Out with the old, in with the new. We do it every December 31…and the words Happy New Year! always sound delightful, full of promise and goodwill.
Here’s wishing everyone a Happy New Year and many movies in 2014!
Out with the old, in with the new. We do it every December 31…and the words Happy New Year! always sound delightful, full of promise and goodwill.
Here’s wishing everyone a Happy New Year and many movies in 2014!
Countdown to Halloween, the 31st day of October…
In honor of the movies and trick-or-treating, here’s a pairing of scary movies with their freaky candy counterparts. How about a NutRageous! candy bar while watching PSYCHO? Or a 3 Musketeers with TRILOGY OF TERROR? And you can guess what little tri-colored treat goes best with CHILDREN OF THE CORN.
Check out the entire selection at https://homeprojectionist.com/tag/31-bites/
(Thanks to Home Projectionist blogger Dave Hunter for these brilliantly clever morsels!)
At HOME PROJECTIONIST, we’re always on the lookout for recommendations for movie/food/drink themed events.
WineClubGuide’s list of “The Top 6 Appearances by Wine in a Movie” offers programming ideas for your next home viewing party where WINE is the main attraction. (But wait, isn’t wine the main attraction at all home viewing parties????)
6. French Kiss (1995) – Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline star in a sweet romantic comedy.
5. Silence of the Lambs (1991) – OK, so it’s not about wine, but it does boast a brilliant mention of wine.
4. Sideways (2004) – Rocking the wine world and flatlining Merlot.
3. Bottle Shock (2008) – Wine history docu-drama…complete with gorgeous light and scenery.
2. Mondovino (2004) – “Struggle and survival” in the wine business documentary.
1. The Princess Bride (1987) – Wallace Shawn hilarity.
To see full story from WineClubGuide.com and watch the perfectly selected clips, go to:
What are your top picks for BEST WINE APPEARANCE IN A MOVIE?
My friends laugh at me during the holidays when I dig out my DVD of a crackling fire and hit the play button. But then they do eventually admit that the video adds some wonderful ambience to my fireplace-less room — and they all end up looking great in the fire’s glow, eyes shining and skin warmed by that particular kind of light.
I think I’ve decided that the burning yule log is one of my favorite holiday “movies.”
Last week, the Northwest Film Society screened Charles Laughton’s very creepy THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955), billing this troubling and terrifying story featuring Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, and Lillian Gish as “an underrated and oddly heart-warming Christmas movie that makes a singular case for persistence of love over wickedness.”
I wondered what other movies — traditional and otherwise — were on people’s holiday viewing lists, so I posed the question to the Home Projectionist “What Are You Watching?” group on Facebook. (To participate in the Home Projectionist Facebook group, go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/homeprojectionist/.)
A number of suggestions surfaced, from scary to heartwarming, movies like BLACK CHRISTMAS; FAMILY STONE; LADY IN THE LAKE; and one of my personal favorites, BELL, BOOK AND CANDLE with Jimmy Stewart falling head over heels under Kim Novak’s bewitching spell on Christmas Eve.
Home Projectionist contributor Lindsay discovered Rod Serling’s dark version of A Christmas Carol, the made-for-tv CAROL FOR ANOTHER CHRISTMAS, starring Sterling Hayden and Peter Sellers, during her quest to watch a variety of different versions of the classic Dickens tale this year. She made it through seven!
Home Projectionist blogger Dave identified a compelling and creative list of options inspired by the 12 Days of Christmas carol — for example, LITTLE WOMEN filed under the “Eight Maids A-Milking” verse — brilliant!
And I am officially adding the holiday yule log video to the list.
Celebrating the Winter’s Solstice (and what was not to be the end of the world) on December 21 with some friends, the crackling fire burned bright on my tv screen for hours and hours, in all of its artificial glory, next to the artificial tree. As one guest said, “But it really works, doesn’t it?”
There’s nothing like the light of a fire to enhance the sense of holiday spirit in a room. You can stream fireplace videos on Netflix, grab them from YouTube, or pick one up today at your local discount store. Once you start looking for them, they’re everywhere. I haven’t been disappointed by any that I’ve seen. (Warning: You may want to play your preferred fireplace video on a screen that’s close to the size of an actual fireplace. I almost called the fire department when I saw a neighbor’s towering inferno projected on their eight-foot screen.)
If you spent most of your time watching movies this past week, you might have missed these articles here at Home Projectionist:
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From the Witch’s Brew to the Devil’s Skin, check out Huffington Post’s compelling directory of Halloween cocktails for this weekend’s spooky movie watching parties. See them all at 21 Creepy Holiday Drinks.
I wish I had the time and the house to do something like this. Amazingly well constructed and lined up to fit the frame. This is what I call a true Home Projectionist!
Why don’t Movie Watching Clubs get the same love and respect as Book Clubs do?
It was a smart move when booksellers started to leverage the concept of the Book Club to promote their wares. (And Book Clubs that champion reading are good things, of course. There was a time when booksellers promoted the installation of built-in book cases in new housing construction so people would buy more books. Never mind the reading part.)
But maybe booksellers are a little hungrier. There are less than 1 trillion books sold every year. In contrast, almost 3.5 trillion videos will be viewed through on-line streaming alone this year. The movie industry doesn’t really need to create and nurture an audience. The audience is already there, willing, ready, and able, remote control in hand.
Movie Watching Clubs are simple to organize, especially with the help of online tools like Facebook, where you can easily create an event notice and a group to facilitate communication. All a movie watching club needs is a host who enjoys selecting the programming and creating the event. It doesn’t matter if the movies are shown on a plain old tv or in a high-end home theater. The key element is the shared human experience. (Cue the Home Projectionist credo: It’s More Than a Movie.)
Johnny C., fellow Home Projectionist blogger, hosted his first group watching experience on his big-screen television back in the day when a big screen tv weighed about the same as a refrigerator. The night was a hit. “Let’s face it: SHOWGIRLS is an absolutely bust if you ever watched in the theater or on tv. But when I watched with a group, it was absolutely fabulous.”
He hosted a Sunday Dark Shadows group, which was featured on NPR’s This American Life. Listen Here: Dark Shadows
“Once I bought my first LCD projector and installed a 10-foot screen, I would just say ‘I’m watching this tonight and if anyone wants to come over….’ And it turned into a situation where a lot of people would come over.”
Fast forward, and the group of John’s movie-watching friends institutionalized their group with the name (courtesy of club member Daniel Starr), the “The ‘Bleeping’ Ravenswood Manor Film Society,” also affectionately known as the TBRMFS.
The first season of the Film Society featured only made-for-tv movies from ABC’s Friday Night at the Movies because, according to John, “They were only 72 minutes a piece. We could show more than one on a week night and it wouldn’t always turn into a late, late evening. But then again, we did watch SECRET OF HARVEST HOME, clocking in at three hours long, which was crazy.”
In those early days, the TBRMFS crew convened to watch a number of eighties’ treasures like DAWN: PORTRAIT OF A TEENAGE RUNAWAY followed up with THE OTHER SIDE OF DAWN; SAVAGES; DUEL; PRAY FOR THE WILDCATS ; THE LEGEND OF LIZZIE BORDEN; TRAPPED; SATAN SCHOOL FOR GIRLS; DYING ROOM ONLY; and CURSE OF THE BLACK WIDOW.
In its current iteration, the TBRMFS features Random Noir Nights for smaller groups and Saturday Night Themed Double Features such as “Women in Trouble Night” featuring Doris Day in JULIE and Barbara Stanwyck in JEOPARDY.
We humans are social animals who have a need to share collective experiences. Movie Watching Clubs deserve a little more attention and a little more love.
An estimated 10,000 people attended this summer’s first annual Cat Video Film Festival, presented by the Walker Art Center of Minneapolis. Indeed, we love to watch our kitties.
Yet, there is a certain dearth of full-length movies that actually star our furry friends. Among the short list of films with felines in leading roles are THAT DARN CAT (1965) with Hayley Mills; the absolutely wonderful and overlooked gem HARRY and TONTO (1974) starring Art Carney; THE CAT FROM OUTER SPACE (1978) with Dean Jones and Sandy Duncan; and RHUBARB (1951) with Ray Milland.
Perhaps because they can be known to be a bit diva like, cats can capture starring roles when they take on animated forms in classics such as FRITZ THE CAT,(1972); THE ARISTOCATS (1970); GAY PURR-EE (1962); and GARFIELD (2004).
A few compelling creatures that have found one-hit-wonder fame in co-starring roles like Pyewacket in BELL, BOOK & CANDLE (1958); Cat from BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S (1961); and Baby from BRINGING UP BABY (1938).
And some cats get screen credit and celebrity by not doing much of anything at all but be fascinating to look at (true to their inner cat personalities), like Mr. Bigglesworth from the AUSTIN POWERS movies.
A home theater night featuring a lineup of cat movies (tuna anyone?) would be a definite crowd pleaser. On the positive side, the limited choices make deciding what to watch an easier task.
I wonder what cats think of being marginalized by Hollywood. It seems to me there’s gold to be made if someone can come up with the right script for a feature film starring our most beloved cat characters on YouTube.
Back in the day, Tim League and his friends watched a lot of horror movies on VHS. From those humble beginnings, League took his love of film and created Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse. He is now looking to expand the organization’s presence nationwide.
Alamo has created its astounding success by delivering unique compelling movie programming along with themed entertainment. The audiences rave.
With Alamo’s Signature Series, for example, programming includes events such as Food & Film nights (with offerings such as a screening of CASABLANCA accompanied by a Moroccan feast); Weird Wednesdays for the best in classic trash; and its Cinema Club that showcases classic films along with discussions led by filmmakers, film historians, and academics.
In addition to its emphasis on unique programming, Alamo Drafthouse sponsors a Fantastic Fest film festival, distributes its own Drafthouse Films, and manages its Mondo film art boutique. To see what’s coming up, go to http://drafthouse.com/events/austin.
League has also been responsible for some behavior modification, raising a national storm last year when Drafthouse banned texting and talking.
When you’re a Home Projectionist, you love to plan programming — from making film choices to selelcting accompanying shorts, cartoons and whatever else might strike your fancy — to create signature at-home viewing events for your family and friends. Alamo Drafthouse can be a model to which Home Projectionists aspire.
Recently I wrote about a great double feature movie night when I showed Night of the Lepus and The Thing with Two Heads. However, there is a flip side to being a host of a movie night; when everything you’ve planned somehow turns out to be the wrong decision.
I had one of these nights a few years ago. It all started when a friend of mine, the famous Cynthia Plaster Caster, was asked by Tribeca Films to be a ‘Style Setter.” This is an ingenious idea where they find people in major cities who are either well known or well connected and they give them advance copies of an upcoming film; they are then expected to have a party where the film is shown, guests are asked to post comments on their social media pages, take photos of the festivities at the home screenings, thereby generating a buzz for people to see the film. Cynthia asked me if we could use my home living theatre to have a screening of the film “The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia.”
The word from people who had seen the film at art house screenings was that it was hysterical. It’s a documentary about an Appalachian family related to the famous mountain dancer Jesco White, the star of the short film “The Dancing Outlaw.” I’ve seen that short film and it is very funny. Jesco, in-between fighting with his wife outside their trailer, dances on pieces of wood, drinks moonshine. But he is dedicated to a rare and unique form of dancing that was born and has been passed down through generations in the White family.
Cynthia had her list of people who she wanted to come see the film, some of which had never been to a video night at my house. One of the guests was bringing her sister whom we were all warned was very uptight and conservative. We all needed to be on our best behavior, no talking about sex, try not to swear, etc. Already it was going to be a stress filled evening.
I usually show two films when it’s a Saturday night, plus a couple people were coming later so I thought something to fill an hour or so would be good. Recently, my friend Dan gave me for my birthday a copy of Connie Steven’s 1974 TV movie The Sex Symbol.
In it Connie plays a thinly disguised Marilyn Monroe. Rumor has it that she was so proud of this performance that she tried to get it submitted as a contender for an Academy Award. Connie tears the scenery to bits as she stumbles around drunk, sleeps with man after man; all the while Shelley Winters as a thinly disgusted Luella Parsons trashes her on her TV show. I’d only watched the first ten minutes of the movie and it was non-stop camp. I thought, this is going to be perfect. Plus, I had been having a series of TV movie nights, all of which were pretty successful. The TV movie is its own style of filmmaking and it lends itself to group watching.
People arrived, drinks flowed. I got the first group of people to settle down and I started by showing a vintage Soundee, called Satan Is a Woman.
I love this song with it’s over the top male baritone singing about the woman who did him wrong, but for some reason no one else thought it was anything special. After it was over, dead silence. I can’t remember what I put on after that, but it equally fell flat on the floor where people poked at it with their shoes. You’re batting a thousand with these clips…” was one comment.
I thought I better get the first feature on. So I started “The Sex Symbol.” The first ten minutes were great. Connie throws a screaming tantrum, her assistant calls her a drunk and a vodka bottle gets thrown through Shelley Winters’ image on the TV. The famous composer Francis Lai (A Man and a Woman, Love Story) wrote the theme which actually gives the beginning the feel of a big budget movie, however the overall quality of the production is up there with a Marshall Owen, Counselor at Law episode.
Everyone was engaged as Connie (aka, faux Marilyn) sleeps her way up the celebrity ladder. However, after a half hour it really started to drag like a Ford Pinto trying to get up a hill hauling a trailer full of bowling balls. I looked over at the timer on the DVD player and it was at 40 minutes. Usually TV movies time out around 72 minutes. ‘This opus couldn’t possibility be over in a half hour…” I thought. Connie was just rolling around on bed after bed, spilling vodka all over the silk sheets and (gasp) showing her breasts. Yikes, and the uptight sister that we all supposed to be on our best behavior for was sitting front and center. Then it dawned on me; this wasn’t the TV movie but the theatrical version Connie was trying to get into the running for the Academy Awards. Running Time 120 minutes! We brave souls trudged on but the rumblings started to get louder and louder… Finally, when I went to the kitchen to fortify myself with another glass of wine, Paul and Chris followed me in there and cornered me. “ You’ve got to shut this movie off… everyone wants The Wild Whites…!” “I know, but Cynthia made me promise to wait for a couple people…” I said trying to save face. I knew this was a disaster. I went in to the room and said, ‘…there’s been a consensus to shut this off…” Many signs of relief, but a couple people said, ‘Oh, I want to see the whole thing…’ This movie might have been good with a couple people who really wanted to see Connie try really, really hard to be a dramatic actress, but everyone else was bored silly.
Even though some of the special guests hadn’t arrived I started the “The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia.” Now it was time for some wacky hysterical, hillbilly hilarity. Bring on the drunks! I was looking forward to seeing some real domestic screaming from the White family. And we did… and then some.
The family is a mess: drug addicts, incest, broken homes, a meth making grandmother doing smack in her rocking chair. Their casual talk about robbing grocery stores and doing drugs starts out as amusing in that gonzo sort of way. The thing was as this movie went on it became less and less funny; it was just really sad. One of my guests got up after a few minutes and apologized because she had to leave. She explained her brother had so many of the similar drug problems she didn’t think it was funny and she didn’t want to watch it. “Usually I show fun movies. Come back again…” I said.
Each one of the Whites goes deeper down the hole of despair. This wasn’t your parents Beverly Hillbillies, these people had generational issues of poverty and substance abuse that were killing them one by one and destroying he people around them. Hysterical right… I longed for Connie rolling around on the silk sheets again.
That’s not saying that the documentary wasn’t well made and fascinating, but the subject matter was so bleak and depressing, but it was advertised as a ‘crazy’ wild romp from the producers of “Jackass”; people living on the edge. Woo-hoo cool. I felt like I wanted to take a shower right afterwards. I guess I wasn’t cut out to be a Trend Setter. Because I didn’t have much to say about it afterwards; I felt a little embarrassed that I hadn’t known how intense the documentary was going to be. Everyone left soon after the film was over. Although some people were enthusiastic about the film making, overall it was a soul crushing downer of an evening.
So lesson learned: Always watch or at least preview your movies beforehand.
A story about nuns setting up a school and hospital in the Himalayas? Yes, it sounds dreadful.
But when the nuns meet up with the tanned, hunky government official, who happens to be wearing a chest-baring shirt and short shorts, you know something’s going to go down.
BLACK NARCISSUS (1947), from awarding-winning director-writer team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, is absolutely delicious to watch (with gorgeous cinematography by Jack Cardiff). What makes this film so much fun to show for an at-home movie night is that it’s serious, melodramatic, nonsensical, and thrilling all at the same time.
The drama ensues on the grounds of an improbable and imposing monastery perched on the edge of a 9,000-foot cliff. To add to the intrigue, we find out that the monastery previously housed the king’s concubines in secret, sensually painted rooms, which are now guarded by a mad woman.
It turns out that the monastery itself becomes one of the most formidable characters driving the story forward. In addition to the monastery, the stellar cast also includes Deborah Kerr as the conflicted sister, David Farrar as the hot guy in town, Kathleen Byron as the mad-as-a-hatter nun, and Jean Simmons and Sabu as the weirdly matched young local couple.
When I first heard the name of the film, I didn’t get it, given that my knowledge of horticulture is sorely lacking. I came to learn that Black Narcissus is a flower, known for its intoxicating scent and also its potential toxicity. I don’t think the name of this film would ever get through a marketing department these days because of its abstractness, but now I can’t imagine the film with any other title.
Promotions for BLACK NARCISSUS proclaimed: “Drama at the top of the world … where winds of the exotic past sweep men and women to strange and fascinating adventure…” The language is as over the top as the film, which is available on Criterion Blu-ray (with engaging extra features).
I always love themed Home Projectionist events, and the setting of this film gives a big range opportunities for Himalayan hosting.
Foodwise, I would just order carry out from a local Himalayan restaurant (because I probably wouldn’t find yak or goat at my local grocery and I really do love goat.) But nonetheless, there are less exotic options available if you’re inclined to follow recipes. For starters, check out authentic and easy recipes at Nepali Food.
If you’re still not sure you can convince your company that a movie about nuns is a must-see, you can send ’round the YouTube clip below with your invitations.
What is it in our collective DNA that makes us like bumbling spies so much? The Agent-Without-a-Clue is an enduring force in the movies, from which many sequels have been spawned. There’s Natasha and Boris from the old Rocky & Bullwinkle show to the contemporary Austin Powers.
And there’s also Hubert Bonissuer de la Bath, alias French Agent OSS 117 — alias Jean Dujardin.
The world (myself included) fell in love with Jean Dujardin last year for his Academy Award-winning lead role in THE ARTIST (2011). And when I discovered that Dujardin and The Artist’s director and writer Michel Hazanavicius had teamed up earlier to create two throwback spy movies, they were on the “must watch” list in seconds.
The first, OSS 117: CAIRO, NEST OF SPIES (2006) takes Dujardin’s thick-headed but oh so debonair Hubert to Egypt to take on the task of “straightening out” the Middle East.
The film has all the standard spy send-up elements, including the beautiful female agent and super villains. It’s silly and totally entertaining, with a number of laugh out loud and did-he-really-say that politically incorrect lines. I didn’t get all the French colonialism jokes, but no matter. NEST OF SPIES is great fun.
And the follow-up feature, OSS 117: LOST IN RIO (2009) is just as satisfying, taking us to South America for some Nazi-hunting with the continuing clueless and incredibly stylish playboy spy. The sight gags and groan-inducing laughs continue, but this time with extra and effective visual tricks with the split screen, gorgeous scenery, a hippie orgy (which is funny but a bit disappointing nonetheless), and the tropical sounds of bossa nova. How can you go wrong?
With these two OSS films as testing ground, you can see how the Hazanavicius team, including Bérénice Béjo, were able to perfect the homage film we saw in THE ARTIST. They have imitation down as the sincerest form of flattery.
One of the best things about being a Home Projectionist is designing your night’s programming, and I am still torn about which OSS I would show on an upcoming spy night. For me, I think two OSS films in a row would be overkill. I would rather fill out the night with a classic Spy V. Spy cartoon, a Get Smart episode, and then most likely, LOST IN RIO.
And during cocktails — both before the screening begins and when the watching is over — there’s so much fabulous ’60s music to play.
One of the best film group nights I had was several years ago when I first got my projection system. The odd thing about showing movies to large groups is that you have to hit a middle ground that everyone can somehow relate too. I’ve had movie nights where I’d shown classic movies that are on the AFC Best Movies Lists and they were received with just tepid responses. Recently, at an outdoor movie night I showed The Thin Man. A movie that I’d not seen recently, but remembered liking at a revival showing. It wasn’t a total bomb, but by the middle of the film people were restless, constantly getting up to change seats, getting drinks, a ten-year old gave up half way through to go to sleep in the house, and another attendee told me afterwards, “You know, no matter how many times I see that movie I’ve no idea what the hell is going on…”
This was not the case with my double feature of The Night of Lepus and The Thing With Two Heads.
The Night of the Lepus was an early 70’s MGM Horror movie starring Janet Leigh and Stewart Whitman. Remember the horror of the giant bug movies of the 50’s, such as Them or Tarantula? Now think of one of those movies, except with bunnies!
Director William F. Claxton was mainly a television director, so maybe that’s why this film has the feel of a TV movie. It’s quick and snappy and totally ridiculous.
The 2nd feature of the evening, The Thing With Two Heads is a what my mother would have called ‘a hoot’.
Directed by one of the most talented exploitation cinema directors, Lee Front, The Thing with Two Heads has Oscar-winning actor Ray Milland as a bigoted millionaire who has his head grafted on the body of a death row inmate played by NFL star Rosie Grier. This movie is what I like to call a camptacular. It has everything; 70’s blaxploitation meets Sci-Fi, over the top acting by Milland, and a message of why-can’t-we-all-get-along. The film rolls like a runaway train that has jumped the tracks. It really isn’t going anywhere, but you can’t take your eyes off of it because you want to see the crash. And it’s extremely fun!
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