Ivan G. Shreve Jr. – Critical Juncture Movie Interviews

Friday, June 25, 2010 at 11:46 am

Each week on our Critical Juncture segment, we interview a film critic or movie blogger and get their opinions on cinema past and present. This week, our guest is Ivan G. Shreve Jr., a driving force behind the blog known as Thrilling Days of Yesterday. But before we jump into the question and answer section of this article, let’s take a minute and learn a little more about this resident of Athens, Georgia.

Ivan was born in 1963, but he readily admits to being born in the wrong era. His tastes have always been skewed towards things a bit older than himself, and classic movies are a real passion. The same goes for old-time radio (or OTR, as hobbyists refer to it), something he discovered when a Charleston, WV station rebroadcast the classic comedy serial Lum and Abner.

From there, his taste in radio expanded to include classic BBC series such as The Goon Show. Other favorites of OTR included Will Rogers, Stan Freberg, and The Shadow. The latter wasn’t aired until 11pm, and the young Ivan often had to do a bit of sneaking to stay up past his bedtime and thrill to the adventures of Lamont Cranston (aka The Shadow).

As the years passed, Ivan began to collect these broadcasts, eventually amassing more than 4,500 on CD, vinyl, and cassette. When he discovered the Internet, it wasn’t long before he was blogging about OTR. This morphed into Thrilling Days of Yesteryear on November 4th, 2003, and he routinely covers classic movies and television shows, as well as radio broadcasts of days gone by. In his words, TDOY is “a blog that revels in the good old days—when black-and-white movies weren’t necessarily bad things, when people listened to a RADIO for entertainment…and when unreality shows (talking horses, witches, genies, monsters and martians) ruled the television airwaves.”

The rest of the day, Ivan spends much of his time hoping and praying that his local cable company will finally start carrying Turner Classic Movies.

Only Good Movies: What’s the first movie that you remember seeing?
Ivan Shreve: My memory recesses have been dimmed due to age, but the first movie I remember seeing that had a tremendous impact on me was the original King Kong (1933).

OGM: What’s the most recent movie you’ve seen?
IS: The last movie I saw in theaters was Get Smart (2008). As for what I’ve been watching recently, it would have to be a showing of Breaker! Breaker! (1977) via IFC On Demand.

OGM: Is there a particular film that you feel is criminally underrated?
IS: Funny you should ask this–I read a write-up of The Mating Season (1951) on somebody’s weblog the other day and mused that not only is it not available on DVD, it never even received a VHS release. Which is a shame; it’s a great screwball comedy laced with a cynicism about the “American Dream.”

OGM: Which director do you feel has turned out the best overall body of work?
IS: I’d go with Alfred Hitchcock, only because he’s one of the few directors whose movies I don’t mind revisiting time and time again.

OGM: From an artistic standpoint, which film do you think is most important?
IS: I’d be nuts not to go with Citizen Kane (1941). It broke all the rules and invented new ones.

OGM: All artsy considerations aside, which movie is your personal favorite?
IS: Casablanca (1942). It’s got it all–action, suspense, romance, drama, humor, music, etc.

OGM: In your opinion, which film is entirely overrated?
IS: Gone With the Wind (1939). The cliche goes that there are two kinds of American movies–Wind and “everything else.” For me, it was three hours and forty-two minutes of my life that I’ll never get back. (Heck, I could have watched Casablanca twice!)

OGM: Have you ever walked out of the theatre during a film? If so, what movie was playing?
IS: Never. Walking out of a movie is conceding defeat; bad movies inspire the snark in me.

OGM: In your mind, what’s the ultimate goal of a movie critic?
IS: To make me want to see a movie…and if I’ve already seen it, to provide a new and different perspective on the film.

OGM: Time to look into the future. Do you predict any major changes for the movie industry over the next 25 years?
IS: Not really. The industry seems to want to continue in the same old mold–making films about blowing things up or remaking movies that are best left untouched.

OGM: Here’s another chance to predict the future. Name a relatively unknown actor or actress who’ll be a huge star within five years.
IS: I’m just not up on current movies to answer this one to your satisfaction. I have a tendency to live in the past.

OGM: Who’s your favorite movie critic to read?
IS: I’m not so much a fan of movie critics as I am film historians–I like individuals like Leonard Maltin and Danny Peary. But I’ll admit I do enjoy reading reviews by Mike Clark and David Thomson, too.

Thanks to Ivan Shreve for taking part in this edition of Critical Juncture. If you’re interested in classic radio, television and film, I’d highly recommend that you check out Thrilling Days of Yesteryear.

And until next time, here are a few more interviews to tide you over:

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