Saturday, January 23, 2010

God Speed Jean Simmons (1929-2010) & a New Bundle of Joy

Here are some tributes posted by other bloggers:

What Jean Simmons meant to me... ~ ClassicForever - This one is particularly touching and Millie created a very sweet tribute video.

Jean Simmons - In Memoriam ~ Another Old Movie Blog
RIP Jean Simmons, 1929-2010 ~ The Classic Film Show
Jean Simmons Dies at Age 80 ~ Laura's Miscellaneous Musings
Rest in Peace Jean Simmons ~ Dreaming in Black & White

Added 1/24

The Late, Great Jean Simmons ~ A Shroud of Thoughts
R.I.P Jean Simmons ~ Thrilling Days of Yesteryear
In Memoriam: Jean Simmons, 1929-2010 ~ The Self-Styled Siren

With the passing of one person, comes the birth of another. A special congratulations to Jonas of All Talking! All Singing! All Dancing! who's fiancee just gave birth to their sweet little daughter, Juni, yesterday. Stop by his personal blog Lokomotivet for a picture of the little bundle of joy.

Friday, January 22, 2010

He Made Me Watch It ~ Chinatown (1974) @ the Brattle

I know I know, it's the wrong decade for me. I usually avoid the 70s like the plague. But the film takes place in 1937 and it's as historically accurate as it could be, so I'm letting that slide.

Me? A Film Buff? More like a Film Bluff if you ask me.

I'm really tired of being the person who claims to have extensive knowledge of classic films but has yet to see many of the classic classics. Those films that everyone and their mother has seen and permanently reside on important lists like the AFI's top 100. I'm embarassed to admit that I haven't seen Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Bonnie & Clyde (1967), To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), West Side Story (1961), My Fair Lady (1964), 12 Angry Men (1957), among others. Every decade has some classics that I've avoided for whatever stupid reason I have come up with. My biggest excuse is that it's popular. I've always been a bucker of trends and the additional layer of popularity on the film is like that nasty icing on a cupcake that you have to eat through to get to the cake (or you remove it like I do).

So I've been very very very open-minded lately. Carlos suggested we see Chinatown (1974) on the big screen and I immediately acquiesced. It's not even really He Made Me Watch It but more like He Subtly Suggested It and I Immediately Jumped on the Bandwagon.

I came to Chinatown (1974) with almost no prior knowledge except for the fact that it starred Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway and that the film has won critical acclaim and some Oscars. I'm very glad that I hadn't because I came with no preconceived notions and the film to me was fresh and new.

Carlos, Kevin, Lisa and I saw Chinatown (1974) at the Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square on Wednesday night. Chinatown is a favorite of both Carlos and Kevin but Lisa and I were both newbies. Although I was very tired and perhaps didn't pick up all the details of the complex plot like I could have if I had been perky, I thoroughly enjoyed this film. Much of what I liked of it was that it felt more like 1937 than 1974, which I appreciated. The style of the film was very noir but seeing as the movie was shot in post-Hayes Code days, they could take a lot more liberty with sexuality which I thought was interesting. I've always been fascinated with the abuse of power when it comes to natural resources, like water, and this film focuses on the redirection of water in Los Angeles during a late summer drought.

I was happy to see that many folks came out on a Wednesday night to see Chinatown at the Brattle. A few folks laughed during a scene they found particularly campy (the Daughter-Sister-Slapping scene with Dunaway and Nicholson), but I chalked that up to their unfortunate ignorance and incapacity to understand the film. I have absolutely no patience for people who mock classic films. Those people should not even be allowed to see these films in public, in my honest opinion. They couldn't ruin my night though, I had a blast.

Stay tuned to this space as Carlos makes me watch another film on the big screen!

Friday, January 8, 2010

How To Be a Classic Film Fan without TCM

I do not have Turner Classic Movies and extenuating circumstances prevent me from getting the channel. I'm not going to explain why because from the reaction I've been getting from people, it's very unlikely you will understand. I love TCM and the channel played a pivotal role in the early development of my love for classic movies. I hope to have the channel again someday soon, but it's just not in the books right now.

Does this make me any less of a classic film fan? Absolutely not and I resent anyone who implies that. It just forces me to be more creative. It makes me sad that I miss things like The Siren's Shadows of Russia series  (watch it please if you have TCM!). But in the end, I'll survive.

Here are a few ways to be a classic film fan without TCM.

1) Netflix

Althought Netflix gets a bad rap for hurt DVD sales, it's by far the best way of watching classic films on DVD. Their selection is enormous and I like to mix up my queue with classics, indie flicks, contemporary comedy and foreign films. Plus you can watch Documentaries and TV shows on here too. It's relatively inexpensive, with the 1-DVD-at-time monthly cost being only $8.99 or you can even rent 2 DVDs a month for $4.99. Blockbuster does not support classic films like Netflix does and Blockbuster also censors what they will or will not rent, so Netflix is really your best bet for variety.

2) Classicflix

Netflix doesn't have some of the more obscure DVDs and they don't carry the Warner Archive collection like Classicflix does. With rates starting at $9.99 a month for 1-DVD-at-a-time, you can watch as many Warner Archive movies as your heart desires (without having to buy all the DVDs yourself). It's a great deal and a good supplement to Netflix. If you live on the East Coast however, there is a significant delay since the distribution point is in California. But it's a mom-and-pop organization and those are always good to support.

3) DVDs owned/Movies taped

If you take TCM away from a classic film fan for a whole month, I bet you they probably can fill said month with tons of films they haven't seen. Your average classic film enthusiast has tons and tons of movies on DVD or taped on DVR, TiVo, burned DVDs or VHS tapes. What's great about having your own library of films, is the ready access to some great classics and the comfort of knowing you can re-watch your favorites any time you want. Don't take your personal library for granted though. So many unseen films collect dust in our homes and really they deserve to be watched. Take some time out to watch from your own collection!

4) Libraries

You can find lots of great classics through your local library and best of all it's free. Some libraries will let you loan from other libraries from other towns through their sharing networks. If you are a college student and your school has some kind of film program, then you've just hit the jackpot. Chances are your school's library or the film department has lots of films for viewing. Most will let you take them out, others will require youto watch them there or that you be part of their film program. It depends on the school. I could never borrow from my Grad school but I remember watching The Quiet Man (1952) at my Undergrad school in a little booth in their film library.

5) Books on Classic Films

Why not extend the pleasure of watching a great classic by reading about it? Or reading about the life of one of your favorite actors or actresses? It's not enough to just watch the classic films, you need to learn about them too. There are so many great books on classic films and biographies on stars out there and new books are published every year. Peel yourself away from your TV and cuddle up with a good book.

6) Borrow/Share with Friends

Sharing films with friends is a great way to watch movies you wouldn't normally see and to share your favorites with those people that are close to you. Sharing like this is totally free and it widens your film horizons. You have to be open-minded to do this. Don't shun a film just because of some strange excuse you may have (like your distaste for perfectly fine actors such as Edmond O'Brien, you know who you are). If a friend recommends it, try it out!

7) Buy new DVDs

The DVD industry is a faltering business with most people preferring to rent than to buy. If you have a classic that you absolutely love, support it by buying it on DVD. You can get some great deals online. Just don't buy so many that you end up in the poorhouse. Just buy the DVDs that are most important to you. And watch online stores for clearances and sales!

8) Watch movies online

YouTube,, Internet Archive, etc. There are even some not-so-legal movie sharing websites that you can access or be invited to. I don't care for watching movies on my computer but some folks have really come to depend on this for their regular classic film viewing repertoire.

9) Obscure Films at Online DVD Stores

Again, another venue I'm not all that familiar with but lots of people have come to depend on these sites. Two examples are Yammering Magpie and Vintage Classic Movies . eBay is also a great source. Contact your favorite classic film blogger if you want to find more! I know for a fact that Katie of Obscure Classics , Jonas of All Talking! All Singing! All Dancing!, Kate from Silents and Taklies and Elizabeth from Oh By Jingo! Oh By Gee! are all experts on finding some really rare gems online. Kate just posted her personal library of films online and you can buy copies from her at $8 a piece or $5 per for 15 or more. Great deal!

10) Repertory Theatres and Other Venues

I've seen classic films at my local repertory theatre, a local university, an art museum and even at a park and an armory. Watching films in these venues gets you out of the house and out with friends (or strangers). You get to watch the film on the big screen which is always a treat and it's a surprise to see how the audience reacts. Sometimes it's negative but for the most part the people who go to these venues genuinely want to be there. I'm lucky that I live in a metropolitan area like Boston and that this community fully supports history and the arts so it's easy to watch classic films in my area. However, if you don't have these options available to you have a regular movie night at your place (or someone else's place) with friends. Don't delegate all your classic film watching to isolated and private consumption in your own home. Get out! Share!


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