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Mel Brooks (#110 of 5)

The 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival

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The 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival
The 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival

I emerged out of the train station and onto the roiling snake pit of Hollywood Boulevard this past Thursday afternoon with a singularity of purpose that has served well those who have learned to safely navigate this peril-ridden stretch of tourism and other desperate forms of humanity. Among the mass of logy sidewalk gawkers, shaggily costumed superheroes, and barkers hawking coupons for bus tours and free drinks at comedy clubs, the guy in the Creamsicle-colored tuxedo and matching top hat didn’t even cause me to balk as he moved toward me on the sidewalk. He certainly didn’t seem out of place, even as his lanky, six-and-a-half-foot frame towered above the stumpier heights of most everyone else bobbling down the Walk of Fame. But as we passed each other, this orangey giant suddenly offered up a loud, impassioned plea to the crowd, for no readily apparent reason, which put me at attention: “Remember Bob Hope!” Wondering if a declaration of fond tribute for, say, Mickey Rooney would have been timelier, I moved right along. No matter. There could be no doubt, if there ever was any, that the 2014 edition of the TCM Classic Film Festival, headquartered as always in the very heart of the mythological realm of Hollywood, was now officially under way, a gathering of film buffs vacationing from the real world among the icons and memories of movie-studio glory, where there would be no lack of warm remembrance for Hope or Rooney or any of a hundred other stars whose images and talents would be ceaselessly evoked and reminisced upon over the next four days.

Summer of ‘87: Spaceballs: Going O’er the Helmet

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Summer of ‘87: <em>Spaceballs</em>: Going O’er the Helmet
Summer of ‘87: <em>Spaceballs</em>: Going O’er the Helmet

Ah, Spaceballs. I remember the first time I saw Mel Brooks’s science-fiction spoof: 1996, as fifth grade came to a close and my teachers were quite possibly looking forward to summer vacation as much as the rest of us were. As a treat, we were allowed to watch a movie in class one day, and this was one of the choices. Upon a majority vote, Spaceballs was picked.

The movie began (shown on VHS, naturally; this was pre-DVD years, after all). The amusing prolonged opening shot of a seemingly endless spacecraft drew roars of laughter from us kids—so far, so harmless. But then came the first scene, which drew more gales of laughter but which alarmed my teacher with its “naughty” content: first, the “Oh, shit!” that poor radio operator utters as Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis) aims his Schwartz ring to punish him for going over his head (or “helmet”); and then the operator’s cry of pain as a beam from Dark Helmet’s Schwartz ring hits him in the balls. Right after that, the teacher—who, I guess, had never seen this film before showing it to the class—turned it off and put in another movie (The Goonies, if I remember correctly).

5 for the Day: Parting Shots

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5 for the Day: Parting Shots
5 for the Day: Parting Shots

Today’s 5 for the day pays tribute to that which comes just before the closing credits, the parting shot. Parting shots can be images that remain onscreen as the closing credits roll. Or they can be images that appear just before the screen goes black (or flashes the words “The End” or “Fin” or “Get the Hell Out”). They can also be a visual accompaniment or response to dialogue. But you won’t find “Nobody’s perfect” or “Shut up and deal” or “It’s the stuff that dreams are made of” on this list, because I’m focusing on cappers that are mainly visual.

Here’s a brief example: suppose you’re watching a movie about Oscar Wilde. Wilde says on his deathbed, “Either the wallpaper goes, or I go.” The next shot fades in, and it’s of an empty bed in the room. The wallpaper is still there; Wilde is not. Fade out, movie ends, critics boo, and the screen gets bombarded with Sno-Caps. This list would probably focus on the wallpaper shot, and would mention Wilde’s last line in passing, if at all.

The first item on my list is my favorite parting shot, and my favorite New York City movie from its era. The others are presented in no particular order. Spoiler alerts are in effect.