Monday, November 30, 2015

New release roundup for November '15

- The Peanuts Movie. Fun, true to the mythology almost to the point of bending over backwards for it, but in the end, it left me feeling a little unsatisfied, which is an odd thing perhaps, to say about a movie that tries so damn hard to live up to its legacy. The problem is simple: Charlie Brown is not supposed to win in the end. Schulz knew that, and you'd think his heirs would, too, but the round-headed kid gets a happy ending, and not the "Pyrrhic victory" kind, either. For any other character, you say fine, but CB is different. An ending like this, for him, is the wrong fit. It's too saccharine. Then again, maybe a melancholy ending for a children's movie in 2015 is too much to ask for.

That said, this movie isn't a complete slave to canon. Consider the little red-haired girl. She's given a face and a voice, which is more than Schulz ever (willingly) gave her, yet they stop short of giving her a name, which Schulz, of course, never did. Why not go the distance if you're willing to go that far, though? This is one area in which Schulz was wrong, but the filmmakers didn't correct it even after already deviating from the established mythos. (And yes, I'm fully aware of how I sound using words like "mythos" and "canon" when talking about Peanuts.)

This movie doesn't suck, and it's certainly good for the kids, and maybe that's all that matters in the end. But I had hoped for a little more.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Fred Astaire

When I was somewhere around ten or eleven, I went to a bar mitzvah for this kid I knew, Howard. Our fathers were co-workers and mutual friends. There was a reception afterward, in which there was much music and dancing.

Howard and I were friends, too, though we rarely saw each other. He had a sister, Susan, though for once I wasn't attracted to her. I doubt I even thought of her in those terms, though if memory serves, she was good-looking.

Anyway, at this reception, I felt like letting my hair down for once and I danced a lot. I'm not sure, but I think I might have been slightly self-conscious about it beforehand, and I might have conveyed this to Howard and/or Susan, because weeks later, I got a card from Susan thanking me for coming, in which she specifically complimented my dancing. You can imagine how good that made me feel.

To be a great dancer was an occasional childhood fantasy of mine. Naturally, Michael Jackson was my inspiration. My pals and I vogued at our high school prom, but sadly, I don't recall any slow dancing I might have done with my girlfriend. Maybe I didn't know how; maybe I didn't wanna embarrass myself in front of the guys; I don't remember for sure, and I wish I could. I must have slow danced with her, though.

In college, I was into grunge, and that meant moshing, which doesn't involve any particular talent - just a certain ruggedness and a high threshold for pain. Surviving the pit at a Lollapalooza remains a favorite music-related memory.

Astaire with frequent cinematic
dance partner Ginger Rogers
My most romantic dancing memory involves a girl I've told you about before. It was at her house. While she was away for a moment, I browsed through her CDs and spotted a CD single of Sarah McLachlan's "Angel," as beautiful a song as you're likely to hear. When she came back, I put the CD on and asked her to dance. I wasn't embarrassed about it this time.

I held my arms out, expecting to dance the way they do in the movies, with one arm around her waist and the other extended outward, holding her hand. To my surprise, though, she wrapped both her arms around me. I did the same to her and we didn't dance so much as move back and forth to the music. We didn't say anything. We didn't need to. When the song ended, we kissed. I'd have to say it was one of the most perfect moments in my entire life.

It's probably an old-fashioned fantasy to want to sweep a girl off her feet through dance - not John Travolta-in-Saturday Night Fever dancing, but with an orchestra playing, her in a fancy dress and me in a classy tux, the way Fred Astaire used to do. Of course, he was much more than a ballroom dancer; the man could also tap dance up a storm. I think most people, however, remember him best for those sensual, dreamy numbers he did with a variety of actresses throughout his spectacular career, especially in the ten films he made with Ginger Rogers.

In her book on marriage in the movies, I Do and I Don't, Jeanine Basinger talks about "love teams," a pairing of male and female actors over a course of different films that in the public's mind, linked the two romantically, on the screen if not in real life. Astaire and Rogers were one such team:
...Astaire and Rogers were the living metaphor of a perfect union, and they didn't have to play married to show it. Their swooning, yearning, swaying-like-two-chic-cobras romantic numbers spoke to audiences about desire, but also about a spectacularly balanced, perfectly beautiful physicality. Theirs was a marriage set to music, and their dance-floor coupling was real and romantic. (Fred and Ginger seldom kiss in their films. There's no need for it. Their sex life takes place when they have on their dancing shoes.)
Before Ginger, though, and Rita and Cyd and Leslie and all the rest, Astaire's first dance partner was his sister Adele. As kids they had a dance act that took them from vaudeville to Broadway and London. When Adele got married, the partnership broke up, and though he found solo success on Broadway, and eventually Hollywood, he was understandably reluctant to pair up with someone else on a regular basis again. The success of Astaire and Rogers in their first movie together, Flying Down to Rio, changed his mind, and the rest is history.

While there are a number of actors today who can dance, and dance well, none of them have made a career of it the way Astaire did, partly because musicals aren't as popular as they once were, but also because Astaire was unique. He belongs to the Old Hollywood era, the one closely tied to vaudeville and Broadway; where the hunger for the kind of glamour associated with RKO and MGM musicals was at its peak. Still, if the continued success of Dancing With the Stars is any indication, we still crave a touch of that kind of glamour, exemplified by the dancing of Fred Astaire.

Next: Cecil B. DeMille

Movies with Fred Astaire:
Top Hat

Jack Lemmon   Jean Arthur   Edward G. Robinson
Rita Moreno   Frank Capra   Bernard Herrmann

Monday, November 23, 2015

Watch on the Rhine

Watch on the Rhine
TCM viewing

The work of playwright Lillian Hellman continues to inspire the modern theater. An online search leads to the following sampling: Toys in the Attic played in midtown Manhattan in 2007; The Little Foxes was revived in Chicago earlier this year; and The Children's Hour played in London in 2011 with, among others, Keira Knightley, Elisabeth Moss, Carol Kane and Ellen Burstyn. As a Hollywood screenwriter, Hellman adapted some of her work and wrote original material as well, and she even survived a blacklisting from the anti-Communist crowd in Washington during the 50s.

A New Orleans native, she first came to Hollywood in 1930 with her first husband after studying at New York University and Columbia, as well as touring Europe. She was a reader for MGM, and while trying to unionize her fellow readers, she met and fell in love with Maltese Falcon writer Dashiell Hammett. Eventually, she divorced her husband and began a long-term affair with Hammett, despite him being married. It was he who encouraged her to try her hand at writing, and Hour was her first professional work. In her subsequent plays and screenplays, she found outlets in which to express her liberal views on society.

Watch on the Rhine, in particular, addressed World War 2 before America was drawn into the conflict. The play opened on April 1, 1941 and ran for 378 performances. A Washington, DC society woman marries a German and raises a family with him in Germany. Along comes the Nazis, and hubby joins an underground resistance group. When the heat gets too hot, he decides to take a vacation back to America to see her family. Little do they know, however, that forces are at work even there to flush him and his comrades out.

Warner Brothers bought the film rights and Hellman's lover Hammett was recruited to write the screenplay when she herself was unavailable. Much of the stage cast was brought on board for the film, including Eric Roberts, Frank L. Wilson, George Coulouris, Lucille Watson (no relation) and star Paul Lukas.

Bette Davis was super-excited about Hellman's play and was eager to appear in the film adaptation, but she was less sanguine about having her part built up just for her. She was okay with taking a supporting role because she believed strongly in the story, but in the end, she got star billing anyway.

Rhine first came to my attention when Jacqueline wrote a piece about it earlier this year, with an emphasis on Coulouris' role as the heavy. I liked the film, though it took me awhile to get into it. I didn't expect it to begin like just another snooty high society family drama. I guess I wanted to see Nazis from the get-go, and I didn't care about Watson's character fluttering around her mansion bossing everyone in sight. Once the situation became clearer, and I recognized what Coulouris' agenda was, then I became more interested. Lukas was very good. He reminded me a little bit of Gary Cooper if he were European.

Hellman wrote several successful autobiographies later in life, but was dogged by accusations of inaccuracy and misrepresentation in her work by third parties. Indeed, by her own admission, Hellman wrote what she considered a highly subjective version of the truth in her autobiographies. Regardless, she remains a highly influential and respected playwright of the twentieth century, and a pioneering woman in what was, at the time, a male-dominant field.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Shelley Winters

The What a Character Blogathon is an event devoted to the great character actors of classic Hollywood and the often memorable supporting roles they played throughout film history, hosted by Once Upon a Screen, Outspoken & Freckled, & Paula's Cinema Club. For a complete list of participating bloggers, visit the links at any of the host sites.

Does Shelley Winters get a bad rep sometimes, you think? She's a double-Oscar winner, who worked with some of the greatest stars and directors of the Old Hollywood era, and while she's probably better remembered for her roles in middle age and beyond, she was a total hottie in her youth. Yeah, she had her diva moments, but so did plenty of Old Hollywood actresses. Yeah, she made some crappy movies later in life, but she wasn't alone in that, either.

Was it her choice of roles? She had a knack for dying in the second act of lots of her best-known parts (she died at least three times by getting hit by a car!), including A Place in the Sun, one of her greatest films. I watched this one again a few months ago. When I first blogged about it, I had said that I didn't buy her relationship with Montgomery Clift. Truth is, though, I think that was more the fault of the story than the acting. Winters and Clift may seem like a mismatched pair, but they're both so excellent in their roles that it almost doesn't matter. It's also worth noting that Winters was turned down for the role at first because she was too sexy. She had to prove to director George Stevens that she could make herself look ordinary before he accepted her.

Winters seemed to specialize in playing plain-janes and/or jilted women: Sun, Night of the Hunter, Lolita, Executive Suite, etc. That, in and of itself, doesn't mean anything other than typecasting. (At this stage I should probably say that it's been a very long time since I last saw The Miracle Worker, and the one time I saw A Patch of Blue (it was my father's VHS copy), I thought it was super-saccharine.)

Was it her multiple marriages and affairs? This alone certainly does not make her unique, although the number of actors she claimed to have shagged reads like a Hollywood who's who: Brando, Holden, Connery, Lancaster and Flynn, for starters. Personally, I try not to get caught up in all of that kiss-and-tell gossip; like I said, Winters was gorgeous in her youth, and if that meant she went with a lot of actors, well, that's hardly a surprise.

Was it her always bragging about knowing Marilyn Monroe before the latter became a superstar? Gee, I dunno, I think I'd brag about that too, if I were her. I know I've told certain stories, over and over again, about encounters with certain celebrities, or people I knew in school before they became famous (mostly comics artists; I doubt you'd know their names).

Surely it's not for making a movie as cheesy as The Poseidon Adventure? People forget that she was Oscar-nominated for that, too. She gained 35 pounds for it (and by her admission, she was never able to lose it afterwards), and trained with an Olympic swim coach as well. We may look back on Poseidon now with a cynical and ironic gaze, but Winters took it as seriously as any of her other roles.

If Shelley Winters is remembered in a... campy way, or is perhaps not taken that seriously, maybe it's because the really good films from her youth aren't as well-remembered as they ought to be. And to be fair, she herself contributed to her image as a brassy, lusty broad - the kind of woman who would douse Oliver Reed with her drink on television for making fun of women's lib. The kind of woman known for saying things like, "I have bursts of being a lady, but it doesn't last long." And maybe her outrageous behavior had a way of obscuring her talent at times... but she had the goods. So what does it matter how people remember her?

Next: Fred Astaire

Films with Shelley Winters:
A Place in the Sun

Jack Lemmon   Jean Arthur   Edward G. Robinson
Rita Moreno   Frank Capra   Bernard Herrmann

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


The Criterion Blogathon is an event examining the films within the Criterion Collection, hosted by Criterion Blues, Speakeasy and Silver Screenings. For a list of participating bloggers, visit the links at the host sites.

from my DVD collection

I first collected Criterion DVDs back when I worked video retail, in the late 90s-early 00s. It was my co-workers' fault. They were much bigger cinephiles than I was at the time. As my appreciation of movies grew - quality movies, not just whatever was playing at the multiplex that weekend - I began to notice patterns. One of them was that lots of quality movies being released on this new format called DVD were under the Criterion label, and they were the ones my co-workers talked about a lot.

I remember going to the Virgin Megastore for them, either in Times Square or Union Square. Virgin was one of my favorite hangout spots in the 90s because I could buy CDs, DVDs and books there, and often did. I also supported smaller, independently-owned record shops and bookstores, but Virgin had a section specifically devoted to Criterion DVDs, which held a big appeal to someone like me, who was getting an on-the-job education in classic cinema at work.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Return to the Hollywood Canteen!

Almost two years ago, I did a post on the Hollywood Canteen, the World War 2-era nightclub for American soldiers created and run by the film industry, in which movie stars served and entertained enlisted men. My post was in the form of an original short story, centered around an old film star remembering her time there, as well as the boyfriend she had to leave behind. At the time, I wrote it with one eye focused on trying to convey information about the Canteen and the war effort in general, and as a result, it wasn't as much of a fictional narrative as perhaps I would have liked. 

Therefore, I went back recently and revised it, with the goal to make it read more like a proper story. If you look at the original version, you'll see there's not enough going on; it's basically Nan, the main character, reminiscing about the war and why she and her old beau Matthew didn't stay together. So what I've done is to give their conflict more of a central role, while trying to capture some of the magic of the Canteen at the same time. I'd appreciate any and all comments about this new version. I believe it works better as a story than before.

Because I'm terrible with titles, I've given this the tentative title Nice Work If You Can Get It. I would greatly appreciate a better one.

*          *          *

The raucous laughter and music hit him as he entered. A faint scent of old wood wafted through the air, mixed with cooking smells and draft beer. Other servicemen crowded around him, clustered in groups at the bar and at tables. 

What stood out for Matthew the most, however, was seeing the movie stars. Here was Joe E. Brown at the bar, serving drinks. There were Dick Powell and George Raft, bussing tables. And on the dance floor: Claudette Colbert, and Paulette Goddard, and Jeanette MacDonald, all dancing with servicemen just like him!

The Hollywood Canteen was everything Matthew had heard it was.

Friday, November 6, 2015

No Way Out

No Way Out
YouTube viewing

Joseph L. Mankiewicz is one of the most successful triple-threats - producing, writing and directing - in Hollywood history. Chances are you've seen his two biggest hits as a writer-director, A Letter to Three Wives and Best Picture winner All About Eve. As a producer, he was behind such big hits from the 30s and 40s as The Philadelphia Story and Woman of the Year, among others. In addition, his brother Herman co-wrote Citizen Kane with Orson Welles, the highlight of a long career going back to the silent era, and his son Tom had a notable stint as a writer-director, co-writing two Superman movies and three James Bond movies.

Mankiewicz was co-nominated, with original scenarist Lesser Samuels, for the Oscar for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay for No Way Out. He made it the same year, 1950, as Eve, whose screenplay was also Oscar nominated. A young black doctor has to treat two brothers, criminals, but when one of them dies under his care, the other, an unrepentant racist, accuses him of deliberately causing it to happen. The doctor must obtain permission for an autopsy in order to prove his innocence, but that only leads to further, and wider-ranging, complications.

I was really impressed with this one. This was the feature film debut of Sidney Poitier, and he is as good as you would imagine him to be, but there are a variety of roles for other black actors in this film that allow us to see different perspectives of the black experience. Dots Johnson's elevator operator represents the militant side, chafing under the oppression of white society and itching for an excuse to strike back somehow. Amanda Randolph's housekeeper, who could've easily been nothing more than a one-note background character, is given an important role to play in the third act that lets us see her as a person.

It was uncredited screenwriter Philip Yordan, however, who suggested, among other things, letting us see the family of Poitier's character, Luther. Mildred Joanne Smith plays Poitier's wife, and she gets several wonderful moments in the film. Sadly, her career was cut short by a plane crash two years after making No Way Out, according to her IMDB listing. She survived, but never made any other movies. She did, however, switch to singing. She died earlier this year. What would her acting career had been like without that plane crash...?

Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis are in this movie! For Davis, it was also his feature debut, as well as the first film he and Dee would share. She plays Poitier's sister; Davis plays Dee's husband. They get to share a few lines together over a dinner table with mom Maude Simmons. Davis' character takes part in the [SPOILER] in Act Two, though it's also not clear why he does so. I would've liked just a tiny bit of clarification, since he doesn't come across as militant as Johnson's character.

Big shock: No Way Out was somewhat controversial when it was released. How so? Read this and find out. I found producer Darryl Zanuck's attitude towards this film fascinating: he already knew that southern theaters wouldn't want to show it, which would mean a significant loss of revenue, yet he greenlit it anyway. Not only that, but he changed his mind about the ending, in a manner that suggested he gave the story serious thought. He wasn't thinking in terms of capitulating to the audience in some way that would make the movie more palatable. He wanted to make money on No Way Out, no question, but he also thought hard about the film's integrity, and that's admirable.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Boy Named Charlie Brown

A Boy Named Charlie Brown
YouTube viewing

When I was in high school, I took a cartooning class, and about halfway into the semester, I did a report on Charles Schulz. I remember finding what must have been a young adult-style biography of the cartoonist which was quite helpful. in that I not only learned some basic facts about the man, but I got to see the roots of the comic strip that would become the worldwide phenomenon known as Peanuts.

Perhaps you're aware that it began as not a traditional, four-panel strip but a single-panel one, like Family Circus, called Li'l Folks, with a much smaller cast of characters. Charlie Brown and Snoopy look a little different, but they're easily recognizable. The name "Peanuts" was imposed on Schulz by United Feature Syndicate, and he never liked it - which is why all those TV specials and movies are titled "Charlie Brown" this and "Charlie Brown" that.

I imagine the story of my childhood with Peanuts isn't too different from yours. I remember owning the collected editions (still have some of them) and other Peanuts-related books, and I even had a few vinyl records of some of the TV specials. Naturally, I watched those specials every year, like most kids. I'm pretty sure I went to see Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown when it came out theatrically. I remember thinking how lucky the kids were to be able to go to a foreign country on their own.

I also imagine that Peanuts means as much to you as it does to me. From an artistic standpoint, it was and is a notable influence. When I first created City Mouse, Schulz' unique humor was something I strove for often (though not always). I like to think CM has a little bit of Snoopy's style and savoir faire. I have made at least one blatant Peanuts ripoff homage in CM, for what it's worth.

Beyond CM, though, I remember experimenting with a Peanuts-inspired four-panel gag strip back in college, about a pair of young tennis prodigies. If memory serves, I believe this even pre-dated my foray into self-publishing comic books. I did this one strictly for me, however, in the pages of my sketchbook, and if you were to see it, you'd recognize pretty clearly my attempt to be like Schulz. Four-panel gags are a challenge in terms of learning how to pace a joke properly - not as easy as it seems - and I've tried it on quite a few occasions over the years. The nice thing about CM is that I can do it in a variety of formats.

Getting back to Peanuts, though: much has been written about these remarkable characters and what they mean to people. They never seemed completely like kids to me, yet their innocence and vulnerability belonged very much to the realm of childhood. It used to puzzle me that they seemed to have so much freedom, yet were still subject to the bounds of the adult world, however marginalized adults were in the strip.

From Schulz' perspective, it must have been tempting to introduce adults directly, but whether it was a teacher Linus crushed on or a baseball player Charlie Brown idolized or even a simple parent or grandparent, Schulz always kept them off-panel, out of sight, and in so doing, fully immersed us into the kids' world in a way no other comic strip, before or since, has done. That's just one more reason among many why, as a literary work of art, Peanuts stands alone.

And now, Peanuts is back in the spotlight. This Friday, a new animated movie featuring CB and company will debut, a computer-generated one, no less, and it has gotten people talking about these characters again, which is always welcome. I thought I'd take a moment to look back at the first time the Peanuts crew were on the big screen, and since I haven't done any animated movies so far this year, now is the perfect time.

A Boy Named Charlie Brown was released in 1969, four years after Peanuts' animated debut in the television all-timer A Charlie Brown Christmas. Much of it is stitched together from various Peanuts strips, which is kind of disappointing, given that Christmas was an original teleplay written by Schulz, but if you've never seen the strips, I guess you won't know the difference. Bill Melendez directs once again, as he did for Christmas.

Tired of living with loser stink on him all the time, CB is encouraged by Linus to enter a school spelling bee, and the round-headed kid discovers he actually has an affinity for spelling - but how far can he take his newfound success? Boy doesn't hold up quite as well as I had hoped it would - it's not that funny, and with the exception of the marvelous title track, the original songs aren't that great - though the final fifteen minutes or so redeem the whole thing for sure.

And there are some nice surprises. Try to imagine, if you will, a modern animated movie that stops the action for a meditative, artistic musical sequence set to Beethoven, or a rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" animated in stars and stripes. Boy looks less like an animated adaptation of a popular comic strip and more like pop art, which was all the rage during the sixties, and it's certainly a reflection of the mind of Schulz.

Boy was Oscar-nominated in the Original Song Score category, which was different from both Original Score and Original Song. I'm not quite sure what the difference was exactly, but they don't use this category anymore, so who cares? They lost to the Beatles for Let It Be, so no shame there. Vince Guaraldi worked on the score, and once again, his jazz-infused inflections give the animated incarnation of Peanuts a distinctive flavor. You'll note the lack of pop songs in the soundtrack.

I know The Peanuts Movie won't be like this. I've learned to accept that the characters are in hands other than Schulz' now, and as long as there's money to be made from them, they will continue without him. Is hoping that they'll be treated with respect too much to ask for? Maybe Calvin & Hobbes' Bill Waterson had the right idea all along: avoid all commercialization and merchandising whatsoever and know when to leave the stage. How many of us, however, have the strength to walk down that narrow path? I'm certainly not blaming Schulz for merchandising Peanuts, nor am I blaming his family for continuing to make money off of it; I'm just saying that as a fan, it's difficult to say this stuff doesn't matter. I'll see this new movie and judge for myself.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

We don't need corporations to define Star Trek

CBS Television Studios announced today it will launch a totally new Star Trek television series in January 2017. The new series will blast off with a special preview broadcast on the CBS Television Network. The premiere episode and all subsequent first-run episodes will then be available exclusively in the United States on CBS All Access, the Network’s digital subscription video on demand and live streaming service.
The next chapter of the Star Trek franchise will also be distributed concurrently for television and multiple platforms around the world by CBS Studios International.
...Alex Kurtzman will serve as executive producer for the new Star Trek TV series. Kurtzman co-wrote and produced the blockbuster films Star Trek (2009) with Roberto Orci, and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) with Orci and Damon Lindelof. Both films were produced and directed by J.J. Abrams.
So I took a little time yesterday to ponder this advertisement for CBS All Access disguised as the announcement of a new Star Trek series. If I understand this press release correctly, the premiere episode will debut on CBS Television, and all subsequent episodes will air only on the VOD/streaming service. Yes, I understand that it's called show business for a reason and blah blah blah, but asking viewers to pay for yet another subscription service, in an environment which already contains Amazon, Netflix and Hulu, not to mention cable, may be a bridge too far. It certainly sets a bad precedent for the history of Trek on TV, which has never needed to rely on deals like this before. That's not what I wanna talk about, however.

What I want to know is this: in 2015-soon-to-be-2016, do we even need to rely on CBS (and Paramount for the movies) for Trek anymore? Way back in prehistoric times, also known as the 1970s, Trek fandom kept the spirit of The Original Series alive by writing fan fiction, making original art, publishing zines, and many other things in the absence of their favorite TV show.

Axanar takes a single TOS episode and expands upon it, telling an
untold tale of Trek history.
That entrepreneurial spirit lives on today, in Trekkies who are far more than just non-professional amateurs, creating far more than just newsletters and filk songs. In recent years, there has been a renaissance in the realm of Trek-related fan films, many of which are funded through crowdsource websites like Kickstarter, and if you think these are cheaply-made productions shot in 16mm out of somebody's garage, think again. Below-the-line industry professionals - computer graphics animators, set designers, costumers, makeup artists, etc. - are involved in the creation of a number of these projects, giving them a look not unlike that of many network TV shows. The writing and acting, in the best cases, is also of a high quality.

Perhaps the most exciting factor, however, is the direct involvement of actors from the Trek shows. George Takei, Nichelle Nichols and Walter Koenig from The Original Series are among the many Trek alumni who have appeared or are appearing in this new wave of fan films, playing either their familiar roles from their respective series or new ones, and as a result, they give these independent films - for that's what they are, really - an air of "legitimacy," in a way. Even the productions without known Trek actors, though, look and feel far more professional than one might expect.

Star Trek Continues is one of several web shows that
attempts to create a "fourth season" of TOS.
No, none of these productions are able to profit financially from their efforts, but that's not the point. They're being made because they can be made, because their creators' love for Trek is not reliant solely on whatever CBS and Paramount deem to provide us. Not only do these new films and shows satisfy a demand that the "official" keepers of the Trek brand can't even keep up with, they provide new parameters for what Trek is and can be- but then, Trek fandom has been doing that for a long, long time.

I was going to wait until January to announce this, but I guess now is probably a more appropriate time to let the cat out of the bag: to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Trek, in 2016, I plan on doing a year-long series, once a month, that will explore different aspects of what you could call the Trek legacy. It won't be comprehensive; I'm just gonna take a look at some of the ways in which Trek has grown beyond the shows and films, and these indie Trek productions will definitely be among them. Also, in September 2016 I'll present "30 Days of Trek," which will celebrate the shows, the characters, and the people who made the whole thing possible, and will include my personal all-time Top 25 episode list. So there you go.

What was responsible for the geek renaissance?

Monday, November 2, 2015

Free-range organic links

Stolen from Page's collection. Don't tell her.
So I went to see Bridge of Spies at my local neighborhood theater, the Jamaica Multiplex, and I found that they have begun to search bags. To my knowledge, in the decade-plus that I've been going there, I don't recall them ever doing this before. Why now? The manager couldn't give me an answer other than "orders from high above," but I think we can take an educated guess. Anyway, I submitted to it, and I really regret doing that now. I think my reasoning was out of a misplaced sense of loyalty to my local theater. The more I thought about it, though, the more that struck me as weak.

Bottom line, I'm not going back to the Jamaica again. I've written a letter - an actual letter, not just an e-mail - to the theater's parent company, Showcase Cinemas (part of National Amusements Inc.) explaining why, not that I expect the big faceless corporation to care about losing one customer, but the act made me feel somewhat better. And the truth is that I can easily live without the Jamaica; there are other theaters in Queens I can go to, though they're a little further away.

Maybe I'm overreacting. Maybe I'm making this into something bigger than it actually should be. That's entirely possible, and if so, don't be afraid to tell me. Thing is, though, I still believe bag searches at movie theaters won't solve the bigger problem, which is gun control. Sooner or later someone in our government's gonna wake up and realize that the lack of it is too costly, in lives and money, to maintain much longer. But that's another rant.

I started to feel the relentless wave of Star Wars hype weeks ago and I really, really wish we could just fast-forward to December 18 and get it over with. It's no longer even a matter of whether it'll be good; it's just expected that you, your friends, your family, your dog, your teachers, your boss, and everyone you know will be talking about it at least, if they don't actually see it.

I know this is the new normal; I know this is how it's gonna be for Episodes VIII and IX, for the Avatar sequels, for Batman v. Superman and Zod knows what else is on the horizon and there's no point in complaining. 

But I'm complaining. I was in the supermarket recently, right, looking for a box of Honey Nut Cheerios. I found it, all right, but you know what? THE FRIGGIN' HONEY NUT CHEERIOS BEE WAS WEARING A DARTH VADER HELMET. That's how pervasive this has become, people. You can't fight it. You can only give in to it, like the Dark Side of the Force. Seriously, sometimes I think the movies are beside the point... but whatever. I'll have more to say about the whole thing when I write about Episode VII.

Got some more good stuff for you this month: two blogathons, two more profiles, the first post this year devoted to an animated film, and since I've already talked about the so-called worst film of all time, I'm also gonna talk about the so-called best film of all time - Citizen Kane. In addition, I've decided what I wanna do for the upcoming 1000th post. Now it's just a matter of arranging it. I hope to reach the milestone before Christmas, and as this is post number 980, I'd say I have a pretty good shot at that goal.

And if you're in the New York area, I'm gonna do another reading this month at Astoria Bookshop, on the 12th. Details here.

Your links for this month:

Aurora does the conga.

Raquel has this fine profile on Cesar Romero.

Jacqueline voyages on the Good Ship Lollipop with Shirley Temple.

Ivan is back! And he's got the lowdown on a new Carol Burnett Show DVD box set.

Retrospace has a bunch of Halloween-themed pics of classic film actresses.

I can't imagine why anyone would make a museum devoted to miniature film sets, but it exists, and it's pretty damn cool.

Check out these neon signs made from movie quotes.

William Shatner's coming out with a book about his friendship with Leonard Nimoy.

Okay, so the Cubs didn't make it to the World Series, but the 2015 of Back to the Future 2 is still kinda-sorta plausible.

Ethan Hawke, Alicia Keys and other celebs ran the NYC Marathon yesterday.