“The Other Side of the Wind”

It’s been fascinating to me to learn more about and to finally see Orson Welles’ final film The Other Side of the Wind (Netflix, 2018).

A biting satire of Hollywood and sort of a film-within-a-film itself, The Other Side of the Wind is about a legendary film director named Jake Hannaford (played by the real-life legendary director John Huston) who is attempting to resuscitate his languishing career by making an avant-guard film called, well, The Other Side of The Wind. Hannaford needs an influx of cash to finish the project, so he throws a screening party at an expansive home in Arizona and invites potential investors and various members of the Hollywood media to show them parts of the unfinished film.

Orson Welles began shooting the film in 1970. Filming continued sporadically for six more years. From what I’ve read, it sounds like a combination of Welles’ temperament along with a series of complicated financial deals brought the work on the film to a standstill. Welles died in 1985 and the film remained in an unfinished state and became a “holy grail” of sorts for devotees of Welles’ work.

Multiple attempts have been made over the years to complete the film. Finally, the deep pockets of Netflix along with the work of director Peter Bogdanovich (who also stars in the film) and movie producer Frank Marshall (who was an assistant on the film) were able to get the job done.

While Welles supervised some of the editing himself when he was actively working on the film, what we have for our viewing pleasure now is an attempt by multiple filmmakers, artists, and technical experts to recreate a work by a notoriously fickle auteur. Writer and self-professed Orson Welles “obsessive” Alex Ross in a very interesting article in The New Yorker wrote:

“Welles buffs will long argue over their choices, but the film is a major addition to the director’s canon, offering a sometimes harrowingly personal vision. Hannaford is hardly a self-portrait, but his predicament is not unlike Welles’s own: he is a legend whose past overshadows his present. At the same time, ‘Wind’ is an exhilarating forward leap, its rapid-fire editing and pseudo-documentary format heralding modern styles. Ultimately, it has the Wellesian quality of not caring what you make of it. As one of Hannaford’s minions says, bringing out a stack of film cans, ‘Well, here it is, if anybody wants to see it.'”

Ross also details in his excellent piece about the physical and technical challenges of assembling the film. “[Sound supervisor Daniel] Saxlid, a wizardly Swede, spent more than three months cleaning up the dialogue, working seven days a week in a windowless room in Technicolor’s post-production facility on the Paramount lot. Multiple transfers of the soundtrack had caused a build-up of noise and distortion…Saxlid developed a…program, “a kind of forensics,” to expand microscopic portions of the track and reduce noise while preserving the voices. All this solitary activity gave him a curious sense of interaction with Welles himself. ‘So much of this we couldn’t have done even a few years ago. All these endless delays drove everyone crazy, but maybe the thing had to wait until we had all the right tools for it. I kept having a funny feeling that Welles had tossed all this to the future, for us to figure out.'”

They definitely figured things out technically. The film is fascinating to watch—almost as if Welles had come back from the grave to give us one last film. The imagery is sometimes a bit challenging and unplesant, but is also sometimes absolutely revelatory in its composition, style, and technical excellence. I wonder if we’ll ever figure out all of what Welles was trying to say. To me, it was like Welles taking his hands off the steering wheel of a speeding car, giving the middle finger to Hollywood, but then crashing and, sadly, losing his life in a rather self-consumed and futile way.

Behind-the-scenes photo with John Huston (L), Orson Welles (C), and Peter Bogdanovich (R) which looks like a happy time

The film is currently available on Netflix. Also of interest is a behind-the-scenes documentary about the creation of the final cut called They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead, which is currently on Netflix as well.

The Other Side of the Wind is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for “sexual content, graphic nudity and some language.”

My score: 4 out of 5 stars

Images ©️ Netflix

December 20, 2018 Podcast

It’s a very special Christmas podcast this week and our last podcast of 2018. We’ll resume in January. Thanks for listening!

New in Theaters

Reviews

The Christmas classics series continues with The Bishop’s Wife (1947). Also reviewed are Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) and Mary Poppins Returns (2018).

Classic Cinema Corner

Christmas Day is going to be a delight on TCM with an evening full of comedies. Check tcm.com/schedule for the latest details. Also, TCM is playing six films starring Burt Reynolds on December 26 to honor his passing last September.

I often like to have a movie challenge/project during any given year, so for 2019, I’m going to watch all 52 films listed in Jeremy Arnold‘s outstanding TCM book The Essentials: 52 Must-See Movies and Why They Matter. Many films I’ve already seen, some I haven’t. I hope you’ll consider joining in, too!

Recommendations

I hope to see a bunch of movies over the Christmas holiday, but for now, I still recommend Ralph Breaks the Internet, along with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Mary Poppins Returns.

2019 Project: “The Essentials”

For my 2019 movie watching project, I’m going to watch all 52 films listed in the excellent 2016 book from Turner Classic Movies (TCM) called The Essentials: 52 Must-See Movies and Why They Matter by frequent TCM collaborator Jeremy Arnold. The book was an accompaniment to the series on TCM of the same name which highlighted these outstanding films (and was most recently hosted by actor Alec Baldwin).

The plan is to watch one film a week from the list below (which is taken directly from Jeremy Arnold’s Essentials book), read Jeremy Arnold’s take on what makes the film “essential,” read any other pertinent writings and relevant information about the film, and then blog and/or podcast about my experience and learnings.

I will primarily use TCM, the Watch TCM app, DVD.com, iTunes, and Amazon Prime Video to locate and watch all of these titles. And I’m hoping to catch some of these titles on the big screen at either the TCM Classic Film Festival in April and the TCM Big Screen Classics series, which happens all year long.

(* indicates films I haven’t seen)

  1. Metropolis (1927)
  2. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)*
  3. City Lights (1931)
  4. Grand Hotel (1932)*
  5. King Kong (1933)
  6. Duck Soup (1933)
  7. It Happened One Night (1934)
  8. The Thin Man (1934)
  9. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
  10. Swing Time (1936)
  11. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
  12. Gone with the Wind (1939)
  13. The Lady Eve (1941)
  14. Citizen Kane (1941)
  15. Now, Voyager (1942)
  16. Casablanca (1942)
  17. Double Indemnity (1944)
  18. Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
  19. Leave Her to Heaven (1945)*
  20. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)*
  21. Out of the Past (1947)*
  22. The Red Shoes (1948)*
  23. The Bicycle Thief (1948)
  24. The Third Man (1949)*
  25. White Heat (1949)
  26. Adam’s Rib (1949)
  27. Winchester ’73 (1950)*
  28. Sunset Boulevard (1950)
  29. Gun Crazy (1950)
  30. All About Eve (1950)
  31. Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
  32. Roman Holiday (1953)
  33. Seven Samurai (1954)*
  34. On the Waterfront (1954)
  35. Rear Window (1954)
  36. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
  37. The Searchers (1956)
  38. Some Like it Hot (1959)
  39. North by Northwest (1959)
  40. Ben-Hur (1959)
  41. Breathless (1960)
  42. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
  43. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
  44. Dr. Strangelove (1964)
  45. Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
  46. In the Heat of the Night (1967)*
  47. The Graduate (1967)
  48. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
  49. Jaws (1975)
  50. Rocky (1976)
  51. Annie Hall (1977)
  52. This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

Stay tuned to the blog and podcast for my progress reports. And let me know if you want to join along!

Even More Films Announced for 2019 TCM Classic Film Festival

The always awesome Turner Classic Movies (TCM) Classic Film Festival is happening next April 11-14, 2019 in Hollywood, California.

Today, six more titles were added to the list of films being screened.

Image ©️ TCM
  • The Great K & A Train Robbery (1926), a silent western film starring Tom Mix and Dorothy Dwan; directed by Lewis Seiler
  • Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), a comedy starring Dennis Price, Valerie Hobson, and Alec Guinness; directed by Robert Hamer 
  • Marty (1955), the Academy Award-winning romantic drama starring Ernest Borgnine and Betsy Blair; directed by Delbert Mann
  • Open Secret (1948), a film noir starring John Ireland, Jane Randolph, and Sheldon Leonard; directed by John Reinhardt 
  • Outlaws of Red River (1927), another silent western starring Tom Mix, Marjorie Daw, and Tony the Wonder Horse; directed by Lewis Seiler
  • Winchester ‘73 (1950), a western starring James Stewart and Shelley Winters; directed by Anthony Mann

With the theme of “Follow Your Heart: Love at the Movies,” the festival lineup keeps getting better and better. For the latest information and updates, visit tcm.com/festival. We hope to see you in Hollywood next April!

“Mary Poppins Returns” Meets Poster Posse

Check out these fantastic poster designs for Mary Poppins Returns from the cool folks at PosterPosse.com. The film opens in theaters on Wednesday, December 19.

All Images ©️ Poster Posse, Disney

Adam Stothard
Kaz Oomori
Orlando Arocena
Doaly

And another by Doaly that is an homage to Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2…haha. 

Variant by Doaly
SG Posters
Mike Mahle
17th and Oak
The Dark Inker
Chris Malbon
Matt Needle
Thomas Walker
Aracely Munoz
Simon Delart 
Andrew Swainson
Rafal Rola
Jeremy Pailler

December 13, 2018 Podcast

Here’s the podcast as well as the notes for the December 13, 2018 podcast. Thanks for tuning in!

New in Theaters

Reviews

It’s another film in this month’s Christmas series–one of my personal holiday favorites, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas (1954, Paramount).

Classic Cinema Corner

The Bad Sleep Well (1960)

Recommendations

Go see Ralph Breaks the Internet if you haven’t already! Good stuff.

Review: “Mary Poppins Returns”

The magical and mysterious Mary Poppins is back again in London to help out the Banks family in Mary Poppins Returns, a new sequel from Walt Disney Pictures.

Yes, this film is a sequel to, not a remake of, the classic 1964 film which starred Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, David Tomlinson, Glynis Johns, et al. Author P.L. Travers wrote eight Mary Poppins books, so it’s not like it’s a totally out-there idea to do a sequel, even if it’s been over 50 years since the first film was released. However, with the current remake-happy management team running the Walt Disney Studios, a sequel originally sounded like a creatively bereft idea, at least to me. The 1964 film is such an iconic work that I felt this possibly could be a very misguided, reductive, and disastrous project.

However, now that I’ve seen the film, I have put those worrisome thoughts to rest because this sequel is pure delight. It’s definitely an homage to the 1964 original (I believe the filmmakers have been referring to this new film as a “love letter” to the original), but it also stands on its own as a high quality, highly entertaining, and highly emotional (in a good way) classic Hollywood musical. 

Here’s a fun little featurette about the film:

The story picks up 25 years after the original. Jane and Michael Banks have grown up. Michael (played by Ben Whishaw) is, sadly, a widower who is raising his three children on his own and has also fallen on hard financial times. Jane (played by Emily Mortimer) is an activist (taking after her mother) and a devoted sister and aunt, but the family is still in a bit of a crisis.

Enter Mary Poppins (wonderfully played by Emily Blunt), who flies back in to 17 Cherry Tree Lane to get the Banks family back on track in her own unique and enchanting way. Also along for the ride is Jack the lamplighter (or “leery”; expertly played by Broadway star Lin-Manuel Miranda) in the sidekick role similar to Dick Van Dyke’s Bert in the original. 

The entire cast is stellar. It also includes Julie Waters as the Banks’ family maid, Colin Firth as president of the bank where Mr. Banks used to work and where Michael Banks is currently employed, Meryl Streep as Mary Poppins’ cousin Topsy, Angela Lansbury as the balloon lady, and even Dick Van Dyke himself shows up in a brief but meaningful cameo.

Along with the great cast, the film’s creative team are the ones who really brought this positive and whimsical film to life. Director Rob Marshall (Chicago, Into the Woods) along with the terrific songwriting team of Marc Shaiman and Scott Whittman (Hairspray) have been able to create a new film in which everything old is new again and which, like the original, doesn’t have a snarky or cynical bone in it. 

Take your family and friends over the Christmas holiday to experience this charming, cathartic, and optimistic film together.

Mary Poppins Returns is rated PG by the MPAA for “some mild thematic elements and brief action.”

My score: 5 out of 5 stars

And as an added bonus, here are a couple of fantastic posters for the film.

All images ©️ Disney

2019 TCM Big Screen Classics Films Announced

Turner Classic Movies (TCM) has announced the 14 films that will be included in their 2019 Big Screen Classics series. TCM screens these films in movie theaters across the U.S.A., giving film lovers the chance to see classic films on the big screen as they were intended to be seen. Also included with each screening is commentary before and after the film from Ben Mankiewicz and other TCM hosts that provides context, insights, and other pertinent details about the film. All in all, it’s always a great time at the movie theater.

Here’s the lineup for 2019.

All images ©️ Turner Classic Movies.

The Wizard of Oz (1939) 80th Anniversary – January 27, 29, and 30, 2019

My Fair Lady (1964) – February 17 and 20, 2019

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) – March 24 and 27, 2019

Ben-Hur (1959) 60th Anniversary – April 14 and 17, 2019

True Grit (1969) 50th Anniversary – May 5 and 8, 2019

Steel Magnolias (1989) 30th Anniversary – May 19, 21, and 22, 2019

Field of Dreams (1989) 30th Anniversary – June 16 and 18, 2019

Glory (1989) 30th Anniversary – July 21 and 24, 2019

Hello, Dolly! (1969) 50th Anniversary – August 11 and 14, 2019

Lawrence of Arabia (1962) – September 1 and 4, 2019

The Shawshank Redemption (1994) 25th Anniversary – September 22, 24, and 25, 2019

Alien (1979) 40th Anniversary – October 13, 15, and 16, 2019

The Godfather Part II (1974)- November 10, 12, and 13, 2019

When Harry Met Sally (1989) 30th Anniversary – December 1 and 3, 2019

For the latest scheduling information and to find a theater near you where these films are playing, visit the Fathom Events website.

December 6, 2018 Podcast

Welcome to this week’s podcast!

New in Theaters

Reviews

It’s all about Christmas movies this month. In the podcast, I give a review of the musical Scrooge (1970), one of my favorite film retellings of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The film is available on Amazon.

Classic Cinema

Podcast is below. Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, too. Thanks for listening!