Each month, the CMBA profiles a classic movie blog and its writer. This month, we’re featuring Maeve Sheehan of Filmland Follies.
CMBA: What makes a film a “classic” in your opinion?
FILMLAND FOLLIES: Does a movie hold up as well today as it did in, say, 1936? Does it inspire the same joy and awe and wonder as it did back then? Can you look at that movie and see the path it paved to modern cinema? Then it’s a classic. How come we’re still debating Citizen Kane 80 years later? Or watching 12 Angry Men in school? These are films that tell stories in such a powerful way that they remind us why we make movies in the first place. And any film that can do that is a classic in my book.
CMBA: What genres do you favor?
FILMLAND FOLLIES: I’ve always loved musicals—I watched Shirley Temple movies as a little kid, and it was Top Hat that reintroduced me to classic films. It’s hard not to have fun while you’re watching a musical! Plus, in my opinion, it takes very talented actors and directors to make successful musicals - blending singing and dancing with good acting and comedy can’t be as easy as it looks. I also love romantic comedies, and to be more specific, “re-marriage” comedies are generally lots of fun.
CMBA: Why should people care about “old” black and white movies?
FILMLAND FOLLIES: Too many people pass up lovely movies just because they are in black and white. Classic films are just as funny, emotional, suspenseful, and entertaining as today’s - if not more so! As I’m increasingly finding, there’s always something to learn from an “old” movie. Black-and-white cinematography is really a beautiful way to highlight shadows. Pre-code films weren’t afraid of addressing difficult topics. Silent movies often tell dramatic stories better than modern sound ones. And movie musicals, the fun and exciting staple of the Golden Age, are few and far between nowadays. If people care about new films, they should care about old ones. After all, without these groundbreaking classic movies, where would modern filmmaking be?
CMBA: What classic films do you recommend to people who may not have seen many older films?FILMLAND FOLLIES:
- The Gay Divorcee: A masterpiece of comedy, dance, and romance! This film was a major breakthrough in movie musical history, with innovations such as one-take dances and plot-integrated musical numbers. The Gay Divorcee is a great introduction to classic film musicals and the wonderful world of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
- Rear Window: Everyone should see at least one Hitchcock film in their lives, I believe, and Rear Window is a great one to start with. The way it was filmed means most of the action takes place from one room, creating an interesting visual for audiences. Grace Kelly and Jimmy Stewart make a wonderful mystery-solving duo, and the plot has the perfect amount of edge-of-your-seat suspense. And the beautiful Edith Head costumes don’t hurt!
- Stage Door: This one stars a wonderful combination of actresses in a hilarious comedy-drama about the show-biz world of the 30s. Stage Door drew a lot from the real-life interactions of actresses, so the story is completely believable. It’s a bit of a tear-jerker in places, but it will have you laughing just as much.
CMBA: What is the most rewarding thing about blogging for you?I love blogging mostly for the connections I get to make with other film fans. I get so excited whenever somebody comments on one of my posts, because it means they share some of my enthusiasm for whatever I’m writing about. I like writing about anything I find interesting - connections between films, actors I like, costumes, and everything in between. I’m a high-school student and not many people my age know anything about classic movies, so blogging lets me meet people who do!