Friday, May 29, 2009


And all the film buffs in Los Angeles said, at the top of their lungs…


For those who may not know, Michael’s father Sherman was the original force behind the New Beverly Cinema, which celebrated its 31st birthday on May 5, and after Sherman passed away far too soon, two summers ago, the charge of keeping the flame of classic and cult cinema at the New Beverly was passed to Michael. And I must say, as I have said many times before, Michael is doing a hell of a job honoring the memory of his father by doing so.

I let the New Beverly slide from my own regular experience many years ago and had just begun to attend regularly again before Sherman died. Over these past two years the New Beverly has become far more than just another theater to me and to my family. This is due not only to the kind of specialty programming, like hosted events and film series from some pretty wonderful filmmakers, that has become a hallmark of the New Beverly calendar, but also just to the day-in-day-out schedule that has afforded me the opportunity to take my daughters to film school several times a month courtesy of Michael’s programming acumen (and that of Phil Blankenship and Julia Marchese too—sorry, Brian and Eric, but my girls aren’t quite ready for Grindhouse Night!) Thanks to Michael and the New Beverly, I have a nine-year-old who knows the work of Jimmy Stewart (and Anthony Mann), Randolph Scott (and Budd Boetticher), Barbara Stanwyck (and Preston Sturges) Terry Gilliam and Joe Dante, to name but a few. And last week she had one of the most gut-busting experiences of her young movie-going life seeing Duck Soup projected for an appreciative audience that was more than ready to laugh, one noticeably populated by lots of other children beside my own. (More on that night in the next post.)

At the risk of repeating myself, I said last week that to me and my girls, the New Beverly feels more like a second home these days than just a place to see a movie. That welcoming environment and great line-up of films for us all to enjoy has everything to do with the way Michael has carried on, perhaps not tirelessly but certainly with tremendous effort and dedication, extending the dream of his dad to a whole new generation of young movie lovers.

A man like this deserves all the praise and the patronage we can shower on him, for selfish reasons as well as altruistic ones. So if you make it out to Phil’s great Back to the Future triple feature tonight (with special guests Christopher Lloyd and Claudia Wells), or perhaps Sunday evening with me and my girls to see Meet Me in St. Louis, please offer Michael a birthday greeting and an expression of how much you appreciate what it is he does every single day at the New Beverly Cinema to keep alive the world of revival cinema. The theater marquee his father worked so hard, against all odds, to keep lit is still shining bright over Beverly Boulevard, heralding to all passersby and eager patrons the ongoing project that Michael has sustained and fulfilled most excellently.

Thanks, Michael, and again, the happiest of birthdays to you! You and the New Beverly make going to the movies a special experience, one that we certainly will never take for granted again.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

A6, F4 and D9 on the SLIFR JUKEBOX

All this talk of music around the campfire this week got me in the mood to highlight a few choice nuggets currently in heavy rotation on the SLIFR iPod.


The debut album from Tinted Windows consciously recalls power pop of the late ‘70s-early ‘80s (Cheap Trick, The Cars, The Knack) filtered through a sardonic sensibility more closely associated with brilliant flashes-in-the-pan like The Pursuit of Happiness or, more appropriately, the sustained brilliance of Fountains of Wayne. No surprise then that TW was co-founded by Adam Schlesinger, FOW bassist and songwriter, who settles into a crunchy groove quite nicely with the help of former Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha, vocalist Taylor Hanson (of, yes, Hanson) and legendarily unflappable drummer Bun E. Carlos, providing the one degree of separation from Cheap Trick itself. The new album is instantly catchy and worthy wearing out over a summer’s worth of road trips and lazy days at the beach.

Tinted Windows "Kind of a Girl"

Messing With My Head


Speaking of Fountains of Wayne, easily my favorite band now currently performing, a friend and I saw them do a spectacular acoustic set at the Largo Coronet here in Los Angeles back in January, and opening for them was a man by the name of Mike Viola. Viola, former front man for the Candy Butchers and composer-performer of the title track from Tom Hanks’ movie That Thing You Do, knocked the audience out with his brand of smart, emotional pop, which was an excellent lead-in for the kind of acidic character portraits that are FOW’s stock-in-trade. Well, now Viola has produced and written several songs for Mandy Moore’s new album, Amanda Leigh, proving once again, by her taste in material and instincts for associating with the kind of pop geniuses that can only inspire her to push herself creatively, that Moore is no candy-coated pushover like the many teen idols from which she ended up separating herself. Building on the audacity of her Coverage album and the inspired aural and vocal dioramas that were part and parcel of her previous Wild Hope LP, Amanda Leigh is a catchy, driven and soulful collection powered by Moore’s increasingly strong singing and Viola’s clever tunes and keen production.

You can see the video for Moore and Viola’s recent appearance on The Tonight Show here, but the video below, shot at a hundred-seat club in Boston last November, more perfectly catches the vibe of Viola’s live personage and Moore’s warmth and confidence as an onstage performer.

Mandy Moore and Mike Viola, “I Could Break Your Heart Any Day of the Week”


Finally, Steve Earle’s new acoustic tribute to the legacy of songwriter Townes Van Zandt, and to Earle’s harrowing, heartfelt friendship with the man, entitled Townes, is moment to moment raw, beautiful, tender and moving. Earle has fast become one of my favorites, due as much to his humbling, majestic work with the Del McCoury Band (The Mountain) as his own rough-edged, incendiary and emotionally complex albums. But here, like his best previous work, the singer is laid bare and is able to connect to the most frightening and resonant elements of Van Zandt’s tunes. The result is, at its best, haunting and overwhelming, like the best work of Townes Van Zandt himself.

Steve Earle performing “Ft. Worth Blues,” a tribute to Townes Van Zandt



9:14 p.m., while my wife and daughters sit rapt in front of the televised National Spelling Bee finals...

I never met my best friend’s grandfather, a fact that I will, I believe, on some level always regret. Herbert Lundy was, among many other things in his long life, a well-respected member of the board of editors of the Portland Oregonian newspaper. Lundy was an Oregon Republican during his tenure at the paper as a reporter and editor, which began in the ‘40s and ran well into the ‘70s, and the paper itself was staunchly Republican in its political endorsement choices. This was, of course, a time when the Republican Party and its candidates held positions somewhat different than the bombed-out post-Bush Republicans might be presumed to hold today. Lundy, a compassionate conservative and passionate conservationist, was an Oregon G.O.P. member whose contemporaries included Wayne Morse, Tom McCall and Mark Hatfield, and was also, according to his grandson Bruce, a gruff, loving, headstrong and literate man who suffered fools with little patience.

Every time I hear a story about him, either from Internet archives or straight from Bruce, I know I would have been no exception to his insistence on the standards to which he held every person he met, but I feel sure he would have been a man (if the Lundy men I’ve known, his son and grandsons, are any indication) for whom I would have had held enormous respect and fondness. His personality, irascible and sometimes intemperate, but fair and forever wise and not without a strain of (ribald?) humor, would have been one I would have gladly basked in, the kind of person from whom respect must be won, but once won is borne like a precious honor.

I love hearing Bruce tell stories about his grandfather’s adventures in journalism, and how Grandpa Herb would recommend to his grandson all manner of literature which the young Lundy made sure to follow up on (even if sometimes it took him years). And I always fantasized about what it would have been like to have grandparents who loved words and language as much as they did the outdoors, and what it would have been like to have that mutual love passed on to me. I suspect it was Grandpa Herb that Bruce found it necessary to frequently channel whenever he would read short reviews or other pieces I wrote during our college years. He was forever forced to instruct me (and instruct me again) on the finer points of grammar, like which situation was appropriate for “its” as opposed to “it’s” and other niggling details of proper English which I was forever neglecting, and which of course meant everything in terms of learning to write what it was I wanted to say. And I know Bruce’s vigilance with English at least had its start with Grandpa Herb’s standing in the community as a proponent of journalistic literacy and style.

No, I never met Bruce’s grandpa Herb, but nonetheless I feel his spirit constantly when I write, and his image literally hovers over me as I work every day, making sure I keep my grammarian head above water. The elder Lundy would often take hunting and fishing trips with his son and grandsons, and Bruce recently gave me a picture from one of those trips which has come to represent so much to me, in a meaningful and a humorous way, about the stumbling blocks one can encounter in editing the English language for a living and as a somewhat sacred hobby. The Lundy gents were out in the Eastern Oregon desert and came across the property line of a local rancher whose property they would have to cross in order to reach their fishing spot. But no sooner than they spotted the rancher’s handmade warning sign, Herb Lundy was insisting that his son Mike shoot a photo of the sign, while Herb looked on and gruffly pointed out the blunders of spelling and grammar that made the sign almost unreadable, except perhaps to hunters as apparently borderline-illiterate as was its author. The sign read:


The old man's (mock?) expression of stern disapproval is deeply hilarious to me, and yet seems to reflect an absolute about the man’s appeal as a journalist, a politician, a defender of language, and a doting grandfather who only wanted to be sure that his grandchildren grew up with a greater understanding and respect for the language than that exhibited on this hastily painted sign. I keep this picture above my desk as I edit dialogue and sound effects for my day job, and I think of it frequently as I write for this blog. It keeps me on an even keel somehow, it helps me keep my “its” and “it’s”-es in their proper columns, and it reminds me of everything I missed in not ever meeting my best friend’s grandpa Herb.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009


UPDATED 5/28 9:52 a.m.

“Soon it will be too late
Bobbing for apples can wait
We know you're used to sixteen or more
Sorry we only have eight”

- “Everyone’s Gone to the Movies”, Steely Dan, Katy Lied (1975)

Neil Diamond once urged us to turn on our heart lights while we were all still basking in the glow of E.T. back in 1982. Meco took great, tacky pleasure in turning the Death Star into a spinning disco ball. Matthew Sweet even pasted a ‘60s-model Tuesday Weld on the cover of his album Girlfriend. And Morrissey was recently heard to name-check and personally identify with a notorious dead Italian neorealist. (“Pasolini is me/Accatone you’ll be/I entered nothing and nothing entered me.”) All of these pop star paeans to the cinema operate on one level of outrage or another. But leave it to Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, the lovable misanthropes who constitute the glistening coal-black heart of Steely Dan, to wrap their jaunty ode to motion pictures around neither jubilant memories of Judy Garland nor the shadow drenched iconography of Bogart and Bacall, but instead the subterranean operations of a cheapjack pornographer and likely child molester named Mr. LaPage. The protagonist of “Everyone’s Gone to the Movies” lures under-age patrons into the privacy of his no-doubt musty and/or murky den where he projects his 8mm films and yet feels compelled to apologize to his patrons (victims?) for the expected degradation in picture quality—and sorry again, kids, but probably no sound.

A fan of the Dan from the release of Can’t Buy a Thrill in 1972 (I still have my transparent yellow vinyl copy on ABC Records), I recently began thinking about their long history of songwriting specifically in terms of the movies, and the perverse little ditty from Katy Lied was one of the only direct references to the cinematic arts (or the degradation thereof) I was able to come up with off the top of my head (an exercise which was followed by a quick gaze through my stack of CDs as a brain chaser). The songs written together by Becker and Fagen often have vivid, sometimes self-consciously cinematic qualities—on The Royal Scam alone, the wrenching mad bomber standoff “Don’t Take Me Alive” evokes imagery, outrage and first-person delusion that recalls sources as disparate as Raoul Walsh’s White Heat and E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtime (and even Milos Forman’s movie of the same) while grounding its protagonist’s characterization in psychology far closer to the kind in which Paul Schrader was dabbling in back in 1975, when the album was released, and when Taxi Driver was being written and filmed. And the same album’s “Kid Charlemagne” paints a precise, unromantic, doomed scenario of losers running heroin that outstrips most of the movies that tried to deal with the same kind of subject matter while pandering to the youth market in the wake of Easy Rider’s box-office success. (“Kid Charlemagne” is better than Easy Rider too, I think.)

But Steely Dan’s references to the other popular arts have always been far more literary, musical or even topical in their obscurity, most of the time leaving nods to specific films and filmmakers to the likes of Morrissey or, from the Dan’s concurrent time and space, maybe the Edgar Winter Group. Much more for Becker and Fagen to insert references to Charlie Parker (“Parker’s Band”) and Duke Ellington, by way of their eerily replicant “East Side Toodle-oo” (both from Pretzel Logic), Reverend Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church, which was based in an upstate New York berg familiar to the writers (“I can see by what you carry/That you come from Barrytown”) or vocalists of minor repute (“Even Cathy Berberian knows/There’s one roulade she can’t sing”, croaks Fagen in “Your Gold Teeth II”). There are references to be found in the Dan lyric lexicon to Jill St. John (“Green Book”) and the Ingrid Bergman/Charles Boyer film Gaslight (“Gaslighting Abbie,” from Two Against Nature). The follow-up album, Everything Must Go, features a rare direct film title name check—to Robert Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly-- in the same aforementioned track “Green Book” (“And here she comes very Kiss Me Deadly / My life, my love, my third hand rose"). One might conclude that Fagen and Becker have become a little more film-centric in their old age, but it’s probably more coincidence than conscious leaning—the breadth of material scanned and processed in a typical Steely Dan song from any period suggests that they are nothing if not purposefully eclectic in constructing the filters through which they see the world.

Becker and Fagen’s, but especially Fagen’s, contributions to the movies themselves have been even more spotty, in keeping with the band’s low profile during its heyday in the ‘70s and virtual 13-year fade-out between Gaucho (1980) and their first set of reunion concerts in 1993 behind Fagen’s second solo album Kamakiriad. Before departing from the roster of Jay and the Americans in 1971, Becker and Fagen, with guitarist Denny Diaz, recorded the soundtrack to a nearly forgotten film entitled You Gotta Walk It Like You Talk It or You’ll Lose That Beat. The definition of a cult item, the movie was ignored upon the time of its release, another apparent artifact of Hollywood’s early ‘70s desperate courting of the anti-establishment demographic and, despite a cast that would seem to be ripe for exploitation in the era of DVD obscurities (including Zalman King, Allen Garfield, Richard Pryor, Liz Torres and Robert Downey, Sr.), it remains buried today. (The New York Times, in a rather brief capsule review published upon the movie’s release, called it “the latest example of youthful, charming iconoclasm that appears to be losing some of its charm” and said that “its heart is in the right place, but it does very little more than make charming jokes about the serious problems it zanily illustrates.”) I’ve had a beat-up vinyl copy of the soundtrack for 20 years or so, but I keep it more as an oddity in my Steely Dan collection. My feeling about the music is that it is best appreciated from a historical perspective—there are germs of what would come to sound like and be known as Steely Dan on the album, but it is most in embryonic, and sometimes annoying form. (These impressions are based on memories that are perhaps 15 or more years old, from probably the last time I listened to the record, but the attitude of the one review of the music I was able to find suggests my impressions were correct.)

Steely Dan’s visits to the movies over the next 20 years would be not quite as infrequent as midnight screenings of You Gotta Walk It Like You Talk It…, but infrequent nonetheless. They had a huge hit providing the title tune to the likable 1978 comedy about the freewheeling world of radio disc jockeys (a considerably livelier one than the world I occupied while doing that job in the ‘80s) entitled FM. And after Gaucho Fagen made appearances with Dannish tracks on the albums for the movies made from 80s literary classics Heavy Metal (1981; “True Companion”) and Bright Lights, Big City (1988; “Century’s End). Those tunes were the only reasons I bought the albums they were on—and probably the only reasons why I saw the movies they were featured in as well.

Finally, one of the more interesting soundtrack compilations of the 90s came about because of Steely Dan, though with only a consultant credit to indicate their approval. The Farrelly Brothers loaded the soundtrack album to their hit comedy Me, Myself and Irene (2000) with that rarity of rarities, the Steely Dan cover. The album transcends oddity status thanks to a few inspired performances-- The Brian Setzer Orchestra pounding out “Bodhissatva,” Wilco’s bitter take on “Any Major Dude Will Tell You,” and a welcome revisit to “Barrytown” by the Ben Folds Five. And though none of those top the originals, they carve out their own ground as good-natured facsimiles and revisions. The other tracks, by Smash Mouth, Ivy, the Push Stars, the Marvelous Three and Billy Goodrum, are less impressive, but at least they handily avoid embarrassment.

Donald Fagen and Steely Dan both have made, however, two specific literary contributions to film appreciation over the last 20 years that are worth mentioning. First, beside the contributions of Glenn Kenny and Anne Thompson and others, I will personally most mourn Premiere for the occasional column space given over to Donald Fagen writing specifically about movie soundtracks. His observations were lucid, detailed, evocative and full of smarty-pants connections to other realms of art and experience—kind of like the lyrics he penned for Steely Dan—and the column was, over the brief time it was published, one of my favorites, a real movie music nerd’s obsessions laid out for everyone to share. The only thing I was able to find online from this chapter in Fagen’s career was a brief, pithy and very funny encounter between the pop-rock-jazz iconoclast and one of his most iconoclastic heroes, Ennio Morricone. The interview, sans fez, can be read here.

The other Steely Dan foray into the world of film came much more recently, when the boys accused Owen Wilson, in an open letter to Owen’s brother Luke (”Hey, Luke!”), of plagiarizing the idea of his movie You, Me and Dupree from their ode to interfamilial lasciviousness “Cousin Dupree,” featured on the Grammy-winning Two Against Nature album. Posted on the Steely Dan Web site with an achtung shout-out to Wes Anderson, the letter, in a relentlessly sarcastic and equally relentlessly tongue-in-cheek which will be familiar to most Steely Dan fans, begins by greetng Luke with backhanded praise (“You seem pretty cool, even when you’re playing some pretty bogus parts in bad movies all the time—we realize that it’s not entirely your fault and that you’re entitled to have whatever low standards you want in terms of what’s cool to get involved with for the, you know, bread, or whatever.”) Then the authors move on to the the meat of the matter, purporting to alert presumably concerned brother Luke that is brother Owen has “gotten himself mixed up with some pretty bad Hollywood schlockmeisters” who conspired with the actor to graft a scenario lifted wholly from their song with no acknowledgment of its alleged source onto this new movie. And just like in a Steely Dan tune, the letter is not without its nonchalant references either:

“And, Luke, think of yourself, man. Do you want to go down as the brother of the Zal Yanovsky of the 21st century? Maybe this reference is a little obscure for someone of your generation (X? Y? Zero?), but it would be worth your while to look it up in some counterculture encyclopedia or something, because being the New Zallie’s brother is definitely NOT A GOOD THING to be.”

(Don’t worry; I looked it up for you, just like Luke probably did.)

The letter ends with a “heartfelt” plea to Luke to try to convince Owen to come down to the upcoming Steely Dan concert in Irvine, admit his plagiarism and apologize on stage. (“He wouldn’t have to grovel or eat shit or get down on his hands and knees or anything he’s not comfortable, but he would have to cop to the fact that what he and his Hollywood gangster pals did was wrong and that he wishes he had never agreed to get involved with this turkey in the first place… Is that so fucking hard?”). This smirking missive, written in mock hipsterese, sounds like something that’s somehow going to find its way onto a Steely Dan album in the future, maybe in the form of their very own twisted “Burn, Hollywood, Burn.” Or even better, for those of us who wouldn't mind continuing to poke at the Wes Anderson balloon, maybe Rian Johnson could turn it into a very entertaining movie.


I started thinking about Steely Dan in this context for no particular reason; I think I was probably jarred into active musing when I recently got word of the group’s upcoming U.S. and world tour schedule. It will be unique, even by Steely Dan standards, and it provided me with occasion to get excited, the result of which is the previous 2,000 or so words which you may or may not have read. In a nutshell, the tour is gonna go something like this:

The tour will be your basic multi-city package just like always. But if you are a Steely Dan fan in New York City, Boston, Los Angeles or Chicago or anywhere within traveling distance of those cities, you will have multi-night engagements from which to choose from two delectable menu columns—three consecutive “Classic Album (Plus) Nights,” which will consist of one of three classic Steely Dan albums in its entirety, plus additional favorites, each night (Rolling Stone reports that the albums will be Aja, Gaucho and The Royal Scam); and the fourth night in each city is being billed as “Takin’ It to the Seats Internet Request Night.” That’s right-- ticket holders for these shows will vote on the Internet to determine the set list for each show. So if you have a ticket for the New York request night show, it will be your fellow audience members you can blame, not the vast sea of interloping Dan fans stuffing the virtual ballot boxes, if you have to hear “Rikki, Don’t Lose That Number” or “Do It Again” again rather than less immediately accessible tunes like, say, “Night by Night” or “I Got the News” or “Through with Buzz” or whatever else might tickle your fancy.

Now, I’ve already been to my one allotted concert per year—a good friend and I took in an acoustic Fountains of Wayne set in an intimate theater setting in January that was spectacularly good. But I think (I hope) an appeal to my wife for a ticket to the L.A. request night might not be immediately cast aside with a sarcastic guffaw. This has the potential, depending on how deep the Dan really goes (and how deep the Fan really votes), to be a Very Special Evening. What might compose my list of 10 requests (assuming I would get that many, of course)? Well, let’s see. How about:

“King of the World” (Countdown to Ecstasy; 1973)
“Monkey in Your Soul” (Pretzel Logic 1974)
“Bad Sneakers” (Katy Lied; 1975)
“Kid Charlemagne” (The Royal Scam; 1976)
“Sign In Stranger” (The Royal Scam; 1976)
“Here at the Western World” (outtake from The Royal Scam, appeared on the Greatest Hits collection, 1978)
“Home at Last” (Aja; 1977)
“Gaucho" (Gaucho; 1980)
“Godwhacker” (Everything Must Go; 2003)

And of course, “Everyone’s Gone to the Movies” (Katy Lied; 1975), for the bow to the movies, however tacky and sociopathic, of course. But also for the opportunity to hear a live interpretation of the spectacular marimba-inflected waterfall of notes that introduce Fagen’s splendidly exuberant electric piano solo midway through the song. These notes cascade down like a rain of bright pennies delivered not from heaven, but from hell, and constitute for me perhaps the most musically transcendent moment in all of Steely Dan. (It’s an exuberance, in long standing Dan tradition, that is in stark, giddy contrast to the grim matter at hand in the world of the song itself.)

Two questions for the Dan Fans out there:

1) What other obvious cinematic references in the lyrics of Steely Dan am I missing?

2) What 10 songs will you request if/when you get your ticket to the “Takin’ It to the Seats Internet request Night”?


UPDATE 5/28 9:52 a.m.

Obvious movie references in Steely Dan that I forgot:

"Show biz kids making movies
Of themselves you know they
Don't give a fuck about anybody else"
(from "Show Biz Kids," submitted by Ian W. Hill)

"Now we dolly back, now we fade to black"
(from "Haitian Divorce," submitted by Edward Hegstrom)

And Joseph "Jon" Lanthier reminds us of "Peg" ("It's your favorite foreign movie") before providing links to Part 1 and Part 2 of his head-to-head comparison of the careers and perspectives of Steely Dan and Terence Malick.

Keep 'em comin'!


Monday, May 18, 2009



Plans for the SLIFR Drive-in Night are shaping up nicely! Thanks to everybody who has contacted me so far-- we should have a big, eclectic, fun group of people enjoying Drag Me to Hell (with co-feature Angels and Demons, for those hankering for a double bill) at the Mission Tiki on Saturday, May 30. I'm working on arranging some special guests who will charge up the evening with even more fun, and there is plenty of time to make your plans and RSVP me here at the blog if you haven't already done so. Also, I've managed to round up several neat-o prizes to offer as free giveaways just for showing up and being a part of this special summer night.

Also, our little shindig got a very nice mention over the weekend courtesy of Kevin Roderick and the widely read and respected daily news blog L.A. Observed in a post entitled Keeping Drive-in Culture Alive, which is very much appreciated as well as being very cool. If your calendars aren't marked, please do so soon and join us, won't you? More news as it breaks!

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UPDATE 5/22/09 First of all, the requisite and by-now overly familiar apology for being a little on the sparse side posting over the last week or so. One should not complain too loudly about being snowed under with work, especially when so many of us are not, but it is for this reason that I have not been able to pay as close attention to the ever-growing list of items on my to-do list where concerns for this blog reside. I am hoping that the three-day weekend, even if reality turns it into a standard two-day block instead, will afford me some time to get after some of the things that have been nagging at my fingertips for a while now, and perhaps even get the ball rolling on a couple of big SLIFR projects for the summer too.

That said, the guest list for the SLIFR Night at the Drive-in continues to grow and become even more interesting. On board for the Saturday after next are several members (and maybe even more than that) of the Phantom Coaches Hearse Club and, of course, their rides, which will add that very special sinister jenny-say-kwa to the evening’s status as a premiere hellacious happening. I’m very excited about the prizes I’ve managed to gather up for those attending, and we’ll have our drawing in the dusky hour just before show time. So if you have not yet decided whether you can come, quickly decide in the positive, and don’t be shy about passing the word along to as many friends and neighbors as might be interested. When I have my final RSVP list, probably sometime around Wednesday, I will e-mail everyone on it with all the particulars, including directions, times, etc.

And if this goes as well as I think it’s going to go, I’ve already got another great idea for SLIFR Drive-in Night II, but it all depends on whether or not the Mission Tiki will be playing Black Dynamite in September…


Sunday, May 17, 2009


Time for some random thoughts as I get ready to lay myself down to sleep on a Sunday night after a weekend of interesting movies and other adventures…

While I was on my road trip to Oregon we, as in the communal we, lost Beatrice Arthur to cancer at the age of 86. I didn’t get a chance to mention anything about her passing at the time, and I’ve felt a little guilty about it ever since. This is not to say that comments of mine are what were essentially missing from our culture-wide remembrance of Arthur after she died on April 25. Hardly. But Bea Arthur played a huge role in the expansion of what I understood, as a child growing up in the ‘70s, of what comedy could be, what comedy could talk about, and how it could talk about it, and I felt like some acknowledgment of that was warranted. Her dry, deadpan sarcasm and the explosiveness of her temperament as Maude Findlay, Edith Bunker’s assertive, opinionated cousin, hit me with the force of gulping down one’s first hard-liquor cocktail—she was a fascinating, sometimes repellent figure to me, a boy who hadn’t yet quite figured out how the rapidly changing world was supposed to work, but one who was always redeemed in my eyes by how funny was the performance of the actress who embodied her. Watching Arthur as Maude taught me so much about how social commentary could function within a comic context, why it was important for it to function as comedy and satire, and how I could use it to assess my own emerging values as a responsible citizen. But all that sounds so high-minded. Beatrice Arthur’s mere presence as Maude, or even in a cameo like the brief one she had in Mel Brooks’ History of the World Part 1, as a sourball seen-it-all employment insurance clerk in ancient Rome (To an unemployed gladiator: “Did you kill last week? Did you try to kill last week?”), was simple assurance of a big-hearted talent in service to squeezing every drop of life out of a snappy comeback and a very short fuse, and it was always a delight to see her no matter where she showed up.


Good friend Larry Aydlette passes along this link to a fine blog entitled Film Tracks, where many influential and hard-to-find soundtracks are available for purchase or download. I will take the time to peruse the shelves of the archives here at a later date, to be sure. But I got right on why Larry sent me to Film Tracks in the first place: to download the entire soundtrack album of David Shire’s terrifically propulsive score for the original (accept no substitutes, or at the very least consider them skeptically!) The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3. You can find the soundtrack album in its entirety here or by clicking the button on my sidebar. Or if you’re too impatient for that, indulge yourself with the opening credits of the movie. (Oh, but does this sound good on my iPod!)


This weekend the Los Angeles Times Sunday Calendar section featured Kenneth Turan’s Cannes report on the meticulously restored three-strip Technicolor print of Powell and Pressburger’s The Red Shoes. Says Turan:

“The UCLA restoration does full justice to what has to be one of the most exquisite color films ever made (photographed by Jack Cardiff), filled with the kind of deep, vivid hues that will leave viewers literally gasping. Not that restoring those colors to their original brilliance was easy. First, it turned out that every reel of the original negative, which had been stored in Great Britain, had been attacked by mold, causing what (Robert) Gitt (preservation officer at the UCLA Film & Television Archive) describes as ‘thousands of visible tiny cracks and fissures.’ These problems, and others… were all corrected via digital restoration to the point where The Red Shoes actually looks better now than it ever has. `In 1948, images were fuzzy by today's standards,’ Gitt explains. `And because there was more information on the negative than could be printed at the time, we got a lot more off it than they were able to do when the film first came out.’ Those red shoes have never looked redder, or more alluring, than they do today.”

Turan suggests that although no dates beyond the Cannes screening have been scheduled, it is neither illogical nor unrealistic to expect that major urban areas will get their shot at seeing this beauty on the big screen sometime in the next year or so. So now the question is, do I take my daughter to see it at the New Beverly next month, or simply rent the DVD and wait for the big restoration? Reader Robert Fiore suggests I should take her to see A Matter of Life and Death and then skip out before The Red Shoes starts. But I don’t know if I have the willpower to walk away from that movie when it’s so close, Robert. This is the kind of problem we like to have, right?


I saw The Greatest a couple of weeks ago, this past year’s Sundance fave starring Susan Sarandon and Pierce Brosnan as grieving parents who have distinctly different ways of dealing with the presence their dead son’s girlfriend (Carey Mulligan), who survives the car accident that killed him, moves into their house (don’t ask—the movie never bothers to make it plausible) and soon afterward announces that she’s carrying the boy’s child. The movie is a rather lackadaisical, unfocused affair that puts way too much stock in our willingness to upgrade its star rating based solely upon how much it is able to make us weep on cue. (It’s also far too confident in its own shaky ability to generate those tears in the first place.) In fact, it is most notable as the second movie in as many summers to showcase Pierce Brosnan in a capacity for which he is woefully ill-equipped. No, he doesn’t sing this time, but he does have to act worried for the safety of his other son frolicking in the surf (“Goddamn it, Ryan, get out of the water now! Do you hear me?! Get out now! Now, Ryan! Goddamn it, Ryan! Get out now! Goddamn it! Get out now!”) and blubber like he means it when the father’s stressed-out defenses finally get perforated. Pierce Brosnan did stoic and cool well enough as Bond, but I’ve only seen him once (in John Boorman’s The Tailor of Panama) when I was convinced he was capable of much beyond that. He is not convincing of any such thing in The Greatest. In fact, I was so distracted by his performance that after a while I became obsessed with distracting myself even further by noticing how much he seems to be, as he thickens with age, turning into Fred MacMurray, or perhaps even Fred Gwynne. I know, I know... but it was a lot more rewarding playing this little parlor game than tapping my feet impatiently in anticipation of the obvious and overstated character moments that came right on schedule as The Greatest ground down to its bittersweet, déjà vu-infused conclusion.


By this time last year I’d already seen the movie that would eventually reign supreme at the top of my year-end list for 2008. It is possible that I saw another such contender last night when I saw Tyson, James Toback’s visually arresting, emotionally and philosophically tangled red-meat documentary that, among many other things, brilliantly evokes the multiple voices and conflicts constantly stirring inside Tyson’s head by giving the relative eloquent fighter a forum to present his psychological battles from his own perspective. This is not to say that Toback doesn’t have a perspective—we have long gotten over the fallacy of objective journalism, haven’t we, especially in feature documentaries? One of the most captivating things about Tyson is the way that Toback coexists with his subject and manages to enrich the struggle of the viewer, to elevate the struggle within Tyson and within the viewer, to the level of one of Tyson’s epic bouts, where fear, aggression, insecurity and megalomania must all find their place on the canvas. I will try to write more on Tyson this week. For now sufffice it to say that I’m exceedingly glad I got to see it on the big screen, and I suggest you do the same.


Thursday, May 14, 2009


A few weeks ago the Los Angeles Times unveiled their Summer Sneaks section in which the hometown paper for the movie industry breathlessly and exhaustively reported on all the gigantic blockbusters (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Star Trek, Terminator: Salvation, G.I. Joe, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, etc., etc.) that you apparently need to know about, as well as about 3,297 other movies to be uncorked between now and Labor Day, all of which add up to create the fevered season of hype known as a Hollywood summer. A week or so later Entertainment Weekly did the same thing. And I had to take note. I came of age in the summer of Jaws. I love the summer movie season. But I’m increasingly less impressed with the recycling of toys and comic books as the epicenter of the industry’s annual pitch for an ultimate orgasm of commerce and popcorn munching. This statement, you’ll remember, comes from a man who voted Speed Racer the best film of 2008, so you will understand that every preconception, prejudice and refusal has a glaring exception or two just waiting to jump out of the closet and expose folks like me as obvious hypocrites.

But really, it honestly is not very often that a surprise like Speed Racer gets logged in the banks of movie-going experiences. Granted, I thrilled to J.J. Abrams’ revisiting of Star Trek, even when moments before entering the theater I was still grumbling that I didn’t care about Star Trek anymore and was imagining a inevitably hollow, indifferent picture to follow the onslaught of trailers for more summer movies I don’t want to see. The ultimate triumph of Star Trek version 2009, besides being the most rousing entertainment of all the Star Trek movies (with the possible exception of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan) is that it reminded me why the universe of Star Trek still matters. Perhaps the biggest surprise of all, however, was discovering that these iconic pop culture figures somehow still do matter, that at least I still have far more invested in them and their care than I was even consciously aware of having. Watching the youth restored to these characters while having their mythos honored the way it is here was refreshing and a relief. Far more than the Star Wars series, Star Trek is no longer the province of cultural mothballs but revitalized, clever and ready to engage once again. That in itself is the biggest summer treat mass audiences have been given and accepted in a long time. (Speed Racer operated in the same heady realm, and it’s a far better movie still, I think, but as you are no doubt aware very few took the Wachowski Brothers up on their invitation to play during May of last year.)

But even with the proof, in Star Trek, that my expectations could be so fundamentally off-base, it’s still hard for me to get excited, as Entertainment Weekly insists I should, about this summer’s big-ass slate of films. I thumbed through that “Summer Movie Preview” issue with “all the buzz on over 80 new films” and was bored stiff by the time I turned the page into the month of July. Really, am I supposed to care that Stephen Sommers, perpetrator of Van Helsing, has a new action blockbuster based on a toy I was bored with in 1967? Am I supposed to get all squirmy with excitement at seeing shots of a sweaty Megan Fox intercut with heavy-metal images from Michael Bay’s new movie about toys I was at least 15 years too old for when they were first popular? And despite my fondness for McG and the first Charlie’s Angels feature (about as zesty and giddily exciting as any pre-fab confection could be), that new Terminator movie just looks so goddamn glum and desperate, and overly familiar. Hell, I didn’t even like Terminator 2: Judgment Day all that much. It’s going to take some real narrative magic to convince me there are untold elements of this John Connor saga that are still worth telling.

There are pictures being released this summer that I’m genuinely excited to see. They’re just not, with a couple of huge exceptions, the ones that studios are bolstering with embarrassing levels of marketing. Of the 16 movies I picked out of the over 80 new films EW is so damned excited about, only four of them could be classified as blockbusters, and only one of those has any chance at all of morphing into something resembling a tent-pole franchise. Two of them are crime thrillers with no sequel potential (Public Enemies, The Taking of Pelham of 1 2 3) and one is a Pixar film, which is its own kind of tent-pole. Only Land of the Lost looks like it has any possibility of being spun out past this summer, and sequels to that movie, if there are any, are better bets for the straight-to-video market, unless America falls deeply, profoundly in love with the way Will Ferrell skedaddles like a sidewinder away from the movie’s pesky T-Rex. Thankfully there will be small, independent releases that will show up to steal the thunder out from the likes of yet another Harry Potter movie (Zzzzzzzz--- Hunh? What? No, I’m awake.) But of the films gathered under the Summer Movie Preview umbrella, these 16 are literally the only ones to rouse anything like real interest on my radar. Frankly, like Juan Pierre thrust unexpectedly into the summer spotlight for the Dodgers, I’d be happy as hell with a .300 batting average at this end of this summer—if only as many as five of the 16 movies I’m banking the hopes behind my entertainment dollars on actually deliver on their promises, why, I’d feel like that was bucking the odds at a practically supernatural rate.

So what are these 16 potentially magical SLIFR saviors of summer? So glad you asked.


Opening this weekend in limited release. I am going to take Aaron Hillis at his word and on his enthusiasm and get myself out to the showing of this one posthaste: “I hurt myself laughing at this amazingly inventive mockumentary, and because it's so good, I refuse to give away much more than an insistent recommendation. A long-haired, sad-sack government employee, Dai-Sato (Hitoshi Matsumoto), has somehow inspired a documentarian to follow him around as he eats lunch alone and extols the virtues of umbrellas (he likes anything that expands). In long takes that cut like early Jarmusch, the first half hour rambles on with downbeat wit before dropping a boulder of truth on our heads about the unlikely hero's job, why everyone in the city hates him, and how it involves electricity surging through his nipples and extensive CGI. Read nothing else about this film.” Perhaps you might want to avoid even watching this trailer...

'Nuff said. Let’s go!


Director Rian Johnson’s follow-up to Brick looks like a breezy, slightly odd caper that seems just silly and human enough to provide an excellent alternative when all those Angels and Demons shows are sold out. What would be better is to do what I’m gonna do-- just scratch the scary Catholic movie altogether and actually plan on seeing Johnson’s movie instead. Then you don’t suffer the disappointment (or the obnoxious opening weekend crowds shuffling through the turnstiles to see Tom Hanks) and you end up supporting a smaller-scale, much more personal project that looks like its director really had reasons to make it as opposed to simply marking time in Sequelville just because. (Nick Dawson talks to Rian Johnson here.)

UP (5/29)

Early reviews from Cannes suggest that we may now have to consider two possibilities: a) either John Lasseter has entered his and Pixar’s souls into a Faustian bargain to keep his company’s spotless commercial streak (and nearly-as-spotless artistic streak) intact, or b) the folks at Pixar are just simply brilliant storytellers working at perhaps historic heights of artistic confidence and that Up is going to be their best yet. Considering that their most disappointing movie (Cars) was still pretty good by anyone else’s standards, Up seem like a pretty strong bet.


Some proud horror geeks I know have seen this movie already and are confirming with great glee that the hopes those of us who have pined for a return to Sam Raimi’s horror-comedy roots (a la Evil Dead 2) may well emerge undashed and quite fulfilled by this new bag of bones. The trailer practically exalts in that old Raimi energy, making it, perhaps even more than Star Trek, the ideal way to kick off the summer movie season, especially if you can figure out some way to see it at a drive-in

THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE (5/20 on HDNet, 5/22 theatrical)

Steven Soderbergh’s newest drama looks provocative, chilly and visually arresting, and that’s not just because it stars porn actress Sasha Grey. This formalist examination of a particular aspect of the sex trade looks to be the rare semi-high-profile summer release that isn’t loaded with explosions and/or in 3D. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with those things, but if nothing else The Girlfriend Experience could be a alternative tonic, a restless respite from CGI action pictures and raucous comedy in favor of a more rewarding Sex, Lies and Videotape-esque template. Or maybe it’ll just be another Full Frontal.


I know, I know. Whaaaa...? I’m no Sid and Marty Krofft fetishist, though I did watch the show as a kid. It just looks funny to me, in an Anchorman/Step Brothers kind of way, only with giant dinosaurs. Sounds like an ideal Saturday matinee.


I’m having a harder time getting behind this one, given my great love for the original Walter Matthau-Robert Shaw picture which, despite what the Los Angeles Times thinks, is a movie that is hardly a solid candidate for improvements and refurbishments courtesy of Tony Scott. I’m willing to give it a try though, if only so that Larry Aydlette and I can have something to yammer about. Which reminds me, I promised L.A. I’d watch Domino, and I have yet to do so. Can I take two Tony Scott movies in one month? We’ll see.

YEAR ONE (6/19)

Here’s the movie on this short list with the biggest chance of being a total dud. Yet it has the imprimatur of Harold Ramis behind it, and to hear him talk about the movie being a way of satirically engaging with the idea of religious fundamentalism has me at the very least intrigued. And there are at least two solid laughs in the trailer. So here’s hoping it lands closer to Groundhog Day or Stripes than Analyze This or Analyze That. Hell, I’d be happy if it was half as funny as Caveman.


Attach the name Kathryn Bigelow to any project and it automatically becomes worth a look. And so it is with this intense-looking film, yet another foray into that most dangerous of gambles, the commercial fate of an Iraq war film. Can Bigelow succeed in engaging the public where the likes of Paul Haggis, Brian De Palma and Kimberly Pierce have failed? This looks like a great opportunity to Bigelow to wrestle with the tension between her muscular pulp aesthetic and the grim reality of war, where the action is never as purely exhilarating as it can seem at times on screen.


I haven’t a whole lot of confidence in my expectations for this movie, based solely on the trailer above. I’ll just keep reminding myself that, against all likelihood, Michael Mann’s last movie, Miami Vice, was sensually alert, visually fascinating stuff, and maybe the revered director can pull another rabbit out of his hat with Johnny Depp starring as John Dillinger. That said, it seems to me that this one, alongside Year One and The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, has the biggest chance of drowning in its own flop sweat right there on the big screen. I’ll still buy a ticket though, unless (and maybe even if) it starts getting reviews that more resemble Mann’s The Keep.

BRUNO (7/10)

In my book, the summer’s most promising movies are the ones that look to deliver big laughs, and of all those, if Borat and the audiences at SXSW are any true indicators, this one might just be the biggest producer of guffaws and belly laffs of them all. The comedy will, of course, be ladled on top of yet another of Sasha Baron Cohen’s devastating cultural examinations, much of it at the expense of the easily fleeced and flummoxed, and if it works then there’ll thankfully be a whole lot more to talk about around the cinematic water cooler than whether the effects in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen are as neat-o the second time around. I can’t wait to see that whole locksmith sequence.


In true Miramax/Dimension fashion, this highly regarded horror thriller has been sitting on the shelf for something like two years, but those who have seen it insist that it is something special. The trailer seems pretty routine, but I don’t think it is too much to hope for a bilious butterfly to emerge from the cocoon of mediocrity surrounding this movie’s marketing.


Well, this is either going to be really fun, a Kelly’s Heroes for the Kill Bill crowd, or the biggest eye-roller of the summer. I’m not sold on Brad Pitt’s accent as featured here, but it wouldn’t be the first time that bits of a performance seen in isolation do not reflect the quality of the thing as a whole. And that could be the case with the movie too. Good or bad, any Tarantino movie is going to have a must-see aura about it, and coming off the brilliant Death Proof I remain interested in what the aging wunderkind has left in his gas tank. If nothing else, it could be the movie that will make those who hated Paul Verhoeven’s Black Book reassess the offenses of that movie in light of a whole new slew of morally questionable carnage.


Still licking his wounds from the unfriendly reception afforded his lively, deliberately crude Snakes on a Plane a few years ago, director David R. Ellis returns to the Final Destination franchise (he directed the spirited, whiz-bang second chapter) to give it a 3D goosing. Here’s hoping Ellis gets ample opportunity to flex his action chops as well as his fear-mongering muscles as the Rube Goldberg contraptions rigged by a relentlessly spry Death just keep on cranking.


Wow, if the filmmakers somehow manage to bottle the pitch-perfect tone of this trailer and sustain it to feature length (a trick that was beyond Keenen Ivory Wayans and his genial but wildly uneven I’m Gonna Get You, Sucka), then we could be witness to a real marvel of a pop satire with this one. There’s so many ways it could go wrong, or flat, or remain grounded when it should be soaring higher that the hero’s hair, that I’m just gonna sit on my hands for now and quietly hope for the best. But, damn! He drives a $5,000 car and wears hundred-dollar suits! Now, that’s something to hope on!


Left at the altar by Fox twice, Mike Judge turns to the Weinsteins for some sugar this time. Not exactly a reassuring scenario for the director in terms of the Weinstein’s track record of shelving projects or turning them loose with lame-duck marketing, or no marketing at all, eh? (Some of the best Weinstein/Dimension titles have trickled onto video store shelves with no fanfare whatsoever). Let’s not only hope that Judge avoids the shiv slipped to him with Office Space and Idiocracy, but that this working-stiff comedy is as worthy as its predecessors were of the red carpet treatment they never received.


These are the 16 summer movies I am going to pursue with various degrees of intensity. Some will be duds; some will be better than they first appear in trailer form; and some will be exactly the tonic hoped for. Given that the time I have to spend in movie theaters is in no way as bountiful as it used to be, I’m going to hold myself to these titles as my main first-run fun over the next couple of months. There may be a smaller title that pops up and becomes unexpectedly alluring and irresistible, but I’m going to make a concerted effort to stay away from the big $200million tent-poles. Those can wait for Blu-ray. I have another plan for my movie summer.


Over the last year I have really enjoyed taking my eldest daughter out to revival screenings of some of the great classics and other fun, relatively vintage films available on Los Angeles screens, watching her interest in older films strengthen as she makes connections between actors from film to film, and between the films themselves. Since last summer together we’ve seen a Randolph Scott double feature (Decision at Sundown and Buchanan Rides Alone), The Magnificent Seven, Rio Bravo, The Lady Eve, Explorers, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, all on the big screen. Most recently we took in a Jimmy Stewart/Randolph Scott double feature, Winchester ‘73 and Bend of the River, at what I’ve come to think of as our theater, the New Beverly Cinema. When we walked up to the box office, owner Michael Torgan greeted my daughter with a smile and told her he’d heard that Bend of the River was one of her favorites. This made her grin profusely, of course, and feel very special. Then we were served popcorn by the lovely Julia Marchese, who greeted us with enthusiasm as well. My daughter likes Julia a lot: “It’s nice to see a pretty girl here, Daddy,” she told me as we marched down to the front of the auditorium. (The audience at the New Beverly may be weighted toward men who tend to look like me, but it is neither exclusively male nor weighted toward homely women. Julia just stands out for her because of her general friendliness and occasional high-profile appearances on stage.)

I’ve come also to look forward to checking out each fresh New Beverly calendar in great anticipation of what new treasures I can bring into my daughter’s purview, and it was the line-up Michael has concocted for May and June that really kicked my happiness into high gear. If there are only 16 movies out of 80 or so big Hollywood releases on tap for the summer, well, that’s high of a low must-see to who-cares ratio. But the New Beverly, the American Cinematheque, and the Cinefamily have probably three times as many fantastic programs in store just through the end of June alone. When it comes to what boils down to the better use of my entertainment dollar, the choice is pretty clear. Not only are admissions for all these Los Angeles revival screens less expensive (almost by half) that the screens the big elephants will be stampeding across this summer, there is no doubt as to the quality of what you’ll be seeing. You may go into Land of the Lost or The Brothers Bloom or even Up with a reasonable awareness that it is entirely possible the movie will end up less than the promise it dangles to you in the trailers and in your anticipatory imagination. But when you roll up to the box office and buy a ticket to see Lawrence of Arabia, or Duck Soup, or Meet Me in St. Louis, or Once Upon a Time in the West, or A Matter of Life and Death, you know you’re in for nothing less than a masterpiece, a sure, golden thing. With those kind of choices, I cannot justify rolling the dice for full price at the Arclight too often. Besides, at the Arclight they don’t know my daughter’s name or make her feel as welcome as she feels at home the way they do at the New Beverly.

My daughter and I are in for so many treats in the next few weeks, it’s almost embarrassing. I can’t tell you how excited I am at the prospect of taking her to see her first Marx Brothers double feature at the New Beverly next weekend. By the end of Animal Crackers (1930) she’ll have Captain Spaulding’s big number committed to memory, and she’ll still have Groucho and Harpo’s mirror sequence, and all the sublime wordplay of Duck Soup (1933) yet to come. These are potential watershed moments for her, essential building blocks in her appreciation of the movies, and we’re so lucky to be able to see them together on a big screen. Will she be able to endure all three Back to the Future movies (1985-1990) in one sitting (March 29)? I doubt it. My plan is to go for one, maybe II, and fill in the blanks on DVD later.

But we’ll stay for both features the following Sunday (May 31) when Michael rolls out Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) and George Cukor’s Little Women (1933), a double bill tailor-made for wide-eyed little girls. Thanks to the New Beverly, in June she’ll get to have her first experience with Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) theatrically—how many kids over the past 25 years have been able to say that? And it’s on a double bill with John Carpenter’s Starman (1984)-- again, a perfect complement to her natural taste for the fantastic. The very next program affords the first opportunity for her to be exposed to Alfred Hitchcock, though I’m wondering if it might be better to have her first sampling be something like The Lady Vanishes or The 39 Steps or North by Northwest rather than the spectacular perversity of Strangers on a Train (1951), which will be featured alongside Suspicion (1941). I just think of Robert Walker bending over the unfortunate Laura Elliot in that amusement park and suspect my young one might not be quite ready for that just yet. She would most certainly be ready, however, for yet another literally dreamy double bill—Powell and Pressburger’s A Matter of Life and Death (1946) and The Red Shoes (1948). She will officially be movie drunk after that program.

But it’s not all about me and my kid at the New Beverly over the next two months. Just me, me, me gets served just fine as well. For God’s sake, this is ridiculous: this weekend the New Beverly kicks off seven straight nights with a dripping-wet new print of Robert Wise’s The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) on a program with a feature-length bounty of sci-fi trailers from the vaults of New Beverly midnight maestro Phil Blankenship. And Friday night Phil extends the thrills with an ultra-rare screening of the schlocky 1979 thriller The Car, in which a demon-possessed Lincoln (it is a Lincoln, is it not, Phil?) pursues sheriff James Brolin and sends lots of innocent, unsuspecting Sunday drivers straight to asphalt hell.

I have until May 22 to convince my wife to come along with me to one of the greatest double bills in New Beverly history (well, at this this month), for it is on that day that Charles Bronson’s two best starring vehicles, The Mechanic (1972) and Mr. Majestyk (1974), will unspool in all their stripped-down glory. Majestyk is based on a terrific Elmore Leonard story and directed by Richard (Mandingo, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) Fleischer, and The Mechanic may be not only Bronson’s best action thriller, but one of the only good movies ever made by director Michael Winner. Watch out for that shock ending! May 27 and 28 provides another opportunity to see Let the Right One In (2008) sans the crappy subtitles currently featured on its home video release, along with another acclaimed thriller, Timecrimes (2007).

On June 6, spend time in the company of character actor extraordinaire and New Beverly regular Clu Gulager as the theater mounts a triple feature tribute to the actor’s ‘80s output-- Hunter’s Blood (1986), A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985) and Terror at London Bridge (1985). It should be a lot of fun to see Clu in his glory and listen to his stories from the stage of his (and our) home away from home. Phil shines with another couple of midnight classics coming this month: Motel Hell (1980; June 12) starring Rory Calhoun (“It takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent’s fritters!”); and John Carpenter’s The Fog (1980; June 20).

And on June 21 and 22, one more chance to see this blog’s mascot movie, Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West (1969) the way it should be seen, all wide and wind-swept and echoing haunted echoes of Harmonica and the ghosts of Sweetwater.

Speaking of special programming Brian Quinn and Eric Caidin have populated June’s Grindhouse nights with some spectacular treats. June 9 brings you Plague Town (2008) and the queasy Swedish classic The Sinful Dwarf (1973). (Check out Michael Guillen's excellent interview with Plague Town's director David Gregory.) But the duo has really outdone themselves on June 23 with a Ray Dennis Steckler double feature of epic proportions-- The Thrill Killers (1965) and an ultra-rare chance to see Steckler’s oddball masterpiece, The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-up Zombies (1964) on a big screen. Screaming and frugging in the aisles will undoubtedly be encouraged!


Okay, that 27 separate chances to reach movie nirvana before the end of June alone at the New Beverly Cinema, and that’s not even the entirety of the calendar. (Keep up with their schedule on the New Beverly Facebook page.) That’s 11 more movies than were on my entire summer 2009 wanna-see list, and we have no idea what treasures will be in store for us during the months of July and August. And that’s just the New Beverly. You can see Tommy (1975) at the Aero as part of the American Cinematheque’s 70mm Festival (here’s the Cinematheque’s entire May calendar), and the Cinefamily has a run of Abel Ferrara double features every Friday through the end of the month, plus a spectacularly quirky line-up during their June comedy festival. Good grief, I haven’t even mentioned the UCLA Film and Television Archive, the Bing Theater at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art or the Billy Wilder Theater at the Hammer Museum, always stellar options for the revival minded Los Angeles filmgoer who doesn’t want his or her cinematic menu dictated solely by the big studios.

So why waste time complaining about the dearth of summer fare? If you’re lucky enough to have these options at your ticket-buying fingertips, I look forward to running into you repeatedly as we both take copious advantage of this bounty all summer long. And if you don’t, take a look at the titles above, write some down, think about other titles they’ll remind you of, book a Netflix-fed revival theater schedule of your own this summer and indulge, rather than trudging out to see Terminator: Salvation even though you might not really want to, just because the inescapable advertising says you should. This is the glory of great revival theaters like the New Beverly and all our Los Angeles options, and the plethora of classical goodies available on DVD—we’re never very far away, either a click of a mouse or a short drive, from the most nutritious courses on the cinematic menu.