HOCUS POCUS

Boo!

It’s Halloween, my feline followers, which is one of my least favorite holidays. First of all, it gives us cats—particularly those of us with a slightly darker fur tone—a bad reputation. Second, I live in New York City, and Halloween in New York isn’t fun if you are a normal person. My mom-human hasn’t gone out on Halloween since her freshman year of college, and her stories about the subway down to the Village make me claustrophobic. And I sleep in boxes.

So tonight I snuggled in for a Halloween classic, ‘cause a cat has to celebrate somehow! Hocus Pocus, here I come!

1341831695_hocus_pocus2-ff I assume all of you know the basic plot of Hocus Pocus. The film opens with a young man in Puritan-era Salem, Massachusetts discovering that his sister has been kidnapped by the town’s three witches, who intend to use her for a spell to make them younger. The young man, Thackeray Binx, fails to rescue his sister, and instead is turned into… you guessed it… A CAT! From there, we fast forward to the present (1994), where some erstwhile younguns—teens Max and Allison (Omni Katz and Vinessa Shaw) and Max’s young sister (Thora Birch)—release the witches from their graves for one night only—Halloween, 1994. While the witch sisters attempt to find more small children to devour to retain their youth, the three kids, along with Binx the cat and Billy Butcherson the zombie, fight against time to make sure these witches are destroyed before the sun comes up.Hocus-Pocus_20Things_9As anyone who has seen Hocus Pocus knows, though, the plot is not really what makes this film great. What makes this film great is Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, Sarah Jessica Parker, and the amazing animatronics of the 90s (i.e. Binx the cat). It is anachronistic nonsense, which, if you read my reviews, you know is my cup of shredded chicken in pumpkin broth (wait… that was just my dinner tonight).

Onto serious matters, though, I need to share something very, very special tonight on Franny’s Feline Film Forum. The last few reviews I’ve done had fairly low ratings on my Pawprint Plot.IMG_2831

Tonight, though, after much notetaking and some very important fact-checking, I was excited to award Hocus Pocus THE FIRST EVER 100 PAW-POINT FILM ON FRANNY’S FELINE FILM FORUM! That’s right, ladies, gents, and felines, Hocus Pocus got a full 100 points. You didn’t think it was possible, but see below for proof.

And in the meantime, please enjoy what’s left of your Halloween. Myself, I’ll be watching Sabrina the Teenage Witch trying to determine whether Binx and Melissa Joan Hart’s cat, Salem, were played by the same cat-actor.

Meow,
Franny

Pawprint Plot Hocus Pocus

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Happy National Cat Day! (and THE SECRET LIFE OF CATS)

In honor of National Cat Day, I’ve gone back to the core of my interests—myself. Also other cats.

This evening, after a delectable dinner of chicken bits in gravy and some running around pointlessly, I settled in to watch the National Geographic documentary from 2008, The Secret Life of Cats.

The film begins with an examination of cats’ nature and history of domestication, which features some of the most incredible cat re-enactments I’ve ever seen. I have to share some screen grabs.Screen Shot 2013-10-29 at 5.58.14 PM

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Nothing too new to report from this section of the film—we are told that cats generally have the upper hand in every situation. We are “a marvel of engineering.” Tell me something I DON’T know.

However, after the playful opening, The Secret Life of Cats took a turn for the worse.

After learning about an abandoned cat community in Florida, we are treated to an incredibly disturbing scene of these cats being captured, anesthetized, tested for feline AIDS and leukemia, and spayed or neutered (I, for one, don’t remember being spayed, and I don’t care to). I had to look away more than once.

We then turn an eye on the problem of outdoor cats hunting where they shouldn’t. Some very sad small children show the camera injured baby bunnies: “The cat bit it here, on its foot.” An ornithologist shows us the tattered carcass of a bird: “We have about a 50% survival rate in wildlife here, mostly due to cats.”

They stalked cats for MONTHS using nightcams. Blair Witch Project, anyone?!

They stalked cats for MONTHS using nightcams. Blair Witch Project, anyone?!

Um, excuse me, but weren’t we just talking about how we’re still wild and supposed to be hunting? Am I crazy?

Then, we travel down under to New Zealand, where cats are not a native species.

This is not a cat in New Zealand, but it is a cat in Antarctica with penguins, which is even weirder.

This is not a cat in New Zealand, but it is a cat in Antarctica with penguins, which is even weirder.

Naturally, though, since we are the most popular animal anywhere, cats were brought to New Zealand, where they proceeded to disrupt the life cycle. Sigh. Haven’t you “naturalists” in your little hats ever heard of Darwin? Survival of the fittest? I’m rolling my eyes, and THEN:

Apparently they are now EATING CATS in New Zealand? And that’s not all: Nat Geo also thought it okay to show a cat being killed, having its stomach cut open and the contents investigated, and then eaten. WHAT IS THIS, A HORROR MOVIE?! WHAT IS THIS FILM RATED?!

THIS MAN HAS A DEAD CAT PELT ON HIS HEAD

THIS MAN HAS A DEAD CAT PELT ON HIS HEAD

Thank god for some sanity. (that is a live cat)

Thank god for some sanity. (that is a live cat)

Frankly, that was about all I could take. I hung in there for the remainder, where Nat Geo finally decided to tell us what we “should” do. The best solutions to the cat hunting problem was demonstrated by two cats named “Tootle Loo” and “Diddles” respectively (I’m not joking, though I wish I were). Tootle has a curfew. No nightime hunting, little Tootle! Diddles has an outdoor cage where he can watch the birds at their feeders. Oh sweet Diddles, you will never know the wonders you are missing behind those metal bars.

I can’t in good conscience recommend this film to other cat lovers with less steely stomachs than I, but as far as my Pawprint Plot, The Secret Life of Cats managed a top score:    80 POINTS!IMG_0209

May you all celebrate your holiday with far less graphic depictions of cat-kind. I plan to curl into the shape of a cinnamon roll and sleep the whole thing off.

Regards,
Franny

Pawprint Plot secret life

MURDER FOR TWO

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears (and paws and tails). Allow me to tell you about one of my favorite plays in New York. (It’s not Julius Caesar, but I did see a great production set in a women’s prison last weekend at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn—no cats, though. Lame.)Murder for TwoMcGinn Cazale Theatre

My dad-human is an occasional cog in the machine at a local off-Broadway theatre. He wears nice slacks, sweater vests, and button downs that are great for sleeping on and leaving my fur. He tells me he is the “house manager.”

Recently, I was happy to accompany my humans to the final dress rehearsal of a show called Murder for Two, which had transferred from a run last summer at dad’s theatre to New World Stages in Midtown. Dad had gushed, so I wanted to see what the fuss was all about.

In basic terms, Murder for Two is a musical murder mystery as enacted by two players (Jeff Blumenkrantz and Brett Ryback) and a piano. The plot is set in motion with the murder of famed novelist Arthur Whitney. Ryback plays the investigator, Marcus, a young cop who is gunning for detective, while Blumenkrantz plays… everyone else. And by everyone, I mean everyone—Dahlia, Whitney’s resentful former-showgirl wife; Barrette, the beautiful ballet dancer with a penchant for murder; Dr. Griff, the friendly local psychologist who just wants a best friend; an entire boys’ choir, and many, many more. It’s a classic whodunit with a twist, or a couple.

Blumenkrantz and Ryback

Blumenkrantz and Ryback

The main twist, and one of the things that makes the show such a pleasure, is that Ryback and Blumenkrantz accompany themselves and each other on the piano. The piano becomes a third character—sometimes as a tool when Marcus wants to convice Dr. Griff to talk in a best-friend-song, sometimes as a nuisance (one character has to run from his deathbed to the piano so that he can “have some music while” he dies), and sometimes as the competitive playing field for impressive four-hand piano stunts (all three players—Ryback, Blumenkrantz, and the piano—have incredible chemistry).

The other element which elevates the show from the predictable is how funny it is. My humans are quick to laughter, which I find irritating since it makes their laps bouncy, but I’m a bit more serious. However, the witty lyrics and book, the impressive physical comedy, and most of all, the tongue-in-cheek, fast-paced, meta-theatrical humor feels very current, and had me about as close as I can come to cracking a smile.

As for the cats… Well. None appear onstage. It’s really a disgrace. I don’t know why a cat couldn’t have been a suspect. Blumenkrantz would have nailed it, considering the skill with which he inhabited around fourteen other roles. Alas, no one consulted me in the construction of this show, so we have to settle for two offstage cats. Two items are hurled offstage—after the first, we hear a pitiful meow, and after the second, a loud roar. I am told no cats (or lions) were hurt in the making of this show.

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Murder for Mew.

All in all, despite the lack of cats, Murder for Two is absolutely worth seeing. My humans have seen it three times (perks of working in the theatre, I guess), and enjoy it more each go.

As for the final Pawprint Plot, Murder for Two clocks in at…

30 points. Still, go see Murder for Two at New World Stages!

M42 plot

I WIN

Special Blog Announcement!

As I’m sure you already know, I’m an incredibly special cat. And for the first time in the history of my blog, SOMEONE HAS ACKNOWLEDGED IT! With gratitude to Playful Kitty, I’m excited to announce that I’ve been award the Dragon’s Loyalty Award.

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1. Display the Award Certificate on your website.

I don’t know how to do this because I have paws. My humans ask your help?

2. Announce your win with a post and link to whoever presented your award.

Check.

3. Present 15 or so awards to deserving bloggers:

There are a number of bloggers whose posts I read with feline fervor. Here is a sampling. If you’re feeling magnanimous, like me, give them a peek!

Cats on Film

Alone with Cats

The Cat on my Head

Cats & Co

SarahRemy

Ringo the Cat’s Blog

I Have Cat

DarwinBookCats

Texas, a cat in… Austin

Ceiling Cat’s Blog

Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

What the Cat Read

rtcvers (my human dad’s blog, sigh)

4. Drop them a comment to tip them off after you’ve linked them in the post:

Check.

5. Post seven interesting things about yourself:

Only seven?

1CatsGroup. I have had three names.

Before I was Franny, I was Lacey. Before Lacey, I was Tabitha. And before I was Tabitha, I had an “ineffable effable / Effanineffable / Deep and inscrutable singular Name.”

 

 

2. I am a kitten explorer.

As a young kit, I appeared in a gentleman’s garage in Upstate New York. He was friendly and he fed me and called me Tabitha. But he left the screen door open a2012-12-21 17.17.24nd I had adventures to have. My next appearance was in the Bronx. What happened between Upstate and the Bronx I will never tell. I was collected in the Bronx and an adoption agency called me Lacey. Two months later, after escaping from my temporary holding cell in a PetCo not once, but twice (call me Houdini), I was adopted by my current humans. They named me Franny, like Zooey, like Salinger, because of my angst.

 

3. I don’t like catnip.

I think it’s because I’m simply stronger than other cats.

 

IMG_28034. I have a lover.

He lives across the courtyard from me. He occasionally sits in the window and we stare at each other. His name is Pouncival.

 

 

 

 

5. I am a world traveler.

Okay, “world” meaning “USA.” I have not only traveled many miles on my pink paw IMG_1919pads, but I’ve also flown to my mom-human’s homestead in Idaho twice. I like it there for all the places to hide, but there’s a large golden retriever who thinks I want to be friends and I DO NOT. I also frequently drive by car to my dad-human’s homestead in rural Pennsylvania. There’s another dog there, small and irritating, and I enjoy eying him with disdain.

 

6. I am toilet-trained.

And honestly I don’t understand why I’m the only cat I know who is. Heathens.

 

7. I tried to eat a roasted pumpkin seed this morning, and it was disgusting. I don’t know why humans try to eat anything but meat.

My humans carved this for the holiday. They named him Zooey, obviously to try and give me someone to be friends with. Ha.

My humans carved this for the holiday. They named him Zooey, obviously as a veiled attempt to provide me a companion. Ha.

 

MY CAT FROM HELL

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Watching reality television has never been my modus operandi.  I’ve never reveled in watching humans live out their lives for the world to watch while they’re prompted to be more interesting by their producers.  Plus, let’s be for real here – where’s all the cats??  Why should reality television be dominated by those two-legged things?  I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, when I stumbled upon Animal Planet’s MY CAT FROM HELL.  I was so pleasantly surprised, in fact, that I binge-watched both seasons available on Netflix in two days.

MY CAT FROM HELL is a show about just that: cats from hell.  Cat owners with disagreeable cats from all walks of life call up cat behavioralist Jackson Galaxy – a tattooed, gouteed, super-hip guy who carries around his cat tools in a hollowed-out guitar case – to save the day.  Through hard work and surprisingly simple solutions, all of these cats (and their guardians, as Jackson calls their humans) are veritible angels by the end of the episode.
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My own humans learned quite a bit about me and others of my feline kind, even though I’m obviously nowhere near anything resembling a “cat from hell.”  It turns out that most domesticated cats can be categorized as either bush-dwellers (who like to stay low to the ground) or tree-dwellers (who like to be above the action).  And it turns out that most tree-dwellers from hell can be “cured” just by installing cat-shelves!  Jackson advises any tree-dweller owner to create a space where their cat can circumvent a room without touching the floor.  I’ve already set my humans on this task.  We’ll see what they come up with.

This show is incredibly addicting, and not just for cat guardians.  Cat guardians, however, will squeal with joy at all the wonderful cats wandering across the screen and will gain a new appreciation for their own wards when faced with the scary awfulness that is some of these cats on screen.  And it’s hard not to like Jackson Galaxy, crazy cool guy that he is.  I highly recommend this Animal Planet series and encourage all to celebrate the whiskered carnivores in MY CAT FROM HELL.

And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for!

The score for this show is………………………………………………

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80 POINTS!

It failed the Bechdel Test because, let’s be honest, there’s never a scene where they don’t talk about the cat.  Which, honestly, is as it should be.

Until next time,
Franny

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BIG FISH on Broadway!

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It’s rare that I make it out to the theatre—snuggling up at home with my human pillows and food anytime I can summon the strength to get to the kitchen is pretty cushy. However, tonight I had tickets to see a new Broadway musical, BIG FISH.

The name alone is enough to seduce a pesco-phile like myself, but the appearance of two cats made the production certainly something to write home about.

iwoW73N8wSV8BIG FISH is the stage adaptation of a film adaptation of a novel by Daniel Wallace. It concerns a man named Edward Bloom (Norbert Leo Butz) and his son, Will (Bobby Steggert). Edward’s life is ending just as Will’s is taking shape; he has just married, and his fiancee (Krystal Joy Brown) is pregnant with a son. Edward and Will have always had a fraught relationship. Edward is a storyteller of massive proportions, weaving unbelieveable tales of giants and mermaids and circuses and true love in daffodil fields. Will, on the other hand, was a practical child who became a practical adult. Over the course of the musical, we are treated to the biggest and brightest of Edward’s tales, while Will tries to parse where exactly his father’s real story fits into all of it.

This production is different from the film in many ways both in plot and tone. First, we’re missing the magical mystery town that appears in the film, which disappointed me. However, I’ve also never read the novel—this might be closer to Wallace’s original. As far as tonal shifts, humor is used to great effect, particularly in the first act. It’s intelligent, self-referential, purposefully silly humor, and it fits just in line with the excess and earnestness of the magical worlds in Edward’s stories. Everything’s just a bit unreal.

There are issues—certain songs, particularly for Sandra, Edward’s wifdt.common.streams.StreamServer.cls_e (Kate Baldwin) and Will, need shaving or cutting altogether, the book is notably stronger than the majority of the score, and the gravitas in the second act isn’t quite warranted based on the thin first act—but it’s a delight on the whole. Butz is an impressive and engaging performer, and the show is very much his. Also, the finale of the musical, as with the film, is so powerful and poignant and tender that even my green cat eyes teared up a bit.

NOW. To the cats. There are two. One appears in the arms of a slender, super-Susan Stroman sweetie in a blonde wig. She magnanimously fears for her cat’s safety against the dangerous giant lurking in the town’s cave. The next cat (the same cat? I was in the mezzanine and couldn’t tell!) flies past with a meow in a tornado scene. Finally, there is a remarkable stomach roar from one of my favorite actors, Brad Oscar, playing Amos, the carnival director. For a stage play, that’s a fair amount of cat-action.

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I dress up for the theatre, bitches.

All together, BIG FISH had all the elements of a great night of theatre, and the cats were just the icing on the cake.

The total score? 50!! Not bad for the theatre.

 

with my usual affect-less affection,

Franny the Cat

Pawprint Plot big fish

UNCLE BUCK

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Sometimes it’s nice to revisit the past.  And by the past, I don’t mean as far back as my last review.  I also don’t mean a past that I can remember.  I do mean a past that my humans can remember, though.  Well, kind of.  Both of my humans were at least alive the era of John Hughes.  And more importantly, the era of John Candy.  And even more importantly, the era of UNCLE BUCK.

UNCLE BUCK (1989) has a simple premise: What happens when you put your schlub of a relative in charge of three high-strung kids?

The answer is, of course, movie magic.

Here’s how we start: Cindy and Bob Russell are average middle-class Americans who are very focused on their work and their busy lives.  They have three kids, one of whom is a “dreamer” of a little girl, one who is a young Macauly Culkin (literally), and one who is really angry teenage girl.  They don’t know their kids, their kids don’t know them, and they eat Chinese food for dinner a lot, apparently.  So not good things here in Chicagoland.

One night, however, Cindy’s dad has a heart attack.  The couple need to go to Indianapolis.  Immediately.  They can’t even wait until the morning (so the film purports).  Who should they get to watch the kids?  They have school, after all – they can’t come.  The neighbor?  Oh no.  Friends from work?  Out of town themselves.

“What about Buck?” asks Bob.

Bob’s brother Buck, played by John Candy, is the black sheep of the familiy – big, loud, living in an apartment, no job, an avid bolwer (the shame of it!), dating a woman who (gasp!) sells tires, smokes cigars, drinks a lot, and is often seen at horse races.  Not necessarily Mary Poppins, here.

Ahh, but they have no choice.  Best call him up.  He comes over in his lemon of a car, and the chaos ensues.

The film from there on is basically a series of vignettes that detail the ridiculous insertion of this character into the formerly orderly lives of the three children.  There’s a lot of angry teenage fighting, especially when Uncle Buck disapproves of Tia’s new boyfriend.  There’s a lot of Macauly Culkin with his eyes wide open looking surprised.  And there’s a lot of John Candy just being a funny fat guy, including a particularly great scene where he makes a giant breakfast for Macauly Culkin’s birthday.

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Eventually, all the humans learn the importance of family, and the kids appreciate their parents a little more for all they do.

It’s sweet.

Now, the cat factor:  In a terribly funny scene, Uncle Buck tries to get the family cat to come inside.  He calls for it, he chases it through the bushes, and he picks it up.  He carries it inside while it caterwauls in dismay and scratches his face and arms.  Once inside, he asks, “Who let the cat out?”  One of the children answers, “We don’t have a cat!”  Out the cat goes back on its merry way.

Now, as much as I don’t appreciate a scene of a human forcing a cat to do something against its will, I even have to applaud the comic timing in this bit.  Well played, John Hughes.  Well played, John Candy.  Well done, Johns.

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UNCLE BUCK is a quintessential end-of-the-eighties film and, even though my parents probably weren’t even alive then, it’s cinema gold.

And the final cat factor is………………………………

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50 points!!!  

It’s a good flick with just a bit of cat, but that bit of cat is a bit of great.

Thanks for stopping by!  Check back soon for more reviews!

– Franny

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