Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Blogger And Spam Spam Spam Spam

A shout-out to anyone else who reads this blog who is using Blogger: are your comments dominated by spam spam spam spam (99.82% of it wholly unrelated to not only the specific blog topic, but all blog subject matter)? For that matter, are friends and colleagues on Typepad having a similar experience? I know of bloggers who migrated to Typepad after getting hacked on Blogger.

Just curious.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The San Francisco Bay Area Kicks Off April WIth More Cool Film Events

While we are sad to see the Stanford Theatre's splendid Akira Kurosawa Festival come to a close with the end of March, some excellent and unorthodox movies will ring in the new month of April in several Bay Area venues.

Thursday, April 1: The gala day of San Francisco's St. Stupid's Day parade and April Fools' Day will include cool film shows.


At the Balboa Theatre, 3630 Balboa Street (between 37th and 38th Avenue), San Francisco: 7:00 P.M. screening of the documentary Gumby Dharma

At Kingman’s Ivy Room, 860 San Pablo Avenue, Albany, starting at 8:00 p.m., Thrillville presents James Bond Nite: featuring classic 60s spy cinema on the bar TVs, classic cocktail specials (including the original Bond martini, “The Vesper”), prizes and live theremin lounge music by Project Pimento: no cover.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday, April 2-4
At the Victoria Theatre, 2961 Street, San Francisco
Author Peter S. Beagle will appear in person for three showings of the animated adaptation of his fantasy novel, The Last Unicorn. This will be the first time since 1982 that a 35mm print of this film has been shown in the Bay Area.

Friday and Saturday: doors open at 7 PM, audience Q&A with Peter starts at 8 PM, screening starts approximately 8:30. On Sunday, doors open at 6 PM, audience Q&A with Peter starts at 7 PM, screening starts approximately 7:30 PM. There will be special prizes, and a post-screening author-signing.

Friday, April 2: At Stephen Parr's Oddball Film Archive, 275 Capp Street, San Francisco. Guest curator Pete Gowdy presents Lost Animation IV.

Saturday, April 3: Also at Oddball Film Archive in San Francisco's Mission District, yours truly will be guest curator for two shows, starting with my cinematic contribution to his third
Surreal Body Shop program at 8:00 p.m. and Attack Of The Killer Commercials at 10:00 p.m.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

This Week: Creature Features and KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival

Tomorrow night, Thursday March 25 at 7:00 p.m.: Creature Features At The Balboa with John Stanley, horror host of KTVU-TV's popular late-night show (and who very capably succeeded the equally wonderful Bob Wilkins) IN PERSON! Watch the trailer for this extravaganza, which holds forth at one of my favorite theatres in San Francisco.



Saturday night, March 27: the KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival returns, jam-packed with trailers from bad films, martians, robots, campy musical shorts, incredibly strange cartoons, classic television clips, indescribable celluloid oddities and commercials for products like this one:


The amazing 1955 Kelvinator Foodarama Refrigerator-Freezer


When: Saturday March 27, 2010 - from 7:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Where: Room 5015, Foothill College campus

Next week, after recovering from Psychotronix, I will pick myself up, dust myself off and prepare an evening of celluloid oddities and wonderment for Stephen Parr of San Francisco's Oddball Film. I will be guest curator there for two shows at Stephen's excellent film archive on the evening of Saturday April 3.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Something I Didn't Want To Read Anytime Soon: Alex Chilton's Obit



I generally prefer to avoid posting something about a death, since wonderful, beautiful, inventive amazing people die every day - and, bluntly, I am "Way Too Damn Lazy" to write blog postings about even a fraction of 1% of them. Sadly, here's an untimely passing I'm compelled to call attention to.

One of the most inspired, original songwriters and impassioned performers in rock n' roll, Alex Chilton, succumbed to a heart attack on March 17 at the age of 59. He was a rare talent who could seamlessly jump from rock to psychedelia to folk to jazz to blues to Beatle-esque pop to Memphis r&b (at times in the same set) and sound great in every genre. And Alex' best known work, with The Box Tops and Big Star, is strictly the tip of the iceberg.





Alex was slated to appear with Big Star on Saturday night at the South By Southwest Music Festival
in Austin, Texas.



Big Star, 1971: Jody Stephens, Chris Bell, Alex Chilton and Andy Hummel




Although most of us (myself included) didn't hear Big Star, which Alex co-led with the very talented singer-songwriter-guitarist Chris Bell, when their albums were first released, barely distributed and never, ever played even on FM radio back in the early 1970's, the band would be hugely influential on the music that followed: without Big Star, there's no R.E.M., no Replacements, no Marshall Crenshaw, no Beck, no Wilco, etc.





Keith Spera in the New Orleans Music News has done an excellent job delving into who Alex Chilton was and how he loved New Orleans, where he lived for the last 28 years of his life. There is also a good tribute written by Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney for NPR Music, the official obit from NPR, which also includes links to various interviews and other pieces, as well as a good article in the San Francisco Chronicle by Aidin Viziri.

I add to this the following excerpts from Chris Talbott's article for the Associated Press."It was Chilton's work with a second Memphis band, Big Star that cemented his legacy as a pioneering voice for a generation of kids looking for something real in the glossy world of pop music. The band was never a commercial success, but R.E.M. counted Chilton as an influence, the Replacements name-checked him with their 1987 song "Alex Chilton," and his band still provides a template for musicians today. "In my opinion, Alex was the most talented triple threat musician out of Memphis — and that's saying a ton," Paul Westerberg, the former Replacements frontman, said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "His versatility at soulful singing, pop rock songwriting, master of the folk idiom, and his delving into the avant garde, goes without equal. He was also a hell of a guitar player and a great guy."

Original Big Star member Jody Stephens and Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer of The Posies, who joined Chilton in the reformed group (a.k.a. Big Star 2.0), all plan to play Saturday's show as scheduled. Stringfellow said the band will likely invite special guests to join in, but that details were just starting to be worked out.

"That Alex died two days before we were going to play, it has dropped the bomb on South by Southwest in a lot of ways," Stringfellow said in a phone interview from Paris. "We have a lot of fans there. I hope this show will be a good release and a kind of way to memorialize Alex. He deserves that and a lot more."



Paul Westerberg, author of the aforementioned fabulous song about Alex, has posted links to a host of tributes here on his website. No doubt many more are forthcoming, especially at SXSW over this weekend.

Here are three songs from the August 2008 concert by Big Star 2.0 (Alex, Ken Stringfellow, Jon Auer and Jody Stephens) at the Rhythm Festival in Clapham, Bedfordshire. There is no band that synthesized protean elements of American folk-rock and pop - Gram Parson's songwriting and Roger McGuinn's jangly guitar sound from The Byrds, plus Arthur Lee's cryptic lyricism and the vocal harmonies of Brian Wilson/ Beach Boys - with British Invasion soundscapes (from The Beatles to The Move to The Kinks to The Small Faces to The Who to early Pink Floyd) quite like Big Star. It is also noteworthy that Big Star, devoted to succinct pop songcraft, existed completely apart from the pronounced early 1970's bent towards flashy, highly theatrical "stadium rock".







Also posted on youtube were the following home movie clips of the 1971-1972 Big Star lineup, shot by Andy Hummel and the late Chris Bell, with "Thank You, Friends", one of Alex' best tunes as the soundtrack. It is just one of many Chilton songs that has grown on me over the years.



Always musically curious, he loved all kinds of genres and incorporated all of it into his unique approach. Thus, like Elvis Costello, he remains close to Mr. Blogmeister's musical heart. Only Alex Chilton could pull off rocked-out versions of both "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" and "April In Paris" in the same set as covers of "There Will Never Be Another You", Michael Jackson's "Rock With You" and "Can't Seem To Make You Mine" by Sky Saxon And The Seeds in its full psychedelic era rave-up splendor - or even attempt to.

The most interesting pieces I have seen thus far about Alex have been Robert Cass' Bootleg City article and Michael Baker's The Glory and Grandeur That Is Defeat: The Music of Alex Chilton, a fascinating 2004 study (in two parts) from the enjoyable Perfect Sound Forever online magazine. Baker is a highly opinionated, entertaining, wonderfully florid and very good writer, as well as one deeply knowledgeable music geek.

I'll simply close with both the painfully obvious understatement that Alex Chilton, still underrated after all these years (only in his earliest incarnation with The Box Tops was he ever a pop "flavor of the month"), left a highly original, often inspired legacy - and three great recordings of his. First, a cover version of an irresistible Byrds-Beatles style song by Scottish rockers (and frequent collaborators of Alex) Teenage Fanclub, then a caustic lil' number which ventures successfully into Jimi Hendrix "The Cry Of Love" territory. The third song is a well-known jazz standard and Nina Simone signature tune.







R.I.P. Alex - you are much missed!


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Harold Lloyd Interview

It turns out the thread involving interviews with the great comedians of silent movies will be another brief one; while Chaplin and Keaton wrote memoirs, Harry Langdon, Charley Chase and Edgar Kennedy all passed away in the 1940's, so no interviews of them appear to exist (certainly no extensive ones), outside of some Hollywood trade paper and newspaper articles. The urban legend goes that Jerry Lewis spent quite a bit of time with both Chaplin and Stan Laurel, but one suspects that whatever was said between them will remain confidential.

The great Harold Lloyd, whose films are still unequaled in their blend of comedy and thrills with the action hero ethos, periodically made public appearances at screenings of his great 1920's features, and also released feature-length compilations of excerpts from his classic movies.


Here's Harold in 1962, interviewed by Harry Reasoner on CBS-TV interview. Enjoy.






Monday, March 15, 2010

Buster Keaton Interviews



He was among the greatest of movie and vaudeville comedians, as well as an actor, producer, director, writer, editor, daredevil stuntman, tumbler and acrobat. But there's more - he also made his mark as a gifted engineer and special effects designer! Now it's 2010 and there's still only one person in the history of motion pictures who personifies all of those talents: the incomparable Buster Keaton. Fortunately and luckily for us film buffs, Buster outlived many of his contemporaries long enough to be interviewed several times.

From Columbia University's Oral History Research Office, here are more interviews with Buster Keaton, conducted in 1958. You can listen to and/or read the transcript of Buster reminiscing about his years in vaudeville and film.

Part 1
Buster Keaton's Vaudeville Childhood

Part 2
Fatty Arbuckle Puts Buster Keaton In The Movies

Part 3
Buster Keaton On Making Movies

Part 4
Buster Keaton On The End of Silent Films

Here are two more interviews (note: these are Windows Media files, which will only open on your Mac if you have the appropriate plug-in software):
  1. CBS interview, broadcast on April 17, 1964: posted on Hollywood Or Blog
  2. CBC Interview

I extend
big time thanks and a tip of the Jimmie Hatlo hat to Silent Comedy Mafia don (Northern California division) Paul J. Mular for sending these links!

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Stan Laurel And Oliver Hardy Interviews

I hope to, in scouring YouTube and Daily Motion, find a few interviews with my favorite comedians of the silent and early sound era. Here are some excerpts from Arthur Friedman's August 1957 interview with Stan Laurel.






The complete interview has been posted on Ross Owens' Blog. Lots more interesting material on the world's greatest comedy team can be found on Laurel And Hardy Forum.

The following 1950 "Ship's Reporter" program is among the rare interviews with Oliver Hardy. Ralph Edwards' unsuccessful attempt to build a "This Is Your Life" show around Stan and Babe, unfortunately, was an utterly flubbed opportunity for a fun and historic interview with the boys.




Alas, many of the great screen comics and comedy creators of the 20's and 30's - Mabel Normand, Roscoe Arbuckle, Charley Chase, Lloyd Hamilton - lived hard and not only died very young, but many years before the concept of film history was even a glimmer in James Agee's mind.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Happy Birthday, Milt Gross

Completing a brief Happy Birthday bent here, I celebrate the natal anniversary of just one of the poet laureates of humor, comics, illustration and animation, the fabulous Milt Gross, born on March 4, 1895. No, it isn't lost upon me that the birthdays of Milt and Tex Avery are just a few days apart; I wonder if the two comic geniuses - both of whom created brilliant animated cartoons for MGM - ever met.

Here, for a repeat appearance on this blog, is this gorgeous panel from Milt Gross' Cartoon Tour Of New York, courtesy of the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive.



Thanks to the
stalwart efforts of historians and comic art collectors Mark Kausler and Marc Deckter, some amazing Milt Gross pieces are up on the Archive's website.

Mr. Kausler, a friend of this blog, comic art scholar and talented animator who has probably forgotten more about the history of comics and screen animation that most of us will ever know, frequently spotlights classic comic strips on his blog, including the following postings featuring Milt's Nize Baby comix:

Happy Holidays Post #1
Post-Age Due
Hitchin' Post