Archive for the ‘entertainment’ category
For the month of October, the Pictorial will be heavily focusing on the life, work and art of the legendary Buster Keaton. It felt right we should do so, given Buster’s 116th birthday on October 4th, the month-long salute to Keaton’s films on Turner Classic Movies, and some exciting new releases from Kino video.
Project Keaton will be a month long open forum in which writers, artists, everyday Joes and everyday Janes (like me) from all over the world are being invited to tip their pork pie to Buster. The goal is to foster a month of creative exchange, with Buster as muse, and to celebrate one of cinema’s few, true geniuses.
There are no rules as to content: essays, reviews, art, critiques, tributes, prose, poetry, all are welcome. And, since this is a month long project, there are no pressing deadlines: participants may contribute as little or as much as they wish any time at all during the course of October.
The Pictorial has some fun Keaton-related giveaways planned (more on that later!) and plenty of goodies to keep your slapstick sweet tooth satisfied. (Alliteration foul, I know, couldn’t resist.)
I’m also hoping Project Keaton will provide a great cross-platform for writers and artists to explore each others work. All participants’ contributions will receive coverage here on the Pictorial blog, our Twitter feed as well as the special Project Keaton Tumblr and Facebook page.
If you are interested in participating, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or respond to this thread with your appropriate contact email and we’ll add you to the Project Keaton roster.
C’mon, everyone. Let’s really give Buster something to smile about!
As all you readers of the Pictorial are well aware, I’m something of a Turner Classic Movies junkie… As I know many of you are too! Which is why I’m just plain tickled pink over the fact that TCM recently asked my pal Will McKinley and I to participate in their September podcast. Will lives in New York City and I’m based in L.A., but I just so happened to have a holiday planned in the Big Apple so we were able to, most happily, oblige!
TCM’s podcast host Scott McGee, a really lovely guy, sat down (virtually) with Will and I for a lovely long chat about the month’s programming. We touched on everything from Metropolis to The Red Shoes, but they decided to post our conversation about the pre-code classics Baby Face and The Story of Temple Drake. It was a heck of a lot of fun, and one hell of a privilege, and I hope it’s as much fun to watch as it was to make:
I’m a Los Angeleno by birth, a Londoner by heart, and an aspiring New Yorker.
Having just returned from another whirlwind trip in the City That Never Sleeps, that honeymoon glow is still warm enough to post some of my favorite street view snaps from the City that I’m falling more, all the more, head over heels in love with.
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“Hollywood at Home provides a unique behind-the-scenes look at the crossroads between the last real glamour years and the TV decade. It is a remarkable portrait of mid-century America.”
So reads the back cover of Hollywood at Home: A Family Album (1950 – 1965), a slight yet strong volume from Sid Avery’s lens and Richard Schickel’s pen.
And it’s quite true.
As film historian and cinema omnivore Richard Schickel writes in the introduction:
“In Sid Avery’s portraits of Hollywood in the 1950s, its citizens mime normalcy. They diaper a baby, fry an egg, play charades, wash their cars. Beloved screen veterans… the serenity and seemliness with which all of them face the camera in this, the entertainment industry’s most chaotic moment since the advent of sound, strikes the social historian– not to mention the movie critic– with a strange and occasionally poignant force.
Some variant on this question keeps recurring as one turns these pages: Why are these people smiling?”
And then: “Like these favored show folk, the rest of us ordinary citizens of the American 1950s were busy miming normalcy too. It was expected of us. A depression had been survived, a war had been fought, and now everything was supposed to be all right. … Get married. Have 2.3 children. Buy a house in the suburbs. Go to church. Send the kids to college. Die quietly. … But there was something abnormal about fifties normalcy. …
“As with all fictions, one was free not to by it. But the mass media did buy it and sell it. And we, the great audience, bought it from the movies and the magazines and the broadcasters. We also did our best to resell it, to our sometimes dubious selves, and then to each other.
The pictures in this book were made as part of that process. They represented Hollywood as it wanted to see itself and to be seen by outsiders: securely functioning and apparently contducting business as usual.”
Far be it from me to expound upon Schickel’s words, so I leave you with them… and Avery’s sumptuously subliminal shots.
Wow. So the best cinematic experiences I’ve had in recent memory tend to have the same thing in common: silence. First with the TCM Festival’s triumphant screening of Buster Keaton‘s The Cameraman in April. And now two months later, with the Los Angeles Conservancy’s closing night film of their 25th Annual “Last Remaining Seats” series, Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last.
For the uninitiated, the “Last Remaining Seats” series is a fantastic event each summer in which the Los Angeles Conservancy, LA’s foremost historical preservation society, opens the doors of Downtown LA’s movie palaces to the general public with a series of classic film screenings. It is an extraordinary event and its evergreen– indeed, ever growing– popularity is a true testament to the fact that audiences will always love the old-fashioned joy of a night at the movies. Because “Last Remaining Seats” is all about old-fashioned joy. These palaces were built as veritable escape portals for the masses– with their gilded halls and plush velour, where even the grimiest working Joe could, for an hour or so, feel like royalty.
And boy, did we ever feel like that tonight!
Having missed last year’s schedule completely, I was not about to miss this– even a lingering cold did not foil my plans! Tonight’s screening was greeted to an enthusiastic crowd– a large majority of which had never seen a silent feature film before in their life. I know because renowned silent film composer Robert Israel, providing the night’s accompaniment, asked for applause from any silent film first-timers– the applause was rather verbose.
Keaton’s charming short Cops was the appetizer, followed up by crowd-pleasing pre-show in the spirit of Sid Grauman‘s famous prologues of the ’20s. The Cicada Club is a downtown Los Angeles world unto it’s own: a tangible time glitch where dames in fringe dresses and faux fur with fellas in tailored tuxes and top hats put on the ritz every Sunday night to the vintage croons of Ben Halpern and orchestral swing of Dean Moira. The Cicada set may have its cliques (vintage purists who happen to wear blue jeans, like me, don’t exactly fit) but oh can they put on a show! The club’s proprietor Maxwell DeMille presided over the high-spirited prologue which included a hot Charleston number and some delightful standards, from “Singin’ in the Rain” to “California Here I Come!”
Film historian John Bengtson‘s recent book Silent Visions: Discovering Early Hollywood and New York Through the Films of Harold Lloyd is the third in a series of books that are, truly, cinematic archaeology: meticulously unearthing the filming locations of the great silent comedians to create a detailed composite of a city on the come. It was fitting that he took the stage with Harold Lloyd’s granddaughter, Suzanne, to introduce the film, it’s Los Angeles-centric importance, and the movie-like backstory that surrounded it’s production. (Lloyd married his leading lady just before the picture wrapped.)
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve seen Safety Last many a time and have always liked it and admired Lloyd’s physical prowess. But I have always preferred Lloyd’s Girl Shy and The Freshman (with their respective Robert Israel scores, of course) and, while I appreciate the film’s significance, it was never a favorite.
Well, scratch that last.
This film was made for the big screen in every possible sense. The audience literally screamed with both laughter and fright, a deliriously thin line, at Lloyd’s aerial antics– the ferociousness of which simply cannot be truly appreciated on the confines of a television screen. Safety Last is, first and foremost, a MOVIE: intended to be projected on a 20 foot screen and was made for those towering dimensions.
My palms were sweating and fingernails were bitten– even though the outcome was as plain on the nose on my face. It was simply … magic.
The audience’s verbal reaction only intensified the experience. Even when paying 20 smackers for the latest 3D extravaganza, it is very very rare to have an audience so intimately, totally, completely immersed with the film. Ever move Harold made, every slip of the foot, even the most blatantly obvious of set pieces, elicited a gut reaction. Ooohs, Aaaah, Nooos and Eeeeks screamed from the balcony and orchestra seats.
We. Were. His.
And I wonder what it all means. In this unappreciative era of instant information and unearned entitlement, when we are so completely jaded and rarely impressed at the movies… how truly meaningful is it that a silent film, 80+ years old, without gimmicky camera trickery or CGI imagery can make our hearts beat right out of it’s cages and our palms sweat like no Michael Bay extravaganza could ever hope to.
The purity of silent film triumphs once again.