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The Geek Life Chats with Leonard Maltin
A Mania Exclusive with Leonard Maltin.
By Robert T. Trate
December 14, 2011
The Geek Life is a weekly look at what is happening in the Geek Culture. Movies, Comics, Books, Video Games and TV Shows encompass more than just release dates and reviews. This week the Geek Life chats with Movie Geek Leonard Maltin.
Leonard Maltin has been reviewing movies since he was fifteen years old. He is, in every sense of the word, a Movie Geek. The Geek Life was given the great opportunity to sit down with Leonard one on one and discuss his favorite subject, the movies. What was intriguing to the Geek Life was getting to know the man himself. How does he survive a bad movie? Is he good at movie trivia? What does he do to relax? During the course of a light breakfast near Warner Brothers Studios we discussed, VOD, Mission Impossible 4, Twilight, and The Tit for Tat Teaneck New Jersey Society.
Mania: What were the last three movies you saw?
Leonard Maltin: I can tell you that very easily because it is that time of year. Next Sunday is the meeting of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and I am also on the AFI Jury this year, and I have been for a while so there is a deadline involved to see all this stuff. Last night I saw The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The day before I saw two: The Iron Lady and We Bought a Zoo, but I am not allowed to talk about any of it.
Mania: What was the last movie you bought?
Leonard Maltin: I don’t buy movies. I am in a very fortunate position where I review movies in so many different outlets and media that I get sent a lot of stuff. But as a friend of mine of says, “Yes but I have to pay retail for furniture”.
Mania: What is it that you do to relax?
Leonard Maltin: I read. I love to read; it is my greatest pleasure. I read fiction and non fiction. I read movie books and non movie books. I just love reading and listening to Jazz. It is also very relaxing to me to watch old movies.
Mania: You don’t have to say that.
Leonard Maltin: But it is true. It is not a chore to catch up with some obscure 1930’s movie that I have never seen before. That is just fun.
Mania: You have stated that Casablanca is your all time favorite film. With the release of the film on Blu-ray, can you tell the difference?
Leonard Maltin: I have a 50-52 inch set and frankly I don’t. No. It looks clean, clear, lovely, but every time I do an A-B comparison with these dual packs I thought it looked just as good. I have done it with a number of things and when the source material is the same I actually don’t see a difference. Perhaps if I had a projection set up with a much larger image I would. Perhaps if my eyes were screwed in better?
Mania: What was your favorite DVD/ Blu-ray release of the year?
Leonard Maltin: Laurel and Hardy. The Essential Laurel and Hardy Collection because it was the first long delayed, long awaited US release. It should have happened 5 years ago. It should have happened 10 years ago. It finally happened this year.
Mania: Are you member of the Sons of the Desert?
Leonard Maltin: I certainly am. When I was 13 I started the first junior sanctioned tent, which was the Tit for Tat in Teaneck New Jersey.
Mania: Do you think that VOD, downloads, and streaming movies will kill the theater going experience?
Leonard Maltin: No, for two reasons. One, we’ve had all forms of home entertainment. Since the early eighties when video cassettes came on the scene people said the same thing. Two weeks ago when Twilight Breaking Dawn came out, I don’t think anybody in their target audience said “I’ll wait for the DVD or I’ll download it; let’s just hold off until we can stream this”. People still like to go out. To me, the reason why the movie going experience will never die is because it’s a social experience. It’s just not seeing it on the big screen. It’s a social experience. In the case of event movies, with a capital E, there is such tremendous build up and anticipation people will want to go out and to a movie theater. I think that will always be. Now it has been true for over a decade that the films that are suffering are the midrange films and smaller movies. Where in many cases people say, “I can wait”. Especially older people and middle aged people, who don’t enjoy the movie going experience as much; who aren’t the target audiences for those opening weekends.
Mania: What is your guilty movie?
Leonard Maltin: (no hesitation) Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla.
Mania: I wish I could say I’ve seen that.
Leonard Maltin: You should.
Mania: How often do you have to defend your criticisms? For example: “I can’t believe you gave Laserblast two and half stars”.
Leonard Maltin: I can’t answer that because I am a literal person. There are full days that go by without feeling defensive (pauses). No, it happens on a regular basis now that I have a comment section on my web site. It does happen on a regular basis. I wasn’t thinking about that. I was thinking about interactions. If you count the comments, all the time (laughs). Then I read some of the comments and I say nevermind (laughs). I especially like the comments attacking my reviews with people who admit they haven’t seen the movie yet (laughs).
Mania: Who was the one celebrity that made you Geek out because you were interviewing them?
Leonard Maltin: Katharine Hepburn. The first time I interviewed her (I was lucky enough to interview her four times) it was 1989-1990 she really hadn’t been doing interviews. She had just made a network TV movie and agreed to do a little bit of publicity for it. She said “yes” to the Today Show and ET [Entertainment Tonight]. I was fortunate enough to be the guy selected to interview her. I interviewed her in her home, the famous brownstone on the east side. It was one of the great days of my life. Undiminished by having to get to interview her again.
Mania: Do you read other critics reviews and when?
Leonard Maltin: After, after I see a movie. I’ll admit that occasionally I read that first bold faced paragraph in Variety. That’s as far as I’ll go. I don’t want to be affected by other critics’ thoughts before I see a movie. After I see a movie I just don’t want their opinions, I want their insights. I appreciate good writing and good thinking.
Mania: I’ve always wanted to know this about you: do you play movie trivia games with your family? If you do, are you on your own team?
Leonard Maltin: No and No. I’m actually not good at movie trivia. My mind doesn’t sort things the way you have to for various bar and pallor games. If you say to me: here is the film; what year did it come out? I can do that. If you say to me: here is the storyline; who is the leading lady, my mind suddenly gets jumbled. To give a boarder answer to that in my family dynamic, we talk about movies all the time. We are all sort of showbiz buffs so we are always talking and enjoying it and we’ll make references (laughs) that perhaps someone from down the street would never get.
Mania: What are the next three movies you’ll see?
Leonard Maltin: Oh, well this is a dull answer because there is nothing old or off beat or anything obscure on this list. I’ll see Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, then Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows, and then I’ll see Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. They have put the name Mission Impossible so small on the billboards and the ads, it’s like: why did you bother making a Mission Impossible movie if you don’t think that is a saleable commodity? Things like that, I don’t understand.
Mania: They didn’t even call it MI4.
Leonard Maltin: Which seems to send a message that they don’t think that is a valuable selling point.
Leonard Maltin: Then why did you make the movie?
Mania: How do you get through a really bad movie?
Leonard Maltin: Gritting my teeth. I almost never look at my watch, almost never, good or bad. I can remember two instances where I have. One was Pirates of the Caribbean 3 where, at some point in agony, I looked at my watch and said to my companion, “Is it over yet?” It was a rhetorical question, it wasn’t. And then this summer with Transformers: Dark of the Moon, I looked at my watch and saw that we were two hours in and knew there was still more to go. A very discoursing movie. There is nothing to do. I don’t leave.
Leonard Maltin’s new book: Leonard Maltin’s 2012 Movie Guide (on sale on Amazon) is out now for the Holidays. A perfect gift, if there ever was one, for the Movie Geek in your family. Check out his official site at Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy here. Just please make sure you have seen the movie first before you comment on his review.
Robert Trate writes two other weekly columns for Mania the DVD Shopping Bag and the Toy Maniac. Follow Robert on Twitter for his for Geek ramblings, Cosplay photos and film criticisms.