Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Movies Go to the Movies: Pee-Wee's Big Adventure

(note to readers: I started this article before my father passed away, when I was writing posts dedicated to Pee-Wee's Big Adventure's 25th anniversary...since it was almost finished, I decided to complete and post it)

"I don't have to see it Dottie, I lived it"

To conclude my entirely unplanned Pee-Wee's Big Adventure tribute, four of my last five posts have included a mention of the 1985 classic comedy for those not updating their Colonel Mortimer blog scorecards, let's look at the two movie theatres that show up in Paul Reubens and Tim Burton's fantastical creation. One of which is still in operation, the other razed.

Criterion 6
Santa Monica, CA

Though the shopping area stretch where Pee-wee's treasured bicycle was stolen has gone through much changes since 1985, it's no longer a strip mall but a "promenade" thank you very much, the Criterion theatre still stands. Originally built in 1924 as one the Fox chains (which includes such treasures as the Village in Westwood), the original theatre was demolished and rebuilt as a six screen multiplex in 1983. In the twenty-seven years since the Santa Monica renovation it's gone through several owners most notably Mann, who seem to be getting out of the theatre business (for further evidence look at the dire bookings the world famous Chinese theatre have had the last few years: Cats and Dogs 2 (now in it's third week!), The Book of Eli playing for nearly three months and the six week stint that Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li enjoyed there, four weeks more than most theatres!) and sold it to AMC earlier this year.

The marquee has changed too, and I am pretty sure the long run that Cartoon Cavalcade enjoyed in the mid 80s as ended.

Here's a more recent picture of the AMC Criterion 6 (from it's Mann days)

For further information, here's the Criterion Theatre's Cinema Treasures' page.

Studio Drive-In
Culver City, CA

The Studio Drive-in, where the James Brolin and Morgan Fairchild adaptation of Pee-Wee's life story had it's world premiere, opened in the 1940's and sadly like so many others of its ilk, was demolished in the early 1990s, 1993 to be specific, the last double bill to perform there was The Fugitive and True Romance.

The Studio received it's name due to it's proximity to the MGM studios, currently Columbia Pictures' studio. It is now a condominium complex.

I could go on about the sad state of drive-ins, but instead of focusing on the negative, check your local listings, if you reside in California or a similar "warm weathered" state, in all likelihood you are not too far removed from one, and should make the pilgrimage, especially if you have children.

Here's the So-Cal Drive-In page for the Studio Drive-In.

And here's a cool video shot around the time of the Studio Drive-in's final days about the history of Drive-In theatres which aired on AMC in 1993 when it still occasionally showed classic movies, not just Mad Men, Breaking Bad and later Halloween sequels.

Monday, August 23, 2010

My Father's Eulogy

On top of everything that happened before, my father passed away a week ago Sunday.

I wanted to post the eulogy I delivered at his service here, since if not for him I would never have the passion for cinema that I possess and this blog would not exist. Writing has been therapeutic during this time, so hopefully this place won't go with out an update for too much longer.

Michael Philip Devine
February 19, 1947 – August 15, 2010

On Christmas Day, at the age of four years old, my first pet, a cat named Bo was fatally hit by a car. Obviously, this was a traumatic moment for me at an impressionable age. My father would go on to tell the events of that fateful day, not in solemn hushed tone, but rather as a joke wherein we’d ask the driver responsible for the feline slaughter if he had seen the cat, to which the driver responded: did he look like this? The punch line being a contorted face of impending death. This was my father, no matter the circumstances or the state of things, he always offered comfort in the manner of a smile and a joke, regardless of how bad the joke might be, actually strike that, preferably a bad joke.

In his sixty-three years, my father suffered many hardships: he was twice divorced, lost his own business, struggled with weight issues, lost his father and sister Mary to cancer at a young age, and endured an everyday battle with diabetes. While I know he had his moments of despair and sadness, either alone or amongst his peers in OA, he would never show it to either my brother Sean or myself. My dad did not have a lot, but what he did have he would gladly sacrifice for his sons’ happiness. At the age of nine I don’t think I fully grasped that my father was not, in fact, a rich man. He was a manager at Toys R Us, a job that to our eyes was second in prestige only to Joe Montana. He always made sure that we had the latest and greatest toys and the time he spent with us was full of trips to the movies, arcades, comic book shops, fine dining establishments like Burger King and Denny’s, and most importantly laughter. Every summer the three of us would drive to Los Angeles for our annual trip to Disneyland, Universal Studios and a visit with our uncle Dennis and aunt Karla, and later their two daughters Emily and Julie. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized how much and how long he would have to save so we could have that vacation and time together.

At the age of 18 I was accepted into San Francisco State University and my father offered to let me live with him in his one bedroom apartment in Daly City so I didn’t have to spend money on rent. I am sure his assumption was this would be a temporary arrangement as I found another living situation or campus housing, so he let me have the bedroom and created a makeshift bedroom for himself in the living room. Six years later, I was still there and he endured years of his son coming home at all hours of the night, blaring his stereo and inviting friends into the already cramped apartment rent free without one single complaint, all the while sleeping on a futon in the living room. I’ve had several living arrangements and roommates since then, but besides my wife, he was the best one. He kept sacrificing, even as I moved out, even as Sean and I started working full-time, and even after my wife Amy and I bought a house. I could always count on a 100 dollar check from him at Christmas and my birthdays usually inside a card where he would write “I wish I could give you more”, even though I knew he had to scrimp and sacrifice for what he could give.

My dad had three major passions in his life. The first was his family. Besides Sean and I he loved deeply and without limits his parents Phil and Carmela, his siblings Patrick, Mary, Kathy and Dennis, his in-laws Paul, Karla and Amy, his niece and nephews Bryan, Emily and Julie, his son Sean’s girlfriend Katie and his sister Kathy’s boyfriend Spence, not to mention his countless cousins, aunts and uncles. The last time I saw him was in July, and it was a typical Devine gathering: food, jokes, games and valuable time spent with his family.

His second passion was sports. Appropriately enough one of his last outings was a trip to the ballpark to watch the Giants with his surviving siblings. Growing up in Detroit he was a staunch supporters of all the local teams, but primarily the University of Michigan football squad, the Detroit Tigers and the Detroit Lions. After moving to California after his service in the Army, he soon adopted the local sports teams like the Giants and the 49ers as his own. His love for sports and heart was big enough to root for several teams simultaneously, and besides in the 80s and 90s wouldn’t you rather be a 49er fan than a Lions fan?

His third passion was for movies. He had a wide range of taste, loving the schlockiest of horror films and the frilliest of musicals equally. I remember after watching the film adaptation of Sweeny Todd with him, I turned to him and said something along the lines of “this film seemed to have been made specifically for you dad, it combines your two favorites elements: gore and singing!” If I had to guess the number of movies my father watched in his lifetime, I’d venture something along the lines of 500,000. Though that number would be reduced to about 100,000 if you count the films he actually stayed awake for the entirety of. He began watching films at double features at the local cinema near the house he grew up in Detroit with his parents and siblings. It became a source of bonding amongst them and an experience he treasured. He passed that passion along to both of his sons. My father may not have been the richest or most successful amongst my peers growing up, but I didn’t see any other kids who were let out of school early to catch Return of the Jedi on opening night!

This may not be the appropriate venue to admit this, but I am not a religious person. I like to consider myself spiritual though, and I realize and value the importance that going to church with his mother and sister Kathy and spirituality meant to my father. And I am certain in my knowledge that wherever he is, he’s with his parents, sister Mary and nephew Bryan, perhaps watching a movie, and most definitely telling bad jokes.

There’s a line in the Godfather where Don Corleone says “A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.” In that respect, my father certainly qualifies. Thank you.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

24 Frames: Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1985, Tim Burton)

Two days late here, but Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, opened on August 9th, twenty five years ago. As I stated in a prior post earlier this month, since seeing this for the first time theatrically in 1985, this movie has held a comforting presence for me. It's attention to detail, joie de vivre and willingness to traverse several genres within itself makes it a worthy repeat watching candidate.

Things seem to be turning up Pee-Wee these days, he successfully toured Los Angeles with a stage show in January 2010 (I was there for one show, and attended a Q & A afterwards) which will soon be going to Broadway, he programmed a day's worth of screenings at this year's Los Angeles Film Festival, and he seems to have finally got his long discussed follow-up film greenlit (so long that he's mentioning it in the Big Adventure commentary which was recorded in 2000) with Judd Appatow producing.

Pee-Wee's Big Adventure was the feature length directorial debut of Tim Burton (and my favorite film of his besides Ed Wood), and Victor J. Kemper was the director of photography.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Posterized: Now Playing August 1980

Here are the posters of the films that were released in the United States thirty years ago this month. Perusing the list, it's full of blind spots for me, in fact, I've only seen The Final Countdown (my first review for the 80's Project) and The Ninth Configuration (the poster here is for it's alternate title Twinkle Twinkle Killer Kane). I fully intend on catching The Hunter (McQueen's last film), The Octagon (Chuck Norris vs. ninjas) and Scum, any recommendations for the others? Let me know in the comment field.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Cinema Within Cinema

There's the image based meme making the rounds on ye olde film blogosphere. And while I was never officially invited to play along (or "tagged" in internet speak), two of my favorite blogs, The Exploding Kinetoscope and Hugo Stigilitz Makes Movies sent an open invitation to anyone reading. So I put on my best lamp shade and joined the party.

Here are the rules of this meme:

1. Pick as many pictures as you want - but make them screencaps. These need to be moments that speak to you that perhaps haven't been represented as stills before.

I have to confess that the first one was stolen from a Google search since I own the film on Blu-Ray only, a format which is not compatible with my laptop.

2. Pick a theme, any theme.

It should be obvious from the stills and the title of this post, but I will discuss my parameters for this project in further detail below.

3. You MUST link to the original gallery at Checking On My Sausages and the gallery at The Dancing Image.

Consider thee linked.

4. Tag five blogs.

Since I was a party crasher, I would consider it unbecoming to invite a bunch of my unruly friends, but if you're reading this, have a website/blog and are interested, I can get you in through the back door. That means you President Obama!

FBI Warning: It gets a little NSFW up in here.

So, obviously, the theme here is screencaps featuring a film being watched within a film. My two rules were that the film being watching needed to be framed within the frame of the film or have something occurring in the foreground of the frame so that you didn't think I just got lazy and screencapped Problem Child instead of the scene in Cape Fear where Max Cady watches it in hysterics (this eliminated 8 1/2, True Romance and Crimes and Misdemeanors), also it had to be projected, no TV. My other rule is that it had to be a film in my DVD collection. Which sadly eliminated Sullivan's Travels, Matinee and Spirit of the Beehive (note to self, pick up all three DVDs).

Here are the films that were screencapped

Inglourious Basterds (2009, Quentin Tarantino)*
The Monster Squad (1987, Fred Dekker)
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004, Wes Anderson)
The Last Picture Show (1971, Peter Bogdonavich)
Gremlins (1984, Joe Dante)
Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1985, Tim Burton)
Friday the 13th-The Final Chapter (1984, Joseph Zito)
Ed Wood (1994, Tim Burton)
Twelve Monkeys (1995, Terry Gilliam)
Donnie Darko (2001, Richard Kelly)
The Player (1992, Robert Altman)
Day for Night (1973, Francois Truffaut)
CQ (2002, Roman Coppola)
South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut (1999, Trey Parker)
Cape Fear (1991, Martin Scorsese)
Stardust Memories (1980, Woody Allen)
Bowfinger (1999, Frank Oz)
Boogie Nights (1997, Paul Thomas Anderson)
The Sugarland Express (1974, Steven Spielberg)
Blow Out (1981, Brian DePalma)
Taxi Driver (1976, Martin Scorsese)
American Werewolf in London (1981, John Landis)
Zodiac (2007, David Fincher)
Sunset Boulevard (1950, Billy Wilder)

*surprisingly for all the discussion of film and pop culture in his movies, this is the only Tarantino film that I believe shows someone actually watching a film in a theatre. Jackie Brown shows Robert Forester leaving the Del Amo theatre and many films are watched on TV in Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill, but no scenes inside a theatre.
Related Posts with Thumbnails