Monday, March 31, 2008


Photo by Lori Shepler/Los Angeles Times

It’s 3:40 p.m., and I’m finally able to take a break from work long enough to check the score. Here it is, Opening Day 2008, and I’m at work—first time in over 10 years, by my guesstimate. And that’s okay, because the Dodgers are apparently having another party out there at Chavez Ravine—they’re bringing it to the lowly Giants to the tune of 5-0 in the seventh inning. And yesterday they shut-out the team whose fans love to harp on that whole “World Champions” thing by a nice and tidy 8-0. That puts the Dodgers over the Red Sox four out of five clashes during spring training—the only one they lost, of course, was the one where I was present, and being able to say I was there for it has definitely taken the sting out of losing a meaningless game. Yep, my friend Doug procured tickets for the two of us and his wife and daughter for Saturday’s big game at the Coliseum commemorating the Dodger’s 50th year since moving from Brooklyn to Los Angeles. It was a thrill to be there, but I can’t imagine surviving having to play there, or schlepping out there as a fan for four years until Dodger Stadium was being built. After a while, I'd want a closer view of the game. But given that only nine games a year were televised 50 years ago (those Dodgers/Giants clashes), if you had the opportunity to see live major league baseball, you went.

If you draw a line at a 45-degree angle from the top of that fella’s cap in the foreground of the picture, you’ll see where our seats were—way the hell out there, to be sure, to the left of the Coliseum peristyle. But it was such a grand spectacle, who could complain? Certainly not me, even though at times it seemed like we were perched in the Coliseum's version of being out in the left field pavilion, where there was no shortage of Dodger and Red Sox fans, pre-lubed with three or four hours of Tecate and Bud Light before taking their seats, and ready to punch out or drench the first poor slob they fixated upon… over an exhibition game.

Even the much-debated shuttle service from Dodger Stadium got a thumbs-up from me, but that had more to do with the fact that I parked my car out there at about 2:00 p.m., when things were still relatively quiet. There were reports of some fans missing two, three innings due to incredibly long, slow-moving lines to hop shuttles originating at the stadium—these fans probably arrived a couple of hours later than I did, at least. By 3:00 I was sitting in the Rose Garden at USC reading a paperback (Scott Smith’s The Ruins, which is living up to its “scariest book of all time” press so far). I did that for nearly three hours—my idea of a pretty perfect day, a scenario that doesn’t get played out much for me these days—until I met Doug and his family around 6:00. It was only leaving the game that I got a taste of what most fans were up in arms about. I got in line to catch a shuttle right outside the Coliseum at about 10:45 p.m. I boarded the shuttle at 12:45 a.m. Whew. At least I was standing behind some pretty amusing close-to-retirees who were talking movies (Man #1: “Who played Jesus in King of Kings?” Man #2: “Uh, I don’t know. Gimme a hint.” Man #1: “He once appeared on Star Trek.” Man #2: “That guy!”). They also passionately discussed why a movie like No Country for Old Men was so good up to a point, and then dumped you with an ending that “couldn’t possibly be understood.” (Don’t worry. I held my tongue.) Anyway, I made it back to Dodger Stadium around 1:00 a.m. and was cozy and snoozing by 2:00. That’s a lot of work to see a baseball game where the field is wedged in like an incorrect answer to a geometry problem.

But it was a tremendous, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I’m glad I could be a part of, and I must thank Doug and Linda and little Reagan for that. I just wish the DVD I had set to record the whole thing would have turned out—all I ended up with was snow. I really wanted to hear Scully reminisce about the Coliseum days and occasionally call the game. But all’s well there too, I suppose—Scully’s on-field remarks before the game had me in tears before the first pitch was thrown. If I were to see the broadcast, I’d probably be too teary to follow the action, especially if I were forced to pay attention to the score.

Update: Saito has the potential third out at the plate with the score remaining 5-0. Looks like a pretty good Opening Day for the Dodgers.

Any idea how I might be voting in this week's poll?

Okay, so it’s not just opening week here in Los Angeles. Baseball fans across the land are writing down the scores in permanent ink now as the 162-game season finally gets underway. And to celebrate, this week’s poll (unlike last week’s) is a good one: What is the best baseball movie of all time? I have loaded the poll with six titles that are likely to provide some heavy competition, and this time if you vote “Other,” please use the comments column below to mention the title you like, talk about it a bit, complain or crow about how your team is doing so far, or otherwise just commiserate.

One other thing: I was walking through Vons the other day, and here’s this big display of DVDs set out to catch some of the heat of the Opening Week. Among the titles made available were Bull Durham, Eight Men Out, The Jackie Robinson Story, Field of Dreams, The Natural, with a copy of Hoosiers and Like Mike functioning as token nods to the basketballers who are still either clamoring over March Madness or hoping that the Lakers don’t tank like the Mets did last year. But it made me think: For all the mindless blather on sports talk radio about how boring baseball is and how nobody likes it anymore, especially compared to the NFL or the NBA, why don’t we see display cases pop up in September loaded with copies of Any Given Sunday and The Replacements (or that old chestnut North Dallas Forty, for crying out loud)? This tacit commercial acknowledgement that baseball is still the game most people get passionate about is something, I suppose. And the ratio of good baseball movies to good movies about any other sport seems pretty lopsided in favor of, yes, America’s Favorite Pastime too. (Do I sound like I’m trying to start a fight?) Anyway, that little display just kinda sparked me in a funny way, which I’m sure was not its intent—MGM probably does have quite a few backlogged copies of Eight Men Out that they like to put out there this time of year, just to see if any suckers will bite. Whatever. I just like to be reminded that baseball is back, and I’ll take that news in any shape or form.

P.S. Congratulations to Jon Weisman, the big cheese at Dodger Thoughts, on the arrival of his newborn son, and many thanks for directing his readers to my essay about escorting Sergio Leone to his first baseball game. Kevin Roderick at the esteemed and very well read L.A. Observed was kind enough to do the same. Thanks so much, gentlemen. Your links are even better than those bacon-wrapped street dogs they were selling at the Coliseum Saturday night, and those were damn good!

Final score: Dodgers 5, Giants 0. How could the season start off any better than that?

Friday, March 28, 2008


Richard Widmark, who passed away Monday, March 24, from issues related to declining health at the age of 93, was a fixture in my moviegoing universe. He was there from the first moments of my being cognizant of the movies, or seeing them on television, at least. I was probably three or four years old when my mother caught me gazing in horror at our little 15” black-and-white General Electric portable as nasty little Tommy Udo shoved a old woman in a wheelchair down a dark flight of stairs in Kiss of Death. I had just stumbled upon the scene, and of course my mother wouldn’t allow me to see the rest of the movie. But it was one of those searing, defining moments where one either falls in love with the power of the movies or goes spiraling away from them and the horrors they can so vividly represent. Me, I fell in love, though Widmark’s trademark sinister giggle and evil grin remained signpost images and sounds of ambivalence, of repellence and attraction, of not being able to tear my eyes away from things I sometimes felt shouldn’t be hearing or seeing. As I grew up, however, and movies began to gain the resonance and context and historical significance that escaped me as a four-year-old, Widmark simply stood out as one of my favorites, someone who I knew could be counted on to enrage and enrapture me with his scary, cynical and sometimes even sincere portraits of men on the edge in many landmark films noir and westerns. And as he grew older and retired away from the public eye, I liked to think that the man would never die, but just simply recede into the distance and observe us from afar, the way we held true to the standards and the challenges of storytelling set forth in the kinds of films he made for 50-some years, and the way we, the industry, the critics, the audience would inevitably stray the course.

My grandma and several of my relatives met him (and Robert Mitchum and Sally Field and Kirk Douglas) on the set of the 1967 western The Way West, which was shot near their ranch in Christmas Valley, Oregon, and my grandma, who knew how movie-crazed I was even by the age of seven, loved to tell me stories of what they saw on the shoot. She told me many times how different Widmark was from his tough bastard screen image, and how he addressed her with kindness and respect each time their paths crossed. He was often critical, in his retirement, of the excesses and quality of what he saw coming out of modern Hollywood. And though The Way West was not a particularly good picture, few left had the credibility and experience to take the town to task the way Widmark did in the years before his death. One tended to take heed the words of the man who was in Road House, Night and the City, Panic in the Streets, Destination Gobi, Pickup on South Street, Hell and High Water, Broken Lance, The Last Wagon, Two Rode Together, How the West Was Won, Cheyenne Autumn, Madigan and Twilight’s Last Gleaming, to expect that, yes, he just might know a thing or two about movies and what they could be. Though he hadn’t been seen on screen in almost 18 years, just knowing he’s no longer there means we’re one more step isolated from a period of Hollywood history for which there are fewer and fewer living witnesses; he will be missed for that reason, and because he was so damn good at what he did when he was on screen.

(Kim Morgan offers a heartfelt good-bye to Mr. Widmark as well on her MSN Movies Filter site.)

Monday, March 24, 2008


In a real squeaker, Gus Van Sant’s Psycho enjoyed (enjoyed?) a last-minute surge in this week’s polling action to steal the title of Most Repelle-dundant Remake away for Marcus Nispel’s apparently quite reviled revisit to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Out of the 94 votes cast, Psycho (1998) received 45 votes (47%) over TCM’s 44 (46%). Only George Sluzier’s ill-advised trashing of his own movie, The Vanishing (featuring a ending that could only piss off those who appreciated the grim horror that capped the original) came anywhere close to challenging the top two—it managed 38 votes (40%). It was a sharp drop to the 17 votes (18%) picked up by Brian De Palma’s ugly take on Scarface, but Martin Scorsese’s uglier take on Cape Fear was close behind with 15 votes (15%). Michael Haneke’s carbon-copy redux of Funny Games garnered 13 votes (13%), and my favorite of the bunch, Paul Schrader’s remake (rethink) of Cat People, which looked like a favorite early on, petered out with only 11 votes (11%).

This poll coincided with Nathan Lee’s article in the new issue of Film Comment entitled “Let’s Do It Again: Horror Remakes from Psycho to Funny Games. The link takes you only to Film Comment’s web page which does not feature the article online—you gotta buy the magazine to read it. But it’s a worthwhile read if the subject holds any fascination for you at all. Lee has done what I would previously have thought the impossible with his piece—he’s made me curious about Rob Zombie’s Halloween, which I avoided last summer (even though I had a revulsion/intellectual appreciation for The Devil’s Rejects), and he’s made me consider watching Van Sant’s Psycho again. I was one of the many who were put off by what I perceived as the indie director’s perverse performance-art joke, but in his article Lee, who isn’t sure himself if Psycho (1999) was worth doing, has at least made me aware of possible reasons why Van Sant might have felt it was a project worth the trouble of tackling it in the first place:

“Concentrated in Anne Heche’s entrancingly self-conscious turn as (Marion) Crane, Psycho gives off the queerest existential vibe this side of Kaspar Hauser. With its haunted mise-en-scene and awkward doppelgangers, each slotted in its predestined place and barely suppressing, it often seems, the uncanny cognizance of their reincarnated status, Psycho plays like the most expensive trance film ever made.

Remake as mindfuck, the horror film as ontological essay, both pseudo-Warholian gimmick and proto-Gerry conundrum, Psycho teases the brain with squirming semiotic minutiae. Why are the clothing styles less contemporary than the chic duds in Hitchcock’s version? Why follow the letter of the original so closely yet alter, ever so slightly, the letters of Marion’s license plate? What is Van Sant attempting to signify by opting for a prismatic shower curtain in place of the semi-transparent original? The movie fairly demands a companion volume to A Long Hard Look at Psycho, as Raymond Durgnat titled his exhaustive close reading of a text he once praised as ‘a prolonged practical joke in the worst possible taste.’”

An assessment, it sounds, which isn’t far from how many of us perceived the Psycho remake when it came out; practical joking (if a multi-million dollar joke can in any way be termed “practical”) even seems like a possible subtext for Lee’s own perceptions, that apparent pointless tweaking of the license plate being the only cited example out of many. I was entranced by Gerry’s gliding death march, fascinated and repelled by the vision Van Sant brought to Elephant, and drawn in by the half-heard murmuring at the doomed heart of Last Days (I have yet to see Paranoid Park); I wonder if an appreciation of these films will in any way shed light on the director’s motives behind Psycho (1999) and whether my receptivity to that moody triptych will make me more inclined to respond positively to this reviled remake if I should choose to see it again. Sounds like an interesting experiment…

P.S. Lee again, on Michael Haneke’s Americanized Funny Games, just because I think the writing is funny (I have yet to see the new version):

“Haneke’s facile stabs at the spectator (direct address, self-reflexive platitude) were tired in 1997; 10 years and much American atrocity later, we may well deserve a meta-cinematic kick in the nuts, but I’m not convinced Her Epater Glum, Ph.D., is the man for the job…

Funny Games is Hostel for the NPR set, a prolonged practical joke in the best possible taste…
(Nice fold-back on Durgnat! – DC)

…This frame-by-frame exercise generates none of the odd indeterminacy of Psycho, since Van Sant channeling Hitchcock, misguided as it may be, posits at minimum a montage of sensibilities, whereas Haneke doing Haneke is by definition an act of navel-gazing redundancy.”

Redundant. There's that word again.

UPDATE 3/24/08 4:27 p.m. Janet Leigh vs. Anne Heche-- who scrubs up best? I think we probably all know the answer to that question already, but in the spirit of supermarket taste testing, here's an opportunity to see the 1960 and 1998 Psycho shower scenes side by side. See for yourself the degree of Van Sant's fidelity to Hitchcock's seminal horror sequence, and maybe take note of a few more instances of "semiotic minutiae" that drove Nathan Lee crazy. The picture quality isn't the best, but YouTube poster "lewschoen" has put together a fascinating exercise in film study nonetheless.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

HADDA CUPPA BAVA: Four Times That Night and more!

Well, the American Cinematheque’s Mario Bava retrospective “Poems of Love and Death” is now a matter of the past; this evening saw a big triple feature blow out of The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963), Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970) and Caltiki the Immortal Monster (1959) to end this feast of fun and other freak-outs. Time and other commitments prevented from attending any but one night of the festival, and lucky for me it was the one I most wanted to see. I was there this past Friday night for A Bay of Blood (aka Twitch of the Death Nerve, 1971), the movie template from which all slasher films from Black Christmas (1974) forward owe at least a nod of respect. (Sean Cunningham and Friday the 13th owe Bava a lot more than that.) Blood remains a nasty, ironic stunner, and the print we saw Friday night, supplied by producer Alfredo Leone, was a beauty, accentuating all the ripe color schemes and visual tropes of Bava's trickster poetry. (Bava was, as he often was, his own cinematographer on this film.) The movie was introduced by Eli Roth (Hostel, Hostel Part II) who gave the movie its due props, and then introduced actor Brett Halsey, who worked with Mario Bava twice, both times in genres atypical for the director—a western, Roy Colt and Winchester Jack (1970), and a comedy, the night’s second feature, Four Times That Night, the Rashomon-inspired sex farce about four different perspectives on a wild date between Halsey and ex-Miss Italy Daniela Giordano.

This candy-colored absurdity was a real hoot, genuinely erotic, with some good laughs and lots of visual invention, especially for a set-bound bon-bon like this one. Four Times also highlights some nice comic turns by Halsey, Giordano, Valeria Sabel as Giordano’s mother, and Pascale Petit as a goldilocked lesbian who, in one version of the night’s adventure, sets her sights on Giordano. That the fixation goes unconsummated was an audible disappointment for several men and women in the audience. In reference to the movie’s obviously cribbed structure, Roth actually asked Halsey if he and Bava sat around the set discussing Kurosawa, to which the nonplussed Halsey responded in perfect deadpan, “No, not really.” I bumped into Halsey coming out of the men’s room after the show and if I’d had my wits about me I would have asked, was it incredibly maddening doing nude scenes with the super-sensuous Giordano, or was it as much fun as it seemed while watching this surprisingly genial, if slightly overlong, romp? But I suppose I did have my wits about me, for I chose not to ask him yet another dumb question, figuring that Roth had done his duty in that regard for us all. (I did enjoy the director's enthusiasm as a moderator, however.) I’ll be seeing Four Times again soon, as it is the second feature attached to the DVD I have coming from Netflix of the other Bava feature in the series that I very much regret missing, Five Dolls for an August Moon (1970), featuring the breathtaking giallo icon Edwige Fenech. I also regretted missing Planet of the Vampires on the Egyptian’s big screen, but apparently even those in attendance didn’t really get a chance to see it. Apparently the print that the Cinematheque expected to receive was rerouted elsewhere, so they ended up having to use a “digital source” to project the film—a real disappointment, to be sure.

I only know of the snafu because longtime SLIFR reader Mr. Peel, writer and proprietor of the excellent blog Mr. Peel’s Sardine Liqueur told me so. Mr. Peel’s site currently features some excellent readables on Bava, The Young Girls of Rochefort and director Fred Dekker-- in order words, it’s all over the place, kinda like another blog I know… Anyway, I was sitting there thumbing through the new Film Comment waiting for the lights to go down when this gentleman who I’d never met before came up to me and asked me if I was Dennis Cozzalio. Usually this inquiry is followed by the sound of clasping handcuffs, but he looked friendly enough. So I admitted my identity, Mr. Peel identified himself and we had a nice little chat before show time. This was the first time I’d been recognized from this blog (to my knowledge, anyway), and it was a really nice experience, helped immeasurably by the fact that Mr. Peel has been a frequent and friendly commenter here as well as a writer of a fine site of his own. And when I read my e-mails on Saturday, I was surprised to hear from Nate Y. who said he was at the Bava screening Friday and also recognized me, citing the ever-present ball cap as evidence. Nate Y., and anyone else who reads this here journal, if you ever do see me at a screening in the future, I do hope you’ll introduce yourself, as Mr. Peel did. My enormous ego could use the massage!

As a way of saying good-bye to Bava on the big screen here in Los Angeles, I’ve got what I hope will be a special treat for the director's fans. There’s a new site in town, a free high-res video stop-and-shop called Hulu, and among their somewhat meager selection of movies which one can watch in their entirety, for free, there is a Mario Bava title. It may not be of the caliber of Blood and Black Lace or Lisa and the Devil, but it is Bava just the same. So if you have the time to spare, sit back, press play and enjoy, at no charge, this full-length feature starring Vincent Price, Fabian and (watch out!) 1966-vintage Laura Antonelli, the sequel to the AIP smash-hit Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine entitled Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs. (You'll have to hit the link to see the feature-- I tried embedding it, but the code played havoc with the 2.35 aspect ratio, which is preserved when you see the movie directly at the Hulu site. Enjoy!)


(click image to enlarge)

Here's a page from the Los Angeles Times movie page circa 1961 (I don't know whether or not they called it the "Calendar" section back then). The opening of The Innocents at the El Rey is notable (the El Rey still exists; it's now a live performance venue), and there are other interesting things to take in about this picture. But I love that ad for One Two Three, one of my favorite movies, and how it plays upon a rather melancholy image of Billy Wilder holding three balloons. It tells you absolutely nothing about One Two Three-- shouldn't at least one of them be emblazoned with the legend "Yankee Go Home!"? But seen simply as an unusual image, and as evidence of the emerging cult of the director as even recognized by the United Artists marketing whizzes, to say nothing of Andrew Sarris, it's kind of fascinating. Longtime Los Angeles residents will undoubtdly also have another sort of melancholy fun noting how many old theaters listed on this page, including drive-ins, are no longer in existence circa 2008 in this most movie-est of towns.

Friday, March 21, 2008


A few moments, related and unrelated, spent with some of the things of cinema on my mind in the past few days...

First things first: Thanks to all of you who have offered such positive thoughts and support regarding my teaching exam. I got through it on Saturday well enough, I think. I did not, to use Bill’s colorful metaphor, kick it squarely in the balls; in fact, the blow during the science and math section may have been a bit off the mark—if I have to redo any part of the test, it’ll be that part. But the rest was much more solid—I started off with English/History, which went well, surprisingly so did the history part. I actually had a glimmer of a panic attack after answering about 10 questions, but then marshaled my nerve and carried on. At that point I thought about doing the math/science section first. But I’d already started English/History, so I just kept going. I took a little more time that I should have on Math/Science—the multiple choice section was better than the essays here. I could reason through most of the math and come up with an answer that was among those answers offered, so I felt pretty confident. But having to create mathematical expressions in the essays to illustrate how I came to my answers was much tougher than I expected, and I have to say I floundered on those questions. I was behind on the clock when I began the third section, which turned out to be Physical Ed/Theater Arts! Suddenly I was glad I got the other sections done first. As you can imagine, the essay questions in this section came much easier, and having to answer multiple choice questions like “The difference between a theatrical performance and a film is…” was not a mind-bending challenge. So the test ended on an up note at least. I’ll find out my actual grades on April 7, and though I don’t have the sense that I aced it, I still think I did well enough. And if I do have to go back, for Math/Science or even English/History, I’ll know what to expect.

From last year's Mission Tiki opener: Death Proof under the stars...

After I finished the test, I really needed to unwind. First a long nap. Then I took the girls out on what the local weather geniuses assured us was going to be a cold and rainy night to start another drive-in season off at the Mission Tiki Drive-in in Montclair, California. The Mission Tiki is, of course, the hub of activity for the Southern California Drive-in Movie Society, about which I’ll have more to say in a later post. I took my daughters out for a double feature of Horton Hears a Who! and the movie that just won’t go away, Alvin and the Chipmunks. (I will not confess to you, without plying by alcohol, just how many times I’ve seen this film.)

We got to the drive-in late, which on any other Saturday night would have spelled disaster in terms of finding a decent spot on the lot. But since the weather was up till even then still threatening, many folks who would normally be packing the pavement were not out and about. So when we pulled in at 7:00 for a show that started at 7:30, we joined a stalwart band of families, their minivans pointed hatches toward the screen, and settled in. The snack bar was relatively quiet for the same reason, which gave us ample time to treat up and return to the van before the previews started. The night air was chilly, and the sight of the snow-covered San Gabriel Mountains looming behind the drive-in lot was spectacular in the dying sunset. But though it was cold, it did not feel like rain, and the late arrivals that eventually filled the lot must have realized this too. My daughters and I jumped in the back of our van, loaded up with sleeping bags, pillows and blankets, porta-pottie at the ready, and snuggled in for what turned out to be a terrific double feature. After a potent line-up of trailers including Speed Racer, Nim’s Island, Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (in 3-D), Kung Fu Panda and Iron Man (scored, to my eight and five-year-olds’ delight, to the Black Sabbath classic), Horton unspooled and turned out to be a delight. As A.O. Scott observed in his otherwise too dismissive review, Horton breaks the Dr. Seuss movie curse by turning out, unlike the live-action Grinch and Cat in the Hat atrocities, not to be one of the worst movies ever made, but instead an inspired CGI comedy that honors the spirit of the good doctor’s story even as it expands upon it thematically. It was, to our eyes, as good as we could have reasonably hoped, and the laughter from all three of us rung out into the chilly night air for 85 solid minutes. I was less engaged in Alvin, though my girls continue to love it. I settled for reclining back on a pillow and allowing my girls to tuck in on either side of me, watching, laughing and occasionally bursting into choruses of “The Christmas Song” (“We can hardly stand to wait/O Christmas, don’t be late!”). As tempted as I was to stay and see Horton a second time, we packed up and drove home after watching the Speed Racer trailer again (Some have derisively described the preview as looking like the second coming of Tron, which is not a bad thing in my book, though I will admit it does look like a movie that, if it goes bad, will do so painfully.)

The next morning I took the little ladies to breakfast at a diner on Eagle Rock Boulevard in Glendale called Pat and Lorraine’s. A tiny greasy spoon serving ridiculously portioned, delicious, authentically Mexican-influenced early-morning dishes, Pat and Lorraine’s is also famous for being the restaurant where the opening scene of Reservoir Dogs was filmed, the diner where the famous tipping debate took place.

As my young daughters and I walked into the small dining room, I noticed a Reservoir Dogs poster on the wall near the kitchen. Below it there was also a poster for another movie starring film noir icon Lawrence Tierney (who appeared memorably in Reservoir Dogs). It was the one-sheet image for Robert Wise’s nasty 1947 thriller Born to Kill, which my daughters watched with me late one night a couple of weeks before Christmas. We stood waiting near the door for someone in the crowd of young hipsters and Mexican-American families to finish up at a table so we could get seated, and as we did my youngest daughter caught sight of the poster and pointed. “Hey, I saw that movie!” she yelled with excitement. Many of the people in the restaurant looked first at her, then up to the wall where the Reservoir Dogs poster slightly dominated the ad for the older film. I looked sheepishly back as many pairs of eyes met mine with a look of “How could you, you irresponsible bastard?!” bolting out of them like icy knives. I thought of protesting, but then decided to just take the medicine of the misunderstanding. Somehow, I reasoned, it probably wouldn’t have made much difference if I’d defended myself by saying, “No, she didn’t see Reservoir Dogs. She’s talking about seeing Born to Kill!” The delight I took in my daughter responding to an old classic likely would not have translated, so I kept quiet and took my psychic lumps. The huevos rancheros were awesome, however.


In the wake of my oldest daughter’s enthusiasm for Burt Lancaster and Nick Cravat in The Crimson Pirate, I’ve been trying to expand her palate a little bit in the hopes of honing her appreciation for classic films. I bought The Crimson Pirate for her birthday, along with the other Lancaster/Cravat vehicle, The Flame and the Arrow, directed by Jacques Tourneur. We haven’t got to it yet, but I’m sure she’ll love it. Both daughters now know the Star Wars films backward and forward, and they love the 1980 Flash Gordon too. I’m developing a list of movies to show them, include Buster Keaton, Jackie Chan and some screwball comedy of the ‘30s and ‘40s. But I fear I may have inadvertently undermined myself slightly here. In the afterglow of the initial Crimson Pirate screening, I pulled out What’s Up, Doc? (1972), figuring they’ve have a good time with it. They did, and they showed a remarkable patience for what I thought was a bit too clunky and graceless set-up (the first two-thirds of the movie!) for the big slapstick chase finale through the streets of San Francisco. They movie is far patchier than I recalled from having seen it on its release, and despite it being well received it is nowhere near the grace, timing and generally divinity of the movie that inspired it, Bringing Up Baby (1937), not to mention just about any other slapstick screwball comedy of the period. I just wonder if I haven’t done a disservice to the possibility of my girls enjoying Baby by serving up the canned, Color by Deluxe homage first…


When fans and cineastes alike talk about great war movies, certain arguable titles always come up-- All Quiet on the Western Front, They Were Expendable, The Steel Helmet, Paths of Glory, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Das Boot, Saving Private Ryan, The Big Red One, to mention just a few. But one that ought to be on that short list is very rarely mentioned, and it deserves to be. Samuel Fuller, who directed The Big Red One and The Steel Helmet delivered Merrill’s Marauders in 1962, and having just seen it on the big screen recently, I am flummoxed as to why this movie hasn’t a reputation as being one of the best war movies ever made. Built around Jeff Chandler’s raw, sympathetic final performance as the titular Brigadier General Frank Merrill, it showcases Fuller’s idiosyncratic staging and nail-tough editing to full advantage. Merrill leads a group of volunteer soldiers on a brutal endurance test of a mission across Burma, and the movie’s style, lean and crisp to begin with, gets more fevered, off-center and lyrically delirious as the men’s stamina, and their minds, begin to wither. Yet Fuller delivers the goods, as might be said of a great action director, and his stylistic concessions to the dementia and horror of war is never self-conscious; it’s practically subliminal. Merrill’s Marauders also represents some of the best work ever from its prodigious cast of character actors, including Claude Akins, Ty Hardin, Peter Brown and Andrew Duggan. And the movie affects you in ways you may not even be aware of until you start hashing over sequences in your head on the way home. I hope you get a chance to see this on the big screen, but a nicely packaged top-drawer Warner Brothers DVD release would certainly suffice.

UPDATE: 3/31/08 5:44 p.m. Guess what! Yes, it seems to be true. My only reservation is Amazon's listing of the aspect ratio being 1:33:1. I sincerely hope that's just a typo and that Warners have not made a very atypical blunder in releasing Merrill's Marauders cropped. I assure you, the print I saw two months ago was very much glorious 2.35:1. And I also see that Amazon has packaged MM in a deal with another great movie finally showing up on DVD, Andre de Toth's spectacular Day of the Outlaw, with Robert Ryan, Burl Ives and Tina Louise. This is surely one of De Toth's best, and it'd make a fine double bill with Merrill's Marauders, to be sure.


Writers and moviegoers were up in arms last week over the American remake of Michael Haneke’s Funny Games, delivered (or some might say perpetrated) by the director himself. The major question raised for me by the brouhaha is, why would a director who fancies himself an artist be satisfied with simply redoing his own movie without rethinking it? But then the myriad interviews with the director accompanying this new release go a long way toward suggesting that Haneke was bloody satisfied with the motives and methodology of his original movie. By all reports, his reason for the remake is one of positioning his thesis on our tendency to slurp up movie violence with Pavlovian intensity so that the right audience—bloodthirsty, benumbed Americans—would get a chance to ensnare themselves in his contraption. There’s a certain hypocrisy at work here, of course-- Funny Games is the work of a director (one who I've appreciated in the past) who wants to indict the audience for gulping down the tripe he’s dishing out, and any outrage over his methods plays right into his strategy—like any good sadist, he wants you to get pissed off. I wonder, though, how Haneke’s little experiment would play without all those interviews in which the writer sits at the feet of the imperious genius and scribbles down his every comment without much in the way of challenge. Are Haneke’s ideas so sophisticated that we wouldn’t “get it” without his guidance in the press? Or worse, would his movie seem just like a routine meta-shocker amidst far more graphic competition? (Haneke says that if you don’t need this movie, you get up and leave, or you don’t go at all. I’ve seen the 1997 Austrian version, so I’m pretty sure I don’t need this new dub.)

All this puts me in mind of Pauline Kael’s comments in her review of Paul Schrader’s Cat People, a movie I happen to like a lot, but one she found exasperating. She made notice of how Schrader at the time (not so much these days, as the advent of a new Paul Schrader film doesn’t get too many people excited anymore) used print interviews, like the one in Film Comment re Cat People, to orchestrate a response or a reading of the movie, as if he didn’t trust viewers to do it on their own. Kael characterized Schrader as a bit of a huckster, selling a vision of his film in interviews with self-serious film journalists who would accept his Olympian perspective without getting too nitty or gritty about bothersome specifics. Her view, finally, was that Schrader talks such a good movie that the interview becomes the movie that, one way or the other, doesn’t end up on the screen. Haneke’s ideas aren’t all that tricky—it’s pretty obvious what he’s up to, and there have been some pretty fruitful discussions about them as a result. But I wonder if the table isn’t being set a bit too handily for Haneke’s pontifications, designed to lend a certain grave seriousness to what might otherwise be mistaken as a routine post-Kubrickian slice of imperious gamesmanship, the work of a stylist who wants to play God and insist upon his absence at the same time.

That said, Nathan Lee in the new Film Comment, has an article which I have not yet finished on the resurgence of horror remakes. Lee starts off with a few paragraphs on Gus Van Sant’s Psycho that have made me eager to reconsider that movie, a feat I thought would have been impossible in the past. But that was before I saw Gerry

(Meanwhile, the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre seems to be pulling away from the pack in our “Most Repelle-dundant Remake” poll. Voting ends Sunday!)


I love Cyd Charisse. But in the insinuating film noir Tension (1949), directed by John Berry, this incredible icon of kinetic sexuality who is the stuff of erotic daydreams in movies such as The Band Wagon and Singin’ in the Rain, is cast as the good girl love interest who hopes to rescue milquetoast pharmacist Richard Basehart from a mess of his own making. Charisse is given a great introduction in the movie: Basehart spies her as he approaches an apartment building—she’s spread-eagled mid-air, feet holding her between two gate posts as she shoots some photographs. She and Basehart meet cute, he causes some physical calamity involving her lights and equipment, and she jumps down, then jumps back up several times, showcasing those spectacular gams and her incredible, yet delicate athleticism, raising hopes that she’ll be utilized by the film in such a way that will cash in on the come-on of all that jazz. But alas, it is not to be. Instead, the sexual heat comes from an unlikely source—the smoldering, fascinating, almost homely Audrey Totter as Basehart’s cuckolding, gold-digging bitch of a wife. One look at her and you know she’s trouble, like Barbara Stanwyck as Phyllis Dietrichson was trouble, only what Totter lacks in glamour she makes up in sheer aggression. She’s not in the least subtle in her attempts to humiliate Basehart or suck up to her sugar daddy, a shady hulk played by Lloyd Gough—she wants what she wants, and no china-shop etiquette is going to get in the way of her getting it. And damned if she doesn’t sell the sexy after a while too—Totter digs deep and makes you see why someone as initially spineless as Basehart would be enthralled by her. She’s a demonic life force, and when she fixes those gigantic saucer eyes or that curvaceous, almost matronly figure in his direction, it’s comedy and tragedy all in one full-to-bursting package. Audrey Totter is the femme fatale attraction that makes up the primary source of the movie’s tension, and she sells it for all it’s worth. Hers is an iconic performance that never quite slips into the self-parody it sometimes flirts with. She’s a devil, the real thing.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


This afternoon on the local Fox Sports Radio affiliate, 570 am, two of the three hosts of the afternoon “Loose Cannons” program, sportscaster Steve Hartman and ex-Laker Mychal Thompson, were discussing the extramarital trysts recently admitted by horndog Eliot Spitzer's replacement, N.Y. governor David Paterson. Amazed by all the blithe confessions, the third Loose Cannon, Vic “the Brick” Jacobs, piped up with typical incredulity, “What is this, Fellini Satyricon?!”

Congratulations, VTB, for fashioning a retort that absolutely no one who listens regularly to your radio station will ever understand! That’s comedy!


The old man and I have cheap seats. He’s been gone for nearly 20 years now, yet as we settle in I look at him and wonder if he still might be too big to fit in the remodeled little buckets in the top deck. Even if he was alive, even though he would still be interested in all things American, he’d be making movies and maybe he might not give much more than a passing glance at the game. Then again, maybe he might be initially curious, but he wouldn’t know from strikes and balls and strikes and astronomical salaries and steroids, and eventually he’d take his big cigar and lumber away back to the set. Still, as I sit gazing out at the field as the players mill about, stretching, throwing, swinging, getting ready, the crowd still far from filling up the stands on Opening Day, I breathe in all the aromas, good, bad and ugly, that make up the advent of another year at the ballpark, I feel like gambling on his interest. I look over at him defiantly chomping on that cigar—they haven’t allowed smoking in the seats at Dodger Stadium in years-- and I’m glad I have the old man’s undivided attention.

The stogie is part of him, at least as far as I know, the only nod to physicality he still enjoys, and I doubt it’ll be disturbing anyone this day. I try to explain to him the singular joys of hot dogs and beer, but he is clearly disinterested. He wouldn’t have been so blasé 20 years ago, when he could have easily earmarked three or four dogs for death. But not now. He has already settled in and concerned himself with something more ethereal, more spiritual--- this American coliseum, its life, its collective heartbeat. His eyes barely move from the field, taking in its majesty, its epic quality. The gigantic center of gravity that is his abdomen ensures that there is for him precious little difference between leaning forward and leaning back; his interest in the game is not well betrayed by the sight of him perched rather imperially above it, giving little physical indication of being swept up by its fascinations. As the afternoon wafts along at its own lilting pace and the ceremonies of the day begin to give way to the beautiful rituals of the game itself, he leans slightly toward me and grunts occasionally. The game itself begins, and he starts to speak more directly to me than he has since we arrived in the park hours ago, croaking questions and spinning observations and trying to make connections, all in that exaggerated Italian accent that would be laughed off any improv stage as absurdly overwrought. But it is the way he speaks as he begins to understand the structure of the game, to work it out for himself with my help.

As I watch him taking it all in, it’s almost as if I begin seeing the game anew, through his eyes. I am telling him all about each element as it unfolds, yet I cannot hear myself talking. The crowd, before an integral part of the atmosphere so important to grounding his understanding, has all but disappeared from his consciousness, and by extension mine, so focused is he on the lyrical, methodical movement on the field. All sound except what’s happening on the diamond has faded away, becoming a symphony of found noises that could only be heard here. The flapping of the flags in center field. The umpire muttering not to himself, unintelligible. Then a sharp release of air from the pitcher. The first pitch snapping into the catcher’s leather—strike one. The grunt of the catcher as the ball sails back from home to the pitcher, whose own glove snaps back as he catches it. The pitcher’s cleats shuffle on the rubber, catching red clay on the toes as he pushes off and delivers. The old man notices how the ball starts on one plane then dives down underneath the bat. The batter, fooled, swings and misses, the cut air ringing like it had been separated by a scythe. The catcher, who knew right where the ball was going, takes it in with ease. The old man hears the batter as he takes two steps out of the box, rubs his cleats in the dirt, takes a practice swing and steps back in. The tap-tap-tap of wood on hard plastic as the batter gives his helmet three knocks, the first obsessive-compulsive ritual of many the old man will witness today. Another hard expulsion of air from the pitcher. The ball sails toward the plate and is met with a hard crack of pine which drives it into center field.

The crowd is cheering, but the old man can’t hear it, and neither can I. We can only hear the grunting of the runner, the furious displacement of infield earth as his cleats kick up damp clouds and he makes the turn toward second. The throw comes in from center field toward second base, and the runner beats it there by a microsecond. The second baseman holds the ball up, pleading silently with the umpire, but to no avail. The hard breathing of the runner, on his back and now moving to his feet, is eclipsed by the loud bark of “Safe!” from the hefty man in the short black shirt. The sounds of this one play, separated from all the ambient noise that we should be hearing, have created a symphony of sorts, a gathering of organic noise that fits together for the old man, giving him a vivid picture, a bolt of feeling of what it all might mean, in much that same way that he once opened one of his movies, the insistent noises of a “quiet” railroad station that created a sense of dread and told a story of the film’s landscape without ever saying a word.

We continue all that afternoon blissful hostages to the game. Once he becomes more grounded in the basic rules, he begins to inquire about of the ins and outs and oddities—in between pitches I explained such strategic intricacies as tagging up, sacrifice flies and bunts, and even eventually, when the action called for it, the infield fly rule. With a runner on first and second base during the seventh inning of play, the batter pops up an infield fly. The old man is understandably confused when the umpire calls the batter out even before the ball is caught. I try to explain that the umpire is making a judgment about the effort it might take to catch the ball, that unexceptional effort would be enough, and if he deems the ball catchable under those circumstances the infield fly rule is invoked. The ball is in fact eventually caught on the outfield grass, and the old man becomes even more flustered, waving his arms in disbelief. How can an infield fly rule be invoked when the ball travels into the outfield? I try to explain that the rule is the province of the umpire, which makes no sense to him. A judgment call in a game of numbers and inches? But look, I press on, the rule is basically designed to keep crafty infielders from intentionally dropping easy flies, drawing runners off base and creating easy double and even triple plays. With the infield fly rule, the runners on first and second can still tag if they so choose, but with the batter automatically being called out the inevitability of a force play on the runners is removed.

Photo courtesy of Fritz Roberson

He looks at me like I’m crazy. The old man has come to see, in this accelerated afternoon, a microcosm of the world on the field, in its orderly procedures and open-ended framework, a game that takes as long as it takes to play out to the end, sometimes nine innings, sometimes more. Does not the infield fly rule negate some of the possibility of unpredictability in a game that otherwise thrives on it, a game where any number of things can happen in any given moment, despite its apparently rigorous structure? If Tuco can shoot intruders with a gun half-submerged in a filthy bathtub, then why cannot a shortstop pretend to bobble a ball and lure a runner into a trap? The old man misses the opportunity for confrontation, for deception, for theater in the infielder selling his moment of ineptitude and turning it into a dazzling play for the crowd. I try to imagine one of his films without the dizzying highs of operatic style that send my emotions into the stratosphere, the inspired leaps of imagination that make every man’s face a landscape of the forgotten West and every street seem half a mile wide. And I think maybe he’s right.

Here is a man who has created some of the wildest, most passionate moments of revisionist American mythology I have ever seen, someone who I have brought here today, against all laws of spirit and metaphysics and religious belief and what have you, to introduce him to something as meaningful to me as his own films, and he has given me pause about an aspect of the this game I consider, in the essence, to be near perfect. He shakes his head as play continues, more caught up than he ever thought possible before the first pitch was thrown, enthralled at the beauty of the game and riled by its seeming inconsistencies. He has come to view baseball with a love tempered by fury and passion and a critic’s eye, in much the same way he always viewed this country in his films. I imagine how much different the game would be if my friend, the old man, were alive, if he were allowed to examine it the way he did that other great American institution, the one that was never so purely American as is baseball, the Western. I imagine him down on the field calling balls and strikes and close plays at the plate. I imagine him a boisterous commissioner of baseball, leading a campaign to convince owners and players to exorcise the game of its vices and demons and silly rules. I imagine him bursting out of the dugout, a raging bull of a manager to make Vesuvian countryman Lou Piniella look sedate and measured. He’s a natural.

As the crowd begins to file out on this opening day, I realize the man sitting next to me looks nothing like I thought he did when I first sat down. He is no giant bear; he is a smallish, youngish man, and he sits quietly with his wife, both of them attached to earpieces piping the precious sounds of Vin Scully into their brains. Maybe the old man was right; maybe I am crazy. I look around for him, but he’s nowhere. Nowhere except where he probably always was. And that’s good news for me, I guess. Baseball has always tended to bring out my susceptibility to bliss, and somehow, on this beautiful April day, so many years after his death, the old man, reaching back through my cluttered perceptions of his own legend, has managed to give me a final gift. He has allowed me an opportunity to give something back, to reciprocate joy to the architect of so many of my own most treasured cinematic moments, to communicate the essence of something I love and show me how to see it through his eyes, in Super Panavision, of course. On this day the field at Dodger Stadium is as glorious as ever, yet somehow different. If I squint through the rays of the setting sun, I can almost see Angel Eyes at third, Blondie at second and Tuco at first, all holding down on each other, replaying that graveyard showdown across waves of heated grass, once upon a time around the horn. Ennio Morricone is faintly echoing behind the strains of Nancy Bea Hefley’s organ on the P.A. system. As I get up out of my seat I start to smile, and I know I’ll never be able to explain to anyone exactly why. Sergio Leone and I argued about the infield fly rule together today. What game, what film could ever match that?


For better or worse, this little fantasia was inspired by a comment left on this blog nearly two years ago from a reader who goes by the name “Herecreepwretch.” The topic under discussion at the time was whether or not I would change the name of this blog. Herecreepwretch made a case that for keeping it that I found compelling. Here’s what he said:

“I would simply like to concur with everyone who thinks the name change is unnecessary. The name reminds me of the long poem "Baseball," by our new poet laureate, Donald Hall. The poem opens by imagining what it would be like to sit in Fenway with the German modernist collage-maker Kurt Schwitters and explain the rules and spirit of the national pastime to him. It then wanders in a kind of stream-of-consciousness collage of materials from the poet's life for nine "innings" without ever accomplishing its express purpose - and not worrying much about its lack of accomplishment.

This is what the title of your blog evoked when I first read it: a film buff sitting in the stands of Dodger Stadium explaining the arcane aspects of the game to his favorite director of spaghetti Westerns.

It's perfect. Don't change a thing.”

Needless to say, I took the advice of Herecreepwretch and everyone else. Every once in a while someone unrelated to this episode says or writes something about how much they like the title of the blog, and I realize all over again how fortunate I am that I didn’t go and tinker needlessly with it. But that image of sitting in the stands with a mildly perplexed Sergio Leone, who I imagined would grow increasingly fascinated with the game the more he understood it, really stuck with me. I felt like honoring the idea somehow, but I never seemed to get around to it.

The Super Siren of Cinebeats: Kimberly Lindbergs

Then, late last year my good pal and blogger extraordinaire Kimberly Lindbergs sent me an e-mail with an attachment. She had been goofing around one weekend and decided to create an image based on the idea of Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule. The image she came up with, the poncho-laden Man with No Name sporting a fielder’s glove rather than a pistol, was so irresistible that I immediately had it made up into business cards. Then, out of the kindness of her heart, Kimberly asked me if I’d ever considered messing with the design of my blog. And since it was coming up on three years of the same green Blogger-sanctioned style, I had to admit that a nice change did sound pretty attractive. But I was too computer illiterate to try anything on my own and scared shitless over the idea besides. So Kimberly volunteered to work up some ideas and implement the changes for me, all on her own time during a Christmas holiday that was probably busier and more stressful than expected. We went back and forth on some details, and I solicited the opinions of some trusted friends about how it was all coming together. Kimberly brilliantly mocked up the Fistful of Dollars style of the film’s logo for my blog title, and she enlisted mutual pal and commenter nonpareil Jonathan Lapper to answer some template-related questions.

At the same time, my oldest cyberpal Peet Gelderblom contributed what was for many the crowning touch to the excellent revisionist approach to this site’s look that you see today, the crumpled, weathered wanted-poster look of the header image. Between the three of them, they turned a very ordinary looking blog into what I think is a small masterpiece of design.

Two fine specimens: Gelderblom (L) and Lapper (R)

I love the look, the color scheme, even the fonts of the new page. It has revitalized not only the look of the blog, but it has also helped revitalize my desire to write, after a full year of pumping out 5,000-word papers for my teaching classes that had the audacity to have nothing to do with the movies. So this whole post, and this tribute specifically, is my way of saying thank you to this three inspired, faithful individuals who have really gone out of their way to help me make this page an attractive place to want to come and hang out. Kimberly, Peet, Jonathan, I really appreciate everything you three have done for SLIFR, through your talents with graphic design and templates and your continued presence as writers and lovers of film.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


As I expected, it's been pretty quiet post-wise around the ranch this week, and not much in the way of taking in cinema either, as I've had to devote every spare minute to studying for my teaching exam, which is happening Saturday morning. I expect to celebrate the passing of my test (how's that for optimism?) by taking the daughters out to the Mission Tiki for their first-of-the-season drive-in double feature, Horton Hears a Who (which I hear does not manhandle the Seuss legacy in the manner of The Grinch or the patently offensive Cat in the Hat) plus co-hit (sigh) Alvin and the Chipmunks. A good time is sure to be had by all, and I, of course, will file a report.

Faced with the prospects of a rather dry weekend of cinema, especially compared to last week's, how nice then to receive an e-mail from Peet Gelderblom which had attached to it a YouTube clip for a song by one Missy Higgins, whom I had never heard of before this day. Peet briefly explains:

"I keep thinking of you... when playing this song, probably because
it sounds from something out of a forgotten Western. It's probably
the most played song on my iPod nowadays, and the girl who sings it
is something of a genius."

I have no idea how much cachet Missy Higgins carries with music critics or how many albums she's sold. But I do know that Peet was right when he suspected I might tune straight into this simple, emotionally complex performance of what Higgins herself describes, with a bracing lack of hyperbole, as "an apology letter from a man to his family." On the evidence of "Forgive Me," Higgins can tell a story with a masterful, elliptical touch that would well suit the ephemeral forgotten Western of which Peet speaks, grounding it in just enough of the personal to resonate with those of us who have, on occasion, needed forgiveness, as well as those of us who have been asked for it. I can even imagine "Forgive Me," or a tune very much like it, floating through the broken, post-apocalyptic landscape of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, and certainly the film currently being made of it by director John Hillcoat, who also shot the painful canvases of The Proposition. For now, Missy Higgins in a solo acoustic performance that will take you and me into the weekend here at SLIFR. Thanks, Peet, for the tune and for thinking of me.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Just a heads-up that friend and rising independent filmmaker Lucas McNelly will be making an appearance tonight on Blog Talk Radio, a division of BlogCritics magazine, to discuss his film gravida, The Now Film Festival and the state of independent film in general. Lucas says he’s been told his segment begins at 9:40 pm. If you click on the Blog Talk Radio link it will make adjustments for whatever time zone you happen to be in. Lucas is sharp, funny, knowledgeable and, as important as any of these, a wicked combination of ambitious and self-effacing, so hearing him talk should be lots of fun. Tune in, won’t you?

UPDATE March 12 2:20 p.m.: Due to overbooking, Lucas has been rescheduled on Blog Talk Radio. Look for him on March 19 instead, and check this post for any further changes.

Friday, March 07, 2008

HOLY BIG SCREEN! To Live and Watch in L.A.

I like to watch...

Yawn. There’s always so much talk in the Los Angeles Times and the trade papers about how the early months of the year are no longer considered a graveyard in which to dump feature films with unlikely prospects at either quality or stellar box-office performance. But when I look at the slate of movies released so far in 2008, I can’t seem... to… stifle that… yaaaaaawn. pictures like Jumper, Fool’s Gold, Mad Money, The Spiderwick Chronicles, Charlie Bartlett, Definitely Maybe, Vantage Point and the upcoming 10,000 B.C., the first in what one supposes will be an annual attempt (at least for a year or so) to duplicate the success of 300, which opened the first week of March last year, just aren’t goosing me to get out to a theater. (Though when trapped with it at a drive-in, Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins proved a welcome surprise, and U2 3D remains the best of this early year so far.)

I do have high hopes for Roger Donaldson’s The Bank Job-- that movie and Stephen Chow’s CJ7 open in limited release this Friday. But a look at the CJ7 trailer suggests less of the brilliant madness of Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle and more of the retro knockoff sensibility of something like Mac and Me. (The first review I read, from The Hollywood Reporter, seems to indicate my preconception might not be too far off base. But then, no sooner than I wrote the previous sentence, here come Armond White and Ella Taylor to make me reconsider.)

How nice, then, not to have to be a slave to the release schedule of the Hollywood majors (and their classics divisions). To live in Los Angeles is to be privy to a boatload of special screening opportunities that have nothing to do with weekend box office projections, and even the revival theater scene is not quite as barren as it used to be. The month of March alone provides so many different chances to see great movies on the big screen, and at least one new movie of particular interest to fans of the Hollywood musical, that instead of all that time wasted carping about the dearth of things to see in theaters, I can now replace it by muttering to myself about all the stuff I can’t possibly get out to see. Just four venues in the month of March have made me glad I’m still here in the city where, as Marion Cotillard would have it, angels really do exist. Now if only some of them would help me be in two, or sometimes three places at once, I could stop worrying about there being so much too see during this early month of Spring on Los Angeles specialty screens.

Let’s start with the American Cinematheque at the Egyptian. Tomorrow begins a week with both the Oscar nominated live-action and animated short films. The complete program of five films in each series runs once each night, live action at 7:30 p.m., animation at 10:00 pm. (The first night takes place in the big Rigler auditorium, and subsequent nights the shorts will screen in the small Spielberg theater.) Films in the live-action series include At Night (Denmark, 40m.), The Substitute (Italy, 17m.), Tanghi Argenti (Belgium, 13m.,), The Tonto Woman (UK, 36m.) and the winner of the award, Le Mozart des Pickpockets (The Mozart of Pickpockets), (France, 31 m). The animated shorts program consists of I Met the Walrus (Canada, 5m.), Madame Tutli-Putli ( Canada, 17m.), Even Pigeons Go to Heaven (France, 9m.), My Love (Russia, 27m.), and the Oscar-winning Peter and the Wolf (UK/Poland, 27m).

One wishes San Francisco Chronicle film critic Mick La Salle were in town this weekend, as the Egyptian will feature 2001: A Space Odyssey Friday through Sunday in a fairly rare (for the age of DVD) 70mm screening. But then, after finally seeing it on DVD, seeing it all blown up and big like that would probably just feel like going through the motions for this particular critic.

Then the Egyptian unleashes the big one on March 13. MARIO BAVA: POEMS OF LOVE AND DEATH for 10 days Mar 13-23. Of course, no retrospective of a filmmaker as prolific as Bava can be anywhere near complete, but I think the Cinematheque has done a good job of providing both a representative cross-section for those less familiar with his movies as well as satisfying the cravings of the true Bava-ite. It starts next Thursday with a great introductory double bill of the uncut European version of Bava’s seminal witchcraft thriller Black Sunday (1960) starring the perforated Barbara Steele, paired with Boris Karloff in Bava’s trilogy of terror known as Black Sabbath (also seen in its uncut European version). This screening will be introduced by director Joe Dante who, as you probably know, has more than a passing familiarity with and love for Bava’s work.

The following Friday, March 14, features the incredible doubling of Five Dolls for an August Moon (1970), starring giallo queen Edwige Fenech, and 1964’s Blood and Black Lace with Cameron Mitchell and Eva Bartok. The Cinematheque warns that both films will appear with English dubbing, but since this is how most of us who have seen on or both of them are used to seeing them, this shouldn’t come as too much of a shock.

Saturday brings Elke Sommer* to the screen for two Bava classics—the original version of Lisa and the Devil (1972) (known to American horror fans and those who may have seen Annie Hall as House of Exorcism) and Baron Blood (1972), co-starring Joseph Cotton as the titular bloodthirsty aristocrat. But that’s not all. Not only is it a Sommer double feature, but Elke Sommer will be at the Egyptian in the flesh for a brief Q-and-A moderated by Joe Dante! (*UPDATE: Reader Mr. Peel informs me that Elke Sommer has had to cancel her appearance. But if Sommer must be subtracted from the festival, then the Cinematheque has at least added to the list of personal appearances by securing the participation of producer Alfredo Leone.)

The first weekend concludes on March 16 with the rarely seen psychological thriller Kidnapped (1974) (aka Rabid Dogs), presented in Italian with English subtitles, and Shock (1979) (aka Beyond the Door II), the director’s last film (co-directed with his son Lamberto) and starring Deep Red’s Daria Nicolodi. This is one I passed on seeing at a drive-in when I was a young punk, and I would trade all the crappy Italian Exorcist knock-offs I did see to have caught this one. According to the press notes, Shock contains “some of the director’s scariest, most impressive effects.”

Speaking of impressive effects, the second week of the Bava retrospective kicks off with one of the movies’ most brilliant demonstrations of inspiration and quality on a shoestring budget. I will not miss the opportunity to see, on the Egyptian’s giant wide screen, Mario Bava’s formally astounding Planet of the Vampires (1966). This movie is a genuine creepfest full of genius-level cinematography and shadowy, nightmarish suggestiveness worthy of Val Lewton. This is the restored uncut version, in English, featuring the original Italian score. And it’s on a double bill with Bava’s brilliant pop explosion Danger: Diabolik (1967). The evening will be unhosted, and I only wish that the Cinematheque could have sprung for a plane ticket to get Tim Lucas, author of the definitive and masterful Bava biography All the Colors of the Dark to come out for this event, and this screening in particular. Alas, they did not, so you’ll just have to settle for Tim’s keen audio commentary with John Phillip Law on the Danger: Diabolik DVD.

Friday, March 21, brings my favorite Bava film to the Egyptian, the highly influential (for better and for worse) A Bay of Blood (1971) (aka Twitch of the Death Nerve), which many believe provided the template for the bold and bloody Gialli of the ‘70s as well as the Friday the 13th series and the endless subsequent knockoffs that appeared in its wake. Bava’s visual intelligence and crypt-cold sense of humor provides one of the many differences between dis and dem however, and the movie is consistently scary and shocking throughout. To quote Tim Lucas: “Unreels like a macabre, ironic joke… an Elizabethan tragedy as Tex Avery might have written.” Yes! Its partner on the bill is Four Times That Night (1972), described as a sex-comedy version of Rashomon, which seems to spell departure for Bava in myriad ways. I remember Kimberly Lindbergs recommending this one way back when, and now’s the big opportunity to take her up on it. A Bay of Blood is in dubbed English; Four Times One Night is in Italian with English subtitles, and the evening will be introduced by Eli Roth.

Saturday, March 22, sees the presentation of Bava’s controversial and heavily censored The Whip and the Body (1963) starring Christopher Lee and Daliah Lavi, coupled with 1966’s Kill, Baby, Kill. According to the Cinematheque’s calendar notes, the intense Gothic Kill, Baby, Kill “brings together many of Bava’s major themes: a vengeful murdered child who returns from the grave and a village blighted by its own ignorance. One of the most atmospheric, effective ghost stories ever. At times, it assumes the hypnotic complexities of an M.C. Escher drawing.” The evening will be introduced by director Ernest Dickerson (Bones, The Wire).

And let it never be said the Cinematheque doesn’t know how to either throw or end a party. The big finale of Mario Bava: Poems of Love and Death comes Sunday, March 23, with a huge triple bill. Things kick off at 6:00 p.m. with The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963) (Note to Mike Gilbert: John Saxon!). Immediately following, in Italian with English subtitles, is Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970). And the evening ends with Caltki the Immortal Monster), a giant blob movie Bava took over from another director but which belies few of the “for-hire” earmarks a hack might have brought to the party; Bava fashions this strange (for him) subject matter in a typical festival of style and blunt shocks. Caltiki, not available on DVD, is being screened in English from a digital video source, and the triple feature will be introduced by actor Dante DiPaolo.

But lest one thing Bava is all at the Cinematheque this month, there’s music as well. March 17 you can see All You Need is Cash (1978), the hilarious Rutles mockumentary, and you can see it in the company of actual Rutles Eric Idle, Neil Innes and Ricky Fataar! Take that, Spinal Tap! And on March 19 director Mark McLaughlin and guest Shirley Jones premiere McLaughlin’s new documentary feature Hollywood Singing and Dancing, presumably a fresh take on the That’s Entertainment! format. Hollywood also screens at the Aero on March 26 as an introduction to their Musicals series which runs Mar. 27-30. Featured double features include Cabaret and All That Jazz, Singin’ in the Rain and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Show Boat and Carousel, and, on its own, Hello, Dolly!

Finally, the Egyptian will honor the memory of recently deceased actor Brad Renfro with a memorial screening of film Bully (2001), with director Larry Clark in person participating in a discussion about Renfro and the film. And the 10th anniversary of the release of The Big Lebowski (1998) will be recognized on March 29. No word as to any personal appearances, but one could always smuggle in a Caucasian or two.


Speaking of the Aero, I just got out of one of the greatest double features of all time, at least in my book. As part of their “Heist Films” series, tonight (March 6) the Aero paired up four of Walter Matthau’s finest hours, and two of my favorite films-- Charley Varrick (1973, directed by Don Siegel) and The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974). As I wrote back in 2006, “Charley Varrick, surely a masterpiece of sun-bleached, Technicolor film noir, has the desert, its prickliness, its fever, its dusty insistence, in its blood and its soul. The chill of the nighttime shadow of its influence and its reputation is only likely to grow longer, deeper, more resonant as each year passes and each new hotshot director tries to outdo the kind of terse, economical style in which its playfully perverse and formally profound pleasures are rooted.” Surely seeing it on the big screen for the very first time did nothing to dissipate the movie’s grimy, hard-as-nails pleasures. And it was a bittersweet delight to see Michael Butler’s camera treat the late Sheree North with as much sensitivity to her loveliness as Siegel gives to her prickly and tough comedic cameo appearance.

It was my first time seeing Pelham on the big screen too, and with a receptive audience (which included Hector Elizondo, who played the psychopathic Mr. Grey) that was wide open to the acerbic humor which runs like the I.R.T. through the screenplay written by Peter Stone (Charade). This is, with Dog Day Afternoon and Taxi Driver, one of the best of the ‘70s New York pictures, documenting and showcasing the city during a particularly rough, economically uncertain period of its existence, and it literally pops off the screen with a crude vitality that makes its teeming humanity seem simultaneously repellent and seductive. Of course, Pelham is much more of a “pure” entertainment than either of those other movies, but no less valuable, I think, because of that.

The movie is also a virtual workshop in great character acting, with peak turns from Matthau, Elizondo, Robert Shaw, Martin Balsam, Doris Roberts, Jerry Stiller, the late and irreplaceable Tom Pedi, the equally late and irreplaceable Kenneth McMillan, and the equally late, irreplaceable and irascibly brilliant Dick O’Neill. O’Neill got the biggest rise out of the audience at the Aero tonight as the put-upon coordinator of the railway system under siege by the four hijackers. At one point early on he shakes his head at Matthau’s attempts, as the head of the transit police, to negotiate with the hijacker’s leader, played by Shaw. “Boy, I never thought I'd see the day when talking to murderers took priority over running a railroad,” exclaims O’Neil, walking past in a huff. “Get off it, will you, Frank?” shoots Matthau back. “My only priority is saving the lives of these passengers.” And without a breath O’Neill pops off: “Screw the goddamn passengers! What the hell did they expect for their lousy 35 cents - to live forever?” The Taking of Pelham One Two Three is brutal, kinetic and funny as hell, and as David Shire’s pounding Schifrin-esque theme music pounded over the end credits I thought of the upcoming remake starring Denzel Washington (Matthau) and John Travolta (Shaw), directed by Tony Scott, and thought to myself, “God, I feel lucky to have been here tonight.”

Speaking of that music, how could you not expect greatness after these opening credits with this superb, hard-hitting, quintessentially '70s score by David Shire?

Annoying sidebar: Purists, I apologize. I know that Dirty Harry is not playing this month anywhere in Los Angeles (at least not that I'm aware of) and is therefore not technically germane to the theme I'm working on here. But all this talk of Siegel and Varrick and Schifrin and Pelham and Shire gave me a major jones to see and hear the first five minutes of this classic Siegel/Eastwood collaboration again. This may be my favorite opening credit sequence ever, what with all of its lean, subtly muscular lateral camera movement (in Panavision), narrow depth-of-field close-ups and, of course, Schifrin's insistent, stylistically seminal theme. Mission: Impossible may be more instantly hummable, but for my money this is Schifrin's best, most intricate and complex score. Can you press "play" and not instantly want to sit through the rest of the movie? This is the opening movement of Dirty Harry...

The Aero’s “Heist Films” series continues tonight with another of my favorites, the original The Italian Job (1969) with Who’s Minding the Mint? (1967), and The Killing (1956) with The Asphalt Jungle (1950) on March 8, with a special appearance by The Killling’s Colleen Gray.

I hadn't been to the Aero since the Cinematheque took it over (it's been about 20 years since I ventured over to Montana Avenue in Santa Monica for a feature film) and the theater, I'm happy to say, has been exceptionally well remodeled. Technically, it's a delight. And actually, the Aero is a treasure chest of great movie experiences all through March too. March 13-15 you can get a crash course in the sublime greatness of Satyajit Ray when the theater screens all three parts of The Apu Trilogy: March 13 brings Pather Panchali (1955) and the following night, March 14, it’s Aparajito (1956) and The World of Apu (1958). But that’s not all. A rarely screened double feature of The Music Room (1958) and Charulata (1964) touches down on March 15. Of The Music Room, the Cinematheque notes say that the film “ranks with Visconti’s The Leopard and Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons as a double-edged elegy for a dying upper-class world.” I have never had the chance to see The Music Room or Charulata, and I hope I don’t miss them this time around. If you’ve never seen Ray, this is an excellent opportunity to start right and immerse yourself in the director’s deft, gracious filmmaking.

And yet another director gets the spotlight at the Aero this month. Fans of George Stevens will get to see some of his best movies Mar 20-23. TCM is great and all, but the chance to see big-screen double features of Alice Adams (1935) and I Remember Mama (1948) on March 20, Shane (1953) and A Place in the Sun (1951) on March 21 beat the hell out of even the best 70-inch flat-panel Toshiba. And that goes double for Giant (1956) on March 22 and Stevens’ all-star treatment of the life of Christ, in town for Easter Sunday, March 23, The Greatest Story Ever Told (1966). This is the one with Max von Sydow as Jesus and John Wayne in an off-screen cameo as a Roman centurion intoning, “Truly, this man was the Son of God.” Here’s the trailer (and note the blurb which breathlessly predicts that this one "may run for 40 years!" I saw this in a theater when I was seven years old, and it certainly felt like it ran for 40 years...):


And speaking of special screening series, how about this one for special? The UCLA Film and Television Archive is heading up a series to extend through March and April highlighting the work of one of the pre-CGI greats of special effects, L.W Abbott. If you are of a certain age (like me), Abbott is probably directly or indirectly responsible for some of the most awe-inspiring images you ever saw in a movie theater, and maybe even one of two of your most indelible nightmares as well. Abbott started in the film business as an assistant cameraman on no less than Sunrise, ended as a consultant on the physical effects for 1941, and spent some of the multitude of years in between, for 1957 to 1972, as the head of 20th Century Fox’s special photographic effects department. The series, entitled “Wire, Tape, and Rubber Band Style: The Effects of L.B. Abbott”, is an unbelievable gathering of amazing imagery (and occasional patches of some clunky dialogue, if I remember correctly) that effectively illustrates the great talent Abbott summoned to create some of the most spectacular sequences in movies during the 60s and 70s. Here’s the schedule:

Friday March 7 A brand-new 35-mm print of Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959) directed by Henry Levin and starring James Mason, Pat Boone and Arlene Dahl, alongside Robert Wise’s estimable science fiction classic The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) starring Michael Rennie, Patricia O’ Neal and Hugh Marlowe. (Program begins at 7:30 p.m.)

Saturday March 8 Richard Fleischer’s adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s Fantastic Voyage (1966) starring Stephen Boyd, Raquel Welch and Donald Pleasance, teamed up with a spiffy new print of Irwin Allen’s The Lost World (1960) featuring Michael Rennie, Jill St. John and David Hedison. (Program begins at 7:30 p.m.)

Wednesday March 12 The original version of The Fly (1958) directed by Kurt Neumann and starring Al Hedison, Patricia Owens, Vincent Price and written by James Clavell (!), the first of a keen double bill that gets filled out by Anatole Litvak’s The Snake Pit (1948) with Olivia De Havilland, Mark Stevens and Leo Genn. According to the UCLA notes, “Abbott's crucial contribution to the film literalizes the metaphor of its title, powerfully connecting us to the tormented subjectivity of Olivia de Havilland's suffering hospital patient.” (Program begins at 7:30 p.m.)

Sunday March 16 You knew it was coming. Irwin Allen’s production of The Poseidon Adventure (1972), directed by Ronald Neame, featured state-of-the-art photographic and mechanical effects work by Abbott and A.D. Flowers. They capsized quite a cast too, including Gene Hackman, Shelley Winters, Stella Stevens and Ernest Borgnine. This should be great fun to see on the big screen again. UCLA fills out the bill with a new print of Allen’s directorial effort Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1960), starring Walter Pidgeon and Barbara Eden, which of course provided the template for the hit TV series. (Program begins at 7:00 p.m.)

Friday March 21 It’s Abbott in tandem with Richard Fleischer again for the director’s nerve-racking, true-life police procedural The Boston Strangler (1968), which Abbott animates with extensive split-screen imagery that taps into a city’s fear and paranoia and the viewer’s increasing claustrophobia as the web of the law tightens in on the Strangler. Starring Henry Fonda and Tony Curtis. (Program starts at 7:30 p.m.)

Saturday March 22 The second of Allen’s definitive contributions to the disaster genre, The Towering Inferno (1975), gets a rare big-screen outing. Abbott is the one who created a believable San Francisco skyline that included the 138-story behemoth of the film’s title, as well as every shot that made you believe the building existed and was actually burning down. This is, as they used to say, “the big one.” How big you ask? It’s so big it took two directors to bring it to the screen—Allen handled the action sequences, while John Guillermin (King Kong) handled the flesh and blood. (Programs starts at 7:30 p.m.)

Lest ye not be sufficiently "fired up" for The Towering Inferno, here's the opening credits (thanks for the tip, Sal!) featuring what is probably the genre's best score courtesy of John Williams.

Saturday March 29 Presented in 70mm, it’s Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s legendary (for all the right and wrong reasons) Cleopatra (1963). According to UCLA’s notes, Abbott worked closely with Emil Kosa Jr., who won an Oscar for special photographic effects, and “contributed extensively to the burning of the library at Alexandria and Battle of Actium sequences, following, as he wrote, Fox studio head Darryl F. Zanuck's dictum, "if you talk about something in a film, you must show it." Show it Cleopatra most definitely does, starring Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Rex Harrison. This one rarely gets the big screen these days, especially not in 70mm. (The 243-minute program is a matinee that begins at 2:00 p.m.)


So, with all that good stuff available in special screenings, what’s up at the revival houses? March, it turns out, is a very good month in which to ask. Just a sampling of what the New Beverly has in store ought to be enough to cause you to bookmark their site and check it with religious regularity.

Tonight, for example, is the closing night of a fine Ozu double bill (more on him later), The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice (1952) and Tokyo Story (1953). For your money, there may be no better double feature shown the entire month than this one. (Okay, maybe Charley Varrick and Pelham!) Then the day changes and another great director gets his due: Ernst Lubitsch’s unbeatable comic masterpiece Trouble In Paradise (1932) shows up with One Hour with You (1932), just about all the evidence you’ll ever need (as if you needed any more) that what passes for romantic comedy these days is often just a load of cold fish. Shifting gears for another great double bill, March 9-10 sees The Searchers (1956) unspool with Rio Bravo (1959), ecstasy for fans of great westerns featuring two Wayne classics that couldn’t be more different in tone and temperament. And since we seem to be locked into looking for double bills linked by directors or stars, March 31-April 2 should find fans of Wes Anderson throwing bouquets-- The Darjeeling Limited (2007) plays with The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) on those dates. Paddy Chayefsky unites the house on April 3-5 (if you can imagine Chayefsky uniting anything) with two of his angriest from the ‘70s, The Hospital (1972) directed by Arthur Hiller, and Network (1976), directed by Sidney Lumet.

Music, rather than social outrage, is the unifying force of two other interesting doubles in March at the New Beverly. First there’s Across the Universe (2007) paired with A Hard Day’s Night (1964) March 16-18, presumably to provide some context for the Beatles songs all those teenage girls loved in ATU. And then opera meets jazz March 26-28 with a double feature of the recently re-released Diva (1982) on tap with the Chet Baker documentary Let’s Get Lost (1988).

Finally, a word about some New Beverly specialties. Brian Quinn and Eric Caidin’s Grindhouse Film Festival nights at the New Beverly. These guys having been putting together some pretty great Tuesday night programs for a long while now, and now they doing weekend midnight movies too. You can get the entire skinny here. Coming Match 11, a great, grimy 42nd-Street style double bill-- Ms.. 45 (1981) directed by Abel Ferrara, and Alley Cat (1984) from director Edward Victor.

Also, Amoeba Records and Phil Blankenship have brought Midnight Movies back to the New Beverly. You can get the whole scoop here, but I wanted to point out one favorite that is on its way in March. Tobe Hooper, director of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, is often thought of as a one-trick pony (two tricks if you count TCM2). But he did other things beside the Chainsaw films and Poltergeist that are worth a look, most especially The Funhouse (1981). Also on the way March 8, Walter Hill’s Streets of Fire (1983), a rare screening of the occult thriller Burnt Offerings (1976) and (someone get Larry Aydlette a plane ticket!) Smokey and the Bandit.


The New Beverly has seen a pretty trying last year or so, on top of the continual threat of it disappearing altogether amidst the drought of revival cinemas that has affected not only Los Angeles but every community where they used to thrive before the video and home theater revolutions. But here in Los Angeles the revival scene is looking just a little bit rosier these days, with the New Beverly doing renewed and enthusiastic business, and especially with the advent of the Cinefamily, a revival house operating out of the Silent Movie Theater and helmed by several of the key filmheads at Santa Monica’s seminal video store Cine File. They’ve been doing wonders for quite a while now, but I’ve only just now got around to celebrating them in any way. But one look at their March will have you wanting to celebrate too (especially if you’re a Los Angeles filmgoer).

This month Cinefamily features Asian Sundays with brilliant programming from directors Yasujiro Ozu and Hou Hsiao-hsien. The Japanese master is featured with a series of his early comedies, which include The Lady and the Beard (1931) on March 9; Tokyo Chorus (1930) on March 16; one of Jim Emerson’s favorites on March 23, I Was Born, But… (1932), which Ozu loosely remade into one of my favorites, Ohayo (1959); and What Did the Lady Forget? (1937) on March 30.

Asian Sundays in April honor Hou Hsiao-hsien with three from the Taiwanese director—a sneak preview of his latest, Flight of the Red Balloon (2007) on April 6, Shu Qi starring in Millennium Mambo (2001) on April 20, and Café Lumiere (2003) on April 27. You can find out more details about all the films in the Asian Sunday series right here.

The Cinefamily is also inviting Mary Pickford and Busby Berkeley to the table with brief but satisfying series from each of these important figures. (Click on the names to find out more.)

You can also catch Saturday matinee noir series focusing on Philip Marlowe (A Hat, a Coat & a Gun: Philip Marlowe, Noir’s Private Detective) and the twisted team of Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre (Fat Man and Little Boy: Greenstreet and Lorre at Warner Brothers) courtesy of the Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theater during March and April.


Finally, two midnight movie tips: tomorrow the Nuart is scheduled to screen the Spanish horror film La Residencia, released in the U.S. in 1971 as The House That Screamed, starring Lilli Palmer and John Moulder Brown. The movie was a favorite of mine after seeing it at an impressionable age in my local movie theater, and I haven’t seen it for about 35 years. But I notice that it was directed by one Narciso Ibáñez Serrador, whose very next film, Who Can Kill a Child?, comes highly recommended by no less than Kimberly Lindbergs, so all of the sudden I’m looking forward to seeing The House That Screamed even more than I was just a few moments ago.

Also, when I drove past the Fairfax Theater in West Hollywood earlier this week, I noted something interesting on their marquee: coming in early April (I believe it said April 5), the original theatrical version of Grindhouse. I wasn’t even aware the original version was still in circulation, but apparently it is, and it will be showing at the Fairfax almost a year to the day that it opened last year. It makes me wonder if this mini-event is indicative of a U.S release of the theatrical version on DVD. If it isn’t, well, these reports of a six-disc Japanese DVD that just hit the market certainly is. Those Weinsteins are clever, aren’t they? (Dig deep in to these links to find detailed pictures of the Japanese disc packaging, which featuring some neat 45-rpm-style discs and lots of great fold-out photos.)

Well, if you live in Los Angeles, you’re looking to see a movie and you’re complaining that there’s nothing to see except Fool’s Gold or 10,000 B.C., I hope this little guide to March and April has been of some assistance in getting you over that misguided notion. I don’t know if it’s just that the revival and special screening scene is getting better in Los Angeles, or whether it’s always been better than I’ve realized and I’m just now getting my head pulled slightly out of the sand. Whatever the answer is, I’m very glad to have the opportunity to be exposed to so much fine and varied cinema; it’s one of the best reasons I can think of to be here. (It sure ain’t the weather!) And if you’re reading this and you’re not in L.A., maybe some of the series and titles will somehow make it your way; if not, many of them are available on DVD, so perhaps at the very least I’ll have jogged some titles that will spice up your Netflix queue. However you get to them, I hope you enjoy what you see.

I’ll be taking a slight breather from SLIFR over the coming week in order to study for a rather important teaching exam coming up next Saturday. So if things are little quieter than usual, that’s the reason why, and I’ll likely be back during the late part of next weekend, if not before, to crank things up again. See you then!