ITHACA, NY -- If I were doing the usual Thanksgiving festivities with my family instead of staying home with my cat, I doubt that what I’m thankful for is that much different from what you are thankful for. I am thankful that I’m in good health, and I’m thankful that I have steady work. Here in the moment, I’m thankful for the iced tea and corn muffin I’m having for breakfast. I’m thankful for “Thor Ragnarok,” which is playing on my TV and making me laugh, and I’m thankful that my cat Ajax Panther VanCampen has had his breakfast and is napping somewhere in my house.
But since this space is dedicated to cinema, here are some other things I am thankful for.
I’m thankful for podcasts like “Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast” and “Junk Food Cinema.” When I interviewed Gottfried a few years ago, he told me that the original title was going to be “The Before It’s Too Late Show.” Now it’s a prime resource of Hollywood history, deep dives into character actors and Gottfried’s dead-on impressions of film actors who have been dead for decades.
Gottfried and his co-host Frank Santopadre have been on an exhilarating streak of hot episodes of late, including a fascinating two-parter with actor Malcolm McDowell, a show celebrating the 50th anniversary of the classic TV sitcom “The Odd Couple” and another celebrating the 45th anniversary of Mel Brooks’ “Blazing Saddles” with screenwriters Andrew Bergman (“The In-Laws”) and Norman Steinberg. This morning, they dropped a new episode commemorating the 80th anniversary of the film debut of Abbott and Costello, discussing their favorite comedies starring that comedy team.
Hosted by Brian Salisbury and C. Robert Cargill, “Junkfood Cinema” is an Austin, Texas-based podcast that generally sees the hosts tackle one movie per week. They usually geek out on Tony Scott and Shane Black movies, but then they’ll surprise you by doing a whole show on a rom-com like “Notting Hill.” I started reviewing movies in 1987, and when I checked out the back catalog, I found a whole series devoted to ’87 goodies like “Lethal Weapon,” “The Untouchables,” and “The Hidden.”
Cargill used to write film reviews and reports under the name “Massawyrm” and he’s also one of the screenwriters of “Dr. Strange,” so he has real insight and stories about the movies under discussion. It’s like sitting down for drinks and tacos with two of the smartest, funniest film nerds you ever knew. I like to think I know my movie trivia, but the “JfC” team is always dropping facts I had not heard before.
I’m thankful for the 50% off all Criterion Blu-Ray and DVD sale at Barnes and Noble through the end of the month. I’ve already picked up Bill Forsyth’s “Local Hero,” John Cassavetes’ “Husbands” and a pair of silent film classics: Harold Lloyd in “Safety Last!” and Charlie Chaplin’s “Modern Times,” the final bow of the Little Tramp.
I also picked up Criterion’s collection of early NYU student films and documentaries by Martin Scorsese. I had been reading about and seeing stills from his early films “What’s a Nice Girl Like You Doing In a Place Like This?” and “It’s Not Just You, Murray!” since my time as a TC3 college student in the early ‘80s, and along with his Vietnam protest short “The Big Shave” and documentaries “Italianamerican” and “American Boy,” they’re all packaged for the first time with the usual supplements, including an interview with Scorsese.
Here was not some kid with a glimmer of talent. His first films leap out at you fully-formed; his interest in voice-over and telling stories with photographs, even using stop-motion action and animation. It’s the work of a kid throwing everything he loves on the screen and seeing what sticks – amazing stuff. I am thankful for Martin Scorsese.