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Karie's Blog
Karie (site owner) Written by Karie (site owner)
Sep. 13, 2006
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Why the movie theatre will never die

I’m soooooooooooo sorry that I’ve been out of the blogging loop for so long.  I promise before a judge and jury that I will be much better about this going forward.  Not only that, but I’m going to try to do some catch up work and fill you in on all of the movies I’ve been seeing lately.

Speaking of seeing movies…..as you may have heard, today I appeared as a guest on “Attack of the Show.” The show aired on G4/Tech TV today, September 13th at 4pm West Coast Time and 7pm East Coast Time. It will also re-run at 6am tomorrow morning and possibly at other times as well.  You can check your local listings to confirm. 

I was in a segment called “The Loop” which is like CNN Crossfire. I went head to head with Chris Gore from FilmThreat.com and Brad Miska from Bloody Disgusting.com. We will discussed the death of the movie theatre.  While the segment wasn’t very long, I’d like to elaborate more on my thoughts…..

First off, there is something very special about going to the movies.  I have always felt that way.  Nothing beats sitting in a crowded theatre and sharing a common experience.  That is just something you can’t get at home regardless of how fancy your home entertainment system is.  Now don’t get me wrong, I totally understand what Chris Gore was saying about rude cell phone users, expensive ticket prices, pre-film commericals…BUT I’m convinced that there are ways around this.

Here are my suggestions to better your movie-going experience:

-Carefully choose your theatre.  The Arclight has a great over 21 screening series available and certain theatres tend to have more civilized patrons than others.  Personally I gravitate toward seeing films in historic theatres any chance I can get.  I love the Vista in Silverlake, the Westwood Crest in Westwood, the Chinese in Hollywood, etc.  Finding a theatre that you like and enjoy visually can always make for a better movie going experience.

-See movies at “off” times.  Now this one can’t always be helped BUT as a rule, I try not to see things opening night.  It has been my experience that audiences can be very rowdy and behave badly the night a film opens.  I have no idea why this is.  Granted I have never had this problem at the Laemmle and Landmark theatres, but it is pretty common in other places.  Last year a friend and I decided to see all of the Best Picture nominees together on the big screen.  In order to concentrate on these films without the unruly crowds, we decided that seeing a 9:30pm show on a Monday night was ideal.  There were no crying children.  There were no teenagers on their cell phones.  There were no hooligans out to disrupt our experience.  I saw SYRIANA at the Grove on a Monday night and the theatre was packed, but it was an incredibly well behaved audience of adults. 

-People also complain that parking and ticket prices are too high.  I’ll be the first to admit this is true.  I combat the parking issue anyway by carpooling with friends.  That way we can split the parking and that at least cuts back on that expense.

-There is also the problem of theatres running commericals before the films.  Believe me, I HATE this practice.  When APOCALYPSE NOW: REDUX opened here in Los Angeles a few years ago, they showed a Sprite commerical before the film started.  The audience boooo’d and one person even threw a cup at the screen….NO it wasn’t me but I can’t say I blame the person who did it.  That having been said, I understand that theatre owners have to put food on the table like we all do and if showing commericals before the film helps them accomplish this, then while I don’t like it, I understand the reasons why.  What I’ve done to avoid this is to not attend theatres that show commericals OR I will call ahead and ask if they show commercials.  If they do, then I try to find out the time the trailers start and show up accordingly. 

I seriously think that theatre owners need to do their part to give the patrons a QUALITY film going experience.  They need to make it clear that cell phones are to be turned off and the same goes for Blackberry and Sidekicks too.  I have seen so many people recently sending text messages during films.  This is just as offensive.  First off, the devices cast a green light that is distracting and secondly—-if you are too damned busy texting people to sit through a 2 hour movie, then you don’t need to be there in the first place.  The theatre owners need to police this behavior and to keep the movie going experience free of these rude distractions. 

Personally I LOVE seeing movies at the Academy in Beverly Hills.  First off parking is free and the movies are only $5.  They also have a ton of ushers there to make sure that everyone stays in line.  Last month a lady started using her Blackberry during the film and one of the ushers was there immediately and told her to shut it off or leave.  They also strictly enfore the whole “no talking” rule during films there as well.  The Academy seems to take great pride in keeping the movie going experience as pure and undiluted as possible.  I love that. 

Right now I’m in the midst of attending the 3-D festival at the Egyptian.  People have been flying in from all over the place to attend.  There is an excitement and passion in the air at the festival.  People are just SO excited about these movies.  To me, that communal experience…that reaction….that setting….those feelings….to me is what movie going is all about.


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Karie (site owner) Written by Karie (site owner)
Jun. 28, 2006
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WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR?


On Saturday I saw the Los Angeles premiere of WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR? at the LA Film Festival.  The film chronicles the history of the electric car, and examines how the movement to popularize these alternative vehicles was systematically destroyed by the U.S. Government, the state of California, automobile companies, and gas and oil interests.  If this sounds like a boring time at the movies THINK AGAIN.  This film is smart, sharp and entertaining.  It is incredibly well made by director Chris Paine, himself an electric car owner.


The film presents the issue not only from a political standpoint, but a human one.  That is what makes it so compelling.  The people involved in this saga are not mere bystanders.  You get to know them personally and relate to the emotions they are experiencing.  Even the electric cars in the film almost seem to have their own personalities.  As we see the car owners agonizing over and mourning the eventual destruction of their vehicles, we not only sympathize with their loss, we feel as if we have lost something ourselves.  When the filmmaker shows footage from a ?funeral? at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery staged by the owners one such vehicle, the moment is profoundly moving rather than ironic and humorous. 


Fortunately the film also offers optimism and hope.  It is a call to action for anyone who cares about the environment and the future of our planet to DO SOMETHING about it.  I loved this film.  At the screening I attended, it received a standing ovation, and I was standing and clapping along with the rest of the audience.  This is an excellent and important film that must be seen! 

WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR? opens on June 28th.  Please don?t let this film slip through the cracks.  It deserves to find an audience and a film like this has incredible power to affect change and to make a difference.  The official website is also an excellent resource to find information and details about how you can take action.


Appropriately, as I was driving home from the screening, I saw a bumper sticker that read, ?If you?re not outraged, then you?re NOT paying attention.?  I couldn?t agree more. 


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Karie (site owner) Written by Karie (site owner)
May. 15, 2006
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THE ILLUSIONIST



The Illusionist is a hypnotic story of magic, murder and palace intrigue set in turn-of-the-century Vienna.  Edward Norton plays “Eisenheim the Illusionist” whose stage shows cast a spell amongst the locals and raise the ire of the Crown Price (Rufus Sewell).  As a child, Eisenheim had fallen in love with “Sophie”  (Jessica Biel) who was from a wealthy royal family.  When they tried to run away together, they were caught and she was taken away from him.  Fifteen years later, as Eisenheim is doing an illusion on stage, he calls for a volunteer from the audience.  He is astonished to realize that the woman who volunteers is the girl he had fallen in love with years ago.  They arrange to meet in private where they quickly rekindle their feelings.  Unfortunately their class distinctions still threaten drive a wedge between them.  Due to political reasons, she is expected to marry the evil and corrupt Crown Prince.  Eisenheim must avoid the vengeance of the Crown Prince and find a way for he and Sophie to be together.

This film is a very classy period piece with top notch acting.  Edward Norton is excellent as the calm, calculating and brilliant Illusionist who never doubts for a moment in his power.  Paul Giamatti plays the chief inspector and it is a very different role for him that anything else he has ever been in.  As always, he rises to the challenge and delivers.  Jessica Biel and Rufus Sewell also lend great support.

The Illusionist has a dreamy, hynotic quality thanks to the beautiful cinematography by Dick Pope and a score by Philip Glass.  This is film entertaining in an old fashioned Hollywood sense of the word.  To me, that’s a big compliment.


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Karie (site owner) Written by Karie (site owner)
May. 3, 2006
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STARDUST: THE BETTE DAVIS STORY



Tonight Turner Classic Movies unspools the world premiere of their new documentary STARDUST: THE BETTE DAVIS STORY and will launch a month long salute to the woman who was arguably one of the greatest actresses to emerge from Hollywood’s Golden Age.  I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen the documentary in advance and I can tell you that it is one of the best of its kind.  I’ve seen so many documentaries about Hollywood stars that either paint them as perfect in every way or as terrible, miserable human beings.  This documentary is more intelligent than most as it strikes a balance.  It paints Bette Davis as both a brilliant actress and as a flawed, damaged and self destructive person.  It examines her life both on screen and off with a candor that few documentaries have ever seen before. 

The documentary also doesn’t make the mistake of believing the star herself and taking her word for gospel.  It debunks many myths that Davis helped to perpetuate.  The film shoots down the Davis claim that she first named the Academy Award an “Oscar” after her husband’s rear end.  It also rebukes her claim that she threw away her chance to play Scarlett O’Hara due to a fight with Jack Warner.  The film also contradicts Davis on numerous personal matters as well and brings to light the shocking charge that Davis caused the untimely death of her second husband.  There are also positive facts that have seldom been brought to light.  Davis ran the “Hollywood Canteen” for soliders to be entertained by Hollywood stars during WWII.  She caused a huge stir when she refused to segregate the canteen.  This was considered pretty progressive and radical by early 1940s standards.

STARDUST also offers candid interviews with women such as Jane Fonda, Ellen Burstyn and Gena Rowlands who worked with Davis and/or knew her personally.  They all give great insight into Davis and what made her tick.  Another interesting layer of the film is the paradox it presents between Davis’s strong willed feminist personality, combined with her need for a husband to lean on for support.  In one contradictory portion of the film it goes into what a great pioneer Davis was for women’s independence and then it shows a clip of Davis telling a TV interviewer that the woman must always surrender her needs to those of the man in order for a marriage to work.  The film illustrates the conflict between the private longings vs. the professional image which Davis never able to reconcile successfully. 

I’ve read 3 different biographies about Bette Davis and this film even showed photos and revealed tidbits of information that I’d never known before.  Most profound and tragic of all the revelations seems to be the fact that in spite of Bette’s protestations to the contrary, her stern and cold father actually DID love her and WAS proud of her.  He sent her telegrams of congratulations and attended her early theatrical triumphs.  It is apparent that her broken relationship with her father and her inability to reconcile with him changed and course of her life and emotional stability forever. 

STARDUST is a lovely, moving, illuminating and satisfying tribute to a woman who was far more complicated that any character she ever portrayed on screen.  Don’t miss this documentary and the Bette Davis movies that will be airing all month long on Turner Classic Movies.


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Karie (site owner) Written by Karie (site owner)
Mar. 28, 2006
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THANK YOU FOR SMOKING…is a breath of fresh air

I’ve long bemoaned the lack of sophistication and wit in modern day movies.  They just seem so dumbed down and targeted to the lowest common denominator.  Seeing THANK YOU FOR SMOKING felt like a huge breath of fresh air….so to speak.  Based on the Christopher Buckley novel of the same, the film is adapted and directed by Jason Reitman (son of director Ivan Reitman.) 

The film follows the exploits of Nick Naylor (played by Aaron Eckhart) who works as a lobbyist for the Tobacco industry.  He is a slick smooth operator who can talk better than anyone in the room.  He lunches daily with his only friends Polly Bailey (Maria Bello), an alcohol lobbyist, and Bobby Jay Bliss (David Koechner), a gun lobbyist.  They refer to themselves as the M.O.D. Squad (“Merchants of Death”.)  As part of his mission to display cigarettes in a positive light, Nick Naylor flies to Los Angeles on business, taking his young son with him.  While in town, he meets with a CAA-esque Hollywood agent (Rob Lowe) to discuss how they can work together to make cigarettes sexy and cool in an upcoming sci-fi film.  He also stops at the home of cowboy Lorne Lutch (Sam Elliott), the “Tumbleweed Man” (read: Marlboro Man), who was a long running symbol of tobacco before his battle with lung cancer turned him against it.  Nick Naylor comes to his house to offer him hush money to silence him from speaking out about the evils of cigarettes.

Meanwhile, back in Washington Nick must battle his rival Sen. Ortolan Finistirre (William H. Macy).  Things get even more complex with Nick is seduced by ruthless journalist Heather Holloway (Katie Holmes) who writes a scathing expose about him in the press.  All the while, Nick’s young son is studying his every move and is clearly set to follow in his footsteps.

What anchors this film and makes it work so well is Aaron Eckhart’s performance.  He has been great in other films such as Erin Brockovich and In The Company of Men, but this is the first role he’s had that really utilizes him to his full potential.  Nick Naylor is sleazy, ruthless, slick and shallow….but you can’t help but like him.  You secretly want him to win.  He is fast, funny and perfect in the role.  The supporting actors are also excellent. 

The dialogue is smart and well paced.  Good satire is a difficult thing to tackle and Reitman has done a fantastic job.  I look forward to his future work and hope that he continues to make films that are on this same level of quality.  Finally….WIT and INTELLIGENCE has returned to movie screens.  It’s about time.


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Karie (site owner) Written by Karie (site owner)
Mar. 16, 2006
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NARROW MARGIN and VIOLENT SATURDAY

To wet my appetite for the upcoming Noir Festival, I went to the Aero Theatre to see the Noir Double Feature.  Both films were directed by Richard Fleischer, who was an outstanding craftsmen.  First off was NARROW MARGIN (1952) starring Marie Windsor and Charles McGraw.  This was a delightfully nasty noir with great characters and dialogue.  Marie Windsor plays a gangster’s wife who is forced on a train from Chicago to Los Angeles to testify in a racket busting trial.  Charles McGraw plays the police officer who is assigned to protect her and to make sure she arrives safely.  Their characters despise each other and their constant verbal sparring is wickedly enjoyable.  There are many twists and turns in the script that constantly keep you guessing.  I won’t give away the ending because this film IS on DVD, but sufficed to say if you want to see a fantastic and tightly wound noir, this is it!


The next film was VIOLENT SATURDAY (1955) starring Victor Mature, Sylvia Sidney and Lee Marvin.  I was very excited to see this since it is not available on video.  Shot in lush color and CinemaScope, this film was a perfect big screen experience.  Based on the caper novel by W.B. Heath, VIOLENT SATURDAY weaves together the stories of several people in a small town whose lives converge during a violent bank heist.  What I loved about this film was how rich it was in character development.  The first 3/4 of the film was ALL back story on the lives of each character, going into their problems, conflicts and histories.  Some of the scenes and characters seemed to be taken right out of a Douglas Sirk melodrama, but the tone and manner in which it was all presented felt very right within the context of the film.  What made the film so powerful in my mind was that by the time the bank heist happens, I felt as though I had an emotional investment in each character.  As an audience member, I had spent time with them and gotten to know them so their violent fates seemed so much more tragic to me.  I guess my big complaint about most films (particularly modern ones) is that you NEVER get to have characters this rich or fleshed out.  If this film were made today, it would have started with the bank heist and never would have taken such a generous amount of time setting it up.  It is almost as if today people (generally speaking) don’t have the attention span to sit through things that aren’t edited in MTV fashion.  The problem with so many movies is that since you never get that character development, you don’t CARE about what happens to the characters.  I could rattle off so many expamples of movies that don’t work for that very reason. VIOLENT SATURDAY was so beautifully written that it should be shown in every screenwriting class.  I can’t praise this film enough.  I’m only sorry it is so hard to find. 


Perhaps I will adpot this film as one of my “pet projects.”  Allow me to explain….There are so many incredible old movies that aren’t on DVD.  I’ve taken a handful of my favorites and have taken it upon myself to gently lobby the appropriate studio to release them.  I’ve written to the Fox Home Video department (and the in house restoration expert) many times about NIGHTMARE ALLEY and BLOOD AND SAND both starring Tyrone Power.  Fortunately NIGHTMARE ALLEY is now on DVD!  I don’t take credit for that personally BUT I figure that my gentle prodding via e-mail is at least another brick in the wall and another reminder that there are still people out there who care about these films. 


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Karie (site owner) Written by Karie (site owner)
Mar. 12, 2006
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THE SHOW and FREAKS

THE SHOW is filled with signature Browning material including jealousy, revenge, murder and an array of bizarre and macabre imagery.  The problem with the film is not these elements, but rather how they all tie together.  The plot goes off the tracks and into cliched melodramatic territory and sentiment that really don’t mix well.  For example, when Cock Robin is on the run from the police, Salome takes him to her family home.  Once there, he learns that Salome’s brother is scheduled to be executed by hanging (the platform for the hanging and the prison are conveniently within view of the living room).  In order to spare Salome’s blind and dying father the heartache of knowing the truth, Cock Robin passes himself off as his long lost son.  The old man embraces him and concludes that he can die in peace having reconciled with him.  Meanwhile Salome keeps urging Cock Robin to turn himself into the police for having stolen money from a sheep hearder’s daughter.  There is one particularly bizarre scene in the film where “The Greek” tries to behead Cock Robin, who then shortly thereafter tries to behead Salome.  If that weren’t enough, the finale of the film includes “The Greek” trying to kill Cock Robin with a giant poisionous lizard.  Just the image of John Gilbert running from a big lizard was cringe worthy to put it mildly.  Finally the lizard bites “The Greek” who then shoots the lizard before dying. 


My conclusion was that EVERYONE involved deserved much better material.  In spite of this, it was still interesting to see this rarely screened film and if you are ever restless at 4am and it happens to air on Turner Classic Movies…and you happen to be coming down from a very bad trip or sobering up…then you might want to check it out.


I’d seen FREAKS 4 or 5 times, but the opportunity to see this twisted little gem on the big screen was irresistible to me!  I LOVE this film!  It is not cinematic brilliance or anything, but regardless it tends to occupy a very special place in my heart.  I tend to deeply relate to the misfits, outcasts, misunderstood and eccentric people of the world…..maybe because I am that way myself.  I have the biography of Tod Browning entitled “DARK CARNIVAL” by David J. Skal.  It is a fascinating look into Tod Browning’s life and influences.  I had David sign my book and in the front he inscribed, “To Karie, “One of us! One of us!”  To me, Tod Browning was a unique and gifted director who made a tremendous imprint on the genre of horror that is still felt today.  He was there at the beginning making audiences shocked, afraid, disgusted and captivated all at the same time.  Not to many people have ever been able to pull that off since.


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Karie (site owner) Written by Karie (site owner)
Mar. 11, 2006
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SAVAGE SEVEN



In addition to my appreciation of Grinhouse, I had more personal reasons for wanting to see SAVAGE SEVEN.  The film’s star Adam Roarke was my first film teacher.  He ran a school called The Film Actor’s Lab in Dallas, Texas where I grew up.  I’ve been madly in love with movies ever since I could remember and when I was 15, I begged my parents to let me attend Adam’s film classes.  When I first met him, he looked at me with my big bangs and penny loafers and said, “We don’t take children at this school.  There is another place across town, why don’t you go there?”  I looked him right in the eyes and said, “I want to be here with the adults and with you…..I want to learn about film.”  I was so serious and emphatic and he could sense that right away.  He looked at me and said, “All right, you can stay.”  Adam taught film acting and other classes that involved breaking down and analyzing film scenes.  Adam always treated me with kindness and never looked down on my because of my young age.  He was such a vibrant and fascinating person.  He had TONS of amazing stories about Hollywood in the 60s and 70s.  He knew so much about film-past and present.  To me, he always seemed so much larger than life.  Adam was the first person I can remember besides my parents who really believed in me.  He was so happy for me when I got accepted into film school.  I had directed my first student film and was dying to show it to him.  I called him and he said, “Great!  Bring it with you and we can watch it next week when you’re in town.”  He died of a massive heart attack in his sleep only a few days later. 


What breaks my heart is that I never really got the chance to tell him how much he meant to me and how important he was in my life.  I also lament that I never got the chance to see his films while he was alive and discuss them with him.  Most of his films are not available on video and they certainly weren’t being shown in the late 80s and 90s when I knew him.  Only since moving to Los Angeles in 2000, has the opportunity finally presented itself for me to see his work.  I’ve now see SAVAGE SEVEN, THE STUNT MAN and PLAY IT AS IT LAYS all on the big screen.  The first time I saw one of his films, the minute I heard his voice and saw his face, it was like he was alive again.  It felt like I was getting to spend time with him again.  He looked and sounded so much like the Adam I remember.  It was surreal and comforting at the same time.


After the Q&A, I chatted with Richard Rush and told him about my time with Adam.  Then he invited me to see more of his films at the Egyptian and said we would speak again soon.  Mr. Rush was so nice and spoke so highly of Adam.  I turned around and started to cry.  My friend Lucas went with me and we decided to go out for dinner.  We sat in a cafe and ate frito pie, which we concluded was perfect meal to accompany a grindhouse night.

I would high encourage anyone to catch more Grindhouse movies AND also to catch the “New Hollywood” films of the 60s and 70s that will soon be playing at the Egyptian.  They will be showing PLAY IT AS IT LAYS again and some more Richard Rush films as well.  Check out the Filmradar calendar for times and details.

They are well worth taking a look at. 

 


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Karie (site owner) Written by Karie (site owner)
Nov. 26, 2005
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The Three Stooges Festival

Today I went to the beautiful Alex Theatre in Glendale for the yearly Thanksgiving Weekend THREE STOOGES FESTIVAL.  Believe it or not, I am one of the few females in the world who happens to LOVE the Three Stooges.  This year’s theme was “Curly and Shemp Go Nutz.”  The theme last year was “Stooge Coach” and featured all Stooge shorts set in the Wild West.  Each year they pick a different angle or theme, which I think is a really great programming idea.

The first short film they showed was called BEER AND PRETZELS from 1933.  This was one of the very first Stooge films and at the time they were still partnered with Ted Healy and were billed as “Ted Healy and His Stooges.”  It was really interesting to see the Stooges this early in their careers.  The short basically served to showcase several singing and dancing vaudville acts with the Stooges and Healy providing the comedy in between each act.  Personally I found Healy to be annoying and not very interesting to watch.  Even in the beginning, it is clear that the Stooges have an amazing knack for comedy and great chemistry as a team.  They eclipse Healy at every turn.

They showed a particularly hilarious Stooge short entitled GRIPS GRUNTS AND GROANS from 1937.  In this short, the Stooges duck into a gym (to hide out from the police of course) and they befriend a giant wrestler named “Bustoff.”  He is about to wrestle in a very high stakes match with serious money being bet on him to win.  Shortly before the match, he gets drunk and the Stooges try everything to sober him up.  Curly accidentally knocks over a ton of steel barbels that hit him on the head and then a locker which crushes his body.  Sufficed to say, “Bustoff” is not able to step into the ring.  Larry and Moe insist that Curly take his place.  At the start of the match, Curly is being clobbered by his opponent, but Larry and Moe remember that the scent of “Wild Hyacinth” perfumes sends Curly into a violent frenzy.  They get the perfume and pour it all over Curly who proceeds to win the match and to beat everyone else in the entire stadium up as well.  I like Shemp, but Curly has always been my favorite and this film really shows him at his best! 

According to an article in the LA Times last week, seeing movies in a theatre on the big screen could very soon be a thing of the past.  With all due respect, I strongly disagree.  In spite of changes in the industry, I don’t think that experience will ever go away.  There is something magic about sitting in a theatre filled with people and experiencing a movie on the big screen. 

When I was growing up, the only way I could see The Stooges was at 6am every day on channel 11.  I never got to experience them on the big screen until I was an adult.  Having been to the Stooges Festival the past 2 years at the Alex, I can tell you first hand that it is a great experience!  The people who attend are so filled with excitement and sheer enthusiasm.  Everyone laughs, cheers and claps along with the Stooges theme music.  There is a feeling in the air…a joy…that could never be captured on a home entertainment system, computer or PSP.  It isn’t just the movie, it is the shared experience.  There was a 5 year old little boy sitting next to me last year during the film.  His eyes were wide with awe.  I told him that he was very fortunate to discover these films for the first time on the big screen.  He smiled and agreed with me.

Today there were a TON of kid and families at theatre.  I like to think that these kids will grow up to love and appreciate film as much as I do.  You never know, they might be the film historians, preservationists or filmmakers of the future.  I’m sure I sound old fashioned, but today seeing the Stooges on the big screen with a room full of laughing people….THAT to me is what going to the movies is all about.


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Karie (site owner) Written by Karie (site owner)
Nov. 26, 2005
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PLAYTIME

The Egyptian theatre has shown PLAYTIME on many occasions in the past, but each time I was always either out of town or unavailable for some reason.  I’ve heard so many people tell me how brilliant this film is and that I MUST see it.

Tonight I finally got my chance.  I saw PLAYTIME on 70mm at the Egyptian.  You may be shocked to hear me say this…..but I didn’t like it.  If you want to throw rotten cabbage at me, I will understand.  The film just didn’t work for me.  I loved the production design, the site gags and the costumes BUT there was NO STORY to tie it all together.  The mise en scene alone is not enough to hold my interest for 2 hours!  There was no story, no plot, no character development…NO NOTHING.  This movie was all dressed up with no place to go.

Perhaps this is just a matter of personal taste, but I tend to dislike films that have no story.  I hated 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY.  That film had no momentum and I thought watching it was pure torture.  I also hated UMBERTO D for the same reason.  Some people have argued with me that these films DID have stories, they were just told in a very visual and abstract sort of way.  I see their point, but regardless I just didn’t care for these films.

I love great dialogue, great characters and a solid story.  Maybe that’s why I love Billy Wilder films so much. 

Feel free to argue with me if you like.


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Karie (site owner) Written by Karie (site owner)
Aug. 21, 2005
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A HOUSE DIVIDED and THE UNHOLY THREE

Tonight I went to UCLA once again for their International Preservation Festival.  The line up for tonight consisted of films from the early 30s. 

The first one was called A HOUSE DIVIDED (1931) and was directed by William Wyler.  The story is about a brutal, hard drinking fisherman (Walter Huston) who has just lost his wife and is trying to find a replacement for her.  His gentle sensitive son (Kent Douglass) is suffering greatly from his mother’s death and is unable to deal with his father’s brutish ways.  The father decides to send off for a hefty middle aged mail order bride thinking that she will be able to do all of the work around the house and help out with the fishing as well.  When a young and delicately beautiful woman (Helen Chandler) shows up instead, trouble ensues when the son falls for her and the father finds out.

Walter Huston really carries this film and does an excellent job!  He has a tremendous screen presence and it is impossible to pay attention to anything or anyone else when he is on screen.  Unfortunately the same cannot be said for Helen Chandler.  She is best remembered for playing “Mina” in DRACULA opposite Bela Lugosi.  While she is very beautiful, she really can’t act….or at least if she can it just doesn’t translate on the screen.  I’m still glad to have had the chance to see this film since it is a rare one.  William Wyler was (and is) without question one of the all time great directors in Hollywood.

The next film in the double feature was THE UNHOLY THREE (1930) which stars the great Lon Chaney and is a remake of the 1925 silent version in which he also starred.  I have seen the silent version, but this was the first time I had seen the talkie.  When it began I realized that I had actually NEVER seen Lon Chaney talk!  For some reason, it is always a shock to see silent stars talking.  I always use the analogy of a ballerina who is dancing in Swan Lake and then all of the sudden comes to the edge of the stage and starts talking to the audience.  It is like breaking a 4th wall of some kind.  That said, Lon Chaney had an excellent voice.  It is exactly what you’d expect it to be.  The plot for THE UNHOLY THREE revolves around a strongman, a ventriloquist and a midget who create their own crime syndicate in order to pull off jewel robberies. 

Chaney’s performance is great as you might expect.  He plays the character with such menace and such perfection…it is heartbreaking that this was his last film.  He had been diagnosed with throat cancer during filming and by the end of the shoot, he knew he was dying.  I was looking for some sort of signs of this in the film, but they weren’t there.  He looks and seems so strong and in command.  He doesn’t show the slightest sign of illness.  Ever since I saw THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA as a little girl, Lon Chaney has always been one of my most favorite actors.  There weren’t limits on him.  There was nothing he couldn’t do…no character he couldn’t play.  These days people make such a big deal if an actor changes their looks for a role (think Nicole Kidman in THE HOURS or Charlize Theron in MONSTER) but for Chaney, that was just another day at the office.  He transformed himself routinely.  He gave even his most twisted characters a depth and an emotional core that elevated them and made them human.  Had he lived, he would have been great in 30s melodramas, gangster films and of course the great Universal horror films.  His death was a great loss to cinema and to his fans.  I don’t think there has ever been or ever will be another actor that versatile again.  Thanks to film preservation efforts, his brilliance will continue to live on.


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Karie (site owner) Written by Karie (site owner)
Jun. 27, 2005
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IN THE MIDDLE OF A MOVIE at the Los Angeles Film Forum

Her travels included Helsinki (Finland), Hamburg (Germany), Los Angeles (USA), Seydisfj?rdur (Iceland), St. Petersburg (Russia) and Tallinn (Estonia).

In watching these, I noticed that apartments look pretty much the same no matter what corner of the world you are in.  People are also interested in sex and violence pretty much everywhere.  In one scene, Tellervo (the Finnish woman) smeared ketchup all over a guy who then acted out a violent suicide scene.  In another scene people were walking around naked and acting like they were in a David Lynch movie.  Another thing I thought about was the universality of human emotions.  People may live on the other side of the world, but we ALL share many of the same hopes, dreams and fears.

I found myself doing a great deal of eyeball rolling during the scenes that were shot in Los Angeles.  It seemed that EVERYONE had a film, band, art gallery or something they were trying to shamelessly promote.  I love living here (honest) but sometimes people here can be SO shallow, self-serving and narcissistic that it drives me insane.  The Los Angeles films were really hard to watch.  I found the other ones far more interesting.

Overall I think that Tellervo Kalleinen captured some really interesting ideas through these people.  I would definitely be interested in seeing more of her work in the future.

 

 


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