As I’ve told you before, I am not a real writer, much less so on the topic of cinema. I bust out my recommendations every week in a matter of minutes before going to work. Travis Crawford was a true writer, as well as an exceptional film programmer. The world of movies was his full-time commitment. Travis suddenly passed away sometime around July 18th, and I felt compelled to write about him here.
In 2001 I was still a newcomer to Philadelphia, and happened to be given an open guest pass for the Philly Film Fest. I grabbed a copy of the massive schedule book from the local video store, and studied it until I settled on six screenings. The highlights were Coffin Joe’s This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse with the documentary The Strange World of José Mojica Marins, plus Dead or Alive, Female Prisoner Scorpion: Jailhouse 41, and The Isle (a pretty great week, no?). Each screening was hosted by a man named Travis Crawford. He was the programmer of the fest’s “Danger After Dark” series. This serious looking man, dressed in black, charmingly rattled off facts like a human film encyclopedia, and also did a fascinating live interview with one of the Coffin Joe doc directors. I liked this Crawford guy. Every time the fest season came up again I made sure to attend one of Travis’ screenings. I have many fond memories from these events, but a personal favorite was when I saw him conduct a Q and A with actor Jeffrey Combs where he wisely said something to the effect of “we would all be happy with you just reading from the phone book all night.”
As my love of offbeat cinema grew during my years in Philadelphia, I kept seeing Travis’ name pop up. A reprint of his teenage review of Spider Labyrinth in Stephen Thrower’s Eyeball Compendium blew my mind. That was followed by my discovering his DVD liner notes, commentaries, and many print and online reviews. Eventually Travis and I connected through Facebook (his feed was awesome). I had always intended on saying hello to him in person, but never got the chance before moving to Portland in 2014. Not long after that, Travis had some personal issues that lead to him being temporarily homeless. I paid for a couple of nights stay in a hotel, along with many other friends and followers. We spoke on the phone briefly then, and I’d like to think that I expressed my gratitude for his work. What he gave me as a movie fanatic was worth far more than I paid for his room. He eventually got settled into a stable life again, so I consulted him a bit for Anomalous Cinema. He was always quick to help, even though my “writing” must have made him wince in agony when he dared look at it.
When the news came that he had passed, I was struck by a deep sadness. From what I knew at a distance, Travis was a good, but troubled man. He was funny as hell, and probably the most educated person I’ve known on the topic of cinema. To remain informed about current movies Travis watched new screeners almost every day, often more than one. Many of those films none of us will ever have an opportunity to see. My condolences to all that knew him personally. Their loss must be crushing. He was far too young and talented to leave us so soon. Rest in Peace Travis. Thank you for the incredible movie experiences, and for teaching this amateur cinemaphile so many lessons.
I highly recommend this podcast from a few years back featuring Travis (there are several good links on the episode website as well), and this brief article from Filmmaker Magazine.
Also, to give you an idea of the scope of Travis’ film knowledge, check out this January 8, 2022 Facebook post:
So finally, my favorite films of 2021, in order of preference:
1.) Ryusuke Hamaguchi X2: WHEEL OF FORTUNE AND FANTASY and DRIVE MY CAR
2.) THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD
3.) BAD LUCK BANGING OR LOONY PORN
8.) THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BOY IN THE WORLD
9.) THE INNOCENTS
10.) STATE FUNERAL
Honorable mention (alphabetically): FAYA DAYI, HOTEL POSEIDON, IN THE MIRROR, LICORICE PIZZA, MAD GOD, THE MEDIUM, MEMORIA, THE NOVICE, RED POST ON ESCHER STREET, RED ROCKET, SEARCHING FOR MR. RUGOFF, SHORT VACATION, THE TROUBLE WITH BEING BORN, THE VELVET UNDERGROUND.
This time, I tried to just focus on films with U.S. distribution (although some won’t be released here until later in 2022), but there are a couple in the “honorable mentions” section that still need to be acquired. Also, actual release years are older on a couple titles, but those saw some form of release in the U.S. in 2021. Feel free to argue, or inquire about omissions.
Thanks to Joseph Gervasi for help with the above.
Thank you. -Jonathan Canady