Tuesday, December 5, 2017

CMBA Profile: Second Sight Cinema

The CMBA profiles one of our classic movie blogs each month. This month we're featuring Lesley from Second Sight Cinema.

 “Second Sight Cinema” is a blog with an attitude. Its writer, Lesley Gaspar, isn’t afraid to tell you her opinions, and she has the erudition to back them up with facts. Don’t show up to her class if you haven’t done the reading! But, if you’re here to learn, her posts will give you detailed accounts of films and personalities you thought you already knew, and you’ll come away with new information (and sources!) that will give you plenty to chew on. When Lesley writes up a film, you can be sure she’s researched it thoroughly and deeply. With all of that sheer knowledge, her feelings and passion for the cinema come through strongly as well.

A great example of her writing can be seen in her post “Disembodied: Waldo Lydecker, the voice in the Dark in Laura (1944)” which was her contribution to the “Great Villain Blogathon” of 2016. While using the bad guy as its lens, the article is really an in-depth discussion of nearly every aspect of the film. She takes issue with one of the heavyweights of film criticism, Roger Ebert, and is so convincing it’s hard to believe anyone would disagree.

Given the depth of her posts, it’s no surprise that she answered our questions at impressive length as well. Here’s what Lesley had to say in response to our questions:

1. What sparked your interest in classic film?

When I was a kid in the '60s, we got our preliminary movie education from broadcast TV. Because old movies stopped being syndicated to broadcast TV after TCM got nationwide distribution it's hard to remember when the networks had "______ Night at the Movies" every night, and local affiliates, independent stations, and even PBS showed movies early, late, and late late. The movies were savagely edited for length with absolutely no regard for continuity or sense. Still, I saw On the Town for the first time on TV and fell totally in love with the New York locations and everything else about it—the cast, songs, staging, the period style. I saw The Road to Utopia during a rare Dallas snowfall and marveled at the surreal bits, like when Hope and Crosby are on their dogsled and see a mountain, and then the Paramount logo is superimposed over it. I saw The Haunting (1963) one afternoon when I was alone in the house, and couldn't be alone for a week. My first movie in a theater was a rerelease of Pinocchio when I was 4, and Monstro the Whale scared me silly, and when I was 10 my mom took me to see Gone with the Wind for the first time, and I fell for it, hard. In 1972, when I was 13, a friend who loved Sirk's Imitation of Life had us all over to watch it, commercials and all, and when Mahalia Jackson sang at Annie's funeral, we all bawled together. Movies were a part of our daily lives, both in theaters and on TV, and I was particularly attracted to the styles and slang of '30s and '40s movies.

Also, my mom has always loved movies, so she shared the bug with me. She's also a writer, and we're both fascinated with adaptation. We went to my first TCM Film Festival together in 2012, a once-in-a-lifetime experience. When I was a kid in Dallas, she used to take us to this dilapidated old theater, The Circle. That's where I saw my first Marx Bros and W.C. Fields (it was Never Give a Sucker an Even Break, a mess of a movie with incredible, surreal gags). Seeing Fields on the observation deck of the plane, having propped his whisky in the window, and when it inevitably falls he pauses in shock and horror for two seconds, then dives out the window after it: priceless.

Last thing: When I discovered, at the library, that people actually wrote books about movies, that was life-changing. I still have the first two movie books I ever bought, when I was 12: Hollywood and the Great Fan Magazines, and All Talking All Singing All Dancing.

2. What makes a film a classic in your opinion?

That's different from "classic movies," which refers to when they were made, right?

To me it's how a movie holds up over time, some quality that transcends when it was made and remains powerful and affecting decades later. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was on recently—it meets my criteria for a classic. It evokes period and place (Brooklyn!) very well, and the family's struggle to survive, seen through the eyes of the daughter who will grow up to write their story, is both rich in specific detail and universal.

Maybe it's a perennial quality, a freshness, that isn't related to when the movie was made. Like all matters of taste, one person's classic is another's snore-fest. The first time I got the "it's boring" reaction to Citizen Kane I was shocked; now I expect it. To me its audacity is always invigorating, as is its sheer pleasure in the possibilities of moviemaking. But like its director, the movie has suffered by being enshrined as a masterpiece. Maybe if we'd all drop that, people could get back to seeing it as what it is: an incredibly entertaining, haunting movie.

"Greatness" is a stone around old movies' necks. I've had a couple people say, apologetically, that they know they ought to watch old films. But maybe they shouldn't—nothing takes the fun out of it like turning it into an obligation.

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

My experience is, if they really hate old movies, don't waste your time. The usual litany of objections—can't watch black-and-white; all acting in old movies is stagey and hokey; and a general discomfort with and lack of interest in depictions of the past—these aren't subject to persuasion, and let's face it, the haters don't want to be persuaded. Save your energy for more fulfilling projects, like watching and reading about more movies yourself.

No, people have to be at least open to giving old movies a chance. Then you can look at what their interests are, what kind of contemporary movies they like, and try to extrapolate a few titles from that. My 18-year-old neighbor loves horror, so I lent her Carnival of Souls (1962), and she watched it and didn't roll her eyes. Maybe next I'll try her on some Universal horror. I think she might like The Black Cat (1934).
If your newbie likes comedy, I'd start with Ball of Fire (1941), or The More the Merrier, or one of the Marx Brothers' Paramount movies (but not The Cocoanuts or Animal Crackers, which suffer from the static staginess of early sound). If they like crime, Out of the Past (1947) could be a gateway, or The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, or Scarface (1932). If they like cult movies, Detour (1945) or The Old Dark House (1932). Romance—The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Philadelphia Story, It Happened One Night, or Portrait of Jennie. Westerns might be an easier sell now that the genre has been revived by television, so I'd go with Stagecoach (1939); or 3:10 to Yuma, or Stevens' Shane, or maybe Sturges' The Magnificent Seven. Maybe even Giant (1956), if they have a taste for epics. And if they like fashion and style, the Astaire / Rogers movies might be fun for them.

Hitchcock might also be good for newbies: Rear Window, Notorious, Strangers on a Train, The 39 Steps, To Catch a Thief, Dial M for Murder, Foreign Correspondent, maybe even Shadow of a Doubt.

As for genres, the brash sexuality of pre-Code and the perversity and violence of noir appeal to a lot of people, so they might be fertile gateways. And of course silent film is so utterly foreign to the uninitiated that you have to have a really motivated newbie. Then I'd probably go with a comedy—Sherlock Jr., Modern Times, or Girl Shy. Unless they're science fiction fans, in which case maybe Metropolis.

4. Why should people care about classic film?

Lots of reasons! For starters, it's the only time machine we will ever have.

In addition to the pleasure factor, old movies can be a lens through which we study all sorts of things, from social history to the history of fashion, technology, political trends, and business. I had an epiphany the first time I saw the Market Street footage, shot in San Francisco a week before the 1906 earthquake and fire and shipped east to be processed just the night before the disaster. I had always felt a little sheepish about my passion for old movies, like it was not a subject people took seriously. Watching that footage, those people walking and driving past the camera in the shadows of buildings, many of which will be leveled only days later, I was profoundly moved by glimpsing this moment in the life of the city and all those people, some of whom would not survive. And I realized that film history is no different from any other kind of history, and that as God was my witness, I would never apologize for studying it again (h/t Scarlett O'Hara).

5. What is the most rewarding thing about blogging?

The biggest reward is coming up with my own take—if I can't do that, what's the point? It can take a while and be frustrating to find my way, but once I do, it's exhilarating. It's great to have an excuse to really dig into a movie or one of its makers, or any other movie subject that can be revealed by close viewing, research, and serious thought. I love getting feedback—none of us write just to hear ourselves talk. But I love the adventure of never knowing, when I pick a topic or start writing, where I'm going to end up. Sometimes I think, as I start, that I know where I'm going. But there's always that left turn at Albuquerque that Bugs Bunny spoke of...

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

My biggest challenges come from chronic illness, which has eroded my writing time significantly, along with the rest of my life. The best I've done so far is not succumb to despair, not go crazy today, and not give up. I write whenever I can manage to, so while I have less presence in the community than I used to, I'm keeping my hand in. And I'm still working on improving my health, so I hope to eventually get back some of my life, including writing and teaching.

In the meantime, thanks to all the event hosts who have cut me slack when I miss deadlines or have to drop out altogether—I take this stuff very seriously, and the last thing I want to do is hang anyone up or make work for them. But my best-laid plans often blow up, and I have to do a lot of improvising.

7. What advice would you give to a new blogger?

Find a couple of bloggers whose work you enjoy, and analyze what you're responding to. Then practice doing likewise. Also, work on finding your voice. There are so many people blogging about classic movies these days, there's a fair amount of redundancy in subject matter. But nobody sees it exactly like you do, and nobody can express that like you can. If you have a concept or angle that sets your blog apart, go for it. It's tough to enter the field at this late date, tough to drive traffic to new sites, tough to get people to subscribe / follow. But with all those caveats, if you love classic movies and are moved to write about them, just do it. You'll be welcomed into this lovely community, and we'll be glad to have you.

Thanks very much, Lesley! Check out Second Sight Cinema here: http://secondsightcinema.com/

Friday, November 3, 2017


The Classic Movie Blog Association’s fall blogathon, Banned and Blacklisted, ran from November 15 -19. Participating CMBA members blogged on the broad ranging subject of banned films and blacklisted actors, writers, directors and others in the business of making movies. 

Contributing blogs are listed below on the dates their pieces posted.Please be sure to check out all their fine work - just click on entry titles (in bold) to go to each post:

Wed. November 15 


Friday, October 20, 2017

The Horrorathon Blogathon - Oct. 26th & 27th

Maddy of Maddy Loves Her Classic Movies is hosting The Horrorathon Blogathon on October 26th and 27th. As she writes in her announcement : 
In less than two weeks it will be Halloween; cue the scary music, flickering candles, screams, and people banging at your door thinking it’s fine to demand sweets. A perfect opportunity then for us to discuss those films that scare us.

You can discuss anything related to horror films. For example you could discuss your favourite scary film. The Universal Monster Movies (DraculaThe Invisible Man etc.) The Hammer Horror films. The films of Val Lewton. The Horror directors. The Horror stars, such as Vincent Price, Lon Chaney Sr, Peter Cushing etc. It’s entirely up to you.
As usual, I will only be accepting two duplicate posts about the same film, actor etc. There are so many films and stars out there for this genre, that we shouldn’t all need to write about the same ones. Check the participant list below to see who is writing about what. You are welcome to write more than one post.
I’ll put up a new post on each of the days for you to leave me your live links. It’s up to you on which of the days you make your entry live. All I ask is that nobody posts late, you can post early if you like, let me know and I will add your link in on one of the days.
Grab one of the banners below to help spread the word, and put it up on your site somewhere. Have fun writing, and please don’t scare yourselves too much!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

2017 CiMBA Awards Results

Congratulations to all of the winners of this year's annual CMBA Awards! Thank you to everyone who participated by submitting and to all who took the time to vote.

Best Film Review ( Drama ) :

Self-Plagiarism is Style: Hitchcock, Grant and North by Northwest (1959) - ONCE UPON A SCREEN

Best Film Review ( Musical/Comedy ) :

Me and My Pal (1933) - CAFTAN WOMAN

Best Classic Movie Article :

A Government by Classic Movie Characters - ONCE UPON A SCREEN

Best Classic Movie Series :


Best Profile of a Classic Movie Performer :

Louise Fazenda, Comic Venus - SILENTOLOGY

Best Classic Movie Event :

What a Character! Blogathon - ONCE UPON A SCREEN

Best Blog Design :

The Blonde at the Film

Sunday, October 15, 2017

CMBA Blog Profile: Silentology

The CMBA profiles our classic movie blogs each month. Today we're featuring Lea from Silentology: https://silentology.wordpress.com/

Silentology is a personal favorite of our blogs. Lea takes a fun and fresh approach to movies that a lot of people – even classic movie fans – think are old and dull, or hard to follow. It’s refreshing to see someone so young who is interested in movies that are so old. But, somehow, it makes perfect sense. Lea’s enthusiasm for early film springs from her own sense of wonder at new experiences and reminds us that what is truly classic is timeless and speaks to all generations. Her playfulness can be seen right now in the “Halloween” banner at the top of Silentology, where a red-eyed and fanged Buster Keaton examines a reel of film. The seriousness with which she takes historical research can be verified in her article on the “Big Four” of comedy, in which she examines a thorny question among silent movie fans.

Lea says “My post In Defense of the Big Four of Silent Comedy is a good example of what I try to do with Silent-ology--be informative, be interesting to read, share detailed knowledge of silent films AND offer some fresh perspectives. Hope you enjoy!”

CMBA: What sparked your interest in classic film?
Silentology: Well, I grew up with tons of classic films-- ones made from the '30s through the '60s, that is. Rogers and Hammerstein musicals, Alfred Hitchcock, Laurel and Hardy, classic Disney, film noir, screwball comedies--everything. My mom loved old movies, so I watched hardly anything else. My particular obsession with silents, however, didn't start until a few years ago when I started watching them on YouTube for fun. Once I stumbled upon the work on Buster Keaton, I was officially sold. In a way, silents were my perfect match. Not only was I already very comfortable with older movies, but ever since I was little I had always been interested in things that were obscure. Obscure names, obscure old books, obscure countries on the map, you name it. Georges Melies said that when he first encountered moving pictures in the 1890s he immediately thought, "This is for me!" That's exactly how I feel about the silent era--"This is for me!"

CMBA: What makes a film a "classic" in your opinion?
Silentology: It's a well-made, well-paced film that's stood the test of time, and can still entertain or move people today. Being "dated" isn't always a flaw, necessarily. It just has to "work." Being a good example of skilled filmmaking is usually a must, although there are exceptions for some low-budget films that still make an impact on people.

CMBA: What classic film(s) do you recommend to people who say they hate old movies?
Silentology: For one thing, if someone says they hate old movies I usually assume they haven't watched one! Or at least, that they happened to be introduced to one that absolutely didn't appeal to their interests. Since my niche isn't just old films, but really old films, the biggest challenge is to prove to people that movies from their great-grandfather's day were often just as entertaining and well made as the ones made decades later. Buster Keaton shorts always do the trick for me--they're fresh, very funny, briskly paced, and everyone has always been impressed by them. Once they've gotten a taste of how good silents can be, I'll follow up with whichever film I feel will pique their interest. For some it might be a short drama, for others maybe a flapper flick. Usually, mentioning how fascinating it is to actually see history, rather than just read about it, is enough to make people feel curious. (It helps when you're enthusiastic, too!)

CMBA: Why should people care about classic film?
Silentology: Oh my, let me count the ways. For one thing, appreciating classic film is no different from appreciating art or literature. And it's incredibly important, because it's influenced the way we think and feel about countless subjects, such as history, romance, issues of the day, and so on. Plus, with film, we have the rare ability to study an art form from its clear-cut beginnings. I'll add that it's also a window into history unlike anything else--a chance to go back into time, in a sense. 

CMBA: What is the most rewarding thing about blogging?
Silentology: It's the gift that keeps on giving! The biggest thrill is getting feedback from readers who appreciate my posts. And I can confirm that it can lead to so many wonderful things. My blog's led me to attending film festivals, conventions, and special movie screenings I wouldn't have heard of otherwise. I've visited Hollywood (twice!), met wonderful new friends, and even met some relatives of old Hollywood stars. Little did I know when I started Silent-ology, that it would truly change my life. So I say, if you have an inkling that you'd like to start a blog--do it!

CMBA: What challenges do you face with your blog, and how do you overcome them?
Silentology: While I usually can find time to write, I have jobs that tend to be physically tiring, and at the end of a long day it can be tough to sit down and try to gather my thoughts together. And, of course, I can procrastinate as much as the next person. Sometimes it helps to make yourself write steadily for half an hour, take a ten minute break and go do something else, then sit down and write for another half an hour. And ultimately, there are times when you have to get tough with yourself and decide that when you sit down to write, you have to do it, no ifs, ands, or buts!

CMBA: What advice would you give to a new blogger?
Silentology: Other than "go for it!" I say to do two things. First, get to know people in the film community--if anything, find some fun Facebook groups to join.  I was in various silent-related groups for years before even thinking about being a blogger, and as it turned out, knowing fellow fans helped me find an audience much quicker. Second, write a bunch of posts before you make your blog "go live." Then you'll get some practice and see if it's to your liking, and you'll also have a stash of material ready to go.

Thank you for joining us, Lea! You can visit Silentology HERE.

Monday, October 2, 2017

2017 CiMBA Award Nominees

The 2017 CiMBA Award nominees have been determined! There is an excellent selection of posts this year and it will be difficult voting to narrow down our winners.

Good luck to all of our nominees!

Best Film Review (Drama)

Self-Plagiarism is Style: Hitchcock, Grant and North by Northwest (1959)  - ONCE UPON A SCREEN
Maedchen in Uniform (1931) - SILVER SCENES
Thirteen Women (1932) - CELLULOID CLUB
Nosferatu (1922) - SILENTOLOGY
Stella Dallas (1937) - CARY GRANT WON'T EAT YOU

Best Film Review ( Musical/Comedy )

Unfaithfully Yours" (1948) - LADY EVE'S REEL LIFE
Me and My Pal (1933) - CAFTAN WOMAN
It's a Great Feeling (1949) - THE BLONDE AT THE FILM
Get Your Man (1927) and the Importance of Film Preservation - BACKLOTS

Best Classic Movie Article

A Government by Classic Movie Characters - ONCE UPON A SCREEN
What I Learned from George Bailey - 4 STAR FILMS
The Legacy of Gone with the Wind - HOMETOWNS TO HOLLYWOOD
My Favorite Herbert Marshall Performances - CLASSIC FILM OBSERVATIONS & OBSESSIONS
Classic Movie Gift Guide - THE BLONDE AT THE FILM
A Rainbow of Silent Film - SILENTS, PLEASE!

Best Classic Movie Series

History Through Hollywood - THE BLONDE AT THE FILM
Comique Month - SILENTOLOGY
The RKO Story (Entries to Consider: Part OnePart TwoPart Three)- VIENNA'S CLASSIC HOLLYWOOD
2017 Centennials - APOCALYPSE LATER

Best Profile of a Classic Movie Performer or Filmmaker

Louise Fazenda, Comic Venus - SILENTOLOGY
"Masterful, audacious, beautiful...": Basil Rathbone's Captain Levasseur - A VIEWER'S GUIDE TO CLASSIC FILMS
Cary Grant's Resume - ONCE UPON A SCREEN
The Twin Careers of Lyn and Lee Wilde - HOMETOWNS TO HOLLYWOOD
Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher - THE CELLULOID CLUB

Best Classic Movie Blog Event

Things I Learned from the Movies Blogathon - SILVER SCREENINGS & SPEAKEASY
The Third Annual Buster Keaton Blogathon: Celebrating 100 Years of Buster! - SILENTOLOGY
What a Character! Blogathon - ONCE UPON A SCREEN
Diva December - SILENTS, PLEASE!

Best Movie Blog Design

The Blonde at the Film   https://theblondeatthefilm.com/
Java's Journey   http://www.JavaBeanRush.blogspot.com
Silver Scenes   www.silverscenesblog.blogspot.com
Hometowns to Hollywood   https://home2hollywood.wordpress.com/

Friday, September 15, 2017

CMBA Profile: Silver Screenings

The CMBA profiles our classic movie blogs each month. Today we're featuring Ruth from Silver Screenings.
CMBA: What sparked your interest in classic film?
Silver Screenings: I’ve always had an interest in old movies, and I’m not sure where that came from. For instance, when I was a kid, I’d study the movie listings in our local television guide and try to memorize titles of older films. But as a teenager I discovered Laurel and Hardy, and they became my glorious introduction to old films. A local television station would air their shorts early Sunday mornings, and I fell in love: the comedy, the fashions, the vintage Los Angeles scenery and, of course, Laurel and Hardy themselves. Every Sunday morning I’d sneak downstairs to the family room and watch these films on mute so I wouldn’t wake the rest of the house. I had found gold.

CMBA: What makes a film a “classic” in your opinion?
Silver Screenings: I wonder if the word “classic” needs to be more sharply defined when it pertains to film. I’ve met a couple of people online who feel Hollywood’s best years were the 1980s, and they describe films from that decade as “classic”.

If we use the word “classic” to describe an era of Hollywood filmmaking, e.g. the studio era, I personally feel that era ended in the late 1950s. However, if we’re describing films with timeless themes, I think classic films are released every year.
CMBA: What classic film(s) do you recommend to people who say they hate old movies?
Silver Screenings: I recommend films to match their interests. I’ve introduced people to old movies through Casablanca, Double Indemnity and Sabrina. Even my long-suffering husband, who claims he’d rather watch modern sci-fi flicks, has a few classic favourites, such as Winchester ’73 and anything starring John Wayne.

CMBA: Why should people care about classic film? 
Silver Screenings: Some folks think movies aren’t art, but even if they are “just” pop culture influences, they deserve study and appreciation. People make a career out of examining the history of music, literature and fine arts. So I think the question then becomes: Why not study the history of one of the greatest cultural influences of our age?

CMBA: What is the most rewarding thing about blogging?
Silver Screenings: My goal is to “sell” people on old movies and convince folks not to dismiss them outright just because they’re black and white. When someone outside the classic film community gets excited about an old movie, I always joke, “Well, my work here is done.”

CMBA: What challenges do you face with your blog, and how do you overcome them?
Silver Screenings: There are two things I constantly run into: (1) something unique to say about a film; and (2) writer’s block.

When I write about a movie that’s been reviewed a zillion times through the years, I try to think of one thing about it that resonates with me, then I build a post around it.

If I’m suffering from an acute writer’s block that not even chocolate can cure, I listen to the British band Coldplay. (Don’t laugh!) To me, their music becomes a metronome of sorts, and it propels me to complete that important first draft.

CMBA: What advice would you give to a new blogger?
Silver Screenings: Share your personality with us. We’ll love you for it.

CMBA: What is one blog post that you would like to share on your profile – and why?
Silver Screenings: I have a soft spot for the WWII propaganda film, 49th Parallel. Not only does it recognize Canadians’ contributions to the war – which is often downplayed or ignored – it also shows how beautiful our country is.

Thank you for joining us, Ruth! You can visit Silver Screenings HERE.