Catching Up

My Houston-based colleague, film critic, teacher and author Joe Leydon, has just turned 59, and feels that with a milestone year in front of him, it’s high time he caught up with famous films he’s never seen. We all have such a list, though some of us are more reluctant to admit it than others. Joe has not only decided to go public, but to publish a weekly diary of his observations. If you don’t read his reviews in Variety, or any number of other outlets, this may be a nice way to catch up with a good writer and lifelong film buff.

To quote him directly,

“I'm launching—with , I admit, no small amount of trepidation—a project that I've dubbed Take 59. During the next 52 weeks—from Aug. 22, 2011 to Aug. 21, 2012—I’m going to view, once a week, a 20th century movie that I've never seen before, that I feel I should see before I turn 60. But wait, there's more: I'm also going to post an appraisal of each movie, and each posting will come with the Take 59 label.

“I’m likely going to embarrass myself, and get a fair amount of heckling, when I fess up and name the names of—

—classics that I've missed up until now. Because, mind you, I'm not talking about movies I saw decades ago at on-campus screenings, or watched on late-night TV, or viewed at the Gentilly-Orleans art house in New Orleans way back in the day, but can't recall very clearly, if at all. Much to my chagrin, I've never—ever—seen Intolerance . Or Out of the Past. Or Heaven's Gate. (OK, maybe that's not really a classic, but still….) Or The Lady from Shanghai. Or Masculin, Féminin. Or Say Anything

In the course of my Take 59 project, I plan to catch up with all of those films. But I also want to include some non-classics in the mix — movies I've always heard about and meant to see, but for various reasons always managed to miss. (Until now.) Especially some '60s and '70s films. Like, I've never seen Roger Corman's The Trip. Or Richard Lester's How I Won the War (which many folks actually consider to be a classic—and many others don't). Or Christian Nyby's Operation C.I.A. (with Burt Reynolds fighting the Viet Cong—in 1965). Or Robert Mulligan's The Pursuit of Happiness (which, as far as I can tell, has nothing whatsoever to do with the similarly titled drama starring Will Smith).”

I give Joe a lot of credit for taking this on, and eagerly await his weekly dispatches. Check out his post HERE.

One of my mentors was William K. Everson. I miss him terribly, and was heartened to learn from my friend Dick Bann that Sandra Gallant and Alice Black have posted a lengthy conversation they had with Bill in Montreal back in 1993. Reading this transcript brings him back to life, with all his candor, forthrightness, and endearing idiosyncrasies. Check it out HERE.

John Bengtson has just released another fascinating post regarding movie locations on his site, this one focusing on the Columbia Ranch, where Buster Keaton and The Three Stooges shot many of their two-reelers in the 1930s and early 40s. Could there possibly be a connection between the Stooges and the popular TV series Friends? You might be surprised if you check John’s latest discoveries HERE.

Disney historian and aficionado Jim Korkis (whose latest book, The Vault of Walt, is filled with unusual stories and information) has participated in a charming video piece about Walt Disney’s lifelong fascination with trains, and how that passion is reflected in his theme parks. The video promotes a train-oriented tour you can take at Walt Disney World. Take a look HERE.

Speaking of Disney, it’s been a source of frustration that the company hasn’t released soundtrack CDs of some recent (and many vintage) features, preferring the virtual world of iTunes. Once again, it takes an entrepreneur to come to the rescue—with a little help from Disney audio guru Randy Thornton. To quote producer Douglass Fake of Intrada, “Dreams can come true! Intrada proudly announces a new series of soundtracks on CD, co-branded with Walt Disney Records. First title is the premiere CD release of the 2009 Academy Award-winning score by Michael Giacchino to Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar Animation Studios’ charming Up. Produced from original digital scoring session elements under supervision of composer and Disney engineers, [the] album offers nearly one hour of warmly nostalgic, thunderingly dynamic score.

“[This] exciting release is start of new series of long-awaited soundtrack treasures from Disney vaults, presented from original session elements lovingly restored, all spotlighting premiere CD releases from animation and live-action classics appearing throughout esteemed studio's history! For Up, Tim Simonec conducts Los Angeles studio musicians in dynamic recording made by Dan Wallin at Warner Bros. Eastwood Scoring Stage. While quantities are generous, studio & musician agreements cap total pressings at 10,000 units!”

To learn more or to purchase a copy, click HERE.

Finally, if summertime brings back memories of going to the local drive-in movie theater, as it does for me (mosquitoes and all) I encourage you to read this entertaining story from The Washington Post about a couple who devote themselves to running a pair of drive-ins in Virginia and North Carolina—for the love of it.


  1. Tracy Wylie says:

    I also love Joe Leydon’s idea. Even as a dedicated film buff, it’s awfully hard to watch absolutely everything that seems interesting. There are classic films I’ve been wanting to see since college, more than 15 years ago. Somehow, even though I’ve watched many classics in those years, a lot of titles have still slipped by.

    Good luck to Mr. Leydon, and I hope I’ll be reading all of his updates!

  2. Brian says:

    I completely agree with the previous poster. People who say “Get A Life” are the ones that really need lives themselves. I think Joe Leydon’s idea of catching up on films he missed is a great idea. I’ll be looking forward to hearing more about it. Besides, he’s a film critic and historian, what else do you expect him to do?

  3. Sam Tomaino says:

    People who say “Get a life” are actually saying “Get a life that I, in my infinite wisdom, approve of.” One wonders why they don’t “get a life” other than being a perpetual scold.

    As someone who will turn 59 in less than a month, I like Joe Leydon’s idea.

  4. Karen Snoq says:

    Wonderful interview with Bill Everson. It does bring him back so clearly. I miss him too.

  5. Norm says:

    Three words of wisdom to Joe Leydon,”Get A Life!” If you really want to do something meaningful, help the poor,! It will fill your memories with more value than a bunch of unheralded films… Kudos to John Bengston, who just solved the mystery locations of the Three Stooges, and I’m not talikng about Obama, Biden, Clinton.
    Maltins love affair with Disney is beyond me. Starting out as the little studio that could,it has become the History of the World according to Disney, much beyond the scope of its creator. That would be a great book. Sort of Frankenstein eats its’ own…

  6. Dbenson says:

    Everson’s “Films of Laurel and Hardy” was my go-to when deciding which Blackhawk 8mm would get my saved allowance money. Still have it, and rank it higher than most of the “films of” books that filled clearance tables in the 60s-70s.

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