Saturday, May 14, 2016

CMBA Blogger Profile: Virtual Virago

The CMBA profiles two classic movie blogs per month – on the 1st and the 15th. Today we're honoring Jennifer from Virtual Virago.

Virtual Virago is one of those blogs that helps you see films a little differently.

It's no wonder, considering Jennifer Garlen taught English at the University of Alabama in Huntsville for several years. She is also the author of Beyond Casablanca: 100 Classic Movies Worth Watching.

Her blog offers thoughtful analysis of films you thought you knew, and she explores delightfully surprising territory such as Classic Movies for Cat Lovers and Southern Voices on the Silver Screen.

"One of the most successful posts on Virtual Virago is about Laird Cregar, one of my favorite actors," says Jennifer. "I think Cregar had tremendous talent, and he deserves to be remembered and more widely known. His story is so tragic and utterly Hollywood that it really ought to be the basis for a book or a film."

You can read Jennifer's post on Laird Cregar HERE.

CMBA: What sparked your interest in classic film?
Virtual Virago: Like a lot of classic movie bloggers I grew up watching old films with my family, but I really became invested in them when I started studying film as part of my literature courses in college and graduate school. I remember watching Easter Parade in my senior seminar on comedy at Agnes Scott College and really being blown away by the treatment of films - especially older ones - as "texts" to study and think about seriously. I like movies of all kinds and from all eras, but something about classic film continues to draw me back to it. Partly it's the stars, but it's also the stories and wonderful dialogue. I especially love the films of the 30s and 40s.

CMBA: What makes a film a "classic" in your opinion?
Virtual Virago: It depends on the audience or the kind of conversation I'm having with someone. I generally think of classics as films made before the end of the studio era, but at this point a lot of pictures from the 80s could very fairly be said to have stood the test of time. Bringing Up Baby might be a classic in a somewhat different sense from, say, The Muppet Movie, but both of them have special places in my heart, and I think both of them deserve love and attention from future generations.

CMBA: What classic film(s) do you recommend to people who say they hate old movies?
Virtual Virago: Gosh, I worry about people who say that! I used to teach film units to college freshmen, and I had great luck luring them in with classic film noir. Noir is sexy, violent, and often pretty short, and the stars have such smoldering appeal. It's hard to resist Mitchum in Out of the Past or Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd. Other good starter films are the Chaplin and Keaton silents, Some Like It Hot, and, again, Bringing Up Baby. If you don't laugh at those you just don't have a sense of humor.

CMBA: Why should people care about classic film?
Virtual Virago: Like all narratives, films offer us a sense of what it means to be human, not only to be someone else but also to be ourselves. That's tremendously important. All art matters, but classic movies shed so much light on both the good and the bad about our past, sometimes unintentionally. I also love the way classic films rely on language and suggestion to convey complex, nuanced themes and concepts. So many modern films are tailored for the international box office and keep dialogue to a minimum in favor of big set pieces and explosions. 

CMBA: What is the most rewarding thing about blogging?
Virtual Virago: It's really reassuring when I have proof that someone actually read and liked a post, but sometimes I do it just because I enjoy putting my own thoughts together. I like writing. Getting a post up always feels like an accomplishment (and it's so much easier than finishing the most recent book project!).

CMBA: What challenges do you face with your blog, and how do you overcome them?
Virtual Virago: Finding time to watch and then write about the movies can be a challenge. I have a family, I do other types of writing, and I have a lot of irons in different fires. I'd love to have time to sit down with the really long films to watch them, take good notes, and put together thoughtful reviews, but sometimes I just have to go with the 90 minute picture because I know I can get through it before I'm interrupted!

CMBA: What advice would you give to a new blogger?
Virtual Virago: Think about the films you watch. Don't just summarize them or do play-by-play posts. Critical thought is more original, but it's also harder. A lot of other classic movie bloggers have already seen the movie in question, but they want to know what you think is going on in it. That might just be the English professor in me, but I really love to read thoughtful pieces about why a movie works or doesn't work for a particular viewer. I like to know how a writer sees a film; it might really be different from my own reading of it, and I learn something from that. Engage your text!

Thanks for joining us, Jennifer! You can visit her blog by clicking HERE.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

CMBA Blogger Profile: Another Old Movie Blog

The CMBA profiles two classic movie blogs per month – on the 1st and the 15th. Today we're celebrating Jacqueline from Another Old Movie Blog.

Reading through Another Old Movie Blog is like sneaking into a film historian's library.

Here you'll find reviews and film history on subjects and actors not often discussed. Once you click on this site, you might as well get comfortable – you'll likely be perusing it for the rest of the afternoon.

In addition to her blog, Jacqueline is also the author of the recently released biography Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. This is the first published comprehensive biography of Ms Blyth. Jacqueline says the idea of a book began with the "Year of Ann Blyth" series on her blog.

"It prefaced a year-long fascinating journey for me," says Jacqueline, "and led to the publication of my book on Ann Blyth. That post started it all–where readers left comments suggesting that I write a book."

You can read the series introduction HERE.

CMBA: What sparked your interest in classic film?
Another Old Movie Blog: I’ve always watched classic films, from my earliest memory.  There were four TV channels when I was a child, and old movies were a common filler on all networks. My parents and older siblings watched classic films, so I grew up in an environment where they were a normal part of my life. At some point I began to perceive that the things happening in the movie happened a very long time ago, and that intrigued me. I became aware this was a window to the past, and with every movie, I was a time traveler. 

CMBA: What makes a film a "classic" in your opinion?
Another Old Movie Blog: Movies made before 1965, preferably before 1960. The “classic” in classic films, to me, has nothing to do with timeless quality. It is merely a time-stamp. There are classic films and post-classic films, just as there is the Renaissance and the Regency Period, the Antebellum years, and the Great Depression. Eras. That’s all, no judgment call as to whether one was better than the other. It’s just a category to define studio-era films.

CMBA: What classic film(s) do you recommend to people who say they hate old movies?
Another Old Movie Blog: People who say they hate old movies should be kicked in the teeth.

Bawh-ha-ha-ha. There, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest. I suppose I would show them The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), because it appeals to both men and women, and reaches anyone from whatever perspective they carry. From the first moments when we see those prosthetic hooks on Harold Russell, the movie is gutsy and full of heart in an honest and forthright way. We are taken in by Dana Andrews’ post-traumatic stress, by his failure to fit in with the America he returns to after the war; with Frederic March’s restlessness and heavy drinking; with the women of the story who are real and torn, and brave. It breaks your heart. It’s romantic, and frank, and sentimental, but always unblinkingly serious and never asking for pity. I think anyone can relate to it and become interested.  You get sucked into the story from the first moments, and the hold it has over you lingers long after fade out.

Actually, I remember years ago, probably 30 years ago now, a woman I worked with told me about the plot of a movie she had seen very late the night before. She didn’t know the name, but she was up because she couldn’t sleep, and then the movie had her so riveted she just couldn’t get to bed until she’d seen the end of it. I listened, enjoying her description, watching the expressions change on her face as she told me the story. Then I replied,

“The Best Years of Our Lives. 1946.”

The thing that was so terrific was that she seemed overjoyed that I knew about the movie. She wanted to share it with someone in a way that was more than just talking about it. She wanted me to feel it the same way she did. She wasn’t a classic film fan, but we connected over a movie that was made before either of us was born, was in black and white, and had everything to do with our parents’ generation and not with ours. But that didn’t matter. It belonged to us now.

CMBA: Why should people care about classic film?
Another Old Movie Blog: Classic films are the primer on our history and our pop culture.  I discuss this, and how I feel classic films should be taught in school, in my post from January, the first in my monthly year-long series this year on the current state of the classic film fan.  I go into it more in depth there, but the upshot is we need to know who we are, and classic films show us a big part of who we are.

CMBA: What is the most rewarding thing about blogging?
Another Old Movie Blog: Connecting with other film fans, or even newcomers to classic film. It’s a joy to read comments and to communicate through the blog and through email. I learn a lot.

CMBA: What challenges do you face with your blog, and how do you overcome them?
Another Old Movie Blog: The biggest challenge is a lack of time. I blog once per week, and sometimes it’s difficult to get that in, especially when I write the longer, more in-depth posts. But there is no lack of subject matter. I have enough to write about for the next million years. I just need the time.

CMBA: What advice would you give to a new blogger?
Another Old Movie Blog: Take care not to repeat “facts” that are not true, and not to treat tired old rumor as gospel. Check your facts, verify them. Classic film bloggers are replacing film historians as the chroniclers, even the arbiters, of film history. Take your responsibility as such seriously. Your words are going to bounce around the Internet forever. Make sure you’re right.

Thanks for joining us, Jacqueline. You can visit her blog by clicking HERE.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

5 Movies on an Island Blogathon

Monday, May 16th marks the second annual National Classic Movie Day. As part of this year's festivities, the Classic Film & TV Cafe will host the 5 Movies on an Island Blogathon. 

As it name implies, the intent is for participants to write about the five classic movies they'd want to have with them if stranded on a deserted island. (Yes, you can assume you have electricity, a projector, big screen, and popcorn!) These might be your all-time five favorite movies. Or, you might mix in some "comfort films" to give your tropical habitat that desired "homey feel." Just be sure to describe your criteria when you list your five films. 

If you wish to participate, please send your blog's name and web address in an e-mail to: Do not send your list of five films; Rick will publish a link to the list on your blog. Please ensure that your list of five films is published no later than May 15th. Thatwill give Rick a day to add all the links.

Hope you can participate! You can view the continually updated schedule at 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

CMBA Blogger Profile: All Good Things

The CMBA profiles two classic movie blogs per month – on the 1st and the 15th. Today we're celebrating Monty from All Good Things.

Monty from All Good Things has been building relationships in the classic film community for quite some time.

In fact, he began a Be My Guest series on his blog in May, 2010 that ran until October, 2013. In this series, he interviewed fellow classic film bloggers about their favorite actors and films, as well as their classic movie experiences.

"I started the series as a way of getting to know my fellow bloggers and classic movie lovers," he says. (Read one of these interviews HERE.)

Monty also features his famous Famous Actress Tournaments on his site. Click HERE to join the fun and cast your vote.

But he's also a dedicated and passionate film fan, especially when it comes to his favorite actress, Carole Lombard. You can find out why she's his favorite HERE.

             CMBA: What sparked your interest in classic film?
All Good Things: I first got hooked on classic films back in the early 80's when this channel called Nick at Nite would air classic movies late on night, and it took me to a whole new world. I was like 12 years old then, and have been a classic movie fan ever since.

CMBA: What makes a film a "classic" in your opinion?
All Good Things: I believe a film is a classic if it presents a strong plot and writing along with excellent characters that you become invested in, and you really watch every scene with anticipation.

CMBA: What classic film(s) do you recommend to people who say they hate old movies?
All Good Things: I would recommend pretty much anything with Carole Lombard and Cary Grant, my two favorite stars of all time. But not wanting to be biased, I would recommend watching such classics as The Lady Vanishes, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Sunset Boulevard, The Big Sleep, The Best Years of Our Lives and lots more.

CMBA: Why should people care about classic film?

All Good Things: Because classic films represent history and have really important significance in when and how they were made and the subject matter on hand.
CMBA: What is the most rewarding thing about blogging?
All Good Things: Oh, that you can share your love of classic film with people from all over the world.   

CMBA: What challenges do you face with your blog, and how do you overcome them?

All Good Things: Probably my biggest challenge of late is finding the time to write on my blog.

CMBA: What advice would you give to a new blogger?

All Good Things: Be patient and just let your thoughts flow from your mind and heart and everything will just come together.

Thanks for joining us, Monty. You can visit his blog by clicking HERE.

Friday, April 1, 2016

It's Time for the CMBA Spring Blogathon - Words, Words, Words!

The Classic Movie Blog Association is proud to present Words, Words, Words!, running from April 11th to 15th. Please tune into the blogs below on the dates listed to read some writers writing about writers and writing in classic film!

April 11th

April 12th

April 13th

April 14th

April 15th

Several of these pieces are also available in a special eBook! You can get it for free over at Smashwords or buy it at Amazon for $0.99, with all profits going toward the National Film Preservation Fund.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

CMBA Blogger Profile: FilmFanatic

The CMBA profiles two classic movie blogs per month, on the 1st and the 15th. Today we're toasting Silvia from FilmFanatic.

FilmFanatic has some of the most organized film reviews on the internet. This is because Sylvia's approach to film is orderly and methodical.

"I incorporate a bit of production history (citing sources so readers can go find out more)," she says, "and include relevant stills, link to my own review of an earlier version of the film (as well as other critics’ reviews), and comment on various aspects of what makes the film so great – including cinematography, script, performances, and more."

Sylvia has been reviewing film for ten (!) years, and she's reviewed a lot of terrific movies. One of her favorite posts, though, is her review of George Cukor's A Star is Born (1954).

"It’s not only a personal favorite, but is representative of how I write most of my reviews," she says. "I quote heavily from Peary’s Guide for the Film Fanatic – and other Peary books (like his Alternate Oscars and Cult Movies series) – but add my own commentary and thoughts throughout."

You can read Sylvia's post HERE.

CMBA: What sparked your interest in classic film?
FilmFanatic: I grew up in the 1970s and watched classic movies on television whenever they would air – yearly favorites were TheWizard of Oz and The Sound of Music. I also found myself drawn to early television shows like The Little Rascals and I Love Lucy, and would watch them in marathon fashion. As a teenager, I found a book at the library by Danny Peary called Guide for the Film Fanatic that fueled my desire to expand the scope of what I’d seen so far. I enjoyed the checklist nature of his book, with 4,300 titles he believes all film lovers should see.

The advent of VCRs and the American Movie Classics channel helped tremendously; I became a serious taper, and had drawers full of movies to pick from. I often did “thematic” marathons and would watch all movies featuring a certain movie star, by a certain director, etc.

As I grew up and learned more about history and the world, I found that classic movies from different countries – i.e., Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali series – helped to ground my understanding of humanity on a broader scale.

CMBA: What makes a film a "classic" in your opinion?
FilmFanatic: This is a question I grapple with continuously! There’s the whole genre of “cult classics” – like Rocky Horror Picture Show or Pink Flamingos – that wouldn’t fit most people’s criteria for “classic movies”, but I consider these titles must-see for anyone truly interested in the breadth of cinema. There are also lots of classic movies made in other countries and other languages. With that said, “true” classics could be defined as movies that have stood the test of time (let’s say at least ten years) and remain enjoyable to audiences of any era and age. I just showed The Wizard of Oz to my kids (7, 5, and 3) last month and they were all riveted.

CMBA: What classic film(s) do you recommend to people who say they hate old movies?
FilmFanatic: I don’t hear that comment very often, since I think I tend to chat mostly with movie lovers! But some guaranteed feel-good classics include The Wizard of Oz, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Miracle on 34th Street. I also like to recommend shorter B-movie classics that keep you glued to your seat – like The Narrow Margin (1952). 

I don’t think I would recommend lengthier and/or more controversial films like Gone With the Wind, because younger viewers who are new to classic movies may be turned off by the overt racism. “Veteran” classic movie lovers tend to gloss over some of the darker, more dubious choices made by Hollywood in previous decades – not to say that we excuse it (because of course most of us don’t!), but we’ve seen so much that we’re able place it in historical context and celebrate the advances that have been made since then. 

CMBA: Why should people care about classic film?
FilmFanatic: For the same reason they should care about any artistic and cultural legacy, including books, visual art, clothing, etc. Classic films are movies that have stood the test of time and remain worthy viewing years later – either for pure enjoyment, and/or to provide us with a glimpse of a previous era.

CMBA: What is the most rewarding thing about blogging?
FilmFanatic: I love getting to articulate my thoughts about a movie through writing. I tend to think while writing, and blogging is the ultimate way to think and reflect! I also love having an archive of my own summaries and opinions about movies, since it’s easy to forget several years later how a particular film impacted you (or not), especially if you’ve watched hundreds of others in the meantime.

I also met my Film Fanatic doppelganger through my site – hi, David Csontos in Lincoln, Nebraska! I never would have “met” David (we still haven’t met in person) if I hadn’t started the site. 

CMBA: What challenges do you face with your blog, and how do you overcome them?
FilmFanatic: I’ve faced two primary challenges. One is with spammers: when I first started my blog, I created an accompanying discussion forum, and we had a healthy set of relevant discussions going. It was fun. Then I realized how much time I was wasting each day deleting spam accounts and comments. I’ve experimented with various ways to prevent spamming on my site, but haven’t found a time-efficient one yet, so I’ve limited comments on my blog to people who write to me personally and request permission to become members. This means there aren’t the type of rich discussions on each post that I would ideally like, because people understandably don’t want to go through that hassle.

My other challenge is lack of time, which I know most of us face! I have three young kids, a full-time career (non-film related), and a healthy love for books and watching newer movies that don’t fit the criteria for titles I’ll cover on my blog – all of which means I don’t blog as much as I’d like! I started back in 2006, and am only halfway through reviewing the 4300 titles listed in Peary’s book. It will take at least another ten years before this experiment is complete! At that point, I’ll either go back and re-watch titles to provide an updated perspective, or return to working on my (on-hiatus) site, where I plan to discuss must-see films released after 1986. 

CMBA: What advice would you give to a new blogger?
FilmFanatic: I have a few pieces of advice. First, as others have suggested already, I highly recommend determining a “niche” for your blog. With so many film-related blogs available to enjoy (and so many movies to watch!), why should a film lover return to yours? Brand it and set discrete goals. Second, set a writing goal for yourself that you can realistically keep, and stick to it – i.e., at least one post per week. You’ll need to deliberately schedule the time for this and make it a priority if you want your blog to thrive and last. Third, take your time with crafting a post before publishing it. The quality of writing and clarity of your ideas is key to luring people in. There are plenty of people on the internet sharing their thoughts about movies, but the ones whose sites are worth visiting have taken the time to do plenty of research and revise their thoughts before making them public.

Thanks for joining us, Sylvia! You can visit her blog by clicking HERE.

Monday, March 14, 2016

CMBA Blogger Profile: Backlots

The CMBA profiles two classic movie blogs per month, on the 1st and the 15th. Today we're celebrating Lara from Backlots.

If you like a researcher's perspective on classic Hollywood, Backlots is the blog for you.

As a classic film researcher, Lara's blog covers many aspects of film history, such as film and book reviews, coverage of film festivals, and profiles of people and places associated with the industry. In her own words, she offers "pieces on the history, theory and culture of film as it relates to the study of classic cinema."

One impressive article is the 2013 interview she conducted with actress Joan Fontaine in honour of her 96th birthday. "She is very objective in her answers," writes Lara in response to a comment on her site. "It was very nice of her to take the time to answer my questions, it is so incredibly rare that she grants interviews, I feel so honored."

You can read Lara's interview with Joan Fontaine HERE.


CMBA: What sparked your interest in classic film?

Backlots: When I was little, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents who lived in nearby San Mateo County. My grandmother had aspired to be a film critic when she was younger, but had never been able to make it work due to societal restrictions on what a woman could do for a living in the 1940s. She made her career as a nurse, but always retained an intense passion for the movies. My earliest memories involve watching movies like Les Demoiselles de Rochefort, An American in Paris, and The Red Shoes with my grandmother, who knew everything there was to know about all the stars. When she showed me Lili, I was sold! I wanted to watch it over and over again, until my grandmother decided she would take the reins and show me another movie I would like just as much. That movie was Meet Me In St. Louis, which turned me into a die-hard Judy Garland fan. I read everything I could get my hands on, and saw all of Judy Garland's movies by the time I was 11. From there I branched out, and now I'm a huge fan of all kinds of classic film and am currently working on my first book.

CMBA: What makes a film a "classic" in your opinion?
Backlots: Classic is a subjective term. For many, a classic film is one that has shaped culture in some way, regardless of its era. For others, it's almost a synonym for "old." My personal definition is vague. Not all classic movies are old, and not all old movies are classic. My blog tends to focus on movies from the silent era up to the fall of the production code in 1968, but that's not a hard and fast rule.

CMBA: What classic film(s) do you recommend to people who say they hate old movies?
Backlots: I like to recommend movies from the pre-Code era – from the time sound became industry standard in 1929 up through the stricter enforcement of the production code in 1934. Many people have a certain perception of old movies as being corny or predictable, and this perception almost always comes from the days when the Code dictated what could be shown and what couldn't. The pre-Code era gives people a new lens through which to view classic cinema.

CMBA: Why should people care about classic film?
Backlots: Classic film, to me, is living history. It can give us perspectives on what people were thinking and feeling in some of the most formative points in our history. In addition to that, something was lost in the art of filmmaking when the fall of the studio system and the production code happened. Classic film is a lens to another world!

CMBA: What is the most rewarding thing about blogging?
Backlots: The opportunity to share opinions, analyses, and ideas with a wide audience. Also, I have had the opportunity to cover some of the great classic film festivals for the blog, have interviewed some fascinating people, and have met some of the most interesting people I know through blogging!

CMBA: What challenges do you face with your blog, and how do you overcome them?
Backlots: Sometimes it's difficult to keep up with posting regularly, especially when you have other endeavors that take you away from it (at the moment, it's my book project). I monitor the amount of time that has passed since I have made a post, and never go more than a month without writing on the blog. It's important to maintain consistency, even if the post is minimal.

CMBA: What advice would you give to a new blogger?
Backlots: Don't give up! It can be slow-going at first trying to build a reader base, but you WILL build that base, and it will be so rewarding. 

Thank you for joining us, Lara! You can visit her blog by clicking HERE.