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The other day on the Huff famed film director and NYU Professor Spike Lee revealed his ESSENTIAL FILMS list.  Almost 90 quality films from various countries and periods of cinema.

Many who left comments on the Huff pointed out that Spike's list is HIS list.  He's not saying it should be YOUR list.  Well, yes, but if you're a bright eyed young film student at NYU and your famous teacher presents such a list -- your grade may improve if you take the next A-Train to Netflixville and catch these classics.  I've attended NYU and brown nosing works just fine there.

Below I post the entire list and ask the film enthusiast to give it a gander.  (Click to enlarge image if need be.)

 
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I have this young pal in my local Trader Joes.  A twenties dude with a great attitude and a sense of humor.  We shoot the shinola when I visit.  He doesn't mind, since I'm like a paid break each time I show up.

In our talks I find I've been mentioning older movies he hasn't seen.  This is an easy trick, since he considers a film like AMERICAN BEAUTY (1999) 'old school'.  Ouch.  And anything in black and white?  Smithsonian.

In my Beginner's Guide to Bette Davis,
I confess to having had a similar bias against black and white films from early last century.  That they felt dark and depressing somehow.


Take this image (above).  It depicts three men who deliver ice for a living, listening to a distant customer at the top of countless stairs.  This short film was made back when many people couldn't afford an electric refrigerator, and so they kept ice boxes that held huge chunks of ice.  How's that for dated?  Worse, you'll note the fat one in the middle is holding the reins, as in a horse drawn carriage.  And that customer is yelling because no one has a cellphone yet.


 
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During my teen years composer John Williams was releasing one amazing movie score after another.  These included the now classic themes to JAWS, STAR WARS, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARC, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, E.T., and my favorite from soundtrack from this era:  SUPERMAN.

During these same formative years someone/something named MECO began releasing disco versions of some of these John Williams themes.   Back then I liked my burgers without cheese, but I had no problem adding these cheesy songs to my record collection.  Every teen loves'em a little junk food.

MECO's first release (pictured on left) was huge.  Back then, when you left a movie, it was 'gone' from your life.  No tapes, no DVDs, no streaming.  Later movies would be broadcast on television, but only once in a while at first.   And so if you missed STAR WARS on TV, you missed it. 

The only way to re-experience a favorite film was to either see it again, purchase a book/novelization, make room on your walls for a poster, give the soundtrack a spin, and sometimes...  buy the MECO dance record inspired by said movie.

Now that I'm older and allegedly wiser I'm not sure I understand the legality of all this.  How did Meco Menardo (MECO) get away with this?  MECO minus the scores of John Williams would have been BROKE-O.  You'll note the album cover (above) isn't actually based upon STAR WARS... but more an homage to the FLASH GORDON serials of yesteryear.


 
Recently I stumbled upon some amazing photos of my favorite yesteryear actress:  Bette Davis.  I decided to 'borrow' a few and share/store them here in this post -- in case the source site were to, as classic movies put it, take a powder.  I've mixed in some movie stills/trailers as well, but all those glossy gorgeous head shots can be enlarged simply by clicking on them.

I then got a little sad.  Sad that too many young movie fans consider anything from last century 'old fashioned' and 'dated' and 'cheesy'.   And black and white to be downright medieval.  I'd hazard that most movie goers under 35 simply do not care who Bette Davis was and would make no effort to remedy the situation anytime soon.

:-(

So I share this photo essay in the genuine hopes it will find a good sport.  A newbie to Bette Davis Googling upon this post.  A sensitive young person who just might kill themselves if they're forced to sit through yet another generic superhero 'epic'.

If that's you -- Hello!   Nice to meet you.  I offer you this article as a chronological viewing guide.   My first ventures into the world of Bette Davis were three of her best films, leaving the remainder of her career as interesting... but disappointing. 

This guide, if followed chronologically by you the newbie, will give you the reverse effect:  you'll become a fan of Bette via her early work and only watch her roles and performances improve through her decades long career. 

Viewing her work will be tricky, but thanks to technology today a lot of her films are streamable through Amazon and iTunes, or you could just knock yourself out renting via Netflix.  Otherwise you'll have to hunt and peck on TCM.
I'll be honest.  I didn't give a damn about Bette Davis until my late 30s.  As my ABOUT page explains, I am the lucky child of 70's cinema.  Not to mention 60's TV and movies re-running afternoons and weekends.

Besides, like kids then and now, I only wanted to see what was new and better.  What spoke precisely to my generation.  The very idea of staying up for the 'late show' to see faded black and white movies?  Ridiculous and irrelevant to my life.

Here's young Bette maybe thinking the very same things.  Perhaps not the least bit concerned about the ghosts of cinema and theater past... as much as... downright scheming on how she'll put her youthful mark on the silver screen --

 
"Dead?!?  Me?!?  DENNIS FARINA?!?  I'm not dead you fucking moronsRelax.  Sit down.  Have a cream soda.  Have a sandwich.  Drink a glass of milk.  Do some fucking thing.  But listen to me, dummy.  I'm not interested in seeing you alive again until you get this story right.  Understand?  Don't say a word to me otherwise.  Not a fucking word.  If you do, I'm going to get up and bury this fucking telephone in your head.  If you dummies in the press don't start getting more personally involved in your work -- I'm gonna jump over this desk and stab you through the heart with a fucking pencil.  Understand me?   I'm alive and well, you stupid motherfuckers.  Anyone can see me in MIDNIGHT RUN anytime they like.  I don't want to read another story like this.  Because if I do, I'm gonna blow torch you."
 
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This lengthy diatribe is born of an article I just read on The Huff about Harrison Ford at a recent Comic-Con.  His frustrations tripped up frustrations of my own regarding conventions, entitled fans, AVENGERS, STAR WARS, comics, CGI, 3D, HARRY POTTER, LOTRs -- you name it. 

And so if you're particularly partial to this type of entertainment, bail now.  But  if you're in a sporting mood, I'll attempt (and likely fail) to connect all these subjects as one.  Be patient -- this rant is still in draft status.

From experience I've learned that to ever question anything to do with comics, superhero movies, or Comic-Con can shut down the typical genre enthusiast.  Why?  I'm daring to question their most cherished possession:  the inner child.  It's akin to the great wall and mote surrounding Disney, Pixar, Star Wars, and Harry Potter.  That is how these topics all tie together.

For me to question inner child themed entertainment apparently reveals my lack of an inner child.  When it comes to comics I'm also informed that my opinion is irrelevant because I've never read 'graphic novels'. 

Ahem.  You see that comic book on the left? 

It was one of my first beloved comic series from the mid-70s.  When I was merely a decade old my entire world was awaiting the next issue to arrive at newstands.  Why?  It featured the world's most legendary hero Superman -- only younger and closer to my age.  The legion was made up almost entirely of teens, some clothing challenged ladies.  And these action packed morality tales were set in a STAR TREK-like future.  That's why.

The artist of this run was Mike Grell.   Anything he touched at DC comics I adored.  Because that's what being a fan is, after all:  a kid with crazed eyes loving every aspect of something.  I was a fan of DC Comics because most of their better books found a way to deliver visually fantastic tales with an admirable tone of nobility.

Marvel Comics, on the other hand, seemed obsessed with fights.  Page after page of flying objects, fists, and not so clever quips.  As in the the Silver Surfer throwing his board at his nemesis proclaiming, "Hey Lizard Face!  Surfs up!"  Ha. Ha-ha. 

Lame...

The last comic I read from this brief period of comic addiction was Grell's THE WARLORD, which arrived about a year later.  It featured a dude from our present who found himself in the center of the Earth... in a more primitive world... where... oh who cares at this point?  The pictures were pretty and the babes were delicious.  Here's a nice clip of Grell's art --

 
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Last fall CBS tried a series called VEGAS.  It was a Mad-Mennish cop show pitting a cowboy sheriff against a Chicago mobster during the baby steps of casino Vegas.

Such a fresh yet obvious idea should have been an instant classic, but CBS killed the show while it was getting off the ground. 

My wife and I typically avoid CBS because of their obsession with broadcasting dead bodies.   You know, procedural cop shows.


There's only so many ways to make a murder victim interesting, and we believe TWIN PEAKS ultimately mastered that genre -- and in doing so -- ended our interest in murder mysteries. 

It turns out viewers felt the same way, but for what I'd presume are different reasons.  If you're a MAD MEN viewer like me, you watched VEGAS for the aesthetic peek into last century.  Unfortunately the show was a little cheap in this department, or should I say, not as dedicated to production design.  Therefore viewers like me were being tricked into watching VEGAS:  CSI.  On the other hand, viewers who wanted grisly CSI  fare were seeing lame old school murder mysteries.  Lose/lose.

 
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What do you see?

If you don't own one of these, you see a black box with a silver remote.  You see an Apple logo and the letters 'tv' next to it.   It's obviously not a TV and so it's too silly to consider any further.

If you do own one of these, you know it's a box you hook up to a modern TV for $99.  Inside that box is a digital movie/TV rental store.  Popular services like Netflix, Hulu, Vimeo, and YouTube.  Even access to your music, movies, and photos.

Do you know what someone like me sees?

Distribution

Huh, you ask?  Well you to understand that  'people like me' refers to digital content creators.  Filmmaker types.   You must also understand that we couldn't distribute any film without the permission of studios, theater chains, TV networks -- a fleet of middle men controlling the content you see at enormous profits.  In two words:  organized crime.

The music industry used to make music distribution as impossible.  Then iTunes came along and not only made it easy for any musician to release their music to 'stores' and 'radio' --  but they could do so without anyone's permission but the artist.  My young friend Bridgette is doing just this with her amazing little experiment called HAUNTED SUMMER.  In a very short period of time iTunes closed almost all retail record stores and recently allowed you to broadcast your own radio station.

Know an amateur novelist?  They no longer have to dream about pleasing a publisher and accepting a stale donut as compensation.  Thanks to Amazon and iBooks, they can publish at will.  At desirable profit percentages.

Movies are in the process of making this same transition.  From greedy middle-men to you the consumer.

 
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I was reading an article about corporate logos and got jealous.  At the top of my site and my business cards I have my homemade SPH logo, but it's not adorable and cute and cuddly like many logos are today.

When I worked at the Cape Cinema in my teens I was promoted from Usher to Concession stand dude a year or two later.  Yes, I was that good.

Since I worked in a summer, many patrons had just spent the day at the beach.   Wage workers like myself weren't any different, and so I'd be coming straight from the beach too.  Starving

I must confess that most nights my dinner consisted of a big bucket of popcorn, a candy bar, and soda.  Which diabetes type that is eludes me at the moment.

Still I'm very impressed to be alive and well these decades later to make this concession confession.  And so why not create a logo or icon that somehow captures the Cape Cod sun in a kernel of popcorn.  As they say in fashion:  it pops.
 
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I go on and on about this Cinema on my ABOUT page.   This was where I saw some amazing movies when I was a teen.   This building is responsible for my affection and devotion to a lifetime of quality cinema.

Back in the day I was told this cinema was built from blueprints of an old Church.  A classic Yankee cheap story of saving money by recycling blueprints from another project.

Well it turns out this building was a Church after all.  Which makes the most sense.

Here's the vintage link explaining it all.