Monday, August 8, 2016

Midnight at the oasis

Friday morning of last week found me keeping my appointment with the cataract specialist…and yes, I do have some small cataracts but the doc says it’s nothing to set anyone’s hair on fire about just yet.  He’s going to monitor both those and my Fuchs’ dystrophy (he concurred with the retina guy…but apparently it’s not full-blown serious yet either), and in the meantime, he has prescribed for me a stronger pair of eyeglasses to deal with my vision problem.  (Yes, I know that was my initial diagnosis…but I am not a medical professional…though I did play one on the short-lived sitcom Where’s That Scalpel?)

Despite the arid desert that is the DISH austerity program (and for what I had to shell out for these eyeglasses, the program will likely continue in perpetuity) I’ve been fortunate to find the occasional oasis in our scaled-back programming.  One of the channels we have is something called HDNet Movies, which shows an array of movies old and new (mostly new) and this month of August they have a number of Hitchcock movies scheduled, including TDOY favorites like Saboteur, Rear Window and Vertigo.  The problem is that you also have to wade through drek like The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl; yesterday, my father was entranced by a little offering entitled Space Chimps.  (I swear I’m not making that up.)  What perplexes me is that when we had our former DISH package…HDNet Movies was MIA among the channel line-up.  It’s like it’s offered up as a sop to those folks who have to nickel-and-dime the packaging.

To back up this radical theory, DISH has bestowed upon us a “freeview” of MGM HD and FXM for the month of August. (I’m not kidding—I think they feel sorry for me.)  I got a gander at MGM HD when we had the U-Verse; the movies are shown unedited (and often letterboxed, which I heartily endorse) and except for an “intermission” in the middle (they take time to show you promos and coming attractions) they’re mostly uncut.  They’ve got some good stuff on the schedule; I recorded ClassicBecky fave Richard III (the 1995 version with Ian McKellen) and there’ll be some vintage offerings like The Monster That Challenged the World, Chicago Confidential, and Die, Monster, Die!  FXM’s morning schedule (which they call “FXM Retro”) does show their movies commercial-free; I availed myself of the opportunity to see Seven Thieves again the other day, and it was a most enjoyable experience.  (Sure—it’s no TCM…but you don’t turn down a glass of water when you’re dying of thirst.)

While I’m on the subject of movies, I’d kind of like to take a brief moment to plug a couple of current crowd-funding projects to restore some silent classics.  My Facebook amigo Eric “Dr. Film” Grayson is spearheading a Kickstarter effort to restore the 1918 feature Little Orphant Annie—an early film starring silent cinema legend Colleen Moore and based on the famous poem by James Whitcomb Riley.  (In fact, Riley himself makes a brief appearance in the film—at the beginning and end, and it’s believed that this is the only extant footage of ol’ J.W.)  The Library of Congress is providing their prints for this project, and their material is far superior to the current ones now in circulation.  There are a number of contribution levels on this one: if you can afford the $25 kick-in, you’ll get a DVD of the finished restoration…thirty simolians will get you a Blu-ray.

Sadly, the household budget dictated that I could only contribute to one project (I’ve not had any problems with Kickstarter, so I went with Annie)—the other is one that his Filmship is also involved in; a GoFundMe effort to restore the surviving print of the 1927 feature Little Mickey Grogan.  In many ways, this is even a more important project; it’s a rarity from the FBO studios (later absorbed into R-K-O) and the last silent feature from actress Lassie Lou Ahern—she, along with Diana Serra Cary (a.k.a. “Baby Peggy”), is one of the few surviving performers from that era.  I really regret being too tapped out to kick in for this one (fingers crossed that there’ll be some money at the end of this month and the project will still be taking donations) but maybe a few of you out in Yesteryearland have some spare change rattling around in that sofa.  I thank you.

1 comment:

Todd Mason said...

Infrequently...perhaps two films over the last five years (that I recall) saw their premieres on HD Movies...indie films of the sort Mark Cuban has engaged for his Ritz Theaters and the like...