Christmas on Celluloid: ‘Christmas in Connecticut’

xmaspianoTo get into the Christmas spirit, I often binge view my favorite Christmas movies. If I am feeling more like Scrooge than Bob Cratchit, I will binge view anti-Christmas movies. Either way, movie-watching is an essential part of my holiday celebration. If you are the same, you won’t want to miss the double feature of holiday classics that will hit theaters next Sunday, December 7. Fathom Events, TCM, and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment have joined forces to present the 1938 version of A Christmas Carol and Christmas in Connecticut in a special one-day big-screen event. Check here for a list of participating theaters.

Releasing classic movies on the big screen as a special event is a recent development for Fathom, and if you want them to continue, consider attending this family-friendly double feature as a show of support. To celebrate the occasion, I thought I would offer a few thoughts and musings on Christmas in Connecticut—one of my favorite holiday movies. On Thursday, check out fellow Morlock Kimberly Lindbergs’s blog post, because she is following up with insights into A Christmas Carol.

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Bergman’s Magic Lantern

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Last summer I had some fun at the expense of the printed TCM program for July by examining how brevity is not always the soul of wit, at least when it came to the short (by necessity) blurbs used in the monthly TCM guide to describe the six films that had been selected to showcase the talents of Ingmar Bergman. It turns out the post was premature and didn’t take into account that all six Bergman films got bumped for a last-minute tribute to James Garner (who passed away on July 19th). But this Wednesday, December 3rd, the Bergman Block is being brought back – and in honor of that I’m resuscitating my previously premature post here, adding a new preface. [...MORE]

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November 29, 2014
David Kalat
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Don’t Bother To Knock Marilyn Monroe, She Knocks For Thee (Or Something Like That)

Sometimes you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time—a misfit in your own life. Perhaps, for example, you’ve got it in you to be a fine hotel manager, but all you are is the elevator boy. Maybe you’re a lounge singer paid to sing love songs, while your own heart is breaking. Or maybe you’ve been hired to be a babysitter, when your own psychological demons are so extreme that you are palpably a danger to yourself and others.

This is the setup of Roy Ward Baker’s Don’t Bother To Knock, a trim 1952 film noir that plays to almost every parent’s worst nightmare… But behind the scenes, the making of this thriller was marked by something else—a sense that the makers of this film, far from being misfits, were finally finding their place in the world.

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KEYWORDS: Anne Bancroft, Don't Bother to Knock, Elisha Cook Jr., Marilyn Monroe, Richard Widmark, Roy Ward Baker
COMMENTS: 7
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This week on TCM Underground: DEATHDREAM (1972)

Deathdream A grieving mother’s wish brings a soldier back from the war… and the dead. DEATHDREAM (1972) Cast Richard Backus (Andy Brooks), John Marley (Charles Brooks), Lynn Carlin (Christine Brooks), Anya Ormsby (Cathy Brooks), Jane Daley (Joanne), Henderson Forsythe (Dr. Allman), Michael Mazes (Bob), Arthur Anderson (Postman), Jeff Gillen (Bartender), Bob Clark (Officer Ted), Mal Jones (Sheriff). Director: Bob Clark. Screenplay: Alan Ormsby. Cinematography: Jack McGowan. Music: Carl Zittrer. AKA DEAD OF NIGHT, THE NIGHT ANDY CAME HOME Showtime: Saturday 11/29, 2014. 11:00pm PST/2:00am EST [...MORE]

A Thanksgiving Feast… of Photos!

alfredhitchcockThanks

Alfred Hitchcock hopes you’ll tune into TCM Friday afternoon when they’ll be airing a batch of his films that you can enjoy with your Thanksgiving leftovers.

Happy Thanksgiving! Like many Americans, I’ve been busy this week planning and preparing a holiday feast for my family. With this in mind, I thought I’d share an abundance of Thanksgiving themed publicity photos featuring classic Hollywood stars. Some are sexy pin-up style pictures or imaginative publicity stills while others showcase beloved and admired actors cooking at home or just enjoying their own holiday feast. Enjoy!

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Binary Code: When Aliens Attack/When Aliens Hug

George Pal has a few movies today on TCM but not my favorite, War of the Worlds, which he produced while Byron Haskin directed.   I’ve always loved War of the Worlds, in both book form and both major movie adaptations, 1953 and 2005, as well as that certain radio adaptation in 1938.  In fact, I’ve always loved alien visitation movies, a big sub-genre in sci-fi, and have found myself torn between which kind I like better: ones where aliens visit and destroy us or ones where they show up and make nice (and we’re the bad guys).  Both have produced great movies and both have produced personal favorites but, as I showed in my previous Binary Code installment, on dramatic action versus pure action, I definitely come down on one side over the other.  Question is, how long am I on that side before I change my mind?

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Missing Reels: A Novel of Silent Movie Love

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Repertory cinema regulars can be off-putting types. They log their screenings like kids with baseball cards, reducing art to a collectible. This is the stereotype, at least, of shut-in cinephile obsessives. And these people exist – head to any Friday night screening at MoMA, where the rustle of plastic bags replaces human interaction. One might say this is not a promising milieu for a novel, but then they might not have the effervescent prose of Farran Smith Nehme’s Missing Reels. Smith Nehme is better known as the Self-Styled Siren, classic film blogger extraordinaire, undoubtedly familiar to readers of this site. A contagiously enthusiastic writer, she also has the rare talent of focusing in on performances – from the elaboration of star personas down to the minutest detail of their fashion choices. Missing Reels is her first novel, and it faithfully recreates the repertory movie scene in late 1980s NYC, focusing specifically on the silent movie nut crowd. It begins as a bittersweet screwball romance about being young and poor in the city, and develops into a shaggy dog mystery involving a lost silent feature that may yet be found.

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Chuck Workman Finds the Magic in Orson Welles

magicianposterMovie lovers will recognize Chuck Workman as the filmmaker responsible for Precious Images, the original name given to the short documentary that encapsulates the history of American film in eight minutes. Originally commissioned by the Directors Guild, the film is a compilation documentary consisting of brief shots from 470 classic movies. Precious Memories won an Oscar for Live Action Short and is listed on the National Registry of Films. Workman is also responsible for The First 100 Years, a similar compilation documentary produced to celebrate the 100th anniversary of projected motion pictures. Workman’s montage style in which he makes visual and thematic connections through clever editing is more complex than the pleasing surface of Precious Images suggests. The approach harkens back to the theories and practice of Russian filmmaker Dziga Vertov. Workman’s latest documentary on director Orson Welles also involves film history but in a different way.

At Sarasota’s Cine-World Film Festival, which closed last week, I caught Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles. The great director makes for a timely topic considering next year is Welles’s 100th birthday. Given Workman’s skill and background in assembling clips, it is not surprising that the film contains well-organized snippets from archived interviews with Welles and some of his associates long since dead. There are also new interviews with former classmates, associates, and romantic companions.

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The Real Thing

Since the movies began, special effects have been a part of their existence. Georges Méliès was one of the early geniuses of special effects cinema and using matte paintings, time-lapse photography, overlapping multiple exposures, and more, he created worlds never before seen in the realm of theater.  Characters would disappear in a puff of smoke or rocket across the sky.  As the technology progressed, so did the effects.  From miniatures and matte paintings to green screen and CGI (Computer Generated Imagery), special effects became more realistic while becoming, at the same time, as fantastical as the mind could imagine.  And yet, sometimes, I’m a hell of a lot more impressed by a guy making an omelet in real time in an uncut scene (more on that later).  The movies market make-believe and rely on the viewers to suspend their disbelief but sometimes, simply showing something real is all a movie needs to do to hold our rapt attention.

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November 22, 2014
David Kalat
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When Harry Met Ollie

Undoubtedly one of the strangest and most interesting bad movies ever made, Zenobia is a jumble of bad creative decisions so inscrutable as to be almost indefensible.

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KEYWORDS: hal roach, Harry Langdon, laurel and hardy, Oliver Hardy, Zenobia
COMMENTS: 8
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