Friday, April 03, 2009

Camera Obscura: All Hail Clint Howard; Turner Classic Turns 15; New Warren Oates Bio

Trolling through the murky and uncharted oceans of obscure cinema, I came across an animated movie from director Rob Zombie awaiting release which he describes as "like if SpongeBob and Scooby-Doo were filthy". The movie is "The Haunted World of El Superbeasto". Based on Zombie's comic book work, it captured my attention when I noticed actor Clint Howard provided the voice in this R-rated romp for a character called Joe Cthulhu. (Also adding voices to the movie are Rosario Dawson, Paul Giamatti, and frequent Zombie- actors Bill Mosley, Sid Haig, and Sherrie Moon-Zombie.)

Clint Howard deserves some kind of award (apart from Lifetime Achievement Award given him by MTV) for a relentless longevity in TV and movies, and not just in movies by his bro, Ron Howard. The first time I saw this odd little fellow was when he played an odd little fellow in the original Star Trek series in an episode titled "The Corbomite Maneuver".

And he still kinda looks like he did way back then in 1966.
Clint had already entered TV history by that point, if only for playing the sandwich-eating Leon on The Andy Griffith Show. And he has some 200 credits now, playing in many cult and mainstream movies - from "Rock and Roll High School" and "Get Crazy" to providing the voice of Roo in the Oscar-winning "Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day" to working with Henry Fonda and Maureen O'Hara in "The Red Pony".
The L.A. Record published this fine interview with the legendary performer late last year -

"With the remakes and film versions of Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, Star Trek, and Arrested Development currently in the works, have you been contacted to reprise any of your roles?
No, and I’m certainly willing. In all seriousness, I am a working actor. It’s what I do for a living. I’m not a professional celebrity—I’m a professional actor. If any of those directors call and are interested in finding a place for me, I certainly would be interested because I like to work."

Here's to a very long and happy career, Clint.


Three cheers for Turner Classic Movies which marks their 15th year of broadcasting classic cinema. To help celebrate, the cable network has selected 15 movie fans from across the country to serve as guest programmers, an enviable task as they get to plow through the vast library of movies at TCM and pick their favorites to share with the world.

I am one of the lucky Americans whose first encounter with movies took place in a giant palace, not some boxed up multi-plex of uniformly drab black rooms. Going to a movie meant leaving all trappings of normal life behind, entering an architectural marvel, perhaps based on ancient Egyptian temples or an art-deco opera house, a place where the lobby was bathed in the aromas of real popcorn and real butter, where an usher guided us to our plush seats and we sat in front of a massive stage faced with a deep vermilion curtain which slide back as the lights dimmed and all of us in the audience were drawn into a world beyond imagining.

Happy birthday, TCM.


Warren Oates was indeed a chameleon - known for so many roles and never one to seek the spotlight in the press. He does finally get some long-deserved attention in the new biography, Warren Oates: A Wild Life by Susan Campo.

This website is devoted to his life and work and is most comprehensive, with essays, interviews and a huge list of his work in TV and film. Nailing down why he is such a memorable actor is nearly impossible, so much of what he did was simply in how he moved, how he did not talk. This essay says it well:

"Oates could glower, furrow his brow and pull in his lip as skillfully as Fred Astaire could dance or Cary Grant could grin. A good ol' boy from the coal-mining town of Depoy, Ky., Oates reached Hollywood by way of the Marines, the University of Louisville and odd jobs in New York. Even in an age of easy riders and easy pieces, Oates' confusion had special resonance. His scowl, which could suggest anything from bereavement to amusement, most often signaled a mixture of anger, befuddlement and defeat in the midst of a modern world that was passing beyond any individual's powers of understanding. Oates said he didn't feel at home in cities and had a strong sense of cultural dislocation, which he used to fuel his work. Rawboned and sturdy, yet fuzzy around the edges, with a malleable face that seemed to have a built-in squint, Oates rarely tried to shake his rustic look. He appeared to slouch even when he was walking tall."

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