Ariel’s Print Resource Guide for TCMFF 2017: Moving Pictures

It’s that time again! Time for TCMFF (TCM Classic Film Festival)!!!

Last year I decided to make an official film guides to assist in examining the program and schedule and use that data to do a format breakdown. Using my skills as a film archivist and preservationist, I thought that these things would be useful for fans and attendees to have.

This year I think this is an ESPECIALLY useful tool since we have an all new item to add for our viewing pleasure: 35MM NITRATE!!!

So first of all, let’s get a few rumors settled: nitrate is not OMGZFIRECAUSING and it will not blow up if you simply touch it. The chemicals that are released when the film begins to deteriorate (called “off-gassing”) can lead to some nasty toxicity though and the more you pack nitrate in…the more likely you are to cause a fire. Nitrate doesn’t like close quarters and it doesn’t like to to be under pressure. Think of Nitrate as the hippie film base- it just wants to chill, man. But if it gets a bad dose (ie, starts to deteriorate) or is put under bad pressure/circumstances, it could really blow.

BUT HAVE YOU SEEN A 35MM NITRATE PRINT??????????

Don’t miss the chance to do it this year.

Seriously, guys.

PART I: PREPARATION & PLANNING

Listed below, in the alphabetized spreadsheet, is all the films that are playing as of Friday, March 31, 2017. The spreadsheet moves down and also moves to the right and includes notes, theaters, times, formats and all kinds of details!!

If you want to download the spreadsheet and organize it according to your own wants (format, notes, theater, day/time, etc.) that link is here:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1BZuaCal1g9zZu0GYSdGScDKBWjB8uDpIuffrWImC6Q0/edit?usp=sharing

PART II: DATA BREAKDOWN

This (obviously) is the way that the formats broke down this year. The wonderful thing to notice is that we still have a thick chunk of rare kinds of films to see, including different kinds of formats. While there is no 16mm or 8mm (except digitized in the Hollywood Home Movies program which usually occurs on Saturday afternoon in Club TCM), the Cinerama and 35mm nitrate is pretty nifty stuff. We’re pretty spoiled on basic technicals.

Format Chart TCMFF 2017

TCMFF 2017

Last year’s stats looked like this:

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 12.34.25 AM

TCMFF 2016

So I think we’re doing pretty well for 2017!!! Analogue has gotten a more diverse face this year, which is definitely a plus. That is, of course, thanks to the Egyptian Theater/American Cinematheque for taking that risk and refitting their projection booth with all the necessary items for the projection of nitrate. Not every theater is able to project nitrate. We’re exceptionally blessed that they were able to do that in time to work with wonderful people like the UCLA Film and Television Archive and access prints from their MASSIVE nitrate collection.

I can personally assure all of you that UCLA FTVA’s nitrate collection is brilliant. I helped move their archive from where it used to be in Westwood and Hollywood to where it resides now, in a glorious archival palace in Santa Clarita. Their collection is beyond compare.

PART III: WHATCHA SEEIN’?

So I have some definite “MUST SEES” this year:

One of my favorite films of all time and a film that I wrote about for the National Film Registry/Library of Congress, Born Yesterday.

A film I’ve seen a gazillion times but it’s also one of my FAVORITE FILM IN THE UNIVERSE EVERZ, The Court Jester.

Last year I saw Larry Peerce’s One Potato, Two Potato at TCMFF and it was a revelation. This year I plan on seeing The Incident, come hell or high water.

I missed the screenings & talks for the restoration of The Front Page this year. But I won’t miss it at TCMFF!!! Especially with one of my favorite professors and awesome people from archiving school giving the intro!

There are plennnnnttttyyyyyy more that I’m thinking about & considering but that’s all I’m committing to on blog right now.

See ya at the movies!

Anarchy in the TV: 2016 Discoveries in UK TV

I’ve given up on a great deal of media work in the US. It just doesn’t do it for me anymore. The representation of women is awful, discussions on culture, ethnicity and class are disappointing, and my crime shows are just not satisfactory.

So, I’ve turned to the English. They have an insane amount of content that not only centers women & POC as dynamic and powerful players but also examines class and subcultural topics.

For a punk rock intersectional feminist like myself, it’s good media food.

Also, they just hit it so much better with crime/detective things (or at least they have in the past) and I’m getting to discover a bunch of stuff that I didn’t know about before. So, although I am picky, if it’s British, I’ll usually give it a shot over any US TV program.

I can’t say that all of these are easy to find. Sometimes you have to work at it. But they are ALL worth it.

Here are my pix for this year.

1) HAPPY VALLEY (2014-

happy-valley

Available on Netflix.

While I LOVE Olivia Benson & Law & OrderHappy Valley is all that and then some. If the first 10 minutes don’t grab you, I don’t know what will.

2) SCOTT & BAILEY (2011-

scottandbailey

Available on Amazon.

Another show by Sally Wainwright. Best cop team ever. Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharp are insanely great actresses.

3) OUR FRIENDS IN THE NORTH (1996)

our-friends

Mark Strong. Christopher Eccleston. Daniel Craig. Malcolm McDowell. Gina McKee.

After I watched this, I was stunned. I wished there was more than 6 eps. But…no. There’s a cadre of reasons that it won a bunch of BAFTAs. Tells the story of a bunch of friends in the north of England from the 1960s to the 1990s. Brutally good.

4) THIS IS ENGLAND (2010, 2011, 2015)

this-is-englandthis-is-england-all

If you haven’t seen the movie This is England (Shane Meadows, 2006) you should. This show is a continuation of those characters and it’s ABSOLUTELY GREAT. If you have (or have had) any history in the punk rock or ska scene, it’s a must. But even if you haven’t, the writing is great, the characters are unusual and well-formed, and, like Our Friends in the North, it does an amazing job of covering long periods of time in people’s relationships.

5) PRIME SUSPECT (1991-2006)prime-suspect

Available on Hulu

Helen Mirren is the best DCI that I have come across. Sarah Lancashire, Lesley Sharp & Suranne Jones are amazing in their own ways, but Helen was first. This show is so great at discussing feminist issues in the workplace AND being a top notch crime show that it’s bonkers.

Black Christmas

This post was originally published on the New Beverly Cinema blog on December 12, 2016. It is being republished here with full permission of the New Beverly. For the original post (with different artwork) please see the original post here.

Bob Clark made movies that stand the test of time and was phenomenally gifted at the art of good storytelling. Not many filmmakers can do this. But the director of the holiday classic A Christmas Story (playing Saturdays at Midnight this month at the New Beverly) has made as many people laugh as his slasher classic Black Christmas has made people feel total fear. Black Christmas is as frightening and nightmare inducing as A Christmas Story is hilarious and gut-busting.

Some may wonder: why Christmas? Was Christmas a “thing” with Clark? Perhaps. To an extent, we may examine the idea of Christmas as a holiday that is joyful and anxiety-ridden, thus Clark made two of the most iconic films in the holiday film oeuvre to study the holiday from two very different ends of the spectrum. Of course, A Christmas Story is jam-packed with neurotic holiday discourse so while the movie is certainly a loving paean to family memories, it cannot help but be a bit dark at the edges. On the other hand, nothing within the A Christmas Story narrative could compare to the relentless terror presented within the landscape of the small town of Bedford and residing within the Pi Kappa Sigma sorority house of Black Christmas.

Clark was no dummy. Naming the town Bedford was as willful a move as anything else in Black Christmas. If this location sounds familiar, it should: Bedford Falls was the name of the town from Frank Capra’s quintessential Christmas classic, It’s A Wonderful Life (1946). But that’s where the similarities between Capra and Clark’s works end. This 1974 horror film centers on a group of young women living together at a sorority house preparing for the holidays as the school term ends.

With a cast that features Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder, Andrea Martin, Keir Dullea and John Saxon, this motion picture is stacked with talent. Even the little known Marian Waldman is brilliant as the booze-hiding den mother, Mrs. Mac.

The triumph and tragedy of Black Christmas is that it does not age and it is just as effective now as it was over 40 years ago. Clothes, haircuts and styles may have changed but the filmmaking is so fresh and the anxiety is so real that this work does not feel dated. The major topics raised within the narrative of Black Christmas – abortion (fun fact: Black Christmas was released the year after Roe vs. Wade was passed), stalkers, domestic violence and abuse, sexual independence, a woman’s right to choose her own way to live her life/career – are still hotly debated in 2016. This horror film is made more horrifying because those topics are knitted into the very fabric of the feature and they are still, sadly, hot-button issues.

Black Christmas is a critically important film as well as decidedly scary. Clark’s work never underestimates any of the female characters. He spends time showing their relationships, vibrant personalities and strong individual identities. He contrasts them to the men in the film who are complete liabilities: entirely useless or dangerously toxic and angry to the point of becoming monstrous themselves. While Black Christmas is certainly a slasher film (predating John Carpenter’s Halloween) and lives up to the byline on the poster: “If this movie doesn’t make your skin crawl, it’s on too tight!” it’s also a look at male/female relations and the ways in which they are presented on-screen.

Black Christmas is startlingly unique, both in the way that it handles its protagonists and in the way that it seeks to turn the terror up to 11. If this film doesn’t scare you, you can’t be scared. And let’s be clear about this – Clark’s film isn’t about body counts, gory details (you see little to no gore at all) or surprises.  Black Christmas is pure unadulterated terror from the very first phone call.

The sorority house is having a Christmas party and Jess (Olivia Hussey) answers the phone. The young women all stand around to listen to this caller who (we have learned) has called before. The more sexually graphic the call gets, the more interested the camera becomes in each young woman’s face and reaction to the words, screams and almost unintelligible gurgling sounds pouring out of the receiver. This perverse aural symphony is contrasted to the softly lit living room and background sound of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” Barb (Margot Kidder) grabs the phone from Jess and gives the caller a bit of her tough girl “don’t fuck with me” attitude. The caller’s response? The only crystal clear words that come from that phone during the whole film – a calm, direct sentence: “I’m going to kill you.” That scene might be one of the scariest things that this author has experienced in a movie theater.

It is usually what you cannot see or do not fully grasp that makes a film so ultimately disturbing. And so it is with Black Christmas. The film is a complex quilt of aural and visual stimuli, running the gamut from killer’s POV to female protagonists’ perspective. While we can hear these phone calls as much as the women in the sorority house do, we cannot understand them any better than they do. We are equally as scared by the deeply frantic and distressed energy that increases with each call.  These sounds are not just heavy breathing or the standard prank dirty talk.  Clark’s audio in Black Christmas is meant to hit us on a whole other level: the caller could be a tortured child, someone with multiple personality disorder, a perverted sex offender, or…? The calls are an unknown quantity that we cannot put our finger on, in any recognizable manner. This is perfectly stated in Clare (Lynne Griffin)’s comment on the first call: “Could that be one person?”

We get the opportunity to see through the eyes of the killer but it feels unstable, voyeuristic and wholly uncomfortable. Reginald H. Morris did most of the camera work for the film (and went on to do both Porky’s films, A Christmas Story and Turk 182! with Clark) but Albert J. Dunk strapped a camera to his back to shoot the POV material.  The audio for the phone calls was also highly specialized and not created by one voice – the calls came from Bob Clark himself, Nick Mancuso (of Under Siege, 1992 fame) and an uncredited female performer. 

Black Christmas will unnerve you because it doesn’t bother to answer your questions.  It categorically refuses to help you out as a viewer and yet it satisfies you completely on the level of character development. It is perfectly damning for everyone involved, audience and fictional personae alike. On an even more bone-chilling level, a work like Black Christmas has high critical value and relevance because violent stalkers still exist, unstable men continue to threaten/intimidate women in all kinds of weird ways (phone, mail, etc) and legal authorities don’t believe them until it’s too late. This movie should scare the shit out of you because the story could just as easily happen today as in 1974. It may be a horror movie and one of the first slasher films, but the happenings at the Pi Kappa Sigma house delve into seriously dangerous territory that still need attention.

Nancy Kwan

This post was originally published on the New Beverly Cinema blog on November 1, 2016. It is being republished here with full permission of the New Beverly. For the original post (with different artwork) please see the original post here.

“Life is too short to not have dreams! I have been in the film industry for a long time. Show business is not for sissies, but it’s been a great ride!’

–Nancy Kwan

Nancy Kwan was born Kwan Ka Shen in 1939 in Hong Kong. Her mother, Marquita Scott, was a British fashion model who worked for the Harry Conover Modeling Agency. Her father, Kwan Wing Hong, was from Hong Kong and had a Cambridge degree in architecture. Ka Shen’s parents divorced at an early age, leaving her to be raised by her father. Her early years showed a keen interest in and talent for performance. She was a ballet dancer with the Royal College of London and involved with various theater groups before becoming a Hollywood actress. Ka Shen/Nancy Kwan has established a strong body of work within a multitude of film genres ranging from action to comedy. The discussions on race and representation that she has catalyzed (and begun herself) are important to the Asian community and women in film. Nancy Kwan is a figure of power.

Her career has been quite varied. After her debut in the highly popular The World of Suzie Wong (Richard Quine, 1960), Nancy moved into films like The Main Attraction (Daniel Petrie, 1962) and the remarkable Fate is the Hunter (Ralph Nelson, 1964) with Glenn Ford and Rod Taylor.  Her performances in films like Arrivederci, Baby! (Ken Hughes, 1966) and The Wrecking Crew (Phil Karlson, 1968) platform her fun demeanor as well as her ability to combine a uniquely choreographed physicality with hip and swingin’ characters.

The roles Nancy played in Suzie Wong and Flower Drum Song (Henry Koster, 1961) are of critical consequence to the Asian American community both then and now. At the time of release, these films were recognized as being revolutionary in breaking racist barriers in Hollywood and increasing Asian representation in film. In the modern era, Asian American communities have reconsidered this response and found it wanting. There is validity in looking at these films and saying: the archetypes and Hollywoodization of Asian culture and characters is hurtful and harmful.

There is certainly value in modern readings of these films as not being the most positive portrayals of Asian culture or even interracial romance (in the case of Suzie Wong). However, many of these same cultural critics that dislike the roles Kwan was cast in still maintain an affection for, and attachment to, Nancy Kwan. I posit that it is her existence as a leading Asian woman in film that is at least part of that.  The lack of women of color in strong or interesting leading roles has been one of Hollywood’s biggest faults and Nancy Kwan has been able to play some of the most dynamic and fun characters, regardless of the film’s social content. The reason? Quite simply, she’s Nancy Kwan. Once you’ve seen her, you’re never the same.

While most refuse to give up Nancy Kwan as a strong symbol of Asian representation, one of the first women they ever saw on the big screen, the Asian American community now makes a delineation between the roles she played and the importance she has as an Asian woman in cinema. This is a critical part of her story.

Many roles that Kwan played over the years- non-Asian, non-Chinese, stereotypical Asian “insert archetype here” – are quite problematic. Kwan’s talents as a comedienne were of high caliber. While the content of Lt Robin Crusoe, U.S.N (Byron Paul, 1966) is certainly questionable (island girl, “exoticism” etc), the cast is heroically great (Akim Tamiroff! Dick Van Dyke! WOW!!), Nancy Kwan’s comic timing is epic. As any great actor will tell you, a great comic performance is worth thousands of dramatic ones. It’s hard to get people to genuinely laugh, but she has that skill.

Nancy Kwan’s bravery is also nothing to sniff at. She left Hollywood against the better advice of her agent to take care of her sick father in the 1970s. In an environment where even white women did as their agents were told this was an incredibly risky move. It could’ve been a career killer!

While away, Kwan set up a film company and continued to be productive. According to her,

“I was looking to the other side of the camera and I felt it would be nice to have an overall knowledge of the film business. So when I was in Hong Kong I did a lot of films in Southeast Asia. I worked in the Philippines, I worked in Thailand, I worked in Hong Kong, I did well, I only did one Chinese speaking film but the rest was shot on location and I would come back here [USA] once in a while and do a TV show or a movie of the week… at this point I consider myself a filmmaker and I’m glad that I started out acting… as a producer I learned more. I think the more knowledge you have, the better you become.”

The woman who was nicknamed the “Chinese Bardot” and had a haircut specially designed for her by the one and only Vidal Sassoon is not simply a sum of the films that she was cast in. Unless, of course, you count some of the lesser known delights like Wonder Women (Robert O’Neil, 1973) or Walking The Edge (Norbert Meisel, 1985) where she kicks as much ass on the screen as she does in real life. 

Nancy Kwan’s work over the last 50 years is nothing short of groundbreaking. She has formed her own production company (Nancy Kwan Films), made a documentary about her life, won a slew of awards based on her political activism and film/TV work, and been adjunct faculty for MFA film students at CAL State Los Angeles. She’s also still a working actress. Her most recent credits are this year- 2016 – in Amber Tamblyn’s recent film, Paint it Black.

There are very few women in the film world who can say that they have been good friends with Bruce Lee, played opposite William Holden, Rod Taylor and Dean Martin as well as made it a point to retain a personal sense of self within her career, both as a woman and as a person of Asian/biracial heritage. In an industry that doesn’t look fondly on that, Nancy Kwan is a heroine of high class. Plus, the fact that she can play a kick-ass action gal, melodramatic role, and comedienne beautifully really doesn’t hurt.  When asked about the kinds of characters she would/wouldn’t play (since she does have a fairly diverse catalog of roles), her response was eloquent:

“Are there characters I wouldn’t play at all or would consider demeaning to an Asian? Yes. If it was demeaning, I certainly wouldn’t do it, or I would say, hey, this is demeaning. I mean, I have a big mouth too… I think it’s very important that I set standards because I have to live with them.”

Ask An Archivist Day: October 5th, 2016

archive1

Archivist – ar·chi·vist \ˈär-kə-vist, -ˌkī-\

a person who has the job of collecting and storing the materials in an archive

see archive 

Archive – ar·chive \ˈär-ˌkīv\

  1.   a place in which public records or historical documents are preserved; also :  the material preserved —often used in plural

  2.   a repository or collection especially of information

Tomorrow, OCTOBER 5TH, 2016, is #AskAnArchivist Day!

Have you ever wondered what it is we do? What our favorite part of being an archivist is? What great pieces are in our collections? What we think about when we see archivists portrayed in popular culture? Well **NOW** is your chance to ask!

Just use the hashtag #AskAnArchivist on Twitter and Instagram and check out all the archival magic happening!!!

If you are particularly interested in film/moving image archiving, a few of the fabulous archivists/archives who will be participating will be the following:

American Archive of Public Broadcasting @amarchivepub

MIAP (Moving Image Archiving Program) and the NYU Cinema Studies department archive @NYUMIAP

USC Shoah Foundation @USCShoahFdn

Snowden Becker @SnowdenBecker

UCLA Film & TV Archive @UCLAFTVArchive

Access Committee will be RT’ing archival tweets all day at @AMIAnet

Rachel Beattie at Media Commons Archive, University of Toronto @MediaCommons_TO

Pamela & Juana will be answering in both English and Spanish at @secondrunpres

Other General Archival participants who have sent me their info:

 Special collections/university archives folks will answering questions at @uoregonlibnews

The Kappa Alpha Theta fraternity  will be participating. @bettielocke

 

 

The Knack…and How to Get It

This post was originally published on the New Beverly Cinema blog on August 23, 2016. It is being republished here with full permission of the New Beverly. For the original post (with different artwork) please see the original post here.

In March of 2015, The Knack…and How To Get It screened in Nimes, France for their British Screen Festival. During the introduction, director Richard Lester spoke on the experience of making the film, saying his previous movie (A Hard Day’s Night) was essentially “about four people who communicated without speaking and [The Knack was] about four people who speak without communicating. The original stage play was very much more, as we say,  fascist versus liberal,  it was a more political piece.  In my usual fashion of ruining a good play or a good book, I quickly tried to turn the fascist into a figure of pity and scorn. So the strongest character quickly became the weakest.”

The Knack…and How To Get It is a difficult piece for many to engage in, even if it is a comedy. But that is one of the reasons it remains such a fascinating work. This swingin’ London-drenched film is funny and whimsical in the manner of Help! or A Hard Day’s Night, while also quilting the intellectual and emotional power struggles of the youth and working class, a familiar tool of British New Wave cinema. If that weren’t enough, woven into the verbiage, visuals and characters of the film are discussions of sexual freedom, women’s liberation and male domination, all highly topical in 1964.

The vast majority of the British New Wave was nicknamed “angry young men” films or “Kitchen Sink films” (mostly due to the kind of social realism that it utilized). One might’ve assumed that this adaptation of Ann Jellicoe’s play would have followed those New Wave rules a little more closely but that was entirely not Lester’s style. Instead, his film won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1965 with its conflux of surrealism, intergenerational commentary and sexual/linguistic anarchism.

The Knack… was one of two films adapted from women-written plays at the time, the other being Sheleigh Delaney’s Taste of Honey. Both played strong parts in the British New Wave and were considered to be groundbreaking in their own ways. Fun Fact: Rita Tushingham stars in both Taste of Honey and The Knack… and was the only performer from the stage production of The Knack to make it to the film! Secondary Fun Fact: The Knack…and How to Get It features the first glimpses of three of the most gorgeous women to ever delight the silver screen: Charlotte Rampling (water skiing), Jane Birkin(a girl on a motorbike, because of course), and Jacqueline Bisset (one of the ladies in the white sweaters)

The Knack…and How to Get It is an awkward film. It’s challenging at its best and uncomfortable at certain edges. There won’t be any major film “reveals” in this article but it would be unfair to the reading (and hopefully viewing) audience if I was not to tell you that there was an extraordinary examination of the word “rape” within the film text. There are a variety of ways that this can be viewed, none of which I propose are in any way excuses for rape/rape jokes/anything of that kind, so bear with me. Within this exchange, language becomes practically meaningless. So we wonder…what has meaning become with these characters? Do any of them know what they mean? Of the characters given, we have been led to see that emotional meaning is only critical to a few of them. If this is the case, where does the word “rape” work and with who? Lester had stated that these are characters that speak without communicating. Is it only through threats and fear that one may effectively deal with the other? But then does she herself understand her own power? The dynamics of the film, especially when the majority of the work has maintained a highly critical and negative spin on men’s treatment of women ends up being highly complex and must be taken into consideration when this moment comes to pass. This multilayered film is a damn onion and there is no getting around that.

In the modern context of gender dynamics, female agency and sexuality, the obvious questions arise when discussing a piece like The Knack: has the film aged well? Is it still relevant? As we delve into a work that is keenly problematic in a number of different ways- both for young women and for young men and our relationships to each other, be it 1964 or 2016 – I say that yes, this film is still relevant and worthy perhaps because of those problematic spaces.

This may sound like a quite serious film and in many ways, the subjects being tackled are quite serious: rape, harassment, “being cool,” toxic masculinity, nerd shaming, you name it. But let us not forget that this is, above all, a Richard Lester film. While we may continue to dissect the intricate verbiage and myriad of narrative interactions between characters for years to come, the film itself is utterly entertaining. And that cannot be discounted. The levity within tenseness is welcome.

Having been trained in Peter Sellers’ Goon Show school of absurdity, Richard Lester knew exactly how to throw together a tableau of WTF-ness, even for 1964.  Aside from the fact that furniture is being dragged around a large urban area (London) and surreal incidents are part and parcel of the narrative from scene one, Lester added a Chorus of everyday folks as part of the film. This was, of course, no part of the original play, but the moment this Chorus appears and a running commentary on the younger generation starts, there is just no question. Richard Lester is written all over this film. This unconventional and completely anarchic spirit that breaks the fourth wall on a regular basis is the same spirit that Lester brought to his films with The Beatles and would later bring to the Superman films and everything in between. It is Lester-ism, just in varying degrees and incarnations.

As The Knack…was being shot, Lester details the camera set up that they used for the outdoors work. A number of different tents were set up to hide second or third cameras and used to film normal people on the streets of London who were watching the crew film. “As you can imagine,” Lester grimaces, “[most of the time] they were disgusted. So we took those bits of film, natural people responding to us, and added comment and voices over for post-production, and it became the style of the film.”

This spontaneity, youth critique and class-consciousness emphasizes the role that The Knack…and How To Get it played in British New Wave cinema. Ann Jellicoe may not have liked the adaptation of her play but the film certainly transmogrified the original material into something else entirely; a critical piece of British Film history and a work that, in modern context, allows us to investigate the meaning of language, actions, image concepts and the relationship of masculinity to sexuality. As a woman, it may be an uncomfortable film at times, especially since it is a comedy. But it is a smart film, which is integral to its interpretation. There is a lot going on in the film. It is absurd, sometimes shocking, always worth watching.

Of note: Richard Lester’s connections to the British New Wave do not end with The Knack. 1968’s Petulia (the incredible film that the New Beverly Cinema is pairing up with The Knack…and How To Get It) is populated by British New Wave figures. The star, the lovely Julie Christie, was in a pioneering BNW classic called Darling (John Schlesinger, 1965) and Nic Roeg, cinematographer for Petulia, shot quite a few films in the early 60s for different BNW filmmakers. In addition, the hip John Barry score that runs throughout The Knack… finds its match in the compositions that Barry has written for what Lester often said was the favorite of his films, Petulia.

A-“GOG” at #TCMFF 2016: Talking 3D & Restoration With Bob Furmanek

We’re heading into the final stretch, guys and gals. So many plans and schedules have already been posted (mine is forthcoming, I swear)! The slow trickle of #TCMFF pals into my Hollywood hometown and everyone’s excitement is (as usual) giving me such joy. I’m just giddy with Classic Film Craziness!

So aside from the Print Resource Guide that I posted a few days back, I have something else very special to add to my “preservation and restoration stream.” As one of the TCMFF Social Producers, my focus is to increase knowledge about preservation, restoration & film archiving through social media platforms. As a working archivist, I wish to showcase why I truly believe that TCMFF is one of the strongest film festival venues dedicated to these critical procedures.

IMG_4784

One of my favorite parts from TCMFF 2015 – an entire booth dedicated to cinephilia and why we, as film lovers, “heart movies”! So great!

For this blog, I got a wonderful and in-depth pre-TCMFF interview from the knowledgeable Bob Furmanek of the 3D Film Archive about the restoration of GOG (Herbert L. Strock, 1954), which will be playing as the midnight show on Saturday night, April 30th at the festival! Bob will be there in person with his restoration colleague Greg Kintz, so that will be extra cool!!

Hope all of you enjoy this interview and perhaps learn a bit more about 3D preservation!gog3dposter1

1) Can you give a short history on your relationship to this film and why it’s such a unique opportunity for TCMFF fans to be seeing it this year?

When I was living in Los Angeles and working for Jerry Lewis in the mid-1980’s, I spent a lot of time doing work in the old Technicolor building in Hollywood. Director Herbert L. Strock was still active at the time and maintained an office on the first floor. I used to visit with him quite often and naturally, we discussed GOG. At that time, it was lost in 3-D (the studio only had material on the right side) and he lamented the fact that nobody would ever see it again.  For that reason, I made it a top priority to try to find the missing left side.
I eventually discovered the lost 35mm left side print in 2001 and carefully matched it to a new 35mm right side print from MGM. We screened the dual-35mm polarized 3-D prints in 2003 at the World 3-D Film Expo at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. Mr. Strock got to see it again with a sold-out audience of 700 fans and it was a wonderful moment. Sadly, he passed away in 2005.
We spent five tedious months restoring the film last year for 3-D Blu-ray release through Kino-Lorber. Our new digital master has extensive color restoration and shot by shot 3-D alignment and left/right panel-matching. As a result, the audience at TCMFF will be seeing GOG in a better presentation than was technically possible in 1954. Mr. Strock would have loved it!

GogPoster2

TRULY exquisite examples of the restored L/R eye work can be found by clicking on this picture. It will take you to the AMAZING “before & afters”!

2) You head up the 3D Archive. Why is it important to have a 3D Archive? Isn’t 3D still coming out?

Nearly every 3-D feature from the first forty years of stereoscopic cinema (1922 – 1962) was photographed and printed on dual-strips of 35mm film with one print representing the left side and the other representing the right. They were projected theatrically on two 35mm machines in precise synchronization. Polaroid filters in each projection port – and the corresponding polarized glasses worn by the audience – insured that each eye only saw the intended side in order to create a 3-D image. If either the left or right elements are missing, you have lost the film in 3-D. Since the early 1980’s, the Archive has worked very hard to ensure that most of them survive.
There were fifty Golden Age (1952-1955) domestic 3-D features and thankfully, forty-eight survive in their complete stereoscopic versions. The only lost 3-D features from that period are TOP BANANA with Phil Silvers and one half of SOUTHWEST PASSAGE with Rod Cameron.

A lobbycard for Southwest Passage (Ray Nazarro, 1954) a lost 3-D film...

A lobby card for Southwest Passage (Ray Nazarro, 1954) a partially lost 3-D film…

We are doing our very best to get as many released onto 3-D Blu-ray as possible so that people can see these films as they were originally intended. It’s been quite an obstacle and uphill battle securing licenses from the copyright holders but we don’t give up easily.

3) What is the most difficult thing about restoring a 3D film? What was the most difficult part of restoring GOG?

Right out of the gate, the workload is doubled and that presents many challenges with respect to time and financial resources. You basically have to restore the film twice. The most challenging aspect is ensuring that both left/right sides are perfectly aligned and panel-matched in order to present the best possible viewing experience. That means going through the film and making adjustments on every single shot. It’s very time-consuming and labor intensive but it’s absolutely crucial that both the left and right sides are matched.
On the average, we can restore a 3-D feature in three months: GOG took five. It was an enormous challenge because the left side was completely faded with no yellow or cyan information whatsoever. In addition, every single shot in the film required up to seven levels of correction including color restoration, left/right panel matching, flicker reduction, image stabilization, detail extraction from the superior right side element, stereoscopic vertical alignment and dirt/damage clean-up. Greg Kintz has literally worked a restoration miracle in bringing this 3-D gem back to life.

4) GOG is a Eastman color film, a stock that is known to fade if not cared for correctly. Can you talk a little bit about the process of the color restoration and why color restoration and 3D film preservation might be especially challenging (if it is)?

GOG had a rather complicated history so far as lab work and processing. It was filmed on Eastman color negative 5248 (25 ASA tungsten) and processed by the Color Corporation of America laboratory – formerly SuperCinecolor/Cinecolor – in Burbank. By time it was edited and ready for theatrical release in May 1954, the lab was in financial trouble and had been sold to Benjamin Smith and Associates, owners of the Houston Fearless Corp. As a result, the 35mm release prints of GOG were made by Pathé Laboratories in Hollywood. While some early Eastman color negative stock holds up pretty well if it has been stored properly, the 1954 Pathé color release prints were already faded within a few years after it was released.
Thankfully, the right side element used in the restoration (a 35mm inter-positive struck from the original camera negative) still had quite a bit of color. With a little finesse, we were able to tweak it digitally to bring back its original palette. The biggest challenge was then matching the faded left side with the right.

5) Without any spoilers, can you give us a scene to look for that was *especially* challenging in the process but your team thinks came out particularly well?

To be honest, there wasn’t one particular scene that was more difficult than others. The entire film was an incredible challenge! When Greg Kintz was doing his work and sending me 3-D Blu-ray test discs, I was constantly amazed at the restoration and how the image kept improving with each new level of correction. Additional dirt and damage clean-up was then done by Thad Komorowski and that helped immensely.
To give you an idea of what we achieved on a shoestring budget, Warner Bros. spent close to $300K restoring HOUSE OF WAX. We brought in the 3-D and color restoration of GOG for $10K.
After suffering through flat, black and white 16mm open-matte full-frame transfers on TV for decades, I never expected GOG to look as good as it does today. We’re very proud of the final result in bringing this lost 3-D classic back to life.

6) What are you particularly looking forward to seeing at the TCMFF?

Boy, that’s a tough question. The entire schedule is wonderful and there are many cinematic treasures to be enjoyed.
For me personally, the new restoration from the 35mm nitrate camera negative of FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN (Roy William Neill, 1943) is going to be quite a treat. That’s been a favorite of mine since I was a young Monster Kid in the 1960’s and watched New York TV’s Chiller Theater on Saturday nights. I even had the three-minute Castle Films 8mm fifty-foot home movie edition. It’s going to be great fun seeing it fully restored on the big screen!

Thanks again so much, Bob!!! Can’t wait for this screening!

It’s been a pleasure Ariel, thank you!

Ariel’s Print Resource Guide for TCMFF 2016: Moving Pictures

TCMFFlansbury

I’m ready. BOY AM I READY.

I have been since last year when TCMFF2015 ended. I live for this film festival. My experience has shown me that TCMFF is one of the most organized and best staffed film festivals that I have ever attended and the content is truly the most dynamic and rare. For a film archivist and preservationist to say this is no small feat.

The films are sometimes familiar, many times obscure, always challenging and enjoyable. The festival welcomes audience members from all over the world and gives them access to films that they would not normally be able to see, especially not in the environment that they were designed to be seen in: a theatrical setting. This annually growing community of passionate film-goers and classic film fans that TCM has created is what I have termed “Classic Film Summer Camp.” I don’t think I’ve ever had such a great time waiting in line for a film as I have at TCMFF. I’ve met people from everywhere and learned about so many different lives, experiences and classic film star fandoms. Y’all can have Christmas- this is MY most wonderful time of the year!EarthaKittenTCMFF

For the second year in a row I have been asked to be a member of the wonderful TCMFF Social Producers’ Team. As Social Producers, we are a group of fabulous and intelligent classic film advocates and cineastes working with the TCMFF social media team to advance the goals of the festival and make it more enjoyable for everyone involved! Each of us has our own “theme” or line of “promotion” and we can be found under the hashtags #TCMFF and #TCMFFSP. Whether or not you are in attendance, you want to follow these hashtags! These folks are some heavy hitters!

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So my theme this year? Well, nothing’s changed. Leopard and spots and all. I’ll be Tweeting, Tumblring, Instagramming on my most beloved subjects: film archiving, preservation and restoration.

So, for my first intro post, I have created a resource for everyone who may be currently planning their TCMFF schedules. I designed a spreadsheet that has cataloged the 35mm prints, DCPs, noted the restoration and preservations, and did my best to signify notes on World Premiere or North American Premiere, etc.

OF NOTE: the TCMFF schedule, while extremely reliable, is always subject to change. As a preservationist, projectionist and film series programmer myself, I can tell you that there are innumerable variables that can cause variations in guests, film format or program itself. This is just your garden variety disclaimer, folks,  but it has to be said. You know it does. And since you’re reading this blog, I’m likely preaching to the choir, but it’s a necessary statement. Additionally, if I have not written it here, that does not mean it is NOT a premiere/restoration/etc. I have based this upon as much information as I could get. If there is something in need of correction, please contact me immediately! I would be pleased as punch to change it!

So let’s get down to business, shall we?

PART I: RESOURCES & PLANNING

So. Now that the disclaimers have been said, here is your 2016 TCMFF Format & Preservation Resource guide. Get to scheduling!

It’s alphabetical, and if anyone has any questions or problems reading it (or understanding the manner in which it has been broken down) please let me know. I will actively pay attention to any and all comments  as they come in, and will be ABSOLUTELY ready to alter something if needs be.

If you would rather have it in a link form rather than embedded, go here.

It is critical for attendees to have this kind of format map. It may have taken some time to put together, but I know how important this resource is. Being able to access a full report of what has been restored, what has been preserved, what has been digitally reconstructed and how to identify each of these pieces in order to put together the fabulous puzzle that will eventually be your TCMFF experience is just invaluable.

Before moving into Part II, I briefly mention a remark about formats and preservation. Please consider the curatorial dedication and labor that has gone into the maintenance of all the films that you will watch this festival season, no matter what format they are in. Whatever your sensibilities or thoughts about format (analogue/digital, etc), every person with whom I have personally come into contact in my archival career who is involved in classic film preservation takes their job very seriously. Whether moving towards the creation of a Digital Cinema Package or striking a new 35mm print, my classic film archival colleagues work really hard to make sure that these materials see another generation and that another generation sees them. So let us be certain that if we downplay a digital format in favor of analogue, we do not forget that the digitization and digital work had to have an incredible amount of analogue preparation work done to it first. There are no classic films that were “born digitally” and thus you cannot have digital without analogue attention. Let us not forget that aspect of the workflow.

PART II: DATA BREAKDOWN

I compiled some data based upon what we have this year, print-wise. So if you want to get nerdy with me, here’s what we have…

From a preservation standpoint, I noted that the vast amount of 35mm was made up of rare works and, quite simply, the films that rarely make it out of the vaults. These films are the very reason that I continually attend TCMFF, religiously watch the channel until stupid o’clock in the morning (just…one…more…movie….), and truly appreciate educated colleagues like Will McKinley‘s continued updates on TCM as we move forward into various streaming and cable variations.

These are the films that caused me to become a preservationist. But we can get back to that.

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The analytics – 33% of the films appearing at TCMFF this year will be shown in 35mm. These are films like One Potato, Two Potato (Larry Peerce, 1964) a film about interracial marriage that came out BEFORE the more socially palatable Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? (Stanley Kramer, 1967). Or a bewilderingly unheard-of feature like Double Harness (John Cromwell, 1933), a pre-code film that has been, quite literally, sitting in a vault until TCM bought the rights to it in 2006. These films catalyzed my film archival career and have subsequently reignited my film passion every year at the TCMFF. They are the “lost” or “forgotten” children of classic cinema.

While it’s beyond incredible to watch an old favorite on the big screen with a crowd, I would highly recommend that folks try to make it to at least ONE “rare pick” at TCMFF. Try the Film Noir Foundation/UCLA Film & Television Archive Restoration of Repeat Performance (Alfred L. Werker, 1947) or the rarely screened Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back (Roy Del Ruth, 1934). This is your opportunity!

So here are my “5 Points to Consider When Making Your TCMFF Schedule and Beyond.”

  1. Restoration costs a GREAT deal of money. A LOT. Many grants, volunteer labor and insane hard work is involved just to get to the point of being able to approach the physical restoration. This relates to 35mm *and* DCP. Love your restoration folks and the restorations!

  2. Lesser known films are riskier and have less potential for “return investment” in many people’s eyes. When you get the opportunity to investigate rare works at TCMFF or at a home repertory theater, you can be part of a new kind of “return investment.”

  3. Supporting restorations & preservations (in 35mm *and* DCP) and making your voice heard through social media & online makes a difference. Boutique labels do exist for DVD/Blu distribution and we do have wonderful companies like Warner Archives, Flicker Alley and others who make it a mission to serve our community.

  4. TCM (and TCMFF) serves the classic film community in a positive way by their continual & consistent showcasing of “forgotten films” or unusual materials — there is the possibility that, with more exposure, viewing more rarities on 35mm may lead to more preservation and restoration!

  5. TCM also showcases incredible panels like the Academy Home Movies presentation (something that I will be livetweeting for the second year in a row) with the wonderful Lynne Kirste and Randy Haberkamp. What was previously a closed circuit of “35mm features” is now open to different formats and narratives (Super8, 8mm, 16mm – all transferred of course, but that IS what we get to see). If you have not attended this panel, DO IT. It is one of my favorite parts of TCMFF every year.

PART III: SAY HELLO!!! I’D LOVE TO MEET YOU! 🙂 

When you see me walking around during #TCMFF, I will have my badge on and it will look like this:

TCMFF2016Pass

Look for the blue and burgundy 16mm reels and the red circled SP on the badge.

My social media platforms that you can follow are…

INSTAGRAM: www.instagram.com/archivistariel

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/ArchivistAriel

TUMBLR: http://archivistariel.tumblr.com

And once again, check out the hashtags this year – #TCMFF, #TCMFFSP and follow @tcm on Twitter!

I will be returning with another post soon letting you know what my schedule will possibly be so that you can stalk…er…find me during TCMFF if you wish. But for now, enjoy!

 

See you at the festival! ❤

 

ArielSchudsonTCMFFSocial

 

Not Just The Clydesdales: Super Bowl 50 & Advertising History

It’s coming. It’s happening in a few days. My neighborhood is going to be full of screaming and cheering and less parking than usual.

 

But my gaze will be fixed on my television in a slightly different manner.

For some time now, I have been focusing my archival energies on the pursuit of preserving commercials and working on the recognition of advertising as something of worth within moving image archiving. While we have officially recognized television, film, home movies, industrial works and other short subjects as worthy of respect, there still seems to be a hard stare around the word “commercial” or “advertising.”

Yes- it is The Man. And yes, it is Corporations. And Consumption. All the “dirty words” that seem to make us uncomfortable and feel like we are somehow disrespecting ourselves and our individuality and relinquishing our rights to choose the things we put on our hair, into our bodies and treat our children with.

But advertising is more complex than this. I believe that there is a highly significant need for better and more extensive preservation (even restoration) of these works because they represent our social, domestic, political and cultural leanings throughout the years.

That said, one of the biggest events for advertising, lying somewhere between the Indy 5000 and the Oscars, is the Super Bowl. In just a few days, all over the United States, bars, homes and facilities of all sorts will be turning their lighted media boxes to the exact same program. There will be enough beer, pizza, nachos, hot wings and other grease and alcohol-slathered snacks to truly make one consider going vegetarian. After all, next to Thanksgiving (the largest eating day of the year) this is the second largest!

So let’s talk food for a second. According to the National Chicken Council‘s 2015 pre-game report, approximately 1.25 billion wings were eaten during last year’s Super Bowl- enough to circle the Grand Canyon 120 times and enough to put 572 wings on each seat in every NFL football stadium. As for pizza, by halftime last year Pizza Hut had broken its digital sales record and had already been named as the #1 food choice for the US during the game. So…score? As for booze, the figure is that 325 million gallons of beer are consumed on Super Bowl Sunday. Many articles say this is overblown and improbable, chalking the number up to the amount that is purchased on the day (not an impossibility). If the number were true, everyone in the US (men, women, AND children- omgz! Not drunk toddlers! They can barely walk anyway!) would have to chug an entire gallon themselves. And while I can certainly see a certain percentage of the folks I have encountered in my life being able to imbibe 10 beers in one sitting (especially light beers), I’m not putting bets on the babies.

So it’s a day of celebration, camaraderie and (it would seem) mild debauchery of some kind. I feel that there is an entirely different post related to this about why advertisers would select a day of drinky/greasy/cheer-ismo as the day to put their best foot forward and place their top ads that they have been working on (and spending the most money on securing spots and time for) but that certainly isn’t the point of this discussion. In fact, what I want to first discuss is who is watching and how.

Super Bowl Statistics

If you think that American Football is a dudes game, you’d be dead wrong. Mirroring the results that I found when I did my research into female fans of professional televised wrestling, the Nielsen demographic data has proven that women are not only active sports consumers, but they are interactive sports consumers. A recent statistic showed that 46% of the viewing audience is female (that’s almost half- guys, did you get that?) and on an even more fascinating level, MORE WOMEN WATCH THE SUPER BOWL THAN THE OSCARS, EMMYS, AND GRAMMYS COMBINED!  To add to this, the social media centered on the Super Bowl has been led strongly by women. As Kat Gordon, founder of the 3% Movement  wrote in AdWeek, “Women watch equally, buy + share in greater #s than men on Super Bowl Sunday. Ads with female appeal = best return on $4 million price-tag.” Of note: Gordon has an annual Super Bowl tweet-up with women creatives that deftly tries to negotiate the historic divide between the way that women consumer/fans are approached by advertisers and the way in which they wish to be approached. Here is the promo video-

The other big adjustment is newer technologies. So Super Bowl 50 (and its advertisers) are making that play to connected-TV devices like Apple-TV, Xbox, Roku and others. Mobile devices and tablets are in high use with the Millennial audiences for viewing sports events year-round, so the Super Bowl programming has made certain that their Jewel in the Crown is no different. But advertising will be a little different depending on the device. As reported in Variety,  CBS required all sponsors to run ads in the digital stream in addition to the straight-up TV broadcast. On the other hand, if you were to utilize a device like Roku or AppleTV, the only ads you would receive would be national spots.

Compared to the 16mm commercial collections that I have been dealing with, thinking about all this is mind-numbing. I have always had a slight interest in American football because they continued to film on 16mm up until 2014 when they went digital. So the discussion of digital outreach and audience visibility through mobile applications is a big step in my mind for the NFL.

So let’s get down to content stats before we go all historical.

The National Retail Federation reports that this year it is likely that there will be a viewing population of approximately 188.9 million folks who will be checking out the Denver Broncos play the Carolina Panthers. About 34.7% (85 million) view the game as the “meat” of the day, while 17.7% (43.4 million) are there to check out the commercials. The other 4.5% (11 million)? They’re just there for the food, man.

Now let’s look at the way these commercials are being watched. Are they being glossed over? Talked through? Is that when you go grab another beer or head to the privy? 78.6% said that they think of the ads as entertainment (whether the definition of “entertainment” deserves a more critical look is another story) and 17.5% of viewers say that they see these commercials as informative. The remaining 10.3% say that the ads definitely influence their desire to purchase a product.

Considering the history of Super Bowl ads, I can definitely understand that 10.3%. I mean, look at this Snickers ad from 2010. Betty White AND Abe Vigoda (RIP)? I’m sold.

If I was old enough to drink wine in 1980, I would most certainly have bought it from a classical music-testifying Orson Welles!

And there is no way you could talk me out of buying a car that is being sold to me through the spirit of Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner. That would be MADNESS (note: this is from 1969, 2 years after Super Bowl I)

History

Ok. So this year is Super Bowl 50. And it’s being played in San Francisco, making every one of my friends who lives there incredibly frantic. In fact, some have decided to just leave town for the weekend. I don’t blame them. I’m not entirely sure how they plan to fit that many people in a city that small, but good luck to them. Game on, right?

The first game was played in 1967, between the NFL and the AFL (American Football League), and was not called the “Super Bowl” for a few more years. Until 1972, the Super Bowl wasn’t even broadcast nationwide (I KNOW. CAN YOU IMAGINE. AND WE USED ROTARY PHONES THEN TOO). Super Bowls I-IV were blacked out in the host cities, plausibly to force the fans to actually attend in person. A bizarre event happened during the first Super Bowl that some might conjecture foretold of how interrelated the Super Bowl and advertising were to be. As Robert Klara describes it, “Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi threw a fit when the second-half kickoff had to be done over. The reason? NBC held off returning to the game until after it aired a commercial for Winston cigarettes.” Out of the many anecdotes about live television I’ve heard/read, this might be one of my favorite because it was a live sporting event that is now one of the largest in the country. And they re-did the kickoff due to a commercial break. 1967, folks, Winston cigarettes.

This isn’t the ad that they showed (this one is from 1968) but it was too good not to include as an example of a “late 60s Winston ad.”

Advertising changed for the big game when star quarterback Joe Namath appeared in a very steamy Noxzema commercial for the 1973 Super Bowl with a pre-Charlie’s Angels Farrah Fawcett. The Noxell Corporation (also owners of Cover Girl) were at the tail end of a very sexually-charged campaign for Noxzema products that had featured a former Miss Sweden and some highly suggestive language. This ad fits in quite well with that theme and sparked the match that the Super Bowl/advertising industry needed to light their partnership fire.

That same year, another ad ran with an unknown young actor and he (and his leather jacket and “Eyyyy!” attitude) became pretty famous soon thereafter!

Cost

So how much does all this run?

AN INSANE AMOUNT OF MONEY. People say it costs a great deal, you can read the numbers, but it’s beyond what you would think. In fact, the best way to describe how much ad space for the Super Bowl costs is to tell you how much it has cost through the years and do comparisons.

So the year that it began- 1967- a 30-second spot cost $42,000. Twenty years later, in 1987, people were shelling out a hefty $600,000 for :30. For Super Bowl XLI in 2007? It was $2,600,000. At this point, advertisers are currently paying $160,000 A SECOND to advertise on the Super Bowl.

So why is this, aside from everyone loving sports and the Super Bowl becoming a massive National Cultural Event? The Big Kids got involved and they put their money where their mouths were. And, like advertising is, it became a massive competition to see who could do the best and freshest work, produce the most effective product that would get results for their clients. And more clients got involved as time went on. And bigger clients. So instead of smaller ads like this Wild Kingdom bumper from 1969

they garnered much larger ones like the now-famous Clydesdale/Budweiser ads.

It was at this stage in the Super Bowl/Advertising Game that they began to get some very interesting content as well.

I have a personal love for this Xerox commercial from 1976. But it’s incredibly nerdy and so am I.

And of course when you pair up a huge star like Mean Joe Greene with a kid, add some heart to the ad, and put it within the Coca-Cola landscape? Yeah. You have a winner. This is well-remembered as one of the best Super Bowl ads. And it’s held up.

One of the most legendary commercials to run during the Super Bowl is the Apple Commercial directed by Ridley Scott. It aired on January 22, 1984 and (contrary to popular belief) did run more than once but was not a regularly programmed spot by any stretch of the imagination. It is still incredible.

Big clients. Big names. Big money. And the Super Bowl gets bigger and bigger.

And advertising for the Super Bowl gets better and better through the years. I would argue that the thoughts and considerations I have been having on modern American advertising do not seem to apply to the Super Bowl advertising spectrum. Many of today’s standard ads do not seem to carry the same narratives, diversity and engaging fun that is present during the ads of the 70s, 80s and 90s, even up until the early ’00s. But the Super Bowl ads…well, that’s when everyone (literally) brings their A-Game. They all seem to have wit and swagger of some kind.

February 7, 2016

Clearly I am going to watch the Super Bowl mainly for the commercials (as you have probably guessed by now). I am BEYOND excited that Squarespace seems to know that I’m a commercials whore and love comedians Key & Peele, and they are providing me with a way in which to have the best time ever on Sunday, which rocks.

It will probably be me and my cats. I might yell and scream at the TV too, just like any DudeBro, but it’s going to be advertisement related. BECAUSE I’VE SEEN THE TEASER/TRAILERS FOR SUPER BOWL 50 AND THEY’RE WILD.

There are a few ads for Super Bowl 50 that I am really looking forward to based upon seeing the teasers. This is the major one. I love the Snickers ads. They are so clever & they star my favorite people. The #EatASnickers campaign is really great.

This one looks pretty great too…

Also these:

And there are more. Maybe I’ll do a top 10 faves when #SB50 is over.

For now, I’m going to also leave you with a few classic faves because, well, THEY’RE GREAT COMMERCIALS. I hope you enjoyed this piece as much as I enjoyed dorking out about what is pretty much one of the biggest days of the ad year. Have a good one folks!

Legacy Super Bowl Ads – Personal Faves!

Evil Beaver. So much yes. Maybe not as an ad, but I can’t help myself. LOVE.

I still don’t even believe this is real but…it is. “Start living again!”

Oh, Holiday Inn…

CLASSIC.

Magic Mountain appearance!

And you’ll never beat Spuds Mackenzie. Party animal!!!!

 

Losing the Light, Keeping the Inspiration: Vilmos Zsigmond

In January of 2011, I saw 2 films that changed the way that I think about masculinity and cinema: ELECTRA GLIDE IN BLUE (James William Guercio, 1973) & SCARECROW (Jerry Schatzberg, 1973).
Really, they became two of my favorite films in life. But that is a whole other story.
Looking back, my impetus to attend stemmed from two things: my friend Cathie’s love of the EGIB soundtrack (which we played all the time in the car) and my purchase of the VHS for Jerry Schatzberg’s SCARECROW when I was working at Amoeba in the early ’00s. I remember the cover –
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And I remember thinking: Hackman and Pacino did a movie together?? What???
So that story ends in a rather anti-climactic manner. I never watched the VHS. In fact, I no longer have the damn thing.
But I’m so glad. You can only lose your Movie Virginity for a film once and theatrically is the best way to do it.
This is the second time I’ve written on this screening. It had a heavy impact on me.
The first time, I wrote about ELECTRA GLIDE IN BLUE for the film noir blogathon. This night was one of the best film memories/screenings of my life. And considering how many movies I’ve seen….THAT’S saying something.
Retracing my steps to 5 years ago. I had originally had plans for the night but they fell through so I did what any normal, red-blooded, cinematically-charged girl would do: I biked over to the LA County Museum of Art and attended the series that I had (sadly) missed most of, entitled “True Grit: The Golden Age of Road Movies.” I had no idea that there was a guest that night. I was there to see these rare films that never screen. And I was really excited about SCARECROW. I knew nothing about it- was it a comedy? Drama? Thriller? Somewhere in between? I had intentionally done no exhaustive research on it because I wanted to go in fresh. To be fair, even now it is rare to find people who are that familiar with the film, even though I feel it is top quality, desert-island material.
My time-memory is not perfect, but considering that the photo I took of my ticket says the double-feature began at 5:00pm, I think that it would make sense that our man Vilmos took the stage post-double feature.
I could lie and say that I was highly educated on the man’s career. But why? I wasn’t. It was more educational and beautiful to be introduced to him in this manner.
It would be absolutely fair, however, to say that yours truly had a decent idea of who he was. While I couldn’t name any film titles off the top of my head, I had seen many by that time.  Mostly, I knew that there was this wonderful bearded signatory of the cinematographic community being welcomed gloriously to the stage, and…I just wanted to give him a hug. He beamed from ear to ear and I’m still not sure if I breathed during the Q&A or just smiled dumbly like I was high on drugs. Vilmos was infectious!!
He laughed and enjoyed the questions and discussion, thought it was funny that people were in such awe of his work. He shrugged so many times. “We just did it,” was his approach. A very classical no-nonsense approach.
He smiled, shook his head, told stories. He thought the whole thing was a gas.
All the things that he spoke about that night, I now treasure- as a professional in the film industry, as an archivist, preservationist, historian and film lover.
He spoke about coming to this country and working with Lazslo Kovacs, and how their relationship and Hungarian”ness” really added a new flavor to what was going on in film at the time.LazloVilmos
He even spoke about working on THE SADIST (James Landis, 1963) a little bit, where he was billed as William Zsigmond. This was pretty thrilling to me because I really love this film.SadistLobbyCard1963
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Vilmos was allowed to talk, mostly uninterrupted, about certain technical and narrative aspects of SCARECROW that he was involved in.
The film relied quite a bit on improvisation (not always a cinematographer’s friend) and yet Zsigmond rolled with it, going so far as to call this work one of the “better of my films.” Even though he admitted that it was quite dark- content-wise and visually, matching many European films at the time as far as lighting went.
An audience member asked about an opening scene in which there were tumbleweeds rolling by as Pacino and Hackman stand at opposite sides of the road. Was this planned out? Did they choreograph the tumbleweeds? Vilmos just laughed. “They were tumbleweeds! They were around. They do what those things do.” No, Virginia, there were no tumbleweed wranglers.
Vilmos Zsigmond spoke about the way the film was shot and their “cinemobile.” He said it was dreadfully hot inside the car and while it was certainly a communal experience, it was a learning opportunity and tough.
I felt like I was going to film school just listening to him reminisce. But it wasn’t in a sad-nostalgia way or “tough-guy-walk-up-the-hill-in-the-snow” way. He treated the audience as though we were friends.
Debra Levine quotes Zsigmond in her review of the evening‘s double feature at LACMA:

[Scarecrow] was a real road movie, made on a very low-budget, $800,000. We went to Bakersfield, we had to shoot in sequence. We were on the road. We sent someone ahead to find locations. There were no sets in the film. We used motel rooms and bars. We had a cinemobile [bus] that held everything, actors, equipment, crew. We had unusual crew, the smallest I ever saw, camera, gaffer, key grip, sound man, dolly man, boom operator. Everyone was helping; the driver of the cinemobile was pulling cables. We were traveling every day. At the beginning, in L.A., we went through the script and agreed on what we were doing. We settled in Denver, but we had no time to rehearse. [On the road] we had no time for rehearsal.

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Al Pacino and Gene Hackman in Jerry Schatzberg’s SCARECROW (1973). Courtesy Warner Bros./Jerry Schatzberg

Vilmos Zsigmond’s eyes sparkled as he spoke, he had passion in his voice and love for his art. But he was a relaxed and centered guy. I never met him one-on-one, but I met his movies. I met him that night when I saw him speak about the film that I have now had the privilege to see twice on a big screen- once at LACMA and once at the Turner Classic Film Festival (TCMFF).
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When you love what you do and you live for what you do, it’s hard to keep it inside. You exude that joy and dedication. That is the only way I can adequately describe Vilmos Zsigmond. He is so inspiring in that sense. Although he has passed away, he will always be inspiring in that regard. This is a man who filmed the Hungarian Revolution in 1956, escaped his homeland, and then shot films as diverse as HORROR OF THE BLOOD MONSTERS (Al Adamson, 1970), BLOW OUT (Brian DePalma, 1981) and REAL GENIUS (Martha Coolidge, 1985).
Aside from SCARECROW (obviously), I’m a sucker for BLOW OUT (Brian DePalma, 1981), THE LONG GOODBYE (Robert Altman, 1973), and MCCABE AND MRS. MILLER (Robert Altman, 1971). I consider these films to be part of my family. I will certainly admit to playing favorites on SCARECROW and BLOW OUT, however.
Tonight I will be watching SUMMER CHILDREN (James Bruner, 1965), another film that Zsigmond was credited on as “William Zsigmond” and lit by his pal, Laslo Kovacs. I’m looking forward to it. I’ve never seen it. There is very little written on it and I may pursue this more.
Wish I could see it in a theater, but them’s the brakes.
From what I have found, this film is another interesting addition to his oeuvre. It has been labeled “neo-noir” and American New Wave and all sorts of things. I’m excited because it features Catalina Island- one of my favorite places on the planet.summerchildren1965
I would like to do some more in-depth research on it (especially as to the actual restoration process) but my brief look came up with a reasonable synopsis.
It was thought to be a lost film (although it was finished) but elements (including original camera negatives) were found in the early 2000’s and sound elements were located in other vaults. Apparently (as it goes in a case like this, from my understanding) a restoration was completed using a combination of the best elements that they located from all of these vaults over time, and Zsigmond assisted on the creation of the final product, getting it back to some estimation of what it was to look like.
If you have Amazon Prime, you can watch this tonight as well. I’m greatly looking forward to it.
I consider myself lucky to have been so warmly gifted with his laughter and stories for one night. I am also lucky because I will be able to have his films forever. While I absolutely am not a binary “digital or film or die!” person, I will say this about Zsigmond: he knew how to use the format of film. And I hope that those working with digital instruments today will take that under consideration and experiment, perhaps, with film while it is still around because there is something different there. Not better, not worse, simply different. And it is what digital is based upon. And cinematographers like Haskell Wexler and Vilmos Zsigmond built that machine. Let us try not to hire the wrecking ball too soon, eh?
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