2/21/08

RVOD016 Why Doesn’t Cathy Eat Breakfast? / Petaluma Chicken

(1972, Educational-ish/Short, color) / (1932, Industrial-esque/Short, b&w)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy

The prequel to “Who Cares?”

Rating: ***1/2

In a nutshell:

Short #1: Cathy doesn’t eat breakfast, and won’t say why.
Short #2: Giggly women make the largest omelet in the world.

Short Summary #1:

What happened to Bill's giant plywood spoon?In Why Doesn’t Cathy Eat Breakfast, a narrator wakes up twelve-year-old Cathy to grill her with the eponymous question. Cathy refuses comment while he tries to tempt her with a wide variety of foods, each accompanied by a tall, refreshing glass of milk. When he runs out of possible breakfast dishes—including pancakes, french fries, and ice cream sundaes—he starts to invent wild scenarios that would make her avoid the morning meal. Unruly siblings? Extreme poverty? An absent father? Cathy leaves for school without deigning to answer. The scene fades to black. A title card instructs the projectionist to stop the film and lead a discussion, presumably on the subject of Cathy’s breakfast-related reticence.

Short Summary #2:

In Petaluma Chicken, a troop of women presents Chef San Francisco with several thousand eggs. The chef demands the world’s largest omelet, so the girls chatter and start to break eggs. Before they can start cooking, though, the girls must do calisthenics in the frying pan for some reason. Then they dump in the eggs while Chef SF wanders around with an enormous plywood spoon. They sing and cook until several jarring jump cuts mean that the omelet is finished. Then they all chatter and eat in the shade of a giant papier-mâché chicken.

Thoughts:

Two shorts this time, and each ostensibly on the subject of breakfast, though both seem to have ulterior motives. Why Doesn’t Cathy Eat Breakfast, for instance, tells you right up front that it’s from the National Dairy Council, and the ubiquitous tall, refreshing glasses of milk are obviously intended to make one thirsty. I’m not sure what they want us to discuss at the end, though, especially considering that Cathy has just spent the previous four minutes shooting down every plausible reason for her to skip the morning meal. If all they wanted was product placement, it would have made more sense (and probably cost less) to just hand out posters of dairy products for use in classrooms.

Divining the purpose of Petaluma Chicken requires a bit more invention. I assume it was made to promote the poultry industry of 1930s Sonoma County, though to go by the content of the short, it could just as easily have been made to fetishize eggs, or to recruit for some sort of depression-era lesbian omelet utopia.

Of note: Sonoma is my own home county, where I was raised and still live to this day. Each egg woman wears a beauty queen-esque banner proclaiming her city of origin. Most of these seem to be from nearby Petaluma, but a few can be seen sporting the name of my own hometown, Sebastopol. While Sebastopol isn’t really much of a lesbian omelet utopia these days, it has become an upscale haven for a wide variety of alternative lifestyles. This is a nice way of saying that many of its inhabitants stink and/or sell overpriced curios.

These are, hands down, the two strangest short subjects any MST3K alumni have riffed, and these are the people who’ve brought you A Case of Spring Fever, Once Upon a Honeymoon, and Design for Dreaming. At least the preceding had some sort of point; Why Doesn’t Cathy Eat Breakfast and Petaluma Chicken seem almost Dadaist in their pointlessness. Mike, Bill, and Kevin rise to the occasion to wonder what the hell is going on along with the rest of us. When the title card urges us to reflect on Cathy’s anti-breakfast ways, Mike notes, “No Country for Old Men had better closure,” while Kevin asks, “Is Cathy Keiser Soze?” Of Petaluma Chicken’s effort to make the world’s largest omelet, Mike speculates that those involved must be celebrating the recent creation of “the world’s largest pot brownie.” The shorts seem to revel in their strangeness, and Mike and company revel along with them, making this one of the funniest Rifftrax On Demand releases available.