Friday, January 30, 2009

The Premio Dardos Award

Just as a mid-winter funk was settling in on my spirit this bleak and snowy January, I'm reminded that just beneath the surface life still holds some sweet, if humbling moments for me. The disconcerting receipt of two Premio Dardo Awards this week from Jacqueline T. Lynch of the thoughtful and creatively lively Another Old Movie Blog and Alan K. Rode, whose One Way Street wears an endearing affection for film noir on its trench-coated sleeve has sent me into a blushing tizzy.

The award, which "
is given for recognition of cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values transmitted in the form of creative and original writing", gives me the honor of posting the image of the Premio Dardo Award stamp on my blog. And, since "[t]hese stamps were created with the intention of promoting fraternization between bloggers, a way of showing affection and gratitude for work that adds value to the Web", it is my delightful duty to pass "the award to another five blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgement, remembering to contact each of them to let them know they have been selected for this award."

Well, maybe this will snap me out of my lingering self-indulgent streak for the last few weeks and prompt me to get cracking on some of those ideas I've been mulling over on this blog, the Silver Screen Oasis discussion group I share with so many wonderful members, as well as my dream gig at the TCM Movie Morlocks Blog, where I get to play in the loveliest cinematic sandbox in cyber-space on a weekly basis! My gratitude for this kind recognition is too deep for words...I am simply overwhelmed.

As I've tried to choose only five other bloggers to award, I’ve resisted naming any of my fellow Movie Morlocks for this honor, merely for reasons of fairness. Their company cheers me and they have contributed in many ways to my continuing education as each of them sets the bar higher for me every week. The second hardest part of receiving this honor is narrowing it down to just five other bloggers to award this to...

In recognition of those other blogs that have educated, encouraged and entertained me--and, I hope, many others, I award the Premio Dardos to the following:

The Sheila Variations: Whether Sheila O'Malley is writing elegantly and incisively about film, poetry, prose or life, her unapologetically personal point of view is as refreshing as a walk in the park. She sees while most of us just look at the world. She's the kind of writer I'd like to be when I grow up, (no, don't hold your breath for that world shaking event, dear readers).

The Passionate Moviegoer: As a retired film critic whose reviews once graced the pages of The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Sacramento Bee, as well as The New York Times & Los Angeles Times, Joe Baltake now devotes himself to those myriad neglected figures and movies seemingly left by the roadside in our societal rush toward cultural amnesia. Whether he is trying to find the source of Jack Lemmon's quicksilver appeal or understand Vincente Minnelli's valedictory films or express just why we miss Jack Carson, Joe is consistently thoughtful and knowledgeable without being ponderous.

Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule: Author Dennis Cozzalio writes with a conversational verve that is infectious about old and new movies, including mainstream ones as well as those well off my beaten path. Some of his most enjoyable takes are those on "Pleasures Worthy of Guilt", his piece on disaster movies, occasional tips of the hat to mortality, (his own and others), as well as random notes on baseball. I also have to like a real American guy who named "Kit Kitteridge: An American Girl" one of the better movies of 2008.

Alternative Film Guide: Guiding light Andre Soares and his band of nimble bloggers make this site a must visit for me on a weekly basis. This site does a fine job of keeping track of the business of show, and the list of cinematic events in the LA area found on the site are enough to make a frequent flyer out of me, but it is the appreciative looks back and interviews with so many authors about the likes of Douglas Fairbanks, Marie Dressler, and Claudette Colbert that keeps me coming back for more.

She Blogged By Night: I'm not sure when the creator of this site, Stacia had me. Maybe it was the invocation of El Brendel as the site's patron saint, or possibly our mutual admiration for the vastly underrated and mysterious Henry Daniell, but this author is funny, aware and as likely to write a long appreciation of "Bop Girl Goes Calypso" (1957) as she is a paean to Kay Francis. With a gift for graphic layout and some of the best images around, her site just sparkles with visual and verbal wit.

Sergeant Rutledge and "My Real Freedom"

The Movie Morlocks blog on TCM this week takes a look at one of the lesser known John Ford Westerns:

By 1960 John Ford was near the end of the road. Grousing that standards were slipping, he was upset that many of the best production crew members were snapped up for television and unavailable. He harumphed that "Hollywood today is a market for sex and horror. I don't want any part of that."

The director, who tried to avoid explaining himself too much off screen, may have rejected the more sensationalistic aspects of the New Hollywood that was emerging as the old studio system disintegrated, but the lifting of restrictions on subject matter for mainstream movies may have helped to inspire his interest in the story of Sergeant Rutledge.

This coming Sunday, February 1st, marks what would have been the 105th birthday of the iconic director John Ford and the beginning of Black History Month. Coincidentally, after many years, I recently revisited one of Ford's most intriguing, late career films, Sergeant Rutledge (1960). It is among the least known of his many films. Perhaps it deserves a second look, for despite all its flaws, there is a remarkable presence and an uneasy conscience at the heart of this movie. As Ford pointed out in an interview, it was also one of his favorite movies, telling the story of the African-American "soldier, [who] played a great role in our history, and I wanted to tell that story...[b]ut the picture was not successful, because, I've heard, Warners sent a couple of boys on bicycles out to sell it."

Well, after seeing the movie, I wouldn't entirely blame Warner Brothers for the movie's financial failure, though, as you can see by the poster at right, the emphasis of the marketing department on the good-looking, pleasant but lightweight actor Jeffrey Hunter in an action pose might have led moviegoers in 1960 to expect more derring-do on his part than that of the real star, Woody Strode, who looms over the protective Hunter and the virginal Constance Towers in the bottom corner of the broadside. Despite Ford's many Academy Awards, the younger generation that had to make decisions about movies were, as they still are, wondering "what has he done lately?" Becoming unfashionable meant smaller revenues from a Ford picture, but it did not mean that he had nothing more to say...more


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