how the grinch stole christmas still 5
December 27, 2014
David Kalat
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Saving Christmas from the Grinch

Sorry, Opie, but this is appalling.

The other night, a back-to-back broadcast of the original 20-minute Grinch cartoon was paired with the bloated monstrosity of the 2000 film starring Jim Carrey brought back waves of revulsion and anger to the surface, after almost 15 years of suppression.  As I’ve written here before, I don’t like hating on movies.  Life’s too short to let it get cluttered with unhappiness—it’s healthier to find that spark of something, no matter how flimsy, that you can enjoy about something and hang onto that.  If something really doesn’t work for you, stop watching/listening/reading/whatever and move on.

But even I have my limits.


KEYWORDS: Boris Karloff, Chuck Jones, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Jim Carrey, Ron Howard

Henry Fonda: It Took a Long Time

Today Henry Fonda is featured on TCM and he’s an actor for whom I’ve never really had any particular affinity.   The problem was never his talent.  I recognized his greatness as an actor early on.  The first movie I ever remember seeing him in was The Lady Eve and thought he was quite good in the part.  Then I saw him in The Grapes of Wrath playing a completely different type of character and, again, I thought he was excellently cast and played the role very well.  Still, I didn’t connect to him.  Sometimes, with certain actors, it can take a long time to come around to them.  Other times, it never happens.



Celebrate Like the Stars


There are some universal truths in life that we can probably all agree on. The world is round. Cary Grant looks damn good in a suit. Washington, D.C. is the capitol of the United States. And classic Hollywood sure liked to drink. The bottled spirits flowed freely in movies made from the silent era, through the Prohibition and well into the 1970s. So freely in fact that you’d be hard-pressed to find an adult film that didn’t show a scene of someone drinking, refer to booze or offer a glimpse of something vaguely referencing the sauce that seemed to keep Hollywood running. It may have just been a bottle of empty scotch placed casually in the background of a scene or a six-pack of beer spotted in an open fridge. There’s just no denying that many of our favorite film performers regularly shared bottles of the bubbly (and not so bubbly) on screen but this love of liquor also continued off-screen.The recently published book, Of All the Gin Joints: Stumbling through Hollywood History by Mark Bailey, offers readers an interesting look into the drinking habits of some of Hollywood’s most beloved and recognizable stars including Charlie Chaplin and Errol Flynn. To celebrate the holidays I thought I’d share a few cocktail recipes from the book that you can make at home but before the adults in the room read any further please remember to always drink with caution!


This week on TCM Underground: AN AMERICAN HIPPIE IN ISRAEL (1972)

American Hitch-Hiker

A disillusioned Vietnam veteran escapes the madness of modern living and attempts to establish a Utopian commune on a desert island.



ast: Asher Tzarfati (Mike), Shmuel Wolf (Como), Lily Avidan (Elizabeth), Tzila Karney (Francoise), Susan Devor Cogan, Fran Avni (Hippie Singers). Director Amos Sefer. Producer: Amos Sefer, Amatsia Hiuni. Cinematography Ya’ackov Kallach. Music: Nachum Haiman.

Color. 95 minutes

Showtime: Saturday, December 27th, 11:00pm PST/2:00am EST  [...MORE]

Film Discoveries of 2014


Let the proliferation of year-end lists wash over you with a resigned calm. And let me add another one to the ocean of opinion. Today I’m presenting my top ten new-to-me movies of 2014. That is, older films that I have seen for the first time. They are the backbone of any movie-going year, whether it’s catching up to acknowledged classics (for me, The Best Years of Our Lives) or going trawling for obscure auteurist gems (Lubitsch’s Broken Lullaby, Edward L. Cahn’s Redhead).  It’s a way to draw attention to a wider range of filmgoing possibilities, so you don’t have to read about Boyhood for the bazillionth time (though, if you do, my appreciation is over here). All credit goes to prodigious blogger Brian Saur from Rupert Pupkin Speaks, who collects “Favorite Film Discoveries” from writers, programmers and filmmakers every year, and asked me to contribute once upon a time. I found the exercise invigorating, more so than the usual end-of-year recycling, so you have him to thank or blame.


Christmas with Ginger Rogers

gingeropeningFor my last article on not-your-usual Christmas movies, I offer a double feature starring Ginger Rogers. Unfortunately, one of the films, I’ll Be Seeing You, aired on TCM yesterday, December 21, before I had a chance to post this recommendation. Hopefully, some of you caught it or have watched it previously. The second film, Bachelor Mother, is scheduled for Christmas Day at 9:30 am. Though different in genre and tone, the films make a good double feature because they are both set at Christmas, and they are both thought-provoking.

Released in 1944,  I’ll Be Seeing You is a lesser-known romantic melodrama that must have been heart-wrenching for war-weary viewers of the day. Rogers plays convict Mary Marshall on leave from prison for the holidays. On the train home to Pine Hill, she meets soldier Zachary Morgan, played by Joseph Cotten. Because they are attracted to each other, they are reluctant to reveal their true circumstances. Mary claims to be a traveling saleslady, while Zachary hides the fact that he has just been released from the hospital after suffering from shell-shock. Mary invites Zachary to dinner at her aunt and uncle’s house, marking the beginning of a hesitant romance.


The Other Side of Disney

Later tonight, The Vanishing Prairie airs on TCM and I highly recommend it.  I wrote the movie up for TCM’s main site and I’m a fan, not just of the documentary itself but of most of Disney’s documentary filmmaking.   Years ago, I purchased the special edition DVD set of Disney’s Tomorrow Land television series and can say with confidence that, even though it was made back in the fifties, it is still some of the best science that television ever produced.   It presented ideas in logical, consistent, and understandable ways while making the whole venture both entertaining and exciting.  And like The Vanishing Prairie, it presents the viewer with a wealth of information in a format that revolutionized educational documentaries.

Vanishing Prairie 02


December 20, 2014
David Kalat
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If we took a holiday / Took some time to celebrate

There’s nothing on the books that says that a “classic” has to have been liked much when it first came out. In fact, enormous swaths of what we now revere as America’s film heritage are comprised of what were flops on their first outing.

Take, for example, the Cary Grant- Katharine Hepburn romantic comedy Holiday by George Cukor (TCM is running it in the middle of the night this coming Monday–set your DVRs!). Right there, in that one sentence, I’ve probably already sold you on the merits of this picture.


KEYWORDS: Cary Grant, George Cukor, Holiday, Katharine Hepburn

The Better Half

The Apartment airs today on TCM and in it are two of the great stars of the silver screen, Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine.  Like any great stars, they have two careers comprised of a first half and a second half.  A few years back, Movie Morlock Jeff Stafford covered similar ground with stars he liked better older than younger, a corollary to this post but not quite the same thing.   I’d like to make the case here that stars have a more successful half and a less successful half and that half depends entirely on the star and what works for them.   It comes down to what kind of roles suit the actor better and for those whose early roles suit their talent better, their later career can be a mess.  For those who grow into something more than their early work allowed, their later career flourishes.  For me, Lemmon went one way and MacLaine went the other and both ways were written into their movie star DNA from the start.



The Wonderful World of Disney Comes to TCM


As a kid growing up in 1970s my Sunday nights revolved around The Wonderful World of Disney. It was my cherished respite before the much dreaded school week began and I savored every last minute spent in front of the family television set. At the time, residents in the San Francisco Bay Area where I was born and mostly raised, only had access to 10 or 12 available channels to choose from and many of those were locally run and operated. There were no video stores renting movies in those days and the idea of streaming films directly into your own home was merely a faraway fantasy. In these limited environs, The Wonderful World of Disney offered kids and adults of all ages a surprisingly diverse and family friendly smorgasbord of programming that included animated and live action films, nature documentaries, educational shorts and special broadcasts made especially for television. Much to my delight, Turner Classic Movies has recently teamed-up with The Walt Disney Studios for a new on-going program called Treasures from the Disney Vault hosted by Ben Mankiewicz and film critic Leonard Maltin that’s making its debut this coming Sunday night on December 21st. TCM’s impressive 8-hour block of television is a throwback to The Wonderful World of Disney of my childhood and I hope it will introduce a new generation to the wonderful treasures hidden deep within the vaults of the Disney Studios.

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