- You say on your blog that you have a large physical media collection. What are some of your most prized film releases that you own?
Well, I would definitely say that the Blu-ray of the restored My Fair Lady is one of them. My late grandmother (whom I used to enjoy watching some of these classics with on a regular basis) was fond of the movie, but it took me a while to come around to it. I finally did (although sadly after she had passed away), but it was right around the time that the new restoration was announced. I was able to see the new restoration first through its brief theatrical run, and then again on Blu-ray a few short weeks later. And in the time since, it has become one I enjoy watching at least once a year.
Another one would be the restored Seven Brides For Seven Brothers. This was one of the early classics I was exposed to, when my parents and grandmother started introducing me to them. I took to this movie more than anything after watching the barn dance, and have enjoyed seeing it many times since. Of course, being that this movie did not look great due to some mistakes made many years ago with the film elements, it was a real wonder when Warner was able to find a print made before the damage was done, and restore the film from that. Now, I enjoy it even more, seeing it look so much better!
And there are so many more I could list, from my collection of Fred Astaire musicals, to some of Gene Kelly’s, to the 1927 film The Jazz Singer, and many others!
- Your interest in classic film ranges right from the silent era through to the 1960s. What is your favourite film from each decade (1920s-1960s)?
Before I get into this list, I should mention that the films on it are not necessarily my absolute favorites for these decades. Considering the real answer for one would BE my absolute favorite movie, I get a little paranoid in this day and age where identity theft would be too easy, especially with an answer to this type of question in a public place. That being said, these are all still films that I am VERY fond of, and one or two of them are indeed favorites for those decades.
1920s - The Cocoanuts (1929)
1930s - Carefree (1938)
1940s - Easter Parade (1948)
1950s - Lovely To Look At (1952)
1960s - My Fair Lady (1964)
- If you were to recommend five classic films to a first timer, what five would you recommend and why?
That's Entertainment (1974) - While any of the three films in the series would work, this one is a good start. It gives us many of the musical moments from many of the classic MGM musicals, without worrying about the plot points in between. Sure, I could (and would) easily recommend many of the films that have clips represented here, but these are some of the absolute best moments from those movies, and are certainly a good way to introduce somebody to them.
City Lights (1931) - In my opinion, one of Charlie Chaplin’s best movies. While it was still a silent movie made when talkies had become the rage, he is still able to make use of sound with his scoring. And, of course, we laugh and we cry at the antics of Chaplin’s Tramp as he tries to help the blind girl that he has fallen in love with.
Top Hat (1935) - In my opinion, one of the best film musicals, with a great supporting cast, great music, and Fred and Ginger dancing their way into our hearts in one of their best-loved films.
The Hunchback Of Notre Dame (1939) - It's a well-known story, it's from Hollywood's golden year (1939), it's a well-done story (even with its deviations from the source material), and the sets are just AMAZING.
My Man Godfrey (1936) - One of the best screwball comedies (another genre I’m particularly fond of). Obviously, we have the rich, who are mostly crazy here, with William Powell’s Godfrey there to make fun of them, while working for them and helping them learn to be better. Full of good laughs, but also willing to make us think!
- Why should people care about “old” black and white movies?
I very much believe, as others have said, that these movies have historical value. They are, to a very large degree, indicative of the moods that everyone has gone through over the last hundred years. Some films work better than others, but there is always something more to discover. Of course, the special effects in these films still look just as good (or bad) as they did when they were released (versus today's CGI-filled movies that *might* look good when released, but look awful a few years later when technology improves even more). Do they have their flaws? Yes (especially with regard to some things that aren't politically correct and really never should have been), but they were made by flawed human beings, and that fact hasn't changed all these years later.
- Who are your favorite filmmakers?
For the most part, I tend to focus on the onscreen talent, so that would be the likes of Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Bing Crosby, Gene Kelly and Judy Garland, amongst others. There has really been only one behind-the-scenes person that I have actively sought out films they were involved with, and that would be the composer Irving Berlin. There may be a few other songwriters from that era I’ve enjoyed, but none as much as him.
- What do you think of modern cinema?
By and large, I don’t really care for modern cinema. Growing up, I always veered more towards family fare (a trait that has stayed with me as an adult), so I don’t generally care much at all for R-rated movies. And, while I still see some of the various comic book movies and Disney/Pixar fare, most of those films that I’ve seen in recent years (ever since I became an adult) are movies that I watch once (and enjoy), but further viewings just don’t excite me as much, and so I generally don’t watch them again (compared to many of the classics, which I generally AM excited to watch multiple times). That, combined with a "just because we can, we're going to do it" mentality that results in CGI being overused (which ages some films quicker than others), as well as the "inability" (in my opinion) to film dance well in any musicals or dance films (considering I much prefer the way Fred Astaire liked to film dance), just makes them harder to watch for me.
- You watch films for their escapist value. What films provide you with the most enjoyable escapism?
More than anything else, that would be the film musicals. In general, the songs written for a lot of the movies from the era I cover speak to me as well as any songs I've ever heard. Quite frankly, most of them tend to get stuck in my head quite frequently (but you won't hear me complaining), and they also make me want to get up and dance. Heck, watching these films musicals is what inspired me to take up dancing (mostly tap and ballroom dancing) in the first place!
- If you could see one classic film that isn’t available on physical media get a blu ray release, which one would it be?
Well, I've been lucky, as most of what I like has made it out to Blu-ray and DVD. At this point, there are only a handful that I've seen that haven't made the jump to Blu-ray or DVD (and I haven't had a working VHS player for a little over a decade, so I would otherwise be unable to watch anything in that format), as well as some that I can at least claim to have heard of (but obviously haven't seen) that remain unavailable. But, when it comes down to ONE film I would like to see on Blu-ray, I would have to go with the 1950 Fred Astaire musical Let’s Dance, especially since it remains the only Fred Astaire musical that hasn’t made it to DVD or Blu-ray yet. I know it’s not his best film, but, like any other musical with Fred Astaire, I could easily sit back and watch it, no matter what mood I am in!