Saturday, March 29, 2014

Film Fans are Fierce: The Power of Movies

I am going share an amazing journey with you that started with the love of movies.

Like so many other bloggers, I started writing A PERSON IN THE DARK to share my love of movies. In the beginning, before I branched out a bit and met more like-minded writers, I really did feel alone in the dark. Was anyone out there? Being very impatient and extremely self critical, I almost threw in the towel before long. But, someone near and dear to me had encouraged me to go on Facebook ("why do I need to do that?" I whined) and I decided to make a page for my blog. Day 1: 2 people were on it and I posted a link to my blog. My alter ego was FlickChick and I looked just like Norma Desmond.

FlickChick's first look - an homage to the woman who
lived for those wonderful people in the dark

I promptly forgot about it.

Imagine my surprise when, checking back a few weeks later, other people had "liked" my page. Who were they? Why were they there? No matter, I began to feel the need to make them want to stay.

4 years later FlickChick had over 6,500 followers. The page had evolved into a movie question of the day with more than 100 or so movie lovers checking in each day and playing along. I admit this required a fair amount of work on my part - preparing questions, photos and movie clips daily (I have hundreds of pages of movie questions saved). However, it was a labor of love. Truly. 
The evolution of FlickChick

Classic film lovers often find it difficult to find someone with whom they can share their love of film. it's always easy for folks to find buddies to share a passion for football or baseball, but James Cagney or Charlie Chaplin? Ann Dvorak or Kay Francis? For me, this is the beauty of social media. Facebook offers a place for film lovers from, not only all across the country, but around the world, to share their love of film. We taught one another, fought with one another, entertained each other, and established some wonderful friendships.

After 4 years, I have enough stories to fill a book. There were the juvenile jerks who had to get booted off the page, my heroes who always came to my rescue when I was attacked, the great ARISTOCATS battle, the wonderful group viewings and the beyond fantastic Oscar parties. Best of all are the dozens of real friendships that have developed from that little page that could. It recently warmed my heart when one east coast friend of the page actually stopped in on a west coast friend while traveling in California and shared it with all of us. A cyber connection became a face to face meeting. it was the love of movies that brought them together.

It has come time for me to bring the FlickChick Facebook page to a close. After 4 years I think we've covered every film topic under the sun. I feel a little sad, but many of the FlickChick Nation (as our resident wit and epic poster John P. calls us) have migrated to FlickChick's Movie Playground, a Facebook group with many of the usual suspects and a place where everyone can post and converse and generally share the love of that common bond that unites us. We plan more fun, more giveaways and, hopefully, will strengthen the bond that unites us as friends.

And I do consider these folks my friends. In fact, we are in the beginning discussions of a FlickChick Film Festival in New York in the near future. It will take some planning, but how wonderful that folks who only know one another through  cyberspace, and who were brought together by the love of movies, are willing to make the effort to meet in person. I hope it all comes true. It would be a wonderful testament to the power and passion of classic film lovers.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Cat and the Canary (1927): Fritz Meets Glitz!

This is my entry in the Movies Silently's SLEUTHATHON. Click here to get your gumshoe on!

I love it when Hollywood gets all continental! After the German Expressionist movement swept the cinematic world by storm in the 1920s, Hollywood just had to have it. Films like THE CABINET OF DOCTOR CALIGARI, METROPOLIS, M and DR. MABUSE: THE GAMBLER were impressing the hell out of movie-going world and the moguls of tinsel town wanted in. Highly regarded directors F.W. Murnau, Fritz Lang and Ernst Lubitsch were hired by Hollywood, where light and shadow met glitz and glamour.
Say What? A scene from Leni's 1924 film, WAXWORKS.
Pickford had Lubitsch, Fox had Murnau and Lang went to MGM. Carl Laemmle of Universal Studios wanted a German, too, and, in 1927, enticed Paul Leni to come work for him. Leni is largely forgotten today. His resume is short, as he died in 1929 of blood poisoning, but he made his mark on Universal. 

Leni's debut American film was 1927's THE CAT AND THE CANARY. Based on a popular and long-running play of the same name, it is essentially an Old Dark House story played for laughs and chills. What makes this film special is the look and atmosphere created by the director.

The creepy West mansion: New York by way of Berlin
The story concerns Cyrus West, a dying millionaire whose money hungry family hangs over his impending corpse like cats around a canary. His home is a Gothic house perfect for haunting and his life is consumed with pills and medicine. Both the home and the medicine nightmare are eerily depicted in fine expressionistic fashion that create a most unsettling vision. His dying edict is that his will, bequeathing his fortune to an unnamed relative, is to be read at the stroke on midnight exactly 20 years after his death. In the 20 years following his death only faithful servant Mammy Pleasant (!) has inhabited his home. As you can see from the photo above, she was not a very conscientious housekeeper.

Morticia & Gomez would approve
Hollywood meets Berlin when the greedy relatives appear. Lawyer Tully Marshall waits for all to gather by midnight, but already knows that the will, presumably locked away in a vault since the old man died, has been tampered with. He is joined by expectant relatives Harry Blythe (Arthur Edmund Carewe), Charlie Wilder (Forrest Stanley), Paul Jones (Creighton Hale), Susan Silby (Flora Finch) and her daughter Cecily (Gertrude Astor). They are all wary of one another and are all dreaming of the millions they could soon have their hands on.
Last to arrive is Annabelle West (the very modern and very pretty Laura La Plante), the designated heiress and our heroine, who must only spend on night in the creepy mansion with her creepy relatives and be declared sane by Dr. Lazar (Lucien Littlefield). Easier said than done. You see, there is a second will naming an alternate beneficiary if Annabelle flunks the sanity clause and, just to add a cherry on the cake, a maniacal criminal called The Cat has escaped and is probably prowling around the mansion as we speak!

The Cat
Bodies fall, creepy hands creep across the screen, shadows loom in ominous shapes and a criminal who looks a lot like Dr Caligari is on the loose and after Annabelle. Yes, it's spooky, but is is also fun. Leni's visual style set the standard for the decades of Universal horror films to come.

Who inherits the loot?
This is one film I would love to see in a theater with an audience. Paul Jones is the bumbling and reluctant sleuth, but the real sleuth in the film is you, the viewer. Who is the Cat? Did you guess his identity? I'll never tell!

Monday, March 10, 2014

What the Cat Watches: Sookie Has Her Say

While my human slave has gone on errands for me to replenish supplies of preferred food, treats and toys, I, the cat, would like to present to you lowly humans the feline film perspective.

Yours Sincerely,
Sookie (otherwise known as "the cat")
She would be lost without my editing skills
First, let me say that without my editing input, this site would barely exist. Bad writing is met with walking over the keyboards, head butts on typing hands and plaintive wails from the depths of my sensitive soul.

I,like my human, enjoy a good movie. Naturally, we felines have elevated tastes, so if you are in the mood to become a better version of your lowly species, pay attention!

But, before I get into my personal faves, let me vent a bit about how deceptive you human can be. I watched these films with great disappointment. All rate a Paws Down from me.
1. The Cat and the Canary: Liars! Nary a cat nor a canary in site. A waste of my time. Paws down!

2. What's New Pussycat?:Give me a break!Same as above. Paws down!

3. Toy Story: Ha! You call those toys? Where were the catnip mice and the feathers? Double paws down!
Toys? I think not!
4. The Owl and the Pussycat: Come on, people! No pussycat and no owl. Liars! Paws down!

Not all human films are repulsive to we felines. Here are few that rate a Paws Up:

Harry and Tonto: Ah, now this is a great film. However, the Oscar should have gone to Tonto, not Carney (but we cats know how biased the Academy can be).
The great (and overlooked) Tonto
The Aristocats: While I am not a fan of cats speaking like humans (still waiting for the film where humans meow), this does contain one of cinema's greatest musical numbers, Everybody Wants to Be a Cat.

Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!: While I confess I did not understand this at all, the title alone earns a paws up. Fast and kill in the title with pussycat? How can it miss?

And, my favorite:
The Birds: This one has it all: birds, birds, and more birds! Chirping birds, flying birds, singing birds and - my favorite - dead birds! 

Well, I hear my human coming home. Let me go purr and rub up against her to ensure the unending flow of tummy rubs, treats and kibble. Talk about acting!