Saturday, June 27, 2020

CMBA Profile: Pale Writer


CMBA profiles one member every month. This month's interview is with  Gabriela Masson whose blogs about movies at Pale Writer. The blog's subtitle says it all: Classic and Horror Unite.  Gabriela is currently hosting "The Queen of Sass: The Barbara Stanwyck Blogathon" running from July 17h thru July 19th. here is still time to participate.

The sub-title of your blogs reads “classic and horror films unite.” Which came first classic or horror?

Classic films came first. I was three years old when I first watched Gone With the Wind, which surprises quite a few people, although I’m not really sure why, as many people are introduced to classic films, and film in general, at a fairly young age. I watched my first horror movie when I was fourteen or so with my older brother, Damien, who thought it was hilarious how I was so petrified of Freddy Krueger’s long arms in A Nightmare on Elm Street. But like most horror fans, I was immediately hooked probably because of how terrified I had been.

Besides horror films, what other genres do you favor?

I adore film noir (which I know is under constant debate concerning whether or not it’s actually a genre), musicals, romantic comedies and dramas. For me, film noir is one of the most magnificent stylistic achievements in film with its use of chiaroscuro shadow, and often very innovative camera work and direction.

Why should people care about “old” black and white movies?

Because we should care about the history of the film industry. It’s not coincidence that some of the finest directors, actors and screenwriters today say that they were and are influenced by classic cinema. I think we still have so much to learn from silent film, which is erroneously called boring when it has so many fabulous creative elements to it. I recently saw that wonderful tracking shot from Wings (1927) circulating the twitterverse again, and as the person who posted the shot said, silent film is still so fresh and exciting, and it shows us the roots of so much of what we see in cinema today. Classic films also often lack the retention of new films. People go mad about how auteurist and original modern film makers are, but guys like Hawks, Hitchcock and Hathaway were doing it decades ago already.

Who are your favorite filmmakers?

Oh gosh, I could list so many people, but I’ll say my five favourites:
1. Alfred Hitchcock, who some people have begun to feel is overrated, but I strongly disagree with that because he was such a brilliant innovator and we cannot appreciate the enough
2. Billy Wilder, who made such a wide scope of films. He’s best remembered for the incredible Double Indemnity today, but he made so many wonderful films like Midnight, Witness for the Prosecution, Love in the Afternoon and Avanti!
3. Dorothy Arzner, who was one of the female directors who really proved that women were as good or even better than their male contemporaries. She made a film called Dance, Girl, Dance starring Lucille Ball and Maureen O’ Hara, and O’ Hara gives this incredible speech about the double standards men put onto women
4. Michael Curtiz, who made so many of my favourite films, chief among them Mildred Pierce, which really showcased what an incredible adaptive talent, Joan Crawford, my favourite actress, was
5. Kathryn Bigelow, who made one of the finest action films ever in Point Break, and smashed the assumption that women couldn’t direct action films

You have hosted and participated in many blogathons. What is the attraction?

I LOVE writing about classic film, but sometimes I lack the motivation or focus to really do it justice, and blogathons provide me with both of those things. Through blogathons I learnt how to write about classic films better, and I met some of my closest online friends that way, people who have taken a chance on a South African kid and treated me as one of the gang. Blogathons have allowed me to connect with so many amazing people, who have time and time again reinforced how wonderful the classic film community really is.

Name three films Obscure Horror films you would recommend to the uninitiated.

Well, that is a tough question, but I think:

1. Murders at the Zoo (1933), because a lot of people outside of the classic film community don’t know about it and really deflates assumptions about the “tameness” of classic films
2. Burnt Offerings (1976), which I was convinced so many people knew about, but it seems to really only be people who saw it on TV or who love Bette Davis’ later horror films who know about it. My mom first introduced me to it, and I can tell you, that ending is a zinger!
3. Society (1989), even one of my friends who hosts a horror podcast hadn’t heard of this one. It’s a film that really does defy expectations, especially because the lead actor was and is best known as a soap opera star. So you’re in for a real treat!

What do you think of modern cinema?

Just because I like classic films, doesn’t mean I dislike modern cinema. I feel that there are a lot of talented people who are producing great films. I just wish that there was more room for smaller films and also shorter films. Hollywood seems to currently be obsessed with making their films as long as possible, and it just makes me want to go and watch a Warner Bros quickie when these new films are so long. But I’m incredible excited about watching the new James Bond film, because I’m also a huge fan of those films, and I loved Call Me By Your Name and the new adaptation of Little Women.

Do you have interest in any other arts that you can share?

I really love reading. Like films, books made me feel accepted and understood by something as a rather awkward, misfit of a child. My favourite novel is Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, but I love so many different kinds of books. I also love music, and I took part in operettas and the choir when I was in school. And I also really enjoy podcasting, and currently have three podcasts: You Won’t Forget Me: The All About Joan Crawford Podcast, The By Projection Light Podcast (which is about films made between the 1930s and 1970s, with classic radio thrown in), and Here Lies Amicus, which I do with my good friend, Cev, and we chat all about the films made by Amicus Productions.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

CMBA Profile: The Last Drive In

CMBA profiles one member every month. This month's interview is with  Jo Gabriel whose blogs about movies and her music at The Last Drive In blog. Jo's blog is nostalgic with a taste toward the cultish and gothic, but there is plenty of classic Hollywood, both the famous and the forgotten. Jo is also a musician, a singer/songwriter, but read on she reveals more.

You mention in your blog’s About page that your first interest was in horror and Sci-fi films. What sparked your interest?

I was raised by a very theatrical mother who exposed me to great films, actors, musical theater, and dramatic arts. In fact, she was a phenomenal painter. Mom never tried to squelch my imagination, but encouraged me to reach outside myself. I also began to express myself musically at the age of 8 writing music on piano.

I grew up as a very inspired little girl but I was bullied terribly by the neighborhood kids who saw me as an oddball. They could smell difference on me like sharks are drawn to blood. And, because of my love of classic horror films, they called me Monster Girl. I wear that name now as a badge of honor and courage to be myself, always. Their little persecutions drove me deeper into the dream-like fantastical world that was cinema. In particular classical horror and science fiction films spoke to the sense of “otherness” installed in my psyche. That does not mean that I viewed things through a dark lens, but classical horror and science fiction are effusive metaphors and inherently philosophical. Their use of mythic undertones and symbolic context afford so many of us with a psychic release and catharsis.

I related to the “monster,” because they were different and misunderstood like me. I started to expand my love of film and as I got older, gravitating towards other genres. Now I am as passionate about film noir as I am about horror, fantasy and sci-fi. This passion led me to start my blog in 2006, where I focused initially on classic television (e.g. Boris Karloff’s anthology series Thriller), but widened my scope to explore cinema spanning all genres from the critical and often quirky perspective of The Last Drive in.

What other film genres do you favor?

I’ve found myself as drawn to film noir as classical horror films. I’m mesmerized by mystery/suspense films of the 1940s. And there is nothing quite like movies from the 1970s — the gritty realism, in particular, of those set in New York where I was born and raised, and proud of it!

Why should people care about “old” black and white movies?

Classic black and white films possess an eternal soul. They have a visual contemplative style that endures the ages. The pure essence of black and white films is that their framework is built on atmosphere. In a world of shadows and light the focus is on the flow of the storyline and not always on the action. There are perceptive silences and moments of unforgettable performances.

‘Old’ films create and project a glamour and ritual of allure and mystique. They bear illusory revelations with depth and distinctive contrasting tones. Impressive actors reigned with an undeniable substance. Classic films embrace intricately detailed storylines by masterful screenwriters, and visionary meditative cinematographers. They were forged by keen-eyed set designers, editors, and inspired fashion designers. Even the low budget artifacts of the time can leave you with a wistful impulse to delve in and be surrounded by uncomplicated diversions. 

As Norma Desmond put it, “We had faces then!” Besides the stars who’ve become iconic, classic black and white films are inhabited by something that is lost today— the character actors who brought so much distinctive vitality and heart to the story. And of course there is the immortal romance, suspense, theater, brilliant comedic timing, incomparable pathos, intrigue and even at times collective Schadenfreude. Classic films truly are the stuff that dreams are made of. Even B-movies have an unselfconscious charm, and that is why we can revisit these films over and over.

Who are your favorite filmmakers?

Billy Wilder, Sam Fuller, Jules Dassin, Val Lewton, Jacque Tourneur, Robert Siodmak, Sidney Lumet, Fritz Lang, Otto Preminger, Robert Aldrich, Robert Wise and Curtis Harrington.

One of the features on your blog is titled “Life Lessons from Barney Fife.”  What can we all learn from Barney?

Barney Fife is a high-strung guardian of the Law. He goes by the book, sometimes to a fault and most of the time to his embarrassment. But he is always well-meaning and extremely ethical. And he’s only allowed to carry one shiny bullet in his pocket. The main artery of Barney’s humor is is his neurotic spirit and need to adhere to the rules. Even if it means giving old ladies tickets for jay walking.

The underlying message behind this wonderful character (brought to life brilliantly by Don Knotts) is don’t take yourself too seriously and don’t try to be someone you’re not.

Knotts created one of the most inimitable, iconic television characters in history. His body comedy is pure genius, perfectly positioned against Andy Griffith’s folksy-wisdom straight man.

Barney thinks he’s an expert in the art of love. He’s also a progressive thinker. He dabbled in Judo, ESP, Gypsy tarot cards, and psychology. He’s read up on hand washing compulsions and mother issues (because “you’re a rotten kid”) and letting emotions out because it’s “therapetic.” He’s even savvy about criminal profiling and rehabilitation in the penal system, giving metal craft sets and Mr Potato Heads to the prisoners.

And, remember Barney will tell you “It’s not a whim if you put on clean underwear.”

Name three films Obscure Screen Gems you would recommend to the uninitiated.

Sam Fuller’s radically transgressive feminist passage The Naked Kiss 1964.
Nicholas Roeg’s sublimely beautiful horror film based on Daphne Du Maurier’s novel Don’t Look Now 1973.
And Robert Siodmak’s psychological noir gem Phantom Lady 1944.

You also mention on your About page that you are a singer/songwriter. What can you tell us about your music and where can we find out more?

I grew up in New York during the 60s and 70s, so I was surrounded by powerfully cultural and creative influences that emerged from both decades. I am a singer/songwriter pianist who has lived my entire life expressing my sense of otherness and passion to live my truth through my music. For my 8th birthday my parents bought me  a piano and I started writing little complex progressions, that revealed themselves as classical, singer/songwriter, musical theater, and pop music. People often assume I am classically trained, but I am entirely self taught. My music has always been cathartic and a way to reach out emotionally to connect with the world.

I performed live shows in the New York City area, and eventually was signed to an International Indie label. They released two albums and I subsequently became an internationally revered artist. I founded my own label called Ephemera Records. I produced and recorded Fools and Orphans, which is one of my most beloved albums and has been met with critical praise. It’s a very evocative body of work with a lyrical, haunting vibe.

My work has been categorized as gothic/ethereal, melodramatic pop, heavenly voices, and dark wave. I am proud that my music is frequently compared to Kate Bush. In fact, I have the honor of being included in the internationally recognized book Rhapsody in Blue, featured as one of the foremost Indie artists who possesses an essence similar to the Iconic Kate.

The Last Drive In has become a branch of my creativity. My love of classical film and literature inspired my musical expression, reflected in my revelatory music and lyrics. I’ve made many film mash ups with my music — essentially I’ve taken scenes from much loved classic films and underscored them with my music. Some of these can be found on my blog.

People can visit my blog and or my official music page where they can read reviews of my work, watch videos of my performances see my mashups, and purchase my albums. My work is also available on iTunes, Spotify, and Pandora. 

Some reviews of my music —

"It is first Jo’s voice that drives shivers through you. She’s like the musical miracle of Kate Bush, or Tori Amos. Her piano is dreamy and opulent and always in harmony. A touch of Romantic Dark Wave that strokes the soul." -- Amboss Magazine review of the album- Island

"Fools and Orphans is a beautiful album, as fine as the finest Abyssinian – go explore and lose yourself in it, go and treat yourself. She's from New York, she's like that person you find singing in secret in an old dusty theatre when she thinks no one is listening and this is why we do this Organ thing, this sets things on fire and makes me feel... this is a wonderful album." -- Organ Magazine~ review excerpt Fools and Orphans~

Do you have interest in any other arts that you can share?

Cat husbandry! LOL… Over the years I’ve done a lot of cat rescue. I always imagined having a cat sanctuary and I’ve managed to fulfill that dream by caring for a tribe of felines. Cats are incredibly complex spirits. I’ve had the benefit of cats teaching me a philosophy on how to live and love better in my life. To me, developing a relationship with their enigmatic personalities is truly an art form. There is an imaginative artistry and continual discovery in how to relate to them and it is a profound inspiration to living with felines. Each one supremely individual in nature. I am privileged to be able to explore the sacred task of caring for them and investing my time bonding with these beautiful and wild souls.  From the ones I raised as babies, to the wild ones who rescued me…

Thank you so much for this chance to give people a little insight into The Last Drive In. Cheers, Joey