Happy New Year! + Nov. & Dec. at TCM’s Movie Morlocks

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Happy New Year. So much to say and so little time to say it. Instead, I’ll save my rambling end of the year diatribe for another day and leave you with some links to the film writing I’ve done at TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog during the past few months. Cheers!

November:
Another Hole in the Head 2015: 11 Days of Indie Horror, Sci-Fi & Fantasy in San Francisco!
Excerpt: “In the words of festival programmer Michael Guillen, Another Hole in the Head is “characterized by a scrappy, DIY aesthetic that eschews big studio content and recent trends towards elevated genre. Holehead’s programming remains curatorially committed to the genre’s graphic roots in shockploitation, visceral thrills and gleeful mayhem.” As a genre film fan with a particular interest in horror I was intrigued by Guillen’s joyful and graphic description so I decided to ask him a few questions about the festival and his programming selections this year.”
Federico Fellini: The Cartoonist
Excerpt: “Fellini’s propensity toward the absurd emerged early in life. As a child, he began drawing caricatures of film stars he saw in movies and as a young adult he found work as a cartoonist and gag writer for a number of Italian newspapers, humor publications and comic books. He eventually began writing comedy scripts for radio but WW2 derailed his writing career and following the Allied liberation of Rome in 1944, Fellini opened the Funny Face Shop where he worked as a caricature artist and expressed an interest in animation. It was here that Fellini met the renowned filmmaker Roberto Rossellini who was so impressed with his sense of humor that he was asked to co-write the film script for Rossellini’s Rome, Open City (1945) and the rest, as they say, is history. Fellini soon began working as an apprentice for Rossellini and ultimately started directing his own films but he never stopped drawing cartoons and caricatures.”
Life Advice from Douglas Fairbanks
Excerpt: “The ideas expressed in the books are often ridiculously simplistic and there is a lot of focus on physical fitness, which preoccupied much of Fairbanks’s time. The actor’s fixation with exercise and maintaining his health is typical of someone whose career relies on him being physically fit but it’s also a rather modern approach to living that predates our current preoccupation with good health and Hollywood’s obsession with body image. In retrospect, Fairbanks’s health advice seems somewhat ironic considering we now know he died at the young age of 52 following a heart attack. It’s an unfortunate reminder that despite our best efforts death is unavoidable and waits for no one.”
Remembering Bruce Lee on his 75th Birthday
Excerpt: “My own affection for Bruce Lee began when I was just a kid. I became aware of the actor and director when he died in 1973, which was the same year I lost my own father. For a number of reasons, including their similar age and the fact that Lee’s passing garnered massive publicity at the time, their deaths were inevitably linked in my head and heart. There were plenty of other celebrity deaths in 1973, including Lon Chaney Jr. and Edward G. Robinson, but neither generated the kind of worldwide public mourning and media attention that followed in the wake of Bruce Lee’s passing. Afterward the celebrated martial artist was catapulted into sainthood while my father remained a saint in my own mind. However, when I think of one man I frequently think of the other. Both left this world suddenly, without warning, and much too soon.”

December:
Movie Book Round-Up: The Holiday Edition
Excerpt: “Since I began writing for the Movie Morlocks five years ago I typically compile a blog post with summer reading suggestions or a list of favorite film related books released at the end of the year. This year I’ve had access to so many great books that I decided to compile two book lists . . . What follows is my ‘Holiday Edition’ where I share some of the best books (pictured above) that I’ve encountered since July. I hope both lists will encourage you to do some reading during the holidays or provide you with some shopping suggestions while you’re purchasing gifts for fellow film buffs.”
Nippon Noir: Snow Trail (1947)
Excerpt: “Senkichi Taniguchi’s Show Trail aka Ginrei no hate (1947) begins with a bang. A montage of shadowy figures and fragmented images bombards viewers during the film’s opening credits while guns fire, alarms ring, windows break, trains whistle and sirens scream. We soon discover that three desperate men (Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura and Yoshio Kosugi) have just robbed a bank and in a bold attempt to dodge authorities they make a dangerous trip to Northern Japan where they hope to lose their pursuers in the snow covered Alps . . . This highly suspenseful, genuinely moving and remarkably inventive film marks the screen introduction of many notable talents. Chief among them is 27-year-old Toshiro Mifune who makes his screen debut here and would eventually become one of Japan’s most acclaimed and beloved actors.”
Pioneering Women: Disney Artists Mary Blair & Thelma Witmer
Excerpt: “While pursuing the credits for So Dear to My Heart and the animated short Corn Chips I noticed that they included work done by two female animation artists I admire, Mary Blair and Thelma Witmer. Women are not typically associated with animation and they tend to be excluded from histories about the subject but thanks to a number of recent books and exhibits, Mary Blair’s career has gone through a reevaluation and she’s become widely recognized as one of Walt Disney Studio’s most original and influential talents. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of background artist Thelma Witmer who worked with Disney for more than 20 years but remains largely unknown.”
The Thin Man Marathon: Conjugal Concord
Excerpt: “There are many reasons to love the Thin Man films. They’re smart, funny, sophisticated and flat out entertaining mysteries but I’m particularly fond of the way they make marriage look so damn fun. Nick and Nora are best pals as well as romantic mates and their breezy back-and-forth banter suggests an intimacy that is sadly missing from many depictions of marriage on screen. Best of all, they share a similar sense of humor and as the old maxim goes, ‘a couple that laughs together, stays together.'”

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I’ve also been doing some promotional writing for TCM’s new Wine Club including a brief piece about wine in the movies that you can find here:
A Brief History of Wine in the Movies

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