A key scene and nice mash-up both drawn from Douglas Sirk’s great 1959 Technicolor version — a cannily updated remake, as it happens — of a racially charged classic-era soaper, “Imitation of Life.” I was bummed to miss this film, and a very rare appearance by Juanita Moore who plays the maternal paragon, Annie Johnson — at the TCM Classic Film Festival a couple of weeks back.
Admit, that got to you just a little. That’s beautiful Susan Kohner there, passing for “passing” as it were, as the classic “tragic mulatto.” Somewhat politically incorrect casting aside, she was pretty amazing here.
Anyhow, here’s a pretty cool mom-centric mash-up from the film — and this one doesn’t mess with the aspect ratio and it features a compelling bit of music from girl-group greats, the Shangra-Las.
It’s time for me to take a moment to reflect a bit on what I learned from my rather hectic but definitely fun and enlightening time at the TCM Fest. As previously reported here and everywhere else, it turned out to be a fairly roaring success and is promised to be repeated next year in Hollywood. Because of time constraints and because I wasn’t able to enjoy the truly titanic number of films seen by, say, a Dennis Cozzalio — currently working on a detailed and sure to be great summary of the event — I’m going to limit myself to a few random observations covering material I have not mentioned in prior TCM-centric posts. (Here, here, and here.) Naturally, it’ll still turn out to be much longer than I originally intended.
Borgnine, Donen, Rainer
As someone with parents in their eighties and nineties, I’ve become especially interested lately in the way things work for people of a certain age. So it was with some some special interest that I listened to the words of 100 year-old thirties star Luise Rainer, 93 year-old star character actor Ernest Borgnine (“Marty,” “The Wild Bunch”), and 86 year-old directing great and one-time boy genius, Stanley Donen — best known for co-directing “Singin’ in the Rain” and other MGM musical classics with Gene Kelly but also an outstanding director in his own right of both musicals and “straight” films.
* Thanks, Hef! He saves the world for heavily retouched naked women, pays writers more than just about anybody, and now he ponies up the missing funds to save the Hollywood sign.
* One item I don’t actually have to link to report on is that the TCM Classic Film Festival is going to be back next year, with the idea of being an annual event. I can do that because I was present at last night’s big screening of “Metropolis” where none other than Robert Osborne announced it to the assembled multitudes at the more beautiful than ever Grauman’s Chinese Theater.
What was interesting about the way this festival was marketed is that people who live in Los Angeles were clearly not the primary target. Individual ticket prices were roughly double what film geeks like myself are used to paying to see similar presentations — actually more than double when you consider that most repertory programs are actually double bills. With the exception of fellow press and a USC film student who had picked up one of thirty free tickets that has been donated, everyone I spoke to was from elsewhere, and usually a place where the opportunity to see such frequently revived cinematic warhorses as “Casablanca” and “Some Like it Hot” on the big screen are nevertheless beyond rare.
The short version is that, as per the mighty Box Office Mojo chart, “How to Train Your Dragon” won the weekend box office with just over $15 million. “The Back-Up Plan,” a comedy vehicle for Jennifer Lopez, opened with a rather lame $12.25 million which should please our own David Medsker, who hated, hated, hated it. Graphic-novel based action fest “The Losers” made only $9.6 million, but seeing as it’s budget was $30 million less than the J-Lo film, it’s actually doing a lot bettter despite grossing less.
“Date Night” is hanging in there very nicely in its third week. Like, “Dragon” it defeated both newcomers and came in at the #2 spot, earning $10.6 million for an accumulation nearing $65 million, $10 million more than its budget. Familiar and reliable comedy faces still mean something at the box office if the movie makes people laugh. Expect to see more family films and wide-audience PG-13 comedies and a bit less ultra-violence.
And that leads us to Matthew Vaughn, a director who has a lot less luck than talent and smarts, is no doubt thanking his reasonably lucky stars for keeping the budget on “Kick-Ass” reasonable. The controversial black-comedy action flick dropped by 52%, roughly average for genre films that aren’t setting the world on fire. Still, the total gross is actually already $4 million above the $30 million budget. Assuming the budget number is correct and what I can only imagine will be a long and healthy life on home video, he’s actually done rather well even as a something of a disappointment. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
Oh, and I guess I should see “Kick-Ass” myself before it leaves theaters. I always seem to catch Vaughn’s films after they’re declared failures and find myself really liking them. I guess I like underdogs.
More complaining — but it’s about the good kind of “embarrassment of riches” problem here at TCM Fest. You see, because it’s on opposite Donald Bogle’s Out of Circulation Cartoons presentation, I’m going to have to miss a true bit of cinema comfort food for yours truly, 1938’s “The Adventures of Robin Hood.” Of course, especially considering the much higher than usual $20 ticket price, I’m lucky to be able to go to these on a press pass.
Still, if time simply won’t allow me to see the film version tonight, at least I have this five second version of the classic, which really does underline what’s to love about the Warner Brothers’ Technicolor classic.
Okay, so it’s more than five seconds. And (spoiler arlert), here’s the Lego version of the climactic sword fight between the heroic Robin (Errol Flynn) and the villainous Sir Guy of Gisborne (Basil Rathbone). Even in Legos, it’s still apparent that Rathbone is actually the better swordsman.