I’ve said many times that my love of classic film can be traced directly back to my mom, who raised me on MGM musicals, classic dog-and-pony films, and dramas that I’m sure I didn’t get until I was much older, but somehow liked anyway. Mom passed away a couple of months ago, after ten years of suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. Many people have offered their sympathy and I think you for that, but as anyone who has a loved one with Alzheimer’s will know, it feels in many ways like we lost her ten years ago. In addition, a loved one’s death, especially one who had been fighting disease and age, is in many ways joyful for Christians – she fought the good fight and she’s gone on to her heavenly reward, and while I grieve that my daughter will never know her grandma the way I knew her (until they meet in heaven, of course!), I’m glad my mom is free from the pain and mental loss she experienced here.
Enough of all that. I’d rather talk about the things she loved.
Mom was born in 1936, in East Brewton, Alabama. That’s a small town about an hour north of Pensacola, Florida. Many of her fondest memories as a child were of going every week with her best friend to the movies. There was only one theatre in town, of course, with one screen, so they saw whatever was playing that week, along with the requisite shorts and newsreels. Going to the movies cost 35 cents, and that’s if you bought a popcorn and a soda to go along with it. There was a balcony, and from her stories, half the fun was tossing popcorn down on people’s heads below them. Remember, folks, there was no golden era of movie audiences!
She must’ve seen all kinds of things, but musicals held a special place in her heart. That’s what she introduced me to first as a kid, and she didn’t have a lot of care whether they were good or not. She enjoyed them all, and so did I. That said, she definitely had more of an affinity for the Technicolor extravaganzas of the 1940s and 1950s over the B&W musicals of the 1930s. I got into Fred Astaire on my own; she associated him with ballroom dancing (rather than tap) and she thought that was boring. I like to think I convinced her otherwise!
Chuck Jones is by far my favorite animation director of all time, and Tony Zhou is currently my favorite video essayist. Put them together? Yep, this is nine must-see minutes right here. And I’m also reminded that I need to get back to my Looney Tunes series that I started months ago and seemingly abandoned – but I didn’t, I promise! It’s just delayed.
This June and July TCM is devoting all day every Friday to film noir, and as a huge fan of noir, I couldn’t be more excited! I’m probably going to have to buy another DVR or something (can you even do that?) to deal with all the noir goodness coming down the pipeline. You can download the full schedule in PDF form here
Even more exciting, though, is that TCM is partnering with Ball State University to offer a FREE online course in film noir, through online learning platform Canvas. That’s right, it’s an actual 9-week course that will grant you an actual certificate of completion if you do all the course requirements. The info page estimates that the coursework will take 2-4 hours per week, in addition to watching the films (on TCM, or via other means – the course promises that there will be public domain films available to watch even if you don’t have access to TCM). Even if you can’t put in that kind of time commitment, as I may not be able to myself, you can still enroll in the course and follow along at whatever level you’re able.
The 9 weeks will cover the definition of noir, its influences, its relationship to the studio system and the post-war era, and the types of characters and themes you find in noir. I’ve never done an online course like this, so I’m pretty excited to see how it’s going to go!
The fun starts on June 1 (that’s this Monday), but there’s still time to enroll! Be sure to let me know if you join up! I’d love to discuss one of my favorite genres with you, and I’m sure there will be plenty of healthy discussion both in the course itself and on Twitter and probaby Facebook!
[This is an entry in the For the Love of Film Blogathon, which supports film restoration and preservation. Please enjoy the post, and look for the link to donate at the bottom.]
Lost movies appeal to our sense of doomed artistry. The movies in your head are always much better than the movies you sit down to see. We build up heroic concepts of certain directors. Then, when their work is lost, we imagine what we’re missing as even better than the movies we have. In that sense, we need lost movies. They fortify our Romantic ideal of cinema, that’s cap-R Romantic of course.
That’s a quote from a character in Farran Smith Nehme’s Missing Reels; Nehme is perhaps better known in these parts as The Self-Styled Siren, co-founder of the For the Love of Movies Film Preservation Blogathon (though she is not hosting it this year), so you’ll have to forgive me for appearing to suck up a bit by beginning with a quote from her novel. In fact, I didn’t know what I was going to write about for this year’s blogathon (or in fact, if I would manage to come up with anything at all) until I happened across this quote.
The speaker in the story is Andy Evans, a colleague of main character Ceinwen’s boyfriend Matthew. Andy is a math professor who happens to be a big collector of silent film memorabilia (and silent films themselves, as well). Nobody likes him much, and in fact, this particular quote is followed by all the other characters saying that this particular sentiment is balderdash, and that Andy’s spent way too much time hanging out with the humanities crowd.
I’m not F.W. Murnau, I’m not Tod Browning, I’m not interested in my own puny concept of what they’d have done. I want to see those movies. I don’t want to get my kicks imagining little scenes with Janet Gaynor.
Harry Engleman in Missing Reels
Perhaps it’s my own background in the humanities (I spend a couple of years doing a masters in English lit, where I did in fact do a very intense semester on Romanticism), but Andy’s words make sense to me – after a fashion. He’s talking here about capital-R Romanticism, meaning he’s referencing the 18th-19th century aesthetic movement of Romanticism and its collective ideals.
Enjoy this moms-in-movies video compilation from Nelson Carvajal, and I dare you not to tear up. Happy Mother’s Day!