My Thoughts On: Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995)

I was over the moon to receive Batman: The Complete Animated Series as an early birthday present. I’ve wanted to add the series to my collection for years as it holds a very special place in my childhood (it’s one of the first cartoons I can remember watching on television). Batman: The Animated Series is rightly held to be one of the greatest animated series ever made. It is sometimes referred to as cartoon noir as it borrows many conventions from film noir (for example most of the cars and buildings evoke the 1940s). The series is also responsible for jump starting the DC Animated Universe (which included Superman: The Animated Series; Justice League; Batman Beyond and Justice League Unlimited to name a few).

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The show also featured an all star voice cast, including Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker himself) as the voice of the Joker. Even though I’ve seen video of Mark doing the Joker voice, it’s still hard for me to imagine that voice and Luke’s voice coming out of the same person (but then again that just shows how talented he really is as a voice actor). The series is also responsible for introducing Harley Quinn (voiced by the brilliant Arleen Sorkin) to the Batman canon. The besotted Harley was created exclusively for the show before eventually being written into the comic canon (one of the first times that’s ever happened for any character). There are also origins given for many of Batman’s most infamous enemies, including Two-Face (“Two Face” parts I and II), Clayface (“Feat of Clay” parts I and II) and Mr. Freeze (“Heart of Ice” which is widely considered to be the best episode of the series).

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I’ve been asked before which episode is my favorite and the honest truth is I can’t pick just one, because they’re all so good. However, I can pick a few to highlight:

  • “Heart of Ice” rewrites the origins of Mr. Freeze and turns him into what is probably the most sympathetic villain in the series.
  • “Harley and Ivy”: Having been kicked out of Joker’s gang, Harley Quinn goes into business for herself, eventually joining forces with Poison Ivy and the duo prove to be very skilled in the world of crime (to the growing consternation of the Joker).
  • “Lock-Up”: Lyle Bolton, head of security at Arkham Asylum, is dismissed from his job after it comes out that he’s brutalizing the prisoners. This is one episode where you feel complete sympathy for the villains as they literally quake in terror at Bolton’s mere presence (especially Jonathan Crane, aka The Scarecrow, who practically begs Batman not to take him back).

I’m excited to continue watching this amazing series and I highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it (or perhaps hasn’t watched in a long time). Over 25 years after its debut, Batman: The Animated Series continues to impress.

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Film/TV Reviews

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Film Music Central turns 3!

Okay technically the anniversary was two days ago but since I was laid up with a bad cold (stupid virus), I haven’t been able to celebrate until now.

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Wow, can you believe Film Music Central is THREE years old? When I started this blog, I never dreamed that it would grow as big as it has (in fact I had a crippling fear that no one would be interested in anything I had to say). Several milestones have been hit this year: we’re past 500 followers (and are actually 9 away from 600); I passed 7K monthly views for the first time and I’ve also gotten more views this year than the last two years combined. It’s definitely safe to say that 2018 has been the best year yet for Film Music Central and I’m very excited to see where things go in 2019.

I just want to thank everyone who’s helped to support my blog. Your encouragement, your comments have done a lot to keep me going in this endeavor. I know I haven’t really blogged much in the last couple weeks, but I’m hoping to return after the Thanksgiving holiday.

Once more, thank you everyone for supporting Film Music Central and here’s to another year of blogging! Cheers!

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My Thoughts on: The Ballad of Narayama (1958)

The Ballad of Narayama (1958) is a film I’d not heard of before yesterday, but as I was searching for Criterion films to add to my collection, the film’s plot caught my attention. The film, directed by Keisuke Kinoshita, is modeled after a kabuki play (classic Japanese dance-drama) and tells the story of a remote village where anyone who reaches the age of 70 must be taken to Narayama (a distant mountain) and left there to die of exposure. Orin (Kinuyo Tanaka) is a 69 year old grandmother who has resolved to make the journey to Narayama when the new year comes, but first she wants to make sure her family’s affairs are in order.

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From the start the film looks like it’s a stage play: a narrator introduces the story and narrates various sections through song. I was worried at first that I would find a narrator distracting, but it flows in and out of the film so seamlessly that after a while you don’t even notice. I also like how there’s not even a pretense of realism: the action is clearly taking place on a stage and when a scene is done, the background will literally fall away to reveal the next scene.

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While the film shows various aspects of village life throughout the year, I feel that most of all the film displays the contrast between Orin, who happily accepts her fate, and Mata  (Seiji Miyaguchi), a man past 70 who refuses to journey to Narayama, even though he shames his family (and himself) by refusing to go. The difference in how they meet their ends couldn’t be more different: while Orin is left serenely awaiting death on the mountain, Mata is dragged kicking and screaming by his son, and finally resists so much that he falls off a cliff. The message couldn’t be more clear: not following tradition only leads to heartbreak and pain. You’re also left feeling nothing but contempt for Mata after seeing how calmly Orin accepts what must be done.

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The one thing about this film that confuses me however, is the ending. After Orin is left on Narayama, her son returns to his new wife and she consoles him with the knowledge that they can travel to Narayama together someday (as they are the same age). The scene abruptly cuts to a black and white shot of a train pulling in at a station, presumably where the old village used to stand. I’m sure we’re meant to gather something from this transition to the present, but I’m not sure what that message is supposed to be.

The Ballad of Narayama is a beautiful film that tells a very sad story. You’ll definitely be in tears by the end. Let me know what you think about this film in the comments below and have a great day!

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Film/TV Reviews

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Peter Pan “Following the Leader” (1953)

*note, this song refers to Native Americans as Indians and “Injuns” which is politically incorrect now, but was considered okay then.

Now that Wendy and her brothers have safely arrived in Neverland and met the Lost Boys, it’s time to set off on the adventures Peter promised them. While Peter takes Wendy to meet the mermaids, John and Michael and the Lost Boys set off to locate the Indian tribe (with John assuming the role of leader). As the Lost Boys march off, they sing a song about “following the leader.”

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Peter Pan “Following the Leader” (1953)

Following the leader, the leader, the leader
We’re following the leader
Wherever he may go

Tee dum, tee dee, a teedle ee do tee day
Tee dum, tee dee it’s part of the game we play
Tee dum, tee dee, the words are easy to say
Just a teedle ee dum a teedle ee do tee day

Tee dum, tee dee, a teedle ee do tee dum
We’re one for all, and all of us out for fun
We march in line and follow the other one
With a teedle ee do a teedle ee do tee dum

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Following the leader, the leader, the leader
We’re following the leader
Wherever he may go
We’re out to fight the Injuns, the Injuns, the Injuns
We’re out to fight the Injuns
Because he told us so

Tee dum, tee dee a teedle ee do tee day
We march along and these are the words we say:
Tee dum, tee dee, a teedle de dum dee-day
Oh, a teedle ee dum a teedle ee do tee day

Oh, a teedle ee dum a teedle ee-do-tee-day

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The boys traveling through Neverland is like any adventure you ever dreamed of having as a child. They cross rivers, swing down vines and unwittingly pass by several animals (a hippo, monkeys, a rhinoceros and even a large bear). Neverland is full of all kinds of terrain, from the jungle, to the savannah and ending in a forest filled with pine trees.

The song comes to an abrupt end when John discovers a pair of “Indian tracks” in the middle of a clearing. Looking back, it seems obvious that this was a trap for the Lost Boys from the start because how else could their be two footprints side-by-side? If someone is walking normally, one footprint should be in front of the other. But instead they’re next to each other like someone was just standing still. Clearly this is meant to be a trap to delay the Lost Boys until the tribe can close in and capture them (which they do).

I’ve always liked “Following the Leader,” it’s a fun interlude before the drama with Captain Hook and Tiger Lily. What do you think of this song? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Peter Pan “What Made the Red Man red?” (1953)

Disney/Dreamworks/Pixar/etc. Soundtracks A-Z

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Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow “Katrina” (1949)

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow “Katrina” (1949)

In The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Ichabod Crane is the awkward yet likable enough school teacher in the village of Sleepy Hollow. He leads a contented life teaching the children while shamelessly flirting with most of the women in town when, one day…he happens to notice the beautiful Katrina van Tassel. Katrina is described as the most beautiful woman in town and she has every unmarried man in Sleepy Hollow wrapped around her finger (without even trying). Naturally Ichabod promptly falls head over heels for the young heiress (though the narrator states he’s equally interested in her fortune as much as her looks), but the short song about Katrina indicates that she’s not as innocent as she looks:

Oo oo oo oo
Ah ah ah ah ah ah ah
Once you have met that little coquette Katrina
You won’t forget Katrina
But nobody yet has ever upset Katrina
That cute coquette Katrina
You can do more with Margaret or Helena
Or Anne or Angelina
But Katrina will kiss and run
To her a romance is fun
With always another one to start
And then when you’ve met that little coquette Katrina
You’ve lost your heart

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Katrina is described as “that little coquette,” meaning she loves to flirt. There’s nothing wrong with that, but a later line forebodes that Ichabod’s quest for Katrina’s hand will end badly: “but Katrina will kiss and run/To her a romance is fun/With always another one to start…” I take this line to mean that Katrina has no problem playing with men’s feelings and doesn’t take declarations of love seriously, which can be hurtful if the person expressing those feelings is genuine. And believe me Katrina is taking full advantage of men’s feelings for her, like having them assemble a picnic or carrying all of her packages. It IS funny though to see how quickly Ichabod is smitten by Katrina: one look and he puts a chicken on his head and starts eating his hat!

What do you think of “Katrina”? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow “Headless Horseman” (1949)

Disney/Dreamworks/Pixar/etc. Soundtracks A-Z

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow “Headless Horseman” (1949)

In Disney’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (sometimes billed as The Adventures of Ichabod), the story follows lanky schoolmaster Ichabod Crane as he attempts to woo the beautiful (and very rich) Katrina van Tassel, to the increasing chagrin of Brom Bones, the town hero. In truth, Katrina is only paying attention to Ichabod to make Brom work harder to secure her affections, but neither man knows this.

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow “Headless Horseman” (1949)

Things come to a head when a Halloween party is held at the van Tassel residence. After being upstaged by Ichabod most of the evening, Brom notices that Ichabod is superstitious (he throws salt over his shoulder after spilling some) and decides to use this knowledge to his advantage. He gathers the company around and begins to sing the story of the Headless Horseman, a terrifying ghost reputed to wander Sleepy Hollow.

Just gather ’round
and I’ll elucidate
on what goes on outside when it gets late.
Long about midnight,
The ghosts and banshees,
They get together for their nightly jamboree. 
There’s things with horns and saucer eyes
some with fangs about this size.

Oh When the spooks have a midnight jamboree,
they break it up with fiendish glee.
Ghosts are bad,
but the one that’s cursed
is the Headless Horseman,
he’s the worst.

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Ichabod pays rapt attention to the song, his terror growing with every verse. “Headless Horseman” is considered one of the darkest songs ever created for a Disney film (right up there with “Hellfire” from The Hunchback of Notre Dame). According to Brom (performed by Bing Crosby), the Headless Horseman rides one night each year to search for a new head. However, if you can cross the bridge at the end of the Hollow, you’ll be safe from the Horseman’s power.

Now, if you doubt this tale is so,
I met that spook just a year ago.
Now, I didn’t stop for a second look,
but made for the bridge that spans the brook.
For once you cross that bridge, my friends,

The ghost is through, his power ends.

So, when you’re riding home tonight,
make for the bridge with all your might.
He’ll be down in the Hollow there.
He needs your head.
Look out! Beware!

Of course we’re meant to find Ichabod’s terror funny because, so far as we know, Brom is making this story up. After all, there’s no such thing as ghosts…or is there? Given how Ichabod’s encounter with the Horseman plays out, it seems possible that Brom might have been telling the truth after all (but that’s a story for another time).

Personally, I don’t remember being scared by this song as a kid (though I don’t think I saw this particular film very often), but I can see how it would be scary for some. Brom can look quite menacing when he chooses and he brings all his talent to bear on scaring Ichabod before he leaves the party. If I heard a song like that, I’d be nervous about riding home in the dark too.

What do you think of the song “Headless Horseman”? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Disney/Dreamworks/Pixar/etc. Soundtracks A-Z

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My Thoughts on: The Hollow Crown ‘Richard III’ (2016)

I’ve said before that Richard III is my favorite Shakespearean play and I’ve done my best to see each major film adaptation of it (thus far I’ve seen three: this one, Olivier’s 1955 version and Ian McKellen’s 1995 version). When I heard that The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses would feature Benedict Cumberbatch as the last Plantagenet king, I knew I could not afford to miss this performance. And let me tell you, Cumberbatch plays the role so well that I feel it is at least equal to Olivier’s performance (and that is saying something!)

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Comparing it to the 1955 version, it’s clear right away that there are some major differences. In the earlier version, the role of Queen Margaret (Henry VI’s widow) is eliminated entirely, but in this version she’s one of the major characters and it completely changes the tone of the play, especially in a pivotal scene when Margaret curses Richard, Buckingham, Queen Elizabeth and the queen’s relatives. Sophie Okonedo is brilliant as the aging Margaret, who has by now lost her husband, her status and her only son. And while she sounds like a raving madwoman (and Richard tries to play her off as such), it’s made clear that everyone believes her words, even if they don’t say so.

Richard and Richmond rally their troops (2016)

Speaking of Richard, from the moment Cumberbatch appears on the screen, you cannot look away from him. This version of Richard III does something new, in that for the first time we see Richard shirtless, exposing his twisted hump for all to see. Cumberbatch turns in a masterful performance as the ultimate deceiver, putting on a kind face for most of the court, and only revealing his true self to the audience. Margaret is the only one to see Richard for what he truly is, and by the time the others realize the danger, it’s too late.

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Going back to differences in versions, this iteration of Richard III cuts out several soliloquies that I’ve come to enjoy in other versions. Most notably, Clarence’s speech about drowning (right before his murder) is all but eliminated, which is a shame as hearing Clarence describe the feeling of drowning right before he is murdered BY drowning only increases the horror of the situation.

The other scene I must highlight comes towards the end of the play, right before Richard rides into battle against Henry Tudor (the future Henry VII). Richard is drawn into a nightmare where he is brought face to face with the ghosts of everyone he has killed to get to the throne: his nephews, Henry VI, his wife Anne, Buckingham; all of these ghosts mock Richard and bid him “despair and die.” It’s a chilling scene and one that almost brings Richard to his senses, but the villain is unrepentant to the last.

I highly recommend The Hollow Crown: Richard III to anyone who hasn’t seen a Shakespeare play on film before and is curious about starting. It’s a wonderful performance from the entire cast and you will love it. If you have seen this version of Richard III, let me know your thoughts on it in the comments below and have a great day 🙂

See also:

My Thoughts on: The Hollow Crown ‘Richard II’ (2012)

My thoughts on: Richard III (1955)

Film/TV Reviews

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