Laura (1944) and musings on movie-going

January 24, 2015



A few years ago someone asked me what my favorite movie-going experience had been, and I couldn't name even one that I had really enjoyed. Being a classic film fan with limited access to independent theaters meant that my experiences had been few, and unfortunately the disrespectful audiences meant that those few experiences had all been pretty bad. And then 2014 happened.

Last year I saw some of my favorite movies on the big screen (I still think I dreamed it -- pinch me?!) like Dr. Zhivago, Young and Innocent and Sunday in New York. I went to the TCM Film Festival and enjoyed every film surrounded by moviegoers with an equal (or possibly even more fervent) reverence for classic movies. My local theater, The Garden in Princeton, came under new management and started playing classic movies. (Seriously, am I dreaming?) All told, last year I managed to see 17 classics on the big screen. And with the exception of a mildly disrespectful crowd at the Film Forum (the original Japanese Godzilla isn't funny, what is the matter with people?) I enjoyed every one of those experiences immensely.

All that to say -- if I was asked the question again, if I had to choose my favorite movie-going experience now, with 16 great ones under my belt, my visit to The Garden this week to see Laura would definitely be it.*

Until last year, I always thought that the best way to watch a movie was at home, preferably in pajamas, surrounded by cats and junk food (or, more accurately, some form of potatoes.) But now I'm officially a big-screen convert. Why is it that a movie flickering on my 30" tv screen can impress me, but the same movie displayed in 52' Cinemascope can knock my socks off? Why is it that when I hear biting dialogue at home I giggle, but that same dialogue blasting through surround sound speakers gives me a full-on belly laugh?

Laura has been one of my favorite movies for a long time (thank you, intense Dana Andrews phase circa 2008) and I've seen it more times than I could count. I've always thought Clifton Webb's dialogue was absolutely hilarious, and I swoon (oh, how I swoon) when Dana Andrews is on screen. But seeing it at the movies was like seeing it for the first time. I knew all of the twists and turns, and yet they surprised me. The dialogue was as familiar to me as an old friend and yet it passed through my ears as if it were a new acquaintance. And.. let's just say swooning intensifies when the apple of your eye is 20' tall.

I can't say anything about Laura that hasn't already been said. It's a film noir masterpiece. It's beautiful, suspenseful, clever, witty, dark, slightly twisted and very addictive. Maybe I've been spending too much time binge watching things on Netflix (I have) but I felt myself wanting to play the next episode when the movie was over, desperately wishing that this wasn't the end. Of course the good thing about good movies is that, despite their lack of a second episode, they're ripe for re-watching over and over. And if this experience has taught me anything, it's that you're never so familiar with a movie that you can't enjoy it as much as you did the first time around. Especially if you're seeing it at the movies.


*That is, if I hadn't seen Sunday in New York on the big screen, introduced by Robert Osborne in person, accompanied by my very best friends in the whole world. Nothing else will ever top that. But saying Laura is my second-favorite would have been kind of anti-climactic, sooo...

Also, oops, I just realized my title has almost the same name as Laura's blog

Looking for classic film bloggers to review a book!

August 27, 2014



Hi! Long time no see!

Earlier this year I designed a book cover for Darkness Descends on Princeton, a 1930's murder mystery. It's a new book that takes place in 1939 Princeton, full of intrigue, suspense and (here's the kicker!) a bunch of classic Hollywood character actors. Among the "cast" is Charles Coburn, Peter Lorre, Edna May Oliver, Guy Kibbee, Donald Meek and more. It was written with the idea that reading it would be like watching a 1930's movie with all of your favorite actors in brand new roles.

I know the author and designed the cover but I don't think I'm biased -- it's seriously a great book. It's well written and I think the concept is brilliant & perfectly executed!

It's available on amazon here, but I'm looking for classic film bloggers who would be interested in receiving a free copy for review. If you'd like a free copy, just send me an email at slightlyterrific [at] gmail.com with a link to your blog, letting me know if you'd like an e-book or a printed copy. If you'd like a printed copy please include your address as well.

TCM Film Festival Part 2

April 27, 2014



I got a decent amount of sight-seeing done on this trip, so I'm looking forward to concentrating a bit more on the actual festival when I go back. I saw eight films total which I think is pretty pale in comparison to most festival-goers. I think even all of my friends saw more movies than I did (I can't blame sight-seeing for that though, I just overslept every morning. And skipped one movie for a mid-day nap. oops!)



The first movie that I saw at the festival was The World of Henry Orient with Paula Prentiss in attendance! I've seen it before but I don't remember finding it as funny as I did this time. The film is about two teenagers who stalk a pianist around New York City. The teen girls have a very Mary Clancy-Rachel Devery dynamic, with one kooky adventurous troublemaker and her slightly-less kooky stooge. The pianist was played by Peter Sellers. If you think he's usually too over-the-top, in this movie he is not. If you think he's perfectly lovely in his other movies, in this one he's just as awesome but a little toned down. Either way, he's brilliant. And his love interest is a nervous, paranoid married lady played by Paula Prentiss.

Do you ever think that somebody's acting is just SO funny that laughing doesn't seem like a sufficent expression of how joyful they make you feel? I wanted to invent a new form of comedic appreciation for how funny Paula Prentiss was in this movie. The movie is available on amazon instant watch here.



This is just an awesome mural that I saw on Hollywood Blvd.

The second movie that I saw was Invasion of the Body Snatchers. My dad is a big fan of 1950's science fiction movies so I knew he'd disown me if I didn't go see it, lol ;) In all seriousness, though, I love me a 50's sci-fi too, and I was pretty excited about seeing this one on the big screen!

I've been to quite a few classic film screenings at repertory theaters and so many times I've been disappointed and annoyed by how many people in the audience laugh at things that aren't funny. I assumed that most people coming to this festival would probably be more respectful, but I was still very apprehensive seeing a movie like this in a theater. Thankfully, the audience was amazing. Nobody laughed, except at lines that were obviously intended to trigger a giggle. The credits were met with applause, and you could hear a pin drop when the movie was playing, it was so quiet. I wish that every movie-going experience could be like this one! The movie is available on amazon instant watch here.

The next movie that I saw was a midnight screening of David Lynch's Eraserhead.



This is me, Millie and Sarah pre-Eraserhead.



This is Sarah, Millie and me post-Eraserhead.

I'm a big fan of Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet so I thought -- yay! David Lynch! I'm in! But this was much more disturbing than I could have imagined. I don't even know how David Lynch imagined it. I'm not sure I can even really describe it? It starts out having a semblance of a plot -- a man finds out his girlfriend is having a baby and they get married. At dinner with his girlfriend's parents he cuts into a cornish hen and the little chicken starts convulsing and oozing a thick liquid. Later on, the baby (which looks kind of like an alien/hairless horse hybrid?) is just constantly crying, in a pitch that lies somewhere on the border between a human infant and a velociraptor. Large worms shaped like pieces of funnel cake start falling from the sky and slithering around. A head explodes.

I'm sure that its reputation as a cinematic masterpiece is apt and I'm just missing something -- I generally try to have an open mind about movies, even disturbing ones, but I just didn't get it. I had a lot of fun attending the midnight screening with my friends, though, and it's going to be a lifelong memory, for sure. Not my favorite movie of the festival though, ha! It's available on amazon instant watch here.

TCM Film Festival Part 1

April 19, 2014



The first day was pretty amazing. My friends and I have known each other for five years but this was our first time getting together as a group. We've been discussing it ever since we met, dreaming about our "five year epic meetup" but I think all of us were doubtful that it would ever actually happen. We all have busy lives and the thought that everyone would be able to drop what they're doing for a week to meet at the same time seemed so unlikely! But when the TCM Film Festival idea came up, we all jumped on board. We originally met through our classic film blogs and it was just SO fitting.



Left to right: Millie, Me, Nicole, Sarah, Casey

On our first day we went out to eat at a cute little restaurant and then split up temporarily. Casey got to go to a really cool TCM social networking party, and the rest of us played typical tourists on Hollywood Blvd. I majorly freaked out at Grauman's Chinese Theater. I've been dreaming about seeing Frank Sinatra's handprints since I was thirteen, so that was beyond exciting for me. (That's me with Frank's prints in the picture at the top.)

Some of the highlights of the trip were seeing Alec Baldwin in person (Jack Donaghy!) falling in love with The Beatles at the Hard Day's Night screening, seeing my all time favorite movie, Sunday in New York, on the big screen (I wept with happiness, omg!), two midnight screenings (I've been trying to get people to go to midnight movies with me forever and nobody ever wants to do it with me!), late night chats with Millie, and I finally got to go to Disneyland!! At the end of the trip I also got to meet up with Danielle and Diana, too! All in all this was one of the best weeks of my whole life. I can't possibly fit everything in one post so I'm going to break it up by day.

hey, that's not funny!

December 14, 2013



A few days ago I took the train up to New York to see The Two Mrs. Carrolls on the big screen, as part of The Film Forum's Barbara Stanwyck festival. She's my favorite actress so I was beyond delighted to see how many of her lesser-known movies were being shown, and I had a pretty hard time deciding which ones to go see on my meager budget and busy schedule. I settled on The Two Mrs. Carrolls and Banjo on my Knee (which I'm seeing next week.)

The Two Mrs. Carrolls is an atmospheric, super creepy mystery that always gives me shivers whenever I watch it. Sadly I had the misfortune of sitting in an audience with moviegoers who couldn't appreciate the chilly charm of this classic thriller. Everyone kept laughing at things that were decidedly not funny. It happens so often whenever I venture into the world of classic film screenings and it breaks my heart every time. I can't tell if people intentionally go see old movies just to make fun of them, or if they're fans of modern action films and somehow mistakenly wandered into the wrong theater. You can't possibly be a classic movie fan and laugh at a mystery unless it's horribly bad (which this isn't.)

I've seen The Two Mrs. Carrolls countless times so this experience didn't color my opinion of the movie in the slightest, but unfortunately my brother was seeing it for the first time and said that he had a hard time concentrating on the film because he was so mad at our fellow moviegoers :( I'm going to lend him my dvd so he can have a proper watch at home on a dark stormy night. In the end I wonder if that's really the best way to view classic films, despite my constant desire to see them the way they were intended. It's difficult to enjoy a movie if you're surrounded by people who aren't. Or maybe I need to just limit myself to seeing comedies (but then I suppose I'll be upset if nobody laughs! ha!)

I'm going to the TCM Film Festival next year (yay!) and I'm hoping for a much better experience there since everyone attending will be a bona fide classic film fan. Maybe it'll make up for all the lousy theater experiences I've had over the last few years..

my first time: carrie and alien

October 10, 2013



I'm on a mission to finally catch-up on all the modern classics I've never seen, and this month I've been focusing on modern classics of the horror variety because, you know, Halloween.

First I watched Alien (1979) which I really loved! One of my favorite attractions in Disney World is the Great Movie Ride at Hollywood Studios, which features set replicas and animatronic figures recreating classic films like Casablanca, Mary Poppins, The Wizard of Oz and.. Alien. I've always loved the Alien part of the ride (it's so creepy!!) but I couldn't really appreciate how incredibly accurate it was until I finally saw the movie.

Alien was the only movie featured in the ride that I hadn't seen before so I thought it definitely deserved a spot on my to-watch list. I ended up really enjoying it, especially since it reminded me of one of my favorite tv shows, The X-Files. It even starred Veronica Cartwright, who plays a key role in the mythology of the sci-fi series! The movie is about a horrific, violent alien that attacks a ship crew in outer space. I was definitely on the edge of my seat towards the end and might have jumped right out of it a few times, too.

Tonight I watched Carrie (1976) for the first time. This was a difficult movie to watch since me and my brother were both bullied in school. I think for anyone that's been on the receiving end of taunts, whispers and pranks, the genre of high school outcast films can be a tough pill to swallow. They seem to usually come in two varieties -- ones like She's All That (I can't believe how often I've mentioned this movie here recently) where the outcast winds up with the jock-with-a-heart-of-gold and everything is hunky dory happily ever after; and ones like Carrie where the outcast just can't take it anymore and things go horribly haywire. For most of us* on the outskirts of popularity, though, high school ends with a huge sigh of relief, not bloodshed or wedding bells.

That being said, Carrie was a very good movie. Although I think the bullying aspect made it more tragedy than horror, at least to me. I thought the whole film was just incredibly sad. Unless you've been living under a rock your whole life (if you have, skip this next part) you know that someone dumps a bucket of blood on Carrie's head at her prom. It's kind of like the Janet Leigh shower scene in Psycho -- you just KNOW that it's coming. And it makes it all the more sad to see her enjoying herself right beforehand, finally feeling accepted and liked. The pre-bloodbath prom scenes were shot like a dream sequence (if you're familiar with I Dream of Jeannie at all, they reminded me a lot of the scenes where Jeannie is watching her own wedding) and you just wish so badly that it didn't have to end... that she could hug Freddie Prinze Jr. and go to art school and be oh so happy. But somehow I think that ending is even more far-fetched than a girl with malfunctioning telekinetic powers.

This was only the second movie I've seen based on a Steven King story (the other being Secret Window, which I watched countless times during a little Johnny Depp phase in 2004) and I think, this being the month for all things spooky, I need to watch The Shining next. Do I need to have company for that one? I'm under the impression it's pretty darn scary...

***

*I'm lucky to be included in the "most of us" I reference. For the most part, I came out unscathed. But for a lot of kids bullying results in lifelong scars, depression, self-harm and, unfortunately, suicide. October is National Bullying Prevention Month and you can find out ways to help here.

EXTRA! EXTRA! Millie loathes Tyrone Power!

September 05, 2013



Millie has FINALLY come around on Tyrone Power. *And there was much rejoicing!*

With regards to her post that I changed my mind and actually like Tyrone Power? Well -- as she stated above-- that goes against the laws of the universe so therefore it is physically impossible.

DEVELOPING STORY: Millie loves Jimmy Stewart



We're unearthing all kinds of Millie dirt tonight on Silents and Talkies! After some diligent research, we've just discovered these startling quotes from the internet's most fervent James Stewart opponent! Who knows what other secrets lie lurking beneath the mind-smushing brilliance of Classic Forever!?

ps. Reports of my dislike for Dirk Bogarde are greatly exaggerated (cough, and falsified, cough)

BREAKING NEWS: Millie thinks Bobby Darin is "frightening"



You heard it here first, folks. She might claim to be a Bobby Darin fan but now her secret is known to the world -- Millie actually thinks Bobby Darin is frightening. I'm sure the fangirlness was just a cover for her secret Bobby Darin hating world domination plot.

ps. The post on her blog about me having a change of heart about Laurence Harvey is all lies. LIES I TELL YOU!!!

my first time: pretty in pink

September 04, 2013



Somehow I've made it over a quarter century without seeing a lot of must-see movies. And for a movie fan that's pretty pitiful. I've seen the really big classics (Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, Citizen Kane, The Wizard of Oz) of course, but there are a lot of films that have eluded me -- particularly the ones that seem to be required viewing if you want to be considered a member of my generation.

Star Wars. Never seen it!! I know! How is this even possible? I can spout off a list of my favorite Guy Kibbee movies like it's nothing but I can't even name one member of the brat pack. (Okay, Molly Ringwald. I can name one. But still.) Even though post 1970's movies aren't usually my cup of tea, I feel compelled to play catch-up, as if I've missed out on a cinematic rite of passage.

Last night I started with Pretty in Pink. I [head buried in my arms from embarrassment] had watched She's All That, a high school rom-com from the 90's that I saw in theaters when it was shiny and new. I was engulfed in a tsunami of nostalgia, sue me! Anyway, Netflix knew my shame and suggested Pretty in Pink afterwards.

I actually really liked it! I loved the soundtrack and Annie Potts' character, Iona, was completely fabulous. I want to be her. The plot reminded me a lot of those cheesy 90's films like She's All That (popular guy falls for unpopular girl, misunderstandings happen, and then there's a happy ending) but it had a much more offbeat vibe. I don't really know enough about 80's cinema to detect if it was a hallmark of the decade or the film itself, but the characters seemed a lot less shallow than they did in the 90's. They were a little more creative and seemed like unique individuals, not really stereotypes (at least the main characters didn't, there were definitely some vapid minor players that have become a hallmark of every movie that takes place in a high school setting.)

Overall, do I feel like my life before Pretty in Pink was a deep dark pit of despair and now everything is whole again? Not really. I liked the movie, but I'll still take Sullivan's Travels over it any day of the week. Honestly I'm not expecting to find my motion picture soulmate in my mounting pile of unwatched modern classics. I might be pleasantly surprised, but I'm pretty sure Sunday in New York is secure in it's #1 favorite slot. I do hope, however, that I'll become better schooled in the art of the cultural reference and have a broader knowledge of my all-time favorite hobby.