Archive for Bugs Bunny

Jedi Mind Tricks

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 24, 2018 by dcairns

Bug Bunny’s Jedi mind tricks are really impressive, aren’t they? I had a moment of illumination with Bugs when I was 19 or so and Chuck Jones came to the Filmhouse, spoke and showed some classic toons. Me and my friend Robert went and it rekindled the childhood fondness for the Warner toons we’d had. We hadn’t really watched them recently and seeing them on the big screen with 498 other people was amazing, and hearing Chuck’s lies stories was eye-opening and delightful. (I think Jones liked to tell a good story and maybe some of them were exaggerated or distorted for comic effect. They were very good stories though, and doubtless the most unlikely ones were the trust because that’s how it works.)

Robert and I talked before and after about the strange qualities of Loony Toons… characters producing hand-lettered signs from behind their backs in order to communicate without speech… glow-in-the-dark eyeballs… and Jedi mind tricks. It’s not just that Bugs, disguised as a woman, immediately makes Elmer fall in love. “When Bugs jumps on Elmer’s back, Elmer immediately thinks he’s a donkey.” And that is done without any disguise at all.

In Jones’ RABBIT PUNCH, written by Michael Maltese, there’s a particularly good one. It’s a boxing picture. Bugs, an inexperienced rabbit, is for some reason fighting the heavyweight champion of the world. The champ knocks him down. Rather than get up, Bugs grabs the announcer’s microphone and describes getting up. As his opponent look around him in bewilderment, Bugs breathlessly narrates his nimble attack. The rival fighter can’t figure out why his opponent is now invisible (except he’s in plain view, lying by the edge of the ring, if he but looked over there). POW! Bug describes punching the guy, and the guy doubles up in pain.

Bugs is a powerful shaman, or something.

We see something similar in those toons like RABBIT SEASONING where Bugs and Daffy debate which hunting season it is, duck or rabbit? Bugs uses verbal tricks to make Daffy actually demand that Elmer Fudd shoot him. Impressive. Guerrilla ontology. Or, as Daffy puts it, “pronoun trouble.”

In the Friz Freleng BIG HOUSE BUNNY, written by Ted Pierce, prison guard Yosemite Sam locks Bugs in a cell. Bugs tells Sam that he’s locked himself in a cell. After some back and forth — “OUTside? Why, you’re INside!” “Oh no I’m not. I’m OUTside. YOU’RE INside!” — Sam unlocks the door and trades places with Bugs. And finds himself locked in the cell while Bugs goes free.

I would like to have those powers.

Things I Read Off the Screen in “The Shining”

Posted in FILM, literature, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 12, 2012 by dcairns

To Edinburgh Filmhouse (last week) to see ROOM 237: BEING AN INQUIRY INTO THE SHINING IN 9 PARTS. Rodney Ascher’s essay film is a perpetual joy, cunningly assembled from (sometimes manipulated) bit of Kubrick movies and other (tangentially) related films. Six obsessives describe their theories about the “true” meaning of Kubrick’s horrorshow, which range from “secret, encoded study of the Holocaust” to “secret, encoded meditation on the genocide of the American Indians” to “secret, encoded confession to a role in faking the Apollo moon landing footage.” Despite the eccentricity of some of the claims, the evidence the offscreen voices cite is really there, and most of it seems to be there on purpose to signify something. My only problem was, “If THE SHINING is ‘really’ about the moon landings, why does it have all this stuff about the Holocaust? And if it’s ‘really’ about the Holocaust, why does it have all this stuff about the Indians?”

Each of the film-analysts is focussing very selectively, and each of them is somewhat guilty of the intentional fallacy, assuming they can read Kubrick’s intent, although one does helpfully acknowledge this fallacy and admit that what Kubrick may have intended is unknowable to critics and doesn’t, ultimately, matter.

While one commentator was talking about the partially occluded Indian heads on the cans of Calumet baking soda in this scene, I started scanning the other containers in the b/g to see if I could find anything else of interest. I did!

PIMENTO PIECES. SLICED PEACHES. TOMATO KETCHUP.

All these references to “pieces” and “slices” are deliciously pointed, considering that Jack is working up to trying to dismember his family (which we already know because of the example of caretaker Grady before him). And that is likely the reason the Indian heads are all chopped up by the composition — think also of the spectral party guest with the split head — and rogue English accent. In fact, why are the 1920s flashback/visions populated with Englishmen (Grady himself is the very British Philip Stone)? Only Lloyd the bartender is a red-blooded American. Since Kubrick is shooting in England but dragging Albion up as Colorado, it seems odd that he should so nakedly display the falsity of the premise — but it’s in keeping with the various ways in which the insistently real, textured banality of the hotel set is made to behave in an unreal, Escher-like way, folding in on itself with dream geography so that little Danny can cycle round a corner and find himself one story up.

One interesting lacuna not addressed by any of the commenters, but noted by the mighty Michel Ciment in his Kubrick book, is that Grady the waiter/caretaker has two names to go with his two jobs: we’re told about a Charles Grady, but then he gives his name as Delbert Grady. Why? Maybe it’s part of duality (“You know, the Jungian thing?”) — two names, two jobs, two daughters…

The most obvious things to read in THE SHINING are the titles, in a typical Kubrick sans-serif font, but with a glowing, modern look that suggests sci-fi rather than Gothic (which is apt: the film’s denial of dark shadows miffed Pauline Kael). And then there’s the intertitles, which start explicatory and wind up pretty confusing, another random element hurled in to throw us off-balance — they more closely resemble the title cards of early Bunuel, which make perfectly sensible statements like “Sixteen years ago” and “In Spring,” yet become darkly funny and absurd because of the context they’re spliced into.

Then there’s Jack’s novel, which some poor bastard had to type up — it matters that this doesn’t look photocopied, every page is different, complete with typos — “All work and no play makes Jack a dull bot.” “All work and no play makes Jack a dull bog.” “All work and no play makes Jack adult boy.”

Students of the life of John Barrymore will recognize where Stephen King got the inspiration for this freaky revelation. It also reminds me of a plot point from Michael Moorcock’s The Final Programme, which sadly never made it into Robert Fuest’s tasty film. One of the novel’s MacGuffins is a book written by the American astronaut who spent the longest time in space. When finally obtained, the voluminous manuscript turns out to consist of the single word “ha” repeated a great many times.

“That madman business” — Shelley Duvall is reading The Catcher in the Rye, favourite reading material of crazed loners. Also, the book, favoured by John Lennon’s killer (and later by Ronald Reagan’s attempted assassin) takes its title from a Mondegreen, the lead character’s misapprehension of a song lyric. Stephen King took the title for The Shining from the lyric “And we all shine on” from the John Lennon song Instant Karma.

In the background of the Torrance kitchen we can see a bottle of Joy. The fact that advertisers chose to name a cleaning product “joy” displays baldly the sheer blistering contempt they held for housewives.

Off to the Overlook!

The KEEP THIS AREA CLEAN sign is darkly amusing, in context.

PLEASE PUT CUPS AND OTHER GARBAGE IN THE BINS PROVIDED

Oddly aggressive tone to this notice, don’t you think? Why is my cup garbage?

During this scene, where the chair behind Jack playfully vanishes and returns between reverse angles, the scrapbook in front of Jack also executes a neat unseen page-turn, although it maintains perfect continuity during the vanishing chair sequence — which is intriguing, because if we try to explain the missing chair by suggesting one of those shots was a pick-up, filmed weeks later, it’s hardly likely that the scrapbook continuity would match so perfectly. The scrapbook calmly bides its time until a wide shot gives it the opportunity to flip on a page or two.

The scrapbook is significant — Jack is researching the Overlook’s past, and when he meets Grady he recognizes him from his picture. I think there’s more of this in the book, whereas at least in the UK edit it’s unlikely anybody would notice the book and understand what it was there for.

NEWSWATCH. 10 GLENN RINKER. WPLG Miami.

Kubrick filmed this shot with the newly developed “ScatCam.”

Weirdly, the show is announced as “Newswatch 10” but the title just says “Newswatch.” Then anchorman Glenn Rinker is introduced, and the caption says “10 Glenn Rinker” which is just weird. It does actually seem like a moronic mistake, as if the captions guy had a scrap of paper with “Newswatch 10 Glenn Rinker” scrawled on it and he decided to break it up in the wrong place. Although it may be a veiled reference to Professor Ten Brinken from Hanns Heinz Ewers’ horror classic Alraune (filmed twice with Brigitte Helm).

The shorter UK edit (prepared by Kubrick himself after the American release) omits all the cartoons viewed by Danny, but we still have numerous cartoon characters in the form of stickers (with the vanishing Dopey), the Bugs Bunny-derived nicknamed “Doc,” and the presence of Scatman Crothers — but everybody is too polite to say “Weren’t you Hong Kong Fooey”?

In ROOM 237, much is made of Kubrick’s slow dissolves, particularly an early crossfade from hotel exterior to interior in which a stepladder echoes the point of the hotel’s roof. I agree that this is deliberate, and I think it may also be a tribute to Max Ophuls, who tracks past a stepladder in a hotel lobby at the start of THE RECKLESS MOMENT (another stepladder pops up earlier in Ophuls’ DE MAYERLING A SARAJEVO — I think he liked stepladders). Kubrick admired Ophuls and dedicated a shot in PATHS OF GLORY to the German director, on the day he learned of his death.

Fiona pointed out that in a later dissolve, Jack on his writing “throne” seems to acquire a matching “crown,” actually a light fitting bleeding through from the incoming scene. Again, this seems deliberate.

Kubrick insists, here and in EYES WIDE SHUT, that it is possible to perform oral sex through a full-face mask. “How much sex did Kubrick have?” pondered Fiona. Still, this is an impressive early appearance by “furries,” those creepy sex fetishists who get off on dressing up like cartoon animals. But it’s not the earliest!

This is SUPERBITCH, aka SI PUO ESSERE PIU BASTARDI DELL’ISPETTORE CLIFF? with Stephanie Beacham as a high-class escort giving the five-star treatment to a rich perv. I guess the furry fetish probably originated with fancy dress parties — alcohol, dancing, dressing up, can sex be far away? Then again, for some the connection may stem from early sexual fantasies being formed in childhood, while surrounded by cute imagery of talking chipmunks.

BTW, sorry my SHINING stills are 4:3. That’s the format Kubrick insisted on when his films first had their DVD release. Perfectionist, my ass!

“I don’t particularly like writing on the screen.” ~ Stanley Kubrick.

Roddy, Prince of Darkness

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 3, 2008 by dcairns

Global Harming 

In the SECONDS it’s taken me to cross the room from the window, a Savage Hail Storm has metamorphosed into Endless Descending Curtains of Soft Snow! I truly suspect the dire hand of Ming the Merciless is behind this.

clean up in aisle 13!

Be that as it may, I mentioned way back that my partner’s brother was staying with us and a trip to see the reissue of Hammer Films’ DRACULA was planned. I’d like to explain how that turned out.

Roddy, who has learning difficulties, loves old horror movies, and his particular obsession is with Christopher Lee’s Dracula, so upon learning that the film happened to be screening during his visit, we made haste to tell him of this happy coincidence.

The circumstances that led him to take a massive overdose of laxatives in order to avoid seeing his favourite movie will require some background explanation.

The particular thing Roddy has is called Williams Syndrome, and we’ve often called him the Poster Boy for that particular non-inherited genetic condition. So many of the things about him that one assumes are personal quirks, turn out to be basic symptoms (in spite of this, it took forty years for him to be officially diagnosed with the condition, not that it made much difference really). Among the symptoms — phobias. Roddy has always been uncomfortable with stairs and especially escalators, but what we didn’t realise was how markedly this had increased since his last visit.

pervertigo

We’d heard some of the stories: Roddy had wandered in front of an oncoming bus and been yelled at by the driver, and he’d had a fall, but we hadn’t grasped how this had affected his behaviour.

On the day of the DRACULA trip, Roddy suddenly came down with galloping diarrhoea, which was particularly problematic since he has trouble getting around. Put simply, he’s seriously overweight (when you can’t read and you’re phobic about going out, you entertain yourself by sitting on the couch and feeding your face). He couldn’t make it to the bathroom (just at the end of the hall) in time and he was getting “the squits” every FIVE MINUTES.

the worst toilet in Scotland

We called emergency helplines and got him a hospital appointment, since this was pretty extreme and unmanageable. At this point we were secretly praying they’d take him off our hands, stick him in a bed with a big nappy on, and keep him until Christmas Day.

Anyhow they didn’t, but Roddy quite enjoyed his trip to the hospital. (Imagine how much he’d have enjoyed the movie!) The doc thought he probably had a virus — we didn’t discover the half-drained bottle of Lactulose until the day of his departure (four days later). Needless to say, a trip to the cinema was out of the question, even in diapers.

It was all kind of depressing. I sympathise with Roddy’s phobias (my partner/his sister has suffered acute agoraphobia), especially as Williams Syndrome carries as another symptom a loss of depth perception. Since Roddy is too bulbous to see his own feet, looking down from his eye sockets all one would see is a slow-moving circumference with the ground some incalculable distance below: no wonder stairs are difficult.

And there’s a horrible pathos in Roddy’s Dracula obsession: he wants to be the tall dark and handsome stranger who has a mysterious power over buxom blondes. My desire to be Gene Kelly or Errol Flynn or James Coburn is pretty pathetic too (I’d be lucky to attain the condition of, say, Paul Giamatti), but it doesn’t haunt me to the same degree, and it isn’t as cruelly WRONG. Only a very sick author would invent a character who wants to be a 6’4′ hypnotic vampire when he is a 5′ 0′ obese man with learning difficulties. Apart from anything else, Dracula is a character who rather famously makes his entrance by gliding down a flight of stairs!

I am...Dracula

Chuck Jones said that he dreamt of being Bugs Bunny but always awoke as Daffy Duck. Roddy, concordantly, dreams of being Dracula but awakens as the Frankenstein Monster: but with one pleasing difference. Williams Syndrome is sometimes called “cocktail-party syndrome”, and its “suffererers” are blessed with very good social skills — Roddy can really Work The Room. Is his Syndrome perhaps named after ROBIN Williams?

ROBIN williams syndrome

 Anyhow, that was our Christmas.

Upside: we are full of hope that he’s going to lose weight and conquer his phobias, at least somewhat, this year.

More on the Hammer DRACULA soon.

More on Roddy and Williams Syndrome HERE.