Wilco, "Dawned On Me"

>> Monday, April 23, 2012

I admit a certain ambivalence re: Popeye. I have an enduring fondness for Robert Altman's lovable 1980 fiasco starring a still-funny Robin Williams and enjoyable-for-a-change Shelley Duvall, but this is a movie directed by the aforementioned legendary Altman from a screenplay by the amazing Jules Feiffer with music by the late great Harry Nilsson and Brian Wilson's one-time work husband Van Dyke Parks; i.e. this is a movie made by people incapable of doing something uninteresting completely aside from whether what they actually achieved wholly works. Popeye isn't an out-and-out terrible movie and even has moments of utterly lovable brilliance, but even so, I'd rather watch a really lousy movie made by these guys than Renny Harlin's best film ever.

But Popeye himself, y'know: I'm too young to have really gotten a good exposure to the Segar strips, fine though I've heard they are and maybe I need to repair my ignorance. Unfortunately, I'm old enough for various Popeye animated shorts to have been a staple of afternoon daytime television through my formative years, and what sticks in my head (perhaps unfairly, I'll admit) is how terrible and repetitive so many of them are. Granted, again, maybe this is something I'd revisit and be amazed and have to revise my opinion of. But what's stuck in my head is that all the Popeye shorts are pretty much exactly the same to a degree even exceeding the Road Runner and Coyote shorts, and those at least offer up high points of Goldbergesque cleverness with whatever insane whatsit the poor Coyote has put together from the Acme Catalogue this time. Popeye, seems to me, is always the same "and now I eats me spinach and has a sight gag in my biceps" routine. Really it's about as bad as Pepé le Pew when I think about it. (How many ways can a cat get paint on her back, anyway?)

The Wilco video, directed by Darren Romanelli, is licensed from King Features and the video's page says it's the first hand-drawn Popeye cartoon in more than thirty years. Which is something, I guess. I'd love to praise the effort, and I can say it's utterly beautifully rendered and I love the lines; it's just that, y'know, it's the same exact thing as every other Popeye cartoon with the exception that cans of Wilco-Brand spinach may contain singularities and therefore be a little dangerous to open (I hope there's some kind of recall). I know some people erroneously claim spinach sucks, but this seems a bit much. Oh--the other twist in this one is that Olive Oyl gets swept away by Jeff Tweedy, so I guess the pecking order is something like Jeff Tweedy > Popeye > Bluto, which could be something to keep in mind if you're ever in some kind of Popeye trivia contest or you're abducted by aliens who want you to explain the entire human hierarchy in easy terms. (You may or may not want to disabuse them of the notion that guitarists sometimes grab infants to use as violin bows à la Jimmy Page.)

The song, anyway, is great.


vince Monday, April 23, 2012 at 8:08:00 PM EDT  

I thought the movie was flawed but definitely watchable. As for the cartoons, the early ones done for movie theaters in the 1930's are awesome. There are sets remastered from the original negatives available. They're available from Amazon, or when they come back from a friend I loaned them to, I'd be glad to loan them to you.

Eric Monday, April 23, 2012 at 8:59:00 PM EDT  

Vince, I'm always reluctant to borrow things from friends, but I appreciate the offer. And I appreciate the recommendation! I'll give the sailor man another chance.

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