Michael Ballard from Tucson, AZ


Aside from watch TCM, what do you do?

When not camped out at Tucson’s amazing arthouse theater, the Loft Cinema, I spend my time taking a stab at writing fiction.

I am also an occasional contributor to the website, classicfilmfan.com — which is helmed by Backlot Member (and recent TCM Guest Programmer) Carrie Specht — where I write reviews of classic films.

Oh! And I am a member of the local TCM fan club — with some of the most passionate classic movie fans I’ve had the pleasure to meet — The Desert Hollywood Classic Film Club.


What’s your favorite movie snack?

When I’m at a movie theatre, popcorn and/or junior mints. When I’m at home, I’m sort of like the TCM Wine Club; I like to pair my snacks to the genre. Musicals & screwball comedies: something salty & crunchy (popcorn, chips, etc), AND/OR something sweet (jelly beans, taffy, etc). Suspense: chewing gum (to keep the jaw working). Noir: martini and mixed nuts. Westerns: if there’s some handy, beef jerky.


What’s your favorite part of TCM?

First: Discovering movies I’ve never seen before; it makes life worth living knowing there are gems out there I have yet to uncover.

Second: The hosts who introduce the movies. I’m assuming they write their own intros. Each host is unique in their own way, and their personalities light up the screen.


What’s your favorite movie genre?

Too tough to single out just one. Noir, screwball and romantic comedies, musicals, dramas, westerns, suspense; and while not, technically, genres, they are categories worth mentioning — pre-code and silent films.

A story well-told is what I care about.


Who’s your favorite actor or actress or filmmaker of all time? And why?

Another toughie. Don’t even think I can whittle it down to a single one in each category. Actors: Humphrey Bogart — in his better roles, no matter how tough a character he played, behind his eyes you saw the shards of a broken man trying to put the pieces back together. Cary Grant — no one played suave and befuddled, debonair and inept, all at the same time, better than Grant.

Actresses: Barbara Stanwyck — versatile, dynamic, never a false note. Bette Davis — her intensity and focus are unmatched. Ingrid Bergman — her ability to tap into her vulnerability make her performances achingly human. Myrna Loy — funny, smart, and utterly natural in front of the camera.

Filmmakers: Billy Wilder — see next question for reasons. William Wyler — I am in awe of the performances he was able to get out of his actors; it always feels as if their characters are living each and every moment. Alfred Hitchcock — he took one genre and with each film found a new way to thrill his audience. François Truffaut — there’s an exuberance in his films, and an airy quality that succeeds in touching on the frailty and evanescence of existence. Ingmar Bergman — fearless in his examination of the human condition. Akira Kurosawa — there’s a quote attributed to Kurosawa that says it all: “To be an artist means never to avert one’s eyes.”


Who would you be thrilled to meet, and what would you say?

Billy Wilder. His films are funny, moving, inciteful, bawdy. He managed to make penetrating films that shed light on the human condition, all within the confines of genre storytelling and under the strict thumb of the Hays Code’s puritanical overseers.

In a short video tribute to Wilder on TCM, Jack Lemmon, who narrated, said he never spent a dull moment in Billy Wilder’s company. That’s the kind of person you want to spend time with. And for that reason I don’t think I’d say much; I’d give Mr. Wilder a subject and sit back and listen.


What do you collect?

Not really a collector. I have an eclectic array of DVDs. I also like to read; I have a substantial personal library.


If you had to pick just one, what would be your favorite movie?

Again, damn near impossible to name just one. Dodsworth, Day for Night, The Apartment, Hannah and Her Sisters, For a Few Dollars More, to name a few off the top of my head.

But I will say my desert island movie would have to be the one that jump-started my love for classic movies when I watched it one fortuitous and fateful day, during my precocious prepubescence, and that would be Casablanca.


Thank you Michael!  For being in our Member Spotlight, we're sending you a DVD set of Universal Studios rarities from the 1930s.  It's perfect for any eclectic DVD collection!

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sophia montgomery's picture

Dodsworth is in my top 5. That Ruth Chatterton is a piece of work.

sophia montgomery's picture

Dodsworth is in my top 5. That Ruth Chatterton is a piece of work.