Movie friendships, favorite comedies, awards and binge-watching

Columbia PicturesCary Grant (left), Ralph Bellamy, and Rosalind Russell star in “His Girl Friday,” the 1940 newspaper comedy from director Howard Hawks. 

What are you watching? In addition to streaming and watching DVDs of upcoming features, I’ve also discovered the joys of binging shows, something I hadn’t done very much of because of all the movies I watch.

Over the past many months, starting in March of last year, I’ve watched every available episode of “I Love Lucy,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Will & Grace,” “Frasier,” “Sex In The City,” “Somebody Feed Phil,” Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee,” and David Letterman’s “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.” The shows are available through Netflix, Hulu or HBO Max.

I found Seinfeld’s show to be wonderfully addicting, and I don’t even drink coffee. However, I do like the history of comedy. I’ve always been dedicated to Letterman, who I think is a comic genius.

I did a story on the great talk show host called “Mister Letterman’s Neighborhood” for WIVB-TV. Channel 4 videographer Rich Ersing and I went to Manhattan for then-news director Kirk Varner, also a Letterman fan, to chronicle Dave’s world.

One of the interesting aspects of the past isolating year is that even though you don’t see as many people as you had, long-time bonds with friends seem to become stronger. The other day I heard from Marlene Arvan, one of my dearest friends, and a member of the Directors Guild Of America.

I went to college with Marlene, who was a great film programmer and one of the smartest people I knew back then about movies. On campus, she chose literally hundreds of classic, independent, and international films for free student film series. Marlene was, and is, a sublime cinema influencer. Watching her selections over the years was a truly great movie education.

Decades after meeting, she and I are still friends. I went to her wedding to Frank Stettner in Manhattan, where they lived at the time, and still live, although now in a loft I’ve stayed at often. Being invited to someone’s wedding is a genuinely meaningful hallmark of a longstanding friendship.

Over the years, Marlene has worked on numerous motion pictures and television productions as an assistant director and a second unit director, the latter a job that calls for overseeing background footage, especially action material. Frank is a Primetime Emmy award-winning sound engineer for movies and TV. He received his Emmy for his work on Martin Scorsese’s “Boardwalk Empire,” specifically for the episode titled “The Milkmaid’s Lot.” He also has a nomination for the series’ pilot episode.

One of the things I liked about the loft were their individual rooms. The apartment has three bedrooms. There’s the large master suite and the other bedrooms each calls their office. Marlene’s is filled with literally thousands of books, including hundreds about the history, analysis, and making of movies. Frank’s is jammed with sound engineering equipment that is amazing to see.

Marlene wrote that she and Frank were watching “The Mauritanian,” a new film. However, proving that sometimes even the pros have technical problems, near the end of the movie, the image on their Academy Screener started to fragment. She stated: “We rec’d a DVD and it was pretty thrilling to watch except the DVD started disintegrating towards the end. Aaargh!! Now I have to find it streaming somewhere.”

“The Mauritanian” will be available to watch soon. It has already received Golden Globe nominations for best performance by an actor in a motion picture drama for Tahar Rahim and best performance by an actress in a supporting role in a motion picture for Jodie Foster.

Yes, we are in awards season, and as a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, I participate in the Critics Choice Awards. We’ve already selected the nominees, and we vote for the winners March 4-5. They will be announced in a televised program on March 7 on The CW network. The CCA group is the largest association of critics and entertainment reporters working in a variety of media in the United States and Canada.

The Golden Globes are scheduled to air Feb. 28 with its first bi-coastal awards show. Tiny Fey will co-host from the Rainbow Room in New York City and Amy Poehler will co-host from the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills. The Academy Awards are set for April 25. Both ceremonies will be televised.

I also re-watch movies that I love. The other day, I was asked by a website to list some comedy guilty pleasures. My response was, as it always is, I never feel guilty about liking any film, regardless of genre. Why should anyone feel guilty about liking something that entertains them? Never apologize for any movie you like passionately.

In alphabetical order, my top 15 sound comedies are “Annie Hall,” “Auntie Mame,” “Best In Show,” “Dr. Strangelove,” “Duck Soup,” “Dumb And Dumber,” “His Girl Friday,” “Some Like It Hot,” “The Big Lebowski,” “The Cable Guy,” “The Solid Gold Cadillac,” “The Thrill Of It All,” “Trouble In Paradise” (the 1932 version), “Waiting For Guffman,” and “What’s Up, Doc?” I also have silent film favorites.

Remember, as The Dude says: “This rug I had, it really tied the room together.”

All of the movies are available to watch either on DVD or Blu-ray, through On Demand, the Criterion Channel streaming, Turner Classic Movies streaming or cable, and other streaming choices.

Michael Calleri reviews films for the Niagara Gazette and the CNHI news network. Contact him at

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