This Week in Geek (31/01-06/02/21)


At home: Screwball or not, Cary Grant is pretty broad in Arsenic and Old Lace, a black comedy originally from the stage, about, well, almost too many things, which is the point of screwball. As the movie starts, we're really at the end of another, because the premise of a tyrant against marriage getting hitched would be its own romcom (I mean, it's Much Ado About Nothing), and it's really incidental to the story (as is the fact that it's Halloween night), because he soon finds a dead body in his beloved aunts' windowsill chest, learns they're batshit crazy, even as another family member thinks they're Teddy Roosevelt, and his long-lost, equally psychotic brother returns to the house with his plastic surgeon (Peter Lorre of course) in tow. It's a big mess he has to untangle, and Frank Capra dependably makes it all work in terms of plot mechanics, with a great cast of comedic actors. You think you're in for a zany household like in You Can't Take It With You, but it's darker than that, and yet, kind of harmless. But the style makes it rather shouty, and to modern eyes, it feels almost like 1960s Jerry Lewis choreographed it. I liked it, but maybe didn't buy Grant in it.

When you see something 90s in A Goofy Movie, take a drink. When Pauly Shore playing Pauly Shore as a dog boy is on screen, fall into an alcoholic coma. Grounding it in the "culture" of the time makes it even more dated than Tugboat Mickey, but at its core is a heartfelt father/son story that may well melt your heart, and the animation has some very cool transitions, and of course, a lot of well-choreographed slapstick. I think we can forgive it its (I'll say it) goofy sitcom plot and enjoy the trip. If Goofy is himself charmingly pathetic (a congenital condition that Max fears), the saddest thing about it isn't his being bullied at work or his fear of his son drifting away from him. Rather, it's that they canonically imply that his best friend is Donald Duck. Oh, honey. And then later, we see Donald hiking with MICKEY, so it's not even a mutual BFF relationship. What I really want to know is: Why are those nuns everywhere the Goofs go?

If Mickey's Trailer didn't inspire vast swaths of A Goofy Movie, I'll eat my corn of the cob like a typewriter. My very favorite Mickey-Donald-Goofy short, this 7-minute road trip is just chock-full of clever gags and brilliant, fast-moving animation and besides, I probably saw it a million times when I was a kid, albeit without its soundtrack. I'll explain. In the 70s, Fisher-Price had a toy out called a Movie Maker, a sort of plastic moviola that came with cartridges and allowed you to move the frames forwards or backwards with a side crank, as if you were "shooting" that film. We had a couple "tapes" and this was one of them. But while I admit to a nostalgic fondness for it, I really do think it holds up and I can see the footprints it's left on later cinema. A Goofy Movie I've already referenced, but I also wonder if Jacques Tati's films (Mon Oncle and Trafic come to mind) don't also have this short in their DNA. Wait, who's driving right now?


Four ghosts haunting an old house are bored, so they call on Mickey, Donald and Goofy, the Original Ghostbusters, on themselves in Lonesome Ghosts, a 1937 Disney short that has a lot of great gags, and ultimately, a a strong punchline. It's the bit I most remember, because like Mickey's Trailer, it was one of the "cassettes" we had for the Fisher-Price moviola, and I used to make that last scene undo and redo itself on a loop. Weird memory, but there you go. I do wonder if those silent versions were edited down, not just for length, but so you didn't pointlessly watch the characters move their mouths wordlessly. In a way (and this also has to do with my French-language upbringing and the different voices the characters had on my side of the tracks), watching Lonesome Ghosts today is like HEARING it for the first time. The ghosts sound like they're at the bottom of an oil drum, and Donald Duck is a lot less understandable than I remembered.

Logorama is a very fun animated short (French, but all the dialogue's in English) that kind of uses the Pixar formula, in a way - what if everything and everyone was a corporate logo? - but it's really a play on product placement, so it's like Michael Bay was handed the keys to Pixar. And that means the plot is the dumbest and worst thing about Logorama. It's violent and foul-mouthed, which could have been dialed down in the mix without losing anything. It's irreverent enough to have Ronald MacDonald on the run from Michelin policeMen. Ultimately, that's not why we're watch it. No, we're watching for the clever use of logos from around the world to create an amusing version of Los Angeles (where else), with an amazing pull-out at the end that basically scores it an extra half-a-star. There's a lot of replay value to it, because there's just no way for the eye to catch every gag in a single viewing (there are apparently some 2500 different logos used over 16 minutes), or even two or three. The F bombs are just surplus to requirements.



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