Tuesday, May 1, 2018

CMBA Profile: Crítica Retrô

CMBA profiles one or two of our classic movie bloggers every month. This week, we're featuring

Letícia Magalhães Pereira, or "Lê," of Crítica Retrô!

Crítica Retrô bills itself as "Classic Film with a Tropical Twist." Coming to us out of Brazil, it appears bilingually in Portuguese and English, and may give readers a cultural perspective we don't often see on the history of film. Despite her tender years (she tells us below she started the blog while still a teenager!), Lê offers us fascinating insights into movies older than her own parents.
She'd like you to take a look at a piece she did on Brazilian-born director Alberto Cavalcanti. She says, "I did a big research to write it, and could also have fun and improve my skills at working with info graphics with all the pieces I've done for the post." We agree that it's great fun and new information for most of us who thought we knew it all about classic film. You can read the post here.
Here are her answers to our questions:
What sparked your interest in classic film?

First things first: I have Asperger's syndrome, some kind of “light” autism. This makes me be socially awkward and have deep obsessions about some subjects. Moving images were always among these obsessions – and so was history. I'd watch anything on TV, no matter if it was just released or made 80 years ago. Of course, because I was raised by my grandparents, I had the chance to be exposed to older movies and TV shows since an early age. I started to focus on feature-length movies when I was 16, and at 17 I started my blog.
What makes a film a "classic" in your opinion?
That's a tricky question! Well, when I talk about Classic Hollywood, I'm talking about the studio system era, that lasted until, roughly 1969 – and whose starting point is even harder to determine. This is my understanding, that's why I get mad when people refer to movies made 10 or 20 years ago – that is, films younger than me – as classics. Important, groundbreaking, revolutionary: these terms apply to films from any age, and should be used in these cases instead of “classics”.
What classic film(s) do you recommend to people who say they hate old movies?
I would recommend some comedies in Technicolor, like “Heaven Can Wait” (1943), or anything that doesn't look “so old” because black and white films may cause a stronger resistance. I'd like to show that some jokes never get old. Also, for kids, any Disney cartoon from the Golden Era – I myself was shocked to learn that the cartoons I watched on VHS were made in the 1930s and 1940s. I wouldn’t recommend musicals or silent films because I, as a stupid teenager, despised these movies. Today they are among my favorites!
Why should people care about classic film?
The same reason why they should care about history: knowledge about what came before us means power. Power to not make the same mistakes in history, and with films it's powerful to know the great masters, the development of film languages and techniques and, well, simply not be dumb enough to think that “Shrek Ever After” was the first film ever to use the narrative resource of 'what would have happened if our hero hadn't been born?'. I'm not saying that people should rescue the morals and beliefs of the classic film era, just the art in itself – I don't want anyone who behaves as a racist after watching “Birth of a Nation” (1915)... but I wouldn't mind if  we got more free-spirited influenced by pre-Codes!
What is the most rewarding thing about blogging?
I'm always learning something new when I'm blogging. Sometimes it's when I'm writing a review, other times it's when I'm reading some other blogs. And it's this amazing feeling of learning every day that makes me go forward. One time I thought that, if I had a blog, I wouldn't have enough interesting things about my life to share with the readers, but as a classic film blogger I don't have this problem: I know there will always be something else to learn about old movies.
What challenges do you face with your blog, and how do you overcome them?
Since I love the learning part of blogging, I don't have motivation troubles. Of course, the public seems to be migrating to other social networks, but thankfully lately I've been taking part of several blogathons and, besides helping people find my blog, these events also made  me follow schedules. This is my main problem: I always think I can do something later and I usually end up doing things – even things that give me pleasure – right before the deadline is over. With blogathon schedules, at least I'm more organized and can plan my posts better.
What advice would you give to a new blogger?
ENJOY. Today so many people have started blogs to become rich and famous overnight, and so many are actually able to do so. If you are thinking about starting a blog, OK, success may sound fun, but enjoying writing and looking for images and posting and learning with your posts is what will make this activity a real pleasure.
Thank you!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

CMBA Profile: Whimsically Classic

CMBA profiles one or two of our classic movie bloggers every month. This week, we’re featuring  Kayla Rhodes, of Whimsically Classic

Kayla, who writes the "Whimsically Classic" blog, describes herself as an "old soul," which may explain how she has so much to say about classic film. Her posts tend to be very detailed and informative, and her responses to our questions are no exception to her verbosity and wit. She would like readers to take a look at this post, her entry in last year's "National Classic Film Day" blogathon. She reviews her five favorite classic movie performers and shares why they mean so much to her. She also admits to using the opportunity to re-post favorite images of Errol Flynn and Gene Kelly, because, as she says, "If you can't post (and re-post) beefcake photos on your blog, where can you post them?" 

Here are her responses to our questions:

What sparked your interest in classic film?

Growing up in the 90s, I always watched the annual viewing of "Wizard of Oz" and also enjoyed watching AMC with my dad.  Back when AMC actually showed classic films and wasn't over saturated with repeats and commercials.  I remember Bob Dorian introducing the films much like Robert Osborne did for TCM.  Every Saturday morning, AMC used to show Laurel & Hardy and Three Stooges shorts. I also seem to remember AMC airing a New Years Eve marathon of The Marx Brothers.  I had always been aware of classic films and had no issues with them.  I would say, however, that I truly became infatuated with classic film when I discovered "I Love Lucy" on Nick at Nite in 1995 when I was 11.  I remember one summer evening I was bored and looking for something to watch.  I came across Nick at Nite and on it was an old black and white show.  As I watched it, I became entranced by the woman on the screen--Lucille Ball.  If I remember correctly, the very first episode of "I Love Lucy" that I saw was "L.A. at Last!" guest-starring William Holden.  I remember laughing so much when Lucy wears her fake nose and subsequently has to keep re-doing it when she accidentally moves it.  The next evening, I watched "I Love Lucy" again and soon I was hooked.  Every night at 8:00pm, I had to watch "my shows."  In addition to 'Lucy,' I became a big fan of the other shows in the lineup as well.  However, my heart will always belong to "I Love Lucy."  From my love of 'Lucy,' soon I wanted to know everything I could about her.  I was also an frequent visitor to the city library where I checked out every Lucille Ball biography that was available.  It was from these books that I learned about the movie career Lucille Ball had prior to "I Love Lucy."  

It was about at this time when TCM debuted on cable.  I remember seeing it on TV and learning that it was wholly dedicated to classic film.  From then on, every Sunday, I would scour the new TV Guide insert in the newspaper to see if TCM was airing any Lucille Ball movies that week.  When they'd air, I'd try to watch them, or try to set up the VCR to record the films.  I remember that one of these recordings ended up being "The Long, Long Trailer," my absolute favorite movie of all time.  I also remember seeing "Du Barry Was a Lady" starring Lucy and Gene Kelly.  It was from this film that I discovered Gene Kelly.  I remember seeing "Singin' in the Rain" in the TV Guide once and I made a point to watch it.  From then on, I loved Gene Kelly and subsequently loved Debbie Reynolds and Donald O'Connor.  This pattern of discovering new actors and films continued on and has continued since.  
What makes a film a "classic" in your opinion?

Many people like to assign a specific time frame (e.g. Silent era through Studio Era) to declare a film "classic," however, I don't agree that that is entirely accurate.  To me, a classic is a film that still resonates with an individual over time.  "Citizen Kane" is often touted as a classic, but if a person dislikes the film, he or she may be hesitant to declare it a classic.  There may be another film that was universally panned by critics upon release and may still be considered mediocre today, but if a person absolutely loves it, then who are we to say that that film isn't a classic?  It is a classic to the person who loves it.  I think the term "classic" is very personal to the movie fan.  Watching a film can be a very personal experience and people can come away with very different perspectives.

What classic film(s) do you recommend to people who say they hate old movies?

Before suggesting any type of film, first I would pity this person for having such a narrow outlook on film and immediately dismissing decades worth of filmmaking purely because it might lack phony special effects like CGI or color.  After I got over my initial annoyance, I'd ask the person questions and try to gauge if they'd even be open to watching an old film.  Some people are just so set in their ways that trying to get them to watch an old film would be meaningless.  If they are open to watching a classic film and maybe they just haven't been exposed to the right film, I'd ask them what types of films they enjoy.  If someone loves mystery/thrillers, I may suggest an Alfred Hitchcock film like Rear Window or To Catch a Thief.  If someone were interested in horror, I might suggest Frankenstein or Psycho.  Someone who loves romance might enjoy Brief Encounter or perhaps Sabrina.  If someone loves musicals and thinks that La La Land is the greatest thing ever, I might suggest an infinitely better musical like Singin' in the Rain or Funny Face.  For comedy lovers, I'd suggest my favorite The Long Long Trailer or maybe Some Like it Hot.  It someone loves overwrought dramas like I do, I would suggest Picnic or maybe A Summer Place.  Finally, if the person is into movies about teenagers like High School Musical, I might suggest Gidget or maybe one of the Beach Party movies. 

Why should people care about classic film?

People should care about classic film because these are the films that provided the foundation for all films that have come since.  Without Alfred Hitchcock, we might not have the unique storytelling devices like the McGuffin that we have today.  Without Hitchcock, maybe Stan Lee wouldn't be making cameos in all the Marvel films! Orson Welles' innovative filming techniques for Citizen Kane were a landmark in cinematography and storytelling.  The innovative special effects in films like The Wizard of Oz and King Kong provide the groundwork for the special effects that have come since.  Classic films also serve as a time machine.  Since time travel does not exist, movies are one of the very few ways we have to see what life may have been like during previous eras.  As someone born in the mid-80s, I am interested in films made before then so I can see what things may have been like before I was born.  Don't get me wrong, I love 90s movies too, but I was there.  I want to see what World War Two era might have been like in the United States.  Maybe I want to know what cars looked like in the 1950s.  Movies can answer my questions.  I've learned a lot about what types of technologies were available in different eras.  Who doesn't love the big computer in Desk Set? Or the Auto-Mat in Easy Living?  Along those lines, classic film can also serve as an escape.  When you just can't bear seeing one more message film trying to make a point about racism or domestic violence or what not, what's wrong with going back in time to 1930s New York and spending the evening drinking martinis with Nick and Nora Charles? I love to use movies to escape into another a world, a world I cannot visit without film.  

What is the most rewarding thing about blogging?

Having a space to share my enthusiasm and love for a particular film, television show, actor, song, etc.  Even if it's the smallest little thing about an episode of "The Brady Bunch" or what not, I love being able to have a space where I can be a total fangirl for a second and gush.  I love focusing on everything I love about classic film and television.  I also enjoy receiving comments about my articles and even having small discussions about them, because it's rewarding to know that someone actually spent time reading what you wrote.  I do read other members' blogs too and need to become better at commenting, because I truly appreciate everyone's articles and sometimes am in awe of what they produce. 

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

Having enough time to write in the blog and being motivated to do so.  Sometimes I overwhelm myself by signing up for too many blogathons, because everything sounds like so much fun.  I also worry that I need to vary my content more and have other articles aside from blogathons.  I also struggle with trying to figure out what niche I want my blog to fill.  I don't have issues finding my voice, because I can write and know what I want to write.  I am still trying to figure out how I can organize my blog so that I feel like it's unique from others but isn't consuming all my time.  I have a lot of great ideas, but I need to figure out if I can execute them without getting overwhelmed, becoming frustrated and quitting.  

What advice would you give to a new blogger?

Write about what you love.  Don't worry about having a gimmick.  Be genuine.  Don't pretend to like something just because it's in vogue.  If you have a controversial opinion, then share it--for example, I am not a fan of Marlon Brando.  I don't think he's that great (except for in his 1950s career, when I do like his work) and I truly despise his mumbling.  I also find The Godfather incredibly boring.  Don't be ashamed of what you love or dislike.  Take these words from Dr. Seuss to heart--"Be who you are, and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who don't matter don't mind."  I love blogs that truly show someone's personality.  I dislike blogs where someone is pretentious and writes a whole lot of words to say nothing. Finally this is basic, but edit and proofread.  And use separate paragraphs! Bad writing is a turnoff. 

Thanks so much Kayla! We'll see you and your boyfriend Errol Flynn at the next gala event!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

CMBA eBooks Available on Amazon!

Last year, CMBA hosted two great blogathons: Underseen and Underrated and Banned and Blacklisted. We had a number of really fine entries for both events and these essays have been collected and edited by Annette Bochenek into two new ebooks available for purchase on Amazon and for free on Smashwords.

You may have seen them being promoted on Facebook at the CMBA Private Screening Room, but if not, here is some more detail about them.... please check them out!

Underseen and Underrated: Celebrating Lesser-Known Classic Films

This collection of ten essays turns the spotlight on rare films including Afraid to Talk ( 1932 ), Carrie ( 1952 ), Simon and Laura ( 1955 ), A Majority of One ( 1961 ), and Between the Lions ( 1977 ). John Greco, Patricia Schneider, Jocelyn Dunphy, and Ivan G. Shreve Jr. are among some of the contributors.

All proceeds from Amazon sales go towards the National Film Preservation Foundation.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Underseen-Underrated-Celebrating-Lesser-Known-Classic-ebook/dp/B0764K1GJN

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/751566

Banned and Blacklisted: Too Hot to Handle 

This collection of thirteen essays explores the films and actors who were affected by censorship, whether it be the result of the Hays Code, racism, or the McCarthy-era blacklist scare. Contributors to this ebook include Lara Fowler, Annette Bochenek, Danilo Castro, and Kellee Pratt among others.

All proceeds from Amazon go towards the National Film Preservation Foundation.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B079NQ74VF/

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/788764

Thursday, March 15, 2018

CMBA Profile: Chaplin Film by Film

CMBA profiles one or two of our classic movie bloggers every month. This week, we’re featuring  Brian J. Robb, of Chaplin: Film by Film
Chaplin: Film by Film is a project after our own heart. On the centenary of the release of each of Charlie Chaplin's movies, blogger Brian J. Robb posted an homage to that film. This gave him a very busy 2014, but as Chaplin's output slowed down, Robb opted to surge ahead of him (he's all the way up to September, 1918, now!). In general, each post includes a synopsis, basic production information, stills, historical background, film analysis, and some excerpts from contemporary reviews. Whether you're a complete novice or a Chaplin expert, you're bound to learn something and have fun doing so. 

Brian would like you to take a look at this post, in which he discusses Chaplin's historic contract with Mutual Film Company for $670,000, which made him the highest paid film maker at the time. It's an original write up of a much-reported event, one that contributed to the rise of the Hollywood "star system" that followed. According to Brian, "It’s a nice, self-contained story covering a pivotal period in Chaplin’s professional and personal life, and a good jumping on point for readers keen to discover more about Chaplin, including his two years of filmmaking prior to that point and everything that followed from it."

Brian J. Robb

Here are Brian's answers to our questions:

What sparked your interest in classic film?
In the 1980s, the BBC in the UK used to screen weekend matinees of classic movies, and on weekend late nights there’d be old horror movie double bills. Over holidays like Christmas and Easter there’d often be special seasons of Chaplin movies or Hitchcock movies or a Screwball Comedies season—it was basically a film education through stealth. That was where I first saw all the Laurel and Hardy movies (I eventually wrote a guide book to all their films). I used to watch these movies, often in the company of my Dad, unconsciously soaking up all the information I could. It led to me studying Film & Television at Glasgow University, then pursuing a career in entertainment journalism. That in turn led to me becoming a published author… gosh, for 25 years now, writing biographies of film stars, books on directors, or genres, like Silent Cinema.

What makes a film a "classic" in your opinion?
The ingredients are hard to define, and they can’t be manufactured. The Hollywood studio system was geared to mass produce movies in the Ford factory style, but despite that individual stars and directors carved a niche. It’s the combination of screenplay, director, the right stars, and serendipity. Often, though, a ‘classic’ movie can simply be in the eye of the beholder—there is something or some combination of things that simply attracts you to the movie.
What classic film(s) do you recommend to people who say they hate old movies?
A screwball comedy usually does the trick, Bringing Up Baby or The Philadelphia Story, both of which feature combinations of my favourite actors: James Stewart, Cary Grant, and Katharine Hepburn. His Girl Friday is a nice, accessible, yet fast paced film that can easily draw in someone not used to watching ‘old’ movies.

Why should people care about classic film?
It’s simply part of our cultural history that needs to be kept alive. It takes effort these days, as there are fewer chances for people to simply encounter these movies in the way I did growing up. In an ‘on demand’ world where (almost) everything is instantly available, you have to know what you're looking for. While having access to so much is great, the way movies are watched today precludes accidental discovery, especially by younger folk—you have to have the interest (perhaps inherited from parents) in order to seek out older films.

What is the most rewarding thing about blogging?
Engaging with a community of readers is the reason for doing it. With Chaplin Film by Film, I’ve given myself a firm structure. From 2014, I opted to cover each Chaplin movie 100 years to the day after release. That worked fine for the first three years or so, but as Chaplin slowed down his output, it was clear that is I kept up the 100 years later thing, I myself would be 100 years old by the time I hit 1967’s final Chaplin movie A Countess From Hong Kong. With that in mind, I’ve embarked upon monthly entries to cover the rest of Chaplin’s output, which’ll take me through to the end of 2019. After that, who knows…

What challenges do you face with your blog, and how do you overcome them?
I’m a professional writer, so the biggest challenge when I earn a living from producing words is finding the time to do the same thing for the simply pleasure of it. The structure I was following, however, gave me deadlines, so that tends to focus the mind. Beyond that, it is simply the constant challenge of finding new angles on things and trying not to simply repeat what people have written before or to fall into ‘received wisdom’. It’s difficult, but the ideal outcome is to find something new to say.

What advice would you give to a new blogger?
Make sure you are writing about a passion, as that’ll get you over any humps in the road. It is a commitment, so give some thought to the long haul—why are you doing it and what do you want to get out of it? Is this the right outlet for the kind of self-expression you are seeking? And make sure you’ve got something to say, as you can’t afford to bore potential readers.

Thanks for the interview, Brian! We'll see you and the little Tramp online!