Ten Years of Take Two with Daniel M. Kimmel
Congratulations to long-time film reviewer Daniel M. Kimmel. This issue marks his tenth year of his Take Two at the Movies column. My first issue to work with Daniel was #133 where he dug deeper into the world of Rollerball, a film I missed when it was released in 1975. His column inspired me to go dig up a copy of the movie to see what I’d missed.
It was his insightful look at one of my own favorite movies of all time, The Man Who Fell to Earth, that secured my place as a Take Two fan. Showcasing David Bowie in his first starring film role, Daniel dove deep into a film I’ve watched 50 times and brought out new insight and perspective. It’s my pleasure to congratulate Daniel M. Kimmel on a decade of his column in Space and Time and share a look at the man behind the pen that explores the screen.
Daniel, you have covered a lot of ground since that first column back in Winter 2010 issue, #112. In it, you covered the restoration re-release of cult classic Metropolis, later reprinted in your book Jar Jar Binks Must Die. How did you get started with Space and Time in the first place?
While I have shared a convention hotel room with Gordon, my time with S&T began with Hildy. Don’t know how we first met, but I was invited to participate in a reading of the legendarily horrible “Eye of Argon” in which she was already a veteran and VERY funny.
I’ve heard of the epic readings of Eye of Argon. For those not familiar with “one of the genre’s most beloved pieces of appalling prose,” SFX Magazine, Argon has become known in science fiction circles as a sort of sport with the goal of seeing how long you can read the text out loud before laughing. Written by Jim Theis when he was just 16, it has become staple entertainment. How did that first meeting during a reading result in Take Two coming about?
I met people involved with the late, lamented “Internet Review of Science Fiction.” I was about to propose a film review column when I found out a friend was already doing one. I don’t try to steal work from others, so I proposed a column on classic films. When they shut down I suggested a similar column to Hildy. She accepted and the rest is history.
History in every sense of the word—and speaking of—when were you first published?
My first by-lined publication was in my elementary school annual when I was in first grade. My mother must have written it down and submitted it although the three-sentence content was mine.
First grade! Everyone starts somewhere… your somewhere is just before the starting gate. What was your first pro sale then?
It was a humorous feature for a weekly newspaper in Brookline, Massachusetts while I was still in law school.
It seems that you naturally gravitated toward nonfiction from the beginning. Why do you think that is?
Going back to my teenage years my writing consisted of humorous fiction and film reviews. When I started writing professionally, it was the latter that sold, so I pursued that along with related non-fiction reporting.
You’re known as a real movie aficionado, particularly of the science fiction genre. Has this always been a passion?
Several years ago, I came across the birth announcement my parents sent out when I was born. It was a movie marquee with my mother listed as producer and my father as director. I was marked right from the start.
I think you were marked for sure! What were the first films you remember?
According to family legend it was “House of Frankenstein” at around age 4 where I supposedly spent my time chewing on Chiclets. The earliest I actually remember is at age 5, with my father taking me to “Mr. Magoo and the Forty Thieves” and then going across the street to another movie theater to see Disney’s “Snow White.”
In the course of decades of movie reviews, what are some of your personal favorites to watch?
In SF it’s the 1986 version of “The Fly.” But my most favorite movie which I’ve seen more times than I can count is “Annie Hall.”
With all the social distancing, how do you think studios will evolve to continue production?
Interesting question that I think they’re still working out. One approach was the season finale of “The Blacklist” which used animation to create the
scenes they had not yet shot. Another is Tyler Perry’s studio in Georgia where they’ve created “quarantine camps” to allow groups to work together. Until we have a vaccine it’s going to be a problem.
What have been some of the highlights you’ve experienced from writing Take Two?
The best thing is being able to offer serious discussion on SF films and, I hope, gotten readers to take a fresh look at movies
like “Rollerball,” “The Man Who Fell to Earth” and overlooked movies like “The Final Cut.” Too many critics give SF the back of the hand or think it’s all about the special effects. As a fan of many genres, I reject the notion that science fiction movies are unworthy of such consideration.
I’m so glad the genre has you to champion it. What has been your biggest challenge?
I try not to get stuck on the films of a particular era. So the challenge is to keep jumping around. My latest column is on “Barbarella,” a movie from 1968, so the next one – not yet planned – will go into the past or future even though I know that somewhere down the road I’ll come back to talk about “Planet of the Apes,” which came out that same year.
What advice do you have for new writers?
Get friends and family to read your stuff and give HONEST feedback. Stroking your ego is nice but useless. Listen to people who tell you that something isn’t clear or needs elaboration. As a film critic I’ve had to listen to criticism of my own work. Sometimes I dismiss it out of hand, but I pay attention and when I have to admit they have a point, I ask myself what I can do about it.
Good advice. How important are the boring parts of being a professional writer such as organization and taxes?
You have to deal with it. I don’t let it overwhelm me, but I can’t ignore it. When I was teaching I’d tell my students that if I submitted a movie review weeks after it opened no one cared. (As opposed to writing about classic films for S&T.) Deadlines matter. The one time I missed a deadline was on my books on Dreamworks, The Dream Team. I contacted my publisher and told him I wouldn’t have the manuscript in when it was due. Having already done a book for him, he knew I wasn’t blowing him off and asked why. I replied that Steven Spielberg had announced that morning they were selling the company and I thought we should let them finish their story
before I finished mine. I got the extension.
That’s definitely a good reason! I can see why the publisher moved the date. Where do you see yourself going from here? New projects and plans?
While I love doing the S&T column and hope to keep helping readers discover or rediscover classic SF films, in recent years I’ve been working on my fiction. I’ve had three novels and more than two dozen short stories published. When people tell me I made them laugh out loud I reply, “Then I’ve done my job.” I’m currently working on a fourth work of fiction and wondering what I’ll be doing for my next column.
I can’t wait to see what the future brings for you, especially that next column. Where can we find you?
Thank you so much for taking the time to share all this with us. I look forward to seeing where you go in the next ten years. Stay tuned!