Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Smell of Death: Gaslight Through the Years



Patrick Hamilton wrote Gaslight (produced as Angel Street in America) in 1938 and it was an immediate success. Through the years it has seen many stage (and even a couple of film) productions.




Vincent Price played the malevolent husband in the 1938 Broadway production of Angel Street, pictured here.




In the first film adaptation, 1940, Anton Walbrook plays the evil husband while Diana Wynyard played the suffering wife. It was directed by Thorold Dickinson. MGM tried to get all copies of this version destroyed before releasing their version so it would have no competition, but they failed.




The most famous version, with Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman and directed by George Cukor. It also stars Joseph Cotten.



And the most recent stage version, from the Old Vic in 2007, it's Rosamund Pike (from Die Another Day and Joe Wright's lover girl) and Kenneth Cranham. It got great reviews from the British papers but so far, Joe Wright be damned, there are no plans to bring it back to the screen.

Okay, Here They Are...


I've arbitrarily compiled a top fourteen from comments and e-mail. Any preferences? My top five are 13, 11, 10, 3 and 2. I love number 1, submitted by Marilyn but don't want my blog associated with the smell of death. I'll probably go with one of those five, unless vehemently overruled. I'll put it up tomorrow with a new post. Thanks everyone!


1. The whole place seems to smell of death.

2. Suddenly, I'm beginning not to trust my blog at all.

3. You only think you've read it before.

4. where it's not just your imagination.

5. Ingrid, have you been blogging about the lights dimming?

6. Am I crazy, or are we being blogged?

7. A bit queer, Nancy says.

8. I haven't been afraid since I've known you.

9. It won't kill your mind.

10. Ingrid, it's only a blog.

11. The beginning of your madness.

12. Preserving Classics From The Gall Of Joe Wright.

13. You're not in the casbah anymore.

14. C'mon, baby, light my Blog

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Cinema Styles Needs Your Help So Put on Your Thinking Caps!


You may have noticed I have this thing with constantly changing banners. You noticed that right? Now I want you to get involved in the process! Whenever I make a new banner (I make about ten or so a week on average so I'm well, well ahead of the game) it's always the same process. First I take the screengrab or what have you and format it to 750 by 300 pixels so they're all the same size. Quality control and consistency is very important here at Cinema Styles. So for instance, if it's a pre-widescreen era film then I have to do some photoshopping to get it to fit the 750 by 300 requirements. Like this one for The Red Balloon:



On the left you see the final banner and on the right you see the pic I started with. Then once I've photoshopped everything into place I come up with a clever, or stupid, depending on how you look at it, tagline for the banner. Like this from I Walked With a Zombie:



Now it doesn't have to be a take off on the title. It can be anything, like my Lord of the Flies banner that was captioned, "We'll never use Piggy's glasses to light the fires of controversy. Promise."


So where do you come in? With a new banner, that's where. It's a screengrab from Gaslight and as usual I have expanded the frame by drawing in the back wall to fit the 750 by 300 requirements of the banner size. But...


But...


I don't know what to say! This actually happens quite a lot so this might be the first of many I ask for help on. I have banner pictures I put together months ago that I still don't have a caption for. With this one I came up with "Cinema Styles. We'll never try to gaslight you," but that's kind of boring and how many blogs are purposely trying to make you think you're insane anyway? Well Arbogast maybe. Can anyone come up with something better?


Here's the banner:



You'll notice I have a nice blank space on the left side just waiting to be filled in. Top left will say "Cinema Styles" of course, and the bottom left will say... I don't know. You tell me. Submit your captions in the comment section and let's fight over who's is the best. Then I'll put it on and put it up. And thanks in advance. Sometimes I just need a little help with these things.


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Click banners to enlarge.


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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Six of One, Half Dozen of the Other


So I'm sitting at the bus stop rappin' with my peeps (not my actual peeps just some upstanding citizens baking in the heat with me) and I'm all like, "Dude, if you could choose 12 movies to play at the New Beverly Cinema over six days what would they be?" So anywho, they were all like, "Dark Knight! Dark Knight! Dark Knight!" And then I was all like, "No man, it's gotta be 12, not just the same one over and over again." And then they went all totally, "Dark Knight! Dark Knight! Dark Knight!" So I was like, screw this man, gotta find me some better peeps.

That's when I decided, hey, I'll just ask my fellow bloggers. What better peeps could a dude have? But then I thought, why ask, I'll just make it up for them. So now, in response to Pat Piper's 12 movie meme (which he tagged me for and I shall now respond to even though I'm not a meme kind of a guy if you know what I meme - ahahhahahhahhahha, get it? Get it? Know what I meme? Hahahahahahaha. How do I do it?) I give you the Film Bloggers six day 12 movie double feature according to blogger, in alphabetical order.


Day One - Arbogast Day


The Vampire Lovers (1970)
Vampyr (1932)

Why? Because he just mentioned the other day that lesbian vampires were necessary in art AND he did a post the other day on Carl Dreyer's Vampyr AND both are loosely based on Carmilla. Goddamn I'm good.


*****


Day Two - Bill Day


Miller's Crossing (1990)
Dazed and Confused (1993)
Why? He likes one and not the other and they're the two movies that brought these two great minds together on some other blog run by some other guy, can't remember who.


*****


Day Three - Fox Day


The Dark Knight (2008)
Memento (2000)
Why? Because I'm an asshole. Deal with it.


*****


Day Four - Marilyn Day


Harlan County U.S.A. (1976)
The War Game (1965)
Why? Because Harlan County U.S.A. was the first review of hers I read thanks to the Double Bill Blogathon and I'm obsessed with documentaries on the devastation of nuclear war and I've never seen The War Game and have always wanted to and so here's my chance (I love a good run-on sentence).


*****


Day Five - Rick Day


Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986)
The Outrage (1964)

Why? I'm cruel as well. Deal with that too.


*****


Day Six - Sheila Day


The Clock (1945)
Witness (1985)
Why? Simple. Sheila likes them both and both films are about two people meeting from two different worlds only in exact reverse. In The Clock, naive Robert Walker goes to the big city and meets Judy Garland, falling in love with her in her more dangerous world. In Witness hardened Harrison Ford goes to the country and meets Kelly McGillis, falling in love with her in her more innocent world.


*****


My apologies to all the bloggers out there I couldn't go with having only six to choose from (except for Piper and Adam who tagged me for this which automatically disqualified them). You know I love you all but I only had six so...

Any blogger not used can consider yourself tagged!

*****

This has been a part of Pat Piper's 12 Movie Meme thingy in which we meme what we say... hahahahahahahahahaha ... oh, cough, choke, gag... Really, how do I keep it going? How?


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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Are You Serious?



The moons of Nibia? The moons of freakin' Nibia?!? Sorry, no effing way! I am not chasing anyone 'round the moons of Nibia or 'round the Antares Maelstrom and I'm sure as hell not going through Perdition's flames just because you happen to be obsessed. I don't give a crap what this excitable Kirk guy did to you; we've got freedom and a ship. I must say, I'm a little disappointed that you're letting yourself be blinded by your hatred of this Kirk guy. Not good leadership my man. A bird in the hand Khan. A bird in the hand.


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Monday, July 28, 2008

Transcendental Meditation


Over at Scanners Jim Emerson has entered into the fray over The Dark Knight and discussions of genre brought up by A.O. Scott of the New York Times. I'm not here to get into that discussion but rather use it as a jumping off point for some thoughts I've long had about genres that The Dark Knight fray brings to the forefront quite well. I purposely did not read all the comments on the Scanners post because I wanted to come at it fresh without multiple opinions already clouding my views but I would like to hear from Ken Lowery on this if he reads this because I noticed he was one of the commenters and he has a good background with comics (as far as I know). Of course, this isn't just about the Comics Genre (or Superhero Genre or whatever it may be called) but mainly so.

In all the discussion of how great The Dark Knight is (I have not seen it yet) the one thing that keeps gnawing at me is the equation of "seriousness" or "heavy moral ambiguity" with greatness in the comic book genre. To my eyes, this is belittling of the genre in and of itself by the very people who support the genre so wholeheartedly in the first place. One thing movie critics and historians pounded into my head again and again in all those formative years of reading everything about film I could get my hands on was that the subject matter does not affect how great a movie is. So just because Gandhi contains very serious subject matter and has an noble lead character does not mean it is a better film than The Awful Truth with Irene Dunne and Cary Grant because that film is "just a silly comedy." But by pointing to the "serious" and "deep" aspects of The Dark Knight as the reasons for its greatness the inadvertent argument emerges that if a comic book genre film does not go "all serious" it can't be great. Thus the earlier works of Richard Donner and Tim Burton just weren't serious enough and thus do not merit high praise.

This is the same baloney argument I've fought against since my love of film began all those many years ago. And not just with film. Take the Beatles for instance. How many times has someone argued for their greatness based on string quartets, octets and guitar solos recorded backwards? Wow, terrific, but I base their greatness as a rock band on things like I Saw Her Standing There, not Eleanor Rigby, and when someone insists on going in the opposite direction they're saying you can't be a great rock band if all you're playing is, uh, you know, rock.

And so it goes with genre in film. You can be a good sci-fi movie (Forbidden Planet, Planet of the Apes) but you can't be Great with a capital "G" unless you get weighty and heady and ponder the existence of intelligence in the universe (2001: A Space Odyssey). And that's not to say I don't believe with all my heart that 2001 is a great movie, I think it is, just that I tire of it being exalted above some of the more excitable genre examples from the fifties that are truer in spirit to the genre. And that's the problem, they're true to the genre and we all know if you stay within the genre you're doomed as far as the historical record of merit is concerned. You must do something different to be great. There's even a term for it: Transcending the Genre.

Well I'm here to go on record that for the most part, if given my say, I want my genre films to stay firmly planted in the genre from which they sprang. Not because I want them to be limited but because I want people to start appreciating them for what they are and stop thinking that genre is unimportant unless everyone starts emoting from the balcony. I believe staying within the genre makes the film more challenging in many ways. For instance, in a comic book film one is already starting at the incredible disadvantage of literally dressing their characters for the part. Michale Corleone wouldn't have to figure out who was with him or against him in the comic book world because everyone would already have the appropriate costume on. So instead of fighting against that and writing characters who operate in shades of grey while walking around with their "Villain" labels attached to their head why not play with the fact that it's so obvious instead? It's not as "deep" but that's what makes it harder. Watching the original Superman (1978) and it's sequel Superman II (1980) it's clear that no one is trying to confuse or challenge the audience as to whether Clark, Lex and those three cheerful sorts led by Zod are good or bad. We know what they are and the two movies revel in this and become great examples of how to make a genre film without stepping outside the rulebook once.

Look, I can appreciate wanting to do something different and take your characters in different directions. My problem is not with the filmmakers, it's with the critics and fans who insist genre films must merge with Ibsen before they are to be taken seriously. Do what you want with genre by all means. But when it's done don't tell me it's better than the rest because it left the confines of the genre. Praise 2001 through the roof, but don't try to convince me it's great because it doesn't have Charlton Heston, Rod Taylor or Gene Barry. Keep it up and eventually we'll lose the fun of the different genres altogether as everyone elbows to become the next Eugene O'Neill of Horror or Anton Chekhov of Action/Adventure. And if that happens I've only got one thing to say and I learned it from the genre school of dialogue:


"We finally really did it. You Maniacs! You blew it up! Oh, damn you! God damn you all to hell!"


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Sunday, July 27, 2008

So I Met This Guy Named Captain Trips...



... and I kicked his ass. Finally. Regular programming should resume this week.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Good One Joan!


This being an election year I thought it the right time to run this pic while I lay in bed hoping to eventually feel normal again.

Sometime in the early sixties Joan Fontaine tells a joke to Adlai Stevenson and gets a hearty laugh. According to LIFE magazine, which originally ran the photo, she wouldn't divulge what the joke was, saying it wasn't appropriate. Hmmm. I'm betting it had something to do with Khrushchev's testicles. Or that Zorin guy. Apparently LIFE was not as persistent as Stevenson in demanding to know the joke and was not prepared to wait until hell froze over. Also, I bet Joan said "No" in a kinda, sorta scary way.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Brief Check-In


While I have a minimal amount of energy I thought I would briefly check in and apologize for lack of updates and any other upcoming ones for a while. I've been in and out of the hospital with a viral infection that will not let up. The lowest I've gone in temperature is 99.4 so I've yet to not run a temperature except for 3 in the morning Monday when, for a couple of hours it was 98.8. Outside of that it's been most often 102 to it's high mark 103.6. The aches and pains that have shot through my joints and back have left me a little contorted and extremely sore. I'm trying desperately to recover and am on every possible prescription pain reliever you can imagine as well as antibiotics (just in case it was a bacterial infection but after taking the antibiotics for days now with no results, I'm thinking viral but of course, none of the doctors know what it is), all of which just make my stomach ache and at times, make me feel worse.

So there's my happy go lucky update. I don't know when I'll be well enough to concentrate on writing a post but I have a backlog of banners I've worked on (I'm always about thirty or so banners ahead) so I can at least retire Silent Running and freshen up the look a bit. Hope to be back in full force soon.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Favorite Moments: Forbidden Planet plus a Music Video


video

The only thing missing from this clip is a cartoon timpani at the end or a "boing" sound. Still, I appreciate the filmmakers taking the time to give us a glimpse into Robby's "Me" Time.

But don't go away yet, there's more! I put together a music video of Forbidden Planet using the music of J Ralph. On my old YouTube page I got a lot of the old "copyright infringement" rigmarole so I decided with my new Cinema Styles YouTube page I was going to start contacting the artists directly and ask if they had a problem with it. Mr. Ralph, composer of the score for Lucky Number Slevin, not only had no problem but said the video "looks cool." So here it is, Forbidden Planet: The Video. Turn it up or put on headphones to fully appreciate the mean-ass guitar at the 1:15 mark. And then when the monster appears... well... is there a fifties sci-fi movie with a cooler monster? Not in my book. The video goes through the whole movie from beginning to end, set to the music The Desert Suit Conspiracy by J. Ralph. Enjoy.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

There's Only You and Me and We Just Disagree



A candid shot from the set of Manpower (1941) as Edward G. Robinson tries to tear George Raft a new one. According to accounts from the set the two absolutely hated each other and during this rehearsal in which Raft had been a little too forceful with Robinson in a scene where he spins him around, Robinson went nuts and started throwing punches at Raft until members of the crew successfully pulled him off. Of course, I wasn't there so I can't say who was right and who was wrong but I do know this: Robinson was well liked by most actors in Hollywood where you can find stories on him. The same cannot be said for Raft. I've got a lot of old movie books and I've read a few more and the words "Raft" and "problem" often end up together on the same page.

Raft had a fine career nonetheless but when I hear stories of how he turned down parts in High Sierra, The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca and if only he'd taken those roles he would have been a legendary star and Humphrey Bogart (who, incidentally, Raft also couldn't stand - he couldn't stand a lot of people it turns out) would never have become one I just don't buy it. Sometimes actors careers don't take off because they make mediocre movies or have one flop after another or just don't exude the necessary charisma. And sometimes, people just stop working with them. I'm not saying Raft was a total jerk, but from the accounts of fellow actors, he wasn't a pleasure to work with.

By contrast take Humphrey Bogart. Watching a documentary on him years ago there was a part where Jose Ferrer was talking about Stanley Kramer, the youngish producer (41) of The Caine Mutiny. Kramer's main job it turned out, much to his chagrin, was making sure Bogart stayed sober enough and healthy enough to make each day's shoot. Ferrer said one night while they were out drinking Bogart started going off on Kramer, asking why this annoying man was always around making a nuisance of himself. Kramer got irritated and said, "I'm here to make sure egotistical, prematurely aging actors do their job!" Bogart laughed like hell and said, "Alright, alright I'll go to bed." And he did. Ferrer said Bogart loved Kramer after that. With Raft, he would've been added to the "enemies" list. Que sera, sera.

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Got Hitchcock?


Since I just recently scolded Judy from Vertigo on these pages and have a banner up based on Strangers on a Train, I thought it might be a good time to do a little online promotion for a recent favorite stop of mine, Alfred Hitchcock Wiki, where I got the images for this post.

It's a fairly stunning resource for Hitchcock and his films if only for the graphics. There is a collection of on and off set photos that could fill Charles Foster Kane's warehouse and a collection of screengrabs from his films (over 50,000!!!) clearly compiled by an extremely patient person.

But it's not just the graphics. They have almost as many articles written on Hitch and his films as they do pics, from Film Quarterly to The New York Times, broken down by film, subject matter and dates. Really, if you haven't stopped by yet give it a look. And if you want a banner from a Hitchcock movie you've got over 50,000 to choose from.









Friday, July 11, 2008

I'm Afraid I'm Disappointed in You Judy...


... or Madeline, or whatever your name is. Sure, you were a very apt pupil, no one's questioning that. But Judy, oh Judy, you kept a souvenir from a killing. You shouldn't have been that sentimental. Pretty dumb move Judy. I'm sorry but I'm very disappointed. Very. Goodbye Judy.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Friday's a funeral and Saturday's a Bride


I often find myself looking up old friends, acquaintances, college chums and the like on the internet. Who doesn't? Having majored in theatre in college I have more than a few old friends and acquaintances listed on IMDB or IBDB. This week I decided to look up one of those chums on a whim. I was thinking about my 21st birthday (not sure why) and he came to mind (more on that in a moment). I had a nagging feeling he was no longer with us due to health problems he had when I knew him way back when and I was right. Charlie Murphy died September 9, 2006 at the far too young age of 65.

I met Charlie at the Catholic University of America where he found himself in the theatre department for a year or so while I was there getting my undergraduate degree. I was never sure if he was taking classes, auditing or just hanging out for the hell of it and I didn't really care. He was so damned entertaining to be around, so loud, so funny, so full of stories. He was old enough to be my father but there was no "wise old mentor" feel about him. He could never be that starchy. He smoked and drank like tomorrow there was going to be a prohibition against tobacco and alcohol and all that legally remained must be finished today. Before I met him he worked in television throughout the seventies appearing in one sitcom and drama after another. I still remember when I asked him what shows he'd been on and he gave me the rundown. One of them was Barney Miller and I told him I loved that show. When he told me he played the guy who turned in the found money and was checking back each day to see when he could claim it I shouted, "I know that episode! That was you?" Sure enough, I caught that very episode in syndication a couple of years later and, now recognizable to me, there was Charlie acting up a storm.

He might have gone on to bigger parts as his appearances were increasing but in 1982 he was hit by a drunk driver while crossing Sunset Boulevard and was forever after neurologically impaired. That is to say his memory was affected more than anything else. He had trouble remembering names and faces and this, coupled with difficulty in memorizing dialogue, was a nightmare for an actor. Nevertheless, with great difficulty and discreet onstage assistance he managed to memorize lines and was cast many a time in productions on campus. He didn't have the look or feel that Hollywood goes for in leads or even major supporting roles but the theatre is more open to eccentricity and Charlie fit in perfectly with his gravelly but booming voice and his hearty laugh.

A laugh very much in attendance on the night of my 21st birthday. The legal age for drinking the hard stuff changed from 18 to 21 long before I reached 18 so I had to wait until I was 21 to buy it legally in a bar, even though I'd had plenty before then. Down the street from the dorms was Colonel Brooks Tavern, a local hangout for the CUA crowd. Naturally, it was the first place I headed after rehearsal for some play of which I now have no memory. What I do remember was Charlie insisting he buy me the first drink. He asked me what I wanted and I said, "Bourbon." He ordered me a shot (they served drinks that way back then kids) and one for himself and we toasted my 21st. Then another. And another. Then he insisted on tequila. Then I said, "Hey how about shome Sh-sh-shcotch?" Before long there were a few tables pushed together and about eight to ten (at times I'm sure I saw 16 to 20) of my fellow students all buying me free booze and enjoying the show. I am someone who, as they say, prefers to be onstage at all times and this night I was, pun intended, drinking it up.


Later that night, upon arriving back at my dorm, my body decided, quite independently of my own wishes, that it no longer wanted any of that alcohol inside it anymore and thought it best that the booze make a grand exit for the ages in the water closet just around the corner. Which it did. Dramatically and loudly.


I think about all of this with fond memories of Charlie. Sure it would've happened without him but he got the ball rolling that night and I'll never think of it without thinking of him. And now he's gone. The article says he died of natural causes and nothing more so I don't know if it had anything to do with that accident all those years ago. But I do know this: 65 is far too young to leave this plane of existence. And once you've left, you're not coming back. And that makes me restless.

I started this blog due to some of that restlessness. It's had its ups and downs and there have been times when life seemed to be conspiring to keep me from doing it. Financial problems have been the main thing (lawsuits, I.R.S. actions). My wife and I built up a mountain load of debt trying to build a stable environment for our children after a rather messy divorce and custody entanglements. No matter how bad you think your finances suck they're nothing compared to mine. Tens upon tens of thousands and tens of thousands more owed to the IRS because we didn't pay taxes on our take home because we needed money to pay rent, buy food and keep the phone hooked up. Believe you me, some phrases become cliche because they're simply unbeatable when it comes to revealing the truth and in this case the cliche that springs to mind is "when it rains, it pours." But feel no pity for me (and Argentina, if you're reading this, don't you dare cry for me). I've got a wonderful, beautiful family and just about the most understanding, caring, thoughtful and most beautiful wife a man could possibly hope for. And on top of all that, she's an inspiration.

Right now my wife and fellow artists are putting the finishing touches on a gallery that will be opening soon and featuring their art. They had a very successful art show a couple of months back and this gallery opening is an extension of that. The gallery has only a temporary lease so it's not permanent but it is inspiring. It's inspiring because we get up before dawn and drive into work before anyone else gets there so that she can leave early to pick up our seven year old (she of the milkshake line) from school or camp, get home and make lunch and dinner for everyone. And then once I've gotten home late from taking the bus and metro and get the kitchen, and whatever else needs it, cleaned up and help with laundry and homework I go downstairs and peruse DVDs for ideas about upcoming posts. I find that hard enough but how she finds to time to paint incredible works of art I don't know. But she does. She is an artist and that's all she wants to be and nothing is going to stop her. And this I know about myself: All I want to do is make movies.

I enjoy writing about them too and have no intention of ever willingly stopping that aspect of my love for movies. But I want to make them. I have no camera equipment and no money to purchase any so my digital camera with it's video capability will just have to do. And that's just fine. One thing my wife and I always talk about is how someone can have the most expensive, bells and whistles laden guitar in the world and not play a lick (*cough*my rich roommate in college*cough*). Another buys a ukulele for fifty cents at the thrift store and makes beautiful music. It's not the camera that matters, it's the movie it's being used to create. To a degree.

I often wonder - Was it more difficult to make a good movie in the early days of filmmaking? Should I admire the silent screen giants more than some hot young director today? Did working with limited technology necessitate more creativity? These aren't questions one can find the answers to through research and collection of empirical data and yet I am inclined to answer "Yes" for all three.

With the prevalence of relatively cheap digital technology available today we have become a world of photographers and filmmakers, loading up our Flickr accounts with our latest works of art and wondering why Pulitzer hasn't called yet. And I don't necessarily mean that flippantly. I've seen amateur photos on Flickr that I found extraordinary in composition and subject matter and knew that whoever took them had a gift for photography. I've seen others where just because someone learns how to adjust the light filter for their 578th picture of a sunset they think they've done something the world will never forget. It goes both ways.

Same with YouTube as well as short subjects that I get sent for reviews. People send me links to their short movies to review (any film blogger out there is probably all too familiar with this - I usually send them a reply saying that I'm not really a review site) and some of them are quite good while others have been made only because they could be made. Because it's so goddamn easy to put together a movie of any kind at this moment in history. Because high quality special effects and green screen software cost a couple of hundred bucks, not hundreds of thousands. If you want to make a movie go right ahead. Really, there's nothing stopping you at this point. But can you make a good one?

In the early days of movies there was limited technology. There was no sound (except for occasional pre-recorded effects), no color (except for hard to light two-color saturation processes) and poor film stock that easily and quickly degraded and had a tendency to burst into flames if not properly stored. Putting together an hour and a half to two hour film with only inter-titles as your dialogue required generous amounts of creativity. It makes the works of those early filmmakers all the more impressive to me. If you've seen Lumière et compagnie (1995) you know what I mean. In that film, directors from David Lynch to Spike Lee were asked to make short movies using the 1895 technology and the results are mixed at best. They give it a go but still maintain a modern sensibility or play off of the limitations in a modern way that, to my eyes at least, made their efforts underwhelming. And even if their short movies are still decent efforts they don't compare to their greatest modern works because there is just so much one can do with century old technology. But that's the point. So when I see a movie like Sunrise with it's multiple exposures, optical effects, indoor and outdoor photography and above all, a great story and well told, I am amazed.


So as not to confuse, I'm not saying that filmmakers today don't hold up to the filmmakers of the silent era. As with any era, there was more dreck and mediocrity than quality work at any given moment. I'm saying that it's so easy to put a movie together now that artistic laziness can all too often creep into the mix. Decades ago writers and directors had to come up with creative work arounds for effects that couldn't be achieved. Often, it made the film better. Cat People and Jaws are two examples where NOT showing anything was much more effective than showing it. And on Jaws, by the time they could get the damn mechanical shark to work ... well ... let's just say there are times when I wish they hadn't. I like not seeing it in the beginning much more than seeing it at the end.

On Night of the Demon, another film directed by Jacques Tourneur of the aforementioned Cat People, the demon is not seen and the film works to great effect as a result. Until... you see the demon, the demon that the producer insisted be in the movie. And let me tell you, Tourneur was right to protest until his throat was bloody and sore. That demon is not only ridiculous looking, it's movie crushing. The whole film comes crashing down in the all important final minutes because of it.

Today of course, Night of the Demon, Cat People and Jaws would have CGI demons, cat women and sharks from the opening credits until the lights came up. And they'd be lesser movies for it. Even when the rare movie comes out that shows less (The Blair Witch Project) and is a success as a result, no one learns from it. The Blair Witch Project would and could have been made in the early days of filmmaking. It understands work arounds, it understands creativity in the face of minimal technology. And even if the characters are a little on the dull side and do things like cross over flowing water twice without thinking to simply follow it downstream, they were improvised and inhabited by young actors willing to take a chance on a different concept. And above all else, without showing a single thing, it provided one of the creepiest endings to a horror film I've seen in many a moon. But there aren't many Blair Witch Projects out there and filmmakers today would much rather show the witch anyway. To use that old canard, just because you can do something doesn't mean you should do it.

So how many of us are making movies because we can, and not because we must? The most important thing for me is the love of the form and that's where the dilettantes are exposed in the face of those who have it in their blood. Charlie Murphy acted because he had to, even when a drunk driver nearly made it impossible. My wife paints because she has too, even when there are only 30 minutes in the day when she can. And those filmmakers of old, from Murnau to Keaton and from Eisenstein to Chaplin, made movies because they had to, even if they couldn't always achieve the effects they wanted (although Keaton probably did). They're an inspiration to me, all of them. And in Charlie Murphy there's a reminder; do what you must and do it now because we're not here for very long. And when we're gone, we're gone forever.


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Charlie has two IMDB listing based on his two different name billings. First one is here and the second one is here.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing


Vermont was great as always but it's good to be back. That's me in Vermont having the time of my life swinging Natalie Wood with Nick Adams' help. No, wait a minute, I mean, that's me and Dennis Hopper swinging Natalie. No, wait. Actually, that's Dennis Hopper and Nick Adams swinging me, dressed as Natalie Wood. Hold on, I'm not in the picture at all. It was a long drive and I'm a bit tired. And, uh, wow, they just don't make rugs like that anymore huh? Let's hope it was synthetic but something tells me it wasn't.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

So While I'm Gone...


...this face



_________________


...and this face



_________________


... and this face



... are all connected. But how?!!?!?


****UPDATE***


I'm still in Vermont but here's the deal: Dancing - Think Dancing. And think "choreography." It may be a tad obscure but if you do some searching I'm sure you'll soon discover the design of the puzzle. And there is a connection, I'm not dreaming it. Yep, as soon as you get the first pic then things should heat up and you'll be out of the starting gate.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Today's the Fourth of July...



... Another June has gone by
And when they light up our town I just think
What a waste of gun powder and sky


Well, Aimee may feel that way but I've always liked a good fireworks display, as long as I'm not involved (I hate the stink and clean-up of those things). Living in the D.C. area has afforded me the opportunity to see some grand displays on the Mall but I've never done so; it feels like a tourist thing to do. If you live here why would you want to go down to the Mall, somewhere you've been a thousand times, only this time there are 100 times more people smashing up against you and reeking of sweat and egg salad? No thanks. The best firework display I've seen here was out in Hagerstown at a Suns game (that's the local Farm Team there - we're talking baseball in case anyone's confused). They have fireworks throughout the season anyway after certain games (usually Friday games) but the 4th of July one was great - and LOUD! Because it's a small stadium and the fireworks, which are of the big professional variety, are shot off just past the bleachers you can feel soundwaves hit you and rumble through the stands. This year they're playing the West Virginia Power on the fourth in West Virginia and I'll be in Vermont so neither I nor the Suns will be missing each other's company.


Now I know what you're thinking (you're probably not thinking it but just pretend you are to make me feel better). You're thinking, "You live a skip and jump away from not one but two Major League Teams, the Nationals and the Orioles, and you go to the Hagerstown Suns?" Yes. Yes, I do. Know why? Because, with all apologies to Dennis Cozzalio, Major League Parks just don't do it for me. They're big, imposing, cost a fortune and have no feeling of intimacy at all, not even in the best of the old parks (I'm sure many will disagree with that).

For me, the difference between a big Major League park and a Farm Team diamond with bleachers on two sides is the difference between the big, corporate Multiplex and the locally owned revival house or drive-in theatre. One is big and splashy and looks sterile and the other is, well, kind of trashy, but in a good way.

One of my favorite sporting experiences came from a couple of drunken fans seated behind me at a Suns game. I can't remember who the Suns were playing but I'll never forget the name of their opponent's Third Base Coach: Forbes. All through the game the two guys behind us mercilessly lofted one heckle after another at poor old Forbes, that name emblazoned across the back of his uniform (much to his regret I'm sure). Some favorites of my wife and I: "You're the backbone of this team Forbes!" "I want to have your children Forbes!" "Forbes, I can't resist you any longer. Marry me!" Just like a favorite line from a movie my wife or I will occasionally trot out the "backbone" line when mocking someone's efforts.

Now, sure, you get hecklers at the big parks too but they usually don't have the ability to entertain the entire stadium. At a small park the "Forbes" hecklers could be heard... well... everywhere. They were getting laughs from the other side of the diamond. And if they're not entertaining, don't worry, everyone will tell them to shut up. It's like one big loud, drunken, trashy family. So if you're in a town with both a Major League team and a Farm Team support the Farm Team. They need your support more. Keep rooting for the big team of course (wouldn't want them to leave town) but occasionally drop by that bleachered field and say "Hi" to your local Forbes. And if the mood strikes you, ask him to marry you.

Happy Fourth of July to my fellow American Yankee readers and Happy Friday to everyone else across the world.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Year in the Bag


Well I've been doing this a year now. I'm not going to write anything special or meaningful about blogging because I wouldn't know what to write. I know this is the last time I'll point out any anniversary dates to anybody until, and if, I make it to the ten year mark. I'm not much for doing this kind of thing every year and it seems silly and a little ego-centric anyway. After all, it's a blog, nothing more. But I do want to send out a technorati firestorm of linking thanks for everyone who has commented here and made me feel welcome in the film blogosphere in this last year. Comments mean a lot to me here and in case you haven't noticed I enjoy responding to comments and carrying on conversations well past the point of the topic at hand. So without further ado, and in alphabetical order, I'd like to thank



Arbogast

Ali Arikan

Larry Aydlette

Jeremy B

Cool Beveridge

Bill

Campaspe

Dennis Cozzalio

Brian Doan

Mike Doc

Editor A

Jim Emerson

Marilyn Ferdinand

Flickhead

Patricia Fraser

Fox

Peet Gelderblom

Ed Hardy, jr

Mrs. Emma Peel

Dan Jensen

Kimberly Lindbergs

Ken Lowery

Marisa

Moviezzz

Lucas McNelly

Peter Nellhaus

Rick Olson

Sheila O'Malley

Mr. Peel

Ted Pigeon

Pat Piper

Nathanial R

Adam Ross

Rick Ryan

Neil Sarver

Matt Zoller Sietz

Bob Turnbull

Gautam Valluri

Hedwig van Driel

It's inevitable that I will forget someone as I'm doing this from memory so if I do, I apologize. And thanks to all the other film and pop culture bloggers who've never commented here but keep me interested in everything they write on their own blogs.

In two days I'm off for my annual adventure in Vermont. I'll have laptops handy but I suck at preparing posts in advance so for the rest of the week and into next week I'll mainly be doing more "Favorite Moments" video clips and photo scans for "Cinema Still Life." Actually, I do have a few written posts prepared but I want to be a part of the comment conversation so I'm not posting them until I get back on Tuesday. And for the video and picture posts that I have scheduled to go up I won't have the opportunity to comment back and forth on them like I normally do but don't let that stop you. I promise I'll respond, just not as quickly as normal.

I leave you with a look back at Cinema Styles' first year in banners. Several of the later ones are animated when on the blog but all I show in the slide show is the final frame of the animated banner so if you want to see any of them in all their glory just click on the "Animated Banners" button on the sidebar. And I recommend watching it on the high quality setting so it's not all blurry like. Of course, everyone here should know the music used, its composer and movie. Thanks again everyone!