Large Association of Movie Blogs
Large Association of Movie Blogs

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Tomorrow Night: Cartoons in Brooklyn!

Friday night at 389 Melrose Street in Brooklyn, NY, the final Cartoon Carnival screening of the summer presents nearly two hours of early silent rarities and 1930s classics.

This is show #82 in the Cartoon Carnival series of screenings, featuring animation rarities on glorious 16mm film, curated by Tommy Stathes.

Friday night's program pays tribute to cartoons featuring the sawdust and spectacle of the big top. Mr. Stathes, producer of the Cartoon Roots DVDS which has brought animation rarities to Blu-Ray and DVD, elaborates:

"while I normally don’t publish Cartoon Carnival set lists in advance, I thought I’d share one of my favorite early 1930s circus and clown cartoons. . .This early Van Beuren short is something I grew up watching—and loving—as a toddler on one of those cheap-o public domain VHS collections, where it was actually being passed off as a Mickey Mouse cartoon. I wasn’t complaining then, and I’m still not complaining now."

Cartoon Carnival 82: Clown Town features Betty Boop, Koko the Clown, Felix the Cat, Bobby Bumps, and other cartoon favorites on the big screen, as they were intended to be seen, with an audience ready to laugh. This, in addition to the epic Labor Day weekend Cinecon film festival in Hollywood, will give classic movie buffs on both coasts an opportunity to get together, have fun and see some great vintage entertainment.

Brooklyn will not outdone by this program, as silent comedy export Nelson Hughes returns to Astoria with That Slapstick Show on September 15. The borough will be filled with classic movies, cartoons and laughs!

Friday, August 23, 2019

This Weekend in San Francisco: Godzillafest 2019

As of 5:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time on August 23, 2019, Godzillafest is back, bombarding San Francisco's Balboa Theatre with three days of big screen fun.

That means 12 classic Godzilla movies on two screens!

Kicking off the festivities will be Frankenstein Conquers The World and War Of The Gargantuas.

Also on Saturday's bill: Godzilla Vs. Megalon, Godzilla Vs. Mechagodzilla, Terror Of Mechagodzilla, Son Of Godzilla and Destroy All Monsters.

There will also be two of my all-time favorites in the genre, Godzilla Vs. Monster Zero and Godzilla Vs. Mothra.

Special guests will include Michael Dougherty, who will m.c. a special screening of the latest in the incorrigible fire-breathing Thunder Lizard's saga, Godzilla King of the Monsters, on Saturday night.

Hosting on both Friday and Saturday Night: Lord Blood-Rah of Lord Blood-Rah's Nerve Wrackin' Theatre and Creatures-Con.

Megalon and Mechagodzilla get the thunder lizard spotlight as the festival progresses and Sunday's lineup will include Ghidorah The Three Headed Monster!

The Balboa Theatre is located on 3630 Balboa Street, between 37th and 38th Avenues, in San Francisco's Outer Richmond district. For more info, go to the Bay Area Film Events website.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Rockabillies, "Guitar Men" and Singing Cowboys in Cartoons and Movies

The last two posts were about guitarists, so this one will attempt to follow the six string into movies.

Funny, very few movies with "guitar" featured prominently in the title actually show someone playing one, as Jerry Reed does beautifully here.

In Nicholas Ray's indescribable and gender-bending Trucolor western Johnny Guitar, the guitar is emblematic of the character portrayed by Sterling Hayden - and we really want to see him rock out on that axe he's been lugging around.

Of course, if there was an axe in Johnny Guitar, either Joan Crawford or Mercedes McCambridge would plant it in your forehead.

We'll kick this pickin' post off with a couple of cartoons from the Tom & Jerry series created by the production unit led by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera. When it comes to cartoons prominently featuring country-western pickers, Pecos Pest is the Tom & Jerry cartoon that immediately comes to mind. Was it Hanna, Barbera or animators Irv Spence, Ken Muse, Ed Barge and Ray Patterson who were the guitar player and/or country-western music and singing cowboy enthusiasts in that MGM cartoon studio crew?

A key running joke in the Tom & Jerry series involves Jerry Mouse interfering with Tom's best efforts at wooing the gals. In Solid Serenade, Tom plays the upright bass and sings Louis Jordan (the r&b/swing guy of Tympani 5 fame, not the star of Gigi) tunes. Tom doesn't succeed in that cartoon or in the following one. The question is, what country-western star of the day is Tom impersonating in Texas Tom?

One would think numerous jokes about guitar-playing could be found in classic cartoons, but most often this entails only a few seconds of screen time, as is the case with the musical Tex Avery cartoon The Magical Maestro or Bugs Bunny whipping out an acoustic guitar for a single gag in the classic cartoon Slick Hare, directed by Friz Freleng.

A later classic from Friz Freleng and his crew at Warner Brothers, The Three Little Bops, made in 1957, features music by Shorty Baker and story/voice work by Stan Freberg - and, naturally, a brief guitar solo is offered by one of the porcine multi-instrumentalist hipsters who play everything.

Many musical acts appeared in one-reelers such as the Lee Deforest Phonofilms, Vitaphone Varieties and Fox Movietone Musicals in the early years of talkies.

Arguably the first string-meister to whip out a guitar in movies was Roy Smeck, the "Wizard Of The Strings," who made cinematic and sound waves with his Hawaiian guitar in several Vitaphone Varieties, beginning in 1926.

Columbia Pictures made a memorable musical short subject starring country-western star Jimmie Rodgers, a.k.a. The Singing Brakeman.

The first popular guitarist to be seen in feature films was the great Eddie Lang (1902-1933). The guitarist's segment with violinist Joe Venuti in Universal's epic early talkie musical King Of Jazz is still pretty darn astonishing almost 90 years later.

Eddie has some great tunes in The Big Broadcast with songstress Ruth Etting and, soon to be the biggest musical act in show business, Bing Crosby.

Even more stunning than Eddie Lang appearing in movies: a major Paramount Pictures star, Mae West, seen strumming a guitar in Klondike Annie. It doesn't look like Mae is actually playing those tasty single-note lines and chords - there's another guitarist offscreen - but the song and her vocal sound great. Makes one wish she accompanied herself on a musical instrument in more of her movies; after all, Mae mastered everything she tried.

Not long after Bing Crosby and Mae West became movie stars at Paramount in the early 1930's, the phenomenon of the singing cowboys hit the silver screen. Gene Autry was first, soon followed by Roy Rogers, not the current slide guitar ace but the movies' King Of The Cowboys.

A certain young man from Tupelo was a big fan of the singing cowboys and their music - Elvis Aaron Presley.

Of the many feature films Elvis Presley starred in - and he sings and dances in every one - there are few in which he actually plays the guitar, as he does so often in his TV appearances.

Elvis delivers vocal and guitar heroics - while looking great in a suit - in Viva Las Vegas (co-starring with the always formidable Ann-Margret).

Elvis gives us a bit of guitar as well in arguably his best feature film, King Creole, directed by none other than Michael Curtiz.

Elvis also rocks out on the acoustic guitar in G.I. Blues.

Presley's rockabilly contemporaries Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran beat Elvis to the punch, rocking out (as did Little Richard) in The Girl Can't Help It, an amazing musical time capsule and satire of 1950's mores and pop culture directed by Frank Tashlin.

Back to the singing cowboys, Roy Rogers was the rare movie star who could ride, rope, do stunts, sing and play the guitar!

Long after his silver screen and TV careers ended, Roy, along with his intrepid wife and co-star Dale Evans and the never surpassed Badass of the Movie Steeds, Trigger, would wow the crowds at rodeos, county fairs and western movie festivals coast to coast. Both singing cowboys appeared on Late Night With David Letterman (NBC version). Roy, fittingly, finished off his guest appearance with a rendition of "Happy Trails."

Happy Trails to all of you from Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog!

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Sunday String Swing

Continuing the thread from the last post, as the following caricature of Django Reinhardt from The Triplets Of Belleville illustrates, we're talking guitarists.

As titled, today's post is devoted to "string swing" - and Django's batting leadoff with some Swing 39.

After Swing 39, it's time for some Swing 42!

Guitar virtuoso Hank Marvin made history, going back to the 1950's days of skiffle, backing British pop star Cliff Richard and personifying classic rock n' roll with his band The Shadows and subsequent groups. The versatile guitarist, 77 and still performing, also plays killer gypsy jazz. He has blazed trails on the guitar in the 20th and 21st centuries.

A guitarist much influenced by Hank Marvin & The Shadows, Tommy Emmanuel, made an appearance in last Sunday's post on jazz-classical guitar genius Lenny Breau, so here he is, with fellow string-meisters Richard Smith and Jim Nichols at the Chet Atkins convention in The Land Of Chet Atkins, Nashville.

Are here's Tommy with frequent collaborator - they made a terrific album together titled The Colonel & The Governor - Martin Taylor. Been known to binge-watch music clips involving this dynamic duo.

Martin Taylor is yet another virtuoso on the short list of astonishingly good guitarists.

First became of Martin when he was, in the 1980's, the guitarist with none other than Stéphane Grappelli, jazz violinist supreme and co-founder with Django Reinhardt of The Hot Club of France.

Another guitarist who plays duos with and teaches workshops with Martin is Robin Nolan.

As well as Julian Lage.

Prominent in gypsy jazz since the early 1980's: guitarist and bassist Biréli Lagrène.

And, without fail, must mention two guitarists Mr. Emmanuel has worked with as a trio, Frank Vignola and Vinny Ragiolo.

Tommy, Frank and Vinny outdo themselves in the following performance.

Frank's duo with Martin Taylor on "Cherokee" is equally wonderful.

Bringing a post devoted to "swingin' on a six string" full circle, seems fitting to send this out with some more Django - and also recommend checking out some cool Django Reinhardt playlists on YouTube, organized by year.

It would appear that the poster, Mr. Becker, who we think might be a friend of the Reinhardt family, has access to numerous lesser known concerts, airchecks and radio broadcasts the guitar ace did after World War II.

Django always sounds great to the gang at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog.

Monday, August 05, 2019

Happy Birthday to 20th Century jazz great Lenny Breau!

"Lenny Breau was the best guitarist to ever shit between two boots." Jerry Reed

"Lenny was a comet passing through" Chet Atkins

"If you had dropped a bomb on the place that night you'd have wiped out all the guitar players in the world. They were all down there, from Howard Roberts to George Van Eps to Joe Pass... He conquered Hollywood because we all loved him as a player and we loved him as a person." Carol Kaye

Lenny Breau (1941-1984) was an original and astounding musician, a genius of finger style guitar and one of the greats of the 20th century.

While there have been many brilliant guitarists, from Django Reinhardt to Barney Kessel to Tal Farlow to Herb Ellis to George Benson to Joe Pass to Wes Montgomery to Kenny Burrell to Roy Clark and Hank Garland, only Lenny Breau could delve deeply into a Chet Atkins + J.S. Bach + Bill Evans place.

He could bring the sound of The Bill Evans Trio to the guitar like no another string-master, before or since.

Lenny could nail jazz, country-western, classical, flamenco, you name it, with great sensitivity.

He does more with harmonics alone than most guitar slingers do with 6 (or 7 or 12) strings and 23 frets!

I'll make sure to watch the following YouTube clips of Lenny Breau and the aforementioned guitar genius Tal Farlow playing unbelievably great music together today!

Tommy Emmanuel, in many respects the musician who has carried on and extended the innovative ideas originated by Lenny Breau into the 21st century, reminisces: "I met Lenny in 1980, at Chets' office. The 3 of us jammed for hours then I took Lenny to where he was playing that night. I carried his guitar and amp for him and set it up on the stage. Then I sat at the side and listened intently as Lenny played his way through a set of Jazz standards with a depth and such feeling that I could barely contain my tears and sheer delight in his wonderful soloing. I have never heard anyone do what he did that night, it was a miracle in my eyes! If you've never heard Lenny Breau, then get his "Live at Shelly's Mann Hole " album..Or play Lenny and Chets' version of "Sweet Georgia Brown". It will tell you so much about his brilliance...Tommy CGP."

Lenny's daughter Emily Hughes has produced two documentaries about her father.

The two films can be purchased or rented at

Thanks to the research and archive-digging involved in the making of these documentaries, never before seen footage of Lenny, such as the following, continues to turn up.

Here, Tommy Emmanuel pays tribute to Lenny Breau with some remembrances and this terrific song. Enjoy!

And enjoy Lenny Breau's records, too!

While the ace guitarist, as Wes and Django did, left this planet WAY too soon, at least, largely due to the excellent work and steadfast support of his friend and mentor Chet Atkins, Lenny waxed quite a few outstanding records. The following duo with clarinetist Brad Terry, The Complete Living Room Tapes, is one of his best.

To that, we music aficionados at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog say Mo' Breau, please.

Friday, August 02, 2019

Tomorrow Night in Astoria: That Slapstick Show

Tomorrow afternoon, That Slapstick Show celebrates its 5th anniversary show with a special screening of unseen American silent comedies from the Library Of Congress, with live musical accompaniment by Charlie Judkins. Opening up the show: ragtime musical performer Miss Maybell. It all kicks off Friday afternoon at 4:30pm EST at the comedy club venue known as QED. Curated and hosted by Nelson Hughes and co-hosted by Tommy Jose Stathes.