Thanks and well done to whoever put together this mash up of all the phone messages from the opening credits of the first Season of The Rockford Files. The show — a favorite of mine then and now – debuted on NBC 42 years ago today.

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Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock and William Shatner as Capt. James T. Kirk in Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek (NBC 1966-1968) The first episode aired 50 years ago today, September 8, 1966.

 

It’s hard for me to believe that I’m older than Star Trek but the numbers don’t lie. Star Trek is 50 years old today. I’ll be 51 three weeks from today.

The first episode of Star Trek that I remember seeing was “The Apple” (Season 2, Episode 5). I was at my grandmother’s apartment in Dallas — couldn’t have been much more than 8 years old. Flipping through the channels (which in those days was done by twisting a knob that was actually attached to the TV and made a “kachunk” sound with every twist) I landed on KXTX, Channel 39. And there it was.

I’d never seen anything like it. The bright red sky of a planet as a landing party just appeared out of nowhere. The landing party itself a marvel to my young eyes – an alien who looked like a devil, a bold Starship Captain (in the green shirt this time out), the country doctor, the young beatnik Russian, and a beautiful blonde woman. Three red shirt crew members were dead within the first 15 minutes.

Incidentally, Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network owned KXTX at the time. (Telemundo owns it now.) This was years before most homes in the U.S. had cable so Robertson was acquiring UHF stations around the country in those days to expand his network for The 700 Club and other televangelist fare. They rounded out the programming day with reruns of, among other things, The Andy Griffith Show and Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek.

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The Enterprise landing party meets the locals in “The Apple” (season 2, episode 5, original air date: 10/13/67)

I had to live on the memory of “The Apple” until miracle of miracles, Little Rock’s KARK started running the series five days a week after school. Joseph Pevney directed “The Apple.” A list of Pevney directed episodes and a list of my favorite episodes are practically interchangeable with titles like: “Amok Time”, “The Trouble With Tribbles”, “City on the Edge of Forever”, “The Devil in the Dark”, and “Arena”, to name a few.

I grew up in a loving, fun household. It was also strict, and not just by today’s standards. We were not allowed to wear shorts except for swimsuits (only when swimming) or if required by a sport in which we participated. Mom confiscated the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue every year when it landed in the mailbox. Modesty was the watchword around 2905 Echo Valley Drive. So, you can imagine how many lip smacks and eye rolls Carlene Jackson had for the women’s wardrobe of Star Trek, not to mention Captain Kirk’s romantic exploits. My Dad who was a big fan of all things sports, movie westerns and TV cop shows never got the appeal of watching people in their pajamas running around space with ray guns. But I was hooked from the get-go and only now really appreciate how my parents looked past their own discomfort to let me enjoy the series.

Star Trek and Planet of the Apes were the two biggest imagination-expanding entertainments of my pre-adolescent years. Then came Star Wars and all bets were off. But Star Trek was first. To this day, much to the chagrin of my wife and bemusement of my son, a life-size cut-out of Captain James T. Kirk stands watch in my office.

It’s hard to believe that I’m older than Star Trek. It’s odd that I have Pat Robertson to thank for introducing me to the series. It’s a testament to my parents’ patience that they let me indulge such an obsession. It’s amazing that a ratings-challenged sci-fi TV series that limped through its third and final season before NASA could land a man on the moon, endures to this day – having accurately predicted much of our current technology while presenting a hopeful, egalitarian, and non-cynical vision of a future yet-to-come.

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Deadline posted a clip earlier today from Jesse Moss’s documentary, THE BANDIT, which premieres this weekend at SXSW in Austin. Word has it that none other than The Bandit himself — Burt Reynolds who recently turned 80 — will be there to intro the doc when it unspools at the historic Paramount Theater.

NOTE: It may have been changed by now, but in Deadline’s first post they listed the year of SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT’s release as 1997. We all know better. The movie was the runaway hit of 1977.

Here’s a clip from The Bandit

I have a love/hate relationship with David Thomson’s writing. (I don’t know the man at all so there’s no reason I could have a love/hate relationship with him personally.) His writing seems to me to be preoccupied with sex. Or maybe he’s occupied with sex the normal amount but he writes about it more than  other film critics. It seems to take me longer to read his books than other books. Not because they’re necessarily harder to comprehend, they just hit stretches that fail to keep my attention. I’ve been reading Thomson’s The Big Screen off and on for over a year. Inevitably, after I pick it back up, I hit a patch that opens a newly discovered subject for me or gives a rich insight into something about which I thought I was completely conversant.

Shortly after this past Christmas, I wandered into Barnes & Noble with a  gift card I’d received in my stocking. I walked out with Thomson’s How To Watch A Movie — knowing full well that it would be more (and less) than advertised. The book is a collection of meditations (a little over a dozen) on the elements that make up a movie – and therefore shape the movie watching experience. Compared to previous experiences with his work this book is short and to the point. My copy is full of notes in the margin and lists of films scribbled on the flyleaf that I must see.

Just when I think Thomson will lose me again, he comes up with a line like this:

One might as well, in considering how to watch a movie, recognize the extent to which public life in America has itself become an untidy, unrated motion picture that has a captive but disenchanted audience. – How To Watch A Movie, David Thomson

A disenchanted audience, indeed. It may be more my problem than Thomson’s.

HOW TO WATCH A MOVIE | David Thomson | 2015 | Knopf 228 pgs

 

A nun walks into a movie theater… It’s not the beginning of a joke. It’s the beginning of an intriguing story and a remarkable bit of programming on Turner Classic Movies.

Every Thursday night March,  Sister Rose Pacatte is hosting a line up of movies once condemned by the Catholic Legion of Decency. Twenty seven films in all with intros from Pacatte — a member of the Daughters of St. Paul and the founding director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies (Culver City, CA). Pacatte is a film fan and critic who teaches courses of media literacy from her home base in Culver City and as guest lecturer on the road.

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Barbara Stanwyck (r) and Theresa Harris in BABY FACE, a “pre code” film condemned by the Catholic Legion of Decency in 1933

 

Turner Classic Movies is calling the series CONDEMNED and shining light on some of the forgotten history of the Catholic Legion of Decency. The Legion started around the time the Hays Office opened and continued to issue its own ratings through the 1970s. The strongest rating it gave was a “C” — for condemned. Enter TCM and Sister Rose.

Some of the films were campy then and just plain creaky now. Some of the films were breakthrough works of art then that have stood the test of time. BLACK NARCISSUS (1947) is a favorite of mine that’s on the list. You may have missed the first round (March 3) but you still have time to set your DVR for the rest of the festival.

Here’s the line up and info from TCM.

Here’s a great interview with Sister Rose on Flavorwire.

Here’s a blurb and handy list from L.A. Magazine’s Ask Chris.

Burt Reynolds. Eddie Murphy. And now Sylvester Stallone. I think it’s time we do away with the conventional wisdom that the Academy loves the sentimental win for acting awards. Yes, maybe Leo’s win for Best Actor was in many ways an “it’s his time” award but his team had plenty to back up his case for winning. (Even though Tom Hardy had the better role and better performance in that film.) Stallone was the sentimental favorite last night and all the pundits confidently called it for him. I make Oscar picks on a continuum of rarely-to-never but even I got caught up in the Rocky Balboa nostalgia. I told anyone who asked that the only lock at the Oscars this year was Stallone for Best Supporting Actor. Pundits pointed to Mark Rylance as a close second who would be back and win someday. Everyone recognized his performance as the best thing about BRIDGE OF SPIES. But those of us who picked Sylvester Stallone believed this was probably his last hurrah. (And Stallone’s performance is one of the many things to appreciate about CREED.) So, just like Burt who people thought was a lock for BOOGIE NIGHTS, and Eddie Murphy – a lock for  DREAMGIRLS, now Stallone goes home empty handed.

I didn’t watch the Oscars last night. Might scan through the DVR today and watch a few highlights. I saw posts on social media that indicated the broadcast was less than stellar but the awards themselves were fresh and surprising. What did you think? I’d be interested to know.

This past Thursday night I got to attend the opening of the new Alex Israel & Bret Easton Ellis show at the Gagosian in Beverly Hills. Larry Gagosian opens a new exhibit at his space on Camden Drive every year on the Thursday before the Academy Awards. It’s a little bit of a scene. Yadda, yadda, yadda, I met Sir Elton John and then we ate at Nate & Al’s. Not Sir Elton and I but a few others of us who attended the event. Here’s THR’s profile on Alex Israel in connection with this opening. And here’s one of the pieces from the show:

 

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A piece from the Alex Israel / Bret Easton Ellis exhibit at the Gagosian Gallery Beverly Hills. 02.25.16

“…the transition between old and new is never elegant or seamless.” – from the Introduction to Pictures At A Revolution

The Academy Awards are often controversial — either legitimately or artificially. And since they’ve been around so long they tend to have an identity crisis every twenty years or so. Or, maybe more accurately, every couple of decades the Oscars reflect a generation gap and/or an identity crisis within the movie industry. Witness The 1967 Academy Awards. Held at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium on April 8, 1968 the 1967 Best Picture Nominees included a mix of movies that hardly seemed like a matched set.

Half of the nominees seemed to be sneering at the other half: The father-knows-best values of GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER were wittily trashed by THE GRADUATE; the hands-joined-in-brotherhood hopes expressed by IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT had little in common with the middle finger of insurrection extended by BONNIE AND CLYDE. (from Pictures At A Revolution)

Mark Harris’s wonderfully engaging book, Pictures At A Revolution, takes the five films nominated that year (BONNIE AND CLYDE, DOCTOR DOLITTLE, THE GRADUATE, GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER, IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT ) and weaves together the stories of how those films came to be and with how they ended up reflecting the conflicted state of Hollywood’s body politic at the end of the 1960s. Harris is a seasoned writer with a strong commitment to research. He’s also not afraid to share a point of view. If you’re an Oscar buff this is a great book to dive into. If you’re a student of the American 1960s, Pictures At A Revolution, is also a great glimpse of that era through the lens of the USA’s biggest cultural export.

 
Pictures At A Revolution by Mark Harris | 2008 | The Penguin Press