Friday, July 31, 2009

For Our Far-Flung Followers

Not the Metro.

No doubt there are legions of fanatics that follow the minutest goings-on at Metro Classics who unfortunately live in locales far from the temperate climes of the Pacific Northwest. These poor souls undoubtedly sit alone at their laptops pining for the opportunity to experience great repertory film, the Metro Classics way. We feel your collective pain.

Well, until that day when we can stream our entire cavalcade of cinematic confection directly into your cerebral cortex, those in our displaced dominion will have to make do with the repertory programs currently cranking out in your neck of the woods. Luckily many parts of the world host programs of classic films that gallantly approach Metro Classics in popularity and gravitas. Coincidentally two of these esteemed movie palaces have inadvertently scheduled titles that sync up perfectly with this week's screening of Charade.

How's this for serendipity:

First up, the majestic Stanford Theatre located in the heart of downtown Palo Alto, CA is playing Roman Holiday starring Charade co-star Audrey Hepburn. It will be playing through this weekend as a double feature with the 1939 Claudette Colbert vehicle Midnight.

Speaking of holidays, 2,935 miles due east of the Stanford Theatre the BAM Rose Cinemas in Brooklyn, NY are screening the classic Holiday starring Ms. Hepburn's Charade co-star Cary Grant, on the very same day that we unleash our new series. The film is part of an entire month dedicated to Grant's work in film. A more worthwhile month I cannot think of. Unless of course you live in or around Seattle.

If you happen to be in either of the non-Seattle cities, please stop by and check out these great films. Hell, if you happen to be within a hundred miles of any building hosting repertory film, please give them a glance. The thing that unites all of these humble enterprises is that they are less business ventures than labors of love.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Coming Attractions: Charade

Wednesday, August 5th at 7:00 & 9:15

Giveaways: Singin' in the Rain DVD and a gift certificate for Rain City Video, respectively.

See you there!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Pre-Game Warm-Up: Mad Men

OK, it's not a movie like the stuff Mike's been watching, but it's at least as good and probably better. Besides, if Chris Connelly is right in his thought (expressed a little while ago on The Sports Guy's podcast, which is a must-listen for any fan of sports and pop culture) that the defining films of the first decade of this century have not been movies at all, but rather television shows (The Sopranos, Deadwood, The Wire), then talking about Mad Men in the context of a film series on Liars, Thieves and Cheats should be perfectly appropriate.

Mad Men is set in the early 1960s and stars Jon Hamm as the creative director of a Manhattan advertising agency. The show is famous for its fastidious attention to period-detail, not just in wardrobe (though the costumes, by Deadwood costume designer Jane Bryant are stunning) and cultural references, but in its commitment to showing just how politically incorrect that time was. Often the casual drinking, sexual harassment and chain smoking the characters engage in is played for laughs (sometimes very dark ones), and this gives the show a much needed sense of humor, considering how serious the show is about exploring the psyches of profoundly damaged and depressed people (mostly Draper and his wife Betty, played by January Jones).

The show's relation to our upcoming series should be obvious enough. It's Season One tagline was "Where the truth lies" a simple statement with a dizzying array of possible meanings in the context of the show (advertising is often lies, Draper lies constantly to his wife and co-workers and himself. Yet Draper's so good at his job because his ads don't lie: his schtick is to connect emotionally to the product in question (often relating it to a crisis in his home life) and then give a powerful monologue that conveys the truth of his experience to everyone in the room. He uses advertising to connect people to universal truths about the human condition. Or, conversely, he's so good at his job that his lies are indistinguishable from his truths: he uses emotional appeals to tell profound lies about the human condition, helping to build the edifice of the society that allows people like him to lie and cheat their way to the top.

In addition to being a professional liar, Draper is also a cheat, carrying on a number of affairs with women who are very different from his wife (a Greenwich Village artist, a Jewish businesswoman, etc). Adultery is common at his workplace, and most of his married co-workers are or have been engaged in some kind of extra-marital relationship. As his wife becomes more aware of Draper's cheating, her life begins to fall apart. From the beginning of the series, we see she is suffering from some serious psychological issues, and we guess long before she does that her husband's philandering is a primary cause of it. Draper is like North By Northwest's Roger O. Thornhill (a great looking suit with nothing in the middle). In fact, Cary Grant's Thornhill, which he plays a slight variation on in the upcoming Charade, was a major inspiration for the character's style. The first two seasons of the show revolve around first Don's, then Betty's realization of this void and their attempts to fill it with something more satisfying than adultery and lies.

The show has some Thievery in it too, but I won't go into that here for fear of spoiling anything. The first two seasons are on DVD now (the show looks fantastic on Blu-Ray) and Season Three starts in the middle of August.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Pre-Game Warm-Up: A Letter to Three Wives

The previous two installments in the pre-game warm-up series have spotlighted films that focus on lies and the lying liars who tell them, tying in nicely with the theme of the first third of our imminent series. But what about those other rogues and rascals, the thieves and cheats out there, can they receive no love? I shall attempt to remedy this omission for at least one of the sub-categories with the following endorsement.

A Letter to Three Wives from 1949 deserves a viewing for those particularly interested in the Cheats segment of our calendar. The story concerns itself with three women who receive a tantalizing note just as they are about to embark on a day-long excursion to an island getaway. The letter informs them that their communal rival, Addie Ross, the local femme fatale, has run off with one of their husbands. They spend an excruciating day near no telephones, each woman wondering if her husband is the cheat.

The film is intelligent and deeply engaging with wonderful performances all around (particularly from Kirk Douglas and the always awesome Thelma Ritter) with a very unique score by Alfred Newman (is that a Jew's harp or a vocoder playing during Ann Sothern's daydream?) It shares a similar structure with our second adultery film, Preston Sturges's sublime Unfaithfully Yours, as the majority of the film is played out in paranoid reveries, each woman remembering previous instances when their husband's affections for Miss Ross were laid bare. The film also manages to tie in even more directly with another upcoming Classic, All About Eve, as it was written and directed by the same man, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who won the Academy Award for both duties on both films.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ryland Walker Knight on Charade: Sparking Your Brain Cells to the Utmost

Earlier this week I noticed that our good pal Ryland Walker Knight had queued up Charade, the Ricky Henderson* of our imminent Liars, Thieves & Cheats series. Finding out that this home viewing would be his inaugural experience of the film, I tasked Ryland (as he has done so many times with me) with writing down his thoughts on the picture. He most graciously took on the assignment and turned the whole thing around in about 24 hours (very much unlike me).

Read his impressions over at his homestead Vinyl Is Heavy.

*Two things: First, I had to drop the A's reference for us Bay Area heads (Ryland and me) and secondly how is it that I make the first baseball reference on the blog? Baseball for me is frozen in 1989 when I last cared a whit, whilst Sean sleeps in Mariners bedsheets.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Extra! Extra! Read All About It!

It's now only a fortnight away from the kick-off of the new Classics season and we finally have something tangible to promote the series with. Dig the culmination of cool with this fanciful flyer giving you and yours all the pertinent particulars of this revolutionary repertory revival!

Print it out and paste it on your fridge. Hand it out to family, friends, well-wishers, solicitors, ophthalmologists, entomologists and aggrieved apologists. Take it into your nearest tattoo parlor and get it engraved on your back. That'll teach your parents a thing or two.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

An Excuse For Me To Post The Ikiru Trailer

One of my favorite things about the filmspotting podcast is that, unlike most film review chatter, they also take the time to talk in-depth about old movies. So much of our experience of film is rooted in what is new (for reasons and effects that I could rant about at more length than is necessary right now), that it's nice every once in a while to be reminded that our cinematic past can be just as relevant to our movie present as whatever happens to be busting our block this week, if we want it to be. That is, more or less, what we're shooting for with Metro Classics as well.

Each filmspotting episode comes with a Top 5 list, wherein the hosts list their Top 5 of a certain category of films or actors (Con Movies, Movies About Poverty, Film Performances By TV Stars, etc). They also have ongoing Marathons, wherein they attempt to fill in some hole in their cinematic experience by watching a half dozen films of a certain genre or director. Past Marathons include Westerns, Musicals, 70s Sci-Fi, Classic Heist Movies, and so on. Their current Marathon is Films By Akira Kurosawa and this next next week's episode will feature reviews of this former Metro Classic:

You can listen to the show at the filmspotting website, or subscribe to it through iTunes.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Short History Of Metro Classics, With Pictures and Possibly Some Extraneous Lists and Additional Annotation Part 2: Autumn 2007

Hot off our resounding success with our summer series, we convinced our benevolent overlords to allow us to continue, this time in a more auteurist direction. Our second series focused on three great directors: Werner Herzog, Terrence Malick and Howard Hawks. The choice of Herzog and Malick was inspired by a discussion on the Filmspotting podcast. They had been watching a number of Herzog films a few months after they had seen Malick's The New World and were struck by the wholly opposite views of nature and humanity's relationship to nature that the two directors appeared to evince. Howard Hawks we picked because Howard Hawks is awesome. And we found this great photo of him wearing a tweed jacket.

This series also featured a Metro Classics first: two sets of double features. We paired FW Murnau's Nosferatu: A Symphony Of Horror with the remake of that film directed by Werner Herzog. We also played a pair of Howard Hawks's screwball comedies (Twentieth Century and His Girl Friday).

The series kicked off on October 24, 2007 with

Fitzcarraldo (Werner Herzog, 1982)

-- The story of the film's making is arguably better than the film itself. You can see it chronicled in Les Blank's excellent documentary Burden Of Dreams, where Herzog gives this speech:

Kinski always says it's full of erotic elements. I don't see it so much erotic. I see it more full of obscenity. It's just - Nature here is vile and base. I wouldn't see anything erotical here. I would see fornication and asphyxiation and choking and fighting for survival and... growing and... just rotting away. Of course, there's a lot of misery. But it is the same misery that is all around us. The trees here are in misery, and the birds are in misery. I don't think they - they sing. They just screech in pain. It's an unfinished country. It's still prehistorical. The only thing that is lacking is - is the dinosaurs here. It's like a curse weighing on an entire landscape. And whoever... goes too deep into this has his share of this curse. So we are cursed with what we are doing here. It's a land that God, if he exists has - has created in anger. It's the only land where - where creation is unfinished yet. Taking a close look at - at what's around us there - there is some sort of a harmony. It is the harmony of... overwhelming and collective murder. And we in comparison to the articulate vileness and baseness and obscenity of all this jungle - Uh, we in comparison to that enormous articulation - we only sound and look like badly pronounced and half-finished sentences out of a stupid suburban... novel... a cheap novel. We have to become humble in front of this overwhelming misery and overwhelming fornication... overwhelming growth and overwhelming lack of order. Even the - the stars up here in the - in the sky look like a mess. There is no harmony in the universe. We have to get acquainted to this idea that there is no real harmony as we have conceived it. But when I say this, I say this all full of admiration for the jungle. It is not that I hate it, I love it. I love it very much. But I love it against my better judgment.

-- Winner of the Best Director prize at the Cannes Film Festival; #64 on my list of the Best Films of All-Time and my #6 film of the 1980s.

October 31, 2007

Nosferatu: A Symphony Of Horror (FW Murnau, 1922) and Nosferatu, The Vampyre (Werner Herzog, 1979)

-- Our second Murnau film, making his the first director with two Metro Classics (he was of course tied with Herzog at the end of the night). Also our second Metro Classic Holiday Tie-In, as it played on Halloween.

-- Murnau's film was the first movie adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel Dracula. Because they didn't bother to secure the rights to film it, and the Stoker family threatened to sue, they changed all the names.

-- Herzog has called Murnau's version the greatest of all German films.

-- The making of the Murnau film is itself the basis for the film Shadow Of The Vampire, starring Willem Dafoe and John Malkovich. I haven't seen it, but I hear it's good. The idea is apparently that Max Schrek (who played the count) was actually a vampire that Murnau had discovered in some dark corner of Europe.

-- The Murnau film apparently would have been forever lost had Cinémathèque Française director Henri Langlois not discovered it from among a slate of old movies about to be destroyed. More about Langlois, the greatest of all repertory programmers can be found in the fascinating documentary Phantom of the Cinémathèque.

-- Murnau's version is my #1 film of 1922; Herzog's my #5 film of 1979.

November 7, 2007:

Aguirre: The Wrath Of God (Werner Herzog, 1972)

-- Herzog and star Klaus Kinski had a famously tumultuous relationship. At one point during the filming, Kinski threatened to walk off the set (out of the jungle) and Herzog told him that if he did, he would shoot Kinski and then shoot himself.

-- Speaking of Herzog and shootings, one of Mike's favorite Herzog stories is that while being interviewed for a magazine, Herzog was hit by a stray pellet from a BB gun. When the author offered to halt the interview so he could get medical attention, Herzog said no, that it was "an insignificant bullet."

-- #19 on my list of the Best Films of the 1970s and my #2 film of 1972.

November 14, 2007:

Days Of Heaven (Terrence Malick, 1978)

-- Malick reportedly wanted John Travolta to play the role of Bill, but he backed out due to scheduling conflicts with Welcome Back, Kotter. The part went to Richard Gere instead.

-- The film's famously stunning photography was filmed by three accomplished cinematographers. The original DP, Nestor Almendros (The Wild Child, My Night At Maud's) and camera operator John Bailey (DP for Ordinary People and Groundhog Day) had to leave in the midst of shooting and were replaced by Haskell Wexler (Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?, In the Heat Of The Night) , who attempted to recreate as best he could Almendros's innovative "magic hour" look.

-- Winner of the Best Director award at the Cannes Film festival, and the Oscar for Best Cinematography; #12 on my list of the Greatest Films of All-Time and my #2 film
of the 1970s.

November 21, 2007:

The New World (Terrence Malick, 2005)

-- The most recent film to be Classicized, it was only two years old when we played it the night before Thanksgiving, making it also our third Metro Classic Holiday Tie-In.

-- The film makes frequent use of the prelude from Wagner's opera Das Rheingold, a tune also used by Werner Herzog in his version of Nosferatu.

-- One of many recent films by highly respected directors to star Colin Ferrell. He has also been (and will be) in films by Steven Spielberg, Woody Allen, Michael Mann, Terry Gilliam, Peter Weir, Oliver Stone and Neil Jordan.

-- #49 on my list of the Greatest Films of All-Time and my #2 film of the 2000s.

November 28, 2007:

The Thin Red Line (Terrence Malick, 1998)

-- Had the misfortune of being released six months after the critical world and the general public had gone crazy over Steven Spielberg's WW2 film Saving Private Ryan, a film it is superior to in every way. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Picture, Director, Cinematography and Adapted Screenplay, but failed to win any of them.

-- The initial cut of the film was five hours long, and many prominent actors saw their parts reduced or eliminated altogether as the film reached its final form. These actors include: George Clooney, John Travolta, Mickey Rourke, Billy Bob Thornton, Lukas Haas, Gary Oldman, Bill Pullman, Martin Sheen and Viggo Mortensen.

-- Star Jim Caviezel is from Bellingham. When the movie was playing at the Varsity Theatre, his parents came buy to see it and bought their tickets from me. They were very nice and excited that I liked their son's work.

-- #80 on my list of the Greatest Films of All-Time and my #11 film of the 1990s.

December 5, 2007:

His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1940) and Twentieth Century (Howard Hawks, 1934)

-- We originally were going to pair His Girl Friday with Hawks's Bringing Up Baby, but apparently the question of who owned the theatrical rights to that film was in dispute at the time so we were unable to book it. Twentieth Century I thought worked as a good replacement (as both are films about previously married couples that worked together, with the ex-husband in both films attempting to win back the woman for professional and romantic reasons), but Mike really didn't care for the film. As a vegan, he found John Barrymore's hamminess off-putting, I guess.

-- His Girl Friday is a remake of a movie version of a stage play (The Front Page). In both of the first two versions of the story, the Hildy character (Rosalind Russell) was a man. The first version of the story I saw, however, was a terrible 80s film set in a TV newsroom and starring Kathleen Turner, Burt Reynolds and Christopher Reeve.

-- Twentieth Century, along with Frank Capra's It Happened One Night (also from 1934) is often credited with creating the prototype of the 1930s screwball comedy. It seems to me that comedy doesn't generally age well (comedies from the 60s often make very little sense to me, and kids today don't seem to love the comedies of the 80s the way I do). I've a theory that screwball comedy is the only comedy era thus far that is timelessly classic no matter when you were born.

-- His Girl Friday was ranked #19 on the AFI's list of the Greatest American Comedies; it's my #26 Best Film of the 1940s.

December 12, 2007:

The Big Sleep (Howard Hawks, 1946)

-- One of the screenwriters for this adaptation of Raymond Chandler's novel was William Faulkner. I just recently read my first Faulkner novel (The Sound And The Fury), it was really good.

-- One of the other screenwriters was frequent Howard Hawks collaborator Leigh Brackett, who wrote an early draft of The Empire Strikes Back. I like to think that the reason that film is by far the best written Star Wars film is because of her influence. The relationship between Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford in that film is very Hawksian: lots of snappy dialogue between two strong, intelligent, professional characters.

-- The film was the second collaboration between Hawks, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. After the success of their first film together (To Have And Have Not, which we probably should have run as a double feature with this, instead of the screwball double feature), they re-shot a number of scenes to sexy-up Bacall's character and make her interplay with Bogart more like that of the first movie.

-- The movie doesn't really make a whole lot of sense, but if I remember correctly, the book does. The film just couldn't be as explicit about what was going on with the younger daughter for censorship reasons.

-- #36 on my list of the Greatest Films of All-Time and my #7 film of the 1940s.

December 19, 2007:

Red River (Howard Hawks, 1948)

-- Christian Nyby was nominated for the Best Editing Oscar for this film. Nyby went on to direct The Thing from Another World, a film produced by Hawks that is so indistinguishable from the films Hawks directed that it's generally just considered "a Howard Hawks film".

-- After seeing the film, John Ford was reported as saying, in reference to John Wayne's performance, "I never knew the son of a bitch could act!."

-- Prominently featured in the fine documentary The Celluloid Closet, as the interactions between Montgomery Clift and John Ireland (especially when they inspect each other's guns) have a none too subtle gay subtext.

-- Named the #5 American Western by the AFI; my #14 film of the 1940s and #74 on my list of the Greatest Films of All-Time.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Classics Profile: Sean

I've worked alongside my cohort in this lucrative enterprise, Mr. Sean Gilman, for nigh five years now and at times I feel like I know the essence of the man. You know, what makes him tick. His passions and aversions, his history and future. And then lo and behold, the dude says something so certifiably bonkers that I pull a Chester Conklin-style spit take ruining my outfit in the process. And I wasn't even drinking anything in the first place.

Ladies and gentlemen. . . Chester Conklin.

This got me thinking, how do we define a man? What really constitutes a life? Why is the sky blue, why is the water wet? In search of answers I set out to question those closest to Sean, his family, friends and co-workers. Maybe they could shed some light onto this riddle wrapped in an enigma, drowning in a tweed jacket. With patches on the elbows.

Pardon me but who is Sean Gilman?

Adam Kempenaar (co-host of Filmspotting, the greatest film podcast around): "Sean Gilman is... The most intimidating cinephile on the Filmspotting Forum."

Ryland Walker Knight (former Metro employee, editor-in-chief at Vinyl is Heavy): "Sean Gilman watches movies, but he also drinks Pepsi a lot, and eats Cup-a-Noodles, too; I think he does all three at once, which may explain why he likes some films better than others. I mean, _Bringing Up Baby_ with pop and paper noodles makes more sense than _Pirates 2_, right?"

Jeff Sim
(Metro manager and nicest guy in the whole wide world): "There's no better karaoke duet partner than Sean Gilman."

Kim Gilman (Sean's significantly better half): "It was a good joke at first, but now it is nothing more than cruel. Everyone knows as well as I do that Sean looks nothing like Johnny Depp. Though many times I had wished it to be true, sadly it is not. Indeed, this charade has elevated Sean's ego to such artificial heights that I'm afraid some permanent damage has been done. He refuses to cut his hair to a manageable length or get rid of that ridiculous outgrowth of facial hair, not to mention his absolute arrogance when it comes to anything and everything movie related---or as he might say, in that pretentious mumbling tone of his, 'film related'."

Freddy Reidenschneider (attorney at law): "They got this guy, in Germany. Fritz Something-or-other. Or is it? Maybe it's Werner. Anyway, he's got this theory, you wanna test something, you know, scientifically - how the planets go round the sun, what sunspots are made of, why the water comes out of the tap - well, you gotta look at it. But sometimes you look at it, your looking changes it. Ya can't know the reality of what happened, or what would've happened if you hadn't-a stuck in your own goddamn schnozz. So there is no "what happened"? Not in any sense that we can grasp, with our puny minds. Because our minds... our minds get in the way. Looking at something changes it. They call it the "Uncertainty Principle". Sure, it sounds screwy, but even Einstein says the guy's on to something."

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Pre-Game Warm-Up: The Fallen Idol

I don't know which Invisible Hands of Fate have been guiding my movie choices as of late but, considering the themes of the impending series, they have been incredibly apt. Last night I managed to finally watch Carol Reed's superlative The Fallen Idol from 1948. The film deals directly with lies, in particular the differences between one lie and another. Whenever a lie is told it is generally thought to be in the interest of the teller but how do we really know which lies are beneficial rather than a hindrance? This question is played out as a young boy, Phillipe, who hasn't yet learned how to differentiate between individual falsehoods, manages to unintentionally implicate his hero, a butler named Baines (played beautifully by Ralph Richardson), in a murder investigation.

Like the immortal Third Man released a year later, this too is a collaboration between Reed and the novelist Graham Greene and deals with many of the themes found within the writer's other work. It is a film that is much less ballyhooed than its successor but is ultimately just as stunning.

Post-script: If you're feeling particularly adventurous, this would be a great double feature with the only Best Picture winner in Alfred Hitchcock's supreme body of work, 1940's Rebecca. Both feature frightening villains in the role of the home's head housekeeper.

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Short History Of Metro Classics, With Pictures and Possibly Some Extraneous Lists (*And Now With Additional Annotation) Part 1: Summer 2007

It's been over two years now since a tweed-wrapped movie geek with an unnatural fondness for lists (right) and a slightly spastic rock n' roll drummer (left) decided to liven up their jobs as movie theatre managers by pestering their bosses for months to let them program their own schedule of repertory movies one night a week. After consulting wikipedia to learn how to write a business plan, they got the OK, and with the help of a great many people at Landmark Theatres (film bookers, publicists, advertisers and one cranky old projectionist (below)) they managed to keep this strange ball a-rolling far longer than anyone had thought possible.

In the six nine-week series we've had since then, we've played 57 different films, ranging in time from 1919's The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari to 2005's The New World. We've played films from the US, Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, and co-productions between the USSR/Cuba and the US/Taiwan/Hong Kong/China. We've played war movies and musicals and westerns and comedies and dramas. Silent films, Studio-Era Hollywood films, art house films, foreign films, New Hollywood, Neo-Realist, German Expressionist and minimalist indie films. Films everyone has seen and films no one has heard of. Even one film I'd never seen.

Here's a look back at our inaugural series, wherein we played one movie from each decade from the 1920s through the 2000s. It all began on June 27, 2007 with:

Sunrise: A Song Of Two Humans (FW Murnau, 1927)

-- The first of three Classics directed by FW Murnau, and the first of four silent Classics

-- After the international success of The Last Laugh, Muranu was lured to Hollywood by William Fox and given carte blanche to make this film, much like Orson Welles got a dozen years later at RKO to make Citizen Kane. Similar to Kane and the early sound era, Sunrise represents a summation and culmination of the various filmmaking techniques developed throughout the silent period.

-- Winner of the first Best Actress Oscar (Janet Gaynor) and Best Cinematography as well as a special Best Picture award for Unique and Artistic Production.

-- #7 on the 2002 Sight And Sound Critics Poll of the Greatest Films of All-Time; #82 on the 2007 AFI list of the 100 Greatest American Films; #10 on my 2008 list of the Greatest Films of All-Time.

July 4, 2007:

Duck Soup (Leo McCarey, 1933)

-- The last film to feature the Four Marx Brothers, as Zeppo retired from filmmaking afterwards.

-- A relative flop at the time for The Marx brothers, it led to the end of their relationship with Paramount after five films. They went on to make some of their most successful films over the next few years at MGM (A Night At the Opera, A Day At The Races), but those movies aren't nearly as good.

-- The first Metro Classic Holiday Tie-In, this satire of nationalism played on Independence Day. Hail Freedonia!

-- #5 on the AFI's list of Greatest American Comedies, #60 on its list of Greatest American Films; #21 on my list of the Greatest Films of All-Time, #2 on my list of the Best Films of the 1930s.

July 11, 2007:

Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942)

-- The first of three Metro Classics that star Humphrey Bogart or Claude Rains, the first of two Classics that star both Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains, and the first of two Classics directed by Michael Curtiz.

-- Winner of the Best Picture Oscar, as well as Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay; #3 on the AFI's list of the Greatest American Films and #1 on their list of Greatest American Romantic Films; Voted the Greatest Screenplay Of All-Time by the Writers Guild Of America; #3 on my list of the Best Films of All-Time, and my #1 film of the 1940s.

-- Highest grossing film in Metro Classics history. By 20% or so; it really isn't close.

-- Boston Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein is the grandson and grandnephew of screenwriters Julius and Philip Epstein.

-- The score by celebrated film composer Max Steiner was Oscar-nominated, despite reusing many of the same themes Steiner used when scoring John Ford's 1934 film The Lost Patrol, which was also set in North Africa and for which Steiner was also Oscar-nominated. This bugs me.

July 18, 2007:

The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)

--The first of only two John Wayne Classics, and the only Classic directed by John Ford. Which is ridiculous because he's, like, the greatest American director ever.

-- #11 on the 2002 Sight And Sound Critics poll of the Greatest Films of All-Time, though it was #5 on the 1992 poll; #12 on the AFI's list of the Greatest American Films of All-Time and #1 on the AFI's list of the Greatest American Westerns; My #9 film of all-time, and my #4 film of the 1950s.

-- The first Metro Classic to be shown on film.

-- The first of five Metro Classics that feature racism as a major theme, along with Do The Right Thing, The New World, Dead Man, Black Narcissus and I Am Cuba.

-- The first of seven westerns to be Classicized.

July 25, 2007

Blow-Up (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1966)

-- The first of two Classics directed by Antonioni, it was shown five days before his death at age 94.

-- Loosely remade by Francis Ford Coppola as The Conversation, and by Brian DePalma as Blow Out. While the Coppola film is very good (and features and excellent performance by Gene Hackman), neither film is better than the original.

-- The first of two Classics starring David Hemmings. The other one seems like it should be very different, but really, it isn't.

-- The band playing in the nightclub scene is The Yardbirds, featuring Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck. Antonioni had considered using both The Who and The Velvet Underground, but doesn't seem to have been able to afford either of them.

-- Oscar nominee for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay; #24 on my list of the Best Films of the 1960s.

-- A last-minute replacement film after we were unable to get Jean-Luc Godard's Pierrot le fou, it nonetheless did excellent business.

August 1, 2007.

Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)

-- Scorsese and screenwriter Paul Schrader both claim this is a loose remake of John Ford'sThe Searchers, though I don't really see it beyond a few incidental details.

-- Winner of the Palme D'Or at the Cannes Film Festival; received four Oscar nominations, including Picture, Actor (Robert DeNiro), Supporting Actress (Jodie Foster) and Original Score (Bernard Hermann), losing Best Picture to the surprisingly similar Rocky (both films arguably enact the wish-fulfillment fantasies of crazed loners); #92 on my list of the Best Films of All-Time, #13 on my list of the Best Films of the 1970s.

-- One of five Classics with political assassination as a plot point, along with Casablanca, I Am Cuba, Rome Open City and The Manchurian Candidate.

August 8, 2007:

Do The Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989)

-- The first Classic I wasn't able to watch as I had to manage the theatre instead. I think Mike was out of town this week as well.

-- #96 on the AFI's list of the Greatest American Films of All-Time; #25 on my Best Films of All-Time list and my #1 film of the 1980s; Oscar nominee for Best Supporting Actor (Danny Aiello) and Best Original Screenplay but not Best Picture, which was won by a film with a very different approach to the subject of race-relations: Driving Miss Daisy.

-- The film makes frequent use of Public Enemy's song "Fight The Power" and on the film's DVD commentary, each individual speaker is introduced by Chuck D, which is awesome.

-- Much like The Searchers, the film is often misinterpreted as it refuses to simplify the issue of racism. The repeated motif of the film, that of the need for balance between Love and Hate (an allusion to Charles Laughton's Classic-worthy film Night Of The Hunter) tended to get ignored at the time in favor of the film's more incendiary moments. The film is about the struggle and seeming inability to do the right thing, and Mookie's return to help repair the pizza parlor is just as significant as his decision to incite its destruction.

August 15, 2007:

Miller's Crossing (Joel & Ethan Coen, 1990)

-- Far ahead of its time, this is the first Classic that has yet to appear on an AFI list or get any Oscar nominations. It is, however, #29 on my list of the Greatest Films of All-Time and my #3 film of the 1990s.

-- The first of only three films noirs we've Classicized. We should play more of them.

-- Mostly inspired by Dashiell Hammett's novel The Glass Key and its 1942 film adaptation starring Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake), the film also contains elements of Hammett's Red Harvest, which was the main source of Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo, which was itself remade by Sergio Leone as the Classic A Fistful Of Dollars.

August 22, 2007:

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee, 2000)

-- We had four banners for this film hanging in the lobby of the Metro for almost nine years until Mike took them down (without my knowledge) in order to put up a display for Up.

-- The highest-grossing foreign language film in US history, it received 10 Oscar nominations and won four, including Foreign Language Film, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score and Best Art Direction. It lost Best Picture to Gladiator, which still makes me angry.

-- Cheng Pei-pei, who plays Zhang Ziyi's villainous master/maid starred in King Hu's ground-breaking 1966 kung fu film Come Drink With Me, one of the first films in the genre to focus on a strong female protagonist. Ang Lee conceived this film as a tribute to Hu's films, especially his 1971 masterpiece A Touch Of Zen.

-- #73 on my list of the Greatest Films of All-Time, #6 on my list of the Best Films of the 2000s.

-- As much as I love the film, and I've seen it many times, I still have no idea what to make of the ending.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Free Stuff!

To those who have yet to experience the sublime majesty of our prestigious little circus, please note that we are not your average two-bit repertory organization.  We don't just take your cash at the door and send you off into the dank, dark underbelly of our cinematic schemata with nary a compass to guide you.  No ma'am.  We aim to provide a super sonic swinging shindig, actively attuned to attacking the heart, mind and body in equal proportions.  We want to give you something to cry about, something to think about and frankly, when it comes down to it, we just want to give you something.  That's why at each and every show we've hosted over the last two years we have partnered with two great local businesses to provide quality prizes for our beloved audience.  

It is with great excitement that I confirm our continued alliance with these esteemed organizations for the upcoming series.

For the first show each week we will have a different, brand new, factory-direct DVD courtesy of the fine folks at Scarecrow Video.  Dig it, man:

-Singin' In the Rain
-Touch of Evil
-The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
-Captain Blood
-Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
-The Ballad of Cable Hogue
-The Passenger
-Sullivan's Travels
-Husbands and Wives

Whew!  That's another series in its own right.  Maybe it's already happening... in a parallel dimension.

For those night owls that will be attending the late shows we will be offering up a gift certificate for up to ten free movie rentals from our prestigious pals at Rain City Video.

Seriously, what more could a movie lover want?  

If you're as excited about these recent developments as I am, you had better start boning up on your movie knowledge for Sean has been testing out his trivia questions on all who come into his path.  His co-workers, his wife, the checker at his grocery store.  It's getting a little embarrassing.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

On This Day In Metro Classics History

Two years ago today, in honor of our nation's independence, we screened the Marx Brothers' manic masterpiece, Duck Soup.  It was the second film Metro Classics ever ran and was our first talkie (Murnau's Sunrise was our inaugural title).  It was also the only time we have run a film three times in one evening, although that 10:00 show ended up being largely superfluous since everyone was elsewhere watching the fireworks.  Mike wore Harpo's hat, nobody got any work done and a great time was had by all.

Some little known facts regarding this comedy classic:

Sean (seen here at last year's freestyle rap championship in NYC) hails Duck Soup as the second best film of the 1930s.

Mike places it at the very top of the greatest comedies ever created, followed by This Is Spinal Tap and the Big Lebowski.

Former Classics projectionist Pete (pictured below with Mike on the mezzanine of the Metro) considers Duck Soup simply the greatest film of all time. 

For those of you who wonder how a film that's eighty years old can achieve so many prestigious accolades I usher you to NPR's website where they posted a very timely assessment of the film's worth on the onset of this recession.

Hail Freedonia and have a happy 4th of July!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Pre-Game Warm-Up: Almodovar's Bad Education

Had we been unable to secure any of our first choices for the upcoming series, Sean and I certainly would have had dozens of great films with which to choose a replacement. I'm sure many of you who see this upcoming schedule are aggrieved by our failure to include any number of films. After all, cinema loves its scoundrels. Last night though I serendipitously stumbled upon what is possibly the most egregious omission from the calendar. Not only does Pedro Almodovar's superb Bad Education fit snugly under the Liars banner (in fact an argument could be made for its inclusion in the other two sub-genres as well), it also manages to concern itself with the three traits that uniquely define our selections for the first third.

The film centers around a love interest that may or may not be what he seems, echoing Audrey Hepburn's suitor played by Cary Grant in Charade.

The story within a story of Bad Education unfolds courtesy of a most unreliable narrator, which is just one of the many manners of subterfuge employed by Orson Welles in the documentary F for Fake.

And finally, Bad Education features an aspiring star who through ruthless deceit works his way up the ladder of professional acting a la the immortal Eve Harrington, played by Anne Baxter, in All About Eve.

I could go on into the many merits of this complex, fascinating film but I fear that I may have already given away too much. Suffice to say, if you're jonesing for a film fix before our series kicks off on August 5th (or before Almodovar's new film Broken Embraces premieres in November), you could do a turn worse than watching Bad Education.