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

In film school, one teacher explained the curious connection between Thomas Edison inventing the movies in New Jersey at the same time the Lumière Brothers were doing the same thing in France and William Friese-Greene in Britain by giving the mytho-poetic explanation, “There was something in the air.”  He went on to state similar synchronistic […]

One of the mystical, personal treasures of loving film is the cyclical timing of the appearances and reappearances of movies.  It can take many forms:  a feel-good favorite from your early years can show up on cable; a movie you saw in an empty theater 20 years ago –one that everyone else avoided — can […]

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 […]

I’m not joking:  GODZILLA vs. THE SMOG MONSTER is a multi-layered, supremely heightened movie experience that can bless an appropriately receptive viewer with enormous gratifications by the final fade-out. However — the producer of the Godzilla series, Tomoyuki Tanaka, disagreed.  Hospitalized during the film’s production, Tanaka went virtually apoplectic when he saw the finished work, […]

[This post was written in conjunction with the For the Love of Film:  The Film Preservation Blogathon this week.  Please DONATE to the National Film Preservation Foundation.] The need for film preservation eventually reduces to a discussion of film stock.  It’s the effects of age and the unstable chemicals in the physical elements of film […]

Under the leadership of Edward Muhl, the 1950s witnessed Universal Studios’ ascendancy from A-Notch-Above-Poverty Row grindhouse to Top Dawg moneymaker in the movie industry.  While other studios had a restrictive agenda to their films [M-G-M had its family values; Warner Brothers its social conscience; Paramount provided sophistication to the masses], Universal cut and pasted whatever […]

I was sitting in Shanghai’s domestic air terminal this week, flipping through a Chinese fashion magazine.  While looking at photos of clothes (an art form that pingpongs between decorative and functional elements, overload and restraint) I decided to grapple with the merits of a lame / fascinating / bizarre / ho-hum movie from 1963. Perhaps […]

I’m in Houston today:  North America’s fourth largest city, frequently named an overlooked gem in the New York Times’ travel section, and home to many cultural treasures including the Mark Rothko Chapel. I just left the Rothko Chapel, where I had a strong, cleansing meditation — sitting twixt a frail, elderly Asian woman in a […]

If you love Baz Lurhmann’s AUSTRALIA and want to see an earlier, similar film — OR — if you hate AUSTRALIA and want to see a calmer, more naturalistic version of the movie, Lewis Milestone’s 1952 Technicolor action/romance/drama KANGAROO can satisfy both desires. KANGAROO (which has nothing to do with the D. H. Lawrence novel […]

“No matter when one lives in Hollywood, one brings one’s own mental furniture along.”      — Otto Friedrich,  journalist / cultural historian The final (and rarest) episode of director Jacques Demy’s Lola film trilogy has made its home video debut this month.   Unlike the first two, MODEL SHOP was in English and shot in Southern […]

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 […]

A few years before Hollywood’s most celebrated movie on racism and personal identity was filmed, Douglas Sirk’s IMITATION OF LIFE, M-G-M sent a stellar cast and crew to Pakistan to bring John Masters’ 1952 best-selling novel of identity politics, Bhowani Junction, to the screen. Ava Gardner plays Victoria Jones, a half-caste woman serving in the […]

It’s time for me to  ’fess up:   until this week, I’d never seen the the original Hammer Dracula movie, the one that made Christopher Lee a star. I’d never acquired a taste for Hammer horror; Universal Studios’ three-decade output (from 1924’s HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME to 1954’s CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON) supplied all […]

During my misspent youth, I played piano in a bar.   A great friend of mine was also a piano player.   Our styles and tastes were nowhere compatible, but we truly respected each other’s artistic choices and temperament when we’d sit down and play. Several years after becoming friends, Jane Campion’s film THE PIANO […]

I’d like to add my name to the roster of cineastes who viewed the recent DVD release of Busby Berkeley’s classic 1943 Technicolor dementia THE GANG’S ALL HERE and afterwards asked, “Hey, where did all the colors go???” Despite my advancing years, I wasn’t around for this film’s first release. But in the 1970s, when […]

Recently, my friend David was excitedly looking forward to the DVD release of M-G-M’s 1945 THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY, directed by Albert Lewin.  That got me thinking of the next collaboration by the DORIAN GRAY creative team: an independent film called THE PRIVATE AFFAIRS OF BEL AMI (1947). Lewin startled THE PICTURE OF DORIAN […]

Allan Dwan made over 400 movies during a fifty-year period.  When he started directing, there was no such thing as an American feature film:  movies lasted 20 minutes, tops.  He was making movies before Chaplin.  Dwan’s debut behind the camera came only a few months after the East Coast-based movie industry had relocated to a […]

I’ve been on a Brain Food Diet that has kept my thinking processes in overdrive this week.  Even when my body would scream “No more!!” my brain would keep barreling down the highway with a cinder block on the accelerator. In order to chill, I spent Columbus Day morning sipping red wine and watching CIMARRON […]

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