When You Get Really Close to a Movie Screen, Film Emulsion Looks like…
Boiling Sand

Cross a Nebraska homecoming queen with Simone Signoret and what do you get?  Mary Beth Hughes! And seldom did she get to merge those two sides as in the go-for-broke, nil-budgeted film noirs she did for PRC Studios at the end of World War 2, such as I ACCUSE MY PARENTS and THE LADY CONFESSES.  […]

Hollywood studios in the 1950s — when its underpinnings of entrenched success eroded — yielded a number of fascinating films.  Their culture of work, aesthetics and storytelling was looking down an abyss inconceivable a decade before as some of the best and brightest descended in free fall.  To keep a foothold, the dream factories introduced […]

From its first shot, IN JENEN TAGEN grounds the viewer in both a mental and physical landscape that exists beyond resignation, where simple automonous acts of manual labor give the screen’s characters the sort of renewal and liberation that humankind must have experienced when they first used the wheel.  It’s a Rubble Film, an early […]

Even the title connoted admission of having lost one’s relevance.

In the most recent Sight and Sound international critics’ poll to name the ten best films ever made, critic Jack Stevenson put Warner Brothers’ 1965 psychothriller BRAINSTORM on his top ten list. That choice has an air of critical braggadocio and contrariness in its statement, but this is a film that does have a certain […]

Watching old Paramount movies on TV as a teenager, I thought — out of all the major studios’ films — theirs were the most racist :  Fred MacMurray and Madeleine Carroll’s interactions with the ‘plantation darkies’ in VIRGINIA, Bob Hope’s bizarre (in retrospect) relationship with his ‘boy,’ Willie Best, in THE GHOST BREAKERS, or even […]

When Hollywood (as Gloria Swanson rapturously proclaimed in SUNSET BOULEVARD) “had the eyes of the world,” it also had the power as a Culture Industry to discriminate in representing other forms of American popular entertainment that competed with filmdom’s market share. For example, Putt-Putt Golf was a hugely popular entertainment during the Great Depression, drawing […]

I have a single, personal mathematical equation that applies to the entire History of Film:  Cecil B. DeMille = Butt-Aches. Moribund and overblown movies such as THE TEN COMMANDMENTS and THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH set me fidgeting after the first quarter-hour.  A movie-loving friend summed up the director’s tastes by pointing out DeMille’s movies […]

Most Film Noir has some sort of philosophical / existential aspect woven into it:  the private dick’s jaundiced look at love and morals, an old drunk’s musings on life slipping through his hands, etc.  But REPEAT PERFORMANCE is entirely built on a fatalist / defeatist foundation, and although it has elements of fantasy, it’s also […]

Since I’ve worked over many years in several aspects of the Industry, most of my posts approach a movie as more than an end product:  they also look at the work culture of making a film plus the bottom-line realities of how everything up on the screen had to be paid for one way or […]

The ultimate spoiled rich kid, Kim Jong-il, is also a wannabe movie maker. In addition to being the national movie critic, he has written a Marxist book on the art of cinema.  Yet his personal tastes in cinema have been anything but Marxist:  the sketchy information gleaned from the other side of the Bamboo Curtain […]

I don’t do Top Ten lists. I think they’re ridiculous.  As a frequent film festival juror, I’ve seen films that never got a commercial release (or sometimes even a festival screening timeslot) that were much better than anything distributed during the year.  A similar scenario:  about a decade ago, J. Hoberman listed Lawrence Brose’s DE […]

I’M NOT A FILM ARCHIVIST but the three-headed monster known as my career (making media, writing and assessing media, managing media) has always kept me one or two degrees away from the field.  So I’m happy to report that I’ll be blogging from the conference of the Association of Moving Image Archivists, held this year […]

You know how it goes:  you look for something on the Web and before you know it you’ve hypertexted yourself into a totally different realm of information. That’s how it was for me one night when I found myself on the IMDB User Comments page for Peter Watkins’ PUNISHMENT PARK.  I was amazed at the […]

Star vehicles can be a twonky trip when you know zip about the star it’s carrying.  Worshipful costuming, dramatic entrances and exits, and deifying lighting plans can help you interpret what kind of characters this actor generally plays, what fantasy audiences project upon him.  Indeed, few things illuminate Marshall McLuhan’s axiom that “the medium is […]

This post is part of the Double Billathon hosted this week at the Broken Projector film blog. In 1939, while Nathanael West was submitting the final manuscript of his Hollywood Apocalypse novel Day of the Locust to Random House, he was also pounding the keyboard for $350 a week as a scriptwriter for RKO Studios. […]

When I was a young pup working in the film/tv production industry, I was flipping through the Lowel lighting equipment catalog during a break and read that the company invented Gaffer’s Tape in 1959. No, way!! — I thought — How could GONE WITH THE WIND have been made without Gaffer’s Tape?!?!?   How could […]

At her excellent website Ferdy on Films, etc. Marilyn Ferdinand has called for film bloggers to list their 15 favorite dancers.   CLICK HERE TO READ MY LIST. Doug / PoMo Joan

As with all culture industries, the Third Reich’s movies had genres to reinforce values and control popular sentiment.  Those films were frequently categorized as Heimat (“home / homeland”) movies which emphasized the cozy feeling of families and home, Blut und Boden (“blood and soil”) films which promoted pride and romantic feelings about one’s lineage and […]

I was making myself comfortable at a friend’s house, channel surfing while he was getting ready to go out, when I came across the opening credits for a 1968 British film, DUFFY.  The credits were trippy-kaleidescopic, the kind that 2006’s CASINO ROYALE wittily riffed on, so I kept watching.  When the credits were near the […]

Over 50 people were killed in the Leftist Riots of Hong Kong, which exploded on its streets in the Spring of 1967.  Fueled by the fervor of the mainland’s Cultural Revolution, pro-Communist demonstrations and bombing attacks destabilized the city’s social and economic fabric.  In order to restore the status quo, a concerted effort by the […]

The Harry Ransom Center on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin is an Elysian Fields for film lovers.  Among its treasures are the David O. Selznick Archives, the Robert De Niro Archives and the Gloria Swanson Archives.  While doing some volunteer research work amidst their film holdings, I unearthed an artifact that […]

Milos and the gang at FACETS have scored big-time by unearthing this film, cleaning it up, and releasing it on DVD. ANOTHER SKY is the only film directed by screenwriter / novelist / Hollywood-biographer Gavin Lambert, made in Morocco on a budget of £25,000.  The movie was made during Lambert’s days as editor of the […]

In order to build allies as World War 2 approached, the Hollywood film industry at the request of the federal government began incorporating aspects of Latin American culture in its films: glamorizing locales such as Rio and Buenos Aires, incorporating Latin culture in costume design (such as Edith Head’s designs for Barbara Stanwyck in 1941’s […]

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