Large Association of Movie Blogs
Large Association of Movie Blogs

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Happy Thanksgiving 2021 from Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog


While much missing those friends and family members who are no longer with us, we are nonetheless preparing to enjoy a delicious turkey dinner later today!


There will be two video selections for 2021 Turkey Day that originally appeared on NBC's Saturday Night Live way back when. First is a Thanksgiving sketch from the SNL show hosted by Pee-Wee Herman, which originally aired on November 23, 1985 - and, indeed, this blogger taped it on the ol' reliable VHS recorder!



It's the third show of the generally spotty Season 11.



Love the sketch co-starring Jon Lovitz' inimitable Tommy Flannagan a.k.a. "The Liar." Both worked together in The Groundlings, as did future cornerstone of SNL Phil Hartman.



The Pee-Wee Herman SNL, in the opinion of the sketch comedy nuts at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog, remains tied with the excellent episode featuring George Wendt and Francis Ford Coppolla as hosts (in which, as a running gag, Coppola takes over the direction of the show) as the favorite from the 1985-1986 season. Here's SNL meets Pee-Wee, in its entirety - enjoy!



To some degree the Season 11 cast was not necessarily all that well-suited to Saturday Night Live back in 1985, in large part due to the constrictions of the program itself. This would subsequently be confirmed by the non-prototypical performance of Robert Downey Jr. as most non-prototypical superhero Iron Man, any Damon Wayans sketch from In Living Color and all stage, screen and TV presentations featuring Joan Cusack and Obie Award winner Danitra Vance (1954-1994). Squeezing these expansive talents into the fairly rigid parameters and format of SNL turned out to be problematic.

Nonetheless, there was no shortage of talent both in front of behind the cameras and on the writing staff in this season noted for the return of Lorne Michaels.



Much of the 1985-1986 season's cast made their mark after leaving SNL, while others would return for Season 12 and be involved in the series' late 1980's - early 1990's resurgence. For more, check out the SNL Review Index from Nova Scotia writer/photographer Bronwyn Douwsma's Existentialist Weightlifting website.


The second Happy Thanksgiving video selection, Wally Ballou Interviews a Cranberry Grower in Times Square, features a comedy team beloved by Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog and KFJC's Norman Bates Memorial Soundtrack Show, "the two and only," Bob & Ray.



This was from a special produced by the SNL crew and featuring the comediennes from the cast. It aired on NBC in the Saturday Night Live 11:30 - 1:00 a.m. time slot.



This was not the only time the team was slated to make an appearance in the late-night comedy universe. In a 1980 pilot, From Cleveland, Bob & Ray are deejays in their own radio station and introduce sketches starring Eugene Levy, Catherine O Hara, Andrea Martin and Dave Thomas from SCTV. This would appear to have been shot in the break between season 2 and season 3 of SCTV, after Global dropped the series and before ITV picked it up.



Tomorrow morning, shall drink a pot of coffee and enjoy the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. We'd like Mr. and Mrs. Patton Oswalt to host - that would be great!



Strongly suggest avoiding family discussions, especially those involving current events, and either binge-watching football, talking baseball Hot Stove League or doing the following instead.



We wish all a happy and safe Thanksgiving!


Thursday, November 18, 2021

This Saturday: 16mm Cartoons Take Manhattan



This blog has frequently plugged vintage film screenings over its 14 year run - and this blogger has been feeling as diminished (or half-diminished) as a Joe Pass guitar chord since lockdown began and fun nights “at the movies” stopped.


While this is definitely a First World problem, the loss of movie fun with friends is just one of a myriad of reasons why 2020-2021 has been a very difficult couple of years. It would be an understatement to note that the guy who writes this blog, having curated DIY film shows and schlepped 16mm projectors and boxes of reels to various venues his entire semi-adult life, misses running movies for an audience more than he could ever express.

Now, at long last, it looks - knock on wood - like actual film screenings with actual audiences are starting to return. There will be an excellent matinee of classic cartoons at New York City's Metrograph on Saturday, while other classic movie programs are re-emerging ever so tentatively around the country.



The 2021 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival in Palm Springs, CA, curated by author, showman, scholar and film historian Alan K. Rode, returned with its customary terrific cinematic lineup a few weeks ago. This gives this noirista hope for a Noir City Film Festival at San Francisco's Castro Theatre sometime in 2022.



Accompanist and ambassador for silent movies Ben Model is back doing silent film screenings and Steve Massa, his collaborator in The Silent Comedy Watch Party (nothing less than a beacon and absolutely indispensable throughout those many months of lockdown) will be shortly as well. This is great news for silent film aficionados. For more info, see Ben’s website and the Silent Comedy Watch Party shows on YouTube.


Silent Comedy Watch Party logo by Marlene Weisman



As far as animation goes, we at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog feel strongly that any post which mentions cartoonologists Tommy José Stathes, Steve Stanchfield, Mark Kausler, Jerry Beck, Greg Ford, Keith Scott and Michael Barrier is all right by us! All are on the short list of historians who made outstanding contributions to film and animation history.



So, it pleases us that Tommy will be back on Saturday with a program of classic 1920's and 1930s cartoons, rare 16mm prints of early animated films from his collection.



The 60 minute program shall be followed by a Q&A.



The show, Metrograph on 7 Ludlow Street in NYC. Showtime is noon.



Space is limited. Since the October animation screening at Metrograph sold out darn near immediately after tickets first went on sale,move quickly and buy advance tickets if you plan to attend Saturday's matinee.



My cohorts in the KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival would agree that it’s all about the audience and the laughter, and hearing an SRO crowd have a blast from the past.



Do we wish we had a Star Trek teleportation device so it would be possible to watch cartoons and hang out with Tommy and the East Coast animation dudes and dudettes - and also time-travel to Palm Springs four weeks ago and take in a delicious double dose of film noir? Absolutely.



And, if one can't be at NYC and sing “I’ll Take Manhattan” with the likes of Felix the Cat, Betty Boop, Popeye, Porky Pig, and Koko the Clown on Saturday afternoon, there will be online events presented by the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum this weekend.



Let us hope that there will NOT be a forthcoming coronavirus variant 5.0 that sends us back into lockdown indefinitely. The celluloid-crazed at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog miss going to such incredible movie palace venues as the Castro Theatre and the Stanford Theatre for big screen fun - and really miss doing 16mm Psychotronix Film Festival extravaganzas at Foothill College tremendously.

Logo by Judy Zillen

Sunday, November 14, 2021

And This Blog Loves Dick Powell (and Dick Fowl)


Today, we celebrate the natal anniversary of the great Dick Powell, born November 14, 1904.


In a career both in front of and behind the cameras, Dick Powell excelled in movies, TV and, with the Richard Diamond, Private Detective series, radio. First became aware of Powell via his starring roles in a slew of 1930's Warner Bros. musicals, starting with 42nd Street.





These vehicles for musical stars Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, Joan Blondell, the occasional WB leading man (Jimmy Cagney, Warren William) and a host of memorable character actors (Aline MacMahon, Ruth Donnelly, Ned Sparks, Guy Kibbee, Frank McHugh, Hugh Herbert) would be shown frequently on TV back in the 1970's, causing viewers' jaws to drop precipitously upon watching the mind-blowing production numbers concocted by genius/madman Busby Berkeley.



Gold Diggers Of 1933, the followup to the wildly popular 42nd Street, exemplifies the phrase pre-Code and is featured on this Trailers From Hell video.





One of this writer's favorite Busby Berkeley spectaculars from DAMES is the I Only Have Eyes For You number.



The ultimate silver screen tribute to Dick Powell is that he got caricatured in animated cartoons.



Said caricature of Dick Powell gets a "Buzzard Berkelee" musical number in the 1938 Merrie Melodie cartoon, A Star Is Hatched, directed by Friz Freleng.



A host of Hollywood star caricatures populate A Star Is Hatched, especially starting at 3:20.



Arguably, Dick Powell's crowning achievement in his stretch as Warner Brothers cornerstone would be the infamous CONVENTION CITY, still (amazingly) a lost film, which we hope turns up and turns out to be even more scandalous and risque than imagined.



Even more than his performances in classic musicals, we love Dick Powell's contributions to film noir, starting as a very unconventional Phillip Marlowe in Murder My Sweet.



He co-stars with Evelyn Keyes in Johnny O' Clock, written and directed by Robert Rossen.



Pitfall is a prime example of that film noir sub-genre, "don't mess with Lizabeth Scott."



We thank the Film Noir Foundation big time for restoring Cry Danger.



Starring Kirk Douglas as an extrenely ruthless but highly effective film producer, The Bad And The Beautiful, directed with panache by Vincente Minnelli, is a fascinating look at the making of movies and an all-time favorite classic film of the gang at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog. Dick Powell and Gloria Grahame are outstanding in juicy supporting roles.



In Susan Slept Here, directed by Frank Tashlin, he excelled at comedy and co-starred with Debbie Reynolds.



Thanks to YouTube, one can watch his extensive work in television through the 1950's and early 1960's, including Zane Grey Theatre, Four Star Playhouse and his own series, The Dick Powell Theatre.

Finishing this tribute, we note that the king of 1930's Warner Brothers musicals and (after Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan, John Garfield and Bogey) film noir even waxed an album, The Dick Powell Song Book, in 1958. Will listen to it now, raise a toast to Mr. Powell and wish everyone a Happy Sunday!


Saturday, November 06, 2021

And This Blog Loves Švankmajer, Selick, Starewicz - and The Brothers Quay


On the topic of stop-motion filmmakers, Aardman Animations, George Pal, Joop Geesink, Charley Bowers, Willis O' Brien, Ray Harryhausen and Emile Cohl have all to some extent been covered here, although words frequently escape this writer to begin to describe their blazing genius. In all these years of blogging, one stop-motion master we somehow haven't covered is Czech filmmaker Jan Švankmajer, stop-motion animation's answer to the surrealists.








The Quay Brothers are so much the artistic and spiritual descendents of Švankmajer (and the surrealists) that they produced a homage titled The Cabinet of Jan Švankmajer.

Like the Jan Švankmajer films, this could be seen as a homage to Salvador Dali, Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp.





And, speaking of artistic and spiritual descendents, both Jan Švankmajer and the Quay brothers would very likely mention that among their key inspirations in the stop-motion field was the one, the only Wladislaw Starewicz.



A.K.A. Ladislaw Starewicz, Ladislas Starevitch, Ladislaw Starevitch and Ladislaw Starewitch, he created astonishing works and could be considered in a three-way tie with Cohl and Bowers as the most innovative of the early stop-motion animators.





While Starewicz films can be difficult to find on Blu-ray and DVD, the following DVD can still be ordered via Amazon.com. This Starewicz compilation is an astonishing compendium of stop-motion brilliance.



The Mascot packs more startling imagery into its 33 minute length than can be found in 140 minute feature films.



Another stop-motion master is the great filmmaker Henry Selick, responsible for several of our favorite movies.


First became aware of his work via a couple of independent short subjects featured in Tournee of Animation programs back in the late 1980's - early 1990's.



A year or two later, was utterly bowled over by the first feature film packed with Henry Selick's signature stop-motion, The Nightmare Before Christmas.



The Nightmare Before Christmas was followed by another compelling and enjoyable feature, James & The Giant Peach. Both were in many respects departures for Disney at that point riding high from Beauty and The Beast and Aladdin.





The 2009 film Coraline, preferably seen at the movies in glorious 70mm (or 35mm), or at least on Blu-ray on a big screen HDTV, is a particularly outstanding synthesis of stop-motion animation and CGI.







Read about a Henry Selick feature titled The Shadow King, which Disney and Laika opted not to release and eventually would be distributed by K5 International. Don't know the "who what when where why" behind just what happened with the film - or how accurate the following video is regarding what happened. Since Henry Selick specializes in unorthodox, unusual and unconventionally beautiful films which do not fall into formula or practice "sequel-itis," it's clear how difficulties with studios and distributors could occur.



Never saw The Shadow King, but the clips look good. . .




There will soon be a new Selick film, Wendell and Wild, featuring voice work by Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key, two actors comedy geeks know quite well from their very funny and appropriately named television series Key and Peele (and, before that, Mad TV).



We at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog await this eagerly and shortly shall give a listen to the latest and greatest Maltin On Movies podcast, in which the guests are his fellow animation and film history experts Jerry Beck and Mark Evanier.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Tomorrow is Halloween 2021 - Happy Halloween!



Alas, the gang at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog has not found a pristine 35mm nitrate negative of Tod Browning's London After Midnight in a cave or basement somewhere, but we will wish all a Happy Halloween nonetheless!



We'll kick today's Halloween-themed post off with a few cartoons.



Here's one of those indescribable Van Beuren Studio entries from the "Aesop's Fables" series. Starts with a fantasy about finding a pot of gold over the rainbow and then veers off into a netherworld, including demons and apparitions among the patented bizarre imagery the Van Beuren and Fleischer animators were so skilled at creating.



Didn't know there was such a thing as horny fossils until seeing this 1932 Betty Boop epic. I don't get it. They're fossils. . . THEY'RE DEAD!



Ace animator Ub Iwerks produced Skeleton Frolic among a series of cartoons his studio sub-contracted to Columbia Pictures from 1936-1940. It is a followup of sorts to the groundbreaking 1929 Walt Disney Silly Symphony cartoon The Skeleton Dance, but realized in the prevalent animation style of the mid-1930's.



Skeleton Frolic is very enjoyably spooky and a fine example of Technicolor cartoonmaking. Love the musical element, presumably provided by Eddie Kilfeather, as well as the super-cool backgrounds throughout. Not sure who animated it; Ub himself, fastest animator in the West and Walt Disney's not-so-secret weapon in the 1920's, did the honors on much of the Silly Symphony cartoon. Could that be Irv Spence's lively, distinctive and imaginative animation on the skeleton orchestra sequence?

It's likely the experts, from Mark Kausler to Devon Baxter, have an answer for that question. IIRC, by the time Skeleton Frolic was produced in late 1936 - early 1937 as the second Iwerks Studio contribution to the Columbia Color Rhapsody series, top animators Grim Natwick, Berny Wolf and Shamus Culhane had long since left to join the Walt Disney Studio.



At this point, we at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog down a pint of pumpkin spice ale and two or three pumpkin spice double cappucchinos and enjoy the entertainment.



Photo by Christopher Walters



Can't decide between The Bride Of Frankenstein and Young Frankenstein as my Halloween choice.



Will have no choice but to watch both. Again.



Nothing says scary quite like The Paul Lynde Halloween Special (1976), co-starring none other than the great Margaret Hamilton.



We at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog watch it every year without fail!



Now it's time for some trailers from terrible movies!







And, unquestionably, it wouldn't be Halloween without a judicious selection of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 and Creature Features TV show openings!







Seems we always finish the annual Happy Halloween post with a slew of references to the 1948 Universal Pictures feature Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein and its various followups. Since the gang here remains resolutely Way Too Lazy To Write A Blog, we'll do it again. . . Happy Halloween!










Saturday, October 23, 2021

Cartoon Carnival Tomorrow and Much Ado About B-Studio Cartoons



When the topic is animated cartoons from 1920-1960, this blog gets exponentially more views, so today's topics, the merry mannequin heads sing harmoniously, will be the return of vintage silent and early sound era animation on glorious 16mm to NYC in the Cartoon Carnival series and, inevitably as death and taxes, B-studio cartoons of 1930-1933.



Cartoon Carnival 98: Scary Town shall hail forth with plenty of Halloween-themed animated goodness at Rubulad in Bushwick, Brooklyn, tomorrow, Sunday 10/24/21, at 3pm and 6pm.



Act quickly, as both shows are close to selling out. Go here for tickets and info.


Wanted to write a post for today titled Much Ado About B-Studio Cartoons and then realized . . . "hey wait a minute, I wrote that post already - it was titled The Cartoons Nobody Loved." Cartoons by Ub Iwerks, Charles Mintz-Screen Gems /Columbia, Lantz/Universal, Van Beuren/RKO, Terrytoons and Ted Eshbaugh were all represented. Come to think of it, we have posted ALL the Ted Eshbaugh studio cartoons! Didn't get to the comics artist turned independent animator who made the indescribable Simon the Monk in Monkeydoodle and The Hobo Hero, but Steve Stanchfield did in his 2013 article The Genius Of Les Elton, and Charlie Judkins wrote a post about Les Elton for his Early NY Animators blog.

Are there ANY B-studio cartoons of 1930-1933 we haven't posted on Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog before? Well, not many, but here are a few. . .



Wrote about OSWALD THE LUCKY RABBIT - THE HASH SHOP in one of the very first posts on this blog back in 2006. Read about it but had never seen it then. Since that day 15 years and four or five lifetimes ago, somebody posted THE HASH SHOP among a slew of wonderfully weird Ozzie cartoons on YouTube. This is great because THE HASH SHOP is not on the new Walter Lantz Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection Blu-ray.



Representing our favorite, the Fleischer Studios, is a Talkartoon penned by none other than the great Ted Sears, THE MALE MAN



Van Beuren’s Tom & Jerry have been a staple of Thunderbean Thursdays, with Rabid Hunters and Polar Pals particularly funny posts. Here’s a Van Beuren studio Tom & Jerry opus, JOINT WIPERS, that cracks me up. Lo and behold, it has not been posted on Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog before!



Forgot if the following Sentinel Louey cartoons was ever posted here. Looks like the distinctive work of Jim Tyer!



Sentinel Louey is the stylistic predecessor of Van Beuren's Little King cartoons.



And then there is the Charles Mintz Studio. . .



At the dawn of the sound era, the Mintz Krazy Kat series was already up and running, aided somewhat by the winding down of Otto Messmer's Felix The Cat series as personal problems and years of hard partying overtook Felix producer-marketer Pat Sullivan.



Some titles from that first season of talkie Krazy Kat cartoons are routine and primitive, but others are quite amazing and as good as anything emerging from Disney and Fleischer at that time.



In such cartoons as the gangster flick sendup TAKEN FOR A RIDE, the wildness of ideas and unfettered imagination reign supreme (note: this print is fuzzy and incomplete, but gives a taste of how delirious "rubber hose" animation can be nonetheless).



In 1931, the Dick Huemer, Sid Marcus and Art Davis production unit at the Mintz Studio began the Scrappy series, the closest thing to a West Coast version of Fleischer-style cartooning, and created quite a few very funny and inspired cartoons through 1933.



We are glad that a print exists of the "goodbye and good riddance, Prohibition" epic THE BEER PARADE.



Another great classic cartoon by the Huemer-Marcus-Davis crew on flaunting Prohibition is FARE PLAY, which is also a quintessential example of the "medicine shows gone wrong, very wrong" genre, along with such cartoons as the Fleischer masterpiece BETTY BOOP, M.D.



Enjoy - and if you happen to be at Rubulad tomorrow attending Cartoon Carnival - have a blast! And, to support future Cartoon Carnivals, there is a 16mm Cartoon Carnival Recovery Fund. We close by thanking Jerry Beck of Cartoon Research and Steve Stanchfield for much of the animated goodness on today's post, and keeping the interest in these imaginative films alive.