Sunday, June 18, 2017

One-of-a-Kind Celebrity Dolls, Pt. 3: More Creations from Amazing Artists

Lauren Bacall by Cyguy
In this better-late-than-never third and final installment in our series on "OOAK" (One-of-a-Kind) celebrity dolls, we'll peruse the work of some highly accomplished and well-respected artists; Pt. 2 featured the work of prolific "repaint" artist Noel Cruz and Pt. 1 focused on the history of celebrity dolls.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

CASABLANCA at 75, Let the Celebrations Continue



Casablanca - winner of Best Picture, Best Director (Michael Curtiz) and Best Screenplay (Julius and Philip Epstein and Howard Koch) Oscars and possibly the film from Hollywood’s golden era that has aged better than any other “as time goes by” - turns 75 this year. Casablanca was honored at the 8th annual TCM Classic Film Festival in April with a screening on the final night of the event at the TCL Chinese Theatre, that opulent icon of glamorous days gone by that is just now celebrating its 90th year.

This was an ideal way to close out TCMFF 2017; there is no movie that better qualifies as classic than Casablanca, and there is no movie palace still operating with more Hollywood history than the Chinese. The theater (always Grauman’s to me) remains resplendent with old-school glamour even as it has undergone modernization to include digital IMAX capacity. I have no doubt that the 931 other people who shared the screening with me that evening had anything less than a sublime experience.

And now, thanks to the San Francisco Symphony, comes another chance to celebrate Casablanca at 75 in a unique and exceptional setting. On Friday night, June 2, and Saturday night, June 3, the symphony will screen Casablanca onstage as the orchestra performs Max Steiner’s unforgettable score live.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Underseen & Underrated: "Unfaithfully Yours" (1948), from the Madcap Mind of Preston Sturges



Preston Sturges’s final remarkable comedy, the deliriously dark Unfaithfully Yours (1948), screened twice at this year’s TCM Classic Film Festival, on April 7 and April 9. That it screened a second time speaks to the impact of this lesser known Struges jewel the first time it was shown; many of the screening slots on the festival’s final day are held open for repeat showings of “smaller” films that proved to be especially popular on their first run.

Presenting Unfaithfully Yours on April 9 was “Czar of Noir” and host of TCM’s Noir Alley, Eddie Muller. He spoke of his reaction when TCM’s festival programmers told him that the overall theme for the 2017 event would be “Make ‘Em Laugh” and that “Dark Comedies” would be a sub-category. Assuming the obvious, he replied, “You’ll be showing Unfaithfully Yours then, right?”

Thursday, May 4, 2017

PANIQUE (PANIC), a Timely French Noir from Julien Duvivier



 

SCREENED TO SRO CROWD AT TCM FESTIVAL

OPENS AT LAEMMLE'S ROYAL IN LOS ANGELES MAY 5


During TCM’s 8th annual Classic Film Festival in Hollywood last month more than 75 films were presented, all of them classics and almost all of them appealing to me. But there were two that I was absolutely determined to see: the Powell/Pressburger masterpiece Black Narcissus (1947), presented on nitrate-based film stock, and a less well known, newly restored French film, Panique (1946), from director Julien Duvivier.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Rare Noir is Good to Find 2, San Francisco's Second International Film Noir Festival - Coming in May


For four days in May, twelve mostly rare films noir from eleven countries around the world will screen at San Francisco's Roxie Theater in the heart of the city's Mission District. The event, A Rare Noir is Good to Find 2, is the second international film noir festival to be presented at the Roxie by Mid-Century Productions, the company that has already staged 3 annual French film noir festivals there. Says Don Malcolm, Mid-Century's veteran noir programmer, "As astonishing as it is to know that there are hundreds of French noirs awaiting rediscovery on American movie screens, it's even more amazing to see just how prominent film noir was in just about every significant filmmaking nation in the years following World War II."

Camino del Infierno (The Road to Hell) from Mexico, 1951

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Nitrate Experience, BLACK NARCISSUS at TCMFF 2017

Kathleen Byron and Deborah Kerr in Black Narcissus, a production of The Archers

One of the truly sublime experiences (and there were many) of this year's TCM Classic Film Festival was the joy of viewing a nitrate print of The Archers' (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger) great masterpiece Black Narcissus (1947) on the big screen at Hollywood's Egyptian Theatre.

Black Narcissus is a film that dazzles, one of the most spectacular examples of mid-century Technicolor films ever produced. I could hardly imagine that its often voluptuous, frequently Vermeer-like imagery could possibly look any better than I had previously seen. Little did I know that I would be transported to a realm of color that could be called other-worldly. The adjective "awesome" has been entirely worn out for decades, and so I'll simply say that the impact of seeing the film's lush Technicolor photography on nitrate-based film stock was awe-inspiring.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

OOAK Dolls, Pt. 2: Repaint Artist Noel Cruz


 

Noel Cruz is one of the most highly acclaimed among OOAK doll repaint artists on the scene. A Filipino-American based in Anaheim, California, Cruz’s reputation rests upon his talent for fashioning repainted dolls that bear amazing likeness to their subjects. His specialty is character and celebrity dolls, dolls produced by manufacturers like Tonner and Franklin Mint that Cruz strips of their original paint and repaints with infinite care – and with stunning results. His creations are much sought after, and some have sold for more than $2,000 via his EBay store.

The Elizabeth Taylor doll shown above depicts her as Angela Vickers, the character she portrayed in A Place in the Sun (1951). Cruz's transformation of the original factory doll is dramatic. The original bears some passing resemblance to the actress, but is essentially lifeless, where Cruz's makeover is uncannily lifelike.


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

OOAK Dolls: So Real They're Unreal



Bette Davis by CyGuy

Celebrity dolls, I discovered, have been around for a long, long time. According to Ellen Tsagaris of Dr. E's Doll Museum blog, the first commemorative doll is more than likely the Venus of Willendorf and other Venus figures discovered in Europe and said to be between 25,000 and 40,000 years old. Creation of tribute dolls continued through the ages, but it was during the reign of England's Queen Victoria that the popularity of such dolls surged. Royals, celebrated beauties and military heroes were all commemorated with dolls in their likenesses and prima ballerinas were memorialized as paper dolls.

With the arrival of movies in the 20th century came the manufacture of dolls based on film stars; the first Chaplin doll appeared in 1915. The runaway popularity of the Shirley Temple doll produced by Ideal in 1934 brought the production of more dolls based on popular stars like Sonja Henie, Deanna Durbin and others.

Monday, March 6, 2017

The End of An Era



I, we, had hoped he would return. Robert Osborne had gone on hiatus from his hosting duties at TCM before and had always come back. Surely he would return again. But now we are told that he is gone forever and the world, especially the world of classic film, seems to have tipped on its axis.

Monday, February 13, 2017

TCM's 2017 Classic Film Festival


TCM's 8th annual Classic Film Festival is set for April 6 - 9 in Hollywood, and this year's central theme is Make 'Em Laugh: Comedy in the Movies...if there was ever a year we needed some laughs...

Joel McCrea, Claudette Colbert and Rudy Vallee in The Palm Beach Story
Among the comedy classics to be screened are two of my favorites from writer/director Preston Sturges, The Palm Beach Story (1942) and Unfaithfully Yours (1948), with Rex Harrison and Linda Darnell. Also on the program: Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), Born Yesterday (1950), The Front Page (1931), Red-Headed Woman (1932), Harold Lloyd's Speedy (1928) and Twentieth Century (1934). A special presentation, Beyond the Mouse: The 1930s Cartoons of Ub Iwerks (2017), will feature several rarely seen short animation films by Iwerks, an early collaborator and partner of Walt Disney.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Lady Gaga for "La La Land"


Or: Lady Eve Goes Gaga for La La Land

I stepped up to the ticket window at the Century Regency 6 on a Wednesday morning earlier this month intending to purchase an early bird ticket to a film that was in the last days of its run at the multiplex. But Fate would have it otherwise; the movie had already begun 15 minutes ahead of schedule for some logistical reason or another. When I asked if there was another film that hadn’t started yet but would soon, I was told, “Well, La La Land is starting right now.” Ah, one of the other movies I wanted to see. So I grabbed a ticket and hurried into the theater. The opening scene, a splashy and jubilant musical number set on a present day traffic-jammed L.A. freeway, was already in high gear. Taken by surprise at the hoopla onscreen, a near-over-the-top homage to a film genre so very long gone and out of fashion, I wasn't sure whether I was going to like this movie or not, but then...

Monday, January 9, 2017

HAPPY NOIR YEAR!


The 2017 film noir festival season kicks off in the U.S. on January 20 in San Francisco when the Film Noir Foundation's Noir City 15 opens at the city's historic Castro Theater. Satellite Noir City festivals will follow through the year in L.A., Chicago, D.C., Seattle, Kansas City and Austin.