Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Five Film Favorites: Cartoons

This category is especially tricky. There's no way I can remember what my favorite cartoons were when I was 10 years old, back when cartoons mattered to me more than most things in real life. Baseball mattered more.

What will fill up this list will be my five favorite cartoons today. Still, before I get to that I want to give the reader some sense of what I liked best, back when I was a cartoon-loving kid. My favorite 'toons featured these characters: Betty Boop, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Heckle and Jeckle, Mr. Magoo, Popeye, Woody Woodpecker and so forth. Rather than go on, I'll stop there. You get the picture.  

In the late-1950s I still very much enjoyed the smooth animation styles of the old cartoons that were originally made to play in movie theaters. The early cartoons made for television, like Mighty Mouse, had imitated them. Then the Hanna-Barbera style came to TV. It was everywhere suddenly and I didn't like it all that much.

The drawings were flatter. Their entertainment value relied more on the dialogue than the art. Although I watched Huckleberry Hound and Yogi Bear, even liked them, I was put off by the animation style. The same was true for Rocky and Bullwinkle, although I liked the cartoons on that program more, because the writing was much funnier.

For this list of five favorites I'm talking mostly about cartoons that are about seven minutes long, which was standard in the time before television. So no feature length animated films are on this list. Neither are made-for-TV shows like The Simpsons, etc. 

Here are my five favorite short (all less than 10 minutes) cartoons, with one added special mention of an unusual animated segment of a feature-length film.

"The Critic" (1963): 4 minutes. Color. Directed by Ernest Pintoff. Voice by Mel Brooks. Click here to watch it.

"Duck Amuck" (1953): 7 minutes. Color. Directed by Chuck Jones. Voices by Mel Blanc. Click here to watch it.

"Minnie the Moocher" (1932). 8 minutes. B&W. Directed by Dave Fleischer. Voices by Mae Questel, Cab Calloway. Click here to watch it.

"Rooty Toot Toot" (1951): 7 minutes. Color. Directed by John Hubley. Voices by  Thurl Ravenscroft, Annette Warren. Click here to watch it.

"Thank You Masked Man" (1971): 8 minutes. Color. Directed by John Magnuson. Voices by Lenny Bruce. Click here to watch it.

Bonus pick: This is a segment from "Allegro non Troppo" (1976). It was an Italian take off of Disney's "Fantasia." Both films used pieces of classical music as their sound. Click here to watch it.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Press Release: 'The Third Man' screening and after-party

Date: August 18, 2015
To: All media for immediate release
Re: Screening of "The Third Man"
From: The Bijou Film Center

The Bijou Film Center will present the newly restored 4K version of "The Third Man" at the Byrd Theatre in Carytown on Sun., Sept. 6, 2015, at 7 p.m. With The Byrd's new 4K projector and its deluxe sound system the beloved gem of a movie promises to look and sound better than ever.

"The Third Man" (1949): B&W. 104 minutes. Directed by Carol Reed. Screenplay by Graham Greene. Music by Anton Karas. Cast: Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Orson Welles, Trevor Howard. Note: This film noir classic is basically a who-dunnit murder mystery set in crumbling post-WWII Vienna. Or, is the real mystery a matter of who was murdered? Since each of the principle characters is hiding something, well, the truth lurking in the shadows isn’t so easy to see ... much less, to grasp.

More about the Film: Here are a couple of excerpts from the late Roger Ebert's review of Reed's masterpiece: 
  • "Has there ever been a film where the music more perfectly suited the action than in Carol Reed's 'The Third Man'?"
  • "Of all the movies I have seen, this one most completely embodies the romance of going to the movies." 
Click here to read Ebert's entire review. A second review of the movie is here. To see the new trailer go here.

Admission: Tickets at the box office will be $10.00. Advance tickets are now available online at Eventbrite for $7.00 (plus a processing fee of $1.38) each. Paper advance tickets will be available for $7.00 (cash or check) at Bygones Vintage Clothing and Steady Sounds until the day of the show. The proceeds from this one-time-only special screening will be split between the Byrd Theatre Foundation's "Journey to the Seats" and the Bijou Film Center.

The After-Party will unfold at the New York Deli following the screening. Gypsy Roots will perform live on stage. The Deli will offer a special The Third Man menu that night. Admission will be free.


The Bijou Mission: The goal is to establish the nonprofit Bijou Film Center in Richmond, Virginia. Its centerpiece will be a small independent cinema (100-to-120 seats) that will strive to present the best of the artsy first-run independent and imported films available. They will be sandwiched between short runs of selected classics, perhaps an occasional festival.

Before the Screening, between 5 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. Happy Hour at the Portrait House will happen. Raffles will be held. Steady Sounds will play movie soundtracks.

Our thanks go out to this event's sponsors: Candela Books + GalleryMichael Harl Graphic Design;  New York Deli; One South Realty Group;  Portrait HouseVCUarts Department of Photography and Film.

More About The Bijou: For background information these two articles reveal more about our quest, go here and here. And, we just won an award from the Theatre Historical Society of America. More background pertaining to the effort to breathe life into the Bijou Film Center can be found on the Bijou's Facebook page and its Bijou Backlight blogzine.

This is the fourth event in the series of fundraisers produced by the Bijou Film Center over the last year. The resounding success of those events has bolstered our confidence that Richmond is ready to support a well-programmed art house, along the lines of the one described above. In discussing our plans we regularly hear encouragement from locals who agree that especially in the last 15 years -- culturally speaking -- Richmond has evolved, considerably. We have to believe that bodes well for the Bijou's future.

Break a leg: The night The Bijou opens, before the first film is presented, we will pause to toast to what we hope will become the hub of all things film in Richmond. We'll raise our glasses in The Bijou's small adjoining cafe/coffeehouse, which will regularly serve sandwiches, soups, salads, bagels, pastries, coffee, tea, beer, wine and so forth.

Beyond the exhibition of our gourmet film fare, we hope to be a friend to Richmonders interested in the preserving of old films and the making of new films. However, for the time being, we are focused on finding the best location for the Bijou Film Center to put down its roots. And, yes, we'll take all the help we can get.


The Bijou Film Center's temporary studio/office is at 1 E. Broad St. (23219) in Richmond's downtown "arts district." More info:

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Carol Reed's masterpiece: 'The Third Man'

If you read much about "The Third Man" (1949) you'll run into claims that it's a near-perfect movie. Such assertions seem to flow mostly from the safe notion that no feature film can be "perfect." But whatever flaws nitpickers might see in Carol Reed's film noir masterpiece simply don't play as mistakes to me. So I'm here to say that in my book, it's as close to perfect as it's going to get. 

"The Third Man" (1949): B&W. 104 minutes. Directed by Carol Reed. Screenplay by Graham Greene. Music by Anton Karas. Cast: Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Orson Welles, Trevor Howard.

Note: This film noir classic is basically a who-dunnit murder mystery set in crumbling post-WWII Vienna. Or, is the real mystery a matter of who was murdered? Since each of the principle characters in the story is hiding something, well, the truth lurking in the shadows isn’t so easy to see ... much less, to grasp.

It seems the legendary film critic Roger Ebert found more than just a measure of perfection in this beloved movie: 
  • "Has there ever been a film where the music more perfectly suited the action than in Carol Reed's 'The Third Man'?"
  • "[It] was made by men who knew the devastation of Europe at first hand. Carol Reed worked for the British Army's wartime documentary unit, and the screenplay was by Graham Greene, who not only wrote about spies but occasionally acted as one. Reed fought with David O. Selznick, his American producer, over every detail of the movie; Selznick wanted to shoot on sets, use an upbeat score and cast Noel Coward as Harry Lime. His film would have been forgotten in a week. Reed defied convention by shooting entirely on location in Vienna, where mountains of rubble stood next to gaping bomb craters, and the ruins of empire supported a desperate black market economy. And he insisted on Karas' zither music." 
  • "Of all the movies I have seen, this one most completely embodies the romance of going to the movies." 
Click here to read Ebert's entire review.

The characters moving through the film's deliciously twisted plot can be seen as representing various shades of gray truths, set before a harsh backlight cast by the bitter reality of the times. Within this story, they, too, are perfect: 

Joseph Cotten (who was from Petersburg, Virginia) is perfect as Holly Martins, a pulp fiction writer. He's the stubborn, naive American, in way over his head in a strange part of the world. More specifically, in Vienna and down on his luck, Martins is riding for a fall. Atop a Ferris wheel he winces as he asks his once-trusted old friend, Harry Lime, "Have you ever seen any of your victims?
Orson Welles is perfect as Harry Lime, the suave opportunist who answers Martins question with the beginning of a chilling and memorable speech: "Victims? Don't be melodramatic. Look down there. Tell me. Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever? If I offered you twenty thousand pounds for every dot that stopped, would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money, or would you calculate how many dots you could afford to spare?"

Trevor Howard is perfect as Major Calloway, the voice of reason and reality. He knows a situation with no good options when he sees one. As a military man, acting as a policeman, he just hopes to prevent more wreckage. Recognizing what a sap Holly is, Calloway says: "Go home Martins, like a sensible chap. You don't know what you're mixing in, get the next plane ...You were born to be murdered."

And, yes, Alida Valli is perfect as Anna Schmidt, the war-weary European. She's loyal to her instincts and passions no matter what comes. Hey, Anna has seen it all. Thanks to Harry's effort to obscure her past, together with her own charm and savvy, she has kept her secret hidden ... so far. Anna says: "A person doesn't change just because you find out more."

Can't reveal the role the cat plays in the story. It would give too much away, but the cat is perfect, too.

On Sun., Sept. 6, at 7 p.m. only, you can watch those characters come alive in the new 4K restoration of "The Third Man." See it on the Byrd Theatre's big screen and hear it through The Byrd's deluxe sound system. Maybe you, too, will call it perfection!

For more information and to see who's already planning to come, visit the Bijou Film Center's Facebook event page.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Sept. 6: "The Third Man" 4K restoration

The Bijou Film Center will present the newly restored 4K version of "The Third Man" at the Byrd Theatre on Sun., Sept. 6, 2015, at 7 p.m.

Don't forget, The Byrd has a new 4K projector in its booth. The proceeds will benefit the Bijou Film Center and the Byrd Theatre Foundation. Here are the basic details:

"The Third Man" (1949): B&W. 104 minutes. Directed by Carol Reed. Cast: Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Orson Welles, Trevor Howard. Note: Screenplay by Graham Greene. This elegant murder mystery is set in crumbling post-WWII Vienna. Or, is it a murder mystery? The main characters are all working their own angle, so the truth isn’t easy to grasp.

Maybe as close to a perfect movie as it gets. For more on the film and the restoration click here.
  • Admission: $10.00 at the box office. 
  • Advance tickets for $7.00 will be available soon at selected locations and online (a service charge of about a dollar is added to the price for online purchases).
The after-party will unfold at the New York Deli following the screening. Gypsy Roots will perform live on stage. Admission will be free. 

More information will be posted soon.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

An Imaginary Jack Nicholson Film Festival

by F.T. Rea
Jack Nicholson in "Five Easy Pieces"
On Facebook a musician friend reminded me of a Jack Nicholson film festival that played at the Biograph. He mentioned having seen “Five Easy Pieces” there and went on to say how much he enjoyed going to the Biograph in those days; it broadened his horizons when he was a student. Naturally, it's always nice to hear such remembrances.

Flashing back, there were many good aspects to my job as manager of Richmond's Biograph Theatre at 814 W. Grace St. (1972-83). One of the best was picking the films for double features.

Which isn't to suggest I thought them all up. Not at all. I had bosses in Georgetown. Over the first year, I gradually became more involved with programming the theater. We talked endlessly on the telephone about which movies had the most potential at the box office.

In those early days my decision-making was focused more on the midnight shows. And, once I did start making most of the calls about what to play, as far as the repertory bookings were concerned, I was already blessed with a great staff at the Biograph; their suggestions fed into the mix. Then there was the suggestion box in the lobby that allowed the theater's patrons to weigh in.

Still, the point of this post isn't to rehash the Biograph's sepia-toned history, yet again. What I want to do this time is make up a 12-feature Jack Nicholson film festival. With six double features, let's call it “Jack's Greatest Hits.”

Each twin bill would play for either three or four days. Matinees would be offered on Sundays and Wednesdays. Since the Biograph closed in 1987 (there's a noodle-themed restaurant in that space now), for this imaginary festival I'll just have to dream up an imaginary cinema. Let's locate it in the heart of town and call it The Bijou.

Although, for the most part, the 12 films selected for this game are favorites of mine, I've included two movies I didn't like all that much -- "The Shinning" and "The Departed." Did that because I expect a lot of loyal Nicholson fans consider his performances in those two films to be among his best. Maybe I need to watch them again. 

To make room in the festival for them one of my favorites I had to bump off the list was “The King of Marvin Gardens” (1972). Although I liked it a lot back in the day, I have to admit it's a bit tedious and off-the-wall. Plus, I haven't seen it in a long time. But I remember that some of Jack's fans didn't like him all that much in that role.

Remember, this is an imaginary festival. Its ignores the reality of how booking these particular pairings might not be possible, from a business standpoint. Nonetheless, without further ado, spanning 37 years of his work, here's the Jack's Greatest Hits film festival.

“Five Easy Pieces” (1970) + “Chinatown” (1974)

“Easy Rider” (1969) + “The Passenger” (1975)

“The Last Detail” (1973) + “One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest” (1975) 

“The Shining” (1980) + "The Departed" (2006)

“Carnal Knowledge” (1971)  + “As Good as It Gets” (1997)

“Prizzi's Honor” (1985) + “The Pledge” (2001)

A year or so from now maybe you'll get to see a repertory festival sort of like this one at The Bijou. It sure would be fun to have a hand in programming such a project.

Jack Nicholson and Billy Snead.
They were pals going back to the early 1950s (long story)
and got together occasionally. Billy (1935-2012) grew up in
the Fan District, played on the Biograph's softball team and
was a regular at Chiocca's for decades.

Anyone have a suggestion for a seventh double feature?


Note: By the way Billy Snead was a good story-teller. He had some good ones about Nicholson. Billy's daughter Sande posted some of the stories he put on paper here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Happening Sunday Afternoon

by F.T. Rea

James Parrish and Terry Rea hamming it up at Hardywood for 
Jere Kittle's lens. (She did the film reels installation, too).
Hooray for Hardywood! indeed.

The folks at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery certainly did their part to make the Bijou Film Center's show on Sunday afternoon (May 17) a rollicking success. Hardywood's staff did a magnificent job of setting up the stage, running sound and accommodating the thirsty crowd. In particular, I have to cite Kerry Anderson for seeing to it that things went smoothly.

By the way, I stole that "Hooray for Hardywood" line from Richmond Magazine's Harry Kollatz, Jr. It was used as the title of a piece Kollatz penned last week to let his readers know about the Bijou's "Music, Movies & Magic" show. So, Harry, who attended the show, deserves some thanks, too.

After a classic Daffy Duck cartoon was screened The Red Hot Lava Men administered a healthy dose of impeccably authentic surf guitar to the assembled audience. It was well received and it was fun to feel the energy in the cavernous room percolating. 

Speaking of writers who helped to prompt attendees for the afternoon's fare, STYLE Weekly's Chris Bopst made the scene, too. Making the Bijou's variety show an Event Pick was appreciated.

For a review of the event, please read Karen Newton's blog post, "Barrels of Fun," at I Could Go On and On. It seems Karen had a pretty good time, even if she doesn't care much for beer.
Today's event at Hardywood - bands, movies, magician and raffle - is the latest fundraiser to help get the upcoming Bijou Film Center up and running so that those of us devoted to the movie theater experience will have a place to see not only films that don't make it to Richmond, but repertory film as well...
...The Happy Lucky Combo took the stage with accordionist Barry looking particularly dapper in a straw boater, a gentleman's best topper on a summer-hot day, introducing themselves to first-timers (although how that's possible, I can't imagine) with a song, "We're the Happy Lucky Combo."
Seeing a lot of longtime friends at the party was quite encouraging. I'm happy to say there were too many there for me to try to name them all. However, one name I have to mention is Chuck Wrenn. Chuck, who I've worked with on many a promotion/show, was kind enough to introduce the last band to play -- Avers.  

Avers, fresh off of its smashing success at the South By Southwest Music Festival (SXSW) in Austin, did not disappoint the crowd. When Avers began playing the audience had doubled in size. The sudden influx of Avers fans cut the audience's average age in half. A packed house took in Avers' lively set of original material. The six-piece band's tight performance went over well with all ages assembled. 

Throughout the afternoon's event, with Chaplin and Keaton on the screen between sets by the bands, the vibe in the room was uplifting. The turnout was encouraging. As much fun as it was in having had a hand in putting on the show, and observing the roomful of people enjoying the entertainment and beer, this geezer particularly enjoyed the sight of little kids taking in the cartoons and watching our house magician, John Smallie, perform.

It needs mentioning here, too, that our sponsors played an integral role in making the show possible. There were:  Candela Books + Gallery, Christopher's Runaway Gourmay, Crossroads Coffee and Ice Cream, Don't Look Back, Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, Michael Harl, Plan 9, Portrait House, Triple Stamp Press.

Michael Harl's eye-catching poster design had people stealing them leading up to the show. Flattering? Yes. Helpful? Not so much. At the show we sold posters to attendees who wanted a souvenir.

Other than to have a good time on a Sunday afternoon, the purpose of the Music, Movies & Magic event was to publicize the fundraising drive the Bijou is kicking off to raise $15,000 to buy specific equipment that will put us in the film transfer business. Machines similar to what we'll need were demonstrated during the event by K Sean Finch of AV Geeks (out of Raleigh, NC).

We, James Parrish and me (Terry Rea), plan to start transferring old film and videos for customers in the fall of this year. News of how you can contribute to the cause will be published in a few days. Meanwhile, we'll continue to update this thank-you post with photos people send us. So, come back again to see what has been added. 

Thanks to all, especially our dutiful volunteers, who helped us in many way to put the event together and hold it together. And, last but not least, thanks to all who attended.

Another shot by Jere Kittle.


Thursday, May 14, 2015

MM&M at Hardywood: Live Music

With an event with so many moving parts the schedule is subject to what happens. So if you want to be sure of seeing a particular band's entire performance don't plan on the show running behind. It may, somewhat, but here's the schedule we hope to follow, as far as the live music is concerned.

The Red Hot Lava Men will start at 1:00 p.m. 

The Red Hot Lava Men are a surf-rock band that formed in 1997. They play righteous covers of classic surf guitar instrumentals from the late-'50s/early-'60s. Personnel: Mark Golden; John Gotschalk; Doyle Hull; Greg Weatherford.

Happy Lucky Combo will start at 3:15 p.m.

Tarras + Marx Bros + P.T. Barnum + Emir Kusturica + Raymond Scott + Lawrence Welk + Nino Rota + John Phillip Sousa + Maria Montez in Gypsy Wildcat + Hoosier Hot Shots + 3 Tries for a Dollar = Happy Lucky Combo. The group originated 10 years ago as a trio of street musicians: Barry Bless; Pippin Barnett; Dave Yohe.
Samples of music.

Avers will start at 4:30 p.m.

Serendipitously, members of various bands with projects aplenty fell together a couple of years ago. Now they're a tight, six-piece, sort of psychedelic rock band that just knocked 'em dead at the South by Southwest Music festival (SXSW) in Austin. Tyler Williams, James Mason, James Lloyd Hodges, Alexandra Spalding, Adrian Olsen and Charlie Glenn are Avers.
Cover story in Style Weekly. NPR story with video.

Thanks to MM&M's Sponsors

Our third fundraising event is set to happen on Sunday, May 17, 2015 at Hardywood Park. It will feature performances by musicians, a magician and we'll throw a few short films on the screen. There will also be an exhibition of the film transfer process, Super 8-to-digital, with equipment similar to what we hope to be using soon, once we reach our $15,000 fundraising goal to establish our film transfer operation.

Once again we are fortunate to have lined up the sponsors for the event that make it possible. For the Music, Movies & Magic show the logos for those folks are show below.

Links are here: Candela Books + Gallery, Christopher's Runaway Gourmay, Crossroads Coffee and Ice Cream, Don't Look Back, Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, Michael Harl, Plan 9Portrait House, Triple Stamp Press.

To visit the Bijou's Facebook page go here.


Thanks for Noticing

The Bijou Film Center takes its name from 
 Richmond's Bijou pictured here in 1929.
Two of Richmond's most persistent and prominent arbiters of cultural worthiness, especially when it comes to the local entertainment scene, have weighed in on the Bijou's variety show to be staged on Sunday at Hardywood Park. Chris Bopst and Harry Kollatz have said (on the Facebook event page) they are coming to the Music, Movies & Magic show (noon 'til 6 p.m.). In a couple of pieces published this week they offer some easons why their readers should join them. 

Here's an excerpt of Bopst's Event Pick at STYLE Weekly:
To kick off the Bijou’s fundraising drive to launch its film transfer business, they’re holding Music, Movies and Magic at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery on Sunday, May 17. The variety show will feature performances by local music groups the Red Hot Lava Men, Happy Lucky Combo and Avers...
To read the rest of it click here.

Here's an excerpt of Kollatz's "Hooray for Hardywood." 
What’s got two Chaplins, a Keaton and a Bugs Bunny, with music in between and an actual practitioner of legerdemain and prestidigitation? Find out on Sunday, May 17, during the Bijou Film Center’s event "Music, Movies & Magic" staged at the Hardywood Park Craft Brewery.
To read the entire piece in Richmond Magazine click here.

Thanks for the ink, real and virtual, Chris and Harry. See you there.

Image from Richmond Magazine.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Look of Three-Part Harmony

On Friday, I picked up the Music, Movies & Magic poster from Triple Stamp Press, and I'll have to say it's one of the best posters I've had anything to do with for quite some time. It also reminds me how much fun it is to collaborate with others on a creative project. In this case, the collaboration was with Terry Rea, my Bijou partner, and Michael Harl, local musician, WRIR deejay, graphic designer and longtime collaborator -- a trio.

I first met Michael when I was running the Richmond Flicker, a bi-monthly screening of short Super 8 and 16mm films by area filmmakers. Fairly early on I secured a studio space at the Hand Workshop (now Visual Arts Center of Richmond) with a combination of money and barter. I agreed to teach an "Intro to Super 8 Filmmaking" class in exchange for a discount on rent.

Michael attended Flicker and decided to take my Super 8 class. Soon after he offered to help design the Flicker zines I produced for each show. During the first year or so I did them myself using the old paste up method and photocopy machines. Michael and several other designers offered to take over the design duties. Then, much later, I was able to return the favor and offer him a paying gig doing graphic design work for the VCU School of Nursing.

So, Michael was the first guy I thought of when Terry and I were kicking around ideas for a poster. Having done posters for two previous events, we knew that we wanted to strip the poster down to the basics: who, what, when and where. And we wanted a clean, crisp design that evoked an earlier part of cinema history.

All it took was one meeting of the three of us to get on the same page. Terry brought his Speedball Book and after flipping through it and geeking out on some old school type and design, Michael and Terry zeroed in on a look for the poster. Michael gave us two designs for Terry and me to choose from, we picked one, and then we all made a few tweaks. Michael took the file to Triple Stamp and, with their advice, selected the paper.

As I loaded the posters in my car on Friday and gazed at the hot-off-the-press poster, I smiled and thought to myself, "I've always loved the sound of three-part harmony."

Turns out it looks good too.

-- James Parrish