TORO! :: bull by the horns

an online compendium of culture and commentary

Archive for November, 2007

bear market: ready, aim — draw

Posted by rollinsloane on 9 November 2007

Animation duel — who’s the better 1960s bear?

baloo jungle bookyogi bear

They’ve both got charisma to burn and a voice like a stand-up bass, so it’s hard to pick favorites between The Jungle Book‘s Baloo and Hanna-Barbera‘s Yogi Bear. They cheerfully blunder into scrapes and scrounge for food to consume with as much speed and relish. Baloo, voiced by Phil Harris (not coincidentally, also the voice of Little John, the bear from Disney’s Robin Hood — pretty much Baloo, but brown), lives in Disney’s cartoony Indian jungle, shepherds around young Mowgli and affectionately torments straight-shootin panther Bagheera; Yogi, voiced by Daws Butler (also Huckleberry Hound — and Snagglepuss!), lives in Jellystone National Park, shepherds around young bow-tie-wearing Boo-Boo and affectionately torments straight-shootin Ranger Smith.

Points for Baloo:

– killer rhythm

– affinity for cross-dressing

– girth, baby, girth

When Baloo teams up with King Louis (swing trumpeter Louis Prima) for a jungle swing number, you don’t have to be knee-high to start dancing. Best musical number in animated Disney movie history? You better believe it.

Points for Yogi:

– pork-pie hat, neck cuff and dapper tie

– sidekick nicknamed Boob

– catchphrases (“Heeeeey, Boo-Boo! Let’s go get some pic-a-nic bas-kets!”)

And Yogi comes from the seven-minute world of Hanna-Barbara, which is another work-break plus [ah, the cartoon-short narrative, when you can get your guy in a mess and not bother getting him out]. YouTube’s got a number of episodes to sample from, and as long as you’re willing to stomach the lame theme song, always for the 60s batch instead of the recent 90s revivals.

Advertisements

Posted in huzzah, the greatest, vs. | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

marcie’s idiot pick of the week: across the universe

Posted by rollinsloane on 7 November 2007

Go ahead and get comfortable, kids, ‘cause this is a long one, perhaps the first of several posts. Oh, boy, where to even begin on Across the Universe, the Beatles musical not by Cirque de Soleil. Being an unrepentant huge fan (italics hers) of such soapy musical/’love-is-awesome’ classics as Moulin Rouge and RENT, my brain-dead roommate Marcie just knew this was up her goddamn alley and hell if she wasn’t going to drag somebody along (down) with her. Want to hear a bunch of saccharine pop covers of some of the greatest non-saccharine pop songs of all time? Yeah, me neither.

Obviously inspired by the soundtrack to I Am Sam and the social analysis of Forrest Gump (history has fun costumes!), screenwriting team Dick Clement and Ian Le Frenais (Flushed Away, if you care) fashioned a Beatles musical/spiritual ode to the pill-poppin, free-lovin, times-are-a-changin 60s. Director and obvious musical fan Julie Taymor took it from there, delivering social commentary by way of nostalgia with the subtly of a sledgehammer. Does a girl come in through a bathroom window? You bet.

But definitely E for Effort. The artistic team pulled out all the stops – albeit logic included – to deliver a bright palette of ‘fun’ popcorn eye candy, and no movie’s a failure that prompts so much personal reaction. Why just fail when you can go down in flames?

[Beware, there are plenty of spoilers below. But don’t worry. I’m just sparing you the $11 you would have wasted (Marcie, I am going to kill you) to sit through the damn thing.]

Welcome to the New York City high-rise of a bunch of young-uns with some familiar names livin la vie boheme. There’s Jude (relative newcomer Jim Sturgess, certainly cast for his Ewan McGregor impression), a Liverpool-ian dock-worker come to America for a great adventure; Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood, Thirteen), a sweet-hearted Mama’s girl whose varsity-jacket boyfriend goes off to play dutiful soldier; Max, Lucy’s rule-hating Princeton drop-out of a brother; Prudence (T.V. Carpio – yep, a girl named TV), a small-town lesbian turned general hippie; Sadie (Dana Fuchs), a boho-chic (and yes, sexy) Janis Joplin-styled singer; Jojo (Martin Luther), Sadie’s Hendrix-type guitarist and a NY fugitive of the Detroit riots. I’m actually surprised they resisted turning Max into Dylan.

Only a few people acquit themselves comfortably. Prudence delivers a rather sweet version of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” from a stand of empty high school bleachers, and Bono, as Dr. “I Am the Walrus” John actually lets loose an unprecedented display of charisma. Frida star Salma Hayek contributes a cameo as, what else, an insanely hot nurse. Fuchs and Luther add some much needed grit to the action (btw, did they really get a man named Martin Luther to play the only black character in a movie ostensibly about social unrest? Really?).

But the only performer who looks vaguely aware of the shitshow he’s involved in is British comedian Eddie Izzard, having a ball as the ringleader of some circus-themed drug trip. His crisply dry version of “For the Benefit of Mr. Kite” is, dare I say it, more entertaining than the original.

eddie izzard ringmaster across the universe

Alright, I’ll admit it – Julie Taymor’s the woman who successfully put The Lion King on Broadway, for christ’s sake. Obviously she knows a thing or two about visuals. Even her creative version of Shakespeare’s Titus demonstrates her thorough comfort with bright cartoony colors and Terry Gilliam-style animation. In Universe, she and cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel (A Very Long Engagement, Infamous) pull off some stunners:

– Prudence swooning over her fellow cheerleader as a team of football players dance a tunnel of slow-motion tackles around her.

– A joyful bowling alley sequence to “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” everyone pastel-colored and sliding along the greased-up alleyways just like you always wanted to

– Uncle Sam (singing “I Want You (So Bad)”) reaching off a recruitment poster to basically eat Max alive. The rest of that sequence was pretty damn innovative, too, featuring square-jawed army recruiters packaging draftees like factory cogs and ending with the bombastic picture of new soldiers, still in their white inspection boxers, carting a giant Statue of Liberty on their backs to the lyrics of “she’s so heavyyyyyyy….” I mean, hell, I laughed.

– A group of women falling backwards into a wide expanse of ocean, their hair long and black and their bodies naked and painted white in visual allusion to the famous Vietnam War photograph of the crying little girl, arms outstretched (although I’ll admit, when I saw the trailer, I thought they were Yokos).

– A “Strawberry Fields” number that represents the Vietnam dead as bleeding-heart strawberries on a white canvas.

strawberries canvas across the universe

But it was Taymor’s strange love affair with computer-generated collage effects that downgraded 2002s Frida from a decently moving biopic to a high-schooler’s tacky screensaver. The loony fantasy effects here (meant to indicate drug use or just the extreme giddiness of PG-13 romance?) looked like an experimental 90s video game. Perhaps Taymor simply has a tendency for narrative heavy-handedness:

– An opening credit sequence of Evan Rachel Wood’s face pasted over a montage of civil rights race riots pasted over a horizon of crashing waves to the tune of “Helter Skelter”? Three visual layers that neither make narrative sense nor look good together crammed like a Photoshop mistake in the movie’s first two minutes. Get this director back to the stage.

– Several “Vietnam battles” that came straight out of Rushmore’s high-school play re-enactment.

– Several woeful song sequences, namely Lucy’s too-high, too-slow “If I Fell” (and yes, she falls); Jude’s “Something,” crooned to a naked, sleeping Lucy, supposedly tenderly, but there’s really something cheesy about a grubby artist beside a wall dedicated to erotic sketches of his girlfriend; and “Come Together,” which threw together the most cartoony mix of pimps, hos and chorus-line dancing businessmen this side of Roger Rabbit.

– The concluding performance of ‘All You Need is Love” on a Persian-carpet rooftop, an obvious visual tip of the hat to collaborator Bono’s penchant for singing on rugs. A little music video-ish, no?

*

“There is no formula for this movie,” claimed Taymor in an interview. Um, wrong. Didn’t I just give her the formula? Moulin Rouge + RENT + ½ Forrest Gump – non-Beatles songs X Terry Gilliam = Across the Universe. And scene.

Posted in filmdom, riddle me this, the latest | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

it’s all the same oat-bag, fellas

Posted by rollinsloane on 6 November 2007

In the third race of today’s Melbourne Cup, a 2800m event, the second-place horse fell along the final stretch, taking down the horse just behind. The crowd sort of gasped, but it was the home stretch after all, and so everyone went ahead and stayed focused on the remaining fifteen seconds of their hopeful bets. And then, with that strange group movement of a some-thousands crowd, the realization set in that there were two horses struggling panic-struck to their feet and presumably a couple of crushed jockeys somewhere too. Wranglers came over the track barriers like worker ants to get the situation under control.

They didn’t get to one of the horses in time. It came stumbling down the track towards the finish line like a wounded drunk, unable to stand up straight and trying with greater force and greater desperation every time. When standing failed, it started hopping, which was far worse, as it made abundantly clear why it couldn’t stand. The creature’s hind leg dangled from its body like a piece of rubber, irreparably broken.

Have you even seen a horse’s leg dangle from its body like a piece of rubber?

The thing balked to and fro, increasingly alarmed. It was almost a dance — the perfect motions of ignorant, terrified agony. This horse must have been in unbelievable pain. Petrified, eye-rolling pain. The amazing thing — the terrible thing — was how far it managed to draw out this final leaping swan song. It yelped and struggled and wrenched itself halfway to the finish line before the wranglers caught up to it. They somehow got control, ran out a makeshift curtain to hide its struggles behind, and let the horrified audience remove its hands from its eyes.

At least, I could finally remove my hands from my eyes. My jaw was still agape. The reaction of my fellow race-goers, meanwhile, was rather mystifyingly indifferent. The track crew spent a decent 20-some minutes with the horse behind that curtain, certainly putting it down, if not with the real stuff then at least with preparatory sedatives. And the scoreboard didn’t acknowledge it. The scoreboard didn’t post the horse’s name. The information booth couldn’t tell me the fallen horse’s name. No one in the seats around us was even discussing the horror of that horse’s last display. Everyone went on with business as usual. I couldn’t tell if it was a traditional group consensus to not discuss such unsavories during this carnival of sheer frivolity, or if they all really just didn’t care.

It wasn’t until I went home and checked this good old information godsend that I learned the horse was Bay Shore, the well-slated pick I’d been barracking for in honor of his US breeding. Well, Bay Shore, this one’s for you, I suppose, because some tribute is warranted for any end so grisly, so public and so coldly sad. Here’s Jerry Seinfeld’s classic bit on horses.

Posted in long hard look, riddle me this | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

‘this place is an aviary, not a stable’…off to the races at the Melbourne Cup

Posted by rollinsloane on 6 November 2007

There’s a whole lot to see at a racetrack on carnival occasions and very little of it equine, unless you prefer to wax critical on all the ample female flesh on summer display.  The Melbourne Cup inspires an endless parade of the most ridiculous form of self-decor ever created, and by this, of course, I mean the enormous ladies’ hat.   Somehow church-going southern matrons manage to pull off the view-blocking head-topper with dignity to spare (elegantly deemed ‘Crowns‘ in that context by photographers Michael Cunningham and Craig Marberry).  Aussies, not so much.  These things involve so many feathers that when my companion ducked into the ladies’ room she couldn’t stop laughing that dozens were now literally preening in front of the mirror.

melbourne cup silliness

But all in good fun.  If you’re to go to the trouble to doll up in your finery for a long sun-baked afternoon of champagne and beer (or, in our case, craftily smuggled paint-thinner-like vodka), it might as well be with a healthy dose of silly.   In fact, it was mostly the menfolk who took the day seriously, slicked to the teeth in silver suits, flashy glasses and the most dapper assortment of shoes this side of Andre 3000.  Not to mention enough gel to fill a pool.  Meanwhile champagne bottles kept going by and spray-tanned ladies kept grinning about beneath their high spurts of plumage and it was hard not to keep thinking spring mating season has indeed arrived.

Studying one such group in wide-smiled spirits, I couldn’t help noticing the sign above them helpfully pointed to the ‘mounting yard.’  This, of course, is where the horses are shown after (or is it before?) their race, paraded about by the bit for maximum crowd appreciation of their super-human grace.  Right beside the yard, there was the official catwalk for the day’s periodic ladies’ fashion displays.   There’s a connection to be made here, and I’m going to let you do it.

Posted in had to be there, huzzah | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

to david cronenberg, badass = sunglasses, slicked-back hair

Posted by rollinsloane on 2 November 2007

David Cronenberg knows what a badass looks like, thank you, and he’s not changing his paradigm for any actor. In A History of Violence, Ed Harris oils back his remaining hair and sports dark sunglasses inside with true gangster aplomb:

ed harris history of violence badass

And who’s that up-standing young man about to serve the man coffee? Why, that’s Viggo Mortenson, pre-transformation into gangster Ed Harris:

viggo eastern promises badass

Sure, their sharp chins and broad foreheads exaggerate the similarity, but you’ve got to wonder if this is how David Cronenberg suits up to make tough grimaces at the bathroom mirror.

Hopefully award season voters will overlook this costume department laziness when it comes time to remember Viggo’s spot-on Russian accent and (literally) balls-out bathhouse knife-fight. That scene’s lack of youtube-ization shocks me, quite frankly, because it’s an instant classic, too painful to actually watch the whole way through. Considering Viggo’s post-Lord of the Rings McDreamy status, you’ve got to applaud Cronenberg for gifting the hoards of teenage girls dying for a nude scene with the whole package in a bloody fight sequence that also includes copious face-stabbing. (And considering the high personal value of Viggo’s dangling goods, you’ve got to applaud that man’s sizable metaphorical cahones for agreeing to a fight sequence with knives.)

Posted in filmdom, minor detail | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

viggo and emma thompson will make you wince

Posted by rollinsloane on 2 November 2007

Accolades be damned, David Cronenberg’s History of Violence left me cold. The story of small-town Everyman with a mafia past would have worked if the small-town Everyman bit hadn’t been so comically overblown. After Viggo’s little girl wakes the whole cheerful family with her minor scary-monster nightmare and none of them look either irritated or disheveled, I knew this was fairy tale land. Even Ed Harris and William Hurt in full bad-ass mode couldn’t shake me.

But Cronenberg’s new Eastern Promises did shake me, and violently, like only my older brother ever could. His latest study of violence, again starring Viggo (in a verrrrry different role), looks at the Russian mob in London and paints it in a blood-thirstier shade of Tony Soprano. There are the requisite mob-plot machinations of backstabbing and filial piety, but for once the mafia’s most marginalized group gets a decent spotlight: it’s no fun to be an Eastern European sex slave, let me assure you.

At least Tony’s little Eastern European ladyfriend technically had mistress status. Promises‘s depicted henhouse alleges forced drug use, random beatings and general sub-human status for its handful of far East whores. Cronenberg doesn’t cut away, and it’s about time such gross indecency got the full screen treatment. Just check out Emma Thompson’s latest PSA for the Helen Bamber Foundation, a human rights organization. With Hollywood’s predilection for the (ahem) nightlife, it’s surprising no indie producer or Oscar-seeking actress has yet taken a stab at this sad, insta-drama plight.

[psa courtesy of adfreak]

Posted in filmdom, long hard look | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

farewell, big poppa…toodles to robert goulet

Posted by rollinsloane on 1 November 2007

I once saw Robert Goulet play in Camelot onstage. Not my finest hour, perhaps, but to my credit I remember little of the occasion other my father’s baffling excitement. Alas, yesterday Goulet — the man, the myth, the moustache — has departed the glitz of this world for the infinitely shinier sequins above (no one with that voice is going below).

The Goulet’s hospitalization last week already prompted a tribute post out of me, and there’s no way I’m paying postmortem homage to the King of Vegas Crooners with a second run of the go-to Will Ferrell SNL impression, classic or not. Instead, here’s Will Ferrell going on Conan in full Goulet mode a few years back. Most of this clip adds up to Conan giggling like a tongue-tied schoolboy, but somehow I can actually imagine Goulet sporting lavender cologne without a bit of irony.

Oh, lord, the man spent over 50 years in showbiz! Here’s an additional clip of the actual man himself…so you too can wonder how he made it that long. Probably something to do with the lavender.

Posted in dude check it out, the greatest | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »