Monday, January 30, 2012

Does "The Third Man" belong in the National Film Registry?

In London they have a charming movie treat called Secret Cinema. The premise of Secret Cinema is that you're part of a secret film organization. They announce a screening date - but not a location or name of the film. You are instructed to "tell no-one." In the announcement the descriptive language suggests a genre/theme of a classic film. You buy a ticket. Then, at the last minute before the screening date a location and the name of the film is revealed. People attend dressed up like characters or in clothing that suggests the world of the film. The location always changes - warehouses, old theatres, outdoor, indoor. They created a cyberpunk bazzar for Blade Runner and filled a venue with camels and Bedouins for Lawrence of Arabia. Again, they stress you are to "tell no-one." It's pretty cool.

Photo showing the world created for the Secret Cinema screening of The Third Man. More photos can be seen by clicking on the "posted photos" link below. 
The last Secret Cinema film screened was The Third Man. As part of setting the mood for the screening they posted photos of the world they created for the audience/participants. The Third Man is one of our favorite films and we believe it should be in the National Film Registry. However, there is the question of can one justify it as an "American" film? Two of the leads - Joseph Cotton and Orson Wells - and one of the producers - David O. Selznick (though he's uncredited) - are Americans. Orson Wells is an given uncredited co-screenwriting credit. Tough call. We say - yes. What do you think?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Ernest Borgnine's Birthday

Today is Ernest Borgnine's birthday (he's 95). With the Oscar nominations announced today it reminds us that Ernest won an Academy Award in 1955 for his portrayal of Marty in the movie of the same name. One of our These Amazing Shadows interview subjects, Amy Heckerling, (director of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Clueless, Look Who's Talking and the most recent episode of the TV show Gossip Girl) is good friends with Ernest and in the above video talks about why the movie Marty is so important to her.

Even though Mr. Borgnine had a marvelous motion picture career he is known best to a certain generation as Lt. Commander Quinton McHale in the television show, McHale's Navy. When I was a kid - me and all my friends definitely thought he was a very cool guy in that role. It was only when I got older did I realize that he was such a fine and successful movie actor.

Marty was selected to the National Film Registry in 1994.
Mr. Borgnine also appears in the following films that are on the National Film Registry:
From Here to Eternity (selected in 2002)
Johnny Guitar (selected in 2008)
The Wild Bunch (selected in 1999)

Amy Heckerling's film, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, was selected to the National Film Registry in 2005.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Hugo - What is Old is New Again

(upper) Asa Butterfield as Hugo Cabret in Martin Scorsese's Hugo and (lower) Harold Lloyd as The Boy in Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor's Safety Last!
From Turner Classic Movies:
In the 1923 silent film Safety Last! - "The clock face stunt was inspired by Bill Strothers' performance of a similar human fly act, discovered by Lloyd while walking in Los Angeles one day. Strothers' grand finale to the stunt involved him riding a bicycle along the rooftops edge and then standing on his head on a flagpole. Lloyd was deeply impressed by the event, remarking, "It made such a terrific impression on me, and stirred my emotions."

Lloyd immediately placed Strothers under contract at the Hal Roach studio, and cast him in Safety Last! as "Limpy Bill," the Boy's lovable roommate and construction worker who also has human fly capabilities.

Many of the interior scenes for Safety Last! were shot at the L.A. department store Ville de Paris, which was owned by a close friend of producer Hal Roach. Each evening when the store closed the crew would set up their equipment and then work during the midnight hours."

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

My Favorite Movie Theaters

Mayfair Curzon Cinemas in London
Last night watching These Amazing Shadows on Independent Lens via KQED in San Francisco I was struck by how washed out the images of our interview subjects looked on my television. We took great care in the shooting and color correction of those images - but we don't always have control of what happens to our doc after it leaves our hands. Every theater screening, television broadcast and DVD/Blu-ray viewing looks different. It makes me think how precious it is to have an experience watching a film in a movie theater that cares about the projection and sound quality. Here are a couple of my favorite movie theaters:

1) ArcLight Cinemas, 6360 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90028
At the ArcLight I recently saw a film that I really didn't care that much for (Columbiana), but the crisp picture, rich sound, comfortable seats and good candy (chocolate almonds) made for a great experience. I just kept saying to myself, "What a beautiful picture!" (I do like Zoe Saldana so as TAS interview subject Wayne Wang says, "That helpled.") I would go see anything at that theater - the worst movie you can think of - I'm in.

2) Curzon Mayfair, 38 Curzon Street, London W1J 7TY
The Curzon Mayfair is 75 years old and is one of London's original art-house cinemas. Their distinction as the first London theater to import and screen foreign language films beginning with Max Ophuls' La Ronde (one of my favorites - the camera work by Christian Matras is beyond amazing) tells you how long they have been committed to providing a great cinematic experience. I saw The Young Victoria there and although it is not a particularly outstanding film I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Like the ArcLight, the Curzon Mayfair has a spectacular projection and sound system, very comfortable seats, perfect screen size and great candy (Galaxy Bar). What added to that particular screening was the older British audience that thrilled to the story of young Queen Victoria. I felt like I was having a true cultural experience (and, yes, Emily Blunt helped).

Photo by Tom Kessler
3) Ruth Sokolof Theater, 1340 Mike Fahay Street, Omaha, Nebraska
I've never been to the Ruth Sokolof Theater, but greatly admire everything about the vibe of this theater run by Film Streams, a non-profit organization "dedicated to enhancing the cultural environment in the Omaha-Council Bluffs area through the presentation of film as an art form." What a mission! Check out their website: Film Streams

What theater(s) do you love? Why?