Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Directed By: Oscar Micheaux
Written By: Oscar Micheaux
Main Cast: Evelyn Preer, Flo Clements, James D. Ruffin, Jack Chenault, William Smith
A PIONEER FILM IN THE HISTORY OF AFRICAN AMERICAN CINEMA
Sidenote: The inter-library loan that I had out on this title finally came through and I knock off a movie from the "Unfound Files". As another quick note, this title is coming all the way from Lock Haven, PA from Stevenson Library at Lock Haven University.
Within Our Gates is the earliest surviving film directed by an African American. That African American is Oscar Micheaux and the film he's made is not only historically significant, but also not a bad movie either.
Our tale starts with Sylvia Landry, a black educator, heading North to visit her cousin, Alma. At the time Sylvia is engaged to Conrad, a man for whom Alma also has eyes for. Alma's brother-in-law, Larry is also in love with Sylvia, but alas Sylvia is in love with Conrad and has no interest in Larry. Confused yet? No? Okay...let's keep rolling.
Conrad sends word that he's on his way back from Brazil, where he's been working, but the letter is intercepted by Alma and instead of giving her the letter she arranges for Sylvia to be caught in a compromising situation with another man, and when Conrad finally returns and sees Sylvia, thinking she's with another man, storms off and heads back to Brazil, calling off the engagement.
From there, Sylvia decides to leave the North and head South to the Piney Woods school, a school for black children, where she meets Rev. Jacobs, the man who runs the school. She's happy there, but the funds for the school are rapidly running short and the school is in threat of being closed. Sylvia, wanting to help the school, heads back North in search of someone, anyone who would be willing to donate money to the struggling Piney Woods.
While trying to save a child from being hit by a car, Sylvia herself is struck by the vehicle and put in the hospital. It is here that she meets the driver of the car, an old, rich, kind hearted woman, who upon hearing her story, generously agrees to donate Piney Woods the sum of $50,000. Sylvia sends word back to the South, to Rev. Jacobs, not to close the school that funds are on the way, and once healed up, heads back to the South, to continue her work as a teacher.
The film concludes with Alma repenting for the evil that she's done, in causing Conrad to leave town and putting Sylvia in a compromising situation. She spills everything to Dr. Vivian, a man who fell in love with Sylvia while she was in the North in search of donations. She tells Dr. Vivian the story of Sylvia's family and how when Sylvia was still in school, her father was framed for the murder of a wealthy, white man and lynched for his "crime".
Prior to seeing Within Our Gates, I suspected the only reason that it made it into the book, was because it was of such historical value, being one of the first films directed by a black man. But, upon seeing it, I realized that it also had legs other than it's historical ones. This film weaved together so many details: the love triangle of Sylvia, Alma and Conrad, the Piney Woods school and it's search for money, the story of Sylvia and the murder of her family, and did it so gracefully as this film flowed very well and left me satisfied. There were a few down moments, and nothing but the plot really stuck out as outstanding, but all in all I'd call this a score in the good movies column.
RATING: 6/10 My original knee jerk reaction of a rating. This film was the answer to D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation, and it certainly, in my opinion, was much better.
NEXT UP: Korkarlen/The Phantom Carriage...which I still can't find.
Revised on September 30, 2009 5:07pm
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Sunday, September 13, 2009
*I may try varying my writing style a little bit in the posts to come. I can't decide whether I want to totally recap the film, like I've been doing or just give some thoughts on the film and what I liked or disliked about it. I'm not a writer, nor have I or will I ever claim to be, but like I said in the beginning, this is just basically a diary for me to keep for myself, on this incredible journey through cinema that I am undertaking. If someone happens to stumble across it and leaves a comment or two, that's awesome, but really this is just for me. I feel that recapping the film, may help me to really cement these films into my head, so I may stick with that technique.
*I'd like to post a top ten list every now and then, maybe after every 50 or 100 movies I watch, posting the ten that I've enjoyed the most at that point. I'm also keeping a written list of the movies I watch, so that I know how many I've viewed as I go.
*I'm getting most of the movies from Netflix. A lot of them are there and a lot of the ones that aren't there to get mailed to you, they still have on the site streaming, so you can watch them right there. I've basically went through the book all the way up through the thirties and looked researched the availability of each movie. There's a few that I can't find, and I will continue to search for them. If I get to a movie that I have been 100% unable to find, then I'll still leave a post for that movie, detailing the cast, director, etc.
Basically, thats it. I just wanted to post those few thoughts. Like I said...
...Les Vampires is next, which I'll be watching streaming on Netflix, possibly tomorrow, if not Monday.
September 13, 2009 3:01am
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Directed By: Edwin S. Porter
Written By: Scott Marble, Edwin S. Porter
Main Cast: "Bronco Billy" Anderson, George Barnes, Walter Cameron, Frank Hanaway
Steven Jay Schneider proclaims in his text, that many people have challenged the fact that, The Great Train Robbery was the first western, on the grounds that it is either not a western or it simply wasn't the first. He retorts by saying that, while it may not actually be the first true Western, other Westerns that preceded it, lacked a fully developed narrative. And answers the claims that it's "not a Western" by saying: "...train robberies since the days of Jesse James have been a part of Western lore, and other elements such as six shooters, cowboy hats and horses all serve to give the film a genuine Western feel."
It certainly felt like a Western to me. In fact, one of the fun things about watching this completely silent short film (no music or anything) was making up a score in my head. I could hear the exciting, fast paced music as the robbers entered the telegraph station. I could hear the old-time, swinging saloon style music as the, yet unformed, posse danced the night away, and I could certainly hear the climax of the music pumping up as the robbers and the posse had their final shootout, in the middle of a wooded area.
Perhaps the greatest scene in the movie, came at the end, when one of the robbers fired point blank directly at the screen. A menacing man, with an evil looking mustache firing right at me, as I finished off the second film in my 1001 journey, was the cherry on top of a great film.
IS IT A MUST SEE BEFORE I DIE?
Yes. Again, I have to fault it for length, as it just wasn't long enough to really drag you in and hook you. It left me wanting more, as I could've gone on for much, much longer than 12 minutes. I hope you'll take the time to check this one out for yourself, as I've included a link to The Great Train Robbery at the bottom of this post. A great piece of cinema history, that I'm glad I was able to see, as I thought it was very gripping for such short length.
NEXT UP: The Birth of A Nation...My introduction to Griffith
Link to The Great Train Robbery on Google Video
September 11, 2009 11:01pm
Friday, September 11, 2009
Directed By: Georges Melies
Written By: George Melies, from the novel Le Voyage dans la Lune by Jules Verne
Main Cast: Georges Melies Victor Andre, Bleuette Bernon, Jeanne d'Alcy, Henri Delannoy
THE VOYAGE BEGINS
We begin our journey, traveling backwards in time 107 years, to 1902...
A Trip to the Moon begins with a professor named Barbenfouillis, trying to convince some of his colleagues to accompany him on a trip to the moon, after some talking, five of his pals agree. They go to work building a giant cannon that will propel them to the moon, where they will land, explore and return with tales from a netherworld. Once shot out of the giant cannon, they land directly (as if it were a bullseye) in the moon's eye, which is made to resemble a face. After exploring the surface, they discover a cave filled with mushrooms and also inhabited by the Selenites, fantastical non-human creatures that capture them and take them to their King. However, the creatures are apparently vulnerable to being slapped on the head with umbrellas, as when this is done, they disappear in a puff of smoke. Managing to escape their captors, our hearty group of professors make their way back to their cannon and fall back to Earth, landing in the ocean. They are then rescued and all is well again.
Prior to this period many films, only normally running about two minutes in length, focused on everyday life, while Melies (who wrote, directed, starred in, produced, did the cinematography for and designed the costumes and sets) made a movie that broke that mold, and delved into the realm of science-fiction. A Trip to the Moon is actually said to be the first movie in the sci-fi genre.
IS IT A MUST SEE BEFORE I DIE?
Despite it's incredibly short length, A Trip to the Moon, is kind of fascinating to watch. To be able to view this picture and realize that it is over 100 years old is quite something in itself. While, I wouldn't call it something that is fabulous, I would say, by all means, see it. At only eight minutes in length, there's really no reason not to see it. And if this is the only movie you see out of the 1001 text, at least you'll be able to say that you saw a movie that was made in 1902, and that in itself, is a nice little bragging right.
RATING: 5/10 We'll cut it straight down the middle and call it an average flick. I believe its short length, yet historical value balance out to be something that should be seen.
NEXT UP: The Great Train Robbery...the western is born!
September 11, 2009 6:40pm
"The real usefulness of...1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, is that it provides good ideas for DVD rental. I have, by the way, seen 943 of the 1001 movies, and am carefully rationing the remaining titles to prolong my life"
The above piece was written by Roger Ebert and appears on the back jacket of the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book. So I start thinking...If I see all these films, I'll have seen more movies than Roger Ebert. Well, not really, as I'm sure he's seen other movies besides the ones collected in this 5th Edition of Steven Jay Schneider's text. But I could be one up on Mr. Thumbs Up! I could go up to him, on a rainy day in Chicago and say "Hey, Rog' I saw 'em all baby!! All 1001...943?...pathetic!!"
So I slapped down my $35 and bought the book. Not just to spite Ebert, but also to advance my knowledge of film.
So why am I telling you all this? I was hoping you'd be interested in joining me on my journey. This is a diary of my adventure into the history of film...the history of essential film, and I'd like you to come along. Lets travel all the way back to 1902 and make our way, together, to 2007. Now I must warn you...I'm not your typical critic. There are some so-called classics out there that I have been less then impressed with. For instance, "2001: A Space Odyssey" bores me to no end and I am of the opinion that "Requiem for A Dream" is a very overated mess. But I have the balls to tell those movies that, to their faces. I don't stand quivering and say "Yes, Requiem was good, I enjoyed it!", just to get a pat on the head and fit in with the rest of the crowd. I tell it like it is. If I don't like it, I say it and if I do...well I say that too, of course.
So let's go...let's have fun. Let's watch some movies and see what we haven't. Relive what we have...good or bad. Maybe we'll form some new opinions on flicks we previously thought of as stinkers...or maybe they'll stay stinking.
This is the beginning of my journey. My diary into cinema...
September 11, 2009 2:44am