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John Hughes Vote


They were the films that defined the 80s. The music. The clothes. The dialogue. The angst. It was all so perfect. John Hughes had a genius for capturing both an era and an age. This summer, the IMA celebrates John Hughes in the final film of The National Bank of Indianapolis Summer Nights Film Series. We’ve narrowed the field down to three, now you get to vote for your favorite. The winner will be shown on Friday, August 30 under the stars.


What John Hughes film would you like to see on August 30?

  • The Breakfast Club (1985) (52%, 346 Votes)
  • Sixteen Candles (1984) (35%, 229 Votes)
  • Pretty in Pink (1986) (13%, 88 Votes)

Total Voters: 663

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The National Bank of Indianapolis Summer Nights is presented by:

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Filed under: Film, Polls


Silents: Before and After, Part Two

Today's guest blogger is Eric Grayson,a film historian and preservationist who lives in Indianapolis.

The IMA’s silent film series continues on April 12, with a rare showing of WC Fields’ So’s Your Old Man (1926), followed by its sound remake You’re Telling Me (1934).  Although Fields is well remembered for his talking pictures, his silent work is nearly forgotten today.  Most of the films are tied up in complex rights issues, none of which got more complicated than So’s Your Old Man.

Based on an award-winning story by Julian Street, the film tells the story of eccentric inventor Sam Bisbee (Fields), who has invented a shatterproof glass and wants to sell the patent in the big city.  A series of tragic and comic circumstances keep Bisbee from selling his patent, and, dejected, he boards a train bound for home.  Unable to face the shame of failure, he contemplates suicide.  Fortune belatedly intervenes and a foreign princess, traveling on the same train, comes to his rescue.



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Filed under: Film, Guest Bloggers, Public Programs, The Toby


Silents: Before and After, Part One

Today's guest blogger is Eric Grayson,a film historian and preservationist who lives in Indianapolis.

For the next two weeks, the IMA will be presenting a series of unusual silent films.  Each night a double feature will be presented.  Following a “before and after” theme, the first film will be an original silent, while the second is a related version, altered in some way.

Tonight, April 5, the main feature will be The Matrimaniac (1916) with Douglas Fairbanks Sr., and Constance Talmadge.  IMA regulars will remember Fairbanks from his starring role in last year’s showing of The Mark of Zorro (1920), accompanied by the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra.  Zorro was the first of Fairbanks’ swashbuckling hero roles.  Up until that time, he had generally played an athletic, go-getting young man out to win the heroine.

The Matrimaniac is a film in that earlier Fairbanks tradition.  As Jimmie Conroy, Fairbanks tries to marry his young love (Talmadge), while her father tries to put a stop to the whole thing, giving a long and merry chase.  As with most Fairbanks pictures, the plot is secondary to the breathtaking stunts.  The Matrimaniac was a huge hit in 1916, and, indirectly, it helped Fairbanks become popular enough that he left the studio, Triangle, to pursue more money elsewhere.

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Filed under: Film, Guest Bloggers


A First Time for Everything

Our guest blogger today is film historian Eric Grayson, who writes about this weekend's Winter Nights films.

It may seem that this week’s Winter Nights show is a mismatched pair of films.  The films do have a few things in common. Besides the fact that they are both “visual feasts” with dramatic photography, they both contain violent images and they both were the first films made by their respective directors.

The first film that will be shown is Night of the Hunter (1955), which was directed by Charles Laughton.  He had been a successful actor in movies for some 25 years by the time he decided to direct this film.  It was not successful when released, and Laughton returned to acting.  Laughton’s blood-and-thunder opening, followed by the sensitive, dramatic approach to the ending, was a little jarring for 1955 audiences.  Robert Mitchum’s character, Harry Powell, is unhinged and creepy, a complete departure from roles he’d been playing up to that time.  Seen today, it’s an unforgettable bravura performance, but at the time reviewers found it confusing.  Mitchum is top-billed, but is the film’s villain, even though he does not appear for long stretches of screen time.

As the film reaches its midsection, the entire tone of the story changes.  Trying to escape the influence of murderer Mitchum, two children (Billy Chapin and Sally Jane Bruce), flee down a river and continue on several adventures.  Their exploits have an almost story-book quality to them, thanks to the photography of Stanley Cortez.


Cortez (1908-1997) is the film’s true star, because Night of the Hunter literally shimmers with his dazzling photography.  He had been working in films for years, notably on The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), and he had a fondness for experimental photographic techniques, often things that mainstream Hollywood was reluctant to let him do.  Charles Laughton gave Cortez a free hand to try different things, within the bounds of Laughton’s overall vision, which was to create a German Expressionistic atmosphere.  Cortez was only nominated for an Oscar twice, although he never won.  Although Night of the Hunter is perhaps his finest work, it was not nominated at all.

Director Laughton also went un-nominated, another undeserved slight.  Most directors tend to be either technical experts, overseeing the photography and editing, or acting specialists who compose sloppy films.  Laughton handled both tasks well.  Children are particularly difficult to direct, and Laughton lavished extra time on them to get the performances he needed.  Elsa Lanchester, Laughton’s widow, donated 80,000 feet (over 13 hours) of footage showing outtakes and behind-the-scenes shots, enough that UCLA historians were able to make a documentary about Night of the Hunter that lasts longer than the film itself.

Like Night of the Hunter, the second film on the program Un Chien Andalou (1929) also starts off violently.  Un Chien is the first film directed by Luis Buñuel, who, unlike Laughton, went on to a long career directing movies.

Inspired by dream logic and surrealistic art, Buñuel and collaborator Salvador Dali made a film comprised almost solely of stunning images without a thread of plot to connect them.  Their hope was that it would annoy and upset patrons looking for a conventional narrative, and they were slightly disappointed when the film caught on with audiences and got decent reviews.


The film’s opening shot is not for the squeamish, and is one of the most iconic in all cinema.  Actress Simonne Mareuil apparently has her eye slashed open with a razor (actually done by intercutting with a dead calf’s eye being cut).  This image is juxtaposed with a cloud, also shaped like a razor, “cutting” across the surface of the moon.

Un Chien Andalou continues at a breakneck pace throughout its brief 16-minute running time, with images of ants crawling out of a hole in a man’s hand, dead donkeys strapped to pianos, and, well, a lot of other things.

Overall, it makes no sense, but it isn’t supposed to make sense.  Like all art, it’s supposed to make the audience think and feel, which it still does.

Both films will be screened Friday night in the Toby, starting at 7pm. 

Filed under: Film, Public Programs, The Toby


2001: A Sideways Odyssey

Our guest blogger today is film historian Eric Grayson, who writes about this weekend's Winter Nights film.

space odyssey

People from Generation Y, often called Millennials, are being lumped into a group by our media.  They are said to have a core belief that modern cinema began with Star Wars: Episode IV (1977), and that any movie older than that is culturally irrelevant. Under these conditions, it becomes difficult to make a case that 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)is still culturally relevant at all, since it is much older and depicts a future now 12 years past. Even though it may seem a distant relic, 2001 is still a stunning and fresh experience.

The vast majority of films that try to depict the future, particularly anything with a science fiction slant, fail miserably both in dramatics and accuracy. Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) shows a bleak world of labor unrest and a severely divided culture.  HG Wells’ Things to Come (1936) foretells a second World War that is stunningly accurate, but Wells’ war lasts for 30 years and degrades into global tribal conflict, a worldwide Afghanistan. The triumphant moon landing does not occur until 2036 and is technically incorrect in almost every way.

Learning from his mistakes in Metropolis, Fritz Lang tried again with Woman in the Moon (1929), which is amazingly accurate up until the rocket lands on the moon. This is, no doubt, largely because Lang hired advisors from the scientific community, many of whom went on to work on the German V-2 rockets and, later, the American Apollo program. Similarly, producer George Pal hired only top people for his Destination Moon (1950), which, despite some very hokey dramatics, holds up pretty well.


But 2001 is in a class by itself, and always has been. Novelist Arthur C. Clarke simply projected the American space program forward into the future, making the assumption that we would maintain a constant level of funding.  That was his only major mistake, because the Apollo program was not the beginning of a slow ramp of progress, but a bubble of innovation in a sea of lethargy.

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Filed under: Film, Public Programs, The Toby


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