By • Nov 10th, 2007 •

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Hello, readers. Another year is winding down, along with the stock market, the DVD industry, popularity for the Iraq War and our President, and box office receipts. There still seems no end in sight to re-released, re-invented, re-packaged DVD titles – everyone’s doing it, from Criterion to Synapse to the majors. Here at FIR, we’ve hopefully kept you amused and informed with timely reviews, Camp Davids, filmusic coverage, and film fest reports. And we’ve got an idea or two how to improve things even more:

We’ve just added a donation button to our homepage. As I think you know, Films in Review has never paid its writers, or its editors (!), in its fifty-seven year history. Prior to that, when we were called The National Board of Review Magazine, the same policy was in effect. All those lovely articles, all those career bios, all the film/dvd/music/book reviews, even all the fine webmastering, has been on a volunteer basis. Niche magazines such as ours are known to resort to these arrangements to keep our overhead under control.

However, we are now trying to raise money to make FIR better. Some of our new projects are: putting up the archives, all 50+ years of them; a new design for the site; competitions in which readers reap film-related gifts, and more reviews.

If you love FIR, which is a national treasure of a publication, and feel like donating to our ongoing efforts, please do. In the meantime, we struggle along, providing you with the unique insights of our creative staff.


Robin Little presents D.W. Griffith Award to Roy Frumkes

My predecessor as FIR editor was Robin Little, a feisty blond lady who undertook more than I could ever have, and spun a lovely digest-sized publication out of her rambling apartment on 72nd Street in Manhattan. Her background in the publishing world served her well. She was practically a one-woman editorial machine.

I’d been writing articles and reviews for her for many years before, in 1984, Robin was instrumental in my receiving a D.W. Griffith Award (as it was known then) for my docu-drama, BURT’S BIKERS, and immediately thereafter asked me if I would like to co-produce the annual Awards Ceremony, which I did for a decade, working with the likes of Paul Newman, Bette Davis, Sean Connery, Sidney Poitier, Richard Widmark, Morgan Freeman (who spearheaded, via some friendly-but-pointed remarks, the Award’s name-change to the “NBR’s”), Tony Randall, Shirley Temple, Jimmy Stewart, Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy, Jose Ferrer, and many, many others. I’ve got a book-load of stories about those years. Or at least a great chapter.

I often met Robin for lunch at a Greek Restaurant on 2nd Avenue near 72nd, where we would talk movies and FIR, and she would nurse a glass of white wine or two or three. I would indulge in at least one glass myself, and I can’t say that I clearly remember the exact nature of all those discussions. I wish I did.

Robin passed away this Summer, and all of us at FIR, and in the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, will long remember her contribution to the organization and the magazine.


Special mention goes to Fantoma for enduring the financial and emotional hardships that must have dogged them to completion of the two-volume collection of alternative (he dislikes the word ‘experimental’) filmmaker Kenneth Anger, whose short works on film influenced Marty Scorsese, me, and who knows how many other filmmakers throughout the 40s, 50s, and 60s. The second volume, recently released, contains yet another, nearly brand-new film by the maverick filmmaker who, now deep into his 70s, continues to create his visions for us.

These collections are among the most important we have been given in recent years of a major film artist’s work which, not being studio vaulted, were always in danger of perishing. Anger supplies commentary tracks for the marvelously-remastered films. For me, his crowning achievement is SCORPIO RISING (1965). Oddly, he doesn’t address how daring SCORPIO was, coming out in that period. I caught it at the Bleeker Street Cinema where it was being touted as the first theatrically booked film to show male frontal nudity in the U.S. It didn’t matter if you were gay or straight – you simply had to see it for its cutting edge impact. The glimpses were fleeting, but exciting – subliminal cuts, really. On the disc, far better balanced for exposure (J) than it was even at the Bleeker Street, there’s more frontal nudity to be seen. (And then there’s the stop-frame function…) But Anger never talks about that aspect of the film during his commentary, dwelling rather on the serendipity involved with the appearance of much of the source material. Also, I wasn’t aware that someone actually died on camera, which is even more impressive than the frontal nudity, and lends something grim and satanic to the proceedings – a kind of negative serendipity, if you will. Anger, with his Aleister Crowley connections, would understand and appreciate the compliment, I’m sure.

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