Back to the Drawing Board

The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926)Next Monday, October 6, TCM presents an evening of early American animation, a must-see for cartoon fans of all ages. The line-up begins with the cartoons of Winsor McCay, followed by animation from two companies lost to the history books, the Bray Studio and the Van Beuren Studios. At 12:15 am, Lotte Reiniger’s unique Adventures of Prince Achmed airs, followed by the 1939 version of Gulliver’s Travels and the Japanese feature Magic Boy. Chuck Jones’s beloved Phantom Tollbooth concludes the evening’s entertainment, which has been dubbed “Back to the Drawing Board” by TCM. Of the vast array of styles and stories represented in this selection of pre-classic animation, I am most excited to see the work of the Bray Studios and Prince Achmed by Reiniger (above).

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Happy 100th, Danny!

dkportrait

I haven’t been around here in a while, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to wish success to TCM’s Danny Kaye 100th Birthday celebration all day this coming Sunday — tomorrow.  As I showed in several posts in the past, I’ve been a Danny Kaye connoisseur nearly all my life, since the days I used to skip junior high to watch his movies on TV during the day (this is pre-VCR and DVR, although I used to record the soundtracks on reel-to-reel tape!).  I bought my first copies of those “Movies on TV” books because of Danny, too, because I wanted to go through and find all his movies.  Little did I know then that he only made 17, but we are fortunate that TCM will be bringing us a good selection of those on Sunday, plus some rare TV goodies.

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Snapshots of the Fall: Part II

In my last post I provided a look behind the curtain for the first five weeks of film programming for my fall film calendar. This week we look at the remaining 24 titles that round out the schedule. It features everything from classics such as Vertigo to the state premiere of the latest uncompromising and visually arresting film by Bruno Dumont, Outside Satan (a scene of which is pictured above). [...MORE]

Viy for Victory

I’ve been in a state of sleep-deprivation-induced delirium for a couple of weeks now, an unending surrealist haze, and so I decided to pay a visit to one of the nutty dream-like movies that most closely approximates this state of mind–the wonderfully structured horror-comedy Viy!

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Rare Exports

“I didn’t know you could mix Santa Claus and horror movies,” my son Max told me this morning (y’all met him last week when he guest blogged on my behalf). He was referring specifically to his and my current obsession, a movie that has been inaugurated as a holiday viewing tradition in our home: Jalmari Helander’s looney cult flick Rare Exports.

Never heard of it? Well — as Max said, it is a (mildly gory) horror movie about Santa Claus.

Scary Santa

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Once Upon a Time . . .

I am inclined to think that a good fairy tale is wasted on children, especially in today’s world where indulgent parents have created generations of over-stimulated progeny who are more interested in being passively entertained than actively mentored.  A fairy tale stimulates imagination while providing a model for moral behavior. It begs readers/viewers to measure their own lives against those depicted in the tales and stirs them to question the behavior and decisions of the characters.

When I was a child, I liked to read the old fairy tales and get caught up in their aura of enchantment, particularly if they were accompanied by beautifully rendered illustrations. As an adult in college I learned that old-school fairy tales and myths offer a window into the history of past cultures because the stories are allegorical presentations of social issues and problems—an anthropological interpretation of tall tales supported by everyone from Claude Levi Strauss to Robert Darnton. In that class, I was also taught how to apply this approach to studying popular films, which parallel fairy tales in their use of formulaic stories and archetypal characters. The class was an eye-opening experience that prompted my life’s vocation as a film historian—as well as a renewed appreciation for fairy tales.

Last Friday, director Catherine Hardwicke’s reworking of Red Riding Hood opened to generally poor reviews, and while it suffers from many weaknesses, particularly in casting and narrative structure, I thought much of the criticism aimed at the movie was vague and unfounded. I liked many aspects of Red Riding Hood, including the protagonist, Valerie, and her ultimate handling of her “wolf” issues. The movie inspired me to search my memory for other live-action interpretations of fairy tales aimed at adults, which are listed below. I limited my list to those featuring female protagonists, but feel free to weigh in with your own favorite fairy-tale movies, preferably live-action versions not simplified or laundered for the kids market.

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