Saturday, November 24, 2007

Let My Cat and Mouse Go!

I saw something unexpected channel surfing last Sunday. Cartoon Network was having a marathon of Tom & Jerry cartoons. This was surprising because Cartoon Network stopped showing classic cartoons years ago but a commercial for an upcoming Tom & Jerry Nutcracker Suite cartoon soon made the reasoning clear. Unlike Popeye or the Warner Brothers gang, Tom & Jerry are still considered viable properties for a kid audience which makes sense. The cartoons are all action and the main characters never speak. Plus their motivations are so primal they can still make sense to a young audience.

Sadly this means their classic work doesn't get the loving treatment Bugs, Daffy, Popeye and Droopy have gotten. Those DVD sets are aimed at adult collectors so they contain uncut cartoons with all the excessive violence, unrestrained steroetyping and other "bad things" that an adult viewer can take in context. Tom & Jerry have to be bowlderized for the kiddies. So their three DVD sets take the shorts out of chronological order, repeat some , edit others and at the last minute Warner even decided that two of them were so henious they couldn't ever be released on home video, lest the little tykes be corrupted. All nonsense of course but that's what happens when the powers that be think they can still squeeze some bucks out of the kiddie market for a particular property.
Watching the cartoons now I got more of an appreciation of what they were about, the over the top slapstick that bordered on sadism, the way the relationship between Tom and Jerry became more of a grudging friendship as time went on, something that Chuck Jones never understood since he jsut replicated the Coyote - Roadrunner dynamic when he did his version. I also enjoyed a couple of the few T&Js where dialogue was a factor, "Solid Serenade" where Tom wooed a female cat by playing a standup bass and singing "Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby", and "Pecos Pest" which guest starred Doodles Weaver as the voice of Jerry's Cousin Pecos who stopped off on his way to a TV appearance to rehearse his whacked out version of "Froggy Went A-Courtin'" or maybe he called it "C-C-C-Cranbo!"

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Visiting The Past

I've finally gotten around to the reason I bought the "Jazz Singer" DVD, the bonus disc of old Vitaphone Talkie musical shorts. It's an interesting trip. The performances aren't too campy. Most are quite good remembering the styles of the time. It is fascinating though that most of the shorts include at least one risque song with lyrics like "She may step out but she won't give in." It's not that big a shock when you think about it. At that point Warners was just experimenting and getting the shorts out there. Nobody thought about playing to small towns with more conservative mores. It's another thing that gives a lie to how straight-laced things supposedly were way back when.
The biggest musical surprise so far has been The Ingenues, an all-woman orchestra where violins, cello, harp, banjos, accordions, and a bassoon were used in addition to the usual big band equipment with every woman playing two or three instruments.

Then there is this other, very strange film I saw. Every now and then I'll run into something like "Project A-Ko" or "Super Milk Chan" that reminds how flat out weird Japanese pop culture can get. I saw a lulu last night, "The Glamourous Life Of Sachiko Hanai". This was a simple little story about a Tokyo call girl who gets shot in the head, becomes a genius as a result and gets involved in a spy plot involving a clone of President Bush's finger when she isn't tearing off her clothes and having sex at every opportunity. This American edition had a self imposed rating of "Seriously F***ed Up" and it was well-deserved. The movie was completely insane and I'm kind of surprised it doesn't have more of a reputation. There is one scene where they show panic aboard a nuclear aircraft carrier by waving G.I. Joe dolls in front of a still picture of a military command center. By the time that shows up it seems perfectly normal.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

24 Big Uns

I could talk about a lot of things like the anti-smoking ad I saw which was based on the false premise that in the 1970's the Muppets were largely aimed at a kid audience or the court ruling that finally overturned the age restriction record keeping for adult videos but I don't feel like it right now. My main focus for the next few weeks will be the 24 CDs I was just sent for reviewing by Cadence. I'm disappointed when I only get a few, but sheesh! I should be careful what I wish for. There seems to be an incredible mix of stuff, some big bands, some vocalists, some free improv. Right now I'm listening to a solo piano CD by Bobby Few and there are a few other big names in this batch (at least, big to me) like Karin Krog, Lee Konitz, Veryan Weston and Sakoto Fuji.

As for movies I just finished muddling through two X-rated films directed by Doris Wishman. They were even more incoherent and random than her usual work which may be because the X-rated material was supposedly added on later without her involvement. I'm suspicious of that claim because these movies broke into a sex scene every five minutes and while, some did have only the thinnest ties to the main storyline and characters, others were obviously germane to the movie. In one of them, "Come To Me My Love", two different characters are killed while naked and immediately after having sex. That doesn't come off like an addition.