Sunday, May 29, 2016

Portraits in Infatuation

Oh, I can't.  I just can't review Feed the Kitty.  The cuteness is too unbearable... or is it?  Maybe this is the kind of thing where I should plunge right in for cold-hearted analysis.  After all, the big climax in the Third Act was good enough for Pixar to steal almost completely for their 2001 attempt at winning Best Animated Feature, Monsters Inc.  So maybe there's something here, if I can get past the surface charms, which arguably won't be easy.


We have the main ingredients that were in Bad Luck Blackie: a teeny cat, and a large dog.  Hard to say which cartoon is more sadistic, but it's probably safe to say that Tex Avery's outing is more up front about it.  Way more.  That Tex himself provides the cackle of the bulldog, well... he had the best audition!  Why don't you give him a break?
I forgot to mention the music over the opening credits... I think even Carl Stalling didn't know what to compose to sum up the film entire.  Too deep in uncharted waters.  But we do begin a little more conventionally with an exercise in scale.  We see a scary pair of blue eyes... and really, when you get right down to it, aren't all blue eyes a little scary?  Take Cal Ripken Jr., or Robert Downey Jr. at the beginning of Tropic Thunder, for two junior related examples.  We pull back to get introduced to Pussyfoot, a tiny black cat, sitting in a can of salmon, next to a cigar.  You know, for scale, in case the can wasn't enough.  For WB executives, not enough.
Next, the bulldog.  The bulldog, Marc Anthony, much like the Roman empire his name connotes, rushes over to the veritable Christ-like figure that the cat represents... I'll just drop that comparison for the time being.  The dog gives the teeny cat its fiercest snarl it can muster, but the cat's too busy cleaning its fur, as most cats are.  Oh, this one was made by cat lovers, no question.  The cat gives a cute meow, thereby perplexing the dog.  The dog snarls a second time, but the cat walks OVER THE DOG'S TONGUE... mid-snarl, mind you... and up the dog's leg to occupy some high ground for a change.  But before the cat settles down to sleep, the dog's back clearly isn't soft enough, so the cat has to knead it a little first.  I'm telling you... made by cat lovers.  The cat finally curls up and makes for some beauty rest.
The dog's reaction?  Nothing but love.  Aw, how cute.  Now, I'm going to fault the sound people, because the dog seems to give the cat a little kiss, but we don't hear it.  The cat looks up and gives the dog a tiny lick.  There's no turning back now... it was meant to be.  The dog is hopelessly, forever in love with this teeny cat, and the dog slowly walks away with the cat on its back.  My eyes are tearing up a little bit as I write this.


Whoever loved that loved not at first sight?  Of course, it was the dog's second or third look that really did the trick, didn't it?  So much for that old saw!
As with most affairs, the cold realities of the real world soon come crashing down upon these states of bliss.  Marc Antony heads home with his teeny soulmate, only to be quickly reminded that said home is an ungainly mess, with displeased human masters at the helm.  The lady of the house sees the big lug of a dog and lays down the law quickly and firmly, of course.  "Don't you DARE bring another thing into this house!" says the beseiged housewife.  Did I fail to mention that Chuck Jones is the undisputed master of psychology?  Here's but the latest example: we see the dog from behind with the cat on its back as the housewife's laying down the law.  After the law's laid down, the dog gracefully removes the cat from his back and covers it up with a dish, all hidden from view of the housewife.  Genius.  Genius of the highest order.  The filmmakers know sneaking around, too, apparently!!!
As the filmmakers can attest to, cats probably don't like having anything placed over them, like a giant off-yellow dish.  They barely like getting into the carriers to go to the vet.  Somehow they always know when a trip is coming.  And soon, Pussyfoot is scurrying around with the dish on top of it.  The generic housewife with the hot legs spies it, of course, and screams "A MOUSE!!!!"  Take that, housewife from the "Cow and Chicken" series!
Panicked, Marc Antony gives chase... but he seems to be going slowly round that corner.  Next scene: the housewife's first impression comes to fruition, as the dish is leaning up against the wall.  Marc Antony removes the dish and finds a mouse hole in the wall that seems quite a bit larger than the average cartoon mouse hole.  Marc Antony reaches in, grabs the first living thing he finds, and lovingly places it on his back, and continues that slow gait from earlier, trying in vain to recapture the magic of that first one.  Never as good, is it, folks?
The old bait and switch, as it turns out.  There's comedy to be had, even in romance, as it turns out.  I guess this cartoon is indeed a Rom-Com!  I can't think of many others like it, and I discount the stinky Pepe Le Pew series, if only out of protest.  Marc Antony sees Pussyfoot eating at his dish and laughs.  That's when it hits him: well, what do I got on my back?  A mouse!  The mouse gives Marc Antony a kiss, unknowingly channeling what Pussyfoot did earlier.  However, Marc Antony doesn't like the mouse as much, and off his back he quickly goes, and back into the mouse hole, no less!  For some reason, I expected the mouse to pack his bags and leave, but that's another cartoon.  Could someone find that one for me?  Anyone at all?
Next scene: Pussyfoot starts playing with a ball, and ends up scurrying around atop it.  Marc Antony is amused by this, but it quickly turns to horror because, while Pussyfoot has temporarily mastered the art of not falling off the ball, he or she has not mastered the art of aiming the ball in a way to avoid the detection of the housewife that Marc Antony would prefer.  Acting quickly, Marc Antony pretends that Pussyfoot is a wind-up toy, and the housewife buys it!  However, Marc Antony kisses the housewife's foot, just in case.  Doesn't hurt, I suppose.
Then, basically the same scenario happens, except that Pussyfoot gets into a tiny model car and drives around all over the damn place.  Pussyfoot ends up driving under a rug RIGHT AT THE HOUSEWIFE.  Marc Antony goes under the rug after the mischievous cat... this particular cat is just that special.  The dog ends up grabbing the housewife's ankle.  The housewife shrieks, but we see the cat react.  Interesting visual choice!


Next scene: the kitchen, where Marc Antony is trying to teach the cat some rules of the house.  The cat, however, gently bats at the dog's finger, as though it were a toy mouse or something.  The dog finds this adorable, but... well, I would take that as an alarm.  Our current cat is sometimes not so gentle with her claws.  Also, she caught a hummingbird the other day.  And a featherless baby chick before that.  And yet, we just can't bring ourselves to hold it against her.  Oh, those cats will have you feeling suici... I mean, in denial.  In denial.  Forgive me!
As Marc Antony should know by now, there's no place in the house that's safe from the housewife.  Particularly the kitchen, but... what?  What did I say wrong?  Anyway, acting in haste, perchance to repent in leisure, Marc Antony puts the tiny cat in the closest drawer he can find: the flour drawer.   The housewife asks Marc Antony what he's up to.  "You look VERY guilty!" says the housewife.  Marc Antony shakes his head, and seems to predict the animation of Chuck Jones' Grinch years later.
Next scene: the housewife, brushing Marc Antony along with a broom over to his bed basket, says "Now, you sit over there while I make the cookies."  Figures, right?
From there, this simple setup is milked for practically all that it's worth.  Bob Zemeckis couldn't have handled this much better.  We watch as Pussyfoot is carried along in a cupful of flour towards almost certain doom.  Never mind for now that even the busiest of housewives would probably notice a small animal sitting in a cup of flour.  Don't ruin the drama for me, all right?  Marc Antony looks on in horror while all this is going on.  I thought cookies were a good thing!  I don't get it!
Next scene: Marc Antony does just about everything he can to get Pussyfoot out of the mixing bowl, but is shut down at every turn.  His finest moment, of course, is when he's confidently dangling the mixer's cord in his foot, then points at himself when discovered.  Who, me?  Unfortunately, human trumps dog, and Marc Antony gets whisked away by the housewife... damn, but she must be pretty buff!  Draggin' that heavy-ass dog away like that.  Next scene: Pussyfoot emerges, covered in a mixture of flour and milk and... dayamn!  So the cat was about this close (thumb and forefinger...) from getting, um... hurt by the blender?  Cold-blooded.  Even Hitchcock himself was going, "Tea and biscuits!  These things aren't for kids!"
However, the dog doesn't realize that the cat is now safe, hence the next few scenes.  Incidentally, speaking of Hitchcock, I'm starting to question the wisdom of that one scene he described as being an example of tension: the suitcase bomb under the table.  No, that's just a basic example for the Rubes... okay, maybe not so basic.  Thank you, Dr. Syntax.  I thought for sure that Hitchcock's IMDb page would have it.  But it is one of those things that gets quoted to death, like how college admissions people get so, so tired of Gandhi's "Be the change you want to see in the world."  Barf.  Suddenly, I'm put in mind of Tom Cruise's chewing gum bomb from that first Mission: Impossible movie from 20 years ago.  Damn, I'm old.  But you know what?  So is De Palma.  The point Hitch was trying to make was about creating dramatic tension (for the cinema), and Chuck Jones learned the lesson, indeed.  A seemingly ordinary action for one can become a thing of horror for a second.  In this case, for poor old Marc Antony, who thinks that Pussyfoot is being turned into a cookie.  Why, this scene's so good, even Pixar can't improve upon it.  But that doesn't mean they can't steal it for Monsters, Inc.  ...did I mention that already?
Next scene: the housewife is certainly bad at reading dog's emotions.  Does she not see the veritable stream, the delta that forms the mouth of the Mississippi, streaming from the dog's eyes?  The massive puddle of tears in front of him from which even the hardiest of lichens can find no home?  Somehow, Mel Blanc's howling-crying doesn't do the animation justice. 
Now, some have rightly pointed out that the housewife seemed to have no cat shape amongst her various cookie cutters.  To which I respond, it seems to be an ancient cinema tradition.  For example, in A Serious Man, when Lawrence Gopnik lays out his troubles to various rabbis, the filmmakers skip right to the rabbi's reaction, with Larry adding "Plus, she wants a gett."  ...okay, bad example.  No, an example of this comes from the Marx brothers.  Take Monkey Business, for example.  Harpo's inside this puppet show mini-theatre, and one of the detectives has Harpo by the leg.  THE VERY NEXT SCENE: the detective's hanging on to a fake leg, and Harpo's able to make his getaway... okay, another bad example.  The only other example that doesn't illustrate the point that comes to mind is Minority Report... the movie from 2002, not the failed recent TV mini-series, trying to cash in on "Breaking Bad" and all that.  It's the scene where Tom Cruise is inside a car that's being automatically assembled.  Now, the robot arms seem to place one of the car seats right on top of Cruise... did I give too much away already?
Anyway, sure, the housewife lady doesn't seem to have a cat cookie cutter, but what better shape of a cookie for the scene?  It's got the same blue eyes, for God'z zake!!!!  The dog's sadness multiplies tenfold, and he places the cookie lovingly on his back, goes around the corner, and starts crying some more, even though he should probably be completely out of tears at this point.


The mischievous little cat's okay, of course, and the dog is happy anew.  That is, until... yup, the jig is up.  No more wind-up toy, no more powder puff... the housewife sees that it's a genuine little cat, and Marc Antony's back is against the wall.  The only thing left to do is plead, crying some more for the housewife.  Man, but that dog has a lot of spare molecules for tears!  It's the Kubler-Ross model all over again... but in reverse, something like that.  If we replace anger with deception, then it's deception to make the housewife think the cat isn't real, then depression when Marc Antony thought the cat was turned into a cookie, then bargaining.  The housewife eventually lets Marc Antony keep "that dear little kitten," and the kitten almost gets crushed by Marc Antony's dropped lower lip.  The music almost sounds like the theme from The Godfather!
HOWEVER, there are a few stipulations.  "Remember, you've GOT to take care of it!" says the housewife.  Marc Antony happily nods at that.  "And let him share your bed!" says the housewife.  Marc Antony's smile drops considerably.  As does mine; I thought Pussyfoot was female.  Oh well.  "And clean up after him!" says the housewife.  Marc Antony's hand that's holding the cat almost turns into a fist at this point.
Soon, we're back in the kitchen with Marc Antony wagging his finger at Pussyfoot in a vain attempt to impart these new house rules, but all Pussyfoot wants to do is get some more beauty sleep.  At least 16 hours a day for cats, you know!  And once again, Pussyfoot kneads Marc Antony's back, and curls up and goes to sleep.  Marc Antony covers up Pussyfoot with some of his back skin for a blanket. 
You know, I have a feeling we're going to be seeing a lot more of this Marc Antony and Pussyfoot... but I gotta wait 'til Vol. 4, Disc 4 for a couple more.  So worth it.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Charles S. Dutton

What's a brutha to do?  The 90s and the glory of a live edition of Fox's hit show "Roc" far behind him, Dutton has to resort to working in virtual anonymity

Don't get me wrong.................

I'll be strong when the slowburn sunset comes along.  Anyway, the big story on Yahoo! is not that the new X-Men movie is #1, but that Johnny Depp's latest movie is a huge bomb.  Of course, they've been saying that ever since about the time of The Rum Diaries about Depp's movies.  Probably the best news that Depp has had lately, given the recent double whammy of his divorce from someone named Amber Heard, and his mom passing away.  Bombs are the new hits these days, what with Amazon and Netflix flooding the marketplace with series, web-exclusive and non... oh, I thought Tim Burton directed this one!  The new Alice movie is actually the product of Ali G's old friend, James Bobin, and Ali G has a bit part, of course.  Now, (The Brothers) Grimsby... now THAT was a bomb.  Debuting at #8 actually is a bomb.
So, X-Men and Alice are the two big winners this week.  The only other debut is Jane Austen's classic Love & Friendship.  For old fashioned film geeks like me, this is one of those things where we all go "...huh!" because it's a reunion of sorts of the major cast and crew of a film called The Last Days of Disco.  Yes, writer director Whit Stillman, indie-film celeb Chloë Sevigny and the Underworld chick Kate Beckinsale decided to reunite, but only because the project was right.  Stillman decided to forego work on Little Green Men, a novel by William F. Buckley's kid.  This is a make or break moment for Morfydd Clark, me thinks.  If she's not on Colbert's show in the next couple of weeks explaining the genesis of her name, well... ah, she'll probably get another spotlight chance anyway. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Shining Music Station

Chuck Jones should be ashamed of himself... okay, let's review this.


An unusual setup, indeed.  It's as though this is an actual concert or something.  At least A Corny Concerto gave a thematic hint in its title.  And sure, "Mr. Bugs Bunny" as guest conductor seems ripe with the promise of wackiness, but... spoiler alert... the Looney Tunes franchise fell on hard times in the early, middle, and late 1950s.  The animators were getting older, and this seems to be reflected in Bugs' appearance.  I mean, look at this sad reflection of his former, more sprightly self!  LOOK AT IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Those wrinkled, drooping eyelids.  Why, he looks like a sad, sorry, miserable, squashed thing compared to... just about any of the 1940s Looney Tunes.  Can anyone tell me what's wrong with this picture?  Anyone at all?
As with Rhapsody Rabbit, there's some smart aleck in the audience coughing.  Now, for some historical perspective, you can't go to Baton Bunny's IMDb "Connections" page.  For that, we have to go to Baton Bunny's IMDb "Trivia" page.  Apparently, Baton Bunny, in addition to borrowing thematic elements from other fellow Looney Tunes, borrows quite a few key plot elements from the not-known-at-all Disney short The Band Concert, which has got to be well within the Top 5 LAMEST titles for a Disney short.  Of all time, which includes Cretaceous and Devonian.  Unless it's about Robbie Robertson, you don't name your film The Band Concert.  If there's a band in it, it's pretty much a given that there will be a concert involved.  It's like Larry the Cucumber and Bob the Tomato.  Where's the alliteration?  Where's the oomph?  It's OOMPH, not zero miles per hour!  Anyway, that's neither here nor there.  So this thing called The Band Concert also features a conductor with an ill-fitting outfit, a troublesome insect, and a cougher ejected from the audience.  On the plus side, there's no troublesome storm in Baton Bunny to stop the concert... which is too bad, because that's probably exactly what this film needs.


The baton has been picked, squeaky glasses have been fumbled with, Bugs has done his stretching exercises... wait, is he mooning us?  Hmm!  And so, the concert finally begins.  2nd hmm!  We can't see any of the performers!  Oh boy!  Will it turn out to be an all-Bugs orchestra at the end?  Oh, Gawd, but I hope so!  Anyway, the actual music begins in earnest at about 2:04.  Oh dude, Bugs is so into it, he can't even keep his own sheet music on his lectern-like stand!
Of course, Leopold didn't need a baton to conduct, but that's neither there nor here.  He didn't seem to have sheet music even!  But Bugs does his best to live up to his own standards, using every part of his body to conduct... ears, toes, fingers... fingers?  He pops out from behind the fat rostrum, just enough so that we can see the parts of him that are conducting.  My description of it just doesn't do it justice... then again, it kinda does.  Maybe I'm just in the wrong frame of mind.  Maybe I'll think this is a bloody classic the next time I watch it.  But how long should I wait?
Anyway, some more conflict arises.  In cartoons, traditionally, a musician's worst enemy has been a mouse that takes an interest in the proceedings... again, as with Rhapsody Rabbit, and any number of Tom and Jerries.  But here, we depart slightly from the formula, and at 2:45, enter the annoying fly.  And even though the fly is sort of in tune with the tune the orchestra's playing, Bugs cannot tolerate it.  Bugs' eyes focus on the fly.  The fly lands on Bugs' nose, and Bugs tries to shake it off.  So like people.  Incidentally, there's an edit before the fly appears.  I mean, when you have a big job ahead of you, like animating a fly, it really needs its own scene.
Now, I watched Baton Bunny with a companion a while ago, and their verdict was that it was kinda lame.  With which I wholeheartedly agree... but there's little moments in it, to be sure.  Take, for example, the part at 3:07, when Bugs turns into a virtual Bugs Tornado, trying to shake that fly off of his nose.  The orchestra, so in sync with the conductor's every movement, speeds up, and seems to play that Irish song... "The Irish Washerwoman"!  That seems to be it!  Lol.  Well, it's used in a semi-memorable way here.  Bugs stops, briefly loses the baton, then taps on the lectern... I'm assumpthing that that's what it's called.  The fly reappears, then Bugs writes in his book of sheet music.  Unfortunately, we don't get to see what he writes.  Oh well.  A little something to tickle the brain, perhaps.
After the fly, there's not much in the way of conflict.  Bugs' tail conducts a little... ugh... and Bugs struggles with his cuff links, in a way that only cartoons could at the time.  Sure, such things are possible today, post-Forrest Gump, if you will... but who wants to?  No one.  That's who.


Oh, Act Three should definitely start at 4:29, or about 70% of the way into the film, including opening credits, assuming a total running time of six minutes 25 seconds.  The music actually picks up a little bit, with a fast sequence, just like in the William Tell Overture.  Unless you've seen A Clockwork Orange, people don't realize there's a sad, slow part of it, too!  Sadder even than Adagio for Strings, for God's sake!
Now, I hate to be so hypocritical, but the sound Bugs makes at about 4:33 when he falls on his ass, well... clearly this isn't the Looney Tunes' Golden Age.  Was that really the best they could do?  Clearly, Carl Stalling wasn't that great of a teacher, having left the future of cartoon music in the hands of mere technicians.
Anyway, back to Bugs who, now that the music's fast, is having way way more fun than even P.D.Q. Bach would have as a conductor.  Now, how's he going to get rid of that big-ass harp from 4:57?  Why, cheat, of course!  Look how it shrinks behind the podium.  Lame, lame, lame.  But the part with the tuba at 5:10's pretty good.  The music itself doesn't carry enough literal heft, you see.  It needs a narrative accompaniment, with a Western flavour, apparently.  Far, far removed from Vienna, indeed... but then again, there's all those Spaghetti Westerns, right?  I'm sorry, but I have to believe that it's all related.
There's that timpani sound again at 5:15 when Bugs falls to the ground!  Nails on chalkboard, I'm sorry.  Anyway, next scene: this is just how good a conductor Bugs is.  Either that, or how good the orchestra's visibility of him is.  Bugs' whole rabbit body trembles, and the orchestra gets it.  No baton, no ears giving direction, just a full body shake.  Now, that's synchrony, or symbiosis, or whatever you want to call it.  Conductor and orchestra on the same wavelength.  You'll not see anything like it ever again.
Next scene: Bugs lays there as though he's at Death's door, and the fly makes its triumphant reappearance, like a fly in your own house, looking for a nice pile to land on and wipe its two front hands together, like the evil intruder it is.  The fly lands on Bugs' nose anew... boy!  Bugs must be a real brown noser or something... sorry, I shouldn't of have said that.  But they do make that argument in Rabbit Rampage, or Bugs' version of Duck Amuck.  The fly stokes Bugs' rage, and he turns into a tornado version of himself again.  Now, even the most vocal anti-fan of classical music knows the part at 5:31.  I'd forgotten about it myself.


And so, as with The Who after him, it's time for the wholesale destruction of the orchestra.  But for good cause, as it's a really annoying fly.  The violins go first, as Bugs runs into that area at about 5:36.  Apparently, we're still not going to see any musicians in this picture, but we might hear about a union protest afterwards in the paper.  The French Horns are next at 5:38, but I swear that it sounds more like a trumpet that blasts when it happens.  Bugs swings at the fly with a trombone, then gets his foot stuck in a big drum, but loses it just as quickly before running through the tubular bells.  Bugs gets his weaponized hands on a pair of cymbals, and stuns the fly with them.  Bugs has managed to destroy about half of the orchestra, but we still hear the full orchestra at the end, finishing up the piece.  Lame, lame, lame.  Nothing less than full destruction of the orchestra will do, as this film clearly shows.
And so, the piece is over and Bugs takes what he believes to be a well-deserved bow.  Bugs' bug-eyes are opened wide, however, to find that there are only crickets in the audience giving the applause.  Everyone's at home, either reminiscing about World War II for the elders, or working on their cars and combing their hair with their switchblade combs if you're younger.  No one gives a Real George about classical music anymore, now that it's all on vinyl and readily available anytime one would want, or perhaps even on specialty market radio stations.  It can't all be about Elvis on the airwaves, right?
Will no one give this film closure and give Bugs and band a little applause?  Well, once again, it's the fly's job to bring a little life to this celluloid affair, and we zoom in on the fly... that now actually looks like a fly, and not just some random black dot, and the fly is clapping with its two teeny weeny front limbs.  And yet, it sounds suspiciously human.  Bugs shrugs, then starts bowing to the fly.  I couldn't feel more underwhelmed.

Good double bill with: Pink, Plunk, Plink... which is actually unfair to Pink, Plunk, Plink

-so sayeth The Movie Jerk Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Ed DuRanté

Figures.  Why they gotta pick on a brotha just because he's a Republican?  Same thing happened to Chris Darden.  And I'm still scratching my head over Michael Steele's tenure as chairman of the Republican National Committee.  You're going to throw a brotha under the bus over $20 million dollars and a lesbian nightclub?  You're the party of degenerate billionaires!  ACT like it!
Just started watching this... why do Condoleeza Rice and Stacey Dash always go first?  That's kind of lazy, in my opinion, if I may say so.  Anyway, I gotta call it a day.  Good night, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.

So it begins..................

I was just thinking that, rather than consider the implications of the end of society as we know it through the lens of an Angry Birds movie being #1 at the box office this weekend, I thought instead I'd contemplate some of the implications of this whole Zika virus thing, of which I've only gotten a short briefing on at work and all.  But according to that old web mainstay Wikipedia... which I will donate money to someday, I promise... probably better that they don't take a cash infusion from, say, the Koch brothers or someone like that... warnings are being issued to women in countries such as Colombia, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic to postpone getting pregnant until more is known about the virus!  Meanwhile, in the South, Christian parents keep telling their pregnant daughters "Young lady, you are NOT traveling abroad to try and catch the Zika virus!  You are TAKING THIS BABY TO TERM RIGHT NOW!!!!!!"  I guess what I'm getting at, in my usual oblique manner, is that some said that AIDS was God's will when it made its big debut in the 80s.  Punishment for sexual promiscuity, something like that.  But now God is going after the institution of pregnancy?  Make up your mind, God!  Make up your mind.  Are we multiplying too much again?  Is it time for another flood?  Of course, the next ark will probably be a little less full, given the rate at which humanity is killing off species.
Anyway, back to Le Cinema.  Personally, I'm waiting for that "Candy Crush" movie that Stephen Colbert promised me, but for now, Angry Birds will just have to do.  Ooh!  What nod to the game that started it all will there be?  Opening credits montage?  Closing credits?  Smartphone footage of people in the mall hitting each other?  For Hollywood proper, it's just another day at the office, not having to put on layer after layer of makeup, as the actors always say.  Oh, it's great!  I come in to the studio in my PJs and talk into a mic all day!  Love it.  But will America love it next week, or will they have second thoughts?  Something tells me from the totals that Captain America will take back over again.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Cat Is A Lonely Hunter

Our next cartoon is called The Hypo-chondri-cat and, well... I'll tell you right up front.  Not my favourite.  I miss Abbott and Costello as the mice.  One time they were cats!


Ah, the American home.  Less affordable than ever.  I don't know what the signs are of an impending real estate bubble, but one of them seems to be ads on TV saying "The American home!  A great investment.  Buy two!  Buy three!!!"  You start seeing those again, buckle up.  More bad times ahead.
To make matters worse, Mother Nature sends her agents to infiltrate said house.  This isn't some happy-go-lucky Tom and Jerry cartoon, after all, where we zoom in on a house to meet Tom, then Jerry living in the walls.  This is Hubie and Bertie, yet another Chuck Jones serial.  How many of these things does that guy HAVE?!!!... oh, right.  Could probably use the IMDb to figure that out.  Anyone else have time?
And so, we start, as most of these affairs do, with a character introduction.  As you can quickly divine, Hubie's the smart one, and he sits there on the window ledge, wrapped in a leaf, looking inside... hence Carl Stalling's choice of "September in the Rain".  Remember?... "The leaves of brown came tumbling down"?  Of course, Hubie's leaf is green, mind you.  Now, I'm no biologist or anything, and couldn't go on for hours and hours about the social lives of mice... come to think of it, I guess moles and voles are solitary creatures, if all those wasted hours watching nature documentaries taught me anything.  Mice, on the other hand, they don't spend all their time digging, and they've got larger eyes for lookin' at stuff.  And Hubie's found a real doozy.  But we need to wait until Bertie gets up on the stoop before we get a look inside.  That's just good plotting.
"Hey Boit!  C'mon!" says Hubie in that accented way of his.  See, usually he says "Hey Boit!  C'mere!"  Bertie makes his way up to the window sill, eager to get the latest news.  "Obsoive!  Our new home!" says Hubie the Impresario.  The camera zooms in on the cheese, correcting for being a little off center.  That's the part of the house that Bertie focuses on.  Bertie starts to make a run for the cheese, but Hubie has to hold Bertie back.  Again.  Hubie throws the audience a bit of a look.  Pathetic, ain't he, folks?  Look what I gotta work with.  Because Hubie knows that he just can't make it on his own, but still... what an unformed mess this Bertie is!  Good Lourdes.  Hubie slaps the overeager Bertie around.  It's at a rate somewhere between 4 and 6 frames a second.  Well, Chuck Jones liked to make things a little tougher on the animators, so it would seem.  Don't want things to get too stale, right?
Hubie then marches up to the windowsill and lifts it up.  You know... mice stuff.  It's kind of like how Bella Swan fell for... you know, the Robert Pattinson character in the Twilight movies and books.  Who wouldn't want to be friends with Super Mouse?  Even if he slapped you around a little bit every now and again?  Bertie marches triumphantly through the open window, and Hubie kicks him in the ass.  Clearly this is an abusive relationship, albeit an entertaining one.  I can't help but wonder what it says about me that I like it so much?
Next scene: a roaring fire in the fireplace.  Hubie and Boit have managed to get the Pac-Man shaped wheel of cheese over next to it, and are enjoying the fruits of their collective labour.  But surely there are other inhabitants of this house?  Who leaves a giant thing of cheese just sitting out like that?  Even if it is the kind you can do that with?  These things just don't appear out of thin air!  Even Hare Force had a human counterpart, and look what happened to her!
And so, enter the cat.  "Will there be anything else?" asks the cat, pretending to be a butler.  In cartoon land, sarcasm is one of the nastiest tools in the mouser cat's tool chest.  Hubie gets scared right away, but dummy Bertie eventually catches on.  Oh, that Bertie!  Surprising he's survived as long as he has, isn't it, folks?  He'd be on the side of the road in two seconds if not for brainiac Hubie!  Next scene: the more sensitive viewers amongst you will surely like this part.  The chase is on, and I'm assuming that it's Mel Blanc doing his best impression of a cat on the hunt... aren't cats usually silent when they're chasing their prey?  The time when they make noise is when they've got the thing in their mouth, and are confidently walking back home to bring it inside.  Great job, Kitty.  Another dead bird.  "And I CAUGHT it!" thinks the cat.  Oh, cats just have no social skills to make it in the human world.  They just sit there going, hey!  You try sneaking up on a mole and catching it with only your mouth and paws!  It's a skill, like juggling!  Anyway, your more sensitive friends will appreciate Blanc's vocalizing as the cat on the chase, noting how it's just on that knife's edge; maybe it was a cat after all!  Who can say?
Anyway, it's at this juncture where in any ordinary pic, those two rodents would be as dead as fried chicken.  It may also represent the only time when Hubie's in less than absolute control, as he and his dumb companion try running up the wall to get away.  But God and the devious Looney Tunes screenwriters have other plans in mind.  The cat's about to get those old Duke mice WHEN SUDDENLY... the cat screeches to a stop.  The open window!  The cat carefully closes the window, then gallops on over to its basket bed, and starts chugging the old chelated manganese and what not.  Why... is that Mel Blanc's normal, regular voice?  Oh, this is bad.  Very very bad.  A sorrier state a Looney Tunes character could not be in.
From his lofty perch, practically in an ivory tower, Hubie tries to put two and two together and... dayamn!  Does Hubie use Bertie as ... as bait?!!  Practically.  Okay, in addition to himself.  So here's what happens.  Bertie's less in control than Hubie, we've sort of established that.  Bertie climbs up next to the window, still scared.  Hubie shows Bertie the hypo-chondri-cat of the film's title's fame, gulping away at the old acetomenaphine and Comet pills, etc.  Bertie whews in relief.  Hubie then gives the cat a raspberry, and hangs on to the tail of the fleeing Bertie.  I'm now a fan of 1:46, the shot of the cat running up, meowing, with the bag of hot water still atop its head.
Bertie's still trying to escape in that pathetic way of his.  Far down the Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs he is!  And so, with Bertie's tail in one hand, Hubie lifts the window sill open with the other, thereby stopping the cat.  Not exactly a scientific study, but for now, we have two successful tests.  The open window, for now, stops the cat.  Thank God it's a windy night!
And so, the cat's got the thermometer in its mouth, and Bertie's laughing away.  "We've got woik to do!" says Hubie, walking away confidently Stage Right, hands in pockets... mice have hand pockets?


Perfect place for an Act Break.  We fade to black, then fade back in on the hypo-chondri-cat proper.  We don't know how much time has passed, but these two mice probably haven't been idle, and over the course of the next five minutes, we'll see to what extent they've build the perfect cat trap... if only for this one cat.  Not as elaborate as, say, Mouse Wreckers which, arguably, is practically the same cartoon as The Hypo-Chondri-Cat, but still.  I gotta wait until Vol. 2, Disc 2 for Mouse Wreckers.  Figures.
The two mice start off simply, with as bare of a psychological warfare as you can get.  "Didja ever see such a sick cat in your life?" asks Hubie of Bertie.  Bertie concurs.  The cat's putty in their hands, of course.  "He's toining green!" says Hubie.  Bertie's not completely on board yet, of course.  "WHADDAYA MEAN, HUBIE?  HE AIN'T TOINING GREEN!!!!!" he says.  This may be my favourite part of the cartoon yet.  Hubie slaps Bertie into submission on this one.  Welp, can't argue with results!  The cat does indeed turn green, as both of the mice together have willed it into existence.  Then he turns purple!  Now, Jones liked to make life a living hell for his unders, as he has to go and make what could of... have been a simple cross fade, and make it complicated as hell.  It's all in the cat's eyes.  If you watch the cat's eyes as it changes color, colored rings fill the cat's eyes.  If you watch the cross-fade very very closely, the rings are about as perfect as can be.  They appear unaffected by the cross-fade.  However, when the cat turns from his regular color of white and yellow to green, his top left whisker shortens, then lengthens again.  When the cat goes from green to purple, the opposite happens... and his top right whisker moves a little bit.  Ah, the days before Adobe Flash or Maya, or RenderMan.  Little details like that didn't seem to matter.  And not easily fixed, of course... kinda like "Base on the book by" in Dr. Strangelove in the opening credits... tee hee hee!
"Let me pick the next color!" says Bertie.  Now, normally, this is the kind of thing that should make those two grifter mice as dead as Costco baked chicken... I must be hungry or something.  But such is the state of this cat, supposed champion mouser, supposed guardian of the domicile.  Alas, the fleas and the germophobia have gotten to him rather completely.  He's become that mouse-crazed elephant and/or Looney Tunes human housewife.  Stricken by fear, this is his fate now, awaiting what color a mouse is going to pick that he will change into.  Is it completely involuntary?  Is it some strange manifestation of hope?  If I turn this color or that color, will all my ills suddenly be cured?  If I prostrate myself enough at the tiny cheese-stealing feet of these grey and brown devils before me, will I finally be in decent health?  This is uncharted waters here, people.  This is a fate worse than the cat in The Aristo-Cat.
"Don't overdo it!" Hubie side-mouths to Bertie.  Time to move on, anyhow.  "Medicine ain't gonna help him now," says Hubie.  "You mean?" asks Bertie.  Hubie nods... I'm a little unsure what they mean here, but they start fake crying and slowly walking away.  The cat breaks down, holding the two mice by their tails, screaming "DON'T LEAVE ME!!!"  This is why pyramid schemes do so well, like Trump University and what not.
The cat begs the two mice to save him.  "I'm an awful sick cat!" the cat says... did I mention that I don't like this one that much already?  Let me check... yup, right up top.  And yet, here we are.  Well, Hubie does give a genius response to the cat's pleas.  "I know there's not much to work with, but shouldn't we at least see what we can do?" Hubie asks Bertie.  Oh, even ol' Rod Serling couldn't have done much better than that.  Next scene: the cat's on an operating table.  That does it.  I need a break.
...okay, I'm back.  Yes, for as the Three Stooges and the Marx brothers before them, Hubie and Bertie do the ol' fake surgery routine.  Should I include Hard Candy for good measure?  I suppose, for both it and this cartoon have about the same level of believability.  Again, the screenwriters bring sly personal touches to the mouses' dialogue.  "How's that new nurse in Ward C, Doctor?" Bertie asks of Hubie.  The hypochondriac feline is too stricken with fear to argue with the mice, but the mice strain credulity that much further when Hubie admits that he's never operated on a sick cat before, "but I'll try anything once," he says.  "Riot!" adds Bertie, when the veritable "Men at Work" sign gets placed atop the quivering cat's belly.
No anesthetic is given the cat.  Does this mean that the Stooges are actually more credible surgeons than these two cartoon mice?  Depressing thought, indeed... oh, I mean, laughable at best and criminally negligent at worst.  Personally, I think the Marx brothers took the right approach in A Day at the Races when they kept washing their hands.  And Harpo kept drinking water in A Night at the Opera.  Not as obsessed with water as, say, M. Night Shyamalan, but that's for another blog.  You see, in both Signs and Unbreakable, you see... ah, skip it.  Back to the operating table with us.  SHEESH!!!  The time-honored, well-worn comedy conventions continue, as Hubie and Bertie list the various instruments and implements they will use on the cat.  The poor cat is covering himself with the surgery blanket... that's right, I'm siding with the cat on this one.  And so, after all the instruments and implements have been shown and named, the two mice are, in fact, operating on that big Pac-Man-shaped wheel of cheese... you know, I'm suddenly put in mind of this one time when Jon Stew-Beef reprimanded a Right-wing organization for overusing hyphens.  I'll know I'm really truly around the bend when I'm overusing the word "Whereas."
And so the cheese is cut... sliced, rather.  Mel Blanc probably provides the sound for that, sounding more like the noise you make when you run your finger across your throat... see Waikiki Wabbit for an example of that.  Now, all this noisemaking may seem corny to you and I, but it's veritable curtains for the cat.  The cat makes like rigour mortis and falls flat on the table.  Kinda like how the older you get, the more you feel like you're going to have an heart attack when someone slams a door a little too loudly............


Darkness warshed over the cat, darker than a black steer's tookas on a moonless prairie night; there was no bottom.  (no pun intended)
I'm sorry, but if you need that reference explained to you, you can no longer read this blog.  Leave.  Immediately.  Sure, it's not like stealing one of Bill O'Reilly's books, but still.  And so, the Big Dream Sequence begins in earnest.  Cue the theremin!  Dig, man.  Real George.  Very '50s, man, very Beatnik and all that.  How NOW, brown bureaucrat?  Rather than visions of erotic bowling pins flying through our collective heads, we get the egg beater from before, but drawn only in white lines on an ink black background.  Oh, you gotta watch this part a couple times to catch everything, that's fer sure!  The cat tries to run, but there's no johnson cutters wielding giant scissors on his tail.  He does have doctor bags on his feet, and a giant bottle of pills emerges from the infinite distance of dreams.  In Russia, pill take you!  Hee hee hee... The bottle of pills explodes, and the explosion cloud 'morphs' into the kitchen that the cat is sitting in.  Sure, morphing may have existed as a concept before the release of Terminator 2... but everyone knows The Abyss is the one, right?  That's where it really took off.  Any number of millionaire ILM geeks will tell you that.  Anyway, back to the cat.  The cat now has tiny angel wings, and a garment that looks vaguely like what an angel might be wearing.  Depends on whose biblical interpretation you believe.  Clearly it's a working class angel's cloth coat!  (scoffs)  Plus, it says "Acme Flour" on the back.  Again with the Acme.
We can hear the two mice crying... I'm assumpting that it's still them, as they're the only ones who have been crying... as a pair.  The cat did its fair share of tearing up as well, if only out of selfishness.  Anyway, we pan past the cat and down to the ground, where we see a mocked up grave site for the cat.  We've now entered full-on Playhouse 90 territory, or maybe just Twilight Zone.  An actor's exercise as old as time, ain't it?  The ghost in the room that just can't get anyone to listen.  "I'm right here!" they often will say.  Will Claude Cat eventually find out that it's all just an elaborate gag?


...spoiler alert, no.  No, he doesn't.  But I do kinda like the two times that he goes "EEP!!!!"  Okay, clearly the "EEP!!!!" at the X-ray machine's the better of the two.
While the stroke of midnight part was a stroke of genius, I failed to find the rest amusing.  The two mice have set up the perfect psychological cat trap, using an X-ray machine to see through the cat, a sign pointing to Cat Heaven on the edge of a cliff, and a teeny red balloon to help the cat fly.  It's the kind of balloon that only works after you jump off a cliff; ah, cartoons.  I guess it's the old 'looks like a duck and talks like a duck' argument that even Yogi Barra never believed, but the cat eventually believes the mice's elaborate ruse, and as it floats away towards the moon, the cat says "Farewell, you poor earthly creatures!" to the mice.  Now, there's probably a whole blog post out there somewhere dedicated to the fact that the cat trembles at the edge of the cliff that leads to "Cat Heaven."  You know, the whole Test of Faith kind of a thing.  Maybe it's like how God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, but stopped him at the last second.  A rather cruel God, indeed, messing with people like that.  But for a slightly more positive example, I read once about a man who helped his wife who was tormented by bad dreams about not being able to ride a bicycle.  Maybe this is all just actually a radical new medical approach to curing hypochondria (for the 1950s), or maybe it's like "death therapy" in What About Bob?  Or maybe it's just that, for Supermice, it just can't always be about the cheese.  And so, therefore, with that in mind...

Good double bill with (merely for academic purposes): the far, far superior Hare Tonic, where Bugs easily escapes the clutches of suburban Elmer and says "Hey, wait a minute!  This setup's too good!  I must go back and heckle that character."  Love that one.  The Hypo-chondri-cat, on the other hand.....................................

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Cheryl Dunye

Shame on me!  I forgot this one.  Well, it's a large body of work here, so I should probably give it more than just a cursory look.  After all, not everyone is the Jane Campion of Liberia!  Now, I don't know who exactly this Sapphire is, but if it's the same one behind 2009's Precious, well... it's a variation on a theme, let's say.  Unfortunately, there's a lot of suffering teenagers out there.  All part of the Right Wing's love and respect for all life on this planet, naturally.  So Cheryl's got the populist touch, anyway.
Take 1996's The Watermelon Woman, for example... oy.  Well, it's been a while since Watermelon Man from 1970.  Not to be confused with Paul Newman's The MacKintosh Man.  I've been doing that a lot lately.  Anyway, now that IFC and the Sundance channel, for two, have gone almost completely corporate, The Watermelon Woman probably won't be seen on cable any time soon, and I'd be very very surprised if Turner Classic Movies showed it.  To make matters worse, Cheryl's co-star in the pic, Guinevere Turner, still won't return her calls!  Owwch.
So being the lesbian equivalent of Spike Lee wasn't in the cards.  But Hollywood took notice, and we got 2004's My Baby's Daddy... wait a tic!  Didn't... oh, never mind.  John Singletary... Singleton's 2001 pic was called Baby Boy.  So working with Eddie Griffin in 2004 meant Cheryl was at the top of her game.  What to do next?  Why, a six year break from directing, of course!  Sometimes you just gotta clear the pallet and the palette for half a decade.  Call it the Eddie Griffin Effect, if you must.
But the 2010s are looking to be Cheryl's best decade yet.  Her latest is a short from 2014 called The Brother from Another Planet... I'm sorry, it's called Brother from Another Time.  Well, original titles are hard to come by.  I believe the phenomenon is called titulomimicry... probably wrong about the phraseology on that one.  But I will give mad props to her for Mommy is Coming, a film that probably took her almost completely out of her comfort zone, as it's about an underground scene in Berlin.  Probably the idea of co-conspirator Sarah Schulman, but still!  Also, I can't resist an Ishtar reference, because I believe it was the successful duo of Rogers and Clarke who once sang "She's gonna Change her name to Carol."  Which, incidentally, is egg-zactly what Cherly did for her 2010 movie, The Owls!

'The Darkness' Fumbles for a Key to a Door that's Wide Open

Yeah, I know.  I suppose, technically, I should be badmouthing Clooney's latest, Money Monster, but I can't.  I mean, God bless all involved, but it's Cadillac Man with the "Mad Money" twist... ACK!  I just badmouthed it!
Let's move on then.  Disney and Marvel continue their stranglehold on the top spots... boy!  Where's that musty old Sherman Anti-trust Act when you need it?  The only other debut this week is called The Darkness.  Sounds like your typical Amityville-type deal, but with the Grand Canyon twist.  Well, all I know is that those Grand Canyon ghosts really pick their battles.  Remember that time when Clark Griswold made off with the till at that Grand Canyon gift shop?  And yet, the ghosts did nothing.  The ghosts, for whatever reason, unanimously said "Hey!  That makes up for the crooked car guys from earlier!  Equilibrium restored."

Sunday, May 08, 2016

What Bugs Bugs Bunny

Our next Looney Tunes is an unusual entry for Bugs, and it's a Chuck Jones joint called Frigid Hare.  If you're like me (scary thought, I know.......) you may have confused this one with the other penguin and Bugs pairing called 8 Ball Bunny, which is also a Chuck Jones joint.  If I had to pick one... I guess I'd pick Frigid Hare, so I can get it over with, for one.


We start, as so many of these Bugs affairs seem to start lately, with him burrowing underground like a mole or a gopher.  Again, he made the wrong turn at Albuquerque, and must've taken too much Ambien or something.  If I were tunneling underground, I would probably take more surface breaks.  Frankly, I have neither the patience nor the proper fingers for long-distance underground tunneling.  Probably why I never got anywhere in life.
But Bugs and I have similar character flaws after all, for he throws all his sunbathing gear out of the snow-rimmed hole in the ground (love the Seuss-esque font of the book), leaps out in a bathing suit, screaming "MIAMI BEACH AT LAST!" and heads right for the water.  First nice touch: the splash that Bugs makes in the water freezes in place.  Much like that guy on The Simpsons who screams "THE PTA HAS DISBANDED!!!" and leaps out the window, but later retracts his leap... so too does Bugs jump back out of the water, in his nice new blue color.  Cartoon hypothermia, however, is short lived, fading away right there in mid-scene!  Usually you have to wait for the scene itself to fade before a character gets healed.
But then... God, working through Chuck Jones, saw Bugs all alone there in the Antarctic cold, and said "It is not good for the Bugs to be alone.  I will make a helper suitable for him... but not one that will completely up-stage Bugs, of course."  Bugs had a tough agent, you see.  Enter the cute penguin... I think he knocks Bugs over.  Let me check the DVD again... oh, shame on me.  Not only does Bugs so get knocked over, but he has to speak up about it.  He calls the penguin a "little runt," then he gets spun around all kinda ways by the penguin's human pursuer.  "WATCH WHERE YA GOIN'!" says Bugs in that Brooklyn/Bronx way of his.  The Eskimo zips back to Bugs' side, brandishing a spear near Bugs' nose.  A capital opportunity for Bugs to ask, "Eh, what's up, doc?"  ...which he does.
Now, Mel Blanc is a master of all accents, as we all know... but maybe he's phoning this one in a little tiny bit.  Just a little tiny bit!  Nothing that can't be forgiven.  After all, all his sins were committed in the dark pre-Internet times.  Anyway, the Eskimo asks Bugs where the penguin went... hoh boy.  Let's just assume it's ethnographically correct for the time being.  Bugs points in the opposite direction in relation to the penguin.  The Eskimo takes Bugs at his word and heads off that way... hoh boy yoy YOY yoy YOYYYYYYYYYYYY.  Well, adrenalin(e) can do that to you, I guess.  I wouldn't know, personally; it's just what I hear at the gym all the time.
Fade to black!  Already?  That's a little unusual!  Next scene: Bugs is heading back to the hole he dug in the ground, singing about Miami Beach.  Is it a Carl Stalling original?  Did Michael Maltese come up with it?  Sadly, we'll never know any of the juicy answers to these pointless questions, as there is no DVD commentary... on the DVD.  And so, Bugs is about ready to have a normal vacation, when ALL OF A SUDDEN... a massive Cuteness attack.  The teeny penguin is standing there, looking up at Bugs, sadly.  No hidden agendas here, no J.J. Abrams-style Trojan horses doubling back on themselves, messing with the space-time continuum... just your old-fashioned sad, tiny penguin.  This is probably a good time for an Act break, but I'll wait until the drama gets going again.
Bugs tries to get rid of the little guy.  First step: ...sorry, spoiler alert.  It takes more than one try to get rid of the penguin.  Bugs plays into the whole tuxedo thing by adorning the penguin with a top hat and a tie.  Bugs then turns the penguin to the right, and tries to get the penguin to walk away.  The penguin does this, and heads off into the icy horizon.  Bugs then sets the plot in motion by revealing his itinerary: "Mr. Warner gave me just two weeks vacation, and I've already lost enough time."  Make sure to make a note of this, because it'll come up later, spoiler alert.
The drama heats up a little bit, but I still want to wait on that long promised Act Break.  The penguin makes his way back to Bugs' hole just as Bugs is about to take off for Miami.  We're assuming now that Bugs has the proper bearings to do so.  And unlike the self-professed moronic giant in Jack-Wabbit and the Beanstalk who manages to go all the way around the world in twenty paces, the penguin had merely reversed his course at some point, and made his way quickly back to Bugs' hole in the ice... even though we just saw the penguin head off towards the horizon and all.  Apparently, this is a bending of time and space that doesn't rise to the level of inclusion in the Laws of Cartoon Physics, BUT OH WELL.
The penguin jumps into the hole.  Now this is an intrusion that Bugs cannot tolerate... unlike that one where both Bugs and Daffy tunnel their way into a cave full of gems and such... Ali Baba Bunny!  That must be it.  One of those Saturday morning faves the networks would often show way back when.  Now it's all Yu-Gi-Oh and the like.  I gotta wait til Volume 5 to do that one; figures.  The penguin tries a couple more times to go with Bugs, and Bugs continues to resist.  Eventually, however, looking into those sad penguin eyes, Bugs relents and agrees to spend part of his vacation with the penguin.  Well, Miami was a bigger deal back then.  The penguin understands, and claps its fins together with joy.  Too much cuteness!  I can't take it!  I tell you darlings, Chuck Jones was the master of cartoon psychology, whether it was cute stuff or stuff to drive you crazy... I know, I know, and often they're the same things.


Okay, we'll do the break here.  And so, Bugs' vacation with the penguin begins in earnest.  Bugs and the penguin are walking towards an icy hillside, as we'll find out later.  Bugs is dragging the penguin along like a child just learning how to walk.  "Look at that four-legged aeroplane!" says Bugs.  The penguin looks.  As it happens, it's all just a ruse and, unlike W. C. Fields and Baby LeRoy, Bugs gives the penguin a slight kick to send it sliding down the hill... hmm!  Maybe the two instances are not so different!  Irregardless, I'm reminded of what Homer said to Lisa about parents getting involved in playtime.  I believe it was the computerized Lego animation episode; oh, that must've cost a pretty penny.  So much for the slightly simpler time of Homer cubed!  Homer gave Lisa the secret: parents find playtime with their kids boring.  As it should be, frankly.  We did all that stuff 40 years or so ago, right?
Now that Bugs has sent the penguin on its merry way, he's ready to head to Miami again.  WHEN SUDDENLY.... Bugs looks to see the penguin slide right into the Eskimo's bag.  Then suddenly, as with Eminem and someone else, moderated by Robert Culp, long afterwards, Bugs' conscience takes over.  How can anyone really enjoy Miami after witnessing that?  Well, Bugs struggles with it at first.  "After all, I'm not my penguin's keeper!" says Bugs.  LOL.  I'm assuming there are some Christians out there that don't appreciate that, even though they're supposed to say they do.  After all, this is a product of that den of iniquity called Hollywood, right?  What do they know about the Bible?
Bugs returns to the hole, singing his Miami Beach song, and jumps in.  The dust cloud quickly dissipates, and we zoom in on the hole.  You could hear a pin drop.  Bugs re-emerges from the hole with a guilty look on his face, then proceeds to get properly adrenalined up for a fight with the Eskimo. 
Bugs then tries to appeal to the audience, which incidentally, is something that Bugs rarely does.  Normally he's all too eager to play the good guy, and he even more rarely talks about actually taking a vacation away from his job.  Bugs normally is doing his job, being a movie hero and all.  Unconventional, sure, but he's got the weight of history on his side now.  Which makes this exchange between he and the proverbial Fourth Wall all the more unusual.
But the unusualness of the situation quickly passes, as we dive back into more conventional fare.  For example, next scene: we see the Eskimo, and the Eskimo sees Bugs dressed up as a lady again... see what I mean?  Back to the usual plot conventions.  The Eskimo, of course, turns into a complete horn dog... there's just no other way to say it.  The Eskimo gets right in Bugs' face and rather rudely and nakedly "asks" for a kiss.  Now, the genius move on Bugs' part: Bugs sees the bag and treats it like a gift.  "Oh, you shouldn't have!" says Bugs in his best Southern Eskimo voice.  The Eskimo hands over the bag and gets all shy and sh... stuff.  Bugs lets out the penguin as discreetly as possible, and gives it another kick down the slidy slopes.  They'll re-use that background again, don't worry.
Now in a previous Looney Tunes involving Eskimo(e)s, I think they were more culturally correct, as Bugs put lipstick on his nose and rubbed nose with the bad guy Eskimo in that one.  I guess they got letters and made the changes after this one hit theatres.  Bugs gives the Eskimo a kiss, and wipes his mouth off in disgust.  The Eskimo has quite a different reaction, and returns with a giant fish.
Bugs tries modeling the fish as though it were a scarf, using a nearby ice wall as a mirror.  Genius.  Or as Allen Habel would say... brilliance!  Brilliance.  Bugs eventually hits the Eskimo with the giant fish, thereby inspiring that one ten-second Monty Python bit, "The Fish Slapping Dance."  Give or take.  This turns on the Eskimo even more, and the Eskimo grabs Bugs Bunny in his arms and holds him aloft.  Bugs' costume slips, revealing his ears.  This slowly turns the Eskimo off, then turns up his rage.  Same thing happened to Elmer in Rabbit Fire.  One more slap with the fish and Bugs is off to the races.  Down the same slope as the penguin he goes, with the Eskimo close behind.
Next scene: time for some brainless action, Popeye-style.  Bugs and the Eskimo ski all over the place... but where are the skis?  We get one shot under the duo looking up, thereby inspiring the similar overhead shot in the second Indiana Jones film.  Next scene: Bugs gets involved in a labor-intensive "3D" scene, where he tries to avoid narrow crevices in the ice.  This scene is doubly disappointing, because 1) Bugs doesn't seem to be in that much danger, and 2) Bugs' legs twist around a few times, but they NEVER UNTWIST!  Don't you feel cheated?  Well, you should!


Sadly, as all chases must... although Charlie Sheen's 1994 film The Chase may still be going somewhere out there.  That's just how unstoppable it was... anyway, the Eskimo finally catches up to Bugs, but they both end up sliding out onto a dangerous cliff.  The cliff breaks, and Bugs and the Eskimo try to hang on.  Carl Stalling uses a Vibraphone to accentuate the action.  I'm reminded of the travails that Homer and Mr. Burns went through in... you know, that one with the rocket house.  Sorry, Spoiler Alert.
Eventually, Bugs and the Eskimo degrade their situation to the point where they're hanging at a ninety-degree angle to the cliff they were on.  Will they befall a similar fate as the two aardvarks in Odd Ant Out?  Well, both of them were villains to the ant, whereas we've got the hero and the bad guy out on the same ledge.  A puzzler indeed.
The penguin waddles out to the edge, where the cliff's just barely hanging on.  I hate to spoil the surprise, but needles to say that the penguin manages to get the two going downwards.  Fast.  The penguin runs about as fast as it can to get a bucket of water.  The penguin throws the bucket of water.  The water falls and freezes, and now it's a race against time to see if this tiny bucket of water will catch up to Bugs and the Eskimo clinging to their little bit of icy ledge.  Time for your smarter friends to scoff!  Highly dubious at best, criminally negligent at worst.  Well, cartoons were allowed to play a little more with reality back then.  They're more realistic now, and kinda gross too.
And so, the penguin's ad hoc idea worked.  The giant bit of cliff is stopped, and Bugs and the Eskimo were strong enough to hang on, despite all the gravity and potential energy working against them.  The Eskimo tries climbing back up, whereas Bugs steps down to the ground.  Bugs mocks the Eskimo.  The Eskimo may not speak English, but mocking is damn near universal.  The Eskimo angrily climbs down to really teach Bugs a lesson.  But Bugs, as he usually is, is one or two steps ahead.  Bugs steps aside, and the Eskimo falls through the snow, and down to actual ground level... hmm!  What's going to happen to the Eskimo?  Is he really going to jelly up the ground?  Will he fall through the ice and turn into a man-sized ice cube?  Will he suffer such a horrible fate?  As it happens, there's a third solution you might not have thought of, which whisks the Eskimo away and saves the penguin from harm!  (at least, from this one Eskimo)


Not realizing that the penguin saved his Bacon, Bugs heads off for Miami again, but the penguin is obstructing his way.  "Oh, YOU again!  Well, SCRAM!" says Bugs, sneeringly.  The penguin begins to cry, and his tears turn into little ice cubes that make little ding noises as they hit the ground.  More non-kitten-based cuteness!  I can't take it!
I hate to bring in modern references to these timeless affairs, but there's a lot of talk lately for some reason about the art of negotiation.  Probably because of Trump somehow.  So, I guess you could say, Bugs tries to negotiate with the needy penguin.  Bugs would like to stay, but how can he?  "What am I gonna do with only four days vacation left?" Bugs asks the penguin.  The penguin waves Bugs down to its level with its wing.  MORE CUTENESS!!! I CAN'T TAKE IT!!! Bugs leans down, and the penguin whispers into Bugs' giant ear.  It's something about how the days are six months long when you're close to one of the earth's poles.  Bugs does the math and adds an extra two years to his vacation.  Okay, so this cartoon isn't completely timeless.  Needles to say, movie studio contracts have gotten longer and more verbose ever since.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Rockmond Dunbar

Damn.  A long résumé.  Well, he doesn't seem to be related to Koran Dunbar... at least, he doesn't admit to it on his IMDb bio page.  But let's face it.  The word 'prodigy' isn't thrown around lightly, but it just might apply in this feller's case. 
At least, for the acting.  Directing, well... jury's still out.  I do like the lack of professionalism in the poster for Pastor Brown.  He directed this in 2009, just one year after passing through Tyler Perry's orbit in The Family that Preys.  And frankly, can you blame him?  I wouldn't be at all surprised if he tried to launch his own Madea-type character.  It would've taken off, but Tyler Perry's Lawyer Squad came in and had to shut that down.  Had to.  Right away. 
But even prodigies have to apply their energies in one direction at a time.  In Rockmond's case, do you apply it towards being the greatest living director of all time?  Or do you maintain all that stuff that got you named by TV Guide to be one of the 50 sexiest TV stars of all time?  I hope it's towards the latter, because the directing part could use some extra buttressing.

The Latest Marvel... Hail, Scarlett!

Russian hackers must've picked up on my login again, as the former Soviet Union's turning especially dark green on my audience map.  Meanwhile, Marvel shows Hollywood how it's done again.  If I were DC Comics, I'd be getting nervous!  Let's just say that Warner Bros. is the de facto DC Comics Studio for now, until they decide to go independent... that is, independent of the ol' WB.  Yes, the latest installment of the Captain America franchise is #1, blocking out any and all other newcomers this week.  No other young celluloid sapling got a taste of that sweet, sweet nourishing sunlight, and God bless them.  I personally can't figure out the appeal of Captain America, but somebody's clearly doing something right.  For some reason, I confused Chris Evans with one of the Hemsworth boys who, incidentally... oh, well.  At least that Chris is trying to stretch himself, range-wise.  In other news, Mother's Day rises from #4 to #3, so Hector's search for happiness with Garry Marshall is far from over.  And Keanu only slips two spots from 3 to 5.  Not bad for Key and Peele's R-rated comedy!  If it were only about superheroes, it might be doing Deadpool-type numbers!  Select clips of it ought to do real well on YouTube soon... you know, what with the cute kitten and all.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

A Few Good Soldiers

One hallmark of bad (movie) writing: all the characters sound like extensions of the same style of writing, or bad attempts to write a wide variety of characters, when in fact they all sound alike.  Now, I hate to badmouth Michael Moore, but his forays into fiction haven't been all that successful, and 1995's Canadian Bacon may be his only stab at it.  In fact, it seems to be, upon closer inspection of his IMDb page.  In roughest terms, John Candy and his group of characters at the low end, and Kevin Pollak and his characters at the high end, make roughly the same anti-Canada arguments, in similar expository style.  If nothing else, it was a casting coup for Moore, but unfortunately for him, it didn't lead to other fiction movies.  But he did go on to do Oscar-caliber documentaries!  He took the right fork in the road for the people at large.
The same cannot be said for Harvey Miller/Skolnik, whose last directorial effort, Getting Away with Murder, apparently actually killed him.  A fan of the poster for The Usual Suspects, Miller/Skolnik tried to cash in on the spree of lesser movie work in the 1980s that Dan Aykroyd was responsible for, and gave Jack Lemmon a meatier-than-usual movie role to play... that's right, that of a former German concentration camp guard hiding in plain sight in an American suburb.  Now, I wasn't able to watch the whole thing, alas, but what little of it I saw seemed to be several like-minded people having the same conversation about... whatever.  Now say what you will about The Last Supper, but at least it seemed to have slightly different characters in it, on both sides of the political divide within it!
But that last paragraph was about Hollywood insiders on the fringe of directing.  Lions for Lambs was directed by Robert Redford, well within the mainstream... at least, he used to be.  He re-teamed with A River Runs Through It cameraman Phillippe Rousselot, doing decidedly opposite work this time.  Redford seems to have taken a page from the Tony Scott playbook on this one, using multiple cameras to film the scenes, at least with Streep and Cruise.  I don't get that vibe from the scenes with Redford and the new Spider-Man, anyway.
Which brings me to the script.  I don't expect big things from the Carnahan boys, and needles to say, my expectations were met.  The script here is almost like something Dave Barry would come up with, if he were tackling the George W. Bush Iraq war in such a way.  Lions for Lambs tries to be Babel, apparently, but with slightly less interaction.  Spoiler alert: the story involves the connection between two soldiers who were buds from the same poor neighboorhood, apparently.  They bonded in high school, and in one of Professor Redford's classes; apparently, political science.  I'm assuming the crucial class they took with him was about a 200-level course or so.
Now, these two students are called Finch and Rodriguez.  I just saw Rodriguez in The Martian!  Dayamn.  As for Finch, well, he was in one of the Captian America movies, but not in the same one with Redford.  As part of their big project for this political science class, they show their official draft notices, and not just to show up the fat kid who looks kind of like a young Jordan Klepper.  No, they actually join the army to fight Al-Qaida, and they end up going all the way to becoming super badasses on a Seal Team Six-type special forces unit.  Say what you will, but that's commitment.  And it's been a while since the jaded professor had that caliber of student.
These two are part of a super-secret operation, and Senator Tom Cruise gets real-time updates of their exploits.  He has a meeting with big-time reporter Meryl Streep, and he tries to assure her that the surge is working... something like that.  If you watch the movie, you'll see that Cruise/Streep and Redford/student have practically concurrent conversations about more or less the same thing: these two students who volunteered to serve their country.
I mentioned the dialogue earlier.  Frankly, Redford should know better than this, but he sucks his teeth as best he can to get through it.  The dialogue was a little too cute for me, and Andrew Garfield does way too good a job playing a smart-ass college student.  I'm assuming he's privileged, as he's risen through the ranks to become president of his fraternity.  The student seems to have made his decision in terms of what the true purpose of college is: is it to read books you otherwise wouldn't in high school?  Or is it about making a better, more connected class of friend who will give you the keys to the kingdom of the Good Life?  Frankly, that's what you go to an East Coast college for (scoff to myself).
Okay, I'll give the screenplay a little more credit.  It's slightly better than his other 2007 offering, The Kingdom.  Both are about the Middle East, and both involved Hollywood pretty boy Peter Berg in one way or another.  It anticipated the decline of the college system as we know it, but it didn't give credit to the internet and all the online colleges it would inspire.  The screenplay also sort of anticipated that, if we left Iraq before putting the proper democratic infrastructure in place, something else far, far worse would take its place.  It just didn't anticipate the name "Isis."  And was it just me, or did Tom Cruise seem more like John Edwards than someone who was close to the Bush/Cheney inner circle?
There may have been another insight or two, but in general the dialogue was too cute, and too punctuated with one-liners for my taste.  And somehow, I get the feeling that the ultimate fate of the two soldiers in question was Redford's touch, and not the screenwriter, but maybe I'm wrong about that.  At the time, if you were looking for a scathing rebuke of Dubya's foreign policy, you probably would have been disappointed.  But Hollywood certainly tried during that era.  Oh, how they tried.  Historians are still trying to put together the complete list of how they tried.  2008's Eagle Eye seemed to be sort of a culmination, but no amount of semi-omnipotent AIs would get those awful people out of office.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Short Reviews - May 2016

Double Jeopardy - Well, I hate to say it, but this movie was sort of prescient, especially given the return of a certain mayor on that "Gotham" show!

Finding Dory - The latest headline says that the release of this film could make certain fish populations decline.  Well, hey!  My cellphone's probably killing off the bees, but I ain't giving that up either!

"Full Frontal with Samantha Bee" - I should've mentioned this before, but she's going into some nice places, comedically!  You give 'em Hell, Samanthas Bees!  Loved the thing about the real victims of Super PACs.  Go figure; the millionaires of the world aren't so monolithic after all.  Billionaires, yes, but not the millionaires.  As for the Religious Right in America, well... you'll know you're getting to them once you appear on their Enemies List.

"Like Mike 2: Streetball" - For those of you watching HBO Family tonight, expecting to see Disney's The Kid, you might get this instead, like me!

Out For Justice - Dana Carvey told a story about Steven Seagal and his legendary solo appearance on SNL.  It had to do with the Hans and Franz sketch that appeared in the show... and now Dana has to die.  Probably like the Jamaican drug lord in... Marked for Death?  One of the other ones.

"Preacher" - The sound effects from the Atari 2600 version of "Donkey Kong" live on!

"Silicon Valley" - Even though the finest comic minds alive are already hard at work on it, I'm going to offer my all-too literal soundtrack suggestions anyway.  Even though Shakira is hard to top, here's a couple that might be from Mike Judge and company's formative years.  First, the Beach Boys' "Fairy Tale Music," and second, a cut called 'Pied Piper' from Jethro Tull's album, "Too Old to Rock 'n Roll, Too Young to Die."  You're welcome!

Spark - One of my roommates was wondering what Hilary Swank has been up to.  Well, she might not be playing moms yet, but she's keeping busy!  And a queen is... sort of a mom of all the land, right?  The Queen Mum?

Why Do Fools Fall in Skunk?

For some reason, what just flashed through my mind was a bit of an old nature documentary.  I believe it was an old Harold Butler thing they don't show anymore, but he reached into the Australian grass primeval and pulled his self out a Tasmanian devil... oh, that's why.  I must be thinking of a Looney Tunes character I'd rather be watching.  Maybe it was a different one then.  Harry grabbed a hold of an actual devil that nearly chewed his wrist off, but there was this other one that showed the mating habits of the devil... rather graphic, actually!  And of course, the narrator ruined the surprise.  They pointed out that when the, um... male devil was um... finished, so to speak, he would often try to keep things going, but the female devil's all, like, "GET THE HELL OFF OF ME ALREADY!!!  IT'S OVER!!!
And yet, despite all the indignity of it, the Tasmanian devil manages to thrive.  Which brings us to our next Looney Tunes, Pepe Le Pew(u) in For Scent-imental Reasons.  Ugh.  Well, I suppose someone had to come up with this character, so why not Chuck Jones.  Hell of a track record, that guy, you gotta admit!


If this page is correct, they managed to get about 16 shorts out of Pepe Le Peu.  But it adheres to a pretty strict formula.  Skunk is introduced, everyone gets scared, Skunk finds love interest and antagonizes her for the rest of the pic.  The love interest is usually created by accident, sometimes by design... okay, maybe it's unfair to be so broad about it.  But I do like the beginning of this one.  We start with a contented French shopkeeper, bicycling through the French countryside to his shoppe, a parfum shoppe.  When suddenly...
...yup, you guessed it.  Oh, wait.  The guy runs to find a cop... or bobby in French.  They take the lift back to the shoppe, but even the cop can't do anything about a skunk in a perfume shop!  Oh, the paperwork involved... I mean, travaille de papier.  See that?  High school did come in handy after all!
The shopkeeper stands in the street, tearing his red hair out.  When suddenly, a black cat rubs his legs.  Voiced by Mel Blanc, apparently... is that the best he could do?  Really?  Whatev'z.  Oh well.  Even the best of geniuses have a bad day now and again.  The shopkeeper grabs the cat, who gives the owner an affectionate lick.  Love it!!!  The shopkeeper, unlike Sam Smith, does have money on his mind, and he orders the cat to take care of the skunk... to catch the spider to catch the fly, perhaps I'll die so I don't have to finish this review. 
And so, the shopkeeper throws the cat into the store.  The cat goes sliding, and we see a bottle of white dye on the table that the cat is going to hit.  And so, we have our Created Love Interest for the randy skunk.  Good Lourdes.  This thing is not for children.  And yet, Pepe has probably taught millions of children around the world about romance. 
As always happens in a Pepe Le Peu cartoon, Pepe grabs the Love Interest in a rather tight embrace and starts talking romantically.  "Ah, my darleeng...," he usually says.  The flowery talk is interrupted with a series of about four or five kisses.  It's all the Love Interest can do to get away from the smelly beast.  But ever hopeful, Pepe keeps trying to win the Love Interest over.  It's kinda like how the typical nudist isn't terribly athletic... sorry to generalize.


Pepe has locked the unfortunate black cat inside the shop, but the black cat does have at least one trick up its sleeve.  The cat finds a glass case that the skunk can't get into.  The glass turns the conversation into something verging on Charlie Brown's teachers' voice.  But the filmmakers are able to communicate it better than even a silent film.  Pepe learns that he's unattractive because he stinks.  Well, beautiful cats will do that to you.  They'll have you suicidal... I mean, in denial.  Whew!  That was close.  Oh wait... Pepe is suicidal now, and he's got the gun to help him out with it. 
Ah, mind games.  This seems a lot like what happened in Awful Orphan, but without a gun.  Pepe acts like he's going to blow his brains out.  I mean, he's got spirals in his eyes, for God's sake!  SPIRALS.  The kind that aren't spinning.  A different kind of hypnosis indeed.  Pepe walks out of view of the cat and fires a shot.  The cat, fearing the worst, exits the cage and... oh, why didn't Pepe do it for real and save us a lot of heartbreak?  And incidentally, what's all this interspecies breeding all about, anyway?  You telling me there aren't any girl skunks in all of France?  I guess he has to wait until "Tiny Toon Adventures" to find one or something.  But that's an important part of the Pepe formula, I suppose.  Pepe is an outcast among his fellow skunks, so he's got to move on to different species to find love.  I understand that it informed Pierre Boulle's thinking when writing Planet of the Apes and all that.


Another important part of the formula.  There's a big chase at the end.  The Love Interest tries to run as fast as they can, while Pepe keeps to a strict tempo of hopping twice per second, with a sprightly musical accompaniment courtesy of Carl Stalling.  Nothing short of musical genius, that guy.  Usually the Love Interest runs out of steam, giving Pepe an opportunity to catch up.  Not this time, though.  The painted cat manages to keep up the speed of a bullet without breaking a sweat.  However, it is a small perfume shop with a second floor, so hiding places are in short supply.  The cat is at the open window, and apparently she's planning to jump to her death.  Pepe even says as much!  "She is planning to commit suicide to prove her love to me!" he says... something like that.  But Pepe cannot tolerate this, so he goes over to the windowsill to grab a hold of her.  Spoiler alert: Pepe's too late.  The cat drops, so Pepe drops as well.
Next scene: the cat landed in a full rain barrel below... ah, Laurel and Hardy.  That's their comedy turf, damn it.  Even the Stooges knew that.  Anyway, the cat is to rain barrel what skunk is to... a can of blue paint?  Whatever.  The cat emerges from the rain barrel, dripping wet, and snivelling from the instant cold she caught.  Well, you can't argue with results, because Pepe doesn't even recognize her.  He says, "Excuse me, but have you seen a beautiful lady skunk around here?"  Wotta doof.


I usually always say this, so why not again... when you get right down to it, aren't men and women the same way, really?  She's a pretty black cat, he's a smelly skunk, and somehow we gotta make this thing work.  Compromise.  That's the name of the game, and maybe the art of the deal.  Hmm!  Maybe it's time to read that.  Anyway, Chuck Jones is the master of psychology, cartoon or otherwise, so maybe what he's trying to tell us with this next scene is something about the mystery of female sexuality... at least, in male's attempts to get to the bottom of it, so to speak.  The cat, still inside the full rain barrel, gets an eyeful of Pepe Le Pew walking away, covered in blue paint, and slightly more muscular than he usually looks.  Now I saw the same thing that the cat saw, and it didn't do much for me, except remind me to get the next installment of "The Smurfs" on Blu-Ray... the cartoon series, I mean, not the movies.  Are the cartoons out yet? 
Now, the cat saw this, and is suddenly in love, her heart literally trying to escape her chest.  She follows Pepe, who's headed right back into the perfume store.  She locks the door behind her and starts to make a move on the now shocked Pepe.  Easy to believe, as this is probably uncharted territory for him.  The cat ends up jumping twice per second, in pursuit of the now furiously running Pepe.  "You know, sometimes it is possible to be too attractive!" he says.  I saw this when I was much younger, and was rather shocked by his reaction, if my memory serves.  Nowadays, of course, it's all part of the same continuum.  It's like what someone said about the guy who chases girls and they said "Well, he wouldn't even know what to do with one if he caught one!"  A toast to Pepe Le Peu... may this be the last one I have to review... oh, damn it.  There's still Odor-able Kitty to do.  Figures.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan