Straighten up and fly right into the Year of the Monkey with these movies

Celebrate the Year of the Monkey by considering the monkey in the movies and television and even take some music as inspiration. Although 2016 started out with the sad news of Natalie Cole’s death, one can remember by using the song that her famous father Nat King Cole wrote with Irving Miles, “Straighten Up and Fly Right.”

That song about a buzzard who has been providing a dodgy flying service for innocent animals only to eat them after he lets them fall to their deathes. When the monkey gets on the buzzard’s back, the monkey wraps his tail around the buzzard’s neck and the buzzard can’t shake him off. That 1943 song became an anthem for the Tuskegee Airmen as they battled Germans in Europe and racism in America.

In the 1960s, there was a group of singers who did some monkeying around and made music: The Monkees. Fittingly, the surviving three members are putting out an album this year: “Good Times!” Of course there are also real monkeys and apes and both humorous and serious issues surrounding them.

  1. Among the Wild Chimpanzees” (1984): A documentary about Jane Goodall and her work with chimpanzees by National Geographic
  2. “Curious George”: A  TV series on PBS Kids based on the books by Margret and Hans A. Rey for preschoolers.
  3. “Gorillas in the Mist” (1988): A biopic about Dian Fossey and her fight to save the mountain gorillas in Rwanda.
  4. “The Jungle Book” (1967): The boy Mowgli meets with orangutans because of King Louie (Louis Prima) wants to be like humans (“I Wan’na Be like You”).
  5. “The Monkees” (1966-1968): A TV series about a rock band in Los Angeles, struggling to find fame and fortune while having a variety of adventures. The series won Emmys for Outstanding Comedy Series and for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy. This year the surviving Monkees are putting out a new album “Good Times!”.
  6. “Monkey King: Hero Is Back” (2015): A Chinese animated feature.
  7. “The Monkey’s Uncle” (1965): A silly movie with Tommy Kirk as geek genius college student Merlin Jones and Annette Funicello as his girlfriend. Merlin’s nephew is Stanley, a chimp being raised as a human.
  8. “Planet of the Apes” (1968): Charlton Heston stars as the American astronaut who lands on a strange planet where the Apes rule. He makes a friend of two chimpanzee scientists Zira (Kim Hunter) and Cornelius (Roddy McDowall)>
  9. Project Nim” (2011): A British documentary that mixes re-enactments with live footage of Nim Chimpsky, a chimp that was taught sign language. After the experiment was finished, Nim lived on, but was not always so well treated, falling from pampered pet to medical experiment subject.
  10. “The Tuskegee Airmen” (1995): A 1995 HBO TV movie about the first African American combat pilots during World War II. The movie stars Laurence Fishburne, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Malcolm-Jamal Warner.

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