Friday, May 31, 2013

Cinevent 45

Cinevent 45 is over, and although I would love to be roaming about from person to person talking about movies and going to see movies, the convention has breathed new life into my interest in movies and in my goal to write Dick Powell's biography. The loss of my website was a bigger blow than I would like to admit, and it left me in a rut for a long time, but talking to published authors has rejuvenated my interest and given me the motivation to set little goals for myself until the project is done.

For those of you who don't know, Cinevent is a film convention held each Memorial Day weekend in Columbus, Ohio. It is practically in my back yard and I have been attending since 2007. My passion for this show has made me a bit of a posterchild for it, and I'm constantly trying to recruit new attendees.

This year, several of my friends were unable to make it for various reasons, mainly financial. I was bummed and expected that this year would be less fun than usual, but I'm glad I was wrong. While some people were not there, some of my old friends who have been unable to attend in past years were there, as were several of the old stand-bys. In addition, I met lots of new people, which is always thrilling. For someone interested in obscure movies whose contemporaries are mostly deceased, it is indescribably exciting to meet likeminded enthusiasts.

The movies that were shown this year were less exciting than in the past. I had seen several of them before, and while I enjoyed seeing them again, I expect to see rarities I haven't had access to before. This is no fault to the shows' organizers, who pull their titles from attendees who own the 16mm prints. The larger availability of obscure films on DVD also makes it harder to find hidden gems, but there were a few.

Queen of the Mob, a story about Ma Barker and her ruffian boys, was quite good. I was amused that it was set at Christmas over several years, a nice contrast to the dregs of crime that the family wallered in. Blanche Yurka was quite good, alternating between a frail, helpless woman to a smart and tough as nails leader, depending on who her character was manipulating at the time.

My friend encouraged me to stay for The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T, an unusual film, which goes without saying because it is a Dr. Seuss story. The visuals were twisted and strange and beautifully exhibited in Technicolor. There was a quirkiness to the story that made it appealing to young and old, although the music was mostly forgettable.

The silents were disappointing on the whole. None of them quite captured my attention. Pola Negri was sufficient but not great in Woman of the World. The Fighting Eagle didn't have anything wrong with it that I could see, but I wasn't impressed. The Nut was too uneven, but it had potential to be a quite funny film. I was delighted to see Mary Pickford in Stella Maris, which I had seen before and had considered to be one of her weaker films overall. It is worthwhile to see Mary in a non-conventional role, but the film is too political to find a place in my heart.

I found comfort in the routine. When I first began to attend Cinevent, I skipped the annual animation program in favor of another hour of sleep, but not anymore. This year's highlights were two cartoons that are often banned for having racially sensitive elements: Swing Wedding and Clean Pastures. I find today's society to be too quick to make negative judgements, and the obsession with being politically correct really fuels a lot of censorship these days. These cartoons, while they do have the gratuitous mentions of gambling and watermelon, are mainly celebrations of jazz and famous musical personalities of the day including Cab Calloway, Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong, and actor Stepin Fetchit. A modern audience might jump to the conclusion that these characters are racist without knowing that they were real people. It is unfortunate, and a lot of comedies and cartoons suffer due to lack of knowledge and witch-hunt mentalities.

I look forward to seeing Charley Chase and Laurel and Hardy shorts each year. Even though Laurel and Hardy's sound shorts have been released in a very nice boxed set, Cinevent just wouldn't be the same without them.

I had already seen all of the films shown on Monday, including the surprise short Every Sunday, but I enjoyed them just the same. House of Fear is a quick and entertaining murder mystery made on a low budget with lots of characters. The Social Secretary was better than I remembered it to be, and Erich von Stroheim was hilarious as the scandal sheet writer. I was excited to see another Henry Aldrich movie, which I was introduced to at Cinevent. I loved the series so much I went out and found copies of all of the films in the series and ...Editor is one of the best.

This year's Monday was different from most because I was invited to a Cinevent party at a friend's house afterward. We watched an additional four movies before I had to go home to crash: Peach-O-Reno, Who Done It?, The Damned Don't Cry, and 5 Fingers. Who Done It? was a repeat for me since they showed it at Cinevent last year, but it was nice to see it again.

It has been a few days now since Cinevent 45 gently came to a conclusion on Monday, but I am not depressed that it will be another year until I see my friends again. Perhaps that is because tomorrow I am off to see some of them again in Cincinnati at the Old Time Radio and Nostalgia Convention. I hope to see you there, and I will be sure to let you know how to goes.