Screening Room Articles
With the Asheville Film Society fundraiser showing of the 1933 King Kong coming up on Wed., July 20 (7:30 p.m. at The Carolina), I've found myself spending a lot of time recently with that simian gent. Yeah, there have been three versions of King Kong -- and that's not counting offshoots, knock-offs, rip-offs, and sequels of a highly dubious nature -- but really has anything ever come close of the 1933 original? Certainly, the 1976 remake is negligible at best and blasphemous at worst. Peter Jackson's more respectable and respectful 2005 version has its merits, but does it linger in the mind the way the 1933 film does? Is it in itself in any way iconic?
It's July 3. Of course, I'm going to write about Ken Russell -- it's his birthday. (It's his 84th birthday, if you're keeping track.) Anyone who's been paying attention knows that three things will happen today. I'll write something about Ken. I'll call him up to offer birthday greetings. I'll watch a Ken Russell movie -- or two. It follows as the night follows the day. And as is often the case, I've grown reflective -- that we may attribute to my own aging.
Last week was Father's Day and because of my daughter, I ended up spending a good bit of the past week watching Bing Crosby movies. In other words, she sent me the most recent Bing Crosby Collection. It's actually a very apt choice, since I mostly owe my lifelong love of Der Bingle to my father, who not only introduced me to Crosby, but slightly resembled him and sang very much in the same style. (At the same time, he wrong-headedly preferred -- oh, my, no -- Frank Sinatra.)
Well, here we are at the tail end (you should excuse the term) of the sixth month of 2011. That means that the year is half over. That also means that the movie year is half over. And I have to say that it ain't a very inspiring sight. Usually by this point, I can come up with eight or nine candidates for a Ten Best list. This year, I can come up with three -- and maybe a couple more if I fudge things. What's going on out there?
So here's the rest of the alphabet of movies that may or may not be worth another look. Having now seen Thir13en Ghosts twice, this is beginning to look like a risky and unnecessary undertaking, but I'm determined to perservere -- at least as far as the titles I have on hand. It's not that Thir13en Ghosts is any worse than I thought, but it didn't warrant another look. Opt for its predecessor, the 1999 House on Haunted Hill, instead. Just about everything worth seeing -- and a whole lot more -- comes from the earlier film. I am sincerely hoping that this does not turn out to be a harbinger of things to come. But let's look at letters "M" through "Z."
The other week, I had occasion to sift through just about everything I've written for the Xpress since 2000. This wasn't something I undertook lightly since there are over 3000 reviews and what not to sift through, but to provide a friend with some information, there really was no other way. In the process, I kept bumping into titles that I've long had it in mind to revisit -- some (many) to the degree that I bought the DVDs. I have, however, not actually rewatched a single one of these.
Before it's possible to entertain the question of movie snobbery -- and are you or aren't you? -- it's necessary to arrive at some kind definition of what constitutes a movie snob. One way and another, almost all of us are some kind of movie snob. I think I once heard of someone who wasn't, but he ended up as curator of the Martin and Lewis archives and was never heard from again (apart from strangled cries in the night of "Hey, Dino!"). We won't mention him again. There is, after all, a very fine line between "discerning viewer" -- generally defined as being capable of recognizing that anything from Michael Bay should be avoided -- and the outright "movie snob" -- an altogether more slippery proposition.
Anyone with even a casual interest in the history of the movies has almost certainly encountered the widely accepted "fact" that 1939 was the best year for movies ever. (TCM's Robert Osborne never tires of reminding us of this.) The claim seems to be based on 1939 producing Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz with everything else of even moderate value packed in afterwards to support what is to me an insupportable point. Or like the song says, "It ain't necessarily so." Of course, that statement means I have to attempt to support my assertion that 1939 is not the best year for movies. It's a fool's errand, but I'll have a bash.
I suppose it happens less often these days, but I imagine it still does happen that most people with a serious interest in movies have -- or have had -- some title or other they've read about or heard about that they've never been able to see. This used to be common back in the pre-video days. Now, it sometimes seems that nearly everything your little viewing heart could desire is but a trip to the video store, a browse on Amazon, or even a mouse or remote control click away. That's not really true, of course, but it's certainly more the case now that it ever was. I sometimes wonder if this is necessarily a good thing.
The other evening Justin Souther and I -- and maybe a few others -- were loitering in the bar of the Cinema Lounge of The Carolina having a meaningful conversation in depth (read: we were killing time) when -- for reasons that are obscure to me now -- I chanced to mention the movie Werewolf in a Girls' Dormitory (1962). Upon invoking said title, I found myself on the receiving end of one of those looks. You know the kind -- expressing disbelief in your veracity. I made it clear that indeed there is such a movie and that it could hardly be said to live up to its title. This in turn led to the discussion that brought us to the state of events you're encountering now.
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