Tuesday, August 01, 2006

welcome: an introduction to The Passionate Moviegoer

After spending most of my life at the movies (or at least thinking about them) and all of my adult life reviewing them professionally, I decided it was time to kick back with a little movie-free downtime.

But my wife Susan had other ideas. Convinced that I’m way too opinionated a soul to truly harness myself – and also too much of a movie aficionado to completely fast – she had this handsome blog designed for me. “Indulge yourself!,” she said. A compelling, possibly dangerous idea. After all, an idle mind can uncork some weird, comic demons, and this blog, I decided, would be devoted to my own personal demons - a collection of movie-fed daydreams.

My most intense movie passion revolves around those titles that are, well, not “the usual suspects." I'm not talking about great movies, but good, solid films that, as I point out in the introduction to your left, have been either neglected, overlooked, underrated, hastily dismissed or unfairly maligned.

These are films that are lost, plain and simple. They are just about impossible to see nowadays. Because of studio indifference/politics, they not only have never been issued on home video/DVD, but have also virtually disappeared from the airwaves, never or rarely televised anymore. Without some kind of acknowledgement and, yes, gratitude, these films have the potential disappear ...forever.

They are also the kinds of movies that critics rarely, if ever, return to – for the purpose of reevaluation that, by extension, would possibly adjust original first impressions that were perhaps the result of deadline pressures.

As a working critic, I had become keenly aware of how different a film can look when distanced from the prevailing hype (or bad press) that surrounded it on its initial release.

And, frankly, as a film enthusiast, I get weary of scanning the revival listings in The New Yorker magazine and The Los Angeles Times - only to find, yes, the usual suspects being honored and celebrated again. You know the culprits -“Citizen Kane,” “Nashville,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “The Searchers,” “Raging Bull” et al. These are films returned to by critics on a regular, predictable basis. There’s nothing left to say about them. Certainly, I have nothing to add. At this particular juncture in my life, such films seem to interest me less and less.

Rather, my goal is to share with you films of a rarer persuasion - movies likely to go through my head at any given moment, often bleeding together.

When the mood strikes me, I hope to comment on Natalie Wood’s “Inside Daisy Clover.” On another day, it might be the lost Pat Boone musical, “Mardi Gras,” a personal guilty pleasure. There will be viewpoints on films unavailable on DVD, such as Billy Wilder’s “Ace in a Hole” and Martin Ritt’s “No Down Payment" and pronouncements on those lost films that pop up occasionally and unexpectedly on American Movie Classics.

That said, I don’t mean to imply that this blog will devoted exclusively to lost movies, that there won’t be occasional comments on contemporary titles and new DVD releases. But I’ll make every effort to veer away from the current Hollywood blockbuster or the latest critics’ darling. One thread that I'd like to weave through this blog is what I call missed opportunities on DVD releases. For example, why on earth haven't Kevin Costner's deleted scenes in Lawrence Kasdan's "The Big Chill" ever materialized on home entertainment of any sort? And exactly where are all the songs excised from James Brooks' former musical, "I'll Do Anything"?

Speaking of musicals, I also hope to post periodic comments on the musical film, perhaps the most creative, least appreciated genre, one that embraces every possible art and craft. And I will certainly muse periodically about the appeal and talents of Jack Lemmon, an all-time favorite of mine, as well as the subject of two books that I wrote. There will be a LOT of Jack Lemmon here.

Anyway, on different days, in different moods, these movie-fed daydreams may vary, starting in one place and then going someplace else. And beware - my conclusions will be ever changing, too, sometimes maddeningly so.

I relish the idea of sharing these daydreams with you and sincerely hope that you will open up and share yours with me. And, by all means ... feel free to disagree. --Joe Baltake, 8/1/06

(Artwork: Natalie Wood, in extreme close-up, on a 1962 cover of SHOW Magazine.)


Anonymous said...

I love movies, too. Took several courses in college and even made a short of my own. I plan to watch your blog and comment, so keep posting!

A blog is like a diary or journal. I think you write so well. I am looking forward to reading!

Anonymous said...

Dear Joe,
And then you were gone... from the Bee that is.
I miss you... always found your reviews intersting and pretty trustworthy (to my taste, though a little too generous with stars at times). I was not a subscriber, but read you often in the coffeehouses of Northern California. I really missed not seeing your Oscar preview article and predictions.
Thanks for your good work and the years of moviegoing guidance you provided. Thanks also to your wife for setting up the blog... beautiful it is!
I'll check in now and then to seek some wisdom and direction for spending my cinema bucks.
Congratulations on your freedom. Blog on !

Anonymous said...


I read you religiously when you worked for the Philadelphia Daily News and then found your stuff on the internet when you moved west. It's great to still have access to you and I look forward to more years of invigorating reading. I'll be posting again, I'm sure.


Anonymous said...

I was so happy to see your blog. I miss your reviews, which I looked forward to every Friday in the Sacto Bee. I always knew that if I did not agree with your review after seeing the movie, I could still understand your reasoning and conclusions. I won't write about the current lack of excellence in entertainment writing and the abundance of mediocre reviewers but I will say that I miss your honest and thoughtful reviews.

Anonymous said...

Joe: I knew you couldn't let go. Welcome back to the world of writing about movies. A much welcomed return!

Anonymous said...

Really nice blog. I usually browse the web for love and dating related sites and articles.

Anonymous said...

I'm delighted you have a blog to unleash your film passion in written form once again. Please let me know if Ace in the Hole aka The Big Carnival, is ever released on DVD. I've been looking for it off and on for years.
Favorite line - Evelyn Keyes to Kirk Douglas: "I've heard of hard-boiled, but you're 20 minutes!"

Anonymous said...

Well, at last a website I can visit everyday and be entertained by a quirky and opinionated personality.

Anonymous said...

at last!

Anonymous said...

At last. You're back!

Anonymous said...

Dear Moviejunkie 32--

Turner Classics is showing "The Big Carnival" at 2:30 am on Thursday, January 25th, a rare televised screening of it. Turner also has to difficult-to-see Judy Holliday flicks -- "The Marrying Kind" (excellent) on Sunday, January 14th at 11:30 am and "Phffft!" (a truly underrated comedy that has remained amazingly contemporary) on Friday, January 19th at 9:15 am.


Anonymous said...

Friday mornings with the Bee just hasn't been the same. A hearthy Welcome Back!

Anonymous said...

Nobody did it better than you, Joe, and now I can read you here. Great!

Anonymous said...

Joe! How glad I am to see you are writting again and I can have the pleasure of reading your comments! I a,

Anonymous said...

ooops! Hit send by mistake. I always hoped you would write again. Fridays haven't been the same without you. And I love that you are covering older "lost" movies. Thanks for the link!

Anonymous said...

Great blog! I especially look forward to reading about films and filmmakers that everyone else seems to have forgotten about, even movie critics! I'll check in regularly

Anonymous said...

Hey, I discovered this site via Dave Kehr's blog. Great site. I will visit often. BTW, I gave you a plug on Dave's site.

Anonymous said...

Just found your blog! We read you religiously when you were in the Sacramento Bee. As I'm sure in many households, you have shared a special place in our movie experience. We anxiously waited for the Friday "Ticket" ....."What did Joe say about it?" "Did Joe like it?" "I'll bet Joe liked this one." Or, sometimes, shocked that "Joe DIDN'T like it!!" We came to depend on you to share your insightful thoughts that helped us to enjoy the great movies, understand the complicated ones, and avoid the stinkers. Glad to see you're back!

Anonymous said...

Joe -
I sure miss your reviews in the Sacramento Bee. I always enjoyed reading them and even if I didn't agree, I got a clear sense of whether I would like the movie or not.
I hope you continue enjoying movies and posting your eloquent comments.

joe baltake said...

Thanks everybody!

Robby said...

Joe Baltake. This is like Christmas in July! I remember you from the Philadelphia Daily News and the screenings down at the Fox theater. I was treated to advance screenings of THE CHINA SYNDROME, QUINTET, BEING THERE and some Australian film about punk rock that I can't recall. One of my treasured tomes is a book you autographed, "The Films of Jack Lemmon", which is a real treat because THE APARTMENT is one of my 10 Favorite Films and my personal favorite seasonal film every year - always watch it on the week between Christmas and New Years. If I remember correctly, your personal favorite movie is THE LANDLORD? Anyway, Joe, it's so great to discover this blog and know that you're still around treating us to your comments on all the movies we cherish and/or haven't discovered yet! God Bless, Gary R., Broomall, Pa.

joe baltake said...

Gary! Great to hear from you. Those were great times @ the Top of the Fox screening room. The Aussie film to which you refer was "Starstruck," which for some reason, I screened @ the Roxy rather than @ the Fox. Keep reading! -J

Archie D'Amico said...

Just disordered your great blog and I'm reading it bit by bit every day. Now i will watch THE APARTMENT for my approximate 10th time.

archie said...

Discovered not disordered. Sorry