Inside I rediscover the genius that is Chuck Jones!
Pick and choose what you want to read folks because I watched a ton of movies this week. There’s a few feature films peppered in between all the short films, but I watched a lot of films this week, period.
Ghostbusters II (1989, Ivan Reitman, United States Of America) ***
I remember absolutely loving Ghostbusters II as an eleven year old, but thirty year old me ended up more in the mildly liked it category. It’s funny at moments, but it misses an awful lot more than the original ever did. Speaking of Ghost Busters, I was surprised by how reminiscent Ghostbusters II is to its predecessor, this was essentially the same exact movie as the first, only not as funny. But hey, it had Ernie Hudson, and he’s awesome, although it didn’t have anywhere near enough Ernie Hudson, and that’s not awesome.
The Bourne Ultimatum (2007, Paul Greengrass, Germany/United States Of America) **1/2
I’ve already harped enough about how much I don’t like the quick cut edit style of the Bourne films, needless to say The Bourne Ultimatum was no different. This time I noticed the camera lilting a lot in scenes that didn’t involve any action. It’s as if Paul Greengrass was afraid to keep his camera still, to allow the viewer to be absorbed into the movie. The combination of the quick cuts and the constantly wobbly camera reminded me for every second of The Bourne Ultimatum that I was watching a movie, and not in a good way. There are also story problems in The Bourne Ultimatum, specifically the need to use coincidence to make sure all the characters are present to tie the story together in a neat bow at the end. A lot of other people consider the Bourne films an all time great action series, but I leave The Bourne Ultimatum very disappointed in the diminishing returns of the series.
The Pointer (1939, Clyde Geronimi, United States Of America) ***
Mickey was surprisingly mean, luckily his meanness was kept to a minimum though, because I no a fan of mean Mickey. Pluto is a riot, so is Mickey and his explanations to the bear. The animation is swell, the hand of Clyde Geronimi was easy to spot at work in this one. I almost always have a fun time with Pluto.
Mr. Mouse Takes A Trip (1940, Clyde Geronimi, United States Of America) ****
A prime example of how the simplicity of the early Disney shorts showcase cinematic genius. There’s nothing more to Mr. Mouse Takes A Trip than Mickey and Pluto trying to sneak onto a train and then avoid the conductor. The film is that simple, yet it’s also hilarious, charming, and amazing.
Mickey’s Birthday Party (1942, Riley Thomson, United States Of America) ***1/2
It’s Mickey’s birthday and hilarity ensues. The final frame of this short says it all, Mickey’s cake is tossed on his head and his reaction is to smile at the camera in an awe shucks moment. Mickey’s Birthday Party is full of moments like that, characters I like doing funny things in a charming manner.
Rookie Of The Year (1993, Daniel Stern, United States Of America) ***
It’s extremely schmaltzy and a lot of it upsets my sensibilities as a Cubs fan, but I still like it. The schmaltz feels earned, and that’s the key factor in my acceptance of what happens in the movie. Without the earned feeling Rookie Of The Year has I’d never be willing to look past the absurd fantasy or one dimensional characters. But, it is earned, and Gary Busey plays a good guy, a real good guy, how freaking cute is that.
Sommer ’04 (Summer Of ’04, 2006, Stefan Krohmer, Germany) **1/2
Very bohemian, very (as Chris Hardwick would say) first world problems. The characters are so aloof and so unlike people I would ever have any interest in, I especially found it hard to form any interest in their problems, that I couldn’t relate to them or get into the picture. Stefan Krohmer shows a decent cinematic eye at times, but his cinematic eye isn’t in service of anything worthwhile. When the film ended I was happy it was over, but not because it left me thinking, simply because it was over.
Duck Amuck (1953, Chuck Jones, United States Of America) ****
A classic that I kind of remembered from my childhood, and I have no idea how I ever forgot it. Duck Amuck is astounding on a level I did not expect. The story is simple but extremely effective. The animation is wonderful and the fourth wall stuff adds a surprising layer to the whole enterprise. Only one film into my rediscovery of Chuck Jones and I can already see why so many think of him as a legend.
Feed The Kitty (1952, Chuck Jones, United States Of America) ****
I love dogs, I’ve grown to love cats, and I’m falling in love with Chuck Jones. Everything he does is so simple yet as effective as is possible. His animation lines are clean and well rounded. Mr. Jones understands how to get the most out of a laugh, but most impressively he gets how important a great facial expression and a evocative set of eyes are to an animated character. Feed The Kitty is hilarious, cute, charming and an absolute joy.
One Froggy Evening (1955, Chuck Jones, United States Of America) ****
The awesomeness that is Chuck Jones continues, and I’m running out of great things to say about him and his films. One Froggy Evening is all the usual from Mr. Jones, stellar animation, hilarity within the plot and a simple nature that works on every level. One Froggy Evening is deep too, saying a lot about greed and using others. That Chuck Jones sure knows how to put together a moving picture.
Rabbit Of Seville (1950, Chuck Jones, United States Of America) ****
This time out Chuck Jones goes for physical humor, and like usual he delivers in spades. Bugs Bunny is always awesome to watch, always, and the combination of Bugs, Elmer Fudd and classical music is a delight to take in. Mr. Jones continues to wow me with how crisp and clean his animation is, and with how effortlessly he works humor into simple plots.
Rabbit Seasoning (1952, Chuck Jones, United States Of America) ****
I distinctly remember Rabbit Seasoning from my childhood, and it’s just as great now as it was back then. Daffy Duck is a character who is all about the reaction and Chuck Jones zeroes in on his reactions in every gag. I think I may have been shortchanging Michael Maltese, the story man for all these Looney Tunes shorts I’ve been reviewing, but his simple plots are a great boon to the visual storytelling of Mr. Jones. Rabbit Seasoning remains one of the funniest, and best all around, films I’ve ever seen.
The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (2008, David Fincher, United States Of America) **1/2
Visually dynamic, but its characters are hollow and lifeless. The dialogue is especially problematic, these characters don’t talk they read lines that are supposed to sound deep and make the audience go, “wow, that’s heavy.” There’s also a general problem with the fact that no one ever questions Benjamin’s condition. I’m sorry, but if someone is aging the way Benjamin is some people are going to be freaked out by it, but every person in the movie is perfectly accepting of it and treats it matter of factly. Cate Blanchett is also pretty bad in her role, and never has an ounce of believable chemistry with Brad Pitt. That leads into my least favorite part of the film, Benjamin abandoning his daughter for a reason that never plays out. Yet when he comes back and its clear he could have been there for his daughter the entire time Daisy tells him that he was right, and that makes no sense. The visuals are very striking, and the story is sometimes interesting, but overall The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button is a pretty big miss from David Fincher.
What’s Opera Doc? (1957, Chuck Jones, United States Of America) ****
It’s clear that Chuck Jones and company love the opera, it shines through in the way they pay homage to the opera. Yes, the hyjinks are hilarious, but at the root of said hyjinks is a genuine interest in something as artsy as the opera. When you combine that with the usual top notch animation and writing you have yet another home run from Mr. Jones and friends.
Porky In Wackyland (1938, Robert Clampett, United States Of America) ***1/2
My first divergence from the work of Chuck Jones within the world of Looney Tunes. Robert Clampett’s Porky In Wackyland is sure as hell interesting, and hella weird. It’s also funny, and the roughness of some of the animation adds to the feeling of weirdness that permeates the short. I didn’t find the writing to be as witty as it was trying to be, but still another fine short from the Looney Tunes collection.
About A Boy (2002, Chris & Paul Weitz, France/United Kingdom/United States Of America) ***1/2
An easy going tale that knows when to get serious and when to back away and have a nice laugh. The chemistry between Hugh Grant and Nicholas Hoult propels the film at every turn. The rest of the film is cute, and funny, but their chemistry is the real star that makes all the laid back humor and observations on life work.
Duck Dodgers In The 24½th Century (1953, Chuck Jones, United States Of America) ****
The moment when Daffy sends a bullet at Marvin Martian for the third time and the scroll it pops out says “Ouch” is one of the funniest moments I’ve ever been privy to. It’s so simple and yet I laughed heartily at it, and that’s why Duck Dodgers In The 24½th Century is a great comedy. The usual great writing, animation, and depth are present, wonderful.
I know I watched a lot this week, but I’m happy I did. Rediscovering Chuck Jones was an absolute blast, and the rest of the shorts I watched were pretty great as well. But, as far as movie of the week goes it’s going to be a Chuck Jones picture and that picture is One Froggy Evening. It could have been any of the other Chuck Jones shorts I watched, that’s just how amazing his work is, but One Froggy Evening gets the slim nod. Until next week, watch more movies (especially shorts).