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HIGHLIGHTS OF MALTINFEST

My family and I love film festivals, but I never dreamed of staging one myself. That idea emanated from my daughter Jessie, who found a perfect partner in Stacy Howard. Together with Alice and me, they crafted a “dream weekend” for movie lovers, the kind of event we’d want to attend ourselves. We screened movies we wanted to bring to an audience that might have missed them the first time around. Thus was born MaltinFest. We were fortunate to get great press coverage here in Los Angeles and the event was a success in every way. All through the weekend people came up to me asking, “How did I never know about this film before?” On opening night, the audience embraced John Carney’s Sing Street as one,…

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REMEMBERING DORIS DAY

I’m convinced that Doris Day was put on this earth to make us happy. When our daughter Jessie was four, my wife and I introduced her to Calamity Jane, and it was love at first sight. We followed it with The Pajama Game. Believe me, it was no chore for us to watch those 1950s musicals over and over again (as kids oblige parents to do) because they were so entertaining and Day was so good in them. When you see her face, when you hear her voice—you can’t help but smile. How many people have that effect on the public decade after decade? She was a natural talent who made everything she did look easy. Moreover, she was one of just a handful of…

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THE RETURN OF DROODLES

When I was a boy my ambition was to be a cartoonist. I wrote fan letters to some of my heroes and got wonderful, encouraging replies from the likes of Charles M. Schulz, Chic Young, Jules Feiffer, and even Rube Goldberg, whom I interviewed in his Manhattan studio one memorable afternoon. But the only one I got to know was Roger Price, who was famous for his ingeniously captioned drawings called Droodles. I avidly collected his books, including a volume of humorous prose titled In One Head and Out the Other. Roger had many careers: as a radio actor, nightclub performer, and TV personality, among others. For a time he was one of Bob Hope’s writers, and in years to come created Mad Libs with his friend Leonard…

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AVENGERS: ENDGAME

If there were ever a movie designed to please its target audience, Avengers: Endgame is an emblematic example. It assumes that its viewers are thoroughly familiar with the Marvel Cinematic Universe and all of its characters, so when one (or a group) of them makes an entrance it’s a cue for gasps and cheers. An eager world awaits this summation of these characters’ coexistence onscreen, and I daresay no one will come away disappointed. In the interest of providing a spoiler-free review I am limited in what I can discuss. Suffice it to say that the goal of our heroes is to undo the enormous damage that Thanos has perpetrated, especially in the previous installment of the Avengers saga and in the recent Captain Marvel…

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BE NATURAL: A WOMAN REWRITES FILM HISTORY

Be Natural is a revelatory film about pioneering female filmmaker Alice Guy-Blaché. Writer-director Pamela B. Green has done a superior job of telling her story in this lively account of a neglected woman. The briskly-paced documentary not only sets film history on its ear but demands a thorough reexamination of Blaché’s extraordinary career. Alice Guy was present at the Lumière Brothers’ presentation of their first motion picture…a fitting start for an unusually fruitful career. Yet she was cheated out of her rightful credit as a writer, director and studio chief early in the 20th century when her longtime boss Leon Gaumont published a history of his company, omitted her name and credited others for work she did. As Green tells it, she was the one who persuaded…

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THIS YEAR’S TCM CLASSIC FILM FESTIVAL—FROM MY POINT OF VIEW

It’s hard to believe that this is the tenth year that Turner Classic Movies has staged a film festival in the heart of Hollywood. I’ve been lucky enough to participate from the beginning, although my assignments are so varied and random—and the bill of fare so jam-packed—that one could go through all four days without catching sight of me. Nevertheless I had a great time and want to share some of my experiences. Opening night on the red carpet felt bittersweet because I was reminded of all the great people from Hollywood’s golden age who are no longer here. Tony Curtis, Debbie Reynolds, Mickey Rooney, Ernest Borgnine, Luise Rainer and so many others were part of this celebration just a few years back. Even so,…

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PETERLOO: HISTORY IN THE MAKING

Mike Leigh is one of my favorite filmmakers, in part because you never know what to expect from him. He’s given us slices of life (Life is Sweet, Secrets & Lies), character studies (Another Year, Happy-go-Lucky), a lavish period piece about Gilbert & Sullivan (Topsy-Turvy) and a breathtaking portrait of a great British painter (Mr. Turner). Peterloo is something else altogether: a historical document of events leading up to a brutal massacre of townspeople in Manchester in 1819. Knowing that outcome in advance removes any vestige of suspense. What we get instead is a meticulous re-creation of everyday life in the early 19th century. The focal point is one working-class family that struggles to get by, in spite of wage cutbacks at the local cotton mill and a…

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