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He Says, She Says: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

My husband Jonathan and I have been taking turns choosing movies we care about a lot to share with each other; both of us getting to catch up on a lot we’ve missed. We’re posting about a selected ones of these films on our blogs.

The Movie

Movie: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie
Info: 1990 USA. Director: Steve Barron. Starring: Judith Hoeg, Elias Koteas, Josh Pais, Michelan Sisti, Leif Tilden, David Forman, Corey Feldman, Robbie Rist.
Chooser: Jonathan
Date and Method Watched: May 14, on DVD

He Says…

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie is one of those films you bring out to the significant other with hesitation. I’m reminded of an episode of How I Met Your Mother where one of Ted’s (many) issues was showing his girlfriend Star Wars for the first time. Would she be all over it, or would she laugh at all the ridiculous puppetry and special effects? How would that affect the relationship? As it turned out, she actually DIDN’T like the movie, but was able to appreciate it because Ted loved it. And while I wouldn’t say I hold TMNT:TM to a similar level of excellence, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t kind of nervous about showing off this treasured piece of childhood to my wife. I mean, what if she DIDN’T like it?

Well, I’ll let her fill you in on what she thought. What I will add are some thoughts from our recent re-watch. As it turns out, TMNT:TM has aged a lot better than I was expecting it to. Having not seen it for almost ten years, I was partially ready to start apologizing for this part and that, much like I would for something like Super Mario Brothers. The puppetry and special effects held up quite nicely, hitting a realism at times that most CGI still has trouble getting right. The dated elements were more charming than cheesy, and the more somber moments still hit the absolute sweet spot for me – Raphael’s and Splinter’s private conversation being the prime example. The overall goofiness held up as well, and remains the part that makes this film near and dear to my heart.

Now to dust off my copy of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze and cross my fingers once more!

She Says…

Of all the movies Jonathan kept mentioning to me as his touchstone movies growing up, the kind of cheesy but fun movies that he has strong emotional connections to, this one initially gave me the most pause. I was like, really, you’re going to eventually make me watch a movie about overgrown talking turtles who break out ninja moves and eat pizza? Yet when it came down to it, it was actually me who suggested we go ahead and take the plunge. And I was actually kind of weirdly excited about it, too. Probably it was the somewhat scary degree to which I’ve gotten into comics and superheroes lately, and with enough comic books under my belt, the mental jump to mutant ninja turtles apparently isn’t actually that large.

And you know what, I actually quite enjoyed the film. Sure, it’s cheesy, and it’s very much a product of its time, but those things give it a quaint charm that may not be exactly what the creators were going for at the time, but made it work for me now anyway. Definitely the kind of film you just have to give yourself over to, though, what with the mixture of an investigative journalism story and, well, mutant ninja turtles. Between the goofiness of the turtles, the “gangs are bad!” message, the meet-cute of the logically incompatible love interests, and the over-earnest wisdom of the giant rat Splinter, there’s a lot here that could easily be turn-offs, but thankfully (for both my evening and my marriage!), I just found it all pretty endearing. Up to and including the special effects, which are actually much better than I expected. I like practical effects anyway, and the puppets and animatronic elements are right up my alley, and the puppet work on the turtles’ faces is quite good.

All in all, I expected to at most enjoy it as a so-bad-it’s-good movie, but I actually enjoyed it for real. I’m sure we’ll get to the sequel soon enough, and I’ll get more ooze than I know what do to with (this is starting to sound like a not-very-subtle euphemism, so I’m gonna stop right there).

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Preserving the Fragments: The White Shadow

[This post is a contribution to the third annual For the Love of Film blogathon and fundraiser, which will be running from May 13-18. This year, hosts Marilyn Ferdinand, Farran Smith Nehme and Roderick Heath have dedicated the week to Alfred Hitchcock, whose early (non-directorial) work The White Shadow will be the beneficiary of any money earned during the event, to support the National Film Preservation Foundation’s desire to stream the film online for free. Be sure to donate so you can see this very-nearly lost film yourself!]

[Note: I suppose I spoil The White Shadow a bit in here, but it’s an incomplete film, and in terms of film preservation, that’s part of its power. I wanted to get across the sense of what it was like to be in the Academy screening when we came to the end of the portion that exists. But if you particularly don’t want to know anything about the film until you can see it streaming thanks to the NFPF and this blogathon’s fundraising efforts, skim lightly especially in two paragraphs before and after the image of Hitchcock directing.]

We excitedly gathered on the sidewalk, anticipating being let into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ own screening room, the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre in Beverly Hills. VIPs slipped by, headed toward the bar or lounge in their finery, while the rest of us waited, patient but anxious to begin the evening’s entertainment. Any screening at the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre is a treat, a step into a more opulent past presented by the self-appointed guardians of Hollywood history, but this was no ordinary screening. This was the very first appearance of an early, long-thought-lost Hitchcock film pretty much since its original release in 1924. Well, technically Hitchcock was the Assistant Director on the film (and he tended to get in on every part of production he could in those early days, so likely he was doing much more), the second of two collaborations with director Graham Cutts and actress Betty Compson, apparently rushed into production to capitalize on the popularity of the first, Woman to Woman. According to producer Michael Balcon, “it was as big a flop as Woman to Woman had been a success.” But Woman to Woman remains a lost film, and in any case, The White Shadow could’ve been a terrible movie and we still would’ve been ecstatic to see it.

Our excitement was first of all out of curiosity to see if we could see any glimpses of Hitchcock in the film’s style, but also simply because here’s a film that has been thought lost for decades, turned up (partially at least) in an archive in New Zealand, along with a bunch of other long-lost films. If we can still locate treasure troves like this in 2011, what else might still be out there, waiting for intrepid archivists to find it, figure out what it is, and restore it so the world can rediscover it?

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The Roundup: May 16, 2012

Well, the Roundup kind of took an unplanned hiatus while I recovered from the TCM Film Fest and struggled to get caught back up with the blogosphere. I’m still running a bit behind, but not by much, so let’s go ahead and try to get back into the groove here.

Featured Links

For the Love of Film Blogathon

The For the Love of Film Blogathon, now in its third year, supports film preservation by raising awareness of the need for preserving film and seeking to raise financial support for a specific film preservation cause of project. This year, the project is The White Shadow, the recently rediscovered 1924 film that Alfred Hitchcock worked on as assistant director (and many other things, most likely), currently the oldest film known to exist that Hitchcock played a part in making. In order to make it possible for more people to see the film, the National Film Preservation Foundation wants to put it streaming online, a conversion and delivery system that will cost several thousand dollars. Those of us blogging as part of the For the Love of Film Blogathon this year will be discussing Hitchcock’s work in general, his silent films, or other silent films in light of the importance of preserving this cinematic heritage and making it available to a wider audience. My piece about The White Shadow itself is right here. In the meantime, Marilyn Ferdinand of Ferdy on Films, Farran Smith Neame of The Self-Styled Siren, and Roderick Heath of This Island Rod are collecting the links to other participating blogs as articles get posted. It’s quite a collection already, which I look forward to delving into.

Tales of Hollywood: Preston Sturges’ Wild Ride by The Lady Eve of The Lady Eve’s Reel Life

Preston Sturges is one of my favorite writers and directors, and The Lady Eve (who has taken her pseudonym, of course, from one of his best films) has an excellent biographical piece about him and not only how he became one of a Hollywood’s first writer/directors (paving the way for Billy Wilder and many, many others), but about his other “job” as a restaurateur, starting the famous Players’ Club on Sunset, a popular hangout for many celebrities in the 1940s. She also tells of how the place basically ruined him. It’s a fascinating story that I really didn’t know anything about.

My 11 Favorite Cinematographers by Alex Withrow of And So It Begins

Cinematography is one of my favorite things about the movies, and it’s not uncommon that a movie that looks really beautiful or distinctive will jump up a couple of notches in my estimation no matter what I think about the rest of it (story, acting, etc.). It’s all too easy to fall back on auteurist shorthand and credit a film’s look to the director – which is not always totally wrong, but often when directors have a distinctive and consistent “look” to their films, it’s because they tend to work with same cinematographer over and over again. Alex Withrow jumps straight to the source here and talks about his favorite cinematographers. Then he realized there weren’t any female cinematographers on his list, and went specifically looking for women to feature, resulting in this post. Then he went to find the films that he loved the look of, but weren’t by otherwise known cinematographers, and came up with this post for B&W cinematography and this one for color cinematography. All in all, an excellent set of posts.

Thomas Edison and the Origin of Sound and Color in Films by Lara at Backlots

Quick, film history 101: when did sound come into motion pictures? 1927, with The Jazz Singer. What about color? 1936 with Becky Sharp. Both common answers and not totally incorrect, and yet also…incorrect. As much as I love B&W films and think color is an option, not a necessity, and as much as I’ve grown to love silent cinema and think it was just as high an art form as sound film eventually became, the early pioneers of cinema were no more content with B&W and silence at the dawn of cinema than they were in the late ’20s and early ’30s, and color and sound experiments started way back with Thomas Edison, one of the original developers of cinema. Lara lays out his experiments with both color and sound in a highly informative and interesting post.

The 10 Greatest Movies of All Time (According to the Internet) by Cole Abius at Film School Rejects

If you follow Roger Ebert on his blog or on Twitter, you may have noticed him debating over his votes for this decade’s Sight & Sound poll, which creates a top ten list every decade based on the lists submitted by prominent (and invited) film critics. The poll has a certain cache, but it understandably leans heavily on accepted canon. Not necessarily a bad thing, but FSR decided to hold their own poll, inviting various prominent members of online media and film-related websites to make their own poll, which has some interesting results – about half accepted canon, and about half what I’d consider the canon of 30-year-old men, in other words, well-beloved 1980s favorites. Which is fine, and actually creates a more diverse list that captures something of our zeitgeist. Both lists have their place, and it’s fun to see alternative takes on the “best” movies of all time.

The Future is Female: 2012 is the Year of the Empowered Girl by various writers at Row Three

A group effort by a bunch of Row Three writers, in which I played only a humble part, writing about Katniss Everdeen. Others covered Haywire, Prometheus, The Avengers, The Secret World of Arrietty, Brave, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, A Lonely Place to Die, and more, talking about how this year seems to be something of a watershed in terms of having a large number (and variety) of female leads in the kinds of films that are traditionally centered on male figures. Lots of room for disagreement, additions, or even wondering whether making such a list actually negates its own purpose, so come on over and leave your thoughts.

More Links!

  • Christopher Morris at The Cinementals lists his top five Ginger Rogers films (sans Fred Astaire)
  • Joanna at Man I Love Films acclaims Steve McQueen as the original badass, and she is totally right
  • Dan Heaton of Public Transportation Snob picks out ten of his favorite podcasts; I already listen to and enjoy a few of these, but I’ll definitely be checking out some more!
  • Richard Brody calls for Every Movie Now – can’t say I disagree with him, but restoration/digitization I’m sure is a barrier
  • Where Danger Lives turns up a veritable plethora of Joan Crawford posters
  • Max Steiner is pretty much the father of movie scores, and Lara at Backlots (again!) runs down his career and influence thoroughly and engagingly
  • Seems like everyone I know has been writing about Murnau’s The Last Laugh lately, and now Chris Edwards of Silent Volume joins his voice to the throng – apparently I gotta see this thing, and soon
  • Andrew at Row Three (and other sites, but I saw it here first, regardless of favoritism) highlights some fun facts about Universal Studios as they turn 100

Cool Trailers, Videos, and More

  • Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin, Sean Penn, Emma Stone, etc., in a period neo-noir? Based on that and this trailer, I’m there the day Gangster Squad opens
  • I keep forgetting Safety Not Guaranteed exists, but with Aubrey Plaza in a time-travel-esque film, I gotta quit doing that – here’s the trailer
  • Can Ben Affleck go three for three as a director? Judging from this trailer for Argo, it seems very possible
  • Criterion has Three Reasons for The Gold Rush
  • Classic film fans! Check out this group photo and see how many you can name – I only got 15-20 or so (right click and say “open in new tab” to see it larger)

Noteworthy News

  • The Avengers is just setting records all over the place – $200m first weekend, $100m second, and over $1 billion worldwide
  • Jessica Chastain drops out of Iron Man 3 (boo!), but Rebecca Hall may be her replacement (yay!) – I love Hall almost as much as Chastain, and she definitely deserves more exposure, so I’m stoked
  • The existence of promo posters for Sin City 2 and Machete Kills suggest what Robert Rodriguez is up to lately
  • Edgar Wright‘s next movie may be The World’s End, a third film with Pegg & Frost; he’s still planning Ant-Man, though!
  • Apparently Film Socialisme isn’t to be Jean-Luc Godard‘s last film, after all; he’s prepping Goodbye to Language (which should really be the title of all his movies), and it’s gonna be in 3D – sorry JLG, I gotta *eyeroll* that
  • Brad Bird and Damon Lindelof working on a mysterious sci-fi project? Yeah, I’m there
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DVD Triage: 15 May 2012

Last week I was complaining because there were hardly any releases worth glancing at; this week I opted to put in a second row of highlighted covers because there are a LOT of releases, including a bunch of last year’s festival circuit films that I didn’t want to get lost in the shuffle. Still a slow week on the Instant Watch front, for both new additions and expirations, but there are a few gems in there you won’t want to miss.

New Release Pick of the Week

Chronicle
A nice surprise in the midst of February doldrums to find this small but satisfying take on what would happen if a group of high-schoolers got the power of telekinesis. Both the “ordinary people get superpowers” and found footage genres are getting stale, but Chronicle uses both to good advantage, chiefly by being spot on in how teenagers would react to their new-found powers.
2012 USA. Director: Josh Trank. Starring: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan.

Other New Releases

Afghan Luke (2011 USA, dir Mike Clattenburg, stars Nick Stahl)
Agent Vinod (2012 India, dir Sriram Raghavan, stars Kareena Kapoor)
Chained: Code 207 (2012 USA, dir Tino Struckmann, stars John Greer)
The Devil Inside (2012 USA, dir William Brent Bell, stars Fernanda Andrade)
Dragonslayer (2011 USA, dir Tristan Patterson, stars Josh ‘Skreech’ Sandoval)
eCupid (2011 USA, dir J.C. Calciano, stars Andy Anderson)
Flashpoint: Season 4 (2011 USA, stars Amy Jo Johnson, Hugh Dillon)
Golf in the Kingdom (2010 USA, dir Susan Streitfeld, stars David O’Hara)
Hell on Wheels: Season 1 (2011 USA, stars Anson Mount, Colm Meaney)
Mortuary (2005 USA, dir Tobe Hooper, stars Dan Byrd)
My Perestroika (1010 USA/UK/Russia, dir Robin Hessman)
My Piece of the Pie (2011 France, dir Cédric Klapisch, stars Karin Viard)
The Tenants (2009 Brazil, dir Sergio Bianchi, stars Fernando Alves Pinto)
The Universe: Season 6 (2007 USA)
Victorious: Season 2 (2011 USA, stars Victoria Justice)
We Were Here (2011 USA, dir David Weissman, Bill Weber)
Windfall (2011 USA, dir Laura Israel)
The Woman Knight of Mirror Lake (2011 Hong Kong, dir Herman Yau, stars Rose Chan)

Catalog Pick of the Week

Being John Malkovich Criterion
There are no films that define “mindfuck” quite like Being John Malkovich, and yes, I pretty much mean that literally. When John Cusack discovers a door that leads inside the brain of John Malkovich, it’s only the beginning of one of the most bizarre and brilliant films I’ve ever seen. I’m glad to see Criterion honoring newer, deserving films like this.
1999 USA. Director: Spike Jonze. Starring: John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, John Malkovich, Catherine Keener.

 

Other Catalog Releases

Before and After Blu-ray (1996 USA, dir Barbet Schroeder, stars Meryl Streep)
Born Yesterday Blu-ray (1993 USA, dir Luis Mandoki, stars Melanie Griffith)
Bringing Down the House Blu-ray (2003 USA, dir Adam Shankman, stars Steve Martin)
Caravan (1946 USA, dir Arthur Crabtree, stars Stewart Granger)
D.O.A. Blu-ray (1988 USA, dir Annabel Jankel, Rocky Morton, stars Dennis Quaid)
Duets Blu-ray (2000 USA, dir Bruce Paltrow, stars Gwyneth Paltrow)
Eagle’s Wing (1979 USA, dir Anthony Harvey, stars Martin Sheen)
Fanny by Gaslight, aka Man of Evil (1945 UK, dir Anthony Asquith, stars James Mason)
Forbidden Zone Blu-ray (1982 USA, dir Richard Elfman, stars Hervé Villechaize)
Gone Fishin’ Blu-ray (1997 USA, dir Christopher Cain, stars Joe Pesci)
Hazel: Season 3 (1963 USA, stars Shirley Booth)
Holy Man Blu-ray (1998 USA, dir Stephen Herek, stars Eddie Murphy)
Love Story, aka A Lady Surrenders (1944 UK, dir Leslie Arliss, stars Margaret Lockwood)
Mr. Wrong Blu-ray (1996 USA, dir Nick Castle, stars Ellen DeGeneres)
The Odessa File Blu-ray (1974 UK, dir Ronald Neame, stars Jon Voight)
The Order Blu-ray (2001 USA, dir Sheldon Lettich, stars Jean-Claude Van Damme)
Riverboat: Complete Series (1959-61 USA, stars Darren McGavin, Dick Wessel)
Spaghetti Western Double Feature: Grand Duel / Keoma (1972/1976 Italy, dir Giancarlo Santi/Enzo G. Castellari, stars Lee Van Cleef/Franco Nero)
Terminal Velocity Blu-ray (1994 USA, dir Deran Sarafian, stars Charlie Sheen)
Walking Tall Trilogy (1973-1977 USA, stars Joe Don Baker / Bo Svenson)
White Squall Blu-ray (1996 USA, dir Ridley Scott, stars Jeff Bridges)

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Film on TV: May 14-20

An excellent week coming up on TCM, with a few scattered cool things on other channels, but for the most part, this week is all TCM all the time, and I’m hardly exaggerating. Especially look out for the Frank Capra marathon on Friday, including some of his early works, which are a whole lot of fun, even if Capracorn isn’t quite your thing.

Monday, May 14

6:00pm – TCM – Stage Door
I cannot describe to you how much I love this film. I’m not sure it’s wholly rational. Katharine Hepburn plays an heiress who wants to make it on her own as an actress, so she moves (incognito) into a New York boarding house for aspiring actresses. Her roommate ends up being Ginger Rogers (who’s never been better or more acerbic), and the boarding house is rounded out with a young Lucille Ball, a young Eve Arden, a very young Ann Miller, and various others. The dialogue is crisp and everyone’s delivery matter-of-fact and perfectly timed, and the way the girls use humor to mask desperation makes most every moment simultaneously funny and tragic – so that when it does turn tragic, it doesn’t feel like a shift in mood, but a culmination of the inevitable.
1937 USA. Director: Gregory La Cava. Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Adolphe Menjou, Andrea Leeds, Gail Patrick, Eve Arden, Lucille Ball, Ann Miller, Constance Collier.
Must See

11:30pm – TCM – 100 Men and a Girl
Deanna Durbin was Universal’s answer to Judy Garland back in the 1930s and early ’40s, a fresh-faced ingenue with a grown-up sounding set of pipes. Deanna’s voice tends more toward the operatic than the pop, though, which could conceivably be a turn-off to modern audiences. She’s still delightful on screen, though, and this is one of her most charming films, playing a young girl determined to save her father’s struggling orchestra by getting renowned violinist Jascha Heifetz (playing himself) to play with them.
1938 USA. Director: Henry Koster. Starring: Deanna Durbin, Adolphe Menjou, Alice Brady, Jascha Heifetz, Eugene Pallette, Mischa Auer, Billy Gilbert.
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