Tuesday, May 31, 2022

A Delightful Discovery on The Dukes

For Christmas, my lovely wife bought me the Dukes of Hazzard dvd set. It indeed has every episode through all 7 seasons.  I've been making my way through every one of those episodes (about 1 per day) ever since.

Setting there on the shelf below the TV where it belongs.  Truly a jewel in anyone's collection.

When I was a kid, the Dukes of Hazzard was my Paw Patrol.   I would watch this every night of the week it was on (Monday? Friday?) and enjoy the antics of all the characters as well as all of the very awesome and swell car crashes that I was sure to see so so often.  I do believe this show still holds the record for most cars wrecked per episode.  I read the number was about as high as 62.  Can anyone confirm this?  Maybe that number is higher. 

Y'know, seeing all of those car crashes happening on the show week after week really had an affect on me.  I've been nothing but reckless with my vehicles ever since I got a driver's licence.  I've never stopped for a red light, stop sign, or moving train in my life.  I've always found some way to jump over any obstacle no matter how much damage I do.  Also, seeing that "flag of the confederacy" atop the car named after the biggest southern general in America's civil war, well that always gave me a strong ambition to make the "antebellum south rise again".  HA HA HA!  And if you actually believe that "malarky" you're just as naive as Enos and as tetched as Roscoe.

Watching these dvds, I was definitely enjoying the nostalgia factor as one would imagine.  Every time Roscoe said "KEW KEW KEW" I was 7 years old again.  Every episode was pretty much like that for me.  However, one particular episode stood out for me for an additional reason.

t's an episode in Season 6 entitled A Boy's Best Friend.  I won't type out an entire episode synopsis here.  I'll just talk about the story points relevant to the discovery I made.  It goes as follows:

A small orphan kid is feeling very sad.  So, the "hearts of gold altruists" Bo and Luke decide that giving the kid his own dog would cheer him up.

It works of course.

But..... DUN DUN DUUUUUUUN... resident villain Boss Hogg steals the kid's dog for his own nefarious purpose.

Which, as you could imagine, makes the boy all kinds of sad.

The video embedded below is at the point in the episode where the boy is wallowing the most in his sorrow.  Listen closely to the kid's voice here. 

If your first thought was "that doesn't quite sound like the kid's natural voice", then I think you would be right.  This performance sounds like it was done by the very great voice actress herself, June Foray!

If you doubt me, compare the above video with a Bugs Bunny cartoon made at around the same time.  In this one, June Foray is the voice of Bugs' nephew Clyde.

I checked the end credits for Ms Foray's name but....

...it's not there.  The child actor got his credit (and rightfully so) but June is nowhere to be found.  Such a pity.

Yes yes yes.  Several eagle eyed and knowledgeable readers here will note that the kid Danny Cooksey would just a short time later do the voice of Montana Max for the show Tiny Toon Adventures.  June Foray would of course reprise her role as Granny for this show, so these two actors would work together once again.  Showbiz trivia is fun.

In the spirit of this blog post, I drew some artwork of my own.  Here you go.

It is a depiction of that iconic moment from the first episode where Daisy Duke kicks Roscoe right square in the butt.  I really like how the show handled the Daisy character.  She was just as proactive, sometimes even as down and dirty, as her male counterparts Bo and Luke.  She even had her own vehicle that she could use for just as much crazy driving (and crazy crashing.... YAY...) as every other character.  Anyone who would scoff at such a thing saying "women can't do that stuff", well that thankfully doesn't apply here (or anywhere really).  For, you see, Daisy is a part of the Duke family and the Duke family can do anything.

I'm of course ending the post with this.  I know you've been humming this to yourself the entire time you've been reading all of this.  Well, here you go.  Just for you.  You're welcome.  Of course, if you want to hear that theme song for ever and ever in your own home, that DVD boxset I posted above would be a good gift for yourself or whomever.  Either way, enjoy!



Saturday, January 22, 2022

A proposal for a movie I'd like to see.

 I wanted to include this in my Space Jam 2 post but part way through making that post I decided not to.  For one reason, the post getting long as it was.  Plus, with that post being so long, my proposal here would've been buried under all of that dialogue.  To prevent that from happening, I figured that this bit needs to be showcased in its own blog post.  So, here it is.

At one point in that last blog entry, I talked about how Pepe Le Pew was given rather shabby treatment before the movie's release even when just a few short years prior a feature length movie starring Mr. Le Pew was in the works.  I'd certainly love to see such a movie someday.  However, I have noticed that there is another Looney Tunes character that has not been given his due either and I say it's about time he did.  The Tune I'm referring to is:

Foghorn Leghorn

In so many Looney Tunes projects over the years, Foghorn Leghorn has been shafted time and time again.  Anyone who knows that character, even in passing, knows full well that his schtick is to pretty much dominate the scene with his seemingly endless talking.  Yet, with so many LT projects being an ensemble containing as many Looney Tunes stars as possible, Foggy barely has time to get a sentence in edgeways.  I the first Space Jam, he was given one scene to do his stuff against the Monstars.  In Looney Tunes Back In Action, he was a black jack dealer for a short time.  Then in Space Jam 2, all he could do was let out one sentence now and again.  As a result, his performance feels held back and inhibited, like a race car driver with a V-10 engine stuck behind little old ladies occupying all of the lanes.  Foghorn Leghorn needs room to move and fully do his thing I say.

It's not like Foggy would have to carry the entire movie himself either.  There are plenty of other characters within his own universe that would be present as well.  The most prevalent and obvious regulars that can be used are, in no particular order:

the "Dawg"

Henery Hawk

Henery's derpy dad

Miss Prissy

Egghead Jr

Willie Weasel

There are even some characters that only appeared in the Foghorn Leghorn series once, but that one time was enough to showcase their appeal and could potentially be good for lots of material.  Characters such as:

Foggy's old college buddy Rhode Island Red

That sleepy, whittling, redneck dawg

That laid back beatnik rooster

...to name but a few.

Why, yes, I do have a screenplay in mind for a Foghorn Leghorn movie.  I've got the basic structure thought out plus some rather key scenes in mind.  I even have a whole sequence in mind that I think would be well-suited for Jack Black.  I would love nothing better than an opportunity to make this Foggy screenplay a reality in as many theatres and/or streaming accounts as possible.  However, I may be no big Hollywood player with all the inside tricks on how the production pipeline works, but I know enough to not put my screenplay in this blog post here.  I'll have to provide that through the proper channels whenever I can do so.
Although, lil old me creating a Foghorn Leghorn movie is not the important part.  What's most important is that such a movie DOES get made.  If anyone reading this post already has connections, abilities and any other crucial attributes that could get a movie green-lit and brought to fruition along with possessing an enthusiasm for Foghorn Leghorn and his schtick, if such a person manages to beat me to the punch by a good mile and get something going, that's great too.  All I'd ask of this creative person is, whatever they do, make the movie look like [Foghorn's original creator] Robert McKimson himself has come back to life and has made such a movie at the top of his abilities.  Embedded below is little concept poster I whipped up for inspiration.  The characters are in no way "on model" nor is this the final design for anything.  This is just to give an idea of what the theatre marquee and/or the HBO Max menu graphic could look like if such a movie came to be.  

Not one line of dialogue has been written nor has any scribbly storyboard panels been etched, but I'm excited for this movie's release already.  Here's hoping we don't have to wait too much longer.

Monday, December 20, 2021

My Space Jam 2 Assessment

 I've finally found the time to make this blog post about one of the most overhyped movies of 2021.  A lot has been said about it already since its release back in July.  At this point, there's either nothing left to talk about or lots to talk about.  Either way, I intend to soldier on into this blog post and touch on many things that I noticed and possibly point out some things that others may have missed.  Without further ado: let's go............

The structure of this diatribe will be as follows.  First I'll talk about stuff I liked. Next I'll talk about stuff I was "meh" about. Then I'll cap it all off with the stuff I didn't like one bit.  So, first things first:

What I Liked

The biggest shining star of this movie was Mr. Eric Bauza.  He did a tremendous job providing the voices for a few of the Looney Tunes characters.  He handled Bugs quite well.  

His take on Daffy Duck and Marvin the Martian were rather keen as well.  He did some other LT characters too but I'm not entirely sure which ones exactly. Hopefully someone can leave a comment and help out with that.  At any rate, Mr. Bauza gave the characters he voiced enough life and vibrancy that it added so much to the illusion that they were there.  No no no, he was not as good as Mel Blanc. Who can be? Eric himself would definitely admit to being in Mel's glorious shadow.  Nonetheless, he did a good enough job to the point where the Looney Tunes (at least the ones that he voiced) are sure to be capably handled in years to come.

Something else I thought was done rather well was the father/son moment that Lebron had on the court in the middle of the game.  Yes, its what the Yiddish community might call "schmaltz" and it wasn't exactly up to Sophie's Choice level of emotional dialogue.  However, for what it was, I thought it worked out fine.  I like how Lebron realized at that moment what the "real prize" was.  It wasn't about scoring the most points in that basketball game and toppling over Mr Villain (more on him later), it was about regaining a sense of respect from his son Dom.  He even threw the ball away during his heart to heart talk as a way of demonstrating that, which I thought was a nice touch.  Although, I will say that this scene resonated with me more when I thought the kid playing Dom was actually Lebron's son. It turns out it was just some kid with a wooden delivery. This wooden delivery I'd forgive if he was Lebron's actual flesh and blood.  But, since he's not, this scene is diminished that much more in my eyes.  Oh well, I still count it as one of the highlights.


One thing I was "meh" about was Don Cheadle's performance as the villain Al G Rhythm.  I've seen lots of people just rake Don's performance over the coals calling it everything from "cringe" to "very terrible".  I do see their point.  Although, the biggest fault is with the character being paper thin, one dimensional and not thought through very well (more on that later too).  Don Cheadle could only work with what he was given.  In my opinion, he managed to give that one dimensional character another half dimension at least with his performance.  This performance for Don was like an experienced plumber, someone who has "served the community for 30 years", fixing that leaky pipe in your kitchen.  It's a very simple job and he gets it done well, but it's not something

he'll use as a referral after he's done.  This villainous Al G Rhythm character was your basic "lust for power" kind of a character.  When he went into his "soon I will rule over everyone" performance, he sounded like he meant it.  I also enjoyed him in scenes with him trying to manipulate Dom in helping him with his schemes.  He used the "your father doesn't understand you....................................... but I do" routine in such a way that it was easy to believe how Dom could be suckered into any of that.  It's such a simple kind of villain that's been used in many many films since forever and I'd say Don Cheadle completed his task rather well.

I saw lots of "scratching their heads" kind of comments online and elsewhere about the use of ALLLLLLLLLLLL of those WB properties put into the crowd around that basketball arena.  Some decried it as the ultimate symbol of being a corporate sell out and whatnot.  Granted, I'm sure including all of these properties was much more a corporate decision rather than a creative decision.  However, what a movie's director creatively does with a corporate decision is what makes or breaks it.  Was this the best use of this overwhelming multitude of characters? Maybe not. I might have done other things with them.  But, all in all, this isn't great or terrible.  It's just fine.

I might catch a bit of hell for this, but I personally was rather ambivalent with what was done with Lola Bunny.  They're attempt to "desexualize" her with a new look didn't faze me as much as it did others.  I'm thinking maybe that's because I was already a grownup when the first Space Jam hit so I could see what Lola was already at the time.  She's an "outrageous paradigm" who knows how to "get bizzay" consistently and thoroughly.  She's 1/2 Joe Camel and a 1/3 Fonzarellie and I'm pretty sure she's also a "kung fu hippie from gangsta city".  

The reason she exists at all is because of WB executives acting on various cries of "...Looney Tunes is a boys club, give them a girl with girl power..."  So, to anyone lamenting about Lola's seemingly needless mastectomy as "kowtowing to political correctness", um....... political correctness created her in the first place.  She was pretty much assembled and brought to life in a PC laboratory by a small twisted quack of a scientist named Dr. Frankenwoke.  So this new capitulation to rad fem demands is just more of the same for her character really.  Yes, yes, yes!  I can understand the revulsion against caving in to a mob, woke or otherwise.  But, in my opinion, this is not a good hill to die on.

Or......... should I say............. HILLS to die on?

Besides the oversized crowd of WB properties, one other thing that most people found intolerable cringe that I merely found just "meh" is Porky Pig rapping.

Sure, this sequence pretty much desecrates everything involved with it namely Porky Pig, basketball, cinema, and rap music itself.  I'm sure the original "Furious 5" saw this sequence and thought "all of our pioneering techniques with beats and turntables in the underground clubs lead to THIS??!!"  But, you know what, I didn't feel the cringe at this part nearly as hard as other people.  For the kind of story this movie has (stay tuned), adding this sequence is like painting the fat Elvis into that dogs playing poker picture.  And really, having the Looney Tunes involved with this movie AND this sequence is like painting the fat Elvis AND the dogs playing poker into the Mona Lisa.   I certainly don't love this part of the movie, but when compared to many other aspects, I consider this part just a tacky distraction that's not worth the energy to care about it.  With that in mind, this brings me to........

Stuff I Hated

Legend has it that when the first Space Jam movie was made, animation veteran Chuck Jones was brought in to make a speech about this movie's place in the Looney Tunes' legacy.  Since Mr. Jones was someone who had worked with many of the main Looney Tunes stars (those being Porky, Daffy, Elmer, and Bugs) and created some Looney Tunes characters that became a big part of the canon (such as Roadrunner, Wile E Coyote, Pepe Le Pew, and Marvin the Martian), he would be the perfect person to give this movie a big sendoff with a speech.  Naturally, everyone who worked on it expected Jones to give a nice glowing and complimentary speech about "doing the Looney Tunes good".  To their shock and disappointment, his speech was the polar opposite of that.  I believe some of the exact words he used were, "...this is a desecration of the Looney Tunes' legacy..."  Immediately after his speech was done, WB had thee Chuck Jones promptly escorted off the lot.  These two parties certainly were not getting along at this point.  Sadly, Chuck Jones has passed away since that time.  Had he been alive to have seen this latest edition of Space Jam, I'm thinking that his reaction would be more like this:

So, yeah, what I hated about this movie was pretty much EVERYTHING ELSE!!!  

One of the biggest flaws of this movie is pretty much the entire story.  The nonsensical narrative has more plot holes than the entire 5 seasons of Gilligan's Island so this blog post would become much more lengthy than it is already if I were to go on about all of them.  Besides, I've seen many many articles and youtube videos that go over several of those plot holes already so there's no need to repeat them here.  Although, while watching it with my family, my own daughter pointed out one big flaw that not I nor anyone else seem to have noticed.  During the basketball game, my daughter asked, "why is the crowd cheering for both the good guys AND the bad guys?"  Y'know what?  I didn't have an answer for that.  But she's right.  The villain Mr. Rhythm threatened that if he won the game then everyone in the crowd would be trapped with him forever so there was plenty of incentive for them to cheer exclusively for LeBron and the Looney Tunes.  But, whenever either side made a basket and scored any number of points, the crowd cheered as loud as they could.  Why is that?

The best I can do to answer that is to sum up the story by comparing it to Dom's game.  In the movie, LeBron's son Dom is a budding game developer who created his own video game.  It's basically the game of basketball with some additions of his own.  In his game, if a player does let's say 100 flips in the air before slam dunking a ball, in a regular game, that would still only get 2 points.  But, in Dom's game, such a display would give out "style points" as a bonus which could be up to 1000s of points.  It looks like that's how the writers approached this screenplay.  Every element they added didn't have to make sense or advance any plots or characters.  It just had to dazzle the audience enough to make those that shut their brains off beforehand go "ooh" and "aah".  That would certainly explain the Porky rap scene I mentioned before anyway.
But, of course, the writers didn't mean to make the script this way.  No writing team does.  Scripts just end up that way for various reasons and various problems that arise within the writing process.  Keep in mind that this production had changed directors part way through.  From what I saw, it looks to me like the first director was working on making the movie Looney Tunes centric but then the replacement director changed things to make it more Lebron James centric.  So, in the process of making that shift, so many elements from the Looney Tunes' storylines had to be cut or downplayed in favour of LeBron's situation.  That's one thing that could be making the whole story so disjointed.

As a for instance to show you what I mean, I give you Al G's diabolical plans for the Looney Tunes after he's won the big game.  He just off the cuff says that they'll be deleted, for no other reason than because he thinks they're "irrelevant" and because he can.  Bugs, Daffy, Porky, etc don't seem like a huge threat to Al G so the stakes don't seem that high with them.  Sure, them being deleted is certainly high stakes for them but it seems like they wouldn't be much interference of Al G's plan if they stayed around.  This story would've been more engaging if the Looney Tunes were more of a thorn in the villain's side thus making his desire to delete them that much stronger.  How cool would it be for all of Al G's grandiose world domination plans to be blocked by a small yellow bird with a baby voice?

Really though, pretty much every single problem with story or plot or character that either has been pointed out or has yet to be pointed out seems to stem from one major problem: too many people in the current WB animation staff (mostly the 2nd director of this flick as well as countless executives) know almost NOTHING about the Looney Tunes and/or what to do with them.  That's where so many of the story's inconsistencies and imbalances come from.  Sure, a few of the writers and artists on staff managed to slip in a few moments here and there that had a flash of Looney Tunes vigour, but other than that the characters seemed just oddly placed within a narrative that was supposed to heavily involve them.  One of the biggest errors in judgment in that regard is how Bugs Bunny's goal here is to "...get the family back together..."  The Looney Tunes do not operate as a family unit.  

They're not an ensemble like The Muppets or The Mary Tyler Moore Show or any show like that.  For the most part, each character exists in their own universe with their own unique set of guidelines of what they do and what they don't do.  Yes, some have interacted together in various cartoons from the classic era, but only when the writers and directors of that day (writers like Mike Maltese, Warren Foster, Tedd Pierce as well as directors like Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, Bob Clampett, Bob McKimson etc) felt it creatively expedient to do so.  If two characters didn't play off each other well enough then they just wouldn't be together.  So, to just put all of the characters together in one big group does not create "maximum looniness" it just makes a chaotic mess that kind of cancels itself out as being a lot of noise accomplishing nothing.  The evidence of this is most apparent near the end where it looks like Bugs Bunny "might be dying" and everyone on the Tune Squad is gathered around him.

All of the characters are hanging their heads in sorrow at the thought of Bugs passing.  Including.....

...this guy!

Yeah, they have Yosemite Sam being sad about Bugs' possible death.  The same Yosemite Sam who on their first meeting tried to shove Bugs off of a moving train so that he'd fall into a canyon onto the "jagged rocks below".  The same Yosemite Sam that forced Bugs at gun point to jump off of the highest diving board with no concern for his or anyone else's safety.  The very same Yosemite Sam that tried to cook and eat Bugs while on a deserted island simply because he was sick of eating coconuts.  THAT Yosemite Sam is now concerned about Bugs' welfare.  Really?!  Talk about getting a character wrong.
However, it's not just the use of the super-saccharine element of the Looney Tunes being this "loving family" to the point of Bugs Bunny gushing about it on his "death bed" that's so egregious.  Heck, that itself would be almost halfway tolerable if not for one thing..................... yes I'm going there........................ a family member is missing!!!

Pepe Le Pew is not there even though he should be.  If we're speaking in terms of "keeping the family together" then Mr. Le Pew has more than earned his place as a noted member of that Looney Tunes family.  

He's won an Academy Award for the WB studio.  He's made a cameo appearance interacting with Sylvester in a cartoon.  He's always been a part of that marching line up behind Bugs & Daffy dancing for every incarnation of The Bugs Bunny Show in prime time and Saturday morning.  He's been on much of the Looney Tunes merchandise.  He's even had as big an influence on the culture as any other Looney Tune in the canon, one such example is Johnny Depp adding an element of Pepe Le Pew's mannerisms into his Jack Sparrow character.  He's a part of the legacy, he's part of the canon, he's a part of the family.  The director may have said in an interview "...we couldn't find time to put Pepe Le Pew in...." well, if they were going with the big family trope then they should have made time for family.

No no no! We can't put Pepe Le Pew in this movie because his schtick has problematic elements that...

Oh hey! Look who it is! It's one of the Censor Monkeys weighing in.  You little shits seem to be everywhere these days.  Thanks for ruining the culture and the planet, jerks!!

Hey! We are RESCUING the culture by getting rid of all the misogyny and rape culture that Pepe Le Pew brings so that little boys don't learn how to rape and so wxmyn can feel safe...

There is no proof and no connection to Pepe Le Pew leading to an increase in rapes. Hell, there's no proof of ANY cultural work leading to an increase in ANY crime.  The only reason some people feel "unsafe" watching a show and the only reason you feel the need to butt in and screech about things is simply due to your delusional paranoid projection onto cultural works based solely on a misunderstanding of context as well as a highly delicate mental and physiological constitution...


Geez! That was unpleasant.  But of course, Censor Monkeys are very unpleasant people.  I'm so sorry you had to see that.

Well, hey, the suppression of Pepe Le Pew in WB products is certainly nothing new.

In the first Space Jam, all Pepe did was just be a stinky skunk.  The only time he ever did anything remotely "affectionate" was that one scene where he kissed Granny.  The rest of the time he was just there to stink.  Penelope the cat was there in the stands the whole time and Pepe didn't even look at her let alone chase her.
And then in Looney Tunes Back in Action, Pepe just had one short scene where all he did was play a stinky gendarme.  Well, that's the only scene that made it into the movie anyway.
The end credits is littered with animation line tests of the Looney Tunes characters from various scenes from the film.  Pretty much every line test is a distinctive action from a very recognizable scene, except one.  At one point we see some line work of Pepe Le Pew accosting Penelope.  It's the usual schtick except Pepe is wearing glasses while they're both wearing a suit and tie.  So, just like in Space Jam 2, there's a Pepe scene that was cut from the movie either for time or for being "too much".  Either way, I'm hoping the footage from that scene still exists somewhere.

One very weird part of the whole Le Pew controversy is that there are a percentage of people who would prefer to have "le skunk" stay around but only if his schtick changed somehow.

"How about Pepe Le Pew shares his pie with Penelope, then they BOTH have pie."

"It's different.  I'll give you that."

Yeah no.  Bad idea.  Don't "fix" something that's not broken.

Well, I am thankful for one thing.  I'm glad Speedy Gonzales managed to be in this movie.  Besides Pepe Le Pew, this was the other Looney Tunes character that the New York Slimes writer Charles Blow had on his "kick the bucket list" of cartoons he'd like to have disappear.  But, fortunately, Speedy has plenty of fans both in the Latino communities and among Looney Tunes (both casual and fanatical) in general that he's managed to stick around.  Here's hoping the same adulation can re-elevate Pepe real soon.

Well, that's my all encompassing assessment of Space Jam 2.  Looking at many of the reactions I've seen, I'd say that most viewers agree with me in giving this a negative review.  While this movie did manage to razzle dazzle the small children that accompanied their parents to this $12 afternoon killer, most everyone else walked away disappointed and underwhelmed by it all.  Warner Bros will have to make it up to the Looney Tunes, their fans, and audiences in general moving forward after unleashing this scattered debris of a movie on everyone.  Will the WB studio be able to pull that off?  What does this mean for the Looney Tunes going forward?  Well, as Bugs said at the end....

"...I can survive anything..."

Bugs, for your sake, and the sake of the every other LT character, I hope you're right.