Sunday, July 31, 2016

Odd Cat Out

Our next Looney Tunes cartoon is called Canned Feud, and I thought it was that one where the two gophers go into a canned food company.  Oh well.  See?  Can't just go off the titles with these cartoons, people.  You've actually got to sit down and watch them.

ACT ONE

We start with a rare pass fake.  These Looney Tunes are usually straightforward affairs... but before I get to that, I would like to point out that this has one of the best opening themes I've heard in a long while... all due respect to The Old Grey Hare, of course.  Second best... it's a variation on one of the songs that Stalling seems to use all the time.  Maybe someone else can triangulate it for me.  As for the reference to "Farren's Fine Cat Food," well,... maybe that was an actual local brand at the time, or maybe Farren is a rare portmanteau of two animators' names. (Foster, wARREN perhaps?)  Anyway, back to the action.
Stalling plays "California Here We Come" with emphasis on the saxophone; always like that.  We start with Sylvester's humans, getting ready for a post-WWII road trip.  However, we never learn where they currently live.  But any fan of animation will look at the car's trunk and know that it will not be closed in the current scene.
Yes, it's practically The Ballad of Sam and Vi at the beginning.  But then, we see Sylvester sleeping on the couch with a pillow over his head... you know, to make it easier on the animators.  To make it tough on the animators, we see a lone feather blowing in the wind from Sly's mouth... thereby influencing Forrest Gump.  Ah, Zemeckis probably got the idea from DePalma or something.
"California, here we come!" says Sam as the family's about to take off on their road trip.  Something about the triumphant tone in Sam's voice causes Sylvester to inhale the feather, cough it up again, and wake up.  Sylvester looks on in horror as the car takes off with Sam, Vi and their two kids in the back seat... some part they got in this picture!  Harumph!
Maybe I haven't put enough thought into this hypothesis, but it seems that Mel Blanc does all his best dramatic work when he does Sylvester.  Take Friz's Birds Anonymous, for example.  Colbert recently asked Regina Hall if she prefers drama or comedy.  For Friz, I guess it's comedy first, then drama when you run out of ideas.  Ain't that the artists' eternal drama right there, trying to outdo your last big hit?  Sly's dilemma here is more urgent, yet less systemic.  Perhaps it's a product of the era in which it was made... would Sam and Vi be seen as terrible, terrible homeowners?  Or was the need to drive Route 66 to California at that time much more manifest than any number of suffering housepets?
"They forgot to put out the cat!" says Sylvester, as his humans drive off, all big as ya please.  Sylvester laughs at first... but then it hits him.  Panicked, Sly runs around the house like he's on the weed, desperately trying to find a way out... or maybe just a discreet indoor litterbox around the corner, even.
Sylvester runs to the door in the kitchen that leads outside.  "Locked!" he says, after struggling with the knob.  He then runs through the living room, and trips over a table much like Porky tripped over every single obstacle in his path to get to his fishing line in the now unfortunately titled Boobs in the Woods.  Next: the front door with the mail slot in it.  Boy, those were the days.  Well, a few people still have their house as the mailbox now.  After failing with the doorknob, Sly looks through the mail slot to see a note for the milkman.
"No milk for TWO WEEKS?!!!" cries Sylvester after reading the note... and sounding a little Daffy-ish, according to my humble ears!  The audience finds a little comfort in knowing that the humans will eventually return, but Sly is still panicked.  Sure, he could turn on the faucet, and have all the faucet-fresh water he wants for two weeks... great diet, actually.  I should try something like that.  But Sly's used to living a little higher on the hog, so it's back through the house, and tripping over the downed table a second time, to find something to eat.
Next scene: the pantry, where Sly finds nothing but empty lower cupboards.  Above the cupboards?  Looks like an Aztec dish and vase, or some such thing.  Well, even the backgrounds people gotta have some fun now and again, right?
And then... paradise found.  Paradise in the form of canned fish.  Brought to you by Star-Kist Tuna, no less!  Alas, the Beatnik Fish doesn't make an appearance here to taunt Sylvester.  It's all there: kippered herring, Champin brand Tuna, Chinook and Alaskan salmon, sardines... ish balls?  Look at the middle counter there on the left... Good Lourdes.
Oh, and... a brief note about showmanship.  Notice that the first three cupboards have their doors hinged on the right.  And why?  So the audience can see that they are empty when Sly opens them up.  The full one on the right almost has to have the door hinged on the left, with its contents just out of the audience's direct view from that angle... okay, back to the action.
Sly leans back like Matthew McConaughey in a photo shoot for the poster of one of his Rom-Coms.  After a happy sigh of relief, on to the next step.  "All I need now is a can opener!" says Sylvester in that saliva-spewing way of his.  He grabs a large green can of tuna, and it's off to the races.
Sylvester makes his way to the kitchen, stands on one of those short stepladders, and starts rifling through a drawer full of kitchen implements... yes, I'm an alien from outer space.  At first, Sly is happy.  Surely a can opener is easy to find, and seeing as how these people have so many cans, surely they'd have lots of can openers, right?  However, like most people, Sylvester has a short attention span, and the hunt for a can opener is a little tougher than he first thought.  Happiness turns to worry, and the flop sweat starts flying again, and his gentle rifling through the drawer turns more and more violent.  Ladles, truffle graters, spatulas, slotted spoons for straining vegetables, various butterknives... everything but a can opener.
On to the second drawer.  He just quickly spot checks this one and just as quickly throws it away.  On to the third drawer, and...

ACT TWO

Another moment of Zen, folks.  Sylvester hears a whistle and looks over to see a mouse with a can opener.  Sylvester looks positively doggish as he runs over to the mouse, yelling "Gimme gimme gimme!"  Your fellow cats are ashamed of you, Sylvester.
Now, the audio aficionado in me has an appreciation for the moment at 2:38 (on the DVD) when the mouse throws the can opener into its hole in the wall, and Sylvester makes an exasperated grunt noise.  Sly sticks his arm in the wall and reaches desperately for the can opener.  We can see that it's just out of his reach.  The mouse confidently walks away.
After a few moments of this, Sly looks over at the mouse, meows like an actual cat, and the chase is on.  Now you might be thinking to yourself, why on EARTH would any mouse stand between a cat and a can opener in a situation like this?  Boredom?  Amusement?  Bad arithmetic?... sorry, I was copying Carlin again.  But is it all just one big bad plot device?  Is Friz trying to get some sweet, sweet revenge against those MGM bastards for Tom and Jerry?  And all their Oscars?
Oh well.  We can sit back now in our armchairs and contemplate it all in peace, but for Sylvester, he has yet to learn the bitter lesson about cartoon mice, and that they possess all the strength, speed and agility of cartoon cats, and possibly more imagination.  Try as Sylvester might, he just can't catch up to that mouse.  The mouse manages to evade Sly and make it back to his hole in the wall.  Sly just smashes into the wall, making his body go upwards.  It slowly sinks back to earth, and the audio guys rub a balloon to make the sound effect.  Fade to black.
Fade in.  Scene: the massive main hallway of the Champin's house.  (their name was on the note for the milkman, and it's also the name of one of the animators... guess he won the coin toss, or the game of 'Spin the Bottle' or something.  Wonder if any of the other animators ever felt left out)  We find Sylvester smashing the sh...oe leather out of the one can of tuna.  Stalling's musical flourish reminds me of when Bugs was jumping on Elmer's stomach in the heat of Wabbit Twouble.
Now, sure, he could spend the rest of the cartoon just working on the can in this one fashion, but let's face it.  The Looney Tunes creators had very short attention spans, and they were always all too eager to quickly move on to the next thing.  As for Sylvester, well... he looks at that mashed can in his hand and finds no comfort.  Does he break the fourth wall by looking over at us?  Or is it just a coincidence?  ...no, no, he's looking over at us.  That's what differentiates the Looney Tunes from human movie stars.  The cartoons are for the people, damn it!  Populism at its finest.
Fortunately for Sylvester, hope is only a head's turn away.  He looks to Stage Left, and gets shocked... an axe!  Cue the timpani... 21!  Brought to you by Geritol.  Friends, didja have a good day today?  Or did your "Get up and Go"... sorry, got thrown off by the timpani cue.  Sylvester runs over to the axe, thereby making the same sound effect that Pete Puma made when he was dressed up as "Mrs. Rabbit" and had the cute tiny rabbit in his paws and said "Mother's going to have a wonderful dinner!"  Boy, what would I have done without Windows 95 and its annoying sound paradigm?
Some work for the specialized "clouds and lines" team of animators, and Sylvester's back with the axe.  So the big question is... how is Sylvester going to f... mess this one up?  Is this the end of the cartoon as we know it?  Well, I sure hate to spoil the gag, but there's probably someone on YouTube who sat down in front of their TV with a digital camera and videotaped this cartoon for some reason, and felt compelled to post it... I swear it wasn't me.  Needles to say, what happens to the axe blade clearly inspired the comedy ethos, or raison d'être of no less than "Curb Your Enthusiasm."  Sylvester beats the can a little bit with the bladeless axe handle UNTIL....
...yup, the mouse is back.  The mouse holds up the red-handled can opener... its facial expression is perfect, by the way.  The mouse then drops the can opener about a foot away from itself.  As you and I can see, the mouse is perfectly ready to grab the can opener and run back into its hole.
Desperate for options, the prideless Sylvester again runs over to the mouse and the can opener, shouting "Gimme gimme gimme!" to the rooftops all the way.
You can guess what happens.  Cross-fade to Next Attempt: Sylvester found himself a metal hook, and is now digging around in the mouse's den, so to speak.  See?  He's more resourceful than he thought!  More fun work for the sound effects people, incidentally...
As you will notice, there are two wires in the mouse's den, and there appear to be gnaw marks where the mouse first thought... what, that the wires were thin strings of licorice or something?  At some point, the mouse grows weary of the cat's vain attempts to find him with the wire.  With a cartoon mouse's superhuman strength, the mouse grabs the cat's length of wire, and tugs on it, as though the can opener were a salmon.  Naturally, the cat falls for it.  But the mouse isn't quite done yet, for he... and I'm assumpting it's a 'he' mouse... pulls the hook over to the wire, then finds an inopportune place to stand and hide, considering what the outcome is going to be.
"I GOT it!" exclaims Sylvester, then begins tugging with all his might.  "C'mon, c'mon!" he says, when the can opener fails to appear so readily... now, unfortunately, I was far too young when I took my high school electricity class, or electronics, or whatever the hell it was.  Too many formulas to memorize.  Now, could those wires be harmless phone wires, by any chance?  Then again, usually when the power goes out, the phone still works, so there's some electric charge in play.  We don't get to see what causes Sylvester to turn into a feline lightning rod... I guess it would be if the two wires touched each other then.  We see one close-up of the two wires, and Sly getting close to bringing these two parallel wires together.  But when it actually happens, there's enough of a charge surging through the house that Sly's resultant shock has duration to it, even after the wires have snapped back.  Of course, maybe it's a contractual obligation or something, but can't a Looney Tunes character ever just get, like, a mild shock?  Like, maybe just touch an electric fence, and pull their hand back and say "Ow!  That's electrified!"  No, it's always got to be the full electric Monty, so to speak.  And in an artful touch that even my Ivory Tower artist friend might appreciate, Sly loses all his fur in the, um... extra-electron episode, aside from a small tuft on the end of his tail.  But don't worry, folks, because, as punishment for Sylvester's greediness and lack of stopping to consider he's making a mistake, this last bit of fur eventually goes "Poof!"
Next scene: Sly's back to normal and raring to go to try a new method of opening that darn can.  I guess if he was too weak from hunger to try something as bold as what he's trying now, well... well it just wouldn't be funny.  Reminds me of a similar scene in Seven Beauties, which I'll tell you about when you're older.  But Sylvester is a true resident of Hollywood, and is as versed in the classics as your Bob Dorians or Robert Osbornes, or even your Cenk Uygurs and Ben Mankiewiczs.  Sly took one look at the piano in the hallway and thought of the Laurel and Hardy classic, The Music Box.  But instead of lifting a crate up to the second floor, he's decided to lift up a piano, then drop it onto the can, and fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, Sly has a length of rope, and a block and tackle to carry out such an unfortunate plan.  ANY SECOND THOUGHTS ON THIS ONE, SYLVESTER?  ANY AT ALL... well, to be fair, the Champins rather heartlessly left Sylvester trapped and resourceless, so turnabout's fair play.  And if I'm using that phrase wrong, well frankly I don't care, as it wasn't a childhood favourite of mine.
Next scene: Sylvester's got the piano all the way up to the ceiling, and he hangs on to the rope while slowly setting the green can into position.  Now, let's assume that Sly's plan is flawless and that it is indeed going to work.  What could possibly screw it up now?  Enter the mouse again.  Now, we were... okay, I was expounding on the subject of strategy earlier, if only indirectly.  Frankly, I just don't know how you people put up with me.  The mouse is always careful to have the can opener close to itself.  This time, the mouse enters the wide target circle of the piano, and offers the can opener to Sylvester.
Sylvester, ever the creature of the moment, lets go of the rope and reaches for the can opener.  The mouse pulls back the can opener, and looks at Sylvester with an expression that can only mean "GOTCHA!!!"  Okay, for the modern mustachio'd, possibly over-baconed Hipsters out there, it says "You can't be serious..."  Sylvester hears the falling piano and looks up.  At this point, the mouse runs out of harm's way.  Now, sure, Sylvester could run out of the way of the piano, but I've heard that a Captain always goes down with the ship.  Hard to say what flavour of self-loathing is at work here, but all Sly can do is give a rather echo-y "Oh no!" and take his lumps like a male cat.
Next scene: wow!  I can't remember the last time a cartoon character had actual piano keys for teeth.  Sure, there's the time Bugs tapped his two fronts in Rhapsody Rabbit and all, but... anyway, in the midst of all this mess, still no sign of the green can.  Back to the drawing board.

ACT THREE

It's about time for an Act break anyway, and it's also a good time in the plot for one, for now Sylvester seems more interested in getting to the mouse than in opening the can.  Maybe the piano actually did the trick, and now that Sly's belly is full, it's enemy-crushing time.  Up the ladder of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs you go, buddy!  Love that thing.
For Sylvester's next feat of engineering... and mind you, he's going after the mouse now, instead of dealing with the unopenable green can... Sly has a saw and is starting to cut a giant circular hole in the wall to get at that darned old mouse.  But the mouse is at least one step ahead, and the mouse starts cutting a giant circular hole in the floor directly under Sylvester.  The mouse mimics the cat's motions so perfectly that Sylvester slows down his sawing, then stops, then removes his saw from the wall just to double check it.  Now, this may seem silly to you, and it probably would have to me about twenty years ago when I were much older then, but I'm younger than that now, and if I were sawing a hole in the wall under such dire circumstances, and someone else was sawing a hole underneath me at the same time, mimicing my every action, well... I would probably have thoughts of divine intervention flashing through my befuddled head.
Nope, can't be the saw.  Sylvester gave it the look test and... nope!  It's straight!  Time to get back to sawing and... dayamn!!!  That little mouse is making hella progress on his part!  Again, superhero strength.  And yet, I don't think I've ever seen a Mighty Mouse cartoon.  The average person probably hasn't; they just go, oh yeah, Andy Kaufman did the theme song that one time.  Love those cartoons... time to check YouTube... Bakshi?  That guy can ruin anything.  But this seems to be one.
Okeh, back to Sylvester.  Sylvester sees the floor saw come a little bit too close to his foot and he stops sawing again.  Then he gets the old sinister look on his face, and he clasps his paws together like a Republican plotting an act of either sabotage or arbitrage... a little of both, probably.  Hybrids are the best way to go in acts of trickery.  As for what's going on in Sylvester's brain, well... he is just a cat, after all, and that's just fine.  However, whatever he was planning on doing, long story short, and spoiler alert, doesn't work.  Unless his plan was to fall through the floor!  Then it worked just fine.  I might've stepped out of the circle myself, but...
Next scene: the door leading to the basement.  Time for the sound FX people to go back to work... ah, nertz.  Stalling's musical score makes Sylvester's harried footsteps up from the basement (six per second, BTW) come alive in our minds.  Speaking of sound effects, the sound effects people use that same old crashing sound, but snip a little bit off of it!  And kind of the main part, too.  The only time they used the sound effect that I can definitely remember is when Yosemite Sam waltzed right into a mine shaft in... Bugs Bunny Rides Again?  Pretty sure that's the one.  Yeah, Bugs and Sam ended up having a dance-off... and they kept their pants on, incidentally!  I hate to be so prudish, but it's for the kids.  Won't someone please think of the children?!!
But, who knows.  Maybe it was part of Sylvester's overall strategy, because look!  He's emerged from the basement with a stick of dynamite!  That's... that's better, right?  Hey, who needs food when you've got such a ready supply of explosives!  Incidentally, that's a wrong stereotype of suburban households.  Only about half of suburban households keep their sticks of dynamite in the basement.
Welp, so much for cooler heads prevailing, I guess.  With a match in one paw, and a stick of dynamite in the other, Sylvester's head is a very unsettling place.  Sly gets a very bizarre expression on his face at about 5:12; why, his whole head kinda looks like a shoe at this point!
And so, the fuse is lit, and the match is blown out.  Very important safety tip, kids.  Always make sure the match is blown out when you're lighting firecrackers or any of their ilk.  And finally, the dynamite stick is thrown into the hole.  Sylvester takes off running for a safe place to hide for the duration of the campaign... and he turns around and stands against the same wall where the mouse's hole is.  Terrific.  That's just terrific.
We'll leave that aside for now, because once again, the mouse is one step ahead.  Not only is the mouse nowhere near said stick of dynamite... although he's about as far from it as Sylvester is, arguably... but the mouse has a plan to trick Sylvester!  The only other place I've seen this in the Friz-iverse is Never Bug an Ant, and the ant doesn't even have a paper bag!  He just says "Pow!" and the aardvark falls for it.
And so, the mouse inflates a small paper bag, tiptoes a little closer to Sylvester, who's got his paws over his ears, incidentally, and... pop!  The mouse runs off, and Sylvester has to run over and inspect the damage.  Could he seem any more guilty?  And so, Sly sticks his head into the mouse's hole and... hey, wait a minute!  Did he just stick almost all of the upper half of his body into the hole?  I guess we better leave that aside for now.  We seem to be past needing the can opener anymore as it is.  And so, pop goes the firecracker... and I say firecracker, because Sylvester seems to be the only collateral damage of it.  Sly's tail drops to the ground, but don't worry, folks.  He's not quite dead, just a little embarrased.  And hairless from head to shoulders.  You know, the older I get...
Next scene: fade in on a wider shot of the mouse's hole.  Sly's got himself a vacuum cleaner now, and he's stuffing its very very very very long hose into the mouse's hole.  But once again... what am I going to say?  You guessed it!  The mouse is one step ahead, maybe more!  At least two, because he's got the nozzle end of the hose.  We'll leave it aside for now that the hose has one of those super-wide attachments on it.  Okay, I'll dwell on it a little.  Did Sylvester jam that into the hole?  Or was he able to, like, put the wide vacuum head in the hole first, then attach the hose to it?
So many unanswered questions up till now, so many more to come.  And so, Sly has stuffed the hose into the mouse's hole, quite to his satisfaction it would seem.  Missing the fact that the end of the hose is now in plain sight, Sly goes over, turns on the vacuum, then crouches by the mouse's hole to apparently wait and watch a tiny, mouse-sized lump pass through the hose.  Now, 1) you probably know what's going to happen, and 2) yes, the vacuum is that powerful.  Well, it was the 50s and all, and vacuums were much more powerful back then.  You know, diamond absolutes and what not!  And what falls... is fallen!  Man, that's so deep, it's shallow again.  Yecch.
"HAH!" says Sylvester at 5:52 as the vacuum starts to suck him in.  Man, that thing must be powered by a teeny black hole or something.  And then, slurp goes Sylvester past the tiny wide mouth of the vacuum attachment.  Animation classes at A-113 still to this day show the scene of the vacuum's attachment rising into the air, then falling back to earth.  About as graceful as the plastic bag in American Beauty, anyway.  There's such respect for it, that once it falls back to the floor, Sylvester then emerges from the mouse's hole in the wall.  Must be something about the apparently lubricating nature of the inside of a vacuum tube that allows a Sylvester-sized object to pass through a mouse-sized hole in the wall. 
The only thing about this scene that would've been even more poetic is if the mouse were now watching as Sylvester passed through the mouse's portal in the wall on his way to the vacuum cleaner's bag proper.  Sly gets there at about 5:59 in the proceedings, and he seems to make the same noise that I pointed out at 2:38.  Yup, the same noise of panic, but under much worse circumstances.
Next scene: something truly wicked.  Boy, but this mouse sure doesn't seem to like Sylvester very much.  Alas, in our modern storytelling landscape, we're far, far too used to backstories and all that, but I guess it's safe to assume that the mouse has been bullied by Sylvester for the last time.  And so, the mouse, utilizing its super strength and almost human craving for cruelty and torture, takes that vacuum nozzle and puts it up to the fireplace, where we see a rather large pile of orange, glowing coals.
"YA-HAA-HAA!!!" Sylvester exclaims as he gets hit in the ass with glowing hot coals.  He kinda scream-laughs, then rubs his ass to dull the pain.  You know, a similar thing happened to the cat in Catch as Cats Can.  Some think it's Sylvester, but I still say it's Sly's drunk uncle.  Besides, Arthur Davis seemed to have a disdain for the popular, well-known Looney Tunes stars.  No, what happened to the cat in Catch as Cats Can was far more devious.  I hate myself for ever showing that one to anyone.  Anyway, next scene: it's the same scene, but the door moves a little.  Sly's still stuck inside the black vacuum cleaner bag.  He can't see, but that doesn't prevent him from trying to hit the devilish little mouse with a golf club.  The mouse dances around, confidently assuming that Sylvester is not going to hit him accidentally at all.  How precocious.  He's kinda like the gremlin in Falling Hare.  Now I know I'm supposed to be rooting for the mouse and all, but...
Next scene: Sly continues his campaign of random golf club strikes, so what's a mouse to do?  Why, open the door to the basement, of course!  You know, same thing happened to the Pink Panther once.  I swear, there was this one where he fell down the stairs to the basement about a dozen times in one seven minute show.  And I think a little mouse helped to make that happen as well.  But we'll get to that series a little later on.
In a way, Sylvester should thank the little mouse, because that trip down the basement stairs did get him out of the vacuum cleaner bag!  Sly was having a little trouble doing that on his own.  But no.  Now it's time for the rest of the explosives.  Now, maybe it's just my imagination, but Friz has a thing about ending his cartoons with a bunch of explosives.  Knighty Knight Bugs ends with it.  Bunker Hill Bunny had a scene near the end with it.  And now this one has it... oh, I almost forgot.  At 6:23, we get the full crashing sound, as opposed to its truncated subset version at 5:06. 
And so, Sylvester runs up from the basement with a big armload of explosives.  And for once, the mouse shows a little stupidity, for he runs into his hole in the wall.  And Sylvester starts loading it up with explosives.  The Champin family has it all: red rockets with black heads, red cans of TNT, and those red things that look like those cuts of beef with the string webs on them that you get at the store.
We see the inside of the wall, and the mouse looking genuinely concerned as more and more of his space is being occupied by red explosives... hmm!  It looks a little different than before.  For one thing, where did the electrical wires go?
Next scene: back to Sylvester, who's placed the last explosive.  He reaches into his pocket... we'll leave that aside for now... and lights a match.  Now, I'm reminded of Back Alley Oproar, another Friz classic, in which Elmer Fudd is driven so crazy by Sylvester's constant singing at night, that by the end, it's time for the big explosion with the big explosives.  In that one, Elmer took the precaution of having a great length of fuse to work with.  I hate to spoil the surprise of that one, but the same thing happens to Sylvester, only Sylvester's got less of a fuse to work with.  Slightly less funny if you've lost a limb in a fireworks-related and or explosives-related accident.

EPILOGUE

Love the little rainbow at 6:50 or so.  And so, like the second-to-last big finale in Buccaneer Bunny, Sylvester finds himself a little shaken up after the big explosion.  Of course, the explosion here is far more epic and colorful... I guess we're not supposed to like them so much anymore.  Is it creepy?  Ah, everything's creepy these days.
Needles to say, the Champins are either going to have to do some remodeling, or maybe just move to a different house outright!
But, like the time that Homer used a stick of dynamite to loosen a stuck drawer... can't argue with results!  Sly is knocked out of his daze with the can opener.  He's so happy from the sight of the can opener, that the eyes in his head pop right out.  The can opener gave Sly a lump on his head, but his happiness made it instantly disappear!  You don't usually see that kind of healing so quickly in a cartoon character.  Usually there's a fade to black, then a fade-in on the completely healed character, but never such an example of same-scene healing.  The power of the brain, friends.
"I GOT IT!" says Sylvester over and over as he runs back over to the cache of canned food.  But once again, the mouse is one step ahead...
...you know, I can understand Sylvester being frustrated and all, and he has been through quite an ordeal (he gives the same noise that he did when getting his ass singed inside the vacuum cleaner bag), but the mouse is far too cocky here at the end for his own good, especially considering the degraded state of the house in general, and his mouse hole in particular, as he stands there at the opening of his mouse hole, now considerably larger.  The sequel that seems to be promised here at the end will surely be that much shorter.............................

Good double bill with: Arthur Davis' Mouse Menace.  There.  I said it.  Not all of his cartoons suck rubber donkey lungs.  Most of them do, and even Mouse Menace has some weird touches to it if memory serves, but the most jaded of the Bearded Hipsters out there will surely appreciate the ending, even if they only read about it on said Wikipedia page.

***1/2

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Destiny Ekaragha

While the IMDb won't say where Destiny Ekaragha was born... maybe London... she seems to have been influenced by Nigerian culture a li'l bit.  She moved up quickly from short films like Tight Jeans and Bloody Muddle to feature length films.  Gone Too Far seems to be the alpha film, but working with Lenny Henry ain't nothing to sneeze at, either.  Why, some might call it... fate or kismet, something like that.  Whatever you're doing right, Destiny, keep it up!

'Bourne' Free

...um, guys, it's called Ice Age: Collision Course, not Ice Age 5!  You've got the extra letters... USE THEM!  Jeff Bezos shall hear of this!
Anyway, as expected, the latest installment of the Paul Greengrass-hijacked Bourne series, called simply Jason Bourne, opened at #1 this weekend.  And on the eve of his 46th birthday, Matt Damon's gotta get in a big ol' fistfight, and knock the other guy out in one punch, of course.  Gotta.  Just gotta.  The MTV Movie Awards demands no less.  It made $60 million opening weekend... but it cost about $50 million in TV adverts to get to that 60.  Plus, the fake feud between Damon and James Kimmel certainly didn't hurt.
Meanwhile, the latest raunch fest... sorry, I should probably capitalize that.  The latest Raunch Fest (TM) from the creators of the Hangover trilogy is out, and it's called Bad Moms.  Well, thank God the poster seems to have the same font as their 21 & Over.  They need it to look like you're viewing it on an iPad.  Very important.  Something about that font that just goes so well on a mobile device.  Must be the anti-aliasing or something.
In case you're curious, like I am, as to the A.V. Club's review of Bad Moms, here it is... in hyperlink form.  C+ is probably where you want to be with them when releasing your latest raunch fest.  Sorry... Raunch Fest (TM).  But personally, I am HIGHLY shocked and offended for two concrete reasons: 1) how dare they lump in Bad Santa with Bad Moms, and 2) how dare they not include Very Bad Things in the list of the various Bad movies that have come out since Bad Santa.
The last debut this week is something called Nerve, proving once again that Dave Franco is his James' brother.  As for Emma Roberts, well... I guess it's a hit, but it could be a little hit-tier, so to speak.  You know, like... whatever her big hit was.  Judging from her IMDb Top 4, I'm going to say Aquamarine.  Love the poster, BTW.  Makes me think of this one, for some reason.  That, of course, says more about me as a human being than about posters... dayamn!  The latter one's been digitally remastered, then, hasn't it?  I didn't think anyone had the inclination to do so!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Thugs with Naïve Bugs

Ah, the comfort of a known genre.  How I've missed thee.  Now, I doubt if all of Friz's works can be called classics, but surely Bugs and Thugs is one?

ACT ONE

The credits spoil it, of course.  The spotlight, the sirens, and the safe with Friz's name on it.  There are a million stories in the naked city, but I think this one will manage to stay fully clothed... aside from Bugs, of course.
We start with Bugs' hole in the city; kinda looks like a Central Park rent-controlled hole.  But Bugs can afford it... or maybe the studio pays for it.  And those hole elevators that take you up to ground level?  Those don't come cheap.  Gotta be the studio footing the bill.  It's like Mitt Romney and the elevator for his cars... you know, Mormon stuff.
Next scene: Bugs is engrossed in his morning newspaper.  Ah, that takes me back.  All due respect to this Sesame Street clip, this one is the one I grew up with.  This gag's origins may go back further, but the Farrellys and the Zuckers have given it their CGI touches, of course.  As for further back, I'm thinking of the times in Hog Wild and Perfect Day when Ollie almost gets run over by a city bus, and by a car respectively.  He however wasn't engrossed in a newspaper at the time.
Next scene: more alienation to remind us that Bugs just isn't with the little people anymore.  Bugs goes to the bank to withdraw a carrot from his safe deposit box.  Well, communal gardens in big cities were unheard of at the time... okay, Howard Zinn can probably prove me wrong.  Well, Bugs doesn't seem to be hanging around in those circles, does he?  Anyway, AT THE SAME TIME... the bank gets held up.  Ain't that always the way?
...okay, I actually went back and watched it.  "Oh, uh... Taxi!" says Bugs.  A red car pulls up.  The world's shortest gangster gets out of the front passenger door and runs into the bank.  Bugs leaves that aside for now... he might've missed it, seeing as how short the guy is.  "Couple times around the park, Mac!" says Bugs to the car's driver, still thinking it's a taxi.  You know... this is the kind of thing that happened to the passenger in the first episode of "Transporter: The Series."  At least his ordeal was short-lived, compared to what Bugs is about to go through.
Next scene: Rocky returns to the red car with a large armful of bags of cash.  He trades some more bullets with the security guards in the bank, then gets in the car.  "OKAY!  TAKE OFF, MUGSY!"  Two things.  1) Shouldn't that be obvious to Mugsy?
...um, never mind.  And 2) Rocky just doesn't sound at all like the Rocky we all know and love!  His voice is kinda like the Gangster-Tron 2800 or something.  What's with the difference in voice?  Must be the excitement of having to be the stick-up man yourself.  Rocky's usually managing his personnel to do all the dirty stuff.  And besides!  It's all for the payoff.  Mugsy guns it, and Rocky gets smashed up against the car's rear window.  Seatbelts, guys!  Seatbelts.
Next scene: Bugs emerges from under the pile of cash bags.  They don't feature the usual cartoon dollar sign ('$') ... which reminds me!  I've got JavaScript homework to get to.  Bugs, still in Taxi Mode, says "I don't mind sharing the ride, but... all this laundry!"  You know, I think Bugs does mind sharing the ride!  Harumph!  More Ivory Tower stuff.
As for blue-collar thousand-aire Rocky, well... it's Def-Con 3 time.  Rocky points his handgun at Bugs and says "How much do you know?"  Bugs says "Oh, I know lots of things!  Two and two is four... Carson City is the capital of Nevada..."  Need I go on?  So corny, so dumb.  Rocky interrupts Bugs again and says "Shut it!  Mugsy, this guy knows too much."  Now, if you found Bugs' part of this too cornball, I completely understand.  But if you don't like Rocky's contribution to this gag, well... you're a cold-hearted bastard, I'm sorry.  No two ways about it.
Next scene: This kind of parsing of gangster language goes on for the whole pic.  "Let's take him for a ride," Rocky tells Mugsy.  In response, Bugs dons the outfit he had in Racketeer Rabbit, something from a more fanciful era when cars were just barely replacements for the old horse and buggy.  All I know is, Racketeer Rabbit better be on Vol. 6 of the Looney Tunes.  Silly me, I thought it was one of the best ones, worthy of commentary and or a 1080p, 4k transfer, or whatever the hell they do to the old films these days... mostly crop the tops and bottom for HD, I'm guessing.  Or just do the title sequences in HD, then leave the rest. (ouch)  Okay, that was too far.
"SHADDUP!" says Rocky, pointing the gun anew at Bugs.  Bugs' response informed a certain comedy about thirty years later.  Well, let me put it this way.  Even though Bugs is told to "shaddup," he doesn't, of course.  Only a rarefied on-the-lam gangster usually gives Bugs an order like that.  Even Yosemite Sam's a better listener in comparison.  But nothing grinds Rocky's gears worse than some chowderhead who won't keep his big trap shut.  Rocky gives Bugs a poke in the chops with the automatic gun and says "SHADDUP SHUTTIN' UP!"  That really shuts Bugs up.  Fade to black.

ACT TWO

This is probably a good place for it, even though it's a little early, mathematically speaking.  Scene: a crows' eye view of the rolling countryside, as the red car of doom... Red Car of Doom slowly cuts it in half.  Bugs gets away with the joke that they couldn't in It's a Gift when he says to Mugsy "When you see a nice clean gas station would you pull over, please?"  (link: Hah!  I didn't just imagine it) The idiot man-child that he is, Mugsy nods and pulls over.  Bugs starts to walk away, but returns to ask for a nickel.  Oh, rabbits and their lack of pockets, and the things that pockets usually contain.  Sad to see that this whimsical cartoon seems to be more like an actual police drama.  Bugs gets on the phone to the police.  Mugsy acts quickly, probably directed by Rocky.  This is probably the highlight of the flick, when Bugs says "OVERHEAD VALVES!!!!  WITH CALIFORNIA LICENSE PLATES!!!!!!!"  I gotta ask my car buddy about overhead valves now.
The car drives off, with Bugs still clutching his end of the phone.  The phone line stretches out, and to bring it back to the realm of comedy, a policeman pops out the other end of the phone, getting dragged along the highway for a bit.  Hmm!  Like Rocky at the end of Racketeer Rabbit, the policeman's pants seemed to have turned into open-in-the-back overalls!  Oh, these things just aren't for kids, I tell you darlings.
Next scene: the railroad crossing from Close Encounters of the Third Kind... sorry, that seems to keep popping up for me.  Bugs gets a rare opening to do an imitation of Mugsy, and takes it, of course.  Wotta smart-aleck.  Rocky tells Bugs to get out and see if the coast is clear.  Well, the sign's moving, so... but whatever.  I guess it's the act of relegation that's important, especially amongst gangsters.  Oh, you'll just never guess how it all plays out in a million years.  Never guess...
Next scene: Bugs is repairing the car at gunpoint.  True, Rocky's standing a good few feet away, but nevertheless, the gun is indeed out.  Bugs asks for a lunch break and... well, gangsters were never one to respect a union's work contract, now, were they?  "KEEP WOIKIN', RABBIT!" says Rocky.  Notice the state the characters are in.  Bugs is all covered in motor oil, and the gangsters' clothes are all wrinkled and torn.  Could've been a lot worse!  Could've been a whole lot worse.  They should be thankful, but no.  Just upset.  Mugsy's so upset, he also tells Bugs to keep woikin'.  Rocky punches Mugsy in the gut for his insubordination.  Talk about kicking the dog!  I think I'll just leave aside that Mugsy takes Rocky literally with the whole "button your lip" comment.  So corny, so dumb.
Next scene: future screenwriters take note, for these Looney Tunes screenwriters were a cheeky, subversive lot.  Despite being in that horrible train wreck, Bugs has pretty much got the car back to new.  More cartoon magic.  However, the front passenger side wheel is missing.  "I'm afraid you're stuck!" says Bugs.
"We're not stuck, rabbit... YOU'RE stuck!" says Rocky, without missing a beat.  Next scene: at gunpoint again, Bugs holds up the car and runs along, acting as the makeshift missing wheel.  Now, sure, car guys might grimace, noting that the axle's still going to be spinning, but I guess they stop it for Bugs.  You know, movie studio stuff.  Milt Franklyn's score helps underscore the urgency of the situation.
"Let's take the scenic route," says Rocky.  More wickedness.  Hard to say what's more cruel: the ending of Daffy's Boobs in the Woods, or this scene.  I'm thinking this scene, because hey.  When Porky turned Daffy into his car's motor, at least he had an official permit to do so!  Plus, Daffy didn't have to run alongside the car, holding it up.  Of course, there was the matter of the choke.  Well, at least it was the big finale.  We've still got the Third Act here.  I still think this is more cruel.

ACT THREE

Scene: night time.  Setting: house on a cliff... and I mean, right on the cliff.  Spoiler alert: the house doesn't fall off, but all hell is about to break loose inside.  Still, I'm reminded of a similar scene in Malice.  I'm still not sure what the movie's about... a project that Aaron Sorkin had lying around, and what the hell, why not make a quick buck off of it... but I do remember the slightly striking visual.  Sick at sea!!!!
Wow.  Love that back porch to nowhere.  Bet the view's great!  Anyway, now that they've driven all the way to this lone, isolated house, now it's time to do away with Bugs.  What will it be?  Sleeping with the fishes?  ...I guess that's the only romantic mob death from the era.  No, a simple shooting will suffice now.
But as has happened throughout this whole sordid affair, the parsing of language is important.  Rocky tells Mugsy, "Take this rabbit into the other room and let him have it."  "Okay, Boss!" says the dippy Mugsy.  Next scene: the other room.  Mugsy's got a sinister laugh, he does!  Yosemite Sam gets that same laugh from time to time, but he doesn't sound completely dippy.
Next scene: Bugs holds out his strangely human hand and says, "All right, Mugsy... let me have it!"  Even Noam Chomsky has to admit... genius.  American Imperialist genius, sure, but genius nevertheless... see, he made a name for himself in mathematical grammars way back when and... oh, skip it.  Bugs at least shuts Mugsy down for a second, so he has to reiterate a little more emphatically.  "You heard what the BOSS said!  Let me HAVE it!!!" he says.  Mugsy hands over the pistol, saying "Oh, uh... Okay, but uh...."
Next scene: the main room of the house.  We hear a muffled shot, and see some muffled smoke.  Plus, the door bends from the shot, lol.  Mugsy emerges from the room, a little dazed, a little covered in soot.  Ah, cartoon violence.  I was just thinking earlier about how violent Casino is.  I still go back to the guy who only saw Casino, and I told him about GoodFellas.  He hadn't seen GoodFellas and was hesitant to.  "Is it violent?" he asked.  Plus, Sharon Stone isn't in it, either.  Two strikes against it.  Also, the violence in Munich seems a hell of a lot more realistic than the average movie.
Mugsy finally passes out, falling on top of Rocky.  AGAIN with the short jokes!  I think I know who must really hate this cartoon... oh, never mind.  "GET OFF!" says Rocky, giving Mugsy a very, very strong punch.  Mugsy flies off of Rocky and falls backwards onto his back.
Now it's Rocky's turn to neutralize bugs.  Next scene: the doorknob rattles in Bugs' side of the door.  Tricking Rocky is going to take a more sophisticated ruse.  Now, for those of you out there who've seen Racketeer Rabbit, what happens next won't probably be much of a surprise.  In fact, you might just want to skip to the 'Epilogue' part of my incoherent, probably Zika-fueled ramblings... okay, let's get back to it.  Bugs makes a siren sound, then at 4:54, well... I guess it's supposed to be the police car's brakes.  Gerard Mulligan might call it an allergic reaction to his medication; love that guy.  Hard to believe he was ever in showbiz!
Bugs then acts like an Irish cop... I know, I know.  Bugs bursts out of the room.  "The COPS!" he says.  Rocky gets caught up in the fake frenzy, running around like he's on the weed.  "Hide me!" says Rocky.  The only thing large enough for Rocky is the stove, which he runs into willingly.  Clearly, Rocky's just a small timer and hasn't bribed enough congressmen or senators.  In The Fifth Element, it was Bruce's fridge that was used to hide people.  Mugsy is now fully awake and soot-free, and wants to be hidden too.  "It's not fair!" he cries.  He sounds a bit like Sylvester the cat to me.
"I must be dreaming!  It couldn't be this easy!" says Bugs to the audience.  It is pretty sad.  It's like a presidential candidate trying to win over a group of people by telling them "What the hell do you have to lose?"  Bugs stuffs the much larger Mugsy into the stove by stamping his ass with a toilet plunger.
Next scene: Mugsy is completely turned around inside the stove.  Damn Hays Code.  "Now don't move until I tell you to!" says Bugs, and closes the stove door.  I don't think they could even if they wanted to!  Anyway, Bugs continues his one man show, as Rocky and Mugsy listen to what's going on... guess I better do this as though it were a play.

Officer: All right, rabbit.  Where's Rocky?  Where's he hiding?
Bugs (stands in front of stove): He's not in this stove!
Officer: Oh HOH!!!! So he's hiding in that stove, eh?

Lol.  Bugs gets two whoosh sounds: one when he's at the front door, and one when he appears in front of the stove.  Bugs then takes a couple of swords and sticks them into the stove... oh, wait, that's Racketeer Rabbit again.  I get those two mixed up for some reason.  Okay, back to the action... and by action, I mean words.

Bugs: Now look, would I turn on this gas if my friend Rocky was in there?
Officer: You might, rabbit, you might...
Bugs: Well, would I throw a lighted match in there if my friend was in there?
(stove explodes)
Officer: Well, all right, rabbit, you've convinced me.  I'll look for Rocky in the city.

And scene.  The slightly singed gangsters slowly emerge from the stove.  And then... the part that surely even the Coen brothers were slightly influenced by.  Don't forget the repetition, Ed!  The part that even the most wizened, jaded Neck Beard Hipsters would get a slight guffaw from, if only in theory.  The ACTUAL cops show up.
Now, you might think I'm a geek... I mean, you might think that the gangsters wouldn't fall for it a second time.  Both, actually.  But they really are small timers, and they crawl back inside the stove.  And the dialogue from earlier is repeated, but with an actual cop doing the 'Officer' part.  You might notice that the cop's reading of "You might, rabbit..." is slightly different.
And so, differentiation from Racketeer Rabbit has been achieved.  Well, almost.  The two gangsters burst out of the stove before a second match can go in.  "Oh, NO you don't!!!" says Rocky, probably.  They then crash through the window and run down the street after the cops... oh, right.  Racketeer again.  Actually, they end up groveling at the Irish cop's feet.  Anything to stay away from Bugs the Kingpin.

EPILOGUE

For Bugs, this was apparently a transformative experience.  While we don't know what exactly he did for employment before, we do know what he's doing now.  Why, he's opened up his own detective agency, of course!  It's a rich rabbit's hobby, I suppose.
Bugs gets a knock at the door.  A long-legged dame steps in.  A baroness, perhaps!  Probably a kidnapping case or some such, as often happens with ilk who hold on to the purse strings a little too tight.  A lotta interlopers hang around the campfire, struggling to get some warmth for their cold hands, you know!
... I mean, Bugs gets a call and rattles off a long, annoying alliteration.  Screenwriters take note: that's the kind of thing you have to do sometimes to pay the bills.  YEESH!!!!!!
I should probably address the reference to the Animators Guild, Local 839... not many guilds like that, were there?  Just New York and L.A., I imagine.  The number seems familiar to me, because I think they would include a reference to them on the old Saturday morning shows when they used to show these on T.V... hah.  Good luck finding that on YouTube... oh!  There it is!

***1/2
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Onyekachi Ejim

It seems we have no biographical information on Onyekachi Ejim... but maybe we can jump to the conclusion that he's Nigerian, based on this Wikipedia page for the 2014 Nigerian crime thriller, Hail, Caesar!... I mean, Render to Caesar.  So while he hasn't broken into the American market, it may not be too late!  Plus, he just might have an in, having starred in 2008's Cooper's Camera/Christmas.  Starring Jason Jones and Samantha Bee... yes, that Jason Jones and Samantha Bee of "The Daily Show" fame.  It's an R-rated version of, say, Surviving Christmas, or Christmas with the Kranks... but funny.  Oh, s'z'nap!  And what's that one with Daniel DeVito and Ferris Bueller... Deck the Halls!  That seems to be it.  Like Tin Men, but an Xmas theme.  I guess Ejim decided to go back to Nigeria and rise to the top over there, rather than be known as just another guy who climbed through the "Daily Show" ranks to make it to the top... something like that.  But I'm a glass half-full kinda guy, and I still say it's not too late to conquer the American market.

Crooked-Backwards against Roger Ailes

Welp, the Russians have once again taken an unhealthy interest in cracking my password... I mean, reading my web log, as we call them.  Must be my recent review of John Wick... yeah, that's probably it.  Don't get me wrong; I'm grateful for the boost to my hit count and all that.  I'm almost at 200,000 now!  That's a big deal for me.
Anyway, speaking of meaningless numbers, Roger Ailes.  He's a Republican's idea of a television genius, and he apparently recently stepped down as ... whatever he was over there at Faux News.  Now, they say it's because 85-year old Rupert Murdoch doesn't want some creepy 76-year old sex guy running his family-oriented operation over there at Faux News!  My GOD, sir!  Have ye no morals?  Don't they realize that sexual intercourse is strictly used for purposes of procreation?  As Ted Cruz might say, it's pro-creation, not re-creation.  And what's with that one photo of him, anyway?  Surely it's a still from that new biopic starring Geoffrey Rush as the embattled TV CEO... oh, I get it.  He's carefully hiding the double chin in that photo.  Normally the jowls roam free, but not for the official portrait, oh no.
So that's what they're telling the public, about Ailes' roadie-like antics with the band aids, but something tells me the real reason Ailes is going is far, far more sinister... a pay raise gone wrong, perhaps.  Or maybe Ailes just needs to be let go, kicking and screaming, and set adrift on a lone ice floe like in that movie North, because God love him, he just won't leave of his own accord.  It's kind of a sad thing, being 76 years old, and still running around, trying to score some black market Viagra, but that's how the devil works sometimes.  Ailes made his deal with the devil, because the devil said "The only way that you, Roger Ailes, can have any woman that you want, is to have your own television studio.  Just think of it as a larger version of that kissing booth you had as a five year old.  The women will come to you, and all you have to do is promise to help their careers.  And you will tell them that this is the way it has always been done, ever since time first began, in the Republican party."  And Ailes said "Yes!  Genius!  I will do as you have commanded me, O Dark Lord with red cloven feet."
But it's never enough for a guy like Ailes, of course.  When Megyn Kelly first passed through the portals at Fox News, for example, Ailes was right back on that red phone.  He said, "Yeah, hello, Devil?  Ailes here.  Yeah, um... what's the deal with this Megyn Kelly chick?  No matter what I do, she's JUST NOT INTERESTED in me!"  And the Devil's all, like, "Yes, the Jesus-iness is strong in this one.  She's got a self-confidence like I've not seen in ages, not since Anne Boleyn or Helen of Troy... but I don't know.  She's not really my type, anyway.  She's not that pretty, is she?  She's, frankly, kinda goofy looking.  Like Laura Ingraham, but without the boxer's nose."  But Ailes won't have it.  "Look, 'The Devil', she's the fresh meat on MY turf, and I've got to make her mine.  THINK of something!" said Ailes, adding his usual boilerplate about fulfilling contractual obligations and what not.  Maybe that's what happened!  I mean, you can't go pissing off the devil like that.  He's the Devil, after all!  He'll cut a bitch, believe you me, and just with that weird-ass tail of his.  It's sharper than it looks, and the dark red Lord knows how to swing it.
Anyway, off to the races.  As expected, the latest installment of the Star Trek franchise is at #1... if only for Anton Yelchin.  Very sad.  Alas, as is the custom these days, the writers aren't wasting any time, writing around the loss of Chekov, as is the custom these days.  But they wanted to keep a Russian character in the mix, and my inside-the-beltway sources tell me the new Russian member of the USS Enterprise is going to be called... PUTIN?  Oh, I hope that's a typo.
These numbers are very weird this weekend.  Films 3, 4 and 5 all made about $20 million!  Unusual.  Debuting at #4, it's the latest PG-13 low-budget horror flick, and it's called Lights Out.  (#lightsout, of course)  Well, Maria Bello's a good sport.  At #5, it's Ice Age 5 with the subtitle Collision Course.  Named, of course, in honor of Lewis Teague's 1989 cop buddy pic, Collision Course with Jay Leno and Pat Morita.  For Morita, it was still more fun than any Karate Kid pic he did after the second one... wait a minute!  Neil deGrasse Tyson's got a part in Ice Age 5?  Why the lack of publicity, buddy?  Why the non-mention that last time you were on "Real Time with Bill Maher"?  I guess I wouldn't be too proud of it, either.  Also, it's not a Disney property, so the cast wouldn't assemble on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" to lovingly tell stories about how it's been... well, it's only been four years since the fourth one, so who cares?  We'll get it on DVD, if we think of it.  I know, I know, nothing less than Blu-Ray will do, but DVD should be fine for Ice Age 5, trust me.  But I give total credit to the original cast of John Leguizamo, Denis Leary and Ray Romano, for being such troopers and soldiering their way back into the recording booths to read their lines.  A lesser filmmaker might think of replacing them with, say, Cheech Marin, Colin Quinn and... you know, that guy on "30 Rock" who did an impression of Ray Romano.  I'd know the difference, guys!  I'd know...
And finally, my talking about a right-winger right off the bat has sort of a payoff, because coming in strong at #9 in the national Box Office Top 10, it's a right-wing "documentary" about Hillary Clinton... or as something like "The Drudge Report" would say, MUST-SEE CINEMA.  THE GREATEST DOCUMENTARY IN THE HISTORY OF DOCUMENTARIES... sorry about shouting.  Finally!  The truth shall be revealed!  Don't let me down, Onion A.V. Club... dayamn!  They don't usually give out 'F's.  Well, I hope the films' directors don't read that; as you know, right-wingers especially hate bad grades.  They already hate school, and this would just compound it that much farther... further.
But just remember, kids!  If you rearrange the letters in Roger Ailes' name, you get "serial ogre."

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Drinking Bird: The Motion Picture

For those of you who didn't have a lot of CDs, and you bought "The Carl Stalling Project" on CD twenty years ago, this one is clearly for you.  Okay, sure, it's not What's Opera, Doc? or another one of the greats... in fact, it's probably kinda mediocre, but even so, Carl Stalling worked hard to bring it to life through his music.  We heard him directing the orchestra on this one, and it's called Putty Tat Trouble.

ACT ONE

...hmm!  Seems that Friz was building a template, don't it?  We start with the same song as Canary Row... it's cute, of course, and all that... but it's still the same one.  Reminds me of that song they keep playing on the radio.  It's by a group called "X Ambassadors" and it's called "Unsteady."  I heard they spent 30 seconds in the studio recording the vocals, and just repeated them over and over and over again.  Oh, they're going to loooooove performing it live.
First scene: outdoors, winter time.  Must be one of those New York neighborhoods that... Friz never grew up in.  Well, who did, then?  Mel Blanc?  No, he's from Frisco.  Apparently, Looney Tunes screenwriter Michael Maltese did.  Boy, he must've been a wicked bastid.  We zoom in on the lone tall tree in the courtyard.  It's got a nest in it!  I've never actually seen Tweety build a nest before.
And so, we have Tweety alone against the elements, forced to dig the snow out of his nest his own self.  There's no Granny's hearth to warm him this time... but Sylvester does!  He wipes the ice off the window and looks out at the nest in the courtyard.  I guess he can see the little shovelfuls of snow getting pitched out of it to know that there's excitement to be had out of doors.  He's had his fill of cat food for now; only a fresh kill will slake his blood lust.
Now, we've seen this cartoon before, so what to do differently?  Well, we panned to Stage Left to find Sylvester waiting, so it's time now to pan to Stage Right.  A second cat, believe it or not, now has designs on Tweety and... GAH!  What an uggo!  Who is this orange interloper with mismatched eyes?  Oh, this is so based on someone that Maltese ran afoul of in New York.  Alas, the IMDb Trivia page for Putty Tat Trouble gives us no quarter.
And so, both cats scratch at the front door and get let out by their humans.  The humans are housewives (single?!!) voiced by Bea Benaderet, the internet tells us.  She does her Mama Bear voice that she did in The Bee-Deviled Bruin for the red cat, amongst others, then a normal voice for Sylvester.
And so, once both cats are out in the cold, this gruesome twosome make their way out to the tree, one not aware of the other.  Then they both climb to the top, still unawares.  But they do have the wherewithal to take a closer look at Tweety one at a time.  Sylvester goes first, and he gets a face full of snow.  Tweety's still shoveling, you see.  Tweety's spidey sense tingles, and he looks over.  Sylvester sees Tweety look at him, and he ducks down below the nest's edge.  Now, if you have a problem with this plot device, as I kind of do, well... you should probably bail out now and save yourself a whole lot of trouble.  Yes, this kind of thing wouldn't happen in nature, but let's look at it this way... Tweety's a big star, and the cats know that.  Also, it's still only the First Act and what not.  This was before Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho came along and changed the rules about movie stars.  These cartoon cats, therefore, play ball and they help make a logical situation for Tweety to utter his epic, iconic, game-changing catch phrase that surely appears on custom mugs and T-shirts the world over... "I tot I taw a putty tat!" and the follow-up "I DID!  I DID taw a putty tat!" ...oh, right, and, in this case, "I tot I taw ANOTHER putty tat!"  I'm assuming the mugs and T-shirts are spelled correctly... forgive me, it's "tawt" instead of "tot."  Coins?  Lunch boxes?  eBay blows my mind.  No point in putting hyperlinks to specific items, right?  They all go like hotcakes into the night.

ACT TWO

The plot devices just keep on coming, folks.  Both cats raise a paw.  It looks like Tweety's number is finally up.  AND THEN... both cats grab a hold of Tweety's nest and make the long climb back down the tree.  First of all... any cat owner will tell you that there's no way a cat's climbing BACK DOWN a tree once it climbs up.  That's where the Fire Department comes in.  And second... they're just trying to pad this thing out to one reel length (about eight minutes), and frankly, they're not doing a very good job of it.  Why on God's green earth would any cat care about stealing a bird's nest?  But okay, that's the plot we're given, so I guess we must therefore just go with it.  Swardson/Sandler 2016!
The cats make it to ground level at 1:39, and they make a bigger jump than Super Mario before they take off running... interesting!  The things these animators and filmmakers come up with to make their works in progress less boring.
And so, both cats take off to their respective domiciles, still unaware of who exactly was holding the other end of that nest.  Now I'm really interested to know how Tweety built this nest, for you see, folks, he obviously got twigs from a tree near the rubber factory.  The nest gets stretched out way way farther than any bird's nest would in real life.  It's not exactly an infinitely-stretching nest, it just seems like it.  It eventually snaps back, and the two cats smack into one another.  I'm assuming Tweety either a) gets pushed out of the way in the nick of time an instant before the two cats hit each other, or b) Tweety's the Highlander, and possesses infinite strength, can breathe under water, get stabbed in a duel, what have you.  And yet, beheading is the Achilles' Heel.  Go fugire.
And then, at about 1:47... FINALLY.  The cats become unstunned, and they finally notice one another.  They get those little stink lines around their heads... or whatever you call them.  You know, the expression lines.  I'm making kind of a big deal about them now, because they hang around a little too long... don't you think?  Usually they disappear about as quickly as they appear.  Maybe it's a fluke, maybe it was directed that way... mind you, these lines used to have huge parts!  Recall the Krazy Kat cartoon where the mouse looks at a brick... I think that's the one.  There used to be long lines of dashes pointing at stuff.  All over the place.  They're all but gone now.  I can't remember the last time one was used.  Not even in that Yolanda Be Cool fake retro thing!  Can you believe that?  In this day and age and what not?  They don't play that at the gym anymore; it makes me sad.
Anyway, a kind of tug of war breaks out between the black and red ants... I mean, cats.  Reminds me of the tug of war between Elmer Fudd and Bugs' arm in ... Fresh Hare!  Took me a while to find it.  AND THEN... inner sanctum violated.  Sly runs to his very doorstep and furiously pounds on the door.  The red cat follows him with a blunt instrument to hit him upon the head with.  To his very doorstep!  Tastefully, the filmmakers don't actually show us the moment where Sly gets knocked upon the head, but Sly's human opens the door to find Sylvester lying there, bump upon head, stars swirling around it.  "AAHHH!!!!" she cries, no thanks to the Closed Captioning.
But this too shall pass, and Sly quickly regains consciousness, looks over with furrowed cat brow, gets up and chases that darned red cat down the steps.  First the red cat goes down the steps, then Sylvester, following pretty much the same path... you know, to make it easier on the animators.
The red cat now madly tries to make for his respective doorstep... I'm assuming, even though he's going Stage Left.  Sly follows with a caveman's club and returns the favour.  Sly's now got the little yellow quarry in paws, and the red cat follows... with a damn can on its head!  Love it.  He runs into the tree in the courtyard, and damn near makes himself one canned cat, brought to you by Whole Foods, tee hee hee... Add this to the list which includes Raising Arizona, Little Nicky, Three Fugitives, the beginning of Superman III, and Nuns on the Run where people unwittingly run into trees or posts.  The camera can't see it, so they too can't see it.
Sly keeps running, and in his zeal he runs afoul of an open basement.  Down the steps he falls, thereby creating more work for the sound effects team.  This all somehow reminds me of Extinct Pink, which had yet to be made, and which featured four pursuants instead of just two.
Next scene: indoors, even if it is the cold basement, with those outer doors open.  Tweety takes pity on "the poor ol' putty tat."  WHEN SUDDENLY... Tweety looks over and sees a "drinking bird."  Now, according to the universally trusted yet reviled Wikipedia... I mean, hey!  When's the last time you contributed to them?  Get your credit card ya-yas out, Baron von Cheapskates!... these "drinking birds" are also called "dipping birds" or "insatiable birdies."  (Note: NO ONE refers to them as "insatiable birdies.")  This is the kind of stuff that filmmakers dream about.  For one, it surely inspired Sam Raimi's bomb that turns Dr. Peyton Place Westlake into Darkman in 1990's Darkman.  For two, I keep going back to how Bob and Doug McKenzie were so smitten with the idea of a mouse in a beer bottle, not only did they pick it as one of their topics, but they also centered their only movie around it... okay, not completely, but still.  There's also the Macbeth or Hamlet-type sideplot, but never mind.
Tweety goes up and talks to the yellow drinking bird, sitting there on the edge of a glass.  "What's the matter?  The putty tat got your tongue?" says Tweety.  But the bird just keeps drinking, then popping back up, shaking back and forth... oh, you Hipsters out there will just never guess in a million years what's going to happen to that drinking bird.  Never in a million years.  But you Hipsters out there might like this touch: Tweety asks the drinking bird for a drink.  The bird drinks, then pops back up, shaking back and forth.  Tweety mistakes this for a nod of approval and says "Thank you!" then starts drinking from the glass as well.  Lol.  And hey, when in Rome... Tweety does the back and forth oil derrick-like shake as well.  Now that's out of respect, Henry Hill.  That's out of respect.
Next scene: Sylvester comes to, sees Tweety, and starts sneaking over to him.  That is, until the red cat taps Sly on the shoulder.  Sly turns around and sees the red cat.  Well, let me put it this way...

See the Red Cat.
See the angry Red Cat.
See the angry Red Cat with a mallet.
See the angry Red Cat raise the mallet up.
See the angry Red Cat bring the mallet down upon Sylvester's head.

Hypnotism, folks.  Works like a charm every time.  It's how the big Orange Cat's going to win the presidency for the Republicans this year.  Oh Lord, save me from his one-dimensional TV surrogates; I really just can't take it anymore.  Next scene: Tweety looks over at the sparring cats, even though it wasn't much of a contest.  Tweety takes off, and only verbally warns his new-fangled drinking buddy.  Oh, sure, Tweety comes off looking like a bit of a dick Richard here, but it's all for the greater good, folks.  Now comes the big payoff.  The Red Cat grabs that yellow drinking bird, eats it, and ... well, your Hipster friend will know what happens.  Of course, good luck getting them away from that mirror so they can check their moustaches and bald heads.  Forget weeds in the garden; what about all those weeds on the top of your head, Hipsters?  That's the stuff that really needs to be uprooted.  Well, I sure hate to spoil the half-surprise, folks, but let me just say that even a cat as slow as Sylvester can now get the better of his new red mate.  Which he does.
With plenty of confidence to spare (wow!  Where'd all that come from?) Sylvester now sneaks over.  Now, if you're Biff Tannen, you're probably saying to yourself, "Why are you sneaking over there, old man?  Both birds are gone!  Deerrrrr!!!"  And you'd be right.  And yet... Sly lifts up the empty tomato can and finds Tweety!  Dayamn... cold-blooded, y'all.  "Those putty tats will never find me in here!" says Tweety, wing-hands over eyes.  Sly grabs Tweety and pops him into his mouth... dayamn.  More cold-blooded.  I've never seen Sylvester act so fast... okay, maybe one other time.  You know, the one where Tweety starts punching Sly's uvula like a punching bag.  I'm sure it's on the DVDs here someplace.
Anyway, the Red Cat comes to.  See, the Red Cat should be thanking Slyvester... Sylvester for neutralizing that drinking bird, but no!  Tweety's just too valuable an item.  The red cat grabs Sylvester's throat, and Sly's mouth opens like a cash register.  It makes a little ding sound and everything!  Note to all the kids out there: your younger brother or sister's throat will not do that, so don't try it.
Next: close-up of Tweety, standing on Sylvester's tongue.  Tweety says "Wha-happan?"  Tweety looks over at the Red Cat.  Next scene: an extreme close-up of the Red Cat's ugly mugh.  Sheesh.  Thereby inspiring Nelson Muntz of "The Simpsons" fame.
AND NOW... at 4:25, the part that any of you who owned "The Carl Stalling Project" on CD and listened to track 1 a few times... this part's for you.  The Red Cat gets Tweety back and starts running up the steps... hmm!  I guess the music fits the scene, right?  RIIIGHT?!!!!!  Okay, so they're not all timeless classics.  You've got to expect that once in a while!
The red cat tiptoes up the steps like a football player confidently striding towards the goal line just before kneeling and praying... too bad they don't have the ball!  Sly tries to hit the cat but misses every time.  The red cat closes the door behind it, just before another giant serving pan hits the door.  Now, kids, time to remember your Bible: "Pride goeth before a fall."  In the red cat's case, he's too busy trying to make Sylvester look foolish, instead of eating Tweety like he's supposed to.  The red cat opens the door, sticks his head in and sticks out his tongue at Sly... just before getting hit in the face with an iron.  Pow.  More violent than Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.  And I ain't talking about Donald Trump's gruesome cameo, okay?
The red cat falls down, making a child's toy squeaking noise, then slides down the stairs, carrying Tweety all the way down... thereby paying homage to Friz's earlier censored classic, Ain't That Ducky.  "Let's do that again, Putty Tat!  That was fun!" says the ever smug Tweety.
Meanwhile, the shadow of Sylvester looms large over Tweety.  "Uh oh!  There's that other putty tat!" exclaims Tweety.  Tweety, puh-leeze... it's your co-star Sylvester, okay?  He has a NAME, you know.

ACT THREE

Tweety takes off running so fast that Sylvester can't catch him.  Let's leave that aside for now.  I suppose the important detail is the long pipe that Tweety's running next to.  For whatever reason, Tweety makes a rather long U-turn and decides to find temporary shelter inside of it.  We'll leave aside the Benjamin Franklin quote for now about those who deserve neither security nor... whatever.  It gets used too often in college applications as it is.
The red cat comes to, and we see that he's got a green pupil in his left eye after all.  Now, Sylvester's at the Stage Right end of the pipe, and he watches as Tweety runs towards Stage Left.  The red cat puts two and two together, and goes to the Stage Left end of the pipe.  The red cat puts its mouth up to the end of the pipe, which is why the pipe wasn't part of the painted background.  Sylvester sees this and grabs the single-barrel shotgun from Kit for Cat, apparently.  Of course, when this cartoon was made, single-barrel shotguns could always be readily found in basements.
Of course, there's one thing that neither cat counted on: the T section in the middle of the pipe with valve.  Tweety pops up out of the pipe, and closes the valve, I assume.  Sylvester fires the shotgun, and the bullet goes through the red cat and out of his tail.  I dare say that Friz can be credited with the originality of this gag.  Only in the cartoons, folks.  But who knows?  Maybe Disney or Krazy Kat did it first, I don't know.  Clearly I'm not the historian I should be.  I do know that Tweety probably would've been hurt by collateral fire if that valve in the T section of the pipe was open.
Now, when a cartoon cat's tail gets ruined like that, there's only one solution, and the Red Cat's on it.  The Red Cat jumps around in pain and panic a little bit, naturally, as you'd expect.  He then grabs an ashtray to stub out his tail.  You know, to stop the smoldering.  Angered, the Red Cat then grabs the standing ashtray to beat Sly about the face, neck and shoulders with it.
The two cats beat upon each other for a while, then Sylvester says "Hold it, Shnooks!  We're gettin' nowhere fast.  We gotta use stragedy."  "Duh yeah, strat-a-gee!  Like you said!" says the other cat... no, wait.  I'm thinking of A Gruesome Twosome... and it's not on my DVDs.  Un-frickin-believable.  Not even on the "Put a Bob Clampett on it" disk?  Wow.  Wow, wow and double wow, as the Hipsters say when they're about to really tear into you.  Usually over BDS stuff.  The lack of vigilance on your part and what not.
And so, the two cats beat each other over the heads until they look over and... Tweety's very slowly getting away!  Tweety leans back when running up one of the steps, thereby making M. C. Escher very proud indeed.  Next scene: the out of doors in the snow again.  I've kinda missed it! 
Tweety runs into a teeny snow bank and leaves an outline of himself in the snow, thereby referencing Fresh Hare anew.  The cats follow suit.  First the red cat into the snow, then Sylvester.  Exactly one-third of a second after Sly goes into the snow, we get a rather loud gong sound.  It's at this moment that we find that the two cats ran into a green Post Office box.  They're blue these days.  The older I get, the less I question these type of timing issues.  Seriously, though, why didn't the red cat loosen the snow around the metal external postal box instead of Sylvester?  This is why I'll never understand comedy, I suppose.  Next scene: dazed and flattened, the two cats stumble around together like an Othello game piece... you know, so we can see both sides of them.  Eventually, however, the two flattened cats pass out from all the excitement, unpeel from one another, and fall to the snowy pavement.  Just then, Tweety runs by and they both perk right up, with angry expressions on their faces like the cat half of Tom and Jerry would usually always have.
Next scene: boy, look at that little yellow fat boy run!  Tweety's running through the snow, kicking it up around him better than any human could.  Certainly better than the two cats do.  Look at that!  There's no rim, no heft to it.  Pathetic.  Now look at the snow Tweety's kicking up again.  Maybe it's a scale thing, maybe it just looks bigger because Tweety's smaller... but don't you suddenly feel like eating a whole mess of cottage cheese?  I thought so.
Next scene: okay, now we're talking.  The two cats screech to a halt, and the sound effects team finds the appropriate snow-like sound for it.  Kudos to those unsung geniuses.  Look at that big pile of white stuff in front of them.  That's what I'm talkin' 'bout.  The two cats find themselves at the edge of a frozen pond.  I'd say lake, but this is the big city we're talking about.  Damn few lakes, I'd imagine.  They look out upon the lake in horror to find a hole in the ice, with Tweety's little hat beside it.  They don't stop to consider that it all is a little too neat and must be some kind of trap... kinda like I didn't this one time when I was playing Zynga Poker and ended up giving my email and password to a phishing site like an idiot.  Man, what an idiot.  But it was fun to see my phony Zynga Poker dollars get drained out of the account!  Guess that's all they wanted from me.
And so, there they are, out on the ice.  Sylvester has a little trouble standing still, but he eventually gets there.  And he also helps pad this out to one-reel length!  The Red Cat's the more adventuresome of the two, and he goes first, reaching into the icy waters to see if he can find a teeny ice cube with Tweety inside of it.  But no sooner does the Red Cat have his arm submerged, when we all hear this teeny clicking sound.  The two cats look around to find the source of the noise.  Soon enough, they both look over to Stage Right in horror.  It's Tweety with an ice pick twice his height, cracking away at the ice.
Next scene: a wide shot.  As we can now see, Tweety's managed to crack the ice into an almost complete circle shape around the two cats.  And he's just about to finish, too... except for one little detail.  His hat.  Tweety asks the cats to pass him his hat and, smiling as big as they can under such duress, Sylvester does the honors of passing Tweety's cap over to him.  Tweety says "Thank you, Putty Tats!"... then finishes up the job at double speed.  Let's just say that the resulting reaction is almost as big as the underwater stick of dynamite in Don't Give Up the Sheep not so long ago.  Now, sure, your more right-wing friends will surely scoff and say that this outcome is laughable (in the pejorative sense) at best and criminally negligent at worst... the main thing is to always be thankful for their friendship, especially if they have good stock tips.  If they don't, dump their sorry asses now.  Yesterday.  What good are they otherwise?

EPILOGUE

Now that the rather thick ice circle has settled, we end as we began, with Tweety shoveling snow out of his nest.  Now, you might think that the two cats are gone forever in an icy urban tomb somewhere, but we pan to Stage Left to find that Sly is okay... he just needs to keep his hind legs in a tub of warm water for a while.  The other cat's in a similar state.  Neither one of them will be as eager to go outside for a while, bird or no bird.  Both cats sneeze and Tweety gives them both a fond "Gesundheit!"  As for me, I think I better read up on Crohn's...

Good double bill with: Extinct Pink or Odd Ant Out / I've Got Ants in my Plans

***
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan 

Auteur Watch - Edward Bland

When you direct a celebrated film like The Cry of Jazz, it must really, really take the wind out of your sails.  But it's important to be able to work in the industry afterwards... you know, pay the bills and what not, so working on a film like A Soldier's Story is a good start.  Of course, he kept bringing it up every five minutes, so they seriously considered firing him from the movie.  The Cry of Jazz is available for free on YouTube and... ugh.  I hated to think it, but I figure it was probably dated.  Can I skip past the bad acting and get right to the good part?  Personally, I kinda prefer this short and sweet analysis of jazz right here..........

Don't Fear the Reboot

You know how people always like to say that it's that time of year when you turn off the feeds from your political friends on facebook?  Well, ever since the controversy surrounding the new Ghostbusters movie began to swirl, I've been thinking about turning off the feeds from some of my cinephile friends who are just completely up in arms over this latest remake.  "It matters," they say.  And, "If you don't know why the Ghostbusters remake is a bad idea, you are a terrible, terrible person."  Sh... stuff like that. 
Well, as far as I'm concerned, the cast of "Saturday Night Live" have a tradition to uphold, and that is one of eventually letting their fans down.  And hard.  Take Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd, for example.  They have parts in the new Ghostbusters... are they not complicit as well?  I was at a party once and a guy said "I love Bill Murray.  I'd do anything for that man, I'd watch anything with that man."  Really?  Even Larger than Life?  Even one of the Garfield movies?!!!  Applying the similar test to Dan Aykroyd is much, much easier.  I'd be rather hesitant to meet the man who'd do the same for Dan Aykroyd.
So despite the protestations, it debuts pretty strong at #2.  If there's nothing else on the horizon, I wouldn't be at all surprised if it takes the #1 spot next weekend.  I mean, The Secret Life of Pets is down 50%!  From $100 opening weekend to $50 the next... I mean, that's Matrix 3 numbers.  Owwch.  Meanwhile, Walter White continues his celluloid reign of terror with The Infiltrator, another true story involving the cocaine trade.  Remember: just say no, kids.  Unless you've got really, really great friends, don't ride the White Pony to the end of the dusty trail.  Let's try to cut down on the need for new clean needle clinics for a change.