Wednesday, March 1, 2023

CMBA Profile: The Silver Screen Surfer


Each month, the CMBA profiles a classic movie blog written by one of our members. This month, we’re featuring Daibhid James, who writes at The Silver Screen Surfer.

CMBA: Why do you blog?

Daibhid James: I started out as music writer for a number of underground music papers in the 1990s (Reargarde in Montreal, Exclaim & Inside Tracks in Toronto) and host of radio shows at Toronto stations CKLN and, currently, CIUT playing music ranging from rock and roll, rockabilly, surf, garage, blues, doo wop, honky tonk, gospel, and ska from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, to punk and new wave of the 1980s to today. But besides music, I've always been a fan of black and white films, especially silents. I'm particularly interested in German Expressionist and related genres, horror films, Dadaist and other short art films from the 1920s to the 1960s, films of silent starlets such as Louise Brooks, Alla Nazimova, Brigette Helm, Clara Bow, Theda Bara, Colleen Moore, etc. I'm also interested in silent films from countries that are usually bypassed by usual film texts like China and Japan, Latin America, Eastern Europe, and Canada. Besides silents, I also like film noir, horror and sci-fi films, as well as cartoons from the Golden Era.

For most of my life I've been more focused on music, but in the past few years, for various reasons, I have frankly found myself taking less interest in the modern music scene and more interest in film and getting back into writing. Thus, my blog at The Silver Screen Surfer, the title obviously taken from the Silver Age Marvel Comics character.

Articles planned for the coming year include the life and career of Florence La Badie, more films of Brigitte Helm (I already did an article about her horror film Alraune last year), the life and career of Dorothy Davenport, the silent films based on the works of Jules Verne and possibly the sound ones too, the art films of Canadian filmmakers David Rimmer and Michael Snow, silent films from Latin America, Canada and China, and some Yiddish films I found on a Russian website that haven't been loaded on to YouTube yet.

CMBA: Besides classic movie blogging, what are some of your other passions?

Daibhid James: I have been combining my musical interest with film by adding electronic soundtracks to various silent films that I've been writing about (and posting them on YouTube). I also set up a public performance last Halloween with a showing of the silent version of H.P. Lovecraft's Call Of Cthulhu with live musical accompaniment, and I plan more showings in the future as an annual Halloween show. In addition, I'm planning a showing of some of the various Dada shorts and Warhol films with electronic music accompaniment. One of my COVID projects was designing a soundtrack for Warhol's 1965 eight-hour silent film Empire, so that should be interesting to stage. I'm also thinking of starting a YouTube show. I'm still involved with radio as well. I did once run for the Green Party and that was fun, but I'm not likely to do so again; politics isn't fun anymore. I'm a distance runner who needs to get back into shape. I should get on that.  

 If you could program a perfect day of classic movies for TCM, what would be the seven films on your schedule?

Daibhid James: The classic 1950s and 1960s films based on the books of Jules Verne would be a great day: Around The Earth In 80 Days (1956), 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (1954), Mysterious Island (1961), Journey to the Center of the Earth" (1959),  From the Earth to the Moon (1958), Master Of The World (1961), Five Weeks in a Balloon (1962), plus the George Melies version of Journey To The Moon (1904). (That's actually eight films, but the last one is a short so I'm adding it.) They are slightly out of chronological order but Mysterious Island is effectively a sequel to 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. I loved all these films as a kid and saw them several times as well as reading the books and they still have a charm in the CGI era. I think audiences would enjoy them. 

What is a classic movie that you love, but most people don't know about -- and what do you love about it??

Daibhid James: The three surviving films of Alla Namizova; Red Lantern (1919), Camille (1921) and Salome (1922) should be better known. In fact, Alla should be better known. She's a fascinating figure and a pioneer for women filmmakers. Although not actually a director, she was effectively her own producer and art director, and while not the first woman to do so, she was arguably the first with a real artistic vision. In fact, I did argue that in an article a few years back. I adore her.

After Metropolis, Brigitte Helm made several great films: At The End Of The World (1927), The Love Of Jeanne Ney (1927), Alraune (1928), and Abwege (1928). Metropolis was her first film; she was only 19, and while she had beauty and presence, the role was two-dimensional. However, she soon turned into an excellent actress with a slinky charisma in some complex roles. I have such a crush on her.

The 1934 Chinese silent film The Goddess, starring Ruan Lingyu, should be seen by every silent film fan. It's a gorgeous and tragic film and Lingyu has great depth and presence. They were making silents in Asia for a full decade after the West and some are excellent but little known in the West.

CMBA: What is something that most people don't know about you?

Daibhid James: On the advice of counsel, I take the Fifth.


We thank Daibhid for participating in our Q & A profile and encourage you to visit The Silver Screen Surfer!

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

CMBA Profile: Life and Death in L.A.

Each month, the CMBA profiles a classic movie blog written by one of our members. This month, we’re featuring Paul Parcellin, who writes at Life and Death in L.A.

CMBA: Why do you blog?

Paul Parcellin: Other than blogging’s potential to reach readers instantly and attract a worldwide audience, I blog about films because it’s akin to thinking out loud. In my experience, there are few better ways of discovering how I really feel about any topic, film included. Each time I sit down with the laptop, I challenge myself to sum up my cogitations about the stuff that I’ve watched and try to put it into context.

When I begin, my opinion is not fully formed. It’s only when I’m pounding it out on the keyboard that I’m confronted with my initial reactions and sometimes it’s surprising — do I really feel that way? But there it is on the screen, staring at me, challenging me to flesh out my perceptions and present those ideas in a way that’s coherent and interesting to readers. I ask myself if what I’m saying makes sense. I wonder if it’s an accurate reading of the filmmaker’s intent, or if I’m carrying my own baggage that alters my take on a film. It’s tough to answer some of these nagging questions, but asking them keeps the writing process interesting. For me, there’s an urgency that’s part of film writing. Thoughts are ethereal things that will soon dissipate. It’s important to get them down on paper — or in pixels.

But perhaps most important of all, blogging is a two-way street. If my facts are inaccurate, my
opinion is spotty, my reasoning is skewed, the readers will let me know about it. We can learn
from each other.

CMBA: Besides classic movie blogging, what are some of your other passions?

Paul Parcellin: I am into the visual arts — painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography. I like to visit museums and galleries. Fortunately, L.A. has a lot to see. I also collect DVDs and Blu-rays — not a big surprise for a classic movie blogger. I don’t have an enormous number of titles, but I prefer discs to streaming or digital downloads. I’m also a dedicated amateur guitar player — I grew up in the 1960s and ’70s, so it was practically mandated by law that I would play.

CMBA: If you could program a perfect day of classic movies for TCM, what would be the seven films on your schedule?

Paul Parcellin: My idea of a perfect day of TCM programming would include crime, comedy and foreign films. Here are my top seven in no particular order:

Double Indemnity (1944). The gold standard of noir. It’s got classic voiceover narration and
knockout performances by Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwick and Edward G. Robinson, and
lots of quotable dialogue — “I never knew that murder could smell like honeysuckle.”

Bringing Up Baby (1938). Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, Howard Hawks; need I say more?

La Dolce Vita (1960). Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg, the Trevi Fountain; wonderful Fellini.

Get Carter (1971). The one starring Michael Caine, of course. It’s unrelenting in its bleakness,
like the steel-gray sky hanging over Newcastle.

Sullivan’s Travels (1941). Whip-smart Preston Sturges. Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake and a cast of Sturges’s regular comedic actors. A great send-up of a film director who takes himself a little too seriously.

Breathless (1960). Jean Luc Godard said all you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun, and he showed us all how it’s done. A classic crime film of the French New Wave.

Out of the Past (1947). Jane Greer is one of noir’s most stunning and ruthless femmes fatales. Robert Mitchum is the fall guy who knows he’s doomed but can’t walk away from Jane. Who could?

CMBA: What is a classic movie that you love, but most people don't know about -- and what do you love about it?

Paul Parcellin: Straight Time (1978), with Dustin Hoffman as Max Dembo, an ex-convict who wants to stay on the right side of the law but is having a hard time of it. Great performances by Hoffman, M. Emmet Walsh as an oily probation officer, and Gary Busey and Harry Dean Stanton as Max’s partners in crime. Based on Edward Bunker’s novel “No Beast So Fierce,” the film’s many small details feel authentic, probably in large part because Bunker knows of what he speaks. He led a life of crime and was incarcerated, then turned to writing. He also acted in Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, playing a member of a gang that holds up a jewelry store. Straight Time also features a jewelry store heist that is one of the more intense and realistic action sequences seen in 1970s crime dramas. But the film’s shoot ’em up aspects get a minor amount of screen time. It’s really a character study in which we see Max’s good intentions crumble until we realize that he isn’t really what he seemed to be. The ending is bleak — it is a 1970s crime drama, after all. And for Max, no other conclusion would seem as true to life or as inevitable.

CMBA: What is something that most people don't know about you?

Paul Parcellin: I moved to L.A. just in time for the big economic meltdown of ‘08 and there were hardly any jobs to be had. I did manage to find some spotty work, including being an extra on TV shows such as Curb Your Enthusiasm and a short-lived sitcom called Better Off Ted — in one episode I’m in the opening shot with a bunch of people who are supposed to be attending a business meeting. It was sort of fun, and in addition to getting paid, we got free food from craft services, which was a great fringe benefit for starving extras. I was also cast in NCIS as a Marine colonel with severe wounds. I was in the makeup trailer for hours with two
artists who made me look like a corpse that had been stitched up. On set, as I lay down on a
stainless-steel autopsy table for some photos the director said to me, “Welcome to the
worst job in Hollywood.” I smiled, but frankly I’d had much worse jobs that paid a lot less
for my trouble, and besides, this one was a pretty cool adventure. Of course, I was bursting
to tell everyone I knew about my impending appearance on a network TV show, but
something told me to hold off on that, and it’s a good thing that I did. When the episode
finally aired, I was disappointed to find that my scenes ended up on the proverbial cutting
room floor, so I never made it onto the show. That happens a lot, I guess. But I still have
photos of me in full makeup as a reminder of what my NCIS debut would have looked like,
and that’s OK. It was certainly not an average day at the office.


We thank Paul for participating in our Q & A profile and encourage you to visit Life and Death in L.A.!

Monday, January 2, 2023

CMBA Profile -- Real Weegie Midget Reviews

Each month, the CMBA profiles a classic movie blog written by one of our members. This month, we’re featuring Gill Jacob, who writes at Real Weegie Midget Reviews.

CMBA: Why do you blog?

Gill Jacob: As a lifelong movie and TV lover, my first blog post was a review of Love and Mercy (2014), a mental health-themed biopic. The review was written for my Darlin Husband while he was away on a work trip overseas. It then kind of snowballed from there. I love how supportive, caring, and friendly the blogging community is, and I have met so many wonderful people -- famous and non famous -- who have distracted me with their friendship and friendly comments and blogathons, which have helped me with my on/off homesickness for Scotland and its people. I still have pangs but not as much now, so thanks!!!. 

As a classic blogger, I love finding obscure films from a star's career and tributing stars in all sorts of ways. I also love to give something back to those stars that I have enjoyed in movies and TV, from childhood favorites to beyond. I always tag them on social media. I'm thrilled if I get a personal reply or a like (see my Starry Mentions pages). I guess it reminds me of the excitement I used to get when I asked for signed photos as a child and an envelope with a reply came through the letterbox. I love reviewing for others and am constantly touched that many of those filmmakers and authors that I have written for have returned to ask me to review more of their content. I've also made a few good friends that way, too.

I love the entertainment blogging community and through entering those blogathons, I have met some lovely bloggers and discovered lots of great movies and TV. I also love interviewing filmmakers and I've made good friends with a few filmmakers. My childhood self has to pinch herself as I've had so many lovely likes, follows, and comments from stars I adored then and still do now, such as Judy Matheson (Jarvis), Morgan Brittany, Joan Collins, Lee Grant, Emma Samms, and William Shatner.  My most personal thrill to date was writing a recent movie review for Valerie Perrine on her documentary about her current personal experience of  Parkinson's Disease. I was deeply touched when she asked me to do this for her. I also interviewed her friend and the director of this movie, Stacey Souther, and it was lovely to learn more about this wonderful and inspiring actress from a best friend.

CMBA: Besides classic movie blogging, what are some of your other passions?

Gill Jacob: I adore reading entertainment-themed books, memoirs, and biographies. I have a huge collection at home (mostly unread) and I particularly enjoy audible autobiographies (which are read by the person who wrote the book). I prefer autobiographies, as you have that person's view on their life and not the gossipy version. Dallas (1978-91) is another obsession, and I have a big post planned about one of the cast members coming up next year. But even if it doesn't happen, I am super excited about what has been happening behind the scenes with this lovely cast member so far . . . this will make sense when I reveal all.

I also am passionate about mental health issues. I used to work in mental health and chose this career after seeing One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. I disliked Nurse Ratched and was at first a staff nurse running activities with patients. However, I had wanted to work in mental health in more of a Jack Nicholson role, as the person who took them fishing, and this prompted me to train as an occupational therapist. I also get passionate about putting right misconceptions about mental health, as more than a few people can justify.

I am also passionate about my Darlin Husband, as he is my best friend and the love of my life. He is also generous, fun, supportive, caring, and one of a few people who make me laugh out loud. He can make a bad movie good with his riffling and can do many retro impersonations such as Roger Moore, Christopher Walken, and Sean Connery. What's not to love???

CMBA: If you could program a perfect day of classic movies for TCM, what would be the seven films on your schedule?

Gill Jacob: Now that's a toughie . . . these are pretty random (and all have been reviewed on my blog):

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966) - I LOVE Richard Burton and I adored watching him with his then-real life wife, Elizabeth Taylor. His character is wonderfully played and no one can insult in films as beautifully as Burton. 

Endless Night (1972) - Favorite film adaptation of an Agatha Christie novel, with a fabulous Bernard Herrmann score, Hywel Bennett, and as the trailer says, "a love story."

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (1975) - Favorite role with Jack Nicholson and has a fabulous behind-the-scenes story and ensemble performances.

Somewhere in Time (1980) - A timeless and sumptuous time travel romance with a fabulous John Barry score (and Christopher Plummer at his most on-screen villainous).

Fedora (1978) - an underrated Billy Wilder movie and a wonderful satire on the film industry and I love it!.

Sunset Boulevard (1950) - another film satire from Wilder, fantastically immersive until the final shot. 

Airport 77 (1977) - my favorite disaster movie (as I said in my review, "It's a soap in the skies") with an amazingly silly plot including the Bermuda Triangle, an all-star cast -- shoutouts to Christopher Lee and Lee Grant -- and some wonderfully intriguing cut scenes that suggest a completely different plot.
CMBA: What is a classic movie that you love, but most people don't know about -- and what do you love about it?

Gill Jacob: I adore the British black and white movie, Whistle Down the Wind (1961). It has a teenage Hayley Mills as one of three siblings who find a man (played by Alan Bates) in their barn and think he is Jesus. They don't realize that he's actually a fugitive who is on the run. The children in the film are beautifully cast and the movie is based on a credible plot written by Hayley's mother. It's a really sweet and touching film. I read it does have religious themes but as a kid, I only noticed the more obvious ones, I love the innocence of the kids in this movie and their Northern English (Lancashire) accents add to the ambience.

CMBA: What is something that most people don't know about you?

Gill Jacob: When I was wee and painfully shy, I entered a debating competition where you had to choose a real-life person or fictional character and argue why you should be the only person to stay in a sinking hot air balloon heading towards the sea. I entered as Sue Ellen Ewing (from Dallas), then launched into my impersonation of her and won hands down. Years later, I also entered this true tale in a Dallas-themed competition, as my reason to see Larry Hagman, Linda Gray and Patrick Duffy interviewed on a TV show and won two tickets!


We thank Gill for participating in our Q & A profile and encourage you to visit Reel Weegie Midget Reviews!