Before he was a recognizable face, Roddy McDowall was a familiar voice. At least in my frame of reference. He gave life to V.I.N.CENT. in The Black Hole, Snowball on Pinky and the Brain, the Breadmaster on The Tick, The Mad Hatter on Batman: The Animated Series. It wasn’t until I first watched The Planet of the Apes (probably when I was about 16 or so) that I finally had a name and a face to go along with his stilted British timbre. One caveat. You likely well know, however, that it wasn’t even Roddy’s face. I just knew Roddy McDowall was the name of some guy in a monkey suit and a latex mask.
I pieced McDowell’s image together from cartoon superhero villains, apes and a toadstool like robot. He was more Dalí abstract than human. Sure, I’d seen Roddy McDowall in other movies, usually smaller roles, and one-off TV spots during the 1980’s and 90’s on shows like Matlock and Quantum Leap, but he was nothing more than a kind of omnipresent familiar. I’d watched Bednobs and Broomsticks at least a dozen times as a kid, but never, not once did I match Mr. Jelk with Cornelius (or even Caesar) with all of the voices or the guest spots. It wasn’t until I first saw Fright Night last year for the first time that I finally found myself making offhand filmographic (…and no, that’s not a word, but I like it anyway…) connections.
Shame On Me
What can I say? The pieces had fallen into place at an alarmingly slow rate. No matter how much we watch and absorb, some actors and certain movies just fall through the cracks… which was precisely the impetus for my Cinema Shame endeavor. I’d grown up with Roddy McDowell all around me. I’m embarrassed that it took me this long to put all the pieces together. The child actor in the 1930’s and 40’s. (He was the kid in How Green Was My Valley!? Lassie Come Home!?) A regular B-movie player for Monogram Pictures. The occasional, offbeat leading man in the 1960’s. Accomplished photographer. The regular on Hollywood Squares. The outspoken proponent of film restoration and preservation. Roddy McDowell left us in 1998 at the age of 70 with a filmography six decades long.
Armed with my recent survey of McDowall’s oeuvre in the wake of my Fright Night “discovery,” it was Lord Love a Duck that finally solidified Roddy McDowell as a favorite Hollywood personality. Lord Love a Duck‘s Alan Musgrave (a kind of teen dream Mephistopheles) represents the most distilled version of Roddy McDowall’s most realized on-screen persona. Snarky. Self-aware. Smarter than you. As these characteristics ebbed and flowed, there was always an undercurrent of pathos laced throughout his best performances, perhaps most vividly expressed while shrouded in oppressive ape fur and latex. He played every genre, but I would not suggest McDowall was chameleonic. His persona had limitations — but when wielded properly, McDowall could command an audience.
Like a Feathered Fowl Upside the Head
That Lord Love a Duck left me a little awestruck shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to those that have seen it. It’s a brash and ballsy slapstick criticism of the sex- and commercial-crazed 1960’s. Breaking taboo left and right and in between, Lord Love a Duck could be seen as the dark counterpoint to the Frankie and Annette Beach Party movies (which were, admittedly an easy target, and already parodying themselves by the time Lord Love a Duck was released in 1966). I’m not even sure how anyone approved such a bizarre and baffling movie for release… but I do thank them for it. It’s almost as if the studio heads didn’t understand the duplicity of the script and just gave the film the go ahead based on prolonged scenes of jiggling, bikini-clad bottoms.
Tuesday Weld plays Barbara Ann, a high school girl of limitless ambition. Alan Mollymauk Musgrave (McDowall) aims to make all of it happen. They sign a devil’s pact in wet cement, and Alan facilitates Barbara Ann’s ascent to becoming a bikini-clad cinema idol. Is Alan a deranged, delusional high school student with an unhealthy obsession with Barbara Ann? Or is he something much more subversive… nefarious even? The methods Alan uses to promote Barbara Ann through the ranks include but are not limited to sexual manipulation, premeditated murder, and hypnotism… all set to a bouncy, flouncy pop tune that could have appeared as an interlude in any of the Beach Party films. If it all weren’t so much goddamn fun, you might notice how untoward Lord Love a Duck really is.
Ogling, But With a Purpose
Director George Axelrod was best known for the notches on his screenwriting belt, having provided the blueprints for classic films such as The Manchurian Candidate, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and The Seven-Year Itch. Lord Love a Duck, his directorial debut, and one of only two films Axelrod would direct, feels like the product of a disillusioned Hollywood insider set to undermine the institution. For much of the film Axelrod deftly straddles the line between obscenity and innocence. Many contemporary critics considered him an old Hollywood creep merely ogling teenage girls. Clearly, they just didn’t get the joke. He runs roughshod over popular culture, his targets plentiful and his attacks often unfocused. As a result, Duck‘s construction begins to feel slapdash (hamfisted?) during the second half of the film, overburdened by the volume of Axelrod’s satirical efforts.
This amateurish construction embellishes the chaos unfolding on screen. It’s clearly the film’s satirical successes and narrative miscues that have endeared it to cult movie fans for decades. Lord Love a Duck becomes far more interesting as a result of its faults. Much of the credit must go to the impressive cast — Tuesday Weld and Roddy McDowall, of course, but also Ruth Gordon, Harvey Korman and the deft Lola Albright who plays Barbara’s mother, a perpetually drunk, cat-tailed cocktail waitress. The actors commit to Axelrod’s script even as it pulls apart at the seams.
Roddy McDowall and Tuesday Weld in Lord Love a Duck.
Then Lord Love a Duck Breaks You
In many ways, Lord Love a Duck defies description. The phrase is battered about endlessly, but it is truly one of those films that must be seen to be believed. If I were to highlight a specific scene, it would be the “sweater scene,” one of the most disturbing, bizarre, and hypersexualized scenes of the entire 1960’s. And if you’re a fan of 60’s cinema, you recognize the inherent boldness of that statement. One of Barbara Ann’s first realized desires is to join the Cashmere Sweater Club at school. To justify induction, she must first own 12 legitimate cashmere sweaters. She only has one Japanese imitation cashmere sweater. McDowall’s Alan Mollymauk convinces Barbara Ann to lay down some guilt on her largely absentee father (Max Showalter) in order to open his coffers to purchase the requisite number of sweaters.
The scene begins with Barbara and her father gleefully devouring hot dogs in his car. With every bite the pair grows closer to orgasmic ecstasy. Paging Dr. Freud. But wait! There’s more! A quick cut places them in the clothing store where Barbara Ann models a series of form-fitting cashmere sweaters. Weld preens and models like a sex kitten. With each new sweater she calls out the color (“Grape Yum Yum!”) amid orgasmic exclamations of “Yes! Yes! Oh god! Yes!” Her father reacts with wide eyes and turgid anticipation that segues into grunts and moans. The camera cuts quickly between sharp-angle close ups of their facial contortions until both collapse, exhausted, covered by a pile of cashmere. It’s even more uncomfortable than you can imagine.
In case you don’t quite believe me, here’s “The Sweater Scene” in it’s entirety:
About Non-Sequitorial Ducks and Roddy McDowall
Axelrod’s nonsense title of Lord Love a Duck suggests he anticipated a certain brand of audience response. A little bit of research finds that the term is a rather polite 19th-century British exclamation of surprise. Examples of the phrase’s usage appears in James Joyce’s Ulysses and pops up frequently in P.G. Wodehouse.
‘Well, Lord love a duck!’ replied the butler, who in his moments of relaxation was addicted to homely expletives of the lower London type.
-P.G. Wodehouse, The Coming of Bill
The more I thought about how this title reflects audience response to Lord Love a Duck, the more I began to equate the polite, antiquated exclamation with Roddy McDowall himself. In Duck, McDowall is both innocent and devil. He drives a slick T-Bird and derives his name “Mollymauk” from a genus of elegant Albatrosses. He is at once a relic — a 36 year old actor playing a high school teenager — but also representation of hip 1960’s modernity. The child actor who bowed out of the spotlight during his awkward teenage years in order to reinvent himself as a leading man. McDowall’s line delivery in many of his films drips of subtext. His haughty English accent undermined by the understanding that this acting gig is nothing but a frivolous lark anyway. Proper, but always a little bit naughty, a little bit rebellious.
Roddy McDowall and Ruth Gordon in Lord Love a Duck
At an early point in the film, McDowall’s character Alan is being given an Rorschach test by a psychologist. He keeps describing the inkblots with the most tedious, placid analogies. The psychologist drops the cards, seething with frustration and says, “Alan, don’t you realize that these things are supposed to be dirty?” Clearly, Alan does recognize the point of the cards and their suggestive nature, but he’s dancing around the obvious to have a bit of fun. That’s how I view much of Roddy McDowall’s acting career, dancing around the expected, the normal, in order to enjoy the moment. It wasn’t what he was saying that was most telling, but rather the deviancy he resisted.
I may have been late to the Roddy McDowall appreciation party, but I’m rapidly atoning for my Cinema Sins and revisiting old favorites to enjoy McDowall all over again for the first time.
The summer takes its toll on my sanity. Time, though more abundant, disappears in a blink. The kids are always there. Staring. Demanding food and entertainment. But as much as I’d like to blame the children for all that ails me, including this cough I just can’t shake… there’s something else that’s been bothering me, like a t-shirt with a scratchy tag.
It’s about Ghostbusters.
Yes, again, goddammit. I’m stuck in a recursive loop.
For my next trick I’ll write about Ghostbusters.
I’ve written about Ghostbusters (1984) a few times. (Here as a part of mental therapy and here as a thinkpiece about time passage and perception.) I’ve even written about the trailer and misplaced Internet rage for Ghostbusters (2016). I spend a lot of time thinking about Ghostbusters. Next I’ll discuss how amazing it is that Kate McKinnon’s hair in Ghostbusters (2016) is an homage to Egon’s hair in The Real Ghostbusters. 3000 words, minimum. It’s come to my attention that the four times I saw Ghostbusters in the theater in 1984 may have played too formative a role in my childhood development.
Just one more reason to love Holtzmann.
But today, I’m going to pen a bl-g post that shouldn’t need to be written. Even now it feels like wasted breath… or more accurately wasted key strokes, but the latter sounds far less dramatic. Like writing about how the sky is f’ing blue.
I’m writing this to remind you that Ghostbusters (1984) is actually that good.
(From now on I will liberally substitute “1984” for Ghostbusters (1984) and “2016” for Ghostbusters (2016) to save on those wasted key strokes.)
I’m looking at you, asshole on Letterboxd who watched Ghostbusters (1984) for the first time and said “If this was your childhood, there wasn’t anything to ruin anyway.” That guy wasn’t alone; he was just the biggest asshole. Just scan the latest first-time watches of 1984 on Letterboxd and you’ll find a glut of viewers using similarly incendiary language. I’ve kept a sideways eye on these ongoing first-watch developments (which, I’ll admit is masochism on par with reading the comments on Huffington Post) when I should have run screaming from this activity like Ray Stantz from the New York Public Library.
Get her, Ray.
These comments exist as a hyperbolic reaction to the “you’re ruining my childhood” idiots. (Disclaimer: I do not condone the “ruining my childhood” behavior either.) But what gives you the right to fire back at me, the innocent bystander championing both 1984 and 2016, to claim my childhood experience was the rippled Charmin to your mindless Internet dump. Don’t unleash your cynical me-first derision unless you have something constructive to say — the one little caveat here is that your cynical me-first derision, by nature, offers nothing constructive whatsoever and is really just a plea for attention.
The Internet Troll Quarantine
I compartmentalized these comments in my “Internet Troll Quarantine,” which is like sending the lepers to Crete, except in my head and less sunny. I could manage the troll queue, but then I read the following comment in the New York Times, courtesy of one of my favorite film critics, A.O. Scott:
I have to say it makes me very happy when big commercial movies provoke serious political arguments, but before we dive into that particular fray I want to make a few statements I trust will not be terribly controversial. 1) Kate McKinnon should be in every movie from now on. 2) The new “Ghostbusters” is like the old “Ghostbusters” in that it gives comic performers who gained popularity on television and in more provocative projects a chance to widen their appeal and increase their earning potential with a mainstream action-comedy. 3) The old “Ghostbusters” isn’t that great to begin with.
Yes. Mm-hmm. Kate McKinnon should be in every movie. And totally. The new Ghostbusters is in many ways like the old Ghostbusters. Right on, A.O. BUTHOLD THE PHONE. “The old Ghostbusters isn’t that great to begin with”? You’ve been a lighthouse of reason and sanity in these dark and foggy cinematic times, A.O. Scott. And now you’re shattering one of the few unassailable truths in my cinematic worldview? Dogs and cats living together. Mass hysteria.
Sky is blue. Grass is green. Rain is wet. Ghostbusters (1984) is great. No? What’s with this sudden reassessment?
Quite frankly its about damn time we saw some proton packs back on the big screen.
Let’s first get a few things straight. I’ll speak plainly so not to confuse anyone. I’ve always been in favor of reviving the Ghostbusters franchise. New actors, old actors. Whatever. The franchise for various reasons was never allowed to reach maturation. The choice to cast all women was a logical and somewhat inspired twist on the formula. Casting Kate McKinnon was the best decision anyone in Hollywood has made this year.
I’m not here to offer a point-by-point comparison between 1984 and 2016. They are different entities. But I will highlight one specific failure of 2016 to prove a point.
Now to use Alton Brown to make a random point about screenwriting
The original Ghostbusters screenplay by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis has been heralded as one of the finest examples of Hollywood screenwriting. Every scene contributes to the film’s forward momentum. I argue that not one scene is wasted. But how would I define a wasted scene? A scene that exists for one reason alone. Alton Brown would call them unitaskers and explain why unitaskers have no place in his kitchen. Unitaskers are scenes that hit narrative beats without conflict or humor… or vice versa. Unitaskers are exposition. Find me a scene in 1984 that doesn’t function on multiple levels. A good movie minimizes the use of these one-purpose scenes, but sometimes they’re inescapable. Great movies avoid them altogether.
1984 also benefited from a largely extinct collaborate creative process. The screenplay as blueprint allowed freedom for improvisation. Jason Reitman, son of Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman, confirmed that most, if not all, of Bill Murray’s dialogue was improvised. Outside of Adam McKay, who allows his actors that kind of freedom? To take this one step further, what studio would allow such a thing on the set of a big budget film? The improvisation works within the framework of the script due to the focused momentum hurtling toward a satisfying, logical finale. Modern moviemaking has been castrated by the big business of making movies. Mass appeal. Managed and massaged for global consumption.
It is precisely this satisfying finale that sets 1984 apart from other frivolous blockbusters and Ghostbusters (2016) in particular. 2016 meanders toward its end. It dwells in scenes that function only as comedy with no forward push. I’m thinking specifically at the moment of the two scenes of back alley gadget trials. 1984 demonstrated proton packs, traps and other gizmos on the job, in scenes that furthered the narrative.
“It just occurred to me we really haven’t had a completely successful test of this equipment,” Ray says as he, Egon and Venkman ride the elevator up. Egon switches on Ray’s pack and backs away. While the gadget porn scenes in 2016 offer a fun detour, they contribute nothing to the narrative progress. They’re throwaway bits of comedy.
These wasted unitaskers likely contribute to the long, overblown effects-laden finale (an all too common pitfall of modern blockbuster cinema). Distract with effects and noise and maybe the audience won’t notice that we haven’t earned this ending. The new Ghostbusters resolve their respective paranormal crisis by using a vaguely established nuclear device on Ecto-1. Toss the hearse in the pit and blow it up. Bingo bango. This, of course, functions parallel to “crossing the streams.” Each is treated as a brash, irresponsible last-ditch gesture that threatens humanity should it fail. 1984, however, established the perils of “crossing the streams” way back at the beginning of the film when busting their first spook in the hotel ballroom.
“There’s something very important I forgot to tell you.”
“Don’t cross the streams.”
Thus, when facing Gozer and the team of paranormal exterminators has run out of available options to close the dimensional portal, “total protonic reversal” has already been established. The audience recognizes the logic, feels as if they too could have come to the same conclusion. The most effective resolutions are the ones that the audience *would* have expected if they weren’t too busy being entertained. Meanwhile when 2016 tosses the Ecto-1 into the abyss and lights the radioactive fuse, this choice comes from nowhere.
The screenplay in Ghostbusters (2016) completely breaks down during the final third of the film. This isn’t an isolated phenomenon. I don’t mean to single out Ghostbusters (2016) as some sort of anomaly. How many movies have you seen in the last year alone that fall apart while trying to conclude a narrative? It’s a screenwriting failure that can be traced to the scenic level. Plant the seeds for the ending in Act One or early in Act Two. Harvest in the finale. When that doesn’t happen, however, the quick fix is misdirection through effects and noise. I’m oversimplifying the screenwriting process, but this lesson was cribbed directly from the lecture I received on the second day of my undergraduate Screenwriting class.
I forgive you A.O. Scott, but I won’t forgive the nostalgia-shaming trolls.
Too many writers. Too many ideas. Too much interference from studios. There are many reasons that even great scripts fail between conception and reaching the screen. If it were easy, every movie would at least portray a sense of narrative competency and Ghostbusters (1984) wouldn’t be a quintessential piece of Hollywood escapist filmmaking. It’s actually 1984 that remains the anomaly. And yes, A.O. Scott, it is that good. I’ll let your momentarily lapse in judgment slide.
Ghostbusters is also an inextricable part of my childhood. It is actually perhaps my most vibrant slice of personal nostalgia. Remakes, reboots, spinoffs cannot change that — but don’t you dare troll 1984 by casting unwarranted derision because you want to set yourself apart, to elevate your opinion above mine by using my nostalgia against me.
It just makes me so mad.
I’ll admit that nostalgia plays a role in my affection for Ghostbusters (1984), but appreciating Ghostbusters does not require nostalgia. Sure, some of the matte effects look dated, Gozer’s dog puppets are comically rooted to the floor, and maybe the gender politics seem slightly questionable… but don’t you dare doubt the reasons that 1984 remains excellent entertainment. Nostalgia is not a dirty word. It’s also a legitimate reason that someone can enjoy a movie. No one’s frame of reference is less important than yours. If you care to read more, I wrote about Nostalgia and moviewatching in my #Bond_age_ essay on Moonraker.
Oh and a few more truths.
The 1980’s f’ing ruled and Ghostbusters remains one of the best things ever. If you disagree, I wouldn’t open my fridge tonight if I were you. Someone might get the munchies.
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.