Category Archives: 30Hz Bl-g

Ramblings at the frequency of 30Hz

TCM Film Festival 2015 @ 30/007Hz

TCMCFF_2015-Key-Art_Steamboat-Bill-Jr_8513_

For Christmas my wife shocked me with a pass to the Turner Classic Movies Film Festival. The event takes place March 26th to the 29th, which means I’ll be journeying across country to Los Angeles in just a couple of days to partake of the cinematic masochism. I’ll be meeting up with my father-in-law to be my movie buddy for the week. He has no qualms about surviving on Cherry Coke and popcorn alone. You do what you can to survive… and watch as many movies as possible. He’s got the right mentality.

Weather check:

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TCM Film Festival 2015 at the Frequency of 30/007Hz

Each year Turner Classic Movies hosts this affair, shepherding Old Movie Weirdos and Young Movie Weirdos from all across the country into a three block section of L.A. They then hold us captive, force our eyelids open and subject us to flickering images from 9am until 2am each day. Sounds amazing, right?

As this is my first trip to the event, I’m relying upon the grizzled veterans for guidance and support. Will McKinley, a notorious Old Movie Weirdo, for example, has written the TCMFF survival guide. I plan to make three copies, just in case I lose a couple. It also appears that tradition dictates, as a bl-gger of sorts, I must also post my anticipated schedule and then explain why the whole thing might blow up as I make last-minute decisions on the fly. Like whether or not to eat… or sleep. Anyway. Here we go.

 

Day 1 – Thursday, March 26th

Arrive at LAX sometime around noon. I even got a non-stopper from Pittsburgh.

I hear there’s some trivia contest happening around 3pm. Time enough to throw my stuff in the hotel room and hop over to the Hollywood Roosevelt hotel. I’ll be in need of a few pints by this point in the day (air travel and I have a troubled relationship). I’ll be excited to meet some familiar Twitter faces for the first time over movie trivia. And beer. Some of these people I’ve been chatting with for years now. Luckily I’ve been hosting my #Bond_age_ live tweets while sauced so I don’t think a little inebriation will misrepresent me.

After this the movies formally start. Right off the bat, I need to make the decision between an old favorite and a movie I’ve always meant to watch as The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance goes up against Queen Christina in the same time slot.

Ultimately, I think, Jimmy Stewart punching John Wayne will win out over Garbo.

 

6:15pm: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

man-who-shot-liberty-bfi-00m-ezf

After that it looks like I’ll have a break for sustenance as my presence won’t be requested until 10pm when I have to decide between a favorite William Powell/Carole Lombard comedy, My Man Godfrey, and my favorite Errol Flynn swashbuckler.

I’ve seen My Man Godfrey on the big screen a couple of times. Errol Flynn not so much. Swashbuckle me all night long, Errol.

 

10:00pm: The Sea Hawk (1940)

The Sea Hawk

End with a nightcap? Errol Flynn would have wanted it that way.

 


Day 2 – Friday, March 27th

The Festival begins in earnest at 9:00am with a battle for attention between Inherit the Wind, My Darling Clementine and The Dawn of Technicolor, a special presentation that “illustrates the development of Technicolor through the boom period of Hollywood’s early sound musicals.” True to form, I’ll roll in a little bit late and catch the 10:30, the Ernst Lubitsch-directed The Smiling Lieutenant featuring Claudette Colbert and Maurice Chevalier. Lubitsch and Colbert? Sold. Plus this one’s new to me.

Since I’m generally choosing the never-before-seen tact at the festival, this means I’m bypassing the glorious spectacle of Lawrence of Arabia, despite never having seen this OMFG epic on the big screen. It is long. And I can see like seven movies in the same amount of time. Maybe not seven, but you understand the hyperbole. Lawrence starts at 10am, which means it blocks out the entire middle of the day until 2:30pm. Sorry, Larry. Catch ya later.

 

10:30am – The Smiling Lieutenant (1931)

the smiling lieutenant 1931

After my date with Claudette Colbert, I can either hoof it over to Lenny with Dustin Hoffman and Alec Baldwin in attendance (Alec is interviewing Dustin. I hope he calls him Dusty) or enjoy a more leisurely lunch-filled stroll over to see Anthony Mann’s Reign of Terror at high noon, Woody Allen’s Purple Rose of Cairo or Michael Curtiz’s The Proud Rebel. Purple Rose is a favorite, but I just recently picked it up on Blu-ray. Terror trumps Rebel because I think I need to the French Revolution done film noir style… and it gets me out earlier to make sure I have enough time to get in line for The Cincinnati Kid with Ann-Margaret in attendance.

 

12noon: Reign of Terror (1949)

Reign of Terror

 

3:15pm: The Cincinnati Kid

the cincinnati kid

After basking in some Steve McQueen cool for a couple hours, I’ll have to face the fire. I have real life and death decisions to make. Raiders of the Lost Ark starts at the El Capitan Theatre at 5:30pm. Raiders overlaps Don’t Bet On Women, A Man for All Seasons, Norma Rae, Rififi, The Invisible Man (1933) and Buster Keaton’s Steamboat Bill, Jr. with a live performance of Carl Davis’ brand new score for the film. On one hand, it’s Raiders. On the other hand, I’ve seen Raiders in magnificent fashion at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta complete with villain-hissing and hero-cheering. But then again, it’s Raiders of the Lost m’fing Ark. Right now I have Rififi penciled into the schedule as I’ve never seen Dassin’s brilliant heist film on the big screen.

But don’t be surprised if I end up at the Capitan.

 

6:15pm: Rififi (1955)

Rififi

On second thought, Raiders might end up being the smart play here anyway. My whole weekend revolves around the next film. Sure, Roman Holiday would be swell. I’ve only seen the Peck and Hepburn classic on DVD. Apollo 13 is a no-brainer. And by no-brainer, I mean I didn’t especially care for it the first time I saw it in the theater. Even if Alex Trebek is scheduled to converse with Captain James Lovell. I just hope all these other attractions distract people from getting in line for arguably the best James Bond movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, with James Bond (George Lazenby) in attendance. It’s actually #2 on my list of Bond films (behind only From Russia With Love), but that would have lessened the build-up to the reveal.

9:15pm: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

On Her Majesty's Secret Service

While OHMSS is happening, Hitchcock’s classic Rebecca also happens somewhere else, but  that’s just static and more places for people to get distracted while I can get a good seat for 007. You may or may not have heard, but I’m a wee bit of a James Bond fan.

Tired, weary and probably hungry, I will now find a double-shot of espresso, hoist my petards, and tackle the midnight showing of Boom! I’ve never seen this but I’m very much looking forward to the opportunity. This one’s a camp classic rarity with a legendarily bad (so bad it’s good?) reputation (8% on Rotten Tomatoes). A Tennessee Williams’ “adaptation” gone haywire, featuring Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Noel Coward.

 

12midnight: BOOM! (1968)

BOOM! 1968

 

….and… nightcap. Elizabeth Taylor would have wanted it that way.

 


Day 3 – Saturday, March 28th

I’m totally down for seeing silent vixen Colleen Moore in the excellent Why Be Good (1927) but this is looking like a rest and recover morning. I’m thinking brunch. As a waitress once said to me in a bed and breakfast in Cork, Ireland before just giving me a third breakfast course, “Ohhhhhh the day is long.” The Irish know how to do breakfast. If you’re going to drink at the pubs all day you’ve got to start your day with a three-hour breakfast. Maybe the same holds true for the Turner Classic Movie Film Festival.

This clears my morning. I’ll bypass Sean Connery in The Man Who Would Be King at 10am in order to let Busby Berkeley dazzle me with 42nd Street at 11:30am.

 

11:30am: 42nd Street (1933)

42nd Street

After being dazzled, I’m definitely avoiding The Miracle Worker (been there quite a few times) and 1776 and Malcolm X (both too long). That leaves time for lunch and perhaps joining a Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival conversation with Sophia Loren. Or another viewing of Rebel Without a Cause or going to a book signing… I literally have no idea. None of these events are essentials. We’ll let this sit here as a wildcard, potential nap time slot. I’ll have to get back on the wagon by 4:15pm because an unseen Preston Sturges, Christmas in July, will demand my A-game. After that it’s another full night.

 

4:15pm: Christmas in July (1940)

Christmas in July 1940

Now begins a night of wicked decisions. Shirley MacLaine stops by for the screening of The Apartment, one of the all time great Billy Wilder flicks, if not just one of the all time great movies period. Choosing The Apartment, a movie I’ve probably seen a half dozen times, means I’m ignoring a Mel Brooks favorite of mine History of the World Part One, The Wind and the Lion (more Connery) and Viva Zapata! (Brando!) All of which start at the same time. This one’s going to come down to the epic adventure vs. in-person Shirley MacLaine. I expect to crowdsource this decision, meaning The Apartment might freeze me out with a super long line. If I’m putting dollars down, The Wind and the Lion might be the underdog with the big payout. Plus I’ve never actually seen it. If a crazy line awaits me at The Apartment, I could see myself hopping over to see Slouchy Bond woo Murphy Brown.

 

6:00pm: The Apartment (1960)

the apartment 1960

Next up.

The French Connection happens at 9:15, and I do love me some Popeye Doyle, but I’ve seen this three times in the theater. Adam’s Rib would be fun with comedian Greg Proops hosting, but it’s not a big-screen essential for me. The Loved One‘s a cool flick, but I own it on DVD and watched it not entirely too long ago. Great choices all, but there’s only one that can’t be imitated elsewhere. At 9:30pm, TCM offers a collection of silent films, all hand-cranked and shown on 35mm. This is the way the earliest audiences watched movies. A rare experience that I can’t pass up. Return of the Dream Machine features Melies’ A Trip to the Moon (1902), The Great Train Robbery (1903), D.W. Griffith’s A Corner in Wheat and Suspense (1913).

 

9:30pm: Return of the Dream Machine (1903-1913)

VOYAGE DANS LA LUNE

The midnight show is another rare treat. Nothing Lasts Forever was produced in 1984 by Lorne Michaels and features the absurdly cool cast of Zach Galligan, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Imogene Coca, and Eddie Fisher. The studio buried the picture. Presumably because MGM didn’t believe a black and white, noir-style science fiction film would sell. It’s never appeared on home video of any variety. Zach Galligan will be attending this TCM Film Festival screening. I watched it on YouTube before it was erased from the Interwebs’ collective conscious and on TCM Underground a couple months ago. (I still have it saved on my DVR. NOBODY WILL DELETE IT. EVER.)

 

12midnight: Nothing Lasts Forever (1984)

nothing lasts forever

 

 


Day 4 – Sunday, March 29th

Patton screens at 9am. Pass. The Hunchback of Notre Dame happens at 9:30am. Pass. I can’t do pre-noon weepies. This happily leads me to a noir classic. Tyrone Power in Nightmare Alley at 9:45am.

 

9:45am: Nightmare Alley (1947)

Nightmare alley

Gunga Din offers some dated adventure-time thrills. Cary Grant is always a bonus, but it lets out at 3:45pm, mere minutes before my next planned feature. All signs point to Desk Set because I had to do a shot-by-shot analysis of a large portion of Psycho in film school. I haven’t watched it since. Maybe time to revisit finally? Ehhh….. I think I need more Katharine Hepburn in my life. No offense, Hitch.

 

1:15pm: Desk Set (1957)

desk set

This brings up a moment that has my panties in a bunch. TCM has pitted me against myself. Classic Film Me is like “Of course you have to see The Philadelphia Story. Don’t be a shmuck.” Modern Film Me is like “Out of Sight is ahead of The Philadelphia Story on your Top 100, man. Just look at the numbers.” Grrr. The movie poster is on my wall.

 

4:15pm: Out of Sight (1998)

out of sight poster

I’ll get to sneak one more movie in before I need to catch that last flight out of La La. No better way to close out the Festival than with Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni in Marriage Italian Style.

7:30pm: Marriage Italian Style (1964)

Marriage Italian Style

 

Race out of the theater, hail a cab, head back to LAX for some red eye action.

 

…stay tuned for more dispatches from the 2015 TCM Film Festival in the frequency of 30/007Hz.

Teen Witch: The Best Thing I Watched This Week

Netflix Streaming is an ebb and flow of new and old titles. They come and go as Netflix pleases. It seems that lately, however, Netflix’s streaming options skew newer and newer and newer… which is why that every month I check Instant Watcher and filter new offerings by decade. I switch the sliders to 1900 – 1990, open up my Netflix window and start adding stuff to my queue. Maybe I get around to watching them before they disappear. Maybe I don’t.

Luckily, we have also have Twitter personalities like @bobfreelander (operator of the fantastic website Rupert Pupkin Speaks) who specializes in underseen and underappreciated films. Last week sometime he noted the addition of Teen Witch to the Netflix Streaming lineup and offered a hearty recommendation. Thursday I queued up Teen Witch.

 

This is Episode IV: A New Hope of The Best Thing.

 

besthingIwatchedthisweek2

 

The first scene is a Vaseline-scrubbed, slo-mo dream sequence. Flowing capes. Shadow silhouettes. Smoke machines. Neon everywhere. A killer 80’s jam.

 

 

…and yadda yadda yadda… I didn’t do any work during my daughters’ nap time.

Continue reading Teen Witch: The Best Thing I Watched This Week

Birdman vs. Boyhood or (Why We Love to Hate the Oscars)

I get it. I do. You (general, collective “you”) apparently don’t like Birdman. The Boyhood loss signaled the coming of the apocalypse. And Birdman is a blight on the history of all cinema. Hell, a blight on all of human history. The Trail of Tears. The Spanish Inquisition. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). I know this because I read stuff on the Interwebs.

A few articles I’ve read during this post-Oscar hangover:

Is Boyhood the Oscars biggest EVER snub?

The Academy’s failure to recognize Boyhood is their worst mistake in 20 years

Why the Boyhood Oscar Snub Smarts So Much

Them there’s fighting words.

Birdman - michael keaton and edward norton

Birdman vs. Boyhood or (Why We Love to Hate the Oscars)

And so it goes with the Academy Awards. Every year it’s the same tired old nonsense. Some movie or some actor always gets kicked in the teeth and we, the consumptive populace and guardians of all that is good and proper, hit the aforementioned Interwebs and the Twatter and we climb our pulpits and high horses and spew forth the TRUTH about Cinema (Capital C) and Art (Capital A). As if the Academy has ever…. ever ever ever… concerned themselves first and foremost with (A)rt or (C)inema. Those examples of (A)rt and (C)inema are often invited to the party, but sometimes their opinions are a little too progressive, a little too dangerous, a little too racy. By the end of the evening they’re just hanging out with Sarah Bunting by the stale crudités (Downton Abbey joke in the house!).

Sarah Bunting - Downton Abbey
(A)rt, (C)inema and Sarah Bunting.

Continue reading Birdman vs. Boyhood or (Why We Love to Hate the Oscars)

Kids, Music and Brute-Force Facepalms

I play a lot of music in my house. I loathe silence. It’s both a character flaw and a persistent joy.

Since I’m home most days with the kids that equals a lot of time listening. That equals a lot of time exposing my children to the music I love, but also the music I hope they’ll eventually come to love as well. I hooked my elder daughter on The Cars, The Knack and Huey Lewis when she was 2. My wife introduced her to Adele and Foster the People’s first record (we don’t speak of that second one). She’s since expanded her playlist. I’m pretty sure, however, she could listen to Hall & Oates’ “Maneater” for 24 consecutive hours. The point is that my children listen almost entirely to the music that we curate for them. We don’t listen to modern Top 40, some exceptions apply. For example, my mom recently brought over a Radio Disney CD for them. I’m still trying to explain how a compact disc can also be a “radio” and why I can’t just play “Radio Disney” in the car or on my record player. I’d just succeeded in explaining the concept of the “radio” and now this comes along and throws wrench into the whole concept.

But now about my youngest. My 2yo (almost 3) has never shown the same affection for music or individual songs. She’s starting to identify specific music, but discrimination has never been her strongest trait. She learned how to operate the Hello Kitty CD player and spins tracks like a furious little DJ strung out on adrenaline (maybe cocaine, knowing her tendency to do that most dangerous activities imaginable). She swaps CDs without finishing more than 30 seconds of a song and bounces uncontrollably between swaps. I don’t know how she can hear anything other than the reverberations of her own brain. It’s like a squash court in there. She too has taken a liking to “the Radio Disney.” Or at least the first track. I accidentally let 90’s on 9 provide the soundtrack to a recent car ride. Lou Bega’s “Mambo No. 5” came on — the first track on that Radio Disney CD, albeit rewritten to refer to happy fun times with Disney characters instead of one-night stands with lady friends. She squeals. “the Radio Disney!’ I shake my head and thank the maker that I’d arrived at my destination before needing to explain the lyrical differences.

Now to the point of my story. I know… too much back story. You can deal with it.

I put on Toad the Wet Sprocket’s live album Welcome Home: Live at the Arlington Theater 1992. You may or may not know this, but I’m a die-hard Toad fan. I consider their 1994 record, Dulcinea, a desert-island essential. I’m that kind of crazy-serious about Toad. I don’t joke about Toad, goddammit.

I’m singing along to every damn word of that album and my 2yo comes bounding up to me, kinda dancing, kinda pretending to sing. My cockles warm like the Grinch’s tiny frozen heart. Have I raised a child that loves Toad the Wet Sprocket? I imagine all the concerts we’ll attend. Don’t stop touring, Toad! Don’t break up again, Toad! I’ve got a child to mold and treat to your underappreciated sonic gifts to the world!

Right about now I’m holding her in my arms and we’re bouncing around the living room to Toad’s kinda-sorta breakout MTV hit “Fall Down.”

And then she says to me, as plain and coherent as the day is long, “This sounds like Paw Patrol.”

Has anyone ever gone from elation to totally fucking crestfallen in a shorter amount of time than I did in that moment? In case you don’t know about Paw Patrol, it’s this kid’s show about a squad of community service dogs, each with their own specialties and a tricked-out vehicles. And they don’t f’ing form like Voltron. It’s dogs and trucks. That’s pretty much it. They solve problems like finding the mayor’s lost chicken. When I watch any amount of this show, my brain goes blank in the name of self-preservation. They watch this show at my parents’ house. I can’t complain. Paw Patrol means a night out for my wife and I. A necessary intelligence-sucking evil that maintains parental sanity. But now… BUT NOW… my 2yo just compared my beloved Toad the Wet Sprocket with the Paw Patrol theme song.

For reference:

Toad the Wet Sprocket – “Fall Down”

Paw Patrol theme song

For now I will bide my time until she’s capable of understanding the depth with which this cuts. Then I will tell her. I might even make her apologize. Listen to three “Windmills” and atone for his past sins.

Sigh. But I won’t. Not really.

Even then in the moment of supreme shock and dismay, Toad being compared to Paw Patrol… I laughed and kissed her on the forehead. I’ve told the story to at least ten people with put-on dismay, because that is what’s expected of someone who takes music seriously. But even when these damn kids cause painful, brute-force self-inflicted facepalms, they’re still our most favorite people on the planet. They also have a way of putting our own tendencies toward wildly superficial histrionics in perfect perspective.

Saturday Night Fever: The Best Thing I Watched This Week

I’ve been doing this CinemaShame thing for a couple years now. If you haven’t seen some of my past posts about CinemaShame, this will get you up to full speed. An even shorter explanation is that each year you pick 12 movies you feel some sort of shame for not having watched. Movies you’ve been told to see dozens of times, the classics that just sit on your shelf and mock your 13th viewing of Police Academy 3. Over the course of the next 12 months, you watch all 12 and write up some thoughts. Or not. It’s laid back like that. The write-ups tend to be half the fun because you’re forced to consider how expectation shaped your enjoyment of the film. But moving along… welcome to Volume 4 of TBTIWTW – Saturday Night Fever.

besthingIwatchedthisweek2 - Saturday Night Fever

I’d yet to start in on my Shame list for 2015, which can be viewed in all of its shameful glory here so I earmarked last Saturday for a viewing of Saturday Night Fever. Shameful, right? Never having seen John Travolta’s crowning, hip-shaking, disco-feverish achievement in all of cinema. Yet I have seen Disco Godfather, which is also a must-watch if you like hilariously earnest low-budget drug war/disco films… so that must count for something.

 

So Saturday Night Fever isn’t about disco fever. Not really.

Pretty much all I knew about Saturday Night Fever could be boiled down to the soundtrack (which, of course, I have on vinyl – doesn’t everybody?) and this one scene:

You know I work on my hair a long time and you hit it! He hits my hair!

How can you not love that scene? Top five dysfunctional family dinner table scene.

And then, of course, there’s all the groovy disco. To preface this scene, Travolta is cajoled into hitting the dance floor with the girl standing behind him in the clip and she turns out to be a total square (stiff?), so he ditches her and goes freelance disco demi-god on the expectant populace.

 

I wasn’t prepared, however, for the “turn” that Saturday Night Fever takes halfway through. My uninformed notions of the film considered Fever to be a movie of bell bottoms, sequins and fluff. Brooklyn flunkie makes good through dance with intermittent conversations about being poor and Italian to break up all the disco. Sure, that’s what makes Saturday Night Fever palatable and pure entertainment, but there’s a dark underbelly here that I didn’t expect.

Travolta’s character Tony never really makes good. He’s full of promise and all the potential in the world, but he realizes that he can’t actually make good with dance. He encounters an existential crisis. He’s not a child anymore. He’s working at a paint store (and being an exceptional employee), dancing on the weekends for fun and little golden trophies when his esteemed (worshipped?) brother quits his clergy position and falls from grace. And now Tony he realizes that he will never, ever get him out of Brooklyn and away from the emotional abuse of his home and family. He sees that those heroes and idols to which he looked up to were little more than false martyrs.

And then when Tony takes steps to change, to be better than his surroundings and those surrounding him, he fails. He slides back into his nurtured personality. Even if his “nature” is destined for bigger and better things, the person he’s become, the Tony Manero that’s been molded by Brooklyn through his eighteen years can’t escape the undertow that drags him down.

There’s a magnificent pair of scenes on the Brooklyn Bridge — the weekend destination for Tony and his friends. A place to screw around like delinquents and to dream of what lies beyond in the twinkling lights of the promised land, Manhattan. But that’s all it is to them — a dream. There’s nothing of reality mixed into their horseplay. The last of these scenes jump-starts Tony’s final realization of self. I won’t divulge the specifics because SPOILER ALERT! some serious shit goes down. The final, tragic event forces Tony to realize that maybe he and all his friends are just a Brooklyn fuckups. The difference between he and his friends, however, is that he’d still rather be a Brooklyn fuckup fucking up somewhere other than in the same old place, doing the same old shit…. he’d rather reach for that dream across the Brooklyn bridge.

Saturday Night Fever ends with a most conflicted and uncertain denouement. The viewer can choose optimism, if they choose. The viewer can also choose disappointment, and a return to the same troubles Tony wanted to escape. We know he’s a good person with good intentions, but director John Badham has left us with the sinking feeling that none of that will be enough to deliver this character fully from the past, the past that will forever drag him away from success… and back to Brooklyn… or even worse… a sequel.