Monday, May 30, 2011

I'm engaged!

Carlos, whom I've written about many times before, and I got engaged on Sunday. He proposed by our favorite beach and I said yes. Carlos is a wonderful man and one of the joys we share is our mutual love for movies. I can't imagine spending the rest of my life with a better man!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

We're No Angels (1955)

Finishing a blogathon 5 months later is okay... right?!

We're No Angels (1955) is a Christmas story like no other. It's the turn of the 20th Century and three Devil's Island convicts find themselves on a tropical island colonized by France. They need money to catch a ship back to Europe but find themselves without any resources. So what are three convicts to do? Steal and kill of course! Joseph (Humphrey Bogart), Albert (Aldo Ray) and Jules (Peter Ustinov) target the Ducotel family who run a local shop. But the mother Ducotel (Joan Bennett), father Ducotel (Leo G. Carroll) and the lovesick daughter Isabelle (Gloria Talbott) are sweet, kind and charming. What are three ruthless convicts to do when they are being treated nicely on this Christmas Eve? They still need to make it home! Will they be able to kill this nice family?

This is one of the few Humphrey Bogart films in color. The only other one I can think of is The African Queen. And boy is there a lot of color. So make sure that if you are a Bogie fan that this film is in your repertoire. While Bogie is charming as the swindler of the convict pact (he's the brains behind the operation) and Peter Ustinov is also charming as the goofy and lovable safecracker, it's Aldo Ray that caught my attention. Why? Because he doesn't look like he belongs in a film from 1955. He looks like he's straight out of the 21st Century. He's got that All-American look that is All-American now but not back then. Big broad shoulders, big arms, lots of height, buzz cut hair and tattoos. That's NOW. He stuck out like a sore thumb to me. Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas were buff in a barrel-chested kind of way. Aldo Ray had some real bulk to his muscles. Wow!

Moving on... This is a very enjoyable film. It's black humor with a wholesome feel and a bit of sex thrown in. We're No Angels can be a bit slow paced. I won't hide the fact that I fell asleep twice while watching the film (it could be a lullaby!). It's not explicitly Christmas. In fact, the tropical setting and the focus on the Convict-Family plot makes you forget the holiday theme a few times in the film. However, I think that non-Christmas films that take place at Christmas are great for Holiday viewing.

Three Angels came to earth that night and all around the stars were bright.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

These Amazing Shadows at the Coolidge Corner Theatre

Some weeks ago, I received an email from director Kurt Norton about These Amazing Shadows. I've been in kind of a classic movie slump and I was really hoping that this documentary (read/watch more about it here and read my review here) would help bring me out of it. And boy it did!

Carlos and I headed over to Coolidge Corner in Brookline, MA for the showing. Between the both of us we have the majority of film history covered (early part for me, later part for him). I knew that we would both enjoy the documentary in our own ways.

The documentary was shown at the historic Coolidge Corner Theatre on Tuesday May 10th.

The documentary was introduced by director Paul Mariano (who is a Boston native, woot!)

Before I had attend the event, I mentioned that I was going here and on Twitter. I got this message from none other than the Self-Styled Siren herself.

Really?! We all know that the Siren is a pretty big flippin' deal but I hadn't realized she was in the documentary. So when the Wizard of Oz portion came on, I quickly grabbed my iPhone and took a picture of the screen.

Yay! I hope she doesn't kill me for this.

After the film, there was a panel discussion moderated by film critic Jay Carr and featuring Robin Blaetz, film professor, George Willeman, the film preservationist from the Library of Congress who happened to be wearing a Roy Rogers tie and Paul Mariano, one of the two directors. It was great to hear a bit more about the documentary and to get some different perspectives on the making of it and what was featured, etc. After the discussion was over, I was very brave and went up and introduced myself to Paul Mariano who was very kind to greet me. He knew me by name which blew me away? Little ole me?

At the showing, we got these cool I Heart Movies buttons. Very neat. I wore mine with pride.

Thank you so much to Kurt Norton and Paul Mariano for inviting me to the screening. It was very nice of them. And a special thank to Kurt Norton who helped me a lot. I wish I could have met him to thank him in person.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

These Amazing Shadows: The Movies That Made America (2011) a review

These Amazing Shadows is a documentary that delivers many messages. Films are important. They need to be preserved for current and future generations before it's too late. The language of film is a human language. Films are a filter through which we view history and culture. Film is love.

Directed by Kurt Norton and Paul Mariano, this documentary examines the importance of films by focusing on the National Film Registry, part of the Library of Congress. Since 1989, the National Film Registry choses 25 films of historical, cultural and aesthetic importance to be recognized and preserved. This form of preservation keeps the film in the state in which it was meant to be seen.

It all started back in the early 1980s when Ted Turner purchased the MGM library along with many other films and film collections and started colorizing classics such as The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca and It's a Wonderful Life. There was outrage because these films, originally in black & white, were being tampered with. They were being altered and shown in a way that was completely different from it's original intended composition. Film directors such as Sidney Pollack and Woody Allen as well as film actors such as Jimmy Stewart were outraged. Turner's response? They are my films, I can do what I want with them.

For much of the early history of the film industry, movies were treated as commodities. Products to be created, packaged, sold and then discarded. Movie studios saw films not as art but as a way to make money. Because of this many early films have been lost. The documentary revealed that 80% of early silent film movies are lost and 50% of films pre 1950 are also lost. Why? Because these films, again treated like products, were not treated well, not kept in good conditions and often times discarded or burned either on purpose or by accident. Turner saw them as a product in another way: a pre-existing stock of content we could still squeeze some money out of.

Let's not vilify Turner though. He is the Turner of Turner Classic Movies remember! And because of Turner's colorizations and the backlash that ensued, it was brought to the American government that films should be treated as art that should be maintained for historical and cultural reasons. From this, The National Registry was born.

These Amazing Shadows: The Movies That Made America interviews a wide variety of film critics, historians, preservationists, writers, actors, directors, cultural historians, etc. to delve into the importance of films and why something like The National Film Registry is so important. How did Kurt Noonan and Paul Mariano, the directors of the documentary, chose the films that were to be showcased? Because after all there are hundreds of films already in the registry and it's impossible to show clips of all of them in the documentary! They let the interviewees sway their decision. For example, the film Baby Face (1933), one of my favorite pre-code movies, was very important to George Willeman, the Nitrate Film Vault Manager at the Library of Congress Packard Campus. He found two reels of the film. One significantly longer than the other. After closely examining both he noticed that one was heavily edited, with certain scenes cut, replaced and sometimes dubbed for new dialogue. The original film, of course, was much more sexual and philosophical and overall taboo. What would happen if we only had the censored version of Baby Face? We would have never experienced the film as it was meant to be seen. And this is why the methodical work of film preservationists is so important! And why Baby Face was featured in the documentary.

These Amazing Shadows is a masterpiece of a documentary. It's completely engrossing, thorough without being overwhelming and a delight for any film fan. It has an important message one that should be conveyed to anyone who truly cares about films.

I have to say, I was thoroughly impressed with These Amazing Shadows. It captured my attention and I didn't want it to end. These Amazing Shadows was the nice swift kick in the rear end that I needed to jump start my love of classic films again. It's been waning due to personal stresses as well as a busy season in book publishing. These Amazing Shadows reminded me why I love films, why they are important and why we, as classic film enthusiasts, should be champions for their preservation.

Stay tuned, tomorrow I will write about my experience watching this film on the big screen at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, MA.

Meanwhile, make sure you check out some sneak peaks of These Amazing Shadows and take a look at their social media sites. They are everywhere!

These Amazing Shadows Website
These Amazing Shadows on Twitter @AmazingShadows
These Amazing Shadows on Facebook
These Amazing Shadows Blog
These Amazing Shadows YouTube Channel

Sunday, May 8, 2011

These Amazing Shadows (2011) - a new documentary on the importance of films

These Amazing Shadows is a new documentary that is being screened across the US in May and June. The Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline, MA will be showing it on Tuesday May 10th with one of the two directors introducing the film and a panel discussion with director Paul Mariano, film critic Jay Carr, George Willeman from the Library of Congress and film professor Robin Blaetz. The Coolidge Corner will have additional screenings of the documentary from May 20th to May 26th if you can't attend the special May 10th screening. Check out these listings to see if the documentary will be shown at a theatre near you.

I'm really excited to see this documentary. As a classic film enthusiast and all-around movie buff, I think films are incredibly important. They've become such an important part of our culture and their influence, even on our personal lives, is undeniable.

From the These Amazing Shadows website:

What do the films Casablanca, Blazing Saddles and West Side Story have in common? Besides being popular, they have also been deemed "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and listed on The National Film Registry. THESE AMAZING SHADOWS, an 88-minute documentary, tells the history and importance of the Registry, a roll call of American cinema treasures that reflects the diversity of film, and indeed the American experience itself. The current list of 550 films includes selections from every genre - documentaries, home movies, Hollywood classics, avant-garde, newsreels and silent films. These Amazing Shadows reveals how "American movies tell us so much about ourselves... not just what we did, but what we thought, what we felt, what we aspired to, and the lies we told ourselves." 
Watch the trailer here:

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

God Speed Jackie Cooper

Jackie Cooper (1922-2011)

I've always really enjoyed the Jackie Cooper short for MGM called The Christmas Party. It was a great way to showcase the MGM stars of 1931 but it also exemplified Jackie Cooper's lovely auw shucks demeanor and his appeal to both children as well as adults. How could you not be won over by those big cheeks? God Speed Jackie Cooper.

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