Top Picks for 2019 TCM Film Festival

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Every year, devoted fans and attendees giddily await the full schedule release of the Turner Classic Movies Film Festival. This year, the anticipation was even more palatable as this is the 10th anniversary. Happily, the time has arrived and after much anguishing decision-making, I have outlined my choices. As always, I cannot be held responsible for last-minute changes that often occur.

TCM Film Festival Schedule- Kellee’s 1st draft of picks

Thu 4/11:

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6:45 – 8 pm … NIGHT WORLD (1932) / Multiplex 6

*Wherever possible, I will choose a Pre-Code, especially if it’s a Pre-Code that I’ve never seen before. This particular film checks both of those boxes and will be introduced by TCM friend and daughter of Boris Karloff, Sara Karloff. There’s an eclectic cast of Boris Karloff, Lew Ayres, George Raft, Mae Clarke, plus a Busby Berkeley choreographed music number. Count me in!

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9:30 – 11:30 pm … THE BACHELOR and the BOBBY-SOXER (1947) / The Egyptian

*Cary Grant. In sparkly, shimmering nitrate. He reminds me of a man. What man? The man with the power. What power? The power of hoodoo. Hoodoo? You do. Do what? Remind me of a man. Need I say more? To boot, there’s the stunning Myrna Loy and Shirley Temple.

 Fri 4/12:

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9 – 10:30am … MERRILY WE GO TO HELL (1932) / Multiplex 1

*Here I go with another delicious Pre-Code discovery. Directed by the brilliant Dorothy Arzner, and starring Sylvia Sydney and Frederic March, this one features marital cheating, Prohibition-era excessive drinking, and a young Cary Grant. Slainte! Anytime I can experience an intro by Cari Beauchamp, I’m there.

 1 – 2pm … The Descendants/ Club TCM

*This is a panel of family members of Old Hollywood stars. Jennifer Grant, daughter of Cary Grant, will be present. Done.

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2:45 – 4:15pm … MY FAVORITE WIFE (1940) / The Egyptian

*This is a favorite film of mine. To me, Cary Grant had the most comedic chemistry with co-star Irene Dunne. The only other Screwball comedy that tops this one for this pairing is THE AWFUL TRUTH. But to see this pairing attempt to get out of a non-stop series of jams often from Gail Patrick, up on the big screen with my pals, will be heaven indeed. Jennifer Grant herself will intro. Perhaps she’ll discuss that silly leopard print robe.

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5:30 – 6:45 pm … VANITY STREET (1932) / Multiplex 6

*Here is yet another Pre-Code discovery, with an intro by Cari Beauchamp. A poverty row romance, starring Charles Bickford, Helen Chandler and George Meeker, claims to include hard knocks aplenty of poverty, blackmail and imprisonment. Let’s go!

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7:30 – 8:45 pm … OPEN SECRET (1948) /Multiplex 6

* This B thriller is said to be a Film Noir that tackles the evils of Anti-Semitism, starring John Ireland, Jane Rudolph and Leonard Sheldon. Cinematography by George Robinson and restored by UCLA. For me, it’s another discovery. I would love to see Eddie Muller do the intro but his glaring absence is not too surprising considering the timing of whenever TCMFF follows so closely after Noir City. Eddie, we’ll toast one to you in addition, with our Andrea Rosen tribute at the Roosevelt bar.

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 9:30 – 11:15 pm … ROAD HOUSE (1948) / The Egyptian

*Starring Ida Lupino, Richard Widmark, and Cornel Wilde, this film noir takes the gritty streets to the country. In nitrate. A nitrate noir? Yes, please! Filmmaker Bill Morrison intros with an 8 minute short of his own.

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Midnight screening … SANTO vs THE EVIL BRAIN (1961) / Multiplex 1

*My only attempt at a midnight screening goes to a superhero called ‘the Saint” who takes on a mind-controlling mad scientist. Santo was an ongoing character and I believe I’ve seen the version where he takes on martians. This one stars Rodolfo Guzman Huerta, the Mexican wrestler turned actor and was filmed in Cuba, before the political climate radically changed. Noting the Cuban connection, it seems rather appropriate to attend with my good friend Aurora, my Cubish sister. Let’s hope I can stay awake after such a long days of screenings.

 Sat 4/13:

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9:15 – 10:45 am … WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE (1951) / Multiplex 1

*I’m excited to see this mid-century Science Fiction, starring Barbara Rush. John Hoyt, and Richard Derr. I’m honored to say that I’ve experienced enjoying dinner with Barbara Rush at a prior TCMFF, thanks to my pal Danny Miller, so seeing her introduce her film will be a special treat. Additionally, as I’m currently teaching a course on special effects/ stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen, I’m curious to see the Oscar-winning special effects by Harry Barndollar and Gordon Jennings. This was produced by George Pal [DESTINATION MOON (1950)], too.

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11:45 – 2 pm … TARZAN AND HIS MATE (1934) / Multiplex 6

*I’ve been very fortunate to see Ben Burtt & Craig Barron introduce THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD and GUNGA DIN in years’ past. This hat-wearing duo always brings a delightfully insightful and unique presentation that explores the sound and visual effects behind the scenes. And who could say no to loin-clothed Maureen O’Sullivan as Jane and Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan. This was infamous art director Cedric Gibbons’ sole directing gig.

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2:45 – 5 pm … FATHER GOOSE (1964) / Multiplex 1

*Here’s another Cary Grant comedy gem, juggling war enemies, wayward school girls and their persnickety prep teacher, and booze in the occupied South Pacific during WW2. Grant’s chemistry with Leslie Caron peaks in a hilarious scene where Caron takes in more wine than venom from a feigned snake bite. Leonard Maltin and members of the original cast will intro.

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 5:15 – 6:45 pm … BLOOD MONEY (1933) / Multiplex 6

*With Judith Anderson, George Bancroft, and Frances Dee, this Pre-Code discovery explores a myriad of dark themes with unexpected roles and was one of the first films condemned by the Legion of Decency. Bruce Goldstein will intro this cool Pre-Code.

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8 – 10:15 pm … THE BAD SEED (1956) / Poolside

*Whenever this film comes on TCM, I stop to watch. A psychopathic, child serial killer was hardly a topic typically addressed in mid-century Hollywood. Interestingly, the treatment borders camp. Somehow, I’ve never attended a poolside screening. With the chance to see Patty McCormack in-person to do the intro, I’ll happily dive into these dangerous waters!

Sun 4/14:

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 9:15 – 11 am … HOLIDAY (1938) / Multiplex 1

*That’s right. Another Cary Grant film. I’ve seen this many times as Kate Hepburn skips out of a New Years’ Eve party along with an intoxicated Lew Ayres, Grant, Edward Everett Horton and Jean Dixon. But never on the big screen with Diane Baker doing the intro. Yummy!

~> My Sunday gets real loosey-goosey from here. Probably a couple of Club TCM presentations, lunching, perhaps TBAs, and then maybe…

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5:15 – 7 pm for A WOMAN OF AFFAIRS (1928)/ The Egyptian.

*This on and off screen romance of Greta Garbo and John Gilbert is a forbidden love silent. I’m lucky to see silent films with musical accompaniment in my home state of Kansas more than the average film fan, so my attendance is mostly for the intro with Kevin Brownlow and Leonard Maltin, with Carl Davis score and live orchestra.

Depending upon my energy level and craving for socialization, I may finish out the fest by attending my final screening pick with:

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8 – 10 pm screening of THE DOLLY SISTERS (1948)/ The Egyptian. 

*This lavish Technicolor musical stars Betty Grable and June Haver and is presented in nitrate. Should be a feast for the eyes and the ears.

As a backup, I may opt for dinner and relaxing before Closing Party, which begins at 9pm. What is not listed here are the mixers and social gatherings I plan to attend. Those events generally produce the most selfies with friends. As always, I look forward to these screenings. But moreover, I’m very excited to be reunited with my TCM family! Hope to see you there…

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Here are more top picks from fellow TCMFF friends:

Angela over at The Hollywood Revue: https://hollywoodrevue.wordpress.com/2019/03/23/my-choices-for-tcmff-2019/

Aurora aka @CitizenScreen of Once Upon A Screen: https://aurorasginjoint.com/2019/03/24/my-picks-for-tcmff-2019/ 

Chris Sturhann of Blog of the Darned: https://chrissturhann.blogspot.com/2019/03/tcmff-madness-baby-2019.html 

Danny of Pre-Code.Com: http://pre-code.com/tcmff-2019-full-schedule-posted-and-where-youll-find-me/

Diana of the Flickin’ Out Blog: https://flickinoutblog.com/2019/03/29/dim-the-house-lights-my-picks-for-the-2019-tcm-classic-film-festival/

Em of The Vintage Cameo: http://www.thevintagecameo.com/2019/03/tcmff-2019-schedule-picks/

Jay Patrick of Thirty Hertz Rumble: https://thirtyhertzrumble.com/high-fiving-2019-tcm-film-festival-preview/ 

Joel of Joel’s Classic Film Passion: https://joelrwilliams1.blogspot.com/2019/03/2019-tcm-classic-film-festival.html 

Julia Ricci of Cinema Crossroads: https://cinemacrossroads.wordpress.com/2019/03/24/my-picks-for-the-10th-annual-tcm-classic-film-festival/

Keisha of Cinema Cities: https://cinemacities.wordpress.com/2019/03/26/my-picks-for-tcmff-2019/ 

Lara of Backlots: https://backlots.net/2019/04/02/laras-2019-tcm-classic-film-festival-schedule/ 

Laura of Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings: http://laurasmiscmusings.blogspot.com/2019/03/the-2019-tcm-classic-film-festival.html 

Nikki of The Way We Watch: https://www.thewaywewatch.net/blog-1/2019/3/24/its-here-my-our-tentative-tcmff-2019-schedule

Samantha of Musings of a Classic Film Addict: https://musingsofaclassicfilmaddict.com/2019/03/22/my-picks-for-the-2019-tcm-classic-film-festival/

StanfordClark of Movies Past and Present: http://moviespastandpresent.com/current-plan-for-the-2019-tcm-classic-film-festival/

Ray Harryhausen Film Notes: MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (1949)

 

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The following are my notes as I presented to my Film Study course, Ray Harryhausen. In this week’s class we discussed the big ape that continues to capture our hearts, sixteen years after the famous Pre-Code ape that started it all. Mighty Joe Young.

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Ray Harryhausen with one of his “Joe” models.

For this week, we will explore Ray Harryhausen’s first feature, MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (1949). While not his first solo feature, he served as lead special effects tech under the guidance of his mentor, Willis H O’Brien. (Note the full list of special effects team as mentioned below.) As discussed before, O’Brien’s work in stop-motion animation in KING KONG (1933) is what inspired Harryhausen his life’s work. This is where it all began for both O’Brien and Harryhausen.

THE APE THAT STARTED IT ALL…

The sequel to KING KONG (1933) was released less than 8 months later with SON OF KONG (1933). Robert Armstrong, who portrays Carl Denham the film director/ promoter in the original Kong, reprises his role in the sequel. We then see this same actor play essentially the same type of role with a new name, Max O’Hara. Instead of Denham traveling to Skull Island via the Indian ocean as in KING KONG and SON OF KONG, O’Hara travels to Africa to collect lions for his big night club act. This is where he meets a large and unusual gorilla.

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While most scenes were shot on set at the RKO lot (Paramount), the baby gorilla images were not taken at a zoo, but rather a film crew was sent to Africa.

Jill Young (Terry Moore) has raised this gorilla since “Joe” was an orphaned baby. Jill traded her toys for Joe and nursed him with love. When O’Hara and his safari pal Gregg (Ben Johnson in his first on-screen role) bring Jill and Joe to Hollywood to star as main attractions at O’Hara’s African-themed club. Over time, it becomes clear that Joe and Jill are unhappy and the race to escape from authorities and back home to Africa begins.

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Producer Merian C Cooper with KING KONG (1933)

LOOKS FAMILIAR?

MIGHTY JOE YOUNG is in essence a sister story to KING KONG. This film was also distributed by RKO and produced by the same creative team with a very similar plot. The differences however, are more family-friendly than in the Pre-Code KING KONG. Both films present an odd love triangle of a young woman, a young man, and a large gorilla. Both stories travel deep into the safari jungle, then discover more painful exploitation in their rags to riches adventure in the bright lights of the big city.

KONG vs JOE:

On a size scale, Joe is quite large (supposedly 12 feet tall and 2,000 lbs.) but dwarfs in comparison to Kong. In contrast, Kong was much taller. Creator Merian C Cooper originally envisioned Kong as being 40 to 50 feet tall. However, animator O’Brien built the sets and models scaling Kong to be only 18 feet tall on Skull Island then rescaled him to be 24 feet in New York. Someone had a big growth spurt in the Big Apple!

Unlike many of the mega creatures and characters Harryhausen would work later on, there are no atomic age threats, nor Greek gods at cause for these gorillas of freakishly gigantic growth patterns. What caused both Kong and Joe to reach such bizarre heights is not really explored in either film. Although in the case of Skull Island, including dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures running amuck, the implication is that of a protected bubble out of step from the rest of the world’s evolutionary pace.

There are other striking differences between these two apes that go beyond size. You could say that Kong came from a dysfunctional upbringing in the mean, Darwinian jungles of a dark, violent world yet despite his tough exterior, there’s a softer side that only weakens around blond actresses. Joe, on the other hand, was raised in a loving and nurturing environment. Even Joe’s jungles appear friendly, happy and always with an undercurrent of light whimsy.

Kong is prone to rage, expressing violence and pain frequently. He only becomes gentle upon his rare interactions with his delicate beauty. He protects her at all costs like an obsessive lover. His tragic ending is almost a relief to an otherwise painful and doomed life.

Joe was lovingly raised by his beauty. Their relationship is vastly different from Kong and Ann Darrow’s. Joe is more akin to Jill’s well-trained dog. He is expressive, curious and intelligent but also protective. His life is a charmed one until his trip to Tinsel Town. There, he faces humiliation and disrespect despite his talents and kind demeanor. He always shows loyalty and gentleness with Jill. When the time becomes obvious for Jill to escape the big city to retreat back to their African homestead, we are hopeful they will make it.

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HEART and HUMOR:

Instead of a focus on action, tragedy and pain as in Kong’s doomed fate, Joe’s tale is sprinkled with light moments which are both heartfelt and funny. Examples…

While our introduction to ‘grown Joe’ is mostly action, including impressive scenes mixing live action of lions and men on horses, there are also sweet touches with Joe being scolded by Jill. This also includes Jill being picked up by Joe from above by hand. This is where we see Ray Harryhausen’s brilliance at work. The skills are superior in not only in blending the live action with the Joe model, plus also foregrounds and backgrounds seamlessly as possible. Additionally, note Joe’s facial expressions. Joe listens to Jill, but reluctantly. He picks her up gently. She trusts him implicitly. But like a child walking away with his mother after being scolded in front of others after a fight, Joe turns back to give a few threatening gestures behind her back to let the men know he could’ve won the fight if mom hadn’t come along to save their day. It’s a much lighter human touch than we see in Kong’s treatment.

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Joe was not the only stop-motion animated creature. Lions got into the act, too. 

Another example that is both humorous and heartwarming occurs after Jill and Joe premiere in Hollywood. The dialogue from The Golden Safari club attendees as they give feedback on the club’s ambiance and the lions behind the bar are terrific. Note the familiar faces of many character actors such as Charles Lane. The tug-of-war scene is especially funny- from the intros of strong men with women cat-calling from the audience to the competition itself as Joe toys with them. Again, notice how Joe initiates with kindness and only becomes frustrated if provoked. Ray often brings humanity to his creatures.

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Terry Moore takes a break with the strong men from the humorous tug-of-war scene. 

By the 17th week, Joe is literally being treated like a trained monkey. In an organ grinder routine, both Joe and Jill are humiliated and abused as targets on stage. When a few mean drunks sneak backstage and pour alcohol into Joe, the real mayhem begins when one of the jerks hurts Joe. Even in these small scenes, watch the detailed expressions and movements of Joe. Both expressive and realistically reflective of what we would imagine an ape might do in that drunk-meets-rage unfolding. Just as impressive are the sets being destroyed in stop-motion animation while humans and lions running about.

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The orphanage scene is an especially tense and heart-wrenching climax. There are many technical aspects to the scene that make it both challenging and unforgettable. The use of color tone, fire, set design, and special effects within live action added more layers to the suspense. You can see live action, animation, technical assets of set design, backdrop paintings, and stop-motion animation all beautifully orchestrated in this rescue scene.

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The color tinting adds to this nail-biting climax. 

Ray Harryhausen is said to be responsible for 80 – 90% of the stop-motion animation in MIGHTY JOE YOUNG, with the focus on the Joe model. As his first feature, we can already witness the mastery of his skills and yet this was only the beginning.

Trivia:

-Baby gorilla scenes were not shot in a zoo, they sent a camera crew to Africa.

-Most scenes were shot in Culver City on the Selznick lot (RKO).

-The early scene of lions in cages were shot at the lion farm in Tarzana.

-Ruth Rose’s inspiration for the Max O’Hara character was largely based on the director, Ernest “Monty” Schoedsack, who at 6.6 tall was a larger than life character in real life and was nearly blind (directed by sound and his asst. director). Ruth Rose was his wife.

-Of the 4 large Mighty Joe Young models, one was owned by Schoedsack and promised to Terry Moore upon his death but a maid stole it, another is Moving Image museum. An armature (not fully covered) is owned by Bob Burns.

-Ben Johnson was a real cowboy who wrangled horses in the Howard Hughes film THE OUTLAW (1943) before switching to acting in front of the camera. John Ford discovered him.

-The actual model for Joe was about 13 inches tall (smaller than Kong’s model.)

-Notable character actors: Ellen Corby (known best from The Waltons), William Schallert as the gas station attendant, Jack Pennick (familiar John Ford extra) as truckdriver of the stolen truck, and Irene Ryan (Granny from The Beverly Hillbillies).

– When Joe smashes through set at the night club, the first scream you hear is that of Fay Wray, stock audio from the original KING KONG (1933).

– All of the special effects sequences alone took 14 months to complete.

-The night club set was based on The Cocoanut Grove,” an LA club at the famed Ambassador Hotel.

-The early cowboys scene in Africa used footage originally shot to be used in a planned but not completed follow-up to KING KONG, (“The Valley of Gwangi”). In 1969, that film was eventually completed however by Ray Harryhausen.

-A sequel to MIGHTY JOE YOUNG was planned, “JOE MEETS TARZAN” to star Lex Barker [who starred as Tarzan in TARZAN AND THE SLAVE GIRL (1950)], but was canceled.

MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (1949)

Produced by: Merian C Cooper and John Ford

Director: Ernest B Schoedsack

Original Story: Merian C Cooper

Screenplay: Ruth Rose

Cast (main players):

Terry Moore … Jill Young

Ben Johnson … Gregg

Robert Armstrong … Max O’Hara

Mr. Joseph Young … himself

Frank McHugh … Windy

Douglas Fowley … Jones

Denis Green … Crawford

Paul Guilfoyle … Smith

Nestor Palva … Brown

Regis Toomey … John Young

Lora Lee Michel … Jill Young as a young girl

James Flavin … Schultz

Musical score: Roy Webb

Dir of Photography: J Roy Hunt

Special Effects:

Marcel Delgado … technical staff

Fitch Fulton … technical staff

Ray Harryhausen … first technician

George Lofgren … technical staff

Willis H O’Brien … technical creator

Pete Peterson … second technician

Visual Effects:

Linwood G Dunn … optical photography

Harold E Stine … photographic effects

Bert Willis … photographic effects

Harry Cunningham … model armature construction

Ray Harryhausen … technician

Jack Shaw … matte artist

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*See you next week as we take a journey with 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH!

The Ray Harryhausen Film Study

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For a couple of years now, I’ve been teaching a series of classic film courses. Film Noir, Screwball Comedy, and Hitchcock are some of the topics we’ve tackled. Starting this week, we’re kicking off with a new adventure into a fantasy world of mythical creatures and monsters. A cinematic dream world created by Ray Harryhausen.

Harryhausen was so enthralled by the wonder of a stop-motion animated ape, created by Willis H O’Brien in KING KONG (1933) as a 13 year-old boy, it changed his life forever. Over the decades that followed, he obsessively and masterfully perfected the art of stop-motion animation, including a process he called “DynaMation.”

Most of the films where he served as the Special Effects creator and director, were more known for his work than the lead actors or director. This remains true to this day of his films. And yet how many Special Effects people can you name, and know so readily by their work like his?

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His craft often required months of long hours and solitary commitments for what would result in a few minutes on screen. His work ethic was exhausting to even consider. For this reason and the sheer brilliance of his artistry, and the timing of what is now a lost art, he stands alone in his legacy. Ray worked with greats like Ray Bradbury and Ted Geisel (Dr. Suess), and his work then inspired legendary filmmakers such as George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, JJ Abrams, Peter Jackson, and countless others.

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In our class, I will present Ray Harryhausen’s background history, the influences and influencers, but mostly we will discuss his filmography together. We’ll explore his Mother Goose Fairy Tales (1946), his contributions to MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (1949), his other monster and alien creations in SciFi classics such as IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA (1955), EARTH vs THE FLYING SAUCERS (1956) and 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH (1957). Then we’ll transition to the fantasy, mythical, and sometimes prehistoric worlds found in his Sinbad films, MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (1961), JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1963), and finally CLASH OF THE TITANS (1981).

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I look forward to enjoying these films through this deeper exploration in a shared experience. If you live in the Lawrence, Kansas area, please join us!

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