Sunday, December 27, 2020

Movie Review: Soul

 Michael's Movie Grade: B

While not perfect, there is a ton of Pixar charm and magic to go around. 

So much of what makes this movie work comes from its message and its imagination. This movie has a great and very thought provoking message about what we truly live for and how easy it can be to misunderstand that concept. This message will connect with younger Pixar fans but not as much as it will for adult Pixar fans. This is a truly beautiful and inspiring message and one that will make you stop and think about what you are living your life for. The realm of the great beyond and the great before are wonderfully designed and creatively thought-out. There was obviously a lot of thought and effort put into these places and it pays off. Just as great was how our world was portrayed. It felt quite magical while still feeling like our world and not some idealized place. The filmmakers found beauty in the real world without ever sugarcoating a thing. The two main characters are very likable and relatable. They are not simply stereotyped personality traits but fully thought-out people with quite a few facets to there personality. 

There are definitely some places where this film falls flat.. There is a lot of comedy from beginning to end but there are only a few jokes that are actually funny. While there aren't many really bad jokes (there are few groaners here), most of them left me without much of reaction. Simply put I felt like I should have laughed more. While the two main characters were quite likable, the rest of the characters are simply one note stereotypes rather than feel like real people. Also while this movie may not be especially long there are still a few times in which it kind of drags and feels a bit longer than it is. However I definitely felt the good parts of this movie overcame these faults, as the parts of this film that worked were extremely good. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Movie Review: Mulan

 Michael's Movie Grade: B

If this review seems quite late there is a reason for that. If last year was a normal year, I would have seen it in a movie theatre soon after it came out. However last year wasn't a normal year and the only way I could see it was by streaming. Even as a Disney fan, I have found many of the recent slew of Disney remakes rather poor films. I am often much more picky about what I watch at home than I am what I watch in theatres. Because of this and my dislike for the previous Disney remakes, I simply skipped this film. However when I got this as part of a two movie Blu-Ray set with the animated version (which I love but I didn't have on Blu-Ray), it felt like about time I finally sat down and watched this. I didn't except much but imagine my surprise when I finally saw the movie and really liked it.

Unlike the previous Disney remakes, Mulan does what a good remake is supposed to do. It takes the basic story of the movie it is remaking, but gives a quite different take on it. In return this does not feel like an inferior copy, but rather a brand new movie based off the Mulan legend. Because of this, Mulan is one of the rare Disney remakes I can picture myself actually re-watching.  

On top of this the movie is quite good in its own right. Yifei Liu was perfect as the title character (the only problem I can think of with her is that she didn't quite look like a guy, when dressed as one). She perfectly captures the courageous and daring side to this character as well as the inner insecurities. The character herself is very well written. She is always completely relatable and human, as well as a kick-butt action hero. Speaking of action the action scenes in this film are fantastic. I found myself wishing I could have been able to see them on a big screen. In fact this whole movie was a complete visual treat. The basic storyline is still a great one and it is told quite well here. This movie even corrected one of the faults of the earlier film, by making the villains more interesting. 

I will admit there are some moments in this film that felt quite rushed here and this can briefly take you out of the movie. The humor in this film also isn't very good, but since there is not too much of it, this does not become a problem. 

This is my favorite of the Disney remakes so far, and I hope that future Disney remakes (because let's be honest there are going to be a lot of them), follow the example of this film. 

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Movie Review: The Croods: A New Age


Michael's Movie Grade: B-

A highly enjoyable and fast paced animated comedy, that gives us just the amount of escapism we need right now. 

Like the first movie what makes this film stand out is the sheer likability of the main characters. As zany and over the top as these characters can get at times, deep down they are really a family and the family bond between them feels real and genuine. This bond allows the movie to go over the top for comedy's sake while still not losing the emotional center of the story. As well as the characters from the previous movie I found myself really liking the character of Dawn. She is not only funny and likable but her relationship with Eep was very well handled. I like how the filmmakers did not go the obvious route and make them romantic rivals for Guy. Instead they have a fantastic friendship and the obvious clash over Guy never actually happens. The look of this film is also fantastic. Not only does this movie look beautiful but every visual on screen has a point to play in the story and the look draws you further into the film. The voice acting is fantastic here as well. While there are major celebrities in the voice cast, in the best DreamWorks tradition the actors never feel like they were cast because of their celebrity status but because of how well they fit the characters.  

This is a very fast paced and energic film and it throws plenty of jokes at us quickly. These jokes can range from very funny to not funny at all. However there are more than enough jokes that work, that we can forgive the weaker ones. Though I will say the window joke while decently funny at first is not funny enough to repeat the amount of times the filmmakers do throughout the movie. 

My biggest complaint about this movie was the Bettermen parents. However I will admit they could have been much worse. These characters are not too annoying or unlikable, but instead they are just bland when compared to characters like Eep and Grug.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Movie Review: Call (콜)


Michael's Movie Grade: A-

Note: This film can be seen on Netflix.

Fantastically tense Korean thriller that truly keeps you on the edge of your seat.

I don't want to give much about the plot away in this review, because this is one of those movies you should know as little as possible about before watching it. I will say however that this is a movie that will keep you guessing throughout and there are many unexcepted turns. One could argue that the movie doesn't quite make complete logical sense. The truth is it doesn't but as the movie went on that did not bother me at all as I became so invested in the emotion that I excepted this movie as having the logic of a nightmare. Logically it may not make sense but it makes perfect emotional sense. Chung-Hyun Lee's first feature length movie (this one) already shows a great director and writer at work. The pacing here is near perfection. It incredibly builds up the suspense for each song, taking its time while still perfectly keeping the viewers interest and then delivers each intense moment at the right time. The script itself is extremely clever and knows just when to give you what you except and when not to. The two main characters are great and the performances by the two actresses are even better. Park Shin-Hye and Jong-seo Jung deliver these parts perfectly and help make you not only believe in these somewhat over the top characters but they also pull you into the suspense of each scene. Jong-seo Jung definitely has a role that not many actresses could play effectively and she pulls it off like a pro (it is hard to believe this is only her second movie). What she does here is incredible and the film would be nowhere as terrifying without her. 

While not giving any spoilers I will say the scene during the credits simply doesn't work and comes off as silly rather than intense. However when a film doesn't really falter until the end credits, than it is still a darn good movie. 

For anyone who likes suspense movies, this is a must see. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Silent Film of the Month: Santa Claus Vs. Cupid (1915)

 Run Time: 16 minutes. Studio: Edison Studio. Director: Will Louis. Writer: Alan Crosland.  Main Cast:  Grace Morrissey, Raymond McKee, Billy Casey, Mrs. Wallace Erskine, Mabel Dwight. 

It may seem strange today in a time when there are TV channels that play nothing but Christmas movies starting in late October, but Christmas films were not all over the place during the silent era. Excepting Laurel and Hardy's Big Business (1929), there are few Christmas movies from the silent era that are considered established classics and silent Christmas film often take some searching for. This personally though makes it a joy to a film buff when they find a good silent Christmas movie. Santa Claus Vs. Cupid (1915) may not be familiar to most Christmas movie fans, but it is a delightful short that puts a smile on my face each time I watch it. 

If you can't guess by the title this movie's storyline revolves around a romance at Christmas time. What you may not be able to guess is just how much the filmmakers fit into this film's short running time. There are two stories happening at the same time here. One of them is a silly lighthearted romantic triangle mostly played for laughs. The other is a more dramatic story about a cab driver. This movie's writer, Alan Crosland, future director of such movies as The Flapper  (1920) and The Jazz Singer (1927), does an excellent job tying these two stories together without there tones clashing. While two seemingly unrelated stories intertwining is something we are all familiar with today, in 1915 this was common practice for filmmakers, making all the more impressive of just how well done it is here. 

Films often reflect the time they were made in. These can include backdrops, references that may not be as well known today or in the case of this movie a different way of storytelling. It is no secret that people back in the 1910's often had a greater attention span than the average person today. In today's movies, including most art films, important plot points are called attention to, because otherwise most of the audience would miss them. We may look at this with a little distain thinking we wouldn't be included in this group, but the truth is the we have become so reliant on this type of storytelling in our media that many of us fall into this group without even noticing it. This movie does not offer us such favors and in many ways demands our attention. Plot points can happen often in the background of scenes and can easily be missed if we let our mind wander. This makes this a film that warrants repeat viewings before we can truly get all that is going on. Yet if you give yourself completely over to this movie, you might be surprised at just how much fun you having watching this movie. From the humor to the sentimentality this movie is a Christmas delight and will be a treat to both silent film fans and newbies. 

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Movie Review: Black Beauty

 Michael's Movie Grade: B- 

Note: This movie is only available on Disney+

If you are looking for an adaption that captures the beauty and power of the original book, this movie may not be for you, but if you want a good Disney film about horses this movie is a good choice.

This film is custom made for horse lovers, which means it is in many ways custom made for me. As someone who spends much more time around horses than dogs, I will be first to admit that this gives me a basis for this film over the plethora of dog movies that have became such a huge part of the movie world today. Yet I like this movie for more reasons than just the horses are pretty and I want to be best friends with all of them (which is definitely true). The relationship between Jo and Beauty is fantastic. Unlike many similar movies where the relationship feels forced in order to get easy emotional manipulation, this relationship feels real and earned. How Jo comes from not caring about horses to having Beauty as the center of her life is never rushed but happens at a natural and believable progression. Similarly how Beauty goes from hating humans to caring about Jo also feels natural and believable. This is a very sentimental movie and though there are a few scenes in which the sentimentality feels forced, there are many more scenes in which it feels perfectly natural and real and I found myself surprised that I was actually quite moved at times. This was because I truly cared about Jo and Beauty and really wanted them to live together in happy bliss. The use of narration by Beauty actually works pretty well. After hating the narration in such films as A Dog's Purpose or The Art of Racing in the Rain (not that taking out the narration could possibly make the latter even halfway decent), I excepted the narration here to be of the same ilk. Luckily it wasn't. There were very few of the unfunny animals don't understand anything humans do jokes and the narration actually fits the tone and emotion of the rest of the story and at times (dare I say) it enhanced it. The only complaint I have about the narration by the end of the movie, where that there were times it stated something verbally that we had already seen visually.

Unfortunately as much as I enjoyed the main characters, some of the supporting characters were handled very poorly. There are two teenage girls who talk like complete stereotypes (and not funny ones either). Adding to this is that these character act in ways that make no sense. For instance they pick on another teenage girl simply because she exists and likes a horse she works with. There are also your stereotypical villains. The worst of these is the mother of a girl who leases Beauty. She not only blames the horse when it is obvious her daughter is mistreating the animal, but she is an elitist snob in a way that would have been already an overused stereotypical movie character in the silent era, let alone in 2020. We have seen this character so many times before and she has no personality outside of her clichés. With this it is hard to take any scene she appears in seriously. 

This is a faulted movie for sure (and yes the book is better), but what works is very well done and for me its virtues far overcame its faults. 

Thursday, November 12, 2020

I have moved to a new site

 For anyone who enjoys my blog, I have now moved to a new site. If you would like to continue enjoying my new posts, you can find me here. I hope you have enjoyed this blog and enjoy my new blog even more.

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Movie Review: Operation Christmas Drop


Note: This movie is only available on Netflix as far as I know. 

Michael's Movie Grade: C+

Charming, if very familiar Christmas romantic comedy. 

What makes this movie work is that the two main characters are simply so likable. Much of this is thanks to the performances of Kat Graham and Alexander Ludwig. The two bring such charm to these characters. The character arcs for both them are believable and relatable. The story moves at an easygoing pace that perfectly suits the material. The story may be cliché but it never feels forced and the sweetness of the film feels completely natural as well. This movie is not only a movie that takes place at Christmas, but one that is just completely full of Christmas from beginning to end. Because of this the film is sure to give Christmas lovers like me their Christmas fix, which is just what its target audience is looking for. 

Strangely the weakest part of this movie is the romance itself. There is nothing wrong with the chemistry between the two main characters but it just never feels like a love story. Instead these characters simply feel like good friends with nothing romantic between them. It makes one wish that the filmmakers could have simply made this a movie where the two leads simply become good friends, but sadly that is not how the cliché works, so that is not what is going to happen in this film. Also what the heck is up with the obviously CGI gecko?

This is not going to be anyone's favorite movie, but it has more than enough Christmas and charm to give its target audience just what it wants. 

-Michael J. Ruhland   

Monday, November 9, 2020

Charles E. Mack Praises Laurel and Hardy

Motion Picture Herald, 1931

Blackface was never a major part of Laurel and Hardy's comedy and in fact very few Laurel and Hardy film used much blackface. This is something that has certainly helped their comedy age much better for much of today's audiences than many of their contemporaries. However there were a few times they did do blackface gags. Probably the most traditional black face scene in any Laurel and Hardy picture is in their first English language feature, Pardon Us (1931). While many today view this as an unfortunate part of an otherwise delightful movie, it was actually singled out in its day as an especially good scene. The following is a brief excerpt from a 1931 issue of The Film Daily. 

"Charles E. Mack, originator famous black face team known as the Two Black Crows, waxed eloquent in his praise after witnessing the Hal Roach Comedians in 'Pardon Us.' 'The black face work of Laurel and Hardy is perfect,' says Mack who has spent 20 years in this type of work. 'I've only laughed at ten comedians in my whole life and Laurel and Hardy give me the best laughs of the bunch.'" 

Video: Lydia the Tattooed Lady (from At The Circus (1939))


Sunday, November 8, 2020

Cowboy Church #93

 Hello my friends and welcome back to another service of Cowboy Church. 

Today's musical selection begins with The Charlie Daniels Band with the southern gospel classic, I'll Fly Away. This comes from their 2001 gospel album, How Sweet the Sound (which I highly recommend to all those who love country gospel music). With its fast paced and joyful sound it is hard to think of a gospel song better suited to The Charlie Daniels Band and they perform it to near perfection here. The song itself (first published in 1932) has become one of the most (if not the most) recorded gospel song in the world. This song's writer, Albert Edward Brumley, had spent much of his early life planting and picking cotton on his family's farm. This was tough and exhausting work and Brumley admitted that he wrote this song with the thought of "flying away" from the cotton field. He also admitted that he had taken inspiration from The Prisoner’s Song. This song reminds us that any troubles of this world are temporary, yet the blessings of God are eternal. It does not pretend that life is easy, but reminds us that their is a beautiful hope that has overcome all the problems we face in life. With all these blessings, it is only appropriate to spend time each day thanking God for what he has given us and this is what Roy Rogers and Dale Evans (with some help from The Ranch Hands & Mitch Miller & His Orchestra) sing about in Thank You God. This lovely recording comes from a 1956 Little Golden Record (Let There Be Peace was the B-side). With a series of posts named Cowboy Church, it was only a matter of time before I included the next song. Up next is Red Steagall with a song called Cowboy Church. This comes from his 1995 gospel album, Faith and Values. This song uses cowboy imagery to convey a message that is truly universal and that is that God loves those who are outcasts, whether they are cowboys or city slickers. Those who never quite felt like they belong, can take comfort in the fact the God welcomes them into his kingdom with welcome arms. This followed by Randy Travis singing Doctor Jesus. This recording comes from his 2000 gospel album, Inspirational Journey. It is amazing to think that a country singer who rose to fame in the 1950's actually released one of his finest albums in 1999. However this is just what George Jones accomplished with the album, Cold Hard Truth. Next comes one of many great songs off that album, Sinners and Saints. Today's musical selection ends with the Sons of the Pioneers with their 1947 recording of Will There Be Sagebrush in Heaven

Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. Isaiah 12:3

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Matthew 5:8

 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:18

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15

In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. Luke 15:10

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. Psalm 34:18

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Ecclesiastes 3:11

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26

The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

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

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Movie Review: Let Him Go


Michael's Movie Grade: B

A very atmospheric and suspenseful little thriller. 

The casting played such an important part in making this movie work so well. These roles are so perfectly suited to Kevin Costner and Diane Lane and no one could have played them better. These performances are so real and heartfelt that you can except this film's very farfetched storyline. This is because Costner and Lane bring a lot of simple humanity to these roles and that gives the movie a down to Earth feeling it needs. The characters are in many ways very different, yet the subtle moments of acting make their relationship feel more real than many more elaborate Hollywood romances. Yet these performances aren't the only reason for this film working. The pacing in this movie is fantastic. This is a film that takes its time and lets the atmosphere and characters build the story. Yet the moments are violence are so sudden and quick. It is the contrast between the laid back pace of the rest of the film and these violent scenes that make them so effective. This film is also simply lovely to look at. Much of this movie takes place out in nature, and in a very rural small town. This movie captures the the beauty and majesty of such places and story-wise this serves as an effective contrast between the natural beauty of the environment and the darkness of this story. Director and writer Thomas Bezucha, shows that he certain knows how to set up and deliver a story like this. 

On the downside, the film is quite cliché and predictable. The main antagonist (Lesley Manville) is a bit too over the top and doesn't always mesh with this often quiet and reflective movie. 

Though not perfect this movie delivers just what a suspense movie is supposed to. 

Note: I watched this movie in a movie theatre and am so happy to be back. It feels like returning to home sweet home and watching films at home can never come close to comparing to watching them in theatres. 


Some Cartoons For Saturday Morning #96

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

Today's cartoon selection begins with the classic Betty Boop cartoon, Betty Boop For President (1932). This film is Betty at her best with plenty of delightfully bizarre humor that can only be done in a cartoon and tons of imagination. Add to this some catchy music and some still true satire and you got yourself one heck of a cartoon. The following are two exhibitor's reviews from Motion Picture Herald. "BETTY BOOP FOR PRESIDENT: Betty Boop— Boop is running Mickey Mouse a close race. Every- one enjoyed this short reel. Running Time, 9 Minutes. - R.W. Hickman, Lyric Theatre, Greenville, Id. General Patronage." "BETTY BOOP FOR PRESIDENT: Talkartoon— This is the best cartoon we have run in a long time. Betty stands Number 1 with our patrons over all others. Paramount has the shorts.—C. W. Bennett, Arcade Theatre, Middleville, Mich."

Next we turn to everyone's favorite wascally wabbit, Bugs Bunny in a rather early appearance, The Wabbit Who Came to Supper (1942). This is one of those "fat Elmer" cartoons from the early 1940's where Elmer was briefly redesigned to resemble his voice actor, Arthur Q. Bryan. Though Bugs' design was not fully formed by this point (something that is more noticeable in some scenes than in others), the character's personality is fully in tact. His plan is simply to get revenge on Elmer and his way of doing that is much more cunning and clever than anything his adversary did to him. It says a lot about Bugs, that after Elmer learns that he can't harm a rabbit without losing his inheritance, that Bugs isn't simply satisfied with being safe. Instead the rabbit must use the opportunity to drive Elmer crazy. This is similar to how Bugs, almost left Elmer's house in Hare Tonic (1945) before deciding, it would be much more fun to heckle Elmer. The basic storyline of this short is also very similar to the later Tom and Jerry cartoon, The Million Dollar Cat (1944). 

Touchdown Mickey (1932) is one of my favorite black and white Mickey Mouse cartoons and the reason for this is very simple. This film is a fast moving affair full of non-stop gags. The gags start off kind of funny, but towards the incredibly fast paced climax they are absolutely hilarious. This film becomes slapstick comedy at its finest. A lot of people for the sake of making cartoon history simpler say the classic Disney cartoons are rather slow paced and cute, while other studio's like Warner Brothers and MGM made faster paced and funnier cartoons. While there are many cartoons that fit this mold, not all of them do. This is one of those clear exceptions as the fast paced gags leave little room for any cuteness or sentimentality. 

The cartoon fun continues with the Terry-Toon, The Haunted Cat (1951). 

As promised, here is the the next episode of Ruff and Reddy. To see what happens to our heroes come back next week for the next episodes. 



Sunday, November 1, 2020

John W. Burton on Photographing Cartoons

 Cinematography has become a major point of discussion for live action film. Yet photographing animated films is something that is rarely discussed. That is what makes the following article so interesting. This is a 1941 article written by an actual camera man for animated cartoons, John W. Burton (remembered by animation buffs today for his work on Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons), for International Photographer magazine. 

"A far cry from the glamorous conditions of Class A feature production, animated cartoon photography, undoubtedly is no mystery to most of you, but for those of you who have never had the pleasure of being in a cartoon studio, a few words of explanation. 

"Those of you who are familiar with the subject know that motion pictures are photographed at the rate of ninety feet a minute which is exactly twenty four frames a second. The film thus obtained gives a photographic record of progressive positions of the action.

"In animated cartoon production this procedure is practically reversed. We analyze the action to be photographed, then make a series of cartoon drawings representing the number of frames required by the timing we want. These drawings are painted on clear sheets of celluloid and photographed in their proper sequence over a background that has been painted to represent the scene or setting. The result is a strip of motion picture film of progressive cartoon drawings that give us the illusion of motion when projected. 

"Our cartoon camera cranes are constructed so that the camera is suspended above the photographic field, which is like a table surface, equipped with a glass plate operated by air pressure to hold the celluloid drawings flat over the background. Bell & Howell cameras are used, equipped with a stop motion drive and are set on a worm gear which allows the cameras to be raised or lowered, permitting the cartoon equivalent of 'truck shots.' In certain shots to give the illusion of following the action, or 'panning,' long backgrounds are made and between each exposure the camera man moves the background a certain predetermined distance. 

"In cartoon photography, the cameraman must be gifted with a good deal of patience as well as a very methodical mind as each exposure requires an accurate set up. For example in many scenes in addition to seeing the camera, color-filters, take-up, etc., are operating correctly, he must remember to change the drawings correctly according to their sequence, move the background the required distance for pan shots, truck the camera up and down, follow focus, as well as possibly changing the shutter each frame should he be fading or dissolving. Each cartoon has about 12,000 such exposures. This may explain why most of us boys seem a bit 'tecthed in the head.' 

"For various camera and optical effects used in the production, the camera department has accumulated an amusing variety of home made trick lenses. For such effects as used in water scenes, heat effects and in shots requiring special distortions, a collection of glass dishes, bottles, bowls and pieces of window glass, some treated with solutions and some warped after heating, have been acquired, making a rather unusual assortment of optical equipment. 

"Some animation that should be quite lifelike or human in its action presents a rather difficult problem of analysis which we often overcome by actually photographing human actors and actresses going through the action to be done later in animation. This gives us our only excuse for occasional location trips as well as providing the opportunity to 'keep our hand in' with regular production equipment. The motion picture film of this human action is used by the animators to analyze and otherwise assist them in the animation of cartoon characters. Some of these shots have been quite interesting. For instance, the strip-tease sequence in the cartoon 'Cross Country Detours' and the bubble dancer in the picture 'Hollywood Steps Out.'

"Several color cartoons have been produced by Mr. Schlesinger that have incorporated actual motion picture sequences in conjunction with animation. They offered an interesting problem, as Technicolor cartoons are photographed on a single strip of negative with the three color separations for each frame in successive order, while regular Technicolor pictures use three separate negative strips. This make impossible the intercutting of cartoon Technicolor and regular Technicolor. To use regular Technicolor in our cartoons we made from the Technicolor positive a three successive frame negative strip by rephotographing each frame through the three color separation filter changed by hand from frame to frame. A rather laborious and tedious procedure, but never the less successful.

"Black and white positives have likewise been copied in Technicolor by the same process, color being added to the black and white picture by tinting the light with color filters. 

"Many cartoon scenes require special effects in the way of double and multiple exposures, which presents a fascinating problem to the camera man. Insomuch as each frame is accounted for in the timing of a cartoon and the camera is equipped with a feeder counter and kept in gear at all times and can be operated foreword or in reverse, the cameraman can go back to any particular frame and make what double exposure the scene requires. In many cases for special effects such as double exposures, light effects, multiple exposures or montages the film has been through the camera as many as ten or twelve times, each time receiving whatever exposure is required before the film is finally taken out of the camera for development.    

"In this respect animated cartoon photography is unique in that all of these effects, as well as dissolves, wipe offs, fades, split screen, etc., are made in the camera at the time if photography and not added later by printing or in the laboratory." 


Cowboy Church #92

 Hello my friends and welcome back for another service of Cowboy Church. 

Today's musical selection begins with Tammy Wynette singing The Wonders You Perform. This lovely gospel song was written by Jerry Chesnut (Tammy's brother in law). Tammy recorded this song and it was released as a single (with Gentle Shepard as its B-side) in 1970. It became a major hit for Tammy and would first appear on a full album a year later on Tammy's Greatest Hits Volume II. Tammy's version was the first recording of this wonderful song, though fellow country singers Jean Shepard and Connie Smith as well as Italian pop singer Ornella Vanoni would have hits with it. This is followed by Merle Haggard with a movingly beautiful version of the gospel standard Where No One Stands Alone. This song was written by Mosie Lister, one of the most influential and important gospel songwriters of the 1950's. Mosie was also one of the founding members of the gospel singing group, The Statesmen Quartet. Not long afterwards he left the band and performing to concentrate on songwriter and that is when he wrote many of his finest compositions, including this one. Next is Skeeter Davis with the title song of her 1967 gospel album, Hand in Hand With Jesus. This is followed by Roy Rogers and Dale Evans with Open Up Your Heart (and Let the Sunshine In. Roy and Dale recorded this as a 1954 Little Golden Record with The Lord is Counting on You as the B-side. Both songs were written by cowboy gospel music great Stuart Hamblin. My fellow cartoons fans may know this song because of The Flintstones episode No Biz Like Show Biz, where Pebbles and Bam-Bam sing it. Next is The Sons of the Pioneers with their 1937 recording of Lord You Made the Cowboy Happy. Today's musical selection ends with the first song Hank Williams ever recorded (his first session took place on December 11, 1946). He recorded it for the New York record label, Sterling Records. This session was seemingly an unimpressive start to the recording career of a country legend as it was for a flat fee with no royalties. Fred Rose arranged this deal and he viewed it as a bad deal, but one that was unfortunately necessary. While Calling You did not become a big hit, it did well enough to get the attention of MGM records. Hank wrote Calling You himself, but it does sound quite a bit similar to the J.M. Henson hymn, Watching You.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:17

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Hebrews 11:6

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:18

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

Silent Film of the Month: The Hobo (1917)


Run Time: 15 minutes. Studio: King Bee Studios. Director: Arvid E. Gillstrom.  Producer: Louis Burstein.  Main Cast: Billy West, Oliver Hardy, Leo White, Bud Ross.

It has been said that imitation is the highest form of flattery, if we are to take this as fact than the most flattered comedian of the silent era was certainly Charlie Chaplin. Not only where those who inserted Chaplin-isms into their comedy, but there were actors who made their career simply out of imitating Chaplin in their films. The most famous of these was Billy West. If you took out the titles and told someone these were early Chaplin films, many people (even those who have seen quite a bit of Charlie Chaplin) would be completely fooled. Billy West not only looked like Chaplin, but he is able to copy Chaplin's mannerisms in a way that is indistinguishable from that of the real Chaplin. While viewing these movies with modern eyes, it is very easy for us dismiss them as simple imitations or worse rip-offs. Yet that is not the way they were viewed in their day. They were immensely popular with audiences and believe or not there were those that even preferred these imitations to the real thing. For instance here is an exhibitor's review (from Motography) of Billy West's short Cupid's Rival (1917), "Cupid's Rival with Billy West (King-Bee) - 'Roars of laugh, big crowds, great business. A very lavish production. West is better than Chaplin in my opinion. He is a bigger favorite every week.' - A.E. Elliott, Sapphire Theater, Kansas City, Mo." The same exhibitor wrote in his review of another Billy West comedy, The Hero (1917), "Raised my price from five to ten cents on this production. In my opinion these are the best comedies ever made." To prove this was not the only exhibitor who felt this way here is another exhibitor's review (also from Motography) on Cupid's Rival, "Cupid's Rival, with Billy West (King-Bee) - 'Very fine. S.R.O. Billy is backing Chaplin off the map.' W.H. Nelson, American Theater, Kansas City, Mo." 

Moving Picture World, 1917

Motion Picture News, 1917

The basic story of this film involves Billy following a pretty girl into a train station and then creating slapstick chaos there. This is a very loose story that simply allows for a lot of slapstick humor.

By 1917 the real Chaplin was moving away from this type of film. At Keystone and Essanay Chaplin's movies were similarly, little but excuses for this kind mayhem with little emphasis on story or character. Yet in 1917 Chaplin had refined his craft making both the story and character more important as well as slowing down the pace. This is when Charlie made his most popular short films like Easy Street and The Immigrant. Yet Billy West's The Hobo harkened back to the old days of Charlie Chaplin. While today Chaplin's Keystone and Essanay shorts are looked down upon by silent movie fans as simply primitive, it is important to note just how popular they were with audiences of their day, these shorts were more popular with movie goers than many of the feature films they played with. In other words The Hobo gave movie fans just what they wanted. With that in mind it is no wonder audiences couldn't get enough of Billy West.       

If we are to compare this movie to Charlie Chaplin’s earlier work, it holds up pretty darn well. There are quite a few real laughs to be found here and the film moves at a fast energetic pace. Billy West may not have been the most original silent film comedian but he was certainly a gifted one and he knew how to get laughs from his audiences. 

If there is anything this short is remembered for today it is that one of the supporting players is Oliver Hardy, credited as Babe Hardy (Babe was what everybody called Hardy offscreen). Babe was a common presence in Billy West's films, often imitating frequent Chaplin co-star Eric Campbell.  Also appearing in this movie is Leo White, who appeared in quite a few actual Chaplin films.  

This film can be watched on YouTube for anyone interested. 

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Silent Films on TCM this November

 Hello my friends as a new month once again apporachs us, here is another list of silent films that will be playing on TCM that month. 

Sunday, November 1st

Behind the Door
(1919) Director: Ivan V. Willat. Starring Hobart Bosworth and Wallace Beery. 9:15pm Pacific. 12:15am Eastern.

Wednesday, November 4th

(1916) Director: Lois Webber. Starring Mary Maclaren and Harry Griffith. 3am Pacific. 6am Eastern.

Friday, November 6th

The Circus
(1928) Director: Charlie Chaplin. Starring Charlie Chaplin and Merna Kennedy. 7:45pm Pacific. 10:45pm Eastern. 

Sunday, November 8th

The Circle
(1925) Director: Frank Borzage. Starring Eleanor Boardman and Malcom McGregor. 9pm Pacific. 12am Eastern. 

Friday, November 13th

He Who Gets Slapped
(1924) Director: Victor Seastrom. Starring Lon Chaney and Norma Shearer. 9:45pm Pacific. 12:45am Eastern. 

Sunday November 15th 

Across to Singapore
(1928) Director: William Nigh. Starring Ramon Novarro and Joan Crawford. 9pm Pacific. 12am Eastern. 

Monday, November 16th

Weary River
(1929, part-talkie) Director: Frank Lloyd. Starring Richard Barthelmess and Betty Compson. 9:30 am Pacific. 12:30pm Eastern. 

Sunday November 22nd

Downhill (1927) Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring Ivor Novello and Ben Webster. 9:15pm Pacific. 12:15am Eastern.  

Sunday, November 29th

Too Many Kisses
(1925) Director: Paul Salone. Starring Richard Dix and Frances Howard. 9pm Pacific. 12am Eastern. 

Some Cartoons For Saturday Morning #95

 Hello my friends Happy Saturday Morning and Happy Halloween. Yep that means it is time for some spooky themed cartoons. 

Let's start today's cartoon watching by attending Betty Boop's Halloween Party (1933). This is pure pre-code Betty at her best with fast paced action, bizarre cartoony gags, an energetic music score and a heck of a lot of charm. The following are two exhibitors' reviews from the Motion Picture Herald. "BETTY BOOP'S HALLOWEEN PARTY: Betty Boop Cartoons—Good cartocn and sound. It's just a toss-up which is the best cartoon, "Mickey Mouse," "Betty Boop" or "Popeye the Sailor," with "Popeye" slightly in the lead.—S. H. Rich, Rich Theatre, Montpelier, Idaho, Town and Rural Patronage." "BETTY BOOP'S HALLOWEEN PARTY: Talkar- toons—Better than the average Betty Boop. Good short for any program. - H. E. Newberry, Y.M.C.A. Theatre, Ware Shores, S.C. Small Town Patronage."

Next comes a Halloween adventure with Popeye the Sailor with the very enjoyable later Famous Studio outing, Fright to the Finish (1954). Many cartoons fans understandably dismiss the 1950's Popeye cartoons. I can't argue that they aren't as good as the sailor's 1930's and 40's output, but despite this I enjoy them on their own merits and this is one I especially like. 

Next comes the delightful TV special, Garfield's Halloween Adventure (1985). Unlike the Garfield and Friends TV series, these specials featured Jim Davis (creator and writer of the comic strip) as the credited writer. One thing these specials and the TV series did so extremely well was the voices. These voices have become as much a part of these characters as anything else and I find it hard to read the comic strip without hearing the dialogue in the voices of Lorenzo Music (Garfield) and Thom Huge (Jon). I love that this special has a very well handled creepy vibe that gives it just the right amount of atmosphere, while not making it actually scary. Even as a kid I noticed that the Garfield TV specials had an edge to them that was absent from most other versions of Garfield and that made me love them all the more. 

Of course a Halloween tradition for cartoon fans is the Treehouse of Horror episodes of The Simpsons. Here is a delightful segment from the very first Treehouse of Horror.

Next comes a Halloween masterpiece with Disney's Trick or Treat (1952). If you are interested in the history of this short, Film Historian (and huge influnce on me) J.B. Kaufman wrote this great article.

As promised here is the next episode of Ruff and Reddy, to find out what happens to our heroes next come back next week for more animated goodness. 

-Michael J. Ruhland 

The Scooby-Doo! Show: The Headless Horseman of Halloween (1976)


One of the most memorable and best episode's of The Scooby-Doo! Show.

Scooby-Doo! and Halloween are a natural match and so having an episode taking place at a Halloween party itself is a great idea. Setting this party in a big mansion is also perfect as this not only is a huge environment for the story and a place where gag ideas flow freely, but there is also something inherently creepy about a mansion. The scenes outside the mansion are also perfectly designed for spooky fun with the excellent use of fog and the emptiness of the outside contrasted with the crowded party inside step up the spookiness perfectly. The Headless Horseman is one of the series' most memorable villains. With a great design a creepy voice and a threatening presence this baddie stays in one's mind the same way that the Scooby-Doo! Where Are You? villains do. This to me should be as iconic of a Scooby villain as any of those from the first series are. 

This may be strange to state but honestly if we are to judge by the comedy alone, I think The Scooby-Doo! Show is funnier than Scooby-Doo! Where Are You? Only The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo! and A Pup Named Scooby-Doo! compete with this series in terms of how funny it is. This episode has quite a few good laughs. Shaggy is at his best here and him showing the Headless Horseman how his head is made from bad material is one of his funniest moments. Scooby-Dum is my favorite of Scooby's family members and this episode shows why. His naiveté mixed with his eagerness to please make for a lot of funny moments. This episode has an espically good moment, when Scooby-Dum sees his brother and Shaggy faint and even though Scooby-Dum isn't scared, he decides if his companions are fainting he probably should too. Scooby-Dum is the simply dumb comedy character he could have been and instead of coming from stupidity comes from the fact that he is as eager so eager to help and his eagerness makes him act before he thinks about or understands the situation. He like Gracie Allen simply understands things he hears in a way that is completely different from how anyone else would and what he does always makes perfect sense in his own warped logic. This is funnier and more enduring than a character who is simply stupid. 

This episode is Scooby-Doo and the Mystery Inc. game at their best and perfect to watch on Halloween night. 


Friday, October 30, 2020

Video: Brand New Animated Music Video - Bing Crosby's White Christmas.


Scooby-Doo! and Guess Who: One Minute Mysteries (2020)


Scooby-Doo! and Guess Who has so far been a very hit and miss show with some episodes being fantastic and others coming off as bland and uninspired. One Minute Mysteries is by far my favorite episode of the series so far. 

The Flash is one of my favorite superheroes and this episode perfectly shows why. I often like my super-heroics on the lighthearted fun side and so I love the fact that the Flash has always been a fun loving character (who is the first to crack a joke and openly enjoys being a superhero) and one to never be dark and brooding. This also makes him the perfect character to team with Scooby-Doo! The idea of his secret identity being best eating buddies with Scooby and Shaggy is a fantastic one that is completely in character. The fact that he simply enjoys solving mysteries with the gang is also fantastic and I love that so many of the mysteries he solves are ones from the original Scooby-Doo! Where Are You? series. I also love the fact that he can solve these mysteries so quickly, when it took the Mystery Inc. Gang a whole half hour special to solve this before. This allows the episode to both parody and pay an affectionate homage to the franchise's past at the same time. Appropriate for an episode with The Flash, the jokes come fast and furious here with nearly every one hitting the bullseyes. 

This is all the lighthearted silly cartoony fun, one could want from this series. While not every episode of this new show works, if we can sometimes get an episode like this, I am very happy this series exists.

-Michael J. Ruhland  

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Video: Karen O & Willie Nelson - "Under Pressure" (Official Audio)


Scooby-Doo! Moon Monster Madness (2015)


A typically fun Scooby mystery that is elevated by its unusual environment. 

Though the Mystery Inc. Gang has met alien's before (both fake and real aliens), the gang space traveling here puts a delightful spin on it that gives this film a fresh feel. Sure them all getting to go on this adventure is far fetched, but this is a franchise with both humanized talking dogs and regular real life dogs co-existing, so I don't have a single problem with far fetched. The space resort is a fantastic environment for a Scooby movie. In a way it feels wonderful and magical but there is something dark and creepy about it that adds to the suspense and mystery. The mystery is definitely an above average one as there are enough suspects and clues for you to figure out the mystery yourself, but not enough to make it too easy. I was worried when I discovered that a rift between Daphne and Velma was going to be a part of this story. I thought that this could easily go wrong and give the movie a mean spirited feel. I was happily surprised to find that this was handled well. Part of this is that both of their reasons for being angry at the other make sense and are relatable. Velma feels insecure and Daphne just wants to be taken seriously. While the arguments get heated, the worst things they say are treated as character flaws and as something the two need to overcome. This lets the argument play out while still giving the film a lighthearted good nature feel. The side characters are very enjoyable. True some of them are mainly there for comedic purposes, but the jokes are funny. In fact there is quite a bit of good humor in this movie. There are even quite a few delightful movie references here.  The monster is perfect being creepy enough to cause real suspense without ever being actually scary.    

If I have a big problem with this movie that would be Fred. His intelligence and usefulness seem to fluctuate throughout the franchise. However this time they fluctuate throughout the movie with him either being stupid or smart depending on what the movie wants from him. Part of the plot is that he annoys the famous astronauts. Yet this is the weakest humor in the film and he annoyed me as well. 

While this may not be the best Scooby movie, it is highly enjoyable and recommended to fans of the franchise. 

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Scooby-Doo! Mask of the Blue Falcon (2013)


A delightful treat for Hanna-Barbera fans. 

The charm of this movie is extremely clear from the open credits segment. Seeing the Mystery Inc. Gang as comic book characters fighting alongside all of our favorite Hanna-Barbera superheroes is simply the kind of lighthearted fun we all want from a film like this, even if it is really a fantasy segment. The fun is only just starting there. Shaggy and Scooby being superhero geeks is something that was set up well before this in the franchise and it is great for it to play a prominent role. A comic book convention is a great setting for a Scooby mystery and one that is mostly unique (despite being used in a short Scooby-Doo! and Scrappy-Doo! segment before). What is also great about this film is to see Shaggy take the main role in solving the mystery and showing that he can contribute much more than just being live bait for monsters. The mystery itself is really good. There are enough suspects and clues that we can truly feel like we are solving the mystery along with our main characters and the film actually has us guessing quite a few times. Mr. Hyde is a fantastic Scooby-Doo! villain and is simply a lot of fun.  This movie's main appeal to cartoon fans is the sheer amount of references to Hanna-Barbera cartoons throughout. There are so many posters, comic books, displays and costumes in the background of the comic convention that show a lot of Hanna-Barbera characters of the 1960's and 70's that you can't take in them all in one viewing. 
The main downside to this movie is Velma. While the rest of the Mystery Inc. gang is as likable as ever, Velma strangely comes off as a jerk in this film. She talks down to the other characters simply because they have interests that she doesn't. She may not like superheroes or cute stuffed animals, but she doesn't have to treat her friends like they are stupid for enjoying these things. Velma has never been this much of a jerk in any other Scooby-Doo! movie and it gives this film a bit of a mean spirited feel that is out of character for this franchise. However there is so much good about this movie that it overcomes this fault easily. 

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Scooby-Doo! Goes Hollywood (1979)


This made for TV movie, marked Scooby's first feature film and one of his biggest departures up to that time (Laff-a-Lympics being the only real competition in that department). It is not Scooby's finest movie by any means but it is still really charming. 

The basic plot is an idea I love and a prefect set up for satire. Scooby and Shaggy are tired of being used as bait for bad guys, because wouldn't you be? Therefore they leave their Saturday morning cartoon to find a career in a different type of TV show. This leads to parodies of various TV shows and an ending that you probably already figured out. I love cartoon characters being treated the same as live action actors, who play roles in cartoons for their jobs. Though this idea was hardly original at this time, I like picturing my favorite cartoon characters as real while still picturing the cartoons as fictional. A good cartoon character feels real to me and this type of story enhances that fantasy. However while this film has a perfect setup for satire, it is only moderately funny. There is not much real parodying of these TV shows and instead of making jokes about the shows, we simply see Scooby in them messing up the proceedings. While this does get some laughs, there is no doubt it could have been funnier. This movie however is chock full of charm. The songs while nothing amazing are quite charming. The basic story as I have stated is a very good one and while not as funny as it could have been the story is still well told. The characters are still as likable as ever and it is a joy to spend some time with them. The ending while predictable is also executed in a very charming and fun way, that plays on the great fantasy element of this story. 

-Michael J. Ruhland  

Monday, October 26, 2020

Scooby-Doo! in Arabian Nights (1994)


This has the reputation of being the worst Scooby-Doo! movie, so is it strange that I rather like it?

To be fair this is not your typical Scooby-Doo! movie for the main reason that Scooby and Shaggy are used as a framing device for two stories that don't feature them.  The framing story involves Scooby and Shaggy getting their dream jobs by becoming food tasters for a Caliph. However naturally the guys eat all the food leaving none for the Caliph. To escape the Caliph's wrath Shaggy (disguised as a harem girl) must tell him stories. These stories are a gender bent version of Aladdin (with Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo as the genies) and Sinbad the Sailor (played naturally by Magilla Gorilla). 

This film was at the time when shows like Animaniacs were dominating what was happening in American cartoons, and this movie certainly shows the influence of that type of humor. This movie has no monsters or mysteries but instead focuses on over the top cartoony slapstick humor. This is especially shown in the Sinbad the Sailor story as well as the wrap around scenes. I am a fan of old fashioned cartoon slapstick and the Sinbad the Sailor story has this in spades. The idea of Magilla as Sinbad is funny in and of itself. This movie however does all that it can with this idea, piling slapstick gag on top of slapstick gag, many of them quite funny. I admit to having laughed quite a bit at this story when I first saw the film. The wrap around segments while not as funny as the Sinbad story are filled with a great sense of slapstick energy and a wise guy attitude that is simply fun to watch. In contrast to the rest of the film, the Aliyah-Din story (despite the presence of Yogi and Boo-Boo) is played rather straight. Despite not being as funny as the rest of the movie it still had a certain charm that won me over (plus I always like seeing my friends Yogi and Boo-Boo). However I will admit the villain in the Aliyah-Din story is rather bland and forgettable. 

While this may not be Zombie Island (which would be the very next Scooby movie), there is a lot to enjoy here and it is much better than the film's unwarranted negative reputation. 

                                                                        -Michael J. Ruhland 

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Scooby-Doo! Legend of the Phantosaur (2011)


One of the silliest and most cartoony of the Scooby-Doo! movies and a sheer delight. 

To be fair this movie does not have one of Scooby's best mysteries nor one of the franchise's best monsters, but for the sheer amount of laughs this film is probably Scooby's funniest movie. I laughed out loud watching this film more than any other Scooby movie. This is on A Pup Named Scooby-Doo! levels of pure cartoon silliness and self referential satire. This film even features some of the high energy cartoon animation associated with that series (best of all being Scooby after accidently having caffine). It is not until the last act that the focus actually turns to the mystery. Throughout most of the movie the focus remains on the comedy and the characters. This is a dangerous thing to do because if the comedy failed to work, the whole movie wouldn't work. Luckily for us almost every joke hits perfectly. From Velma's schoolgirl crush keeping her from actually helping solve the mystery to Shaggy's hilarious subplot of becoming brave (or reverting back to being a coward) every time he hears the word bad making him have to compete in a life threatening motorcycle race (despite never having even been on a motorbike before) to the delightfully zany Mr. Hubley (one of the funniest supporting characters in the whole franchise), this movie brings laugh after laugh at a steady and energetic pace. The ending is definitely the funniest ending to a Scooby-Doo! movie yet.   

I hope this movie makes you laugh the same as it made me. 

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Cowboy Church #91

 Hello my friends and welcome back for another service of Cowboy Church. 

Today's musical selection begins with Dale Evans singing, Did You Stop to Pray this Morning?. This recording from her and Roy Rogers 1959 album, Jesus Loves You. Prayer is an important part of the life of a believer but it is something too many of us Christians can easily overlook (I have done this myself many times). This song reminds us of the importance of prayer in our lives. This is followed by Hank Williams Jr. singing Jesus is Soul Man from his 1969 album, Sunday Morning. Though Hank Jr. is often associated with his more rowdy and rocking style of country music, this album shows just how versatile of an artist he is. The whole album is in a softer and more traditional country gospel style, which Hank masters very well. This is one of my favorite recordings off this great album. This is followed by Billy Joe Shaver and John Anderson with Get Thee Behind Me Satan. This 2007 music video shows two old country pros doing what they do best. This is followed by Willie Nelson and his sister Bobbie Nelson (on piano) with a lovely rendition of Just a Closer Walk. This old hymn's origin remains a mystery with no one knowing exactly how old it is. However it is believed that this song must date back before the Civil War, because some personal histories have stated that there were “slaves singing as they worked in the fields a song about walking by the Lord’s side.” If this is true it shows the power of God and music as they could sing praise to the Lord even when being oppressed as part of one of the greatest injustices of American history. There is however a song published in 1885 called Closer Walk With Thee which had a very similar chorus. Just a Closer Walk's popularity grew in the 1930's with it being sung at several churches. The arrangement we know today was done by Kenneth Morris in 1940. The following is from Horace Clarence Boyer's book, How Sweet the Sound, “While traveling between Kansas City and Chicago in 1940, songwriter Kenneth Morris got off the train to stretch his legs. While standing on the platform, he overheard a porter singing some of the words to 'Just a Closer Walk with Thee'. Not thinking much about it, Morris boarded the train and went on his way. The words and melody of the song kept repeating in his head and he knew he had to learn the rest of it. At the next stop, Morris got off the train and took the next train back to the previous stop. There he managed to find the porter and Morris persuaded him to sing the song while he copied down the words. Morris soon added to the lyrics and published it in 1940.” Hank Williams wrote How Can You Refuse Him Now for his wife Audrey Williams, who recorded it in March 1950. However he made a demo recording of the song also in 1950 and that is the version that is present here. Unlike his most famous gospel compositions (I Saw the Light being a prime example), this song is much slower paced and sung in a much more emotional style. However this song contains the pure lyrical poetry that only Hank could master. This song makes us realize how much Jesus has done for us and how little he truly asks of us. With this in mind why would we refuse his extreme generosity and grace when it is given to us as a free gift. Today's musical selection ends with a recording I have used often in these posts, The Sons of the Pioneers with their 1937 recording of Power in the Blood. The lead singer is Leonard Slye, who you probably know better as Roy Rogers. Len would soon leave the Sons of the Pioneers and change his name to Roy Rogers and begin a movie career in western films. His replacement in the band would be Pat Brady, who would later be Roy's sidekick on his famous TV show. The deep bass vocals here are provided excellently by Hugh Farr.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? Romans 8:31

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:18

He sets on high those who are lowly, and those who mourn are lifted to safety. Job 5:11

Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted. Isaiah 49:13

the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment 2 Peter 2:9

It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed Deuteronomy 31:8

Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:25

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. Romans 2:1

Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him. Proverbs 14:31

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:11

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 1 John 4:20

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Luke 6:35

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Matthew 6:24

Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:13

See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 1 Thessalonians 5:15

But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you Matthew 5:44

              Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Luke 6:28

 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my defense ; he has become my salvation. Isaiah 12:2

Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything. 2 Corinthians 6:10

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

-Michael J. Ruhland

Resources Used

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Scooby-Doo! Where Are You?: Decoy For a Dognaper (1969)


This is one of the most unique episodes of Scooby-Doo! Where Are You? and a darn good departure for the series. 

This time the gang solves a non-spooky related mystery. Instead of investigating a monster or ghost sighting, the gang is instead investigating a dognapping plot. There is a brief appearance of a "ghost" but that is mostly inconsequential to the plot. Getting away from the series' usual spooky settings, we get an equally atmospheric suburban setting. The humor is quite good, and I especially like Scooby admiring himself dressed up as the decoy. The action scenes are fast paced and quite exciting and despite the lack of scares there are some good suspense scenes such as Scooby in an out of control minecart. This episode also does a great job looking at what the relationship between Scooby and the rest of the gang. You can really feel how much they love and care about the dog. 

Unfortunately the actual mystery is rather weak. There are too few suspects and a lack of clues. If you are able to guess who done it that is probably more likely you came to that conclusion through the lack of suspects rather than through actually figuring it out.

-Michael J. Ruhland    

Some Cartoons For Saturday Morning #94

 Hello my friends and happy Saturday Morning once again it is time for some classic cartoons. 

As many of my fellow film buffs know, the Betty Boop cartoons of the early 1930's are truly something special. They were pure cartoons from beginning to end and there is hardly a missed opportunity for any wild and crazy gags. I Heard (1933) is a perfect example of this. There is hardly a second of this movie that is not filled with some wild and crazy gag. The pacing and pure energy of the gag structure in this film is something to behold. So many of these gags are delightfully creative with some of the good old fashioned surreal-ness associated with the Fleischer studios at this time. The music is also excellent. Quite a few of the Fleischer cartoons at this time used great jazz musicians on their soundtracks. This movie features music by Don Redman and His Orchestra. I was not familiar with them before watching this cartoon, but oh my gosh, they are fantastic. Their music is just as energetic and carefree as the rest of the film. The following is an exhibitor's review from The Motion Picture Herald, "I Heard: Betty Boop - A wonderful cartoon. Absolutely one of the best ever made. Plenty of music furnished by Don Redman and His Orchestra and the acting of Betty Boop, Bimbo and Koko all go to make excellent entertainment. Let's have more. Running Time, Eight Minutes. - J.J. Medford, Orpheum Theatre, Oxford, N.C.  General Patronage."

We go from a jazzy Betty Boop cartoon to a jazzy Silly Symphonies cartoon. Up next is the high energy Woodland Cafe (1937). This is a fun cartoon, but what makes it especially memorable is the Truckin' musical number at the end. Here is high energy music and animation working together perfectly. The song Truckin' was written by Rube Bloom (music) and Ted Koehler (lyrics), who wrote such songs together as Out in the Cold Again, Don't Worry About Me and I Can't Face the Music. With the great use of jazz music it is appropriate that this movie is one of the first in which Ward Kimball was a full fledged animator. He was one of the Disney studio's biggest jazz fans. In fact he would become the leader of The Firehouse Five Plus Two, a jazz band consisting of Disney animators. Ward animated the ending montage, a scene that also showcased the type of animation Ward would become known for,  high energy fun cartoony animation. Todd James Pierce in his biography, The Life and Times of Ward Kimball called this "the highlight of the cartoon." He also gave us this insight, "The bug orchestra also revealed one other element of Kimball's inner life: the animation radiated New York attitudes about jazz suggesting how deeply the dream of moving to the Big Apple still simmered within him." Ward at this time still viewed animating at Disney as a non-permeant job, and his goal was to become a illustrator and painter. Yet his work in this film alone shows us how much greater things waited for him as a Disney animator. Not everybody was as impressed with this film as I am as is shown in an exhibitor's review in The Motion Picture Herald, "WOODLAND CAFE: Silly Symphonies—Not up to the standard of Silly Symphony.—C. L. Niles, Niles Theatre, Anamosa, Iowa. General patronage."

Next is another musical cartoon, The Crackpot King (1946). This movie is one of the many operetta themed Mighty Mouse cartoons of this time. Mighty Mouse once again proves he is the strongest superhero in film history and he has a darn good voice too. A review in The Showman's Trade Review stated, "The short contains plenty of delightful imagination, uses Technicolor nicely and is thoroughly entertaining. Mighty Mouse is assuredly wonderful in this one." And he is too. 

As promised here is the next episode of Ruff and Reddy. Come back next week to see what happens to our heroes. 

                                                                 -Michael J. Ruhland


Friday, October 23, 2020

Movie Review: Honest Thief


Michael's Movie Grade: B-

Despite being a very conventional Liam Neeson vehicle, this movie proves that as cliché as it is, there is still a lot of fun to be found in these films. 

Stop me if you heard this one before, someone messes with Liam Neeson and through various tense action scenes he gets his revenge. I know this sounds like 80% of the movies he is in, but this film shows there is still life in this formula. First and most importantly for a movie like this, the action scenes are very well done. The excellent pacing, tense acting (especially from Neeson) and Mark Isham's music score all make these action scenes work to their best advantage. While the main character does not have much depth, he is likable enough for us to root for him. This is important because this is what makes the film have a sense of suspense, because we really want this guy to prove his innocence. Also helping is that the main villain is completely evil, but is so in a way that doesn't feel like a caricature. Because of this we take joy in watching revenge being taken out on him. One thing that is surprisingly really good about this movie is the romance. Neeson and Kate Walsh have fantastic chemistry together and it is a joy to watch them share the screen. For such an over the top movie, the romance is very sweet and believable. This keeps the film grounded and relatable even when it is over the top. 

This film provides us with the pure escapism we all need right now.

Note: I saw this film in a theatre and it feels so good to be back. While I like watching movies at home, there is a magic to seeing a film in a theatre that can never be captured anywhere else. While this is not the first movie I saw in a theatre since Covid it was the first I saw in Dolby. After this long absence from it, the Dolby experience blew me away. 

-Michael J. Ruhland 

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