30 Jul 2010 @ 6:00 AM 

Friday Minute
No. 141 | July 30, 2010

Merrie Melodies Tribute


Our theme this week

Selected shorts from Merrie Melodies

Featured this week (theme introduction)
Monday         —   “Lady, Play Your Mandolin!” (1931)
Tuesday         —   “A Wild Hare” (1940)
Wednesday    —   “A Tale of Two Kitties” (1942)
Thursday        —   “Duck Amuck” (1953)

“What’s Opera, Doc?” (1957)


Notes in brief

It takes about fifteen hours for a performance of the entire Ring cycle of Richard Wagner’s.   It takes less than seven minutes for “What’s Opera, Doc?”  I don’t say that to recommend one over the other, but it’s something to consider if time is a factor.

The cartoon borrows music from Wagner, and more, yet the story is the same classic conflict we’ve seen before between Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd.  Elmer this time is Siegfried, and with his spear and magic helmet, he’s out to “Kill the wabbit!”  You know how it’s going to end, right?  Elmer is always thwarted by his nemesis—but get ready for a twist.  (Still, look who gets the last laugh.)

Like yesterday’s feature, “What’s Opera, Doc?” was picked for induction to the National Film Registry and ranked among The 50 Greatest Cartoons in the 1994 animators’ poll.  It topped the list—the #1 cartoon of all time!


“What’s Opera, Doc?” (1957)
Chuck Jones, director
Michael Maltese, story
Ken Harris, Richard Thompson, Abe Levitow, animators
Richard Wagner, music; Milt Franklyn, arrangement
Mel Blanc (Bugs Bunny), Arthur Q. Bryan (Elmer Fudd), voices


Quote of note
Bob Woodward:  Well, who is Charles Colson?
Harry Rosenfeld:  The most powerful man in the United States is President Nixon.  You’ve heard of him?  Charles Colson is special counsel to the President.  There’s a cartoon on his wall.  The caption reads, “When you’ve got ’em by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.”
—Bob Woodward (Robert Redford), Harry Rosenfeld (Jack Warden), All the President’s Men (1976)


Final Friday Five, the monthly mini-quiz

1.  Howard Hughes received director’s credit for two films.  One was Hell’s Angels in 1930, starring Jean Harlow, and the other was his return to Hollywood in the 1940s, Jane Russell’s debut.  What was the movie?

2.  Martin Scorsese was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director for The Aviator (2004), then finally won the Oscar for The Departed (2006).  He had four previous nominations for the directors’ prize.  Name the films.

Mean Streets (1973)
Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974)
Taxi Driver (1976)
Raging Bull (1980)
The King of Comedy (1982)
The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
Goodfellas (1990)
The Age of Innocence (1993)
Casino (1995)
Gangs of New York (2003)

3.  Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes, both associated with Warner Bros., were name variations on a series of musical animated shorts from Disney that ran during the 1920s and ’30s.  What was the name of the Disney cartoon series?

Comical Concerts
Bonkers in Bandland
Silly Symphonies
Mad Rhapsodies
Nutty Numbers

4.  Mel Gibson’s latest scandal has cost him the services of which A-list actor who had been interested in starring in a Gibson-directed Viking movie?

5.  Match the film critic with the review for Inception and the online comment about the review.

The Critics:

a.  David Edelstein, New York
b.  Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly
c.  Stephanie Zacharek, Movieline.com

The Reviews:

1.  “For the record, I wanted to surrender to this dream; I didn’t want to be out in the cold, alone. But I truly have no idea what so many people are raving about. It’s as if someone went into their heads while they were sleeping and planted the idea that Inception is a visionary masterpiece and—hold on … Whoa! I think I get it. The movie is a metaphor for the power of delusional hype—a metaphor for itself.”

2.  “Everything he does is forced and overthought, and Inception, far from being his ticket into hall-of-fame greatness, is a very expensive-looking, elephantine film whose myriad so-called complexities — of both the emotional and intellectual sort — add up to a kind of ADD tedium.”

3.  “I found it dazzling but also a maddeningly arbitrary kind of movie….  The movie didn’t really cohere for me.”

The Online Comments:

i.  “___ has never deserved your respect. ___ is a terrible film critic, with highly questionable taste.”

ii.  “I can’t really take you seriously anymore, ___. You praise cashgrab trash like Ironman 2 but bash a movie like The Dark Knight. Yes, The Dark Knight was overhyped, but Jesus, comeon, you are a professional critic..you let the opinions of others cloud your mind. It’s not your job to assess whether a movie deserves hype or not. Just review the movie, explain what you didn’t particularly like, and don’t bring up all the other crap.”

iii.  “Kill the beast! Spill ___ blood! Smash ___ face!  You must be punished for your dumbness and illitarecy. Christopher Nolan RULEZ you drool! Whoo—ahhhhhhhhhhhh.  Otherwise, this was really a rather well-done and exceptionally convincing review on all points. Splendid.”

Answers here.

…58…59…60.

Posted By: John Farmer
Last Edit: 30 Jul 2010 @ 07:25 AM

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 29 Jul 2010 @ 6:00 AM 

Thursday Minute
No. 140 | July 29, 2010

Merrie Melodies Tribute


Our theme this week

Selected shorts from Merrie Melodies

Featured this week (theme introduction)
Monday         —   “Lady, Play Your Mandolin!” (1931)
Tuesday         —   “A Wild Hare” (1940)
Wednesday    —   “A Tale of Two Kitties” (1942)

“Duck Amuck” (1953)


Notes in brief

Daffy Duck debuted in 1937 in a Tex Avery short, and the lisping, loony toon has been a regular in the Merrie Melodies stable ever since.  He often played the arch-rival of Bugs Bunny, and more often than not he got the short end of the stick.  In “Duck Amuck,” he’s the star of the show, (almost) the only animated character in the cel.  He fights a battle with his off-screen creator, who plays one mean trick after another on the helpless Daffy.  Who is his creator?  In one sense, it’s Chuck Jones, one of the grand masters of animation.  But there’s another—and funnier—answer to that question, and it comes at the end of the six-and-a-half minute short.

“Duck Amuck” is one of about two dozen animated works to be inducted into the National Film Registry.  In a poll published in the 1994 book The 50 Greatest Cartoons, as voted by 1,000 people who work in the animation field, “Duck Amuck” ranked #2 all-time.  It gets my vote for the most brilliant cartoon short ever.


“Duck Amuck” (1953)
Chuck Jones, director
Michael Maltese, writer
Mel Blanc (Daffy Duck), voice


 Quote of note
“We are all God’s animated cartoons.”
—Steven Gold (Tom Hanks), Punchline (1988)

…58…59…60.

Posted By: John Farmer
Last Edit: 01 Aug 2010 @ 03:13 PM

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 28 Jul 2010 @ 6:00 AM 

Wednesday Minute
No. 139 | July 28, 2010

Merrie Melodies Tribute


Our theme this week

Selected shorts from Merrie Melodies

Featured this week (theme introduction)
Monday         —   “Lady, Play Your Mandolin!” (1931)
Tuesday         —   “A Wild Hare” (1940)

“A Tale of Two Kitties” (1942)


Notes in brief

“A Tale or Two Kitties” was the first of three shorts featuring the cartoon characters Babbit and Catstello, a couple of cats patterned on the comedy team Abbott and Costello.  It’s now remembered for introducing Tweety Bird, one of the most popular of the Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes characters, who went on to appear in about 50 cartoons during the next few decades.   Tweety’s first words, “I tawt I taw a puddy tat,” became one of the best known signature lines in cartoons and was the title of a 1951 hit single for Mel Blanc.


“A Tale of Two Kitties” (1942)
Bob Clampett, director
Mel Blanc (Catstello, Tweety Bird), Tedd Pierce (Babbit), voices


Quote of note
Vern:  Do you think Mighty Mouse could beat up Superman?
Teddy:  What are you, cracked?
Vern:  Why not? I saw the other day.  He was carrying five elephants in one hand!
Teddy:  Boy, you don’t know nothing!  Mighty Mouse is a cartoon.  Superman’s a real guy.  There’s no way a cartoon could beat up a real guy.
Vern:  Yeah, maybe you’re right.  It’d be a good fight, though.
—Vern Tessio (Jerry O’Connell), Teddy Duchamp (Corey Feldman), Stand by Me (1986)

…58…59…60.

Posted By: John Farmer
Last Edit: 01 Aug 2010 @ 03:14 PM

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 27 Jul 2010 @ 6:00 AM 

Tuesday Minute
No. 138 | July 27, 2010

Merrie Melodies Tribute


Our theme this week

Selected shorts from Merrie Melodies

Featured this week (theme introduction)
Monday         —   “Lady, Play Your Mandolin!” (1931)

“A Wild Hare” (1940)


Notes in brief

Happy Birthday, Bugs Bunny!  On this date 70 years ago, Bugs Bunny made his screen debut.  Though Bugs is not named in the cartoon short—he’s simply “the rabbit”—he does introduce his signature line, “What’s up, Doc?”  The look and sound of Bugs went through a number of changes before he settled into the “wascally wabbit” character most of us remember.  But this is how he first appeared.


“A Wild Hare” (1940)
Tex Avery, director
Virgil Ross, animator
Mel Blanc (Bugs Bunny), Arthur Q. Bryan (Elmer Fudd), voices


Quote of note
“It’s like living in a Tex Avery cartoon.”
—Vida Boheme (Patrick Swayze), To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar (1995)

…58…59…60.

Posted By: John Farmer
Last Edit: 01 Aug 2010 @ 03:14 PM

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 26 Jul 2010 @ 6:00 AM 

Monday Minute
No. 137 | July 26, 2010

Merrie Melodies Tribute

Merrie Melodies cartoons were first produced by Leon Schlesinger, who had earlier created Looney Tunes.  The orginal idea behind Merrie Melodies was to create animated shorts that promoted music owned by Warner Bros.  It grew from there.  Schlesinger sold his production company to Warner Bros. in 1944.

Merrie Melodies had no greater invention than Bugs Bunny, as classic a character as any in the history of animation.  Bugs Bunny celebrates his 70th birthday on Tuesday.  We had a big kick attending “Bugs Bunny at the Symphony” for its show date at the Hollywood Bowl about a week ago.  Great music, great cartoons.  I recommend it if you have any kids, young or old, in your family.  Tour information is here.

Our theme this week
Selected shorts from Merrie Melodies

“Lady, Play Your Mandolin!” (1931)


Notes in brief

“Lady, Play Your Mandolin!” is the very first of the Merrie Melodies series of cartoons.  The gaucho that looks like Mickey Mouse is Foxy, who appeared in three Merrie Melodies shorts during the 1930s.  The title song was composed by Oscar Levant, with lyrics by Irving Caesar, and a version sung by Paul Lukas was a top ten hit of 1930.


“Lady, Play Your Mandolin!” (1931)
Rudolph Ising, director


Quote of note
“You know what I’d like to be?  A cartoon of some kind.  You know, like when they get hit in the head with a frying pan or something, and their head looks like the frying pan, with the handle and everything?  They they just go boi-ing—and their head comes back to normal?  Wouldn’t that be great?”
—Cyril (Daniel Stern), Breaking Away (1979)

…58…59…60.

Posted By: John Farmer
Last Edit: 01 Aug 2010 @ 03:15 PM

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