Sunday, February 28, 2021

Cowboy Church #108

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

Today's musical selection begins with Jim Reeves singing Have Thine Own Way Lord. This song was written by Adelaide A. Pollard in 1902. Pollard had a strong urge to go to become a missionary in Africa. When her attempt to raise funds failed to fall through she found herself feeling distressed. However at a prayer meeting she heard an elderly lady pray, "It really doesn't matter what you do with us, Lord -- just have your way with our lives . . .." This simple prayer stuck with her an moved her. When she got home that night she sat down and wrote this song. This simple story shows us that God may not give us something we think we should have when we think we should have it because he has a powerful work to perform through our lives first and with how many people have been moved by this song it is easy to say that God knew what he was doing. Next up comes Tennessee Ernie Ford singing Rock of Ages. This hymn was written by Augustus Toplady. In the 1775 article, Life a Journey, he published the first stanza of the hymn. A year later the complete hymn appeared in Gospel Magazine under the title A Living and Dying Prayer for the Holiest Believer in the World. This is followed by Roy Rogers and Dale Evans singing Softly and Tenderly. This song was written by Will Lamartine Thompson, who also wrote patriotic and secular songs as well as gospel. His other gospel song include Lead Me Gently Home Father and Jesus is all the World to Me. Softly and Tenderly was first published in Sparkling Gems, Nos. 1 and 2, a collection of hymns published by Thompson's own company, in 1880. Before his good friend evangelist Dwight L. Moody passed away Moody told Thompson “Will, I would rather have written ‘Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling’ than anything I have been able to do in my whole life.” This recording comes from Roy and Dale's 1973 gospel album, In the Sweet By and By. Next is The Bailes Brothers with their 1951 recording of Daniel Prayed.  Next comes Charlie Rich singing Old Time Religion. It is unknown all who wrote this song, yet Charles Davis Tillman plays a major role in why we know this song today. Tillman was born shortly after the American Civil War and one day he was passing some fields in South Carolina and heard some former slaves singing this song. It stuck with him and he jotted down the lyrics. The song was officially published for the first time in 1873, but who knows how long it was around before then. This recording comes from Rich's 1976 gospel album, Silver Linings. Next is the singing cowboy, Gene Autry with Silver Spurs (Upon the Golden Stairs). Gene co-wrote this with Cindy Walker. This recording comes from an episode of Gene's Melody Ranch Radio Show dated 11/18/45. This is followed by Johnny Cash singing No Earthly Good. In the notes for the Unearthed box set, John wrote, "That's a song I wrote for phony pious Christians 'You're so heavenly minded you're no earthly good.' People who are always talking about Heaven and how close we are to being there give Christianity a bad name. And it should have a good name because it's a wonderful thing. Wonderful and I don't like it, it makes me very angry, when charlatans abuse and misuse the Gospel of Jesus Christ, It's outrageous and totally uncalled for." Today's musical selection ends with The Sons of the Pioneers singing The Place Where I Worship. This recording comes from their 1963 gospel album, Hymns of the Cowboy

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:8

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10

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

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy. Psalm 30:11

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Proverbs 3:3

I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I have set my heart on your laws. Psalm 119:30

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? Psalm 56:3-4

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. Isaiah 26:3-4

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 1 John 4:18

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

Sovereign LORD, you are God! Your covenant is trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant. 2 Samuel 7:28

A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret. Proverbs 11:13

Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe. Proverbs 28:26

The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. Daniel 6:23

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelations 21:5

Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. Luke 3:18

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble on its own. Matthew 6:34-35

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18

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

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Movie Review: Tom and Jerry


Michael's Movie Grade: B

Classic cartoon shorts of the 1930's, 40's and 50's were one of the main reasons I became a film buff in the first place and I hold these great shorts in high regard. After reading so many extremely negative reviews of this movie right after it came out made by people who hold the original Tom and Jerry shorts in the same regard I do, I began to fear the worst but as a Tom and Jerry fan felt obligated to watch the movie regardless. As rapping pigeons appeared on screen at the very beginning, I felt certain these reviews were right. However as Tom and Jerry first appeared and got into their usual slapstick, I was surprised to find myself enjoying the movie. By the end I recognized the film's faults but none of them ever stopped me from having fun watching this. 

The most important part of a Tom and Jerry movie is certainly the slapstick. Luckily this is done very well. Though many jokes are lifted straight from the classic shorts, a funny gag is still a funny gag and I still laughed. While the pure mastery seen in the classic shorts can never and will never be recaptured, I felt this film did a really good job whenever it came to simple cartoon chase gags. Honestly in this regard I will say I think they did Bill and Joe proud. An aspect of this film that I was worried about was if Tom and Jerry themselves would fit in with the live action story. Most of the cat and mouse's feature length endeavors have been like a late Marx Brothers or an early Abbott and Costello movie. That is to say that there are two stories, one with the comedy team and one with another group of characters. The cat and mouse have had various levels of success with this, but I am happy to say this was a success. Tom and Jerry are fit into this story very well and the human leads never feel like they are in a different movie. In fact while nothing great I found the human story to be kind of charming in its own way. In fact there are even a couple of good gags from the human characters. Yet even with this story the film never forgets that people come to the theatre (or stream the film) for Tom and Jerry. While I am stating what I liked about the movie, I have to mention that two cameos from Droopy were really funny.

Where this movie did not work was whenever it tried to be current or hip. Many of the hip current voices for various cartoon characters simply feel out of place with Tom and Jerry and so do some of the hip hop songs on the soundtrack. Worse is forced uses of "Tik-Tok" or "Instagram" that feel really forced. This movie can also feel quite padded at times and some time in the cutting room could have helped. Of course there are also some jokes that fall flat but this is not as often as one might think. 

I understand why so many dislike this film, but I also have to admit that I really enjoyed it.  


Some Cartoons For Saturday Morning #112

 Hello my friends and welcome back to another selection of classic cartoons. 

If you asked me to pick a cartoon that perfectly shows what the style of the Fleischer Studio was, I would pick, Bimbo's Initiation (1931). This cartoon has everything that makes the Fleischer Studio one of the most unique animation studios of all time. The film has a lot of surreal humor, a very detailed look, a dark and dangerous atmosphere, and was definitely intended more for adults than kids. One thing the Fleischers strived for was to put a gag in every moment of the film and this cartoon has that in abundance. Bimbo was a star character at this time, but his star was soon to be eclipsed by another character in this film, Betty Boop. Betty had made her debut a year earlier with Dizzy Dishes (1930). It wouldn't be long until Bimbo would be playing supporting roles in Betty Boop cartoons. Eventually Betty's films would drop Bimbo. Betty would also later own a dog making her one of the few cartoon characters to both own and date a dog (and even be a dog in her earliest appearances. This cartoon was placed at 37 in Jerry Beck's book, The 50 Greatest Cartoons.

Next we join Sylvester the cat in A Mouse Divided (1953). Though best known for his cartoons with Tweety and Speedy Gonzales, the cat has shown many times that he is more than capable of making a great cartoon without any famous co-stars. This is one of those. The story of Sylvester wanting to eat a small animal until it considers him its parent and then protecting it would be repeated much later in Father of the Bird (1997). A Mouse Divided was directed by Friz Freleng, who directed the Tweety and Sylvester cartoons. 

Next comes one of the most famous and important of Disney's Silly Symphonies cartoons, Flowers and Trees (1932). This film was the first Silly Symphony in color and it is obvious that even from this first attempt the Disney cartoons had a mastery of color in a way few film would ever reach. Walt knew that color was not just a novelty or a way to make films look pretty but could be a vital part of storytelling. The colors in these cartoons often added to mood of the scene in a way an audience can feel. Walt was alone in believing Technicolor  would help boost the quality of his cartoons and many tried to talk him out of it but as was always true of Walt, he stuck with his instinct and it paid off. The short received much praise (including an academy award) and it still remains a great cartoon to this day. Walt signed a contract with Technicolor for three years, giving them exclusive right to the process in the field of animation. This is why some of the other studios would soon use less famous and less effective color processes for their cartoons of this period. The cartoon itself was directed by Burt Gillett, who would soon direct the most famous Silly Symphony, The Three Little Pigs (1933). J.B. Kaufman and Russell Merritt's book, Walt Disney's Silly Symphonies: A Companion to the Classic Cartoon Series states, "David Hand animated most of the film, partly by himself and partly with apprentices."  David Hand would later be supervising director on the Disney features, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and Bambi (1942). The following is a short article from The Film Daily (dated Sept. 17, 1932), "As a result of the tremendous reception at the Grauman's Chinese in Los Angles and the Roxy in New York of the first Silly Symphony, in natural color, Walt Disney, its creator says all the Symphonies released this year  by United Artists will be done in Technicolor and that later the Mickey Mouse may also be photographed in natural color. The first Silly Symphony in Technicolor 'Flowers and Trees,' was in the nature of a feeler. It was made to touch [sic] out the public reaction to color in an animated short feature. After the first showing in Hollywood, in conjunction with MGM's 'Strange Interlude,' Disney had decided that he hit upon one of his most popular moves. Sid Grauman also was highly enthusiastic about 'Flowers and Trees.' The same thing happened at the Roxy. And now the second Silly, 'King Neptune' will have its premiere at the opening of 'Mr. Robinson Crusoe,' Douglas Fairbanks new feature, at the Rivoli next Wednesday." 


The Film Daily, 1937

Next we go way back and watch Colonel Heeza Lair On The Jump (1917). Though forgotten by many cartoon fans today the Colonel was quite popular during the silent era and was one of the earliest characters to have a whole series based around him. He made his film debut in 1913 but after 1917 he would retire from the screen only to be brought back in 1922. The character himself was created by J. R. Bray and is said to be based off former president Theodore Roosevelt. 

Next comes one of Hanna-Barbera and Larry Harmon's Laurel and Hardy TV cartoons, Love Me Love My Puppy (1966). While most of these cartoon feature the boys in storylines that more reflect Hanna-Barbera than Laurel and Hardy. This episode is an exception as it is a remake of the classic Laurel and Hardy film, Laughing Gravy (1930). The idea for this show did not originate with the Hanna-Barbera studio, but rather with Larry Harmon. He had this idea set in motion years before the show actually aired as evidenced by the following article from Box Office (dated May 29, 1961).
“New York- Although Oliver Hardy is dead, the team of Laurel and Hardy will be revived in the form of animated cartoon characters to be produced by Larry Harmon, who created the character of Bozo the Clown. Harmon, who owns more than half of the California studios in Hollywood, acquired the rights to produce the Laurel and Hardy cartoons from the Hardy estate and from Stan Laurel. Harmon said in New York last week that he planned a series of two-reelers and then would switch to full length features. Initially, however, he will make a series of half-hour Laurel and Hardy programs for television starting in the fall. 'The team of Laurel and Hardy is famous throughout the world’, Harmon said, citing statistics to prove that the pair has played to more people than any other motion picture characters on Earth. When the news first came out that he had acquired the rights to the team for animated cartoons, he received phone calls from every country, asking for distribution and exhibition rights. As an example of their popularity, he said, ‘a maharaja in India has figures of famous persons carved in stone. Laurel and Hardy are among them.’ Harmon said he had no set distribution deal for the theatrical release of the pictures but that Jayark Films Corp. would handle the television sales. The theatrical stories will be new and written especially for the medium. They will not be remakes of their past successes. All of them will be in Eastman color.” The theatrical animated shorts and features never happened. However much later Harmon would co-direct and co-producer on the live action feature, The All New Adventures of Laurel & Hardy in For Love or Mummy (1999). 

Next we join Willie Whopper in Reducing Creme (1934). Willie Whopper was a little boy who often told exaggerated stories that come from his vast imagination. The character was created by Ub Iwerks (who co-created Mickey Mouse with Walt Disney) after his Flip the Frog cartoons never caught on the way he wanted.

Today's cartoon selection ends with Popeye in Ancient Fistory (1953).

Thanks for joining me come back next week for another round of animated classics. Until then may all your tunes be looney and your melodies merry.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Movie Review: Flora and Ulysses


Note: This film is only available on Disney+

Michael's Movie Grade: B

A delightfully silly family comedy.

A movie about a girl adopting a superhero squirrel sounds incredibly silly and it is. Luckily this film knows how silly its premise is and just simply has as much fun with it as it can. This is a lighthearted family comedy that has no problem embracing its wacky side. This is what makes this movie work so well. When the film is at its silliest it is at its best. The comedy comes fast and furious and there is a great comedic energy that makes even the jokes that don't make you laugh kind of work. This is not to say that there are not any laugh out loud moments here because there are quite a few of them. I was honestly quite surprised at how many times I laughed at this movie. The biggest laughs actually don't come from the satire but brief little visual gags that are simply handled very well. The use of these silly little visual gags is sadly something that is becoming less prominent in movies these days and I happy to see them here (especially when they are given a great delivery). What also makes this film work is that underneath all the kidding of superhero movies, there is obviously a true fondness for the genre. This is a film that reminds us just why so many of us love superheroes while still having a little fun with the genre. Simple things like a typical superhero scene playing out at a donut shop with a squirrel who wants donuts are delightful, but also done with such respect that it will bring to mind many superhero moments we have loved over the years. This movie also has a good message about the importance of optimism and believing that there is magic in this world we don't see. 

What doesn't really work here is the family drama between the two parents. Sadly this part of the film simply feels cliché and not that interesting. The movie also seems to run out of a bit of its momentum by the climax.

This is simply a delightful movie and a joy to watch for anyone who enjoys silly comedies or superheroes.  

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Cowboy Church #107

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

Hank Williams seemed to have a fondness for songs about the dark days that will follow the rapture of church as foretold in the book of Revelations. He recorded quite a few of them in his career. One of the best was The Pale Horse and His Rider. Johnnie Bailes had written the song in 1939 and quite a few artists began to record the song starting about a decade later (one by the great Roy Acuff). In 1950, Hank recorded this song with his wife Audrey, but since that recording was found to be poor, that version would not be released until 1956 (after Hank's death). However audiences had heard Hank sing this song during Hank's life time when in 1951 he sang the song on the Mother's Best Radio Show. This solo version is quite better than the version he did with his wife. One reason for this is that the pace was slowed quite down and this adds an intensity and powerfulness to the song that can not be found in a faster paced version. Hank's delivery of each word here is so full of heartbreaking emotion that I can never help but being moved listening to this. This may be the best version of this song ever recorded. Next comes another song inspired by the Book of Revelations. This is We're Living in the Last Days Now as recorded by the Bailes Brothers. This song reminds us that turning to Jesus isn't something that we should keep putting off to another day but something we should do right now. This is followed by The Killer, Jerry Lee Lewis, with his recording of Lord I've Tried Everything But You. Next is The Purple Hulls with How Deep the Father's Love. This song written by Stuart Townend (Who also wrote In Christ Alone) has become one of the most popular modern day gospel songs and I know at my church we sing this all the time. Townend talked about writing this song stating, "The danger now is that we are so focused on the experience our worship can become self-seeking and self-serving. When all of our songs are about how we feel and what we need, we’re missing the point. There is a wonderful, omnipotent God who deserves our highest praise, and how we feel about it is in many ways irrelevant!  I want to encourage the expression of joy, passion, and adoration, but I want those things to be the by-product of focusing on God – I don’t want them to become the subject matter. I’m trying to write songs that refer to us as little as possible, and to Him as much as possible!" This version comes from the Purple Hulls' 2012 album, Close to Home. This is followed by George Jones singing The Old Rugged Cross. This song was written by George Bennard and C. Austin Miles in 1913, the same year they had written, I Come to the Garden Alone. Next the Sons of the Pioneers ask that age old theological question, Will There Be Sage Brush in Heaven with a fantastic 1947 recording. Next is The Charlie Daniels Band with the song, End of the World from their 1994 Christian album, The Door. Charlie Daniels wrote in his book, Never Look At The Empty Seats, "I think the most pressure I was ever under as a songwriter was when I wrote the songs for our first gospel album, The Door. It was such a special project to me. I wanted it to be much more than just another gospel album. I wanted the lyrics to have impact and hopefully speak to some of the people who, like me, had such a hard time understanding the gospel message and were falling through the cracks. I wrote, rewrote, rejected, accepted, started over, changed and rearranged the songs until I was satisfied with the words and how the fit the music. It was all worth the effort." Today's musical selection ends with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans singing The Cowman's Prayer


For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:12

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Jesus replied, "Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but  you can also say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done." Matthew 21:21

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7 

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. Romans 12:3  

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed–a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17

Blessed the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. James 1:12 

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12

Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:12

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

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Some Cartoons For Saturday Morning #111

 Hello my friends and happy Saturday morning. Once again it is time for some classic cartoons. 

Today's cartoon selection begins with a later Famous Studios, Popeye cartoon and one of my favorites from that era. The film is Spree Lunch (1957). Instead of fight over the affections of Olive Oyl, here Popeye and Bluto are restaurant proprietors fighting over Wimpy as a customer (something I believe to be pointless because I doubt he really pays for a hamburger on Tuesday). The story recalls an earlier Fleischer Popeye Customers Wanted (1939) in which they similarly fight over Bluto as a customer (though owning penny arcades instead of restaurants). While Wimpy had played a role in quite a few Fleischer Popeyes, in the Famous Studios era he was rarely used at all and most of time when he was it was in reused clips from Fleischer cartoons. This makes it rather refreshing to see him not only in this cartoon, but playing a prominent role. Sadly since the theatrical Popeye cartoons were coming to an end around this time, this film marked the last appearance of both Wimpy and Pluto in a theatrical Popeye short. 


Broadcasting, 1961

Next comes an extremely funny, silly, crazy and somehow still kind of sweet animated short film from The National Film Board of Canada, The Big Snit (1985). This short was placed at 25 in Jerry Beck's book, The 50 Greatest Cartoons.

Next comes a black and white Looney Tunes short that I have always had a real fondness for, Porky's Bear Facts (1941). This cartoon was directed by Friz Freleng and while it is not as completely crazy as the black and white Looney Tunes directed by Tex Avery, Bob Clampett or Frank Tashlin it does certainly have moments that show what was quickly becoming the studio's signature sense of humor. Characters break the fourth wall and silly visual gags certainly find their way in at times. Yet at the same time the film feels more grounded and story driven than some of the studio's other efforts at this time. The story itself is somewhat of a takeoff on The Grasshopper and the Ants (which Disney had made a Silly Symphony based around in 1934). In typical Warner style the ending here goes completely against the moral of the story. Like many Porky cartoons of this era, Porky's role is very minimized. The truth was most of the directors were getting tired of working with the pig and this made him become a supporting character in his own cartoons for a while. A reviewer in The Film Daily was not that impressed with this cartoon stating "Rate it just as fair." A reviewer in the Motion Picture Daily found the true main character of the film quite likable stating, "An engaging character that shiftless bear." The following is an exhibitor's review from The Motion Picture Herald, "PORKY'S BEAR FACTS: Looney Tunes — Fine. Vitaphone is our best bet for good cartoon fare. Running time, nine minutes.—Fred C. Allen, Princess Theatre, Piedmont, Ala. Small town patronage."

Ub Iwerks is a legend of animation if their ever was one. His work with Walt Disney (the two co-created Mickey Mouse) in the 1920's remain some of the highlights of Disney history and it is hard to imagine where Disney would be without Ub. However thoughts on the cartoons he himself heading after leaving Walt prove not to be as popular with cartoon fans. While I do agree that none of this work reaches the height of the best of his Disney work, I personally feel there is a lot to enjoy about these cartoons and that includes his Flip the Frog cartoons. Up next is one of those, The Cuckoo Murder Case (1930). The following is a review from Motion Picture News, "Fifteen or more series of animated cartoons on the market at one time make the going tough for this type of short. That is unless they are turned out with the cleverness of 'Cuckoo Murder Case,' one of the Flip the Frog subjects produced by Ub Iwerks. Here the cartoonist takes the usual mystery slant but sends it over with loads to spare. The answer is in the treatment. Iwerks has Flip go through the most amazing contortions. This shows real thought."  

Charles Nichols' Pluto cartoons are not the most popular among cartoon fans. They often get get criticized for being too cute, tame and safe. That is why it is great to see a Pluto cartoon directed by him that is as wild crazy and surreal as what Jack Hannah was doing with Donald Duck and Jack Kinney was doing with Goofy. Plutopia (1951) remains one of my favorite Pluto cartoons because it is just so cartoony. I love this short so much and I hope you do as well. 

Next comes one of the great silent Out of the Inkwell shorts, Cartoon Factory (1924).

Last but not least is Tweety and Sylvester in Tweet and Lovely (1959).  

Thanks for joining me come back next week for more animated treasures. Until then may all your tunes be looney and your melodies merry. 

Friday, February 19, 2021

Movie Review: Judas and the Black Messiah


Note: This film is both in theaters and on HBO Max.

Michael's Movie Grade: A-

An intelligent and tense political thriller. 

This movie works on two levels as a political commentary and a tense suspense movie. It successeds very well on both accounts. As a political commentary Judas and the Black Messiah does its job perfectly. Not only does it present its message in an intelligent and convincing light but it does this without ever feeling forced or preachy. Instead the message is the driving force of the story and because of such the filmmakers knew that if they ever stopped to preach to us, it would come off as talking down to the audience. This style of storytelling makes for a more powerful and more entertaining film. As a thriller this movie is also top notch. It is so well done that it will leave even those who know the history on the edge of their seats. Much of this is due to the incredible pacing of each suspense scene as well as how the film perfectly builds up to each twist and turn. While the movie can get violent, it is never excessively or needlessly so. Instead it is there simply to drive home both the message and the suspense. With the exception of Hoover (who doesn't have much screen time) all the characters feel completely real and not like the overly simplified versions we would see in a lesser film (where good or bad would be their only personality traits). This may sound like something silly to say considering these characters are real people but I have seen a lot of movies based off a true story where the characters felt artificial. In a movie based off a true story this is certainly one of the most important factors and works perfectly here. 

I believe that even those who are extremely against this movie's message will agree that this is a very well made film and I believe that is the best thing that can be said about any political movie. 

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Video: The Good, the Bad and the EL KABONG


Larry Semon's New Idea

 The following is a short article from a 1926 issue of Exhibitor's Trade Review advertising the Larry Semon feature film, Stop, Look and Listen (1926). The film itself, long believed to be lost, has been partially discovered in Japan. To read that story click here. If you have trouble reading the page below, you can click on it and use your touch screen to zoom in. 

Movie Review: Squared Love (Miłość do kwadratu)


Note: This film can currently be viewed on Netflix.

Michael's Movie Grade: F

A bland and incredibly cliché Polish romantic comedy. 

This movie's storyline is little except for a collection of clichés we have seen in a million romantic comedies before. Truth be told these clichés have also been done a million times better. This is not helped by the fact that this entire film's plot revolves around every character being a complete idiot. The female lead (Adrianna Chlebicka) leads two lives, one as a model and one as a teacher. The difference as a model she wears a wig, no glasses and more revealing clothing. Yet the story centers around no one (except for a third grader (Helena Mazur)) being able to tell the difference between these two even when they spend an extensive amount of time together in both her ways of dressing. If this was carried off in a farcical way it could have worked, but no we are simply supposed to except that nobody would truly recognize any similarities. The character herself has little personality outside of being a good person and therefore never feels real to us. Our male lead (Mateusz Banasiuk) is not much better. While all male leads in a movie like this need to have a bit of a character arc, it should be handled better than this. The arc itself feels incredibly rushed and he seems to have changes in his personality for no reason whatsoever. There is no transition between this personality changes they just kind of occur. Like our female lead this character is equally bland and uninteresting, with the only real difference being that he can be a bit of a jerk at times. Like too many romantic comedies these days, there is often little to no focus on the comedy. This is just as well because its attempts at doing comedy mostly fall flat, though one wishes that this movie could have at least kidded the absurdity of its premise.  

This is a bottom of the barrel romantic comedy all the way.    

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Video: Gene Autry - Mexicali Rose (from Mexicali Rose 1939)


Movie Review: Red Dot


Note: This film can be watched on Netflix.

Michael's Movie Grade: F

A very disappointing Swedish thriller.

This film has a very intriguing premise. A couple goes on vacation and find themselves being hunted by unknown killers. This plot has the makings of a top notch thriller. Unfortunately the execution is horrible. One of the biggest problems is that there is not one likable character in the entire movie and yet the filmmaker obviously want you to sympathize with these characters. This is simply impossible when they consistently do horrible things and yet are seemingly undamaged by guilt. The only personality traits the two "protagonists" have outside of being horrible people is that they are walking clichés of the type we have seen in many bad sitcoms. I got tired of their poorly written and annoying bickering before the real storyline even started. Because of this I had no emotional connection to anything happening on screen and simply found myself bored. The only thing worse than the characters are the plot twists. The execution of the biggest plot twist was so bad it has to be seen to be believed. It comes completely out of nowhere with nothing even slightly hinting at it. There is not even the slightest bit of a setup to this and I am sure it will leave many people wondering if maybe they missed something. The truth is sadly they missed nothing. This is simply bad storytelling. The film is also hampered down by a lot of completely forced and awkward dialogue and a heavy-handed attempt at social commentary. 

If you want to watch a good thriller, skip this movie at all costs. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Leila Hyams: Proud Second Fiddle.

 The following is a 1931 article from Movie Mirror about actress, Leila Hyams. If you have any trouble reading the pages click on them and use your touch screen to zoom in. If that doesn't work for you click here.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Movie Review: Layla Majnun


Note: This film can be seen on Netflix

Michael's Movie Grade: B

A well-made and moving Indonesian romance. 

Like all good romance movies what makes this film work is that the main leads (Acha Septriasa, Reza Rahadian) are not only likable but you truly want them to end up together. Not only do the two actors have excellent chemistry but the script gives us a very well written and believable romance between the two. These two are well written and likable characters when they are apart but they even better when they appear together. Simply put these two are a joy to watch whenever they share the screen. In my mind this is the most important factor in any romantic movie and I am glad to say it is handled very well here. The romance is not the only enjoyable thing about these characters together. Layla is a writer who has lost her sense of fantasy and wonderment and Samir has much of this and through Samir's eyes she begins to see this again. This is just as magical and well done as any romantic scene between the two. 

Naturally as is the case in most romantic movies there needs to be someone who gets in the way of the two young lovers. In this case that is Layla's fiancé (Baim Wong). Of course the movie needs to show us that this character is wrong for our protagonist. This turns out to be the film's largest fault. This character is not only a jerk but is portrayed like an over the top supervillain. The film goes too out of its way to make this character unlikable to a point where the movie loses all of its relatability and believability every time he is on screen. Unfortunately this becomes a huge fault in an otherwise well made movie. Yet what works in this movie is done well enough to overcome this huge fault. 

Video: The Looney Tunes Show - Presidents' Day


Sunday, February 14, 2021

Cowboy Church #106

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

Today's musical selection begins with The Louvin Brothers singing There's No Excuse. This song was written by the Louvins themselves and comes from their 1957 gospel album, Nearer My God Thee. This was the Brothers' first gospel album, though they had released quite a few gospel singles before this. The song has an important message for all those who here God's word. As humans we tend to hear God's word and try to come up with some excuse as to why it doesn't apply to us or why we shouldn't follow it. Yet in the end all these excuses are simply nothing but a waste of good time we could be spending in the joy of God's word. This is followed by Gene Autry and Dinah Shore with their 1950 recording of In The Garden. This song was written by C. Austin Miles (who also wrote Dwelling in Beulah Land). As well as a hymnist, Austin's hobby was photography. He wrote this song in 1912 while waiting some film to dry in a cold and leaky basement. Miles had discovered earlier that he could read the bible in the red lighting of his darkroom and often did. This day he was reading John 20. He read about how Mary went into the garden to see Jesus' tomb. Her heart was full of sadness, but when she learned that Jesus had overcome the grave she was moved to great joy. This passage moved Miles as he read it, and this song started to come to him. Miles originally intended this song to be an Easter song and for it to be from the point of view of Mary Magdalene. Miles would later say about this song, “This is not an experience limited to a happening almost 2,000 years ago. It is the daily companionship with the Lord that makes up the Christian’s life.” Learning this story has made this song all the more powerful for me and I hope it enhances the power of this great hymn for you as well. The same day Gene and Dinah recorded this song (April 20, 1950), they also recorded a lovey version of The Old Rugged Cross. Next comes Tom T. Hall with his self penned song, Me And Jesus. This song comes from his 1972 album, Ballad of Forty Dollars. After this comes Nickel Creek with The Hand Song, from their 2000 self titled debut album. The song was co-written by the band's own Sean Watkins (with David Puckett). His sister and bandmate Sara Watkins takes lead vocal. The album was produced by bluegrass great Alison Krauss. Next is Sonny James with Does Jesus Care from his 1966 album, Till The Last Leaf Shall Fall. The answer is yes by the way. This is followed by George Jones singing Old Brush Arbors. This was the title track of his excellent 1965 gospel album. Next we join the King of the Cowboys with a beautiful version of Peace in the Valley. This recording comes from a 1952 episode of his radio show entitled The Rene Eigen Case. This song was written in 1937 by Rev. Thomas A. Dorsey. Dorsey's music had not always been so based in Christianity. During his teens he fell in love with jazz and by 17 he was a nightclub owner and a writer of jazz and blues music. He was living a life that may have been satisfying to his love of music but made him feel that he was leaving his Christian beliefs behind for a life that God had not meant him for. This is what lead him to leave this life behind and write hymns of which this is one of the most famous. Later he would talk about the creation of this song saying,  “It was just before Hitler sent his war chariots into Western Europe in the late 1930s. I was on a train going through southern Indiana and saw horses, cows and sheep all grazing together in this little valley. Everything seemed so peaceful. It made me question, “What’s the matter with mankind? Why can’t men live in peace?” Out of those thoughts came “Peace in the Valley.” Today's musical selection ends with The Sons of the Pioneers with their 1937 recording of Leaning on the Everlasting Arms. This hymn began creation with a man named Anthony Showalter. As a fan of gospel music and an elder in a Presbyterian church, he held many "singing schools" at various churches in the south. One day he received two letters from former students who were struggling after their wives had passed. To respond to these letters, Showalter consulted scripture. He came across Deuteronomy 33:27, "The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms." After reading this verse lyrics for a song chorus went through his head and he wrote down, "“Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms; Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.” After using this in the letters to his former students he sent this chorus to his friend hymnist, Elisha Hoffman. In the letter he also wrote, “Here is the chorus for a good hymn from Deuteronomy 33:27, but I can’t come up with the verses.” Hoffman then wrote the rest of the lyrics to which Showalter put to music. The hymn was published in 1887. 


If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. John 16:22

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1

 May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant. Psalm 119:76

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Isaiah 26:3

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4:7

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them. John  3:36

From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Matthew 4:17

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. Acts 3:19

I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. Acts 20:21

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1  Corinthians 10:13

For nothing will be impossible with God. Luke 1:37

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:5

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


Saturday, February 13, 2021

Some Cartoons For Saturday Morning #110

 Hello my friends and happy Saturday morning. Since tomorrow is Valentines Day, this week's cartoons will have a romantic theme.

Today's cartoon selection begins with the world's greatest lover himself, Pepe Le Pew in Scent-imental Over You (1947).  While still following the typical Pepe formula, this cartoon differs in a couple of ways. The main difference is that instead of falling for Penelope Pussycat, Pepe falls for a little dog he mistakes for a skunk. I have always loved the ending of this cartoon. Reviews in movie magazines misspelled the name of this cartoon as the more traditional "Sentimental Over You." Remember love stinks. 

Next comes an extremely charming Mickey Mouse cartoon, Puppy Love (1933). Though this is more cutesy than the earlier Mickey shorts, there is a lot to enjoy here. The Rivoli Theatre in New York went out of their way to advertise this cartoon when it played there. This is evidenced by the following article from The Film Daily, "Several effective merchandise tie-ups were made for the showing of the new Mickey Mouse feature, 'Puppy Love' at the Rivoli theater, New York. Saks department store devoted a prominent widow to dog accessories and an enlargement of a still from 'Puppy Love.' Brentano's book store gave a window to ' Puppy Love Bookx for Young and Old' using a large paiper [sic] mache Mickey Mouse figure as a centerpiece, around which has built a display of dog books. The fact that these stores seldom give window space to films shows the immense respect and popularity attained by by the Walt Disney short subjects."  The following is an exhibitor's review from The Motion Picture Herald, "PUPPY LOVE: Mickey Mouse—One of the best Mickey Mouse reels we have ever run.—W. A. Col- lins, Regal Theatre, Elvins, Mo. Small town patronage." This cartoon introduced Pluto's girlfriend Fifi to movie audiences though she had appeared in the Mickey Mouse comics (under the name Flapper) earlier. In their must have book Mickey Mouse: The Ultimate History, J.B. Kaufman and David Gerstein wrote, "In particular, this film marked a turning point for Fred Moore, establishing him as one of the very top tier of Mouse artists."

Note: I originally had a link to the original black and white version of this cartoon. However that video was removed from YouTube, so I replaced it with this colorized version. 

Next we join another one of the greatest screen lovers in Krazy Kat Goes A-Wooing (1916).

Next the long time couple, Popeye and Olive Oyl consider marriage in Nearlyweds (1957). You may be surprised to know that things don't quite work out as planned. This short also shows us how much deep thought Olive Oyl puts into something like marriage. Which means not much thought at all. Marriage is an institution and sometimes I think Popeye and Bluto belong in one for putting up with Olive's fickleness.  

Now we join our good friend Gandy Goose in Gandy's Dream Girl (1944). This cartoon follows a formula often seen in this series where Gandy and his good friend (and this time romantic rival) Sourpuss find themselves a fantasy world of Gandy's imagination. This is an my opinion an above average use of this formula as this film gives us quite a few good gags that make me smile whenever I watch it. Not everyone was so impressed with this cartoon though as evidenced by the following exhibitor's review from The Motion Picture Herald, " GANDY'S DREAM GIRL: Terrytoons—Just another cartoon. Laughs few and far between. Skip this and you won't miss a thing.—Elmer Bohlig, Lake Theatre, Big Lake, Minn." 

Now we join those literal love birds, Donald and Daisy Duck in Donald's Double Trouble (1946). As Jack Hannah and Jack Kinney are often praised by cartoon fans for directing much of the studio's funniest short subjects, Jack King often gets overlooked. Jack King's Donald Duck cartoons are consistently very good. A typically great Donald cartoon from Jack King is Donald's Double Trouble (1946), which is a fast moving and quite funny cartoon. The following is an excerpt from an issue of Showman's Trade Review (dated August 23, 1947), "John Arnold of the Yale Theatre, Houston, Texas billed the Walt Disney Donald Duck short, 'Donald's Double Trouble,' equally with the feature on the marque. The short meant more than the feature he said." This cartoon played with Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious (1946) at the Radio City Music Hall the weeks of September 23rd, September 30th and October 7th. The following is an exhibitor's review of the cartoon from the Motion Picture Herald, "DONALD'S DOUBLE TROUBLE: Walt Disney Cartoons—Pretty good. This had the usual quota of laughs and the crowd seemed to appreciate it.—Fred J. Hutchins, Community Theatre, Sask., Can." 

Today's cartoon selection continues with Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and Pete as romantic rivals in the silent, Rival Romeos (1928). One gag involving a goat will be very familiar to Disney fans as Walt would use the same gag a little later with Mickey Mouse in Steamboat Willie (1928).  

Let us end with a song. 

Thank you for joining me come back next week for another selection of classic cartoons. Until then may all your tunes be looney and your melodies merry. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Movie Review: The Misadventures of Hedi and Cokeman (En Passant Pécho: Les Carottes Sont Cuites)


Note: This movie is available on Netflix

Michael's Movie Grade: F

Terribly unfunny French comedy. 

Making a comedy as over the top as this is always a dangerous undertaking, because if it doesn't work then the film becomes hard to watch and that is what happened with this movie. The film is filled with over the top jokes and once they start they never let up. The problem with this is not one of them even causes a smile. This is one of those movies that thinks that the more vulgar and more over the top comedy is the funnier it is. While vulgar and over the top humor can be funny, it is not automatically so. Good comedy of this type needs to be just as well thought out and executed as any other type of humor. Unfortunately this movie does not seem to take that into account and the film is instead rather irritating. Adding to the problems of this movie is the characters. The characters are just as over the top as the comedy and are just as irritating. There is not one thing that is even slightly likable about these characters and there is not one thing that is believable about them. While not every movie character needs to be likable or believable, if they aren't they need to at least be fun to watch. Unfortunately these characters are just as annoying and I spent much of the film simply wishing they would shut up.

Avoid this film at all costs. 

Monday, February 8, 2021

Movie Review: Earwig and the Witch (Âya to majo)


Note: This film is in theatres and on HBO Max.

Michael's Movie Grade: C+

Studio Ghibli's first CGI movie is an enjoyable family film but disappointing once you consider that it comes from one of the world's greatest animation studios. 

This is a simple and lighthearted film, it obviously isn't supposed to be Spirted Away and no one should except that. There is still quite a bit to enjoy about this movie. There is a real sense of atmosphere present and the witch's house is simply a great setting. The background art is simply fantastic. The humor while not laugh out loud funny, did put a smile on my face. The Mandrake is a great character and definitely grows on you as you watch the film. The rock band was a great idea (even if sorely underused) and brings some really charming moments to the story.

Our main character is a rather interesting departure from the normal sweet adorable girl you normally see at the center of these types of films. She is manipulative and always tries to get people "to do her bidding." This is both a strength and a fault. On one hand it is interesting to watch a character who thrives on control completely lose it and fight so hard to bring it back. Adding to this is that her attempts to get control back are quite entertaining. On the other hand since this is her main (and one of her few) personality trait, there is little really likable or endearing about this character. This would not be a problem if the movie didn't actively try for warmth. She is one of the main reasons that the movie is entertaining but falls flat when it comes to any sort of emotional connection.    

As stated before the lack of any emotional connection to our main character (or really any character) is the main fault of this film. However something that will also give this movie a bad reputation in many people's eyes is the CGI. While the design work and the animation are both quite good, the look of this film falls short of what people want for a Ghibli movie. The studio's hand drawn work remains a marvel and is often breathtakingly gorgeous. Those films can stand along with the best of any other studio. This first CGI effort though looks good but never stands out. The truth is Disney and DreamWorks CGI movies, simply look better and Studio Ghibli shouldn't take a back seat to anyone. This film also can feel a little rushed at times and the abrupt ending will leave many disappointed. 

All in all this is far from the studio's best work and will disappoint many, yet it is quite enjoyable in its own right.  

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Cowboy Church #105

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

Today's musical selection begins with The Statler Brothers with Noah Found Grace in the Eyes of the Lord. This is followed by Flatt and Scruggs with a gospel classic, Precious Memories. Though this is a sweet uplifting song, it was based upon a tragedy. In 1922, John Wright lost his five year old son. Wright would later say about this song, “’Precious Memories’ was born in the midnight hours as I bathed by pillow with tears, likewise all my songs came through life’s severest tests.” Though this is a very famous hymn, John Wright only received $36 for writing it. He would remain a janitor that was always struggling to make ends meet for his entire life. The harmonies in this version are absolutely incredible and have to be heard to be believed. 'Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus was another hymn born out of personal tragedy.  Louisa M. R. Stead was happily married and one day her, her husband and their four year old daughter had a day at the beach, when they heard a scream. They went to see where the scream was coming from and saw a little boy drowning in the sea. Her husband tried to pull the boy out of the water but the boy pulled the husband down with him. Louisa and her daughter Lilly watched helplessly as the two died before their eyes. It is unknown when the song was actually written, but it is known that it was inspired by this tragedy and how God helped pull her through it as she soon went back on the mission field. The song was first published in 1882 a collection of hymns entitled Songs of Triumph. The version of this song used in this post is performed by Alan Jackson. Next comes The Purple Hulls with Whispering Hope. This beautiful hymn comes from the pen of Alice Hawthorne (the pen name for poet Septimus Winner), who is best known for her contributions to children's music with songs like, Where, Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone? and Ten Little Indians. This is followed by Roy Rogers with A Cowboy's Sunday Prayer. This comes from his and Dale Evans' 1959 album, Jesus Loves Me. Afterwards is Johnny Cash singing Spiritual. This recording comes from his 1996 album Unchained. The backing band on this recording and this whole album was Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. In the documentary film, Running Down a Dream, Tom Petty stated that this was one of his favorite albums to make. This is followed by Gene Autry singing Dear Hearts and Gentle People in a clip from his movie, Beyond the Purple Hills (1950). Backing him up here are the Cass County Boys. Next is Charley Pride and Dolly Parton performing God's Coloring Book. Today's musical selection ends with The Sons of the Pioneers with their 1937 recording of Dwelling in Beulah Land. Roy Rogers (than Leonard Slye) sings lead vocals. It would not be long after this that Roy would leave the Sons of the Pioneers for his solo film career. In fact his first starring movie role would only be released only a year after this recording. Dwelling in Beulah Land was written by C. Austin Miles (who also wrote the gospel classic In The Garden) and was first  published in 1911. C. Austin Miles once said, “It is as a writ­er of gos­pel songs I am proud to be known, for in that way I may be of the most use to my Mas­ter, whom I serve will­ing­ly al­though not as ef­fi­cient­ly as is my de­sire.” 

Make your face shine upon your servant, and teach me your statutes. Psalm 119:135

He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.  Matthew 28:26-27

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

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

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

Blessed is the one whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. Job 5:17

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and  believe in your heart  that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. Romans 4:20-21

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. Colossians 4:2

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:6

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16

But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Luke 6:27-28

Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Matthew 26:41

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

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Movie Review: The Little Things


Michael's Movie Grade: B-

A tense and exciting if quite flawed thriller.

Where this movie best successeds is in creating a sense of suspense and unease. The sense of unease is firmly in place from the start of the film. Much of this comes not only from the dark subject matter but also from our main character (Denzel Washington). It is clear that whatever has happened in the past (something we are not immediately told) has taken its toll on this character's mental health. Though he can often appear to others as normal, we know that we are looking at a very damaged man, whose intentions we can never be sure of. Because of this we never know whether to trust this film's "protagonist" or not. This is not a part many actors could pull of but Denzel is a master at his craft and pulls it off to perfection. Jared Leto also does a very good job as a rather creepy suspect and adds just as much to the suspense in a part that feels tailor-made for him. Writer and director John Lee Hancock, once again shows us that he knows his way around a movie providing us with a lot of great traditional suspense moments. This movie also supplies us with some truly surprising plot turns.

This film does have its share of flaws as well. There are plenty moments that leave you wondering what the characters are thinking. At over 2 hours this movie feels a little padded and could have used some cutting. There are some bits of cliché dialogue. I also never felt I connected with or felt much towards one of the main characters, Jim (Rami Malek). Still despite these faults I found this to be an effective thriller.  

A Letter to and a Reply From Clara Bow

 The following are two articles from Modern Screen magazine. The first was written as an open letter to Clara Bow in a 1930 issue of Modern Screen and the second is a reply from Clara herself in a 1931 issue. If you have any trouble reading these pages click on them and use your touch screen to zoom in.


Some Cartoons For Saturday Morning #109

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

Today's cartoon selection begins with one of the most famous cartoon shorts of all time, Steamboat Willie (1928). While contrary to popular belief this was not the first sound cartoon, there is no doubt that no cartoon before had used sound as well as this film did. This was the short that opened up the door for what sound cartoons could be and its effect could soon be felt on almost every sound cartoon being made. Though this was not the first Mickey cartoon made either (Plane Crazy and The Galloping Gaucho were made before it), this was the film that made Mickey a true movie star. In fact after the success of Steamboat Willie the two earlier Mickeys were given synchronized soundtracks because of Willie's success as a talkie. Willie brought about the idea that unlike early live action talkies (which often sparsely used music outside of musical numbers), sound cartoons would use music as just as important a part of the storytelling as the visuals. Even when studios like the Fleischer studio and Warner Brothers would make cartoons in their own style, this principal was largely employed. Walt would later recall "When the picture was half finished we had a showing with sound. A couple of my boys could read music and one of them [Wilfred Jackson] could play a mouth organ. We put them in a room where they could not see the screen and arranged to pipe their sound into the room where our wives and friends were going to see the picture. The boys worked from a music and sound effects score. After several false starts sound and action got off with the gun. The mouth organist played the tune and the rest of us in the sound department bammed tin pans and blew side whistles on the beat. The synchronization was pretty close. The effect on our little audience was nothing less than electric. They responded almost instinctively to this union of sound and motion. I though they were kidding me. So they put me in the audience and ran the action again. It was terrible but it was wonderful! And it was something new." The reaction from audiences when the film hit theatres was if anything even greater. It is hard to overstate just how incredible the reaction to this cartoon was when released. While this cartoon can not have the feeling of newness or startling innovation it once had, it still successeds today wholly on an entertainment level. The truth is that this cartoon is still a lot of fun and the gags remain charming and clever over 90 years later. The film received the #13 spot in Jerry Beck's book, The 50 Greatest Cartoons. November 18, 1928 marked Steamboat Willie's debut at New York's Colony Theater and that date is now widely considered to be Mickey's birthday. I personally have this cartoon on my mind after building a LEGO set of it (a hobby I have got into during lockdown). 

Next comes another masterpiece of a cartoon, Minnie the Moocher (1932) starring the one and only Betty Boop. This cartoon is a pure example of what the Fleischer studio did better than anyone else. The film is full of incredibly creative, surreal and just plain weird gags that are executed to complete perfection. This cartoon is the first of three Bettys to feature jazz singer Cab Calloway (the other two being Snow White and the Old Man of the Mountain). In all three of these cartoons, the singer was not only used to sing his song, but his iconic dancing was captured by the dancer via rotoscope. A review in the Film Daily stated "This swell Max Fleischer musical cartoon is the best turned out so far with the cute pen and ink star, Betty Boop, who seems to get more sexy and alluring each time and her boyfriend Bimbo. The musical selection is supplied by Cab Calloway and his orchestra and what these boys can't do to the Minnie the Moocher number is not worth mentioning."

Next comes Woody Woodpecker in To Catch a Woodpecker (1957). 

Now we will join our friend Toby the Pup, Down South (1931). While Charles Mintz was producing Krazy Kat cartoons for Columbia , he decided to create a separate series of cartoons for RKO, these starring a character named Toby the Pup. To head this series Mintz handed the duties to Dick Huemer, Art Davis and Sid Marcus. Dick Huemer had been a major contributor to the style of the Fleischer studio earlier and this is probably why these shorts have a Fleischer-type feel to them. Huemer, Davis and Marcus would later be the major creative factors for Columbia's Scrappy cartoons (also produced by Mintz).

Next we join Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd in Fresh Hare (1942). Many of you who grew up watching this cartoon on TV might have thought its ending was awfully abrupt and non sensical. The reason for this is simply the ending gag was cut from most TV broadcasts (for reasons that will be obvious once you see it). This is also one of those cartoons where Elmer is heavier than we are used to seeing him. This was due to a brief and unsuccessful attempt to make Elmer more resemble his voice actor Arthur Q. Bryan. Though this version of Elmer never caught on, certain cartoon fans (including myself) have a fondness for these cartoons. Later director Friz Freleng would express that he had a dislike for using Elmer as Bugs' adversary. The reason for this being that he felt Elmer was too sympathetic of a character and too easy of a character for Bugs to defeat. Despite this Friz's cartoons with both these characters are often quite good (including this one).  

Today's cartoon selection continues with another Friz Freleng classic, Daffy the Commando (1943). The following is an exhibitor's review from the Motion Picture Herald, "Daffy the Commando: Looney Tunes Cartoon - This is Daffy's best. By the way where has Vitaphone being keeping Daffy Duck? This is the first I played in a long while. -Ralph Raspa, State Theatre, Rivesville, W. Va." 

Today's cartoon selection ends with Blackie Sheep in Much Ado About Mutton (1947). 

Come back next week for more animated treasures. Until then may all your tunes be looney and your melodies merry. 

                                                                     Resources Used

Of Mice and Magic: A History of the American Animated Cartoon by Leonard Maltin.

The 50 Greatest Cartoons by Jerry Beck