Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Next Looney Tunes: Sexual Perversity by Ch-Chuck Jones

Oh, it's so time for the guys in the audience to get uncomfortable, because we're going to a place that even Shrek fears to tread: it's time for Bugs Bunny and the Three Bears.


These DVDs have too much clarity... at least, until I get the Blu-Rays for the Looney Tunes that apparently don't exist yet.  But I just noticed that, during the Warner Bros. logo, the lettering shifts a little bit when Bugs does his frown, while sitting on the WB logo.  Sloppy work, guys, sloppy work.  Anyway, I'm not sure how many of these Chuck Jones serials there are: Road Runner, Bugs and Daffy and Elmer... he even took over Tom and Jerry for a while, but that's another studio.  But according to the "Connections" page of Bugs Bunny and the Three Bears... a page, incidentally, that gets harder and harder to get to these days, what with all the new features of the IMDb that they keep changing... this is indeed the first of what became a semi-running series of cartoons.  As it happens, there were a couple stories to be told with this family of bears, but this (instant case) seems to be the only outing of theirs without the benefit of a fourth wall.
And so, the three bears are introduced with a nice, classical musical flourish, which will be thoroughly de-classic-ified over the course of the next seven minutes, at least in the context of a PG-rated type of cartoon.  They're all sitting there at the kitchen table: Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and the largest of the three, of course... Baby Bear.  ...we'll get to that wall calendar soon enough, but I'll demure to the film experts over at Maxim magazine to properly fetishize that particular incidental detail.
"I'm hungry!" declares Baby Bear, voiced by Stan Freberg, incidentally.  Why doesn't he ever get credit for these things?  Three Little Bops may be the only one!  (slight correction: Freberg played Junior in others, but not this one.  It's actually voiced by Beaky Buzzard himself, Kent Rogers.)  In response to Baby Bear, the violence between Homer and Bart is bourne.  Baby Bear suffers his first of many hits from Papa Bear in this outing, and others.  What's Brewin', Bruin? is particularly nasty as well, but Papa Bear suffers his fair share of abuse as well, even if Baby Bear's unaware of it.  "CANTCHA SEE I'M THINKIN?" declares Papa Bear in return.  Mama Bear's clearly seen it all before, as she barely ... hardly moves from the position she's in, sitting there, slumped up against Baby Bear for physical support, hand firmly upon chin.  She looks tired.  Weary to her very bear bone marrow.
For the animation buffs out there, which somehow seems to be a dwindling demographic here under the Pixar-dominated regime, we had with the Popeye serials what was referred to as the "Fleischer Shake"... something like that: a brief loop of animation that would repeat, if only so that the characters wouldn't just sit there, completely motionless.  Gotta give them something to do!  Well, Chuck Jones' animators were kept even busier than that.  As with Bugs counting his strokes in My Bunny Lies Over the Sea, there's a long sequence of Papa Bear wordlessly, yet mouthing something to himself, and counting his fingers, hatches a plan to either fix Junior's hunger pangs, or to merely temporarily stave off the boredom and malaise that seems to be the bear family's average state.  (Note to the camera operators: I did notice that, when they zoom in on Papa, the camera goes out of focus a little bit.  Sloppy work, guys, sloppy work.  Just what nearsighted idiots did they have working those lenses anywho?!!!!!)
And so, the meta-idea, as the hipsters might call it, is bourne.  "Remember the story of the Three Bears?" asks Papa to his assembled troops... Baby and Mama.  Papa takes a well-earned victory lap of sorts, even if it is just at the kitchen table, standing as tall as he can atop it.  Papa is a leader again, and he has a clear purpose... and as The Matrix Reloaded taught us, it is purpose that created us.  Purpose that connects us.  Purpose that pulls us.  That guides us, that drives us... yecch.  I can't take it anymore.  It's like I ate a whole bar of Trader Joe's French Nougat or something.  They obviously don't make it and or sell it anymore, it being the single greatest creator of Type 2 Diabetes ever recorded in medical journals.
But someone has to kill Papa's buzz.  Junior does it first by getting out silverware and a napkin.  Papa Bear's a bit like Moe keeping Curly in line.  Now, some parental groups out there might take exception to Papa Bear's nearly constant physical abuse that he heapes upon Junior... heaps, that is.  I say, first of all, it's not human beings we're talking about here.  It's bears, and bears are allowed to physically abuse each other.  That's just biology.  And second... GO TO POINT NUMBER ONE!!!  INFINITY!
Of course, Mama Bear has to get in on the act as well, pointing out that all they have is a bunch of old carrots.  Nothing to make porridge with, as per the instruction manual.  (the story of Goldilocks)  Papa has a mild anger explosion (smaller than, say, the one at the end of What's Brewin, Bruin?  Of course, to reverse nature back to winter, it'd have to be a much stronger anger, dontcha think?) and he says "Well then make........ CARROT SOUP!!!!"


Fade in on the table, lol.  The carrot soup has been prepared, and the bears have their bowls in front of them.  Another example of 'Less is More.'  "Welllll...... LET'S GET STARTED," grumbles the tiny Papa Bear.
Mama Bear goes first.  She clears her throat and begins... I think that's my new favourite nuance that I didn't notice before.  This must've been one of Bea's favorite things to do, when she looked back on her career.  Now, here's something the hipsters in the audience ought to appreciate about this cartoon, and ought to speak rather directly to them and their sensibilities... two different entities, BTW.  Deliberate bad acting!  I guess Jones and company had to suffer through their fair share of it... maybe Vaudeville.  What with the Cherry sisters and all.  "Oh!" says Mama Bear.  "My soup's... my porridge is ... too hot!"
Papa Bear rushes through his lines.  "Oh, uh, my soup's too hot."
Now, for all the fans of early celluloid burps, here's an example of one.  They were damn few and far between, as I'm sure we can all agree upon.  The Hays Office tried to squelch them all, but missed a few.  There was one in the first Stooge short, Woman Haters.  That's the only one I know for sure, off the top of my sleep-deprived zombie head... damn.  Not even a hyperlink.  Of course, they're cracking down on Darius67987 and the like, so Woman Haters is probably gone from the likes of YouTube anyway these days.
But back to the instant case.  Junior screws up his line as usual, and Papa administers quick corrective punishment.  Mama Bear quickly takes charge in her stilted way, and gives us another gloriously bad line reading.  "Now let's all go for a walk, and when we turn, the porridge will be just right," she says... more or less.  And off they go, tra-la-la'ing away.  I need to re-watch this to see if Papa's enjoying himself or just getting angrier.  Now, you might be thinking to yourself, but The Movie Hooligan!  What about that Simpsons episode where Bart and Lisa were in the Three Bears house with the three bowls of porridge?  Yes, yes, I remember.  Bart takes the bowl of porridge that's too cold, and pours it into the bowl that's too hot.  "I don't know why they didn't think of this before!" says Bart.  I don't think that season's out on DVD or Blu-Ray yet.  Have they been re-issued on Blu-Ray yet?  It's a prohibitively expensive hobby, I've noticed, especially when you're as short on cash as I am these days.
Now the three bears are like Pauly Cicero.  They might move slow... but that's because they don't have to move for anybody.  And when they return to the house, they swish into action, and quickly hide in the closet by the stairs, ready to pounce on Goldilocks.  As with the Stooges, the bears' heads pop out from behind the tattered curtain, with noises courtesy of that nut Bob Clampett.  Dad growls as he struggles to stick his head out from under the bottom of the head stack.'re telling me it's practically the half way point, and Bugs hasn't even made an appearance yet??!!!  I hate to have to ask, but... is Bugs phoning it in on this one?  Maybe.  But the bears must've made one hell of a carrot soup, because its aroma literally carries Bugs from out of his hole in the ground and in through the bear's window.  Ah, cartoons.  Bugs noisily slurps away at the carrot soup.
AND THEN... the bears are about to kill him, but they change their minds at the last minute, and instead pretend to be bear skin rugs on the floor!  What manner of plot device is this, anyway?  I don't think Bugs is buying it, though.  "Where's the ketchup at?" asks an annoyed Bugs as he starts in on the big bowl.  Same thing happened in A Bear for Punishment... love that one.  I mean, The Bee-Deviled BruinHowever, A Bear for Punishment is nothing if not patriotic!


And so, Bugs' tummy is full.  What better thing to do than burst into song?  I was going to mention The Hudsucker Proxy and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, but the characters in those laugh instead of bursting into song.  No, it's A Night at the Opera that comes to mind.  Chico, Harpo, and the guy filling in for Zeppo get their bellies filled at the populist buffet, and the Zeppo stand-in says "I feel like singing!"  Weakest excuse ever.  But that's what Bugs does, and he rolls around on the bears pretending to be bear skin rugs.  You know, just to rub it in a little more.  Boy!  Bugs really is a little stinker.
Now I have a theory that I'm working on, trying to amass data to build my case.  My theory is that Carl Stalling had more fun on Bob Clampett cartoons than on the cartoons of other directors.  But I don't have a high 'n' yet, and it's certainly not a random sample that I'm drawing from, so there's bound to be many Type I and II errors ultimately.  Plus the whole thing smacks of subjectivism, for all you Ayn Rand fans out there, and I know you're out there!  How she was able to worm her way into academia so effectively I'll never understand, but will begrudgingly respect.  Anyway, Bugs ascends the bear staircase, like the social parasite that he is, and the bears give chase.  Papa Bear goes first, then Baby and Mama close behind.  They turn into a line of bear dominoes, and fall over.  Carl Stalling's drummer, needles to say, goes to town.  Sure, not as fun as, say, the big explosion in Draftee Daffy... see what I mean?  My theory's got something, right?
"I'M KING FORRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR  ADAAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY-YAH!!!!!!!," sings Bugs, in glorious off-key (okay, maybe I just imagined it so), and slams the bedroom door shut behind him.  The bears fall over anew, and there's more jazzy drums... albeit not as jazzy.  Let me re-watch it a sec here... yeah, it's more military style than jazz, that second one!  Papa Bear screams "Now don't forget your LINES!!!!"  Good thing Bugs is already asleep, right?  Junior gets his line wrong, so wrong that it was dialed in from an entirely different Mother Goose chapter!!!  Another thing Shrek stole.  Another giant smack on the head for Juior, and in they all go into the bedroom to go through the text of Goldilocks.
"Oh, uh, somebody's been sleeping in my bead," says Papa like someone who... some guy who doesn't know what acting is.  Mama ahems again... now it's just getting old.  "Oooooh!" says Junior, while looking at Papa.  Weary of another slap to the head, he does manage to remember the right line.  And then, we pan over Stage Left to see Bugs sleeping in bed.  The instant that Junior finishes his amended line ("Someone's STILL been sleeping in my bed!") there's one of the Looney Tunes whooshing sounds, and all three bears are quickly pounding the crap out of Bugs.
Next scene: ...actually, it's still the same scene.  We pan to the right to see Bugs standing there, munchy-wunching away on lumptiks of carrot.  I seem to recall seeing this when I was younger, and being slightly troubled by that part.  I mean, that's just all-out cheating, isn't it?  Bugs was in the bed!  A mere second ago!  Well, to be fair, even though the scene almost totally isn't, Bugs doesn't usually have to resort to this kind of blatant use of the Get out of Jail Free card.  I mean, even the first Screwy Squirrel cartoon reveals at the end that... SPOILER ALERT... they was twins all the time.  "What's up, Doc?" asks Bugs, mouth full of carrot... disgusting...
Amid the sound of the bed getting pounded to submission, Mama Bear is the only one to hear Bugs' iconic, epic, game-changing line, and she turns around, fists raised, and starts to prepare to get in a big ol' punching match with Bugs.  So much for the speed from earlier, when the three bears in concert pounced upon Bugs in a hare-trigger instant, so to speak, pun intended.  Now, sure, the screenwriters amongst you could be cynical and say that this is all just a big plot device... but you have to at least admire where the filmmakers are going with it.  Having run out of tricks, Bugs tries to butter up Mama Bear with flattery... and it works!! EWWWW!!!!
There's a bit more horseplay among the guys before the big finale.  Bugs runs downstairs, with Papa and Junior eventually in tow.  Papa does the ol' Go Through the Wrong Side of the Door routine that Stan Laurel did once... as well as others, I'm sure.  Junior also picks the wrong side of the door, and the filmmakers hold on the result to wait for the laugh... then they all ay-yay-yay back inside.


Mama Bear went along with Papa's agenda up until now.  "DON'T YOU DARE LAY A HAND ON HIM, YOU BRUTES!!!" she says to Papa and Junior.  Papa and Junior back off of Bugs.  Now it's Mama Bear's turn.  She sighs a happy sigh and laughs, asking Bugs to tell her "more about my eyes."  Bugs now struggles to get out of this new mess he's created for himself.  "Now cut it out!  People are lookin' at us," pleads Bugs, but to no avail.  Bugs tries to escape, but each door he comes to, he opens to find Mama Bear in a different costume.  I seem to remember a similar construct on The Simpsons once, when Marge was taking a very symbolic drive in the car, with every stop being a milestone in life.  I wonder what feminists would think of this part of the film; the correct answer is probably that they don't because they would never watch something like this.
But try as Bugs does to escape, he even finds, to his ultimate horror, that his own rabbit hole provides no asylum from Mama Bear.  He emerges with bear kisses all over his face, and ends up running towards the horizon, screaming, clearly heading for the nearest nut house.  His screams overlap a little bit with the "That's All, Folks!" ending, for God's sake!  Now, you might call this future-proof filmmaking and all that, and you'd be right, even though I'm getting a little burned out on that particular phrase myself.  The ending still makes me squirm, that much I know.  Despite that, this one's still not one of the four-star classics to me; certainly not the best Chuck Jones Three Bears cartoon.  But it's the only one on the official DVDs, probably because of Bugs.  That's how it goes, even in Looney Tunes land.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Deborah Riley Draper

God bless American documentaries!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Ballistic: Artie vs. Larry

Sadly, Garry Shandling passed suddenly this week, but rather than take a still from his big death scene in Mixed Nuts, I decided instead to take a still from this one moment I got hooked on from an episode of The Larry Sanders Show called "The List."  Some people call The Larry Sanders Show great satire, but the more I think about it, the more it just seemed to be Shandling's life... albeit with more awkward moments in it.
Anyway, on with the news.  How much did Batman v. Superman make this weekend?  Betcha it didn't even begin to recoup cost!

(Sunday... okay, Monday)  Welp, despite all the bad reviews, and despite director Zack Snyder's other films like 300, Watchmen and Sucker Punch, he gets to be part of the DC universe, a feat that even Michael Bay couldn't pull off.  Guess South Park should start making fun of a different director for a change!  Yes, as expected, mostly because of the other tie-ins with car companies and... Turkish Airlines?  Really?  Seriously? ... the legal case of Batman v. Superman hit #1 with a box office bullet.  170 million clams is a lot for a film to make... but it'll probably be a while before the latest Star Wars record gets beat.  What was it, 250 million or so?
And yet, like Star Wars, this latest superhero blockbuster didn't block off all the light.  Some other saplings had their debut in the big shadow cast by Superman and Batman getting all hot and heavy and going into it... something like that.  Another sequel of sorts debuted pretty strong, and it's called My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.  Whew!  Wotta mouthful.  How does that get abbreviated by the average ticketgoer?  I'm thinking "One for 'Greek Wedding,' please."  Something like that.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Lonely Passion of Ansel Adams

Ah HAH!  That's where Allen Funt got the idea!  I kinda haven't been paying attention, but I think this is the first Looney Tunes on this DVD set that's an older one.  I don't have the cold openings down to an exact science like, say, Jerry Beck might, but it may be safe to say that Elmer's Candid Camera has a cold opening that sounds like your grandfather's Looney Tunes.  Maybe it's the last-generation recording equipment that was used, maybe it's the old fashioned musical arrangement, but let's put it this way: when they re-issued a bunch of Looney Tunes using the Golden... the Blue Ribbon label, the musical arrangement they picked for it was not the one used on oldies such as Elmer's Candid Camera... man, I'm wearing myself out!  And Dough for the Do-Do doesn't count because it's got a newer opening.


My GOD!!!!  Is that Elmer Fudd before he started going to his local Pritikin centers?  Must've happened to a lot of Hollywood types; they all ballooned up during the Great Depression, living off the fat of the land over there in California.  Lots of comfort/soul food to stave off the bad times.  But now that Elmer's moving up in the Maslow pyramid... hey!  Wikipedia's fixed their auto-complete!  You can click on a phrase, and after about half a minute, get taken directly to the page!  I just might have to donate now... of course, the mere act of photography can wreak havoc in your otherwise straight-line progression from the 'love/belonging' to the 'esteem' and 'self-actualization' phases of the pyramid.  Engaging in such activities as photography often blur the lines between the three, and if you're really good, like the James Stewart character in Rear Window, you get kicked back down to the physiological phase while you try to recuperate in your wheelchair.
But there are far choppier waters ahead for Elmer, literally and figuratively... spoiler alert.  As with Egghead before him and his record album of boxing lessons, the simplicity of "How To" manuals is about to collide with the complexity of the natural world.
And so, Elmer and his hat bounce out into the out of doors... Ayn Rand's worst nightmare, I tell you.  Just look at that human parasite feeding off the charity of others, just whistling away as though the whole world revolves around whatever rolls around inside that WASPy head of his... something like that.  He's even got Egghead's old suit, methinks!
And so, Elmer comes across a freshly painted set of wabbit twacks in the dirt.  Makes me think of that old line from 2006's Best Picture winner, The Departed, when Jack Nicholson says "The truth is, when you're facing down the gun of a barrel, or the lens of a camera... what's the difference?"  Not enough films play up the similarity.  The only one that comes to mind is when the bad guy in The A-Team movie has a camera and a gun pointed at... let's say the new B. A. Baracas, and he says "Don't move!  Smile!"... something like that.  I don't take good notes; actually, I think there was a silent comedy that did something like that too, so it's been in the Thought-o-sphere, just hiding in plain sight.
At about the 1:21 mark, we get the famous lullaby in a nice discordant variation by genius composer Carl Stalling, as we see a rabbit sitting there at the end of the footprint highway (hmm!  It seems to continue on past where he sits!), sleeping in the middle of an open field.  Now, Elmer's a newbie... sorry, I mean a n00b photographer, so he thinks he's got to get right up close to the rabbit to get that proverbial pwint suitable for fwaming.
Now, the proceedings start off lightly bawdy.  As Elmer tries to get the framing of the image just right, a bird distracts Elmer from his mission at hand with its lovely song, and he shushes the bird.  The rabbit wakes up and shushes ... well, both of them, frankly.  The whole world's making too much damn noise.  Elmer looks surprised, then looks back through the viewfinder to see... well, let's just say it wouldn't be a suitable framed picture for polite company.  Now, in the interest of full disclosure, the rabbit returns to its original pose before Elmer gets a chance to investigate what's wrong with this picture, just to give you an idea of the lapine reprobate we and Elmer are all dealing with here.  Just wait til he starts talking!!!


Now, I've heard the story a couple times.  The way Mel Blanc tells it, the animators told him that Bugs Bunny was going to be a "real stinker" ... something like that.  This was long before Ted Cruz was invented, mind you.  So Mel tried to think of the toughest accent he could, and I believed he narrowed it down to either Brooklyn or The Bronx.  Now, as David Letterman might say, this is when he came up with an idea that actually literally may be worth "a million damn dollars."  Blanc combined the two accents and came up with the voice we all now vaguely remember until we sit down and actually watch some damn Tunes that are Looney.  I don't know how much money Warner Bros. has gotten over the decades from the antics of Bugs and his kin, but how can you put a price on animated immortality?  Short screen gems that will last as long as mankind is able to sustain this planet?
I guess what I'm trying to say is that, well... this ain't exactly Bugs, and it ain't exactly Bugs' voice.  This yet unnamed rabbit, as in Hare-um Scare-um has a voice somewhere on the Goofy family tree, on a teeny weeny branch that Disney's lawyers have decided wasn't worth the climb.  And that laugh, well... let's just say that Hare-um Scare-um co-director Ben Hardaway was clearly destined to end up with Woody Woodpecker.
But let's get back to the instant case.  As with A/The Wild Hare, we start with the sad realization that Elmer just doesn't know a talking wabbit when he sees one.  And the one he was trying to frame with the camera gets up, stands behind him, and starts chatting away.  We've all been there, amateur photographers... admit it.  And sure, in our modern internet age, this scene seems to go on and on and on and on and on way way way way way way too long.  Wonder if they thought so way back when, or were the kids all too busy trying to throw stuff at their fellow theatre-goers?
Anyway, long story short... I know, I know, way too late for that... Elmer finally gets out from under his red camera cape to address his new-fangled conversation companion.  I think this is my new favourite scene in this outing, that long dark moment of the soul just before Elmer realizes he's being f... messed with.  "Over.... over there!" Elmer says to the wabbit.  Elmer then does a massive double-take worthy of James Finlayson.
"Gosh!  I don't even know the guy!" says the wabbit... geez!  I think he says that in Elmer's Pet Rabbit as well.  Well, a good line is a good line.  Never gets old.  The wabbit walks away in "anger," Stage Right.  Sloppy work there, by the way, Carl Stalling.  Sloppy work.  On the wabbit's second step, the musical accompaniment begins in proper.  Disgusting.
Elmer tries to brush off what just happened to him, but quickly finds inspiration anew in a little grey squirrel.  Makes me think of Letterman for some reason, but that's just me, I hope.  And so, Elmer sets up the camera again and... oh no.  Will things go smoothly for Elmer?  Spoiler alert: I'm afraid not.  I hate to spoil what happens, but that pile of apples round the tree does look vaguely familiar.  I'm thinking The Wacky Worm or something, or maybe Now That Summer is Gone.  Elmer does manage to dodge Bugs'... I mean, the grey wabbit's apple core, but an apple ends up landing on Elmer's head... dayamn!  That's one gooey apple!  And thank goodness, too, because I'll bet an apple on the head might hurt like hell.  Maybe they're Rome Beauties or something.


The psychological torture continues in earnest.  Elmer has moved on to birds, and the proto-Bugs stumbles upon him again.  "Oh, there you are!" says the wittwe gwey wabbit, and walks over to Elmer.  Lol.  You can guess how this goes from there.  Oh, the wabbit would be playing a mean game of arbitrage if there were a third party that could get involved.  But in lieu of that, the rabbit asks Elmer, while his elbow's lodged in the crack of Elmer's ass BTW... "Would you be interested in taking a picture of a rabbit?  I know a rabbit who wouldn't mind posing for you..."  Spoiler alert: Elmer's thoughts have clearly turned to murder at this point.  But seeing as how he has no shotgun for this outing, his butterfly net, which you will recall from the inventory at the beginning of the film, will just have to do.
And so, Elmer, in his adrenaline-fueled state, marches off to find the rabbit, clutching his butterfly net in his red fists at about 5:07 or so.  His steps are slightly erratic, as you may notice.  He's taking one step every 2/3 of a second, but takes two 1/3 second steps in a row.  See, the filmmakers tried to time the action to the 24-frames a second rate of speed as best they could, usually opting for 6 beats a second for moderately-paced action, and 8 beats a second for more frenetic action. 
And so, Elmer eventually spots his quarry, walking slowly Stage Right and mumbling to himself.  Oh, the rabbit's just ripe for the catching.
And so, at about 5:29 (on the DVD), down goes the net over the rabbit.  Personally, this part doesn't do much for me.  Maybe because it's kind of the same playbook from most of the other Bugs and Elmer outings.  If I had to pick the weakest, this one's probably it.  And so, Elmer feels bad about what he did, and the wabbit turns the tabwes... tables on Elmer, so to speak.  Elmer ends up in the net his own damn self!  And, well... he goes a little crazy.  I'm sorry, I mean cwazy.  And he actually says it, too!  "I've gone MAD!" says Elmer as he bursts out of the net.  He destroys the camera and the book that started it all, and gets rather elastic in his insanity-fueled rage... a little less intense than, say, the end of Wabbit Twouble, sure, and with no game warden to temper the proceedings, Elmer ends up in the lake.


The bunny hears Elmer dwowning and, to his credit, he dons a striped bathing suit and fishes Elmer out.  Because my synapses fire funny, I'm reminded of the opening disclaimer of that John Cleese special, "How to Irritate People."  See that?  YouTube can be a good thing!  It's got stuff on there like that that you might not spend a whole lot of energy trying to hunt down otherwise!  Sorry, Cleese, but it's true.  Anyway, at the beginning of that special British TV special, Cleese warns people that, as with most things, there are limits, and you don't want to irritate people to the point where they want to kill you. 
Of course, the rules are a little different in cartoons, and Elmer's quite weary from his water-based ordeal, but Bugs... I mean, the unnamed grey rabbit tries to make sure that Elmer's okay, and that an ambulance isn't needed.  You can probably guess how it's all going to end, but you didn't see that book ending up on Elmer's head coming, now, did you, Mr. and Mrs. Jaded Sophisticate Cinephile?


Good double bill with: Hare-um Scare-um and Elmer's Pet Rabbit... maybe Good Night Elmer as well

Auteur Watch - Adama Drabo

...oh, good!  Another short one.  Welp, alas, Adama has passed on to the big Director's Chair in the sky.  Perhaps he'll find his Eva and live in the Garden of Edena and not make the same mistakes that Adam and Eve did the first time.  After all, if we forget history, we're doomed to relive it over and over again.

Some Pledge 'Allegiant'

While we're all waiting with baited breath for the big fight between Batman and Superman, we've got the latest and greatest installment of the "Divergent" series.  And of course, all the headlines are knocking it because it only came in #2.  Same thing happened to the third installment of The Matrix.  If memory serves, it was #1, but only made $50 million, as opposed to the second one which opened at $90 million.  Why, they were showing it today on ... IFC?  Really?  Don't they ever show Clerks anymore?  Or films by and about lesbians with a small 'l'?  Where's John Pierson, damn it?  Man, but IFC's gone corporate.  Warner Brothers is not independent cinema!
Anyway, they're already hard at work on the next chapter of this "Divergent" saga.  It's apparently called Ascendant, and I am the only one who doesn't find it corny?  The co-star of 2011's The Descendants is now Ascendant?
The only other debut this week is the vaguely Christian sounding Miracles from Heaven.  Don't let me down, A.V. Club!... wow.  No sympathy for Jennifer Garner?  She broke up with Benjamin Affleck, for Gawd'z zake!  She needs our love now!  How can she resist the charms of Matthew McConaughey?  They did at least two movies together!  ...wonder if McConaughey's actually gay.  I wonder that a lot these days.  These nice lesbians that my brother used to work with always did that.  "Brad Pitt?  Gay!  Matt Damon?  Gay!"  And on and on it went.  Is nothing private anymore?  Is there no respect for sexual orientation?  Was there ever?... where was I?  Oh, right.  Miracles from Heaven.  It's the story of someone recovering from a digestive disorder, with a touch of the Jesus for good measure.  If Jesus came back to modern day America, well... foodies beware.  I think he would be horrified by our food choices.  Positively horrified.  Why, he would get crucified anew when he would say "America... what's the deal with this new-found love affair with bacon?  When did you become Homer Simpson?"  Personally, I think it's the yet to be named Environmental Affective Disorder.  You know, you're an average American, and you hear about the overpopulation problem, that the oceans are too acidic, the sky is too acidic, global warming is soon to become unreversable... time to snuggle up with a few tons of comfort food!
Oh, which reminds me.  I hate to tell Bill Maher how to do his job, but I think his next New Rule should be about Merrick Garland.  He's currently struggling with the seeming contradiction of Orrin Hatch formerly liking Merrick Garland, but now not wanting to put him on that nasty ol' Court Supreme.  I think the New Rule should be something along the lines of, we need to stop saying that there are judges that both sides can agree on, because clearly there aren't now.  Mitch McConnell is openly worried about the conservative "progress" that's been made on the Supreme Court.  He doesn't want to lose that.  Not on his watch.  So, clearly, judges that both sides could agree on are a thing of the recent past.  That's not what the Republicans want anymore.  Now they want judges who will repeal Roe v. Wade.  No reasonable judge is going to do that.  ...anyway, that's a start for you.
...damn!  I totally forgot.  Now, everyone's already written off Borat's latest venture, (The Brothers) Grimsby.  But I noticed that it just slipped from #8 to #9.  In all my years of watching this pesky Top 10, I don't recall a film doing that.  Well, usually what will happen is an indie film will get some traction, and hover around the bottom of the Top 10.  But with a big studio film, they'll usually plummet if it's a flop.  Well, anyway, we'll see what happens next week.  Maybe it'll still be sticking around, who knows.  I'm keeping my hopes up... not sure exactly why.

Monday, March 14, 2016

State of Grace

Ugh.  Well, on normal Sunday nights we usually go right to the latest episode of The Simpsons at about 8:08... that's right, I'm riding this crazy train to the end, just like Jon Voight in Runaway Train.  But this last Sunday night was spent watching the latest Liam Neeson variation on Taken called Run All Night.  Stylistically, it's similar to the grungy Running Scared (2006), but lacking the complexity of that one, and similar to Harsh Times, where CGI is used to swoop around the city, and through chain link fences.  Ooh!  Or maybe the camera's just that small, and the cameraman's just that good!  Peter MacDonald could pull it off.  Also, we've come a long way from the original effects of The Matrix.  They use that, too, to swoop lightly around frozen action.  And lettering that sticks to the background as the camera shakes.  Oh, they've thought of everything.  Give Adobe a challenge, guys!  Is that all you got?
This is the third collaboration between Liam Neeson and director... gotta look up his name... Jaume Collet-Serra.  Too proud to work with Luc Besson, but he had his career lightly shepherded by Joel Silver and Bob Zemeckis, so he's got some chops.  That's clear.
Now the older I get, the more this stuff gets compressed in my brain: the post-Sixth Sense tricky-ass plots and all.  We saw Unknown many a moon ago and, like the Liam Neeson character in that one, I don't remember a damn thing about the plot, except that it was complex, that things aren't always as they seem... the original Ah-nold Total Recall taught me that... and, as with Salt, there's a sleight of gun moment in the movie where we don't know what happened.  Did the character get shot?  Didn't they?
Now, screenwriters take note.  After they start at the end of the film, like Charley Varrick and A Perfect World, it's time to set up Liam Neeson's character.  And apparently, this character's a loser.  I can't personally vouch for the Taken trilogy, but here, in Run All Night, his character's seen as a loser.  But even some losers have a winning past.  Call him A Loser Apart, if you will.
Time for more character development.  We meet Ed Harris, the head of the local crime syndicate.  In the initial business dealing, brokered by Ed's son, we learn that the son's a bit of a loser in his own right.  One of my opinionated watchers had to ask right away if they're ripping off the first Godfather movie already.  So cynical, so impatient.  As it turns out, they're taking from many sources.  For example, Liam Neeson has to borrow money from Ed Harris' son, apparently for desperately needed home repairs.  So we have an homage to The Godfather, and with this new business dealing, Road to Perdition as well.
More clichés abound, but perhaps my favorite is the upset guy in the subway who wants his $2.50 back... I'm sorry, I mean Upset Guy in Subway.  Oh, this kid's going places.  He's part of a long, proud tradition... I just can't think of the rest right now.  Well, there's the Idiot Passenger in the opening scene of The Transporter television series who gets driven around a vacant lot... that'll teach him to confuse the Transporter's car with the Taxi!  There's also the homeless guy who bugs Michael Douglas in Falling Down, who ends up getting D-Fens' empty briefcase.  These clichéd yet crucial characters help drag the plot along, and allow the Alpha Males to practice their skills on the bad guy at the end of the movie.
Now, to help drive home the point that Liam Neeson's character's a loser, there's the matter of the son hating the father.  This is driven home early on, so you can probably guess how that will evolve over the course of the movie.  But here's a part where the filmmakers try and stray from the Cliché Farm to the Cliché Lab.  There's a conversation between honest cop Vincent D'Onofrio and Killer who got Away With It Liam Neeson.  "I get a postcard every year from widows seeking closure," D'Onofrio tells Neeson.  "Do you know what that feels like?"  Now, these days, I can't help but think to myself... if Neeson's character was black, we wouldn't even be having such pleasantries as this conversation, first of all.  And second... the conversation just doesn't seem plausible to me.  Different, granted.  Not what you normally hear, but not plausible.  And of course, this character's part in the story isn't over.
Same thing with the one big car chase.  Spoiler alert: a cop car gets chased by a civilian car!  So in some ways, Run All Night is not the usual fare, but in most ways, it is.... oh, I just remembered.  There's the whole matter of Common's character.  He kinda reminds me of Chris Mulkey, if only in 1987's The Hidden.  If he had a better role than that, I don't want to know about it.  Common is like the Jude Law character in Road to Perdition, spoiler alert, but without the old-timey camera.  Incidentally, what was the deal with Jude Law's wounds at the end of Perdition?  It's the kind of thing that might happen to a table when a glass pane got dropped onto it, but not a human face.  Just sayin'.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Grandfather of Future Guest Shots by Brian Wilson and Lewis Black

Starting much like his earlier Super-Rabbit, our next Chuck Jones masterpiece, Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2th Century, starts with a whiz-bang.  If I remember correctly, Joel Schumacher's Batman films start out the same way, with the names of the big movie stars floating through space, then scrolling by up close for all to quickly gawk at.  Ah, Warner Brothers.  So many iconic opening credit sequences.


While we've so far let down such films as Back to the Future, Part II in terms of keeping up with its pace of technology, and we'll be letting down Blade Runner in the next couple of years, as of this writing we've got about 331 years to invent giant eyes for surveillance, 17,000-floor skyscrapers that actually scrape outer space, flying taxis, evaporators and a couple dozen other sci-fi inventions depicted here in Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2th Century.  CAN WE DO IT, MANKIND???? (Spoiler alert: no... but we'll probably still be eating bacon in greater-than-average quantities!)
But for those of you who absolutely hate the federal government (but love its generous subsidies) there's not a rosy future for you either, because Duck Dodgers goes to have a meeting with Dr. I. Q. Hi, Secretary of the Stratosphere.  Look at his name up there, all big as you please, like he's Ronald Reagan or something.  Well, I guess that's what is going to happen when we start conquering space.  Incidentally, these backgrounds remind me of the time Bugs Bunny went up against Marvin and his band of green aliens you can grow from seeds in... help me out here, internets!  Hare-Way to the Stars!  That's it!  They used to show that one in spades on Saturday mornings in Ye Olden Days of the Televisions.  Another classic... not on my five volumes!  Blasphemy.  Get cracking on that, TimeWarner Cable.  I demand Blu-Rays.  Fetch me Blu-Rays of these... Toons that are Looney, as the Mortals refer to them.
And so, we're spared the formalities of a Great Introductory Feat by the Main Character, and we go straight into the big plot that will consume the rest of the film.  Now, according to the closed captioning, the world's supply of the compound in question is "illudium fosdex." has it as "phosdex," which sounds more correct to me... of course, you'll probably not want to browse around much further than that.  And so, we have our plot, which thereby informed the thinking of James Cameron and Avatar 1, but he called his compound ... what was it called?  Ultimanium?  Personally, I feel disappointed.  I was expecting the next 3 Avatar sequels to start this last Christmas.  James Cameron's officially a slacker now!... Unobtainium!  That's the right one.  Even sillier than I remembered.
"CAN YOU DO IT, DODGERS?" solemnly asks Dr. Hi of our caped hero.  "Oh, indoobi-boobitably, sir!" says Dodgers.  You let me down on that one, Closed-Captioning.  The disabled just don't know what they're missing.  Well, it's highly ironical that Daffy develop a stutter now, seeing as who's going to be escorting him on this ad-hocm shovel-ready mission.  But before we get to that, we finally get that introduction we've been waiting for.  Daffy... I mean, Duck Dodgers... says "No one knows outer space like... DUCK DODGERS IN THE TWENTY-FOURTH AND A HALF... CENTURY!!!!"  The rainbows surrounding Dodgers must be the effects animation that Harry Love gets credit for.  Epic stuff.
Now, the jaded hipsters among you will notice that Dodgers is hovering a little close to the edge of the spherical platform, and... yup, down to the ground he plummets.  Apparently, safety's no longer a concern in and around the year 2350.  Hand rails too low-tech for y'all?  The hipsters will also wonder why someone has to keep referring to the current year in such a bombastic way.  Ummm... old-fashioned showmanship!  Hell-LOOOOO?!!!!!  Same way on "Star Trek" how they always refer to "early 20th Century Earth phenomena."  These shows are all-too indicative of the eras in which they were made.  Alas, also, I guess we modern peoples aren't proud of our technological progress, as we never seem to refer to ourselves here in the twenty-first and a sixth century.


Well, with a First Act like that, we might as well go right into the Second.  Dodgers heads over to the Evaporators.  Note that the middle one says "To Studio."  Oh, these filmmakers and their in-jokes.  There's something slightly comforting about the fact that they're still called "airports" and not, say, "spaceports" or "Ground-to-Space Transfer Stations."  But Pac-Man will indeed be called "Gender-Neutral Pac Person" in the future... sorry, I keep digressing.
Now that the batteries have been re-charged on Dodgers' SpaceX rocket, it's launch time.  "Are you ready, Eager Young Space Cadet?" asks Duck Dodgers of Porky Pig, co-starring as said E.Y.S.C.  Boy, but Porky must've worked out extra hard to slim down for this role.  He probably interned with Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard during her similar scene of health and restorative regimens to get ready for her big day back in front of those hateful cameras.
Note how the control panel of the spaceship looks like a piano keyboard... sorry, back to the plot.  Dodgers commences launch after re-introducing himself anew to the audience, then backs the rocket into the ground.  "Whoops!  Had the silly thing in reverse!" he says.  But that's rocket science in and around the year 2350 for you.  Technological advancement.  Our modern-day rockets, on the other hand, still explode for hardly any reason atoll.
Eventually, off they go in the right direction into outer space.  Engineers, computer software and otherwise, take note.  Eagerness always gets you in trouble.  Also, be sure to know which way to turn the key in your car door to lock it.  That's the only way you'll succeed at the big job interview.  How are the Higher-Ups supposed to trust a guy to write the company's database in Advanced Revelation with a T-SQL back-end if they don't know which way to turn a key in a car's door to lock or unlock it?  The very idea!
Anyway, up next, after a few establishing shots of space background, we get to the stuff of comedy legends.  About a decade and a half before people started to memorize Monty Python bits, there was the next scene in our instant case... if only among engineers, drafters and navigators.  Surely this must've spoken to them!  Daffy... I mean, Dodgers plots the course that they will take to find Planet X... I probably forgot to mention that.  The shaving cream atom is only found on Planet X, so that's where they're headed.  Let's say the explanation begins in proper at about 2:28, not counting its introduction.  The whole thing takes about 24 seconds in screen time, but it'd take practically a lifetime to memorize.  Again, a little quicker for the engineers and navigaters because it's well within their wheelhouse.
Soon enough, we get the Sesame Street-esque joke of finding Planet X by just following the alphabetized planets.  At first, Dodgers finds this preposterous on several levels.  After the laughter subsides... and it usually does, if only like in the first Austin Powers movie... Dodgers says "Hey, wait a minute!  I've got an idea!"  The idea, of course, is to follow the alphabetized planets to get to Planet X.  I believe Black Adder stole this idea once, of stealing an idea and taking all the credit for it.  Well, when you've got a workhorse writer like Ricard Curtis, originality's usually not their specialty.
And so, they get to Planet X.  Love that transition from a far shot of Planet X, and then a slightly closer-up shot, where we see mountain ranges in the 'X' portion of the landscape.  Think I'll do another screen capture of it, just for good measure.


"I claim THIS planet in the name of the Earth!" says Dodgers.  The very next instant, in comes Dodgers' Martian counterpart, yet to be called Marvin, according to the commentary track accompanying this feature.  You know a cartoon's good if it's got one of those, or a mini-doc about it.  And so, the Martian emerges from his ship and says "I claim this planet in the name of Mars!  Isn't that lovely, hmm?"  Incidentally, this cartoon's official IMDb page of the full cast and crew neglects to credit Stan Freberg as the voice of Marvin the Martian.  I mean, Mel Blanc is one of the great vocal talents of our time, perhaps all time (including Cretaceous and Devonian), but even he couldn't do everything.  Sometimes you just need a Vilhelm Bletcher or a Stanley Freberg to come in and give the proceedings a little something extra.  Sure, Blanc did fill in the voice on the one where he's on the moon and squaring off with Bugs... Haredevil Hare, I believe it is.  They got the Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator in that one... I mean, when you've got a Movie Star of such a caliber, you can't use it just once.
And so, the squaring off between Daffy... Dodgers and the Martian begins in earnest.  Dodgers gets disintegrated, and Porky has to come in and re-integrate him... somehow, this didn't bother me as much as it should of.. have as a kid.  I guess because it was a sci-fi pic and all.  Plus, Daffy's had it coming for years, really, when you get right down to it.  Incidentally, the dialogue is used to set up the big ending, spoiler alert.
Porky saves the day once again by giving the Martian a lit stick of dynamite as a birthday present... or does he just make things worse?  Probably the latter.  The shortened Martian returns to the spaceship and closes the door... boy, the sound guys must've had a lot of fun on this one.  There's a medium clunking sound when the Martian sets down his pistol, and on and on.
Next scene: Daffy sends over an ultimatum that says "Surrender, or be blown into 17,600,072 microcells."  ...something like that.  Okay, the internet says it's 17,670,002.  Almost had it right.  You know, that's probably just a random number, but whole film cults have been built upon far less.  But the main takeaway is that this scene has been informing the strategic thinking of Republicans ever since.  They always seem to forget what happens next, and that Daffy ends up sending another ultimatum that says "Ouch!"  So what's their argument to that?  Well, clearly Daffy was okay, since he had the strength to fire that second ultimatum in the first place.  And who cares?  He's a cartoon character, anyway!  But the principle's sound: a show of strength and superiority, and sit back and wait for the accolades to just roll on in...
Next scene: Dodgers tries spying on the Martian with his ultra-modern black and white surveillance system.  If this were being made today, I hope it would be one of those multi-camera systems from Costco, but that's just me.  But the main point is that Dodgers falls victim to a corny gag, and gets assaulted by the Martian yet again.  As an anti-fan of corny jokes, clearly it's the last straw.  "THAT'S THE LAST STRAW!" decrees Dodgers.  "NOW I USE MY SECRET WEAPON!" he further decrees.  Now, you might remember this chunk of the cartoon from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, specifically the part where everyman Richard Dreyfuss is dismantling his miniature mountain... oh, skip it.  Anyway, it turns into Devil's Tower, and he realizes that he's on to something, even if he's still not up on his classic American natural landmarks and all that.
As for me, well, I found the duet that Dodgers and Marvin the Martian play out to be a bit depressing.  I guess I used to be a little bit normal and healthy after all.  I don't know how deep we were into the Cold War when Dodgers was released, but it's not hard to find the similarities in the cartoon arms race, and our own with Russia during that time.


And so, much like the end of Haredevil Hare... another Chuck Jones joint, so he's basically ripping himself off again... well, all I can say is, the population of Earth in 2350 in general, and Dr. Hi in particular, are probably not going to be too thrilled about the current state of Planet X, seeing as how it's but a mere shell of its former self.  But there's still some tree roots stuck to the tiny lump that's left!  Boy, those things are persnickety. 
"As I was saying, Buster..." says Dodgers to the Martian.  Oh, I dare not spoil the ending for you.  All you need to know is that it's perfect.  Now, I've only heard of the name Buck Rogers.  Never seen any of the TV shows or heard any of its radio broadcasts that probably exist.  It's probably not a good way to judge the quality of something, but I find in general that the parodies are usually better than what they're based on.  The only example I can think of right now is Cheech and Chong's "Basketball Jones," which I only recently found out is based on an actual song that was called "Love Jones."  Of course, nowadays "your love is my drug" is plastered all over the Top 40, if only by Train and Ke$ha.  ...okay, thought of another one.  I'm more familiar with "Weird" Al's "I Lost on Jeopardy" than the original it's based on by someone named... Greg Kihn?  Egg-zactly...
Now to refute my own argument, there's Spaceballs.  Now, Spaceballs may have won a battle or two, but I'm pretty sure Star Wars has won the war.  But one thing's for sure: Chuck Jones has a hell of a Looney Tunes track record.  As far as I know, he never made a stinker like Big House Bunny, and Dodgers is probably his best sci-fi outing.  Another immortal classic.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Masha Dowell

Well, while I'm waiting for my various Facebook games to load... it used to be simple.  They used to load by themselves.  Now I gotta hit the refresh button three, four times?  Ah, technology and its endless forward march.  Also, I'd like to meet the guy who invented that new web feature where a web page finishes loading and the button you're trying to click drops down about an inch, and you end up clicking the awful ad above it.  I'd like to meet that guy face to face and p... ah!  There it goes!  Now, I hate to question the wisdom of the wonderful IMDb, mostly because I myself seem to benefit from it quite a lot, but when you get someone like Masha Dowell who's done a lot of TV, there's just not enough information available there.  Now I gotta go to Lycos like some kind of Third World case.  I've never heard of that famous TV show called "The Commuters" and I don't know what channel it was on!  I go to Yahoo and... THE IMDb PAGE IS THE FIRST TO COME UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! apologies.  I mean "The Telecommuters."
But thanks, again to modern technology, Dear Marcus Luke is available on YouTube... now, I've been burned before by these things, so I tried listening to just the audio while tinkering with my Facebook games... yup, it's amateur night.  Clunky story, clunky acting... I can't take it anymore.

Please visit the official Facebook page of "The Telecommuters."

Zootopia, Sacha Nightmare!

Four debuts this week.  First up: there is sadness in J. J. Abrams-ville, as something called 10 Cloverfield Lane only debuts at #2.  I mean, for God's sake!  They spent double the film's budget on TV adverts!  Don't people pay attention to that anymore?  I guess people got confused.  Is it a sequel to Cloverfield or isn't it?  Where's the Statue of Liberty getting destroyed?  We're confused!  So while J. J. Abrams is still the new Spielberg, and will probably get everything he ever wants for the rest of his showbiz career... some will be grousing about this production of his not hitting #1.  Zootopia was just too strong.
As for the rest of the debuts, it's been a rough week, and not just on my overworked hands.  Paper cuts, bloody fingernails, that notch in my right pointer finger opened anew because of turning keys way too much again... long story.  But no other debuts this week were able to crack the Top 5!  Just the Cloverfield one.  The first debut is something called The Perfect Match.  Now, if you're like me, you're thinking "Why would they re-release the 1988 classic starring Marc McClure, from the Back to the Future trilogy and the 'original' Jimmy Olsen?"  Well, Greg... when you've got an epic, iconic, game-changing title like Picture Perfect... I mean, The Object of My Affection... I mean, The Perfect Match, well, you just can't restrict it to one film and one film alone.  Every generation throws a hero up the pop charts, and every generation deserves the right to remake a title in its own image.  We need people who are young and now on that sliver screen, damn it!  Not yesteryear young!  Ick!  Ewwwwww!  ...boy, the web's my nemesis today.  And power outages; just had the fourth hiccup where the computer had to reboot.  God bless our aging infrastructure.  May it never be improved upon either by sectors public or private!
...where was I?  So, The Perfect Match (2016), debuting at #6, isn't this week's new religious film.  No, that honor seems to go to The Young Messiah at #7.  It's based on an Anne Rice novel, and directed by one of the guys behind a 9/11 TV movie that tries to indict Costco for treason.  Oh, he's no one-hit wonder, he is!
And speaking of the fortunes of the current elite establishment being down and out, there's Borat's new movie called (The Brothers) Grimsby.  One of the snarky web headlines said something like "Sacha Baron Cohen's movie bombs... and hard."  Something to that effect.  And you know who I blame for that?  Jimmy Kimmel.  That's right!  I said it!  And why?  Well, first of all, they show a clip of the movie to Kimmel's audience, and they gasp in shock and all that.  Then, they show Kimmel's audience in an advert on the TV for the film.  I guess people got confused, because usually when they show an audience's reaction to a film on TV, they're all green, because the footage gets taken in the dark.  The footage from Kimmel's show was taken in bright light.
Okay, sure, Borat was probably a fluke.  But still, despite all that, I can't help but ask yet again... where's the influence, Kimmel?  I thought you were supposed to be the new Johnny Carson!  Well, when Carson was starting out, at least he was doing a 90-minute show in New York.  Okay, you're busting your ass, doing all these live shows after the Super Bowl and the Oscars and what not.  So why are you still treading water after ten years or so?  Where's the influence?  Letterman had the Top 10 List and some other stuff he and his writers came up with in the late 80s.  Jay had Jaywalking and Evil Jay and other stuff.  Conan's given us Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.  Jimmy Fallon's got "Lick It for 10"... you got anything like that?  Anything at all?  How's Dane Cook doing these days?  When's the last time you had Adam Carolla on?  As Nixon said... no, I dare not repeat it here.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

What is the Sound of Bugs and Daffy doing an impression of Elmer Fudd?

It's a tried and true formula to be sure, ever since Elmer started hunting wildlife, first with a camera in Elmer's Candid Camera, then with the now ubiquitous cartoon shotgun in The Wild Hare, but the formula will probably never get more perfect than in Rabbit Fire, the first of the Bugs and Daffy and Elmer Hunting Trilogy.  It inspired the opening sequence of Joe Dante's Looney Tunes: Back in Action, and it will continue to entertain wherever Looney Tunes are shown.  I tell you, this Chuck Jones really knew what he was doing!


Well, it starts out innocently enough, as always.  Elmer in the forest, with his naughty old gun, ready to tame the forest's secrets.  Now that mankind, particularly American Mankind, has overwhelmed the forests, and continues to chip away at the last bit of untouched landscapes with dazzling new, sanitized suburbs, with houses all mashed together in the suburb equivalent of high impact feed lots, the forest has lost a bit of its appeal, sure.  I mean, who has time to go outside when there's so many videos to watch on the internet, for one?  I harken back to a decade ago, personally, when I was on a trip with a few of my colleagues.  We took a day hike into the mountains, and on the way back I came across a pond that was positively full of frogs, all jumping about.  I can't help but think to myself now, that it's a long way from the city, and there's not enough people around to destroy it.  That's the only reason it's still existing.
But let's get back on track.  It's time for a little "stragedy," as it were.  We see a close-up of Bugs' feet... SPOILER ALERT, it just looks like Bugs' feet, but as it happens, Daffy apparently also orders from the Acme Corporation catalogue, and by Gum, he has procured himself a pair of phony extra-large animated rabbit's feet!  Daffy's preparing a trail to Bugs' hole in the ground, one that even someone as thick-headed as Elmer Fudd could follow.  "Oh boy!  Wabbit twacks!" exclaims a happy Elmer.  This hunting trip might prove to be his best yet!
Now that Daffy has laid the track for Elmer, Daffy calls Bugs to the door and he scurries off, saying "Survival of the fittest!"  Oh, Daffy... how far you've fallen.  You used to be the unabashed spokesman for anarchy.  Daffy gives a half-hearted looney laugh of old as he rounds the giant rock to hide, but it's just not the same.
Bugs emerges from the hole, and Elmer fires a shot, turning Bugs' ears into a pair of flutes, judging from the fresh holes, and the dust falling from them... is that dust?  Or maybe it's fur, just dusty looking fur.  Elmer rushes up with his shotgun and jams it into Bugs' mouth.  Dayamn, but that fat boy can move.  He's clearly angry, and armed... a popular combination in our modern times, alas, but what can be done.  But once the indignity of the situation has passed, Bugs handles himself with near absolute confidence, saying to Elmer "Say, Doc, are you trying to get yourself in trouble with the law?"  Bugs takes a teentsy bit too long to get to the point, love it.  Another reason this is a classic.
And then... as usual, things aren't going as Daffy would have liked.  Now, if you're a fan of a good debate, well... this one's probably going to be a bit too simplistic for you.  And you probably further won't like how easily Bugs tricks Daffy into switching his argument, especially if it reminds you of a time you made that mistake yourself.  But the filmmakers have tried hard to hide the metaphors as much as possible behind this motley gang of anthropomorphic cartoon characters, and to protect the feelings of those on whom this argument is based as much as possible.  They really have.  Of course, Groucho complained at one point that he was tired of such scenes as the one where he's in the rain and trying to board a train, but ends up nearly catching pneumonia instead.  He wanted something bad to happen to his brothers Harpo and Chico instead, but somehow it just wouldn't be the same.  And Ollie seems to get hit more often than Stan when an aggrieved third party's had enough of the two of them.  And Roger Ebert got tired of the nice ring to the phrase "Siskel and Ebert"... oh, right.  Bad example.
Anyway, Elmer seems to prefer shooting Daffy anyway.  Note the expression on his face when Daffy says "I say it's duck season and I say 'Fire!'"  I guess Bugs is too much like a member of a family at this point.  The third time Daffy gets shot, spoiler alert, his head's now upside down, meaning his windpipe now goes through his brain... ick.  Sorry about that.  Only in a cartoon.  "Hey you!  Come back here!" says Elmer to Upside-Down-Headed Daffy, and he tries to fire the gun again.  However, there's no boom!  No more bullets!  Elmer says "Well, what do you know?  No more buwwets!"
"No more buwwets?" asks Bugs.  Bugs says to Daffy, "Hey, Laughing Boy!  No more buwwets!"  Daffy returns, head back on proper, and also says, excitedly, "No more buwwets?" know, I'll bet there's a reference there someplace.  Perhaps to a TV western playing at the time.  I mean, there was "Hey Boy" on "Have Gun, Will Travel" for one, right?  Ever the curious one, Daffy snatches the gun from Elmer only to find out... boy, I tell you.  Chuck Jones always seems to subvert peoples' expectations in one way or another.


"Devilishly clever!" says Daffy.... oh, right.  I should explain.  Bugs nails a sign to a tree that says "Duck Season Open," and he tiptoes away.  Now, Daffy tiptoes up to the tree in the same manner as Bugs tiptoed away from it.  One of the ways that the animators cut corners.  My favourite example of this is in the one where... can't think of the title.  It's the one where Elmer plays Dr. Jekyll.  He has a dog that he tries out his formula on, and the dog ends up eating grass in the field to get the taste out of his mouth.  Elmer later on ends up out there as well, eating grass next to the dog.  Their actions are exactly the same: stuffing their mouths one second, then panting, then stuffing anew.  I went through a brief period with my VCR where I had to rewind that scene a couple of times while laughing my ass off.... Hare Remover!  That's probably it!  Anyway, so Daffy says "Uh oh," because the real bad trouble's coming now.  Elmer comes tiptoeing up with the gun, but Daffy's ready this time.  Daffy's got a rabbit costume... a really, really bad one.  Elmer seems confused.  But arguably, Daffy acts a little more like Bugs than in, say, A Star is Bored, where he's supposedly getting gainfully employed to imitate Bugs.  "Any luck with those ducks?  It's Duck Season, you know!" says Daffy as Bugs.
Just then, Bugs comes up, with a similarly, um... let's say minimalist duck outfit.  "Just a darn minute!  Where do ya get that 'Duck Season' stuff?" says Bugs as Daffy.  I didn't know this, but according to the IMDb, Hank Azaria calls this sequence Mel Blanc's greatest achievement.  I won't dispute that, but I just thought about the scene from Birds Anonymous where Sylvester starts crying and says "I'm weak!  I gotta have a bird!!!"  I'm a sucker for a good cry, what can me say.
Anyway, to cut to the chase, Daffy doesn't look over to see that the sign now says "Rabbit Season Open."  "You know what to do with that gun, Doc!" says Daffy, not realizing what's about to happen.  That also seems to be the NRA's motto these days... you know what to do with that gun!  Great, isn't it?
Somehow, Elmer can't supercede the dramatic tension between Bugs and Daffy.  With fresh smoke still billowing from his bill, Daffy pushes the barrel of Elmer's gun aside, gets real close up to Bugs' face and says... wait for it... "You're despicable!"  Bugs walks away with Daffy in tow, and even the most ardent Daffy fan can't help but think to themselves... Daffy's got nothing!  "Very definitely despicable?"  Thereby inspiring that now infamous sequence from A Few Good Men... wait, I gotta look it up... "'I STRENUOUSLY object'?  Is that how it works?" And so, Bugs and Daffy remove their respective outfits, and Bugs gets out a book titled "1000 Ways to Cook a Duck" and begins reading recipes.  "Yummy yum!" adds Bugs after the first one.  Well, butter usually makes things better, although I hear duck meat's pretty fatty already.  I wonder if Jones and company suffered from boredom when coming up with these things.  Is this not the same or a similar bolt of lightning to when the "Seinfeld" writers were debating what to do with the character of Susan Ross, and one of them apparently said "Too bad we can't just kill her off!"  If there's a more depraved setup than this in a Looney Tunes cartoon, well, frankly I don't want to know about it.  Fortunately, Daffy finds another book in Bugs' hole, entitled "1000 Ways to Cook a Rabbit"... we'll leave the implications of that aside for now.  Let's just say that it's similar to what some online have posited about Wall-E, and how he spent the first part of the film, helping himself to the spare but still workable parts of robots similar to him.  Cold-blooded, indeed!
Elmer is apparently unmoved by Bugs' and Daffy's latest game of one-upmanship, and in yet another stroke of genius, Elmer declares "I'm a vegetawian!  I just hunt for the sport!"  Bugs gets all up in Elmer's grill, and Daffy runs up in a tennis outfit.  "Anyone for tennis?" Daffy asks.  Elmer quickly shoots Daffy.  "Nice game!" says Daffy, looking damn near a little bloody.  This reminds me of some conversations I had in high school... okay, middle school.  More often in middle school.


We're close to the Act Break anyway.  As in Rabbit Seasoning, there has to be a scene with Bugs and Daffy fleeing, and Elmer in nothing short of the hottest of pursuits, using that shotgun of his as though it were an automatic.  Incidentally, when are the gun manufacturers of the world planning on making a machine shotgun?  Sure, it'd be big and clunky and hard to load, but we could put hard working Americans to work making a belt for the thing?  You know, like in all them war pics?
Anyway, we come to a completely superfluous gag, designed to pad out the feature to the length of one reel.  Even I willingly admit that.  Bugs admonishes Elmer for using an elephant gun.  Oh, Elmer... you're far, far too easy to play head games with.  "Ewephant gun?" asks Elmer.  "That's right, Doc!  So why don't you go shoot yourself an elephant?" asks Bugs as he slowly slips into his hole.  "You do and I'll give you such a pinch!" says the gay elephant now standing next to Elmer.  The elephant hits Elmer upon his head, sending Elmer into the ground... not so dissimilar to Elmer's quarry, I now realize!  But Elmer quickly escapes from the "rabbit hole" that his body made, after getting hit by that elephant... incidentally, this IMDb page also says that the elephant was based on Joe Besser.  Figures.  Well, if nothing else, Besser is a lesson in hanging out with the right people.  You might have been a very talented person in Joe Besser's day, but he was hovering near the Stooges, and when the grim spectre of Death cut Shemp down in his semi-prime, well... Joe Besser got the call to step in Shemp's very large shoes.  And Moe and Larry questioned that decision, sometimes openly in the same film with Joe, ever since.
Next scene: it's time once again for Bugs to play dress-up as a woman.  Elmer falls head over heels again because, like Joe Besser, he's only a playboy when the time is right.  Borrowing Bugs' plunger from earlier, Daffy takes to his new role as Lady Bugs' hunting dog... I wonder how that conversation went!  So clearly, this scene is the opposite of what happens in Rabbit Seasoning.  Bugs' costume slips ever so slightly after Daffy bites Elmer on the leg.  "EEEYOWWWW!!!!" says Elmer, but it sounds like Mel Blanc filled in for Arthur Q. Bryan on that one.  Let's face it!  Not every guy can scream good!
But, let us reflect on this scene for a second.  This may be the first and only time that Bugs has a gun too!  In his disguise of a human lady, he fires a shot that takes off Elmer's trademark cap, thereby leading to Elmer falling in love at first sight.  Or maybe it's just the little head doin... um, never mind.  Thankfully, Bugs' disguise slips before things go too far.  Elmer gets mad, and snatches the gun away from Bugs.  The nerve of that guy!  He aims Bugs' shotgun at Bugs and says "Okay, Wabbit!  I see through that disguise!"  Well, a minute earlier, you didn't!  A lot!  Maybe Garth was on to something...


Well, Daffy's not one to take Elmer's threats lightly.  Daffy runs over to the tree and tries to make his case to the highest authority... the United States government.  "Wabbit Season!" says Daffy, pointing to the sign, and still poking fun at Elmer's unfortunate lisp.  And to any law enforcement officials watching this, bear in mind that it's Bugs who tears down the first sign.  That is, if you care at all about the rule of law.  "Duck Season!" says Bugs, as the Wabbit Season sign comes down.  Daffy follows suit and tears down the Duck Season sign, revealing another Wabbit Season sign behind it.  "Wabbit Season!" Daffy exclaims.  Is this not a level of desperation commensurate with that of Lenny Bruce in the courtroom he was in?
This seemingly endless loop could go on for years, as Groucho might say.... that's the one it was in, I swear!  But these cartoons are finite affairs, unlike Facebook video games.  And soon... damn, but I hate to spoil it.  Needles to say, the tables get turned on Elmer.  A lot.  Elmer ends up running his ass off, Stage Left.  We see Bugs and Daffy in Elmer outfits, each with a shotgun.  And yes, I'm going to type out all the dialogue, because this is one of the best endings to a Looney Tunes cartoon ever.  Bugs addresses the audience, saying "Be vewy vewy quiet.  We're hunting Elmers!"  Daffy then does the Elmer laugh, and off they continue to tiptoe.  Brilliance... brilliance.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Rel Dowdell

Meh... not Changing the Game enough.  And BTW, if the IMDb plot description is the only one to call a film "an epic tale," well... it's probably not.  I mean, Antwone Fisher probably isn't either, to be fair.

Drumpf with Power

We've got four debuts this week.  First, of course, is the latest Pixar juggernaut called... whatever.  But Disney will keep a copy of The Good Dinosaur the next time Lasseter and company try to throw their weight around and strike out on their own.  You know, like George Lucas!
Meanwhile, in Gerard Butler news, the kick-ass Gerard Butler of something called London Has Fallen is kicking the ass of the Gods of Egypt Gerard Butler.  As usual, the latest and greatest, or the London Has Fallen Gerard Butler, has the advantage of being new and all that... but something tells me that they're both going to eventually sink like a stone.
And in Tina Fey news, she still struggles to find a part worthy of her talent... at least, to get a #1 hit at the Box Office.  Whiskey Tango Foxtrot did almost as well as last year's buddy comedy Sisters, but it's still a disappointment.  Time for a 30 Rock prequel, a la Better Call Saul?  I think so.  Maybe via Netflix or something.
And finally, it's been out three weeks, but something called The VVitch debuted strong at #10... well, strong for a movie no one's heard of, anywho.  Of course, the IMDb's not totally on board.  It's spelled The Witch on its official IMDb page!  So which is it?  Is it Witch, or VVitch?  Someone ought to petition Congrefs or something like that.  An organization that can get something done, damn it.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Short Reviews - March 2016

Welp, I gotta hand it to Jimmy Kimmel, even though I sorta don't want to, but it looked like he put down some serious coin for those spoofs of Creed and The Producers (2005)!

Austin Powers 4 - Wonder if Demi Moore's still attached to this one.  Well, I tell ya... Mike Myers is a little older now, a little wiser.  Will he take this opportunity to poke fun at the fact that Roger Moore was 58 when he did his last Bond picture?

The Birth of Innocence - What can me say?  On the one hand, I'm torn, because sure, this Mac Parker was a crook.  On the other hand, he was just doing what every other Hollywood producer does.  But back to the other hand... I've never heard of a film that offers 15% return on your investment.  I believe they call that "points," right?  Also, this film was in production for years and years and years.  Um... is this Boyhood all over again or what?  On the other hand... Ramtha strikes again, bringing the proverbial seven years of famine all over again from beyond the grave.  I guess the lesson is: if you're going to bilk farmers out of their life savings, be sure to leave town and change your name before the Feds catch up to you.  As for me, what little of the film I saw looked like they just took stock footage from the web and turned it into a teaser trailer.  Wouldn't that be the ultimate irony?

The Competition - Back on cable at last!!!!!  Where have you been?

Elvira: Mistress of the Dark - For some reason, anytime this was on TV, I always managed to turn it on and see the part where she says "Does a chicken have a pecker?  Of COURSE I'm interested!"  And second, I am completely shocked that I haven't blogged about this yet... that's not one of the memorable quotes?  Oh, The IMDb... don't make me disagree with you so much.

The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard - I saw this week that Piven is on the cover of "Cigar Aficionado" magazine, and it said "Nice guys smoke cigars!"  And I wondered who the nice guy is that they're talking about.............

Hardcore Henry - AKA GoPro - The Motion Picture

A Haunted House - Hey, forget all this Darey Wilmore stuff... I want to see Robin Thede do an impression of Jennifer Lawrence!  That's... kind of a dare, isn't it?

Nina - ...damn.  It's not about illustrator Al Hirschfeld's secret obsession.  Well, one of the big stories rocking the world of less-than-perfect casting is Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone.  Same thing happened to Tom Cruise and Interview with the Vampire.  There was a bit of a backlash, albeit mostly from author Anne Rice.  But after she "went clear".....

Open Season: Scared Silly - Oh, it's just not the same without Martin Lawrence... I'm assuming he's not in it

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - with Kirk Douglas as Popeye

Under Siege - One of the benefits of Closed Captioning, if it you can call it that, is you get all the in-jokes that would otherwise be lost to time.  At one point, Tommy Lee Jones says "Dump our MacGregor Aircraft stock."  This, of course, is a thinly veiled reference to producer Peter MacGregor-Scott.  Perhaps his most notorious reference is in the disastrous Batman & Robin, where Mr. Freeze's wife suffers from something called "MacGregor Syndrome."  Indeed, the whole movie suffers from that syndrome, when you get right down to it.

Wayne's World 2 - Was it really released December 1993?  I don't remember that a-tall!  If only I could find my old ticket stub... I tell you darlings, they worked quick to get the Jurassic Park reference in there!