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To dream in the dark: Scott Marks says, “That’s all, folks!”

Yesterday’s gears and aperture plates have been replaced by hard drives and digital touch screens

That's all folks!
That's all folks!

After what management said, I found it impossible to continue any further as The Reader’s film critic. What did they say? “Scott, I’m sorry to say we’re laying you off.” The real shocker is that, at a time when print journalism is in greater need of a ventilator than Katherine Heigl’s career, I could until this week still be held in your hand on a weekly basis.

That’s All, folks!

The San Diego Reader had its origins as a sort of sister-paper to the Chicago Reader, a weekly that I grew up with, and one that had a tremendous influence on my cinematic sensibilities. I learned more about movies from their trio of critics — Jonathan Rosenbaum, Terry Curtis Fox, and my persnickety, auteur-fired pal Dave Kehr — than anyone short of Andre Bazan and Andrew Sarris. It’s been a great 12-year run, the length of which I attribute to not having a cubicle to feng shui. (If I had to report into the office, my meshugganah-kop would have been shown the door after two weeks.) Dear readers, whether we agree or not on a given film is of no importance. I’m as much a PR man as I am a critic, and my goal has always been to perpetuate the beauty and indispensability of theatrical exhibition. Even the shittiest movie smells better on a big screen.

My predecessor Duncan Shepherd had the good sense to get while the getting was good. The long-abstained-from union between movies and television had been forever consummated. Celluloid afforded audiences an opportunity to dream in the dark. Hollywood’s digital conversion put an end to that, rendering all that came in its wake little more than big TV. The lighting is brighter, the colors pop, and gosh only knows what aspect ratio they’ll come up with next. Visits to the lobby to complain about focus had been supplanted by treks to ask for assistance in getting the sloth in row nine to resist the urge to text in mid-movie. I’ll never forget that certain matinee at the Gaslamp, when the dunderhead seated four rows down took time out of the movie to watch a video on his phone.

My favorite audience exchange during my 12-year tenure occurred at the dreaded AMC La Jolla and it went something like this:

Marks: “You’re phone’s on.”

Neanderthal in Row Eight: “Fuck you!”

Marks: “Okay, but I like doing it in the dark. Please turn your phone off.”

Ther lug not only compiled, I got a laugh out of him!

One might think digital technology would have done wonders for older films in dire need of a facelift. A few years back, I took in a 4K restoration of Marnie. It’s a film I had the good fortune to experience several times in 35mm dye-transfer Technicolor®, and not once do I recall grain the size of golf balls bucketing down throughout the show. It wasn’t a projection problem; the picture that followed it looked just fine. Back in the day, if it was a projection problem, I knew enough about 35mm presentation to be help get a show or three up and running. Yesterday’s gears and aperture plates have been replaced by hard drives and digital touch screens that might just as well be written in cuneiform. Believe it or don’t, I have been sent packing from more press screenings canceled due to digital technology mishaps than operator error. In olden days, a seasoned booth op could get the show up with a few tightened screws or a spare part they were fortunate to have on hand. Today, if studios don’t provide exhibitors with the set of codes needed for a Barco to “ingest” a feature — or if slacking assistant managers fail to start the process — the show won’t go on.

I leave you with what has become a Holy Grail of cinema, a historical landmark that just years ago appeared to have as much chance of resurfacing as did the missing reels of Greed. My original intention was to post this on my birthday as a gift to my readers, but fate had other plans. I have yet to listen to them, and now find myself with a sudden surfeit of free time. Here are the original audio transcriptions of Francois Truffaut’s groundbreaking series of interviews that spawned the director’s indispensable interview book Hitchcock/Truffaut. You’re welcome!

https://gointothestory.blcklst.com/francois-truffaut-interviews-alfred-hitchcock-82624f1fda4c

In a little over a month, The Reader turns 50. Happy Anniversary! At a time when movie theaters were shuttered, Jim Holman continued to employ a full-time movie critic. Thank you, Mr. Holman, for leaving me the heck alone and for having the good sense to team me with Matthew Lickona. I don’t know which means more to me. All good things! And thank you, my readers. Follow me on Twitter (@scottmarks) to see where I land.

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That's all folks!
That's all folks!

After what management said, I found it impossible to continue any further as The Reader’s film critic. What did they say? “Scott, I’m sorry to say we’re laying you off.” The real shocker is that, at a time when print journalism is in greater need of a ventilator than Katherine Heigl’s career, I could until this week still be held in your hand on a weekly basis.

That’s All, folks!

The San Diego Reader had its origins as a sort of sister-paper to the Chicago Reader, a weekly that I grew up with, and one that had a tremendous influence on my cinematic sensibilities. I learned more about movies from their trio of critics — Jonathan Rosenbaum, Terry Curtis Fox, and my persnickety, auteur-fired pal Dave Kehr — than anyone short of Andre Bazan and Andrew Sarris. It’s been a great 12-year run, the length of which I attribute to not having a cubicle to feng shui. (If I had to report into the office, my meshugganah-kop would have been shown the door after two weeks.) Dear readers, whether we agree or not on a given film is of no importance. I’m as much a PR man as I am a critic, and my goal has always been to perpetuate the beauty and indispensability of theatrical exhibition. Even the shittiest movie smells better on a big screen.

My predecessor Duncan Shepherd had the good sense to get while the getting was good. The long-abstained-from union between movies and television had been forever consummated. Celluloid afforded audiences an opportunity to dream in the dark. Hollywood’s digital conversion put an end to that, rendering all that came in its wake little more than big TV. The lighting is brighter, the colors pop, and gosh only knows what aspect ratio they’ll come up with next. Visits to the lobby to complain about focus had been supplanted by treks to ask for assistance in getting the sloth in row nine to resist the urge to text in mid-movie. I’ll never forget that certain matinee at the Gaslamp, when the dunderhead seated four rows down took time out of the movie to watch a video on his phone.

My favorite audience exchange during my 12-year tenure occurred at the dreaded AMC La Jolla and it went something like this:

Marks: “You’re phone’s on.”

Neanderthal in Row Eight: “Fuck you!”

Marks: “Okay, but I like doing it in the dark. Please turn your phone off.”

Ther lug not only compiled, I got a laugh out of him!

One might think digital technology would have done wonders for older films in dire need of a facelift. A few years back, I took in a 4K restoration of Marnie. It’s a film I had the good fortune to experience several times in 35mm dye-transfer Technicolor®, and not once do I recall grain the size of golf balls bucketing down throughout the show. It wasn’t a projection problem; the picture that followed it looked just fine. Back in the day, if it was a projection problem, I knew enough about 35mm presentation to be help get a show or three up and running. Yesterday’s gears and aperture plates have been replaced by hard drives and digital touch screens that might just as well be written in cuneiform. Believe it or don’t, I have been sent packing from more press screenings canceled due to digital technology mishaps than operator error. In olden days, a seasoned booth op could get the show up with a few tightened screws or a spare part they were fortunate to have on hand. Today, if studios don’t provide exhibitors with the set of codes needed for a Barco to “ingest” a feature — or if slacking assistant managers fail to start the process — the show won’t go on.

I leave you with what has become a Holy Grail of cinema, a historical landmark that just years ago appeared to have as much chance of resurfacing as did the missing reels of Greed. My original intention was to post this on my birthday as a gift to my readers, but fate had other plans. I have yet to listen to them, and now find myself with a sudden surfeit of free time. Here are the original audio transcriptions of Francois Truffaut’s groundbreaking series of interviews that spawned the director’s indispensable interview book Hitchcock/Truffaut. You’re welcome!

https://gointothestory.blcklst.com/francois-truffaut-interviews-alfred-hitchcock-82624f1fda4c

In a little over a month, The Reader turns 50. Happy Anniversary! At a time when movie theaters were shuttered, Jim Holman continued to employ a full-time movie critic. Thank you, Mr. Holman, for leaving me the heck alone and for having the good sense to team me with Matthew Lickona. I don’t know which means more to me. All good things! And thank you, my readers. Follow me on Twitter (@scottmarks) to see where I land.

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Comments
12

long run... always good to be alive at the end! write on.

Aug. 25, 2022

Thanks, Widely. I hear that I can earn more than $17k online by doing a very easy home-based job in my part time.

Aug. 25, 2022

I'll miss your columns, I was hoping your capsules would eventually number at least as many as the previous Reader film critic logged. Without knowing I can click over to your newest reviews, it's gonna seem woefully inadequate now to enjoy your Twitter posts with everything from old film mag clippings to cats who look like Martin Scorsese ---

Aug. 25, 2022

Thanks, Jay. It's been a pleasure working with you.

Sept. 1, 2022

I am not as philosophical, amusing or graceful as you are, Scott, on hearing this bad news. Scott Marks axed? There are so many more deserving candidates on the dwindling Reader roster! A great pity for those of us who faithfully read your column, learned so much about the art, history and technique of movie-making, enjoyed the strong reviews and, above all,, appreciated the mensch-generosity that saturated your work. I have to say here: long-winded pompous predecessor Duncan Shepherd never held a candle to your light. Many thanks for everything and best wishes to you!

Aug. 26, 2022

You've always been a loyal supporter, Mon. I'll miss you too, even though your thoughts on my predecessor are patently absurd. Duncan was a great critic who left when money was flush and most films were in need of flushing. You know where to find me just in case there's a bar bet in need of settling. Seriously, you've always kept me honest and for that you have my undying gratitude. Until that time.

Sept. 1, 2022

Your predecessor offensively slammed Simone Signoret for growing old and losing her siren good looks when, late in her life, she played a starring role as "Madame Rosa" in the beautiful French film about an old Jewish woman who befriended a neighbor boy living in her impoverished Arab banlieue of Paris. It was the '70's, Scott, but it was still unforgivable wrong-headed condescending misogyny. For that, he gets a black spot. Cheers and thanks for not being like that.

Sept. 1, 2022

Simone Signoret was in her 50s at the time. She gained a lot of weight for the roll and was made to appear 10 years older. Her wrinkles were accented, etc. This was Hollywood, not real life. Actors and actresses are used to this. If not, they're in the wrong business.

Sept. 1, 2022

That was a shock. The READER has been fortunate to have had a writer of your talent and wit for a long period. The times they are a changin'.

Sept. 2, 2022

Like you said. Your comments never failed to make me laugh. Thanks for paying attention.

Sept. 2, 2022
This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.
Sept. 6, 2022

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