Whenever we lose another celebrity the Interwebs assemble into two primary factions. 1. Those that mourn. 2. Those that begrudge the need to mourn. The latter faction shames the former for feeling sorrow in the wake of the celebrity death. “Celebrity” assumes that we had no real life connections to the deceased — that they were merely a face on the screen or a voice on the radio, merely a fictional personality.
I never knew Carrie Fisher. I never spoke to her at a press junket or a fan convention. Zero direct or indirect contact. But as long as there’s been a “me,” there’s been Princess Leia. Let’s start at the beginning. I was born in 1978, the year after the release of Star Wars. I saw the film at such an age that I do not recall any moment in my life that predates knowledge of the film.
I lay no special claim to the following statements, and I know for a fact that I am not alone.
Carrie Fisher was my first crush. Of course, I crushed on Princess Leia and the hair buns and the “into the garbage shoot, flyboy” confidence, the girl that led a rebellion and, lets be honest, the girl that wore the gold bikini. I was of a certain impressionable age. There was just no getting around it. I was and remain only human. Like many others, Leia was my earliest exposure to cinematic badass femininity.
Of course, as I grew older I distanced the Princess Leia character from the actress Carrie Fisher.
Princess Leia belonged to that unassailable, ideal part of my childhood. The part that worshipped all things Star Wars, watched the original trilogy movies on a loop, went as an Ewok one Halloween, made my mom design different Star Wars-themed birthday cakes each year, paused my VHS tape and counted the number of stormtroopers present when Darth Vader arrives on the Death Star and requested that many stormtrooper action figures for Christmas. I had Star Wars bed sheets and posters of all three movies over my bed. I received phone calls on my Darth Vader telephone. These memories cannot be taken from me. They remain pure, perfect nostalgia.
I came to see Carrie Fisher meanwhile as a beautiful, damaged, three-dimensional human. As I struggled with feelings of depression during my early 30’s, I looked to her — someone who’d lived with mental illness — as a figure of hope. Someone who knew what bottom felt like and spoke openly about her experiences, using her celebrity to bring awareness to an issue that remained, apparently, off-limits for dinner conversation. And she did so with wit and wisdom and brazen self-awareness. She’d experienced darkness and as a sort of self-satirist could make light of her troubles without undermining the struggles of anyone else. The world seemed healthier, more honest and more colorful with Carrie Fisher dishing stories about her addictions and the absurdities of her life in Hollywood as Carrie Fisher, Princess Leia and daughter of Hollywood royalty, Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher.
This week we all had to say goodbye to that voice, that wit, that beacon of hope. I have mourned her passing on social media and in the privacy of my home. For the first time in all of our years together, my wife suggested we watch Star Wars to celebrate Carrie, but I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t ready to admit that she was really gone. Instead I cleaned the house and blared John Coltrane on vinyl. I wasn’t ready to recognize that the 19-year-old woman who’d catalyzed these films that I’d loved throughout my entire lifetime with the line “Help me, Obi-wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope,” was really gone.
No, I never met Carrie Fisher, but I have shed a few tears over her passing. I will mourn her as an actress. I will mourn her as a voice of reason amidst the madness of our self-obsessed modern culture. And I will mourn the passing of part of my ideal, unassailable youth — my now somewhat imperfect nostalgia. It sounds selfish — but that is our frame of reference for “Celebrity” — the ways in which they’ve touched our lives through their art. I will mourn because I feel sadness, and that’s the first step toward being better, no matter the scope or scale of that loss.
And now having just finished the first draft of this bl-g post, I’ve learned that Debbie Reynolds has also passed. And just like that– another radiant beacon of positivity has been extinguished. As fans of cinema we loved them both like family. I cannot imagine the feeling of loss within their real family.
Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist: Decade – 1960’s
Country of Origin – Japan
#18. Kuroneko (1968)
Yabu no Naka no Kuroneko, the Japanese title for Kuroneko takes the prize for most literal name of a transcendent piece of cinema. (I assume.) The literal English translation, “A Black Cat in a Bamboo Grove,” paints a very precise picture. Kaneto Shindo’s film showcases bamboo groves and black cats, oftentimes in the same image and beautifully rendered. Truth in advertisement.
Of course, such precision fails to convey nuance beyond the light and shadow. Even without nuance, however, Kuroneko is a beautiful film. A collection of still images could populate an entire gallery installation.
A band of traveling samurai rape and murder Yone and her daughter-in-law Shige. They burn down their house, take their food and depart. A black cat appears and licks the bodies of the women. The women return as spirits having pledged to avenge their death by murdering all samurai. All samurai includes Shige’s husband Gintoki who’d gone off to war in the faraway north. They lure their samurai to an illusory estate in a bamboo grove (a spot near where their house once stood), seduce, then destroy. When news of these samurai butchers reaches governor Raiko, he sends Gintoki to destroy the spirits.
The term “elegiac” resonated while watching Kuroneko. The word itself rolls off the tongue and inspires non-specific romantic pining, sort of like Hector Elizondo. Literally “elegiac” means an expression of sorrow for something now past.
The women react to the lives they’ve lost, the blissful illusion of sanctuary. A home, a family, the belief in the altruism of a protective warrior class. As farming peasants, as women, Yone and Shige represented the lowest tier of the caste system, other than ethnic minorities, convicted criminals, etc. (the “burakumin”). Despite their status, they lived a contented existence. A violent death and total disillusionment ferried them back to their vengeful purgatory where they are charged with more than just measure-for-measure revenge. Within this context of mourning the loss of their life and a worldview of untarnished pastoral purity, the notion of Kuroneko as an elegy becomes especially potent.
Let’s further consider the definition of elegiac within poetry. I had to brush up on the broader strokes of the elegiac couplet because it’s been almost twenty years since I last used or studied the term. Greek lyrical poets used elegiac couplets for themes on a smaller scale than the epic. The couplet stands on its own but contributes to the larger work. Individual, isolated pieces of the whole. Though for this conversation the specifics don’t necessarily matter as much as the function of the elegiac couplet. Let’s dig up some of that Freshman English class.
Each couplet consists of a hexameter verse followed by a pentameter verse. The following is a graphic representation of its scansion. Note that – is a long syllable, u a short syllable, and U is either one long syllable or two short syllables:
– U | – U | – U | – U | – u u | – –
– U | – U | – || – u u | – u u | –
In it’s original Greek and eventually Latin usage, the elegiac couplet was considered a lesser art form. Elegiac poets liberally borrowed the themes of the epic in order to lend more gravitas to the shorter, more accessible elegies. As a horror film, also typically considered lesser art, does not Kuroneko struggle against the same kind of bias? The themes of Kuroneko resonate well beyond the horror genre.
The beauty of the couplet manifests in poetic simplicity. The same holds true for Kuroneko narrative, which relies on light, shadow and often silence. Fog dances among the bamboo forest, the reeds of which appear overdeveloped during processing and reinforces the haunting estate’s isolation. Pure whites and pure blacks. Only the fog lies somewhere in between. Nothing but blackness appears beyond the forest. This turns the most minimal of set designs into limitless space.
Though Shindo handles the seduction of the samurai with a deft touch, and an eye first concerned with visual poetry, Kuroneko embraces the thematic essentials of a horror film. He begins the film with the massacre of the women and their home, but shows none of the samurai’s overt trespasses. The violence agains the women is left to the imagination — only an image of their charred bodies — but our imagination is often more potent. The women, however, exact their pound of flesh by biting their victims in the neck, ripping throats like a big cat killing its prey.
When Gintoki arrives at the women’s lair, the film strays from any horrific imagery and moves toward a Shakespearean tragedy. Two lovers, reunited. An unnatural coupling of man and spirit. Shige surrenders her soul to hell for one more week with her husband. Meanwhile Gintoki’s mother, bound by her oath to destroy the samurai, offers her son no family discount.
Whether you’re spellbound by the imagery or wrapped up in the sworn vengeance of the wronged women, Kuroneko casts a timeless spell. Conservation of language. The visual poetry of the black and white image. Revenge and honor. Love and death. The shattered sanctuary of home. Elegiac, indeed.
After finishing Kuroneko, I sat in silence, watching the Criterion menu. The ultimate sign of respect for any film — silent reflection. (Though, on the flipside, I also sat silently after finishing Nightmare on Elm Street 2 because holy hell that was one terrible movie.)
Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist: Decade – 1970’s Country of Origin – Italy
The Advance Word: I knew only what I’d read about Delirium in Howarth’s giallo guide, which was that Delirium was a trippy, unique entry in the giallo genre.
“There is nothing quite like a Renato Polselli film. You may take that as a good thing or a bad thing, but there is no denying it: the man had a style and sensibility which was uniquely his own. And Delirium is truly one of his most, well, delirious and absurd films.”
After reading this introduction to Delirium in Troy Howarth’s So Deadly So Perverse, I hopped on my phone’s Amazon app and ordered Polselli’s Delirium. Shortly thereafter I found myself in a Twitter conversation with someone who mentioned Delirium as one of his favorite giallo films. For whatever reason, I was not aware of the Lamberto Bava Delirium (Le foto de Giola) so when I engaged him in conversation, thinking we were talking about Polselli’s Delirium, he returned a mighty confused tweet because he didn’t know about Polselli’s film. We shared a good virtual laugh about that, and then I went onto Amazon and added Bava’s Delirium to my order.
Howarth speaks the truth, my friends. I’ve seen a good chunk of gialli, but I’ve never seen a film quite like Renato Polselli’s Delirium.
Everything about the film feels slightly askew. From the jarring guitar-driven score (by Gianfranco Reverberi) to the often uncomfortably brutal sadism and masochism to an intermittently tender husband/wife relationship between our main character/pervert/psychiatrist and the woman who apparently loves him. The actors overplay and underplay scenarios with equal measure. Some are even prone to those dastardly hysteria-driven comas. Polselli seems aware that he’s written and directed something awesomeful. Awesomeful in a way, however, that suggests that every objective misstep is in fact intentional. The frenetic editing, the stilted dialogue, the hyperbolic acting, disquieting episodes of S & M — all of it feels like Polselli constructed Delirium with the intent of receiving side-eye for 100 minutes. The following trailer for Delirium should give you a sufficient dose of said crazy.
The movie opens with our main character, Dr. Lyutak (the bodybuilder Mickey Hargitay), ogling and then murdering a young girl in a fit of psychosexual depravity. He returns home where his marital impotence interferes with conjugal sexy times. His wife Marcia (Rita Calderoni) begs him to do whatever he wants. This brings out a dose of strangulation and a hint of murder before Lyutak dials it back… because he loves and respects her too much. Later he gives her a late anniversary card. His heartfelt words involve being a failure as a man but a supremely successful scientist. That’s just pillow talk, baby.
Lyutak becomes a primary suspect of the initial murder. As you would when you’re a COMPLETE F’ING LUNATIC. He’s cleared of charges, however, when someone else commits a similar murder while Lyutak’s being questioned. (Isn’t that how it always goes?) This means there’s another deranged psychosexual killer on the loose, and poor Marcia’s still a virgin. The body count piles up, and the investigators continue to look the other way while Lyutak becomes ever more unhinged. The fact that nobody identifies him as a stark-raving lunatic becomes increasingly more comical.
Blue Underground’s DVD does a nice job of presenting a film that’s likely never been treated very kindly. I’d comment further on the intermittently harsh soundtrack, but for all I know Polselli intended it that way.
I don’t know if I can outright recommend Delirium, but I found it to be an intermittently brilliant, often comical head trip. Recommended, with reservations. If you can handle the brutal scenes of violence against women — not necessary gory, mind you, but wholly unsettling — then you might find plenty to enjoy in Delirium’s psychosexual depravity. From a certain angle, this could be an uneven, underrated giallo masterpiece. From another angle, it could be bungled trash. As Black Sheep said, “The choice is yours.”
DVD Verdict: Plenty layers of weirdness to dig through. I can see myself revisiting this to further investigate the burning question on everyone’s mind regarding Polselli’s Delirium: WTF?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
A bl-g about classic and not-so-classic movies, music and nostalgia by James David Patrick