Quick Snaps: Joe Bob Briggs at Alamo Ritz

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Joe Bob Briggs

Last Sunday night, I went to Alamo Ritz for this month's Cinema Club screening, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek. Cinema Club is a monthly(ish) series that focuses on older films, with a discussion of those films afterward. A special guest is invited who has expert knowledge of the film being shown, and the discussions are often lively and interesting.

This month's Cinema Club special guest was Joe Bob Briggs, as you can see in the center of the above photo. You might not associate the drive-in movie critic of Grapevine, Texas with Preston Sturges movies, but he knew all about Sturges' work for Paramount and the ways in which Sturges managed to push this surprisingly racy-for-its-time movie -- about a young woman who finds herself pregnant after a night with a lot of soldiers -- past the Production Code office. I love Preston Sturges films and 1930s screwball comedies in general, but I definitely felt the limitations of my own film knowledge during the post-movie discussion. I didn't mind; it's a pleasure to learn new things about movies from someone like Joe Bob Briggs.

The Miracle of Morgan's Creek has been available on DVD since about 2005 (although it is out of print at the moment), but somehow I'd never gotten around to seeing it. As Briggs pointed out, the cover looks kind of cheesy and the DVD looks cheap and I assumed it was a lesser Sturges film. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would -- I don't like 1940s comedies half as much as those from the Thirties, with a few exceptions -- but my favorite Sturges comedies are still The Lady Eve and The Palm Beach Story. (I have a theory that the last great Thirties screwball comedy was The Palm Beach Story in 1942, but I won't get into that now.)

September's Cinema Club screening will be Only Angels Have Wings, the 1939 Howard Hawks movie ... and another one I haven't seen even though I have it on DVD at home. I am way more likely to see a movie in a theater than I am on DVD or VOD, I realize, so I'm lucky that Austin has more than one theater that brings us these older films occasionally. September's film expert will be Charles Ramirez-Berg, who led a great discussion earlier this year for Cinema Club's first movie, Ninotchka.

Cinema Club is hosted and programmed by Alamo programmers Daniel Metz (left in the above photo) and Lars Nilsen (right). I hope they'll bring Joe Bob Briggs back again for another evening.