Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Movie Review: Pain and Glory (Dolor y gloria)

Michael's Movie Grade: A+

A deeply personal and moving film.

This movie is an extremely autobiographical one for director/writer Pedro Almodóvar. It is rare to find any film as deeply personal as this. That is why it is so powerful though. Every emotion is real and completely heartfelt. Though this is technically a work of fiction there is not one false note in the entire movie. At one point a character states that art is one of the few occupations in which pain does not hinder but rather enhances your work. If we are to except this as fact, this film certainly serves as perfect evidence. This film may be the director's finest work and it almost feels as if all his art was leading up to this one film.

The movie has a true Fellini-esque quality to it, yet it never feels as if it is imitating that great director. Like almost all great art it is inspired by other art but never directly copies it. The Fellini influence can be felt in the use of childhood flashbacks interconnecting with present day. We see more and more with each flashback how our main character's childhood effected the artist he would become. Each flashback also becomes more emotional poignant as the film goes on as we begin to understand why this device is being used and how the story would not be as effective were it not told like this. These scenes are mixed in perfectly with the modern day story and there is never a moment where it feels forced or pointless. This is a work of a seasoned filmmaker who has truly mastered his craft and always maintains complete control over his art.

The title Pain and Glory could not be more fitting. This film is truly about those two things and how glory, fame and success are unable to take away the pain. As our main character's glory fades the pain becomes all that is left for him. However this movie is far from being just a depressing dirge. This is not simply a movie about feeling pain, but also about learning to understand and deal with the pain you have. The message of this film is one of endurance and self-discovery. This is perfectly shown in an incredible ending, I will not give away here.

Pedro Almodóvar is not the only one responsible for this film being great. Antonio Banderas gives one of the finest performance of his career, and perhaps this is the culmination of all the great work he has done with this director. Alberto Iglesias' musical score and José Luis Alcaine's cinematography also deserve signaling out.

This movie represents cinematic art at its finest, and is definitely a must see for all film buffs.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Monday, December 30, 2019

Movie Review: Uncut Gems

Michael's Movie Grade: B+

A completely crazy but excellent movie.

Let me start this review of by saying what everyone else is saying, Adam Sandler is incredible in this movie. It is no secret that when watching most of his films it is hard to see Adam Sandler as anyone but Adam Sandler. This is not an insult at all as those movies are completely designed this way. Still in this film I did not see Adam Sandler but rather the extremely eccentric and brash Howard Ratner. Adam completely gets lost in this character and reminds us as much as he is the butt of the jokes from so many movie fans, the man really can act. I don't think any other actor could have played this role better, as he perfectly conveys both the over the top energy as well as the inner pin of this character. More than just that Adam Sandler's performance makes us root for a character with little redeeming qualities. This is because the character is endless fascinating to watch. No matter who else or what else is on the screen our eyes are always on him.

The direction of Safdie Brothers is completely designed to fit this character. The film is fast, erratic, and completely insane, just like its lead character. While this can get a little exusating at times, there is no doubt that it is effective. It brings us in the mind of this character, as we ourselves get caught up in his crazy, brash and scheaming mind. The character is not sane so why should the filmmaking be sane. Yet there is a method to the madness and the Safdie Brothers remain in control and are always giving us exactly what they want to give us. These are extremely talented filmmakers who know their craft very well.

Still this movie is not perfect. As intresting as Howard Ratner is, his family gives us little to no reason to care. By the end of the movie we don't know who his wife and kids are. Their personalites are not only bland but they are obviously simply tools to tell the story of our main character. This makes certian dramatic moments at home not have the impact, I felt they were supposed to have.,

All in all, this film may be faulted, but it is very well made and Adam Sandler is incredible in a more dramatic role.

-Michael J. Ruhland  

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Silent Films on TCM for January

Hello again my friends. As I know many of you are like me huge fans of both silent movies and TCM, here is a list of silent films playing on TCM for January.

Sunday January 5th

Bradelys The Magnificent
(1926) Director: King Vidor. Starring: John Gilbert and Eleanor Boardman. 9:45pm Pacific. 12:45am Eastern.

Friday January 10th

Body and Soul
(1925) Director: Oscar Micheaux. Starring Paul Robeson and Mercedes Gilbert. 1:30am Pacific. 4:30am Eastern.

Sunday January 12th

The Lodger
(1927) Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: Ivor Novello and Marie Ault. 9pm Pacific. 12am Eastern.

Monday January 13th

Souls For Sale
(1923) Director: Rupert Hughes. Starring: Eleonor Boardman and Mae Busch. 3am Pacific. 6am Eastern.

Show People (1928) Director: King Vidor. Starring William Haines and Marion Davies. 6:15am Pacific. 9:15 am Eastern.

Wednesday January 15th

Noah's Ark
(1929) Director: Michael Curtiz. Starring: Dolores Costello and George O'Brein. 3am Pacific. 6am Eastern.

Sunday January 19th

Next Aisle Over
(1919) Starring: Harold Loyd and Snub Pollard. 9:30pm Pacific. 12:30am Eastern.

Young Mr. Jazz (1919) Director: Hal Roach, Starring: Harold Lloyd and Snub Pollard. 9:40pm Pacific. 12:40am Eastern.

A Sammy in Siberia (1919) Director: Hal Roach. Starring Harold Lloyd and Snub Pollard. 9:50pm Pacific. 12:50am Eastern.

Bumping Into Broadway (1919) Director: Hal Roach. Starring: Harold Lloyd and Bebe Daniels, 10pm Pacific. 1am Eastern.

Lonesome Luke Messenger (1917) Director: Hal Roach. Starring Harold Lloyd and Snub Pollard. 10:26pm Pacific. 1:26am Eastern.

I Do (1921) Director: Hal Roach Starring: Harold Lloyd and Mildred Davis. 10:36pm Pacific. 1:36am Eastern.

Friday January 24th    

Within Our Gates (1920) Director: Oscar Micheaux. Starring: Evelyn Preer and Flo Clements. 12:30am Pacific. 3:30am Eastern.

Symbol of the Unconquered (1921) Director: Oscar Micheaux. Starring: Iris Hall and Walter Thompson. 2am Pacific. 5am Eastern.

Sunday January 26th

The Outlaw and His Wife
(1918) Director: Victor Sjostrom. Starring: Victor Sjostrom and Edith Erastoff. 9pm Pacific. 12am Eastern.

Wednesday January 29th

Our Dancing Daughters
(1928) Director: Harry Beaumont. Starring: Joan Crawford and Johnny Mack Brown. 5pm Pacific. 8pm Eastern.

Why Be Good? (1929) Director: William A. Seiter. Starring: Colleen Moore and Neil Hamilton. 6:45pm Pacific. 9:45pm Eastern.

It (1927) Director: Clarence Badger. Starring: Clara Bow and Antonio Moreno. 11pm Pacific. 2am Eastern.

Thursday January 30th

Pandora's Box
(1928) Director: G.W. Pabst. Starring Louise Brooks and Fritz Kortner. 12:30am Pacific. 3:30am Eastern.

-Michael J. Ruhland


Cowboy Church #37

Hello my friends and after that short break we are back for Cowboy Christmas, this blog is bac with another service of Cowboy Church. One addition has been made now. Along with music and bible verses each post will also include a movie starring one of my cowboy heroes such as Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Tom Mix, William S. Hart or John Wayne. 

Today's musical selection starts off with the king of bluegrass Bill Monroe with his 1958 recording of I Am a Pilgrim. Next comes Ernest Tubb singing a gospel song he wrote himself, The Right Train to Heaven. He made this recording in 1937, however it was not released until 1942, when Ernest Tubb was a more popular name in country music. Next comes and toe tappingly fun upbeat gospel sung and written by Hank Williams, I'm Gonna Sing Sing Sing. This is followed by Gene Autry with his 1956 recording of There's No Backdoor to Heaven. This is from his final recording session with Columbia records. After this is Johnny Cash and The Carter Family performing the song, Where You There on the Grand Ole Opry for TV in 1960. John was going through a rough patch at this time and it certainly shows in the way he looks. However his voice still sounds amazing here and speaking of amazing voices Anita Carter is in perfect form. I shared this next song multiple times in these Cowboy Church posts but I can't help but to share it again, so here is The Sons of the Pioneers' incredible 1937 recording of Power in the Blood. Leonard Slye (later to change his name to Roy Rogers) was still a member of the group at this time and sings lead on this song. His voice is instantly recognizable. Next comes George Jones with The Lilly of the Valley. This recording comes from his 1966 gospel album, Old Brush Arbors. This album is essential listening for all country gospel fans. I end today's musical selection off with Roy Acuff's 1947 recording of The Great Judgement Morning

Today's feature presentation is My Pal Trigger (1946) staring Roy Rogers and of course Trigger. This is one of Roy's finest movies. It has the typical action and music that we all love to see in Roy Rogers films, but there is also a surprising amount of emotion and sentimentality that certainly works to the movie's advantage. Don't worry though this doesn't take the fun away at all. An exhibitor's review from the Motion Picture Herald stated, "This is our favorite. Roy really puts life into our situation. Keep up the good work, Roy Rogers." A review in Photoplay magazine stated, "This picture is tight-knit, has a genuine sincerity and is filled with well-worked suspense." I agree this is a delightful movie on all levels.  

Therefore I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; My God will hear me. Micah 7:7Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead 1 Peter 1:3Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful. Revelation 21:5Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jerimiah 29:11

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him..."Lamenations 3:22-24

THanks for joining me come back next week for another service of Cowboy Church. Happy Traails to you until we meet again.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Movie Review: A Hidden Life

Michael's Movie Grade: A

An incredibly emotionally powerful movie that is truly heartbreaking.

Everything in this film is done to near perfection. This movie is so heartbreaking and tragic because it feels so utterly and completely real (something that should be the case but often isn't in movies based off true stories). This is not a simplified film by any means. This is especially true when it gets on the topic of faith. With all that they are going through our main characters are understandably struggling with their faith in God. What they has come easy to them all now raises complex questions that they have no answers to. They don't understand why God is allowing this to happen as they are having all their joy and dignity taken away. The man is being tortured and locked up for refusing to bow down to Hitler, while his wife at home is being ostracized and condemned for being married to a man who would do such a thing. Yet despite all this their faith is always there and perhaps becomes even stronger due to the fact it is all they have left. This is not a Christian film in a typical sense but it paints a very real and complex view of faith in the life of a Christian in times of trouble. The humanity and struggle of this inner situation is something everyone Christian or not can understand and this does an incredible job pulling us in even further emotionally. This is helped in a large part thanks to the fantastic performances from August Deihl and Valerie Pachner. Still the most heartbreaking part of the film is when the man is constantly asked if he thinks his act of rejecting Hitler will make a difference. The answer is obvious, it won't. Yet he still can't do what he knows is wrong. Terrance Malick's (also the film's director) incredible script raises these and many more thought provoking questions in some absolutely incredible dialogue. This is not only a very well written movie though, it is also an extremely cinematic one.  Jörg Widmer's cinematography including incredible on location shooting is breathtakingly beautiful. James Newton Howard's musical score is hauntingly beautiful and is possible the best movie score of the year.

This can be a tough watch with its long length and painfully heartbreaking story, but that does not changed that this is an incredible film that will move you emotionally as well as making you think.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Some Cartoons For Saturday Morning #51

Hello my friends and welcome back for another round of classic cartoons.

Since New Years is only days away it seems appropriate to start with a New Years cartoon. One of the best New Years cartoons is Columbia's The Little Match Girl (1937). This was one of the studio's Color Rhapsody cartoons. These films were in many ways Columbia's answer to Disney's Silly Symphonies. Because of this they were more polished and lavish than the studio's Scrappy or Krazy Kat cartoons. The Little Match Girl is perhaps the finest film in the series, featuring a surprising amount of emotion and well used sentimentality. Still a reviewer in The Film Daily was not that impressed calling this film "amateurishly executed." One doubts a Silly Symphony would end the way this cartoon does.


Next comes a delightful early Terrytoon from back in the day when Terrytoons were full of singing mice. The film is called Mice in Council (1934). One exhibitors review from the Motion Picture Herald of the cartoon stated, "Fair cartoon. Terry-Toons are much better than last year's efforts."

Though Betty Boop had appeared in films before, Stopping the Show (1932) was the first one credited as a Betty Boop cartoon. What a perfectly delightful start to one of the great cartoon series of the 1930's. This is a creative, fast paced and very funny cartoon. Reviews in old movie magazines show that this was a very popular film when first released. A review from The Film Daily stated "A knockout animated cartoon number from the Max Fleischer studios. Different, clever and highly entertaining." The review went on to call the film "a treat on any bill." An exhibitors review called the cartoon, "extra good." Another called it "a very clever cartoon." A much less enthusiastic one called it "Fairly interesting."

The last cartoon for the day is a delightful Disney gem staring Humphrey Bear, Hooked Bear (1956).

Thank you for joining me and come back next week for more animated treasures. Until then peace, love and cartoons.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Friday, December 27, 2019

Movie Review: Spies in Disguise

Michael's Movie Grade: C+

A fun little animated movie. Nothing special but enjoyable.

What makes this movie work is that our two main characters are very likable. Lance Sterling is in many ways your typical Will Smith character, just animated. While that does mean the character is familiar, it also means the character is charming and fun to watch. Walter is quite likable as well borrowing a quite bit from Tom Holland's geeky persona. The real joy comes from watching these two characters interact. This is one of those movies in which two people who start off not liking each other grow a very close bond with each other. What is essential to films like this is that we have to believe in the relationship between these two characters and if we don't the movie will fail miserably. Luckily this happens to be the film's strongest asset. The interplay between the two characters is not only fun, but it brings a sense of relatability to this very over the top comedy. The animation and design work is also excellent, making this movie a joy to look at.

The humor ranges from very funny to quite bland. This is not a consistently funny film and it will leave many wishing they had more big laughs. However when this movie did make me laugh it really made me laugh.

The storyline is cliché and I always knew exactly where it was going. Still it is a decent story told well. However I will admit the pacifist message is told in a rather heavy handed way for a slapstick comedy.F

In no way is this a new animated classic, but it does provide a fun time at the movies.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Movie Review: Little Women

Michael's Movie Grade: A+

With how incredible the 1933 movie adaption of Little Women is it would have been hard for me to believe that any film based on the book could come anywhere near it. Then this incredible movie came along and completely blew me away. This is not only perhaps the best movie of the year but it can easily hold its own with any other great movie from this decade.

Everything about this movie is extremely well done. The cast is absolutely perfect. These young actresses capture the March sisters as well as any actresses ever could. They capture not only the more overt parts of the characters' personalities, but also the more subtle parts. There are many layers to these performances making the characters have the same incredible impact they did in the classic novel. They are powerfully moving performances during the more dramatic scenes, while still capturing the sense of fun and playfulness in the lighter scenes. This is also an incredible looking film. While most movies today simply take color for granted the makers of Little Women show a perfect understanding of all that can be done with color. The color doesn't only look lovely, it also enhances the mood and emotion of each scene. This is often done very subtly and never calls attention to itself, letting the March Sisters and their story be the main attraction (the way it should be). This is extremely enhanced by the masterful cinematography by Yorick Le Saux (who has worked on such great movies as Personal Shopper (2016), Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) and Julia (2008)). Alexandre Desplat's musical score is near perfect and adds a lot to this movie. Great Gerwig's (who also directed the movie) script tells us a story all us movie lovers know by heart in a way that feels fresh and new while still retaining everything we loved about the previous adaptions. One way she does this is by not telling the story in chronological order the way the other adaptions have done. This film flashes back and forth between different time periods in the sisters' lives. This is done masterfully. Greta as both writer and director knows perfectly how to juxtapose these scenes with each other so they feel just as natural if not more so than they would in a more traditional manner. The result of all this put together is simply moviemaking at its best.

Even though this is only the second movie Greta Gerwig directed, I have no problem saying that she is now one of my favorite directors. If there is one must see movie this year (though there are in my mind more than one) it is definitely Little Women. Whatever you do don't miss this incredible film.

-Michael J. Ruhland  

Walt Disney: Doctor of Answers

Hello my friends, as you all know I am definitely a fan of classic Disney and love when I can find vintage articles about "The Walt Era." Here is a gem I found from a 1938 issue from Boxoffice magazine. If you have trouble reading be sure to click on one of the pages and use your touch screen to zoom in. The page is the beginning of the article and the middle of the second page is the rest. Be sure to read some of the stuff on the sides of the second page they can be quite interesting as well.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

A Christmas Message From Movies With Michael

Merry Christmas my friends.

Christmas is love. Jesus came to this world in a manger because of love. So we should celebrate this day by loving one another with all our hearts. So on this holiest of days, I want each of you to know how much I appreciate each and every one of you. I wish each of you the merriest of all Christmases. Thank you for letting me share my love of film with each and every one of you. Love you all.

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while[a Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Luke 2:1-20

 Here are a couple of films for you.

God bless us everyone.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Monday, December 23, 2019

Movie Review: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Michael's Movie Grade: F

Sheer and utter boredom.

Legendary movie director Billy Wilder once said that in his Ten Commandments to filmmakers the first nine were "Thou shall not bore." To me this movie broke all nine of those commandments. Though I have enjoyed some Star Wars movies, I am one of those rare movie buffs that never really got that into the series. With that in mind, I went into this film not wanting it to give me an epic conclusion to the saga, but rather to give me a fun time at the movies. I can't say how the many Star Wars fanatics will react, but this film failed to provide me with any of the fun I wanted. The humor is dreadfully unfunny, the side characters are annoying rather than fun, the main characters are devoid of anything resembling personality or likability, the dialogue is groan inducingly bad, the environments are bland and boring, and the cliché predictableness of the story is enhanced by the fact that many movies have done this much better. In other words boredom was the only emotion I felt. To be fair there is a lot of fan service, where the film plays on the nostalgia of Star Wars fans. Since I don't have that nostalgia, these scenes do nothing for me. My feeling of boredom was enhanced by the long length of the movie. Since I simply couldn't care less about anything that happened on screen, this movie seemed to drag on for an eternity. It didn't take long into this film, until I was simply ready for it to end. At times I wasn't even sure it would do that.

Maybe people who are bigger Star Wars fans than I am will enjoy this movie, but for me I found it extremely boring and painful to sit through.

-Michael J. Ruhland  

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Cowboy Christmas #3

Hello my friends and welcome to this blog's last edition of Cowboy Christmas for this year. 

The reason for the season is Jesus. Roy Rogers and Dale Evans remind us of this with Remember Whose Birthday/ Happy Birthday Gentle Savoir from their 1967 album, Christmas Gentle Savior. Next is one of my favorite Christmas songs with Roger Miller singing Old Toy Trains. This is followed by Waylon Jennings' recording of O Come All Ye Faithful. This version is more proof that Waylon had one of the finest voices in all of music. On December 24, 1949, Gene Autry did a special Christmas episode of his Melody Ranch radio show. This episode closed with Gene singing a lovely version of the Christmas classic Silent Night. I would argue that Gene delivered one of the finest performances of this song here. Nothing says Christmas more than bluegrass, so up next is the one and only Bill Monroe with his 1951 recording of Christmas Time's a Coming. This is as toe tapping fun as Christmas music gets. Now if Christmas bluegrass wasn't enough for you what about a Christmas polka. Who better to sing this than the movie cowboy and country singer Tex Ritter? So enjoy Tex's 1950 recording of Merry Christmas Polka. Next is Ernest Tubb's 1949 recording of Blue Christmas. This was a very new Christmas song at this time as the song premiered just a year earlier being sung by Doye O'Dell. My musical selection ends with Johnny Cash's 1992 recording of What Child Is This. The Carter Family is providing the background vocals for this lovely version of a classic Christmas carol. 

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. Matthew 2:10But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Galatians 4:4-5And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. Matthew 1:21

Thanks for joining me and Merry Christmas. Happy Trails to you until we meet again.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Movie Review: Richard Jewell

Michael's Movie Grade: A-

A top notch telling of a fascinating true story.

With a great director like Clint Eastwood, it should come as no surprise that this movie is fantastically directed. What I love about Eastwood as a director is that he is never afraid to let scenes play out quietly. There is no need for constant noise or to move things along quickly. Clint is not afraid to let us slow down and take in the weight of what is happening. In fact many of the movies best scenes are more about our main characters taking in what is going on rather than things happening. These are the type of scenes lesser filmmakers would have left out, but ones that are necessary for a film like this to work as well as it does. This is a movie that is not about what happens as much as it is about the effect the story has on others.

This film does not belong solely to Clint Eastwood though. So much of what makes this movie work comes from its near perfect cast. Paul Walter Hauser has spent most of his career playing smaller character roles. However here he proves he is more than able to carry the lead role. In fact he is incredible as the title character. No one could have possibly played this role better. I personally hop after this movie he gets more chances to play lead roles. However there is not one character here who is miscast. Each actor is perfectly matched with the character.

Billy Ray crafted a fantastic script for this film. While it may not be subtle (there are a few lines given to the Kathy Scruggs character that feel like they belong to an over the top cartoon villain rather than a real person in a real life story), it is extremely effective. This script gives us every reason to truly care about and root for Richard Jewel, while still having him be a faulted and human character. It is also a smart script that may have some commentary but never stops to directly preach to us. This is a script that treats us like intelligent people and never feels the need to talk down to us to get its message across.

All in all this is a fantastic movie.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Some Cartoons For Saturday Morning #50: Even More Christmas

Hello my friends and happy Saturday Morning. This Saturday marks my last post to be comprised of Christmas cartoons. Don't feel bad I have some good ones picked out for you today.

First is a classic I am sure many of you are familiar with but it is always a delight to see again. This is Max Fleischer's version of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer (1948).This film was released after the Fleischer studio had been replaced by Famous Studios. Instead of making this cartoon for his own studio Max made it for the Jam Handy Studio, which mostly did advertising films and Army training films. 

Next is a video called Hanna Barbera Christmas Sing a Long (1989). This video is comprised of Christmas carols you can sing a long with as well as clips from animated Hanna-Barbera movies and shows. Also there are some live action clips featuring Bill and Joe and some kids. So enjoy and remember I want to hear you all singing. 

Next comes a classic Silly Symphony cartoon, Broken Toys (1935). This delightful film has a master class of Disney legends working on it. This short movie was directed by Ben Sharpsteen, who would later be the supervising director for such Disney features as Pinocchio (1940) and Dumbo (1941). The animation on this cartoon was brought to us by some of the greatest animators to ever work at Disney including Art Babbitt, Woolie Reitherman (who would become one of Walt's Nine Old Men), Bill Tytla (my favorite Disney animator), Grim Natwick and Dick Huemer. Like in many of the cartoons of this era the characters were based off of character actors that appeared in many live action movies of the same time. The actors caricatured here include Ned Sparks, ZaSu Pitts, W.C. Fields (all mostly animated by Babbitt) and Stepin Fetchit (mostly animated by Bill Tytla). Like many Silly Symphonies this movie is very sentimental while never feeling forced. Due to its Christmas themed it was pushed up to get a Christmas release. Three Little Wolves (1936) and Elmer Elephant (1936) were both made to be released first but were pushed back until the next year so that Broken Toys could be released by Christmas time.

I know Christmas is getting too commercial, but I still want to share this Christmas commercial starring The Flintstones.


Now let us finish with a song.

Thank you for joining me come back next week for some non-Christmas themed animated treasures.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Friday, December 20, 2019

Michael's Christmas Movie Guide: Tom and Jerry: A Nutcracker Tale (2007)

 A Nutcracker Tale is my favorite of the direct to video Tom and Jerry movies. Unlike some of the other movies from this series, this film feels first and foremost like a Tom and Jerry cartoon. Often times the duo is shoehorned into a story that has no use for them, making both the story and the slapstick comedy become at odds with each other. Since the focus here is Tom and Jerry battling each other, this is never the case in this movie.

This movie is a loose retelling of E.T.A. Hoffmann's story, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King and the famous Christmas ballet based of that story. Jerry takes the role of the nutcracker, while Tom takes the role of one of the subjects of the mouse king (now the cat king of course). The story idea for this movie came from Tom and Jerry co-creator, Joseph Barbera. As he died before the movie was finished this film is dedicated to him.

This movie does an excellent job with making a feature length film about the cat and mouse duo that has enough of a story to justify the feature length, while still keeping the focus on the character we watch the movie to see. The story itself is charmingly simple. Even with this simplicity it mixes slapstick humor and sentimentality very well. While some may not be happy with the idea of sentimentality in Tom and Jerry, it is done very well here and never distracts nor takes away from the humor. The animation here is also wonderful. Not only does it look very appealing but it is perfectly timed. Each joke is timed just right to make sure it has the greatest impact possible. This probably makes this one of the finest directing jobs from Tony Cervone and Spike Brandt.

If I were to make a complaint about this movie, it is that there is more dialogue than needed. While Tom and Jerry remain pantomime characters, the side characters speak quite a bit and too often say what we can easily see. Still I believe the good parts of this movie outshine this fault.

While this may not be the classic shorts it comes closer to capturing the spirit than any other feature length movie with the cat and mouse duo.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer and Animagic

There are few if any made-for-TV movies that are more cherished and watched than Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964). The movie is extremely charming and lovely, and its childlike simplicity brings us back to how we felt about Christmas as kids. Christmas is a simple and charming time so it makes sense that we want to watch a film like this at this time of year.

For your reading pleasure here is a 1964 article about this movie from Sponsor magazine. If you have trouble reading click on any of the pages and use your touch screen to zoom in.


Merry Christmas, my friends.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Some Must See Movies From the 2010's

With the 2010's coming to a close, I feel it is only appropriate to look back on some of the great movies of this decade. This post will not be a best of list. Rather this is simply me listing some movies from this decade that I really enjoyed.

The Tale of Princess Kaguya (2013, Japan). In my mind this is one of Studio Ghibli's best films and deserves to be mentioned with Spirited Away (2001) and Grave of the Fireflies (1988). This movie is a deceptively simple fairy tale that works on multiple levels. It can be enjoyed simply as a very charming fairy tale or a highly intelligent commentary on how our world defines happiness. The animation is incredible and with films like this, it is easy to wish hand drawn animation could still be the norm. I love how the animation will change to fit the emotional mood of the moment, while never feeling abrupt or distracting. The ending makes me tear up every time.

Lean on Pete (2018, U.S.A.). This is easily one of the most emotionally powerful movies of recent years. Yet this movie never slides into forced sentimentality. That is because this movie is an open and honest depiction of how harsh the world can be, but also the beauty that can be found in other moments. With the lack of warmth in our main character's life it is impossible not to understand or relate to his deep connection with the horse he works with. This movie never follows a conventional path and you will never know what we happen next, but be sure whatever does will hit your emotions hard. Be prepared to cry when you see this movie.

Tokyo Fiancée (2014, Belgium) Possibly one of the most offbeat romantic comedies of the decade and certainly one of the most enjoyable. This movie was based off the real life romance of Amélie Nothomb. Our main character grew up in Belgium but spent her life obsessed with all things Japanese. When she moves to Japan (as a French language tutor), she falls in love with a young man obsessed with all things French. What really makes this movie stand out are Pauline Etienne's incredible performance and the breathtaking shots of Japan. Though its offbeat and often very funny sense of humor doesn't hurt either.

Marie's Story (2014, France). A very heartwarming film about a young woman who is both blind and deaf and a nun who helps change her life. The story may seem familiar but it is told so spectacularly here, you won't care. This is a quiet little movie that requires you to pay attention but rewards you extremely richly when you do.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse (2018, U.S.A.). This animated feature is everything one could wish for in superhero movie. It is extremely fun, it has a great story with some depth, a fantastically original visual style and great characters. More than any other superhero movie I have ever seen this film makes it feel like a comic book come to life. This is not only one of the best animated superhero movies but one of the best superhero movies period.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011, U.S.A.) and Captain America: The Winter Solider (2014, U.S.A.). You may love or hate the MCU. Personally I love it and these are in my mind the finest movies to come out of it. The first Captain America is a lovely done period piece that is as fun as any MCU movie has ever been. The second is a more dark and serious film set in the modern day. Both are the smartest and best written movies Marvel Studios ever put out.

Parasite (2019, Korea). I would like to say as little about this movie as possible, as it is best to go in knowing as little as possible. Only know that this is one of the finest suspense movies of recent years.

Moana (2016, U.S.A.). This movie shows Disney animation at its best. Everything is as good as it gets including the songs, the animation, the characters, the story, the action and the pure Disney magic.

Inside Out (2015, U.S.A.). This is easily my favorite Pixar movie. It has everything that is great about Pixar films with none of the faults. Like with all the best movies from this studio, I felt like I traveled to another world. The design work is so perfectly imaginative and detailed that you can easily believe the inside of our mind really looks like this. The characters are fantastic and I like that they even tried to see how far they could push Joy while still making her likable. The story is the finest and most heartfelt to ever come from Pixar and this is the only movie from the studio that has actually made me cry.

Lady Bird (2017, U.S.A.). With just her debut feature, I am willing to accept Greta Gerwig as one of the finest directors of this generation. It is hard to think of any movie in recent years more perfect than Lady Bird. While there have been many movies about young people in their late teens coming of age, I hesitate to think of one that does it as well as this film. This movie is extremely intelligent, perfectly acted and cast, very funny, extremely heartfelt and perfectly directed. If there was a movie this decade I would dare call perfect it is Lady Bird.

Ida (2014, Poland). Movies as beautiful as this come along extremely rarely. This movie is full of pure cinematic magic from beginning to end. Made in black and white, this is one of the best looking films of this decade. The cinematography is perfection, often making one wish black and white movies were still common. However this film is hardly all style and no substance. Director and Co-writer Pawel Pawlikowski revisits his childhood with this movie's story and does it in an incredibly moving and powerful way. No movie buff should go without seeing this brilliant work of art.

Feliz Año Tijuana (2018, Mexico). I came into this movie knowing nothing about it. Little did I except it would be such a moving and powerful film. This movie takes a small simple story a professor who by chance meets an old student in Tijuana at New Years, and turns it into something truly special. This is an independent movie all the way. In fact it was shot without a script, being mostly improvised over six days of shooting. This movie came and left theatres with hardly anybody noticing. However it is truly a great movie and I hope some of you will take the time to seek it out.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Michael's Christmas Movie Guide: Santa and the Three Bears (1970)

Christmas is not a time for complexities. In fact much of the charm of this time of year is its childlike simplicity. The abundance of childlike simplicity is what makes Santa and the Three Bears a perfect watch for Christmas.

This movie's story revolves around two bear cubs (voiced by Chris Gilmore and Bobby Riha) and their mother (voiced by Jean Vander Pyl (the voice of Wilma Flintstone)) living in Yellowstone park. It is winter time and time for all bears to hibernate. However the cubs can't sleep and see the park ranger (Hal Smith (Otis on The Andy Griffith Show)) cutting down a big tree. They decide to find out what is going on. The ranger tells them all about Christmas including the story of Santa Claus. The cubs then decide they are going to stay up until Christmas Eve to see Santa.

This movie takes a simple story and tells it well. The film is completely full of charm and Christmas spirit. The pure innocence and simplicity takes us back to a simpler time, when Christmas meant everything to us. While the animation is low budget and simplistic it is very appealing. The characters are designed perfectly and the animators knows how to make the most out of its low budget. Having Hanna-Barbera veterans such as Tony Love, Bill Hutten, Volus Jones and director Tony Benedict working on the movie shows perfectly why this aspect works so well, as these people had already done much work on some of the best low budget animation of the era. The voice work is equally excellent and Hal Smith's voice as the ranger embodies the warm Christmas-y feeling of this movie. However criticism where criticism is due, I must admit the songs do feel bland and lazily written. Part of what I like about this movie is there is no need for a villain and Christmas never has to be saved. It is a simple story that doesn't need any of that excess.

This film was originally released in theatres with live action opening sequences. These scenes were directed by Barry Mahon, out of all people. The reason this is surprising is that most of his filmography is comprised of pornography. However when this movie was issued to TV these and more where cut out. These cuts lead the movie from being 63 minutes to 46. This version is what most of us will see today. That version is available on YouTube and you can watch it below.

All in all this is a charming little movie that I enjoy watching every Christmas season,/

-Michael J. Ruhland

Monday, December 16, 2019

Movie Review: Waves

Michael's Movie Grade: A-

An incredibly emotional and human movie that will stay in your mind well past the end credits.

What makes Waves so fascinating is that it essentially two movies. As soon as one story ends, the next begins. This easily feels like watching a movie and its sequel back to back. The first is excellent and the second is one of the best movies of the year. It is hard to talk about the second without spoiling the first. However I will say that it deals with very complex emotions without ever once simplifying them. There are moments that challenge us to deal with the complexities of our own lives and how we deal with them. These are done extremely intelligently and without any forced emotions. Both parts of this film paint nothing as black or white. We have to decide for ourselves how we are to feel about what is happening on screen or how we are supposed to feel as the characters we see on screen. This film paints life the way it really is and just as life has no simple answers neither does anything in this movie. The first part of the movie is much more conventional while the second part feels like nothing I have ever seen before. There is such an incredible sense of lyrical poetry and pure emotion in the second part that it is honestly rare for any film to achieve. This is accompanied by a pure sense of cinematic freedom that is even rarer. While the first part is essentially more conventional, it is told extremely well and with a deep complexity and thought provoking power that most films dealing with the theme of a teenager's life spinning completely out of control don't have.

This is easily one of the best looking movies of the year. Director Trey Edward Shults and cinematographer Drew Daniels give their all to this movies visual look. Each shot is perfectly composed from the angle to the use of color to the placement of everything on screen. This is a movie I truly could not take my eyes off of. Yet these shots were not just there to look beautiful, they are perfectly in tune with the emotion of the story. In fact they make each scene so much more emotionally powerful.

This is easily a must watch movie for any even slightly interested in film.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Michael's Christmas Movie Guide: Holiday Affair (1949)

Holiday Affair is an extremely delightful example of a classic romantic comedy. With how romantic comedies have such a bad reputation today, it is easy to forget how many delightful romantic comedies were made during the 1930's and 40's with seemingly effortless charm. Setting this movie around my favorite time of year, only adds to its charm.

Connie Ennis (Janet Leigh) is a war widow with a young son named Timmy (Gordon Gelbert), who makes her living as a comparative shopper. Connie goes to buy a toy train for her job. When she brings it home Timmy thinks it is a Christmas present for him, and is disappointed when she goes to return it. When she does return it, a clerk named Steve (Robert Mitchum) has figured out what Connie's job is. He is supposed to turn her in but when he finds out that she is a war widow with a kid he decides not to. This ends up getting him fired. To make it up to him Connie takes him out for dinner. This ends up making her boyfriend, Carl Davis (Wendell Correy) jealous. When she takes him home he meets Timmy. Learning that Timmy wants a toy train like her mother returned, he buys him one for Christmas. This act causes tons of trouble.

This was one of only five movies directed by Don Hartman. The other four were It Had to be You (1947), Every Girl Should be Married (1948), Mr. Imperium (1951) and It's a Big Country: An American Anthology (1951). He was more prolific as a writer. Some of his writing credits include Road to Singapore (1940), Road to Zanzibar (1941), Road to Morocco (1942), The Gay Deception (1935) and My Favorite Blonde (1942).

Robert Mitchum was an odd choice for the lead in a lighthearted romantic comedy like this. He was mostly associated with tough guy roles. An advertisement in Box Office Barometer stated "Here's a new kind of warm romantic role for Mitchum and a new kind of thrill for you". To add to this he had been arrested the previous year for possessing marijuana. However Howard Hughes, who owned RKO refused to drop Mitchum's contract, despite the fact that most studios would have dropped a star after something like that. Janet Leigh was surprised to learn that Mitchum despite his rough image, was an extremely dedicated actor. He did play some practical jokes while working but none of them were mean spirited and he was certainly giving his all to his work.

This film was a box office failure when first released, but fortunately has gained a dedicated following today that is well deserved. To many of us it has become a Christmas classic.

No word describes this movie better than delightful. Every scene of the film is just so enjoyable to watch. The movie is full of great dialogue and the chemistry between the whole cast is absolutely perfect. The climax is a prefect example of classic screwball comedy. Most of all though this movie just moves at a fast breezy pace, and never loses an audience's interest.

An issue of Showman's trade review talked about an interesting promotion for the film. Here Charles E. Lewis wrote "Santa Claus stayed around Ashbury Park and Morristown, N.J., for an extra week to ballyhoo 'Holiday Affair' the New Year's Eve attraction at Reade's Asbury Mayfair and Morristown Community theaters. St. Nick walked around the streets bearing this sign: 'I'm staying around until New Year's Eve to see 'Holiday Affair'.' Active in persuading the jolly old gentleman to hang around were Ashbury City Manager Guy Hevina and Morristown City Manager Ralph Lanterman."

-Michael J. Ruhland
Resources Usedhttp://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/78191/Holiday-Affair/articles.html