cinema (10)

From “Modern Times,” a B&W masterpiece by Charlie Chaplin.

Paulette Goddard, Charlie’s beautiful waif girlfriend has found them a house. “It’s not Buckingham Palace,” she says. Charlie walks in and a beam falls on his head.

One of the funniest movies of all time. It’s a silent film, but made when sound was available. Charlie apparently felt that the Little Tramp wouldn’t work with sound, so this is silent. In the end the Little Tramp and Paulette walk off into the sunset, and this was the end of this character.

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Cool Tools- My Favorite Website

As I’ve said before, this is the 21st century online Whole Earth Catalog. Same M.O.: People like us writing reviews of cool stuff for other people like us. It’s embarrassing how many things I’ve obtained after reading about them here. These aren’t frivolous purchases; all the stuff is useful to me, stuff I’d never have known about otherwise.

I must point out I have a massive conflict of interest here. I’ve written a lot of CT reviews, and these guys are good friends.

That said, I periodically want to turn people onto this rich source of ad-free advice. It’s just madly useful. Take a look: https://kk.org/cooltools

Write a review and they’ll send you an email of new tools weekly.

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Zanuck Talking About Spielberg’s Genius and Jaws

Scrolling around for Zanuck stories today, I ran across this photo of him when he was producing “Jaws,” and a quirky interview 2 years ago by a reporter with the pseudonym “Quint” (coincidentally the name of the shark hunter in the movie). They were supposed to be discussing the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp film “Alice,” but perhaps understandably, Zanuck was more interested in discussing Jaws. https://www.aintitcool.com/node/45317

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Richard Zanuck, 1934-2012

I’m just heartsick to hear of the death of Hollywood producer Dick Zanuck, who was my college roommate and best friend for several years at Stanford in the mid-’50s. We decorated our room at the Fiji house with African masks and spears and South Seas artifacts from the set lot at 20th Century Fox. We went to movies almost every night. We took a surfing trip in a Fox jeep to Baja California in 1954, and then a Fox Ford convertible on a surfing trip to Mazatlan in Spring of 1955. We partied hard, chased girls, surfed, cultivated sun tans, and weren’t too serious about academic excellence.

   We both loved the beach, surfed, played volleyball, were the same size (not, um, tall) — and competitive (we actually got in a few fistfights). We’d go to a party, get semi-drunk, and take off for LA, arriving around sunrise. His family had a large house on the beach in Santa Monica, and my first experience surfing was riding a 12-foot redwood/balsa board owned by his brother-in-law Bobby Jacks at the Malibu colony. His family had a beautiful Spanish-style home in Palm Springs, built around a pool, where we’d go frequently, and John the butler would wake us up each morning with glasses of fresh orange juice from trees around the pool.

   One of our rituals was started by him when we were teenagers (60 years ago—gad!). He sent me a postcard from Hawaii showing a surfer, with the message “Ho!” (he was there and I was not). I started sending him “Ho!” postcards when I would be somewhere or doing something that would make him jealous, and he’d eventually reciprocate. In recent years I’d send him “Ho!” postcards of me skateboarding or doing well in races, and he’d call me right up.

   In recent years we’d talk about how all our friends were retired and we’d both say how we loved our work and were never going to retire. He never did. I’m so sorry to hear that he’s gone.

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Kevin Kelly’s Cool Tools

This is the single most useful site/blog on the web for me. I can’t say how many useful things this blog has turned me on to. It’s like the electronic Whole Earth Catalog, but what’s better is that it uses no paper, and it’s daily.

Kevin Kelly, ex-Whole Earth Review editor, founding editor at Wired mag, author, photographer, explorer, runs this operation, with daily reviews of useful stuff.

“Cool tools really work. A cool tool can be any book, gadget, software, video, map, hardware, material, or website that is tried and true. All reviews on this site are written by readers who have actually used the tool and others like it. Items can be either old or new as long as they are wonderful. We only post things we like and ignore the rest. Suggestions for tools much better than what is recommended here are always wanted. Tell us what you love.”

Easiest way to get there is to go to kk.org, then click on “Cool Tools” at the left.

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Get Low with Robert Duvall — Fantastic new film

My roommate and best friend for a couple of years at Stanford was Dick Zanuck, now the über-successful film producer (Driving Miss Daisy, Butch Cassidy, and more recently the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp collaborative mega-filns. We’ve kept in touch over the years and he knows I like the film work of his son Dean (who produced Road to Perdition in 2002), so last week he sent me two tickets to an advance screening of Dean’s latest movie, Get Low with Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, and Sissy Spacek. (I mean, how could you go wrong?) My friend Jack Fulton and I went. It was at the grand old Castro Theater in San Francisco. Before the screening, Duvall answered questions for maybe 45 minutes. His favorite role of all time was in the TV series Lonesome Dove; he said he walked into the makeup room on the Lonesome Dove set and said, “Boys, we’re making the Godfather of westerns,” He considers the first two Godfathers masterpieces. Asked how do you get into all these different roles, he said, you have to know yourself.

Photo: Director Aaron Schneider, producer Dean Zanuck and actor/producer Robert Duvall

He must know himself pretty well, because he gives a brilliant performance in this wonderful movie. It opens July 30 and you can see a trailer at: https://is.gd/bRlaz

It’s a great script, wonderful acting, set in 1930s Tennessee. Duvall’s log cabin is a beauty, with a stone fireplace; inside wide horizontal planks, orange glow from kerosene lanterns and flickering fireplace flames. Just lovely throughout. Bill and Sissy are perfect. Duvall’ is a 100% Academy Award performance, powerful, nuanced, and I hope the fact that this is a low-budget film without big-bucks backing doesn’t stop him from being nominated.

Here’s to guys who make movies from the heart.

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Movies on Market Street, streetcar monkeys, San Francisco, in the '40s, Al Pacino in Donnie Brasco in the '90s

On Tuesday night, my friend Roger (also a native San Franciscan) gave me an old scrapbook he’d picked up at a garage sale. Someone had cut out articles from 1948-’49 newspapers and made a period scrapbook. It was perfect, and brought back memories of those years, Jeez, SF was even more breathtakingly beautiful and wonderful in the 40s and 50s, when it was still a real port. Ah, well, ain’t it true everywhere?

We lived on the last block of Ulloa Street (26 kids on one block), near the “L,” “M.” and “K” streetcar lines. This rare photo shows one of the old-style streetcars from the ’40s. The cowcatcher is being lowered here. When direction of the car was reversed at the end of the line, the cowcatcher would be tied up on the back end via a cable through that round fitting in the center.

Throughout the city us kids would creep up behind a slowly moving car (crouching so the conductor, who was in the back, wouldn’t see us), then run up and jump on the cowcatcher.* We rode all over the city. The 2-mile long tunnel from West Portal to Castro – –  whoa! Sparks flying overhead from the electric trolleys, lots of alcoves where someone on foot in the tunnel could jump when trains came by, 30 mph rocking through the darkness. To come out into the dazzling city at Market and Castro.

Every Saturday I’d go to the movies. I loved the movies. There was no TV. Market Street was, among other things, an arcade of film palaces, the Fox, the Warfield, the Paramount… I’d walk the 6 or so blocks, looking at marquees; sometimes I’d go to two movies. Actually, come to think of it, when I was maybe 10, my grandmother used to take me for what she called “a toot:” taking in two movies on Market Street. (Different eras, different “toots.”)

These days I don’t watch too many movies. But once in a while I get stunned. Donnie Brasco (1997), with Al Pacino and Johnny Depp is a great film. It snuck up on me; halfway through I realized that the dialogue was brilliant, the chemistry between Al and Johnny perfect. I think it’s Pacino’s finest role. And Johnny can actually act, as opposed to the weird roles he’s been playing in shitty movies lately). The dialogue is on the level of “The Wire” or “Deadwood,” by which I mean tight, funny, finely-crafted dialogue. Check out https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119008/quotes for dialogue from the film.

Music du jour: “Are you lonely for me baby?” by Otis Redding and Carla Thomas. And a beautiful version of “Something is wrong with my baby;”stands right up there alongside Sam and Dave’s version. Both songs on CD King and Queen, 11 duets of Otis and Carla (including “Tramp”).

*Fred Van Dyke, who grew up closer to the beach, says that sometimes if a conductor spotted you, he’d roll open the rear window and slap your hands so you’d fall off (not at high speeds).

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Avatar: Wonder at Life

One thing I loved about the movie (intensified by the 3-D) was the feeling that I was moving through the woods with the tuned-in natives. And the flying was like a short time in my life when I dreamed of flying night after night. I tried explaining this to someone, but didn’t get the idea through. But in today’s NYTimes, biologist Carol Kaesuk Yoon writes a rave review (rare for the NYT) about “…the pure wonder of seeing life” in Avatar:

“Please excuse me if I seem a bit breathless, but the experience I had when I first saw the film (in 2-D, no less) shocked me. I felt as if someone had filmed my favorite dreams from those best nights of sleep where I wander and play through a landscape of familiar yet strange creatures, taking a swim and noticing dinosaurs paddling by, going out for a walk and spying several entirely new species of penguins, going sledding with giant tortoises. Less than the details of the movie, it was, I realized, the same feeling of elation, of wonder at life….” https://bit.ly/50tAHW

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