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Giving Thanks For Cinematic Memories

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It's the holidays and I'm feeling sentimental. My dad died on Aug. 23 this year and he's the person responsible for making me fall in love with movies. So for my holiday edition of Cinema Junkie I give thanks to my dad for passing on his passion for movies to me and I highlight some of my favorite movie memories I shared with my dad. So it's a personal edition of the show and you'll get some insights into why I became a film critic.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 Remember Spencer Tracy and inherit the wind.

Speaker 2: 00:02 I object. I object. I object. What grounds is it possible that something is only for the celebrated agnostic? Yes. The individual's human mind in a child's power to master the multiplication table, there is more sanctity than in all your shouted out, men's and Holy of Holies and hosannas. An idea is a greater monument than a cathedral, and the advance of man's knowledge is a greater miracle than all the sticks turned a snake. So the parting of the waters,

Speaker 1: 00:39 Tracy, as the Clarence Darrow style lawyer always reminded me of my dad. And that speech summed up a lot of the ideas my father held and the ideas that would shape my own values as I grew up. So my dad was an agnostic who read me the Bible because he thought it was a beautiful piece of literature. He was a man who felt you had to stand up for what you believed in and who hated rules and conformity. He was also the person who passed on his love of movies to me. My dad died on August 23rd of this year and I miss him every day. So for my Thanksgiving cinema junkie podcast, I'm paying tribute to him by giving thanks for the films he introduced me to like inherit the wind with its impassioned plea for free thinking.

Speaker 2: 01:22 Can't you understand that if you take a law like evolution and you make it a crime to teach it in the public schools tomorrow, you can make it a crime to teach it in the private schools and tomorrow you may make it a crime to read about it and soon you may ban books or newspapers and then you'll may turn Catholic against Palestinians and Protestant against [inaudible] and try to force your own religion upon the mind of man. If you can do one, you can do the other because fanaticism, an ignorance is forever busy and needs feeding. And soon your honor, what banner is flying and what drum is beating? We will be marching backward. Part two, the Gloria sages and that 16 century when bigots burned the man who dad, brilliant lighten, but in intelligence to the human mind.

Speaker 1: 02:20 Welcome back to another episode of listener supported KPBS and I'm a junkie podcast. I'm Beth OCHA, Mondo

Speaker 3: 02:39 [inaudible].

Speaker 1: 02:39 My father was Allen Eka, Mondo. He grew up in New Jersey in New York in the 1930s and he loved movies. He would tell me about sneaking into a movie theater called the star theater. But he and his friends called it the rats because that was star spelled backwards since there was no VHS or DVD or streaming movies when I was growing up. My only opportunities to see films were in the movie theater when they opened or on TV. So it made a big impression on me when my dad told me I could stay home from school to watch on the waterfront.

Speaker 4: 03:12 It wasn't him. Charlie was, you remember that night and had gotten, he came down my dressing room and said, kid, this ain't your night. We're going for the price on Wilson. You remember that? The st your night. My night, I could have taken Alyssa pot. So what happens? He gives the title shot outdoors on a ballpark and what do I get a one way ticket to Palookaville it was my brother Charlie. You should've looked out for me a little bit. You should have taken care of me just a little bit. So when I have to take them die for the short end money, I had some beds down for you. You saw some money. You don't understand. I could have had class. I could've been a contender. I could've been somebody instead of a bum. This is what I have. Let's face it.

Speaker 3: 04:09 [inaudible]

Speaker 4: 04:09 who was he? What show?

Speaker 1: 04:12 I don't think I was a teenager yet, but I remember my dad trying to convey the complexities of the film. He explained how is a tough street kid. He would've frowned on ratting on anyone. But then there are times when telling the truth to fight corruption or evil is necessary. But then he also added how the story of Terry Mulloy's longshoreman didn't provide an exact parallel to what Cassan had done. I think staying home to watch that film laid the foundation, not just for my love of movies, but for my ultimate career path to becoming a film critic. I always wanted to talk about movies and to talk about them in a bigger context. Since my dad was a teacher, he also liked [inaudible]. Do you use films to force me to think, take 2001 a space Odyssey.

Speaker 5: 04:57 Okay, my mind is growing. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going, there is no question about it.

Speaker 1: 05:30 I came out of the film completely baffled. I think I was 14 when I saw the film on its rerelease and I asked my dad what it meant and he responded by asking what did I think it meant? I said, I don't know. And then he would prompt me, what does the monolith look like? So I pondered and then I said, well like how's memory banks? Then he said, so what could that mean? And so this back and forth exchange went on for quite a while and all I wanted was to told what the film meant. But this process my dad put me through, helped me to think more critically, not just about this film, but about films in general and about everything in life.

Speaker 5: 06:08 Good afternoon, gentlemen. I am a how 9,000 computer

Speaker 1: 06:20 now. Not all films prompted deep discussions. My dad and I shared a love for a wide variety of films. One of our favorites was the original King Kong from 1933

Speaker 6: 06:30 wait a minute, let me throw off, sir. My name's Dan and I'm calm. I'll get him. Get him. Oh no. It wasn't the airplanes. Beauty killed the beast. Dad's loved gorilla

Speaker 1: 07:01 in dinosaurs and adventure and this film had it all. My dad spoke so lovingly of Kang and how terrible it was to capture him and chain him up and how tragic the love story was. Yes, it was a love story. One that always makes me cry. Watching it with my dad taught me compassion for creatures or beings that we might not understand or even be able to communicate with or that we might even be frightened of. I remember he bought me a model kit for King Kong and of the creature from the black lagoon too, but that he was a bit embarrassed that his little girl, I was around six at the time, had asked him to buy red paint so I could bloody up the models. I guess my love of horror began early. Actually. My parents are completely responsible for my obsession with horror, although they staunchly deny it. They didn't like leaving us kids with babysitters, so that meant we got taken to some inappropriate films like the collector

Speaker 7: 07:57 from the bold and breathless international best seller. The collector comes the suspenseful disturbing drama of a strange progression from thought to wish from desire to obsession from dream to nightmare.

Speaker 1: 08:21 Nightmare indeed gave me nightmares after witnessing Terence stamp kidnap Samantha agar and keep her locked up like a butterfly in his collection. I was five when I saw that and it scared me. I also remember seeing a cure of Curacao as San Juro and it would be years later that I realized the image of a dog carrying a severed hand that kept popping up in my nightmares came from that film. I think seeing things that scared me made me want to understand why they scared me and to keep testing my boundaries. I'm not complaining, but I don't think my dad ever understood my obsession with horror, even though he helped to create it. Okay, so back to the films we shared a love for like anything with the Marx brothers. My mom introduced me to Monte Python, but my dad gave me the gift of the Marx brothers.

Speaker 6: 09:15 The trustees have a few suggestions they would like to submit to you. I think you know what the trustees can do with that suggestion.

Speaker 8: 09:22 [inaudible]

Speaker 6: 09:23 I don't know what may have to say. It makes no difference. Anyway, whatever it is I am against, then I am again, your proposition may be good, but let's have one thing on this code, whatever I am against it, and even when you've changed it all condensed, then I'm against then

Speaker 1: 09:49 Marx brothers were my introduction to comic anarchy and to the irresistible appeal of tearing down authority. I think the humor of the Marx brothers still plays well today because they had no respect for anything and their irreverence keeps them young forever. I remember showing my son his first Marx brothers film and trying to pass the love of the Marx brothers onto a new generation. I remember watching the coconuts at the Kenn cinema and Groucho broke the fourth wall.

Speaker 9: 10:17 Pardon me. While I have a strange interlude, I have a couple of baboons. What makes you think are married? One of you know, strange how the wind blows tonight. It has affinity. Voice reminds me of Porto Mazda. How happy I could be with either of these two. Both of them just went away.

Speaker 1: 10:37 Has he looked directly into the audience? My six year old son tapped me on the arm and excitedly said, mom, Groucho's talking to me. I cherish that memory. I don't know if I've passed my passion for the Marx brothers onto my son, but I have passed on my love for action films. I took him to see the matrix six times in the theater and woke them up one school night at 2:00 AM to watch the opening of a screener I had for district B 13 because the par core action was so intoxicating. He agreed, but then asked if he could please go back to sleep. I also made them come up to a projection booth that you CSD where I had programmed a Gammer, a film, and the 35 millimeter print that came was brand new and I made him smell the reels because it was something you would likely never experience again. Mostly he probably thinks his mom's a little crazy, but we have cinematic passions that overlap and for that I'm grateful and I'm grateful to my dad that he taught me to share those passions with the new generation. My dad also introduced me to the great romantic teams of Tracy and Hepburn Powell and Loy and bogey and Bacall. In hindsight, I appreciate how equal these relationships were like Tracy and Hepburn and Pat and Mike where she's an athlete and he wants to handle her. You don't expect to be watching me every minute

Speaker 10: 11:56 out of every 24 hours out of every day duo if I have to show up. Not sure. I like that. Not asking you, you don't like it, but usually pretty shooting pretty Chanel question because you'll trust me because what's good for you is good for me and you for me. You see what the same? We're equal. We're, let's see, five Oh five ohms,

Speaker 1: 12:18 five Oh five Oh that was how these two always seemed well-matched the same could be said of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall into have and have not.

Speaker 11: 12:27 You're not very hard to figure out. Only at times. Sometimes I know exactly what you're going to say. Most of the time. Other times, other times you would just us. You do that for in wondering whether I'd like it. I don't know yet. It's even better when you help a show you won't change your mind about this is belongs to me inside of my lips. I don't see any difference. Okay. You know, you don't have to act with me, Steve. You don't have to say anything and you don't have to do anything. Not a thing. Oh, maybe just whistle even know how to whistle now. Just Steve, you just put your lips together and blow.

Speaker 1: 13:28 But I think it was being shown the thin man with William Powell and Myrna Loy, that set my unrealistic expectations for marriage as Nick and Nora Charles. They made marriage seem like an endless party. Constantly brightened by witty exchanges.

Speaker 10: 13:42 Pretty good. Yes. She's a very nice tight, you got types. Only you lanky broom. That's what wicked jaws. Who is she? Oh, Donnie guys. Okay. I wouldn't have to, I said that. Come on. Well, Dorothy is really my daughter. You see, it was spraying in Venice and I was so young. I didn't know what I was doing. We're all like that on my father's side, by the way. How was your father's side? Oh, it's much better. Thanks. And yours. How many drinks have you had? Six Martinez. All right. Will you bring me five more? Martinez, the old line them right up here.

Speaker 1: 14:22 They made marriage seem delightful with spouses being able to poke fun at each other with loving jabs.

Speaker 10: 14:29 Well, I hope you're satisfied. Huh? Where am I? You're not in a shooting gallery. Ah, but sure. Guy. This is the nicest Christmas present I've ever had. The only Christmas present you ever had. Where did you get that wrist watch? It's, but

Speaker 12: 14:52 yeah, we gave it to you. You did. Well, I must admit I've got pretty good taste. We finished with this. Yes, and I know as much about the murderers they do well. I am a hero. I was shot twice in the Trivium. I read when he was shot five times in the tabloids. It's not true. He didn't come anywhere near my tabloids.

Speaker 1: 15:15 I remember being introduced to these films at a wonderful venue in San Diego called cinema Leo, where you would lie down to watch movies and they only showed old ones and usually on double bills. I remember my dad won a prize for correctly identifying all the stars in the black and white posters on the walls. And that made me go home and study the photos in my growing library of movie books and attempting to memorize everyone's name and face. One of the films I saw at cinema Leo that I fell in love with was the adventures of Robin hood.

Speaker 7: 15:46 Come sir Iver out, brings her up in food. But once you hear such impudence ms support, I'm by the appetite throwing off your Highness. We Saxons have little the fat man. By the time you're a tax gatherer is a throat. We see the gentlemen, I need to stand on ceremony on my cup. So you think you're over text over, text over worked and paid off of them. Knife a club or a rope. Why you speak trees fluently? I advised you of a curb that wagging tongue of yours. It's a habit. I've never formed your grace

Speaker 1: 16:20 that glorious Technicolor popped off the screen and Errol Flynn is the roguish hero. Made me Swoon and no one was more lovely than Olivia de Havilland.

Speaker 6: 16:29 Well, he's brave and he's ridiculous and yet he's [inaudible]. He's gentle and kind. He's not brutal. Like tell me when you are in LA, is it, when, is it hard to think of anybody but yes, indeed my lady at sometimes it's a bit of prepping, speaking. I know, but it's a nice kind of not sleeping. I did a picture at the pack too. I've noticed it's done back to you said 20 was in a dungeon waiting to be angled and does it make you want to be with him all the time with you? Your legs is wicked water. When he looks at you, you feel any kind of picky beating like Gushi pimples running all up and down your spine and it's not that that's on me. What do you want? How did you come here to see you? But don't you realize why men? Tell me what you did. So I've come to think after what I couldn't help overhearing about that prickly feeling. I'm very glad I did.

Speaker 1: 17:40 That was pure entertainment gold. But again, there was a male female relationship between equals. Both Robin and Maryanne risked their lives to up for what they believed in and there was a message too about greed, justice, and standing up for those who can't stand up for themselves. My sister interviewed my dad more than a decade before he passed away and he made one reference to movies that I want to share with you.

Speaker 12: 18:04 At some point I went from my father and a friend of his down to a neighborhood theater and we saw the movie Jack London.

Speaker 10: 18:15 Since you've made me a horrible example, would you mind discussing my story a little bit? Not at all. Not at all. I would say it just, what is it that's so wrong with my writing? Well, boiled down, I should say too much imagination. Too much exaggerated. After all, you know, London slap a holding in the size of the man's fist. His eye shot happen in a joint and Singapore. You saw it happen. Well, perhaps I shouldn't have brought it up to see professor Hill yet. I've only written about what I saw. It seems to me there's nothing wrong in writing about life and truth, but do you think you would get very far writing about poverty, cruelty brutality? It's my experience. If they existed, if I could put them down on paper so people would think about it and try to destroy him and I'm doing something

Speaker 12: 19:07 after the movie, she impressed me very, very much. I asked my father, he said, really? Oppression your ass. He said he wrote many books and you know I read some of them. Sure. That inspired me and with the card that uncle Joe had me get from the New York public library. I went there and got many books. One about chaplain named Claude sailor on horseback by Irving stone and a number of books by Jack London. In particular the book Martin Eden. After reading this biography and the book might need, I decided that I wanted to be a writer and I spent a good deal of time after that, getting many, many books on writing and trying to write, which I don't think was too successful.

Speaker 1: 20:00 Wish I had more of my dad preserved on tape. You always think you'll have more time to do things. One of the last films I watched with my dad in a theater was Mr. Smith goes to Washington. My dad introduced me to Frank Capra and his brand of Capricorn. Yes, Capra could be sentimental, but he could also be clear eyed and see corruption and greed. Mr. Smith is perhaps his most perfect film with the cynical Jean Arthur coming up against the wide-eyed idealism of James Stewart's junior. Senator Jefferson Smith,

Speaker 11: 20:33 a Senator that has a bill in mind like you have camp, right, right. Fine. Now what does he do? He has to sit down first and write it up. The why, when, where, how and everything else. Now that takes time, but this one is so simple. Oh, I see. This one is simple and with your help when, Oh, I'm helping. Yeah. Simple. Nine helping. So we knock it off and record breaking times. Let's say three, four days a day, a day. Just your mind. Tonight, I don't want to seem to be complaining. Senator button. All civilized countries. There's an institution called dinner sort of hunger. Marcel couldn't. We sort of have some stuff brought in on trays, you know like big executives? No, sure. Well then it comes in on trays where big executives would light into this and we finished the bill before morning.

Speaker 11: 21:21 Yeah, it's Dawn. Your bill is ready. You take it over there and introduce the call. You get to your feet in the Senate, take a long breath and start spouting, but not too loud because a couple of the senators might want to sleep. Then a currently headed page boy, it takes it up to the desk where a long face clerk reads it refers it to the right committee committee. Why look then committees as small groups of senators have to sift the bill down, look into it, study it and report to the whole Senate. You can't take a bill. Nobody ever heard about it and discuss it among 96 men. Where would you get good? Our alley. Some committees. Got it. Yeah. Now days are going by Cinnabon days. Weeks. Finally they think it's quite a bill. It goes over to the house of representatives for debate and a vote, but it has to wait his turn on the calendar.

Speaker 11: 22:14 Calendar. Yeah. That's the order of business. Your bill has to stand way back there in line, unless the steering committee thinks it's important. What steering committee do you really think we're getting anywhere Ms. Saunders? Not at Telmate. Watch the steering committee committee of the majority party leaders. They decide when the bill is important enough to be moved up till the end of the list. Pardon me? This is, where are we now? We're over in the house. Oh yeah. House. I'm all of our amendments. More changes in the bill goes back to the Senate. The Senate doesn't like what the house did do the bill. They make more changes. The house doesn't like those changes stymie. So, so they appointment from each house to go into a huddle called a conference and they battle it out. Finally, if your bill is still alive after all this did the section, it comes to a vote. Yes sir. The big day finally arrives and Congress adjourns

Speaker 13: 23:11 also had a scene that my dad and I charged. I guess this is just another loss cause mr bane. Oh you people don't know about lost causes. Mr. Payne does it. You said once there were the only causes worth fighting, then he walked for the month or the only reason any man ever bites caught him because Jessica, one plain simple row love thy neighbor and in this world today full of hatred, a man who knows that one role has a great trust. You'll know that rule, mr bane and I loved your board just as my father did. And you know that your fight for the lost causes harder than for any others. Yes. You even die for them like a man. We both know mr bacon. You would think I'm liked you all play gun light. Well I'm not liked and I'm going to stay right here and fight for this loss. Cause even if this blame gets filled with lies, like these tailors on all their armies come marching in this place. Somebody else listened to me. That's right.

Speaker 1: 24:43 You fight for lost causes harder than anything else. To me that was about staying true to your beliefs and ideals. No matter how many corrupt Taylors were out there.

Speaker 7: 24:53 I'll tell you something. If you want me out of here, you're gonna have to throw me out. That's exactly what I'm going to do, Mr. Berger. I'm going to get the police. I'm not going to mess myself up by sitting around with you. I'm going to get the police and get you out of here if I have to. Okay. That's exactly what I'm going to do. Okay.

Speaker 1: 25:12 A lack of respect for the establishment and for rules and conformity of any kind were key to my dad's personality. So one of his favorite songs comes from that rebellious, hippy, musical hair. My parents let me see the play when I was in sixth grade and it caused a bit of a stir at my elementary school. Kids kept asking me if I had really seen naked people on stage and I got banned from a friend's house because I played the soundtrack, but I got life was one of my dad's favorite songs. And in the film version of hair treat. Williams sings it as he dances down a fancy table shattering more decorum than fine China.

Speaker 7: 25:48 We've got a hell of a nerve young man. [inaudible]

Speaker 10: 25:51 no [inaudible]

Speaker 7: 25:55 mother.

Speaker 10: 25:57 Oh my God. Laughs sister. I got Fredo burrata. Nah, God.

Speaker 14: 26:13 [inaudible].

Speaker 10: 26:14 Hi. Got [inaudible] hog. Got million dollar Chown cousin. I got headaches and two fakes and bad times. [inaudible]

Speaker 2: 26:33 I got bought here. I've got my thing. I've got my upbringings. I've got my ears. I've got my eyes. I've got fungals. I've got my mouth. I've got [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 26:50 one last break and I'll be right back. Then there were films like the graduate.

Speaker 11: 27:02 Oh my God. [inaudible] Oh no. What's wrong mrs [inaudible]? You didn't, I mean you didn't expect, I mean you didn't really think I do something like that. What do you think? For God's sake? This is rough. Here we are. You got me into your house. You give me a drink, your music. Now you start opening up your personal life to me and tell me your husband won't be home for hours. No, this is Robinson. You're trying to seduce me.

Speaker 1: 27:34 When I saw that as a young kid, I saw it as a comedy that ended happily ever after with Dustin Hoffman and Catherine Ross running away from the adults and the respectable rich society.

Speaker 3: 27:44 Hello darkness, my old friend, I've come to talk with you again,

Speaker 1: 27:51 told me that when I got older, I might see that film differently. The comedy might seem darker with an edge and then ending with a shot that held just a little bit too long on the couple at the back of the bus might suggest something less than a happy ending. He was right, of course, and I'm thankful for the way he made me look at movies and think about them from different perspectives and to think about how they were made. My dad was Italian and my uncles worked in Hollywood. Two of them did the presidential campaign spots for John F. Kennedy. The story was that they were Republicans and some Republicans told them not to take the job or else, well, you don't tell that to an Italian. So they said not only would they take the job, but they would make Kennedy win. That's the story I was told. But being Italian led me to films made not just by Italian filmmakers, like Fellini and [inaudible], two of my dad's favorites, but also Italian Americans like score, Ceci and Cappola. I was 12 when the godfather came out and I fell in love with Al Pachino as Michael Corleone. I know not exactly a romantic icon, but what can I say?

Speaker 3: 29:01 Okay. My father's way of doing things is over. It's finished. Even he knows that. I mean, in five years, the Corleone family is going to be completely legitimate. Trust me. That's all I can tell you about my business.

Speaker 1: 29:15 My dad and I talked about whether the film was good or bad in terms of how it represented Italian-Americans and he pointed out that not all images of Italians have to be positive. The mafia existed, and there's nothing wrong with doing a story about it, but again, you wanted me to think about things in more complex terms. So we pointed out that it did romanticize that world and he also talked about how the film showed a man who destroyed the very thing he set out to save FRAGO yo my older brother and I love you but don't ever take sides with anyone against the family. Again, Michael placed the family above all else but in trying to protect it, he destroyed it. So once again my dad made me look at a film that I thought was just entertainment and think about what else it meant. There's so many films that my dad and I shared that I can't possibly list them all, but we didn't always agree. There's the case of the sound of music

Speaker 15: 30:12 with the sound of music songs they have [inaudible]

Speaker 3: 30:24 [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 30:25 I would joke with my dad that when I watched that film with him, it was proof how much I loved him.

Speaker 3: 30:37 [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 30:38 I'm forever thankful to my dad for sharing his passion for film with me. And through film he found a way to teach me about important things in life about fighting for causes. Seeing from other points of view, having compassion and appreciating art and its place in society. One of the reasons I love writing about film is that I always hope that in some small way I can pass on my passion for film to others as my dad did to me. My dad lived here in San Diego and I saw him almost every weekend. So during the week I can pretend that he's still around and come Sunday, I'll be able to talk to him about movies and each time it sinks in that he's not here anymore. I know I can go home and put on one of our favorite films and know that he will be as vividly alive as those images on the screen. So here's to all the people who have shared their love of film with others and to all the films that give us memories to be thankful for, to learn. Next film fix on Beth Betha, Mondo, your residents cinema junkie.

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Cinema Junkie

Satisfy your celluloid addiction with the Cinema Junkie podcast, where you can mainline film 24/7. This film and entertainment series is run by KPBS Film Critic Beth Accomando. So if you need a film fix, want to hear what filmmakers have to say about their work, or just want to know what's worth seeing this weekend, then you've come to the right place