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About Jlewis

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  1. documentaries that you can't seem to forget

    More than once TCM aired Marcel Ophüls' THE SORROW AND THE PITY, a fascinating trip back to France under the Vichy government (1940-1944) as seen in newsreel clips and interviews conducted by those who remembered the times in footage shot in the spring of 1969. This material was also done in black & white to match the vintage footage. Perhaps also to show some of their discussions in "black & white" as well? The film was intended for TV, but released theatrically and became one of the more profitable documentaries in the United States of the seventies, famously referenced by Woody Allen in ANNIE HALL. Yet there was a lot of controversy among so many French citizens that it was pretty much banned from TV screens for a decade and a half. The criticism came from multiple directions, including Holocaust survivors (and one prominent politician) who felt it painted too "rosey" of a picture regarding French sins, while practically everybody else felt their sins were nitpicked way, way, way too much for comfort. Maurice Chevalier sings at the start of the film and then talks at the end, commenting in sound recordings from either 1944 or '45 that he had been away for a while but has been very busy. (Actually the tone of his comments may not be presented fairly if you research some of his life.) This sums up a great many average French citizens in a nutshell. They were torn between obeying the government under the Nazis and being part of The Resistance with its high mortality and imprisonment rate. Obviously it is easier to just lay low and avoid trouble. Of course, after the war, everybody claimed to be part of The Resistance just as so many elderly Caucasian U.S. citizens claimed they always supported "black rights" pre-1960s even if they pretended to not see all of the separate restrooms, drinking fountains, schools, medical facilities, seats on public transportation and practically everything else. Ok, maybe I am stretching for comparisons here, but I am trying to make the situations more understandable. Yet you always have those who fought against the establishment when they didn't feel it was morally right and this film has plenty of heroes on display as well, those who helped escaping Jews, allied soldiers and even one very flamboyant ex-cross dressing entertainer despite his overt homosexuality. Also you have interviews with those who struggled with the prisons and harsh treatment included. Most importantly, you have some very objective people interviewed who admit that not everything they did two decades back was of sound mind and logic. Obviously they weren't the ones who tried to keep this movie off of French TV screens.
  2. Men sharing a bed in classic films

    Funny such a topic came up here. A lot of old movies show men in bed together as if it is no big deal. Maybe because so many viewers saw nothing sexual about sleeping together unless involving a man and a woman. Examples are endless. Aside from the Laurel & Hardy comedy shorts, other short films in particular include the Warner Bros. Joe McDoakes comedies So You Want An Apartment and So Want To Be A V.P., but I should add that this series also often showed Joe and his wife in the same bed as well when such images weren't commonplace, and Loony Tunes with Porky and Daffy together. Columbia's Three Stooges comedies also displayed plenty of bro-bunking. Then there are features like Sylvia Scarlet that belong in a class by themselves. Kate Hepburn's character is a woman posing as a man, but the whole situation still amuses today.
  3. International films with LGBT themes

    ... and some female nudity. Even in the snow! Definitely an "art house" production.
  4. Making some "Shortie Checklists"...

    Oliver G. Pike (see http://www.olivergpike.info/ ) is an interesting pioneer in “wild animals in their natural habitat” cinematography who was profiled a bit earlier with British Instructional and Gaumont British's “Secrets of Nature” and “Secrets of Life”. We take such films for granted since it is so easy to make them today with all of our hand held appliances. Animal Planet and famous BBC series narrated by the still-kicking David Attenborough are making it all a virtual reality experience that no longer requires you getting your shoes muddy and your body munched on by mosquitoes. Unfortunately it is also adding to our own false illusions that all of these lovely critters will remain with us indefinitely, when the reality is that many species are becoming extinct at a rapid rate. As suggested in the thread listed above, the very sight of a Tasmanian thylacine in a zoo picture was considered no big deal back in 1930, but now it is a big deal since we only have old black and white films like it, along with some dusty stuffed museum specimens, to remind us that such a dog like marsupial ever existed. Back in the era of King Edward VII and Teddy Roosevelt, movies were a laborious affair and required a ton of patience even with cooperative humans, horses and dogs. Most in the business would not even attempt, in an era when there were fewer telephoto lens available and no night-time “cams”, to even try capturing a bird outside of its cage with a camera. Oliver Pike began pretty early with his first major film release, In Birdland, shown at London's Palace Theatre (of Cambridge Circus) on August 29th, 1907. He later moved to the British branch of Pathé and was blessed with their color stencil process for such titles as Wild Birds In Their Haunts. This interesting, if sometimes hopelessly awful looking, process was mentioned in the thread A Shortie Checklist: RKO... and Pathé... and FBO under “Pathé Review”. Obviously Kinemacolor was the superior system available for British filmmakers prior to The Great War and the birth of Prizmacolor and Technicolor on the other side of the Atlantic, since that color system was achieved with a camera and rotating filters... even though it sometimes gave movie-goers eye strain with the frequent red and green outlines popping up as the people moved on screen. Pathecolor involved the laborious frame-by-frame tinting of originally black and white films, if industrialized in order to get the product out faster than during the early days. The effects, when good, were still... well... pretty good. At least there were attempts to match the actual colors of the stars. As mentioned by H. Kent Webster in an article "Little Stories of Great Films" for the Chicago-based The Nickelodeon on March 15, 1910, "taking the pictures of the ten species of birds of Great Britain shown in this film required practically sixty hours of waiting for the right opportunity, and that during much of that time he was practically doubled up in a small tent watching that particular bird and its nest through a tiny peephole." Pike released his short bird documentaries through British Pathé until 1917. Wild Birds At Home focuses on the high art of nest building For British Instructional's “Secrets of Nature” series, he took on The Nightingale for this April 13, 1932 release. It was filmed the previous year with on location sound recordings, still a novelty at the time. However it wasn't the first attempt to shoot birds in the wild with the new “talkie” technology. Arthur A. Allen had camera teams in Ithaca, New York busy during the spring of 1929 doing the same thing. (As one of the last to document on camera the Ivory Billed Woodpecker before its official extinction, Allen and contemporaries like Olin Sewall Pettingill Jr. would, in the late thirties, push the novelty of birds-on-film further when they adopted the faster speed Kodachrome process for color slides printed in National Geographic magazine and 16mm educational documentaries for Coronet Films. Earlier color birdie pics, like the 1933 MGM “Oddity” Fine Feathers in 2-strip Technicolor that is frequently shown on TCM, were shot exclusively at zoos where the cast was forced to stay put.) Despite being in black and white with the actual audio segments restricted to barely a minute's worth of footage, The Nightingale was still an impressive feat for its time.
  5. TopBilled’s Essentials

    I do feel that CROSSFIRE falters somewhat when Robert Young gets too preachy towards the end. Yet you have to consider the era in which it was made. Even the vintage MARCH OF TIME documentaries of the thirties and forties tended to be a trifle preachy instead of merely stating the facts. Movie goers craved sermons on screen. When they didn't go to the movies on Sunday, they went to church to hear sermons as well. Only those of us today who are jaded by sermons saturating all of TV and the internet are tired of it.
  6. TopBilled’s Essentials

    Yes, I never understood exactly why HENRY V took two years to make US theaters since Laurence Olivier was a big enough box office draw. That would been another competitor to DOUBLE INDEMNITY and GOING MY WAY.
  7. An Animated Shorts Viewing Thread

    These two have always been favorites of mine, both satires on motion pictures. The first one, a product of Britain's top animation studio of the 20th century, is a crash history lesson on movie making from cave man “comics” through the rise of wide screens in the 1950s to combat that electrical box installed in every living room. The second one, from Russia's top animation studio of the 20th century, presents the actual making of a movie as if it is happening in the Book of Job with every conceivable frustration involved. History of the Cinema UK: John Halas & Joy Batchelor Released August 1956 The Brits always displayed a dry sense in humor in their animated cartoons, even when lecturing. Some of the funny writing comes from Nicholas Spargo (who, under his own studio, produced some of the wittiest TV ads of the sixties and seventies featuring oddball couple Joe and Petunia). Great character animation by Harold Whitaker and John Smith add to the fun, including a key scene of a movie censor guy chopping up the footage so that the patrons can't see all of this “sin”, but savoring it all for himself. Greedy little so and so... Фильм, фильм, фильм (Film Film Film) Soviet Union: Soyuzmultfilm Fyodor Khitruk Released December 1968 Fyodor Khitruk had met the great Sergei Eisenstein at least once before he died in 1948, although (according to Wikipedia) the hot-tempered director lampooned here was inspired by one of his contemporaries, Grigori Roshal. I absolutely love how this presentation is put together. We start with shots of pop art from the swinging sixties of everybody, including the late Marilyn Monroe and late Buster Keaton. Then we are thrust into all of the frustration behind the glitz, complete with uncooperative weather for cow shots and uncooperative child actors. Perhaps Khitruk's statement here is that Soviet filmmakers were increasingly jealous of what was happening in sunny capitalistic California. Over here, you don't get Oscars but a mere flower bouquet as gratitude.
  8. TopBilled’s Essentials

    When profiling award winners of the 1930s and '40s, it is really difficult to determine "what should have won" simply because both the size and the quality of the menu (pre-TV) was so much wider back then than it is today. Yes, there are a few films today that will be considered classics in the future, although it is hard to determine which ones since tastes change with the times. (For example, how many Best Picture winners of the last two decades have you seen more than once? Many have a "seen it once, time to move on" quality about them.) One problem today is that the bulk of mainstream entertainment (movies, TV and "net" entertainment) has become a "niche" market catering to specific groups, demographics and, since more money is made by Hollywood overseas than domestically, storylines in the more expensive productions have to be more simplistic than in the past so that they can translate better in different languages. Looking at both the nominees and rejects-but-still-loved American feature productions and British imports of 1947, the only issue is that most of the stars were Caucasian. Yet there was an obvious attempt to entertain as much of the broad population as possible. Therefore, not only is Crossfire a worthy opponent to Gentleman's Agreement (and Hollywood was going through its social message phase in the wake of the Nuremberg trials), but so is Black Narcissus, Boomerang, Miracle On 34th Street, Great Expectations (late '46 release in the UK, but qualified among the nominees this year), Odd Man Out, Out Of The Past, Hue And Cry, Body And Soul, It Always Rains On Sunday and, a couple notches down but still important, Monsieur Verdoux, A Double Life, The Bachelor And The Bobbysoxer, The October Man, Brute Force, The Hucksters, Nicholas Nickleby, The Bishop's Wife, Road To Rio and the guilty pleasure Bill And Coo (please don't be mad at me). Treasure Of The Sierra Madre was previewed by Variety in December but just missed the cut since it went nationwide the following year, so we can only imagine how much tougher the race would have been had it been released earlier. Equally tough had Donald Duck been allowed a nomination for his supporting "performance" in Fun And Fancy Free's "Mickey And the Beanstalk" sequence, the one thing that stands out in that Disney feature besides Charlie McCarthy's wise-cracks.
  9. TopBilled’s Essentials

    Yes, Wilder made up for it the following year with his “no, he’s not gay... he is just an alcoholic with writer’s block” melodrama. In a way, even Bing Crosby should have won something much earlier since he had kept Paramount in the green more than anybody else since Mae West. Even if his boys used his Oscar as a bath tub stopper if we believe the Jack Benny radio shows. Come to think of it, the Jack Benny parody with Ray Milland on the picture that scored Wilder a win was even better than the original.
  10. An Animated Shorts Viewing Thread

    Cavallette (Grasshoppers) Italy: Bozzetto Produzioni Bruno Bozetto Released May 1990 Insects will outlive all human kind, being unconcerned with human obsession for violence. Provided, that is, that the humans keep decomposing into green, green grass.
  11. An Animated Shorts Viewing Thread

    Het Etherschip (The Ship of the Ether/Ether Ship) Netherlands: Philips Radio George Pál Released December 1934 I have always had a soft spot for George Pal, purchasing Arnold Leibovit's The Puppetoon Movie on VHS in the late '80s, then the Image DVD in the early 2000s. There is also the excellent upgraded expanded version (with still more extras) on both BluRay and DVD: https://shop.tcm.com/the-puppetoon-movie/757347404144 TCM had a spotlight on Pal last year. After experimenting with stop motion in some German advertising films like the marching cigarettes in Mitternacht (Midnight), George Pal set up a little factory, followed by a bigger one with a bigger staff, in Eindhoven with Philips Radio backing him. One of his first color cartoons for Philips was the delightful cel-animated Radiorør-Revolusjonen (Radio Valve Revolution/Revolution Of The Bulb), but stop-motion of doll figures soon became his true love. The Ship of the Ether was the first of eight stop-motion efforts processed in still now impressive (if slightly primitive) Gasparcolor. By 1937, he was shooting in full Technicolor, with Unilver and the British based Horlicks also sponsoring him. The outbreak of war sent him to Hollywood and Paramount Pictures; his newer facilities providing work for a young Ray Harryhausen in 1940, among others. (Some of his key Dutch staff members reunited after the war with a new company called Dollywood.) After 1947, Pal's focus switched from short subjects to mostly live-action features with stop-motion special effects. Compared to his later efforts, this one is quite simple in the design of its figures (resembling Fisher Price “Little People”), but elaborate with its glass art deco settings. Like a follow-up Puppetoon released in early 1935, De Tooveratlas (The Magic Atlas), it advertises how sophisticated the Philips sound system is, both on cruise ships far from land and in broadcasting from different countries.
  12. An Animated Shorts Viewing Thread

    Znatiželja (Curiosity) Yugoslavia: Zagreb Borivoj Dovniković Released June 1967 (completed in 1966) What makes the Zagreb school of animation so timeless is how it makes comedy out of the human condition. So much other humor is topical and loses its punch with age.
  13. An Animated Shorts Viewing Thread

    A Légy (The Fly) Hungary: Pannónia Filmstúdió Ferenc Rofusz Released May 1980 This Oscar winner is hardly accurate. If you are a house fly, you have multiple eyes and see multiple images.
  14. An Animated Shorts Viewing Thread

    Lichtspiel Opus I Germany: Ruttmann-Film Walter Ruttman Released April 1, 1921 Good abstract in tinted color, although some viewers may find it a trifle long.
  15. An Animated Shorts Viewing Thread

    Czerwone i Czarne (The Red and the Black) Poland: Studio Miniatur Filmovych Witold Giersz Released June 1964 (completed in 1963) This animator did some dazzling work for the Polish “school” with bright paint blotches taking form. Koń (The Horse) from 1967 is often considered his masterpiece, but this earlier work spoofing bull fights is quite charming. For a change of pace, the bull wins. More importantly, I wonder what Max Fleischer thought of this homage to his earlier “Out of the Inkwell” series.

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