Sunday, September 25, 2016

CMBA Blog Profile: The Man on the Flying Trapeze

The CMBA profiles two classic movie blogs per month, on the 1st and the 15th of the month. Today we're featuring David from The Man on the FlyingTrapeze.

If you remember the Spike Jones version of the song “The Man on the Flying Trapeze”, you’ll recall the mixture of admiration and humour in the lyrics. The song is kind of a reluctant love letter to a venerated trapeze artist who has stolen the songwriter’s girlfriend.

The blog, The Man on the Flying Trapeze, is an unabashed love letter to classic Hollywood film. David writes with admiration and wit about the films from the Golden Age, especially pre-code films. These he's chronicled in his "Pre-Code vs Post-Code" series.

“I love pre-code movies,” says David, “and I love to dig into how they were ‘cleaned up’ (and usually made worse) to meet a set of silly standards.”

One example compares Grand Hotel to Week-End at the Waldorf. You can read this post HERE.

CMBA: What sparked your interest in classic film?
The Man on the Flying Trapeze: When I was a kid, my cousins lived across the street and I was over there a lot. My uncle was a fan of Warner Brothers gangster movies, and in those days (late 1960s) a local TV station showed them every night at 6:00. So instead of playing with my cousins I’d find myself in front of the TV watching people shoot at each other with tommy guns in black and white, and to this day the experience remains magical to me. (Those Warner gunshots have a sound all their own!)    

CMBA: What makes a film a "classic" in your opinion?
The Man on the Flying Trapeze: A great script, classic dialogue, terrific performances, striking photography or an intangible something that captures the zeitgeist of the moment and yet still seems timeless. 

CMBA: What classic film(s) do you recommend to people who say they hate old movies?
The Man on the Flying Trapeze: I don't know if it's his cynical outlook or his contemporary storytelling style, but I've had good luck introducing people to Billy Wilder movies – Sunset Boulevard, Some Like It Hot, The Apartment and Double Indemnity.

CMBA: Why should people care about classic film?
The Man on the Flying Trapeze: Because it helps explain us as a people and it demonstrates where our storytelling traditions come from. As a culture we are too fascinated with newness for its own sake. New automatically equals cool/good. That people can be reluctant to look at anything considered "old" makes no more sense to me than someone refusing to look at something just because it's blue.   

CMBA: What is the most rewarding thing about blogging?
The Man on the Flying Trapeze: The illusion that everyone is paying attention to what you post – and the feedback that you get from a dedicated handful of people with the same obsessions as yours.

CMBA: What challenges do you face with your blog, and how do you overcome them?
The Man on the Flying Trapeze: I don't know why, but I always have a hard time figuring out what movie I'm going to write about next – sometimes to the degree that I just freeze up and don't write anything. I know this sounds weird, but I honestly think I'd be better off if there was someone standing over my shoulder telling me what movie to write about next. 

CMBA: What advice would you give to a new blogger?
The Man on the Flying Trapeze: Don't knock yourself out at first – this is a marathon, not a sprint. Try to post regularly, but not obsessively. And don’t beat yourself up if a few weeks go by between posts.

Thank you for joining us, David! You can visit his blog by clicking HERE.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

CMBA Blog Profile: Spellbound by Movies

The CMBA profiles two classic movie blogs per month, on the 1st and the 15th of the month. Today we're featuring Beth Ann from Spellbound by Movies.

Beth Ann Gallagher knows how to "sell" classic film.

Her blog, Spellbound by Movies, is an eclectic collection of all things classic film – filmmakers, film events, and the films themselves. She's one of those bloggers who make classic Hollywood seem fresh and hip.

Her blog is like a vintage boutique that specializes in unique pieces. One example is a look at Alfred Hitchcock and his terriers.

“It remains my most popular one four years after posting,” says Beth Ann. “I love animals, and I'm a Hitchcock fan, so I had a lot of fun writing the piece, and I'm sure that shines through.”

You can read her post on Hitchcock and his terriers HERE.

CMBA: What sparked your interest in classic film?
Spellbound by Movies: As a child, classic film was around me and part of everyday life. It was readily available on TV, and my family watched it with me. On Saturday mornings, a local station called WLVI would run comedies like Our Gang/The Little Rascals, Abbott and Costello, The Three Stooges, and Laurel & Hardy. Comedy is a great entryway to classic film! Later that day, the network would run their Creature Double Feature and show films like King Kong, Universal's horror pictures, Hammer Studios flicks from the fifties, and Toho Studios giant monster movies like Godzilla. My mom would put the Million Dollar Movie on, and we'd watch classics together. I remember watching classics at her parents' place, like Yankee Doodle Dandy. I also grew up in a New England town with a lot of history in and around it. Classic movies don't seem old when your town history includes losing its Revolutionary War naval battle. As I got a little older, VHS and AMC made classic movies even more accessible before TCM came about. There was something wonderfully aspirational to me as a kid about the people in screwball comedies. I loved the glamour of the stars' clothes and stylings and the rapid-fire repartee.

CMBA: What makes a film a "classic" in your opinion?
Spellbound by Movies: I see the phrase “classic film” meaning different things in different contexts. There's the classic film era, which stretches from the silent
era to the 1960s. Something like The Torchy Blane film series was made in the era, but it's not well-known outside of film buff circles. Then there are classic films everyone agrees on. These are the movies that everyone agrees are part of the official canon, like Bringing Up Baby, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Wizard of Oz. The final category of classic is personal. They're the movies someone loves and can watch over and over again without diminished enjoyment. These classics might not always have the quality of a prestige picture like Now, Voyager, but they pack as strong an emotional wallop. They may be "contemporary" classics, made outside of the classic film era. A Christmas Story is a great example of that kind of picture. It's become part of people's Christmas traditions due to its subject matter, the feeling of family and the holidays it shares, and how smart it is in depicting kids, their inner worlds, and the scrapes they get into. If a film is going to end up either type of classic, it has to have a strong emotional impact and material that appeals, that will remain of its time yet timeless, and that will endure repeated viewings.

CMBA: What classic film(s) do you recommend to people who say they hate old
Spellbound by Movies: I would find out what topics or genres of movies people like, and then I'd find a corresponding classic film to recommend to them. For example, if they like fashion or biting dialogue, I'd recommend The Women. If the person was a complete blank, I'd recommend a comedy. People are more open to comedies than other types of pictures. Laurel & Hardy's The Music Box would be a great one to start with. It's short, and slapstick is a universal visual language. If the person was up for something more verbal and anarchic, I'd suggest The Marx Brothers' Horse Feathers.

CMBA: Why should people care about classic film?
Spellbound by Movies: Some people are put off by black and white movies or the phrase "classic film", but the best of these films are wonderfully alive and engaging. They may show the people and fashions of their times, but they have a timeless quality. They preserve the culture of that moment which usually has something to say about this moment. People don't change that much at the core however more sophisticated education, media, and technology have made the average person. If you can be open to classic film you can be open to a lot of experiences in life, and you can have a lot of fun at the same time. You'll learn about yourself, too.

CMBA: What is the most rewarding thing about blogging?
Spellbound by Movies: I love learning more about movies from writing about them. That makes me re-watch them more closely, research them, and better understand what works and doesn't work about them and how they affect me and other viewers. Writing is a type of thinking for me. Beyond that, I hope to connect with other people online about movies. I'm a relocatee to California, and my job as a field representative involves travel, so blogging and tweeting about films helps me with my online social life, which has solidified in some face-to-face friendships.

CMBA:  What challenges do you face with your blog, and how do you overcome them?
Spellbound by Movies: My job often can take up more than full-time hours in the week. Sometimes I'm travelling and sometimes I'm commuting. Either way that can be a lot of hours stuck in traffic. All of this can be very energy depleting, which affects how much I writing I can produce. I try to write more outside of my job's hectic periods. Another issue is making sure not every post has to be a big, obsessively detailed one. My goal is to fit in more shorter pieces into my blog along with the in-depth ones. I want to make sure my blog reflects more of what I'm watching and festival going-wise and to add some fun features like lists, which can be short and snappy.

CMBA: What advice would you give to a new blogger?
Spellbound by Movies: A lot of people can seem like experts on classic film or film in general. That can be intimidating. Everyone started out watching and loving movies. Let that passion propel you into being an active blogger. Get well-versed in films from watching them and start forming your own opinions and reactions. Then read up on the movies and find out the histories behind them. With so many people blogging out there, your blog's biggest asset is what you feel and think, your individual reactions, and how you present them. If you can, never hit the post button the same day you finish a write-up. At least give yourself an overnight to see if any new ideas or changes come to mind. Re-read your posts before they go live. Then you can spot gaps in your explanations, factual errors, jumps in reasoning, or writing errors. Find a friend or family member who's a good at editing or commenting on your writing. No matter how good a writer is, she or he is better with constructive feedback. Join blogathons to get practice writing something you might not have, to meet other bloggers, and to promote your blog. You will grow a lot as a writer and as a person through blogging, but don't forget to have fun with all of this!

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