Monday, May 16th is National Classic Movie Day. As if some of us needed more reasons to watch or celebrate classic movies, now we have a whole day dedicated to classic movies. It’s our civic duty to watch old movies. Don’t let me down.
Okay so it’s not actually a government holiday. It’s just a day conceived by Rick of Classic Film and TV Cafe as a way to dedicate a whole day to classic film. I’m sure that most of you don’t need an excuse to watch more movies, so this might be superfluous. Aye. Maybe it’s just a reason to watch two movies instead of just one on Monday, May 16th. Rick celebrates this day by hosting a classic movie blogathon. The theme for this year’s fiesta is “Desert Island Classic Movies.” Being the fan of High Fidelity that I am, this challenge resonates.
The premise is simple. You are to live out the rest of your life on a desert island with only five classic movies. (Because this challenge was inspired by May 16th as Classic Film Day, the choices should be of the “classic” variety. I’ve decided that anything pre-1970 qualifies for this specific endeavor.) Five movies forever. Some smartass is out there challenging the notion that we could have a desert island that contains the ways and means to project these five movies. It’s called suspension of disbelief. 5 movies. 1 island. Unlimited popcorn.
You must choose wisely.
I have a movie collection of oppressive size. I consider them all treasured films in some way or another. Asking me to pick merely five is like returning my 2000 word essay and telling me to cut it back to five words. I might fantasize about slapping your stupid, insubordinate face. Not that I’d actually slap you or anyone’s stupid insubordinate face for that matter, but this is my fantasy so I’ll make with the slapping. The slapee, would have Tweety birds floating around their head. 5 classic movies for eternity. This is masochism.
My Criteria for “Desert Island Classic Movies”
At first I thought this would be a breeze. I can pick my five favorite movies in my sleep. Write up a little ditty for each. Bingo bango. But then the seriousness and oppressive finality of those decisions set in. Sure I could pick my five favorite classic movies, but I’d leave out Cary Grant, William Powell and Myrna Loy, Alfred Hitchcock, Peter Sellers. Federico Fellini didn’t stand a chance. And I love me some Fellini! There’d be no horror, no musicals. No westerns! Can you imagine a world with no horror, musicals or westerns? I wonder if there’s a catch-all horror/musical/western starring Cary Grant and Myrna Loy and directed by Alfred Hitchcock? Have I just overlooked the greatest film ever made? The answer, of course, is I hope so. Because how amazing would that movie be?
So the horror music comedy directed by Hitch and starring Cary Grant and Myrna Loy notwithstanding, I decided I couldn’t just pick my favorite five classic flicks. It would be far more difficult than that.
Certain genres, certain stars or directors satisfy needs. Just as we crave certain foods, we crave specific genres or individual movies. These movies might not immediately come to mind as an essential Desert Island Classic Movie, but in the context of complete and total deprivation of DVD collection, streaming services, etc., they become goddamn necessary.
Which stars? Which directors (if any) would emerge from these soul-searching meditations on life and death and mortality and the films you’d have to pry from those lukewarm, dead, sun-starched, dehydrated fingers of mine?
Choice #1: Hail, Hail the Absolute Essential
Groucho, Harpo and Chico are coming with me. Even Zeppo. Why the hell not? Without the Marxes brand of anarchy, there’d be no joy on my island. This is the greatest comedy ever made. Duck Soup contains Groucho’s finest wordplay. “Hail, hail Freedonia.” The brothers’ most elaborate comedic bits at the height of their talents.
The Marx Brothers were also my gateway drug into classic film. Like many others, I’m sure. I was about 7 or 8 when my dad first sat me down and showed me Duck Soup. I didn’t get most of the jokes, but that didn’t matter. On screen lunacy translates at any age. Not only is it the greatest comedy, but it’s also a sentimental choice woven inextricably into my affection for classic film. I’ve never been without a copy of Duck Soup and no damn, dirty desert island is going to stand in my way now.
Choice #2: Calculated Visceral Pleasures
Some of you may know me as “the #Bond_age_ Guy.” If you know me as “the #Bond_age_ Guy” there’s also a decent chance you’ve heard me discuss my favorite Bond movie, From Russia with Love. (If you haven’t had the pleasure I submit the My Favorite #Bond_age_ essay that showcases my affection in great detail.) This is Bond at the vibrant, youthful peak of his powers. Free from self-reference. Blissfully free from the on-screen blasphemy of Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Sean Connery. The women (Tatiana Romanova, Sylvia Trench, the gypsies). The villains (Grant, Kronsteen, Rosa Klebb). Train combat. Cat and mouse with Robert Shaw. It’s also the most ersatz Hitchcock — only remove the inferior connotations from that term.
And I know I mentioned the women briefly already, but Daniela Bianchi is my classic movie mistress. So she was technically only in one certifiable “classic” movie (this one), but no matter. I’d argue that Special Mission Lady Chaplin deserves classic status as well, but only a few blessed #Bond_age_ fans would back me up on this. Ken Clark, you guys!
The dark underbelly of picking From Russia with Love is that it precludes the consideration of North by Northwest. The films share many of the same cinematic elements. But NxNW was going to be my Hitch, my Cary Grant. Back to the drawing board. Don’t weep too much for the also rans. They never really stood a chance against my love of Bond and From Russia with Love.
Choice #3: The One Western to Rule Them All
After only two selections I found myself neck deep in the bet hedging. There are a bunch of classic genre movies I can’t live without. I had to stare long and hard into the abyss of my Top 100 and beyond, considering which of the genres needed official representation, and which of my favorites in those genres were truly essential. I surprised even myself with this pick because I honestly thought I’d turn to the Horror genre for my first lifeline. Instead, I went with the Western because of all my favorites from the Horror/Musical/Western genres, John Wayne was the guy that grabbed me by the shirt collar and said, “Pick Rio Bravo will ya, partner? And I’m not making a suggestion. I’m tellin ya.” And then Dean Martin offered me a martini while Ricky Nelson serenaded me on the gueeee-tar. Oh you melodious, crooning fool.
I would never have singled on John Wayne as an actor I needed for the forevermore, but Rio Bravo stands out as one of those classic genre films that offers me a little bit of everything I need. Humor, music, shootin’ and rustlin’. It comes with the added bonus of keeping Dean Martin in my Classic Five — one of my favorite personalities. If I can’t bring my cocktail set and a life’s supply of gin, I may as well live vicariously through Dean Martin. I wouldn’t have worried, normally, because I’d have just packed up the The Thin Man for my vicarious libations… but at this point, I just can’t be sure that William Powell is going to make the cut. And that burns, like that jalapeño martini I tried to make the other night. Oof.
Choice #4: Cinematic Couch Therapy
And quite honestly no movie makes me happier, perhaps, than Singin in the Rain.
If you’re stuck on a goddamn deserted island with nothing but anthropomorphic coconuts to keep you company, I can think of no better companions than Debbie Reynolds and Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor. It’s as simple as that. Like Rio Bravo, Singin in the Rain wasn’t among the first movies that I scribbled down as an obvious desert island movie selection. But as the five selections rounded out and I took stock of my imperative need for unbridled cinematic joy and happiness… my essentials revealed themselves more clearly. Left to my own devices, I’m not exactly a beacon of positive energy. I find that positivity from outside sources. From family, music and movies.
Harvey would have been my alternate choice here and the thought of not picking Harvey feels like shiv in my spleen. I still haven’t found opportunity to include Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant. Two fellows I don’t think I can really live without. The need for genre variety has pushed individual actor choices toward the periphery.
Choice #5: The Catch All-ish
Reason dictates that this slot belongs to Harvey or Casablanca. Or even Rear Window or Vertigo. Dr. Strangelove even. There are literally a dozen other movies that I wrote on my initial “from-the-top-of-my-head list” that weren’t The Philadelphia Story. The Philadelphia Story wasn’t even listed. This is the brutal reality of an honest Desert Island Classic Movie list. After a couple of obvious essentials, the choices become labored, based on notions that have nothing to do with movie-on-movie violence and relative superiority.
I picked The Philadelphia Story because I nabbed Jimmy and Cary and Katherine in one jazzy selection. Plus, I can walk around my little island imagining I’ve constructed a boat and mumbling “My she’s yar” over and over and over to soothe my boat-hoping soul. I simply couldn’t fulfill Jimmy without Cary. Or Cary without Jimmy. It’s not my favorite, but it’s good… great even. I will watch The Philadelphia Story whenever its on, yet it still causes me great distress to choose this over many others. I will live with this. But only for Cary Grant’s chin dimple. I’m picking this for you, Cary.
Even now, my choices firm, I’m reflecting over my egregious errors in judgment. Rethinking the entire Desert Island roster. Could I live in a world without Harvey? The movie that’s brought me happiness in some of my darkest moments? Or Bogart in Casablanca? Goddamn, I do love Casablanca. HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO LIVE LIKE THIS?
Okay. Okay. Okay. I’ve talked myself down from the ledge. I’ve made peace with my selections and it’s time to shove off on an ill-fated cruise. Now that I’ve suffered through that exercise, why don’t you try it for yourself. I’d love to hear your Desert Island 5 Classic Movies. If you don’t plan to participate in the blogathon, drop your 5 in the comments. Leave a note detailing your suffering. I like to know that others have made painful choices as well. Classic film misery loves company. Visit the Classic Film and TV Cafe to see others’ lists… and do make sure to celebrate classic film today.
I used this image as a lead-in to my 2015 TCMFF Post-Mortem, and I’ve got to be honest, there’s really no better way to summarize the experience. So here it is again, primed and ready for my recap of the 2016 TCM Film Festival:
Last year I also arrived at the airport for my midnight flight home with time to spare. Enough time, in fact, to eat some ill-advised Korean barbecue and write a rather inspired email to my family about the experience. I’d planned to do the same this year (minus the Korean barbecue), except I found myself hornswaggled by the LAX TSA Security Check. One of the security agents kept yelling at us like high school delinquents in a heavy-handed teen drama. “I’m here to help you,” he caterwauled, “If you guys don’t start listening and don’t want to be helped we’ll be here all night! I’ve got nowhere else to be. You do!” He must have said this a dozen times as I waited in the winding, interminable queue. I sought solace in my Twitter feed, many of whom remained at the closing festivities.
By the time I reached the gate, I didn’t even have enough time for a much needed libation at the bar, let alone a heartfelt composition on my phone notepad. Just as my flight began to board, I hastily grabbed a bottle of water and a bag of Peanut M&Ms from a woman of the finest brand of occupational disinterest. She reluctantly accepted my $5 bill (she wasn’t “supposed to,” you see) like she were doing me a favor. Apparently cash is preferred currency… except in the Delta terminal at LAX.
I tried channeling that weary, loopy state of mind yesterday as I assimilated to everyday life, but sleep deprivation (something less than 10 hours in three nights) had firmly taken hold. No longer was I loopy; I was walking dead. Instead of writing, I unpacked, went for a short run, consumed a large green smoothie called the “Turmeric Cleanser” (which I recommend highly for gastrointestinal recovery after mass popcorn and Baja Fresh consumption) and managed a 90-minute nap before running my daughter over to gymnastics. (I also have a recommended smoothie for immune boosting that I drank every day before departure. They come from this book, which I treat like a bible… but I digress.)
Still, let’s give that letter a shot, now 36 hours removed from my final screening at the 2016 TCM Film Festival. Hopefully, the unsheathed nerve of sleepless delirium and festering emotion remains raw. Unless you want to talk more about my daily green smoothie regimen.
I’d eagerly awaited this trip back to Underrated 1965 for Rupert Pupkin Speaks so I could share some of my favorite, lesser-known descendants of James Bond. Then I sifted through the movies I’d wanted to highlight and realized that 1965 turned out to be a bit of a buzzkill. There’s a handful of worthy genre flicks, but few really qualified as being overlooked or forgotten gems. They were merely better than the rest of the chicken scratch. The French/Italian Corrida pour un espion (aka Code Name Jaguar) starring Ray Danton, for example. Worth watching, but would you feel rewarded for seeking it out? Spy fans, definitely. The rest of the world? Ehhhh… probably not so much. (It’s available on YouTube if you’re curious.) Beginning with Dr. No in 1962, James Bond churned out four movies by the end of 1965. The rest of the world struggled to reinvent. Many of the early parodies, ripoffs, and cash-ins just failed to distinguish themselves. (Just wait for 1966, though!) Rather than force-feed readers a mélange of mediocrity, I branched out. I’ve included the most notable non-Bond spy flick, an early giallo (also a favorite genre of mine), two films featuring Ursula Andress and a plain old non-genre film about a girl coming of age (what’s that doing here??). Never fear. To make up for the lack of official spy business, I’ve included a bonus commentary on the 1965 Bond film that takes far too much grief.
Agent 077: Mission Bloody Mary (1965, dir. Sergio Grieco)
“You seem rather nervous. This can’t be the first time you’ve seen the breast of a woman.”
“In fact it’s the second. And the first time was my wet nurse.”
Mission Bloody Mary opens on a rainy night. A police officer stops to aid a woman stranded on the side of the road. Of course she’s beautiful. Of course she’s exotic. Of course she’s sopping wet. And of course she stabs him with a flashlight dagger. Thus sets into motion the scheme to be foiled: a nuclear weapon’s on the loose and only a most cunning superspy can infiltrate the mysterious Black Lily crime syndicate to prevent a global meltdown.
This is the first of three spy outings with Ken Clark starring as Dick Malloy, American Agent 077. Clark plays James Bond filtered through the American ideal. He’s taller and physically more imposing than Sean Connery. Clark, he of the chiseled jaw, worked briefly in the Hollywood B-movie system (starring in such films as Attack of the Giant Leeches) and made a few failed TV pilots before casting away to make spaghetti westerns, sword and sandal epics, and Eurospy movies in Italy during the 1960’s.
Though Mission Bloody Mary’s entrenched as a sincere budget Bond knockoff, it knows precisely which buttons to push. Beautiful women (in rose petal pasties), despicable villains (though a little on the bland side) and exotic international locales. There’s a brutal fisticuffs sequence on a train (recalling From Russia With Love) that ends with an impromptu window guillotine. Though Ken Clark is a largely humorless actor, the script allows him bits of natural comedy that plays off his wooden persona. For example, Malloy starts a bar brawl with a few sailors as a distraction and all the while fights with a lit cigar (James Bond meets Hannibal Smith). At one point a henchman makes a crack about 077’s cardigan sweater and subsequently pays the ultimate price.
As with almost all of these mid-60’s cheap Bond knockoffs, there’s bad acting and poor dubbing, vague motivation and few logical narrative threads. This first Ken Clark outing features all of that… but Mission Bloody Mary manages to offer its own brand of whimsical, half-baked cardigan-clad thrills with panache. The series peaks with the excellent third and final entry, Special Mission Lady Chaplin, co-starring Bond girl Daniela Bianchi.
I stared at the schedule. The schedule stared back.
The theme for the 2016 Turner Classic Movie Film Festival is “Moving Pictures.” In case you’re inordinately slow on the take, this is a play on words. Movies are, you might recall, moving pictures. And TCM is selling this as the year of the weepy, the tearjerker, the inspirational flick, the movies that inspire. The TCMFF schedule programmers have certainly delivered on that promise.
You see, I’m a fairly cynical fellow and the minute I note the way a movie’s pulling the strings on my tear buckets — be it through the score or a fairly contrived piece of narrative — I find myself pulled out of the experience. Don’t misunderstand. I enjoy a good feel at the movies. I’m not an animal. But I also would never choose to watch, for example, The Way We Were over, well, just about anything. Even though I admit (only among select company) to being moved by The Way We Were upon my first and only viewing. Let’s just keep that last piece of information just between you and me.
Since this is now my second festival, I have a baseline schedule comparison. Last year I went in blind, fluttering from movie to movie, basking in the glow of how amazing it all was. Hordes of eccentric movie fans shuttling between movies and popcorn and more movies and sleep deprivation. Brief detours to Baja Fresh for on-the-go sustenance and comparing queue numbers and plotting and texting to see who’s going where and seeing what. Oh my. Meanwhile festival vets grumbled that they found the schedule lacking compared to past years.
I noted some glaring conflicts on my schedule going into the festival last year. I rued the schedule-maker who placed Raiders of the Lost Ark in the El Capitan with live organ accompaniment opposite The Invisible Man and Steamboat Bill, Jr. (with a live score). I chose Raiders because it let out earlier so I could get a better queue number for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. I highlighted a couple of suspected conflicts going into 2015. This year I feel like every choice is Sophie’s. Every choice reaches deep into my soul, probing my feelings on love and life and mortality. I am disarmed. Bewildered. And a little bit shaken and stirred. (I’m aiming for hyperbolic melodrama there because themes).
Are you going to make me weep after all, TCMFF 2016? I think you are. Welcome to my 2016 Turner Classic Movie Film Festival Preview. (I’ve linked many titles below to their pages on Amazon or online availability should you want to program your own Turner Classic Movie Mini-Film Festival at home.)
Welcome to my 2016 TCMFF Schedule and Festival Preview
Thursday, April 28th
7:00pm – One Potato, Two Potato – Chinese Multiplex #4
I arrive altogether too early on Thursday morning because that’s the only non-stop from Pittsburgh to L.A. I’ll have half a day to kill along Hollywood Blvd. before I hit my first movie. This means I will likely nap and then hit the bar at the Roosevelt Hotel for free gin before being reminded why free gin is never the answer.
While the big spenders and hot shots will take in the festival’s opening night gala event — a screening of All the President’s Men with Carl Bernstein in the house — I’ll be choosing between Bette Davis in Dark Victory (1939) and the rarely screened One Potato, Two Potato (1964), a film that tackled interracial marriage 3 years before Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. When in doubt I’ll go with the movie I won’t see anywhere else. One of these days I’ll watch the entirety of Dark Victory, which I’ve caught on TCM in fits and spurts over the years.
But but but wait—-
I’m forgetting the 7:30pm poolside screening of Harold Lloyd’s The Freshman with a live DJ score. This is a prime example of the one-of-a-kind experiences that the Turner Classic Movie Film Festival has to offer. Silent movies scored by DJs. Should other attendees be swayed by this oddity, I could easily see myself ditching that first weepy in favor of poolside shenanigans.
9:3pm – Los Tallos Amargos (1956) – Chinese Multiplex #4
Unlike most everyone else it seems I am not conflicted about this time slot whatsoever. Over in the Multiplex House #6 you’ll find the amazing Brief Encounter (1945). Truly an essential film that everyone should see. I watched it on the big screen during film school and I just sold my Criterion DVD in preparation for the upcoming Blu-ray release. Los Tallos Amargos meanwhile offers a taste of Argentine film noir and as far as I know is unavailable for home viewing. I can wait to see Brief Encounter again after the next Barnes & Noble Criterion sale. I might not have another chance to see Los Tallos Amargos.
On the other hand, Los Tallos Amargos seems like a shoe-in for one of those TBD slots on Sunday. Is it worth the risk? Is there even a film I’d sacrifice on Sunday? The plot, as they say, has thickened.
Friday, April 29th
Attendees will be found shaking, weeping in the alleys behind the Multiplex after Friday. People who want to be at the TCMFF will look at Friday and take some solace in the fact that they don’t have to make these kinds of choices.
9:15am – Shanghai Express (1932) – Chinese Multiplex #1
Shanghai Express currently resides on my Top 101 List of Favorite Movies at #63. But then again I’m twisting my own logic to justify my whims. I’ve seen Shanghai Express on a big screen before. But I haven’t seen Love Me or Leave Me (1955)at all. For whatever reason I wasn’t even aware of the Doris Day/James Cagney musical until I took stock of this schedule. Who am I kidding? Marlene Dietrich and Anna May Wong are probably going to win this battle. Ida Lupino’s melodrama Never Fear (1949) over in Multiplex #4 won’t factor into this battle for early A.M. supremacy.
12noon – Double Harness (1933) – Chinese Multiplex #4
Welcome to high noon. I’ve got to decide between William Powell and Ann Harding in Double Harness (1933)and He Ran All the Way (1951), a film noir starring John Garfield and Shelley Winters. Tipping point: Actor James Cromwell will be in attendance to introduce Double Harness, a film directed by his father John Cromwell.
I haven’t seen He Ran All the Way, but the film was just released on a Blu-ray from Olive Films, making it readily available for viewing whenever I see fit. It’s doubtful, however, that James Cromwell will show up at my house the next time I decide to watch Double Harness.
2:30pm – When You’re In Love (1937) – Chinese Multiplex #6
When I first printed out the Turner Classic Movie Film Festival schedule I circled this slot. What was TCM thinking when they scheduled The Conversation (1974) with Francis Ford Coppola in attendance opposite Carol Reed’s Trapeze (1956) with Gina Lollobrigida in attendance opposite the notorious Tea and Sympathy (1956) opposite a rare Cary Grant romantic comedy? Goddamn masochists.
5:15pm – Private Property (1960) – Chinese Multiplex #6
If plans hold, I’ll head right back into Multi #6 for the world premiere of the new restoration of Private Property. Orson Welles-protege Leslie Stevens’ noir had been all but forgotten since its 1960 theatrical run until Cinelicious undertook a 4K restoration last year. I’d love to partake of the pre-code ditty Pleasure Cruise (1933) over in Multi #4… but I think I’ll head on over to Youtube* to watch this one and erase any doubts about my decision.
*it should be noted that this is a last resort to watching any film… but sometimes drastic measures are required.
7:30pm – Batman (1966) – Poolside @ the Hollywood Roosevelt
Sure I could go see It’s a Wonderful Life or The Passion of Joan of Arc or 8 Hours To Live, but why would I do that when Batman (Adam West) and Catwoman (Lee Meriwether) are hanging out poolside? Hell, Lando Calrisian is discussing Brian’s Song at the same time as well, but I won’t be swayed.
Also, LOL at anyone that thought I’d actually consider watching The Passion of Joan of Arc again. Nothing personal, Carl Theodore Dreyer, but I’ve suffered through your film on three different occasions now. Classic, iconic, brilliant cinema though it may be, I just can’t subject myself to that film again. I don’t care if Tom Jones is singing along with your intense close-ups of Maria Falconetti. (Okay, maybe for Tom Jones.)
9:30pm – The Manchurian Candidate (1962) – TCL Chinese Theater
Here’s an idea, TCM, why don’t you slot Angela Lansbury and The Manchurian Candidate up against a highly recommended noir against a highly recommended musical against a terrific British comedy and see how it all shakes out? I suppose these lesser known flicks were supposed to be counterprogramming for one of the festival’s marquee events, but I’m not pleased.
Option 1: Angela Lansbury, living legend, queen of the screens large and small introducing The Manchurian Candidate.
Option 4: Carry On… Up the Khyber (1966) – Though I own this on DVD, I’d love to support this British comedy that’s overshadowed by everything else at this time slot. Maybe this is the movie to which I lend my Out of Sight moral support by grabbing the #1 pass before skedaddling.
12midnight – Roar (1981) – Chinese Multiplex #1
Welcome to the loony bin. The tired, weary masses will gather in the Multiplex for misguided sleep deprivation during one of cinema’s most misguided filmmaking efforts. I own Roar on Blu-ray from Olive Films, so I might take the opportunity to nod off a bit… but I wouldn’t want to miss the crowd’s reaction to this unreal experience. Last year’s midnight screening of BOOM! lives on in infamy. I expect the same from Roar.
Saturday, April 30th
I scribbled “Sleep in?” next to this first slot on Saturday. It’s the only slot I could see myself sacrificing for the good of my health/sanity. I’ve seen Ace in the Hole, and One Man’s Journey doesn’t particularly interest me. But then again there’s…
9:00am – 90th Anniversary of Vitaphone – Egyptian Theatre
So, yeah, let’s rise and shine with early talkies and a big ass jug of coffee instead. I’m talking 64oz Slurpee-sized coffee. This is the easy decision of my morning. I’m going to need to get my game face on for the rest of the day because once I exit the world of Vitaphone, my day gets cutthroat.
12noon – An Afternoon with Carl Reiner / Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982) – TCL Chinese Theatre
I’d earmarked Carl Reiner on my schedule the minute the TCM news blast went out about his attendance. The man’s a comedy legend and Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid is an unassailable classic of noir misanthropy and parody. My devotion to this time slot sacrifices two gems from the early 1930’s: A House Divided (available on Dailymotion) and Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back (also on Dailymotion). Elsewhere, others will be tied up with A Face in the Crowd (1957), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) and D.W. Griffith’s magnificent spectacle Intolerance (1916) that must be seen on a big screen to be appreciated. It’s brutal out there, moviegoers. Come prepared for heartbreak.
And this is that heartbreak I mentioned.
If I stay for the entirety of the conversation with Carl Reiner (which takes place after the screening of Dead Men), I will miss Burt Reynolds at the Montalban Theatre. And in case you’ve missed my many tweets about Burt Reynolds, Sterling Archer and I share similar fascinations. I’m going to play this by ear. Audibles may be called.
Back to reality.
4:00pm – A Conversation with Elliott Gould – Club TCM
Alec Baldwin chats with Elliott Gould. If I go all the way down to the Montalban for Burt, I’m probably not getting a spot in the tiny Club TCM in the Roosevelt for Elliott Gould. Huge heavy sigh. Picking Elliott Gould also means I bypass my last chance to see Gina Lollobrigida at the screening for Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell (1968).
YOU WILL NOT BREAK ME, TCMFF!
6:30pm – The Long Goodbye (1973) – Egyptian Theatre
So, yeah, I’ll stalk join Elliott Gould at the Egyptian for my favorite version of Philip Marlowe ever captured on film. Yeah, that’s a bold statement and many people don’t care for Gould’s interpretation of the character… but The Long Goodbyeis an droll (anti-?) noir filmed by the great Robert Altman. It’s one of my favorite films. It straddles every genre under the sun. Except slasher. Don’t bother picking this theory apart because I’m sure there are holes. Choosing The Long Goodbye means I’m neglecting Rita Moreno and The King and I.
I’m not losing sleep over The King and I, but seeing firebrand Rita Moreno in person seems like a TCMFF necessity. If I stick with my plan to see Gould at Club TCM, there’s a good chance I’ll entertain the TheKing and I option. No guarantees.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t get any easier during the next slot either…
9:15pm – Band of Outsiders (1964) – Chinese Multiplex #1
Jean Luc Godard and I have a love hate relationship stemming from our forced and repetitive introductions during film school. I’ve since come to love many of Godard’s films, but I’ve never quite forgiven him for our rocky beginnings. Band of Outsiders is a film I’ve not revisited since my first viewing more than ten years ago. And I probably wouldn’t have chosen to watch it here… except Anna Karina will be in attendance. Courtesy of JLG’s lens, Anna Karina is less a human, more a mythical being. I cannot miss a chance to see her, to prove to myself, if nothing else, that she is actually real.
But this slays me…
…because over in Chinese Multiplex #4 during this same time is Midnight (1939) starring Don Ameche and Claudette Colbert. I recommend Midnight to anyone that will listen. Even those that won’t. I watch this film at least once a year and never tire of it. Bonnie Hunt is even introducing it. I don’t know why she’s there, but I think Bonnie Hunt seems pretty swell, and I’d like to know more about her connection to the film. Maybe I’ll even get to chat with her and tell her that we were at the same press party in Chicago sometime in 2002. It’s heresy, I know, but I might only stay for Karina’s chat before Band of Outsiders and then ditch for Midnight.
Speaking of midnight…
12midnight – Gog in 3D! (1954) – Chinese Multiplex #1
Gog is an oddball sci-fi shown in 3D for the first time since it’s release in 1954. I’m super excited for all the hazy, late-night delirium.
Sunday, May 1st
Sunday at the Turner Classic Movie Film Festival felt like a hangover. Only there’s no actual time to consume booze. Caffeine is a wonderful drug. I hope the person that discovered the potential of caffeine won all the awards.
10am – Holiday in Spain (1966) – Cinerama Dome
I might crowdsource this one. If I successfully stalked Elliott Gould on Saturday, I’ll feel little need to revisit M*A*S*H (1970) with Gould first thing Sunday morning. Douglas Sirk’s melodrama All That Heaven Allows(1955) and Carol Reed’s noir The Fallen Idol are available via Criterion discs (though, I’ve just learned Idol is OOP). Holiday in Spain (aka Scent of Mystery), however, is presented in Smell-O-Vision! The one and only time the gimmicky device has ever been used with a motion picture.
I’ll have to hustle back afterward to make my next feature. And this timing might make or break my weekend.
12:45pm – The Longest Yard (1974) – TCL Chinese Theatre
If I bypassed the long haul to the Montalban to see Burt Reynold’s interview, this screening of The Longest Yard might be my only chance to see the legend in person. I’m a fan of the film, of course, but the presence of Burt supersedes all competition including Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid (1921) and the Marx Brothers in Horse Feathers (1932). All things even, I’d have chosen the 2-for-1 early comedy double feature, but this is Burt frikkin’ Reynolds, and The Longest Yard is currently only available on an old MGM DVD. Let’s get this fixed, eh?
No word on whether Burt will bring the famous bearskin rug.
edit 4/26/16: Since Burt has dropped out of the TCMFF due to unforeseen circumstances, this has thrown my Sunday into upheaval. At first glance, Plan B seems to be 12:30pm THE KID (1921) at the Multiplex 1 followed by the Marx Brothers in HORSE FEATHERS at 2:30pm. Plan C seems like venturing over into The Art of the Film Score: Creating Memories in the Movies at the Club TCM and staying right in my seat for A Conversation with Gina Lollobrigida immediately afterward. I’m not wild about seeing THE KID again, but I will *always* watch the Marxes. But then again this is probably my only chance to see Ms. Lollobrigida. Even in the void of Burt, concrete plans elude me. Also, I do hope Burt’s doing well. I think all of us assume his health is keeping him away from the festival.
4:15pm – The Russians Are Coming! The Russians are Coming! (1966) – Egyptian Theatre
Fat City (1972) is a great, underrated boxing flick over in the Chinese Theater. Stacy Keach representing as well. John Ford’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) happens in Multi #1. But Eva Marie Saint joins us for The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! so as far as I’m concerned there’s no controversy here. The rest is just noise. Too bad we couldn’t sneak Alan Arkin in as well. Maybe he’ll just show up. Fingers crossed, eh?
Now we stumble to the finish line…
7:45pm – The Band Wagon (1953) – Chinese Multiplex #1
I just watched The Band Wagon for the first time on TCM not so very long ago. I’m not a huge fan, but it would certainly be worth seeing on a big screen with a bunch of aficionados. I’d go to see Cyd Charisse on the big screen. I can’t be the only one with a Cyd Charisse crush.
Still… I’m hoping for miracles in the two TBD slots programmed into the schedule for encore performances of festival favorite that some might have missed out on during their first showing.
After this time slot, whatever it may be, I’ll be off to the airport for that long, lonely flight back to Pittsburgh. I’d love to stay for that delirious closing night party but I’d lose an entire day to travel if I left in the A.M. The wife needs to get back to the office (she takes days off work to allow my L.A. sojourn), and I’ll need to get home and pretend to hold myself together with some cocktail of duct tape, Advil, espresso and green smoothies.
After a long hiatus I’m bringing back the Best Thing posts. For “Eye of the Tiger” of all things. (Aye, but there’s a twist.) Maybe it’s because I watched nothing good. More than likely I was just distracted by the 27 other things I do every day. I need a “thing” intervention from Thoreau. Maybe I’ll actually finish Walden instead. On the other hand that would be yet another thing I’d have to do today. I’ll check back in after I finish reading the 8-book Women Crime Writers set. I’m almost finished with Vera Caspary’s Laura, which is fantastic by the way. I can’t say enough about this collection of novels. Definitely find a set if you can. But I was talking about the Best Thing I Watched not the Best Thing I Read. That’s an entirely different bl-g series. (Adds that to the list of things to do.) Without any further adieu, let’s bring the Best Thing beat back.
“Eye of the Tiger” on a Dot-Matrix Printer: The Best Thing I Watched This Week
I came across this video on the Interwebs yesterday courtesy of a Facebook group called the Gentlemen’s Guide to Midnight Cinema. The poster of this video, MIDIDesaster, has programmed his Dot-Matrix printer to recreate Survivor’s omnipresent anthem from Rocky. I don’t know how he does it. Or why he does it for that matter. But when I investigated further I found he’d also programmed his Dot-Matrix to play “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Buddy Holly” and a mess of other songs. This is the seedy underbelly of nostalgia. Old songs played on a completely outdated and entirely useless technology. Though I think there are still some rental car agencies that would disagree.
Dot-Matrix image generator Me.
For those of you youngsters that might be too young to recall the wonders of Dot-Matrix printing, here’s a little primer. The Dot-Matrix is an impact printer and functions much like typewriter, except the Dot-Matrix creates its characters (of unlimited variety and size limited only by the paper) with many individual dots. The dots are created by a tiny metal rods called a pins or wires. The Dot-Matrix is unique in its printing technology, as MIDIDesaster has shown, because it creates different tones and sounds when these pins strike the paper. Up to 48 pins can be used to form the characters of a line while the print head moves across the paper horizontally. The various combinations of these pins creates the different tones and sounds heard in the video. Okay. That’s enough explaining away the magic of Dot-Matrix technology. Here’s the video. MIDIDesaster’s “Eye of the Tiger.”
In case you missed it, Paul Feig’s all female Ghostbusters trailer went live this week. I’m not sure how you could have missed it considering that the Internet immediately became a Petri dish of hyperbolic overreactionarianism. And no, “overreactionarianism” is not a word, but I’m going to make it happen because that’s exactly what I witnessed on my Twitter and Facebook feeds last Thursday. Overreactionarianism is a phenomenon that has grown increasingly popular on the Internet lately. The doctrine of overreactionarianism states that everyone has a high horse and whenever possible they should jump on said high horse and trample all other opinions with only a minimum amount of information at hand. Overreactionarianism to this trailer took two very distinct forms.
The Ghostbusters Trailer, Rage and Overreactionarianism
First there was the angry nostalgists who rose up in arms against those who would dare update/remake/reboot Ghostbusters.
I came across this blogathon via Twitter and #TCMFF acquaintance Aurora (aka @CitizenScreen) on her Once Upon a Screenclassic film blog. It seemed like a fun endeavor to put my love of film into pictures. The concept was first put into motion by film enthusiast Margaret Perry as a social media experiment… as part of her Cultural Heritage Management course at the University of York. She’s dubbed this a “Flash Blogathon” (and that sounds very exciting!) with the purpose of connecting heritages all over the world. Naturally, the classic film community loves such a challenge, and Margaret has tailored a set of requirements just for us. She’s outlined the details in her ‘flash blogathon’ announcement post, but basically we’re here to participate in a scavenger hunt of our own cool film stuff. Head over to Margaret’s page to check the guidelines and come up with your own #CurateMyLife entry.
First, however, I’ve got a few things to share. I stuck mostly to Margaret’s categories… but perhaps enlarged the notion of what constitutes a classic film. If you’ve read this bl-g at all, you’ll know I’m kinda stuck in 1985. So now let’s start exploring how classic and classic-ish film plays a major role in my everyday life.
30/007Hz #CurateMyLife – A Celebration of Stuff
1. DVD/Blu-ray Collection
Talk about starting this scavenger hunt with a bang. I’m a compulsive collector. I’m a student of film. I love libraries. I love being surrounded by libraries of books, DVDs, records. I collect the films I love. I collect the films that have affected me personally through my collegiate film education and beyond. That said, my DVD/Blu-ray collection is threatening sentience. I don’t believe in owning digital copies (unless that version is the best version of the film available). Physical media plays an important role in tactile appreciation. Owning a physical copy of a movie is a commitment of space. It means something. I won’t go into my specific ideas about the meaning of physical media here, but I’ve published a piece on why vinyl records are important that you should read if you care to indulge my eccentricities further.
Let me start by saying that I did not select Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly as my favorite record of 2015. So this list at least has some novelty going for it. I read as many as five different lists from major music publications with Kendrick Lamar foisted up as the best tent-pole record of the last year. Hey, I liked the record as much as the next guy… okay, maybe not quite as much as the next guy since it’s not even on this list. Let’s just say I liked it fine, but it didn’t hold my attention the way that these 25 records did. It wasn’t ever played on repeat. My kids don’t subconsciously know the lyrics to “King Kunta,” (I’m awaiting my Father of the Year award. Please don’t take the “Baby Got Back” situation into account.) and I don’t own it on vinyl. That’s maybe the true test these days. Did I like the record enough to pick it up on vinyl? I’d wager that almost all of these records wound up in my vinyl stacks.
Also, my apologies for the lateness of this list. You probably don’t care about 2015 anymore and that’s gravy. But in my Killer Jams list I promised a subsequent Best Albums list. I don’t break promises. No, that’s not true either. I occasionally forget about promises, but I do not intentionally break them. Forgetting and willingly refusing are two completely different forms of betrayal.
30 Hz 25 Best Albums of 2015
…and yes I still call them “albums.”
Adele, Alabama Shakes, All Dogs, Amason, Beach House, De Lux, The Decemberists, Father John Misty, Floating Points, Joanna Newsom, Lower Dens, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Ratatat, Sleater-Kinney, Wolf Alice.
25. Wilco – Star Wars
And on the seventh day, Wilco created Star Wars, the record nobody f’ing new about. One day it just appeared, a fluffy white cat on the cover, apropos absolutely nothing. I thought I was being pranked, quite honestly. I didn’t take it seriously at first. Then slowly the album opened up. I just kept coming back, uncovering new moments of that rough and irascible Wilco beauty.