Superman (1941 Dave Fleischer)

Wait, everyone on Krypton had superpowers, and Superman was raised on Earth in an orphanage? Mr. White is the newspaper boss. Lois flies a plane, is the only person investigating the letter they got saying an electrothanasia ray would cause devastation at midnight, the villain a mohawked creep, vaguely popeye-voiced, with a pet vulture. “This looks like a job for Superman,” Kent says casually the next day, after Lois is kidnapped and many people are dead, goes out and punches the electric ray into submission (and unforgivably, saves the girl and the villain but not the vulture). A silly story, but check out these colors.


The Mechanical Monsters (1941 Dave Fleischer)

These have a catchy theme song. Another rich mad scientist, this one in a purple suit and twirlable mustache, has developed drone technology – radio-controlled bank-robbing robots. Haha, when Lois and Clark are present at the next robbery, Clark steps into a booth to “phone this in” and… he phones it in! He just calls the newspaper office… it doesn’t occur to him to use the booth to become Superman until later. Lois is of course kidnapped, dangled over a smelter. I suppose all of these stories end the same way, with rescued Lois’s cover story in the paper the next day while Clark winks at the camera.

Everyone on Krypton also sports a Magic Cape:


Let’s Sing with Popeye (1934 Dave Fleischer)

Oh no, this was a two-minute short where Popeye punches some of his own stuff aboard a boat, then sings his theme song in a low, disinterested voice with follow-the-bouncing-ball lyrics.


Betty Boop’s Crazy Inventions (1933 Dave Fleischer)

Opens with fireworks with live cats inside, so it’s gonna be good. Betty and friends are at a giant trade show under a circus tent, showing off different impractical inventions. She and Bimbo escape after a haywire sewing machine goes on a rampage, presumably hundreds of people are dead.


In the Future (2019 Phil Mulloy)

Absurd shadow-characters discuss the future. Very short, and a quarter of the runtime is a guy peeing. Phil has been out there since the 1970’s, making a pile of shorts and some features.


Endgame (2015 Phil Mulloy)

Two guys leave the city for some weekend war games and get more war than they bargained for. Stick figure art, the roughly drawn backgrounds include random-seeming numbers and figures. I was with it until the gang-rape joke.


Peter & the Wolf (2006 Suzie Templeton)

Great birds in this: an emotional support duck and a crow tied to a balloon, and terrific camera perspectives and stop motion work. Peter just wants to play in the backyard with his friends, help the crow with bad wings pretend to fly, and skate on the frozen pond, but grandpa wants him to stay indoors because there’s a wolf out there. The boy traps the wolf after it eats his comfort-duck, but frees the wolf at the end rather than hand it over to the ruffian townies. No dialogue, so it premiered with live orchestra accompaniment, and won the oscar, obviously.


My Love (2006 Aleksandr Petrov)

Another half-hour movie based on a Russian story featuring ducks, a cat in a tree, and some good birds. 16-year-old gives a crystal duck to a girl he likes, is figuring out what love is. He dreams of marrying his family’s poor maid, also starts worshipping a hot neighbor, but he is finally weird to the neighbor and when he becomes sick with brain fever the maid leaves to become a nun. My DVD copy isn’t high-res enough to get the full effect, but this is lovely – painted frames, smearing the backgrounds as the characters move past, exploding into fantasy scenes in the kid’s imagination. Feels too wordy, watching so soon after Peter & the Wolf. Petrov’s followup to his great Old Man and the Sea.


The Pied Piper of Hamelin (1981 Mark Hall)

It took a minute to even realize this was stop-motion; my copy’s contrast is off. The opposite of the Petrov in that the wordless animation moments are alright but it comes to life when the narrator is going off – he is Robert Hardy of the 1970’s version of The Green Knight, reading the original poem. Obviously not a movie to explore unless you’re ready to see hundreds of stop-motion rats. Jiri Barta also made a version, which would be worth digging up. A good effort for England, who still had ten years to wait until Wallace & Gromit. Hall was a British TV veteran, working on Danger Mouse among others.


Who Would Comfort Toffle? (1980 Johan Hagelback)

Toffle is alone and scared with nobody to talk to when the night monsters come, so he ditches his house and wanders to find somewhere new. Limited storybook animation with a rock musical soundtrack. The Hemulens are giant things outside that are maybe moomins? Real kids stuff, cute – you don’t see a lot of Swedish mythology cartoons.


The Chimney Thief (1944 Paul Grimault)

A thief who steals lightning rods and uses them to pole-vault across the rooftops is a pretty great idea. What ever happened to lightning rods anyway? You don’t see them around much. The scene where he distracts a guard dog with a wind-up mechanical bone is simply odd, all the character animation timing wonky. Their stretchy rubber-band bodies seem Boop-inspired. Nothing more to it than a rod thief outsmarting two identical cops chasing after him, some typical chase scene bits, but remarkably good use of 3D space. Grimault worked with Jacques Demy and made some other widely-acclaimed works that I’ve meant to find.


Birds/Ptakhy (2012 Mykyta Liksov)

Unlike the Blackbird short, this movie called Birds is about birds – this is all I ask for. The birds dance through the air, form couples and nests on the last above-water structures of a flooded Earth, except for one who swims underwater in search of a fallen spouse and finds a glowing egg in the irradiated wreckage of human civilization. I was already enjoying this before its all-timer end-credits sequence.


The Baby Birds of Norman McLaren (2014 Mirai Mizue)

Aha, someone is into maximalist mutations, colorful patterns, and bright pop music. Someone watched the entire McLaren DVD set and took away all the correct lessons, turning in a fun, short, snappy piece with tributes to Norman’s different animation and sound sync styles.


The Big Snit (1985 Richard Condie)

Squiggle-vision cartoon about a domestic squabble over a scrabble game while nuclear war is beginning outside. Between the two Ukraine-related shorts and this one, I hadn’t meant to get so topical tonight. The couple reconciles just in time to be vaporized, a happy ending. This and Condie’s La Salla are maybe over-acclaimed, but I like his very random sense of humor, and he also produced The Cat Came Back.

TV roundup for the second half-ish of 2020


On Cinema at the Cinema seasons 1-? (201?)

On Labor Day, since I’d already seen Bisbee ’17 I watched season one of On Cinema on the Adult Swim roku app while repainting the furniture… then I drank some, and watched seasons two and three? Or maybe also season four… or just season two, I don’t know how to figure this out.


Search Party season 3 (2020)

Dory and the gang become absurd anti-celebrities during their murder trial. We know she is found guilty because of the flash-forward intro of the first episode, but this turns out to be a good fakeout – after being declared innocent, she’s kidnapped by a maniac. Not my favorite season – I’ve never loved court dramas, and the final episode is too Seinfeld, but I’m still here for whatever’s next.

Newbies: Dory’s rookie lawyer is Shalita Grant of the series You, and Drew’s lawyer is Louie Anderson. The all-business prosecutor is Groundling Michaela Watkins, lately of Brigsby Bear and Sword of Trust. Wallace Shawn is a shady businessman who gets Chantal arrested by the FBI.


Russian Doll season 1 (2019)

“This is like The Game. I’m Michael Douglas!” Writing this up is a lotta pressure because since finishing this I’ve watched time-loop movies Tenet and I’m Thinking of Ending Things and Bill & Ted Face the Music, and it seems like there are a lotta details in this four-hour existential comedy that I’ve forgotten. Natasha Lyonne keeps dying then waking up back at her birthday party hosted by Greta Lee (Inside Amy Schumer) with “Gotta Get Up” playing, and tries to discover why this is happening, then runs into fellow time-looper Alan (Charlie Barnett of TV’s You). I think it’s possible that everything gets fixed at the end, but maybe not since a second season is rumored.

The slimy-Cagney-lookin guy she goes home with is Yul Vazquez… her psychiatrist is Elizabeth Ashley of Treme… her drug dealer is Waris Ahluwalia (The Life Aquatic)… Tinfoil Kevin is a regular at the bodega run by Ritesh Rajan (Mowgli’s dad in the latest Jungle Book), and her mom in flashback is Chloe Sevigny. Co-created by Amy Poehler, directors include Leslye Headland (Terriers) and Jamie Babbit (But I’m a Cheerleader).


The Tick season “two” (2019)

“Destiny is on the phone. It’s a party line and we’re all invited!”

Such good writing – even if I saw some of the season-long story endings coming, each episode is full of pleasures. Dot discovers she has powers, can see the near future, and their father-in-law Walter has been an agent under deep cover. Tick’s new nemesis/partner is a bank-robbing lobster. Aegis Commander Ty Rathbone, who has a black-hole heart, recruits Arthur and Tick and Lint to the Flag Five, which is sabotaged by Dr. John Hodgman. Superion spends a few episodes depressed on the moon deciding whether to spin the earth backwards to reverse time. Lint’s sidekick is a computers/weapons whiz named Edgelord.

Writers include original Tick comics creator Ben Edlund, two Detective Pikachu writers, two writers of teen comedy On My Block, and Kit Boss (King of the Hill). Directors include a DP of Dexter and True Blood, a Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Black-ish director with over a hundred other credits, the script supervisor of Mallrats and Dogma, the editor of Roger & Me, and an AD on Buffalo Soldiers. Flexon is on the new Snowpiercer series, the Aegis paperwork twins are in The Assistant.


Documentary Now! season 2 (2016)

The Bunker is a War Room parody, Hader doing a southern accent.

Juan Likes Rice and Chicken is a celebrity-chef doc about a difficult little restaurant that makes a basic dish but with impossibly high standards.

Location Is Everything is a Spalding Gray parody! Lennon Parham (personal advisor to Veep) plays his girl Ramona, who is onstage refuting all his stories.

Globesman is of course Salesman, which I’ve still never seen, but I doubt the original involves a rival atlas salesman who stalks and torments our protagonists.

Final Transmission is a really specific Stop Making Sense parody with Armisen as Byrne, Hader as Tina, Maya Rudolph and Jon Wurster, I am in heaven. Why did they stick a Tom Waits parody into this?

“As a bald kid with a dead dad, movies became my refuge.” Double episode Mr. Runner Up is doing The Kid Stays in the Picture, which I didn’t realize, about an awards-obsessed movie producer who’s only constitutionally able to create schlock, mostly starring his unfunny Italian comic friend Enzo.


Primal season 1 (2019-2020)

Gruesome and lovely. Caveman and Dinosaur each saw their families eaten by predators, but found each other as friends and protectors. Perfect show, with one heck of a finale – introduction of a woman with metal implements and a spoken language, collapsing even more of history together. I think of Genndy as the Dexter’s Lab/Powerpuff guy, but everyone involved in this also worked on Samurai Jack, which I probably should not have skipped.


Barry season 2 (2019)

Maybe less fun than season one, but deeper, as Barry tries to control his rages and stop killing people, and leads the acting class in experimenting with telling personal truths. In the end, of course, he falls into a massive rage and kills many people, Fuches turns on him tragically and repeatedly, and the people who cop out on personal truth and tell lies are rewarded for it.

Noho Hank’s Chechen bestie Cristobal (Michael Irby of True Detective s2) forms an unstable alliance with Ester, head of a Burmese crime family (a deadpan Patricia Fa’asua). Sally’s abusive ex Sam (Joe Massingill of Die Hard 5) returns to stalk her. Gene tries to reconcile with his estranged son Leo (Andrew Leeds of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist), and is told that Barry killed his girlfriend Janice. Janice’s ex-partner Loach (John Pirruccello, a Twin Peaks s3 deputy) tracks down Barry and gets Fuches to wear a wire. And most wonderfully, the Loach plot ends in the one time Barry and Fuches work together all season, when Loach “hires” Barry to kill the guy sleeping with Loach’s wife, a stoned Tae Kwon Do master (stunt/action regular Daniel Bernhardt) with a feral daughter.


Also sampled quite a few shows:

Star Trek Lower Decks seems bad
Central Park seems good, going to see if Katy wants to watch it (we still haven’t returned to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend)
Black Jesus is good but I dunno if it’s got a whole season in the tank.
Infinity Train looks imaginative, but for kids, not for me.
Los Espookys seems up my alley, would watch more.


And of course I watched a pile of concerts and livestreams and other things, including Nick Cave’s Idiot Prayer, which probably would’ve gone to theaters, had there been theaters.

Waco Brothers:

Robyn & Emma:

Cave:

Pigface:

Hawkeye’s family disappears.

Dark Phoenix saves Iron Man from dying in space.

They kill tired-old-man Thanos.

Years later, a rat resurrects Ant Man.

Thor drinks a lotta Tropicalia.

They all get Ant-Manned – doesn’t this diminish the importance of actual Ant Man?

They visit previous movies through time, just like one of those 24-hour Marvel marathons at the Regal, tangling with Robert Redford, Tilda Swinton, Loki, their own selves, undead Thanos, and even Natalie Portman.

160 minutes, which is how long it took to reassemble our bookshelves.

Every 15 min an eye-rolling line, usually a Jennifer Lawrence scene, until she’s killed, which breaks up the gang into defenders and revengers. Jean should’ve died in space, instead absorbs incredible alien solar-flare virus powers. Bad call casting Jessica Chastain as an emotionless alien, and letting Sophie Turner carry the film. A really promising first half hour before it gets bad… either that, or the global pandemic that swept the country between when I started this movie and finished it affected my mood.

Smurf love:

Real Star Wars 3 energy, dutifully connecting the dots between the original and the last prequel… haha, this was Kinberg’s attempted redemption for writing X-Men 3, also based on the Dark Phoenix books, and he botched it again. Generic dialogue, feels first-drafty, even though wikipedia says the last act was reshot after test screenings.

Jean vs. Chastain:

Series creator Singer was off winning oscars for Bohemian Rhapsody while having his production credits erased from this over child abuse charges. Still good, despite everything: Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee: Let Me In, voice of ParaNorman), Quicksilver (Evan Peters, in 100 episodes of American Horror Story), Magneto (Fassbender!) and Storm (Alexandra Shipp was in Love Simon between the last movie and this one).

Jean starts turning people to dust, just like in part 3, which I thought we all agreed was bad:

It was maybe a mistake to watch this right after Mission: Impossible, but it was fun to see the characters again, and I’ll probably appreciate it more after a rewatch. The movie makes a big surprise deal out of baby Jack-Jack’s powers even though they were revealed in both the original movie and the Jack-Jack Attack short, and it’s obvious that the casually-mentioned tech-genius sister of the telecom company president is gonna turn out to be Screenslaver (the anti-superhero TV-mind-control supervillain), and Edna Mode is kinda pried in there, and the whole plot where the townspeople are made to think superheroes are actually bad then they have to redeem themselves is played out, and the whole plot where mom gets a cool job and dad has trouble managing the domestic life is really played out.

The short before the feature was Bao by Inside Out story artist Domee Shi, about a woman who relives the joys and pains of raising a son through her dumplings. This and Sanjay’s Super Team join Coco in the new ranks of culturally interesting Pixar movies.

Oh, spoilers.

The Avengers and the Guardians and all the new guys like Strange and Panther collide, as a space monster with a firm belief in genocide as the cure for the universe’s problems kills a few people (Loki, rainbow bridgekeeper Idris Elba, green Guardian Gamora, Vision) en route to collecting the Infinity Stones vaguely mentioned in previous movies. The heroes put up strong resistance, but the movie’s all about personal sacrifices – brothers Thor/Loki, lovers Scarlet Witch/Vision, lovers Starlord/Gamora, foster family Thanos/Gamora/Nebula, barely-just-met-allies Strange/Iron Man. Some are prepared to sacrifice, others aren’t so sure, and their hesitation gives Thanos the edge, so he gets the stones, literally snaps his fingers and kills half of everyone everywhere, including: Black Panther, Scarlet Witch, Bucky, Don Cheadle, all the Guardians except Rocket, and Samuel L. Jackson. We are assuming that either (1) Benedict Wong uses space-time powers or (2) Ant-Man uses subatomic multidimensional powers to somehow undo the carnage, or (3) everyone who wanted out of their contracts got turned to dust and we just carry on with whoever’s left, throwing in some X-Men and Captain Marvel and Young Han Solo or whoever to take their places.

I was worried that with my poor memory of the previous movies, we’d be lost as to the location and importance of each infinity stone, but the movie does a good job explaining stuff without getting bogged down Matrix-style – all you need to remember are the characters. Mostly it’s ‘splosions and wisecracks, as usual, and those are on point. We dug Peter Dinklage as a giant dwarf weapons forger, can’t make myself care about Young Spider-man or Iron Man’s wedding to Gwyneth Paltrow, didn’t miss Hawkeye. Was warming up to Strange, surprised to see him and Panther turned to dust already. It’s disappointing that these movies are doing the same things as the X-Men series but in a different order… I suppose next we’ll get Avengers: Days of Future Past.

All marvel movies are about sibling rivalries and father issues, aren’t they? Twenty-some years ago, New Black Panther Chadwick Boseman’s dad T’Chaka (who later died in a Civil War-era explosion) killed his brother/Boseman’s uncle N’Jobu (This Is Us star Sterling Brown), and now N’Jobu’s son has grown into the revenge-seeking Michael B. Jordan. But first, Boseman has to become Black Panther so we’re familiar with the rituals and clans… Winston Duke challenges and loses, Daniel Kaluuya is a Boseman buddy who joins Jordan and feels ambivalent about it (he’s this movie’s Karl Urban), Forest Whitaker is a wise man (of course he is). Jordan shows up with a dead enemy of Wakanda (Andy Serkis as “Ulysses Klaue”) and proof of his noble birth, so he’s accepted and allowed to challenge, then after he wins and Boseman loses his Panther powers, the alliances get all twisted.

Boseman has very capable help from his gearhead sister Shuri (Letitia Wright of the Black Mirror season I keep forgetting to watch), his ex Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), and Kaluuya’s girl, the bald warrior Okoye (Danai Gurira of Mother of George, whose costar Isaach De Bankolé appears here as an elder and I didn’t recognize him because of the huge distracting lip-plate), and improbably, CIA agent Martin Freeman. Besides the whole cynical “The CIA is actually doing good things for Africa” message and some typical CG-cartoon fight scenes, the movie’s Africa-influenced sci-fi and badass warrior women make for some striking imagery that we’ve never seen before. This and Thor 3 and Guardians are finally taking all this blockbuster superhero money and producing things that are fantastic to look at instead of ever-larger monsters destroying ever-larger cities.

I lose track of who’s supposed to be dead at the end of the previous movies, but Loki is alive all through this one, Odin (Anthony Hopkins with an eyepatch) dies here, unleashing Thor’s evil sister Cate Blanchett from interdimensional prison, she’s presumably dead at the end of this since she gets her power from the planet and it’s destroyed by Ragnarok, and Thor is ok at the end, with a new hammer, now wearing an eyepatch like his dad, but they also said his power comes from the planet so I dunno if that’ll be important in later movies. Almost everyone on Asgard dies, including the warrior who becomes a lackey for Cate (Karl Urban: Bones in the new Star Treks), but Idris Elba and some refugees make it onto a spaceship.

So, Thor gets stranded hammer-less on a planet run by game-show-master Jeff Goldblum, teams up with a reluctant Tessa Thompson (the last Valkyrie) and a reluctant Loki, and a very reluctant Hulk, who somehow also ended up here, to steal a ship, fleeing an army led by Rachel House (social services in Hunt for the Wilderpeople) and return to Asgard to fight the rogue sister.

Other highlights: Bruce Banner wanders around confused in a Duran Duran t-shirt, the director plays a hilarious rock monster, Hopkins is entertained by a royal play starring Luke Hemsworth, Matt Damon and Sam Neill as Thor/Loki/Odin, the fun bright colors, the makeup and headgear and some mythic shots that are composed like religious paintings. Mostly we came for Guardians-style entertainment, and this totally delivered – seems like the most rewatchable of the Avengers movies.

Sam Neill as Anthony Hopkins:

Pretty straightforward biopic of Wonder Woman and lie detector inventor Marston, his wife and their live-in lover… a solidly-made film with good performances. Usually “solidly-made with good performances” isn’t much of a recommendation for me, but it’s also thrilling that something this deviant played in the months between Wonder Woman and Fifty Shades Freed at the Grand, where I’m always subjected to trailers for Dennis Quaid Christian dramas. Seems a bit slow/long at times, but it’s covering ideas as well as incidents, and allowing each one the breathing space to feel natural so the characters don’t come across as sexy weirdos. Luke Evans (the documentarian in High-Rise) and Rebecca Hall (Christine) are the Marstons and Bella Heathcote (an evil model in The Neon Demon) is his teaching assistant who gets invited into their marriage long-term, though they have to keep it quiet since this is the 1940’s. From the writer/director of D.E.B.S., which I’ve been mildly wanting to watch for over a decade now.