Monday, January 11, 2010

While I was out…

Even though I returned to Castle Yesteryear yesterday around noon-ish, I got so preoccupied with catching up on e-mail correspondence, websites and the like that I basically accomplished diddly squat…preferring instead to sit down in front of the tube and looking for something to occupy my viewing time. I caught a showing of The Hospital (1971) last night on TCM (a film I briefly wrote about here) and before that watched one of the most suspenseful films than I can recall from recent memory: the 2008 Oscar-winner for Best Documentary Feature, Man on Wire.

Wire documents in breathtaking detail “the artistic crime of the century”: the August 7, 1974 event when wire walker/juggler/street performer Philippe Petit spent 45 minutes walking, dancing, kneeling and lying on a wire that he and his confederates rigged across the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Wire combines archival footage, modern-day interviews and dramatic recreations of the principals and shows how this incident changed not only the life of Petit (who was just a few days shy of his 25th birthday) but that of his friends as well. While watching the movie, I was (of course) well aware that Petit emerged unscathed from his high wire antics (he’s one of the interviewees) but when they showed pictures of the guy lying on the wire I simply had to close my eyes, scared shitless that the daredevil was going to slip and become Alpo on the streets of New York. This is, simply put, a must-see movie.

Official TDOY cub reporter Larry Shell e-mailed me a couple of points of interest over the weekend—the first being the notification that clay animation pioneer Art Clokey passed away Friday at the age of 88. Clokey got into the TV biz on the strength of a student film entitled “Gumbasia;” the short opened quite a few doors for Art and granted him a TV show, The Adventures of Gumby, starring an eternally cheerful clay figure (Gumby) and his faithful orange-and-black equine sidekick (Pokey). (Clokey worked on TV’s The Howdy Doody Show prior to the Gumby phenomenon, and was also the creator of the cult religious cartoon Davey and Goliath.)

I’ll lay odds that no self-respecting kid was without a Gumby/Pokey figurine set (I certainly had my share) even though my memories of the show are a bit hazy. Gumby was a resilient little critter: TV star in the 1950s, bendy toy in the 1960s, and pop culture joke in the 1980, thanks to actor-comedian Eddie Murphy’s portrayal of the character as a cigar-chewing, Borscht Belt has-been on Saturday Night Live (“I’m Gumby, damnit!”). When the film Gumby: The Movie hit theaters in 1995, the Gumbster pulled off a fourth comeback—and as of this writing, is the mascot of a chain of cheap pizza joints (and I mean this with affection, of course) that serve the vital late-night nutritional needs of besotted college students everywhere (here’s info on the one in Athens). I don’t know if Clokey or his estate get royalties from the use of the characters, but I suspect he probably does.

R.I.P, Art. You will be missed…but not forgotten, especially when I need a pepperoni roll fix.

Larry also gave me a heads-up on a $3.99 DVD sale currently underway at Oldies.com, which will allow you pick from nearly 2,000 public domain titles of classic movies and television shows. This would be an ideal opportunity to grab some movies suitable for In the Balcony’s Monogram Week later this year; Larry, on the other hand, plans to complete his collection of Mantan Moreland-Frankie Darro vehicles—Irish Luck (1939), On the Spot (1940), Up in the Air (1940), You’re Out of Luck (1941), The Gang’s All Here (1941) and Let’s Go Collegiate (1941). Just click on the links of these titles to locate them at Oldies.com, and if you’re interested in finding out more about Frankie Darro, stop by your local library and see if they can get this for you to borrow…or purchase it at a fine local bookstore near you.

My Facebook compadre Iain Stott (whose regular blog, The One-Line Review, has been recently added to the TDOY blogroll) is currently hard at work on a poll entitled The Obscure, the Forgotten and the Unloved. To make certain I don’t screw this up, allow me to let Iain explain how it works:

The Obscure, the Forgotten, and the Unloved is a poll to find, highlight, and promote films that have received a considerable amount of critical acclaim but have yet to find the audience that their evident quality deserves. It follows on from The One-Line Review Presents “The 50 Greatest Films” and Beyond the Canon, bringing about a logical culmination to my quest to find the best that cinema has to offer.

Your task is to select up to 30 titles from a pre-defined pool of 255 acclaimed but little seen films. This pool was created by selecting all of the films from the following sources that have been rated less than 1000 times at the IMDb:

In addition to films from the pool, your ballot of 30 titles may also include up to 10 movies that don’t appear upon it. These non-pool titles should have been rated less than 1000 times at the IMDb. And I should encourage you to take advantage of this as there are numerous great filmmakers, whose work (or at least some of it) is little seen. For instance, I can’t imagine my own ballot being completed without a Mike Leigh film, whose work is absent from the pool.

  • Select up to 30 films from the pool of 255, with the option of up to 10 of them coming from a source other than the pool (as long as they’ve been rated less than 1000 times at the IMDb.)
  • Include any relevant links, bios, notes, etc. that might be appropriate.
  • Return your ballot to onelinereview@hotmail.co.uk by the 30th of April 2010.

Should you want a copy of the pool in a spreadsheet or database, just ask.

If you’re interested in participating, just let Iain know—I went ahead and gave it my best shot (though I’ll have to confess that the paucity of foreign films on my list is due mainly because of my sadly limited familiarity with them), which led to my being rewarded with my very own page listing my cherces. It’s the next best thing to be considered a film critic!

Which allows me to segueway (smooth as glass) and acknowledge a fellow blogger who has successfully made the transition to film critic—none other than the Self-Styled Siren herownself, as it clearly states in this news release announcing the showing of the 1943 agitprop classic Mission to Moscow at the Brooklyn Academy of Music tomorrow evening (January 11th) at 7:00pm. BAM is showing the movie as part of the current TCM Shadows of Russia festival and after the film, the Siren will join a panel that includes Ed Hulse (aka Mr. “Blood ‘n’ Thunder”), former PREMIERE critic/blogger/character actor Glenn Kenny and New York Post film critic Lou Lumenick.

The Siren has also embarked on a project with Marilyn Ferdinand of Ferdy on Films, etc. fame that will get underway next month (February 14-21): For the Love of Film: The Film Preservation Blogathon. This week-long undertaking will involve essays and contributions from film bloggers highlighting the necessity of film preservation, and I was pleased as punch to be asked to participate…even though I’m as nervous as an IHOP waitress with a tray loaded down with Rooty-Tooty Fresh ‘n Fruity orders (translation: I have no idea as to what I’m going to write). I encourage all like-minded classic movie bloggers to participate as well—just drop by Ferdy’s and ask her to deal you in. (Well, that’s the way I went about it, anyway.)

I also wanted to pass along this interesting entry at Film Salon in which producer/blogger Ted Hope laments the scarcity of independent films on the recent list of inductees into the National Film Registry—though he does acknowledge the inclusion of The Exiles (1961) and amateur efforts like A Study in Reds (1932) and The Jungle (1967). He’s got a list of nominees for the next-go-round and while I haven’t seen all of them several (Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song [1971], Poison [1991], Crumb [1994], Happiness [1998]) would certainly get a nod from me. Check out his list, because he’s also got info on how you can submit your choices to the LOC.

In closing, I thought you might be interested to learn that Edward Copeland is back in the driver’s seat over at his blog though he acknowledges it will involve baby steps, baby steps. I just received a letter in the post from Mr. C, so I will bid you a fond adieu with the promises of meatier posts in the coming week.

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1 comment:

Tom said...

Wow. This was a jam-packed post. I just wanted to say that I was saddened to hear of the passing of Art Clokey. I consumed many hours of episodes of it as well as "Davey and Goliath" in my young years. Also I had the bendable figures, T-shirts, etc. What memories.

I didn't know they had a Gumby pizza chain?! I'll have to check one out when I am in that neck of the woods. Thanks.