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Thumbnails 9/23/19

Thumbnails is a roundup of brief excerpts to introduce you to articles from other websites that we found interesting and exciting. We provide links to the original sources for you to read in their entirety.—Chaz Ebert

1. 

"Veronica Cartwright on 'The Field,' 'The Birds,' 'Alien' and Much More": The brilliant star of numerous screen classics chats with me at Indie Outlook about her latest thriller opening tomorrow on digital platforms.

“I was 11 years old when I made ‘The Children’s Hour,’ which is the film Alfred Hitchcock saw and led him to request meeting me for ‘The Birds.’ ‘The Children’s Hour’ was such an interesting movie, and I consider Shirley MacLaine my mentor in the sense that she just seemed so classy and so great. I would do a scene, and she’d be like, ‘Honey, you’re off camera. Don’t waste those tears right now. Wait until the camera is on you.’ When I had my huge breakdown about telling the lie, she’d come over and say, ‘Oh that was wonderful, honey.’ She just sort of embraced me, and that was incredible. I didn’t realize until years later that I had a rather profound dream about her, where she was walking over toward me along the length of a swimming pool. Since the movie was about lesbianism, a lot of the parents pulled their children out of it. As kids, Angela and I had acting coaches for little plays and musical stuff that we were involved in. The coaches’ names were Frank Wyca and Bill Lockwood, and they were wonderful. We became friends and we’d go over and have lunch with them. While explaining the story of ‘The Children’s Hour’ to me, my mother said, ‘It is just like Frank and Bill, only it’s two women.’ That seemed perfectly plausible in my mind, so the fact that these women were like my friends made the scene where I lie about them so much more meaningful to me. We did three or four takes of it, and William Wyler just kept pushing and pushing until I had an ultimate breakdown. That was the first time I realized that you have to live in the moment. You can’t be thinking about things apart from what’s happening right in front of you.”

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2. 

"Musso & Frank Turns 100 as David Lynch, John Travolta and More Dish on Hollywood's Oldest Restaurant: 'There Must Be a Trillion Stories'": As illustrated by The Hollywood Reporter's Lesley Balla.

“There are many reasons why people still flock to Musso & Frank Grill, the Hollywood Boulevard restaurant and bar celebrating 100 years: the unchanging decor, affable servers in bright red jackets and earnest busboys in green, the martinis and the sidecars, the flannel cakes, the lore. Frank Toulet, restaurateur Joseph Musso and chef Jean Rue opened the doors in 1919. It moved one door down Hollywood Boulevard in 1934 and added a second dining room in 1955. Outlasting contemporaries like Chasen's and The Brown Derby, Musso's isn't the industry hotspot it once was, but producers and writers still converse over chicken pot pie and lamb chops in the large mahogany booths. Musso's Old Room, featuring the counter and grill, is where Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio would canoodle in the third booth along the wall. In the New Room, Frank Sinatra sat at his preferred booth, and The Rolling Stones still have their favorite table (and server, Sergio). When the Screen Writers Guild (now the WGA) resided across the street, Musso's Back Room was the epicenter for writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald, who proofread his novels there, and William Faulkner, who would mix his own mint juleps. Later, Charles Bukowski and Gore Vidal were regulars.”

3.

"When Silent Films Were a Force for World Peace": An illuminating essay by Ryan Jay Friedman at Zocolo Public Square.

“From television to social media, the partisans of each wave of new, or emergent media have been able to adopt wholesale the essentially gnostic idea systematized by people like Hays and Fairbanks: that difference of location, language, and culture is a corruption of an original, or intended state of unity, which can be broken down or overcome by more powerful technologies. That this dream of perfected communication has proven to be imperialistic, indifferent to ethics, and hostile toward less powerful individuals and groups hasn’t made it any less seductive. Back in the 1920s, it was the silent character—or perhaps more accurately, mute character—of Hollywood films that made plausible the premise of cinema as a universally accessible power. Hollywood didn’t immediately advance this idea. Originally, the American film industry had presented itself as a purveyor of mere entertainment, shying away from controversy after producing a series of films about sexual slavery in 1913 and 1914. Although producers advertised these films as exposés of social problems and as pleas for moral reform, they were widely condemned as indecent and met with calls for censorship. From this experience, the industry drew the lesson that it should steer clear of social and political debates and devote itself to the benign mission of entertaining the public through diverting fictions.”

4. 

"'Mrs. Maisel' actresses battle restraints on women—then and now": While in conversation with Amy Reiter of The Los Angeles Times.

“Fans of ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,’ Amy Sherman-Palladino’s intoxicating, award-winning TV show about a 1950s housewife launching a standup-comedy career, are used to seeing Rachel Brosnahan, Alex Borstein and Marin Hinkle inhabit a deliciously retro, candy-colored world filled with figure-enhancing frocks and perfect prewar apartments. Each is contained and restrained within the proscribed bonds of her role in the world. So seeing these actresses (who play, respectively, Miriam ‘Midge’ Maisel; Midge’s manager, Susie Myerson; and Midge’s mother, Rose Weissman) sitting together on a leather couch, loosely clad in muted hues and playfully posing for photos in an industrial-chic Brooklyn studio can create a sense of cognitive dissonance. At its core, ‘Maisel,’ its third season due soon on Amazon, is about women finding their voices, and on this summer Saturday, the Emmy-nominated actresses seem pleased to share theirs in an uncorseted conversation about how far we as a society have come — and still have to go.”

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5. 

"The Dark Side of Hollywood: the Twisted Pleasures of Fred Durst's 'The Fanatic'": An exceedingly different take on the worst-reviewed film of 2019 from The Talkhouse's Jim Hemphill

Roger Ebert once said that movies aren’t about what they’re about, they’re about how they’re about what they’re about, and Fred Durst’s ‘The Fanatic’ is a case in point. A quick description of the premise – an obsessed fan (John Travolta) turns against his favorite actor (Devon Sawa) after the actor is rude to him – makes ‘The Fanatic’ sound like any one of dozens of similar stalker movies, from Tony Scott’s ‘The Fan’ (and Ed Bianchi’s ‘The Fan,’ for that matter) to Martin Scorsese’s ‘King of Comedy.’ ‘The Fanatic’ owes something to all of those films, but what sets it apart and gives it a greatness all its own is its precise evocation of a side of Hollywood that is familiar to those of us who live here but is rarely well captured on screen. If ‘Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood’ is a dream of Hollywood’s past, ‘The Fanatic’ is a nightmare of its present, a relentlessly unsettling portrait of figures who drift around the city’s margins filled with passion that has no proper outlet, people who love the movies – or at least the idea of the movies – but have not been blessed with the talent to apply that love in any meaningful way. Moose, the disturbed and disturbing but, thanks to John Travolta’s bold and brilliant performance, touching and tragic autograph collector at the heart of the story, is a spiritual cousin to characters like Mary Beth Hurt’s Joey in ‘Interiors’ or William H. Macy’s Quiz Kid Donnie Smith in ‘Magnolia,’ people who, as Donnie says, have love but nowhere to put it.”

Image of the Day

My cherished colleague Andrea Gronvall, Chicago Reader critic and longtime producer of "Siskel & Ebert," passed away earlier this month, and one of the last conversations I had with her was about her wonderful review of Pawel Pawlikowski's "Cold War," published this past January. You can read it here.

Video of the Day

The original "Siskel & Ebert" review of Ridley Scott's 1979 masterpiece "Alien," a film Ebert would later induct into his "Great Movies" series (read his full appreciation here). 

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