Since the danger of getting COVID seems to be lifting, I decided to go to the theater yesterday. That, and the fact that for me anyway I’m not going to stay sequestered in my house for an indefinite time; life is short enough as it is. They recently allowed them to re-open. And one of my favorite programs is the one put on by TCM/Fathom Events. They generally present a classic movie once a month, to be shown only a few days, usually on a Sunday and Wednesday.
Although I question some of their definition of “classic”, vs old (Shrek is on next!), I have seen some fantastic movies, such as North by Northwest (Hitchcocks greatest, IMO), Casablanca and the Maltese Falcon.
Currently (this Wednesday and Thursday are the last days) they are showing the movie La Bamba, about the all-too-short life of 50s rocker Richie Valens.
Valens (actual name, Ricardo Valenzuela), was one of those rock and roll pioneers in the 50s who rose from aspiring singer to national prominence in only 8 months. He and such other headliners as Dion and the Belmonts and Buddy Holly were touring the Midwest playing in small local venues. I was thinking today that rock stars play in stadiums making millions, but in those days it was frequently all night rides playing in front of hundreds.
Towards the end of his short 17 year old life, Richie would be traveling in an old bus with a broken heater in the freezing Midwest. It would be Buddy Holly who decided that day on February 3, 1959, to charter a Beechcraft Bonanza and with 3 available seats, well, 2 since Buddy would have one, they would beat the bus and avoid the freezing and uncomfortable night. The Beech took off in the snow and into immortality. It was the day the music died. And Richie would lose his life, like movie star Carole Lombard 17 years earlier, on a coin toss.
This 1987 movie is what made the career of a previously unknown Lou Diamond Phillips. And in the credits they thank the Valens family for their help, so I am assuming that it is not some screenwriter’s fictional embellishment.
It’s an inspirational story about a boy who rescued his widowed mother and sisters from a San Joaquin valley migrant camp and rose to stardom, all in 8 months.
I’m watching a wonderfully produced program on YouTube on the Memphis Belle. Beautifully made because it goes from the restoration crew at Wright-Patterson doing the restoration, telling you how they refabricated parts, to voices of the now-gone crew talking about certain missions, to general information on her missions first to France, then Germany.
The Belle was famous – became an iconic piece of American history, for finishing 25 missions and boosting the morale of a war-weary American public.
Among the things I learned during her 6 month combat tour was that 10 engines were replaced, major wing parts, and the vertical stabilizer.
That a flight crew had only a 28% chance of surviving though the magic 25 combat missions and the ticket home.
How A-List Hollywood Director William Wyler, in Europe as an Army Major, picked the Belle as the B-17 he would use to document the war.
How every day in the War, the Pentagon sent 297 telegrams to the families of the 8th AAF crewmen giving them the worst news.
Without knowing anything about it, I would think it would be about as exciting as watching the grass grow. And in saying that, reveals an ignorance about the game on my part.
But having just finished the 7 part Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit, I am watching it again to fill myself in on the detail I missed the first time.
It is based on the novel by Walter Tevis, published in 1983.
The novel’s epigraph is “The Long-Legged Fly” by William Butler Yeats. This poem highlights one of the novel’s main concerns: the inner workings of genius in a woman. Tevis discussed this concern in a 1983 interview,[the year before his death.
It was originally to be made into a movie with the late actor Heath Ledger acting and directing.
It concerns a 9 year old girl, who is sent to a Catholic orphanage in the late 50s. She becomes a chess prodigy, having initially learned the game from the orphanage’s janitor.
And like most geniuses, has her struggles with her past, and substance abuse.
I can remember in 1972, American Bobby Fischer winning the chess word championship against the Soviet Union’s Boris Spassky. Like hockey, chess was a game that the Soviets owned.
It is a story of ultimate redemption, and gave me an appreciation for the game.
Netflix has really produced some great series and movies.
11-25-20 here is a nice behind-the-scenes video about the making of the series
Lately, with this COVID-19, there has been an unexpected benefit. Yes, there is a silver lining to this dark cloud.
One theater chain has been showing a lot more “classic” movies. And for the most part, I think the classic movies are better. How much of the current releases will be fondly remembered 25-50-75 years later? Who won the Best Picture award this year?
Andrew Klavan in the LA Times suggests it’s time for Hollywood to get on board for the big win:
We play with our children, read books, go to work and enjoy recreations only because people with guns stand ready, willing and able to kill other people with guns who would kill us if they could.
It’s sweet to forget this and therefore difficult to keep it in mind. “It is hard for those who live near a Police Station to believe in the triumph of violence,” as T.S. Eliot wrote. That’s us — we Americans, protected by a mighty military that by and large obeys the rules of our republic — safe enough, and keeping much of the world safe enough, so that we find it hard to believe in what would happen if that protection failed.
Universal Films is making a 9/11 movie: “United 93.” (Link goes to a trailer.)
Ed Driscoll notes that certain people think we’re not ready for it yet – that’ it’s too soon. And too controversial: We might get angry, or something. Launch another one of those anti-Arab domestic pogroms like the ones that happened in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks.
Update: Chap certainly sounds ready. Which leads me to a sad realization: People like Kris in New England don’t need to see this movie – their lives are filled with the awareness of loss. Many of us engaged one way or another in the fight don’t need to see it – we’re committed.
But maybe some of those who need to see it most, simply won’t – that market that I mentioned in comments works two ways.
Awhile back, I was writing about a well-regarded series I saw on Amazon Prime, Dead Like Me. I learned that the creator left after only a few episodes, over differences with MGM.
I was thinking a screenwriter’s life could sometimes be rather frustrating, with revisions sought by the studio and even actors. Like trying to write a book with a lot of fingers on the pie – “No, don’t make the character like that….this is how it should end…why do you have the character doing…this?”
One would think that if a studio is sold on the pilot, then let the writers keep doing what they want with a minimum of interference.
Last year, I screened The Cold Blue, which was an amazing film. In WW2, 5 famous Hollywood directors, William Wyler, John Huston, John Ford, George Stevens, and Frank Capra went into harm’s way with small film crews and documented the war. John Ford, for example shot – I believe- the only footage of Midway as it was being attacked.
I’m in danger of swaying into this fascinating story, but I will say one thing. The war affected them all, and it can be reflected in their post war work. George Stevens, for example, having seen so much death and destruction in Europe, in making Shane, thought gunfire and being shot should be portrayed realistically, a first for a Hollywood Western.
I have a post coming for the 75th anniversary of the Iwo Jima landings set to come out next month. I also watched the companion movie to Letters (they were made simultaneously) Clint Eastwood made in 2006 – Flags of Our Fathers. So you had 2 movies of Iwo Jima – from the perspectives of both sides.
It is all too easy to lump a wartime enemy into “they” with monolithic stereotypes and behavior.