Podcast Episode 100: Films To Be Thankful For
For Thanksgiving, I ask people what movies they're grateful for
[Music] Beth Accomando: Welcome back to another edition of the KPBS Cinema Junkie Podcast. I’m Beth Accomando. [Music] Beth Accomando: It’s Thanksgiving and I have a special episode all about the films people are thankful for. I speak to some famous people and some who are just lovers of film. This all started years ago when I asked Guillermo del Toro in 2006 if there was a film he was thankful for. I no longer have the audio from that interview but I can read what he said. He said, “I’m very thankful for James Whale’s Frankenstein because I believe that it is one of the most beautifully articulate ways of saying how we are thrown into this world by a creator that doesn’t care for us and how we have to find our way in it. It’s a film that taught me sympathy for the monster.” [Video clip] Beth Accomando: And I’m very thankful for Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver starring Robert De Niro for being a variation on the Frankenstein monster and in urban environment. [Video clip] Beth Accomando: Before hearing from the filmmakers, actors and cinephiles I interviewed, let me list a few films and filmmakers that I’m thankful for to get the ball rolling. [Video clip] Beth Accomando: I’m thankful for filmmakers who cast spells on us and make us look up and wonder at the screen. I’m thankful for Jean Cocteau’s La Belle et la Bête for proving that cinema can be pure magic, to Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki for showing us that the fantastical and the normal can exist side by side, to the French New Wavers for blowing the dust off still conventions to invest movies with a new found rebellion and to Terry Gilliam for proving that there are no limits to what can be imagined on screen, only the restriction of narrow minded studios. [Video clip] Beth Accomando: I’m grateful for films that teach us compassion for the monster from James Whale’s Frankenstein to Guillermo del Toro’s Cronos and Devil’s Backbone, and to the 1933 King Kong in which a giant ape was so endearing and tragic that I wept when he died. [Video clip] Beth Accomando: And thanks to Japan for making me fall in love with men in rubber suits masquerading as giant monsters, especially the one known as Godzilla. [Video clip] Beth Accomando: I’m thankful for films that appeal to the 13-year-old boy in me like Indiana Jones and Star Wars. [Video clip] Beth Accomando: I give thanks to Paul Newman for the bluest blue eyes and for bugging the system with impertinence, to Errol Flynn for swashbuckling his way through adventures with a rogue screen that could make me swoon and to Robert Mitchum for lighting up a cigarette like no one else could. [Video clip] Beth Accomando: And I give thanks to women like Louise Brooks and Marlene Dietrich who seduced with their beauty and wit, to the ever transforming Tilda Swinton and to the regal and sexy Helen Mirren. And to all those cinematic clowns who made me laugh until my sides ached, starting with Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd who needed no words, to Hong Kong’s Stephen Chow who mixed physical and verbal comedy with equal ease, to Carole Lombard, Barbara Stanwyck and Jean Arthur for their sophisticated screwball comedy and to May West who could turn any phrase into a suggestive come-on. [Video clip] Beth Accomando: And to the Mark’s Brothers in Monty Python for their comic anarchy and total lack of respect for authority. [Video clip] Beth Accomando: I’m also thankful for Myrna Loy and William Powell for letting the world see that marriage could be fun, to Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni for sexy Italian romance, to Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart for teaching us to whistle, and to Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn for showing us that men and women could be equals on screen. [Video clip] Beth Accomando: To people like Frank Capra, Billy Wilder and Preston Sturges who created dialogue that sparkled, zinged and crackled. [Video clip] Beth Accomando: I’m thankful to filmmakers that put the motion in motion pictures. To Jackie Chan who could make any prop come to life, to John Woo who choreographed the bullet ballets of heroic bloodshed and to Jean Kelly who made dance athletic. To cinematic poets like Robert Bresson, Terrence Malick and Terence Davis who knew how to tell stories through images, to Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento, the masters of Italian horror who brought an audacious sense of style to genre filmmaking. [Video clip] Beth Accomando: I offer my deepest gratitude to filmmakers who reject comfortable cinema and have never copp0ed out to a happy ending. To Takashi Miike for taking us beyond extreme, to David Lynch for making the mundane creepy beyond belief, and to David Cronenberg for knowing exactly how to make you squirm. Okay, and I’m also thankful for zombies, film fatales, film noirs and paranoid cinema. I’m thankful for moments that take my breath away like Chow Yun-fat sliding down a banister with two guns blazing in Hard Boiled, Grace Kelly’s kiss in Rear Window, Cyd Charisse’s endless legs in Singing In The Rain, the opening shots of Blade Runner, the intoxicating romance of Wong Kar-wai and Slim Pickens riding a nuke at the end of Dr. Strangelove. [Video clip] Beth Accomando: I give special thanks to young filmmakers who are making their first movies when I was most impressionable especially Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola, and to the recent upstarts like Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, and to Edgar Wright for his meticulous care in making sure that everything he puts into the beginnings of his films pay off in the end and to the Cohens and Hal Hartley who imprint every frame of their films with their unique vision. I’m grateful for the chemistry of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune of Alfred Hitchcock in his cool, blonde beauties, of John Ford and John Wayne and of John Carpenter and Kurt Russell. [Video clip] Beth Accomando: There are still hundreds more films, moments and people I’m thankful for. So let me just end with the men who gave us a piece of cinematic perfection, Orson Welles in his feature film debut Citizen Kane. [Video clip] Beth Accomando: So thanks to all of the creative people and wondrous films that have given us so much joy in the darkened theater. Now let’s hear from some of the people I interviewed starting with attendees at this year’s TCM Film Festival back in April. [Video clip] Charlie Tabesh: My name is Charlie Tabesh. I’m the Head of Programming for Turner Classic Movies. I think the film that I would say I’m thankful for is Hannah and Her Sisters. I’m a huge Woody Allen fan and that movie among other Woody Allen’s films I think was brilliantly constructed, used music in a way that made me realize how music could be used, and in several ways it paid homage to classic movies. And so, because of that movie I think I was turned on to some classic actors and classic films, and so I’m very thankful for Hannah and Her Sisters. Participant 1: And I had to sit down. I went into a movie house. I didn’t know what was playing or anything. I just needed a moment to gather my thoughts and being logical and put the world back into rational perspective. [Video clip] Participant 1: And I went upstairs to the balcony and I sat down and the movie was a film that I had seen many times in my life since I was a kid and I always loved it. I’m watching these people up on the screen and I started getting hooked on the film. I started to feel, “How can you even think of killing yourself?” I mean, isn’t it so stupid. Look at all the people up there on the screen they’re real funny and what if the worst is true, what if there is no God and you only go round once and that’s it. Don’t you want to be part of the experience? What the hell, it’s not all the drag and I’m thinking to myself, “Cheese, I should stop ruining my life searching for answers I’m never going to get and just enjoy it whether it lasts.” Millie De Chirico: My name is Millie De Chirico. I’m Manager of Programming at Turner Classic Movies. A film that that I’m a very thankful for is the Stanley Kubrick film A Clockwork Orange. [Video clip] Millie De Chirico: That was the first movie I ever saw. I was eight years old when I saw that movie and my brain has been scrambled every since. If it wasn’t for that movie I doubt I would be into any… well, I doubt I would be in the film in general but I definitely would not be in cult movies and I think that that was quite a movie to start off a lifelong love affair movies with. So that is the movie that I’m thankful for. Beth Accomando: So let me ask you, if you saw that when you were eight, when you saw again at an older age, how did your brain function in terms of connecting the two from like seeing it as a young child and did you suddenly go like, “Oh, my God, that’s what it was about? Millie De Chirico: Yeah, I immediately felt like some parents should have run interference, something… I just was thinking I can’t even believe that I saw that when I was that young, just because just a lot, I mean there is a lot of stuff in that movie that’s not appropriate for an eight-year-old. So I almost wanted to like parent myself when I saw it again thinking. And then there’s a lot of stuff that I didn’t pick up on, that I figured out later when I watched it again. Oh, wow, so that’s what that was, that’s what that sculpture was. Okay, got it. So yeah, that’s kind of how that worked out. [Video clip] Len Senloro: My name is Len Senloro and I’m a graduate film student at USA and just a long time cinephile. And the movie I’m personally thankful for is Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. I don’t watch it every day and I’ve grown out of it a little but it hit me at a certain point in my life when I felt like the world is bigger than I realized and the world is weirder and crazier and that there are more people like me with bizarre ideas who make dark twisted films. I’m from Arkansas, so everything felt very small and insular. And the movie brought my mind in ways that I think brought me here. [Video clip] Will McKinley: I’m Will McKinley. I’m a writer and a classic film blogger. I run a blog called Cinematically Insane. The film I am most thankful for is the Marx Brothers’ film A night at the Opera from 1935 directed by Sam Wood. I discovered this film when I was nine years old on vacation with my parents in Porto Rico, and my parents wanted to go to the casino and they needed somewhere to stow the children. And the little movie theater in the hotel was showing A Night at the Opera and my father was like, “You’re going love this, kids.” So, I watched it and I was like a nine-year-old smart alec and I found, my god, I found the man upon whom I would base the rest of my existence on this earth in the 30 or 40 years since then and I was grateful to Marx. [Video clip] Will McKinley: It was probably the greatest revelation of my life still not surpassed in the 35 or so years since. So probably the film I am most thankful for is the Marx Brothers’ A night at the Opera. [Video clip] Joe Williams: Hi, my name is Joe Williams. I tweet a lot on Twitter. You can reach me on Twitter at #tcmparty where we live tweet classic films on TCM and the film that I’m most thankful for is an Italian film called Nights of Cabiria. [Video clip] Joe Williams: It’s a wonderful little film made by Federico Fellini with his wife in the lead role and it’s the first time that I saw a film where really my heart was breaking for the character in the film. If you’ve never seen it please go out a see it. It’s a woman how goes through so many trials in her life and at the end of the film she is so resilient and comes through it somehow. That’s what I’m thankful for. [Video clip] Jack: My name is Jack and I am student and cinephiles. I am thankful for the movie Boys Town with Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney because it’s a movie that my family and I return to every year at Christmas. [Video clip] Jack: Even thought I don’t think it’s the best movie in the world, I think there are some pretty clear flows. It’s always moving and it’s become kind of a family staple that’s brought us together. James Hovington: My name is James Hovington. I’m a classic movie buff and the movie that I am thankful for is Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious. Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, it’s perfect watching them light up on screen. They have so much amazing chemistry together and the whole spy, thriller, plot. It’s a perfect movie for me. Beth Accomando: Are there any scenes in particular that stand out? James Hovington: The infamous kissing scene. [Video clip] James Hovington: Because of the code they couldn’t kiss longer than three seconds, so they kept breaking apart, kissing, breaking apart in it which is so amazing and so romantic and so sensual that it’s an amazing scene that. Thanks to the code if we were able to get it. [Video clip] Mike Bersig: My name is Mike Bersig. I’m done from Seattle. I’m a movie lover and a first time Turner Classic Movie Film Festival attendee. The movie that I’m thankful for is Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger than Paradise. [Video clip] Mike Bersig: In addition to the fantastic performances especially by John Lurie, it’s filmed in a pretty [indiscernible] [0:18:23] bleak black and white fashion, grainy and the stark a lot of it takes place in a pretty bleak landscape both urban and environmental in terms of being cold. But overall with the music and the plot and the dialogue, it paints an incredibly warm portrait of human interaction and it nourishes me. [Video clip] Ann Hawkins: Hi, I’m Ann Hopkins. I’m the Director of Communications for the Film Noir Foundation, and I’m grateful for The Thin Man. [Video clip] Ann Hawkins: And it turned me into a lover of classic cinema and I think it made me realized life was meant to be enjoyed. So that’s definitely one I’m grateful for. I’m also grateful for pretty much everything John Ford directed because, no matter what’s going on in my life, I put on one of his films. I’m completely absorbed in the film and away from everything else. [Video clip] Miguel Rodriguez: My name is Miguel Rodriguez and I direct San Diego’s Horrible Imaginings Film Festival and I’m one of film gigs San Diego. Choosing what film to be thankful for of course is very difficult. I was going to say 1933’s King Kong because film gigs San Diego will be bringing that to the big screen at the Museum of Photographic Arts in January. [Video clip] Miguel Rodriguez: And I am still thankful for that film but I got to thinking about the special effects and one of the reasons that film is memorable. And I wanted to go back a little bit further than that and I’m going to go with Metropolis and I’m going to go with also the visual effects artists specifically on Metropolis. Eugene Schüfftan, who invented for that film something called the Schüfftan process which is kind of a smoke in mirrors way to blend the miniatures with real life actors in a convincing way. And the reason I am thankful for that is because it revealed a whole new way that the experimenters and the innovators of early cinema could tackle fantasy and unrealistic things in a new way that up until that point was not even thought of as possible. So, the film I am thankful for is Metropolis. [Video clip] Aaron Soto: Hello, my name is Aaron Soto. I’m a horror film maker from Mexico. I’m really thankful for the Evil Dead movie directed by Sam Raimi. The movie really changed my life and really showed me that I can do anything, I can be independent, I can put the camera wherever I want to put the camera and overall that I can have an actor who is over the top, charismatic and at the same time, intense. [Video clip] Aaron Soto: Between 1988 and 1990 I watched the movie almost every day, eating breakfast. Beth Accomando: And you still love it? Aaron Soto: It’s still my favorite movie ever and Bruce Campbell is still the best actor ever. [Video clip] Billy Hansen: I am Billy Hansen. I’m a writer and film maker, director of survivor type and I am thankful for the film The Wages of Fear which was from the 1950s. It’s a French film. [Video clip] Billy Hansen: That has been one of the biggest influences on me as a director because it is the most suspenseful thing I have ever seen. The heads down from the beginning to the end is knuckle-clenching fear and I haven’t seen that matched in the last 60 years of film. Beth Accomando: Do you feel that was about the editing? Did you become conscious of editing at that film or what was it? Did you know anything in particular? Billy Hansen: It was partly the editing and a lot of the shot design and the restraint that the director had. It was Clouzot who was sort of famous for that – those really, really suspenseful stories and I just remember how – I mean just restraint he was. There was no music over a lot of the scenes and everything was just so close and what he chose to focus on in every single frame just really amped up the suspense like I’d never seen before. They can see the stories that these four guys have to drive two rickety trucks filled with nitroglycerin across rough terrain in South America to stop an oil fire basically. And nitroglycerin, if you bump it – the slightest little bump, it will explode. So, the entire movie is just them on the verge of death. With any slight mistake or anything like that, they would just all die and it’s terrifying. [Video clip] Cody Goodfellow: Hi I am Cody Goodfellow. My most recent book is a collection of short stories, Rupture of the Deep, another love crafty tales from Hippocampus Press. The film I’m most thankful for, I mean as a life changing, I would have to say John Carpenter’s The Thing. When I saw it, I was dropped off the movie theater to see Megaforce and these guys came out of the theater and they were like, oh my God, little dudes, you guys are going to flip. This guy, his head came out and his friend went, no man, they’re going to see some kid movie. And by God, we’re not going to see the kid movie after that. The gun would have been tossed. So we snuck out of Megaforce and we went and saw the thing. And it was and continues to be a revelation in that it’s a marvel of people who, well, in bad horror films, you can’t gauge horror films, you know, on the same terms you gauge Oscar winners and stuff. You have to gauge in terms of how real and compelling that reality is, how much do those people want to survive. And you see really intelligent people striving their uttermost, fighting tooth and nail to survive. So, you’re seeing people striving to survive in a completely impossible situation and when something really influences you, a lot of times you don’t even notice it. You have to hear it from other people and it’s not the people say, yeah, this guy’s fiction reminds me of the thing although that’s the kind of monster that I hungered to create and turn loose on people. But so often the theme of survival and how people faced survival and grimly bore on head when there’s no chance to get out, when they know they’re doomed. The thing, if it wasn’t in there before at least the thing magnetically aligned it in my mind so, you know, that’s the kind of the ideal of how I would think people should behave when they’re faced with the impossible and the unknowable. And it’s the best version of the unknowable that I’ve ever seen. It’s one of those films that I go to for comfort food in the sense that I’ve watched it again and again and again like, well, over 200 times and could watch it again today. For me that’s the film that I’m most thankful for. And what in terms of – it made of what you could do in a film. Very reputable critics, word – they despised it. They wanted it not to exist. They tried to curse it out of existence. This is some sort of awful porn. And Rob Bottin, the guy who made the monsters was at first considered for an Oscar and then the rest of the special effects makeup community came down and said this isn’t make up, it’s just making a bunch of mannequins and monsters and crap. And then the Oscars, you know, gearing it up, go for old age makeup and stuff like that. Not something really fantastic that pushed the boundaries. But in terms of practical effects, you watch it today, it’s unmatched. It still looks like something real and that’s the impacts of what a horror film can do. It makes the impossible undeniably real. And for me, that’s a standard for the kind of thing that I – the kind of effect to that I would hope to achieve in my best work. [Video clip] Izzy Lee: I am Izzy Lee, the director of Postpartum, Legitimate, Pickets, Innsmouth and a couple of other fine things. Hopefully you will get to see the light of day soon. And I am thankful for John Carpenter’s The Thing because it is just – it’s one of the most perfect films ever made. It’s relentless dread and oppression of the Arctic ice in the special effects by Rob Buttin and Kurt Russel. I mean, Jesus, you can’t – and then oh my God, Alan Howarth and John Carpenter’s score, holy f***. You can’t go wrong with The Thing and I am grateful that I could just – and grateful that Scream Factory is putting out a super duper Blu-ray next month. Kasey Lansdale: My name is Kasey Lansdale and the film that I am most thankful for is The Wizard of Oz. [Video clip] Kasey Lansdale: It is the first time that I saw fantasy, science fiction, animals, music, everything that fascinated me as a child and even to this day in one place. To hear Judy Garland sing Somewhere over the Rainbow blew my mind – absolutely blew my mind and to see her go to this magical fantasy land, I was just amazed. [Video clip] Kasey Lansdale: And then the flying monkeys, you know, there’s that horrific element. Just all of the things that I’m doing now as an adult, I can see how so many faces of The Wizard of Oz influenced that and kind of gave me that permission to say, you can mix and match things that you love, you can find a way to have music but still be in a fantasy land and have a story that has heart and show that you’re more than just a flat dimension. So definitely thankful for The Wizard of Oz. Marc Brown: Hi, Marc Brown and I am the writer of Stained. And the film I’m thankful for – again not technically a horror but it is scary – as anything to me is The Wizard of Oz. That’s the first film I remember ever seeing and I watched it almost every day for three years and I can recall every single bit of it. Yeah, it just has everything and taught me that fear and comedy and sadness and tragedy and everything can – you know, all just fit seamlessly together. Anyway, yes, The Wizard of Oz, definitely The Wizard of Oz because it’s got the scariest bad guy in cinematic history pretty much. [Video clip] Marc Brown: And The Wicked Witch and the kind of the position that Dorothy is in, just that kind of alone in a very strange place with some very cool friends is – yeah, it kind of stick with me forever. Yes, I mean very influential on me and I love it. [Video clip] Phil Hayne: Hi, I’m Phil Hayne. I’m the director and producer of Stained. And the film I’m most thankful for is not actually a feature film, it’s Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Because when I was a kid, a very young kid, my dad took me into a TV store, for some reason buying a TV perhaps. And yeah, Michael Jackson came on the screen. I was a massive fan. And so I watched it and I had no idea what was about to happen. So when he turned into the werewolf, I absolutely freaked out and had to be carried out. I was, you know, maybe seven or eight something like that. [Video clip] Phil Hayne: And that kind of gave me like this absolute fear of werewolf films which I didn’t get over for a long time but it was just as a film. In my life I’m very thankful for it because it let me [indiscernible] [0:32:39] the stuff. It was quite a watershed moment in my young life. [Video clip] John Skipp: Hi, I’m John Skipp, writer, director – writer of The Art of Horrible People and director of Tales of Halloween, one of several directors. The film in the entire world that I’m most grateful for and there are a lot of them. But the clearest one is a movie called Tampopo. It’s a Japanese noodle western. [Video clip] John Skipp: And it’s about food as it relates to every aspect of Japanese culture from birth to death, to crime, to dentistry, to business, and to sex. That’s the best food sex scenes of any film I ever have seen. What I love about it, it’s kind of like a Japanese Woody Allen film from like his earlier period, the funny ones. What’s amazing is it’s episodic but it’s a story about why food matters and on all of the levels that it matters. Food to me had always been something that I liked and that I knew I had to eat or I would kill over, particularly in like long creative [indiscernible] [0:34:11] where often you forget to do stuff like that. But I think after seeing Tampopo, I relished the preparation, the texture, the meaning behind things, the rituals behind things. That movie made me more alive than any other two-hour sitting in front of the screen I’ve ever seen, and for that I am forever grateful. [Video clip] Justin Denton: Hi, this is Justin Denton and I am the director and co-writer of Burlap and Burlap: VR Reflections. And the film that I’m thankful for is Silence of the Lamps. [Video clip] Justin Denton: When I first saw Silence of the Lamps, I was staying up past my bedtime and looking out from behind the couch while my sister was on a date and she was watching the film and I wasn’t supposed to be. And it had one of those impacts on me where (a) I couldn’t sleep after I watched it and (b) it made me really understand the psychology of a killer as something that’s so necessary if you really want your audience to buy into what’s going on onscreen and truly be terrified well past the film is over. [Video clip] Victor Laruccia: My name is Victor Laruccia. I’m the executive director of the San Diego Italian Film Festival. And well, Beth has asked me to name one film that I’m grateful for. Since I’m Italian I need more than one disc. And so I’m going to name two. The first of which is The Seventh Seal. [Video clip] Victor Laruccia: I saw that when I was at Yale, little funky theater. I had never seen a theater like that before, mid-western kid going to this eastern city and basically what’s a garage and I was just so blown away that I couldn’t go to sleep for two days. So, that introduced me to what I think of as real film. But the other and the one that I probably have is the passionate primary disc of my life is China Town. Not only because it’s a fabulous film and I love it. I love that opening scene with the photographs and that great horn over it, it just blows me away every time I think about it. But it is the place where I knew that I had fallen in love with the woman that I was with and who’s been my wife for a quite a long time. China Town was very romantic. It was a spectacular film. But at the same time it also had one particular scene which I will never forget. Looking at one of the houses, I was thinking of my grandmother, I turned to Janise and I said, who would live in a place like that anymore? And she says, I do because she was from Pasadena. And that just simply set the whole thing for me. China Town is probably a peak moment for me cinematically and romantically. [Video clip] Diana Agostini: Hello, I’m Diana Agostini. I’m the Associate Executive Director for the San Diego Italian Film Festival. And I was asked a very hard question by Beth, which is which movie are you thankful for? And, of course, on the spot I cannot think of a movie but I can think of something that really made me, I don’t know, interested in movies but also kind of changed my development as a kid probably. I don’t know for the better or the worst. I remember being this little kid and sneaking into the living room while my older sister was watching Twin Peaks, and my eyes could not just get off the TV, not even when Bob was peeking behind the couch and then just peeking behind my dreams, basically every other night. And I do have memories of that as I still remember how it was just crazy for me as a kid to see all of these symbolisms that didn’t really make sense and then as I’ve grown up trying to watch it again still being very scared but getting it even more and then of course watching all of his movies and becoming a fan of David Lynch and his work. [Video clip] Joseph Thomas: My name is Joseph Thomas. I’m the Director of the National Center for the Study of Children’s Literature. And I’m thankful for David Lynch’s Eraserhead. [Video clip] Joseph Thomas: Because of that crazy little calf fetus baby and it’s [indiscernible] [0:40:01] numb. Nick Reveles: I’m Nick Reveles I’m the Director of Community Engagement for San Diego Opera. The film that I’m thankful for is a very strange and off-the-wall choice I think. It’s the film Love is a Many-Splendored Thing with William Holden and Jennifer Jones. And you might wonder why on earth would you be thankful for that. Well, because it’s the first movie I ever saw. [Video clip] Nick Reveles: I saw it at a drive-in which of course no longer exists. Going to the movies started with sitting in the backseat, my mother driving and my brother and I in the backseat watching this rather adult film. I don’t remember much about it from that time, but then saw it on TCM not terribly long ago and I thought oh my God this is awful [laughter]. But I am thankful for the fact that it opened at the mid-way drive-in in Oceanside and my mother took me there. It must have been 1955 or ‘56 something like that. But yeah, that would be it. [Video clip] Joe DiPietro: Hi, my name is Joe DiPietro and I am a playwright and my newest play is called Hollywood which is about a murder during the silent film era, premiered this season at the Great La Jolla Playhouse. And the film I am most thankful for is Sunset Boulevard. Billy Wilder’s great great movies during the starring the great Gloria Swanson. [Video clip] Joe DiPietro: And I am thankful for it because as I sit here thinking about Hollywood and the play, I don’t think there’s ever been a better, more heartfelt and creepier depiction of Hollywood and its effect on people and actresses than Sunset Boulevard and if you haven’t seen Sunset Boulevard do yourself a favor. Go home, rent it, turn out the lights and watch it. It’s just magnificent. Beth Accomando: And is there any particular like moment or element of it, scene, line, that you particularly like? Joe DiPietro: There are so many lines in Sunset Boulevard. It would be hard to pick one but the end when she is leaving, and I don’t want to spoil it for you if you haven’t seen it, but when she is leaving her home and she is walking to the camera, it’s just as chilling a statement about modern celebrity and fame as ever been portrayed. [Video clip] Sands Dickson: Hi, I am Sands Dickson and I am an independent filmmaker. The film I’m most thankful for is actually James Cameron’s The Abyss. Sands Dickson: And the reason why is as a kid I was obsessed with water, underwater. I wanted to be Jacques Cousteau so bad. The idea of going around the world and maybe seeing what was under the ocean was actually more exciting to me than seeing was in space because it’s on earth. And The Abyss, you know, I don’t know how [indiscernible] [0:45:24] it was then or now but it kind of was my first glimpse into that. [Video clip] Sands Dickson: It was this fantastical world that felt unbelievable but it was set convincingly in the real world. So for as outlandish as the ideas were, I bought into the [indiscernible] [0:45:52] and I was like 12 but that’s the film that kind of made me believe that anything is possible as far a cinema. And another reason is it’s the first time I really noticed how important it is for a cast to jell. That’s one of the first films where I noticed how, even the characters that are on screen for just five minutes, how important they can be to the overall storyline. So that’s my film, The Abyss. [Video clip] Yazdi Pithavala: Hello, I am Yazdi Pithavala, Potcaster and a film reviewer for Moviewallas.com and I am thankful for the films of two great Japanese film makers. Miyazaki, of course, I love everything about Miyazaki and I just got it that he’s not going to make any more movies but he has left us a great treasure trove and Spirited Away is a movie that keeps giving me. Every time I watch it, I get more out of it. [Video clip] Yazdi Pithavala: I love the fact that there is nothing predictable about his movies. I like that he has created his own world in a way. I mean if you watch all of his movies, there is a theme of environmental friendliness about forests, creatures and he seems to very easily go in between what’s on the terrain and what’s subterranean, almost the spiritual world and the ground-bound world. He kind of very easily goes between those two. All his creatures exist in both of those spaces very easily. And I love that he is so open in terms of his view of everything that’s around us, what we can see and what we cannot see. And then the other filmmaker who I think is probably the most humane filmmaker working right now is Hirokazu Koreeda. I think in the last 10years the one movie that I have seen more than any other is Still Walking. [Video clip] And that’s a movie which is very specific about a family in Japan but it’s about every one of us, I cannot get enough of it. It’s my place to go when I am unhappy, when I am looking to find the unknowables in life. Asa: Hi, I am Asa and I am a movie fan, longshoreman here in San Diego. The movie I am really really thankful for, my first movie that I saw with my mom and my aunt and my sister when I was a little kid was E.T. [Video clip] Asa: I was too small, too little to really appreciate but I looked over and I saw my mom crying and it made me cry. And I just remember that every single time I see E.T anywhere and I am really thankful for E.T. [Video clip] Jeff Alderman: I am Jeff Aldermen and I am a big horror movie fan. And the movie that I am thankful for is a new one called The Pack by Nick Robertson because it brings back successfully the feel of the birds and matches Daphne du Maurier’s original novel in some ways. So, that’s what I am thankful for. [Video clip] Jeff Alderman: I think what really got me was the small family isolated in their home and up against the forces of nature so to speak, and that really captured the feel of the movie. So, that’s what did it for me. [Video clip] Gil Maganna: I’m Gil Maganna. I grew up in a very small town and there was actually a census taking place in Northern California and most of the time I spent growing up reading a lot of books on film and music. And the film I tend to be thankful for is The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. [Video clip] Gill Maganna: I found that in my late teens and it’s this drama from 1969 which Maggie Smith is in and it’s just great to watch. You choose up the scene in that movie and it has some great acting by Pamela Franklin and some other actors. And it’s one of those movies that almost even fits as a great double bill of mommy dearest in the way of something I would be grateful like a double bill of [indiscernible] [0:51:30] camp cinema. It’s not really camp but it’s just the way that Maggie Smith owns the role of Muriel Spark’s character of Jean Brodie. It’s just something to be seen the way that she treats the dialogue. Everything that she does with her performance, I think it’s one of the great somewhat forgotten performances of the 1960s and just worth revisiting for that reason alone. It’s always a treat to watch, I don’t ever get tired of it. [Video clip] Jamy Ian Swiss: I am Jamy Ian Swiss and I am a magician and a writer and a film buff. And I am particularly fond of horror as form of film and I am particularly thankful for George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. [Video clip] Jamy Ian Swiss: Like all great horror this is a quintessential example that despite everything that’s frightening and violent and so forth. Ultimately like most good horror films it is life-affirming, it’s actually a hopeful and positive thing. It shows how when people band together against a common enemy they can still find beauty and wonder and goodness in the world. I think it’s a wonderful film. Beth Accomando: Are there any particular scenes that stand out for you? Jamy Ian Swiss: Oh, it’s just the idea that as things get worse and worse, they get more and more optimistic, like they just don’t give up. We’re just going to keep to the battle and so when the last couple of survivors take off at the very end, we don’t know what they’re headed for but they’re going, you know, they’re going to keep up the battle. And I dark times that’s the lesson that we all have to learn, that we have to keep up the battle. [Video clip] Jeff Pearson: Hi, I’m Dr Jeff Pearson and this is… Lori Pearson: Lori Pearson, his beautiful wife. Jeff Pearson: And I think we’re both grateful for different movies but for the same reason. Lori is grateful for… Lori Pearson: The Fly because it’s the first interesting movie that my dad insisted that my sister and I watch. [Video clip] Lori Pearson: And it’s provided lots of great lines throughout the generation, the years that we’ve had together particularly help me, help me, help me. Jeff Pearson: And mine was actually the double feature of James Bond Thunderball and From Russia with Love. Basically as my dad made a habit of just taking me to movies all the time, just [indiscernible] [0:55:06] sometimes. And I’m just grateful for the memories for that. [Video clip] Jeff Pearson: And the gadgets too and Bond girls. All right, thanks dad. This is like 1962, ’63, and I was a kid. There was James Bond and the gorgeous women and gadgets. And it was a double feature because everything was double features back then. [Video clip] Jeff Pearson: Two movies for the price of one and we had balconies too in all theaters. I would sit up in the balconies. Lori Pearson: We watched at home and he insisted on that one and we also watched A Raisin in the Sun together which didn’t stick with me as much. I knew it was important but I don’t think I grasped it as much as just the fun [indiscernible] [0:56:08] part of a half man, half fly thing. So that’s what stuck with me. [Video clip] Jose Iturriaga: Hi, my name is Jose Iturriaga. I’m a designer and a storybook artist. And the film I’m thankful for is Tron. [Video clip] Jose Iturriaga: Our very own 1982 movie. It’s one of the few movies that when I was a kid I actually got the chance to see twice which was kind of unheard of at least in my home. The reason I’m thankful for it is because even though I’m a huge Star War fan, Tron was so weird and different from anything I’ve seen before in the theaters, that it caught my imagination in ways that maybe other movies hadn’t. And it was maybe because of the very, I mean then it was cutting edge CGI but now it’s kind of crude and it looks something that anybody can on their phones perhaps. So the reason I’m thankful for it is because it inspired me to eventually become an industrial designer, one of the people in charge of the [indiscernible] [00:58:11] whose amazing artist work on Blade Runner and Aliens and Tron. And I actually was lucky enough to just meet him which was kind of like rekindled that gratefulness of being able to enjoy that movie so much and I’m thankful for that. Beth Accomando: Awesome. Do you remember anything in particular in terms of any scenes or anything? Jose Iturriaga: Well, obviously the back scene is kind of like the ultimate and classical signature look of Tron. [Video clip] Jose Iturriaga: Just the idea of building a vehicle pretty much out of the blue was so mindboggling to me. It was like wow, that’s amazing. And the one thing, I mean years later I came to understand that how cutting edge it was back then because he was talking about stuff that nobody else except the computer geeks would talk about. Having kind of your avatar persona on the computer back then was like it was science fiction and it’s what we live nowadays every day. Everybody has their own computer persona either on Twitter or on your Facebook and your second life or whatever. So I think that’s part of it too [Video clip] Charles Coffman: My name is Charles Coffman. I own Bread and Cie bakery and café and used to make films and now of course bake bread. I am thankful for a film that was made in 1979 called Mother’s Day. [Video clip] Charles Coffman: Which I made but actually before that I was thankful for another film before it was kind of got me involved in the horror genre and I saw it as a kid called Invasion of the Body Snatchers. [Video clip] Charles Coffman: It was nothing like I had ever seen before and it was scary but it was also weird and it was fun and it also provoked one’s imagination. Also there were some hot girls in it too but that was back before when you could say that kind of thing. Beth Accomando: Oh, was that film that made you interested in making film? Charles Coffman: Nope. The reason why I began making films was I loved films but I also couldn’t do anything else particularly well and I wanted to get girls. But I loved films and started to make little films and they seemed to be well relieved. And then I made an initial feature that did well and all of a sudden I thought okay, I will try this until I can no longer do it, until I can no longer pay for my apartment rent. Beth Accomando: And then you decided to make bread? Charles Coffman: And then I decided to make bread, correct. [Video clip] Bill Romero: I am Bill Romero. I am an old old film buff and I am thankful for two films. One is the first film that I really remember as a child. It was shown on television on our all black and white. So I didn’t even know that it was in color and that was Howard Hawks’ Gentlemen Prefer Blondes staring Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell. [Video clip] Bill Romero: It’s one of those films that’s so clever and amazing and it really got me excited about the process. Not only just the actress Marilyn Monroe but also the process of how the film was put together and the witty lines and the cleverness of it all. And I think I was all of six or seven years old when I watched it but I was absolutely fascinated. The interplay in between the two women and then when I finally as an adult got to see the film in its full glorious Technicolor, it’s just eye-popping and I always thankful anytime I can watch it. And the other film that I am thankful for is late in his carrier Ken Russell made a filmic adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s Salome and he sets the film so it’s a staging of it within the story. And Oscar Wilde goes to his favorite bordello and it’s his birthday and his friends celebrate his birthday by staging his recently banned play Salome on the stage in the bordello. [Video clip] Bill Romero: The young actress that ends up playing Salome is [indiscernible] [1:04:55] and she is incredibly brilliant and it’s an amazing, wonderful, astounding performance from her and from everyone in the film. And it just astonishes me every time I watch it because he’s constantly bringing us back to reality by reminding us that we are watching something on stage. That’s something that is completely artificial and of course Wilde loved artifice and it’s just so amazing. He can keeps showing, I mean someone runs out and lays a piece of red glass to pretend to be a puddle of blood. There is a painted moon in the background and yet the dialogue whilst writing is just so vivid and intense and colorful and amazing, it’s just so good and I highly would recommend Salome’s Last Dance. [Video clip] Gael García Bernal: My name is Gael García Bernal and I am very thankful for these films that introduce me to cinema but introduce me also as a character as myself in cinema. And I would say that is The 400 Blows because I felt I was in that film. I felt the kid living that movie and there are many films that made me feel that but The 400 Blows was one of the first ones together with when I saw Le Soleil I also felt that, you know, the films with kids like made me feel like I was part of a movie as opposed to watch something in space or something. I was very thankful that I felt that my life could be in a movie. And I think that those types of movies Le Soleil, The 400 blows and then many throughout my – like the post-adolescents and all the things. But those films they made me feel like I was a part of a movie, I was into a movie. Honus: I am Honus [indiscernible] [1:07:44] and I guess the movie that I am most thankful to is A Man Escaped by Bresson, which you know when I saw it it was the first time I, you know, I always wanted to be a writer but it wasn’t until I saw that film that I realized how powerful cinema can be as a language where, with almost no dialogues, with no words, it can transmit such a powerful story. [Video clip] Speaker 1: So, French we – so French. Speaker 2: That’s why I was dating because I don’t know how many people know those. [Indiscernible] [1:08:24] French. Speaker 1: By now [indiscernible] [1:08:29] Mexicans. Speaker 2: Yeah, but I wanted to start with Le Soleil [indiscernible] [1:08:33] come on. Speaker 1: I was going to make my [indiscernible] [1:08:36]. Speaker 2: Because we [indiscernible] [1:08:41], yeah you have to say that. He’s like really, you know what he’s really thankful of? Beth Accomando: What? Speaker 2: His name is Honus [indiscernible] [1:08:43] and you know which film he is really thankful of? [Indiscernible] [1:08:49] because it gave him the sexual education he needed. [Laughter] Speaker 2: He so desperately needed. Speaker 1: As a team, yeah. Speaker 2: Yeah, we did. That was our motivation. Speaker 1: And now I have ten kids so... Speaker 2: Exactly, so he didn’t get it. [Laughter] Beth Accomando: Well, thank you both very much for coming out here to [indiscernible] [1:09:06]. Speaker 1: Thank you very much. Speaker 2: Thank you very much, thank you. Beth Accomando: Thanks for listening to this special holiday edition of the listeners supported KPBS Cinema Junkie Podcast. I hope this makes you think some of the things in cinema that you are thankful for. In keeping with the holiday spirit, I go out with music from the Mark Nutter Cynthia Carle show Christmas Smackdown. It runs December 8th, 9th and 10th at Hollenbeck in LA. I will be speaking with them in December about Christmas Smackdown, the animator, the musical and the art and craft of creating a modern musical. So till our next film fix. I am Beth Accomando, your resident cinema junkie. And I will leave you with this naughty little Santa Claus lives in your mind. Be patient and listen till the end. You better watch out You better not cry Better not pout I'm telling you why Santa Claus is coming to town He’s making a list Checking it twice Gonna find out who’s naughty or nice Santa Claus is coming to town He sees you when you’re sleeping He knows when you’re awake He knows when you’re maturing With every breath you take He knows that you’ve had feelings That make you warm down there When thinking of teacher Or straddling a chair He knows you’ve been exploring He knows your hands have found Their way their way beneath the covers To roam and poke around You can’t keep it a secret ‘Coz Santa knows you well That’s why he is gonna send you Straight down to Christmas hell And there you will suffer torment Beyond your wildest dreams. The sound of sleigh bells jingling Will cover up your screens They’ll tie your hands behind you In a pretty Christmas bowl Then feed you rats and egg nut Beneath the mistletoe Your choc and Christmas cookies With bits of broken glass While nails with flaming pitchforks Impale your naked ass And so for endless [indiscernible] [1:11:44] You’ll tremble and you’ll quake At the power of Saint Nicholas So be good for goodness sake Or you better watch out You better not cry You better not pout I’m telling you why Santa Claus is coming to town
This all started years ago when I asked filmmaker Guillermo del Toro ("Cronos," "Hellboy") in 2006 if there was a film he was thankful for.
He told me: “I am very thankful for James Whale’s 'Frankenstein' because I believe that it is one of the most beautifully articulate ways of saying how we are thrown into this world by a creator that does not care for us, and how we have to find our way in it. It is the film that taught me sympathy for the monster. And I’m very thankful for Martin Scorsese’s 'Taxi Driver,' starring Robert DeNiro, for being a variation on the Frankenstein monster in an urban environment.”
I'm thankful for zombies, femme fatales, film noir and horror. I am thankful for moments that take my breath away — Chow Yun Fat sliding down a banister with two guns blazing in "Hard-Boiled," Grace Kelly's kiss in "Rear Window," the opening shots of "Blade Runner," the intoxicating romance of Wong Kar Wai, and Slim Pickens riding a nuke at the end of "Dr. Strangelove."
There are hundreds of films, moments and people I'm thankful for, so thanks to all of the creative people and wondrous films that have given me so much joy in a darkened theater. For this podcast, I speak with attendees at the TCM Film Festival, filmmakers and writers at Horrible Imaginings Film Festival and others about films they are grateful for.
If there's a film you feel thankful for, tell us the title and your reasons in the comments below. Thanks!