Sunday, January 31, 2016

Lord in Heaven Save Us, The WB Cartoons of Arthur Davis: Porky Would... if he Could

Time to get the long knives out.  I've been dreading this day for a long time now, but I didn't properly prepare myself for when exactly it was going to come.
"Directed by Arthur Davis."  Sheesh.  Are there any four scarier words to a fan of the Warner Brothers cartoons?  Okay, I'll be a little magnanimous, if you will.  Davis' IMDb bio damns him with faint praise.  Some of the stuff he did for Friz is some of his best work: Pink Panther, Ant and Aardvark... I hope to get to them someday.  "He did manage to direct one of the funniest Bugs Bunny cartoons, Bowery Bugs."  It's got one of the best punchlines, where Bugs ... SPOILER ALERT ... manages to sell the Brooklyn Bridge to some sucker hick... you know what, I'm going to double-check that assertion for myself right now.  How about that?
(seven minutes later...) ...okay, it's pretty good, but I don't think it's, say, The Wild Hare good.  Just what is my favourite Bugs cartoon, anyway?  Probably something by Clampett, like Wabbit Twouble or The Old Grey Hare, perhaps the penultimate Bugs cartoon.  Even the opening note of the musical score of Old Grey Hare is funny.  I love a good "blatty" tuba.  Bowery Bugs has some good throwaway gags in it, but... and that's another thing!  Davis worked with the best.  Frank Tashlin, Bob Clampett, Friz Freleng... WHERE DID HE GO WRONG?  DID HE LEARN NOTHINGNOTHING AT ALL????!!!!!!!
From what little I know of Davis, he seemed to favor Daffy Duck, with such cartoons as What Makes Daffy Duck.  But he mostly tried to be a trailblazer at Warner Bros. as a director.  He may have created the WB version of Disney's Chip and Dale, but somehow they were better under Friz's direction.  Davis liked to make cartoons without the usual stable of stars.  I guess you'd technically call them "one-offs," cartoons with all the leftover gags that didn't work with any of the well-established stars as Bugs and Elmer, etc.  Unfortunately, his WB cartoons seem to be on the level of Adam Sandler's stuff: your basic underdog nerd vs. the jock; take Bone Sweet Bone, for example.  Seriously, take it away, please.  I understand that Warner Bros. is planning to do a tribute to Arthur Davis when it gets to Volume 83, Disc 4 of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection, so I guess we'll just have to wait.
Anyway, no more introduction.  Let's get right to the first of what will hopefully be many many Arthur Davis Warner Brothers cartoons, and this one is called Porky Chops.  Ar ar ar... get it?
That's right... I'm going back to the Three Act structure for this one.  Scene: a logged forest.  As you can see from the attached picture... see that?  I didn't even ask you to move this from your Spam folder.  Wasn't that nice of me? ... we've got a bunch of stumps.  We've also got a hollow log, a teeny sapling, and one last tall tree standing.  Spoiler alert: each has a role to play here.  Sorry if I ruined the surprise.  Go and watch it first already!... sorry, it's gonna cost you $1.99... you know, I'm almost tempted to do that just to see how many hits it's gotten.  Anyway, we zoom in on the last tree standing, and we're invited inside.  As I was saying before about Davis and his resistance to using established WB characters, here's a prime example.  As GrouchoFan notes, enter the vaguely Bugs Bunny-esque squirrel.  Some online have referred to this character as a "hipster squirrel."  I dragged out the DVD and watched this one on the TV, and one of my living companions thought it was Screwy Squirrel at first.  If only.  No, there's some historical precedent here.  Davis was born in Yonkers, so obviously this squirrel character is an homage to SOMETHING... one of the Bowery Boys?  Aren't they called that?  I hate to sound like a spineless, vanilla studio executive, but de-ethnicize this character a little bit!  Okay, okay, perhaps that's going a little too far.  There's local Brooklyn flavor there, obviously.  It's the big city fish out of water.  It's like the opposite of the country mouse going to the city type of deal, except there's no cousin to bounce off of.  And how this character's able to pick such a terrible spot to find rest and relaxation is beyond me.  But again, it's a child's cartoon.  These things aren't supposed to make sense, right?
Now, here's my next nitpick about Arthur Davis cartoons.  There's something about his character's eyes that doesn't quite connect.  I don't know what it is.  Maybe it's their shape, maybe it's that he seems to make sure the irises are always dead center, with plenty of white space around them to make sure they don't touch the edges.  Somehow, these artists who drew the characters were able to do a lot with eyes.  In general, except for Arthur Davis.  Maybe someone else can explain it to me.  Anyway, we get a longer-than-usual introduction, probably because this is a new character to the WB stable.  I don't know if he came back to do a second WB cartoon, but whatever.  No sooner does this character get to sleep in his bed in his purple pajamas, when trouble comes a'knockin'.  The lumberjack has returned to do away with the last tree of this new-fangled forest.  The big-city traveler is rightly indignant, of course.  Doesn't the lumber jack in question understand?  Don't cartoon lumberjacks ever learn?  They're the bad guy!  It's a long, deep tradition, from Bluto in Axe me Another to Popeye in Wood-Peckin'.  And it is in that tradition that this non-native of the forest goes to ground level and teaches this usurper a thing or two about messin' with Sasquatch... I mean, Mother Nature.  As in Wood-Peckin', it begins with a subtle attack on... oh, by the way, Porky Pig is the lumberjack in question.  I would've thought Elmer Fudd, but what do I know about comedy?  Anyway, as in Wood-Peckin', the lumberjack never knew what hit them.  The... I guess I'll just call him the 'Hipster Squirrel' for the sake of consistency... the Hipster Squirrel sabotages Porky's axe, thereby causing Porky much physical anguish, so much so that Porky decides that the only solution is to get a fresh axe.  A whole "flock" of axes!  Well, that's Porky for ya.  Ever the individualist.  Daffy would get some hired goons to help.
At this point, Porky has wandered off, still unawares of who was responsible for the adze-based mischief.  Having heard Porky's future plans for the tree, Hipster Squirrel does an impression of Porky.  Somehow it's not as effective as the similar scene from Wabbit Twouble, but I guess I'm just picking more nits again.  To be fair, that Hipster Squirrel does a hell of an impression of Porky!  Quick learner, I guess.
Needles to say, Hipster Squirrel's vacation dwelling is in imminent danger of being vertical, and on the ground.  And Hipster Squirrel is nothing if not prepared to defend his vacation home, and he knows he needs some serious hardware to stave off that impending onslaught from the flock of axes.  "This calls for stra-tee-gee!" he says, standing at Hipster attention.  And so, in a New York minute, Hipster Squirrel returns from the Acme superstore with a kevlar steel sheet to protect the typical chopping area on his tree, then painting over it to look like the tree's natural bark... dayamn!  Now, that's some Greenpeace, Earth First! eco-terrorist-type sh... stuff.  See, this is another example of the tone deafness that is Arthur Davis.  In his quest to distinguish himself from the other WB Looney Tunes directing greats, he falls on the wrong side of the spectrum, into Creepy Ville, where more and more things reside each day thanks to the internet, I think.


As good a time as any for Act Two... maybe a little early.  And so, Porky returns with his golf club bag full of axes, lol.  Porky's singing the song that Daffy was singing in Daffy Doodles when Daffy was trying to figure out how to outfox Officer Porky's moustache booby trap.  And so, Porky gets back to the tree, takes the first axe and... yup, Hipster Squirrel's plan worked.  The axe is destroyed, and Earth First! changes their mind about tree spiking... well, the first part, anyway.  In rapid succession, Porky destroys the other axes almost as quickly, making the sound of the falling steel railroad tracks in The Unruly Hare, only slightly slower.
As you can see, Hipster Squirrel takes great delight in the fact that he's handing the axes to Porky.  Screenwriters take note, as this serves two purposes: 1) to illustrate the Hipster Squirrel character, and 2) to set up his first meeting with Porky, as Porky ends up grabbing the squirrel, thinking he's one of the axes.  "Whoa!  HOLD IT!!!" says the squirrel.  Porky's not so in the zone that he's not able to stop in time before doing in Hipster Squirrel... kinduva shame, actually.  So bear that in mind, present and future hipsters.  You get too close to the action like that, and you just might get caught your own damn selves.
Porky sees the squirrel and says "So YOU'RE the one responsible for this!"  The ball's in Hipster Squirrel's court at this point.  Hipster Squirrel returns, and takes quite a long time doing it.  You know, to help illustrate that there's no one on God's green earth who's tougher than a male Brooklyn bobby-soxer.  "I'm going to get some shut eye... and so are YOU!" says Hipster Squirrel.  Hipster Squirrel then pokes Porky in his eyes, Moe Howard style.  See, again, this is the problem in a nutshell. (pun intended)  Cartoon violence is supposed to be fanciful and fun, which is why characters hang there a little while before falling off the cliff.  In this case, just as the Stooges cause youth to poke each other in the eyes, so too does this set a bad example, and Porky doesn't seem to be enjoying himself, so at least there's part of the consequence there.
And so, Hipster Squirrel, having vanquished his foe for what he thinks is once and for all, returns to his flat, puts on the purple P.J.s and gets back to relaxing with the racing form.  Make a note of his line, because it's a Call Back at the end... sorry, SPOILER ALERT.  Meanwhile, Porky finds a way around the metal sheet, and sets about sawing the tree down.  Hipster Squirrel marches right back down to ground level to f... mess with Porky a little more.
This is where the baby sapling comes into play.  Hipster Squirrel hooks up the saw to the sapling, thereby causing Porky to struggle.  I'll spare you the description of the outcome, except to say that at least it's cartoonish... albeit strangely perverse.  That's Arthur Davis for you!  Consistently tone deaf.  Not only that, he skimps on the animation, as we only hear Porky fly far away and land in a small pond.  We pan over a MUCH SHORTER DISTANCE THAN WAS IMPLIED... to find Porky in a pond.  Porky emerges from under the water with a cartoon frog on his head.  The frog doesn't have white irises, and sounds like the aliens from Tim Burton's 1996 disaster... I mean disaster picture, Mars Attacks!  Was I the only one who kinda liked that?  Thought so.
The next couple antics are, frankly, ripped straight from the playbook of Screwball Squirrel.  I'll let the suspender gag slide because it's not exact... but again, slightly perverted.  Hipster Squirrel thinks he's gotten rid of Porky, but Porky is, in fact, on the branch right next to him, and Porky's got a shotgun aimed at H.S.'s head.  And Porky actually shoots!  Cold-blooded, dude.  However, the shot damages the branch, and Porky begins to fall, much like the fox in Davis' The Foxy Duckling.  Kinda wish I could see that one again... WITHOUT paying $1.99 on YouTube, that is.  H.S. aids and abets Porky's fall, then adds insult to injury by pretending to cushion Porky's fall... you know, kinda like how Dubya pretended to help these two guys move... damn, YouTube doesn't got it.  But Letterman showed it back in the day!  Say, who's side are you on, anyway?  You helped elect him as president, after all!  But I digress.  And so, Porky lands, and H.S. makes a smart-ass crack about it.  Sorry, but I still prefer how Screwy Squirrel did it.  "Too bad... JUST missed him!" said the squirrel that is screwy.  Love that annoying little nutball.
And so, much like the end of The Mouse-Merized Cat, Hipster Squirrel has a little fun with the now conscious, but dazed Porky.  Porky snaps out of it and gets furious again.  He's about to do something he might regret to that darned old Hipster Squirrel, but Hipster Squirrel takes the two bananas that Porky's holding, and smooshes them onto Porky's face so it looks like Porky's got a banana moustache.  Much like Porky, I'm speechless.  I guess when something like that happens, you gotta stop and go to Plan B.


Once again, Hipster Squirrel thinks that Porky's gone for good, and so it's back to bed.  However, Porky's got a rather fiendish ace up his sleeve!  It actually frightens H.S. out of house and home... in this case, his tree pad... and runs in fear down the tree for once.  Porky gives chase, firing two rounds at Hipster Squirrel.  That part's kinda funny.  Remember, kids: in a cartoon, even if you're running down a tree, cartoon guns have a hell of a recoil.
Now, here's some rather sloppy direction for ya.  Porky's on ground level, and he runs past the hollowed out log.  Porky fires, and the gun bounces him back to the mouth of the log.  "I'm not so stupid!" says Porky in that redundant, stuttery way of his.  I think he's trying to tell the audience that he knows that the squirrel is inside the log.  First of all, we don't know that, as it wasn't shown to us.  Second, how did he know that the gun was going to position him right at the mouth of the log?  Wouldn't it have been better if Porky just doubled back on his own, without the gun's indirect assistance?  Is this the end of the double take as we know it?  And third, Bugs would say something like "Ah, I knew it all the time."  What I think I'm trying to say is: sloppy direction, Arthur.  Sloppy direction.  Even for you.
And so, Porky knew all the time that that darned old Hipster Squirrel was hiding in the log.  H.S. starts snarling like a bear and scares the fertilizer out of Porky.  At least the animation here looks like some of that old Clampett magic.  Kinda rare for an Arthur Davis cartoon.  He'd fix that later, though.  Drain the fun out of everything, that's his motto.  And so, Porky hides behind the tree.  Hipster Squirrel doubles down, scaring Porky a second time, causing Porky to climb up the tree, really digging his hooves into that poor old tree's bark.  I guess the metal sheet's officially gone.  "You need a vacation worse than I do!" says the Hipster Squirrel.  I'll begrudgingly admit it; that's kinda funny.  Even Hipster Squirrel couldn't screw that up.
Needles to say, it's the last straw.  Also, it's near the end of the pic, so it's dynamite time.  "I'll kill two birds with one stone!" says Porky.  Meanwhile, Hipster Squirrel's about one and a half steps ahead, as he starts piling the red kablooey sticks into the empty log.  Screenwriters take note: yes, this is leading to something.  And so, the fuse is lit.  ...hmm!  I wonder if Mel Blanc just made a hissing noise to simulate a lit fuse.  Yeah, that's probably it.  Never considered that before; that's just how good Blanc is, and how bad Arthur Davis is.  And so, we get the expected reaction from the dynamite and... BOOM!  One last plot surprise.  I almost hate to spoil it... guess I won't, then.  But perhaps I can report that Porky and Hipster Squirrel finally have some common ground, and they both run off into the horizon, although they've got a good amount of distance between each other.  The audio department uses a little bit of... whoops!  Almost spoiled the surprise.  But maybe I can report that H.S. gets hoisted on his own petard, so to speak... damn.  Can't say that, either.  But I will admit that this is actually one of Davis' better cartoons.  Actually, Mexican Joyride may be his best.  It's Daffy Duck in Bully for Bugs, what's there to screw up?  I'm probably not going to show Porky Chops to anyone any time soon, however.  The title may be the best part.

Good double bill with: Wood-Peckin'

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Leila Djansi

As we all know, film criticism is the worst thing to afflict mankind since the invention of the wheel, or perhaps the slightly later invention of cronuts.  Circular objects are usually a source of trouble.  But the only thing worse than criticism is not getting ANY criticism at all.  Submitted for your approval: one Leila Djansi, filmmaker director and producer extraordinare.  I mean, look at that IMDb Top 4!  Those look like legitimate movie posters, no?  And check out And Then There Was You.  I mean, Garcelle Beauvais, for God's sake!  Garcelle Beauvais!  ...if you're like me, you probably remember her best from her big scene in 1999's Wild Wild West... shameful of me, I know.  I don't know who suffered more: Barry Sonnenfeld or me.  I'm thinking me!  Anyway, and what about Lynn Whitfield?  I mean, she was Thelma for God's sake!  THELMA... okay, Josephine Baker.  And how many reviews did it get????? to add one?  See what I mean?  Where's the justice in that?
Oh well.  Anyway, she must be doing something right.  Okay, so the writing and directing's not paying off yet, just breaking even, but the producing is sort of paying off.  Take the movie 37, for example... as it's one of the few available examples of Leila's producing.  It's basically a variation on To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday.  You see, a few hundred years ago most people never lived past the age of 35, so while some might call it mid-life crisis or White Guilt or Arrested Development or any number of pejorative phrases, to the old people in the proverbial frying pan of that loss of youth and relevance, it's hell.  Nothing but pure, uncut hell.  Uncharted territory for mankind as a whole, and pure hell for the people involved, when they realize that God's plan is to take everything from you that he has given: your family, your possessions, your limbs, what have you.  Now, some of you out there might be jaded and say, oh great.  Another movie about a preening white Narcissist musician... but check out the review section of 37THREE reviews!  That's, like, three times the review for one Leila Djansi production than she got for ALL Leila Djansi joints!  There's math to be done there, people.
Oh, but why focus on the negative past?  The future's so bright, Leila's gotta wear shades!  And she's got something in the can, so to speak... do they still use cans in this, the new digital age?  Or is it all on hard drives?  We gotta update our lingo already.  Anyway, it's called Hosanna, and it's based on that old Toto song... or maybe not.  Wow, Toto's got their own YouTube channel?  I thought they only had those two music videos!  Go figure.  Anyway, the plot.  Hosanna is the sometimes funny, overall dramatic, award-worthy story of an illegal immigrant seeking a better life for his son in America.  And, depending on who becomes president in 2016, it'll either have a sad or a happy ending.

Oh, right... the Panda

See, if I was really good, I'd of used... have used the headline "Panda Express."  Oh well.  Amateur night this is.  Nothin' but Bush league amateur night.  Anyway, the latest DreamWorks animation kicks complete ass at the box office, and this time it's Kung Fu Panda 3.  Ah, it's just not the same since the SKG crew left to pursue their passion projects, know what I mean?  Now it's a wing of Paramount, which means I gotta order Showtime to see this in three months... something like that.  Yes, nothing like a DreamWorks animation movie to buttress the careers of the fallen.  Mike Myers had the Shrek series, and for Jack Black, the Kung Fu Panda series.  Alas, so far we've only gotten one Yogi Bear movie, so Dan Aykroyd needs something else to do while we all eagerly await the sequel... holy Crap!  It's in the works!  Alas, Aykroyd's plan to turn Nothing but Trouble into a Saturday morning animated series will just have to wait.  A dream deferred is a dream denied, my faithful readers.
Speaking of which, the new Spock's movie The Finest Hours debuts at #4.  Don't people understand?  It's another real-life Titanic-type, Perfect Storm-ish story with lots of good acting with accents!  What do you jaded moviegoers WANT??!!!! ...oh, right.  Meanwhile, J. J. Abrams must not be a happy camper.  I mean, he directed Chris Pine in two Star Trek movies, and he must be like, "Oh... you really want to do this?  You want to go toe to toe with Star Wars, b'atch?  Oh, it's on!  I will CRUSH you!"
And our last debut this week is Fifty Shades of Grey... I mean, BlackFifty Shades of Black.  (hmm!  Where have I seen that poster before?)  Well, my heart's breaking for you, Marlon.  He was everywhere the last couple weeks, promoting the hell out of this movie.  Give it some time, and I think this will become a cult favourite ... unless it's too childish or something.  I think all the filmmakers involved with this knew they had to put a little extra effort into it.  I still can't believe there's going to be a sequel to Fifty Shades of Grey.  Sheesh!  It's apparently going to be called Fifty Shades Darker and James Foley's going to direct, which means that the camera at some point is going to come out from behind something... am I the only one to pick up on that?  I guess so!  Time to make a YouTube compilation... I gotta do everything around here.  Seriously, though, I still think this parody is genius.  You've outdone even the Zuckers on this one, Marlon.  The L.A. Times critic seemed to like it!  Despite all the scatological stuff, there's a heart of innocence in there, which is probably more than can be said for the Grey source material.  Someone's got to take rape culture down a couple pegs these days!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Rally 'Round the Casting Office, Boys!

Our next Looney Tunes cartoon is an average affair called Yankee Doodle Daffy... and yet, this one's a childhood favourite?  Why?  How?  How could such a perversion of the path to a normal life take place?  Well, I mostly had access to what was shown on the T.V. at the time, logging as many hours on the VCR as I could, with new tapes magically appearing courtesy of my parents.  Ah, childhood.  When I was growing up, all the cool kids huddled around Michael Jackson's "Thriller" album in fourth grade, something they probably wouldn't admit to today.  No, they all love Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus, just like their kids now do.
But back to me.  This is my blog, damn it.  I think what started my lifelong love affair with Yankee Doodle Dandy... I mean, Daffy... was, of course, Daffy's banjo solo.  For audiophiles like myself, it's the kind of thing you have to listen to more than once.  With audio, it's not all about first impressions.  Sure, the first impression draws you in and all, which is why you want to listen to something a third and fourth time.  Now, the songs of Justin Bieber, for example... usually a first time is more than plenty.
Or maybe it's the simplicity of the plot of Yankee Doodle Daffy that's so refreshing.  Dramatic conflict at its simplest.  Porky's got a job as a casting agent and, much like Oliver Hardy, all he wants is to get to his golf game and relax.  When in comes Daffy Duck, ruining everything as usual.  Daffy takes every piece of Porky's luggage, one at a time, goes to set it down, and then returns to peddle his wares.  His wares?  The hot young talent on the block, Sleepy Lagoon, if the closed captioning is correct.  Sleepy does a mean trick with his giant purple lollipop, but Daffy seems to do all the performing on Sleepy's behalf in this one.  Sleepy's got a guitar case for said lollipop, incidentally, lol.
And so Porky tries to sit there in his now chair of torture and be a horror-show cooperative Malchik, but it soon becomes entirely unbearable.  Porky tries to escape, but Daffy is one step ahead at every turn, blocking every door and... door.  Dang, but that office's got a lot of doors!
However, Porky's fortunes seem to be about to change.  During the big "I'm a Cowboy, Yessir!" number, where Daffy sings along to the tune of... I don't know... but the IMDb knows!  Dayamn, they're good.  And so, much like the yet-to-be-reviewed and far zanier Draftee Daffy, a safe is used to change the direction of the plot.  However, it's Daffy who ends up in the safe here, with Porky locking him in, spoiler alert, rather than Daffy locking in the Draft Board dwarf, with rather sinister consequences.  I thought safes were easy to get out of!  Go figure.  And so, next scene: Porky's on that plane, breathing a sigh of relief.  For a second there, I forgot about what happens next.  Hint: it's kind of like the plane sequence in Northwest Hounded Police, only with more time to breathe.
Now, Wikipedia and the IMDb are full of a wealth of information, but there's one tibdit of knowledge that they don't have currently... I gotta do everything around here.  See, a long time ago in a simler era, kids, there was a show called "Saturday Night Live."  There was barely an internet, and the scourge of internet video and YouTube had yet to be released from the genie's bottle.  And "Saturday Night Live" had yet to be abbreviated to SNL, much like Kentucky Fried Chicken is now KFC.  Anyway, the great Jeremy Irons hosted the show... my God!  1991?  Oh, I feel so old.  Anyway, one of the last skits of the show... I guess they put the, um, less-loved bits towards the end... was a fake commercial he did for classical tunes that have appeared in cartoons.  As only an actor of his stature could, he informed us that the lyrics of Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" were actually "Kill the Wabbit, Kill the Wabbit!"  Yeah, What's Opera, Doc? always gets cited the most.  But there was one reference that apparently I was the only person in my corner of the West Coast got.  He included a shout-out to the "genuine" lyrics of the William Tell Overture, featuring a clip from the very cartoon I'm reviewing now!  You know, I think I WILL add that to the IMDb!  Maybe not now, but soon.  I'm still a contributor in good standing, I think.  As the old barnyard saying goes, make a nuisance of yourself while you can....... DAMN YOU, JERRY BECK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Now, even a slightly dull cartoon like this has to have a finale.  And what a finale.  Daffy says "And now the kid goes into a finale... and WHAT a finale!" ... see how I did that?  And so, we have about eight or nine Daffy Ducks all performing various circus tricks together.  You might notice, however, that some of the Daffies are opaque, and some of them are a little translucent.  That must've been a pain in the ass for the cameraman that day or that week.  So much extra work involved, but it paid off in the long run, like the poor sound engineers who had to endure with Glenn Gould's perfectionism in the recording studio.  As for the glittery pictures of Daffy, well, it makes me think of the old Atari 8-bit computers.  Non-Atari people may want to skip the rest of this paragraph.  Now, the advanced programmers over at Activision, for example, knew how to make multiple player-missiles on different vertical bands of the screen, and not make them glitter.  The programmers over at Atari proper, however, were a little cockier, and we get monstrosities like their take on Ms. Pac-Man, blatantly overusing the four players and four missiles.  I mean, if you're using multiple players and/or missiles for one ghost, they're going to glitter when they cross vertical paths!  Nowadays, the problem is that graphics are just too slow, in my humble opinion.  If you work for Nvidia, don't bother spamming me.  It's true, and you know it.  No amount of machine language trickery will speed up my web browser.
And so, much like non-Atari heads at this point, Porky's had enough of Daffy's salesmanship.  "STOP IT!" Porky says three times, then gives in and decides to see Sleepy Lagoon's act.  Sleepy puts his purple lollipop in its case and goes to work.  I dare not spoil the ending, partly because I didn't even know that it was the great Billy Bletcher supplying his voice.  I'm just still confused about why the Warner Bros. cartoonists would think to do the story of the trials and tribulations of a casting agent like this.  Were they ever afflicted with desperate performers and agents as such?  Well, even Mel Blanc had to get his foot in the door at one point, so perhaps there was some resonance with him.  He'd probably been on both sides of that at one time or another, but more in Porky's shoes when he made it big.  So many copycats trying to take his place.  Ain't it the life, though?

Good double bill with: Duck Soup to Nuts, another Porky v. Daffy affair

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Rachid Djaidani

Damn, a long one.  Well, the IMDb's a great resource and all, but they still don't have everything yet.  For highly detailed information about someone like Rachid Djaidani, you of course have to go to French Wikipedia... I think the dude's French or something.  He started out as an actor, but it's a hard life, and the ungodly hours and inevitable illegal drug use takes its toll.  Take William Hickey, for example.  Why, it seems like only yesterday he looked half-ass human in the likes of Little Big Man before becoming a caricature of an old man, in addition to being an actual old man... is the cultural bias showing or what?
And so, when the looks left him, it was clearly time to become a director... oh, but fiction scripts.  So boring.  His own life's, like, way more interesting than that!  Why not just turn the camera on, and record a brief glimpse into it?  ...okay, okay, one fiction film.  It's called Hold Back or Refrain, according to this Variety review.  Man, everyone's a critic.  Hold Back is the story of a French-Algerian woman who wants to marry a black man... autobiograph much?  There's one problem... well, 40 of them, actually.  Her 40 brothers stand in the way of the marriage... really?  All of them?  Oh well.  It's a journey, not a destination.  They want to get him in a good old fashioned rugby game and knock out a couple of his teeth.  Bring him down to their level a little bit.  Ah, in-laws.
As with all these celluloid types, there's always something in the can, waiting to be shown up on that digital screen.  In Rachid's case, his latest is called Tour de France.  Well, I gotta hand it to him, as he scored a big casting coup: 68 year old Gérard Depardieu... what does he play?  Lance Armstrong?

Loving you has made me Bananas

Well, the big news this week is that Donald Trump mentioned something called the "National Review"... ah, skip it.  That's your great-grandfather's magazine, for God's sake... see, a magazine is like a newspaper, but with better, usually glossier paper, and they are published less frequently.  No, National Review is the Playboy to The Drudge Report's Maxim Magazine, something like that.  But the real big news is the resurrection of Tina Fey's impression of Sarah Palin, which Palin probably hasn't seen.  Oh, dude, Tina's been a'practicin'!... don't listen to The Onion, guhlfriend.  Boy, everyone's a critic.  "It was nice to see her again... or was it?"  Are they a critic, or just playing tennis?  Wotta backhand!
Anyway, while we eagerly await the ejection of obnoxious Canadians from our electoral process, we've got a robust weekend box office to look at.  While The Revenant and Star Wars duke it out for first place... and Star Wars inches ever closer to 1 billion in the U.S.; why, The Dark Knight only got to about 600 million!  And it was #1 for, like, 8 weeks in a row... we've got three debuts this week.  First, it's Johnny Knoxville in Bad Grandpa... I'm sorry, it's actually Robert De Niro in Dirty Grandpa.  Well, this cinephile will confess: I and my usual lot of idiots started to watch Analyze This way back when, and I, personally, couldn't get past De Niro's big crying scene.  I don't know why.  I also found Cinderfella a bit irritating, where the wicked stepmother kept saying "FELLA!  FELLA!  FELLA!!!"  Maybe I should give it a second go-round, who knows.  The point being, multiple Oscar winner De Niro just wants to have some fun, but why do the rest of us have to suffer?
Our second debut is the latest PG-13 horror movie called The Boy.  Well, it's as close as we'll get to Lewis Black's famous joke during the Dubya years about electing dead Reagan as president.  Because let's face it: a dead Reagan is preferable to a living Bush.  The other debut this week is something called The 5th Wave, the sequel to Milla Jovovich's The Fourth Kind... I think.  It's the latest film starring Hit Girl herself, Chloë Grace Moritz.  Boy, but they grow up so fast.  She's the new Carrie, and soon she'll be the new Little Mermaid!  Well, I tell you one thing: they'll have a hard time making a CGI live-action version of The Lion King!  That'll take a few extra weeks waiting for Renderman to finish... rendering.  Hang on, folks, I just want to see that pic of Natalie Portman again... I mean, Gal Gadot.  Dayamn... wotta gal!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Hail, Sylvester!

Now, I'm no Jerry Beck, and I haven't seen all five thousand Looney Tunes cartoons... but I do know this.  I've seen a couple of 'em... and I don't recall one that features such a wide variety of the Looney Tunes stars.  And yes, the whole "On with the show, this is it" thing doesn't count... that would be a neat extra for these DVDs though, hint hint.
And since this is a Chuck Jones joint, he includes Mama Bear as a bit player.  Henery Hawk also makes an appearance, but I don't know if he's strictly a Chuck Jones creation.  He would often appear in those McKimson-Foghorn Leghorn joints as Fog's pint-sized foil.  I guess it fits, as the story is not a flashback per se, but rather it's Daffy pitching a movie idea to the head of Warner Bros. studios, J.L.  J.L. is indeed hearing of this as we speak.
I've heard that Jones was an avid reader, as was his mum and dad, and he put his knowledge of world literature to use in the Looney Tunes, rather than the extended vaudeville routines that the others tended to do.  And yet, the story of the Scarlet Pimpernel wasn't enough by itself to justify a whole cartoon about it.  A larger context was needed, and so we have Daffy Duck starting where A Star is Bored left off (..oops!  It came 6 years later...), appealing to the studio head directly, stating that it's time for him to stretch as a silver screen thespian.  And he's got just the property right there with him: The Scarlet Pumpernickel by Daffy Dumas Duck.  I guess it has a better ring to it than Daffy Baroness Orczy Duck.
And so, in addition to the meta context, we get other hipster touches like this: Daffy narrates the story, and he says that a certain character is simply furious.  The character is played by Porky Pig, and Porky says "I'm s... s... simply furious!"  That kind of thing.  We get a brief introduction of the Pumpernickel character outwitting his many enemies.  Then, we get the plot that will consume the rest of the picture: a fiendish plot to draw out the Scarlet Pumpernickel into the open, so he can be captured, and drawn and quartered, not necessarily in that order.  And while normally no expense is spared in these old Looney Tunes, apparently Arthur Q. Bryan wasn't available to do Elmer that week, so Mel Blanc stepped in to do the voice.
Now, you might be tempted to think that the girl duck in the picture doesn't have that great of a part... and you'd be right!  Such a caricature.  Every duck princess is always this trophy thing for the boy duck to win, and by win I mean kiss.  But she's got a scene where she gets to be strong.  The Scarlet Pumpernickel interrupts the impending wedding, The Graduate-style, and she ends up whisking S.P. away under her arm... or is that too much of a cliché in and of itself?  I'm reminded of the imperiled dame of Jones' earlier The Dover Boys.  He was going through his streaking phase.  Any time a character would go someplace fast, they'd do it in a nice clean streak, and not some kind of insane rubbery, hyperactive streak like Bob Clampett would do.  Oh, I hope we get to one of those soon.
As for the big finale, well... SPOILER ALERT... there's a standoff at the inn where S.P. has hidden... the Lady Melissa, I think that's her name.  The Grand Duke, a whisker-less Sylvester, stops off at the very same inn.  He sees Melissa, and storms up to her room on the second floor.  Daffy swings over to the room, with much the same success as Chevy Chase in Cops and Robbersons... go ahead!  I dare you to watch it yourself!  I DOUBLE DOG DARE YOU!... And then, the narrating Daffy in J.L.'s office takes over.  We never figure out who wins the big sword fight, Sylvester or Daffy... but personally my money's on Sylvester.  He's taller, and clearly the more desperate of the two.  Sylvester represents the entrenched establishment... you know, I hate to get political, but I don't think I've ever seen such an obnoxious senator before, American or otherwise, talking about his fellow establishment in such terms.  Anyway, Mother Nature takes over, sending floods and volcanoes to interrupt the action, and to indirectly drive up the price of foodstuffs... most notably, kreplach.  Why does the kreplach always go first?  That and a 6-pack of Budweiser
"Is THAT all?" asks the suddenly unimpressed studio chief.  I guess everyone's still reeling from Cecil B. DeMille's epic scenes in garish Technicolor.  And so, the fragile Daffy is left no choice but to blow his brains out.  He actually says that.  And then he does it, too!  Now, I never saw this one in its entirety on T.V., but I'm pretty sure that that got snipped at some point.  Maybe because there's no easy way to snip it, they just skipped showing it altogether.  This is, of course, in contrast to The Windblown Hare... god bless Wikipedia!  And I swear, I will contribute someday.  Anyway, in this variation on the story of The Big Bad Wolf and the Three Little Pigs... not the Green Jelly one... the pigs are the bad guys, and Bugs plots revenge against them for selling him their crappy straw house.  At one point, the pigs taunt the wolf and ONE OF THEM SAYS..... "Ah, go blow your brains out!"  Oh, these things just aren't for kids.
One last thought: the Onion may disagree with the main assertion of The Big Lebowski, but I slightly disagree with the Onion, and with Daffy's assertion that he wants to do a dramatic part.  I mean, let's face it.  Pimpernel is blockbuster, popcorn material, even though it doesn't seem to have been made in the '20s by Douglas Fairbanks.  I mean, it's not exactly Ibsen or All Quiet on the Western Front, knowwhutImean, Vern?  No, it's more like how Peter Sellers wanted to be James Bond, but Hollywood would only put him in the campy Casino Royale of 1967 in that capacity.  I guess he just never understood that his Inspector Clouseau and Dr. Strangelove will be more enduring gifts to mankind than James Bond, in the long run.  But that's just MHO.  And The Scarlet Pumpernickel probably won't become my favourite Daffy Duck cartoon, but it's unique, if nothing else.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Jenise Dixon

As we all know, film criticism is the worst thing to afflict mankind since the invention of the wheel, or perhaps the invention of cronuts.  Any circular objects are usually trouble.  But the only thing worse than criticism is not getting ANY criticism at all.  Take, for example, those home schooled students that Bill Maher once profiled, who came up with a Hitler emoji for their rock and roll band.  Or Ted Cruz.  In the case of Jenise Dixon, she falls somewhere into that vast middle ground that generally gets ignored.  Her film, Truth Hall, a slight variation on The Big Chill... which is itself a slight variation on The Return of the Secaucus Seven, only more watchable.... oh, s'z'nap... doesn't even have one external criticism associated with it!  Not one.
Okay, well... she's got some chops as an actor, even I gotta begrudgingly give her that.  So... any raves about that?  Well, probably nothing for something called Rescuing Desire which sounds a teeny bit like a direct-to-Cinemax feature, except that the title's too nerdy.  It'd have to have a title like Illicit Desires or Covert Temptations... something like that.  Not that I'd know, of course.  But generally reviewers don't give raves to "Dancer #1"-type roles, like Jenise/Jade has in it.  Sometimes a girl's got to do what a girl's got to do, right?  Let me check Dr. Gore's site... wow!  Nothing for Jenise?  NOTHING?!!!!  Oh well.  And yet, suddenly I'm getting the urge to see something called Gingerdead Man 2: Passion of the Crust.  Funny how the mind works.  No raves even for "First Time Felon," either... why do I keep getting Lucinda Jenney and Allison Janney confused?  Gotta work on that.
I guess we just have to face it: Jenise is probably sick of the industry at this point and threatening to leave... but WAIT!  A glimmer of hope on the horizon!  Her Truth Hall is about to become "Truth Hall," an Amazon Prime series... or something.  No shame in it!  Sometimes the best thing to do is turn your movie into a TV series.  They tried it with "A League of Their Own," for one... okay, bad example.  But they've all returned triumphantly!  Janae!  Lashon!  Gabriella!  Amber!  And sure, she could've gone Hollywood and replaced one of the actors with the likes of Garcelle Beauvais or ... oh, wait.  She did.  Gabriella's new to the cast, and Amber is now being played by the younger, more talented Tammi Mac.  Sucks 2BU, Tamara!  In any event, seeing as how you're a proud college graduate and all, Jenise, you might want to fix the spelling of "presentation" in the title.  Or maybe not!  Maybe "presentaion" is actually a word.  I don't think I've used the word "matriculated" in my lifetime, and I actually have reason to use it!  I'm not one to brag, typically, though.  Jenise does, however, in her IMDb Bio.  It says it's written by anonymous, but... c'mon.  Sorry, I'm stealing Bill O'Reilly's M.O. again.  I checked the official online home of matriculate, and I didn't see anything about a person matriculating to a city, but... close enough.  New York City's got a lot of schools in it.  A toast to Jenise Dixon.  Here's hoping that pilot takes off.  Resist the temptation of going to work for Tyler Perry!

An Open Letter to Ted Cruz

Hey everybody!  I spent the night with @amyschumer.  Not the first guy to... damn it.  Got beaten to the punch again.  And by Lawrence Orbach, no less.  Figures.  Well, stars tend to stick together.  Look at the Pleiades!
Anyway, I've been thinking about it a lot, and until Rachel Maddow does one of her deep, historical dives into the videotapes, I guess it's up to me to do all the heavy lifting.  Well, it started with a little feller called Richard Nixon and his talk of the "silent majority."  But really, there's been a long, rich historical record of Republicans' antagonism towards New York City, culminating in Sarah Palin recently talking about "The Real America."  Now here's Ted Cruz, America's buddy, giving a loud, obnoxious shout-out to all his peeps.  "THEY know what I'm talking about!"
And yet, there's a little bit of pushback.  It started with Megyn Kelly of Fox News fame.  Sure, she grows weary of the association, and she hungers for more.  That recent magazine cover she got is a great start.  But she's still got the belly fire to perpetuate the lie that Fox News is a legitimate news organization, and that she's Ed Murrow's peer.  Oh, she can go toe to toe with the muckrakers in prison in North Korea any day of the week.  And yet, she can't tolerate Ted Cruz's crap any longer.  "What do you mean by that, sir?" she asked Cruz as he pushed his new catch phrase on the air with her.  Apparently, she's a native New Yorker, and she took a little bit of an offense at that.  To that, even.
Then he tried the line again at the latest debate.  And even though I still believe Trump's not a serious candidate, he responded well to Cruz's devastating slam against New Yorkers and their values.  See, that's the problem right there.  One way this election's not the usual is that there is AN ACTUAL NEW YORKER running for President.  Sure, Hillary was a New York senator and all that, but Trump's the one being attacked.  Anyway, so Trump talked about being there for the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, and the audience applauded... INCLUDING CRUZ HIMSELF.  Now, there was a very wise kid that I was friends with in high school for a while, and during that fun period when the relationship was turning as sour as a carton of milk left behind the fridge for a couple years, he taught me that there's certain things you don't applaud.  And even HE would want to bitch-slap Cruz for applauding.  (Ah, isn't this what blogs are all about?)  Anyway, Trump sort of did that, noting that Cruz's statements were... whatever, totally un-classy.  Cruz stopped applauding for some reason!  He even looked a little sad... even more so than he normally looks.  Well, we all can't get Brad Pitt to play them in the bio-pic, but why do we have to settle for Will Forté?
And to make it worse, the media's launching a new campaign against Cruz.  Heidi Cruz, that is.  Cruz's wife.  Apparently she had a bit of a meltdown on the side of the highway in 2005 when she quit a high-powered job.  And where was this high-powered job?  DUBYA'S WHITE HOUSE!!!!!!!!  OH-OH-OOOOOHHHHH!!!!!!  See what I mean?  What a scurrilous attack from the left-wing liberal media, reminding people that Cruz is a by-product of Dubya.  Why are they giving Chris Christie such a free pass?  I tell you darlings, it's hard work making your family look bland!  Presidential-level bland... okay, I wasn't going to spill the beans, but here's Cruz's final strateg, and it's apparently the belief of his most fervent of followers: Cruz will explicitly compare himself to Obama at some point, he being a one-term senator with a cloud of controversy surrounding his birth certificate.  Cruz, at some point, is going to say "What's the big deal?  My place of birth is not an issue... LOOK AT OBAMA!!!"  After all, Hawaii arguably is much further away than Canada, and Cruz will probably argue that, too.  Me myself, I'm kinda burned out on all the coverage.  But I guess it slows time down a little, kinda like being in churtch.
Anyway, we've got some debuts this week.  Kevin Hart's reign of terror at the box office continues... I'm sorry, I mean a reign of awesomeness.  I guess I just connect on a personal level more with the Dave Chappelles of the world.  You'll have that career reboot you deserve someday!  But let's focus on the current once again.  Ride Along 2 debuts at #1.  Meanwhile, the latest Star Wars is close to crossing the one billion barrier.  J. J. Abrams is enjoying a level of success that most of us don't even dream of: apologizing for the flaws in the film.  I don't know what they are, but what's the deal with the new light sabre?  Those two side-flames near the handle might seem a good idea, but I'd probably end up cutting off my own hand with them, personally.
At #4, it's Michael Bay's latest non-Transformer pic about Benghazi called 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.  It's nice for the right-wingers because it gives them a chance to get their names out in the general public.  Hugh Hewitt raved "Gripping filmmaking... but I wish it went after Hillary a little more."  Something called "The Weekly Standard" says "Heart-pounding entertainment... but it'll probably get screwed come Oscar time, just like American Sniper did."  I and one of my longtime viewing companions watched a clip of it on "The Daily Show" and right away they complained about the dialogue.  Krasinski gave his... or maybe it was "Colbert."  That's right, it was Colbert.  And so, the guy from the American "The Office" says "What are we doing here?"  And my viewing companion said, "They were private contractors!  They were there for the money!"  A nuance that Michael Bay probably didn't want to risk.  Like any filmmaker of his type says, first the Victoria's Secret models, then the heavy combat, bullets-flying-type stuff.
And finally, once again a member of the Adam Sandler clan tries to fool us by hiding behind a Pixar-ish veil.  Rob Schneider stars as Norm in something called Norm of the North.  It's about a polar bear who goes to New York City to become a big star... something like that.  Personally, I'd rather see Norm MacDonald in Rob of the North, but I guess it just wasn't meant to be.
So, in closing, I know being president is pretty great for those who get to do it.  And, from a very basic reading of his body language, I know that Cruz wants to be president really really REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY badly... but if enthusiasm for yourself alone was enough to make you president, Tom Arnold would've been president a long time ago.  Meantime, I'm going to ride this crazy train to its end, hoping that Cruz will end up being the senatorial equivalent of Glenn Beck: burn as bright as a supernova a couple years, then fizzle out and end up in a slightly smaller market on the internet.  At least Beck grew a beard!  That's ... that's slightly different!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Stick Out Your Neck

Our next Looney Tunes is called The Ducksters... which seems to be a bit of a bad title in retrospect.  If you're expecting a cartoon about the seemy underworld of duck gangsters, you'll be disappointed.  If, however, you'd be open to a parody of 1950s game shows on the radio, you just might be in for a treat.  It's a capital excuse for director Chuck Jones to get more violent than he usually does, anyway.
But blogs like this are all about people's deepest secrets, and The Ducksters has great personal affection for me, because I played some of the audio of it over the phone for a girl I was going to school with at the time.  I think I was younger than ten at the time.  Yeah, technology's fun.  And, like most people, I have absolutely no good ideas for how to use it.  I can't even remember if we had a VCR at the time!
Well, if the opening bit doesn't do anything for you, then the rest of the cartoon probably won't.  We start with Porky Pig tied to the track leading up to a buzz saw.  Porky quickly says "The cotton gin was invented by Eli Whitney!"  And just before he gets sawed in half, Daffy swooshes over to gingerly turn the saw off.  Boy, they don't make saw switches like they used to.  The abuse goes on from there.  Unlike Boobs in the Woods and My Favorite Duck, Daffy's not trying to hinder Porky's enjoyment of the great outdoors.  Porky is on Daffy's turf now, in a role that perhaps suits Daffy best: a television game show host.
And so, Daffy gets to heap abuse upon poor old Porky under the guise of a quiz show.  Porky repeatedly tries to quit while he's ahead, dropping his bar as he goes, eventually saying "Can I go home now without my prizes?"  Boy, the audio guys must really like the sound of a bell getting dropped.  Which is fortunate, because so do I!  Now, I hate to imply that Carl Stalling wasn't the greatest composer ever of these or any cartoons of the era... but it seems like this job was a little bit easier than most.  Take the triumphant melody for Porky's big prizes: the rock of Gibraltar, and 600 gallons of genuine Niagara Falls.
However, the tables get turned on Daffy, and Porky finds himself a bit of spine.  I think it's because Daffy didn't offer Porky a terribly good prize; the loss of half of your teeth is not a good prize, even for this game show.  I wonder if the screenwriters of the time thought that these game shows were fixed.  Maybe the industry generally was aware of it, as Daffy's questions are sufficiently obscure.  This particular cartoon is from 1949, a few years before the scandal broke wide open.  (... 1950.  The title card says '49, though, right? XLIX?... ah, skip it.)
But show biz is show biz, and Daffy rather coldly calls on the next contestant when he thinks he's permanently removed Porky from contention.  Porky returns, bruised and thirsty for revenge, so Daffy is forced to give him the prize of... oh, whatever ... twenty-six million dollars and three cents.  Good comedy amount.  A mathematics prolegomena for any future game shows if there ever was one: never offer your contestants enough money to buy the game show's parent company outright.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Yemane I. Demissie

See, this is why other countries need a strong middle class, otherwise all the films are about gruesome life under the rule of a brutal dictator.  But I gotta hand it to young Demissie: at least he got one review!  But that was 1996 for you.  People were willing to try new things back then.  Flash forward 13 years, and it's a documentary about Haile Selassie and a film called Dead Weight.  Yemane seems to be telling the same story over and over again, albeit from different perspectives.  Take Billy Wilder's advice and do a light comedy next!

What Up, G?

Mother Nature reigns supreme amongst the debuts this week.  Of course, the new Star Wars is still at #1, but The Revenant debuts strong at #2 with $39 million, just 3 million less than Star Wars!  Not bad for a 2.5 hour movie.  Will G get two Oscar sweeps in a row?  Why not.  Take that, Spielberg!  I think Spielberg should try to sweep the Cannes Film Festival or the BAFTAs or something.  You know, as a retaliatory-type gesture.  Or does he care anymore?  He's got all the Oscar hardware he'll ever need, right?
Anyway, the other debut this week is something called The Forest, starring Natalie Dormer, as the web ads tell me.  I thought I was Facebook friends with her for a second, but she's an actual star.  Star of such things as, um... The Hunger Games quartet?  Hel-LOOOO????  And if that wasn't enough, "Game of Thrones" on HBO!  It's the new "Sopranos" for some reason.  It's one of my many regrets, not getting in on the ground floor of that one.  That and "True Blood."  Oh well.  Better get back to my facebook mail.  Facebook mail is forever.  All those quasi-celebrities sending me links and invitations to invest in their little B.S. films.  They think I'm rich, you see............

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

The House on Pork Chop Hill, or The Long, Dark Cartoons of the Soul

Yes, because Chuck Jones, the Looney Tunes King, has grown tired of the same old thing.  As I alluded to before, I believe it was Art Clokey who thought he was going to leverage his Gumby character ... I mean, he thought he was going to be rubbing elbows with the greats of his era like .... Kate Beckinsale played her in The Aviator... Ava Gardner, I believe it was!  And what was Hollywood's response?  It was, "Um... you've got some green clay under your fingernails there.  Why don't you go away and have that checked out and never come back?"  Chuck Jones was a bit luckier than that, the product of the studio system that he was.  Well, he was at a party one night, and overheard the wrong person saying "Stupid Looney Tunes.  Same old gags, same EXPENSIVE drawings..."  Or who knows, maybe he was in a bad mood one week, trying to come up with new stories to tell using the Looney Tunes.  Sort of like how Art Davis tried telling Looney Tunes stories, but often without any of the established stars.  You know, seeing as how the studio worried about cartoons like Duck Amuck in relation to a cartoon star's image, it's a wonder that Art Davis got anything made at all.  I guess they were cheaper to produce or something.  The point I'm trying to convey is that... man, but Scaredy Cat's one messed up Looney Tunes.  I think I saw it when I was far too young and impressionable.  Now that I'm a bit older and able to better withstand the vibes these cartoons put out there into the world, I can definitely say that you'll probably not want to show this one to your kids, if you show them stuff like Looney Tunes at all.
Let's just dive right into the plot, shall we?  It's your basic premise... I believe the Stooges tried it once or twice themselves.  There's, of course, that one where Kenneth MacDonald tells the idiot manchild with the machete, "Strangers in the house!"  And off he goes to swipe at the Stooges and just miss.  And of course the old switcheroo, where the Stooge behind the locked door takes too long to unlock it and lets the wrong guy in.  Love that bit.  Oh, and there's the post-stroke Curly classic "If a Body Meets a Body."  I'm watching that one the next time we have company.
Anyway, back on track.  Scaredy Cat is one of those rare Looney Tunes with just Porky and Sylvester.  They made another one with spaceships, if I recall correctly... wonder if it's on the DVD.  Clearly such thoughts were not put into how these DVDs are organized.  Disc Two is any manner of Porky and Daffy cartoons... I guess I should just sit back and appreciate the variety.  Anyway, Sylvester doesn't speak English in this one, spreading his saliva everywhere in the process.  Here he's relegated to the role of mere house cat.
And so, Porky sets up the premise for us, through the clever ruse of telling Sylvester.  Much like Tom Hanks and "Wilson" in Cast Away, if you like.  But the chills and thrills start off right away, and Sylvester gets spooked by a bat.  Sylvester clings to Porky's face, and Porky tries to talk with a mouthful of cat fur.  A minor audio classic... if I still had the means, I'd rip that into an .mp3 file for each time I start up a program... oh, right.  It's not Windows 98 anymore.  I keep forgetting.  Will our children ever forgive us?  "It's just a silly old harmless BAT!" shouts Porky at Sylvester.
Next scene: bedtime, where Porky orders Sylvester into the downstairs kitchen.  Sylvester follows Porky up the stairs instead, much like Buster Keaton in Sherlock Jr. at one point, only a little more snugly.  And even though Sylvester and his fur might make a good blanket, Porky eventually realizes where Sylvester is, and scolds Sylvester anew.  Sylvester makes his way down to that kitchen at long last and... yup, the first big scare.  Horrors beyond description.  This haunted house is actually home for a gruesome cult of cat-killing mice.  We're way past the mere childish antics of Hubie and Bertie here.  I'll leave it to the theologians among us out there to determine if the procession of mice seem more Protestant or Catholic in their demeanor.  Either way, they're planning to execute themselves one red-furred, tied-up cat.
Chuck Jones has a special obsession with expressive eyes, but it's not usually in the service of expressing fear.  I'm reminded of the look of outrage in little Papa Bear's eyes when Mama Bear gets that bottle of ketchup... can't remember the name of that one.  I've referenced it before.  And so, with emotional scarring in place, unable to unsee what he just saw, Sylvester runs to be at Porky's side.  And once Porky's usual protestations are over, Sylvester tries to convey to Porky, in charades-type fashion, what he just saw.  And while he's unable to properly explain that it's mice about to kill a cat, the idea of an execution is conveyed.
Porky is, of course, doubtful.  Which brings us to the real horror, most notably in many a Twilight Zone episode: disbelief.  You're trying to explain that there's a man on the wing of the plane, tearing the engine up... but no one believes you.  Especially frustrating if you're William Shatner.  Why should we doubt HIS sincerity?
Anyway, I made a list of the moves from this point on, but it's in the other room and it's three in the morning.  The scares come hard and fast from here, and Porky misses them all.  Now, the one that I'm pretty sure was quite firmly removed from the broadcast version: at one point, a gun-wielding mouse takes a shot at Porky.  The mouse aims right for Porky's head, too.  Porky ducks down at the last millisecond, of course, but the shot rings out nonetheless.  Porky heard something, though.  He stands up straight again and says something like "Hmm!  Must be firecrackers." 
Another one that he totally misses: the world's loudest arrow just misses his head when he's in the kitchen, and places a knocked-out Sylvester into a basket.  I was reminded of the most dynamic scene from Disney's "Wind in the Willows" when one of the characters misses a hail of knives.  Porky has a similar miss, as a half-dozen knives softly stick to the kitchen door he just walked through.  I don't know how you control the speed of knives like that.  Roger Rabbit certainly didn't get the slow knives, that's for sure... am I the only one thinking of Aik Beng's game for Broderbund called "Drol," incidentally?  I know, I know, wrong blog.
Now, here's a good directing and screenwriting tip: you need a few big setpieces like the anvil sequence here, or the bed on the flagpole sequence, to break up the action.  Even the wildest MGM Tex Avery cartoons occasionally stopped to catch their breath.  I'm instantly reminded of the scene where the wolf on the lam(b?) goes into the theater to watch a cartoon in Northwest Hounded Police.  I still love that one, even though the cartoon seems a little obnoxious to me now.  But hey, I don't force my parents to watch it as much anymore.  Which brings us to Sylvester's big scare.  Porky missed it earlier, but the basket has the peculiar habit of lowering down into the basement.  It's about 1:30am when Sylvester goes through the floor, and we pan over to the clock.  Fast-forward to 4 am, and Sylvester re-emerges looking like a Frankenstein shell of his former self, and grey as a ghost.  He slowly walks up to Porky's bedroom, and meows like a cat.  Porky wakes up and gets the living crap scared out of him.  Sylvester meows a second time.  But Porky seems to view all of Sylvester's problems like a nail, and so Porky hammers him anew, telling him to "remove that disguise."  However, Sylvester is about to be vindicated.  Porky goes into that haunted kitchen himself, and doesn't come out. Damn, those mice are good at what they do.  Must've been trained by the CIA.  And so, Porky ends up in the slow wagon to the chopping block, holding a big sign... wonder where he got that?  Must be a Geneva Convention thing... see?  These mice aren't complete monsters! 
Still, Sylvester needs to just get the hell away from the house for a while.  Sylvester takes a few big breaths and regains a bit of his sanity.  And then... his cat conscience appears.  As always, Carl Stalling's musical accompaniment is spot on.  Doesn't he do his best work with Jones and Clampett, though?  Sylvester's cat conscience has to remind him of the relative sizes of cats compared to mice.  And so, much like that lion in the Disney cartoon who thought he was a sheep... was that it?  I just can't remember... And so, like the Eloi at the end of The Time Machine forming the fists that defeat the evil Smurfs.. I mean ,Morluk... Sylvester grabs a tree limb... then the whole tree... and goes right back to that house to save his beloved Porky.  I know I should focus, but I'm reminded of the other Sylvester/Porky/haunted house outing where Sylvester has to finally clobber Porky and drive the two of them away from the becursed property... oh, well.  The mind's funny that way, or is it just another cliché?

EPILOGUE: And so, the tables are turned on Sylvester, as he learns how the sin of pride does occasionally have disastrous consequences for his ilk.  Porky is profusely thanking Sylvester for saving his bacon, pun intended, when that darned hooded mouse rears its hooded head once again.  Porky tries to warn Sylvester, but it's too late.  Sylvester gets bonked on the head, right down to the floor.  Porky looks up at the mouse in the cuckoo clock, and the mouse removes its hood.  Why, it's a cultural reference from an earlier era!  Help me out here, Turner Classic Movies.  They showed a newsreel once with that guy in it... just his voice, anywho.  Maybe Wikipedia knows.  It's worth it, I swear.
Now I know that everything's creepy these days.  If it's not cool, or under 25 years old, it's creepy.  That's the era we live in now, but I say it's part of having a rich, emotional life.  You know, like Pixar's Inside Out and what not.  Sometimes you gotta just venture off of your own personal movie farm and try new things.  At least, when you're old enough to not be scarred forever by it.  Much like Chuck Jones tried to do.  I'm not sure exactly what he set out to do with Scaredy Cat, but I think it's safe to say that he succeeded!

Good double bill with: Trap Happy Porky, every drunk's favourite Looney Tune of all time.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan


Auteur Watch - Tyrone D. Dixon

Oh, the things people brag about in their IMDb bio.  No one gives A CRAP about line producers!!  NO ONE.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Snow People like Movie People

Welp, in my neck of the woods, we've finally graduated from a couple days of permafrost to actual falling flakes!  Why, you can hardly see the line in the lawn where the sun was keeping the ground warm now!  Pity.  Hope the roads aren't all screwed up.  Playing in the snow's a young man's pursuit.  And even though Quentin's still pissed at Disney for placing his mere The Hateful Eight against what is now the most profitable film of all time, it's still doing pretty good business!  And yes, thirty million total is pretty good, considering that most films don't ever get that far in general.  Plus, it's the only debut this week!

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Short Reviews - January 2016

The Boy - What, no Lars?

Catch and Release - Now, some of you might think that Jennifer Garner was being a bit hasty about not wanting Ben Affleck hanging out with Kevin Smith... but she's got VERY DIRECT EVIDENCE to base her views on!!!!

Concussion - Will Smith's boycott of the Oscars would be a little more impressive if he actually got nominated.  As for the Golden Globes, well...

Driving Miss Daisy - Spike Lee recently gave a "shout out" to this one of sorts on George Stephanopoulos' show, pointing out that it won Best Picture in 1989, yet Do the Right Thing didn't.  Spike's publicist later added that he loves Morgan Freeman, and is a big fan, and hopes that they get together soon and work on a project.  How about Bamboozled 2?  There's a part that would be absolutely perfect for... where's everybody going?

Driving Miss Daisy (2014) - ...yes, this movie exists.  Just found out my own damn self.... you know, I hate to be critical, and I guess I don't care that he's a staunch Republican, but isn't James Earl Jones kinda old for the Morgan Freeman part?

Fifty Shades of Black - Genius.  The best Wayans premise in years... DON'T SCREW IT UP!!!!!

The Finest Hours - Okay, I got shamed into caring about this one... okay, now that I read the plot description, back to not caring.  What, are The Perfect Storm and Titanic chopped liver?

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past - Well, we haven't watched the Third Act with the ghosts of girlfriends' future, but if this film wants to stick to the truth at all, McConaughey's character should probably look like his character in Dallas Buyers Club.

The Giver - Is this not the black and white movie with state-of-the-art special effects we've all been waiting for?  I'D LIKE TO THINK SO!!!!!  HA, HA HA!

"Going Deep with David Rees" - Well, I never thought I'd live to see the day when The ESQUIRE Network so readily embraces nerd culture.  Where are we to turn?  What next, Spike TV gives Bill Nye a talk show?

The Hand that Rocks the Cradle - With Rebecca De Mornay as Jeri Ryan

How to be Single - I never thought I'd find myself asking this... is Rebel Wilson just phoning it in?

Life with Mikey - What is it with the name Mikey anyway?

Mikey and Nicky - I think this is the only time when John Cassavetes replaced himself as writer-director and brought in someone else.

"Mozart in the Jungle" - With Lola Kirke as Patricia Arquette

Oldboy - A facebook ad tells me that Oldboy and other can't-miss movies are available for free at crackle dot com... actually, if they're available for free on the internet, it's actually a can-miss movie.  I'm just kinda shocked that Oldboy earned that status so quickly!

Race - Let me just put this forward right now... Best Actor nomination for Jason Sudeikis?  I mean, the way the Oscars are going... it's a movie about Jesse Owens, so of course the white guy in it's going to get nominated!  Didn't Jason do a comedy one time?  I've already forgotten.

Trouble Makers - Hey, Rear WindowTrouble Makers called, wants its plot back.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot - I'm going to put this forward right now, just for the record, so people will see that I was on the right side of history with the right people and all that... Best Actress Oscar for Tina Fey?

"You, Me and the Apocalypse" -  ...boy, Rob Lowe's getting either greedy or way too busy!  I mean... what about "The Grinder"?  I mean, WHAT ABOUT IT?!!!!