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Ben Mankiewicz Talks TCM Classic Film Festival, Why 'Transformers' Is "Unwatchable" & The Movie He's Seen 40 Times

Interviews
by Diana Drumm
May 14, 2013 2:59 PM
6 Comments
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What is a movie that regularly makes the top films lists, a critical darling, that you don’t quite agree with? For example, Woody Allen said “Some Like It Hot.”  
You’re kidding. That’s just what I was about to say… Some people think it’s the funniest movie ever and I’m like, “I got it. They’re in drag.” This feels like a really good episode of “Three’s Company” to me.  I’m overstating. Don’t get me wrong… Like “Ace in the Hole” would be on my top ten list. It’s not that I don’t have an enormous appreciation for Billy Wilder, I just don’t think it’s that funny. Again, I’m totally hesitant to say this in front of a tape recorder, but yeah, I would say that and I had no idea that Woody Allen felt that way… It’s fascinating, I feel better.

About “Vertigo” beating “Citizen Kane” in the polls, what are your thoughts on that? Could it simply be black-and-white vs. color or a new generation?      
I think that maybe critics didn’t get the chance to see “Vertigo” for a while, so long, that they just thought, “Vertigo, Vertigo, we’ve got to go see it.”… Without having a list written down in front of me, “Strangers on a Train,” “The Birds,” “Psycho,” “North By Northwest,” “Rear Window,” “Notorious,” those are six Hitchcock movies I like more than “Vertigo.”

“To Catch A Thief?”
No. It’s a little slow. Don’t get me wrong, I love “To Catch A Thief,” I like them all, but those are six right there that I just get more out of than “Vertigo.”

And they don’t have Jimmy Stewart’s head bobbing mid-air.
Some of that’s Hitchcock’s love of German Expressionism and you’ve got to take that stuff for what it is. There’s a lot of that in “Marnie,” too. I like “Marnie.”…   The clear green screen, the clear fake backdrops and the painted boat in the back, but he didn’t care. He’s like it’s fine, they know what it is. They know the message we’re trying to pull of. So I don’t get, I wouldn’t say I don’t agree… but I don’t think they [“Citizen Kane” and “Vertigo”] are close, but it’s all right.  

What do you think of the TCM Film Festival in comparison to other film festivals? 
I think it’s the best. I don’t think there is any other network on television, almost any other entity accept maybe some sports teams, where the fans feel an obligation...to look after the network.

You’re like family at this point.
Yes… but it’s like we’re family and they [the fans] are the parents in some ways because they want us to succeed on our own. We have this huge responsibility, but they’re always watching us. They’re sort of keeping us in line. I go to Telluride every year and I love Telluride, but the sense of community here, like it’s not the same. At Telluride, it's film lovers so obviously there’s a connection there, but here these are classic film lovers... There’s this sense of community among the fans and this sense, that’s untrue of any other network on television, that they’re protecting us, looking out for us. I mean I watch a lot of television and I love TV… I love all of this great television that we have now -- “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad,” “Game of Thrones,” and “Veep.” But I don’t feel any sense that I need to look out for HBO or AMC or ESPN, which I watch all of the time. Those are just networks that show shows I like. TCM isn’t just a network that shows movies you like. It’s like we have this responsibility as caretakers and the fans know that. I think that makes the relationship between the network and the fan unlike anything else. No other network on television could have a festival like this.

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6 Comments

  • Daniel C | May 15, 2013 5:22 AMReply

    Vertigo was #7 in 1982, #4 in 1992, #2 in 2002. So no, it's no sudden change, he's talking out of his ass.

  • Stephen B | May 14, 2013 8:43 PMReply

    The Birds over Vertigo? Has he seen both movies?

  • Alan B | May 14, 2013 8:17 PMReply

    Wait, who gives a shit what Mankiewicz has to say about ANYTHING? The guy was hardly better than Ben Lyons, and 'The Young Turks' is pandering garbage in which the hosts declare that, hey, racial stereotypes are wrong. Yeah, I already knew that, but thanks geniuses. Sometimes talent skips a generation ... an idea which is given further credit as his cousin is Tom Mankiewicz (who helped turn the Bond franchise to a joke).

  • Javier | May 14, 2013 6:55 PMReply

    I think I'm quite possibly the only guy who visits the site and has yet to watch 'Out of Sight'

  • Diana Drumm | May 14, 2013 6:59 PM

    As the author/interviewer, I am ashamed to admit that I haven't seen it either. We can wallow together and/or watch it asap.

  • spassky | May 14, 2013 3:52 PMReply

    " Like “Ace in the Hole” would be on my top ten list."

    And, once again, Ben Mankiewicz is a f***ing BOSS

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