Matt writes: Today marks the final day of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which began on September 15th. In addition to our roundup of coverage celebrating the work of Hispanic filmmakers, particularly Gregory Nava's "El Norte," in this special edition of Thumbnails, make sure to read our contributor Aaron Aradillas' new interview with the legendary actor Edward James Olmos about his work in "Stand and Deliver," "Battlestar Galactica" and much more.
The latest on Blu-ray and DVD, including Skyscraper, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Sorry to Bother You, and more.
A review and appreciation of Joe Dante's Matinee, on Special Edition Blu-ray this week.
The latest and greatest on Blu-ray, including Popstar, Neighbors 2, Captain America: Civil War, Blood Simple, Cat People and many more.
Sheila writes: In the films of Spike Lee, the characters often break the fourth wall and speak directly into the lens. There's a break in the action, and the dialogue spoken to the camera feels almost like it's from a documentary, with the "talking head" giving us more information for context. In this cut from the wonderful video-site "Press Play," watch the best To the Camera moments from Spike Lee's films.
Sheila writes: Those of you attending Ebertfest, a note from Chaz:We will have our annual Ebert Club Meet and Greet at the Roger Ebert Film Festival, Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 8 am - 10 am in the Illini Union, General Lounge. Also invited are the Far Flung Correspondents and writers from Rogerebert.com. I look forward to seeing you there!
David Cronenberg's "The Fly" (1986) is among a very few movies that give me a sense of hesitation as soon as the credits appear. I've owned a couple of home video versions since its release twenty some years ago, according to the technology in favor, but I doubt I've played them more than a handful of times (including that for the purpose of this review). For such a well made and entertaining movie this is particularly odd but among the great horror flicks (it certainly fits the bill) this one hits you a little bit below the belt for enjoyment's sake."The Fly" deals with Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum), an eccentric inventor who meets reporter Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) at a science convention and (somewhat unwillingly) spills the beans about his latest creation, one that will "change the world as we know it". The contraption in question is a teleportation system for inanimate objects, which is basically the same concept used for getting characters on and off the Starship Enterprise in "Star Trek". With Veronica alongside him to document his progress Seth is able to take the next step, giving his invention the ability to transport live beings. After a failed attempt (that's putting it mildly!) with a baboon that should have given him some pause, Seth unwisely decides to rush testing the system with himself as passenger, unaware that a seemingly innocent house fly has hitched a ride alongside him (at least they weren't joined by that other baboon!). After the initial apparent success, an oblivious Seth will find himself gaining incredible agility and strength but will progressively become a mean, selfish, stench-filled and tragic individual, illustrating in the process the nature of those insects in much higher detail than we would ever want to learn. By film's end we'll end up seeing these creatures in a very different light and Seth will not be able to regret enough the fact that he did not provide his device with an UNDO command.Much like he previously did in "The Dead Zone" (1983), Cronenberg creates a very convincing couple for the audience to identify with before tragedy strikes. The difference in "The Fly" is that he doesn't show them the slightest bit of mercy (the fates of Christopher Walken and Brooke Adams in "The Dead Zone" amounted to a happy ending in comparison). This doesn't necessarily make one movie better than the other (though "The Dead Zone"'s conclusion is truly sublime). Both entries were treated correctly according to their very different subjects but the ending in "The Fly" is not quite as easy to appreciate. The audience here is even taunted for a while with the possibility that the experiment's results are going to be for the best and that makes the lead's fate all the more painful. What can you say about a movie in which the villain of the piece (Davis' egotistical and sexist boss played by John Getz) suddenly finds himself becoming the hero? Perhaps that Getz' initial evil was no match for the enormity and wrongness of the situations in this movie."The Exorcist" (1973) aside, I can't think of another horror film as
Sheila writes: Today, October 30, is the 75th anniversary of the historic 1938 "War of the Worlds" broadcast, presented by Orson Welles and his merry band of Mercury Theater friends. In Peter Bogdanovich's book "This is Orson Welles", Welles tells Bogdanovich: "Six minutes after we’d gone on the air, the switchboards in radio stations right across the country were lighting up like Christmas trees. Houses were emptying, churches were filling up; from Nashville to Minneapolis there was wailing in the street and the rending of garments. Twenty minutes in, and we had a control room full of very bewildered cops. They didn’t know who to arrest or for what, but they did lend a certain tone to the remainder of the broadcast. We began to realize, as we plowed on with the destruction of New Jersey, that the extent of our American lunatic fringe had been underestimated." Bogdanovich later says to Welles, "The Martian broadcast didn’t really hurt you at all. Would you say it was lucky?" Welles replied, "Well, it put me in the movies. Was that lucky? I don’t know." Here is the original radio broadcast in all its mockumentary glory.
Sheila writes: There's something heartbreaking about a dilapidated movie theater. With the whole world going multiplex, the quirky independent movie theaters are quickly disappearing. Moscow photographer Sergey Novikov spent two years traveling around in Moscow and St. Petersburg, seeking out the abandoned movie theaters built in the Constructivist style of architecture, so familiar to him in his youth. The result is a series of haunting photographs he calls "Breathless". In a fascinating email interview, Novikov says: "I perceive them as rare, unique objects and often the movie theater is the only handsome building in a district so my urge was just to keep them in a time, place and memory through documenting. These cinemas are frozen in time, being parted from movies but their identity preserved; a frontispiece and a name. Destruction sometimes happens quickly - yesterday it was in front of you and today it is already demolished. They are breathless. Vanishing scenery."
Marie writes: Behold a truly rare sight. London in 1924 in color. "The Open Road" was shot by an early British pioneer of film named Claude Friese-Greene and who made a series of travelogues using the colour process his father William (a noted cinematographer) had been experimenting with. The travelogues were taken between 1924 and 1926 on a motor journey between Land's End and John O'Groats. You can find more footage from The Open Road at The British Film Institute's YouTube channel for the film. You can also explore their Archives collection over here.
Marie writes: The ever intrepid Sandy Khan shared the following item with the Newsletter and for which I am extremely glad, as it's awesome..."Earlier this year, the Guggenheim Museum put online 65 modern art books, giving you free access to books introducing the work of Alexander Calder, Edvard Munch, Francis Bacon, Gustav Klimt & Egon Schiele, and Kandinsky. Now, just a few short months later, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has launched MetPublications, a portal that will "eventually offer access to nearly all books, Bulletins, and Journals" published by the Met since 1870."
The Ebert Club is invites you to share this classic William Castle B-rated movie, streaming free. And please join the Club and explore an eclectic assortment of discoveries. Your subscription helps support the Newsletter, the Far-Flung Correspondents and the On-Demanders on my site. - Roger Ebert
House on Haunted Hill (1959) Directed by William Castle. Produced by William Castle. Written by Robb White. Starring Vincent Price, Carolyn Craig, Elisha Cook, Carol Ohmart, Alan Marshal and Julie Mitchum.Synopsis: House on Haunted Hill is the tale of five people invited to spend the night inside a haunted house by an eccentric millionaire, Fredrick Loren, whose throwing a "party" for his fourth wife Annabelle - with the stipulation that the power will be out and the all the doors locked at midnight; allowing no escape. Anyone who stays inside the house for the entire night, assuming they're still alive come morning, will receive $10,000 each.The five guests all arrive in separate funeral cars with a hearse leading, which he says may be empty now - but they may be in need of it later. Frederick explains the rules of the party and gives each of the guests a .45 pistol for protection. Frederick's wife tries to warn the guests that her husband is psychotic, causing them to be very suspicious of him now, especially Nora Manning who becomes convinced he's trying to kill her when she keeps seeing mysterious ghouls - including the ghost of Annabelle, who'd apparently hanged herself after being forced to attend the party....holy crap, what the hell's going on..?!
For more B-rated treasures, go here to join the Club
P.S. ~ IMDb reports: "William Castle used a gimmick called 'Emergo' in theaters. When the skeleton rises from the acid vat in the film, a lighted plastic skeleton on a wire appeared from a black box next to the screen to swoop over the heads of the audience. The skeleton would then be pulled back into the box as the skeleton in the film is 'reeled in.' Many theaters soon stopped using this effect because when the local boys heard about it, they would bring slingshots to the theater; when the skeleton started its journey, they would pull out their slingshots and fire at it."
April 5 would have been Bette Davis's 104th birthday. I was reminded of this interview I did with her in 1988, which appeared on my CinePad website 10 years later:
When my former Seattle Times editor called me, a few months after I'd moved to Los Angeles, to say he wanted me to interview Bette Davis, I wasn't as thrilled as I probably should have been. I realized it was a rare opportunity -- she was giving only three interviews to promote the paperback version of her book about recovering from her stroke -- but Bette Davis had never been my glass of lemonade.
I just never really got the whole Bette-Davis-As-Icon thing. To me, she was a movie star, a part of Hollywood history (I admired the way she took on the studio bosses when they -- and she -- were at the peak of their powers), but with the exception of All About Eve (where she really used her movie-star mega-wattage as part of the role), I hadn't regarded her as a great actress. I mean, she was no Barbara Stanwyck, who was equally adept as a screwball comedienne, a tragic heroine, or a femme fatale.
But of course, I wasn't about to pass up the opportunity to interview a screen legend; there just weren't that many of them left. I remember thinking it was kind of funny and appropriate that she was living on the outskirts of West Hollywood (in the Century House on Havenhurst), mecca to the gay men who really worshipped her. But why did they? Was she just a camp figurehead because her brittle, melodramatic style of acting hadn't aged well? Or was it that she was Larger Than Life, a tough broad who had survived? Probably some of both...
Well, I'll say this: She sure knew how to be Bette Davis. She was cantankerous and flamboyant, but I also thought there was an undercurrent of playfulness to her behavior. Not that I thought she was "performing," or putting on a Bette Davis Act; I think she was probably like this most of the time. But I also think she rose to the occasion, somewhat, because she liked the attention, and liked the feeling that she was communicating -- albeit through me -- to her public.
It was a stellar afternoon...