Monday, May 05, 2008

Where's Donald Duck?

Mostly short films for me this week.

More Looney Tunes from The Golden Collection, Volume 5, disc 2: Fun-Filled Fairy Tales

135. Bewitched Bunny (1954, directed by Chuck Jones). Hansel? HAN-sel?
136. Paying the Piper (1949, directed by Robert McKimson). The cats of Hamelin are a little irked at Pied Piper Porky for putting them out of work. Droll, even with all the slapstick.
137. The Bear's Tale (1940, directed by Tex Avery). Fun mash-up of Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Bears.
138. Foney Fables (1942, directed by Friz Freling). A black-out cartoon featuring vignettes from Aesop.
139. Goldimouse and the Three Cats (1960, directed by Friz Freling). Pretty good late cartoon with Sylvester and Son. Sylvester's offspring was, perhaps, his best foil.
140. Holiday for Shoestrings (1946, directed by Friz Freling). Elves. Shoemaker. The potential for scathing social satire in the hands of a less conservative director. Still not bad.
141. Little Red Rodent Hood (1952, directed by Friz Freling). Another transposition. The Warners loved Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Bears almost to the exclusion of other stories. Pretty good mid-period Freling.
142. Little Red Walking Hood (1937, directed by Tex Avery). A precursor to Avery's later dabblings in sexualized fairy tale.
143. Red Riding Hoodwinked (1955, directed by Friz Freling). Sylvester and Tweety parallel the main story of Red and Grandma. Fun.
144. The Trial of Mr. Wolf (1941, directed by Friz Freling). The familiar tale told from the point of view of the wolf to a jury of his peers. Dig Grandma's sinister profession. One of Freling's best.
145. The Turn-Tale Wolf (1952, directed by Robert McKimson). Another familiar tale from the Wolf's perspective. This time it's the Three Little Pigs, and damned if they ain't a trio of evil bastards.
146. Tom Thumb in Trouble (1940, directed by Chuck Jones). Jones was still in his "cute" phase for this one.
147. Tweety and the Beanstalk (1957, directed by Friz Freling). "Fe Fi Fo Fat, I tawt I taw a putty tat."
148. A Gander at Mother Goose (1940, directed by Tex Avery). A series of short gags. Not Avery at his best.
149. Señorella and the Glass Huarache (1964, directed by Hawley Pratt). In feel, this is a Speedy Gonzales cartoon, only without Speedy. An ethnic reworking of Cinderella. Meh.

Interesting to note the relative absence of Chuck Jones on this disc (only two shorts). Conversly, Friz Freling is all over this one (and the Pratt short at the end is Freling by proxy).

Also, I waded into the Norman McClaren Masters Edition, disc one:

150. 7 til 5 (1933)
151. A Little Phantasy on a 19th-century Painting (1946)
152. A Phantasy (1952)
153. Blinkity Blank (1955)
154. Book Bargain (1937)
155. Camera Makes Whoopee (1935)
156. C'est l'aviron (1944)
157. Là-haut sur ces montagnes (1946)
158. Love on the Wing (1939)
159. Mony a Pickle (1938)
160. News for the Navy (1937)
161. The Obedient Flame (1939)
162. La Poulette grise (1947)
163. Spheres (1969)

These films are either experimental films or short documentaries commissioned by the British Postal system. The documentaries are fascinating for their detail, occasionally enhanced by animation or slow motion photography. The experimental films, on the other hand, are all over the place in terms of style. McClaren's live action films--at least the ones on this disc--recall Dziga Vertov, while there is no single defining style to the animated films. Many of these are executed with lap-dissolving pastel drawings, occasionally placed on a multi-plane apparatus through which the camera zooms. Sometimes, the the drawing is done on the film itself, without benefit of camera. Sometimes, the intent is to illustrate the folk songs of Quebec. Sometimes the intent is a kind of moving painting. The range from representation to complete non-representation is wide in these films. McLaren's branch of filmmaking is to cinema as a whole as theoretical physics is to science. Leave it to the engineers to find practical applications. It's beautiful in and of itself in the abstract. For the record, I think my favorite among this first batch--the set has 7 discs of this stuff--is probably "Blinkety Blank," which stands out like a fireworks display on the fourth of July.


164. The Dirty Dozen (1967, directed by Robert Aldrich), because after several weeks of doing foreign films and experimental shorts, I wanted something without subtitles. In fact, I wanted something that blows shit up real good. Fortunately, this is chock full of fun characters, including Lee Marvin at his most Lee Marvin-ish, John Cassavetes earning the scratch for his own experiments, Charles Bronson as a bad-ass, and a whole bunch of other interesting faces. It sure is satisfying to see Telly Savalas get his at the end of this movie. Nasty character he plays here. It's odd to see a movie about instilling discipline remain so resolutely anti-authority, but that's Robert Aldrich for you.

165. I'll probably have more to say about Iron Man (2008, directed by Jon Favreau) when I write my review for my web site (I want to see it again before then, which is in itself a compliment). For the present, though, it should suffice to say that it's a terrific popcorn movie, and I mean that as a high compliment, because so many popcorn movies are crap even as junk food. I found myself watching with a certain amount of glee, a lot like the glee the 12 year old me derived from the movies that made me a film fan (and a comic book reader) in the first place. The casting is note perfect. I doubt the movie would work at all without Robert Downey, Jr. in the lead as Tony Stark, which bodes well for the future. The Iron Man of the comics has no Moriarty of his own, no Joker or Green Goblin. His most persistent enemy is himself and, of course, the best stories are those that explore the human heart in conflict with itself. Downey is a great fit for this kind of character arc. Oddly enough, this is the funniest movie I've seen in a while. In a lot of ways, this is a romantic comedy, though not the kind you see these days. It's more akin to the screwball comedies of the 40s than the chick flicks of today. It helps that it blows shit up real good, too, but it's entertaining even when it doesn't.

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