Thursday, December 30, 2021

Movie Review: Journal For Jordan


Michael's Movie Grade: C+

Charming but very clichéd romantic movie. 

Of course, the most important part of a romantic movie is the chemistry between the two main characters and luckily this is where the movie really succussed. These two characters are very likable and relatable. They are flawed but only in ways that make us relate to them more. The romance also plays out naturally and believably. The two stars (Michael B. Jordan, Chanté Adams) have fantastic chemistry and it becomes easy to root for them as a couple. This is not the only relationship that worked well. The relationship between mother and son is also quite well handled and brings the film's most touching moments. The story itself is very similar to many other movies. However, there is a reason these storylines are so popular and that is because they work. This is seen especially in the final scene. The final scene is surprisingly pretty darn touching, and I wouldn't be surprised if this scene brings tears to quite a few peoples' eyes. I admit to finding myself pretty touched by this scene and that made me glad I saw this movie despite its faults.

Despite everything that works, this is a quite flawed movie. This is most obvious when it comes to the dialogue. There is a lot of clumsy dialogue throughout the movie that sounds very forced and not quite like real people talking. This is especially true with the scenes with our female protagonist and her friends. These scenes ring false and can take one out of the movie easily. It doesn't help that her friends are simply stereotypes of movie characters whose personalities are incredibly one note. This movie also suffers from its attempts at humor, none of which are the least bit funny. The film is also simply too long for such a simple story, and it can drag at points. 

This is a very flawed movie, but what works really works. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Movie Review: Licorice Pizza


Michael's Movie Grade: A-

A top-notch film that holds its own with director Paul Thomas Anderson's best.

This movie has a slim story. A 15-year-old boy (Cooper Hoffman (in his film debut)) has a crush on a 25-year-old woman (Alana Haim (in her feature film debut)) and the two form an unlikely friendship. Yet upon this slim story hangs an incredible amount of irresistible charm. This movie's depiction of The San Fernando Valley in the 1970's is just as much a star of this film as any actor. This depiction is equally real and unreal. Though there are many great little details that make you feel as if you have traveled back to that place and time there is also a fairytale like quality to the picture. This setting is where Anderson grew up and because of this he looks back at the time and place with a large amount of nostalgia and youthful playfulness. Yet this film is not all sunshine and flowers. This film does not sugarcoat its setting or some of the characters' less moral decisions and the looks at the darker and less savory aspects are quite intelligent. Yet they do not in any distract from the pure charming and fun feel of this movie. This movie also benefits from an incredible sense of humor. I can't count how many times I laughed out loud watching this movie. The humor ranged from the highbrow to the lowbrow, the insightful to the just plain silly, yet all these types of humor were equally well handled. The two main characters are also excellent. They are very likable but also very faulted and human. They are far from the two-dimensional stereotypes they could have easily been but feel like fully fleshed out human beings. This is especially helped by the two main actors. Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman were incredible and perfect in these roles and even outshining the more established and famous co-stars. 

All in all this is a great movie and a must watch film.

Monday, December 27, 2021

Movie Review: American Underdog


Michael's Movie Grade: B+

An excellent sports drama, even for those who don't like sports (like me). 

The Erwin Brothers' newest film is quite similar to other sports Biopics but tells its story so well that you may not care. Of course, in a movie like this the most important ingredient is to have you root for the main character and this is something this film does very well. The character himself is very likable. He is flawed but only in ways that make him more real and relatable and don't take away from how much we like him. At the same time his circumstances and what he goes through make it hard not to root for the guy. Anyone who would put this much work and go through the hardships he does to achieve his dreams will automatically get respect from any audience. Now I admit that I had no idea who Kurt Warner was before this movie and can't remember the last time I actually watched a football game, but despite this I found myself really wanting to see this guy make the big time. This movie is just as much a romance film as it is a football movie and it surprised me just how well this romance worked. Zachary Levi and Anna Paquin had perfect chemistry and it was a joy to watch them share the screen. The romance also took its time and never felt rushed or shoehorned into a story about football. This romance became instead one of the most charming and engaging parts of the film. If I had to fault it at all it is that it could sometimes push the football story too much to the background but with how much I enjoyed it, this is a minor complaint. As anyone familiar with The Erwin Brothers' previous movies could guess, this film has a Christain message throughout much of it. This is handled really well (of course being Christian I am bit biased), and the movie shows the faith of the characters without ever stopping the story to preach.

With this movie and the documentary, The Jesus Music, this has been an excellent year for the Erwin Brothers.  

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Happy Boxing Day

 Yes, I know boxing day doesn't have anything to do with the sport boxing, but I don't care. 

Moving Picture World, 1926

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Some Cartoons For Saturday Morning #154

 Hello, my friends, happy Saturday Morning and Merry Christmas. As it is Christmas day, naturally today's cartoon selection will be completely made up of Christmas cartoons. 

Today's cartoon selection begins with one of my favorite Christmas cartoons of all time, Mickey's Good Deed (1932).  This film was from 1932, at this time, Mickey was at the absolute height of his popularity. He was famous in a way that no cartoon character before had ever been. Critics often compared his popularity to that of Charlie Chaplin's little tramp, and like that character Mickey had fans of all types. He was equally popular with intellectuals and small children. In fact, this same year Walt Disney would receive a special Academy Award for creating Mickey. Renowned Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein (best known for his silent film The Battleship Potemkin (1925)) was a huge fan and even wrote essays on Walt Disney, that discussed the brilliance of Mickey Mouse cartoons (He would remain a huge Disney fan and even later call Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) the single greatest film ever made). Almost every other American cartoon studio was copying what Disney had done with Mickey Mouse. Characters like Foxy (at Warner Brothers) and Cubby Bear (at Van Beuren) were extremely thinly disguised copies of Mickey himself. In fact, in 1931, the Van Beuren studio was sued by Walt for using two mice characters that looked exactly like Mickey and Minnie. There was no doubt, Mickey was movie royalty. Mickey did for animated comedies, exactly what Charlie Chaplin's little tramp had done for live action comedies. Like the comedy films made before Chaplin, the animated comedies before Mickey were often very funny, but you very rarely felt any other emotional response to what was happening on screen. Mickey changed all that and nowhere was it clearer than in Mickey's Good Deed. You may notice that this doesn't sound like your typical cartoon short of the era, and my point is it isn't. This film while not sacrificing the slapstick comedy, also adds a lot of drama to the story itself. However, the Disney studio understood exactly what Chaplin had found out earlier. If the comedy and the drama are both driven by the story and characters, they can both easily co-exist. This idea is done to absolute perfection in this cartoon. This is a beautiful and moving film, while it never forsakes the comedy. The following is a review from The Film Daily, "Right up there with the best of these animated cartoons. Subject has a special holiday flavor in that it shows how Mickey and his dog manage to bring cheer into a big family of needy animal folks. Clever and lively as usual." The following is an exhibitor's review from The Motion Picture Herald, "Mickey's Good Deed: Mickey Mouse - Christmas cartoon. Kids like Mickey. That's why they come. One Mickey Mouse cartoon on your Saturday's program brings the kiddies out to the matinee. Running time, eight minutes. - Edmund M. Burke. Fort Plain Theatre, Fort Plain, N.Y. General Patronage."  

After this we celebrate Christmas with Pooch the Pup in Merry Dog (1933). This movie has everything I love about Walter Lantz cartoons of this era. The jokes are incredibly silly and more often than not just plain strange. In fact, this film is pretty much one bizarre joke after another, and I simply love it. The following is an exhibitors review from the Motion Picture Herald, "MERRY DOG, THE: Pooch the "Pup—Excellent cartoon for anybody's program. "Night Before Christmas" theme with snowstorm and blizzard effects which almost made us forget that it was the hottest day of the summer. (106 and no shade.) Running time. 8 minutes. —Wm. Sayre, Delmar Theatre, Morrill, Neb., Rural and small town patronage."

Coming up next is Bugs Bunny in The Fright Before Christmas (1979). This cartoon was originally a part of the half-hour TV special, Bugs Bunny's Looney Christmas Tales (1979). As well as Bugs Bunny this short features Taz. This is the first time the character appeared in a cartoon not made for movie theaters and the first time he was directed by someone other than Robert McKimson (here he is directed by Friz Freleng). This cartoon also features Bugs nephew, Clyde. Clyde had only appeared in two theatrical shorts, His Hare Raising Tale (1951) and Yankee Doodle Bugs (1954). Both of those movies were directed by Friz Freleng. 

Next comes a classic Fleischer Brothers cartoon, Christmas Comes but Once a Year (1936). This movie is from the color classics series, which was in many ways their answer to Disney's Silly Symphonies. Most of the color classics featured only one-shot characters but this cartoon was an exception. This movie stars Grampy, an eccentric inventor who had appeared in the Betty Boop cartoons. This film is Grampy's only cartoon without Betty. The title song would later be used in the Popeye cartoon, Let's Celebrake (1938) with the lyrics changed to make it a New Years' song. 

Now it is time for a commercial break. 

Up next comes a classic Silly Symphony, The Night Before Christmas (1933). Though the Silly Symphonies were mostly one off shorts, the occasional sequel could happen (with the Three Little Pigs sequels being the most well known). The Night Before Christmas is a follow up to the often better remembered Santa's Workshop (1932). Yet as much as I love Santa's Workshop, I love this sequel even more. It could be argued that this movie picks up where the previous one left off, as the last one ends with Santa leaving the North Pole for his trip and this cartoon has him visiting houses. This is a reissue and there is a bit of a difference towards the end. In the original 1933 version, Little Junior is disappointed to get a chamber pot for Christmas. Here he is happy to get a puppy. In this version we do get a bit of Junior getting a blackface appearance from the chimney soot that would be cut out when the film was shown a Disney TV Christmas special in 1983. For all four years of the original Mickey Mouse Club, this would be the Mousekartoon on the last new episode to be aired before Christmas. The following is a brief article from The Film Daily (dated December 28, 1933), "In conjunction with the showing of Walt Disney's Silly Symphony, 'The Night Before Christmas,' The Radio City Music Hall is exhibiting six original Walt Disney drawings used in the production of this picture. The short, a united Artists release, will be held over a second week." A review of the cartoon in The Film Daily called The Night Before Christmas "... one of Walt Disney's best cartoons." Not everyone was so impressed as evidenced by the following exhibitor's review from The Motion Picture Herald, "NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, THE: Silly Symphony—These Silly Symphonies arc okay, but not worth difference in rental United Artists asks for them. -P. G. Held, New Strand Theatre, Griswold, Iowa. General patronage." 

Next is the Harman and Ising, Happy Harmonies cartoon, The Pups Christmas (1936). This movie is part of a short-lived series of short films MGM made involving two curious puppies. 

Now let us close by all singing one together.


Resources Used
Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons by Leonard Maltin
The Disney Villain by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnson
Disney by Sergei Eisenstein  
Walt Disney's Silly Symphonies: A Companion to the Classic Cartoon Series by Russell Merrit and J.B. Kaufman. 

Friday, December 24, 2021

Video Link: One More Sleep Til Christmas - The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

Video Link: Gene Autry - Here Comes Santa Claus (from The Cowboy and the Indians (1949))

Cowboy Church - Christmas Eve Service

 Hello, my friends and welcome to a special Christmas Eve service of Cowboy Church. 

Today's musical selection begins with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans with Remember Whose Birthday It Is. Now there is no one who loves the little things about Christmas then me. I love giving and receiving gifts, spending time with the family and seeing all the beautiful Christmas lights and there is no bigger defender of Santa Claus than me. However, all of this pales in comparison with the true meaning of Christmas, Jesus Christ our Lord. Because of this day we have our salvation and a sense of hope even in the darkest days. The fact that God would send his own son to Earth as a human being to suffer and die like the rest of us so that we could one day go to heaven never ceases to amaze me and there is no better Christmas gift one can receive than Jesus Christ. In his 1960 book, My Favorite Christmas Story, Roy Rogers wrote, "To me leaving the baby out of any Christmas story is like leaving the salt out of your food. Any story that does that is as useless as the pony express or the stagecoach." This is followed by Jim Reeves with Mary's Little Boy Child. Next comes southern Christian rock band Third Day with their version of Angels We Have Heard on High. This hymn began as a traditional French carol (Les anges dans nos campagnes) dating back to the 18th century. The English language version of this hymn was written by James Chadwick in 1862. However, this version of the song differs from the original French version. This was a very loose translation and in fact Chadwick would also write some original lyrics not to be found in the French version of this hymn. Because of this the two hymns are often viewed as different songs. This version of the song comes from Third Day's 2006 Christmas album, Christmas Offerings. That album's title references two previous Third Day albums, both of which were designed as albums of worship music, 2000's Offerings: A Worship Album and 2003's Offerings II: All I Have to Give. This is followed by Johnny Cash with I Heard thew Bells on Christmas Day. This song began as a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on December 25th, 1864. At this time the United States was still in the midst of a civil war and this poem reflected and commented on this, ending with a message of hope, that even through all this war and violence, "God is not dead nor does he sleep." This poem featured two stanzas that were not used in the later hymn that directly referenced the Civil War. John B. Calkin composed the music in 1872. Next is Gene Autry and Rosemary Clooney with their 1952 recording of The Night Before Christmas. This song was written by Johnny Marks, who also wrote Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Afterwards is The Petersens with God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. This is followed by Charley Pride with Joy to the World. This hymn started off as a poem by Issaac Watts in 1719. He never intended this to be either a song or associated with Christmas. It in fact would not become a song until a century later when a Boston music teacher, Lowell Mason would discover it and put it to music. Over time it would become more and more associated with Christmas until it would become one of the most famous Christmas carols. Next is Martha Mears and The Sons of the Pioneers with Jingle Bells. James Lord Pierpont wrote this song in 1857. Despite being known as a Christmas song today, it was originally written with a different holiday in mind. Under its original title, One Horse Open Sleigh this song was written to be used in a Thanksgiving service at a Church where Pierpont was the organist. The song was so well received that it played again at the Church on Christmas day. For a song written to be performed at a Church, the original lyrics were racier than one would think and would be changed so that children's church choirs can perform the song. Today's musical selection ends with George Jones singing Silent Night. This song was written in 1818 by Josef Mohr and Franz Xaver Gruber. Raised in Salzburg, Mohr became an ordained priest on August 21, 1815. He was then sent to a town just north of Salzburg called Obendorf. That is where he met a schoolteacher named Franz Xaver Gruber, who would later become the organist at Old Saint Nicholas Church in 1816. They were in a need for a song on Christmas Eve, 1818. Mohr presented Gruber with a poem he had written a few years before, and Gruber quickly put it to music on his guitar (the organ was broken) and that Christmas Eve the first ever audience heard Silent Night. The tempo of that earlier version was faster paced than the one we know today but it was still very popular with the audience and would soon become a song synonymous with Christmas. 

Up next is a 1952 Christmas episode of Roy Rogers' radio show. 

Up next is the C.S. Lewis essay, What Christmas Means to Me.

Now the Reverend Billy Graham with a 1953 Christmas message. 

Luke 2:1-20

1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole empire should be registered. 2 This first registration took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So everyone went to be registered, each to his own town.

4 And Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David, 5 to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was pregnant. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 Then she gave birth to her firstborn Son, and she wrapped Him snugly in cloth and laid Him in a feeding trough—because there was no room for them at the lodging place.

8 In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: 11 Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. 12 This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.”

13 Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:

14 Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace on earth to people He favors!

15 When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

16 They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the feeding trough. 17 After seeing them, they reported the message they were told about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard, just as they had been told.

Matthew 1:18 - 2:12

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

2 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying,“Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

6 “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” 9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

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

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Movie Review: Sing 2


Michael's Movie Grade: B-

This movie doesn't aspire to be anything more than just a fun time and it succeeds quite well at this. 

The main reasons people will want to see this movie are the characters and the musical numbers. Luckily both of these are quite good. One of the reasons the first Sing appealed to so many people is that these characters are so darn likable. While they certainly have their faults, they all simply have very good hearts underneath and truly do endear themselves to us easily. They are just as likable here and a joy to watch. The new characters added to this movie have the same charm. Like the first film, this movie is filled to the brim with musical numbers. The songs used reach over various genres and eras. Though I miss the Bing Crosby type of tunes, Mike the Mouse brought to the first movie, there is still quite a good variety here. Some of these songs are my taste in music while others are personally songs that I don't care for. However, I can't argue that all of these songs are performed extremely well. The story does feel bigger than the first film but retains the unprentious feeling of lighthearted fun throughout and the movie does a good job at making us really care for what is at stake. The humor for the most part may not be laugh out loud funny but will still put a smile on your face. 

On the downside with the sheer amount of musical numbers, not all of the plot points get all the time they should, and some parts of the story can feel a bit rushed because of this. The story itself while charming is very predictable and anyone who has seen a movie before can tell you what is going to happen next.

All in all, this is a charming and fun movie that may be flawed but does what it sets out to do quite well.  

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Movie Review: Nightmare Alley


Michael's Movie Grade: A-

A fantastic modern day film noir that shows director, Guillermo del Toro at his best. 

One could argue that this story did not need to be told again on the big screen after the excellent 1947 film version, but Del Toro's new adaption of William Lindsay Gresham’s novel proves that wrong by being a truly great movie. This story definitely plays perfectly to the strengths of Del Toro as a director, and as soon as the movie starts his stamp is fully felt. Though this movie takes place in 1940's America, it feels like it takes place in a world all of its own. This is especially true of the early scenes in the carnival which has a creepy and disturbing vibe before anything even happens giving the audience and uneasy feeling of dread, perfectly foreshadowing what is going to follow. However, the sense of atmosphere is prevalent even when we leave the carnival. Much of this is due to the excellent work of not only Del Toro but also cinematographer Dan Laustsen (who previously worked with Del Toro on The Shape of Water and Crimson Peak), who does not waste a single shot of this movie. Yet none of this atmosphere overwhelms the story or characters. This story is a dark and disturbing fable that hits hard emotionally. Even if you figure out or already know where this story is going, the ending still sends shivers down your spine. That is because nearly everything in the story is perfectly setting this up and leading you to this natural conclusion. Despite how melodramatic these twists and turns can be looking back on them, when you watch the film, they are completely gripping. This movie also serves as a character study of a man whose greed and cockiness leads him down a dangerous and deadly path. This is not an easy role to play, but Bradley Cooper does an incredible job. He makes this character feel real and relatable. And while the character is in no way traditionally likable, we are fascinated by him and feel a sense of pity towards him that emotionally pulls us into the story. Cooper does all this seeming effortlessly. This is not to say the rest of the cast isn't excellent as well. This film features a wealth of great actors who all do an incredible job. This movie also benefits from incredibly intelligently written dialogue. The scenes our "hero" shares with the movie's femme fatale are so incredibly well written that it is hard not simply have your eyes and ears glued to the screen. 

For any fan of Film-noir, this movie is a must watch. 

Monday, December 20, 2021

Michael's Christmas Movie Guide: Holiday Inn (1942)


A near perfect movie musical comedy. 

Despite the fact that this movie has become a Christmas tradition for so many, Christmas is only one of the holidays featured in this film. The storyline revolves around an inn that is open only on holidays and each holiday features a live show with singing and dancing. This allows us to get 14 musical numbers that feature some of the great musical talents of the early 1940's. Though these songs are about holidays all over the calendar, two have become Christmas classics, White Christmas and Happy Holidays. With this in mind is it any wonder this has become considered a Christmas movie. 

This is the fourth film in which director Mark Sandrich, songwriter Irving Berlin and star Fred Astaire made together. They had previously all worked on the Astaire-Rogers pictures, Top Hat (1935), Follow the Fleet (1936), and Carefree (1938). The idea for this film had its birth with Irving Berlin. Berlin and playwright Moss Hart had had a major hit with the 1933 Broadway musical, As Thousands Cheer. They to follow this up with a musical play based on various holidays. However, this play never came to be. The idea stayed fresh in Berlin's mind though. When in 1941 he ran into Sandrich (who was now working at Paramount), he pitched this idea to the director as a vehicle for Paramount star, Bing Crosby. Sandrich loved the idea, and a story quickly began to take shape. Sandrich decided that the perfect person to play the second male lead was Fred Astaire. Paramount disagreed feeling that they already had one big star with Bing Crosby and the Astaire would cost too much money, However Sandrich was insistent and would get his way. He would tell the press, "I call this picture the A B C of American musical comedy. Astaire, Berlin, Crosby. Get it?" It is worth noting that the two main male stars of this movie would later star in a film with a song from this film as the title song. Bing Crosby would star in White Christmas (1954) and Fred Astaire would star in Easter Parade (1948). Both of those films would also be Irving Berlin songfests.  However, when it came to cast the female leads, the studio would have its way. Big name actresses were discussed for these roles (including Ginger Rogers and Rita Hayworth), but the studio insisted that lesser-known actresses should be used since they were already using Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. Marjorie Renyolds had previously been working in B-westerns and when she got this role the Paramount publicity department dubbed her, "Saddle Cinderella."  Virginia Dale was a nightclub dancer who had only appeared in very tiny movie roles. However, both of them were perfect in their roles and I can't see how bigger stars could have improved upon their performances. 

Everything about this movie works beautifully. The musical numbers are all excellent. As mentioned before Irving Berlin has 14 songs used in this movie and there is not one song that misses the mark. Each musical number is also perfectly suited to the performers. Though White Christmas has been recorded by many artists, none ever come close to what Bing Crosby has done with the song. This song is just so perfectly suited to Bing Crosby's voice that no other singer could ever recapture the magic. Fred Astaire shows his magic in the Let's Say it With Firecrackers dance number. Despite the fact that he required 38 takes to get it just right, it comes off as so effortlessly perfect and natural that you can't help but get caught up in the pure charm of the dance. This is just as much pure magic as Bing Crosby singing White Christmas and something that could never be replicated. Both of their talents come together perfectly for Be Careful, It's My Heart. Bing Crosby is singing the song beautiful and doesn't notice Fred Astaire and Marjorie Renyolds doing an incredible dance behind him. This scene is perfectly choreographed but like the rest of this movie seems effortlessly so. The storyline may be mostly an excuse for the musical numbers, but it is fill of a sense of lighthearted fun that I find irresistible.


The Film Daily, 1942

The movie was not only a smash hit when released but remains just as delightful today. 

For more Michael's Christmas Movie Guide click here.

Resources Used

Christmas In the Movies by Jeremy Arnold

How to Get the Most out of Christmas


Radio and Television Mirror, 1940

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Christmas With the Young Stars


New Movie Magazine, 1932

Cowboy Church #150

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

Today's musical selection begins with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans with A Christmas Prayer. This song comes from their 1969 Christmas album, Christmas is Always. This is followed by The Louvin Brothers with Are You Washed in the Blood. 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. This version of the song comes The Louvin Brothers' 1956 gospel album, Nearer My God to Thee. Next comes Joanne Cash with It is Well With My Soul. Though this is a hymn of hope and peace it was written in a time of great sadness. The song was written by Horatio G. Spafford in 1873. He had planned a European trip for himself, his wife and four daughters, however because of his work he was unable to go, and he let his family go without him and after he finished his work, he would meet them there. However, the ship was hit and quickly sank. Though his wife was saved all four of his daughters had gone down with the ship. Amazingly he wrote this hymn when approaching an area near where his daughters had sunk. Like her brother Johnny Cash, Joanne had spent much time backsliding from God's word before truly giving her life to him. She had been a drug addict and alcoholic. Pastor Greg Laurie's excellent Johnny Cash biography Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon quotes Joanne as saying "After I asked Jesus to come into my heart, I prayed, and I felt this heat come up my body to the end of my fingertips. I knew I was born again I knew I was saved. I knew I was gonna go to Heaven. I knew I would get to see Jack again (her brother who had died at 15 years old in a sawmill accident). I was just elated ... I then started praying for Johnny." Though she may not be as well-known as her big brother, she has spent much time sharing the word of God through her music. This recording comes from her 2008 album simply titled Gospel. This is followed by Red Foley with Put Christ Back into Christmas. This song is interesting today, because many assume saying "Happy Holidays" around this time of year instead of "Merry Christmas" is a rather recent development, but here Red Foley is singing about this in 1953 and he doesn't seem so happy about it. Next is The Petersons with Come Thou Long Expected Jesus. This song was always intended as a Christmas carol since Charles Wesley orinignally wrote it in 1774. He looked at the times he was living in including the situation for orphans and the class divide in Great Britian. After reading Haggi, 2:7, “Born Your people to deliver, born a child and yet a King, born to reign in us forever, now Your gracious kingdom bring. By Your own eternal Spirit, rule in all our hearts alone; by Your all sufficient merit, raise us to Your glorious throne. Amen,” he began to write this hymn. This is not the only Christmas carol Charles Wesley wrote as he also wrote the more famous Hark the Harold Angels Sing and here is Johnny Cash singing that song. Wesley's intentions as a hymnist were to teach the poor and illiterate what God had said. The Sons of the Pioneers join in the fun with Christmas on the Plains. We Continue with Gene Autry singing Everyone's a Child at Christmas. This comes from Gene's 1956 album, A Gene Autry Christmas. Today's musical ends with The Hee Haw Gospel Quartet with His Boundless Love

Up next is an episode of Roy Rogers' radio show.

Next is C.S. Lewis' essay, Religion and Science.

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

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:9-10

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1 

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

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

Psalm 136

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,

for his steadfast love endures forever.

 2  Give thanks to the God of gods,

for his steadfast love endures forever.

 3  Give thanks to the Lord of lords,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

 4  to him who alone does great wonders,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

 5  to him who aby understanding made the heavens,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

 6  to him who spread out the earth above the waters,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

 7  to him who made the great lights,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

 8  the sun to rule over the day,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

 9  the moon and stars to rule over the night,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

 10  to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

 11  and brought Israel out from among them,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

 12  with a strong hand and an outstretched arm,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

 13  to him who divided the Red Sea in two,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

 14  and made Israel pass through the midst of it,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

 15  but koverthrew1 Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

 16  to him who led his people through the wilderness,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

 17  to him who struck down great kings,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

 18  and killed mighty kings,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

 19  Sihon, king of the Amorites,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

 20  and O, king of Bashan,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

 21  and gave their land as a heritage,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

 22  a heritage to Israel his servant,

for his steadfast love endures forever.

 23  It is he who remembered us in our low estate,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

 24  and rescued us from our foes,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

 25  he who gives food to all flesh,

for his steadfast love endures forever.

 26  Give thanks to the God of heaven,

for his steadfast love endures forever.


Thanks for joining me, come back Christmas Eve for a special Christmas Eve service of Cowboy Church. Happy trails to you until we meet again. 

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Is There a Santa Claus?


Radio and Television Mirror, 1950 

Some Cartoons For Saturday Morning #153

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

Today's cartoon selection begins with a classic Donald Duck film, Toy Tinkers (1949). This movie features Donald once again going up against Chip and Dale. This film is directed by Jack Hannah, who at this time was directing the majority of the Donald Duck cartoons. When Chip and Dale had their very short-lived series of shorts, Jack Hannah directed all three cartoons in that series. This cartoon is laugh out loud funny. The slapstick is spot on and timed perfectly. Every joke works and they are all very funny. The humor is also displayed perfectly through the great character animation one should expect form a Disney cartoon. While Disney cartoons are often called sweet and cute in contrast to the hilarious antics at studios like Warner Brothers and MGM, the Disney studio could make slapstick cartoons as great as the rest of them (this is not an insult to Warner Brothers and MGM as I love there cartoons a lot as well). This stands as one of Disney's funniest shorts (a joke involving a telephone never fails to make me laugh out loud).

Next comes a wonderful Color Rhapsody Christmas cartoon, Gifts from the Air (1937). This movie was reissued to theaters in 1955.

The Philadelphia Exhibitor, 1935

Next up comes Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck on The Dognapper (1934). According to Animation Historian Mike Barrier, Dick Lundy (who had previously animated Donald's famous tantrum in Orphan's Benefit (1934)) was specifically sought to animate one scene in this movie. That scene is when Donald runs after Mickey's motorcycle. Other animators on this cartoon include Marvin Woodward (who animates our heroes listening to the radio at the start), Hardie Gramatky (who animates most of the car chase as well as the saw chasing Pete up the ladder)Johnny Cannon (who animates the boys entering the sawmill as well as our heroes dodging Pete's bullets), Gerry Geronimi (who animates Pete chasing Fifi as well as Pete shooting at our heroes), Bob Wickersham (who animates the closing scenes of the picture) and  Bill Roberts (who animates everything from Pete grabbing the cannon to Pete jumping up on a log to avoid the saw). The following is from an issue of The Film Daily (dated November 9, 1934), "'The Dognapper,' latest Walt Disney Mickey Mouse cartoon, will have its premiere at the Rivoli tomorrow in conjunction with Eddie Cantor's 'Kid Millions,' both released through United Artists." 

Screenland, 1935

Next is one of the last black and white Looney Tunes and Daffy Duck's last appearance in black and white. This is a fantastic Daffy Duck World War 2 themed short. This film is directed by Frank Tashlin. While directing these cartoons Frank had his mind on wanting to direct live action features (which he later did). Because of this his cartoons are the most cinematic of all the Looney Tunes. This is definitely shown here in a montage that is as well done as anything you would see in a serious war picture. This film is also filled with not only great slapstick but some of the sharpest satire of any of the World War 2 Looney Tunes. This cartoon appears in Jerry Beck's book, The 100 Greatest Looney Tunes. So, enjoy, Scrap Happy Daffy (1943). 

Now it is time for a commercial break.

Next comes the 11th Dogfather film, Rockhounds (1975). 

Up next is Farmer Al Falfa in Plane Goofy (1940). Farmer Al Falfa is a cartoon character who dated back to 1915. Though he had once been the star of the Terry-Toons, by this time he was appearing rather infrequently and often in supporting roles. This is one of his semi-rare starring roles of this period. The following is an Exhibitor's review from The Motion Picture Herald, "Plane Goofy: Terry-Toons - This is a fairly good color cartoon that gets away from the beaten path to some extent. - W. Varrick, Nevins III, Alfred Co-op Theatre, Alfred, N.Y. Small town and rural patronage." 

Up next is Felix the Cat in All Puzzled (1924). 

Today's cartoon selection ends with the TV Special, A Garfield Christmas Special (1987). 

Thanks for joining me. Comeback next week for another selection of classic cartoons. Until then may all your tunes be looney and your melodies merry. 

Resources Used

Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse: The Ultimate History by J.B. Kaufman and David Gerstein

The 100 Greatest Looney Tunes edited by Jerry Beck