zerode – a sensibility


film, music, text, city, spectacle, pleasure

On TCM October 26-November 1: Horror and Suspense for Halloween, plus 2 each from Chaplin, Garbo, and Tod Browning


Monday, October 26

Monday morning—early, early morning—starts out with a run of silents, including two of Chaplin’s best:

3am (PST) The Kid (1921)—Charlie Chaplin, with Jackie Coogan

4am (PST) Oliver Twist (1922)—another with Jackie Coogan, and more importantly Lon Chaney. Haven’t seen this version before.

6:45am (PST) The Gold Rush (1925)—Charlie Chaplin

After the sun comes up, the run of good movies continues at 10:15am (PST) with  The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)—directed by John Huston, with Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, Tim Holt. Holt’s not much remembered these days, but he appeared in a lot of movies in the 1930s and 1940s, principally Westerns, including some of best—like StagecoachJohn Wayne’s breakthrough film, and the magnificent My Darling Clementine (dir. John Ford). Stanley Kubrick cited Sierra Madre as his fourth favorite film. It comes at the end of the glory years of Bogart’s filmography, beginning in 1941 with The Maltese Falcon.


In the afternoon comes a great and important Western Ride the High Country (1962)—directed by Sam Peckinpah, with Randolph Scott, Joel McCrea, Mariette Hartley, at 3:15pm (PST). Like Tim Holt, Randolph Scott isn’t a name that’s much remembered these days—though his face will be instantly recognizable by anyone who watches old movies. And he is certainly known by anyone with an interest in the Western, in which genre he is one of the truly great stars. Ride the High Country was his last film, and it is one of his finest, as well as being the first great Western by Peckinpah, who would go on to direct The Wild Bunch.

At 5pm (PST) I may try to catch another of David Niven films, Please Don’t Eat the Daisies (1960), also starring Doris Day. I remember loving this movie as a little kid. And, while I know opinions on this vary, I find Doris Day a treat to watch.

At 1:30am (PST), there’s a fun and funny spoof of Agatha Christie-style mysteries written by Neil Simon, Murder By Death (1976)—with Peter Falk, Truman Capote, Alec Guinness, Elsa Lanchester, and Maggie Smith.

Tuesday, October 27

1:15pm (PST) The Third Man (1949)—directed by Carol Reed, with Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Orson Welles

On Tuesday night, the “TCM Spotlight” is on “Trailblazing Women”—and it includes some real classics, and a surprise to begin with:

5pm (PST) Gigi (1948)—directed by Jacqueline Audry, with Daniele Delorme, Gaby Morlay, Philippe Noiret. The original film version of Colette’s novel is not a musical, but a droll and amusing (if talky and uncinematic) comedy of manners. Delorme, who starred in two more films based on Colette stories, is delightful as Gigi, the girl trained to be a courtesan by her aunt and grandmother in fin de siecle Paris.

6:30pm (PST) Cleo From 5 to 7 (1962)—directed by Agnès Varda

10:15pm (PST) Love and Anarchy (1973)—directed by Lina Wertmuller, with Giancarlo Giannini, Mariangela Melato. A love story between a prostitute and an anarchist.

12:15am (PST) Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975)—directed by Chantal Akerman


Wednesday, October 28

6:30am (PST) Grand Hotel (1932)—with Greta Garbo, John Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Wallace Berry. “I want to be alone.”

11:30am (PST) The Great Race (1965)—directed by Blake Edwards, with Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Natalie Wood, Peter Falk, and many more. Edward’s cartoonish tribute to slapstick silent cinema. Curtis and Lemmon are competing daredevil’s who try to win a race from New York to Paris

Wednesday evening features “Treasures from the Disney Vault.” Well, they say treasures… Still it’s a chance to see a few Disney shorts and features, such as Escape to Witch Mountain (1975), that are not frequently shown.

Tod Browning Freaks lobbycard

Thursday, October 29

In the run up to Halloween, TCM is featuring a day of horror and suspense on Thursday, including a few that are really worth seeing.

4:45am (PST) Freaks (1932)—a murder plot and love triangle set amongst a group of circus freaks, directed by Tod Browning. Browning directed a number of silents with Lon Chaney, as well as the classic 1931 Dracula with Bela Lugosi, but Freaks is probably the film most closely associated with his name, and with good reason. It’s highly unusual, and also deeply disturbing—so much so that it was banned in England for three decades.

7:45am (PST) House on Haunted Hill (1958)—directed by William Castle, with Vincent Price, Carol Ohmart, Richard Long. The original haunted house movie. Millionaire Price offers group of people $10,000 each if they’ll spend a night in spooky old mansion with murder-laden history; he even provides loaded guns as party favors. Campy fun; probably the Castle film which holds up best on TV. Originally presented theatrically with flying skeleton gimmick “Emergo.”

10:45am (PST) Suspicion (1941)—directed by Alfred Hitchcock, with Cary Grant, Joan Fontaine, Sir Cedric Hardwicke.


Friday, October 30

“The Count is back, with an eye for London’s hotpants…”

It’s all horror, all day on Friday. None of the real classics or greats, but still some good stuff. It starts with a run of 7 Hammer films, beginning with two of their best and ending with one that’s a fun romp.

5:15am (PST) The Mummy (1959, directed by Terence Fisher, with Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Yvonne Furneaux.

6:45am (PST) Dracula – Prince of Darkness (1966)—directed by Terence Fisher, with Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Andrew Keir.

3:15pm (PST) Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972)—also known as Dracula Chelsea ’72, with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Swinging London—with vampires!

After the Hammer films, there are a couple of other films of particular interest.

5pm (PST), the  Cat People (1942)—directed by Jacques Tourneur, with Simone Simon, Tom Conway, Jane Randolph.

11:45pm (PST) The Body Snatcher (1945)—with Boris Karloff AND Bela Lugosi.

Saturday, October 31

On Halloween, another full day of horror, including a few “Creature Features” type fun but somewhat schlocky films, and one under-appreciated classic.

8:15am (PST) The Fearless Vampire Killers; or, Pardon Me but Your Teeth Are in My Neck, 1967, directed by Roman Polanski. A bumbling professor tracks vampires in the wilds of Eastern Europe. Polanski himself plays the professor’s assistant, and Sharon Tate appears as the innkeeper’s daughter. Actually, a very good film, that is of course overshadowed by the whole Manson thing.

12:00pm (PST) The Tingler (1959)—directed by William Castle, with Vincent Price. Preposterous but original shocker: coroner Price discovers that fear causes a creepy-crawly creature to materialize on people’s spines; it can be subdued only by screaming. This is the infamous picture that got moviegoers into the spirit with vibrating gizmos under selected theater seats!–a gimmick director/producer Castle billed as “Percepto.” Also noteworthy as likely the earliest film depicting an LSD trip. One critical sequence is in color.

1:30pm (PST) House of Wax (1953)—directed by Andre DeToth, with Vincent Price, Frank Lovejoy, Phyllis Kirk.

Curse of the Demon lobby card

7pm (PST) Curse of the Demon (1957)—directed by Jacques Tourneur, with Dana Andrews, Peggy Cummins, Niall MacGinnis. An anthropologist investigates a devil worshipper who commands a deadly demon.

The best for last. At 10:30pm (PST), TCM is showing the strangely under-appreciated Mark of the Vampire (1935)—director Tod Browning’s remake of his silent, London After Midnight. Vampires terrorize a European village in this beautiful, striking film. Lionel Barrymore plays the Van Helsing role as Inspector Atwill, vampire expert.

Sunday, November 1

So… With Halloween out of the way, how long until the Christmas movies start? Of course, the next big holiday is Thanksgiving, but there just aren’t that many Thanksgiving films. There are a few, like Home for the Holidays, and Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. And… Pocahontas? But there are no holiday films of any kind showing today.

3am (PST) Camille (1937)—directed by George Cukor, with Greta Garbo, Robert Taylor, Lionel Barrymore.

5am (PST) Tortilla Flat (1942) directed by Victor Fleming, with Spencer Tracy, Hedy Lamarr, John Garfield. Spencer Tracy, Hedy Lamarr, John Garfield, Frank Morgan, Akim Tamiroff, Sheldon Leonard, Donald Meek, John Qualen, Allen Jenkins. Steinbeck’s salty novel of California fishing community vividly portrayed by three top stars, stolen by Morgan as devoted dog lover.

3pm (PST) Time After Time (1979)—directed by Nicholas Meyer, with Malcolm McDowell, David Warner, Mary Steenburgen. When Jack the Ripper steals his time machine, author H.G. Wells travels to modern-day San Francisco to track him down.

Sunday evening is a Dostoevsky double bill, starting with Crime and Punishment (1935) at 5pm—a Hollywood version of the Russian novel, directed by Josef von Sternberg, with Peter Lorre as Raskolnikov and Edward Arnold as Inspector Porfiry. Lorre seems plausible as the tormented killer, but much as I love Arnold, and consider him to be one of the great character actors of American cinema, he doesn’t seem a plausible choice for the inspector. I had no idea this film existed. Comments I’ve seen don’t lead me to expect much, but it could be interesting.

11pm (PST) I Vitelloni (1953)—directed by Federico Fellini, with Alberto Sordi, Franco Interlenghi, Franco Fabrizi.

Lina Wertmuller - Love and Anarchy

Pick of the Week

The chance to see that run of Hammer films is really welcome, and I’m particularly looking forward to Dracula Chelsea ’72. But a week that includes The Kid, The Third Man, Love & Anarchy, Ride the High Country and Grand Hotel presents an impossible dilemma when it comes to picking just one film as the highlight of the week. That said, I think it has to be Love & Anarchy, which is shown much less frequently than the others and is also less likely to be available on DVD at your local library or video store.

For more…

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SF Films: Freebie and the Bean (1974)


Viewing Notes

An early buddy cop movie. And very explicitly so, as the poster makes clear: “above all, it’s a love story” between the two feuding, fighting partners. I’m not sure the whole buddy cop dynamic has ever be spelled out as explicitly and up front.

All the elements are here—the feuding, the style and ethnic/racial differences, the insecurities addressed in their dynamic, the tender final moment… and if you want to talk about a sexual or homoerotic component, you don’t have far to look. The pair spend a lot of times in toilets; there’s a scene with a young gay guy taking a bath; concerns about Bean’s wife having an affair form a major subplot; and so on.

Given how strongly all the key elements of the buddy cop film are present, and its year of release, a case could be made for Freebie and the Bean as the very first in the genre. In an interview in Spectacular Optical, Richard Rush, who directed and developed the original treatment, certainly makes this claim and I think it’s spot on:

a movie  that dealt with two cops, one moral and one not, who rode around together in a police car and quarreled with each other like an old married couple. It was a good idea. It was a new one, never done before, regardless of how many times you have seen it since, through the franchises it has spawned. It started the genre of ‘The Buddy Cop Picture’.

Source: CUNNING STUNTS: A Q&A with Richard Rush « Spectacular Optical

It’s weird watching old cop movies like this: the casual brutality against a nobody crook is striking enough, but using the threat of sexual assault to get someone to squeal is really shocking. Things like this still happen in movies, but they need much more context and justification—here, it’s basically just part of the schtick, the style and wacky interplay of Freebie and the Bean. Likewise, Freebie’s persistent racially-themed needling of Bean (Alan Arkin) who’s Mexican-American (though not particularly believably).

One of the treats—for me, anyway—of watching older movies set in San Francisco is simply the street scenes. Seeing old joints like Omar Khayyam’s, the Sutter Cinema (an ‘adult’ theatre near Union Square) or even the demolished bits of the Central Freeway and Embarcadero Freeway… though for some reason a surprising amount of it seems to have been shot in and around the Transamerica Pyramid—including the final crash, even though it is supposed to be an ambulance driving to a hospital from the ‘Stick.

1974 Freebie and The Bean Alan Arkin James Caan Chuck Bail

The chases—car, motorcycle, and foot—and attendant crashes are worthy of The Blues Brothers—with the one where their car ends up in a 3rd floor apartment being particular memorable. I was surprised to see a car crash that looks to have been actually staged in the Broadway Tunnel. There’s a crash involving a truckload of live chickens. The easy excuse for all the crashes is that Freebie (James Caan) is both a reckless and bad driver. The chase in and around the Gateway Plaza / Embarcadero Center area is a whopper, ending with a fight in a kitchen that covers Bean and the bad guy in a huge pot of marinara sauce.

The screenplay is by Robert Kaufman—not a name to conjure with, and his later credits include The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington, but he started out as a writer on The Bob Newhart Show and his comedic and dialogue skills are in fine form in Freebie.

Loretta Swit, who played Hot Lips on TV’s M*A*S*H, and Valerie Harper, best know as Rhoda from The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rhoda, have minor roles.

“I gotta have a taco.”

For more…

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The Unbreakable Furiosa – YouTube

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Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat

Chritstmas Tree

I’m dreaming of a media Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know
Where the music glows
and the  TV shows
holiday classics all day long…

And to help you find music and movies for the holidays, I’ve knocked together a few quick guides (which are listed to the right as well):

Christmas Shows and Movies on TV—When to Watch

Christmas Movies and TV on Amazon

Christmas Music on Amazon

(The two “Amazon” lists use affiliate links; any money generated will be donated to the less fortunate.)

I know I’ve left out some of your favorites.  Let me know in comments and I will add them as I am able.

Also, keep an eye out for two more lists: one on holiday reading; and A Pirate Christmas—with links to (ahem) alternative sources for many of the titles I feature in the other lists.

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Hardcore porn on Netflix, Amazon Prime – Caligula, Last Tango in Paris and 9 Songs [sfw]

Shared without comment for your… edification?

Hardcore porn on Netflix Streaming

Lets be honest. Youve never heard of most of the movies available to stream on-demand through Netflix. Many are ranked by users between the one and two star range. But, where these films lack in such things as say, plot, they often makeup for their cinematic shortcomings with explicit nudity. The below list of streaming Netflix films containing hardcore sex was compiled in part from titles cross listed on under the category, “real explicit sex.” While I have seen many of these titles, for the others Ive had to take faith in the fact that Mr. Skin categorized these films alongside the hardcore sex tapes of Kim Kardashian, Kendra Wilkinson, Montana Fishburne, and Tila Tequila. (via Daily Loaf.)

Okay, I lied. Commenting now. The movies cited include 9 1/2 Weeks, 9 Songs, Caligula, Inside Deep Throat and Last Tango in Paris, at least some of which you’ve probably heard. And they are not just available through Netflix. You can also watch many of the films on demand through Amazon Prime.

Of those, 9 Songs (2004) is the most recent and possibly the most interesting, at least at this point.

Caligula (1979) was fun when it came out because it was sort of the Claytons of dirty movies: the porn you’re having when you’re not having porn. Lots of sex, but a gloss of culture (which was maybe just the gloss of money) that made it seem somehow less disreputable, lent to it in large part by a cast that included Helen Mirren, Peter O’Toole, and Malcolm McDowell. Plus history and costumes, which always lend a bit of gravitas. (Witness Downton Abbey.)

And both Last Tango in Paris and 9 1/2 Weeks were more or less sensations when they came out—because they were what Caligula only pretended to be: serious movies (or attempts) that nonetheless featured what was supposed to be serious sex.  But looking back at those two now that the sensation has faded, it’s clear they weren’t very good movies, and the sex wasn’t all that great either. I think they’re almost unwatchable, whereas Caligula at least has the virtue of being campy and silly, cheesy, and that has a certain pleasure to it, whereas the seriousness of the other two now just seems dreadfully pretentious.

9 Songs is also trying to be a serious movie with serious sex in it.  But—and this is a big difference—the sex is pretty good.

Though we might need to think about what constitutes “pretty good sex” in this context. Genuine hardcore porn is very focused stuff, in more ways than one. The camera angles, depth of field, lighting, even the cutting are all directed at maximizing scopophilia and sexual arousal. And you’re never in any doubt about what is going where at any given time (though in group scenes you may occasionally loose track of exactly whose whats are involved). And you’re never in doubt about when the action has reached its… climax. It is designed to have a direct appeal to our nether regions, and I find that directness appealing in its own way.

The sex in 9 Songs is not that. It is not hardcore sex, whatever the Daily Loaf might think. It’s sex. Sex as you (hopefully) know it, assuming you haven’t been utterly conditioned by porn. It’s a little vaguer. The people are focused, internally and on each other, but the scene, the details are more blurry. It’s not brightly light and in sharply focused close-up. And the camera spends much less time in what I think of as gynecological intensity mode. It is real sex, both in the sense that the actors are genuinely doing the things they seem to be doing on the screen, and in the sense that it is sex as people outside of movies (in Western society) often/generally experience and enact it. At least when they are that age.

Here’s what Roger Ebert had to say about the sex in his fairly positive and very smart review:

The sex scenes betray the phoniness of commercial pornography; when the Adult Film Awards give a prize for Best Acting, they’re ridiculed, but after seeing this film you’ll have to admit the hard-core performers are acting, all right; “9 Songs” observes the way real people play and touch and try things out, and make little comments and have surprised reactions.

What Mark Kermode found most interesting about the film was that director Michael Winterbottom had made “the least titillating, most explicit movie around.” He found the movie irritating, but still appreciated what Winterbottom was doing with the sex. But he hated the people.

As for it being a serious movie, a movie that is serious about being a movie and actually tries to think through what that means… Well, it was made by Michael Winterbottom who I find to be one of the more interesting directors currently making movies. His movies aren’t always good, but they are always interesting, even if on no other level than as attempts to interrogate productively what it means to be a popular film, and how popular films might be other than they are, or tend to be (i.e., everything from Transformers: The Dark of the Moon to The Master). His filmography includes Welcome to Sarajevo, Wonderland, 24 Hour Party People, and A Cock and Bull Story. He’s an intelligent and interested filmmaker, interested in what it means to make films, who thinks about what popular narrative cinema is and might be, and about how to push against the medium and its structures and expectations in (hopefully) productive and engaging ways.

9 Songs doesn’t always work. Both the narrative and the characters feel a bit too sketchy, and that’s pretty fatal. Kermode’s irritation with, even hatred of, the two main characters is not, sadly, a wildly idiosyncratic response. But I think it gets an A for effort, or at least a B, for giving us such good sex—that is, such real sex—in something approaching a mainstream English-language film, and doing that within a film that tries to play productively with both the visual and narrative qualities of mainstream film. (It also has a very good soundtrack.) It’s not an art film, and it’s not pornography. It’s something kind of new.  Possibly the beginning of something.

For more…

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Clint Eastwood’s Comedic Timing

I’m not best pleased that one of America’s greatest filmmakers, Clint Eastwood, has chosen to throw in his lot very publically with America’s worst political party, and at what is possibly the lowest, most appalingly stupid time in its history.  In fact, Eastwood’s appearance at the RNC convention is likely to be the only highly-praised Eastwood performance I never see.

But I am kind of fascinated, from a geek/interwebz observer perspective, with the publicity/search engine optimization going on around it. Do a Google search on “clint eastwood comedic timing” and you get a full page of entries all with exactly the same heading:

Republicans Praise Clint Eastwood’s Speech: ‘His Comedic Timing 

I thought all the dot commies and Google code monkeys were on our side, but there are clearly some effective, interwebs-savvy publicists working for the RNC.

Anyway, there’s no way his performance at the RNC could match his gifted timing in such classics as Kelly’s Heroes or Paint Your Wagon

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Great Films—Seven Samurai, Notorious, The Ruling Class—on Hulu

Some of my favorite movies are available online, in high quality, for free (with limited ads) on Hulu right now.  I suspect these movies will only be temporarily available, as part of ongoing efforts to lure people in to Hulu Plus, so take advantage of them while they last:

The Seven Samurai (1954). What needs to be said of this movie? One of the greatest films ever made. Directed by Akira Kurosawa and starring a young Toshiro Mifune and the charming studio stalwart Takashi Shimura in one of his finest performances (his best being in Kurosawa’s Ikiru). Kurosawa drew on tropes and traditions of American Westerns as well as samurai movies, and in turn The Seven Samurai influenced both of those genres—albeit the samurai movie to a much greater degree—directly shaping such films as The Magnificent Seven (a remake of the Western-influence samurai movie as a Western) and more recently Takashi Miike’s 13 Assassins, which features a peasant warrior who is the direct descendent, if not an outright copy, of Mifune’s character in Seven Samurai.

The Tale of Zatoichi (1962) is not in the same class as Seven Samurai, but the long-running series of samurai movies is still a treat. Shintaro Katsu stars as Zatoichi, a blind masseuse roaming the Japanese countryside, who conceals a deadly sword in his cane and terrific swordsmanship beneath his bumbling façade.  Most of the films in the series seem to have much the same plot: Zatoichi comes to a new town where there is some strife, often involving gangsters and gamblers, and his attraction to a beautiful woman or sense of justice draws him into the conflict; when it’s over he’s slain all the bad guys, most of them in one climatic battle, but has to leave town, driven out, back to his wanderings, by a sense of his own flawed nature and of the violence he feels follows in his wake. Or something like that. You can figure it out for yourself if you have the time: Hulu is showing 18 of them for free at the moment.

I grew up watching these on weekends in a local Japanese theatre. They’re brilliant. After you watch them, you can read about the series on Wikipedia or check it out on Amazon. Takashi Kitano did a mostly excellent remake/updating of Zatoichi a few years back, with himself in the title role — but it was a bit to serious and realistic, and lacked the hokey charm I find in the originals.

Stagecoach (1939)—the film that transformed Westerns, bringing both John Ford and John Wayne to prominence.  The first appearance of John Wayne in the film is one of the great entrances of American cinema.

Notorious (1946)—one of Ingrid Bergman’s most powerful performances and Cary Grant as you have never seen him before. Bergman is a party-going playgirl in South America recruited to act as a spy; Cary Grant is her spy-master.

Charade (1963)—a movie I love, really so extravagantly that I might argue for it as one of the greatest movies of all time, though I know that in truth it isn’t. But Cary Grant has never been more charming, I think, which is saying a lot, and Audrey Hepburn is luminous and… funny. Really funny. I don’t think her gift of comic timing has ever been showcased as well (except perhaps in How to Steal a Million). Hepburn plays a young Parisian wife who suddenly finds herself a widow, and Cary Grant pops into her life as…well, watch it and see.  Directed by Stanley Donen, who started out as a song-and-dance man with Gene Kelly as his partner. He made his directorial debut working with Kelly on Singin’ in the Rain and On the Town (perhaps the greatest integrated musical ever), on which he is credited as co-director, and then went on to make a number of very good films on his own, including Indiscreet with Grant and Ingrid Bergman; but those first musicals aside, this is clearly his masterpiece.

The Blob (1958). A classic monster movie that still scares.  An unintentionally smart mash-up of teen movie and 50s sci fi monster flick, with one of Steve McQueen’s first performances, and a bizarrely fun and goofy theme song by Burt Bacharach.

The Ruling Class (1972). A tour de force performance by Peter O’Toole, one of his finest, as the mentally unbalanced heir of a British noble.  DO NOT read any details about this film before watching it (even my earlier post on it), as there’s a surprise twist about 2/3rds of the way through, and it is worth being surprised by it.  This is a cult classic, which used to get rapturous receptions at the UC Theatre in Berkeley during fairly frequent screenings in the late 1970s through mid 1980s. A bitterly black comedy whose social commentary may not seem particularly startling or original now, but was fairly sharp back in the day.  Worth watching for O’Toole’s performance alone.

Quadrophenia (1979)—a great soundtrack by The Who, mods versus rockers, and Sting.

Most of these are from the wonderful Criterion Collection, which guarantees that the prints and their digital transfer will be of the highest quality, and that the versions of the films will be the most original (no half-baked cuts for the American market or anything like that).

If you have a Roku or anything similar, you can even sign up for a free one-week trial, call in sick and stay home to watch all of them for free, over a few gloriously indulgent days of movie magic, on your (hopefully big screen) TV. Otherwise you can watch them on your computer; you know, now that I think of if, the office I’m working in right now has excellent broadband, and no network restrictions…

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Bond… James Bond – and his cars

Bond In Motion exhibition at National Motor Museum on January 17, 2012 in Beaulieu, England. The display, which marks the 50th anniversary of the James Bond film series, is the largest exhibition of James Bond vehicles ever staged and runs until the end of the year. (Photos by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

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Mark Kermode is No. 3

Congrats to Mark Kermode – one of my favorite film reviewers – whose weekly review program on BBC Radio 5 Live, “Kermode And Mayo’s Film Reviews” is the number 3 most downloaded weekly podcast, worldwide, on the BBC.  Since the BBC began podcasts in 2007, the program has been downloaded more than 24 million times. (via BBC – Media Centre – BBC Radio celebrates billionth download.)

You can get more of Mark Kermode’s film reviews at Kermode Uncut – Mark Kermode’s film blog.

I also highly recommend his autobiography. It’s got some of his typically pithy and degenerate insights into the movies, but it could also serve as a guide book for anyone wanting to become a film reviewer. Though the internet has certainly changed the specifics drastically, it’s still relevant, and very, very funny:  It’s Only a Movie: Reel Life Adventures of a Film Obsessive.

And, oh yes, hello to Jason Isaacs.

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On TCM Sep 8-11: Old Faves, Michael Curtiz, and Films for 9/11

A couple of favorites roll around again—which maybe shows that TCM’s programmers share my tastes, or perhaps just that their vaults are not as deep as they sometimes seem. On Thursday, 8 Sep at 3:30am TCM is showing the great Ealing Studios classic The Ladykillers (1955) starring Alec Guinness—and once again they’ve mislabeled this great black comedy as a “crime” picture. Then The Mouse That Roared (1959), with Peter Sellers and Jean Seberg, screens at 7am.

On Friday (at 5am), you can catch one of the great Spenser Tracy / Katharine Hepburn romantic comedies, Pat And Mike (1952). Hepburn is a multitalented athlete from an upper class background and Tracy is the fight promoter who takes her on as a client. At 10am, there’s a little known and seldom seen film from the great director, Nicholas Ray: Party Girl (1958), starring Cyd Charisse. At noon is a movie I’ve never heard of but am quite interested in: The Angel Wore Red (1960), directed by Nunnally Johnson and starring Dirk Bogarde and Ava Gardner as a priest and prostitute who fall in love during the Spanish Civil War. The synopsis makes it sound like sentimental rubbish, but I have a long-standing interest in the Spanish Civil War…

Michael Curtiz directed some terrific movies—including Captain Blood (1935) and The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) with Errol Flynn, Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), Mildred Pierce (1945), and most famously Casablanca (1942). He was nominated for the Best Director Oscar five times, twice in one year (1938), and won for Casablanca. But he made a lot of movies—173 of them in a career that started in Hungary in 1915 and ended with his last movie in 1961, only one year before his death—and some of them were bound to be less than terrific. The ones showing Friday evening are in this latter category. Yankee Doodle Dandy proved that Curtiz could do decent work in a musical, but I’ll See You in My Dreams (1951) and The Jazz Singer (1953) are at best mediocre, demonstrations that musicals require more than interesting female leads—Doris Day in the former and Peggy Lee in the latter—and competent direction to succeed. Fortunately, TCM has some other Curtiz films playing this week.

Saturday morning (Sep 10) starts with a decent, albeit minor example of Curtiz’s work: the “Philo Vance” murder mystery The Kennel Murder Case (1933), starring Mary Astor and William Powell. Interesting trivia: both these actors have a connection to one of San Francisco’s adopted sons, Dashiell Hammett. Mary Astor is best know for her work as the wide-eyed and seemingly sympathetic, but endlessly duplicitous Brigid O’Shaughnessy in The Maltese Falcon (1941), based on the novel of the same name by Hammett. Similarly, William Powell is best remembered as Nick Charles in the “Thin Man” series, also based on a Hammett novel. The “Philo Vance” mysteries were immensely popular in their day, with 12 novels, 15 movies (from 1929-47), and a radio serial. These days, though, they’re largely forgotten, while other mystery series from that era are still known and watched. Powell appeared as Vance in four of the films, but it’s his work in the six “Thin Man” movies (from 1934-47) that is remembered these days. Basil Rathbone played Vance in the fourth film in the series, but it is his other series from that period, the “Sherlock Holmes” movies he did with Nigel Bruce, that is still watched today.

TCM is showing more “Philo Vance” movies on subsequent Saturday mornings, so you’ll get a chance to find out what made them popular at the time. But if Curtiz’s “Philo Vance” mystery is basically of interest to film scholars or as a curiousity, the rest of Saturday offers at least two unqualified treasures: The Caine Mutiny (1954), directed by Edward Dmytryk and starring Humphrey Bogart and Van Johnson, and The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner (1962), the classic “angry young man” film directed by Tony Richardson.

For the 9/11 anniversary, TCM pulls out all the stops. Sunday (Sep 11) is classics from start to finish—including Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig in The Pride Of The Yankees (1942) at 4:45am; one of the first and greatest American musicals, 42nd Street (1933) at 7am; Woody Allen’s masterpiece Annie Hall (1977) at 1:15pm; perhaps the finest and most important of all “integrated musicals” at 3pm, On the Town (1949); Curtiz’s masterpiece Casablanca (1942) at 5pm; and one of Howard Hawks’ best, and one of the best Westerns, Red River (1948), with John Wayne and Montgomery Clift, at 11pm. It’s an amazing day of film, selected in part by TCM’s guest programmers, two responders to the Twin Towers attacks.

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A bad day for Netflix

Netflix stocks took a big hit from two significant changes to the company’s service today. First, their controversial new pricing structure went into effect. Customers who want both DVDs through the mail and unlimited streaming will see a 60 percent price increase. Perhaps worse was the other news of the day: premium cable channel Starz announced that it will not renew its distribution deal with Netflix, which will expire in February 2012. The cable channel supplies Neflix with both Sony and Walt Disney films so the blow is significant, though Netflix says that Starz only accounts for about 8% of its subscribers’ viewing.

The news about Starz pulling out of its deal with Netflix comes as uncertainty continues to swirl around the other online streaming film and television service, Hulu.  Hulu is a joint venture of NBC Universal, Fox Entertainment, and ABC, which is part of Disney. But early this year both Fox and Disney discussed pulling their content from Hulu and the company is up for sale.  Most recently, Fox started holding back new episodes of its TV shows from Hulu—resulting in a surge of pirate downloads of those shows, but also making Hulu look even shakier.

It’s clear that even as more and more companies move “into the cloud”—with Amazon, Google and Apple all launching cloud music services, and even the Federal government committing to working in the cloud—the film and TV industry is becoming increasingly wary of streaming video services like Hulu and Netflix, seeing potential revenue streaming away under new models of viewership in which they have less control.

No doubt they are investigating new models that will give them a greater share of the revenues, just as magazines and newspapers (such as the Financial Times) are doing in relation to Apple’s iTunes pricing schemes. That may mean going it alone. In the short term, though, what it will probably mean for viewers is being stuck with the old models, and in particular with cable television.

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The Beginnings of Science Fiction Cinema: A Trip to the Moon

On this day in 1902, the first science fiction film was released: Le Voyage dans la lune (“A Trip to the Moon”), directed by Georges Méliès and based on Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon with material from The First Men in the Moon by H. G. Wells

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zerode by nick chapman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Oh—and hello to Jason Isaacs.

Upcoming Bay Area Films of Interest

  • Castro: Sing-a-long Sound of Music November 27, 2015 – November 29, 2015 The Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94114, United States
  • Roman Holiday - Fathom Event November 29, 2015
  • Roman Holiday - Fathom Event December 1, 2015
  • Rebar: Kaleidoscape closes December 20, 2015 BAM/PFA Galleries
  • Miracle on 34th St. - Fathom Event December 20, 2015
  • Miracle on 34th St. - Fathom Event December 23, 2015
The 400 Blows


is an over-caffeinated and under-employed grad school dropout, aspiring leftwing intellectual and cultural studies academic, cinéaste, and former poet. Raised in San Francisco on classic film, radical politics, burritos and soul music, then set loose upon the world. He spends his time in coffee shops with his laptop and headphones, caffeinating and trying to construct a post-whatever life.


What's in a name... The handle "zerode" is a contraction of Zéro de Conduite, the title of Jean Vigo's 1933 movie masterpiece about schoolboy rebellion.



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