Large Association of Movie Blogs
Large Association of Movie Blogs

Saturday, April 30, 2022

May 5-11: The 25th San Francisco Silent Film Festival (a.k.a Vive la France)

It is now spring 2022, knock on wood, and, slowly but surely (and puh-lease, don't call me Shirley) classic film screenings are returning. Lo and behold, NOIR CITY 19 and the 2022 TCM Classic Film Festival wrapped and San Francisco's 25th Silent Film Festival will return to the hallowed "movie palace" aisles of the Castro Theatre next weekend.

The comedy-crazed silent movie buffs at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog are thrilled that, among the many great movies presented over the seven nights, comedy great Max Linder is on the bill.

For starters, we highly recommend watching the Kino Video DVD collection of Linder by Lobster Films, and reading the Trav S.D. piece Max Linder: Le Père du Cinéma Comique from the Travalanche website, The Nitrate Diva’s Just Dandy: The Art Of Max Linder, as well as the  terrific overview of Max' career film historian Lea Stans penned for Silent-ology).

The 25th anniversary San Francisco Silent Film Festival will include KING OF THE CIRCUS, a Max Linder film this avid silent comedy and Max fan has never seen! While Linder may have not been the first comedian to star in a movie - that would very likely be André Deed (1879-1940) - the dapper Parisian boulevardier was certainly among the first silver screen comedians to headline a popular continuing series, in his case for Pathé Frères, beginning in 1905.

Max Linder certainly ranked highly among the key influences on his friend and colleague Charlie Chaplin.

Chaplin described Max as "my teacher."

The official SFSFF press release elaborates:

The French were there at the dawn of cinema when the Lumière Brothers train pulled into the station at La Ciotat. French films are integral to the history of the movies and it is with great pleasure—or should we say plaisir—that we are presenting two extraordinary French films in exquisite restorations, DANS LA NUIT and THE DIVINE VOYAGE, and a third restoration of an Austrian feature, KING OF THE CIRCUS, starring the French comic genius Max Linder.

DANS LA NUIT was legendary actor Charles Vanel's directorial debut—and his only feature. This beautiful film had the bad timing to be released in 1930, when sound was in demand. Despite its excellent reviews, the film faltered at the box office and was doomed to obscurity.

But it had many acclaimed supporters — director Bertrand Tavernier called it "cinematographic poetry" — and we are thrilled to host the world premiere of Institut Lumière's gorgeous new 4K restoration. Film Noir Foundation's Eddie Muller will introduce the film and musician Stephen Horne will accompany.

Our friends at Lobster Films in Paris have been busy during the pandemic lockdown and SFSFF is the beneficiary with two beautiful new restorations! Julian Duvivier's THE DIVINE VOYAGE, set on the Breton coast, contains some of the most stunning sequences on film. Guenter Buchwald and Frank Bockius will accompany.

KING OF THE CIRCUS is Max Linder's last film and it displays the comedic genius that made him one of the silent era's kings of comedy. Philip Carli will accompany. Serge Bromberg of Lobster Films will introduce both titles.

For more Max: the pioneering movie comedian's daughter, Maud, an infant at the time of his death in 1925, wrote, produced and narrated a documentary, The Man In The Silk Hat about the life, times and films of the father she never knew. Here it is, in four parts:

Here's to Max and a successful 2022 San Francisco Silent Film Festival. It's a outstanding lineup of classic films seen in proper big screen glory. Vive Max and Vive la France!

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Saturday Cornucopia of Clips

Immersion in the stand-up comedy of fallen heroes Gilbert and Bob lately has led, like a gateway drug, to today's Cornucopia of Clips focusing on sketch comedy.

With a note to blog readers that the Blogmeister is dealing with a host of challenging computer problems entirely of his own making, as well as the fact that Blogger does not have a functioning "Preview" (enabling one to actually see a post before it has been published), we kick this off with Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca on Admiral Broadway Revue and Your Show Of Shows.

Love this sendup of very early cinema, D.W. Griffith and Florence "The Biograph Girl" Lawrence.

And then there's Ernie Kovacs, remembered best for his remarkably inventive work, in front of and behind the camera, on his own TV shows. He was out of the box, WAY out of the box, but always the master of the "orthicon tube".

Across the pond from Ernie and a few years later, there was the one, the only Marty Feldman!

And, speaking of the Brits, there's Spike Milligan, co-creator of "The Goon Show."

Very likely the first time Americans saw Spike Milligan was on the short-lived but glorious 1970 sketch comedy show, The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine.

Spike co-starred and wrote sketches with an all-star crew including Marty and Barry Levinson.

Like Marty Feldman, he was a trumpet player who, instead of leading a British bebop big band, became a comedian.

The musical nature of Spike's writing proved a constant in his career as a performer and author.

The gang at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog, who do not consider it a stretch at all to compare Bob Odenkirk's comedy style to Spike Milligan, has been watching and listening to various interviews from the former Saturday Night Live, Ben Stiller Show and Mr. Show writer from his current book tour, including the April 17 appearance on Al Franken's podcast. Bob Odenkirk, on said book tour, is interviewed here by none other than the great Jack Black.

In the 21st century known for adding a wry sensibility to provocative, hard-hitting, tough-as-nails dramas (Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul) and unconventional action hero thrillers (Nobody), Bob Odenkirk began his career in the 1980's writing comedy sketches with Second City. We know him well from his role as Winston Deaver in Disney/Pixar's Incredibles 2.

Also know Mr. Odenkirk from his years writing for Saturday Night Live, along with a crew that included Conan O'Brien and Robert Smigel. The most famous SNL sketch he wrote would be the following.

In 1995-1998, Odenkirk and David Cross, supported by a host of comedy luminaries (John Ennis. Jay Johnston, Paul F. Tompkins, Jill Talley, Tom Kenny, Brian Posehn among the continuing players, Dino Stamatopoulos, Sarah Silverman and Jack Black as guest stars) produced four seasons of Mr. Show with Bob & David.

Mr. Show with Bob & David could be described as an American version of the kind of humor exemplified by the Pythons, especially in the movie Monty Python's The Meaning Of Life.

The Story Of Everest and Megaphone Crooners sketches would be this blogger's favorites.

Quite a few Mr. Show episodes are up on YouTube in their entirety.

They are also available on several DVD collections.

Saturday, April 16, 2022


We at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog are still having a lot of difficulty dealing with Gilbert Gottfried's passing earlier this week.

Why people who bring the world laughs, fun and joy are being taken out in rapid succession while the worst of the worst are still here, this writer cannot fathom.

Here's Stephen Colbert's tribute to Gilbert. . . It is HILARIOUS!

The best way to remember Gilbert is with clips of his standup comedy. Gilbert dubbing Dick Cavett on this episode of Late Night with Conan O'Brien is unbelievably and indescribably funny.

This meeting of two comedy greats, Gilbert and Norm, is both side-splittingly funny and very very NSFW.

Cannot begin to express how much I will miss listening to Gilbert Gottfried's Amazing Colossal Podcast.

Thanks a million to the producers and creators of the pod, Gilbert's wife Dara and co-host Frank Santopadre.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

More Awful News in a Year of Awful News

The comedy and 20th century pop culture lovin' gang at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog are deeply saddened by this awful news. Posted a tribute to Gilbert a couple of years back and have been avid fans of his podcast from its inception.

Goodbye, Gilbert - and thanks a million for the laughs. Say hello to Louie, Bob, Norm and "old Groucho" when you get a chance.

Friday, April 08, 2022

April 8 and 15: TCM Presents Baseball Movies

While wishing fervently for a Star Trek teleportation device to make attending today's San Francisco Giants home opener at A T and T Park possible, this blogger will be watching baseball flicks on Turner Classic Movies. Thrilled and delighted to hear TCM hosts Eddie “The Czar Of Noir” Muller and Ben Mankiewicz talk baseball movies on the April 2 edition of Marty Lurie’s Podcast on KNBR, source of San Francisco Giants radio broadcasts.

The night of April 8 will feature a triple bill of Angels In The Outfield (1951), Bull Durham (1988) and Take Me Out To The Ball Game (1949).

While we also like the 1994 version of Angels In The Outfield starring Danny Glover, the 1951 film, directed by Clarence Brown, has got it all - Paul Douglas and Bing Crosby for Madame Blogmeister and Janet Leigh, baseball player cameos, Keenan Wynn and Harry Ruby for the Blogmeister.

On the surface, Ron Shelton's Bull Durham is a randy, raunchy and Rabelaisian rom-com that sneaks profound baseball knowledge within a storyline about what it takes for players to get to the major leagues and then stay there, the dynamic between minor and major league teams. . . and, of course, groupies. It would be the first of Shelton's explorations (White Men Can't Jump, Tin Cup, Cobb) of sports as narrative.

Bull Durham reflects that TCM has expanded its reach to films that, while made quite a long time ago, are more in line with the sensibility of present-day 21st century movies than the cinema of 1929-1949. At Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog, often wrap our addled psyches around the fact that movies we saw first run on the big screen are 40+ years in the rear-view mirror.

Bull Durham will be followed by the 1949 Busby Berkeley directed MGM flick, Take Me Out to the Ball Game, co-starring real-life baseball fan Frank Sinatra, dancin' Gene Kelly, aqua-queen of the MGM lot Esther Williams and quintessential stage and screen musical comedy gal Betty Garrett.

Appropriately, on Jackie Robinson Day, April 15, The Jackie Robinson Story will lead a baseball-packed TCM triple bill which includes The Natural and The Pride Of The Yankees.

Jackie, along with Larry Doby and Monte Irvin, were among the intrepid, tough and fearless men who broke the color line and paved the way for arguably the greatest baseball players of the 20th century, perennial MVPs and fellow Hall of Famers Willie Mays and Hank Aaron.

Åll MLB players will wear #42 to honor him. And Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog will find time to see the excellent movie 42 again.

THE NATURAL makes a terrific Robert Redford 1-2 with his 1992 film A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT and is, with A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN, FIELD OF DREAMS, the aforementioned BULL DURHAM  and (our favorite) EIGHT MEN OUT among a slew of very good baseball flicks produced in the 1980's.

Tough to top Pride Of The Yankess, although this movie buff frequently thinks of Coop doing his John L Sullivan impersonation in the Hoawrd Hawks masterpiece BALL OF FIRE!

Any additions we'd make to the TCM baseball film fest? Yes! Joe E. Brown in ELMER THE GREAT and ALIBI IKE!

Friday, April 01, 2022

Raymond Griffith, a.k.a. The Silk Hat Slicker

"Griffith seems to me to occupy a handsome fifth place — after Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd, and Langdon — in the silent comedy pantheon." Walter Kerr

The latest Kickstarter from Ben Model, silent film accompanist, historian and Undercrank Productions home video producer, began on March 19 and ends tomorrow, focuses on the unique and hilarious headliner of Paramount feature films of the 1920's, the one, the only Raymond Griffith and a new release on Blu-ray and DVD of two of his feature films, Paths To Paradise (1925) and You'd Be Surprised (1926).

Griffith has his fans: the funding goal of $11,500 was surpassed on the first day of the Kickstarter, which ends on April 2. Here's a clip from Paths To Paradise, in which the always dapper Griffith co-stars with Betty Compson, the star of numerous Christie Comedies who headlined feature films through the 1920's. Note the presence, in the gang chasing Raymond and Betty, of silent and sound comedy film perennial Edgar Kennedy.

This blogger remains primarily familiar with Griffith via a spotlight in The Silent Clowns, the terrific book by Walter Kerr, as well as a chapter in Leonard Maltin's The Great Movie Comedians. His characterization could best be described as "Joe Cool," unflappable in all situations. 

The influence on comedy of the distinctive "never let 'em see you sweat" ethos of Raymond Griffith, described by writer Matthew Ross as The Sheik of Silent Comedy, would continue decades after his onscreen career ended, especially in the animated cartoons of Tex Avery and Chuck Jones.

While Tex Avery, in interviews conducted by Joe Adamson and other film historians, never noted any specific influences on his approach to comedy, Jones was an avid silent movie buff and especially a fan of Buster Keaton. The silk hat slicker's aplomb under maximum pressure is key to his comedy - and seems to, like the quiet understatement contrasted with danger and mayhem so promiment in the cinema of Buster Keaton, have found its way into the unflappable Bugs Bunny and Droopy.

The Kickstarter page for "Raymond Griffith: The Silk-Hatted Comedian" adds:
The films in the project will be seen in new 2K digital scans of archival 35mm materials preserved by the Library of Congress, and will be scanned by the Library of Congress' lab.

This Kickstarter covers all costs for the Blu-ray and DVD's production and release, as well as the making and shipping of backer copies. I am aiming to be able to have the Blu-ray finished and sent to you by the end of November 2022, and ready for the public for a January 2023 release.

Backers of this project will receive a copy of the finished Blu-ray, or DVD if you don't have a Blu-ray player. Kickstarter backers will get their copies of the Blu-ray before it becomes available commercially to the general public. (note: the last reel of Paths to Paradise is missing, but this is the only way the film survives; still...the film's story is basically complete at end of what survives, and we will try to fill in missing info with a title card.)

We are thrilled to support this Kickstarter and hope it continues well surpassing its fundraising goal over the next 24 hours. The silent comedy aficionados at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog enjoyed seeing Paths To Paradise a few years ago at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum and will enjoy seeing it on Blu-ray. The Kickstarter ends on Saturday, April 2, 2022 at 6:00 PM EDT.