Podcast #18: ‘A Real Rock ‘n’ Roll Cinema’: Talking cult film and cult spaces with Jane Giles of London’s former Scala Cinema

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In the latest Here’s Looking at You podcast Dr Ellen Wright talks with Jane Giles, programmer between 1988 and 1992 at the former doyenne of British repertory cinemas, The Scala cinema.

Located initially on the site of an old concert hall in Tottenham Street, Fitzrovia, it moved later to its legendary second home in the heart of Kings Cross but very much retained its carnivalesque roots.

For those who are not familiar with this unique, anti-establishment institution, the Scala was THE British repertory cinema, specialising in midnight movie marathons and showing an eclectic range of classic and cult films during its all too brief existence, from high art to pure trash and all in between.

We talk about the cinema space itself, about the turbulent times through which this distinctive cinema existed and much more.

An excellent article in The Guardian, by former owner, Stephen Woolley, about the iconic cinema can be found here and further details about Jane’s book SCALA CINEMA 1978-1993 can be found here

*NOTE* Jane has asked me to point out that I made an error as to the names of the Scala cats. They were in fact called Huston and Roy NOT Huston and Lee! Thanks Jane and apologies!

Feel free to comment below on the podcast or the subjects it covers, ask questions, raise points or make suggestions for further podcasts and blogs. You can sign up to receive email notifications when subsequent podcasts and posts become available. Simply enter your email at the ‘Follow Blog’ notices at the foot or sidebar of the page. You can also access previous podcasts by clicking here or the ‘Podcast’ toggle at the top any page.

Music is by kind permission of The Shannon Reilly Trio. The full version of the song Trouble can be found along with its video here, and purchased on the Shannon Reilly Trio album also called Trouble.

The podcast was produced thanks to the post-production expertise of John Ashbrook of Radio Pictures.

The opinions expressed on this blog are mine, and do not reflect the opinions of the De Montfort University or any other employee thereof. Nor is De Montfort University responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied within this blog.

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Cockettes Screening and director Q&A with David Weissman

It’s very exciting to hear that the University of East Anglia in Norwich are hosting a screening of the wonderful 2002 documentary ‘The Cockettes’ alongside an introduction and Q&A with it’s co-director David Weissman.   The film uses historic material alongside contemporary interviews with the surviving Cockettes to tell the story, and legacy, of this outrageous and idiosyncratic troupe of revolutionary transvestite performers and activists.

Their late night performances in San Francisco midnight movie theatres were drug-fuelled drag pantomimes of Hollywood Serials, B-Movies and Musicals, which prefigured (and out-did) the Rocky Horror Show; their films mobilised drag as a tool for political subversion, in a manner that was embraced and absorbed by the east coast ‘Dreamlanders’ Divine and John Waters whom the Cockettes gave both inspiration and support; the Kailflower commune they grew out of and the Free Press which operated alongside and to promote the Cockettes (and allied groups such as the Angels of Light) ran Free Food and social activist agendas comparable to the Black Panthers’ community programmes only with a healthy dose of LSD tinged neo-Situationism.  If that sounds like a heady 60s/70s brew, you’re beginning to get the idea.  

All the key players in the Cockettes – Hibiscus, Sylvester, Pam Tent, John Rothermel, Link Martin, Scrumbly Koldewyn, Irving Rosenthal, Rumi Missabu, Divine, Bambi Lake, Tomata du Plenty, Miss Harlow, Pristine Condition and others too numerous to mention, pop up as key footnotes in multiple countercultural movements over the following 50 years from hippies through Disco, Punk and Electro, the gay-rights and trans-rights movements, to Neo-burlesque and the new cabaret, while everyone who was anyone in the late 60s and early 70s wanted to be associated – or to distance themselves from – these lynch pins of the SF Haight Ashberry scene.

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https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-cockettes-qa-with-david-weissman-tickets-75671721155

Podcast #17:‘I have delusions of grandeur’: 45 minutes of loveliness with burlesque powerhouse Cece Sinclair.

In the latest HLAY podcast Dr Ellen Wright (and her friend Bobbie) talks with triple-threat burlesque powerhouse Cece Sinclair.

Cece has been on the British burlesque seen for a few years now and has a reputation for her professionalism, her polished performances and her sheer likeability.

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Podcast#16 ‘A girl alone in the world has to keep a hold on her emotions or she’ll be lost’: Reframing Vivien Leigh with Dr Lisa Stead

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The 16th Here’s Looking At You podcast is a conversation with senior Lecturer in Film Studies at University of Exeter, Dr Lisa Stead.

Lisa is currently working on a very exciting AHRC-funded project entitled Reframing Vivien Leigh: Stardom, Archives and Access. This project examines for the first time how the legacies of screen star Vivien Leigh (1913-1967) are archived and curated by a range of public institutions in the South West of England.

For those who don’t recognise the name straight away, leigh was a stage and screen actress and two-time academy award winner and the female lead in the 1939 cinematic epic Gone With the Wind

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I talk to Lisa about this project and, as I was in the process of putting the finishing touches to a one-day postgraduate archives event when we spoke, we also about the rewards of archival research.

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Podcast #15: Buckle Up: The Body Politic and Nick Kilby

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image by permission of Nick Kilby

The 15th instalment of the Here’s Looking at You podcast is a frank conversation with body-based performance artist, Nick Kilby.

Nick’s work examines often very challenging, broader political and philosophical ideas, such as cults, blood sports and toxic masculinity and in particular, during this conversation, we discuss a recent piece of work that I was lucky enough to see at last summer’s Borderlines conference at De Montfort University. The piece was entitled ‘Buckle Up: The Filth.’ It was 11 hours long but I only witnessed the climatic final 20 minutes. It left me literally speechless and was a very powerful, visceral immersive performance made in response to the rape revenge and pulp narratives and the #MeToo moment.

https://archive.org/download/HeresLookingAtYouPodcast/nick%20kilby_mixdown.mp3<br />

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Podcast #14: ‘She’s a Woman!’: A conversation about gender, sexuality and performance with Miz Cracker

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image with kind permission of Miz Cracker

Yaaas Queen! After a short break Here’s looking at you returns and in this sickening podcast, Dr Ellen Wright has a discussion with thin, white and salty New York comedy queen and Ru Paul’s Drag Race alumni Miz Cracker.

Having met on the afternoon of Cracker’s last date on her sell-out UK It’s Time tour, Cracker wowed Ellen with her charisma, uniqueness, never and talent, not to mention just how sweet and frank she was.

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What makes a classic Christmas film?

A couple of weeks ago the lovely Jade, who works for the Phoenix cinema in Leicester approached me about recording a ‘Phoenix Talks’ podcast about why the film-going public loves a Christmas film, about nostalgia and what makes for a good Christmas film, and specifically about why the 1946, Frank Capra classic, It’s a Wonderful Life has, for many, become the ultimate Christmas film.

We talked about the film itself and why its so enjoyable but also the film’ broader context, how it was actually slow to take on a cultish following and why.

Every year, rather wonderfully, the Phoenix runs a fundraising screening of this Christmas stalwart, in aid of Leicester homeless charities. Hence Jade and myself chatting about the film.

I will say though, whilst Its a Wonderful Life is Wonderful, its not *quite* as wonderful a Christmas film as another Capra classic, Meet John Doe. If you haven’t seen it, I’d heartily recommend it, with a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie.

If you want a taster of Its a Wonderful Life, check out the trailer:

 

 

You can access the podcast via this link:

https://www.phoenix.org.uk/blog/what-makes-a-christmas-classic/

or on Soundcloud:

 

 

 

 

 

Podcast#11: ‘I’m no Mary Whitehouse’: Jill Greenfield on calling out alleged sexual harassment and assault in the entertainment industry.

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As part of the Women in Hollywood symposium I talked with lawyer Jill Greenfield of FieldFisher solicitors, who is currently pursuing the civil case against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein for alleged sexual assaults.

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A timely symposium – Women in Hollywood

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Me attempting to channel Rita Hayworth. Image courtesy of Beki Doig

I am very pleased to announce that on Monday May 28th I will be running my first ever symposium at DeMontfort University.

It seems odd to me that having organised and been part of so many public events over the years, I haven’t yet organised a conference or symposium.

The idea for this event came a couple of months ago when myself, Alissa Clarke and Laraine Porter were asked by PhD candidate Becky Jones to be part of a panel discussion around the treatment of older women in Hollywood following a screening of Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool – a film about the final years of Hollywood vamp Gloria Grahame at the Phoenix cinema in Leicester.

We had a lot to say but understandably, only a small time in which to say it. We all remarked on this and also on how unusual it was to be part of an all female panel. As we gathered in the cafe bar afterwards, to continue the discussion, we drifted onto other issues women in Hollywood have had and still do encounter when trying to get on.  The #MeToo movement and the Weinstein allegations were only the tip of the iceberg. There were so many historical precedents.

The seed was sewn. We needed a day long event at least to discuss these issues. Vicky Ball also came on board and Women in Hollywood was born.

In case you are interested in attending and participating, here is our call for papers:

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Podcast #9: ‘I’ll Show Them, I’ll Record Everything’: Audience, Performance and The Room (2003)

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In this podcast I follow up on my recent blog post You can laugh, you can cry, you can do whatever you like, express yourself, just don’t hurt yourself’: Performance, Pedagogy and The Room by talking with The Room aficionado, audience researcher and Film and Culture lecturer Dr Richard McCulloch about the ‘best worst film ever’, cult phenomenon The Room.

We discuss what makes this film so bad it’s good, its director, Tommy Wiseau, The Disaster Artist and the Golden Globe winning performance by James Franco but most importantly we talk about the unique fandom around The Room.

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Other topics we cover include fan communities and bonding via film, participatory cinema more generally, authenticity, performance and the nature Continue reading

‘You can laugh, you can cry, you can do whatever you like, express yourself, just don’t hurt yourself’: Performance, Pedagogy and The Room

 

 

Tommy in tux

Earlier this month saw one of my yearly teaching highlights, the annual screening of ‘the best worst film ever,’ 2003 melodrama, The Room.

It is ironic that a film renowned in part for such poor performances became the ultimate performative text, prompting a whole range of audience behaviours at its regular screenings.

Every year for the past three years, a participatory screening of this film has served as the climax of my third year Cult Film module, and it is promised to students at the start of the module, as a reward for their hard work and inevitably enthusiastic contributions over the course of the eleven week undergraduate module.

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