Friday, May 30, 2014

The Alphabet Game: Cinephile Edition

Hello, and welcome to The Alphabet Game, where I take a look at 26 different things in one common category. This inaugural edition is all about that wonderful thing once known as the motion picture. Have fun...

A is for At the Movies - The show has been called many things at many times, from Siskel & Ebert & the Movies to just Siskel & Ebert to (after Gene Siskel's death) Roger Ebert & the Movies, and Ebert & Roeper (once Richard Roeper joined Roger in the balcony), but during my formidable years as a budding cinephile, the show was simply titled, At the Movies. I grew up, as a cinephile that is, on the criticism of Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel. Now Gene may not have been all that into cinema (he just took the film critic job at the Chicago Tribune, because the paper had an opening) but Roger was always the greatest advocate of cinema - in all of it's forms. I was lucky enough to have conversations with Roger in the years before he died. Granted, these were merely e-mail and/or Facebook conversations, but it was still great to get the great man's insights on film and film history. It was also fun to watch Roger and Gene argue over film every week on At the Movies. May they rest in peace, which of course, means sitting on cloud nine somewhere, watching a movie - and maybe arguing over it as well.

B is for Bogie & Bacall - As a kid, when I was into space movies and monster movies and all the typical late show B-movie fare (not that I'm still not into those) I did not really know all that much about Bogie and Bacall. Sure, thanx to my uncle, and it being his all-time favourite film, I had already see The African Queen by the time I was ten, so I at least knew who the Bogie half of Bogie and Bacall were. I had probably see Casablanca by this time too, but I'm not sure. But then, in 1981, when I was fourteen, eventual one hit wonder Bertie Higgins came out with a song called Key Largo, and it was the first time I can remember hearing their names together. Just like Bogie and Bacall. This was the time I started digging deeper into cinema, and was beginning to move on to a more serious liking of film and film history. Of course I would eventually see all four films that Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall did together. My favourite is The Big Sleep, but I do love them all, even the rather experimental Dark Passage, which is probably the least known of the quartet of films. To this very day, this one time Hollywood power couple, is still my all-time favourite classic movie couple. Sorry Doug and Mary.

C is for Chelsea Girls - This nearly four hour dual projected experimental film from Andy Warhol is a true must see for any self respecting cinephile. Granted, these self-respecting cinephiles need not actually like said film, but I do believe they should definitely see the damn thing. I actually am one of those self-respecting cinephiles who have both seen and liked this 1966 piece of that thing known as the cinema of endurance. I am also one of those lucky enough to see the film in it's natural form, projected on the big screen, on side-by-side 16mm projectors. It was at the Harrisburg Film Festival a few years back. At the beginning of the screening, I counted heads, and there were exactly 100 people sitting in that screening room. When I looked around 210 minutes later, there were 25 of us left in that room. So there!

D is for Drive-In - I would guess that many of today's ill-informed youth would not even know what a drive-in theatre is. Personally I grew up in one. The fam and I would head out to Haar's Drive-In at least once a month, sometimes twice, to check out the latest filmic fare. As a little one, I saw such wonders as Benji and Disney's Robin Hood and The Black Stallion. Later I would see things like The Black Hole and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The drive-in was sort of a magical place as a kid, and then as a teenager, it became a whole different kind of magical. Sure, the movies could never look as good at the drive-in as the would inside an actual cinema, and the attention needed to watch good film was not there at the drive-in, but the fun atmosphere was. A communal spot for all. A legendary thing throughout their existence from the 1932 to these waning days of modern yore. It's a shame that the upcoming generations will never know that magic. Later on in life, after my marriage to my lovely wife, Amy, the two of us would work at the aforementioned Haar's Drive-In of my childhood. Again, even just working there was kind of magical. I remember one night, while the South Park movie was playing, we went around and turned every speaker up as loud as they would go, and listened gleefully as the song "Uncle Fucker" blared across the night sky, and into the suburban neighbourhoods that surrounded the drive-in. Okay, maybe that was a different kind of magic. Oh, and if you haven't seen Peter Bogdanovich's Targets, or more specifically the ending of said film, then you should really check it out. You'll get the connection once you see it.

E is for Ed Wood - When Andre Bazin and the Cahiers du Cinema gang came up with and put forth the Auteur Theory, they mostly talked of the greats of cinema. People like Ford, and Nick Ray and Doug Sirk. They even spoke of the so-called B-directors like Wellman and Boetticher. One auteur you rarely here spoken of in such circles is Edward D. Wood, Jr., the director thought of to be the worst filmmaker in the history of cinema. But no matter how bad he was - and the guy was incredibly bad - he was indeed an auteur. He had a certain style, an author's signature if you will, no matter how sloppy that signature was written. And come on, ya gotta love watching things like Plan 9 From Outer Space and Glenn or Glenda. Classic films. Classic I say! Classic!! One thing is for sure. Ed Wood loved making movies. He was passionate about making movies. So what if he wasn't all that good at it. He loved doing it, and that is what matters. So there!

F is for Flux Capacitor - So far we've talked about the love of cinema, the classic days of Hollywood, childhood drive-in memories, and the best of the worst directors. Now let's get into the more pop cultury aspect of 1980's cinema. That's right kids, it's time for a little Back to the Future lovin'. As any good eighties kid knows, the Flux Capacitor is what makes time travel possible. The Delorian is just for kitschy show. It's Doc Brown's Flux Capacitor that allowed Marty to go back to 1955. It was the Flux Capacitor that allowed Marty to head back to the old west. And it was the Flux Capacitor that let Marty fly into the futuristic year of 2015. Wait, what? You mean next year we will have hover boards!? Fan-freakin-tastic!! Can't wait.

G is for Garbo - Movie history is filled with beautiful woman galore. It is also filled with great actresses galore. Sometimes these two types actually crossover. But ya know what? They all pale in comparison to the great Greta Garbo. Born Greta Gustafsson in Stockholm, Sweden in 1902, the legend who came to be known as Garbo, was what one would call one of a kind. I know that term can be quite overused, and quite cliche, but in the case of Garbo, it fits to the proverbial T. Garbo was drop dead gorgeous. Garbo was as talented as they come. Garbo was a strong-willed woman who took guff from no one. Garbo was... well, she was Garbo. From her silent days in films like Temptress and Flesh and the Devil to her hey day talking roles in the 1930's, in films like Anna Karenina, Queen Christina, and Grand Hotel (Garbo Talks!) to her oh so famous burst of laughter in Ninotchka (Garbo laughs!) to her retirement from Hollywood and her infamous reclusive later life, hiding from the public and press alike ("I vant to be left alone"), Garbo was, is, and always will be the greatest of all-time. To use another cliche'd overused term that is still quite right on the mark when discussing Garbo - she is a true icon.

H is for the Hollywood Sign - Erected in 1923 as an advertisement for a housing development, this iconic work of pop art has come to symbolize the movie industry, as well as to become one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world. Originally the sign read Hollywoodland, but the land was chopped down in the 1940's. But then sad times fell on the Hollywood sign. After years of neglect, it began to fall apart in the late sixties, and by the 1970's was a sad creature indeed. The H and first O were broken. The last O collapsed completely. It was a pathetic sight. But in 1978, help was on the way - in the form of Hugh Hefner. That's right, playboy Hef went on a campaign to restore the sign to it's former glory. And it worked. By the end of 1978, the Hollywood sign was brand spankin' new, and looking great. By the way, didjya know that each of the nine doners "owns" one of the letters. Gene Autry has the second L, while Andy Williams has the W. Hef put his name on the Y (there's a sex joke in there somewhere), and even Alice Cooper donated the last O, placing it in the name of Groucho Marx. So there ya go. Your history lesson on the Hollywood Sign is over. Hope ya liked it.

I is for Inigo Montoya - We all know the line, and we have all spoken it aloud, and in the voice of Mandy Patinkin's character. "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." Don't deny it. You know you've said this to people before, and you know you did it in full Spanish accent. The Princess Bride (along with Star Wars, Pulp Fiction, The Wizard of Oz, The Breakfast Club, and Dazed and Confused) is one of those films where I can pretty much recite from start to finish. There are tons of great lines throughout the film (most of them by Patinkin and Wallace Shawn) but this is the most fun one. Well, perhaps aside from "Inconceivable!"

J is for Judy Judy Judy - Even though it is a common enough thing to say when seeing Judy Garland, Judy Judy Judy (usually done in full Cary Grant mode) was never actually uttered in a motion picture. Legend claims it was impersonator Larry Storch, who while doing his act in a nightclub, saw Miss Garland enter and shouted out Judy Judy Judy, again, in full Cary Grant mode. As for Judy Judy Judy herself, this is someone who just has to be mentioned when talking about the greats of Hollywood. One of the most talented and most beautiful of all Hollywood stars, Judy Garland was a fantastic actress, and probably had THE greatest voice ever heard. I mean it. THE greatest voice. Oh, and in case you were wondering, I am straight, so this isn't just some cliche'd gay icon thing going on here (though I would put both Bette Midler and Cher up there as great voices too). This is genuine cinematic adoration. From The Wizard of Oz and her team-ups with Mickey Rooney to her turns in Meet Me in St. Louis and the great MGM musicals of the period to her collaboration and marriage to Vincente Minnelli to A Star is Born, the film that should have won her her Oscar, to her days in Vegas and nightclubs around the globe. Judy Judy Judy, indeed. Her life may have been a tragedy, but her legacy lives on in beautiful Technicolor. Oh, and that voice.

K is for Kubrick - Hands down, my favourite director. Hands freakin' down! Stanley Kubrick made thirteen feature films in his forty plus year career, and only one of them, Spartacus (the one he lost control of from the studio, not so incidentally) is less than remarkable. From Fear and Desire to Killer's Kiss to The Killing to Paths of Glory, Lolita, Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, and Eyes Wide Shut, as well as parts of A.I. before he died and Spielberg took over. Hell, even Spartacus (it's still better than many a typical studio epic of the time). Yeah, that is one brilliant fucking oeuvre!! And, I have been lucky enough to see all but three (Paths of Glory, Strangelove, and Barry Lyndon) up on the big screen. Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut when they first came out in theatres, Clockwork (thrice, even) and The Shining in beautiful 35mm prints, and the others projected digitally on the big screen. Now just three to go...and hopefully in 35mm, baby!

L is for L.A. Noir - There is film noir, then there is L.A. noir. What's the difference, you ask? Well, for one, L.A. noir tends to take place in and around L.A.. That was kind of a stupid question. Anyhoo, this sub-genre has always been a favourite inside a favourite genre. Films like Kiss Me Deadly and Double Indemnity, or in more modern neo noir terms, Chinatown and The Long Goodbye, or even more neo, howzabout Lynch's masterpiece, Mulholland Dr.. There's just something about Los Angeles that has always fascinated me. Sure, modern day L.A. is a bit silly, but the L.A. of old, is quite intriguing. Old Hollywood, secret societies, wheat germ killers (a quick Woody Allen reference for ya), bizarre tales of the unknown, and stuff like that. Just a potpourri of interesting (and sometimes dangerous) things. And the scandals!! From Fatty Arbuckle to the Black Dahlia. From Hearst's yacht to Natalie Wood overboard. From the vampires of the Hollywood Hills to the Bling Ring of a few years ago. What, you didn't know about the vampires of L.A.? Shame on you. But, as I was saying, the history (sometimes dark) of L.A. and Hollywood has always fascinated me, and that fascination comes to vivid life in teh sub-genre of L.A. Noir.

M is for Midtown Cinema - Once upon a time (Nov. 26, 2001 to be exact) a man named Allen Brown opened up a little three screen arthouse cinema in my city of Harrisburg, Pa. Mr. Brown had already run a one screen cinema a few miles away, but was enticed into the city by our then mayor, Stephen Reed. And what a boon it became. Finally, there was a place in Harrisburg that played foreign films and small indies and documentaries and such. I was there on opening night, and even became the unofficial archivist for the place. Some great films that would otherwise never had gotten to my neck of the woods, were now playing at Midtown Cinema. Eventually, Harrisburg being the place it was, Al was forced to sell. The damn Plebeians of Central Pa!! But, the new owners kept it the same format and it went on living. About a year after that, my wife and I came aboard to run the place, and did so for nearly five years. It was a fun job, until the owner's friend decided she wanted to run the place, and the missus and I were pushed out. It ends up that the company we were working for, was not the nice gang of folks we had thought, and were actually very bad people. The stories I could tell of how we were mistreated, could fill a very fat tell-all book. Anyway, that was about a year ago, and we have not been back since. Which is a shame, because up until that time, (before I worked there and during) the place was like a home away from home. I saw most of the films that played there, and had some great times throughout the years. After hours movies on the big screen, I could watch any of my DVD's or Blurays there. It was a great blast screening films for all our regulars. Too bad it is over because of the bad policies and blatant nepotism of the owners of the cinema. I really really miss the place...and the people who came in. Even a year later, I still feel like my world was ripped out from under me. The place was so ingrained in my social life - much like the salons of yore. Still though, there were some great times (before the evil entities took ahold), and great memories to hold onto. It was a great place back in the day. I guess I will have to live with that.

N is for the New York Film Festival - Ever since I started writing on film (I've done it all my life, but 2003 is was when I began taking it seriously as a vocation) I would travel the two-and-a-half hours to NYC to see films not playing in my hometown. Yeah, even with the aforementioned Midtown Cinema, there were still a lot of films that never came to town. So I would head north to the Big Apple (sometimes by car, sometimes by train) and spend the day going from Film Forum to the IFC Center to Lincoln Plaza Cinemas to The Angelika to Cinema Village to MOMA to wherever, to catch these films. in 2004 I began attending the New York Film Festival (some pretty fucking spectacular films have played there - and I even got to see Liv Ulmann one year), and then in 2007, I managed to get press credentials to attend, and I was set. I would attend the press screenings each and every year from 2007 through 2012. I did not attend last year, nor will I this year, but hopefully come 2015, I will be back on track and ready to head back up for whatever great films they have that year.

O is for Maureen O'Hara - My second favourite Hollywood redhead. Rita Hayworth will always be number one - even if she wasn't a real ginger. Maureen O'Hara first entered my cinematic world as a kid, when I saw The Quiet Man on TV. It was on a tiny black and white TV so the true splendor of John Ford's film (as well as Miss O'Hara's flowing red mane) was not known at the time, but I still loved the film so. The Quiet Man is probably a weird movie for a kid to like so much, but then I was a rather weird kid, so... Anyway, as for Maureen O'Hara, she of course, was in many more films that I would see throughout my life (How Green Was My Valley, The Black Swan, Miracle on 34th Street, Rio Grande) but it will always be The Quiet Man that I love the most - as did O'Hara, claiming it as her all-time favourite of all the films she had made. I was lucky enough to watch the film, projected onto the big screen, via a gorgeous Bluray edition, before hours at the cinema I spoke of a few clicks back. Now seeing it up on the big screen, and in glorious colour, it was beyond amazing, as was the larger than life Maureen O'Hara.

P is for Princess Leia - So, as any red-blooded American boy my age (I was 10 when Star Wars came out, 13 for Empire and 26 when she donned the gold bikini and became Jabba's temporary slave girl) can tell you - Princess Leia was kinda the be all and end all of space babes. One of my earliest schoolboy crushes (I actually prefer her in Empire, perhaps because that was when she first hooked up with my boy, Han Solo) this gal was no one's trembling royal brat. She could kick ass with the best of 'em. Sure, she cried when Alderaan died, but really, who wouldn't. Otherwise she stood her ground and took no guff - not even from Vader. Hell, she didn't even seem to have any of the daddy issues that that little bitch Luke did. She wasn't even afraid of Chewie (the seven foot tall "walking carpet"), and the two actually would become great friends. After the films, the character got even more kick-ass as a full-fledged Jedi Knight. So there ya have it, one of my first crushes was on a kick-ass space princess in a galaxy far far away.

Q is for Quest For Fire - A French film about prehistoric man and his struggle to tame fire, with dialogue created by the guy who wrote A Clockwork Orange. What's not to love? Yeah, apparently Anthony Burgess created a language for the Neanderthals to speak. Most of the film involves grunting and the like, but what language there is, was invented by Burgess. This is actually quite a gorgeous film. It hasn't been seen by all that many people (at least I don't know many who have seen it - at least not many in this country, as it was a hit in it's home country, winning Best Picture and Best Director) and is one of those so-called forgotten films (again, at least in this country), but is definitely one you should seek out and check out. There's a nice bluray out there right now. So there. Go watch this film. Don't let it be forgotten.

R is for The Red Shoes - As anyone who knows me can attest to, The Red Shoes is my all-time favourite film. All freakin' time! Made in 1948 by the team of Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, this was the sixth consecutive masterpiece by the team known as The Archers. That's right, six of 'em. And I am not one to use the term masterpiece all willy nilly, so when I say this was the duo's sixth consecutive masterpiece, I mean it, dammit!! I'm pretty sure that's a record that has only ever been matched by one Mr. Stanley Kubrick. But we already talked about that guy. Let's talk about The Red Shoes. Martin Scorsese calls it the greatest colour film ever made (second on his all-time list only to the black and white Paisan). That's gotta say something, right? But seriously, I do love this film, Scorsese-endorsed or not. I first saw it sometime in 2004. Yeah, I came late to the whole Powell/Pressburger thing. I would watch it a few more times on TV before getting the opportunity to see it on 35mm at Film Forum in New York. Now that was a great experience. When they opened the doors, me and the sold out crowd rushed into the theatre, just as they did in the opening of The Red Shoes. Great fun indeed. I later would watch the film on gorgeous bluray after hours at the cinema of which I spoke of back at the letter M, and then again in my friend's amazing home theatre. Have I mentioned that I love love love The Red Shoes? I did? Good. Let's move on.

S is for Spaghetti Western - As I spoke of the sub-genre of L.A. Noir back a bit, I again bring up the subject of a sub-genre. Growing out of the Revisionist Western of the 1950's (yeah, yet another sub-genre), the Spaghetti Western of the 1960's and 1970's was named so because they were made in Italy. The reason behind this was that it was cheaper to make them there. Simple as that. Also, because they were not being made in Hollywood, which still had parts of the old Production Code hanging around in the early sixties (but not for long), it could be more violent than Westerns were at the time. Most claim that the sub-genre began in 1958 with Raoul Walsh's The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw, but that was made in Spain, so it's more of a precursor. The following year, a comedy-western called The Sheriff, was made in Italy. This probably started it all. The real start of the Spaghetti Western though (at least the first to become super successful, was in 1964, with the release of Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars, a remake of Kurosawa's Yojimbo. It was also the film that gave Clint Eastwood his first big screen break. After this, films such as Django, Death Rides A Horse, The Great SilenceThe Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, and Once Upon A Time in the West, would come to define the sub-genre. And the music by Ennio Morricone!! Granted, by the time Leone made Duck, You Sucker! in 1973, the Spaghetti Western era was pretty much over. But then, thanks to Quentin Tarantino, the Spaghetti Western will never truly die.

T is for Technicolor - Some say it's antiquated, but I still stand by the fact that movies made in Technicolor are better looking movies than those made in other forms of colour technology. So there! Invented waaay back in 1916 (yeah, 1916), Technicolor has been used to make such films as The Wizard of Oz, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Singin' in the Rain, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Leave Her to Heaven, and my aforementioned favourite film of all-time, The Red Shoes. It was even used in portions of otherwise mostly black and white films from the silent era. Films like The Phantom of the Opera and The Black Pirate. So basically, what I am trying to say here is, movies made in Technicolor are just better than those not. End of story. Well, it's not really the end. I mean, this is only the letter T. We still have U through Zed to go. Yeah, that's right. I said Zed. Okay, maybe I'm getting a bit off topic. Let's just move on, shall we?

U is for Universal Horror - Horror is horror, but Universal Horror is something else. The studio became famous in the 1920's (and stayed so until the 1950's) for a slew of now classic horror films, such as The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Phantom of the Opera, Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Invisible ManThe Wolf Man, Son of Dracula, Son of Frankenstein, and The Creature From the Black Lagoon. Many of these characters would come to be the veritable face of the studio. And some even became Pez dispensers, but that's another story for a more Pez-themed post. These films also made stars out of Lon Chaney (Sr. and Jr.), Bela Lugosi, and the greatest of them all, Boris Karloff. Granted, many of these Universal Horror films were rather generic, but some of them were quite god, and quite groundbreaking. Inspired by the German Impressionism movement sweeping Europe in the 1920's, and even involving several of the most important figures in that movement (once they became ex-pats and moved to Hollywood), several of these films (most notably The Mummy and the Frankenstein films) could be seen as extensions of the German film movement. Then along came Hammer Horror and Dario Argento, and things changed.

V is for The Vamp - An offshoot of the classic Femme Fatale was the Vamp, or Vampire. An exotic and dangerous woman who was so alluring that she would lead any man to his demise. Or something like that. Anyway, the first Vamp was Theda Bara. The Cincinnati born Theodosia Goodman would be transformed by the studio into the ever-so-exotic Theda Bara. Press agents gave the story of how she was born in the Sahara, child of an Arab Sheik and a French woman. Later this was changed to a French actress and an Italia sculptor. The name is actually an anagram of Arab Death. Howzabout that!? THere would be vamps after Theda. Women such as Louise Brooks and Greta Garbo were vampish, but Theda Bara was the real thing. Well okay, she was far from the real thing, but she was the still the quintessential Hollywood vamp.

W is for Wooderson - That's right kids. David Wooderson from Dazed and Confused. Alright, alright, alright. As I stated back at letter I, Dazed and Confused is one of the films I can pretty much recite from beginning to end. Hell, the opening salvo by Aerosmith is already running through my head as I write this. Made in 1993, but set in 1976, this Richard Linklater film, this high school, coming-of-age film (after Rebel Without A Cause, my favourite high school movie) has been a pivotal part of my so-called growing up. Yeah I know, I was already 26 when the damn film came out, but still, I can always imagine myself inside the film. Set just a few years before I would have become a high school freshman (1981 as opposed to '76) I really can relate to the antics in the film. And there's also that other thing. The film is freakin' awesome!! No seriously, the film is legit great. Influenced by Godard, Kubrick, and (especially) Scorsese, Linklater has some amazing shots in the film. And the music! The scene where Pink, Mitch, and Wooderson enter the pool hall to the sounds of Dylan's Hurricane, is just pure freakin' magic. Hey, but even with all the great shots, and all the great music choices (seriously, how did the then-still struggling director afford such a soundtrack!?), and all the great characters, it is Wooderson, the creepy older guy who still hangs out with high schoolers, played by a very unknown Matthew McConaughey (it was the future Oscar winner's screen debut, after all), that made the film oh so much more. "That's what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older and they stay the same age." Alright, alright, alright.

X is for the X-Rated Movie - Yeah kids. It's time to get down and get dirty. Alright, alright, alri...oh, never mind. Actually, the X rating did not always have the stigma it has today. Back in 1968, after the collapse of the old Production Code, or the Hays Code as it was also known, the MPAA put a ratings system into effect. The original four ratings were G, M, R, & X. The M would later change to PG (after a brief stop at GP). But the X rating was simply a rating for films that one had to be 18 to see. Early x-rated films included Midnight Cowboy (the only x-rated film to win the Best Picture Oscar), A Clockwork Orange (the only other x-rated film to be nominated for Best Picture), Last Tango in Paris, and the animated film, Fritz the Cat. All adult-oriented films, but certainly nothing pornographic. But then it happened. Sometime in the 1970's (of course) the porn industry started calling their films x-rated, or ofttimes, triple X. Eventually this idea stuck, and no legitimate film (nor their studios) wanted the label of x to be anywhere near them. Damn porn industry! Anyway, in 1990, the X was replaced with an NC-17. Henry & June would be the first film to receive this fresh new rating. It was meant to stop the stigma of the X, but eventually the NC-17 would build a fresh new stigma all its own. But these days, only the truly prudish worry about such things. And moving on...

Y is for Yasujiro Ozu - Beginning in the silent cinema of Japan and going until the early 1960's, Japanese master filmmaker, Yasujiro Ozu, is considered by many to be the greatest Japanese director of all-time. I would place the guy second to Kurosawa, but that's just me. Ozu was definitely the most Japanese of the world famous Japanese directors of the day, as Kurosawa was definitely Western influenced (and Western influencing). Ozu though, was pure Japanese. Most of his films, after a more eclectic start to his career, are stories of the family unit in modern day Japan. Quiet and unassuming (as opposed to the more visceral Kurosawa) Ozu's films have a certain beauty to them that is hard to categorize, other than in the rather silly way of saying just how Japanese they are. Mainly shooting from a foot or so below where most filmmakers shoot from, this gave his films the perspective of both a child (many of his films revolved around children) and of someone sitting on the floor (an obvious take on the Japanese tradition of sitting on the floor as opposed to that silly furniture of the West. His most famous work, 1953's Tokyo Story (actually a retelling of Leo McCarey's 1937 film, Make Way For Tomorrow), is considered by many to be one of the finest films ever made. Who am I to argue with that?

Z is for Zoetrope - The Zoetrope is a pre-cinema animation device that produces the illusion of motion by displaying a sequence of drawings or photos that are spun around a viewing device. When you look through the holes as it spins, it looks as if the images are actually moving. It was a quite spectacular thing back in the mid 1800's, and is considered one of the major influences that would eventually bring about that thing called cinema. The term comes from the greek words for life (zoe) and turning (tropos). This fancy machine was influenced by the Magic Lantern that preceded it by about a century, and was so influential on cinema itself, that Francis Ford Coppola, a noted cinephile, even by insider standards, named his production company Zoetrope.

So there ya have it. The inaugural edition of The Alphabet Game. It is only appropriate that I begin this series with my first love - cinema. In less than a month, The Alphabet Game will return, and with a more comic book tone to it's twenty-six entries. That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.


  1. Wow. Gonna need to come back and finish this one. Great so far.

  2. Yeah, I really rambled on in this post. Even by my over-rambling standards. Hopefully it won't be too much of a time-consumer.

  3. I did the A to Z challenge and that was pretty darn hard!!! You've done it all in one blog post. I'm tired just imagining how tough it must have been to come up with something for each letter.

  4. Thanx. It was fun. I plan on doing one a month.

  5. OK am back after 2 days (work and my birthday:)-had to get that in-actually it's tomorrow but hey).thoroughly enjoyed this read. Now I will remark-also lengthy on each 1. Miss them both. 2-they are great and sexy throughout different from Tracy and Hepburn-my favs. 3.-Never seen it-now have to one day. 4. Saw Benji too that year and Tidal Wave-we still have a drive in near by. 5-Ed Wood is great-horrible but great & one of the 1st to openly talk about cross dressing. 6.-I always felt that name belonged in a porn film. 7. Poor Gilbert and she likes trolls-hid them under her couch & would move them around-I'm serious 8. Poor Peg Entwhistle and glad it was restored. 9. Each time he said that I wanted to jump his bones 10.Best voice ever-have her cd's. seen her old TV shows-heartbreaking to see her in one special sing her signature song. 11. Kubrick-brilliant-Paths of Glory and The Shining are my favs 12.Seedy underbelly who did kill William Desmond Taylor? 13. Sorry to hear about that-people and their F's up insecurities and power raging. 14. Never been to TIFF but I remember when it was called festival of festivals-one year I will go. 15. She is all woman and a great lady 16. every boys wet dream with that non outfit she wore 17.Seen it-Ron Perlman was in that I believe-I thought it was a great movie 18. I saw this when I was a kid-I wanted to dance like Moira and the colour-Wowzers! I love the directing team. 19. The change of the Western and Ennio is up there with the greats in music. 20. Still my favourite for colour. 21. Love the old horror movies and must give it to the Germans and their expressionist style. 22. Theda-poor Theda-wish more than 1 film survived. 23. Never seen it but heard of it. One the bucket list. 24. Not a fan of Midnight Cowboy and who hasn't seen a porn film-love some of the titles. 25. he is considered 2nd to Kurosawa and it's all apple and oranges. 26. Thinking of the rider on a horse-that was from that right?. That's my response to your A to Zed(yahoo Canada)

  6. B - Thanx for taking the time to respond to everything. Oh, and happy birthday and all that jazz.

    As for William Desmond Taylor..."On 21 October 1964, while living in the Hollywood hills under the name Pat Lewis, former actress Margaret Gibson suffered a heart attack. As a recently converted Roman Catholic, before dying she confessed that she "shot and killed William Desmond Taylor." Whether it's true or not...

    See ya 'round the web.

  7. Great post! Your passion for the cinema has always been one of your most endearing qualities. Keep on livin. L-I-V-I-N.