Sunday Relaxation

Kage Baker loved movies. One of the great things about our lifespan was the proliferation of movies at home. She adored sitting about in her jammies, watching classic films in her own armchair – every change of media made better films available, and she was an avid collector.

The last couple years of her life she discovered Netflix, and went on a mad treasure hunt. Kage absolutely doted on silent films, and Netflix enabled her to locate things she had loved for years. But prior to disks in the mail, she’d had to rely on hunting down revival festivals and finding rental stores with a “Silent Classics Section” – which usually amounted to 3 Charlie Chaplin films and “Broken Blossoms”. She started tracking things down and buying them when she could, when the Internet began to beckon. But Netflix was the mother lode for Kage.

She got so into silent science fiction and fantasy movies that she did a whole series of reviews for Tor Online: amazing, unheard-of, uncelebrated films. Real classics, and real High Weirdness, too – I remember that the stories of Santa in the off season were especially peculiar. Not to mention the soft B& D porn of Harry Houdini films … the series was entitled Ancient Rockets, and the blog began here:  I recommend them – you will get a guided tour through silent cinematic insanity with Kage Baker officiating. If you haven’t read these reviews before, you will be discovering a whole new aspect of her voice. It’s great.

I watched all these with her, and the dozens of others she consumed over the years. I’m not as fascinated by silent films as she was, but our family history in Hollywood makes them all at least a little interesting … and, being Kage, she was never satisfied with one viewing. Everything was viewed over and over and over, wrung dry for nuance and implication, thoroughly digested. You know the Film Festival in Mendoza In Hollywood? As I’ve mentioned before, that scene is written from life. We watched Intolerance every night for over a week. Sometimes twice. I see it in my dreams … as do the other guests at the time, I am sure. A lot of the dialogue for that scene came out of the comments of Kage’s test audiance, on the 4th or 11th or 14th showing.

(“What is that woman wearing on her head?” I remember a young man demanding repeatedly, his head in Kage’s lap and a martini glass of rum balanced on his chest. Kage gave his lines to the traveling salesman Operative; most of the rest of him ended up in Ermenwyr …)

The final night run out into the dark empty lots of Los Angeles, with Imarte chasing Babylon and everyone else chasing Imarte – that was more or less from life, as well. Though to my knowledge none of us were immortals. I’m sure I’d have noticed eventually. But we certainly ended up dancing in the misty moonlight, with wreaths of dusty wildflowers in our hair and Ranier Ale cans in our hands. Don’t judge! We were young and poor.

Kage also liked special effect movies, and was a wild fan of summer blockbusters. Things that glittered and exploded and crashed! Decent costumes and an intriguing villain, and she was as happy as could be. One of the things I deeply regret her missing has been the recent evolution of Netflix that lets us watch films at home. I’ve been re-watching tons of good old B movies from the last 20 years or so, right at my desk – how Kage would have loved that! Though for her I’d have had to run cable to the flatscreen TV she so adored, so she and Harry could curl up in the wingback chair and watch the 42 inch screen … Kage liked an expansive viewing experience.

So far this summer I have managed Thor and POTC IV, and Super 8 just today. X-Men was in and out of the good old Vista off Hyperion Boulevard too quickly for me to see it yet – I will have to catch it at some inferior house, where the manager doesn’t dress in costume and the popcorn isn’t as good.I can recommend Super 8, too: a grand film, no end of fun, and a perfect evocation not only of summer B movies, but of being so very young and earnest so very long ago …

But the Vista WILL be getting Cowboys & Aliens! I can hardly wait. Daniel Craig was one of those actors on whose masculine pulchritude Kage and I agreed – I must go and admire that pale English complexion, those fine mean eyes and bull dancer’s body for the both of us now.

Ah, the movies on a summer afternoon – that’s a good time, that is.

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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6 Responses to Sunday Relaxation

  1. The Lord of Misrule says:

    Well, of cource I have to comment on this, being me. Just saw X-Men earlier today and was pleased enough. I wouldn’t worry about going to a top of the line cinema as this film doesn’t warrent such devotion but of particular note is Emma Frost, (played by Don Draper’s wife no less) especially when she’s in her diamond form. That is an effect worth the price of admission.
    I, too , am awaiting “Cowboys & Aliens” but I want to set aside time for “Tree of Life”.

    Hey, you always knew I was pretentious!


    • Kate says:

      I must admit, I don’t mind at all if X-men is mostly eye candy – as long as the Beast is cool. He has always been my favourite. And frankly, while Kelsey Grammer is too long in the tooth to play him now, he was perfect in*Last Stand. * Henry P. McCoy was the role Grammer was born to play, it really was.

      If the diamond effect on Emma Frost is the same one they used in Wolverine’s Origin, it’ll be quite impressive. That was lovely, I thought.

      *Super 8* really is a keen film – charming, funny, wonderful evocation of time and place: all the kids can really act, and the alien is fascinating. Also, the train wreck at the beginning is simply astonishing. It’s got a good moral but doesn’t beat one over the head with it; and the characters are convincing. Much, much better than I expected, I must say.

      As for *Cowboys and Aliens* – it’s shallow of me but I just don’t care! I will watch it for Daniel Craig’s body, if it has no other virtues. The man is a work of art. Luckily, the film does seem to have lots of other charms, but I cannot tell a lie – I would watch it if it sucked, just to see him. I sort of owe it to Kage, anyway.




  2. Margaret says:

    I’m wondering whether your silent film viewings included the original Tarzan of the Apes, with Elmo K. Lincoln and Enid Markey. I hunted for that for years, finally wound up seeing it at some weird underground cinema in San Francisco, on a double bill with Scorpio Rising (eeeuw! – not my type). That was back ithe 1960s, before home video – but now I own my very own copy and can appreciate all that eye-rolling acting whenever I like.


  3. Kate says:

    Margaret – yep, I think Tarzan is in there somewhere. I remember watching lots of Tarzan movies with Kage during this period. The books were always favourites of mine when we were kids – I love all ERB – but Kage didn’t get into it until our 30’s; it was the Lord Greystoke film that really caught her attention. And the Disney animated version; she loved that. I spent my time when she watched these things complaining about the Weismuller interpretation – Tarzan was not a dunce with a 3rd grader’s vocabulary!.


  4. athene says:

    Although I, too, follow silents almost slavishly, and have a very specific list of those I would someday love to see (hello, “London After Midnight”! Somewhere there’s a copy, I just know it…) the silent that I cannot seem to escape is “Greed.” I don’t even like it (so dreadfully, crushingly tragic; I’m shallow and prefer much lighter fare) and I’m sure I’ve, watched it at least a dozen times–always the same ending, too, d@mn it. “Intolerance” is of similar ilk in my book, although it does have an extensive dancing Pagans scene, which I always think improves any movie.

    And re: Daniel Craig? Oh definite yes on that one. Have him washed and brought to my tent.


  5. Kate says:

    Athene – o God, the very idea of “Greed” plunges me into blackest depression. Kage loved that film, for reasons I could never understand – though even she cried when the poor little canary dies trapped in the birdcage. “intolerance” has its fun moments, although it too has a super-sad, I-will-now-kill-myself bird scene – when the little white dove staggers across the table with its cart the second time, and crashes … *sob*

    Luckily, the idea of Daniel Craig restores my good mood. There’s a shot in the Trailer of “Cowboys and Aliens”, from behind, with Craig in jeans and a calico shirt – Oh. My. Gosh. He should be vaulting over a Cretan bull.


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