Posted by Greg Ferrara on May 8, 2013
I shouldn’t do this, I really shouldn’t. I’m leaving on a long trip today, heading out for a couple of days to retrieve my stepdaughter from college and bring her back home. What little free time I’ll have online will be mainly concerned with quick surfing, facebook notifications, e-mails and the like. So I shouldn’t write a post on the definition of cinema and open it up to a free for all conversation of ideas, questions and answers which will inevitably lead to more questions. What I should do is pick a film I love that I feel is under-seen and under-known and write that up. But I won’t. No, I’m going to write about this because it’s on my mind and next week will be too late. So there it is. Cinema. What is it?
Posted by Susan Doll on May 6, 2013
Once again, I attended the TCM Classic Film Festival as a civilian; that is, a regular fan who went for the movies, the stars, and the camaraderie. The festival was held at the end of April this year, which meant that it coincided with the end of the semester for me. I must have looked peculiar sitting on the floor in the queue lines grading final exams, but I would not have missed the fest’s four intense days of nonstop movie-going for anything.
The 2013 festival differed from last year’s in that it featured more tried and true classic films that are regularly shown on TCM, and it included several big-budget spectaculars with long running times. For those reasons, I did not see quite as many films as I did last year, but that is a minor quibble. The fest was still a highlight of my year, and I plan to go again in 2014. I thought I would share some treasures and surprises from this year’s fest for those who might like to attend but are still on the fence.
Posted by Greg Ferrara on May 5, 2013
When people talk about a great supporting character, the character can be good or bad. The character of Mr. Potter in Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life is a great supporting character brought to full life in a magnificent performance delivered by Lionel Barrymore. But he’s also the King of Jerks. A selfish, scheming, deceptive, rotten old man. Sometimes when I watch a movie, I not only think the character is a good one and the actor portraying the character does a fine job but I also think, “Hey, I wouldn’t mind that character in my life.” It’s when a supporting character gives the lead the kind of support you wouldn’t mind having in your everyday life.
Posted by davidkalat on May 4, 2013
Last week I noted that The Hudsucker Proxy is based on Frank Capra’s Meet John Doe. But I simply said that, flatly, and added no additional color commentary on that connection. That was because my relationship to Capra in general, and Meet John Doe in particular, is thorny, and I didn’t want to weigh the rest of the post down with any of that. But this week I want to vent some of those reactions, and prove to you that even though I often show up here to defend unloved movies, it isn’t the case that I indiscriminately love everything. There are some movies I just can’t abide. Meet John Doe is one of them.
So, to paraphrase Dorothy Parker, I don’t intend to say anything nice. Wanna sit by me?
Posted by Richard Harland Smith on
If I remember correctly I first heard about THE NAME OF THE GAME IS KILL (1968) in Michael J. Weldon’s The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film, where Mike tagged it as “a weird one.” (He said more, but spoilers abound.) There was a beguiling accompanying photograph of star Susan Strasberg adoring a severed doll’s head, which seemed to be suspended by its hair, and so as you might well imagine, knowing me as you do by this point, I was sold. That was 1982. The movie was by that point 14 years old and I finally saw it today, which means that there was a 31 year gap between the point at which I first heard of the movie and the actual seeing o’it. 31 years. I’ve made the point here before and I’m going to do it again because … will anyone ever again wait 31 years to see a movie? Will anyone have to wait 31 years to see a movie? All but lost for all this time, THE NAME OF THE GAME IS KILL was never transferred to VHS in this country (it did run on late night TV for a spell under the alternate title THE FEMALE TRAP) and it has only just come to the digital realm under the auspices of VCI Entertainment and thanks to the efforts of a handful of genuinely twisted individuals, some of whom I have the honor to call personal friends, and all of whom live to make just this sort of thing happen. Leave it to the major studios (none of whom had anything to do with THE NAME OF THE GAME IS KILL, it bears mentioning — this joint is 100% American independent, a claim that not even David Lynch has been able to make since 1976) and we’d have nothing but frosting, pap, pablum for the lowest common denominator. The suits don’t care about the back catalog or how many people want to see some old thing — if they can’t cross-market it five ways from payday they really aren’t interested, which is why it take a lunatic or lunatics to see this sort of thing to fruition, it takes compulsion, it takes vision, it takes people who are willing to go without food, without sleep, to put their money on the table, to drain themselves dry so that those of us who appreciate the unusual, the offbeat, the obscure, the grotesque and arabesque can have that itch scratched. When I saw that THE NAME OF THE GAME IS KILL had been put out on DVD, and not just dumped onto DVD but curated, presented, and packaged with a wealth of supplemental materials, including a full-on making-of documentary, I was reminded that, in this cold, uncaring, acquisitive world, someone was looking out for me. And if this is the kind of thing that appeals to you too then know that those twisted individuals are looking out for you as well. Kiss a lunatic today. They do God’s work. READ MORE
Posted by Greg Ferrara on May 1, 2013
Recently, on April 27th, director Steven Soderbergh gave a speech at the San Francisco International Film Festival about the state of cinema. In it, he discusses the changes in cinema that have occured in his lifetime and the effect they’ve had on him and the movie-going public as a whole. The speech has many great moments that I loved hearing even if, on the whole, I’m not really in agreement with his conclusions. At the heart of it is this idea, murkily expressed early on: ”The problem is that cinema, as I define it, and as something that inspired me, is under assault by the studios and, from what I can tell, with the full support of the audience.” Or not.
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on April 30, 2013
As May approaches, the film world turns its eyes to the Cannes Film Festival, which will host world premiere screenings from the likes of Jia Zhangke and Alexander Payne at its Grand Théâtre Lumière. I, however, will be celebrating the Edward L. Cahn Film Festival, taking place on my mustard stained IKEA couch in Brooklyn. No accreditation was necessary aside from an active Netflix account, and travel time was limited to trips to the bathroom. Cahn, born in Brooklyn, was a promising director of incendiary corruption dramas at Universal (Afraid to Talk, Laughter in Hell) before spinning his wheels for MGM short subjects in the late ’30s. He re-emerged as a pathologically prolific director of B-Westerns and gangster films in the 1950s, at AIP and the various companies of Robert E. Kent. Seventeen of these grim 1950s features are available to stream on Netflix, but all are due to expire from the service tomorrow [UPDATE: only OKLAHOMA TERRITORY and IT, THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE expired, the other 15 were renewed], along with almost 1,000 other titles (check here for the full list). So I attempted to watch Cahn’s films with as much speed and urgency as he made them.
Posted by davidkalat on April 27, 2013
Last week I posted here some embarrassing anecdotes about my experiences as a color timer in the early 1990s—and I’d intended to immediately follow it up with a sequel. The first post was about Even Cowgirls Get the Blues—a film I knew was a commercial and critical disappointment, and I thought it was funny trying to pretend I was the reason for its problems. And so the sequel would flip the story—a Hollywood film I came near, but which soared to great heights because I was kept safely far away from it.
Except when I sat down to start writing this, I was absolutely jaw-droppingly gob-smacked to discover that my whole premise was flawed. To my utter astonishment, I learned that the Coen Brothers’ The Hudsucker Proxy was not considered a success. I’m still trying to wrap my head around this.
Posted by Richard Harland Smith on April 26, 2013
I hope you’ll forgive my absence from the blog today but I’m off covering the 4th TCM Film Festival in Hollywood. You can follow my reporting at the official festival website and live blog, where my Morlock brother Pablo Kjolseth, friends Jeremy Arnold, Stephanie Thames, John Miller, Nathaniel Thompson, and our bosses will be covering darn near every film being shown. We’re having a blast seeing movies, talking about movies, and meeting old and new friends. Join us, if you can, in the flesh or online. The more the merrier.
Posted by Greg Ferrara on April 24, 2013
I’ve been writing for some time now and in the last decade or so of feverish online opinion, I’ve learned a couple of things about myself and others when it comes to discussing films. One, I’ve learned that there is nary a movie in existence that isn’t like by someone and, two, panning a movie, any movie, usually makes me feel awful inside. It’s why, in just the last couple of years, I decided clearly and boldly: No more!
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