Friday, April 30, 2021

Movie Review: Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World


Michael’s Movie Grade: D

I admit before today I had never seen this film. Seeing that the movie was put back in theaters I felt this was a perfect time to see it. With how much people love this movie, I had high hopes but I can only say this film is a real disappointment. 

The main problem lies in Scott himself. There is little if anything to enjoy about this character. The guy is a real jerk and to make matters worse he just causally hurts the most likable character in the movie (Knives) and doesn’t think a thing about it. Why are we supposed to root for this guy again? On top of that his constant whining comes off as annoying rather than sympathetic. So the character is not only an unlikable jerk but he is not even an entertaining one. This is not to say he is the only problem here. This movie's sense of humor comes off as more random and bizarre then actually funny. No matter how strange ideas like vegan superpowers, bad guys turning into coins, demon hipster chicks or fighting animals materializing out of music are, they are ideas that work better on paper than in an actual movie. As I watched them play out on screen, they simply did not even raise a smile. These are type of things that are funny when you are joking around with a bunch of friends, but lose their funniness outside of that environment and definitely don't work in a movie. With the exception of Knives (who I really liked), all the characters are strictly one note stereotypes that are not entertaining or engaging in the least bit. This definitely hurt the action scenes which lacked any suspense due to a lack of any emotional involvement. The actions scenes were also hurt by the sheer amount of evil exes Scott must fight. The first two are entertaining enough but all the rest (including the final battle) become too repetitive and dull.  By the third ex, I was getting bored of these fight scenes and their feeling of sameness. Now if like an actual video game these fights felt like they had a sense of building to something bigger and more deadly with each one, this might have worked but sadly that is not the case here. This movie also hurts from a fantasy world that is never engaging. To me suspension of disbelief and fantasy as a genre revolve around the idea of believing in a world where the impossible could happen. Unfortunately this film feels like it is making up the rules for its world as it goes along. The movie never establishes how this world actually works and because of that it feels completely fake and uninteresting. 

To go to the stuff I liked here, the songs were a lot of fun. They had a real energy and were well worked into the story. The cast did a really good job with material (that in my mind) is not that good. Also again, I really like Knives. 

I know I am in the minority for not liking this movie and I am glad others get an enjoyment out of it that I do not. Still I couldn't help but be disappointed by this film. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Movie Review: Together Together


Michael's Movie Grade: B

A well done comedy-drama. 

In many way this movie is like a romantic comedy without any romance. It follows many conventions of the romantic comedy but it is about a friendship. This gives the film a refreshing feeling that is quite different from what we are used to while still following movie conventions closely. Like in a romance movie, the most important ingredient is the chemistry between the leads. Luckily Ed Helms and Patti Harrison are perfect together. They may seem like unlikely best friends on paper, but when you see these two together the love can not help but be felt. Even in the scenes in which they are not getting along, you can feel just how much they care about each other. In the scenes where they do get along they are not only charming but completely adorable. Still there is even more to recommend this movie than just the two leads. Director and writer Nikole Beckwith (this is only her second directorial effort) fills the movie with a lot of charm and humor. While I would have liked more laugh out loud moments, the ones that are here were really funny. The basic story again mostly follows a template given by other movies but does so with enough sincerity and honesty as to never feel like it is simply copying or going through the motions. Instead you believe in the story and the characters enough to overlook the clichés. In fact there are moments when you might find yourself emotionally moved. 

On the downside is Ann's (Patti Harrison) co-worker (Julio Torres) at the coffee shop. This character is a walking romantic comedy cliché and his comedic moments are the least funny in film. While the movie has a great message about people being able to find real happiness outside of societal norms, there are a few times the dialogue can feel too on the nose and a little forced when it comes to the movie's message. 

All in all this movie is truly charming and often a joy to watch. 

Monday, April 26, 2021

Movie Review: Promising Young Woman


Michael's Movie Grade: B-

A well made set up leads to an ending that simply doesn't work.

This movie got off to a great start, as we see our main character pretending to be a drunk girl in a bar, so a "nice guy" will pick her up and she can get the upper hand on them when she revels herself to be sober and the one in control. This is fantastic, as it brings us something dark and twisted and yet darkly funny at the same time. We begin to wonder just who this woman is and what turned a seeming intelligent into this character. As such we are completely engrossed in the film from the beginning. When we learn the answer it is so tragic and disturbing that we find ourselves drawn further into the dark world of the film. Meanwhile there is a well done romance with someone she used to know in school. This romance is very cleverly worked into the dark storyline and both offsets it with its delightful sense of humor and adds to it with some dark twists. This is a very well done set up. The characters may not be likable or sympathetic, but they are interesting and we are also very drawn in to the dark and pessimistic world of this film.

Unfortunately with a such a good set up the movie doesn't live up to what it set up. The climatic scene is completely disappointing lacking the necessary suspense or unsettling feeling that is required for it to work. It then goes for a twist that while brave, doesn't work. I appreciate that the filmmakers wanted to take a risk, but the danger with taking risks is that they don't always work. This one certainly doesn't. I can kind of get what the movie was going for but I was left completely cold and the only emotion I felt was a strange disappointment. After this twist the movie continues for a bit that feels a lot longer than the rest of the film put together. Worse yet comes the movie's actual end scene. I hate to use this word because the rest of the movie was the opposite but the best way to describe the ending was cute. It felt like it came from a completely different and much more lighthearted movie.

However no matter how much the film goes downhill towards the end, I can not deny that the rest of the movie was darn good.         

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Cowboy Church #116

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

Today's musical selection begins with The Foggy Mountain Quartet with Are You Washed in the Blood of the Lamb. This hymn was written by Elisha Albright Hoffman (Leaning on the Everlasting Arms, Glory to His Name) in 1878. It first appeared in his book, Spiritual Songs for Gospel Meetings and the Sunday School. Yet it was strangely dropped from later versions of this book. Here being performed by some of the all time greats of bluegrass music, the song truly shines. When most people think of Ken Curtis, they think of the comedic Festus from the Gunsmoke TV show. However the man was also a really good singer and had at a time been a member of The Sons of the Pioneers. Here he sings a lovely version of Prairie Serenade in the movie That Texas Jamboree (1946). The actress he is singing to Jean Marie (“Jeff”) Donnell. Ken himself co-wrote this song with  Lee Penny. Up next is George Jones with Just a Little Talk With Jesus.  This song was written by Rev. Cleavant Derricks, who served as a pastor of a small town African-American church in Alabama. During the great depression the church needed hymnals but couldn't quite afford them. Cleavant contacted a publishing company (Stamps-Baxter) with some hymns he had written in hopes that he could make enough money to afford hymnals for his church. The company did not want most of these song but took interest in this song. It is said he received fifty hymnals in exchange for the rights for this song. The company published this song in 1936 and it has gone on to become a gospel favorite of many music fans. Next comes Roy Rogers performing Peace in the Valley. This song was written by Thomas A. Dorsey in 1937. He later described writing this song, “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.'" This is followed by Gene Autry and Dinah Shore singing In the Garden. This song was written by C. Austin Miles. 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. Next is the Oak Ridge Boys singing I'd Rather Have Jesus. This song began as a poem by Mrs. Rhea F. Miller. Singer George Beverly Shea's mother often left poems or notes around the house for her son. One day as he was preparing for a morning Church service, his mother left this poem for him. He found himself deeply moved and and wrote music for the words. He later stated, "Over the years, I’ve not sung any song more than 'I’d Rather Have Jesus,' but I never tire of Mrs. Miller’s heartfelt words.” Today's musical selection ends with The Sons of the Pioneers with their 1948 recording of Read the Bible Everyday. This song was written by Tim Spencer, one of the group's founding members. 

Psalm 31

1In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
    let me never be put to shame;
    deliver me in your righteousness.
2 Turn your ear to me,
    come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,
    a strong fortress to save me.
3 Since you are my rock and my fortress,
    for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
4 Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
    for you are my refuge.
5 Into your hands I commit my spirit;
    deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.

6 I hate those who cling to worthless idols;
    as for me, I trust in the Lord.
7 I will be glad and rejoice in your love,
    for you saw my affliction
    and knew the anguish of my soul.
8 You have not given me into the hands of the enemy
    but have set my feet in a spacious place.

9 Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress;
    my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
    my soul and body with grief.
10 My life is consumed by anguish
    and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction,[b]
    and my bones grow weak.
11 Because of all my enemies,
    I am the utter contempt of my neighbors
and an object of dread to my closest friends—
    those who see me on the street flee from me.
12 I am forgotten as though I were dead;
    I have become like broken pottery.
13 For I hear many whispering,
    “Terror on every side!”
They conspire against me
    and plot to take my life.

14 But I trust in you, Lord;
    I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hands;
    deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
    from those who pursue me.
16 Let your face shine on your servant;
    save me in your unfailing love.
17 Let me not be put to shame, Lord,
    for I have cried out to you;
but let the wicked be put to shame
    and be silent in the realm of the dead.
18 Let their lying lips be silenced,
    for with pride and contempt
    they speak arrogantly against the righteous.

19 How abundant are the good things
    that you have stored up for those who fear you,
that you bestow in the sight of all,
    on those who take refuge in you.
20 In the shelter of your presence you hide them
    from all human intrigues;
you keep them safe in your dwelling
    from accusing tongues.

21 Praise be to the Lord,
    for he showed me the wonders of his love
    when I was in a city under siege.
22 In my alarm I said,
    “I am cut off from your sight!”
Yet you heard my cry for mercy
    when I called to you for help.

23 Love the Lord, all his faithful people!
    The Lord preserves those who are true to him,
    but the proud he pays back in full.
24 Be strong and take heart,
    all you who hope in the Lord.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Proverbs 30:5

A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs15:1

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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 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. John 3:16-18

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved, Romans 10:9

Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Hebrews 7:25

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

"...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

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


Saturday, April 24, 2021

Movie Review: Mortal Kombat


Michael's Movie Grade: C+

A fun but not exceptional action film based off the popular video game series. 

We all not what every who sees this movie comes in for and that is the action scenes. And yes they are pretty darn cool. They feel like the video game come to life in good way. The choreography and the filming are excellent, making these scenes feel larger than life. These action scenes are also very well timed, never going on so long as to become boring or being too short to be fully exciting. This is what Mortal Kombat fans want to see and it will not let them down. When it comes to characters some work and some don't. The best are Cole (Lewis Tan) and Kano (Josh Lawson). Cole is a likable hero who while not a complex character is easy to root for. Kano is a foul-mouthed man-child who while (purposely) unlikable, he is fun to watch. Unfortunately the main villain, Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim), has little to no personality outside of a bad guy. This is where the film's video game origins become all too clear. The character has cool powers and is dangerous and in a video game that is enough to make him a cool villain, but in a movie that character comes off as pretty bland. The movie moves at a fast pace and never takes itself too seriously. In many ways I liked this. The storyline is quite cliché, predictable and in many ways very silly but the movie never acts like we are supposed to find this in anyway emotionally moving or powerful. I have sat through too many films that asked me to take something that either comes off as silly or overly clichéd somewhat seriously and any time this happens the movie pretty much loses me. However here you can just enjoy the silliness as kind of fun. The fast moving pace helps and hurts the film at the same time. It keeps the movie from ever getting boring or giving us too many scenes where we can stop and examine the faults. On the other hand, sometimes plot points happen so quickly that they don't quite work or seem to come out of nowhere. 

All in all Mortal Kombat provides a fun time at the movies, but will never stand as a great film.   

Some Cartoons For Saturday Morning #120

 Hello my friends and Happy Saturday morning. Welcome back for another selection of classic cartoons.

Today's cartoon selection begins with the Pink Panther short, In the Pink (1967). This film has everything I love about Pink Panther cartoons with a generous amount of creative slapstick and some great pantomime. With these cartoons, the filmmakers really helped keep the spirit of silent comedy alive long after the silent era had passed. This movie opens with some reused animation from Pink Panic (1967) where the Pink Panther gets out of the shower. Pink Panic was only released a few months earlier. This scene was animated by Norm McCabe. As McCabe also animated the final gag, we both start and end with his animation. Art Leonardi animates very little of this cartoon. He animates the very beginning of the shadow boxing scene (up until the shadow first punches our pink buddy out) and then Manny Gould animates the rest of the scene. 

Next is Popeye's 20th Anniversary (1954). This cartoons title refers to Popeye's anniversary of when he first appeared on movie screens, which was in 1933. However the character himself had been around longer, first appearing in the Thimble Theater newspaper comic strip in 1929. As Popeye is not much for public speaking he brings along some of the movies which made him famous. The movies he brings along are the cartoons, Tops in the Big Top (1945) and Rodeo Romeo (1946). I do not know who voices the Bob Hope caricature (if any of you do let me know), but he does not sound like Bob Hope at all. 

Cartoons revolving around caricatures of famous movie stars were very common during the golden age of animation. Even with this, Hollywood Steps Out (1941) remains one of the best. Much of this was due to the work of a man named Ben Shenkman. Shenkman specialized in celebrity caricatures and before this film, he had modeled the celebrity caricatures in Columbia's Mother Goose in Swing Time (1939), and the Warner Brothers cartoon, Malibu Beach Party (1940). Hollywood Steps Out stands up as his best work. The majority of voices in this movie are provided by Kent Rogers, who is best known to cartoon fans for voicing Beaky Buzzard. Mel Blanc's voice is only heard briefly here as the Jerry Colonna caricature. Sara Berner provides the female voices. This cartoon rightfully appears in Jerry Beck's book, The 100 Greatest Looney Tunes

The following is from an issue of  Paramount Around the World (dated April, 1938), "BETTY BOOP IS DEAD! SALLY SWING IS SUCCESSOR!! It is with a sense of deep regret that we record the passing of Miss Betty Boop, the amiable, pulchritudinous, neckless young lady who has served Paramount so loyally for so many years. Miss Boop passed on suddenly but not before she was able to name her successor. Miss Sally Swing is is the new Paramount cartoon eyeful. We present her above - front, side and reverse, as well as in the purely geometrical form that she is known to animators. Sally is presumed to be about 16 years of age. She is the epitome of modern youth, full of life, pep and the magic something which so sustains young people in the face of fearful odds. She is devoted to swing, is lithe and lissome, and, in parlance of Hollywood's scriptures is the ideal jitterbug. Her first cartoon appearance is scheduled for approximately two months from now." The following is from a 1938 issue of Motion Picture Daily, "Betty Boop, the Max Fleischer cartoon character which attained great popularity in its eight years of existence, will be missing from the Paramount short subject list next season. In Betty's place there will be a new cartoon character, Sally Swing, who is designed to be a modernized, stream-lined version of her predecessor, Paramount will distribute 12 of the cartoons featuring the new character."  This not true as Sally's cartoon career would end as soon as it began and she would never have her own series. However Betty's career was soon to end. 1939 would mark her last theatrical cartoon short. So here is Sally's attempt to break into the movies, Sally Swing (1938). 

Next comes a classic Bob Clampett cartoon with Daffy Duck and Porky Pig, Tick Tock Tuckered (1944). This was a remake of Clampett's earlier, Porky's Badtime Story (1937). In that film Porky had been teamed with the short lived Gabby Goat, in this film Gabby is replaced with the much better known Daffy. This short shows how far Clampett had come in his directing style. Tick Tock Tuckered is fast moving, constantly funny, crazy and just a pure cartoon gem through and through. 

Up next is the Aesop's Sound Fables short, Western Whoopee (1930). The mouse hero and his girlfriend bare more than a passing resemblance to Disney's Mickey and Minnie. This was something that certainly didn't go unnoticed at the time. Due to the characters used here and in other shorts, Walt Disney sued the Van Beuren studio (who made this cartoon). This resulted in the end of these two mice. 


Now comes the real Mickey and Minnie in Mickey's Mellerdrammer (1933). This is a top notch parody of old melodramas and never fails to get a laugh from me. This cartoon features Mickey in his earlier simple country mouse mode with a full on barn yard setting. I love this little touch to the 1920's and early 30's Mickey cartoons. According to J.B. Kaufman and David Gerstein's book, Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse: The Ultimate History,  notes the the cartoon was almost finished by December 1932 when the studio decided to rework the whole movie. Some scenes were cut, some were added and most were reworked and reanimated. 

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

                                                                    Some Resources Used

The 100 Greatest Looney Tunes edited by Jerry Beck
Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons by Leonard Maltin
Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse: The Ultimate History by J.B. Kaufman and David Gerstein

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Movie Review: Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train


Michael's Movie Grade: B

An exciting and emotionally effective movie that continues the story of the popular anime. 

I have to be honest I have never seen the anime that this movie is a part of and honestly didn't know what to expect going in. I was worried this would be another Downton Abbey (a show I haven't seen and a movie that bored me). I needn't have worried at all. While there were a couple parts I didn't fully get and I wouldn't be surprised if fans of the show, would give this an even higher grade than me, I thoroughly enjoyed myself from start to finish. The first thing that struck me was how the film is full of atmosphere. It is dark and creepy yet at the same time enchanting and inviting. As the film went on, I found myself more and more fascinated and involved in the world this creates. I must say though that the beautiful background art certainly did not hurt in this department. In fact the whole movie is a visual treat. While there are some characters that didn't feel fully fleshed out to me (something that may not be true to those who have seen the show), Tanjiro is not one of them. This character felt completely real to me. Him having to confront the death of his family is truly heartbreaking. This adds a real emotion poignancy to an other wise action heavy film. Speaking of the action the action scenes are fantastic and simply a joy to watch. The two climatic battles are incredibly well done and will provide any action fan with just what they want. This is helped by villains that are delightfully creepy and threating. This movie also has a really good sense of humor and I found myself laughing quite a bit. The character of Inosuke made me laugh out loud several times. 

    The largest fault of the film is in a lot of the dialogue (I saw it in Japanese with English subtitles) narrates what we can clearly see on the screen for ourselves or what the filmmakers could have told us in an other way. This honestly gets pretty annoying at times.

I am sure that all fans of the anime will love this movie, but if you are like me and haven't seen the show, this film still has quite a bit to recommend it. 

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Cowboy Church #115

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

Earlier this year Loretta Lynn released a new album, Still Woman Enough. This album was mostly made up of covers of old songs as well as new versions of Loretta's most famous classics. One of the highlights of her lovely version of Where No One Stands Alone. The song was originally written by Mosie Lister in 1955. Lister had written many great southern gospel songs including, His Hand in MineHe Knows Just What I NeedTill the Storm Passes By and Then I Met the Master. Next the Sons of the Pioneers sing All God's Children Got Wings. This is followed by Charley Pride singing 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 version comes from Charley's first gospel album, Did You Think to Pray. Next The Charlie Daniels Band preforms The Old Rugged Cross. The song itself dates back to 1913 and was written by evangelist, George Bennard. Actually the first verse was written in 1912. It was written while Bennard was a part of a series of revival meetings in Albion, Michigan. He was worried about the complete disregard for the gospel around him and wrote this verse as a repose. Of writing it Bennard said, "I seemed to have a vision ... I saw the Christ and the cross inseparable." The song wouldn't be completed for several months, when he was leading meetings at a local church in Pokagan, Michigan. He played it for Rev. Leroy (the sponsoring pastor) and his wife, Ruby Bostwick, both of whom found themselves moved to tears. It was then incorporated into a service at that church on June 7, 1913. The song has the same effect today as it must have back then. This version comes from the band's 2002 album,  How Sweet the Sound: 25 Favorite Hymns and Gospel Greats. Unlike the group's earlier Christian albums, which contained original songs, this album is made up of old gospel classics. In my opinion this is one of the band's best albums of the 21st century. Next comes Lynn Anderson with Meanwhile Back at the Cross. This song sends an important reminder to us. Now matter what this world can do to us, all of it pales strong in comparison to what Jesus did for us on the cross. So no matter what we should stand strong and proud for our lord and savior, Jesus Christ. This song comes from Lynn's first gospel album and her last album before she passed, 2015's Bridges. This is followed by The Oakridge Boys with The Baptism of Jesse Taylor. This song reminds us how God can truly change us inside and out. We need no longer be slaves to sin, but can be set free by Jesus. We continue with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans (joined by their children) singing Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam. Today's musical selection concludes with Gene Autry singing When Mother Played the Organ (And Daddy Sang a Hymn). This recording comes from an episode of Gene's Melody Ranch radio show dated 8/25/46. Gene is joined by The Cass County Boys, The Kettle Sisters, Johnny Bond and Carl Cotner's Orchestra. 

Psalm 23

1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

                                                                                Psalm 103

1 Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:

3 Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;

4 Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;

5 Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's.

6 The Lord executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.

7 He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.

8 The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.

9 He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever.

10 He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.

11 For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.

12 As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

13 Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.

14 For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.

16 For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.

17 But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children;

18 To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.

19 The Lord hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all.

20 Bless the Lord, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word.

21 Bless ye the Lord, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure.

22 Bless the Lord, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the Lord, O my soul.

Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid … for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

And to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:29-31.

Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. 1Timothy 4:12.

Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.  2 Timothy 2:22

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

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Movie Review: The Truffle Hunters


Michael's Movie Grade: B+

Engrossing documentary that even entertains those with no interest in the subject. 

I have never eaten truffles, smell truffles or to my knowledge been exposed to them in any way. While this film will not change that fact, I found myself thoroughly entertained. The main charm in this film comes from our main subjects, the truffle hunters themselves. These are mostly old men in their 70's and 80's, who are very unique and entertaining individuals. Though one of them is quitting the game, there are two that are still just as passionate as they must have been when they were young. One is a married man whose wife can't understand why he is still doing this at 87 and another is a single man from whom truffle hunting has become his whole life. These provide fascinating looks at what individuals who would do something like this for a living are like. Even though I would never have any interest in this, I found myself moved by seeing this pure passion for life still in men in their 80's. I hope when I reach that age my passion for life will be this strong. The man who wants to leave the game is completely and utterly entertaining. One of his best moments comes when he is writing a letter to younger generations and talks about undressing a woman. This is dirty joke telling at its finest and it definitely made me laugh out loud. This movie paints these men as a dying bread and while that has no real effect on most of our lives, when you watch these men's passion for life you can understand the sadness of this. 

Where this film didn't work for me were the scenes with the selling of these truffles and with where truffles are enjoyed. There was no appeal to the places and events at which these truffles where enjoyed to me. They all felt completely pretentious, stuffy and cold. In other words places I would avoid any chances I get. The way the film presented these places and events somehow made them even more unappealing. Whenever these scenes came up I was hoping that the movie would go back to the old men. To me these scenes gave a strange coldness and stiffness to a film that is otherwise a lot of fun. 

Overall this is a documentary on a world completely foreign to me, yet I found myself enjoying it a lot.   

Some Cartoons For Saturday Morning #119

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

One thing that sets the Disney cartoons apart from what other cartoon studios were doing in the 1930's is the sheer amount of major characters that appear in one film. For instance in Hawaiian Holiday (1937), Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Pluto and Minnie all appear. This cartoon is the first Mickey film to be distributed by RKO after Disney left United Artists. The Disney studio certainly started their RKO run on the right foot with this short. This is a delightful cartoon in every way. This film also shows the mastery Disney had over character animation by this time. This is probably best shown through Pluto's run om with a crab. Though Shamus Culhane was not new to animation at this time (having worked for Fleischer and Ub Iwerks before), with this film he made a name for himself at the Disney studio. He wouldn't stay long at Disney as he would animate for Fleischer, Warner Brothers and most importantly Walter Lantz. At Lantz he would direct some of that studio's funniest films. The following are some exhibitor reviews from The Motion Picture Herald, "HAWAIIAN HOLIDAY: Mickey Mouse—These Disney cartoons so far out-shadow the other producers in drawing power and workmanship that there is no comparison. This one is great. Running Time, Seven Minutes. - A.J. Inks, Crystal Theatre, Ligonier, Ind. Small town and rural patronage."  "HAWAIIAN HOLIDAY: Mickey Mouse—This was the first RKO Disney we have played. The kids and adults eat them up and ask for more. Running time, 10 minutes.—R. W. Crickmore, Rainbow Theatre, New- port, Wash. General Patronage." "HAWAIIAN HOLIDAY: Mickey Mouse—I am decidedly a Disney fan. Walt has always given us something to sell that we were sure would click. This was up to the standard of all Disney subjects. Our audiences watch for his subjects like they do weather reports. They are the top money getter of all cartoons, no doubt. Weekend with 'Everybody Sing.' Running time 9 1/2 minutes. - R.D. Leatherman, Rialto Theatre, Denison, Texas, Railroad town patronage."  "HAWAIIAN HOLIDAY: Walt Disney Cartoons- Just a fair Mickey Mouse cartoon. Running time, 7 minutes.—Richard C. Welch, Comique Theatre, Camden, Me. General Patronage." 

                                                           Exhibitor's Herald World, 1930.

While I understand why some people may not like films that are clearly of their time, I admit to having a huge fondness for them. They give a great peak into both world and film history. I wasn't alive in the 1960's, but I love the Pink Panther cartoons for their pure 60's-ness. One of the most 1960's of these cartoons is Psychedelic Pink (1968).

Now we come to one of Bob Clampett's earliest directorial efforts (his second for Warner Brothers), Get Rich Quick Porky (1937). This cartoon may lack the pure insanity of Clampett's cartoons in few years, but it is incredibly charming. The characters of the dog and the gopher are quite Disney-like for a Clampett cartoon. In fact the dog is very much like Pluto. The majority of the dog's scenes would be animated by Bill Hammer and Chuck Jones. Chuck would handle most of the animation for the gopher. Perhaps this is not surprising as Chuck's earliest directorial work, would be very Disney inspired. 

Up next is a delightful Terrytoon, Barnyard Amateurs (1936). This cartoon features Terrytoon's most used reoccurring character at this time, Farmer Alfa (who seems very energetic for an old man). However most of the attention goes to the various performing animals. While in typical Terrytoon fashion this film can be a little crude at times (especially compared to what Disney, Warner Brothers and Fleischer were making at the time), I love the pure cartoony feeling here. The following is a review from The Philadelphia Exhibitor, "BARNYARD AMATEURS. 20th Century-Fox- Educational—Terry Toon. 6m. The farmer does a Bowes, with the result a passable entry, showing some flashes that seem to indicate that if these concentrated on quality, not quantity, they might be much better. FAIR." The following is an exhibitor's review from The Motion Picture Herald, "BARNYARD AMATEURS: Paul Terry-Toon—A very good black and white cartoon and will please all. An amateur contest in a broadcasting station.—C. L. Niles, Niles Theatre, Anamosa, Iowa. General Patronage."


Motion Picture Daily, 1936

In the mid to late-1960's many Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies pitted Daffy Duck and Speedy Gonzales against each other. While these films do not always have the best reputation among cartoon fans, I personally enjoy them for what they are. They may not be the best Warner Brothers cartoons, but they are (to me at least) quite enjoyable in their own right. Here is one of those cartoons, The Spy Swatter (1967). This film is directed by Rudy Larriva, who is best remembered for the coyote and roadrunner cartoons he directed around this time (which are held in even lower regard by those who don't like these Daffy and Speedy cartoons).  

Next comes an MGM Happy Harmonies cartoon, The Early Bird Gets the Worm (1936). The Happy Harmonies series were created by Hugh Harman and Rudolph Ising, who brought us the earliest Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies (all three series titles are take-offs on Disney's Silly Symphony series). 

Last but certainly not least comes an all time classic, The Dover Boys at Pimento University (1942). This is one of Chuck Jones' most daring (and arguably one of his best) films. The stylized design and animation were unlike most anything being done at this time and look forward to what UPA would become known for in the 1950's. Many have cited Chuck Jones as a very strong influence on UPA and with a cartoon like this who could argue? It is worth noting that the credited animator on this film is Robert Cannon, who would become an important director for UPA (he directed Gerald McBoing-Boing (1950) there). Much of this film's charm came from background artist, Gene Fleury and layout artist John McGrew. These were two very experimental artists and Chuck gave them plenty of room to experiment. They are a huge part of why Chuck's cartoons for this era really stand out. If you are a fan of Disney's Goofy cartoons, you will probably recognize the narrator, John McLeisch (who narrated most of the Goofy "how to..." shorts). The film's writer Ted Pierce does the voice of Tom. However the scene stealer of the voice actors is Mel Blanc as he seems to be having a blast voicing the villainous Dan Backslide (coward, bully, cad and thief). Visually Dan Backslide is a caricature of Warner's animator, Ken Harris. This film appropriately appears in Jerry Beck's book, The 100 Greatest Looney Tunes

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, April 16, 2021

Short Film: Disorder in the Court (1936)


Release Date: May 30, 1936. Director: Preston Black. Cast: The Three Stooges (Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Curly Howard), Susan Karaan, Dan Brady, Tiny Jones, Bill O'Brien, Bud Jaminson, Harry Semels, Edward LeSaint, Hank Bell, James C. Morton, Nick Baskovitch, Arthur Thalasso, Ed Mull. (The Three Stooge Scrapbook by Jeff Lenburg, Joan Howard Maurer and Greg Lenburg, gives the shooting dates as Wednesday 4/1/36 to Friday 4/3/36 and Monday 4/6/36)

The following are some exhibitor's reviews from The Motion Picture Herald. 

"DISORDER IN THE COURT: Three Stooges—So crazy that everyone laughed themselves sick. This team are as big drawing cards as a good feature here. Running time, 18 minutes.—Roy Pringle, Eureka Theatre, Fabens, Texas. Small Town Patronage." 

"DISORDER IN THE COURT: Three Stooges—We are repeating several of these comedies and they are going over big. Nothing gets the laughs on Saturday like the Stooges. Hard to get the kids out as they want to see them two or three times. - E.F. Ingram, Ashland Theatre, Ala. Small Town and Rural Patronage." 

"DISORDER IN THE COURT: Three Stooges—Okay nonsense from the Three Stooges—L. A. Irwin, Palace Theatre, Penacook, N. H. General Patronage." 

"DISORDER IN THE COURT: 3 Stooges—Fine but not their best effort. These comedies are knockouts. -Sammie Jackson, Jackson Theatre, Flomaton, Ala. General Patronage."

The following is a review from The Film Daily,

"A rough and tumble riot done in the best manner of The Three Stooges, with plenty of excitement and laughs with their goofy antics. The sketch that is given to them is pretty flimsy, but they manage to extract a load of their own particular brand of explosive fun out of it. The scene is in a courtroom, and they are witnesses for a dancer accused of murdering an admirer. They are musicians in the café where the girl works and they reenact the scenes leading up to the murder for the benefit of the court, done to the accompaniment of their musical instruments. Produced by Jules White." 

The following is a review from The Philadelphia Exhibitor.

"DISORDER IN THE COURT. Columbia—Three Stooges. 17m. The Stooges are witnesses for the chorus-girl-defendant. They wreck the court, save the day for the heroine providing a slapstick two reels. Where the Stooges are like this won't find any complaints; elsewhere NABE STUFF." 

Broadcasting, 1960

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Short Film: The Kid from Borneo (1933)


The following is an Exhibitor's Review from the Motion Picture Herald.

"THE KID FROM BORNEO: Our Gang—This is a very good Our Gang comedy. It seemed to please. - J.E. Tunstall, Nottawa Theater, Blackstone, Va., Small Town Patronage."

Released April, 15, 1933. Director: Robert F. McGown. Cast: Our Gang (Spanky, Dickie Moore, Stymie, Dorothy Deborba, Tommy Bond, Wheezer, Dickie Jackson, Henry Hanna, John Collum, Pete the Pup), Otto Fries, May Wallace, Henry Bernard, Dick Gilbert, John Lester Johnson.

The Film Daily, 1936

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Happy Birthday to Me

 Guess what my friends, it's my birthday.

This birthday things look brighter than they did last year. A major reason for this is that I can once again go to the movie theater. Like many film buffs, the movie theater is a second home to me. Not even those movie pests can ruin it for me. 

Besides movie theatres I used to spend much of my time volunteering at a horse stable. Unfortunately this is not back for me yet. Because of Covid they are currently limiting the amount of people there. However I know that one day this will come back for me and I can't wait for that day. It is still strange not to have horses being a big part of my life though. Still in the meantime I can cheer myself up by watching videos of horses on YouTube. 

Just in time for my birthday, here are a couple of classic cartoons about birthdays. 

As a country music fan, I am honored to share my birthday with a true country music legend, Loretta Lynn. She released a new album this year and I love it. Here are a few highlights off the album.

Speaking of Lorretta, Coal Miner's Daughter (1980) is still the best movie about a singer's life. 

 I have been having a blast this year watching classic cartoons each morning on Me-TV, it is truly a delightful way to start the day. 

What better way to celebrate a birthday than with some good laughs. And where better to go for laughs than Laurel and Hardy and Charlie Chaplin.

Lately I have been watching a lot of D.W. Griffith's short films for Biograph. If you are a movie fan and have not seen these shorts, you must watch them. 

I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope. Jeremiah 29:11

Every good gift, every perfect gift, comes from above. These gifts come down from the Father, the creator of the heavenly lights, in whose character there is no change at all. James 1:17

You crown the year with your goodness; your paths overflow with rich food. Psalm 65:11

Certainly the faithful love of the Lord hasn’t ended; certainly God’s compassion isn’t through! They are renewed every morning. Great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

Monday, April 12, 2021

Movie Review: Voyagers


Michael's Movie Grade: D-

A missed opportunity that somehow misses the mark almost completely.

A major plot point in this film is that the characters are experiencing their "true personalities" for the first time. When this is directly stated in the dialogue, it becomes crystal clear what the problem is. These so called personalities amount to nothing more than good person, bad person and liking sex. In other words these personalities are as bland as can be. The ideas and premise of this film cry out for deep character studies, but this movie doesn't only not do this, but makes the characters so boring that we don't want to study them. Much of the basic storyline is taken from Lord of the Flies, but everything that makes that story interesting is missing here. Instead we go through the motions with cliché after cliché. After so long you simply stop caring. By the time the action packed climax came, I just simply wasn't interested in what was happen on screen anymore and no amount of action could do this. I was amazed that was less than two hours, because it felt so much longer. While some fascinating ideas about free will, a world without law and discovering real pleasure for the time appear in the story, they take a backseat to cliché plot points and bland characters. Because of this we get something that is much worse than a completely irredeemable film, but a bad movie that feels like it really should have been a good movie. 

There were so many interesting ideas here, that I really wanted to like this movie, but sadly despite this I find it impossible to recommend this film. 

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Cowboy Church #114

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

Today's musical selection begins with The Easter Brothers with Pass Me Not. This hymn was written by Fanny Crosby (Blessed AssuranceNear the Cross, Take the World, But Give Me Jesus). The song first appeared in Christian Associations' Songs of Devotion in 1870.  Hymnologist, William J. Reynolds told the story how this song was written during Fanny's visit to a prison in 1868, “After she had spoken and some of her hymns had been sung, she heard one of the prisoners cry out in a pleading voice, ‘Good Lord, do not pass me by’; Following Doane’s suggestion, she wrote a hymn that evening incorporating the line, “Pass me not, O gentle Savior.” Pass Me Not is said to be her first hymn to reach this level of fame. Now comes Lynn Anderson singing Bridge of Surrender. This comes from her 2015 album, Bridges. Bridges was Lynn's first gospel album and her last album ever. It remains a delightful end to a fantastic career in country music. Now we join Roy Rogers and Dale Evans as they sing Thank You God. This recording comes a 1956 Little Golden Record, where it was pared with Roy and Dale singing Let There Be Peace on Earth. Roy and Dale were joined by The Ranch Hands and Mitch Miller and His Orchestra. This song reminds us that the blessings of God are all around us and how thankful we should be for all the blessings he has given us. Up next is The Purple Hulls with Grandma's Garden from their 2012 album, Close to Home. Now we join The Monroe Brothers for a lively 1937 recording of On That Old Gospel Ship. This is bluegrass gospel at its finest. Now we join Alan Jackson with his recording of Love Lifted Me. This song was written by James Rowe in 1912 and was based on two stories from the book of Matthew. One was asleep in the boat with the apostles during a storm. As the apostles were terrified of the storm, they couldn't understand how Jesus was so calm that he could take a nap. They wake Jesus up from his nap and Jesus simply tells the storm to stop and it does. The other story also involved the apostles, Jesus and the sea. It was about how when his eyes were fixed upon Jesus, he was able to walk on the water, but he lost the ability when his faith faltered and he looked away. Still Jesus was a faithful friend and lifted Peter into a boat. This recording comes from Alan's 2nd gospel album, 2013's Precious Memories Vol. 2. This album and its processor are pure gospel music perfection and show that Alan has an incredible talent for gospel music. If you like gospel music or country these two albums are must haves even for those who aren't normally Alan Jackson fans. Next comes Johnny Cash with In The Sweet Bye and Bye. This song came about because of a friendship between composer, Joseph Webster and poet, Dr. Sanford Fillmore Bennett. One day Webster was depressed and Dr. Bennett recognized this. Dr. Bennett asked his friend what was wrong. Webster replied, "Oh nothing. Everything will be alright by and by." This words brought up an idea in Bennett and he wrote down three verses and a chorus to this song as soon as he could. He handed it to his friend saying, “Here is your prescription, Joe.” Webster loved the lyrics and wrote music for them in practically no time at all. Dr. Bennett later said,  “It was not over thirty minutes from the time I took my pen to write the words before two friends with Webster and myself were singing the hymn.” The hymn was first published in 1868 and went on to great fame since. Today's musical selection ends with The Sons of the Pioneers with their 1948 recording of Rounded Up in Glory. 

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 1 John 5:14

 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. James 5:13

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Matthew 6:7

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

I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer. Psalm 17:6

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

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

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4

 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. Jeremiah 31:31-34

And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:!4

Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you. Genesis 28:15

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” Revelation 21:3

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

How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. Psalm 36:7

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 1 John 3:1

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 1 John 4:7

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

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Some Cartoons For Saturday Morning #118

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

Today's cartoon selection begins with Porky's Pooch (1941). Though all the classic Charlie Dog cartoons would be directed by Chuck Jones, this Bob Clampett short clearly sets up the template that all of those later cartoons would follow. In fact the first Charlie Dog cartoon, Little Orphan Airedale (1947), would be a remake of this film. The backgrounds in this film are live action photographs. A year later Bob would use a live action opening for Eatin' on the Cuff or The Moth Who Came to Dinner (1942). The following is an exhibitor's review from Motion Picture Herald, "PORKY'S POOCH: Looney Tunes Cartoons—Right up my alley for my patronage. Running time, 7 minutes. —Vic Stephano, Grove Theatre, Groveton, Tex. Small Town Patronage." A review in The Motion Picture Daily called the film, "Good for a few laughs." The Showman's Trade Review gave advice to movie theater owners on how to advertise this cartoon, "Play it up to all Porky fans and make some new fans to win over some of the dog lovers in your community by staging a pet show, prize contest for best snapshot of a pet or prize contest for a brief essay on 'why my dog is the best in town.'" 

For Disney fans (like myself), one of the delights of the early cartoon shorts is that Walt Disney himself directed them. This brings a real historical interest to these films as it gives a fascinating look into the ideas of the man himself. After Night (1930), Walt would step back from directing Silly Symphonies shorts and serve instead as the series' producer. However he would return to the director's chair for one more short, The Golden Touch (1935). Michael Barrier's book, Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in its Golden Age quotes Disney animator Ben Sharpsteen as saying, "that he [Walt] was kind of getting his hand in directing on this picture and that he was going to continue over into Snow White ... But as it turned out, The Golden Touch was a stinker." While I wouldn't call this film "a stinker," Walt himself did not feel too happy with it. Walt would call it "a tremendous flop" and if he was planning on directing the feature length Snow White this short gave him second thoughts. Walt could be highly critical of other director's work and he could be equally critical of his own. This cartoon also stands out because it only featured two animators, Norm Ferguson and Fred Moore. These two had already more than proven their worth. Ferguson was known as one of Pluto's best animators and Moore was considered one of Mickey's best. For the most part Ferguson animated King Midas and Goldie animated Goldie. However since Midas had more screen time, Moore animated Midas in one sequence. This sequence involved Midas testing out his new ability with utter glee. A review in Motion Picture Reviews stated, "   It lacks humor and is disappointing generally." The following is a review from The Philadelphia Exhibitor, "THE GOLDEN TOUCH. UA-Disney—Silly Symphony. 8m. All of Disney’s cartons are in the top bracket, and even if this one doesn't touch the peak of others, it is still better than most of the better class from other companies. Story of the king whose touch turns everything into gold, king is a bit to comic-strip in type and picture lacks usual Disney whimsical touches." 

Now we join Gandy Goose in Sourpuss in The Exterminator (1945). Most of the Terry-Toons featuring these characters followed the same basic formula with imaginative and day dreaming, Gandy drawing cynic Sourpuss into his own flights of fancy. This one abandons that basic premise and instead puts our heroes into a chase cartoon as they try to get rid of mice. This film ends with a humorous moral from Aesop. This recalls the silent-era Aesop's Fables cartoon that studio head Paul Terry worked on, which would often end with similar morals.

Now we join Popeye the Sailor in a very unusual cartoon, Be Kind to Animals (1935). The reason this film is so odd is that the voice is not provided by Jack Mercer or Billy Costello, but rather Floyd Buckley. Buckley was the voice of Popeye on the sailor's radio show, but this is the only time he voiced the character in a cartoon. The voice does sound quite different from how we today except Popeye's voice to sound, and I can't help but wonder how many people have seen this short in recent years and were taken aback when Popeye speaks. This was noticed at the time of its release as well as evidnced from the following exhibitor's review (from the Motion Picture Herald), "BE KIND TO ANIMALS: Popeye The Sailor— Popeye's bass voice which did so much to popularize him is missing in this, cartoon; having been subplanted by another. Just average and only passable. - John A. Milligan, Broadway Theatre, Schuylerville, N. Y. Small Town Patronage." 

  Next comes one of the most famous, if not the most famous, cartoon short of the silent era. This is of course, Gertie the Dinosaur (1914). This film was directed by Winsor McCay, who was already well known before he made his first animated film due to his newspaper comic strips Little Nemo and  Dream of the Rarebit Fiend. Gertie was not the first animated cartoon (as has so often been claimed) or even McCay's first film but it featured a level of character animation not seen before this point. Gertie never feels like a moving drawing but a real living character. It would take a long time for the rest of American animation to catch up with what had been achieved here. This cartoon still holds up incredibly well today and received the number 6 spot in Jerry Beck's book, The 50 Greatest Cartoons

I have mentioned before on this blog that I am quite a fan of director, Norm McCabe. Some of his best cartoons are those featuring the one and only Daffy Duck. McCabe kept Daffy's crazy and energetic spirit while also adding more to the character's personality. This Daffy was caught up in himself and his own way of viewing the world (much like the later Chuck Jones version), but he was still a good natured and fun loving character who wanted nothing more than a good time. Up next is one of McCabe's shorts with the duck (and a very good one too), Daffy's Southern Exposure (1942). The following is an exhibitor's review from the Motion Picture Herald, "DAFFY'S SOUTHERN EXPOSURE: Cartoon- Good black and white cartoon. Enjoyed by people that saw it.—Conrad H. Tapia, Chief Theatre, Casa Grande, Ariz."

This morning's cartoon selection ends with one of Walt Disney's great silent Alice Comedies, Alice's Wild West Show (1924). This is probably my favorite film in the series. The series combined animation with live action. The early entries in the series (which this is one of) feature extensive use of fully live action scenes with a few cartoon scenes. The cartoon scenes would feature our live action Alice interacting with animated characters (including Walt's first cartoon star, Julis the Cat) in a cartoon environment. Later films would do away with the fully live action scenes and often put Alice in supporting roles. Alice was played by four young actresses over the course of the series; Virginia Davis, Dawn O'Day, Margie Gay and Lois Hardwick. In this short Alice was still played by her first actress Virginia Davis (Leon Holmes and Tommy Hicks also appear in this film). Like The Golden Touch Walt also directed this short as well as serving as an animator (Rollin "Ham" Hamilton also animated on this film). Working in the Ink and Paint department was Walt's future wife, Lillian Bounds. A review in Moving Picture World states, "This makes an interesting reel, with considerable pep, human interest and comedy, which should prove a pleasing novelty with the average patron and appeal especially to children."


Motion Picture World, 1924

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

Friday, April 9, 2021

Movie Review: French Exit


Michael's Movie Grade: B+

An excellent dramatic comedy.

The main appeals of this film are the comedy and the stars. A lot of praise has been given to Michelle Pfeiffer's performance and I only have more to give. Her character could have easily been unlikable and unpleasant, but heavily due to her performance we actually love this character. Dynamic is how I would best describe her here. Michelle perfectly commands the camera and the audience's attention every time she is on screen. This performance is at the same time larger than life and yet deeply human. Lucas Hedges gives a more subdued performance yet this works perfectly for his character. Despite the differences in their characters and performances, the chemistry between them is undeniable. You can feel the connection between the two in every scene and there is never a moment when you can't feel the love between them. As stated before the comedy is excellent. There are many laugh out loud moments throughout (everyone in the audience when I saw this were loving every comedic moment). Certain comedy scenes were certainly stay in your mind well often the movie finishes and will probably make you laugh to just think about them. The comedy lights up and makes this darker storyline still a fun time at the movies without ever taking away from the drama itself. The storyline itself may be a little cliché but it works surprisingly well. There is a real heart to this movie under all its dark comedy and as the film goes on we care more and more about these characters and get more involved in the story.

On the downside this movie can feel more than a little padded at times. The whole subplot about the son's romance feels forced, uninteresting and unimportant to the story. Some of the side characters (such as the "witch" and the private investigator) are not that interesting as well. The ending of this film also doesn't work and can feel unsatisfying. 

Despite any faults though this is an excellent film with a lot to recommend it.                

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Movie Review: The Father


Michael's Movie Grade: A-

An extremely good movie, but the subject matter makes it a difficult watch. 

As this movie starts it appears we are going to watch a very straightforward film. However it is not long until we question whether what we just saw was real or not. Our main character has dementia and we are seeing things through his point of view for the majority of the film. Because of this we never know if what we are seeing is real or not. This gives us an incredible connection with this character and what he is going through that it becomes hard to picture the film being done any other way. Of course our connection with the character is only enhanced by that character being played by Anthony Hopkins. With a career full of great performances this one can stand with the best of them. He brings a real fragileness and we can feel his loss of control. While this character is rough around the edges and demanding, we can see behind this the need to hold on to some control of the world around you when you don't have any. This makes even the moments when this character should be unlikable into truly heartbreaking scenes. Oliva Colman certainly holds her own in this film as well. As much as we can put ourselves in Anthony's role, we can see ourselves in hers as well. Her performance perfectly captures the heartbreak and pain as well as the irritation of someone who has a loved one going through this. The film is so emotional effective that it can be hard to even look at a lot of times, but I left the theater incredibly moved by what I just saw and grateful I watched it.

The biggest fault with this film is the few scenes in which our main character is not present. This simply takes us a little out of the movie and goes against what the rest of the film does so well. However these scenes are brief. 

If you want fun escapism go see Godzilla Vs. Kong. However if you want something that will truly move you, this film certainly will.   

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

D.W. Griffith Speaks

 The following is a 1929 article about D.W. Griffith from American Cinematographer. If you have trouble reading any of these pages click on them and use your touch screen to zoom in. If this doesn't work click here.