An entertaining new book seeks to “fix the flaws” in classic films, while also helping to keep a treasured, local movie theatre in business.

Pismo Beach author and film historian Chris Strodder wrote What’s Wrong With This Best Picture?: Fixing the Flaws in 100 Classic Films, in part to help support Jim Dee and the Palm Theatre in San Luis Obispo.

Author Chris Strodder (photo by Sheryl Patton)

Strodder, concerned about the Palm’s long-term viability post-COVID, approached Dee with his idea last year and the theatre owner agreed to serve as publisher of the 252-page book.

The author is no stranger to the ways and whims of Hollywood, having written extensively about pop culture and movies in 11 previous books, including The Daring Decade (Volumes One & Two) and The Academy Awards Book of Lists.

In his new book, Strodder offers a hundred short essays, spanning a century of cinema starting with the 1930s. With each film, regardless of genre, analysis is broken down into three parts: THE FILM section offers a brief synopsis of the movie, THE FLAW allows Strodder to suggest something about each entry that seems missing or inconsistent, while THE FIX offers a possible solution.

For example, movie-goers remember the iconic scene from The Godfather where the studio boss wakes up next to the severed head of his beloved horse. Strodder wonders if audiences ever thought about how anyone could manage to sneak a dead animal into an expensive mansion in the middle of the night undetected.

Strodder did, too. He went back to the original novel by Mario Puzo and discovered the elaborate planning involved in the incident, including the use of sleeping pills on the studio boss—relevant details that never made the screen, but could have made the story more plausible.

Strodder loves Bogart, Bergman, and all the usual suspects, but there’s one tiny flaw that lingers.”

Another example is Casablanca, a movie that many critics still place in the Top Five Films Ever Made more than 80 years after its release. Strodder loves Bogart, Bergman, and all the usual suspects, but there’s one tiny flaw that lingers.

Strodder was surprised (shocked! shocked!) by the way the movie treats the all-important Letters of Transit, those signed papers supposedly necessary for anyone who has any hope of departing Casablanca for Lisbon and beyond. Over the course of the film, people die and others risk their lives to have those pesky papers.

But when it comes to the climactic airport scene, Strodder argues, we must remember this: Everything that has led up to this point in Casablanca has been about those Letters of Transit. But Victor and Ilsa are shown in the finale walking to board the plane without ever showing their papers to anyone. Strodder, apparently a stickler for detail, wants those Letters examined one last time.

A bonus interview with theatre owner Dee is included in the book where he looks back on the Palm’s history . . . “

And so it goes. Why does Indiana Jones close his eyes when the Ark is first opened in Raiders of the Lost Ark (one of Strodder’s Top Three personal favorite films)?

How about that supposed happy ending for The Wizard of Oz with Dorothy safe at home? Not so fast, cautions Strodder. Miss Gulch is still out there and she’s coming for poor little Toto. The suggested fix here is to have Professor Marvel poke his head in the window and announce that she has vanished in the tornado.

A bonus interview with theatre owner Dee is included in the book where he looks back on the Palm’s history and includes some hilarious nuggets, such as the two women who showed up for Last Tango in Paris thinking it was a musical. Or the couple who showed up late and asked for a discount because the film had already started.

Dee also shares a bit of Palm trivia. The most attended film in the history of the theater? Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11.

What’s Wrong With This Best Picture? is available for purchase, either at the Palm Theatre during normal business hours or on Amazon for $19.95. All proceeds go directly to the Palm.

Dee is scheduled to retire at the end of June, but the popular movie venue will remain in business as the new SLO Film Center, operated by the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival with no change in programming.

:: David Congalton

Editor’s Note: See Chris Strodder’s review of Barry Lyndon, playing at the Palm Theatre June 21-23.