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December 19, 2014

Unfinished Business: Movies I Just Can't Sit Through

Gunga Din (1939) SOURCE

For someone who counts GONE WITH THE WIND (1939) as their all-time favourite movie, it's a little hard to believe that there are some movies I just can't make it through. GONE WITH THE WIND is the ultimate big screen epic - long-winded and a little bloated in parts, I'll admit - so how the heck is it possible that I can't sit through a single viewing of films half its length?!

  • Gunga Din (1939) // I love Cary Grant as much as the next person does - okay, a little more - and I love men in hot climes but I just can't seem to make it through a single viewing of this RKO film gem. And it's certainly not for lack of trying either! I've borrowed the DVD from the library, I've DVR'd it on TCM multiple times and I've tuned in for live viewings - sometimes even in the middle of the night - but no luck. Zilch! I always begin losing interest somewhere around the 15-minute mark (after the roughhousing introduction) and then I inevitably start tuning out and either drifting off to sleep (drooling out of the side of my mouth and everything) or I ditch the TV and finally pick up that book I was meaning to finish. Cary Grant is the December Star Of the Month on TCM and there's a good chance that GUNGA DIN will air again, so let's hope that this time I can make it through all the way to the film's end!

  • Citizen Kane (1941) // Good Lord, this one's a doozy! Who the hell hasn't found it difficult to sit through what the American Film Institute (AFI) has dubbed the greatest film ever made? That's what I want to know! I'm not going to sit here and tell you that CITIZEN KANE is a bad picture because it isn't; it's just full of itself and, for me, that's hard to stomach. I don't put up with that from people so why should I treat a film any differently? If I try really hard and think back on how many times I've attempted to sit through CITIZEN KANE, I can come up with at least four or five occasions. I've even purchased the special edition DVD copy but that shit just didn't take (I ended up trashing it earlier in the year when I cleaned out my movie collection). Maybe it's not the movie -- maybe it's Orson Welles because, come to think of it, there is not one Welles film that I like.

  • Doctor Zhivago (1965) // I'm actually a little ashamed to include this on my list of 'unfinished business' movies because I've heard so many wonderful things about not only the film, but the story, the cast, and the cinematography. I definitely feel like I've been missing out on something stupendous here and it's time to remedy that. Like, really remedy. As far as I'm concerned, this is the next movie on my To-Watch list. Hopefully this time I'll be able to make it through the whole thing without any interruptions and/or impromptu naps-on-the-sofa. The thing with DOCTOR ZHIVAGO is that I've seen bits and pieces of it but never the whole thing all together, the way a movie should be seen.

...and the one that I finally managed to conquer in 2014:

  • Lawrence of Arabia (1962) // I'm embarrassed to admit that it took the passing of star Peter O'Toole late last year to make me want to sit down (for four hours) and finally see this movie. Every time it's aired on TCM in the past, I would catch my Pops watching it - he was ten years old when the film was originally released and he said it's always been one of his favourites. To be perfectly honest, I both loved and hated the film. I loved the story, I loved the cast, I loved the excitement, and I especially loved the cinematography. I hated the way it dragged in spots and I hated the endless waiting for the movie to reach its climax (wink wink nudge nudge). Overall though, I really enjoyed the experience of watching LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. It's one of the greatest epics I've seen and the fact it's based on actual events always pleases me immensely as I'm a huge lover of historical films and historical fiction.

I'd love to know which films make up your 'unfinished business' movie list! Tell me about them in the comments section down below!

December 17, 2014

My favourite classic film discoveries of 2014!

Metropolis (1927)

Wow - this year has been an absolute minefield of great classic film discoveries!

Is it just me or does it seem as if there has been a never-ending list of  superb biographies and coffee table books that were released in 2014? And how about all those stupendous, long-awaited bluray releases that made it onto store shelves this past Fall (It Happened One Night, I'm looking at you)?! The fact of the matter is, we've been rather spoiled for choice this year and because of this, our wallets have become a little lighter than they initially were back in January 2014. Oops.

And forget about consumerism right now because not only have I bought many things, I've also discovered movies, people, and books that I had hidden away in my own classic film stash! Perhaps the best feeling of all is delving into your collection of unwatched DVDs and blurays and coming up with a film you couldn't believe you had missed out on for so long! So, without further ado, here are my favourite classic film discoveries of the past year:

Films:
  • The General (1926) // Pops and I never laughed so hard whilst watching an old movie together! This was an early discovery in 2014 and one that I will look back on as one of the brightest highlights of the year - you just can't beat spending time with a loved one, laughing and crying - happy tears, mind - together on the couch while your Mother cries out in the background "Why is there no sound? Is the TV broken?"
  • Metropolis (1927) // I watched this silent German masterpiece on a total whim while I was tucked up in bed one Saturday evening. Was it one of the best decisions I've made all year? Yup. Will I be watching it again soon? You bet your bottom dollar I will be! It was gripping, moving, and it had a heck of an impact on me.
  • From Here To Eternity (1953) // Everything about this film is beautiful! I saw this for the first time earlier on in 2014 and I seriously cannot believe I had waited so long. It's one of those movies that you hear about early on in life but one that you perhaps don't get to until you're grown up and your taste in film has matured.
  • Dial M For Murder (1954) // Lord knows I'm not the biggest Grace Kelly fan but having the chance to see this play on the big screen - and in 3D no less - was too much for me to pass up! It was exciting, it was smart and it was the first of Kelly's onscreen performances that didn't irk me.

People:
  • John Gilbert // To say this man makes me weak in the knees is a gross understatement. I was never much of a Gilbert fan before - even when I watched him paired with Greta Garbo onscreen - but something about him just gripped me this year. Maybe it was his naughty sense of humour or maybe it was his dashing personality ... either way, he totally captured my heart in 2014.
  • John Wayne (and Westerns - who'd have thunk it?) // Cowboys and westerns?! I can honestly say that I never thought I'd see the day when I purchased an entire library's worth of John Wayne films on DVD for my own personal collection. In my teens, the only exposure I had to The Duke was watching episodes of Whose Line Is It Anyway? (comedian Ryan Stiles does a mean impression of John Wayne that always had me rolling on the floor).
  • Edward Everett Horton (again) // I re-watched Shall We Dance (1937) this past Autumn and fell in love all over again with EEH. I've always found him an absolute joy to watch onscreen and if I'm pressed, I'll always include him in my top spot of favourite character actors of all time!
  • Ann Dvorak // I blame this new obsession of mine entirely on Christina Rice and her brilliant biography entitled Ann Dvorak: Hollywood's Forgotten Rebel (University Press of Kentucky, 2013). This book kick-started my endless fascination with this forgotten star of the 1930s and 1940s and I see no signs of it abating any time soon.

Books:
  • A Life of Barbara Stanwyck Steel-True 1907-1940 by Victoria Wilson
  • Ann Dvorak: Hollywood's Forgotten Rebel by Christina Rice
  • John Wayne: The Life and Legend by Scott Eyman
  • Hollywood Gothic by David J. Skal

I'd love to know what your favourite classic film-related discoveries were in 2014! Tell me about them in the comments section down below!

December 15, 2014

TCM Remembers 2014


Man, these memorial tributes kill me every year (well done TCM, really).

I want you to take a few minutes and watch the video I've embedded up above. I'll wait for you. Right, now that you've seen it and have probably shed a tear, I want you to know that this is how a memorial tribute should look (unlike those lame ones that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences produce for the Oscars each year). Everything about the TCM tributes is amazing from the soundtrack to the visuals and from the film clips to the voice-overs. The placement of each deceased star is also really important too and TCM nails it; I hate to say it, but the more well-known personalities always have the perfect placement in the video and the most satisfying length of time dedicated to them in each video tribute.

I went into watching this year's memorial tribute expecting a massive spotlight to be shone on Lauren Bacall. Her death on August 12th is the one that upset me the most and I couldn't wait to see what TCM had done for her here. We had all said, upon her passing, that Bogie (her late husband Humphrey Bogart, for those of you not in-the-know) was up there waiting for her and I'm glad to say we weren't far wrong because at the clip's 2:26 mark we hear Bogie say "I'll be waiting for you." Oh my God all the feels!

This year, TCM saved the most touching clip for last - believe me when I say I have goosebumps just typing this sentence out - a young Shirley Temple signing Auld Lang Syne before the clip fades to black. I'd be lying if I said I didn't burst into tears at that point (man, you probably think I cry at the drop of a hat). Shirley Temple passed away earlier this year on February 10th at the ripe old age of eighty-five. Another portion of the clip that gave me shivers was at the 4:11 mark: Mickey Rooney being congratulated whole-heartedly upon his return to Boys Town in BOYS TOWN (1938).

What did you think of this year's TCM Remembers video tribute? I'd love to know which clips were your favourites and which part(s) of the video moved you to tears. Tell me all about it in the comments section down below!

December 12, 2014

Wintertime Film Funks

Buster Keaton

Here's something I never thought would happen in a million years: it's the holiday season and I'm in a classic film funk.

I know, right?! How is this possible?! God is probably up there on a cloud shaking his head in bewilderment at me right now. My poor soul is going straight to hell, I know it. With no connecting flight. Just straight there. I almost feel as if I'm betraying my TCM Now Playing guide - not to mention the TCM network itself - by completely ignoring it and stuffing it in my desk drawer. You know, the drawer that never gets opened or cleaned out? The black hole of desk drawers? Yeah, the TCM Now Playing guide for Decemeber 2014 is in there, wasting away.

Yes, I've watched a couple of classic films in November and I've enjoyed them but ask me if I've watched any in December and I'll come up with a blank (embarrassed) facial expression. It's like asking a bestselling author if they've written anything in the past couple of months. Ummmm nope, sorry 'bout that. How fucking shameful - not to mention anticlimactic. My job as a classic film blogger is to sit my Italian bottom down and watch old movies and because of this funk I've been in recently, I haven't been doing that. I suck at my job right now and I feel as if I'm letting you down. Now normally, the average person couldn't care less about being in a funk, but because I'm Canadian (which means I apologize for everything under the sun including the six feet of snow the poor state of Buffalo received last month), I feel it necessary to dig this hole further and further down, wallowing in my displeasure.

How do I fix this problem? What would Nick and Nora do? I'll tell you what they would do: they'd each get roaring drunk, throw a party, solve a murder mystery and escape out of town for the weekend with Asta in tow. Now, if I apply this formula to my own boring and uneventful life, it would mean that I would have to take up drinking copious amounts of alcohol, hobnob with people I couldn't care less about, find someone whose father has just been murdered, and book a hotel room in Niagara Falls for the weekend. Oh, and I'd need a dog to take with me.

I think my only option right now is to leave the office immediately, go home, and switch on TCM. Do you think the company president would allow that? There is a slim chance I'd be fired but what the hell? If I can't sacrifice my job for old movies, what can I sacrifice it for?

Has anyone else been in a classic film funk recently? Tell me about it in the comments section down below and we'll stew over this problem together.

December 10, 2014

Get to know more about me: the soundtrack to my life tag!

Shirley Manson, Garbage frontwoman and my #1 Crush

Music is a huge part of my life; I listen to it all the time and it's quite literally the thing that keeps me going when I'm happy, when I'm sad, when I'm ill, and when I'm excited.

My parents each had comprehensive vinyl collections and when me and my solder sister were growing up, there would always be music playing in the background - I can still remember cleaning the house whilst Madonna's Like A Virgin album blasted in the background. I would sing along loudly not having any idea what her lyrics actually meant - Mummy, what's a virgin? I also remember singing along to George Michael's Faith album when I was about seven or eight years old. My family still won't let me live that one down (on account of his lyrics being so fucking dirrrrty). An eight year old child has no business singing I Want Your Sex in public.

I realize this post has absolutely nothing to do with classic film but I really wanted to share this tag with you because I think it's a wonderful way for us to get to know each other better. I tell you the songs that make up the soundtrack of my life and you leave me comments discussing yours! This tag was created by the lovely ZOE LDN and Lily Melrose. Right! Here we go:

  • Song you listen to when you're happy? Our House by Madness
  • Song you listen to when you're sad? Ordinary World by Duran Duran or Pictures of You by The Cure
  • What song will you have at your wedding? I Melt With You by Modern English
  • What song do you dance around the house to? No One Knows by Queens of the Stone Age
  • Song you play on your headphones when out and about? Sunday Morning by No Doubt
  • Song you listen to when you're angry? Y'all Want A Single by Korn
  • Song you'd have at your funeral? Stop Crying Your Heart Out by Oasis
  • Song that makes you lose your shit at a party? Jump Around by House of Pain
  • The last song you listened to? Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better by Betty Hutton and Howard Keel (words and music by Irving Berlin)
  • Your karaoke song? I'd sing anything by Garbage, particularly You Look So Fine
  • What song do you work out/exercise to? Since I don't exercise (slaps own wrist) I decided to substitute this question with another one of my own: New Favourite Song? Bill Murray by Phantogram
  • Song with the most memories attached? Venus by Bananarama
  • Song that makes you cry? Bloodflood Pt. II by Alt-J
  • Song you hate the most? Santa Baby by Madonna
  • Your favourite song of all time? Patience by Guns N Roses


I'd love to know what your answers are, so leave me a comment down below!

December 8, 2014

Book Look! Thoughts On The Thin Man edited by Danny Reid


If you're buying for a classic film fan this holiday season, I've got the perfect gift idea for them (you can thank me later): THOUGHTS ON THE THIN MAN by my good friend Danny over at Pre-Code.com!

This book is available both in print and in Kindle form from Amazon and all proceeds raised are donated to the ASPCA. THOUGHTS ON THE THIN MAN is a collection of essays that discuss the film THE THIN MAN (1934), its wonderful, zany cast, its crew and the studio that made the popular Thin Man film franchise possible - Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

The book's list of contributors is staggering, to say the least! Prepare yourself now, here we go: Cliff Aliperti, Shane Bliss, E.A. Botta, myself (Vanessa Buttino), Judy Geater, Karen Burroughs Hannsberry, Andrew Hathaway, Leticia Magalhaes, Cameron Howard, Jared Latore, Michael James Roberson, Christina Rice, Ryan Rhinciuso, Ivan G. Shreve, Tars Tarkas, B.G. Voita, Andrew Wickliffe, Jake Woehlke, and Clint Worthington. Phew! What a mouthful!

This is the perfect gift for any classic film fan 'cause let's be real, who doesn't have a soft spot for Nick and Nora Charles (and Asta)? In all my years of obsessing over old movies, I've yet to come across someone who doesn't appreciate the film's humour, suspense, and its sizable cast of wacky characters.

Will you be picking up this month's hottest new book release? Tell me in the comments section down below! And, while you're at it, let me know who your favourite Thin Man character is!

December 5, 2014

A Lifestyle Clash: Rock vs. Glamour

Typical Me: Black Milk Clothing leggings, AllSaints treads, & a black leather bag

I'm going to ask you a question in the hopes that you can clear something up for me ...

How is it possible that someone who grew up having Korn as their favourite band can also saunter through life loving show tunes and clean-cut MGM musicals? I mean, to me, that just doesn't make sense! My musical tastes go from one extreme (shouting, blaring metal) to the other (crooning, romantic showstoppers) and there is no apparent rhyme nor reason to the formula.

The same can be said for my taste in clothing: in high school, I was a proper skater and since then I've always preferred dressing in a casual, somewhat rocker-ish way eschewing preppy vests and tight corduroy trousers in favour of black leather, bulky knitwear, and Docs. Now, if this is true - which it undeniably is - why do I fawn over classic film stars that are glamorously trussed up to within an inch of their lives in satin gowns and top hats and tails?

I love looking at a well dressed man or woman. Maybe I admire them because I know, deep down, that I'd never be able to pull off that amount of insouciance and glamour as well as they can. Maybe it's because stars like Cary Grant and Marlene Dietrich look so damn good in their finery that it's near impossible to look away. Or maybe it's the unattainably wealthy persona that people like Greta Garbo and Norma Shearer exude onscreen that attracts me (and makes me damned envious, let's be real).

You know what all this tells me? Classic film and anything remotely associated with it is the one thing in my life that stands out and doesn't 'belong' with the rest of my passions and/or preferences. Classic film and skateboards don't go hand in hand. Neither do MGM designer Adrian and a pair of AllSaints biker boots. A fancy-shmancy wine and cheese do or a night in listening to Deftones on full blast? You know I'm gonna choose the latter, right?

Don't even get me started on wearing dresses ... I'd rather prowl around naked than have to pour myself into a figure-hugging, yawn-inducing dress and I've always been this way! So why do I admire classic film stars so much?! Apart from Dietrich and Katharine Hepburn, they all wore gowns! Heck, even Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis wore 'em with relish! The point I'm trying to make here is that classic film doesn't fit into my lifestyle one bit. It's the odd man out. It's the copy of Playboy magazine in the children's section of a bookstore. It's the last stale chip left in the Lays bag.

And yet, I love classic film and everything that goes along with it with all of my heart. Nothing will change that; not a new pair of biker boots, certainly not a beat up pair of Zara jeans, and definitely not another Alt-J album.

I will say this, though: I love a good red lipstick!

December 1, 2014

Bookshop Sex: Did they do it?!

Dorothy Malone and Humphrey Bogart in THE BIG SLEEP (1946)

Something's been bugging me ever since I watched THE BIG SLEEP (1946) for the first time a couple years ago ...

Okay, you know when Philip Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart) ducks inside the Acme Bookshop located across the street from Geiger's more 'upmarket' shop to spy on the sordid action taking place over yonder? And then he meets the girl behind the counter (played by the exquisite Dorothy Malone) and they get to chatting (and drinking, no less)? Did the two of them have sex? I know it's implied that they got up to a bit of rumpy-pumpy but ... did it actually happen?

Being the book lover that I am, I'm just thankful that there was a bookshop scene in the movie, but the idea of two gorgeous people copulating behind the bookshelves just sends me over the moon! I mean, the very idea of stripping off and having sex whilst surrounded by the smell of books is enough to increase my heart rate by fifty beats a minute. It might be time for me to take a breather - hang on, I'll be back in a second.

Right. I've managed to compose myself (only just). So, what do you think? Did they or did they not have sex in that Acme Bookshop? I mean, they could have just made out behind the stacks for all I know. But, if Bogie sauntered into your domain on a rather lackluster, rainy afternoon wouldn't you jump at the chance to - err - jump his bones? Oh my goodness, this is possibly the rudest post I've ever published in the history of my blogging career ... #sorrynotsorry

November 28, 2014

Happy Thankgiving: Here's what I'm thankful for!


This is going to be an emotional post, I can feel it. I promise I won't swear, though!

I am incredibly grateful to be a classic film fan. Really. If I had to be any kind of film fan, a classic one is the one I'd most like to be. Why? Well, for starters, do you have any idea how cool we look when people see us watching a black and white noir? Or a sprawling epic like LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962)? We look as cool as a turkey frosting it's backside in a Frigidaire freezer before being defrosted and cooked for a Thanksgiving feast (and that's cool). I'd like to think that people wish they were us every time we're spotted enjoying an old movie.

Even though I keep whining about there not being enough classic film fans in the world, I'm actually kind of thankful that we're such an exclusive club. Small numbers = intimate communities (no, not that intimate, silly). This ultimately goes back to my first point about us being cool; if there were millions and billions of us, the cool factor would subside and we'd all just be considered average and - God forbid - the 'norm.' How f--king uncool would that be?!

Oops! So much for not swearing ... I've blanked out the word, though, so that particular f-bomb doesn't count. It's my blog therefore I make my own rules!

Another reason why I'm so thankful for being a classic movie fan is because watching things like the Astaire/Rogers RKO musicals and showstoppers like GILDA (1946) and THE THIN MAN (1934) make me so unbelievably happy you'd think I was the Joker (from the perma-smile on my face, you understand). Next to books and British television, classic movies are what make me tick. They are one of my greatest passions and despite the fact that I'm getting older and many assumed I would have grown out of this particular phase at some point, I still love them - even more than I did a decade ago.

People like us - classic film aficionados - are hella unique. We're a great group of people who belong to an exclusive club (chaired by TCM's Robert Osborne, of course) and we know how good we have it. I mean, the sheer amount of DVD/bluray releases, coffee table book releases, and celebrity biographies being published is enough to send each one of us into orbit, isn't it? We're lucky that the world deemed our obsession worthy of commercialism and didn't just shoo us aside in favour of more popular fair like Ninja Turtle merchandise and One Direction barbie dolls (shudder). We have everything we need and we're happy being who we are - "old movie weirdos," right Will?

What are you thankful for? What does being a classic movie fan mean to you? Tell me about it in the comments section down below!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

November 26, 2014

My Holiday Wishlist!


So, how many more sleeps till Christmas?

Once the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday weekend rolls around I become a newly christened lunatic, smiling incessantly and floating on air despite that pesky polar vortex we've all come to know and love so well. The holidays are a time to spend with family, friends, loved ones and work colleagues (get ready for those office Christmas parties!). It's a time to celebrate life, love, and all the wonderful classic film related items that randomly pop up on Amazon. Trust me, there is no other time during the year that my mouse and e-shopping cart see so much action than during the bustling holiday season.

I've compiled a short(ish) list of the items I've currently got my eye on and thanks to places like the TCM Shop and Warner Archive website, my list is bound to grow by leaps and bounds as Christmas inches closer and closer on the calendar. Here are my 2014 holiday must haves:

DVD/Bluray:
  • It Happened One Night Criterion Collection bluray
  • Batman: The Complete TV Series (Limited Edition) bluray boxset
  • Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer 50th Anniversary Collector's Edition bluray
  • Scarface DVD

Books:
  • Cecil B. DeMille: The Art Of the Hollywood Epic by Mark A. Vieira
  • The Making of Gone With the Wind by Steve Wilson
  • My Autobiography by Charles Chaplin
  • Joan Blondell: A Life Between Takes by Matthew Kennedy

Since my family is pretty much against purchasing anything online - get with the times Mom! - I'll have to order these items for myself, by myself.  No big deal though as that's usually the way it goes every Christmas; I end up buying myself more gifts than I receive from anyone else! Hey, I'm not complaining! At least I know I won't end up with itchy wool socks and a pair of 3-D binoculars that break after just one use (yes, that's actually happened).

Tell me what you're coveting this holiday season in the comments section down below!

November 24, 2014

Modernizing A Horror Classic: Nosferatu (1922)

NOSFERATU ARTWORK BY MATT ESKEW
This is not a remake.

Film director David Fisher is on a mission to modernize NOSFERATU (1922), the great horror classic that has been giving its audience nightmares for a staggering ninety-two years. NOSFERATU was the very first film to depict a vampire on screen, and in this case his name was Count Orlok, played by the now legendary German actor Max Schreck.

Fisher plans to digitize each frame of the original silent masterpiece and have a cast of modern actors recreate the film's roles, essentially cropping them and dropping them into a world created almost one hundred years ago and inhabited by things that go bump in the night. Scary stuff, indeed. Actor Doug Jones [Hell Boy (2004), Pan's Labyrinth (2006)] will recreate the role of Count Orlok, complete with painstakingly-applied makeup reminiscent of the horrific characters created by silent film star Lon Chaney.

David Fisher has initiated a Kickstarter campaign to fund his project [click here] and at press time, the campaign was over fifty percent funded! Obviously, this is a film that many people are excited about - as am I - and I think it's particularly wonderful that young people want to get involved with such an "old movie." You guys know how it is ... every time you mention classic film, you get weird looks from people as if you've just lit your head on fire or something.

If you'd like to become involved and help support Fisher's modern retelling of NOSFERATU, head over to the film's Facebook page and Fisher's Kickstarter campaign!

DOUG JONES RECREATES THE ROLE OF COUNT ORLOK

November 21, 2014

My thoughts on the TCM Classic Film Festival #TCMFF


Plain and simple? I'm dying to go. Like, DYING!

For someone who's been a classic film fan for most of their natural born lives, I cannot believe that I've never been to one yet. I mean, what the fuck have I been doing all this time? Farting around spending money on books and trips to the UK, actually. Though I don't regret buying copious amounts of books to get stuck into and I haven't started poo-poohing my trips to London every year yet, I just wish that I had saved a little of that money I had spent for a trip to Los Angeles, California in time for one of TCM's annual film festivals.

So, what brought on this lucid pining? Only the fact that TCMFF passes went on sale last week and I was stuck sitting in front of my laptop watching my Twitter feed ignite with stupendously envy-inducing tweets from my classic film pals, telling everyone that they just landed their dream pass to the 2015 festivities. FACEPALM. Like most instances in life, I was left in the dust feeling unfulfilled and slightly grateful for the tub of Rolo ice cream we had sitting in the freezer (but then I remembered that I'm dangerously lactose intolerant so my mood got even worse).

Don't misunderstand me; I am massively happy for those who booked their passes for TCMFF 2015 and I know they're going to have a brilliant time! I've never been one of those people who boils hatred in front of a computer screen wishing everyone would just shut up about their perfect lives (and hopefully I'll never turn into an internet troll ever ever), but the fact that I felt massively upset at myself cannot be denied. I live and breathe classic film and yet, I keep screwing myself out of a chance to go to the film festival of dreams.

TCM hosts Robert Osborne + Ben Mankiewicz

And it's not just the actual screenings I'm upset at missing year after year, it's more the chance of meeting my classic film friends that has me the most pissed off. I've met the most incredible group of people online since I started tweeting and blogging and though we only exist to each other through a monitor or mobile device, I consider them my FRIENDS. Like, real live friends I can depend on and have full-blown conversations with. Together we laugh, we cry, we share massive amounts of information with, we #TCMParty, and we give each other opportunities that get us one step closer to achieving our dreams of becoming professional film reviewers and/or writers (Danny, I'm looking at you).

No doubt about it, I'll be missing TCMFF 2015, so here is what I've promised myself for TCMFF 2016:
  • I will struggle and save as much as possible for my trip to Hollywood (no more book-buying and no trip to the UK that year, SOB!).
  • I will bring my Aunt Grace with me (she's the one who introduced me to classic film way back when).
  • I'll probably be so fucking excited when I actually get to the venue that I will need to bring some adult-sized diapers with me. Yes, I will be peeing. From excitement and euphoria, you understand.
  • I will invest in a decent camera before stepping foot on a plane. I need to document this experience and I need to look back on photographs of me meeting people like Joel, Jeff, Raquel, Trevor, Karen, Cliff, Christina, Jessica, Will, and Pam whenever I start missing them too much and a computer monitor just won't suffice.
  •  Grace and I have already decided that we're going to splash out on the ultimate TCMFF pass: The Spotlight Pass. DUN DUN DUN! Go big or go home.
  • I will go to as many film screenings as I possibly can and I will also keep a look-out for my future life partner amongst the TCM-obsessed masses.
  • Despite my wanting to suffocate Robert Osborne with squishy hugs for an indefinite period of time, I will hold back and simply blow him a kiss. From a safe distance away, of course. If I get too close to him, I fear I may rob him of life.
  • Though I loathe partying and creating a ruckus, I will party hard on this trip. No doubt.

If you've already bought your passes to TCMFF 2015 tell me about it in the comments section down below! Also, tell me what your experiences have been if you've attended TCMFF in the past - what were your favourite parts - and least favourite parts - of the trip? I know booking a hotel room is going to be tough because they sell out pretty quickly, so I'm already on the look-out for suitable accommodation. Perhaps renting an apartment or house through Airbnb would be best?

November 17, 2014

Flying Solo As A Classic Film Fan


You know what sucks? Hardly anyone understands my passion for old movies. And I'm single.

This is not going to turn into a cry-for-help kinda post, I can assure you. It's more of a whimpering pleading-for-clarification type of post more than anything. Well, depending on how you see things of course. I want to know why it's so difficult to find a mate who loves classic film as much as I do. Don't get me wrong, I'm perfectly fine being on my own but I had a few hours to spare over the weekend and I caught myself sitting and thinking about all the classic screenings I've been to and all the special releases I've attended and not anywhere did I spy a charming classic movie fan around the same age as me. If I were into octogenarians, well ... there were plenty of them floating about! But, rather than jumping into bed with one of them, I'd rather just sit by a cozy fireplace and have a quiet cup of tea with them, asking them to share their classic film anecdotes with me.

I suspect things would be remarkably different if I lived in, say, New York or London, where classic movie screenings and events attract wider audiences. Here in Toronto - and I'm speaking from experience here - all of the times I've gone to a cinema screening, I've been the youngest person in the theatre. The difference in age is so obvious that groups of seniors would approach me and ask me if I had walked into the wrong screening room by mistake. After putting their minds at rest and assuring them that I was in the right place and that I hadn't been forced inside by a mean grandparent, the seniors were absolutely flabbergasted - and happily surprised - that I cared for the classics as much as they did.

I'll never forget the one time I went to watch a special screening of SINGIN IN THE RAIN (1952) a couple of years ago and I got to talking to a group of seniors sitting behind me about other MGM musicals like EASTER PARADE (1948) and THE BANDWAGON (1953): a handful of us, regardless of our ages, bonded over something that we all loved equally and sat chatting like a group of mouthy kids on a school bus! It was amazing! If only I could find someone my age that I could have the same conversations with and cuddle beneath the sheets with at the same time.

I've always been blatantly honest with you, my readers, and that's why I decided to post this entry. While I was busy hashing it out on my computer on Sunday afternoon I kept thinking to myself "but will anyone actually want to read this?" and I debated, more than once, just erasing this whole thing and trashing the draft. But this is a subject that I really care about and something that bothers me all the time. Why is it so hard to find a partner with the same interest as me? I'm reminded every day how few people have actually seen an old movie before. It's rarer and rarer to find anyone who has seen MY MAN GODFREY (1936) or THE LETTER (1940) or even FRANKENSTEIN (1931), the most popular of the bunch. Us classic film fans are a dying breed indeed ...

If you're a young, single classic movie fan like myself, how do you cope? And, if you're partnered up, how does your significant other feel about your TCM obsession? Is it something the two of you bond over? Tell me about it in the comments section down below!

November 12, 2014

Book Look! Hollywood Of the Rockies* by Michael J. Spencer


I went into reading this book knowing next to nothing about the birth of motion pictures. Sure, I've watched the odd silent film or two, but we're talking motion pictures from the early 1900s here! And, no matter how many documentaries I've seen in the past about the history of the movies, nothing compares to immersing yourself in a good book on a cold day; I find that, personally, I retain a lot more information if I read it in the form of a book rather than see it play before me on the screen.

Hollywood Of the Rockies: Colorado, the West & America's Film Pioneers starts right at the beginning, assuming that its audience knows absolutely nothing about the history of film. This is one of the great things I liked about this book; at times I felt like I was at school attending a lecture and the professor standing at the front of the room was teaching me everything I needed to know about the subject. Author Michael J. Spencer's prose was easy to follow, easy to understand, and it sunk right in.

Sure, it's a rather short book, but it introduces and builds upon some really neat technological advances and a cast of characters that made modern Hollywood what it is today. People like the Lumiere brothers, Thomas Edison, popular screen cowboy Tom Mix, Harry "Buck" Buckwalter, and Gilbert "Broncho Billy" Anderson are profiled in this book along with their rise to stardom and their contributions to the film industry. It turns out that the American film industry actually began in and around Colorado (hence the title of Spencer's book) despite us thinking that it had its roots in California. According to Spencer "the Colorado West [...] helped create the western, a genre that remained a staple of American films for decades," and you know what? It makes perfect sense.

The Colorado landscape is absolutely beautiful and if this is where film was born, no wonder it took off and became the money-making industry it is today! Back in the early 1900s, films were made solely outdoors because big studio lights hadn't been invented yet. So, even interior sets were constructed out of doors and filming took place on clear, sunny days. The summertime Colorado climate was perfect for that and allowed filmmakers to work in glorious conditions surrounded by glorious landscapes. What more could one ask for?

Harry "Buck" Buckwalter hailed the picture show business as "the poor man's grand opera" and he was one hundred percent correct. You could buy a movie ticket for a nickel or a dime back then and be entertained for just over an hour, sometimes even by a double bill! Ahh the glory days, eh? I really enjoyed reading this book and learning more about an industry that I've loved practically since birth. The only downside to reading a book like this one is that it ends too quickly (the book is just shy of 160 pages). Still, Hollywood Of the Rockies is definitely worth picking up whether you decide to buy yourself a copy or borrow it from your local library.

If you're interested in purchasing this book through Amazon, click here.

November 10, 2014

World War One: 100 Years

THE BIG PARADE (1925)
I'm a pretty big war nut; I love watching war films and I love collecting war books (fiction and non-fiction, I'm not picky). This year marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One so I thought I'd create a special post detailing some of my absolute favourite WWI films. A little morbid, yes, but I think we all should take a moment to remember those who fought so valiantly for their countries - no matter what side they were on. Canadians, Germans, Russians, Italians, French, whoever. They all matter and each life counts.

Here are some of my favourite films that take a look at life during The Great War:

The Big Parade (1925) // I'm always up for watching a John Gilbert picture - silent or not - and this one certainly never disappoints. For a silent film, it's incredibly realistic and dangerously detailed in that it depicts life in the trenches amazingly well. Now, none of us were actually there fighting in WWI, but many experts agree that this film perfectly captures the mood and desolation of The Great War better than any others (with the possible exception of WINGS which is mentioned directly below this pick). The film itself is 151 minutes long, not exactly a quick pick for a Saturday night, but it never actually feels that long. It zips by and that's thanks to the wonderful - and very touching - storyline and brilliant performances by the film's cast including Gilbert, Renee Adoree, and Karl Dane.

Wings (1927) // This will go down in (my) history as the first silent film that made me shed buckets and buckets of tears. Literally, the front of my shirt was sopping wet by the time I got through watching WINGS. It's a story that will crush your spirit and build it back up piece by bloody piece. I'll be completely honest and tell you that one of the only reasons this film landed on my radar in the first place was because it stars 1920s star Clara Bow. If it wasn't for her, I probably would never have been interested in watching it. Shame on me, I know. Like THE BIG PARADE, this film is incredibly realistic in its depiction of wartime battles and trench warfare. WINGS ended up winning the very first Academy Award for Best Picture and it's no wonder especially where the air battle sequences are concerned. Hold on to your hats ladies and gents, this one's a wild ride!

Mata Hari (1931) // A great list is not a great list until you've mentioned Greta Garbo, right? Right! Garbo stars as sultry real life spy Mata Hari in this early talkie MGM masterpiece. I watched this film for the first time this year whilst trying to polish off my hefty To Watch list (I've got so many discs piling up I could build an airship with them). MATA HARI takes place during WWI (duh!) and is loosely based on the life of courtesan/dancer Mata Hari who was eventually tried and executed for espionage. True, there are really no major battle sequences in this picture and the film's main focus hardly deviates from Garbo but it's still a period film worth watching for its prestige factor alone.

Sergeant York (1941) // Next, we have Gary Cooper is all his glory. In my opinion, Cooper was at his best when he played humble, aw-shucks heroes alongside legendary character actors - in this case it was the incomparable Walter Brennan. Cooper plays decorated war hero Sergeant Alvin York, a gifted sharpshooter who single handedly takes down an entire enemy battalion by picking them off one by one. SERGEANT YORK is not the most fast-paced war movie, but it is one of the most endearing. Howard Hawks, the film's director, was always rather good at spinning a tale and engaging his audiences and he worked his magic wonderfully here.

The African Queen (1951) // Though its subject matter may have been bleak, THE AFRICAN QUEEN presents a somewhat lighthearted take on The Great War. Yes, there are plenty of laughs in this film care of the wonderful chemistry between real life pals Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn, but there are also quiet, more touching instances generously sprinkled throughout the rest of the picture. A pair of polar opposites are forced to endure a boat ride together through treacherous waterways until the grand finale when they decide to ambush an enemy vessel. This was billed as an adventure film and it really is. It won't make you weep like WINGS or THE BIG PARADE, but it will still leave you with a strengthened belief in humankind and what we, as people, can accomplish if we remain dedicated, focused, and loyal.

Lawrence of Arabia (1962) // I'm having trouble moving past Peter O'Toole's handsome facade right now. Forming coherent sentences is beyond me. I apologize, dear readers, for what you are about to read ... LAWRENCE OF ARABIA takes place (mostly) in the desert with lots of men wearing linen sheets. It's hot. The men are hot. Water is scarce. There are camels. Peter O'Toole plays T.E. Lawrence, the British officer sent to Arabia in 1917 who eventually aids in the Arabic rebellion against the Turks. Blood is spilled and lives are lost and Lawrence finds himself questioning his loyalties once he becomes integrated into the Arabic community. This is, without a doubt, one of the most beautifully filmed classic movies I've ever seen. It's well worth watching if you've got four hours to spare on a Sunday afternoon!

And if you're in the mood for a modern classic:


Legends Of the Fall (1994) // Make sure you have plenty of tissues at the ready whilst watching this tearjerker. I think I was in my late teens the first time I saw this movie and I watched it for two very important reasons: 1) Brad Pitt (obviously), and 2) Anthony Hopkins (again, obviously). The film also stars Aidan Quinn, Julia Ormond, and Henry Thomas. Yes, the cast is spectacular but the story is even more so. It concerns a father and his three young sons living in the American wild during the early 1900s and how they adapt to things like technological advances, war, nature, and love. The war scenes are what initially caught my attention - and broke my heart - but it is the love story that will kill you. Believe me when I say that there is never a dry eye in the house when my family and I sit down to watch this film together. Even my Pops sheds a tear.

I'd love to know what some of your favourite WWI classic films are - leave me a comment below!

November 7, 2014

Book Look! Hollywood Gothic by David J. Skal


You all probably know by now that I am a massive, MASSIVE fan of DRACULA (1931) and, quite frankly, anything and everything associated with that film. This is precisely why when I learned about this book from a friend of mine a couple of months ago, I had to get my claws on it. It's not the easiest book to track down because I think the printing is limited, but I eventually ordered my copy off of the Canadian Chapters/Indigo site here. If you live outside of Canada, I'm fairly certain you can obtain a copy of the book through Amazon.

Okay - having gotten all of that muck out of the way, let me begin my Book Look! by telling you that this was the most in-depth exploration of Bram Stoker's Dracula that I have ever read. Author David J. Skal basically breaks down each phase of Dracula's journey from book to stage to screen and does it in a witty yet wholly professional manner. Skal's voice is sarcastic at times and that may seem a little off-putting at first, but his sarcasm and casual way of explaining certain points are what ultimately made me love and appreciate this book as much as I did. You all know I love a bit of wordplay and sarcasm, heh.

The book begins by describing Victorian author Bram Stoker's determination to create a literary work of art based around the life (life?) of a vampire named Count Dracula. Skal also presents to his readers a theory that much of Dracula was based around the Victorians' hatred and avoidance of sex and sexual activities. Skal also goes on to dissect other more obscure and popular vampire fictions of the time, bringing to light many tales and characters I had never even heard of before. Quite fascinating stuff, I promise you!

EDWARD VAN SLOAN & BELA LUGOSI FACE OFF IN DRACULA (1931)

You wouldn't believe how difficult Stoker's widow, Florence, made it for theatrical agents to secure the rights to her husband's work (and rightly so, in some cases). It seems that there were a number of people who were quite eager to bring Dracula to life on stage but at every turn, they were thwarted by Florence Stoker's seemingly iron will. The same thing started happening when Hollywood came knocking on the widow's door, wanting to secure the film rights to her husband's work of literary fiction. After reading through pages and pages of judicial information, I'm completely shocked that Universal actually managed to get Dracula onscreen by January nineteen thirty-one!

The chapter that I enjoyed reading the most delved into the making of Universal's Spanish version of DRACULA (1931) which was filmed on the Universal soundstages at night, once the English cast was done filming for the day. The same sets were used but the Spanish version was photographed quite differently, setting itself apart from the more popular English version of the film. It's worth watching both film prints in order to spot the differences and similarities between to the two pictures. Many consider the Spanish version far superior to the English one and that's explained in more detail by Skal in his book.

Special sections of the book are devoted solely to all the different cast members that inhabited the roles created by Stoker (and even those roles that were created by movie execs like Count Orlock in the German film NOSFERATU (1922). Whole pages are reserved specifically for people like Bela Lugosi (naturally), David Manners, Max Schreck, Raymond Huntley, and Bernard Jukes, the man who played Renfield more times than anyone else on stage or on film. I can't tell you how many new tidbits of information I picked up whilst making my way through this book! It's like every page held a new Pandora's Box that was just waiting to be opened.

Hollywood Gothic was originally published in 1990, but has since been revised and updated in 2004 giving us, the readers, even more information to devour about our favourite bloodsucker. This book has been meticulously researched and it's definitely worth investing in even if you're only a casual admirer of the horror movie genre or of Stoker's original story.

November 5, 2014

Autumn/Winter Fiction TBR: Classic Film Edition


Here are the books I've got on my Autumn/Winter to-be-read list: 
 
An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser // I came across this classic on the shelf at my local library. If I'm completely honest, the cover is what initially attracted me. I picked it up, turned it over, and read the blurb on the back cover and was like: wait a minute this sounds terribly familiar ... Guess what? This is the book that inspired A PLACE IN THE SUN (1951)! I can't wait to dig into this meaty novel come the colder winter months.

Back Street by Fannie Hurst // Here's another book that has a captivating cover (man, these publishing houses certainly know what they're doing). I first read about this book over on Raquel's classic film blog, Out Of The Past and I couldn't wait to get my sticky paws on it. Admittedly, I had ordered it a few months ago and I've yet to pick it up and dive in. I know, I know. But I will get to it this winter. I promise, hand-on-heart.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey // How have I not read this book before?! Honestly, I'm actually embarrassed to admit that it's been sitting on my bookshelf unread for the better part of a year. I saw the film for the first time a little while ago and I absolutely loved it, so I thought I'd buy the book in the hopes that it'd be even better than the movie (which is usually the case, isn't it?). I hope this one doesn't disappoint me. Has anyone read this before?

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak // Here's another book that's been gathering plenty of dust on my bookshelf over the past year-and-a-bit (I seriously need to stop with the book hauling). My mission in life is to read this novel before seeing the film (of which I've only seen bits and pieces of). I hope to be swept away to the cold Russian wilderness when I finally sit down to read Doctor Zhivago, and if I'm disappointed, I'm throwing it into the fire. So there!

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand // I wrote a film review for THE FOUNTAINHEAD (1949) a few weeks ago and that was my first time seeing the film. I had certainly heard about it before - thanks to my obsession with Gary Cooper who stars in the movie - and I was super-curious about the story's themes and twists. Some had described it as a turgid love affair depicted on screen and when I started catching wind of the rumours involving Coop and his co-star Patricia Neal, I just had to watch it. The film was all right - not bad, but not great - so I'm hoping the book will impress me more.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy // A classic! I love classics. Like, more than I love ballet. And that's a lot. I've read Anna Karenina once before when I was in college and I remember thoroughly enjoying it and that's one of the reasons why I'm eager to re-visit the novel again a second time. Russian literature is perfect in the wintertime and I can just see myself now: wrapped up in a warm blanket, a cup of steaming hot tea by my side, a roaring fire glowing in the grate, and a hefty Russian tome in my hands. Oh dear God, that sounded so wrong.

What have you got on your Autumn/Winter to-be-read list?

November 3, 2014

The beauty of Joan Crawford in Sadie McKee (1934)

JOAN CRAWFORD

So, I'm sitting here watching SADIE MCKEE (1934) and I'm thinking to myself: holy crap could Joan Crawford look any lovelier?! 

I had DVR'd SADIE MCKEE sometime last week - can't remember what day it was - in the hopes of watching it over the weekend. It's a movie I had heard about quite a while ago but have never been able to find on DVD, so unfortunately I never had the chance to see it until now. Man, I've been missing out!

The film stars Joan Crawford, Franchot Tone, Gene Raymond, and Edward Arnold. It was directed by the amazingly talented Clarence Brown with costume design by Adrian (a girl's best friend, forget diamonds). The film revolves around a woman named Sadie McKee (Crawford) who rises from rags to riches care of a drunken millionaire (Arnold) and his friend (Tone). Raymond plays the rascally suave boyfriend who sleeps with McKee and leaves her the next morning in favour of a blonde bombshell who lives down the hall (makes me wonder if McKee was that bad in bed).

The film actually surprised me with how good it was - it was charming, it was gritty, it was dramatic, and there was always a ray of hope shining through no matter how many times Crawford's character got punched in the face or landed flat broke on her ass. Have I mentioned that Edward Arnold plays a superb drunk? Well, he does. His performance in SADIE MCKEE was absolutely astounding!

Okay so let's move on to the fashion in this film: Adrian was a fucking GOD, people! The costumes he designed for Crawford for SADIE MCKEE are unreal! For the longest time I believed that Adrian created his best deigns for Katharine Hepburn, but my God, after watching this film, I've changed my mind. Crawford really lucked out in the 1930s, didn't she? If I was being dressed by Adrian every day, I'd have millionaire playboys like Franchot Tone chasing after me too!



Let's be real, though ... even if I had Adrian dressing me every day chances are I wouldn't look nearly as good as the Hollywood starlets did in his heyday. For one, my bottom is a lot more - shall we say - "meatier" than Crawford's was and there is no way I'd be able to pour myself into one of Adrian's creations. Not even with the unceremonious help of Spanx. His gowns just seemed to skim over Crawford's curves in this film and the little details like stripes, bows, and blinding glitter suited her and gave an otherwise plain character a sultry edge. Look at the way the collars on her gowns accentuated her face! Such a brilliant use of design.

Tell me: what are some of your favourite Hollywood costumes?

October 31, 2014

What I'd Pack In My Halloween Movie Survival Kit

THE MUMMY (1932)

Deep down, we all enjoy watching a good horror film, don't we? We may not admit to it, but we do. I'm not the biggest fan of modern horror films because I find them predictable and cheesy, but as far as classic horror films are concerned, I'm a pushover. I love them. I love them in black and white, with a tall imposing figure dressed up as the villain, and I love the atmosphere that seems to pour off the screen.

So, let's say that some almighty power took me from my current lackadaisical life and dropped me into one of my very favourite classic horror films - what would happen? Well, first of all, I would be incredibly happy knowing that at any moment I would get to meet either Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff or Vincent Price! But then, once it dawned on me that these legendary villains would rather kill/eat/encase-me-in-wax rather than make small talk with me I'd be pretty fucking scared (sorry, but the occasion called for swearing).

Chances are, each one of them would attempt to kill me within the first five minutes of me inhabiting their world. How would I protect myself? I would need some kind of survival kit; something that I could carry with me wherever I went to ensure not only my survival but my safety and peace of mind. Here's what I'd take with me on my adventure through classic-horror-film-land:

  • A neck guard (kind of like a chastity belt, but for the neck) // There is no way I'm letting the Prince of Darkness (i.e. Dracula) anywhere near my neck. But if he should hypnotize me and make his way closer and closer to my jugular vein, this neck guard would stop him. I would give the key away to someone I trust and have them hide it from me, that way I couldn't reveal its hiding place whilst under the influence of Dracula's hypnotic powers. There'd be no way for him to bite me! Bam bosh thank-you, job done!
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  • My Mom // Because everyone needs (and wants) their Mommy there with them in a frightening situation. Depending on the size of my survival kit, I don't even know if she'd be able to fit inside, but for the sake of this post (and my life) I'm going to make her fit. No one messes with my Mom - it's a known fact. I can just see it now: a villain approaches me with ill intentions and all of a sudden my Mom steps between him and me, injecting herself into the fray, brandishing either a slipper or a wooden cooking spoon (an Italian mother's weapon of choice) with deadly precision. Just one look from her would have him running in the opposite direction and cowering in a field somewhere, praying for death. Side note: this actually happened to both me and my older sister growing up. Like I said before, no one messes with my Mom.
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  • A trusty sidekick // My Paddington Bear comes everywhere with me and if I'm about to come face-to-face with an evil villain, you better believe Padds is gonna be right there with me. A woman needs a source of comfort especially when placed in a tricky or deadly situation. Perhaps if I was being chased through the streets by a madman he would think twice about harming me when he saw how much I depended upon my adorable and fuzzy inanimate sidekick. Said villain would probably take pity on me, no? Well, it's worth a try anyway.
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  • Kitchen provisions (i.e. spices, garlic, butcher knives, and tomato sauce) // How does one ward off a vampire? Throw bags of garlic at him and run like hell. How does one kill a villain in one stroke? Stab him in the neck with a butcher knife. And how does one survive in a foreign land where there is absolutely no authentic Italian tomato sauce to be found? Bring your own! This one's pretty self explanatory so I'll just stop right here and move on to the next item ...
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  • A jar of Vaseline // Poor old Boris Karloff. He always played villains/misunderstood creatures with horribly dry skin (i.e. Frankenstein's monster, The Mummy). Maybe if someone had taken the time to apply some ointment to his epidermis, his villains wouldn't have been so fucking angry and malicious all the time. The key to surviving one of his classic horror films was creating a spa-like atmosphere, one in which the man could get a facial and seaweed body wrap. Bam bosh thank-you, another crisis averted!
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  • A disposable four-bladed razor and a makeup kit // Not for me, silly - for the Wolf Man and Erik, the Phantom of the Opera! Give the Wolf Man a good, clean shave and he'll be forever in my debt. Makeover Erik with some heavy coverage foundation, some blusher, and a flattering shade of lip balm and he'll be putty in my hands. The thing with classic movie villains is that they were just misunderstood most of the time. If people took the time to really understand why they were so emo and moody, chances are, the 'villains' would have stopped terrorizing their public and would have successfully integrated themselves into 'normal' society.

Right! I'm pretty sure I've covered all my bases - and if I didn't, well, you're all invited to my funeral. Like I mentioned earlier: classic horror villains are tricky. They're not just crazed serial killers like the dudes in modern horror films are. No, classic film villains are multifaceted, depressed, and largely misunderstood human beings (well, not always human, I admit). Still, if thrown into their worlds you'd definitely need to make sure that you were properly equipped to handle the chill-inducing situations you'd inevitably find yourself in and for that very reason, you'd need to take with you a handy-dandy survival kit. My question to you is this: what would you pack in yours?

This post was inspired by the lovely people over at Man Crates - Gifts For Men.

October 29, 2014

The 1940s: My Second Favourite Movie Decade

SPENCER TRACY + KATHARINE HEPBURN
I spoke about my absolute favourite movie decade a couple of weeks ago here (in case you missed it) and this time I thought I'd tell you why I love the 1940s almost as much as I love the 1930s. The 1940s was a very tumultuous decade thanks to World War II and Hollywood's apparent obsession with Communism. Though, having said that, a remarkable amount of happy-go-lucky films were made during this time (Christmas movies and romantic comedies immediately spring to mind). We musn't ignore the darker films, though, because the dramas and noirs that came out of the 1940s are some of the very best - in my humble opinion - and they're a big reason why I enjoy watching material from this decade so much.

Here are the things I admire most about films from the 1940s:

The 1940s had a knack for producing the very best holiday movies // Do I need to even explain this one? No. Not really. Not when I have this list to show you: The Shop Around the Corner (1940), Holiday Inn (1942), Meet Me In St Louis (1944), It's A Wonderful Life (1946), Miracle On 34th Street (1947), and The Bishop's Wife (1947). There. Enough said.

The emergence of film noir // The 1940s is when noir started to become really really popular. Audiences were swept away on a black and white tidal wave of femme fatales and cigarette smoke into the seedy underbellies of cities the world over. Crime waits for no man and when stacks of money and pornography are involved, great movies are made. Some of my favourite noir pictures include Laura (1944), Gilda (1946), and The Big Sleep (1946).

The start of a beautiful friendship between Spencer Tracy & Katharine Hepburn // Oh my great goodness, where do I even begin explaining my love for these two? Never was there such a natural onscreen pairing - well, aside from maybe Myrna Loy and William Powell - than there was as far as Tracy and Hepburn are concerned. They were able to melt into each others arms whilst verbally sparring back and forth until one of them was proclaimed the victor (and it was usually Hepburn, that feisty lass). It all began with a glimpse of a stockinged leg in Woman Of the Year (1942) and ended in heartfelt emotion in Guess Who's Coming To Dinner (1967). Their working relationship and their personal love affair spanned decades and people - including myself - still talk about it today. Is it the stuff of legends? You can bet your bottom dollar it is!

The dynamic onscreen (and off-screen) pairing of Humphrey Bogart & Lauren Bacall // Talk about sparks flying off the screen! Phew! You'd almost need to wear a welding mask watching these two interact in movies like To Have And Have Not (1944) and The Big Sleep (1946)! If chemistry is what you're after, look no further than these two lovebirds. Together, they are the epitome of sex on fire; the way they look at each other, the way they circle each other like hungry crows, the way they walk together, side by side. Bottom line, if you're feeling especially frisky one cold winter's day and find yourself contemplating reading the newest issue of Playboy, why not just pop in a Bogie and Bacall film? It'll give you greater satisfaction, trust me.

The rise of Judy Garland and the introduction of Gene Kelly // There's nothing I like better than a Hollywood musical - and if that musical was produced by MGM, even better! Judy Garland was a star in the 1930s but it wasn't until 1939 that she got her big break in one of that year's biggest blockbusters, The Wizard Of Oz. After that, she took off like a cannonball shot out of a cannon, making hit musical after hit musical for her bosses at MGM. Gene Kelly had his onscreen debut in For Me And My Gal (1942) with Garland and from there on out, he quickly became one of MGM's go-to leading men. I swear, I could watch Garland and/or Kelly all day long without even blinking an eye! Separately, they're magic. Together, they're a force to be reckoned with.

Do you enjoy films from the 1940s as much as I do?

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