Sunday, August 28, 2016

Junk in a Trunk

Our next Looney Tunes merry melody to review is called The Foghorn Leghorn.  Now, personally, I still can't stand that Henery Hawk, for some reason.  Maybe because he reminds me of me before the world taught me a few serious lessons in humility.  Or maybe it's just that it goes against my firm belief that a Foghorn Leghorn cartoon ain't a Foghorn Leghorn cartoon unless Foghorn takes a two by four and hammers the dog in the ass with it about a dozen times, typically at six beats a second.  You know, to be in sync with the 24 frames-per-second rate that the first hundred years of cinema or so used to run at.  But this is what I've chosen to do with my life, so let's just dive right on in there, boy!  Jump, that is.

ACT ONE

"Ah, I ain't so little!!!" says the braggadocious young chicken hawk named Henery Hawk.  Love that little pest.  As with countless other appearances by that little darling, there's an adult chicken hawk that he's just too little to hunt chickens.  Alas for us modern audiences, animated chicken hawks at the time were lousy parents, and they would use a command and control approach with young Henery, who would of course rebel, and find out the hard way that he was indeed, in fact, ill-suited to hunting chickens on his own.  Which may be why I kinda appreciated it when that one rooster gave Henery a good hard slap in... which one was it?  Lemma check.  Okay, apparently, The Squawkin' Hawk.  It's been a while.  Used to watch that one on my old VCR tape, and it seems that's the only way left to watch it now, but who knows?  Maybe it's on volume 6 of the DVDs.  Hope springs encoded, in billions of little zeroes and one's... and now, with that new richer color paradigm, (I forget what it's called) EVERYTHING has to be re-done.  Everything.  Laurel and Hardy, Three Stooges, everything.  And let's try and get the ratios accurate, people!  The Stooges probably weren't in widescreen originally.  Not everything is 2.35:1, people, even though there's a whole industry now dedicated to clipping the tops and bottoms of old TV shows.
...where was I?  Oh yeah.  Still very far behind, if memory serves.  Okay, I should begrudgingly mention that young Henery does get in a nice setup to a joke.  Young Henery goes through three reasons why chickens are big and scary (monsters, at least to a little runt suck as Henery) but ends with "Well, what are we waiting for?"  The older, decrepit, be-dentured chicken hawk lays down the law and storms off to the vanishing point, thereby making more work for the animators.  McKimson always liked to be a jerk that way... and yet, it never had the panache of a Tashlin sequence, who would also push his animators and in-betweeners to the breaking point... we never did learn the older chicken hawk's name, did we?  Kinda like how we find out that Jerry Reed's character in The Survivors (1983) is named Jack, mostly through osmosis.
And so, Henery rebels against the law of his land by establishing a decree of his own, that he's going to get his first chicken today... with the proviso that "that's that."  Something like that.  QED, And Stay Out, Make it so, what have you.  These things persist from culture to culture, as it were.  Now, if you're paying close attention, mainly because you're not having a good time, sitting there, enthralled, just trying to soak it all in: the colors, the backgrounds, the sounds... you'll note that young Henery says he's never even seen a chicken.  Young Henery's nothing if not full of confidence.  Oh, he's a big time confidence man, and he never dwells on his shortcomings and or weaknesses.  That guy could be president someday!  The hawk's a genius, I tells ya!
Next scene: the portal to Ferndale Farms, and... man, say what you will, but that old dude moves and stops with the speed of a much younger cartoon character!  Unless it was funny that he does a little shaking and baking.  No, this is clearly a mission of conquest.  He breaks the fourth wall and confides in the audience that "a kid would just be in m'way."  He hated to have to tell him falsehoods about chickens, you see... oh, the mind games to come.  He has no idea.  Sorry, spoiler alert.  This old softie also has to provide the audience with a warning for the weaker souls in the audience, saying "You'll probably hate me for what I'm gonna do, but..."  As they say, Death be not proud.
Next scene: the decrepit old chicken hawk invades the sacred halls of the chickens.  Ah, the good old days.  How I pine for them.  Sifting through loose hay, trying not to touch the chicken droppings within, collecting warm eggs.  But suburban chickens are a tangential part of my work day now, and I saw a chicken digging through the leaves, and a tear damn near came to my eye.  Anyway, the chicken hawk's in the coop, and he lets loose with a diabolical laugh... whoa, dude!  Where'd that come from?  Game face officially on.  Better call the Police of All Things Creepy, because you just might get creeped out.
Next scene: the chickens get scared.  Cleverly, most of them go "A HAWK!" and it sounds like a "regular" cartoon chicken noise.  We're also, of course, treated to tawdry chicken knickers and... did the one at 1:42 sound like Curly?  How to properly misspell the noise?  It's kind of a "Nung, nung, nung"... you know, like what Bart Simpson did in one of the Halloween episodes, thereby prompting Lisa to say "I've seen your Curly too!"  Say what you will about Shemp, but I've yet to hear someone replicate his trademark... noise.  Useful for sleeping or expressing anything from surprise to a threat of violence, you gotta have a 50-year old smoker's lung to do it properly, or so it would seem.

ACT TWO

We're close to the Act break, and the introduction of Foghorn Leghorn is probably as good a reason as any to initiate one.  "Unhand those fair barnyard flowers!" exclaims Foghorn as he marches from the vanishing point and right on up to the chicken hawk, who now has two of Ferndale Farms' chickens in hand, and is trying desperately to hide them behind his back.  Where was the speed and agility of earlier?  Gone, apparently.  Anyway, long story short, this may be the one and only time that Foghorn has actually done something useful!  Defending helpless chickens is something he doesn't usually do, and even here it seems a little inadvertent.  Meanwhile, the chicken hawk's two victims are alive but dazed.  I guess we're supposed to ignore them.
Foghorn beats the crap out of the elder chicken hawk, using his large stomach to land the major blows.  Well, you can't argue with results!  One last wallop with Leghorn's stomach, and the elder chicken hawk goes flying far away, practically over the property line of Ferndale Farms!
"Hey, uh... was that a chicken, pop?" asks Henery.  Pop?  Oh, puh-leeze.  I say it's either his grandpop, or the eldest creepy uncle.  I guess we're supposed to ignore Ma Chicken Hawk.  Well, she did have The Squawkin' Hawk, so that's about all she can hope for.  Bruised and embittered, and apparently quite embarrassed, "Pa" Chicken Hawk tells Henery the lie that will inform the thinking of the rest of this picture, referring to Foghorn as a "loud-mouthed shnook."  Ah, Yiddish.  Where all the best showbiz words come from.  Admit it, English.  Okay, okay, U.S. English is exempt from that... jerks.
"Well, I'm not after a shnook!  I'm after a chicken!" says the robotic Henery Hawk, and marching past Foghorn he goes.  Let's keep this Crazy Train going, folks.  We've got celluloid to burn here, about four and a half minutes of it.  Man, but I could go for some "Rope Limit" right about now.  Alas, the instant case will provide no comfort; spoiler alert.  Oh, and I should take this opportunity to note how there's a flash of yellow on the elder chicken hawk's back. They had the technology to make it fade in and out, but apparently not the inclination to do so.  The camera guys and the editors would have had to work some serious overtime to get that done.  Still, you blink and you miss the yellow stripe.  Gotta keep your eye on the ball for that one... sorry, spoiler alert.  Anyway, I just recalled!  I recalled viewing this one on a Saturday morning many moons ago, and I did indeed like Foghorn's eyeball-related pun.  And even the delivery.  But now that I'm older and wiser, and just plain out of time, frankly... there's just no time to enjoy anything anymore.  And frankly, Henery himself is more than a little jaded.  Henery paces around in front of Foghorn as Foghorn does his shtick.  Henery just stares angrily, a brow more furrowed than even Charlie Sheen in his ill-spent youth on the silver screen, and walks away, saying to the audience "Boy!  Shnooks sure are noisy things!"  Now, that's jaded.  That's a lack of intellectual curiosity for your fellow creatures on this planet.
Next scene: but soon enough, the Gods of the Plot provide some new wrinkle.  The audience knows that Henery has stumbled upon the Ferndale Farms dog house.  But we have to just sit there and watch as Henery tries to process all this new information.  "This must be a chicken's cave!" says Henery.  Hoh boy... now I know how parents feel for the first ten odd years of their child's life.  They just can't wait for their children's brains to develop enough to discover strategy, and where they thought they've hidden the cash and the weed.  Fortunately, the Gods of the Plot have added an additional bounty.  Henery might not know what a hammer is, but he does know all about violence.  Quite well versed in it, coming from a chicken hawk household.  And like a duck to water, wagging its little tail like a dog (so cute...), Henery just goes right on over to that said hammer, picks it right on up... dayamn!  That little fat boy's strong!... and WHAM!  Within seconds, faster than it had time to grow, the dog's got a glowing red lump upon his head and is out clod... cold.  Darkness warshed over the dog, darker'n a black steer's... sorry, I'm rambling again.  Look at me.  Also, the dog conveniently lost the rope round its neck.  A rope that so often foiled its attempts to take a bite out of Leghorn in other Leghorn affairs.  Okay, focus, Movie Hooligan.  Fogcus.  Get the lens guy to pull that focus.
Next scene: "Now THERE'S a strange means of locomotion!" says Foghorn Leghorn, I says, when he gets an eyeful of the dog with the teeny chicken hawk underneath it... he can't see the chicken hawk yet, but judging from the look on his puss, he seems to have put two and two together already.  After all, when there's a stranger in your midst, strange things tend to follow in these here ... I say, these here Looney Tunes Merrie Melodies affairs.  Foghorn lifts up the unconscious dog by its tail and sees Henery just chugging away.  Boy, but these tiny cartoon characters have super abilities.  Jerry Mouse and his super strength, Speedy Gonzalez and his super speed, Tweety with similar abilities and his overpowering cuteness.
Henery Hawk is revealed at about the 3:43 mark or so.  It's a tight close-up, and soon we're pulling back to include the quite large Foghorn Leghorn in the frame.  You can tell it's a close-up, because of the tiny shadows that the clear cels make on the background paintings.  After all, movie stars are shot with bright lights... even the animated ones.  At this point, Foghorn gives one of his most memorable lines, asking Henery "What's the gimmick, son?  What's it all about?"  Henery, full of pride, and not using the angry voice, says "I just caught myself a chicken!"  Foghorn gives us another memorable moment, when he lets out a belly laugh... he clutches his belly with his strangely-human wing hands, in addition... and he interrupts his own laugh with an "Ah say."  That may be another first, hopefully not a one and only.
And so, Foghorn tries to explain to the teeny weeny chicken hawk its error, but Henery's a tough nut to crack indeed.  Also, maybe Foghorn's approach was a little weak.  He starts slow, merely saying that he himself is, in fact, a chicken.  "Rooster, that is!" he adds, getting up close to young Henery, and forcing the animators and in-betweeners into more overtime.  The difference between hens and roosters might be a bit much for young Henery to process at this point.  "Don't gimme that!  You're not a chicken!" says Henery to Foghorn.
"What am I then, boy?" asks Foghorn.  "You're a loud-mouthed shnook!" says Henery.  Members of the jury, note Foghorn's reaction to this.  Annoyed.  Very, very annoyed.  Makes me wonder how Chuck Jones would have handled the scene.  Just curious.  Oh, if only there was a blog that analyzed these things up close, touching upon every nuance... can't think of one.  It's like the prize fighter who talked about his plan to beat his opponent.  And then, the guy gets hit, and it's on to Plan B, because Plan A is out the window.  And gone with the wind.  The point being, I can't think of a time when a Chuck Jones character became irritated... for some reason, I'm thinking of the lion in Inki and the Mynah Bird when it blinks really fast about a hundred times... Then, of course, there's the teeny patriarch of the bear family who often found himself building up to an explosive rage.  Foghorn's bout with annoyance doesn't last as long, and it's probably the one time the animators got a bit of a break.  The camera guys, however, had to switch between two cels over and over... that must've been a bit annoying for them.
And so, Foghorn switches to Angry mode.  Note that the dog is still dazed, with the glowing red head lump.  Foghorn wildly gestures with his strangely-human chicken arms, and he starts hitting the dog.  As it happens, this was just the thing the dog needed to come out of his daze.  But is he grateful?  At all thankful for Foghorn's cruel-to-be-kind gesture?  Of course not!  Why would he be?  Why, if Foghorn didn't hit the dog, the dog still might be in a red-lumped daze now!  I suppose that's preferable!  And so, the dog gets up and out of the way of Foghorn's flailing arms, kicks Foghorn in the ass, snaps his dog fingers and says "Shnook!"  Thereby reinforcing Henery Hawk's extremely narrow world view.

Next scene: as often happens with Moe (Three Stooges), not so often with Leghorn, he has to switch to professor mode.  Henery ran the experiment in the one that featured Sylvester, but now it's Leghorn's turn.  Prof. Leghorn explains that roosters crow at sunup.  However, since it's the middle of the day, he has to use crude props like senators and congressmen often employ for the sake of the C-Span crowd and beyond.  Unimpressed, Henery just walks away, and sets up a couple of props of his own.  Maybe short attention spans have always been around, not just accentuated by the television generation, and now the internet.  At this point, Leghorn gives another great line: "I gotta straighten this kid out!  Thing like this could warp his mind for life!"  Reminds me of that documentary I saw a long time ago about GoodFellas where they were shooting the scene where Tuddy tells young Henry "You wasted eight f... aprons on that guy!  I gotta toughen this kid up."  Similar sentiment at work.

ACT THREE

Now, for the benefit of the audience, what Foghorn sees next shocks him.  Personally, I don't think much shocks ol' Foghorn, and he's not under dire stress at the moment... then again, he is having sort of an existential crisis about this whole "shnook" thing.  I still say it's more for the audience's benefit.  Far off on the horizon comes a giant trunk, thereby forcing the animators and in-betweeners into overtime mode again.  Well, those were the days when WB was willing to pony it up, mind you.
And so, we see Henery Hawk pushing this big-ass trunk along, going right past Foghorn.  "You're WAY off, son!" remarks Foghorn.  "You caught yourself a TRUNK!" he says, hitting the trunk when saying the word for extra emphasis.  Oh, F.L.  So ill-prepared for strategy.  See, Leghorn lives in the moment and has no ulterior motives, or so it would seem.  All he needs is a man bun or some weird-ass goatee and he'd fit right in with your modern day hipsters.  Oh, and tattoos.  Lots and lots of tattoos.  Not circus freak or biker levels, mind you.  Just the right amount.  Does anyone just have one tattoo that they build on for their whole lives?  You know, so they can do a time-lapse YouTube thing? ...no.  Not even putting a link to it.
And so, we get my absolute favourite moment in this celluloid affair.  The dog stands up out of the trunk, and that thing happens again where Foghorn starts flailing his strangely-human chicken wings around, and the dog falls victim once again to collateral damage.  Particularly when Foghorn says "trunk" during this spell, and the dog's head gets knocked rather completely out of the frame.  I tell you darlings, if they don't have this clip in the afterlife, well... it just won't be heaven, that much I can tell you.
Alas, all good things must come to an end, and Foghorn eventually realizes that he's hitting the dog.  The dog starts to growl, but you might not be able to tell from the expression on his face.  Foghorn gets scared, and exits Stage Right.  Stopping at a ladder, Foghorn turns more elastic than I've ever seen him.  It's extremely discomforting, maybe even discomfiting... wow!  No little red line under that one!  Guess I spelled it right, but it might not be in the proper context.  Foghorn eventually decides that climbing up the ladder is the best course of action.  However, what we know and what Foghorn doesn't know, is that the dog is waiting at the top of the ladder to give Foghorn a new watermelon helmet.  Ah, cartoons.  That never worked when I would try it back on the farm!  Guess I should've worked more on working my victims up into a psychological frenzy first.  That's why I never got anywhere in life, friends and spammers.  Which brings me to another great Foghorn line: he's got the watermelon on his head, and he says, muffled by said melon, "Somedays it don't pay to get outta bed!"  Ah, that Southern wisdom.  If only it could be channeled into giving up all the wrong things like the Confederate flag, and continuing to believe that they won the Civl War.
Cross-fade to next scene: With supreme confidence in both his teaching abilities and his own personal safety, Foghorn holds up a picture of a roasted chicken ($5.99 at Costco), points to himself, then gets a big platter from the top shelf and lies down on it.  "Still trying to prove you're a chicken, eh?" says Henery.
"Shnook!" says Henery.  Lord help me, I still hate that little Tweety wannabe.  Foghorn don't look too happy, either.

EPILOGUE

Now, I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking, but The Movie Hooligan!  All this is all well and good... but where's the big final explosion?  Don't these cartoonies for the tiddly-winkies always end with a big explosion?  Well, never fear, my impatient friends, for your prayers are just about to be answered.  Foghorn does a slow double-take, then gives an unprecedented second look of shock, for he sees his young protegé Henery Hawk... and I think we should probably refer to him as a protegé at this point, given how much attention Foghorn's putting into him... carrying a lit stick of dynamite towards the dog's house.  Let's call him Butch.  I forget the dog's name, but it's probably something butch.
"Don't do it!  I'll get blamed for it!" exclaims Foghorn as he runs over to stop young Henery from carrying out his latest act of mischief.  All the Southern charm and wisdom has gone rather completely out the proverbial window in this moment of panic.  Alas, you can probably guess how the master puppeteers of the plot strings want this one to turn out.  Foghorn's a few milliseconds too late, the firecracker goes off, and Foghorn is left standing there, smiling half-guiltily, with the spent remnant of the dynamite stick in his oddly-human chicken hand slash wing.  I hate to spend too many words on this one, but long story short... I know, I know, weeks and weeks too late for that... the dog gives Foghorn a WWE-worthy beating, and calls him a "good-for-nothing chicken."  I guess the dog doesn't find any of this terribly amusing; poor choice of words, from my comfortable POV here in my mother's basement.
But note the phrasing there, Counselor.  Henery is finally convinced, having gotten his second opinion that all wise scholars should always seek and try to obtain.  In the two shot, Foghorn launches into another tirade.  "That's what I've been trying to tell you, boy!" says Mr. Leghorn.  Meanwhile, Henery slowly steps back away from Foghorn.  He grabs a shovel that's just out of the camera's range, where all good things (and a few bad ones) exist in cartoons, and WHAM!!!!  Henery uses his super strength and super speed to bring a shovel down upon Foghorn's head.  Maybe it's just me, but I didn't particularly care for that.  More Yankee aggression and duggery of skulls, quite frankly.
But it is the end of this celluloid affair, and all of Henery's dreams have finally come true.  (Speaking of dreams coming true, I should point out that in the final scene before the iris to black, there's a foreground background of leaves and stuff that moves a little bit faster than the main background.  Talk about animators' dreams coming true!) Henery's dragging Foghorn away by one of his feet, saying "He talked me into it!"  To which, Foghorn quips "I'm just a loud-mouthed shnook!"  This isn't one of my favourite Foghorn outings, but Foghorn's performance in it is one of the best.  Kinda strange how that works sometimes.

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

Auteur Watch - Erma Elzy-Jones

Man, what a slog.  Ten years as a production associate, and what does it get you?  Well, for Erma Elzy-Jones... you're welcome, journalism students... it gets you a shot on one of the lesser Wayans family projects.  But I tell you darlings, once you're friends with the Wayans family, you don't not want to be.  Reminds me of that story Chris Wayans was telling about the time he got heckled by Chris Rock... see, Rock was in I'm Gonna Git You Sucka way back when, back in the day and what not.  But Erma eventually found a home on the turbulent set of "Moesha."  I guess when you're in the Moesha business, you don't not want to be.
But when you spend all your working day clashing with egos, towards the common goal of producing fiction, sometimes you just need to take a break and do something that might fix this broken world of ours.  In Erma's case, it was the 2002 TV documentary for the Discovery Health Channel called "Silent Crisis: Diabetes Among Us."  I totally give her props for being ahead of the curve.  Now the crisis is no longer silent; now it's just a given.  A few years ago I heard a rather disquieting bit of bad news on the radio, something about how scientists have basically given up on a healthy American diet, that we're all just going to keep inflating like a bunch of fat-filled balloons.  Silent but deadly, as we used to say.
Anyway, directing TV is a thankless job... at least it was when Erma was doing it.  This was before HD, so she was helping to create the TV jobs of the future: fixing the aspect ratios of the fifty-odd years of non-HD television that came before.  Somehow she knew that Moesha's days were numbered, so she kinda sneaked into a show called "The Parkers."  That was a slightly better fit for her than Moesha was: I mean, 13 episodes of "The Parkers" instead of 8 "Moesha"s.  I guess when you're in the Parkers' business... boy, what it must be like to have worked with a future Oscar winner like Mo'Nique.  I'll bet there's some horror stories there of diva behaviour and what not.
The latest thing Erma's done is a short called "Redeemer"... hey, here it is on YouTube!  It's got five thumbs up!  That's... that's a start.  Opening credits by Adobe, BTW...  Guess I'll have to watch it later.  Got weekend guests to attend to, you know!

Horror Party

The latest new horror pic, Don't Breathe, has already made more in one weekend than the new Ben-Hur did in two!  OWWWWCH.  MGM's probably behind the new Ben-Hur movie; any excuse to go bankrupt again.  Meanwhile, in Jason Statham news, his latest is the sequel to his 2011 remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson film called The Mechanic.  Spoiler alert: Bronson's character in that one died at the end, which just might be why this new one's called... wait for it... Mechanic: Resurrection.  Boy, if not for the concept of resurrection, what would Hollywood do when it realized that, hey, all the actors from the first massive hit are still around and looking for a job... for some reason, they really really didn't want to try and recapture the magic with 1990's Ghost which has been re-deposited back on my DVR.  I guess all involved wanted too many points or something.  That little bit of Raising Arizona that I taped off HBO Comedy not more than one or two soirée ago?  COMPLETELY VANISHED!  Bollocks.
Where was I?  Oh, right.  Resurrection.  Well, the first other one that comes to mind is Alien: Resurrection (1997).  Great basketball movie... that's about it for sequels ashamed of the now dreaded Roman numeral attached to it like a lamprey.  There's the all-but-forgotten 1980 classic Resurrection, where Ellen Burstyn gets to finally be the one possessed by the Devil, unlike her precocious daughter in The Exorcist (1973).  No, Hollywood's tired of the word as well, and all the Catholic baggage it carries around with it.  That's why this year we got Independence Day: Resurgence, and why we got 2012's Halloween: Resurgence.  Because once you've had your resurrection, you gotta follow it up with a resurgence.  That's just math.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Tweet-tanic

Our next Looney Tunes classic is called Tweety's S.O.S. ...and as soon as I get the blog formatting right here, let's get right into it.  I should probably point out the lack of fade between the title card and the credits.  Well, even the camera guys get tired once in a while.  Sometimes high paying union jobs can't fulfill all your dreams.  Just ask Frank Tashlin!

ACT ONE

Scene: Sylvester the Vagabond Feline is down on his luck... but that doesn't mean he can't strive for the Trump lifestyle!  Sorry... I'm trying to cut back on that, I really am.  But it is going to be a long four to eight years, and soon I just might be joining you in the bread line, Sly.  Sly's going good for a while.  Garbage can buffets are always plentiful in the movies, and Sly is the lucky beneficiary of their bounty... he's got the lump of potato, a blue fish skeleton with the head on it, all on a nice trash can platter and... YECCH!  Spoiled.  No good.  Didn't pass the ol' Smell Test.  Speaking of which, what's the deal with his snout?  Very oddly shaped, IMHO.  Hadn't been cute-ified yet by the nervous, proverbial "City Fathers" of the studio, as it were.
Sylvester chucks it all away in disgust.  And so it's come to this.  He'll have to wait for that land bridge to open up between Alaska and Russia again when the ocean waters recede... yup, I too saw that "Nature" documentary about all cats great and small.  Are those not worthy of their own reviews?  Anyway, Sylvester wanders around on the pier a little, trying to find his happy place with the giant ocean cruiser in the background.  One can't help but feel small and insignificant in the shadow of such a man-made behemoth, unlike, say, the comfort and promise of the glittering night sky.  The depressing background score doesn't help either.  I thought all these cartoonie things for the tiddly-winkies were all yuk-yuks and violence!  What gives?
Next scene: Sly sits there on the edge of the pier, next to the giant ship and... man!  The older I get, the more things like that make me seasick.  The ship bobs up and down in the water, and we see Tweety bird in the gilded cage next to the window.  Oh why oh why oh why does Granny always insist on giving Tweety the windows' view of the world?  Clearly for our storytelling benefit, for one.  Sly eventually perks up when he realizes that nourishment is so nearby... he was looking pretty damn depressed, even I must confess.
And then... here we go again.  Tweety's trademark line about putty tats.  Reminds me of this recent shout-out to Yakoff Smirnoff that I saw online.  Beware the rest of the video, of course, I hate to tell ya... anyway, back to Tweety and his constant surprise that there's a whole wide world out there just full of putty tats.  AND YET... he always seems to be chased by the same one!  He's got a NAME, you know... it's Sylvester, Tweety.  I guess teeny weeny birds like him aren't big on names.  Plus, they're trying to put on a show here.  This isn't Baby Herman between takes, after all.
Okay, back to the actual plot.  Too many diversions, The Movie Hooligan... too many diversions.  Sly's apparently no stranger to ships big and small, as he's already worked his way through the... you know, the spherical windows that ships like these used to have.  Well, that was the engineering of the time.  Square windows lost that coin toss.  Sly's halfway into the ship, and he very affectionately says to Tweety, "Hello, breakfast!" in that saliva-making way of his.  Panicking, Tweety suddenly summons the strength that Jerry Mouse often had to call upon in his constant battles with that blue cat of note named Tom... even I kinda can't believe I sat through 40 of those!  Where did all that time go?
And so, Tweety slams the window on Sylvester, and down goes the cat into the filthy ocean water near the ship.  Oh, there must be all kinds of bad stuff in that water: motor oil, hydraulic fluid, any number of things that leak from a ship in need of repairs.  Not enough in there to actually set the ocean on fire, of course, but... Next scene: instead of climbing up the side of a building, Sylvester now finds himself climbing up the barnacle-encrusted pier post.  The passenger clinging to his tail is just the icing on the cake, and so far is probably the biggest laugh in this affair.

SECOND ATTEMPT: Sylvester has managed to breach the ship's security, and he now finds himself at Tweety's very (cabin) door... that's not grammatically correct, is it?  Anyway, we hear Tweety just singing away like a regular bird.  No anthropomorphized song with lyrics by Sammy Timberg for us this time, pal?  No, it's just random whistles for now... sorry, I'm no bird expert.
But now I'm starting to think that that's part of the joke here.  Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but Sylvester just walks right in and tiptoes right on up to Tweety.  Tweety's still whistling at this point.  AND THEN... this all happens off camera, by the way.  Sylvester gets bird in hand and starts his escape.  That's when the whistling stops.  So, to recap: whistling while Tweety's not in Sylvester's paws, no whistling when Tweety's in Sly's clutches.
Oh, but Sylvester's no degenerate foodie here!  He's got to get to his special place first in order to properly eat a morsel like Tweety.  You know, stop by the communal garden, grab a couple potatoes, some spices, get the good China... fortunately for Tweety, however, fate intervenes, this time in the form of Granny.  And I think you know how she feels about cats that try to take her little birdie.  Oh, it's umbrella whoopin' time.
Sylvester tries to stall for time, being as supplicant as he can, and petting Tweety on the head.  This happens at 1:42.  NEXT SCENE: a close-up on Tweety and... wait a second!  Is that the SAME background from the very previous scene?  I think so!!!!!!!!!  Busted.  Disney would never something like that happen, now, would he?  Seriously, I don't know.  Haven't seen Disney's old stuff in years... of course, I'm still smarting from that piece of cr... cinema history about the king of the sea, and his harem of mermaids of the evening.  It's the cinema equivalent of a root canal for me now.
Anyway, Granny ain't buying it.  And sure enough, at about 1:49 in the proceedings... yup, it's umbrella time.  Granny swings at Sylvester like people swinging baseball bats at aliens in Signs.  "Attagirl, Granny!" says Tweety.  Boy, that's very patronizing for such a small bird!  Oh well... I guess he's allowed.  Next scene: Sylvester grabs a pillow to protect himself, and Granny hits Sylvester's pillow as hard as she can with the umbrella.  Maybe this is a good place to put a link to that Hollies' song I like called "Bus Stop."  You know, what with the umbrella in it and what not.  Ah, the many uses of an umbrella, the strong passions that it can enhance.

ACT TWO

Paradigm shift time.  Just when it looks like Sly's about to be beaten to within an inch of his life... I thought cartoon characters were more or less immortal.  Go figure... now, mind you, I've seen most of the WB cartoons involving Granny, as they were mostly shown on Saturday mornings and what not.  The one thing I don't seem to recall ever happening was Granny fumbling around for her glasses.  Welp, never fear, for even the writers of Looney Tunes... and yes, even these cartoons for the tiddly-winkies did have screenwriters.  Sure, mostly the same two or three guys, but still.  They had professional pride, too, and they too tried to find new angles for the same old plot geometry.
Anyway, Sly notices that the beating with the umbrella has come to a halt, and we find that Granny has lost her glasses.  Yes, much like Chris Farley's wigs would come off in dress rehearsals... watch the SNL DVD outtakes... so too did Granny's glasses fall off in the frenzy of action.  Now we find her fumbling around on the floor for the things, thereby influencing that one famous episode of "Twilight Zone" with Burgess Meredith that everyone just loves to death now.  I think it's the one where the guy becomes the race of person that he was just slurring in the first scene... oh wait, that was young Dean Stockwell.  Never mind.
And so, the hunted has become the hunter, and Sly strolls confidently up to Granny as she fumbles around on the floor for her "cheaters."  Just as she's about to reach them, boom!  Sly gives them a kick and under the sofa they go.  Dayamn, but that is cold-freakin' blooded, Sylvester.  Time for the little bird to spring into action.  Tweety and his hot-dog-bun feet start running as fast as they can.  Surprisingly, the same speed as the giant cat!  Go figure.  First they run to Stage Left, then to Stage Right.  And then, Tweety finds his way to the glasses, and Sylvester foolishly wastes time trying to squib under the couch after Tweety.  But Tweety's got just enough lead time to get to Granny and put her glasses back on.
"EEK!" says Granny as Sylvester screeches to a stop right in front of her.  Her glasses are back in place and, after about a second and a half, her eyes focus again and she can see that bad ol' putty tat.  I feel your pain, Grandma.  As my optometrist informs me, one's eyes focus more slowly as the years progress.  Why, if I held up a penny to my eye in the old days, it'd focus right away.  But now, after all these years, and all this time staring at buzzing computer screens, well... anyway, Grandma goes right back into battle mode.  Sylvester tries to make a break for it.  Next scene: Sylvester's gone so far as to run back down off the ship's... you know, the tilted walkway you have to walk up to get onto, or down to get off of, the ship.  Granny throws the umbrella and WHAM!  It hits Sly in the back of the head with damn near smart bomb certainty.  Boy, but that umbrella led Sylvester to a vow!  To get that bird by any means necessary, now more than ever.  Even if it means a stay in the feline hoose gow.
Next scene: just as the Marx Brothers before him, in both Monkey Business and A Night at the Opera, Sly is joining the ranks of stowaways, not the Shanghai'd.  And what better time to do it than during the semi-official launching of the ship.  Granny and Tweety wave goodbye to the gathered crowd, cheering and confetti-ing the place all to hell... hmm!  I didn't realize what big celebrities they were.  Oh well.  Sly, meantime, is forced to give a teeny goodbye from under the lifeboat tarp.  That the boat has a '13' on it, well, that's just more icing on the irony cake, so to speak.  Even lampreys have their pride.  Fade to black.
Next scene: Granny AND Tweety are asleep on the sun deck, as evidenced from the attached photo I've included in my evil email... I mean, regularly occurring blog post.  Seriously, though, is that you in this teeny group photo?  Love that scam.  Incidentally, to slightly change the subject, what was the name of the street you grew up on?  My heart broke a little bit when one of my Facebook "friends" asked me the name of my first grade teacher.  Hmm!  Is that even my security question?  Am I that obvious?  There is a value to email addresses like Thor69.com and what not after all... well, maybe that one's a little obvious.
Anyway, I think I'm taking this detour because, well, Sylvester clearly isn't heading headlong into battle anymore.  It's just not working.  Even though his quarry and its human protector are now sound asleep.  It's the Second Act, and it's time for some fiendish trickery.  Just like Ben Mankiewicz mused with Richard Fleischer's son, if Popeye ate the spinach right away, the pic would be over too soon, wouldn't it?  And so, Sly engages in a little pettyfoggery and duggery of skulls.  He snatches Granny's glasses and paints a crude Tweety on them... thereby creating Google glasses.  Probably.
And so, with the paint dry, time to put the plan into action.  Sly slips Granny's glasses back into place on the table, then sneaks over to Tweety's cage.  Tweety wakes up when Sly grabs him and is behind the cat's back, spreading yellow feathers all over the place.  Seems like Tweety can't afford to lose too many of those!  "HELP!" cries Tweety, as he starts flying just above Sylvester's head, and just below the top of the screen.  It's a balancing act, to be sure.  Panicking, Sylvester does everything he can to retake Tweety, and gets the hell out of there before Granny gets those darned glasses on.
Next scene: welp, you've got to hand it to them... the Republicans... I mean, Sylvester's scheme worked.  Granny looks over, sees "Tweety" in the cage, and relaxes.  And besides, I hate to break the fourth wall here and everything, but Tweety's pretty resourceful.  Granny doesn't realize.  It's like with Temple of Doom.  It takes place in 1935, one year before Raiders of the Lost Ark... so you just know Indy's not going to die, right?  Sorry, SPOILER ALERT.
Next scene: Tweety, either consciously or un, decides to fight Sylvester on his turf, so to speak.  Taking to wing... second time he's done that in this pic!... he lands on the highest part of the ship, and his wings turn to little bird arms with human hands.  It's all Sylvester can do now at this point, but to follow Tweety wherever Tweety may take him.  And so, where Tweety zips across the thin rope, Sylvester has to step very delicately and gingerly... which reminds me!  Snack time.  Well, I got way too many gingerbread houses this year for the holidays.
Fortunately for Sylvester, these wires aren't electrified.  But Tweety manages to send a jolt of sorts, vibrating slowly along the length of rope.  Tweety gives the rope a good strong pluck, much like Jerry Mouse would if Tom and Jerry found themselves in the similar situation.  It's all Sylvester can do to look on in horror as this thing approaches.
As you can see from the attached photo, Sylvester has a little trouble with it.  Boy, where do these teeny cartoon characters find the strength?  Panic?  Adrenaline?  A sense of sweet, sweet revenge?  Well, even though we're often taught not to pursue a path of revenge, that's what Tweety seems to be up to.  For now, Sylvester is hanging there by his right paw ... yup, just double checked.  Well, maybe it's just a bad habit he picked up.  After all, that's what he did to Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.  Tweety does the whole "Eeny, meeny" thing, which I'm just recalling from Lethal Weapon 2.  Ah, those were the days, before Mel Gibson became the train wreck he now is.  Or did Hacksaw Ridge was all that clean?  Anyway, we hear the splash of Sylvester in the ocean, and I'm assuming the ocean was relatively clean back then, at least, compared to today.  But who knows?  That Pacific Garbage Patch wasn't built in a day.  Tweety says "No mo!" but doesn't give a huge, self-satisfied beaky smile like he did several times in Clampett's A Gruesome Twosome.  Fade to black again.
Next scene: it's seasick time, gently implying that Sylvester's throwing up.  The waves are rocking that ol' steamer ship somethin' awful.  At that time in American cinema, and even more so on television, such as it was at the time, the act of vomiting could only be implied, typically in the seasickness context.  And thank God, because Lord knows how far the Three Stooges would've gone with it.  Anyway, we also have to imagine Sylvester's epic struggle to even get back onto the ship; he splashed into the ocean a mere scene ago!  Seems like forever.
Next, Tweety ambles on up to Sylvester, with much the same confidence level that ol' Sly had when he walked up to glasses-less Grandma, crawling around on the ship cabin's floor.  "Oh, THERE you are!  Didja lose somethin', Putty?" asks Tweety.  Sly looks up from the ship's railing, very very seasick.  Tweety doesn't seem to understand seasickness.  One of the benefits of being a bird.  Let's say he half knows exactly what he's doing.  Tweety offers Sly a teeny morsel of food, saying "Aw, you need something on your stomach!"  Needles to say, it's the straw that broke the camel's stomach... something like that.  Sly's off to the races to find the ship's infirmary.
Next scene: apparently, the ship's using the automat style for medical supplies.  Sly hurriedly looks through the ship's medicine cabinet and finds just the bottle he's looking for, right there next to the bottle of In-jokes.  And then... a little something for the audiophiles at 5:15.  Sylvester drinks the whole bottle of Seasick Remedy... make a note of that.  Might come up later.  But hey!  Can't argue with results.  Sylvester turns back to his regular color, and gets his usual groove back.  He looks over at Tweety, angrily... at least, to where he thinks Tweety is going to be, and the chase begins anew.
Next scene: hmm!  Reminds me from a bit from Conrad the Sailor.  Ah, what a love-hate relationship I've had with that one.  There's a stirring chase through the bowels of the ship, so to speak.  I hate to spoil the surprise...
Next scene: we see Sylvester crawling out of the sea once again, and back on to the ship, dripping wet.  One eyeful of Tweety and it's back to Square One for him.  "Now I gotcha!" declares Sylvester.  But Tweety's at least one step ahead, maybe two or three.  Tweety's got his picture of a boat handy, and he starts moving it around and telling Sylvester a story of a ship at sea... I think you get the idea.  Welp, can't argue with results!  Sylvester does pay attention to this diversion, and... hey, that's not actually going to work, is it?  Phooey.  Well, same thing happened in Screwball Squirrel, if memory serves.  I'd link to it on YouTube, but, you know... they seem to bring the ol' Copyright Strike hammer down on those links.  Sorry, 69789Darius.  We'll just have to pay for the privilege of bashing Gymkata from now on.
Next scene: Tweety says "Wocking, wocking, eh... aw, the putty tat's tunin' dween adain!"  Something like that.  I tell you darlings, the older I get, the more I love those "eh"s that get left in by the wiser directors.  The more, the merrier.  Of course, Vernon Dent was the king, the unmatched master of throwing those in in Stooge shorts.  Well, the Stooges do make a lot of bad jokes, so it's understandable.  Now, I don't know if Tweety was aware of Sylvester's treachery earlier with Granny's glasses, but he's about to match ol' Sly, treachery for treachery.  Tweety rushes off to the infirmary to tamper with Sylvester's bottle of seasick remedy.  Stinking and treacherous, I tells ya.  Meanwhile, Sylvester's green ass runs over to said infirmary, one finger to his mouth, cheeks puffed, unvoluptuous saxophones providing the musical accompaniment.

ACT THREE

A little late for Act III, but it's too late for me to turn back now anyway.  Several reasons, about twenty now!  Got some catching up to do, do I.  And so, Tweety sets up the big explosion that these cartoons usually end with, by dumping a bottle of nitroglycerine into Sly's seasick remedy bottle.  And I just noticed this!  When we see Sly's arm reach for the bottle of seasick remedy, it's his usual black and white color!  No green tint!  Sloppy work, filmmakers.  Sloppy.  Say what you will about that tyrant Disney... he'd never let an egregious filmmaking flub like that pass by his ever watchful eye.  Not for a final project bearing his important name.  Never.
And so, Sylvester grabs the bottle and gulps it all down.  So greedy.  Not thinking of anyone else on the ship who might need some of that.  Also, clearly the gulping sounds this time lack the interesting texture of the first group of gulping sounds. 
At this point, Tweety says "That's a nice putty tat!  Dwink it all down!"  He's as bad as Fudd!  Anyway, the main point here is this: inner sanctum violated.  Sylvester's, that is.  Is there no privacy anymore?  The only privacy that's left is the privacy in your head, and maybe that's enough.  Well, the psychics of the land will make short work of that.  Anyway, somehow Sylvester quickly puts two and two together.  For one thing, can't argue with results!  You'd think that nitroglycerine would only make his seasickness worse, but quite the opposite!  He's well, undrugged and unhypnotized, full mental focus and clarity.  But since Tweety's there, and patronizing him, then it must be some kind of a trick.  Sylvester spits a little bit of the stuff back out... we'll leave aside the complete grossness of that for now.  Well, the extremely uptight public at the time would let cartoon characters get away with murder... sometimes literally, if only in the context of their little shows for the tiddly-winkies! 
And so, that little bit of Sly's spittle explodes.  Sly is startled, but he quickly gets back to his usual angry-ass self, and chases Tweety anew.  But first, he knocks a bunch of glass bottles around.  More work for the foley guys.  Love it.

EPILOGUE

And so, the chase begins anew, but this time Sylvester tries out his exploding spit.  He comes damn close to hitting Tweety!  Of course, the bad guy's aim will always be a little off in cartoons, but it's all Tweety can do to keep from getting his little tailfeathers burned.
Next scene: around the corner, and in front of Granny again.  She's just as mad, and she's armed with an umbrella again.  Her campaign begins anew after Sylvester screeches to a halt in front of her... it takes him a little bit to come to a full stop.  I tell you, the Coens couldn't have plotted this much better.  Whereas before Tweety was calling on Granny to give Sylvester "a hit on the head," now he pleads as loudly as he can for Granny to not hit Sylvester, even going so far as to say "You'll be SOWWY!!!!" in that Fudd-esque lisp of his. 
But his plaintiff cries are not to be heard above the din of low-grade anger on board that cruise ship.  There's an explosion, and we cut to a lightly singed Grandma, lightly dazed and wondering what the hell just happened.  Meanwhile, Sylvester's been launched skyward, where he turns into a display of fireworks worthy of a July 4 celebration... or at least, an opening volley thereof.  I should mention that Stalling used the same music in What's Brewin', Bruin? for the Act Three fireworks in that show.
Now, just as celebrity athletes said "Goosefraba" in Adam Sandler's 2003 project Anger Management, sometimes it's up to others to really get a catch phrase to take off into the Iconosphere that seems to surround us and inform all our thinking these days.  And so we get the captain of the ship, looking up in the sky with a pair of binoculars.  He's voiced by Mel Blanc, who does the best white guy voice he can.  The captain says "I tot I taw a putty tat!"  Must be a Connecticut accent or something.
Granny and Tweety together, now steering this crazy ship of fools, both say in unison... the usual response.  Could this very well be Friz's masterpiece?  At least, masterpiece involving Tweety and Sylvester?  I dare say so!

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

Auteur Watch - Françoise Ellong

The pride of Cameroon, Françoise has finally graduated from the exhausting world of short films to the coveted magical fraternity of feature length pics.  No one reviews shorts anymore!!  And yet, they get found and picked by the Oscars.  Go figure.  The most compelling title is, of course, Rachel's Last Call.  But personally, I kinda like the ring of Now and Them.  Now, you're asking yourself, Now and Then?  The chick flick?  No, I said THEM not THEN!  M, not N!  Oops... it's Lesli Linka Glatter.  Don't badmouth it.  Don't do it!  I. Marlene King, okay, but not Glatter.
But let's get back to that feature film of hers.  It's called W.A.K.A., which stands for... something.  Let me double check.  Okay, according to this, it's Cameroonian slang for prostitute.  And, strangely close to English!  Street walker, W.A.K.A. ... strange.  Not much of a stretch.
The plot is that a mother, probably Mathilde, is forced to become a prostitute to make ends meet.  Like all parents, she does it for her son Adam... the most popular name for Cameroon boys, apparently.  Well, I'll give Francoise points for originality, even though there are about 4,000 titles involving prostitution in one way or another.  Not many prostitutes do it for their kids; at least, not in the movies.  But parents in general take a lot of crap from society at large.  The only one that comes to mind is Sunshine Cleaning, where a mom starts a crime scene cleanup business to send her young son to private school.  The Monty Burnses of the world put their bony fingers together and say "Excellent!" in unison.  Necessity is the mother of invention, indeed!  Also seems to lead to more necessity, frankly.  Invention also tends to lead to cheap knock-offs and/or theft outright.  Okay, here's the other title I thought of.  It's now called Undercover Heat.  It was on Cinemax some twenty-odd years ago and... what?  What did I say?  Perhaps its only redeeming feature was that its star, Athena Massey, did an episode of "Seinfeld" so I guess I wasn't the only one watching!  Yeesh.

Jakub Two-Two

...I'm sorry, I don't know what that is.  Anyway, there's three debuts this week, but otherwise a lot of the same in the Top 10.  Suicide Party is still at #1 this week, followed by Sausage Squad at #2.  The Secret Life of Pets may be at #9, but it's almost crossed the 350 million dollar mark.  Also, someone on the news said that Suicide has made 500 million worldwide, which once again proves my theory: people love the Joker.  Whether it's Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger or... whatever incarnation of the Joker we have in Suicide Squad... Douchebag Joker?  But, really, it's the Joker's girlfriend that steals the show.  Why, look!  Squad is already in her IMDb Top 4 along with The Wolf of Wall Street... yeesh.  Somehow, she deserves better than those two together.
Okay, on to the debuts that have finally made it.  At #3 it's The Dogs of War which needs more cowbell... I'm sorry, it's simply called War Dogs.  Death to all useless words!  Screw all prepositions and definite articles.  Alas, they couldn't take it a step further and call it Wrogs or Drogs.  We're just not ready for that yet.  It's directed by Todd Phillips who's given us such box office hits as Road Trip and the Hangover trilogy.  I guess this is his way of saying that, yes, he's sick of his own body of work too!  All I know is Jonah Hill's going up against himself again with this and Sausage Party.  Where's the Sherman Anti-Trust Act that we read about in school when we need it?
At #4 it's Kung Fu Panda 4... I mean, it's something called Kubo and the Two Strings.  The Onion likes it, so I better not badmouth it.  Let's move on.  The last debut this week is Ben-Hur... really?  A new Ben-Hur?  I didn't know we needed a new one!  And apparently, debuting at #5, America didn't think so either.  Well, the new one's a hell of a lot shorter!  I'll give you that!  124 minutes vs. 212... oh, it's like night and day, it is!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Che Gruyere-a

Our next Looney Tunes cartoon is perhaps eponymously called Speedy Gonzales.  As the informative commentary by Jerry Beck on the DVD informs us... this one won an Oscar.  Shows you what I know!  Well, Friz was a mere WB employee when he made all his Oscar-winning shorts, so apparently he never got the little gold and bronze statue in his own right.  Not until The Pink Phink an odd decade or so later.
I know, hard to believe that the Academy voting block that year picked Speedy Gonzales over the universally beloved Disney classic No Hunting, but whatever.  Two things.  1) Somehow, they should fix that on the IMDb where there's a more direct link to Friz and his Oscar-nominated shorts, instead of having to go through Edward Selzer to get to them.  And 2) ...Daily Show time!

ACT ONE

...wow.  Actually forgot what the second thing was.  Oh well; guess it wasn't that important.  But was that a video fade from the director credit to the film proper?  Oh, Warner Bros.  How you let things go into disrepair.  No wonder I'm a little hesitant to buy the Batman 4-Pack from Safeway for $9.99.  Did they skimp on the 1080p 4K Dolby 5.1 McRib transfers?  Probably... (Finally got it, and... yup!  Skimp.  Beeg surprise.)
As for Carl W. Stalling, well... his IMDb page doesn't exactly make it clear when he retired.  I mean, I thought Rabbit's Kin was his last one, and I'm pretty sure he was credited in the credits for it, despite what the IMDb says!  I guess you have to go by when Milt started composing, rather than just orchestrating.  Anyway, the cartoon begins in proper.  Scene: something called the "international boundary."  Could be anywhere, really!  Could be the border between Portugal and Spain, or Spain and Andorra... nah, must be America.  Only the USA could be responsible for a culinary atrocity like the "Ajax Cheese Company."
The protagonists: a bunch of emaciated Mexican mice, who look on hungrily at the cheese company across the way.  Oh, they're no dummies.  They can smell what's going on in there.  WHEN SUDDENLY... one of the mice says a bunch of stuff in Spanish, then "Pussycat!" in English.  The Closed Captioning only gets the "Pussycat" part of it, of course.  Or you can have it in Spanish or French!  Well, they did all these in one big batch, noticing after the fact that Spanish for a Speedy Gonzales cartoon is, well ... kinda redundant.
...okay, just rechecked Rabbit's Kin and it does indeed give credit to Carl Stalling for the music.  Of course, a lot of people who worked on these cartoons don't get credit; mostly to save time, I suppose.  I mean, hey!  If you've got three minutes of credits, you only get four minutes of cartoon over here!  Kinda like with those Roger Rabbit cartoons...
Okay, back to the plot.  The mice scatter, and up marches Sylvester.  Oh, I just hate it when he becomes a metaphor for border guarding, but that's what we got here folks.  For you audiophiles out there, note how the marching drums fades as Sylvester passes.  As for me, well, I got a kick out of the start of 0:52 when there's a brief pause in the drumming, then it starts up again.  Still fading out, mind you!
Next scene: the mice are all gathered in a close group behind a cactus near the fence.  I don't know why; it's not like there's armed guards close by, right?  Stan Freberg seems to take up the job of doing a voice of one of the mice, and... well, okay, so accents weren't his forté.  Plenty creative in other ways, of course!  All those radio shows and ads and albums, sigh... he passed on too soon.  Anyway, a mouse named Manuel draws the short straw, so it's up to him to try and make it to the cheese factory and back without getting killed.
Now, screenwriters take note.  The normal structure in a case like this is to have a short opening scene to introduce the situation or scenario as we prefer to call it.  Then, typically, the rest of the film is devoted to showing how the scenario gets fundamentally changed.  For me, the clearest example is 1997's Men in Black, but there are numerous others as well.  SPOILER ALERT - Here, in Speedy Gonzales, Manuel represents a slight break from formula.  We have Manuel's attempt to get cheese.  Long story short: it's unsuccessful.  Ain't that always the way, though?  Sylvester can never catch an American animated mouse to save his life, but a Mexican one?  Such cultural bias.  Makes me sick.  The mice have a big pile of sombreros of the fallen, and Manuel's gets lightly added to it.
Okay, so Manuel's episode should probably just be lumped into the opening scenario, but that just feels wrong to me.  Anyway, we move on to the means of getting to the part where the scenario is changed.  In this case, rather irrevocably so.  One of the mice declares that their only hope is Speedy Gonzales.  "Speedy Gonzales?  ...Who's he?" asks one of the mice.  Let's stop and dwell on that for a second... okay, that's long enough.  After all, even Jesus himself has trouble getting the word out these days.  One tasteless "sister" joke later, and we're on our way to meeting Speedy proper.  I don't know who's doing the voice for the mouse who goes to fetch Speedy... doesn't sound like Blanc.  Sorry to keep beating that dead horse and all... I'm just saying.

ACT TWO

Ah, the life of a legend.  We find Speedy wasting his gifts at a tiny booth in the big city.  And as you can see from the attached photo I've provided... it's not part of a scam, I swear... the booth says "Win BEEG Prize."  You can't see it, but I'm shaking my head right now.  But this isn't the polite Disney humour, people.  This is why we love the Looney Tunes and, to a slightly lesser extent, the Merrie Melodies.
"Ah HAH!" laughs Speedy.  From all the times that I remember Speedy, he's usually just saying "Andalay" and "Eee-pah" [sic].  Well, this was the first, after all.  It was bound to be tweaked later on.  As you can guess, Speedy's too fast for the bullets that the people shoot at him.  They're probably small, but at Speedy's vantage point, they sound like cannonballs.  They also sound like the falling train tracks at the end of The Unruly Hare, but that's to be expected.
"Hey, Speedy!" says the mouse we saw earlier, just offstage from Speedy.  Speedy looks over and gets a hole in his sombrero from one of the bullets.  Reminds me of the time John Cusack was kickboxing down at the local kickboxing ring, got distracted by Ione Skye, then got socked right in the kisser.  That's right... it's not just about the now infamous jukebox scene, if only for me.  Even though it's also the cover of the DVD.  Why fight it?
And so, Speedy and the other mouse have a brief discussion.  The other mouse lays out the scenario for Speedy and... dayamn!  I've never seen Speedy so calm before.  It's a little off-putting.  Fortunately, that'll change later on.  The other mouse says "Gracias" to Speedy, bowing and stepping back and what not.  Must be a Catholic thing.  Why Speedy isn't a saint already is beyond me.
Next scene: one of the reasons I never got ahead in astronomy was reading about quasars and other stars that pulsate.  Guess my gift in life has always been memorizing the various names of things.  Once upon a time, I might have been able to name all 88 constellations, even though I'll probably never see the Southern ones.  But one can't help but think of a pulsating heavenly body when they look to the horizon, and see that weird-ass plume of smoke heading towards the gathering of Mexican mice, awaiting some earthly justice or, sparing that, at least some earthly nourishment.  Were they not promised a land of milk and honey too?  And if not honey, then surely some heavily processed milk by-product?  You see what I'm getting at.
Next scene: the heavenly amorphous cloud dissipates, as does its devilish motorcycle-type growl, and Speedy appears before the mice's eyes.  A great cheer erupts from the egg carton in which some of them sit, and flowers and sombreros fall all around Speedy.  Sylvester the Cat looks up from behind his rock, and gets a look on his face like Homer Simpson used to have once upon a time... maybe when talking to Patty or Selma on the phone.  The look might last forever if Speedy didn't do anything else, but Speedy came here to get some sweet cheesy justice, and Sylvester's scowl quickly returns.
And now... I'm not sure when to break this up into a Third Act... probably at about 4:30 in the proceedings, but the plot structure is pretty clear.  As with Friz's serials for MGM, it's time to test the bounds of the setup.  In this case, we just wasted so much more time because of the introduction of a new character.  One of the most flagrant examples of this plot structure has got to be Reaux, Reaux, Reaux Your Boat.  As the IMDb Plot Summary will tell you... A NUMBER of unsuccessful attempts.  All that seven minutes allows.  One of my favourites is Isle of Caprice... probably monotonous to some, but if my count from when I used to watch it on a semi-regular basis is still correct, the Jackie Mason-sounding Aardvark makes a grand total of eleven attempts to get from one island to the other, twice getting foiled by the rather elastic tree on the ant-laden island.
So, for Speedy Gonzales, let's just break this down into a series of miniature episodes... which I believe gets shortened to "mini-sodes" these days.

FIRST ATTEMPT: As with finding out the first time that the glowing red stove coil is hot by touching it, so too does Sylvester try with his bare claws to subdue the supersonic Speedy Gonzales.  To no avail, alas.  We watch as the white dust cloud leads to the open warehouse door of the Ajax Cheese Corporation.  It takes a while for Speedy to find some cheese, lol.  Soon enough, however, he's on his way back.  Sylvester shimmies a little bit, trying to get Speedy at dead center, then Sly makes his leap.  Speedy, however, has great velocity on his side, and easily escapes Sly's beclawed clutches.  Why, it's like he's covered in some type of lubricant or something!... let's leave it at that.
Next scene: at 3:17, we see what could be Sylvester's point of view from the American side of the fence.  It gives the guy who lines up the cels in front of the camera a little extra work to do... or, who knows.  Maybe the cels had a few inches between them, or maybe the different levels of cels were like books on a bookshelf, and you could easily interchange them back then.  Disney probably had that, right?  Anyway, it's a long shot, and Speedy hardly looks like Speedy, aside from the fact that he's holding aloft that first piece of cheese that's been sneaked by Sylvester, and in broad daylight, no less.  It's like how businesses always frame that first dollar's profit they make... so cliché.
Sylvester looks at his belly, and half of his white belly fur is gone.

SECOND ATTEMPT: There's barely time to breathe, when Speedy chucks the piece of cheese at the audience, and is off to get a second one, maybe more.  Sylvester ups the ante with a net on a stick.  Sly sets it down on Speedy all right, dead center in fact.  Speedy stops for a bintel brief... is this the premature end of Speedy as we know it?
Speedy takes off anyway while Sylvester tries to hang on to the net... you know, that would be kind of interesting to see that!  Speedy running along, legs sticking through the holes in the net?  Alas, it wasn't meant to be.  Sure, we see a little bit at 3:45, but somehow it's not enough.  The focus is on Sylvester, getting pulled over a cactus and through a very thin pipe and what not.  I'm suddenly put in mind of a slightly similar scene from the second Naked Gun movie, when Nordberg's legs are sticking out from under the police car, and finds himself on a stretch of road with any number of crotch obstacles to try and avoid.  Saw that again about a month ago... probably should write a review of it at some point!  Mad Magazine breathed to life, as with most (David) Zucker productions.
Sylvester gets pulled all the way to the Ajax warehouse, then almost all the way back.  He loses all his white belly fur this time.
And just to rub it in a little further, Speedy's got about seven small pieces of cheese in his surprisingly gentle grasp.  I sure wouldn't have been able to pull that off like that.  Fade to black.

THIRD ATTEMPT: We fade in on the third attempt.  Sylvester is delicately laying down a bunch of mouse traps.  Oh puh-leeeeeeeeeeeeeeeze.  You can probably guess what's going to happen.  Why, he didn't even put any cheese in them or anything!  Wotta gyp.  Remember the similar scene from Mousehunt?  Is it not worth going back to it?  Cable TV certainly doesn't seem to think so.
Now, I hate to be so critical of the DVD; you know, what with its semi-functional menu and all... but I did seem to detect some slight flaws in the picture quality at 4:08.  Look at the wire fence and you might see it.  But I guess that's all part of the charm of the old film.  Say what you will about the bad new cartoons of right now; bad picture quality isn't one of their many, many faults.
But I would like to take this opportunity to point out something for the audiophiles in my teeny weeny audience.  At some point, the sound gurus at Warner Bros. heard the jet sound effect they use so often, and they thought to themselves... you know, it needs a little something.  And so, at 4:09 we get this jet sound effect with a little brass under it; trumpets or something.  When I was playing trumpet, I believe it would be an 'F' note; D sharp on the piano.  No wonder the brass and the rest of the orchestra don't get along so good.  Friz would use this a lot all the time.  In I've Got Ants in my Plans, the aardvark using jet skis makes the same jet-brass noise when he goes sailing by at one point... we'll get to that later.
The main takeaway being, the juxtaposition of fast and slow.  Sylvester slowly lays down the traps, and when Speedy goes sailing by, the traps slowly fly up into the air and land on... Sylvester screams them all off, but the last one closes his mouth shut.  Not so much painful as it is just plain undignified.  Oh well.  Another fade to black.

ACT THREE

FOURTH ATTEMPT: We only hear Speedy off camera revving up as he does, and we watch Sylvester getting ready for his inevitable appearance.  Spoiler alert: time for a baseball joke.  Sly's mind is in the right place, of course, as he's dressed up like a catcher.  Sly catches something in his glove.  He looks to find that it's a baseball.  Ar ar ar ar... (clapping fins)  Now, c'mon, man!  What's not to like?  This is kinda it, folks... it's either that, or pervy sex jokes or something.
Now, there's nothing in the Laws of Cartoon Physics for this scenario, and I don't know if there's actually a document with the Laws of Cartoon Humor in general chiseled in stone, but if I may, it's an application of "You Are what You Eat."  Because as we all know, you also are what you do, watch, etc. ... and what you dress up like.  To go to another Ant and Aardvark example, the first one that comes to mind is the time the aardvark got hit with a coconut cream pie.  He knew it was coconut, and showed it to all of us, because he lifted up the tin, and there was an actual coconut in the pie.  Now, c'mon... you chuckled a little bit, didn't you?  Okay, another clothing example... Chuck Jones takes the example of hats way too far, and perhaps a little bit into Ivory Tower Egghead territory, even... with his 1956 classic, Bugs' Bonnets.
Sly looks with disgust at the baseball in his paw and throws it in the direction of the Ajax Cheese Corporation with all his disgusted might.  Next scene: the ball rolls right onto the warehouse floor, amid boxes of cheese... hmm!  And why are we following this non-sequitur, exactly?  Um... because the payoff is AWESOME!!! DERRRR!!!!!  Speedy returns to Sly's side of the fence with a piece of cheese as big as Speedy himself.  Sly pounces on him with the catcher's mitt, but Speedy once again easily escapes Sly's normally deadly, iron-like grip.  You know, just to rub it in a little bit more.

FIFTH ATTEMPT: Sylvester goes halfway back to the idea of the mousetraps... you know, the older I get, the less funny land mines seems to me, especially seeing as how there are still battlefields out there, apparently with WWII-era mines that lay unexploded.  Anyway, speaking of acronyms, I want to give a brief shout out, as any blogger worth their weight in beryllium should, to a former friend who, if you ever used an acronym like FDR, JFK or LBJ, would quickly pounce on you with "Oh, you know them personally?"  Hey, we all gotta try out new material sometime.
And so, Sylvester suffers the indignity of having to bury his own surplus land mines.  There were a couple of Ant and Aardvark cartoons... sorry, another reference to them... where the aardvark stumbled upon pieces of land protected by mines.  Inspector and Deux-Deux did that as well, if memory serves... and also, they violated the sacred law that says the Inspector should mainly get injured, not Deux-Deux.  I guess they were trying to warn us about apprenticeships, or internships for a more modern example.
Spoiler alert: Sylvester waits behind a stone for Speedy to appear.  And where does Speedy appear?  Right behind Sylvester, of course!  "AHH HAHHHHH!" says Speedy, thereby sending Sylvester into the sky.  Once Sylvester returns to earth, Sly looks at Speedy quite angrily indeed, then takes off after Speedy.  This happens at 5:04, and my complements to the animators that animated this little sequence; I could watch that sh... stuff forever.  And that's part of the problem.  I'm now ten cartoons behind where I'm supposed to be!  But that's how it goes.  My day job takes too much of a toll on me physically.
And so, a Sting song that I've been listening to repeatedly lately, perhaps in a desperate attempt to cling to my adolescence, comes into revelance: "Had to stop in my tracks for fear of walking on the mines I laid."  There's a reason that comes right before the chorus, you know!  Sylvester runs, then stops, looking around in horror, at the disturbed earth piles he's now smack dab in the middle of.  But for the same reason Republicans get picked on so much, so too does Sylvester the Cat in peril seem like the better dramatic choice.  What a tool he is.
I hate to spoil the land mine punchline, so I won't.  The film kinda does that itself anyway.

SIXTH ATTEMPT: Sylvester and Speedy are both upping their game.  It's a proverbial arms race, as in nature.  Take the example of the pine cone and the woodpecker, constantly at odds over the tree's dwindling number of plentiful, tasty seeds.  So too does Speedy get a little cocky, telling the audience to time him.  The already fast, strong and clever Speedy Gonzales even finds himself with room for improvement.  For a practically immortal cartoon character, that's a little hard to believe.
Meanwhile, Sylvester is back to the drawing board, trying to develop a clever ruse to trick Speedy.  He's decided to beta test it on Speedy himself, rather than waste too much time on the R 'n D side of things.  Kinda like Microsoft!  (note to self... "kinda" doesn't need to be spell-checked.  Hmmm!... this 'hmmm' does, tho... 'hmm'... okay, an 'h' with two 'm's after it is legal)  And so, gentlemen, we have ourselves an RV!... oh, right.  That was the blerd from Die Hard 1.  Love that guy.  Why Larry Wilmore never had him on is just a damn shame.
And so, Sylvester, much like any engineer, tries to subvert the free flow of nature's forces.  Take the river and the dam builder.  Take the loggers who carve their ad hoc trails in the mountains.  Now, too, does Sylvester get himself a length of steel pipe, much like the one he was pulled through during the tumultuous "Second Attempt" from earlier.  Now, to insure that Speedy goes through the pipe, enter the wooden board with a mouse hole in it to block Speedy's path, and strongly persuade him to go through the pipe.  I know I tend not to make carefully deliberated decisions if I'm travelling quickly.
Now sure, Speedy could jump over the board, but that is clearly beside the point.  Speedy takes on Sly's challenges directly.  And, of course, all the land mines aren't a factor anymore.  This isn't Lickety Splat we're talking about here, after all.
And so, Speedy goes through said pipe.  At the other end of the pipe, we see the ever hopeful Sylvester, mouth agape and at the pipe's other end.  Sylvester yearns once again for the taste of Peromyscus mexicanus amanuensis in his mouth hole.  And the ever hopeful Sylvester, of course, assumes that Speedy will just... get busy digestin' and get busy dyin' and all that, like all the Mexican mice he's engulfed all previous-like.  But just like what the ant-tiny motorcycle hybrid in the yet to come Hasty but Tasty does to the blue aardvark's tail, Speedy's ferocity of velocity and purpose bursts a tiny hole at the end of Sly's tail, making Sly's tail fur a little frayed.  Now, you might be asking yourself, 'fraid of what?  To which I must resonantly respond... this isn't a two-way conversation here.
...where was I?  Oh yeah.  Now, unlike the mousetraps, which were painful, this hole in Sly's tail is just a little bewildering.  Maybe a lot, which is why we focus on Speedy for the time being.  He returns once again from the Ajax Cheese factory, holding just one piece of cheese.  He stops at the wooden board with the hole in it for the pipe.  As in the Kill Bill series, the way things are done is everything, so Speedy, after eventually thinking it through, runs over to Sylvester's tail and stops... you know, so the audience can catch up.  And then, oy... as the commentary points out, it's kinda gross.  Kinda really gross.  Perhaps the only time in cartoon history, a character goes back through the hole in the punctured tail.  I believe they refer to that as Greek style.  And so, Speedy pops out of Sly's mouth, goes back on his side of the fence, and throws the piece of cheese to the cheering crowd.  Lord help the mouse that eats that specific piece of cheese.

EPILOGUE

Sly's a little bit furious now.  He's making the furious pose and all that, both fists clenched for a boxing match that will not come.
"This time "... excuse me... "THEES time I get ALL the cheese for you!" declares Speedy.  Well, Sly's reaction to that is an interesting one indeed, if only from a corporate perspective.  He's finally completely given up against Speedy, and he takes all the cheese and stacks it up in a big pile, and gets ready to blow it up with dynamite, using that old push-handle box to do so.  Phew!  For a second there, I thought this affair wasn't going to end with a gigantic explosion. 
For some reason, the 3-D-ish finale of The Unruly Hare comes to mind, minus the 3-D.  Anyway, I believe the head specialists refer to this as the old reverse psychology... sort of.  Halfway there.  Thankfully, Sylvester wasn't devious enough to poison the cheese and just hand it over to the mice, or something like that.  No, it was all verified and boxed up, ready for market.  Somehow, Sly's choice of location for the planned detonation was an unfortunate one for him, and fortunate for the hungry mice.  Sly watches as all the cheese rains down on the mice, and the mice rejoice in response.  Sly beats his aching head against the nearest power pole he can find.  Sly will probably lose his job at the cheese factory... is he even an employee, even?  That was never made clear, unlike the sheep dog and his wolf nemesis.  Fortunately, the company will file for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection, and any upper brass named Trump will make out like a bandit, because of their financial 'genius.'
As for Speedy, well... he utters a line that many a cartoon character before him has, and perhaps a few after.  "I like him (this pussycat)... he's silly!"  I mean, seeley.

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

Auteur Watch - Nelsan Ellis

What do you get when you've got a successful HBO show?  Future auteurs in the making, that's what!  Take the oft-recommended series "True Blood," for example... boy!  That Alan Ball's a busy guy!  First "Six Feet Under," now this.  One summer off between shows, I guess!
Oh, but enough about him.  What about that one black dude on the "True Blood"?  His name's Nelsan Ellis, and working with all those talented people on "True Blood" makes him think, aw hell!  I can direct just as good as any of the a-holes... I mean, delightful people who sit in that folding chair with the piece of cloth for a back and tell everybody what to do.  I guess the lousy chair means that tyrannical directors have some humility after all... or maybe it's just better to have a chair like that if it gets thrown around a lot when tantrums break out on the set.
And so, with that in mind, Ellis ventured forth into the wide world of directing.  He based his first short film, Page 36, on his experiences on "True Blood."  Ouch.  His next was a full length feature documentary called Damn Wonderful... which is what it sounds like, based on the rather generic plot description.  You have to go to the official website of the film for more information... that's right, people still make their own damn websites, because a Facebook page is just so hacky.  But I guess it's a good way to test who's your real Facebook friends and who's not.  Just try not to flood the marketplace, or try and call yourself a public figure when I've never heard of you.  I'm talking to you, Bruce Mason!!!  Then there's guys and gals who create way too many Facebook pages, and of course you have to like every damn one of them... I'm talking to you, Brian Harrod!
Anyway, Damn Wonderful profiles the right demographic: LGBTQ 20-somethings.  They're the hot group right now.  But really... young poets trying to make their way in the world?  Trying to be the voice of a generation?  It's a saturated marketplace, dudes and dudettes!  Lady Gaga's not stepping away from the trough just yet... for one.

Official website for Damn Wonderful

America Commits 'Suicide' for 2nd Week in Row; place 'Sausage' joke here for 2nd Place

Very little fare for the tiddly-winkies this week, but Disney's latest reboot for the 3D market, Pete's Dragon, comes in at #3.  Reminds me of the thing from The NeverEnding Story (#1) that everyone thinks is too creepy now.  So while the kids are watching that, the teens are at Suicide Squad again, and Seth Rogen's latest, Sausage Party.  The Onion gave it about as glowing a review as they could, yet still just a B grade.  So picky. 
But I've just noticed that Bad Moms is hanging int here pretty good.  The first two weeks at #3, and only dropping to #5 this week!  Good demographics on the part of the creators of The Hangover trilogy.  Still unable to capture the inexplicable magic of that first and second installment, but they'll keep right on trying.  And lastly, let's all shed a couple Tears for Frears... Stephen Frears, that is.  His latest is the latest Meryl Streep project, and it's called Florence Foster Jenkins.  Personally, I think it should start like films used to in the old days, with a couple of cartoons... in this case, Streep's impersonation of Trump, the human cartoon.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Bonus pics

Okay, I promised my mom I'd post this pic, but I just couldn't figure out where.  She thinks the new pope looks like Stan Laurel, so here's the side-by-side comparison for you.  I still say Peter Sellers, but what do I know?
Also, there's a new, disturbing trend on the Book of Faces lately, where I now seem to spend all my free time.  There's these fake obituaries that keep singling out Sylvester Stallone for some reason, and now they're going after Melissa McCarthy.  "We say goodbye to a legend..." and all that.  I have just one thing to say: stop with the fake obituaries already!  I probably don't want to buy what you're selling!  Especially if it's life insurance!

Environmentalism in the Movies: Lumber Jerks

Oh, these are the bad times.  With the rise of televisions and their antennae across the land, what was Hollywood to do?  Everyone was staying at home instead of getting all dressed up for a night out at the movies!  Imagine.  And with shows done on the absolute cheap like "Tom Terrific," people like Isadore Freleng and his ragtag crew had a harder and harder time justifying their massive studio salaries, and all the time they took to develop their little Nickelodeon peep shows for the tiddly-winkies.  Case in point: our next Looney Tunes, Lumber Jerks.  The backgrounds have considerably less detail, the music's by Milt Franklyn, Stalling's understudy... and frankly, the Goofy Gophers, well... they ain't exactly my favourite characters in the WB stable of animated stars.  And even the Goofy Gophers were a lot more perverse in their '40s work.  Take the big hammery finale of Two Gophers from Texas, for example!  I hear they're planning on putting it on Volume 119 of the Looney Tunes DVDs.
But sometimes you just gotta take your meds and revel in the extra talkative, verbose characters such as these two.  Especially on a quest such as mine.  For some reason, the older I get, the less I can do that; gotta work on that.  After all, when you try to look for Chip and Dale cartoons on YouTube, well...

ACT ONE

Scene: an autumn forest.  Ugh.  See what I mean?  You compare this background to something from the '30s and '40s and... well, there's just no comparison.  But soldier on we must without the benefit of the voice of the Road Runner, Paul Julian.  We pan up onto a lone tree, then clumsily zoom in upon it.
Next scene: the introduction of the two darlings we will follow for the rest of this cinematic outing.  They do look much cuter than their late '40s incarnations.  Well it was a different era, and having baby fat and not knowing three different styles of Martial arts was still okay.  How they avoided a Disney lawsuit is beyond me; one of the great untold stories of Hollywood.  Either that, or even Disney lawyers just focused on the main bread and butter.  You know, stuff like Ferdinand the Bull, and all the copyright infringement that that timeless classic inevitably inspired.  Yeesh.
For you audiophiles out there, you'll notice and love how the little rodents' voices are echo-y while they're inside the tree, then not when they emerge again to daylight.  Why, they're a couple of gophers that even Nora Ephron would love.  Upscale types just trying to find a prime piece of real estate, like everyone else.  I guess the problem is wanting to have a lone hilltop to yourself.  Nature abhors a vacuum, as well as a couple of greedy, pint-sized little f... twerps.
"THANKYO," says the one gopher to the other.  I'm not even going to differentiate the two at this point.  But one does sound vaguely like Stan Freberg, and one sounds vaguely like Mel Blanc.  I'm going to assume that the THANKYO is an homage to... I believe it was the Marx brothers' A Day at the Races.  And remember: if you've never been so insulted in your whole life, well... it's early yet.
More pruning of budgets.  I mean, take the scene at 0:52... I guess that's supposed to be grass.  At least the one sequence in Clampett's Baby Bottleneck had the excuse of psychological experimentation when going for the single-color backgrounds.
Next scene: the two little darlings start gathering, hoh boy... "nuts" for the winter.  Thereby informing the last five years of David Letterman's monologues.  Of course, even he is turning into an environmentalist.  Brought to you by "The Years of Living Dangerously" on Nat Geo.  Second season!  I guess after about the tenth season of that show, the title will be a lot less provocative.
Anyway, they each get a large handful of acorns... for them, anyway... and start hopping along at six beats a second.  The second follows in the trail of the first; you know, to make it easier on the animators.  And then... time to kill some time!  They start climbing up a staircase inside the great tree that is now their home.  Are they going to trip and fall, and have to stop?  Check and mate.  "I TOLD you to be careful!" Blanc tells Freberg.
Next scene: when they get to about the fifth floor or so, we find that the rest of the tree has been mysteriously lopped off, right in the middle of the day, no less.  You contrast this with Bluteau's operation in Axe Me Another.  Is a group of lumberjacks really going to go to all that trouble just for one tree?  Really?  Seriously?  Well, that's the kind of suspension of disbelief that we gotta do this go round.  No two ways about it.  Makes I Gopher You seem a little more plausible... okay, if not by that much.  Alas, I gotta wait for Vol. 6 to get to that one; maybe more.
"I think we should take definite steps to regain our property!" says the overly verbose Freberg.  "Agreed," says Blanc, considerably less verbosely so.
Next: some second unit work... I mean, important plot building stuff.  We see the one rodent running around in a section of forest and... oh, sloppy work, guys.  First of all, he's got no shadow under him.  That's strike one.  Then, he runs in front of this one tree, and a little too close to the tree's base.  Perspective, guys.  Perspective.  We'll suspend our disbelief in terms of the plot, but not in terms of the frickin' visuals.  Anyway, while the one is completely lost, the other exclaims "I FOUND it!!!!"  They both get together at the edge of a cliff, and the clueless one says "Where?  Where is it?"  Notice that his mouth doesn't move.  More skimping, thanks to Hanna and Barbera's laissez faire attitude towards their early TV work.
Next scene: a lake being used by the logging industry.  The kind you can't go fishing or swimming in.  And it's positively full to bursting with felled trees.  Freberg is one step ahead of us when he says "Don't you anticipate some difficulty in locating our particular tree?"  Oh, it's just the beginning of it, my friend.  Just the beginning.

ACT TWO

Next scene: we see the little darlings scampering amongst the trees floating in the lake.  After only four seconds of this establishing shot, one of them says "I've located it!"  Boy!  If they ever teamed up with the police, well... I personally don't have anything to hide, but they could probably find it just as quickly anyway.
"Now all we have to do is row it back!" says the other one.  Next scene: by Jove, there they are, rowing their tree back to... the top of their hill?  Oh, that promises to be epic.  Epic epic... is that a phrase yet?  I'm sure it'll be soon in coming.  Probably in reference to the first debate with just Hillary and "The Donald."
At first, they seem to be chugging right along.  However, the two gophers and their oars eventually get overwhelmed by the river's current.  Here's probably the best line of the whole pic right here: Freberg says "Our progress seems to be in the wrong direction!"  And then... time for a little terror.  One of the little darlings spots the waterfall up ahead.  The music is sufficiently dramatic, of course.  Franklyn learned from the best, after all!
Freberg says "I beg your pardon, but I think there's something you should know!"  Once Blanc sees the waterfall, they both begin rowing furiously.  However, it's not enough, and soon the whole log is going over the waterfall.
Next scene: the boys are taking a little well-earned rest... gee, but I sure hate to spoil the surprise.  But they are the good guys after all, and not even a waterfall is going to dampen their spirits, so to speak.  However, all that exercise was a good cardio workout... maybe a little too good.  They're weary now, and need a lot of rest.
Unfortunately, they've gone from the frying pan to the fire, aquatically speaking.  "My, we were in a very precarious predicament, weren't we?" says Freberg to Blanc.  Alas, that waterfall was nothing compared to what they're in for.
ACT 2.5: No sooner do they try to get some shuteye, when their log starts going up the mechanized chute that takes many a log into the sawmill.  Once it reaches the top, time for a quick homage to Laurel and Hardy's sawmill-based classic, Busy Bodies.  As you may recall, that one ends with a very tall band saw sawing the boys' car perfectly in half.  Here, a large circular blade cuts the boys' tree in half along its length.  The blade is just large enough for our benefit, so we can see that it is indeed circular.  In reality, however, it seems a tad bit small to cut the whole tree.
"My, but you snore loudly!" says Blanc to Freberg... see, he thought that it was the other one snoring, as opposed to a very large saw blade that nearly killed him.  And soon enough, another one goes zipping by... thereby inspiring Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  Oh, but you knew I was going to say that, didn't you?  Freberg turns around and shows us that the blade didn't miss him completely.  Oh, these things just aren't for kids.
It's the third blade passing by that finally scares the boys off of their long and onto a part of the factory that's not beset by passing blades.  And now that they are out of harm's way, they try to figure out what the hell is going on.  Freberg's the smarter of the two, and he comes up with the big theory: "It definitely looks as if they are bent on the destruction of our forests!"
At this point in the proceedings, the two gophers cede their starring role, and let the inner workings of the sawmill take over.  We watch as a log is quickly converted into sawdust by a rather nasty contraption.  It looks like a giant, weaponized version of a gear you'd find in a cute little music box.  Then, we're treated to some industrial mixing, liquid is poured into a machine that looks vaguely like a copy machine, and then, 25 seconds later, the punchline.  I hate to spoil it, but the product rolls down a little ramp and ends up in a pile marked "Artificial Fireplace Logs."  The next feat of industrial incompetence is a little less ironic: an entire tree is ground up in what looks like a tree-sized pencil sharpener.  A delicate robotic arm grabs a toothpick-sized bit of wood out of the grinder, which slides down a ramp into a box marked "Acme Toothpicks."
"We'd better investigate as to what happened to our tree," says Blanc to Freberg.  Next scene: the boys come across a room filled with furniture.  Apparently, there really are no humans at all in the place.  I find that a little hard to believe for a 1950s era sawmill, but never mind.  Small point.

ACT THREE

"There goes our tree now!" says Blanc, but  he sounds like he now has Freberg's voice.  Even the filmmakers themselves got confused about which is which!  Anyway, one of the little darlings leaves the safety and comfort of that horrible furniture showroom to go rescue their tree, which is being whisked away on one of the conveyor belts.  And like the gophers themselves, their tree doesn't have any particularly distinguishing marks on it, nor any sign of the extensive network of gopher-sized staircases within.  Of course, that's a level of detail that even Disney wouldn't have attempted at such a time.
"I shall save it!" says Blanc (in Blanc's voice.)  Alas, the conveyor belt's even more determined than the river in taking away the boys' tree, and soon after his feeble attempts to push the tree out of harm's way, both the tree and the squirrel get sucked into whatever industrial process was next for the tree.
The other gopher covers his eyes as we all hear the loud buzzing that happens when tree meets saw.  Fortunately for the parents in the audience, the gopher comes out the other side, a little dazed, and with a couple of curly bits of very thin wood atop its head.  He's now sitting on a flat board, incidentally... dayamn!  Must've been a hell of a saw!
Now, as the Trivia page for Lumber Jerks informs us, the one who just went past the saw with the tree starts singing a nursery rhyme about a little girl with a head full of curls.  And I apologize in advance, because I'm just not in the mood.  Yes, I'd make a terrible stepfather.  But then, it's an important part of the job, ain't it?  The cowardly squirrel who made no effort to save their tree from the saws tries to "snap" the other one "out of it."  Can you de-hero a hero?  Can you tell a sunrise not to be brilliant?  Can you tell Donald Trump to stop threatening the life of Hillary Clinton?  Seriously, though, could someone do that?  It's... it's kind of a felony.
Oh well.  Back to the action.  The two little rodent darlings venture out onto the docks where the trucks are, and FINALLY!  We see a couple people.  There's a couple dudes, carrying furniture onto a truck.  Boy, but those were the days.  A sawmill with a furniture shop inside of it.  Those probably don't exist anymore, if they ever did.  But thanks to the gopher's superior detective work, which I'm assuming is centered around their superior sense of smell, they find the very pieces of furniture that their tree was made into. 
But how to stop that pesky truck?  Time for some more direct action.  Why, these two mere teeny weeny rodents have just the idea, and the very tool to do it, too!  (note: they do a little pacing before coming up with it, followed by far too many formalities)  They have a length of tube, and they stick it into the gas tank!  Take that, Greenpeace!  Why, they even do the thing where someone sucks a little too much air, and ends up getting a mouthful or two of the deadly, combustible liquids within.  Thereby informing the thinking of a similar scene in Lethal Weapon 3... and others, I'm sure.  I'd be very surprised if our suspect was from Brainerd... I mean, if the Looney Tunes writers came up with the idea themselves.  What next?  Sugar in the gas tank?
Alas, the gopher's idea comes a tad too late, and just as they start de-fueling the truck, it takes off, I'm assuming in the direction of market.  We watch as the gophers follow a long wet trail of gasoline.  A couple cross-fades later, and boom, there they are within striking distance of said truck.  AND THEN... time for some more strategy, or "stragedy," as a certain cartoon cat might say.  The two gophers' eyes get big (like Rudy Giuliani's when he apologizes and tells a real big fib for Donald Trump) when they see the truck driver and his assistant heading back into town with the smallest gas tank you could think of.  Naturally, they scamper out of the way.  I think because, in Cartoon Land, when two gophers are following your truck, it's not long before you put two and two together, and you realize that the gophers did it.  Just a theory, mind you.  Incidentally, the truck driver carrying the gas can is voiced by Bugs Bunny, one of the rare times that Bugs stopped by the studio to do dubbing work.  Lol.

EPILOGUE

Cross-fade to the gophers' handiwork.  You have to at least hand it to them.  We may never know how they got all that furniture off the truck, but they seem to have done it.  Unfortunately, they've left a rather easy-to-follow trail to the place they call home.  What's the deal?  Even dumb criminals usually aren't that dumb.  On the other hand, no jury in the world would convict two gophers, probably not even in Gopher Court.
And so, we end as we began, with the same hastily painted background tweaked ever so slightly, with the addition of the furniture trail, and at the top of the hill, what at first glance kinda looks to me like a Totem pole made of furniture.  You know, the kind a white guy might make.  But the gophers seem to have done that as well, with no cranes or pulleys in sight.  They're nothing if not determined.  Determined and flowerily, flowingly verbose.  They're two things!
And so, we find the two little darlings atop the precarious pile of furniture... see that?  I didn't even call them gay or anything!  Damn... I knew I wasn't going to make it.  We find them seated in front of a television.  "Isn't our home much nicer than it was before?" asks Blanc of Freberg.  Freberg says "Oh yes!  Much nicer!"  Now, I don't know how they figure that.  Exposed to the elements, easy pickins for winged predators... but who knows?  Maybe they can duck into one of the cabinet drawers when danger rears its beaked face.  Reminds me of that one quick gag on "The Simpsons"... I think it was one of the first times the family went to D.C.  The subplot was a crooked Congressman who was lobbied by a timber lobbyist.  The lobbyist has two pictures: one of a full forest, and none of the animals can move.  The second is a fully logged forest, with nothing but stumps left... and all the woodland creatures were using the stumps to serve tea on.  I'm assumpting that Lumber Jerks was the inspiration.
As for their lighthearted jab at TV, well... I'm assuming this was during the time when the movie studios were in a panic because of the seemingly looming threat of TV, well before the Looney Tunes themselves became a mainstay of it.  But technology will probably always be an inspiration for artists, whether it's Sting's obsession with cyborgs on his second solo album "...Nothing Like the Sun" or that one episode of "Tiny Toon Adventures" where an announcer says "We interrupt this video game to bring you a special news bulletin."  I believe it was Buster Bunny who remarked on the unusualness of that.

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