I am a sucker for this kind of film. California Typewriter celebrates the durable, once-ubiquitous device that computers put out of business and the grass-roots spirit that drives people like Tom Hanks, John Mayer, and the late Sam Shepard to do their writing on these venerable machines. It also tells the parallel story of an Oakland, California typewriter repair shop and the uncertain future it faces, along with its resident fix-it genius, Herbert Permillion II.

It’s one thing for someone like Hanks to collect vintage typewriters (he has 250) and extoll their virtues. It’s another for someone to eke out a living paying rent for a storefront that serves as home base for a man who knows typewriters inside out. Is there really a future for such a modest enterprise?

One could accuse writer-director Doug Nichol of preaching to the choir, but I’m sure there are many people who have never used or considered a typewriter. In that sense, California Typewriter offers food for thought. It also introduces us to a variety of proud individualists and eccentrics, including an artist who fashions wonderful creations out of old typewriter parts.

California Typewriter is now playing in New York and will open in Los Angeles sometime in September, with more cities to follow. Check out the official website HERE.


John C. Reilly & Tom Brosseau – “Single Girl, Married Girl”
Shot in Pasadena, CA, January, 2013

It’s no coincidence that I am drawn to documentaries like this. Let me also put in a plug for The 78 Project Movie by Alex Steyermark, in which two intrepid music lovers crisscross the country getting musicians to perform for a 1930s Presto Direct-to-disc recording machine.


Then there’s Douglas Wilson’s Linotype: The Film, another paean to iconoclasts who love setting type and using old-fashioned technology instead of computers. You can stream both films on Amazon and iTunes.


Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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April 2024