Tartakovsky's multi-pic deal with the Devil grinds on, and Hotel Transylvania 2 debuts strong at #1.  A nice place to drop off the kids for a couple hours while Mom and Dad try out their combined doses of Cialis and Addyi in the back of the minivan in the mall parking lot.  Just no time to drive to a hotel anymore; so many cottage industries left to destroy.
And speaking of Dad, The Intern comes in a distant second.  I guess seventy is the new thirty!  As for his new pic with Scorsese in the works, well... time to renegotiate that contract.  That new pic, from a book called "I Hear You Paint Houses" will apparently also feature Al Pacino.  I don't know what De Niro ever saw in that Scorsese guy anyway.  I mean, Al Pacino's finally decided to work with Scorsese after 70 years... who's next?  Henry Jaglom?  Incidentally, look for Henry Jaglom's new picture called Orson Welles Worked With Me.  It'll be playing in L.A. and New York... and that's it.  But Jaglom is not one to rest on his laurels; he's already hard at work on his 2017 project, I Lost My Hat.  It'll feature a scene where Jaglom finally talks to David Duchovny again on the phone, and not just a machine or a secretary.
There's two other debuts this week.  At #9, the Green trilogy is finally complete.  And I'm of course talking about Green Lantern, The Green Hornet, and finally Eli Roth's latest horror pic called The Green Inferno.  Now I know you might be thinking to yourself, but "The Movie Hooligan"!  Those other two are superhero movies, not horror movies.  To which I reply: ...did you actually sit through them?  I mean, did you?  Without a friend to turn and talk to?  Without a SmartPhone to look at?  You want to see real horror?  Well, that was it, my friends.  I actually didn't make it all the way through Green Lantern, but that was just because the group I was with voted it down; specifically, when the virtual race car appeared.  I mean, when you're ripping off Son of the Mask, something's gone wrong at the screenplay level.
...oh, right.  I should probably mention something about Roth's film... oh well.  Gotta move on.  Well, of the "Green" trilogy, it came in at #9 with three and a half million dollars, which means it's already the most profitable of the three "Green" movies.  Keep up the good work, "The Bear Jew"!  And last but not least, at #10 is Sicario.  Alas, the Colbert Bump is not what it used to be.  Jimmy Fallon and Colbert don't have their fingers on the box office pulse.  As for cinematographer Roger Deakins, whose name was dropped on Fallon when Benicio Del Toro stopped by, well... sorry, you're still never going to win an Oscar.  It's just the way it has to be.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

What's Opera, Doc?

Oh yeah!  That one!  ...that's the title?  Long-Haired Hare?  Whatever.  These days, people talk about "future-proofing" when it comes to the movies that endure.  Welp, whatever that formula is, Chuck Jones knew it pretty well, because most of his Warner Bros. stuff will probably remain in the American subconscious long after we're dead and gone.  His MGM Tom and Jerries, not so much... unless anyone would beg to differ?
So who knows where the really good story ideas comes from.  Jones himself was apparently weaned on all the literary classics in his youth, which paid off big time, as it did with John Sayles.  I guess it helps to be a voracious reader if you're going into the screenplay game.  But sometimes borrowing from the classics isn't enough.  And sometimes ideas come from everyday life.  And I imagine screenwriter Michael Maltese got the idea for Long-Haired Hare one night at a party when he tried to use his Hollywood clout to meet an opera star that he admired.  The star obliged, and asked Maltese "And what do you do?"  Maltese replied, "Oh, I'm a screenwriter."  To which the opera star replied, "Oh!  A screenwriter.  I've met a few of those.  Nice people.  Dalton Trumbo, John Huston, Billy Wilder, Billy Faulkner... what pictures have you written?"  Maltese replied, "Oh, actually, I write the Bugs Bunny pictures..."
To which the opera star replied "The Bugs Bunny pictures have writers?  I find that hard to believe."  And so, with attitude officially copped, Maltese set to work pitting rabbit against opera star...or maybe it was more like this.  Maybe Maltese was just about to meet his opera idol, when he overheard them say something to the effect of "Oh, I just detest these movie people.  What do they know about the pressure of live performances?  All they have to do is do something once and that's it.  I'm out there busting my fat ass EVERY NIGHT hitting that vibratto over and over again."  The point being, they probably don't care for the child's doodles, those big-time stars of the opera.  Well, there's one doodle who'll get the last laugh, and that doodle is.....
I am also put in a Network frame of mind, if only for two reasons.  1) There's, of course, Max Schumacher's crack about Bugs Bunny, and 2) when the average person thinks of the movie Network, they think "Oh, yeah, the 'I'm as mad as hell' movie."  As with Long-Haired Hare I thought, oh yeah, the one where Bugs impersonates a conductor and gets revenge on the opera star.  But as there's much more to Network, there's a teeny bit more to Long-Haired Hare, and Bugs' revenge starts with a couple of "test revenges," if you will.  First, Bugs tests the structural integrity of the stage... apparently, modeled after the Hollywood Bowl, which apparently inspired the concentric circles of the Looney Tunes intro!  Go figure.  The tuba gag comes full circle; of course, for the opera guy to get stuck in one, man, that tuba must be HUGE.  Next, Bugs plays a bobby soxer-esque fan of the opera star named, oddly enough... Giovanni Jones.  So, is Chuck Jones trying to say that he is the proverbial opera star?  I think so.
Oh, but these small, petty revenges just will not do.  Bugs needs to come up with a big, meta-type show stopper.  Which brings me to what the opera star does to Bugs.  The first one, Giovanni's obliteration of Bugs' banjo, takes the most time.  The second, the obliteration of Bugs' harp, is much quicker in comparison.  Go figure.  I always remembered what happened to Bugs' eyes during that part, hence my still frame... pretty messed up of me, I know.  But the tuba, that was the final straw for Giovanni Jones, especially for the visual gag that Bugs' tuba playing gets.  What Giovanni does to Bugs and his ears, well... it's a punishment that's even more depraved than something that Robert Clampett ever came up with!
Of course, I'm getting to the age where I feel everyone's pain.  Bugs' final act at the end, well... I hate to spoil it, but 1) it didn't seem to be part of the original theater's construction, and 2) sure, the opera star was acting like a ... Richard, but Bugs was still alive to tell the tale, so to speak.  But these are but mere nitpickings.  Another Bugs classic.

Good double bill with: ...what else?  Case of the Missing Hare

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan 

Auteur Watch - Bridgett M. Davis

Ooh!  An easy one!  Good.  Well, I hate to be so simplistic, but there seems to be a disparity between Ms. Davis' filmography and her IMDb bio.  Her bio clearly states that she "took a filmmaking course out of curiosity and soon found herself immersed in filmmaking."  I didn't include the year, so no one could claim ageism.  Again.  Her filmography is only one movie: 1996's Naked Acts.  Here's my point: ONE FILM IS NOT IMMERSED IN FILMMAKINGThere are three reviews of Naked Acts listed on the IMDb, two of which seem to point to a site for sale, and one of which generates an "Error 500."  You know... it's immersed in reviews.

Another Scorch and Soda, Please

Once again, I'm forced to bemoan my isolated position in life.  Being out of the mainstream is no fun at all, not like it used to be.  But someday in the distant future, my Overlords will be watching TV and they'll say "Hey!  You like mazes, right?  Watch this!"  So, at least the surprise won't be ruined for me, even though it is a worldwide phenomenon.  As the first installment was #1 last year for one week, so too is the 2nd installment of Tic Tac Toe: X v. O a box office sensation... I'm sorry, I mean (The) Maze Runner series.  Sure, it's no Percy Jackson, but there's delights to be had for all ages.  For those who thought "Breaking Bad" ended too soon, what's his name has a role in it... Gus Fring!  That's it.  And star of stage and screen Patricia Clarkson is in it, too!  Barry Pepper is apparently to the Maze Runner series as Woody Harrelson is to The Hunger Games.  Good for both of them!
At #2, it's digitally blue-eyed Johnny Depp in Black Mass.  Oh, he's Malkovich-ing the sh... oe leather out of that role.  He's had plenty of flops in between Pirates of the Caribbean installments, but this ain't one of 'em, baby!  He expected a hit and he got it.  But he had to do horrible, horrible things to get that hit... kissing Jimmy Kimmel, for one.  Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!!!!!!!  "Man Show" indeed!
At #5 it's Everest.  I hate to put this theory forward, but the so-called "Colbert Bump" seems to be on the decline, despite his new CBS show.  Maybe it takes a while to kick in.  Then again, Josh Brolin was also pushing Sicario in his latest... wait a minute!  Oh, he was on Kimmel.  Never mind.  I guess that was the problem.  It would of... have done better were he on Colbert.  No, Emily Blunt was on Colbert pushing Sicario.  Oh, that's definitely going to be #1, no thanks to Brolin.  Also, he was drunk when he was on Kimmel, so that has a cooling effect on box office returns.  Still, son's outdoing father, no question!
There was one last debut this week, something called Captivity... I mean, Captive.  Debuting at #10... ouch.  So, that's two major bombs for Kate Mara, star of the Netflix series "House of Cards."  She's the alpha Mara sister, but she's not feeling the love!  How unfair is that?  Pretty damn unfair, she'll tell you.  But unlike the rivalry between Meg and Jennifer Tilly, the Mara sisters keep up their struggle.  Rooney's still got the other two Lisabeth Salander films to do.  Kate needs something like that to look forward to.

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Bugs/Daffy/Elmer Trilogy, Pt. 2

Okay, so it doesn't make sense now to start with the second installment of the "Hunting Trilogy," but I personally think that Rabbit Seasoning should be seen before Rabbit Fire, as Rabbit Fire clearly has the more satisfying ending of the two.  If I remember Duck, Rabbit! Duck! correctly, it's the ideal end to the trilogy, as it has a completely insane Elmer heading off into the horizon where he belongs.
But where to begin when discussing this trilogy, these short variations on recurring themes throughout the Looney Tunes canon entire?  If only there were some sort of blog dedicated to these things... that was a little more easily searchable..... what can me say?  I go through my old posts and sometimes think to myself, "Wow... where the hell did THAT come from?  What on Earth was I trying to convey?"  Hence my not working for a newspaper.  I think the main thing is to not overly apply logic to it, just try and enjoy them as they are.  As for Rabbit Seasoning in particular, if you've seen 2003's Looney Tunes: Back in Action, and you should, you might recognize the opening scene, as it's practically shot for shot the same as Rabbit Seasoning, at least the fonts used in the signs.  They're virtually all the same.  I know, I know, another good project for me to work on.  Time to dip into the archives once again...
...maybe later.  Anyway, we find Bugs once again under siege, surrounded by enemies.  Daffy's trying to use the institutions of government to have Bugs eliminated via an accident, and Elmer, well... Elmer's never been in a sorrier state.  Bugs is once again showing the guy little to no respect.  Note how Bugs puts his elbow on Elmer's hat!  Note it!... okay, here it is on the YouTubes, for now... ah, the price we pay for tiptoeing around copyright law.  But the reason that Elmer's hit rock bottom, and Daffy seems to pick up on this, is because Elmer says to Bugs that he hasn't had any luck hunting rabbits because he hasn't even seen a rabbit yet... that's right, folks.  Elmer the hunter says that to Bugs Bunny.  This is why Elmer will never get anywhere in his 2016 bid for President... well, maybe as a Republican, sure.  That is, until people find out he's for reasonable restrictions on guns: you know, background checks, magazine size, what have you.
Alas, Daffy proves to be far more clueless than Elmer.  From a negotiations standpoint, Daffy's just trying to get Bugs killed.  Is that asking so much?  From a film historian standpoint, the scene where Bugs and Daffy "run through that again" has got to be some kind of a first.  It's been done to death since, I'm sure.  And from a legal standpoint, it happens any time one of the lawyers need the stenographer's transcript read back to them.  The worst example of that is, of course, is 1991's Bingo, where a court stenographer reads back the testimony of a dog.  That's right... she just barks.  Oh, writer-director Matthew Robbins.  He spent his whole career undoing the damage that his association with Close Encounters of the Third Kind did, and as a director, Bingo seemed to be the final nail.
I think my favourite scene in this whole affair is in the following picture to the left... I know, right?  What's the deal, The Movie Hooligan?  More than one pic per blog post?  Well, it's just that big a deal, I tells ya.  I think this is after the third time Daffy gets shot.  I don't know what the exact term for that look is, but it's perfect.  But that's Chuck Jones for you.  That's why he's the most beloved of the Looney Tunes directors.  The second, of course, would have to be where Daffy goes "Nyah!" at Bugs, sticking out his tongue, a second before getting shot by Elmer.  I couldn't help but think of one of the first Foghorn Leghorn cartoons where he interrupts his train of thought to say "The boy doesn't pay attention!"  I hope I have that one on DVD.
But even a classic like Rabbit Seasoning is prone to plot devices.  At this juncture, Elmer declares "I'm sowwy, fewwas, but I can't wait any wongah" and proceeds to unload the infinity clip of his shotgun at the duo of Bugs and Daffy.  Off they run to make work for the background artists.  The veritable Defiant Ones duo hide in one of Bugs' summer holes, and Bugs asks Daffy to check to see if the coast is clear.  In this brief moment, they are a pair.  Is all forgiven?  Kinda feels like it.  But I guess, if you're Bugs, you're not one to hold a grudge, as long as you can outwit the grudgee in question.  Daffy gets shot, but seems to have injuries more in line with a severe bashing.  Daffy passes out after his punchline, and it's on to what's either Plan B or the final conceit of the picture.  Yup, time for Bugs to dress up as a dame.  I am the Garth Algar Percent! (the part about Bugs Bunny)
Daffy comes to his senses, and back to his old agenda.  He still seems to want Bugs to be dead, but he's just more upset at Elmer.  "Surely you're not going to fall for THAT old gag?!!" Daffy asks the blissed-out Elmer.  "Isn't she wovewy?" asks Elmer.  Bugs' costume is apparently more convincing than that of Rabbit Fire, and the consequences of the gender deception in that one were far more severe.  Here, Bugs is eventually unmasked, but Elmer lets the whole thing pass.  Again, plot device.  And so, we come back to the conceit introduced earlier in the picture when Bugs once again asks "Would you like to shoot him now or wait 'til you get home?"  It's the end of the picture, so it's time for waiting until Elmer gets home.  I take these things far too seriously now and I can't help but conflate the long shot of Elmer's cabin to a similar scene in Schindler's List, but once again, Daffy emerges scathed but fully conscious and able to walk back to Bugs, his sense of self and outrage intact.  "You're despicable!" utters Daffy.  Now I need to find the one where Daffy says "You're" three times... holy Crap!  I saw this once at a film festival in Seattle, I think!  They showed a bunch of them.  Doesn't happen often enough for my taste.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Ossie Davis

Venerated, respected actor Ossie Davis.  Alas, he left this mortal coil far, far too soon.  I must say, however, that I slightly disagree with his IMDb Top 4.  Of course, Do the Right Thing, that's a given, no question.  He gets to say the movie's freakin' title, for God's sake!  Unfortunately, Spike didn't listen to his advice.  Bubba Ho-Tep, ... sure.  I haven't seen it myself, but it's got cult film written all over it.  Bruce Campbell can't help it, he surely doesn't deserve it, but cult film it shall be.  But Doctor Doolittle and Dinosaur (2000)?  I'm afraid it doesn't tell his whole story, but so be it.
But once upon a time, this venerated actor wanted to do more, and in the go-go '70s or so, he got bitten by the directing bug.  Alas, it's a different bird altogether, but it was still worth a try.  Certain people like Spike Lee are just born to direct, but I think Spike owes a slightly bigger debt to Ossie than even he'd care to admit.  Only three of Ossie's directorial efforts made it into Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide, and each effort got three stars.  Basically, Ossie tried to compete in the Foxy Brown business, but ended up putting too many actual human characters into his films.  That's not how you make something future-proof in this, the age of Memes and really really short attention spans.  Jon Stewart was trying to warn us with his ironically-titled show "Short Attention Span Theatre."  These days, it's like... yeah.  So?  Short attention span?  So what?  I wish it were shorter!  Hold on, gotta thumb through my Facebook feed a little bit more... but if I had more time and resources, I'd check out more of Ossie's stuff... hmm!  Maybe it's on YouTube!  I still kinda have fond memories for I'm Not Rappaport for some reason; haven't actually seen the whole thing.  Characters trapped in clichés; it'll be a permanent dramatic construct from now on in plays and literature forever and ever amen.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

My Suitcases Simply too Full for the Closing

Yahoo News informs me that this is the fifth consecutive week that a film headlined by a black actor was at #1... but wait!  A self-made millionaire says that there's a certain habit that's keeping me from joining the ranks of the millionaires; I'm guessing it's chocolate... oh, well.  Google Chrome's asking me once again if I would like to kill the six tabs I've got open.  Oh, Google Chrome.  You and your PPAPIs.
Okay, back to business.  This self-made millionaire article's going to solve all my problems.  There's apparently a certain habit that's keeping me from being rich, and it ain't sports-themed umbrellas.  No, apparently it's ... seriously?  Complaining?  The article says the rich "refuse" to engage in this "seemingly harmless daily habit."  Well, the first thing that comes to mind is Donald Trump.  And what did he say?  Mexico is "bringing their rapers, their drugs..."  Racism aside, that sounds like a complaint to me.  Apparently this guy doesn't watch any reality TV.  I don't either, but are you trying to tell me that a Kardashian never complains?  NONE of them?  The less fun example I thought of was some documentary about our political system, and there were some well-fed looking fat guys talking to a senator or a congressman.  They were in some business like carpets or linoleum or something, and they were saying "Our customers, they can go to Canada and get it for four cents a square foot!  FOUR!  How do you compete with that?"  COMPLAINER.  Go back to the bread lines where you belong, Whiney McWhine Maker.
Okay, enough of that.  On to the films.  At #1 this weekend is something called The Perfect Guy.  It's kind of a Single Black Female kind of deal, apparently, but with a twist.  And what a twist.  And I think I know what that twist is.  One of the guys is supposed to be a psycho, but check out this poster... HELL-LOOOOO!!!!!!!  The tag line is "Trust one; fear the other..." ...oh, right.  They mean the two guys.  I mean, who does this Sanaa Lathan think she is?  Beyoncé?  I mean, she was good on LateLine and all, but... I hate to use the phrase "cougar attack," so I won't.  As for the two guys, well... give the ladies something they can work with!  Was Taye Diggs so busy?  I'll confess; I'm not up on the handsome black guys these days... oh, I guess he was pretty busy, and still is.  As for Morris Chestnut, well, he was fun as the wacky sidekick in Under Siege 2 and all, and as the stern stepfather in Kick-Ass 2.  So Michael Ealy's the youngest one of this love triangle at 42 years old.  Sanaa will be 44 next week, and Morris is 46.  I can't help but wonder what Allen Habel would think about all of this... oh, they don't have any of his age-related quotes.  But surely someone's got a copy of the whole script online someplace!
At #2 is M. Night's latest ripoff of a "Twilight Zone" episode... sheesh.  Well, he must be doing something right!  He'd really rather be doing this than the next installment of The Last Airbender or After Earth 2... save that for Brian Levant.  The last debut this week is something called 90 Minutes in Heaven.  And no, it's not that old psychological test that kids do on each other, where they go "Would you rather spend 5 minutes with ___ or would you rather be happily married to ____ for eternity forever?"  I believe Forces of Nature dealt with this as well.  Apparently the key to a successful marriage is no social life.  No, this one is based on a New York Times best seller, but it's a plot that sounds a bit like a pseudo-documentary on cable.  It's about a family man that survives a horrific car crash and has a near-death experience in which he visits Heaven., really!  The actual Heaven!
Look, this isn't some fictionalized account of Heaven we're talking about here.
And yet, it debuts at #9.  Which I think speaks volumes about the American movie-going public.  Apparently they think 90 Minutes in Heaven is a big heaping spoonful of castor oil, as opposed to the sugary treats of The Perfect Guy and The Visit.  Incidentally, aren't the three rules of The Visit similar to the three rules of the gremlins?  Don't people want to know what Heaven is like?  I mean, really like?  What it's actually like?  Or are they just cynical like me, going "Yeah, yeah, be a nice person, give money to the homeless guy on the corner.  Well, there's plenty of things I did in my youth that'll keep me out of there anyway, so what's the point now?"  Or maybe I'm still just eating sour grapes because Kate Bosworth wouldn't accept me as her Facebook friend.  Guess I should of... have waited for her Instagram account.  I heard she's hiring Bruce Vilanch to caption all her photos!  Epic combo.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Bugs vs. Steinbrenner's Yankees, or Gorilla My Game

Of course, these days, when you're dealing with an established classic like Baseball Bugs, the first thing you want to know is, what's the deal with the Statue of Liberty gag?  Almost makes me wish I watched Turner Classic Movies more often... almost.  And the other thing is, when it comes to discussing the Looney Tunes directors, the Internet-based tunnel vision focuses pretty strictly on just Robert Clampett and Chuck Jones.  Now, I understand perfectly leaving out the likes of the McKimson boys and Arthur Davis, but does Friz Freleng deserve this kind of shabby treatment?  Just because he borrowed the Hanna-Barbera business model in the television age?  I, for one, say not!
Take Baseball Bugs, for example.  Sure, it doesn't enjoy the frenetic pace of, say, Tex Avery's Batty Baseball.  And sure, the centerpiece gag of Batty Baseball is forever enshrined in Preston Blair's "How to Draw Cartoon Animation" on page 30, the last two pages of the book, where all the lessons are summed up with sketches of the "Kill the Umpire!" sequence... of course, in the cartoon proper, the angry fan looks like a half-man half-dog hybrid with no glasses, whereas in Blair's book, it's a guy with glasses.  There's a lesson for filmmakers in there someplace: you can have all the rapid-fire gags you want, but the mind eventually settles on the slow part... what was the point?  I think the point was that Baseball Bugs has everything a cinema fan needs: a good plot structure, some fabulous locations, a little fantasy so that the cartoon's not too real and boring... something like that.
...or is it a little too cliché?  Most films about sports are.  After all, there's that Popeye cartoon about football called The Football Toucher Downer.  I hate to say that the two have the exact same plot, but... but they do.  They have exactly the same plot.  Of course, where Popeye has his spinach and a sensk of humiligration, Bugs has his carrot in a hot dog bun and a sense of justice.  Also, Popeye has the benefit of a flashback, whereas Bugs is there in the awful, awful present, making his stand.  Of course, it's unclear who got there first: Bugs or the stadium; that dilemma gets explored in Homeless Hare, for one... oh, and Case of the Missing Hare, for two.
But just as Donald Trump wants to be treated fairly by the rest of the loser Republicans, just as Bill Gates wants to be thought of as a good guy, hence all his charity work... I guess Microsoft giving up on Internet Explorer is also a pretty charitable act; oh, s'z'nap!... so too are the Gas-House Gorillas sensitive to criticism.  They are like USC at the top of their game, pounding the crap out of small teams like San Jose State in order to keep themselves in the College Top 10 and what not.  And the Tea Totallers simply don't stand a chance.  "I'm only 93 1/2 years old!" says their star batter.  Plus, the umpires are too scared and have lost control of the game.  Despite the deafening roar of the crowd, Bugs provides the lone voice of conscience, crying out for fairness. 
His ears burning, the Gas-House Gorillas' pitcher leads the charge over to the rabbit hole.  Love the background here: note how Bugs' rabbit hole almost looks 3D!  The background artist simulated a narrow focus lens.  And so, because they seem to be secretly hungering for a formidable opponent, Bugs takes on the Gorillas all by himself, but not with one hand tied behind his back.  That would just be gratuitous.
And so, the game is on.  In other words, the boring part.  Bugs pushes cartoon physics to their limit, and gets a few unfair calls in his favor to rack up a score almost equal to the Gas House Gorillas, but to not quite beat them; you know, for the dramatic tension and all.  I used to watch this one a lot on VCR, and thank goodness I don't remember all the parts I used to rewind and watch over again.  How viewing habits have changed, I tells ya.  Surprisingly, not the part with the pin-up calendar!  That one's pretty tepid by Looney Tunes standards; the ones in The Unruly Hare are much hotter.  Also, they say that Mel Blanc did all the voices, except of course for the announcer, but the Gorillas just sound like a different guy.  I don't think it was Billy Bletcher, but there must have been someone else.  After all, even Bob Clampett didn't always employ Mel Blanc for everything.
And then, we get to the big finale.  In one last act of cheating, a Gorillas hitter cuts down the nearest tall tree he can find, lathes the end of it so it's got a baseball bat-like grip to it, and goes up to bat.  Despite Bugs' Seuss-ish pitch, the ball is hit, and Bugs has to leave the stadium to catch it.  I guess that's fair if the ball completely leaves the stadium and none of the fans are able to catch it and donate the ball to charity.  I hate to spoil the ending, but you can probably guess.  Does Bugs ever not triumph?  This isn't a Daffy Duck cartoon, after all!

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Next series: Looney Tunes Golden Collection

People always ask fans of a certain collection of things what their one favourite is, in rather mean attempts to control the conversation.  If you were stranded on a desert island, and you could only have one movie studio with you, that kind of thing.  Which one to pick?  Well, I'd probably pick the Hal Roach Studios.  That one's got a pretty good collection: Laurel and Hardy, Little Rascals,... Taxi Boys.  On the other hand, MGM would be interesting to study in-depth.  Also, because it's a finite collection now.  We of course have the Thalberg 1930s, and the modus operandi of its brash chief, Louis B. Mayer.  Our every film will be the classiest, gold-plated masterpiece since The Birth of a Nation.  The bigger they are, the harder they fall.  How could the biggest, most lavish movie studio in the world end up in bed with the likes of Dino De Laurentiis, and making such putrid anti-classics like Death Wish 2?  I know, I know, but what about the James Bond series?  What about the recent Hobbit trilogy?  Of course, James Bond is a co-production with MGM AND Columbia/Sony, and the Hobbit trilogy was MGM, New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. proper. 
Which brings me to my reason for Warner Bros.  There's numberous... numerous reasons, of course: their association with Kubrick, with Joe Dante and Richard Donner, what have you, but I think mostly because of their Looney Tunes.  They don't seem to be on television much anymore, let alone on Cartoon Network or Boomerang... I don't think we even get Boomerang anymore.  But fortunately, I do have the five volumes of their DVD collection, the Looney Tunes Golden Collection.  And if I ever get my student loans paid off, I just might get that sixth one... the seventh is apparently going to be all of the terrible, terrible ones that Arthur Davis directed, so I'll just skip that one.  They're unfit for viewing by more than one person at a time.  Anyway!  Let's just... dive right into it.  The very first one is, of course, Baseball Bugs.

Auteur Watch - Julie Dash

Apparently, she's not related at all to that other Dash family.  If she is, she sure doesn't seem to work with them.  The centerpiece of her résumé is undoubtedly Daughters of the Dust.  Great title!  Of course, when it comes to Gullah culture, people tend to gravitate towards "Gullah, Gullah Island" instead, which is kind of a shame.  But that's how things shake out sometimes.  And of course, everyone wants more fun stuff like Beasts of the Southern Wild when it comes to subcultures on the brink of extinction.
But even someone as pioneering as Julie Dash wants to be more mainstream at some point, hence a TV movie about Rosa Parks.  Of course, everyone assumes that Angela Bassett directed herself.  No love for Julie Dash?  Not even a pinch?  A smidgeon?  It's the kind of thing that might make a less sturdy person take twelve years off to work on their next project.  Perhaps something about girls.  Girls are always a popular subject.  You've got your "Girls," your "Gossip Girl," the The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants saga, and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.  I could go on... Fried Green Tomatoes, White Oleander, Beaches, Steel Magnolias, Crimes of the Heart, Now and Then, The Women, Robert Altman's 3 Women, what have you.  So a title to invoke that feeling might be good, even though some studio execs might shy away from it.
And so, with that zeitgeist in mind, if I may use that word in mixed company, Dash's next project is called Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl.  Now, you might be asking yourself, as I was at one point, what manner of girl is this?  Is this some hot new trend like "suicide girls"?  As it happens, according to this Wikipedia entry, it seems to bring things full circle for Dash.  True, it's a documentary this time, but with a big name like Danny Glover attached, it's sure to go more mainstream.

The price of chicken higher than ever

Welp, I have to give the Christian Coen brothers their due, because Hollywood's apparently decided to take this Labor Day weekend off, and go fishing or something.  Tis a distressing weekend indeed.  I guess there were too many secular movie stars in The Identical, otherwise it would of done b... have done better.  At the box office... I gotta talk to someone about my Google Chrome.  Why do I keep having to reload web pages five or six times to look at them?  But just like we're apparently going to be sorry for making fun of Sarah Palin, mark their words... we will rue the day we didn't get on board the Blake Rayne Express and hitch our collective wagons to this star.
But that's just how weak the box office was this weekend.  And to think... all that the producers of Straight Outta Compton had to do was buy about half a million dollars in tickets to be #1 for an unprecedented fourth weekend in a row.  Too bad they couldn't afford it.  But I guess director F. Gary Gray's agent is good enough to point that out at the next meeting.  Anyway, the biggest debut this weekend was A Walk in the Woods at #3 with 8 1/2 million dollars at the box office.  Based on the book by Bill Bryson, the Onion A.V. Club gave it a D.  Now, in some circles, this may be the proper street cred, but only in elitist circles, I'm guessing.  Maybe it's doing well enough, who knows.  All I know is that somewhere Paul Robbins is very unhappy.  The command and control environmentalism of yesteryear is dead!  Golf courses and Better Homes and Gardens-worthy lawns are okay now!  Because people are part of the environmental paradigm now, if not the most important part of it.  The Malthusianism of this movie will not stand, man!
Meanwhile, back at Luc Besson's lab, the rebooting of The Transporter series debuts disappointingly at #5.  Besson took a page from Marvel's Spider-Man playbook and decided that, yes, thirteen years is long enough.  Time to remake that masterpiece that gave Jason Statham an extra paycheck or two.  But Statham must've done something right, because the Onion A.V. Club asked the following: does the Transporter series crash and burn without Jason Statham?  Well, if you're talking about the short-lived TV series, then definitely YES.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Short Reviews - September 2015

Big Night - Monk as a chef!  What's not to like?

Burnt - Yeah, this is what Hollywood's all about right there.  Well, it's that one image from the trailer - Bradley Cooper in sunglasses and a leather jacket.  It's a long and proud tradition, going all the way back to Brando in The Fugitive Kind.  If the tradition goes back further than that, well... I just don't want to know about it.

Cancer Pimp - Can't badmouth this one; a friend of a friend worked on it.  Here's the film's official site...

Chef - ...really?  That's the title?  I guess it was available.  Well, Chaplin probably did a short in 1907 or something called "The Chef," and it just became available.  Boy, copyright law's a bitch!

Dinner Rush - I need to get out of these movies about kitchens more.  The heat's okay, but the dramatic tension's a little boring

Garbo Talks - Had this on TV today (Sept. 17).  I saw the scene with the bright orange hallway; I believe it was in the hospital.  They actually teach that scene at USC Film School, in one of the basic cinematography courses, and I believe it's in Stephen Burum's "American Cinematographer Manual" on Chapter One.  Chapter One's actually called "NEVER SHOOT A SCENE IN A BRIGHT ORANGE HALLWAY."

Goodbye My Lady ... Good-bye, My Lady - Different Jesse Jackson

Group - First of all, Timecode was fun.  Second, here's the secret to getting ahead in show business: annoy the f... sh... crap out of your co-stars.  ALL HAIL RITA!  ALL HAIL RITA!!!!!

"Kitchen Confidential" - Oh, THAT's why Burnt felt so familiar!

Mistress America - Thanks to inexpensive digital film technology, Noah Baumbach is well on his way to being this generation's Woody Allen, in the sense that he will put out one film a year for the rest of his life, come rain or shine.

Ms. 45 - Boy!  You just never know what movie from the past is going to get a modern shot in the arm!  In the case of Ms. 45, the legacy of actress Natalie Rannazzisi, mother of superstar actor and comedian Stephen Rannazzisi, is finally achieving national prominence.  He apparently told a fib about surviving on 9/11.  His IMDb Bio page is probably going to change soon, but for now it says that he was on the 54th floor of the tower that didn't get hit first.  Well, survivor's grief doesn't seem to be hurting or helping his career terribly much.  I can't vouch for 9/11 survivors, but I am thinking of the Chilean coal mine disaster.  An actual survivor of that kept going back to the mouth of the mine, and was very, very suicidal generally.  Of course, that miner probably didn't look like the reincarnation of Craig Sheffer!  Look at that rugged mug.  Well, Comedy Central may not forgive you, with their pro-9/11 agenda, but I do.  I mean, he was the studio gate guard in For Your Consideration, for God's sake!  The studio gate guard.  Or, maybe you could just do like Charlie Sheen, except say "Um... ACTING!  Hel-LOOOO?!!"  ...boy, these Rannazzisis breed like flies!  How many of them are in this thing called "The League," anyway?

No Reservations - How many of these chef movies ARE there?

Olympus Has Fallen - Brought to you by Nikon.  They keep on having these small ads for it on Facebook, so I had to double-check for myself.  It's Morgan Freeman, Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds, right?... oh, right.  That was The Change-Up.  Oh, critics.  You just don't get it.  Fountain pissing is here, and it's here to stay.

Ratatouille - Now, I'm as Malthusian as the next guy, but... a rat pulling a guy's hair.  Yeah.  Also, I'm afraid I'm still a germophobe; there was a period there for a couple weeks after seeing the movie where, sure, I invited all the rats from the neighbourhood into my home to join me at the kitchen table, but after the third visit to the doctor for the Hanta virus...

We Are Your Friends - ...we're just a little short on cash right now.

Z for Zachariah - Alas, it's bombing, but... ah, who cares.  Everyone in it's already a star.