Wednesday, May 27, 2015

American Cinematheque Receives Premios Platino Award for Long-Time Support of Spanish Language Films on the Big Screen

The American Cinematheque’s Chairman Rick Nicita, accepted a Platino (Platinum) Award today on behalf of the non-profit, theatrical exhibitor that operates the Aero and Egyptian Theatres. The award was presented at a press conference to announce the nominees of the 2015 Premios Platino of Iberoamerican Cinema, at the Andaz Hotel in West Hollywood.  The award recognized the American Cinematheque’s dedication to showcasing Spanish language films in Los Angeles.  Actor and Formula 3 race car driver Eugenio Derbez from Mexico presented the award to Nicita.
American Cinematheque Chairman Rick Nicita accepts the Platinum Award from actor Eugenio Derbez.

Founded in 1981, the American Cinematheque has a decades-long tradition of exhibiting Iberoamerican Cinema. Its longest running series, Recent Spanish Cinema,  will present its 21st edition in October 2015 and the organization regularly screens selections from Latin and South America – often providing Los Angelenos with the opportunity to see the official Foreign-Language submissions to the Academy Awards from those regions. Films from Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Chile, Mexico and Spain are among the Spanish language offerings at the Cinematheque's theaters - giving the public opportunities to see films that may not otherwise be widely distributed. Many of these screenings are accompanied by filmmakers and actors in person for discussion. Included in the talent roster of in person appearances are filmmakers and actors (often early in their careers, before they were known in the U.S.) such as Pedro Almodovar, Alejandro Amenabar, Javier Bardem, Iciar Bollain, Penelope Cruz, Alfonso Cuaron, Emmanuel Lubezski, Carmen Maura and Sebastian Silva. The American Cinematheque continues to be a place where new talent from outside the U.S. can be discovered by audiences eager to experience world cinema.

The "Platinum Award" was designed by Javier Mariscal. The feminine form's arms are extended as she offers up planet earth.
Antonio Baderas was announced as the Lifetime Achievement Award winner and awards in a number of categories for individual films. Some of these titles will most likely turn up in Los Angeles at the American Cinematheque in the Fall. 
Actress Kate del Castillo announced Antonio Banderas as the Premios Platino Lifetime Achievement Winner.

The Premios Platinos are a co-production of the Spanish artists’ rights management agency EGEDA and the Mexican organization FIPCA (Iberoamerican Federation of Film & Audiovisual Producers). FIPCA promotes Iberoamerican co-productions and looks after the distribution and broadcast of all product, transcending borders. Additionally FIPCA celebrates Iberoamerican talent. The Premios Platinos represent 23 countries, with 700 movies participating. TNT has entered into a strategic alliance with the Premios Platinos for cable broadcasting.  The second annual Premios Platinos of Iberoamerican Cinema will take place on July 18, 2015 in Marbella, an Andalusian resort spot.

American Cinematheque president gives acceptance speech with actor Eugenio Derbez.
EGEDA Latin America director Raul Vazquez.
Text & photos by Margot G.
May 27, 2015

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Guest Blog Post: Why THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK Deserves Another Look, By Intern Joe

On Saturday, May 30th at 7:30pm, the Aero is hosting a marathon of the first three Jurassic Park movies in anticipation of this summer's upcoming, much talked-about new release Jurassic World. While Spielberg's original 1993 film is already a well-regarded genre classic, I encourage you to stick around for the underrated second feature on the bill, The Lost World: Jurassic Park.

Run for your lives... to the Aero!

The Lost World follows Jeff Goldblum's character Ian Malcom (from the first film) as he goes on an expedition to an island of free-range dinosaurs to rescue his paleontologist girlfriend, played by Julianne Moore. It's a nice change to see Goldblum playing a leading man and action hero (albeit still a science guy) as a contrast to some of the nerdier supporting characters we remember him in through the '80s and '90s. The film features a great cast, including other well-regarded character actors such as Richard Schiff (Toby from "The West Wing"), Pete Postlethwaite and Vince Vaughn. In particular, Julianne Moore's performance is a nice subversion of the damsel in distress trope. While the expedition begins as an attempt to rescue her, it soon becomes clear that she's actually the most suited character in the movie to live amongst the dinosaurs. Her instincts when it comes to predators help keep the group safe and are key at the film's conclusion. She also gets one of the film's best sequences, when she tries to set a baby dinosaur's broken leg, all while being attacked by the dinosaur's parents.

Julianne Moore in The Lost World: Jurassic Park

While the characters are well-acted, no one watches a Jurassic Park movie for the humans, do they? The dinosaurs in The Lost World are breath-taking and also often terrifying. The film's creature effects are well-done, combining practical effects with CGI that (mostly) hold up to resurrect creatures who have been extinct for millions of years. The film features a number of great dinosaur scenes, most of which I'll try not to spoil if you haven't seen it. One great scene comes in the first act, when the expedition comes across a group of peaceful Stegosauruses crossing a river. The film is at its best when it forgets about the plot and just focuses on the majesty of the gigantic dinosaurs in their natural habitat.

Steven Spielberg directing a Stegosaurus

Of course, most of the other dinosaurs are more aggressive. The biggest threat to the group is the Tyrannosaurus Rex, arguably the greatest predator in animal history. While I'll remain vague, the film's third act involves a T-Rex laying waste to a major city in an exciting climax. While the T-Rex are quite frightening, Spielberg wisely gives them an emotional motivation which elevates them beyond generic movie monsters. Furthermore, the Velociraptors, one of the best parts of the original film, continue to terrorize. One standout moment involves two Velociraptors fighting and competing to eat a human. Finally, the Compsognathus dinosaurs, which are very small dinosaurs (slightly bigger than a lizard) that hunt in packs, are particularly terrifying, despite their cute and non-threatening appearance. It's worth the trip to the theater just to witness the magic of these magnificent creatures on the big screen again!

The Lost World: Jurassic Park comes to the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica as part of a triple feature on Saturday May 30th. It's a fun dinosaur movie, and I hope to see you there. 

-Joe, Intern

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Conversations at the Cinematheque: Mel Brooks for THE PRODUCERS, 3/7/15

Photo by Jim Pease/American Cinematheque
By Lisa Horowitz

Mel Brooks came to the Aero on March 7, 2015 to pay tribute to his old friend, Zero Mostel, who would have been 100 that day. 

“He was a great, great talent,” Brooks said, after being greeted by a warm Aero standing ovation. 

He was introduced by Larry Karaszewski, who, as Brooks explained, co-wrote “Ed Wood,” “so he has every right to introduce me.”

“Zero was heaven and hell,” the “Producers” writer-director continued. “When he felt like being nice, he was heaven. And when he felt like working, he was one of the greatest talents that ever lived. And when he felt like not working, he was hell.”

Mel brought along Alfa-Betty Olsen, whom he met “a little before ‘Get Smart,’” which he created with Buck Henry. He shared with her his idea, then called “Springtime for Hitler,” and she encouraged him to write it. But “I couldn’t really type,” he admitted. “I could write on a legal pad with an Everhard No. 2 pencil, but I’d talk and talk and Betty would type and type. She’d put it on onionskin, that’s how far back this was. And she really put together a screenplay called ‘Springtime for Hitler.’ She was there for the whole process.”

“I met Zero in the ‘50s,” Brooks said. “He was a painter, and he had a little atelier in a brownstone on 28th Street in New York, and my best friend, Speed Vogel, was a sculptor who was in the same little brownstone. And we hung out together.

“I knew Zero, but I had not yet proposed that he play... but I knew Zero, I knew his animal ways,” he said with great emphasis on the last two words.

Turning things over to Karazewski, Brooks discussed the genesis of “The Producers.” “I always thought it was a book,” he explained, “and I started writing it as a book.” He showed it to one of the members of his Chinese Gourmet Society, “either Mario or Joe” -- whom Karaszewski broke in to identify as Mario Puzo and Joseph Heller, “minor novelists.” “And Joe said, ‘It talks too much, there’s too much dialogue. It’s probably a play.’ So I knew Kermit Bloomgarten,” a major Broadway producer, Brooks continued. “Bloomgarten said, ‘The rule of the theater is one set, five actors. Any more than that and we’re out of business.’ He said, ‘You have 32 scenes here, 35 actors -- it’s not a play. I don’t know what the hell it is. It might be a movie, because in a movie they can cut from one scene to another.’”

Olsen also kept saying it’s a movie, but Brooks hadn’t written a movie before. But with Olsen’s help, and her super-speedy typing, he got through it.

“When you came to making it actually into a movie, it was more like a home movie. Everything was put together on the spur of the moment,” Olsen said. One example: “When we were going to do the audition scene for all the Hitlers, they were going to sing ‘I Could Have Danced All Night.’ It was going to be a montage of an actor with a Hitler mustache, and he’d sing one line of the song, and then we’d cut to another actor, and he’d sing the next line. Well, the rights to  ‘I Could Have Danced All Night’ were too hard to get. Meanwhile, we were already shooting -- we had nothing for that. Lore Noto, who produced ‘The Fantasticks,’ which was the longest-running show Off-Broadway, loaned us his office, and I was sitting in the office and two actors walked in. They were on Broadway in ‘Most Happy Fella,’ and they wanted to be in our movie. I hired them.”

“Betty became casting director,” Brooks interjected.

“And when it came time to do that scene,” Olsen continued, “it was made up on the spot, it was improvised. Mel had ideas, he told some people what to do, some people had their own ideas.

“And he really did insist on finishing his song!” Brooks added.

Photo by Jim Pease/American Cinematheque

Apparently Dustin Hoffman, who was doing “The Graduate” at the time with Brooks’ wife, Anne Bancroft, read the script and wanted to play the part of the German playwright, Franz Liebkind. Hoffman asked Olsen to push the shooting date back so he could take the part, but, as Olsen said, “It was not to be.” Brooks got a huge laugh by adding, “I didn’t want him, I didn’t want him. Who knew he’d turn out to be Dustin Hoffman?”

But Olsen found Kenneth Mars, who ended up playing the role -- Brooks described him as “a miracle.” Olsen explained, “Someone told us about him. He was in a play and he was playing a psychiatrist, and I remember he did tremendous things with Kleenex!

“We thought he was incredibly funny. And then we met with him and he had this great German accent,” she said.
Brooks added, “He had such a good German accent that finally I said, ‘Kenny, we need you to bring it more American, because no one can understand a f####ing word!’”

Among other “inside information” dispensed by Olsen: The movie was being shot in a studio on West 26th Street, and they didn’t have anything for the audition scene, and she went to Lincoln Center to see if she could find an old show that had something public-domain they could use. “And I walked past the fountain, and I did not go to the theater library, I turned right around and came down to 23rd Street, finished shooting. We got in a cab and went up to Lincoln Center, looked at the fountain. And the next day the production manager talked to Lincoln Center, and the guy who ran the fountain said, ‘I can make it go up 40 feet!’ And he did, for the movie!”

Karaszewski interjected: “But to talk about Zero ... he said no to you, right?” To which Brooks replied, “Zero said no. He just said no. He wouldn’t say why!” But mutual friend Speed Vogel offered to get the script to Mostel’s wife, Kate, “because she’s smart,” and Mostel trusted her judgment. Within a week she’d gotten him to agree to do it.

With Mostel on board, Brooks had to find the money to make the movie. He got Oscar-winning producer Sidney Glazer to read the script, which left Glazer laughing so hard he couldn’t breathe. Together they took it to Universal Studios, whose Lew Wasserman sent them a letter. “It said, ‘Very funny script. Universal could be aboard. One small change: Could you please change Hitler to Mussolini?””

Photo by Jim Pease/American Cinematheque
Finally they got producer Joseph E. Levine to come on, bringing his money from “possibly the worst movie ever made, ‘Hercules Unchained,’” Brooks said. Levine also made “Two Women” starring Sophia Loren. As Karaszewski interjected, “Levine was kind of a combination of Bob AND Harvey Weinstein.”

But that wasn’t the end of the attempted interference. “The one crazy thing that [Levine] did was he came to my office, and he said, there’s nothing wrong with this movie, but you gotta get rid of that funny-looking guy,” Brooks said. “I said, ‘Who’s that?’ and he said, ‘Gene Wilder.’ He said, ‘I’ll pay for a good-looking actor.’ I said, ‘But he’s perfect for the part. He’s delicious!’ I said, ‘Watch his development,’ and Bobby Weston, who worked for Joe, said, ‘Joe, Joe, he’s good.’ And he laid off Gene Wilder. We kept Gene Wilder, thank God.”

Wilder did “Mother Courage” on Broadway with Bancroft two years before he was cast as Leo Bloom -- as Karaszewski pointed out, “the only guy to get laughs” in that play. Brooks said, “Gene  asked why they were laughing, and I said, ‘You ever see a mirror?’”

Gene Wilder was in a Murray Schisgal play and Brooks walked into his dressing room, threw the “Producers” script on his dressing table, and told him they’d got the money and Wilder was to play Leo starting in a month and a half. “He burst into tears,” Brooks reported. “It was so beautiful.”

But Wilder still had to meet Mostel. “Zero was very cold and crazy when he met” Wilder, Brooks said. “He didn’t say a word, he just looked at him. Gene didn’t know what to do. Then he took Gene’s head in his hands and kissed him. Gene looked at me and he said [sotto voce], ‘He likes me.’

“Zero liked him very much. For some reason he hated Kenny Mars. ... I think he believed he was a Nazi!” Brooks said.

But, Brooks said, “I wouldn’t even look at anyone else” for the role of Max. “I said, if we don’t have Zero, we don’t have the movie.” There was “Fat” Jack Leonard, he allowed, but he wasn’t an actor -- he just told jokes. “Zero was a profound actor,” Brooks said.

Zero Mostel and Kenneth Mars in "The Producers"

Brooks talked a little bit about the more recent “Producers” movie as well -- the one based on the Broadway hit musical. “It’s a sore subject, because I didn’t want to make a film of the new musical. It was a perfectly thrilling Broadway show, absolutely thrilling. Susan Stroman did an incredible job with it, with its physical transference from the screen to the stage. And Tom Meehan and I worked almost around the clock to see if we could get the best of that movie onto the stage. And we did. It was smooth as silk -- you never saw the stitching we did.
“But you see it in the [new] movie. And I think that’s because [the original] was such a good movie. It’s so tight, and it’s so natural, and it flows from one scene to another so perfectly, so correctly. In the new musical, on screen, the music gets in the way, the numbers get in the way of the storytelling. And that’s why the movie is not nearly as good as the original movie. But thanks for bring that up [to audience member], I’ve wanted to get that off my chest for a long time.””

Asked by an audience member if there was anyone he’d always wanted to work with but hadn’t, Brooks allowed: “I used to dream of working with Jean Harlow: ‘Have you ever kissed a Jew?’”

Asked, “If you could go back in time, what would you tell young Mel?” Brooks first spouted some Yiddish gibberish, then said, “I wouldn’t tell myself anything. It all worked out.”

Asked if there were any “subjects you wanted to touch but haven’t been able to,” Brooks first cracked a joke about Gypsy Rose Lee’s sister June’s breasts -- “not to do anything dirty, just to feel them, they were so perfect!” But turning serious, he asked Olsen if there was anything that he ever avoided. She replied, “I think, quite amazingly, everything you ever wanted to do, somehow you got it done.” Brooks agreed: “Yeah.”

Photo by Jim Pease/American Cinematheque

F.X. Feeney on 'American Crime' Created by '12 Years A Slave' Writer John Ridley

AMERICAN CRIME! ... I've been going on so much about Orson Welles this week that I'd like to catch my breath a moment and celebrate this outstanding prime time show created by John Ridley, screenwriter of "12 YEARS A SLAVE." The American Cinematheque is celebrating it Wednesday evening May 6th at the Aero Theatre.

That also happens to be the hundredth anniversary of Orson Welles's birth. Since I'm joining in celebrations of THAT blessed event every other night of this coming week, I don't feel disloyal spending that particular evening at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica, watching excerpts from AMERICAN CRIME in tandem with a panel discussion between Ridley and his principal cast. If anything the anniversary and the occasion are a good fit because this isn't "television," it's Long Form Cinema such as the most dedicated Cineastes have come to expect after the past 15 years of revolutions perpetrated at HBO, Showtime, A&E and Starz.

What's new and unique about AMERICAN CRIME is that it accomplishes this excellence on a mainstream network, without a jot of compromise anywhere in evidence.

Timothy Hutton has a moment, early in the first show, when his character is led into a morgue to identify the body of his murdered son. Despite that he is "ready" his gasp of recognition and sorrow is so eloquent, no words are needed. His reaction sets everything to come on its feet. It's a great dramatist who provides such a moment for an actor to complete. Ridley does the same for Felicity Huffman. Time and again her very driven, very controlled and controlling mother-in-grief must confront, as if in a self-torture chamber, exactly how out-of-control her torrents of angry, righteous, well-meant words are causing things to become.

The man accused of their son's murder -- Elvis Nolasco -- communicates with his whole body that he is innocent that particular crime. Yet in the same breath he reveals a man content to navigate a world in which he is guilty of so much else, because paradoxically that's the only world he can inhabit with the woman he loves. Richard Cabral by contrast communicates danger in every flash of his eyes -- for many episodes I've just assumed, "he's the killer," though (courtesy of Ridley's design) I've lately been sucker-punched out of that comfortable assumption, not just by developments in the story but by the depth of tender pride that Cabral reveals in this man when he first meets his baby daughter. At the opposite end of this lethal universe is the other suffering mother, played by Penelope Ann Miller: She struggles to surrender her outrage; to live in the moment; to help her comatose daughter survive a brutal attack she (and through her, we) can only imagine and re-imagine in ever new and worse ways as new information so relentlessly emerges.

THESE are the talents joining John Ridley onstage at the Aero Theatre, Wednesday night, May 6, 2015, and I can't wait to listen to them.

-- F.X. Feeney

For tickets, details, click here.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Noir City: The 17th Annual Film Noir Festival Comes to Hollywood

Bogart, Rarities Kick Off Latest
Edition of Venerable LA Noir Fest
Coming to the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood April 3-19, 2015

The American Cinematheque, in collaboration with the Film Noir Foundation, will once again April present the hugely popular NOIR CITY film festival, a three-week celebration of Hollywood's darkest, most daring — and most durable — cinematic movement. This year marks the 17th anniversary of the collaboration between the Cinematheque and writer-impresario Eddie Muller, who since the festival’s inception has become a prominent figure in film preservation. In addition to paying tribute to the genre’s established artists and films, Muller’s Film Noir Foundation (FNF) has rescued numerous titles from obscurity and funded their restoration. Its two most recent reclamations, Woman on the Run and The Guilty, will be featured in this year's festival, which runs April 3 – 19 at the Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard (6712 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90028).

The festival kicks off with an Opening Night reception sponsored by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which funded the Woman on the Run restoration through its Charitable Trust. It was feared the only existing print of the film had been lost in a 2008 fire. The FNF united the efforts of the UCLA Film and Television Archive, British Film Institute, and HFPA to ensure its resurrection. The 1950 film, starring Ann Sheridan, screens April 3 on a double bill with another Sheridan starrer, The Unfaithful (1947).

These obscure gems are followed on Saturday night by a tribute to the genre's most revered star—Humphrey Bogart. Stephen Bogart, son of Hollywood legends Bogart and Lauren Bacall, will engage in a rare interview following a screening of his parents' noir classic, Dark Passage. He also will introduce writer-director Steve Anderson’s new noir, This Last Lonely Place, the initial offering from revived Santana Productions, the independent production company created by Humphrey Bogart in the late 1940s. Capping off the evening, the Bogart Estate hosts a cocktail reception celebrating the Los Angeles debut of its new product, Bogart’s Gin.

NOIR CITY continues over the following weeks with programs dedicated to mainstays of the genre such as director Jacques Tourneur, writers Cornell Woolrich and Dorothy B. Hughes, the great Barbara Stanwyck, British films by exiled blacklist directors Edward Dmytryk and Joseph Losey, and the Los Angeles premiere of three virtually unknown Argentinean films noir from the early 1950s—subtitled in English for the first time and presented in new prints funded by the Film Noir Foundation. These include El Vampiro Negro (The Black Vampire), a 1953 feminist reworking of Fritz Lang's classic M, and No Abras Nunca esa Puerta (Never Open That Door), an anthology of short stories by American suspense master Cornell Woolrich. The evening screenings, hosted by Muller or his FNF colleague Alan K. Rode, often feature surprise special guests.

In what's become a tradition, the festival's closing weekend will feature a full-scale film noir nightclub (Saturday, April 18) with live big band music, casino, dancing— as well as a centerpiece screening of another Woolrich adaptation, The Guilty, an obscure 1947 Monogram B-film restored in all its shadowy luster by the FNF and the UCLA Film and Television Archive.

"The Film Noir Foundation has accomplished tremendous things in recent years,” said Muller. “Not only restoring movies, but simply continuing to screen 35mm black and white classics for a new generation, helping to foster and maintain a passion for cinema. And it’s always a treat to come back to the Egyptian each year—which, for me, is where this all began.” 

The festival boasts 26 films noir over 12 nights. For a complete schedule see the Egyptian Theatre's website. Tickets are sold on Fandango. Tickets to the Noir City Party on April 18, 2015 are available here.

The American Cinematheque also runs a dedicated Film Noir Facebook page where the discussion is film noir all the time.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Pushin' Too Hard: Recollections from Former Seeds Drummer Carl Belknap

In anticipation of our world premiere of a new definitive documentary on The Seeds, "Pushin' Too Hard", frequent Egyptian Theatre-goer Carl Belknap talked to us about the year he spent as the punk pioneering band's drummer. Here are his recollections in his own words: 

When I first heard The Beatles on the radio, I knew I had to be in a band. It became an obsession. Not being able to carry a tune & not knowing an A from an E, I decided to become a drummer. In 1963, at age 15, I taught myself to play the drums. One year later, I was a founding member of The Eliminators surf band. We changed our name to Glass in 1965 & in the next few years, opened for The Box Tops, The Standells and Booker T & The MGs.

Richard France, whom I had known from my high school days, had become The Seeds road manager. He invited me to come to a couple of their recording sessions in Hollywood. In early 1968, at about the time Glass was sort of dissolving, Rick [Andridge] left The Seeds. Richard, knowing that I could play most of The Seeds’ songs, arranged for me to have an audition at Sky’s [Saxon] house in Malibu.

He lived in the Big Rock area, in a house overlooking the ocean. As I walked down the very long driveway, I saw the garage door was open. The first thing I noticed was Rick’s drums with The Seeds on the bass drum head. Then I saw Sky, Daryl [Hooper] & Jan [Savage] waiting for me. It was then that it set in that I was about to audition for what had been my favorite band for the past two years.

Carl & Jan Savage after a Seeds show in 2003

After exchanging pleasantries, I was asked if I knew a particular song, the name I can’t recall. So we played it, discussed other songs, then played a couple more. Fortunately I had performed all three with Glass, so I knew my parts. Sky, Jan & Daryl held a pow wow and a couple of minutes later asked if I would like to join the band. We immediately began rehearsing and going over some new material.

When we took breaks for lunch, we were always recognized as soon as we entered the restaurant. It didn't take long for the buzz to fill the room. Our rehearsals always drew a crowd, mostly neighbors. But on one occasion, I saw someone who looked familiar walking down the driveway. As he got closer I could see it was Mike Love from The Beach Boys, the very same Beach Boys that I saw perform at my church on New Year’s Eve 1961. It was my first concert.

It wasn’t until several rehearsals later that I was told we had a gig coming up at Melodyland, which at the time was across the street from Disneyland. A limo was scheduled to pick us up for the gig. Somehow, I didn’t feel comfortable riding with the band in a limo because there had been nothing I had contributed to merit such luxury. So I picked up my girlfriend, Esther (now my wife of 43 years) & drove myself to the venue.

We never rehearsed a set list, so I didn’t know what songs we would do or how long we would play. I recall that in the dressing room, Sky said we were opening with "Tripmaker" followed by "Mr. Farmer". I asked if we could reverse their order, because Glass frequently opened with Mr. Farmer. 

I had no idea until we left the dressing room that the venue was in the round. We walked down an aisle through the audience. It was my first gig with The Seeds & they told me to lead the way. I couldn’t have been more nervous. When I got to the stage, I saw the speaker cabinets were laying on their backs, so everyone in the audience could hear. I played my heart out that night & the 30 plus minute set was over in what seemed like an instant.
Carl & Sky Saxon after a show in 2003

Afterwards, I was asked for autographs, sticks & my phone number. When I said I wouldn't give out my number, they asked me for Sky’s. They didn't get that one either, at least not from me.

I hadn't given any thought as to whether I would be paid, I was so honored to be asked to join The Seeds. After the show, Daryl handed me a check signed by both him & Jan. Stupidly, I cashed the check without first photo copying it for posterity.

A few weeks passed & I was told The Seeds were going on a tour on the West Coast & they wanted to keep me as their drummer. In the excitement of being in the band, all thoughts of the Vietnam War unconsciously had been set aside. Being told we were going to go on tour made me stop & think that at age 20, I was the perfect age to be drafted & sent overseas. Sky said not to worry, that their lawyers would get me out of it. After giving it a lot of thought, I decided the only way to guarantee avoid being drafted was to return to college. One of the most difficult things I've ever done was to tell Sky I had to bow out.

A few months later, while driving along the Pacific Coast Highway, I stopped at Sky’s house to find The Seeds rehearsing. I noticed they were a 5 piece band, using two guitarists. When the rehearsal was over, Jan told me he was leaving the band. He didn't say why and I didn't ask.

I next saw Sky in the early 2000s at a couple of Seeds shows in Hollywood. When I went back stage at one of them, Sky said “I remember you. Weren't you the one who left the band to go to college?” I saw both Sky & Jan perform at a show in 2003. There had been a rumor going around for some time that Jan had been in the L.A.P.D. In talking with him after the show, I had to ask if it were true. He laughed & said no.

      Carl & Daryl Hooper at Sky Saxon's memorial in 2003
I contacted Sky about a year before his passing to say I had come across a recording of The Seeds show at Melodyland. It sounded as though it had been recorded by someone in the audience. Sky was very excited and wanted Global Recording Artists to spruce up the sound and have it officially released on a CD. Unfortunately, he passed away before that could happen.

I was one of just three drummers, from a multitude of drummers Sky had in his various bands over the years, to perform with what was called “The Seeds” at his memorial in July 2009 at Echoplex in L.A. Daryl, whom I hadn’t seen since 1968, was on keyboards. I sang back up vocals on "Pushin’ Too Hard" with Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins and took over the drumming duties on "Evil Hoodoo" and the final song of the night, "No Escape". Karl Anderson told me he recorded the show for both a CD & DVD release. My fingers are still crossed but they’re getting tired.                

Glass reformed in 1999 and we performed fairly frequently. I retired from drumming in 2012 after we opened to a packed house for Dick Dale at Brixton South Bay. It was quite appropriate, because the first 45 that I owned was "Let’s Go Trippin’" by Dick Dale and Glass had begun as a surf band. 

-Carl Belknap 

Pushin' Too Hard will be having its world premiere at the Egyptian Theatre (6712 Hollywood Blvd, 90028) on Saturday, August 16th at 7:30 pm. We'll be joined by special guests including Neil Norman, producer Alec Palao and Seeds members Daryl Hooper and Jan Savage! 

For more information on the event, click here [x]  

Buy tickets at Fandango [x] 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Guest Blog Post: Thoughts on A Streetcar Named Desire and The Books “Brando’s Smile” and “Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait” By Intern Lola

By Lola, French intern

Legendary director Elia Kazan’s  A Streetcar Named Desire screened at the Egyptian Theatre on the 16th of July.

I saw this masterpiece for the first time when I was 18. I was looking for a movie to watch, so I Googled “100 movies you need to see before you die” and I decided to  randomly choose A Streetcar Named Desire. Not that randomly, actually. At that age, I only knew Marlon Brando for his performance in The Godfather and Vivien Leigh in Gone With The Wind. I’d never seen a movie before with young Marlon Brando and I wanted to see what Vivien Leigh was able to do after her incredible performance in Fleming’s movie, rewarded by the Best Actress Oscar. I got a high school degree in Literature, so I heard a lot about the 1947 play written by Tennessee Williams during my classes.

Today, a lot of things made me want to see A Streetcar Named Desire one more time. First, it’s the 10th anniversary of Marlon Brando’s death, and it was a golden opportunity to see one of his best performances on the big screen. Marlon Brando remains one of the most important actors because of the way he had to get into roles. He was one of the first actors of his generation to apply Stanislavski’s techniques, which let the actors explore their own feelings and use their life experiences to play characters. Method acting results in very real performances, and this is why I’d wanted to watch Brando’s performance in this movie one more time. Knowing what I know now, it’s been interesting to better understand Brando’s powerful and deep performance in this movie and to see it in a different way. This time, I paid attention for more things in the movie than I did the first time.

A couple days ago I entered Skylight Books, a great bookstore in Los Feliz Village, and there was a book displayed on a shelf: “Marlon Brando’s Smile: His Life, Thought and Work,” written by Boston University English teacher Suzan L. Mizruchi, who painted an informative portrait of the Legend.

In it she explained how Marlon Brando used his past experiences to get into the roles he played all his life, and how he liked to observe people to understand better human behaviors.

Wednesday’s screening of A Streetcar Named Desire at the Egyptian Theatre was introduced by writer Suzan L. Mizruchi herself, whose book I’d been so excited to discover. If Marlon Brando used his own feelings and experiences to play the scary but very virile Stanley Kowalski in Streetcar, I‘m fascinated to understand to what extent his personal life and feelings influenced his other performances in masterpieces such as The Godfather or Apocalypse Now. His animal performance was incredible to see on the big screen. “Heyyyy Stellaaaaaaa”!

But that’s not all! This movie also confirms Vivien Leigh’s talent after seeing her in the 1939 Best Picture Oscar Winner Gone with the Wind. Vivien Leigh carries the movie. I was very moved by her performance in Streetcar. She is both fragile and strong, trying to struggle with her old fears. Her performance as Blanche Dubois is so real.

Today, Hollywood has advanced in the representation of women in film. In many films, producers and directors give women very strong roles. They save the world, they fight for causes and they can be real heroes, and real people. This hasn’t always been the case, so it’s interesting to see older films that focus on complex female characters. In this movie, we can see the weaknesses and the strengths of a woman and this is what I found very moving. At the time this movie was made, Vivien Leigh was struggling with a mental illness, as Leigh’s biographer Kendra Bean explained us. She said that Vivien Leigh didn’t let her problems overwhelm her. She kept going and making movies.

A Streetcar Named Desire is the kind of movie driven by its actors. I was very excited to hear from two writers who have led research about these two screen icons.

Kendra Bean spoke alongside Brando’s biographer Suzan L. Mizruchi to talk about her book, Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait. She is the only writer who has researched Vivien Leigh’s relationship with Laurence Olivier and about her medical state. After having watched Gone with the Wind, Bean was very moved by the character of Scarlett O’Hara, so she started to read many books about Vivien Leigh.

The introduction by the two authors was so interesting. They both had access to all kinds of resources that previous writers focusing on Brando and Leigh didn’t tell.

Kendra Bean explained that she had access to Laurence Olivier’s files and was the first writer who looked for Vivien Leigh’s life moments in Olivier’s biography. She was married to him for 20 years. Laurence Olivier saved everything from his life so thanks to Kendra Bean’s work we can see how difficult Vivien Leigh’s illness was for her, but also for people around her. I also learned that Vivien Leigh was more appreciated in America than in England. In England, she did theatre. Her small voice didn’t reach the back of the gallery and in film, it does not matter. The moderator said that we admire her for her 2 Oscar-winning roles but most American people don’t know much of the rest of her work. Now, I really want to see her whole filmography!

I was impressed by what Susan Mizruchi told during the introduction. She had access to Marlon Brando’s library. Indeed, Brando read around 4000 books in his library in his house on Mulholland Drive. He mostly had science and psychology books. Mizruchi found out that Brando was somebody with very spiritual conversations. She found a Ruth Thomas book (one of Brando’s favorite authors) in which he’d scribbled many comments like “Oh come on!”, “How do you know that?”. She also had access to Brando’s personal scripts. Mizruchi said that there were two writers who Brando considered behind him: Shakespeare and Tennessee Williams. So what we discover is that Brando used to rewrite his lines in movies. That’s why Elia Kazan was one of his favorite directors because he encouraged him to improvise. We didn’t know before Mizruchi’s work that Brando rewrote some of the best lines in The Godfather and now, we can explore that.
What is amazing is that she read everything Marlon Brando read. She has worked on this book for 6 years.

The moderator said he suspected that Marlon Brando did not win an Oscar for his performance in A Streetcar Named Desire because it’s not his film but Vivien Leigh’s film. For him, Elia Kazan wanted to make sure that the sympathy in the film was toward Blanche. But for Susan Mizruchi, Brando did not win this Oscar because he did not behave in Hollywood. He was from the beginning a rebel and an iconoclast.

I recommend Susan Mizruchi’s and Kendra Bean’s books on these fascinating figures because they show that no one is black and white.

“No one is holy evil and holy good,” -Tennessee Williams