TV

'But Every So Often, A Miracle Happens' - A Send Off for Moral Orel

It's Art Clokey vs. the Antichrist at Adult Swim as we say goodbye to one of the best, most brazen stop motion animation efforts ever. God only knows why this show isn't coming back for another sensational season.


Moral Orel

Cast: Scott Adsit, Jay Johnston, Carolyn Lawrence, Britta Phillips, William Salyers, Tigger Stamatopoulos, Dino Stamatopoulos
MPAA rating: N/A
Network: Cartoon Network
US release date: 2005-12-13
Website
Amazon

As of this writing, I’ve finally seen “Honor”, the last episode of Moral Orel. It’s a beautiful end to a third season that visited the darker corners of human behavior. Not to spoil anything, by my Jewish heart is pretty much covered in Christmas lights for the time being.

As with pretty much every critic, I think my opinion (or ability to express it) matters at least a little. So the nagging question is, then – why did Moral Orel get canceled? In a recent interview with The Onion A.V. Club, series co-producer Scott Adsit theorized that the more serious tone introduced in season two had something to do with it. And he’s right to point that out: while season one was dictated by the comically vulgar misadventures of Orel as he tried to follow the righteous path, by the second season we were treated to a more serious look at Moralton, a town filled with people dealing with the trials and hypocrisies of fundamentalist religion. This isn’t Assy McGee or Squidbillies, and it’s a shame that creator Dino Stamatopolous’ finest moment was cut short to a final season of 13 episodes.

Moral Orel wasn’t immune to groan-worthy “look at how dumb people with faith are!” moments, but through season two – and especially season three – a stop-motion show became a bravely nuanced drama of damaged people just trying to make the best of things. Other than Orel, no one in the Moralton universe was without major faults, or redemption. Take Reverend Putty (many of the characters were named after parts of the stop-motion process), whose single-track obsession with sex, often at the expense of the feelings of those around him, stemmed from crippling loneliness. Putty’s ultimate redemption comes with a surprise daughter, but giving away her identity would spoil one of the tenderest moments from a show full of well-placed ones.

The real genius of Moral Orel is that, particularly into the third season, it manages to venture into some outlandish settings, without losing the tinge of emotional realism. Witness Ms. Censordoll, the barren Moralton librarian, whose eccentric infatuation with eggs still manages to elicit sympathy. Moral Orel can be dark without getting cartoonish, and heartwarming without dissolving into pap. Much like the Muppets or The Peanuts gang, there’s a divinely human touch on the animated characters, and Moral Orel belongs in that lineage of classic animated takes on the human condition. This one just has a few more Satan jokes.

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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Music

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

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Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

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From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

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This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

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