Friday, October 30, 2009

48. L'Age D'Or /The Age of Gold (1930)

Running Time: 62 minutes
Directed By: Luis Bunuel
Written By: Luis Bunuel, Salvador Dali
Main Cast: Gaston Modot, Lya Lys, Max Ernst, Caridad de Laberdesque

IT WON'T TAKE LONG TO SUM UP ANOTHER BUNUEL ODDBALL FLICK

Much like its predecessor, An Andalusian Dog, Luis Bunuel once again brings us another movie that makes us scratch our heads and say "What the fuck??!!" The Age of Gold certainly makes us do both of those things, but not in that good way that makes you wanna run right over to the computer and demand answers to your questions. Its that bad way, that makes you not really care and just be glad that the craziness has ended.

My review of The Age of Gold, will be kept short and sweet, because I really am not sure how to put this movie down into words. Suffice it to say that if you enjoy David Lynch's Eraserhead, then this flick is probably for you. Once again, I don't mind odd, I just like to have some idea of what's playing out in front of me, and if there's an amazing amount of symbolism, then I at least want it to make sense and not just be babble spread all over the screen for the viewer to look at and have to furrow their brow and be completely puzzled.

There were certain parts that I didn't mind, the sexual misadventures of the man and woman, were quite interesting, as the man and woman kissed and gnawed at each other's fingers and gazed at the feet of a statue, while the woman even resorted to sucking the toe of the statue. Quite odd, yet quite interesting and gloriously grotesque. I'll give it a few notches for the few scenes that didn't make me want to rip my hair out, but that's all I can give it, as most of this film was a complete waste of time. Sorry Mr. Bunuel, me and your films just don't seem to be seeing eye to eye.

RATING: 2.5/10 That's absolutely as high as I can go, and that's being generous.

NEXT UP: Earth...Should be ready either late tonight or tomorrow. Stay tuned kiddies.

October 29, 2009 11:16pm

Monday, October 26, 2009

47. Der Blaue Engel/The Blue Angel (1930)

Running Time: 101 minutes
Directed By: Josef von Sternberg
Written By: Carl Zuckmayer, from the novel "Professor Unrat" by Heinrich Mann
Main Cast: Emil Jannings, Marlene Dietrich, Kurt Gerron

...HELLO THIRTIES

The thirties bust onto the scene with a vengeance, providing me with an exceptional German film starring the wonderful performances of Emil Jannings and Marlene Dietrich.

Jannings plays Professor Emmanuel Rath, a teacher at the local college who is respected by everyone but his students, who write notes about him behind his back and secretly call him "Professor Garbage". When Rath finds out how his pupils are spending their evenings, down at the Blue Angel nightclub, under the spell of the cabaret's headliner Lola Lola, he follows them there one night, in an attempt to catch them in the act and make sure they are properly punished. Upon arriving at the Blue Angel, Rath is almost automatically swept up and quickly finds himself in the dressing room of Lola Lola, as she undresses in front of him, leaving him quite taken aback.

Rath falls short of catching his students at the Blue Angel, but returns to the cabaret the next night in an attempt to once again meet with the gorgeous, sassy singer and apologize for his crude, abrupt behavior of the previous night. The meeting goes well and once again Rath is swept up in the fast paced world of the cabaret and quickly finds himself filled with champagne and waking up the next morning in the bed of Lola Lola. She treats him well, something he isn't used to, and sends him off to work with a kiss, breakfast and many terms of endearment.

Upon arriving at school, he finds his students immediately ridiculing him for falling in love with Lola and after causing a ruckus and drawing other professors into the room, the students are dismissed and so is Professor Rath. He returns to the cabaret, only to find Lola Lola and her crew packing up and moving out of town. Professor Rath wastes no time asking Lola to marry him and getting an acceptance from her.
What would seem like a happy ending, is not, as the marriage is the first stop on a train to complete downfall for the good professor. After losing all their money, Rath is reduced to taking on the role of a clown in the traveling cabaret act and is almost frightened to learn that the act will be returning to the professor's hometown and the Blue Angel nightclub. What will Rath's former colleagues think when they see the once respected professor, traipsing around onstage dressed as a clown.

Jannings and Dietrich are both sublime in their roles and Jannings deserves even more praise. Much like his role in The Last Laugh, Jannings' character in this film is reduced to absolutely nothing and von Sternberg does an excellent job mastering and plotting that downfall. You really start to feel sorry for the good professor after a while and want to reach out when he's down and lift him back up. You also get a sense that the professor is just a lonely guy, as one of the first scenes in the film shows Rath awakening from a night's slumber only to find that his pet canary has died. With absolutely no remorse, his maid takes the dead bird and throws it into the fire, and Rath is left with a befuddled look on his face. Poor guy!! This film was great, as I truly enjoyed it and hope that its a sign of things to come in the 1930's.

RATING: 8.5/10 I took it down a notch or so, for the singing scenes as the German songs really didn't do a whole lot for me and I could've done without them. No biggie though.

NEXT UP: The Age of Gold...Luis Bunuel directs...Oh man, more weirdness!!

October 26, 2009 1:26am

Saturday, October 24, 2009

From 20's to 30's

I mounted my steed and looked ahead at the dirt road that lay before me. I have spent several months getting to know the early days of cinema, traveling through the early 1900s, the teens and the twenties. My horse began to gallop slowly down the road, kicking up a small sprig of dust with each step. Without realizing my head turned back and I took one last look at the characters that I've met thus far on my journey: Dr. Caligari, Battling Burrows, Nanook, Count Orlok, Buster Keaton and his many personas, Sisif the engineer, Ahmed the thief of Bagdad, McTeague, The Lone Prospector, Alonzo the Armless, Jakie Rabinowitz the jazz singer, Harold Hickory, Det. Frank Webber and Lulu. They all waved at me as they saw my head turn toward them and I threw up my hand and gave them a passionate wave back. I'd spent a considerable amount of time getting to know those characters and some I'll remember more fondly than others, but they were all certainly worth remembering.

I decided it was time to face forward, so I turned back and that's what I did. I looked up ahead at the thirties, which approached me. I saw a new cast of characters and films that I'll certainly look forward to spending time with: Dracula, Frankenstein, City Lights, M, I Am a Fugitive from A Chain Gang, Scarface, Freaks, Duck Soup, King Kong, It Happened One Night, The Thin Man, Mutiny On the Bounty, Modern Times, Dodsworth, Grand Illusion, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Stagecoach, The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind and The Rules of the Game, just to name a few. I look forward to getting to know those movies from the thirties that I have yet to experience, and reliving the ones that I already have.

Your courageous journeyman,
Andrew

October 24, 2009 5:07am

46. Die Buchse der Pandora/Pandora's Box (1929)

Running Time: 133 minutes
Directed By: Georg Wilhelm Pabst
Written By: Joseph Fleisler, Georg Wilhelm Pabst, from the plays "Erdgeist" and Die Buchse der Pandora by Frank Wedekind
Main Cast: Louise Brooks, Fritz Kortner, Francis Lederer, Carl Goetz, Krafft-Raschig, Alice Roberts

GOODBYE TWENTIES...

We'll end the twenties and begin the thirties with a German double feature, the first of which, Pandora's Box, is quite good and all the credit goes to the marvelous cast for executing this film.

Luoise Brooks plays Lulu, a beautiful, sexy seductress who can make any man fall to their knees with lust. However, Lulu has her eyes on Dr. Schon, a man who is already engaged and when the film starts looks to break off his affair with Lulu. At first, Lulu doesn't seem to care, knowing that she can have any man she wants anyhow, but when she overhears Dr. Schon tell his son that you just don't marry a woman like Lulu, then she must have what it appears as if she cannot. So, Lulu and Dr. Schon are married, but on their wedding night, Dr. Schon happens upon Lulu alone in a room with Schigoloch (who is either her father or her pimp, it is never defined) and a nightclub strongman Rodrigo, in a compromising situation, Dr. Schon's suspicions become reality and he realizes that he'll never fully be happy with Lulu, as there'll always be other men and he'll always be jealous. Dr. Schon removes a gun from his dresser and at first, attempts to murder the two men, but when the house is emptied later in the night, takes the gun and demands that Lulu kill herself, so that he can become a rational man again, without her. When a struggle takes place, Dr. Schon is shot and killed and Lulu is put on trial for his murder. She is sentenced to five years in prison, but when a commotion breaks out in the courtroom, Lulu gets away with Schon's son, Alwa, who has always had eyes for her.

Alwa and Lulu hop a train to Paris and make their home on a gambling boat, where Alwa seems to be addicted to the game of cards and Lulu is left to fend for herself. With Rodrigo and Schigoloch along for the ride, it seems that everyone is out to get Lulu and her world is crumbling beneath her feet. Has karma nipped Lulu in the bud and will her life continue to spiral downward after the tragic events of her wedding night?

The thing that makes this film is the performance of Louise Brooks as Lulu. Without her there'd be no film. Well maybe there'd be a film, but certainly not as good a film, as the one that G.W. Pabst put out, with Louise Brooks as his star. She totally captivates you, the viewer and you become another man in 1920's Germany, who cannot help but be a little bit smitten by her good looks and erotic behavior. Everything about her is pitch perfect, from the way she carries herself, to her costumes, to her gestures and actions. Louise Brooks nails this part and it's a shame this is the last film with her in the book, because I would've really liked to seen more of her. The rest of the cast plays off of her perfectly, adjusting their talent to interject with hers beautifully. However, there are a few dull spots in the film, which brought it down a few notches for me. Some of the scenes, such as the one on the train, as Alwa and Lulu are escaping and the really long scene on the gambling boat, could've been a hair shorter. But, I'll go back to the positives and say if there's any reason to see this film, then it's for the performance of Louise Brooks!

RATING: 6/10 Great performances with an average story, equal out to an above average rating and the twenties are finished, my friends!

NEXT UP: The Blue Angel...Look out thirties, here I come!

October 24, 2009 4:52am

45. Chelovek S Kinoapparatom/The Man with the Movie Camera (1929)

Running Time: 69 minutes
Directed By: Dziga Vertov
Written By: Dziga Vertov

A FILM WITH NO INTERTITLES, A FILM WITH NO SCENARIO, A FILM WITH NO CAST

First and foremost let me say that I am all for experimenting when it comes to filmmaking, but The Man with the Movie Camera was an experiment that I did not connect with and ultimately did not enjoy.

The idea is pretty cool. Dziga Vertov took his camera out and shot Russia through the progression of one day. During that one day we see all kinds of exciting things happening in front of us; from babies being born, to people dying, to factories producing large amounts of goods, to couples marrying, divorcing, separating, to men and women swimming, sunbathing, pole vaulting, jumping hurdles and throwing discs and all kinds of other things that you can imagine. The shots seem pretty random and watching this film at first is a bit overwhelming, as you're thrown all these random, off the wall shots and supposed to take them in and make a film out of them in your head. For me it just didn't work.

Not everyone will love every movie, and not every new concept will appeal to every viewer, and that's okay, that's what makes us filmgoers a lively crowd. We can get into heated debates and while one may side with Vertov and love his experimental film, others may condemn him as a hack and hate it. I wont side with anybody, but rather just keep it simple and say that me and this film didn't get along and maybe another day and another view will yield a different rating, but today the verdict is in on The Man with the Movie Camera, and it's not a good one.

RATING: 2/10 I gave it a couple of points, just for the idea, as I felt the idea was great, it just didn't connect with me.

NEXT UP: Pandora's Box...as we say farewell to the 1920's

October 24, 2009 12:52am

Friday, October 23, 2009

44. Blackmail (1929)

Running Time: 84 minutes
Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock
Written By: Alfred Hitchcock, from play by Charles Bennett
Main Cast: Anny Ondra, John Longden, Donald Calthrop, Cyril Ritchard

ON MY JOURNEY I MET A MAN NAMED 'ALFRED'

Blackmail marks the shortest journey a movie had to take to reach my hands, as all I had to do to get a hold of it, was walk down the hall to the room where I keep my DVD's and there it lay as part of an Alfred Hitchcock Collection that I picked up in the Wal-Mart $5 bin. That particular collection has set on my shelf for the longest time, probably a matter of years, unwatched, as I really just bought it because of the cheap price. A few months ago, I decided to give the collection a shot and watched Blackmail, this was of course, before I decided to do the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" project and had a blast viewing Hitchcock's first talkie. So I already knew I was in for a great time when I popped in Blackmail for a second time and kicked back.

Frank Webber is one of the detective's at the booming Scotland Yard and his main squeeze is Alice White. One day as Frank is getting off work late, Alice, as always, is waiting for him and none to happy that she was forced to wait on Frank. As they go to dinner, they quarrel, due mainly to Frank's tardiness and Alice separates from Frank for the night, deciding instead to be courted home by the creepy artist Mr. Crewe.

Back at Crewe's flat, he and Alice seem to be having an okay time at first, as Crewe helps Alice paint a picture and then persuades her to try on a dress that he keeps onhand for his female models. Alice gives in and tries the dress on and when Crewe goes in for a forceful kiss, Alice decides that the night has gotten late, and it is time for her to leave. Before she can get back into her dress, Crewe snatches it from her and throws it across the room, forcing her to come from behind a screen and Crewe jumps all over her, attempting to rape her. Alice, struggling with Crewe, reaches out for anything that might help her and finds a kitchen knife and stabs and kills Mr. Crewe.

Scotland Yard is of course called in and Frank is on the case. Upon arriving at the scene of the crime, Frank finds one of Alice's gloves right away and recognizes the victim as the man who he saw escorting Alice home the night before. In an attempt to get his girlfriend freed from the hands of justice, Frank stashes the glove in his coat and takes off in search of Alice to get the gory details. When he arrives at the shop that Alice and her parents own, Frank quickly confronts Alice in a phone booth and tells her that he got her glove and demands some answers. Before he can get them, however, a man (later given the name Tracy) overhears the couple speaking. You see, Tracy just happened to be looking for Mr. Crewe on the night of the murders and was leering around his apartment, so he was able to get into the flat before the police and retrieve Alice's other glove. When Tracy sees Frank flash the second glove, Tracy puts two and two together and decides to make a few dollars by blackmailing Frank and Alice.

When I first saw Blackmail a couple of months ago, I couldn't believe it had taken me that long to see it. I've seen tons of Hitchcock movies, some good, some bad and after seeing Blackmail I realized that this was one of his best and most underrated films. When you talk about early Hitchcock movies, two titles always come up: The Lady Vanishes and The 39 Steps and its a shame that Blackmail isn't included in that group. The character of Alice is quite a ditz and an unlikeable, annoying character and Frank is your run of the mill detective, with a fine job by John Longden. But it is the heels of this picture that really stand out as you can't help but love to hate the performance of Donald Calthrop as the weasel Tracy and Cyril Ritchard as the creepy Mr. Crewe. I'll go out on a limb and call Blackmail one of the finest Hitchcock films I've ever seen and one that could certainly go down on my personal fav's list.

**HITCHCOCK SIGHTING** Early in the film, during a scene on a bus, Hitchcock can be spotted wearing a hat and reading a newspaper. A little boy in the nearby seat stands up, pulls Hitchcock's hat down over his head and then scampers off, only to return seconds later peering at Hitch.

RATING: 9.5/10 I dropped it a half a notch for the sever overacting of Anny Ondra, but really its just a formality, as it is something that can easily be overlooked to find a fantastic film.

NEXT UP: The Man with the Movie Camera...Not sure who that man with the movie camera is, but I'll find out tomorrow. Check back for the review kiddies.

October 23, 2009 4:11am

Thursday, October 22, 2009

43. Potomok Chingis-Khana/Storm Over Asia (1928)

Running Time: 125 minutes
Directed By: Vsevolod Pudovkin
Written By: Osip Brik, I. Novokshenov
Main Cast: Valery Inkijinoff, I. Dedintsev, Aleksandr Christyakov, Viktor Tsoppi, F. Ivanov

LONG LIVE GENGHIS KHAN

With Storm Over Asia finished, I'm left with only three movies until I reach the 1930's and I must say Storm Over Asia was not an enjoyable film for me at all.
Valery Inkijinoff plays the unamed hero, a mongol who is sent by his father into western Europe to sell a rare silver fox fur. Before leaving his father instructs him to not accept anything less than 500 silvers for the fox pelt. Upon arriving in Europe, the mongol is swindled out of the fur by a crooked trader and ends up getting into a fight with the white man, drawing blood on one of them. He is ushered off into the mountains where he must hide, as the white man is dead set on getting vengeance for his spilled blood.

Once in the mountains, the mongol falls in with a group of partisans and helps them fight against the occupying British army. He is eventually captured by the British and ordered to be shot and killed. He's taken high up into the mountains where he is shot, but soon after the British realize, through a document that the mongol carried on his person, that he is a direct descendant of Genghis Khan, the ancient warrior. The British soldiers are ordered by their commanding officers to go and find him and they do, finding him still clinging to life after being shot several times.

Storm Over Asia started out as a fair movie. A young mongolian herdsmen who takes a journey to the local bazaars to sell a silver fox pelt...simple enough. But then they throw in a lot of mumbo jumbo about Genghis Khan, soviet partisans, British armies, lama's...etc. and my proverbial umbilical cord to this movie was severed. This film also had some fairly good cinematography, but not enough to make up for the boring plot that nearly put me to sleep faster than an overdose of NyQuill. These Russian propoganda films are really getting on my nerves, with first Eisenstein, and now Pudovkin, I've had my fair share and am ready to move on and quit hearing about rebellions and revolutions.

RATING: 1.5/10 Not the worst film I've seen thus far out of the book, but damn close. Recommendation to avoid.

NEXT UP: Blackmail...The first of eighteen...yes 18!!...Hitchcock films in the book

October 22, 2009 8:52pm

42. Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928)

Running Time: 69 minutes
Directed By: Buster Keaton, Charles Reisner
Written By: Carl Harbaugh
Main Cast: Buster Keaton, Tom McGuire, Ernest Torrence, Tom Lewis, Marion Byron

MY FOND AND FINAL FAREWELL TO THE KING OF COMEDY...BUSTER KEATON

It is with great sadness that I watch my final Buster Keaton film in the book, Steamboat Bill Jr. While this film may have been my favorite so far, I'll definitely miss Buster Keaton's work for a while and while I do enjoy taking this journey through cinema so much, one of the things I'll look forward to, when its over is going back and watching the Keaton that I have yet to see.

One day, while wrapping up a hard days work on his river boat, Stonewall Jackson, Steamboat Bill Sr. receives a telegram telling him that his son, Steamboat Bill Jr., is coming to town and wishes to see his father. Bill Sr. hasn't seen his son in quite sometime and is ready to welcome his son with open arms into the heart of Mississippi.

When junior arrives in town, Bill Sr. is quite surprised to learn that his son is lacking many of the manly qualities that he himself possesses. Wearing a beret and sporting a pencil thin moustache, Bill Jr. is happy to see his Dad and tags along when Bill Sr. takes him to get a shave and some new attire. In one scene, the Bills go hat shopping, as Sr. looks to replace Jr. beret with something more southern and one of the funniest scenes of the movie.

Steamboat Bill Sr.'s rival is Mr. King, who also owns a river boat, along with half of the town and looks to put Bill Sr. out of commission. When Steamboat Bill Jr. falls head over heels in love with Mr. King's daughter, Bill Sr. forbids it, claiming that he'll find Junior his wife and "she won't be the daughter of a man like King".

Steamboat Bill Sr.'s river boat is declared condemned and when he tries to fight it he ends up in the town slammer. Steamboat Bill Jr., already shunned by his father for sneaking off in the night to visit King's daughter, tries to reconcile with his Dad and head's to the jail with a loaf of bread loaded with some breakout tools, in probably my favorite scene of the film. They eventually get loose from the clutches of the Sheriff, but not before a cyclone strolls into town, providing one of the most suspenseful and spectacular Keaton scenes of all his movies I've seen.

After five Keaton films (Our Hospitality, Sherlock Jr., Seven Chances, The General and Steamboat Bill Jr.) this may be my personal favorite of the five. I also enjoyed the hell out of Seven Chances, but really I enjoyed the hell out of them all and had a fantastic time getting to know Keaton, his comedy, his willingness to do anything to entertain, his knack for suspense and his zest to perform in front of the camera. Buster Keaton has not only made it easier for me to take the journey that I'm currently on, but has also provided me with some personal favorite movies that I'll cherish even after my mission ends. I will certainly miss these Keaton films, as its always been something to look forward to and I always knew I was gonna love it, if Buster was in it. I'm sure I'll come across some more favorites as I trot along on my journey. Favorite actors, directors, etc., but I'll never forget my old pal Buster and the loads of laughs and entertainment he provided me, as I made my way through the history of cinema. Thanks Buster.

RATING: 10/10 A nice send off for Keaton, Steamboat Bill Jr. knocked one outta the park...I loved it!

NEXT UP: Storm Over Asia...Should be watched and reviewed later today...But first...some sleep for your courageous journeyman.

October 22, 2009 4:45am

41. La Passion de Jeanne D'Arc/The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

Running Time: 82 minutes
Directed By: Carl Theodor Dreyer
Written By: Carl Theodor Dreyer, Joseph Delteil
Main Cast: Maria Falconetti, Eugene Silvain, Andre Berley, Maurice Schutz

THE TRIAL AND EXECUTION OF SAINT JOAN OF ARC

My introduction to Carl Theodor Dreyer came tonight as I watched The Passion of Joan of Arc and thought it was just about an average film.

The Passion of Joan of Arc tells the story of the trial of our film's heroine, as she was put on trial for claiming to have heard revelations from God and seen visions of Saint Michael. The film depicts the judges that persecute Joan, as the evil doers, as they poke and prod at Joan with question upon question and claim that the visions she sees are not of hevenly descent, but rather that of Satan.

We're shown the full trial, her imprisonment, torture and execution. At one point, when Joan is threatened with being burnt at the stake, she folds under pressure and signs a confession, being sentenced to life imprisonment. Later she recants her confession and is, of course, executed.

The performance from Falconetti was quite superb, as Dreyer executed the use of close-up shots to an art form. The expressions that are plastered on Joan's face throughout the picture are quite unforgettable, as tears stream over her face and she reacts to the judges threats and demeaning questions. Despite the terrific performance, I felt the film was lacking something for me. For one, I watched the Criterion version of the film, which allows you to view the film with or without musical accompaniment. If you choose to have music played over the film, its a score laid out in 1994 by a composer Richard Einhorn entitled "Voices of Light". I felt that this could only take away from the experience and opted to watch the film free of music. Maybe I should've made the other choice, as watching total silence really left this film a little emotionless, again, despite the great acting. Other than the music thing, there was just something not clicking between me and this film, and while I did find the subject matter interesting, I found the movie strolling right in the average neighborhood.

RATING: 5/10 We'll call it right down the middle and leave it at that. Maybe someday I'll rewatch the film with the music and see if that helps at all.

NEXT UP: Steamboat Bill Jr...My farewell to Buster Keaton

October 22, 2009 1:01am

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

40. Un Chien Andalou/An Andalusian Dog (1928)

Running Time: 16 minutes
Directed By: Luis Bunuel
Written By: Luis Bunuel, Salvador Dali
Main Cast: Pierre Batcheff, Simone Mareuil, Luis Bunuel, Salvador Dali

WEIRD, WILD STUFF

"To describe the movie (An Andalusian Dog) is simply to list its shots, since there is no story line to link them"
-Roger Ebert

At a running time of only sixteen minutes, Un Chien Andalou or An Andalusian Dog, is probably one of the most bizarre movies I've ever witnessed.

Linked together by a series of weird and surreal shots, An Andalusian Dog, was apparently made based on dreams that both Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali had, and made to intentionally make zero sense. Now, I've always been a fan of weird movies and films that really make you think and wanna research them to find out the answers that lie behind their seemingly impossible to follow plot, but An Andalusian Dog is intentionally confusing and apparently has no real plot.

The shots are totally bizarre though: a man slicing a woman's eye open with a razor blade, a transvestite riding a bicycle down the street and apparently falling over dead, ants crawling out through a hole in a man's hand, a man pulling a piano which is tied to two ropes and upon the piano lay rotting carcasses of dead horses, a woman's armpit and two people walking down a beach and shown later with sand covering them up to their chests, as they lay motionless. Sound weird enough for 'ya?

I guess I was a bit intrigued by this film, but can't say that I really enjoyed it all that much. I went ahead and watched it twice, since it was so short and since I was so perplexed by it. I had only seen one Bunuel film prior to this and that was "The Exterminating Angel" and that was another one that left me with a feeling of "HUH". One thing's for sure and that's is if you're a fan of David Lynch, then you'd probably love Bunuel and Bunuel seems even crazier and more of an oddball.

RATING: 4/10 That's just about as high as I can go, and I'm being generous. Can't say I really enjoyed it, but it was quite perplexing and I do commend the director for, at least, that much.

NEXT UP: The Passion of Joan of Arc...My introduction to Carl Theodor Dreyer

October 21, 2009 1:57pm

Monday, October 19, 2009

38. The Crowd (1928)

Running Time: 104 minutes
Directed By: King Vidor
Written By: King Vidor, John V.A. Weaver
Main Cast: James Murray, Eleanor Boardman, Bert Roach, Estelle Clark, Daniel G. Tomlinson

"YOU'VE GOT TO BE GOOD IN THAT TOWN IF YOU WANT TO BEAT THE CROWD"

The above words are the first uttered by our protagonist as he enters New York City, ready to captivate The Big Apple and take it by storm. King Vidor directs and I finally caught this one on TCM exactly four months to the day after I should've watched it originally.

Johnny Sims is our main man in "The Crowd". The film starts with his birth and his father immediately has high hopes for him, hoping that he may even be the President of the U.S. someday, since Johnny was born on July 4, 1900. We flash forward to 1912 and Johnny is twelve years old as he sits out on the front stoop with his pals and they chat about what they want to be when they grow up. An ambulance buzzes by them and stops in front of Johnny's home, paramedics rushing inside. Johnny's father has suddenly passed away and we see the horrified look on John's face as the camera pans down the stairwell and onto our protagonist. We flash forward, yet again, and Johnny is all grown up and arriving in New York City, ready to get a job and make it big, like his father predicted. He doesn't have any trouble landing a job in a large office building, as an accountant and one day, when work ends, one of his co-workers asks him if he'll double with two gal pals of his. He accepts and that is when he meets his future wife, Mary.

John and Mary get married and get their own apartment, a tiny one, but a new home nonetheless for the happy new couple. Mary's mother and brothers don't think too highly of John, but Mary loves and understands him and that's all that matters. Despite a big quarrel early on in their marriage, Mary and John bury the hatch, when Mary announces that she's pregnant. Nine months later their baby boy is born and everything is as happy as it once was. Five years after that, John has received an eight dollar raise and a baby girl has been welcomed into the family. Everything looks just fine for the Sims family, that is, until tragedy strikes. One day, after John gets a $500 check for submitting an ad slogan for Magic Cleaner, he brings home presents for the entire family. He sticks his head out the apartment window to find his children across the street, with the other kids. Waving a new scooter in front of their eyes they come barreling across the road. The boy makes it just fine, but the girl is struck by an automobile and she eventually dies. From their things go from bad to worse for the Sims family, which makes "The Crowd" a truly emotional and later, inspiring tragedy.

I remember having a good feeling about this movie back in October, when I originally was forced to skip over it. This was a really great film, plain and simple, as it really hit you where you wanted to be hit and made you feel all of the emotions that the characters in the film were going through. I've always had a place in my heart for tragic films, where the characters must face many different hardships and downfalls, before finally learning the grand lesson in the end of everything, and this is just that kind of movie. Everything meshes together well and King Vidor's dream of making an average movie about an average man is pulled off excellently. This film depicts everyday life and not just everyday life in 1928, but everything that is presented here, still holds true today, as people still face the same types of troubles that these characters were facing back in the silent era. This film holds up really well and is still highly enjoyable, even as we enter the first few months of 2010.

RATING: 8.5/10 Great film and I'm really glad I finally got the chance to watch it. It makes me wonder about all those other films I've been forced to skip and how good they have the potential of being.

NEXT UP: The Docks of New York...Can't find this one either.

October 18, 2009 9:02pm
Revised: February 19, 2010 3:06am

Sunday, October 18, 2009

37. The Kid Brother (1927)

Running Time: 84 minutes
Directed By: J.A. Howe, Ted Wilde
Written By: Thomas J. Crizer, Howard J. Green, John Grey, Lex Neal, Ted Wilde
Main Cast: Harold Lloyd, Jobyna Ralston, Walter James, Leo Willis, Olin Francis

AND A THIRD COMIC GENIUS BREAKS ONTO THE SCENE

If you're having trouble finding The Kid Brother, it can be found on the Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection: Volume Two: Disc One. I had a bit of trouble myself at first, but ended up finding it on Netflix. Harold Lloyd was another comic genius and its evident from his depiction of Harold Hickory in The Kid Brother.

Harold Hickory is the youngest son of James Hickory, the sheriff of Hickoryville. Sheriff Hickory has two other sons, Olin and Leo, and the all three look down on young Harold for not being the man that they are. Harold is left to do the chores around the house, while his father and brothers are left to tend to the estate.
One day as Harold is parading around in his father's sheriff uniform, the traveling Medicine Man Show pulls up to the Hickory residence and thinking that Harold is the good sheriff, requests his signature on a permit to run his show in Hickoryville. Harold reluctantly signs the document and the Medicine Man Show is set to do business in Hickoryville. When James Hickory finds out of this, he immediately calls for the show to be shut down and sends Harold out to do it himself. While trying to request that the show be shut down, Harold inadvertently burns the Medicine Man cart to the ground. In the meantime, Harold has fallen for the woman who travels with the Medicine Show, providing one of the funniest gags in the movie, where the woman is walking down a hill, and Harold continues to climb a tree so that he can keep adding tidbits to his farewell.

Aside from all the hubbub surrounding the Medicine Man Show, the citizens of Hickoryville have been raising money for a new dam and have finally met the amount needed. They lock the money up in a small safe and place it in the care of Sheriff Hickory for safekeeping. When the Medicine Man owner sees this in the paper, he sees an opportunity to regain some of the money that he lost, due to the fire at his Medicine Man Show cart.

While watching The Kid Brother, I just couldn't stop myself from thinking that I'd rather be watching a Buster Keaton movie, or that I'd even rather see Buster performing these gags instead of Harold. Harold Lloyd was excellent though, and as the movie went on I continued to realize his genius. The chase been Harold and the Medicine Man strongman, on the boat at the end of the film is absolutely awesome and I loved every single minute of it. I also loved the scene where Harold does the dishes, in his own, resourceful manner. While I do think that Buster Keaton is my personal favorite and in my opinion, the King of Silent Era Comedy, Lloyd hangs in there and doesn't fail to deliver the laughs.

RATING: 6.5/10 Again, this is my knee jerk reaction of a rating and I could definitely see the rating for this film climbing with repeated viewings or maybe just a little time to reflect on it.

NEXT UP: The Crowd...Cannot find this one, so we'll be skipping it and continuing onward.

October 18, 2009 8:53pm

Saturday, October 17, 2009

35. The Jazz Singer (1927)

Running Time: 88 minutes
Directed By: Alan Crosland
Written By: Alfred A. Cohn, Jack Jarmuth
Main Cast: Al Jolson, May McAvoy, Warner Oland, Eugenie Bresserer, Otto Lederer

THE SILENCE IS BROKEN

The Jazz Singer marked a big step in the progression of cinema, as it was the first feature length sound movie. Not only is it notable for that reason, but also packs quite a story with it, and is still very enjoyable today.
Cantor Rabinowitz has only one son Jakie, who he expects will follow in his footsteps and become a canter as well. For those of you who aren't aware, a cantor is a someone trained in the vocal arts who leads the Jewish congregation in songful prayer. One day when a neighbor, Yudelson, spots Jakie singing ragtime songs down at the local saloon, he spares no time in getting over to the Cantor's home and spilling Jakie's secret. When Jakie arrives home he is given a proper whipping, which causes him to leave the house, never to return, much to his mother's dismay.
Years later Jakie, now known as Jack Robin (and played superbly by Al Jolson) turns up in the jazz nightclubs, singing his heart out to please the audiences. When Mary, an already famous nightclub singer spots him and hears his voice, she takes Jack under her wing and brings him with her to stardom. Meanwhile, back home in New York, Cantor Rabinowitz still claims that "he has no son" and his mother misses him terribly.

When an opportunity arises for Jakie to perform on the grand stage of Broadway, back in his home turf on New York, he jumps on board and takes the opportunity. Upon arriving back home, Jakie immediately goes to his parents home and his mother is ecstatic to see him. As he sings her one of his songs, his father walks in and finds him, banishing him from the house and sending him back to his showbiz home on Broadway. When the Cantor turns up ill, it is up to Jakie to make the choice between his career and pleasing his stubborn father and carrying out his family heritage. What will he choose?

When Jolson belts out his rendition of "Dirty Hands, Dirty Face", the first musical number in the picture, it's really a sight and sound to behold. After thirty two silent movies in a row, it was nice to finally hear someone speak. Although, I did enjoy the silent pictures and realized a new found respect for them, it was hard to keep the smile off my face when Jolson sang his tunes. Al Jolson played the part marvelously and you could tell he was as proud as punch to be in the picture, letting all of his emotions flow out, with every musical number he performed. While only the musical numbers and a very small bit of dialogue before and after some of them, is all that is in sound, this is definitely something that anyone claiming to be a movie buff needs to check out.

RATING: 7.5/10 Not only the first talkie, but a great film and one that I would recommend based on the story alone.

NEXT UP: Napoleon...The streak is broken, as I cannot find Napoleon.

October 17, 2009 8:58pm

34. Oktyabr/October (1927)

Running Time: 102 minutes
Directed By: Sergei M. Eisenstein, Grigori Aleksandrov
Written By: Sergei M. Eisenstein, Grigori Aleksandrov
Main Cast: Vladimir Popov, Vasili Nikandrov, Layaschenko Chibisov, Boris Livanov

OCTOBER IN OCTOBER

Before writing this review, a thought came into my head: How am I going to summarize the events of this movie? I'm not ashamed to admit, that while I did follow this film and have the burdening challenge of sitting through it, I really didn't fully understand what was going on. I mean, I got the basic concept of what Eisenstein was trying to say, and that was, that apparently in 1917 there was a revolution in Russia headed by Vladimir Ulyanov, or Lenin, as he is more commonly referred to, and they overtook the government and handed the power over to the Bolsheviks. However, there was a lot more going on in this film that I just found very hard to follow. I'm not by any means a history buff, let alone a Russian history buff and had no intention of tutoring myself in the history of Mother Russia. just for the intentions of understanding this film.
After three Sergei M. Eisenstein films and with all due respect to the man and his country and the people of that country, I'm really sick of hearing about how great Russia is. I mean, hey, I'm all for someone being proud of their country, but isn't one film enough to get that point across. "Stachka", :The Battleship Potemkin" and "October", all have elements of a rebellion in them and how the great people overcame adversities in order to make life better for themselves, it's just that its getting a little old.

I did not like October, not one single bit. I thought it was very hard to understand, had no characters that the audience could connect to, had no great camerawork, like Eisenstein's previous two films and resembled a really bad documentary, except it wasn't a documentary, just a really bad re-creation. Now, keep in mind, this is just my opinion and I'm sure for Russians who were around in the month of October back in 1917, this film is kick ass. But I wasn't around back then, and have never lived in Russia, therefore the Russian revolution of 1917 has zero interest for me. And that's all I have to say about Oktyabr.

RATING: 1/10 Sorry Mr. Eisenstein, I just am not a fan and this movie solidified that opinion.

NEXT UP: The Jazz Singer...Let's talk!

October 17, 2009 3:33am

Friday, October 16, 2009

33. The Unknown (1927)

Running Time: 60 minutes
Directed By: Tod Browning
Written By: Tod Browning, Waldemar Young
Main Cast: Lon Chaney, Joan Crawford, Norman Kerry, John George

"LADIES AND GENTLEMEN...IN THE CENTER RING...ALONZO THE ARMLESS!!"

Hopefully my great movie streak keeps up, because The Unknown makes the third movie in a row that was magnificent. I'm so glad that I was able to catch this one on Turner Classic Movies, as Netflix doesn't carry the DVD and the cheapest version of this film on Amazon is $25.

Lon Chaney plays Alonzo the Armless, a traveling circus performer who's gimmick is that he throws knives with his feet. Alonzo is assisted by the lovely Nanon (Crawford) for whom he has fallen in love with, but she doesn't know it yet, however they are best friends. One of Nanon's pet peeves is men who cannot keep their hands to themselves and one man who possesses this trait is Malabar the Mighty, a strongman performer who also travels with the same circus, and who is also in love with Nanon. One of the reasons Nanon is so close with Alonzo, is because he is armless and therefore cannot paw at her like most men do.

But back to Alonzo, who has a big secret that he's keeping from everyone, except his trusty sidekick Cojo. The secret...he has arms! With the help of Cojo, Alonzo keeps his arms strapped to his torso at all times, unless he's alone, and in no danger of being found out. He also doesn't want to be found out by the police, because he's a fugitive and the fact that he has two thumbs on his right hand would make him an easy suspect to catch. When the circus owner and Nanon's father, Antonio Zanzi discovers Alonzo's secret, Alonzo strangles him, and Nanon witnesses it, except she doesn't see the perpetrators face, only his two thumbed right hand.

After some thought, Alonzo comes to the realization that he'll never be able to have Nanon to himself, because if they were ever to marry, she would first of all, discover that he has arms, and second of all realize that he was the man that killed her father. He schemes up a plan to have his arms surgically removed, so that he may be with Nanon and live happily ever after, so he does it. After several weeks of recuperation, Alonzo returns to Nanon, but discovers that her initial dislike for Malabar the Mighty has turned to love and in Alonzo's absence they've gotten engaged. The scene where Alonzo is told of the engagement is priceless, as he breaks down into a temporary fit of hysteria, laughing and screaming.

While I didn't care too much for Chaney in The Phantom of the Opera, he was absolutely marvelous in this as Alonzo the Armless where some of his mannerisms and expressions speak volumes, in a day when movies were still silent. The Unknown was almost a short film, running at approximately sixty minutes and when the hour was up, I didn't want it to end. When you, the viewer, learn of Malabar and Nanon's engagement, while Alonzo is lying up in a hospital bed, recuperating from having his arms removed for Nanon's sake, you just know that when he gets back the shit is totally gonna hit the fan...and it totally does. Joan Crawford also hands in a mighty fine performance in The Unknown and at only twenty two at the time of this picture, she's not too shabby to look at either, gracing the screen with her ravishing beauty. As one last quick after thought, for anyone looking to get into the exciting world of silent cinema, I think The Unknown would be a great start in dragging a silent virgin into the genre.

RATING: 10/10 For those of you who are interested in taking in The Unknown, I do believe it's on YouTube as well, and at only sixty minutes, is well worth the watch.

NEXT UP: Oktyabr...which means October...and how ironic that I'll be watching it in the month of October!

October 16, 2009 4:34am

32. The General (1927)

Running Time: 75 minutes
Directed By: Buster Keaton, Clyde Bruckman
Written By: Al Boasberg, Clyde Bruckman
Main Cast: Buster Keaton, Marion Mack, Glen Cavender, Jim Farley, Frederick Vroom

POSSIBLY THE GREATEST WAR MOVIE I'VE EVER SEEN

Buster Keaton is back as Johnnie Gray, a railroad engineer in The General, probably my least favorite Keaton movie so far, yet still fantastic.
When the Civil War breaks out, Johnnie, eager to please the other love of his life (the first being his locomotive, The General) goes straight to the enlistment office to join the ranks of brave men ready to fight for the South. Once at the enlistment office, Johnnie is told that because he is an engineer, he would be more useful to the South in that occupation, than as a soldier.

Johnnie, put out and again, wanting nothing more than to make his girl Annabelle happy, goes back to work on his locomotive, after being shunned by Annabelle. But when Johnnie's locomotive, The General, is stolen by Union spies, with Annabelle on board, Johnnie springs into action to save both his woman and his engine. In a fantastic sequence, with Keaton first chasing down the General on foot and then on a penny farthing bicycle, eventually catches up to another train and the chase is on, as it's Keaton against the entire fleet of Union spies. The chase takes up the better part of the first thirty minutes of the film, with Keaton doing everything in his power to catch up to his General and stop the enemies, even using a cannon which is on board the locomotive that he commandeered.

Eventually night falls, and Johnnie finds himself alone, at the North's base camp, and it is here when he finally realizes that they have also captured Annabelle. Johnnie rescues his gal, and heads away from the Northern camp. Donning a Northern uniform, Johnnie makes his way on board the General and takes back what is rightfully his, and a second chase is on, this time with the Union spies chasing Johnnie.

While I cannot say that I enjoyed The General more than other Keaton offerings, such as, Our Hospitality, Seven Chances or even Sherlock Jr., I can admit now that I've finally seen a great war movie, even if that war movie is a comedy. Buster Keaton had the perfect formula for blending together comedy and suspense and could keep you laughing, all the while keeping you planted on the edge of your seat. Keaton, more notably remembered for his comedy, was also a great stuntman, doing some outrageous things for the sake of his films and getting the big payoffs, so that he could ensure the audience got their moneys worth. I only have one Keaton film left, and it's gonna be sad to see him go. Keaton has provided me with hours of entertainment already, and has cemented several spots on my personal favorite films list.

RATING: 8.5/10 Can't go the full monty, but that's only because I enjoyed some of his other films better. I think Seven Chances is, thus far, my favorite.

NEXT UP: The Unknown...Caught it on Turner Classic Movies the other night and recorded it, so the tape is waiting for me and at only about an hour long, it should be ready for review later tonight.

October 15, 2009 10:45pm

Thursday, October 15, 2009

31. SUNRISE (1927)

Running Time: 95 minutes
Directed By: F.W. Murnau
Written By: Hermann Sudermann, Carl Mayer
Main Cast: George O'Brien, Janet Gaynor, Margaret Livingston

A SONG OF TWO HUMANS

From the big budget, complex Metropolis to the simple, heartwarming Sunrise, this film proved that it's not always about big, fancy sets and lots of dough, that sometimes, it's just about a good, solid story that tugs at the heartstrings.

The Man (O'Brien) and The Wife (Gaynor) have been married for several years and were once a fun loving, carefree, 100% in love couple. But those days are gone, and when the Woman from the City takes a visit to the country, where the married couple resides, she lures the Man into her web of seduction, convincing him to kill his wife, so that they can go to the city and live happily ever after together.

So the plan is set and the Man is on board, willing and ready to drown his wife, when he lures her onto their boat and schemes, what will look like a boating accident, where the wife will "tragically" die. So everything is set and the Wife is mighty excited to be going out on the boat with the Man, as she looks forward to spending some quality time with him and possibly getting their marriage back on the right track. Of course, she doesn't know what the Man has in store for her.

Out on the lake, as the the Man has rowed out far enough, that he feels safe enough to commit the evil deed without being seen, he rises and comes toward her, but as he looks into her eyes, the love that he once knew for her comes rushing back into his body and the good in him begins to overpower the evil and lustful intentions that were put there by the Woman. He rows back ashore, and the wife, realizing what his intentions were, runs away from him. He chases her, yelling "Don't be afraid of me!".

Back in town the Man follows the wife throughout the city, and the happen to pass a church, where a wedding ceremony is in the process of being performed. They go inside and take a seat and both watch on, as they view another couple madly in love, ready to walk together on the journey of marriage. The man begins to weep uncontrollably and the Wife comforts him, holding his head in her lap and stroking his hair. They cry it out together, leave the church and set out on the happiest day of their life, going to have their picture taken, going to the carnival and dancing the night away. They've taken the form of the newlyweds they viewed in the church, earlier in the day...madly in love, yet again and ready to watch the sun rise yet again on their passion for one another.

This film was surprisingly simple, in a time when the going thing seemed to be the "anything you can do, I can do better" philosophy of movie making. After watching something as grandiose as Metropolis and not caring too much for it, then settling in to something as simple and beautiful as Sunrise, it was nice to finally see a director just make a good picture, with a really good story to it. This movie was breathtakingly beautiful and the camera work was sublime, as it totally went with the story and helped to push it along. Murnau, of whose work I haven't been a fan of thus far in the book, has made me into a fan, and made me realize, with this picture alone, why he is still talked about as one of the greats to this day.

RATING: 10/10 Without question this one gets the full monty of ratings and I look forward to checking this one out again someday down the road.

NEXT UP: The General....Make way for Buster!

October 15, 2009 12:28am

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

30. Metropolis (1927)

Running Time: 114 minutes
Directed By: Fritz Lang
Written By: Fritz Lang, Thea von Harbou
Main Cast: Alfred Abel, Gustav Frohlich, Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Brigitte Helm

Sidenote: So I sat down on Sunday night to check out what many consider the greatest silent film of all time, Metropolis. After a bout of sneezing and coughing and basically thinking I was coming down with a cold, I succumbed to the warmth of my bed after only making it through about an hour of the picture. The next night, I gave it a second shot, but after waking up at eight o'clock for work, and not attempting my second shot until about eleven o'clock, I again, succumbed to my bed, with a still unfinished Metropolis. So tonight was the night, and the third time was the charm as I knocked it off and came one step closer to completing my journey.
Now then...

"THE MEDIATOR BETWEEN THE HEAD AND HANDS MUST BE THE HEART!"

First of all I want to say that I really, really wanted to enjoy this movie. Unfortunately, on an enjoyability scale, I didn't enjoy it as much as I wanted to.

Set in the future, the population is broken down into two societies, the workers and the upper class. The workers occupy the underground, in their own city and the upper class live in the grand, gorgeous city of Metropolis. The workers keep the city running, by manning machines underground that power the great city.
Freder, spoiled son of Joh Fredersen, the master of Metropolis, is frolicking in the Eternal Gardens one day with his many lady friends, when a woman appears, with a group of children saying, "Look, these are your brothers!", which deeply touches Freder. When the woman is ushered off by some hired hands, Freder, fascinated with the woman, goes in search of her. He ends up in the underground, where he witnesses the terrible life that the workers go through to keep the machines running, that power Metropolis.

Freder, disturbed by the treatment that he's seen the workers endure, runs back to the New Tower of Babel, where his father's offices are, and begins to question his father about the welfare of the workers. His father exclaims that the workers are where they belong...in the depths. Freder snaps back, bringing up the question of what would happen if the workers were ever to rise up and revolt against his father. Fredersen is interrupted by Grot, the chief foreman of the Heart Machine, the main power source of Metropolis, who shows Fredersen plans that he found on some of his workers, that seem to lead to somewhere.

In the meanwhile, Freder leaves and heads into the underground again, relieving a collapsed worker, of his post and taking over, as he feels sorry for the tired man. The worker is only known as 11811, and Freder tells him to leave the underground, get into his chauffeured car and head to the home of a colleague of Freder's.

Joh Fredersen, meanwhile, goes to the home of Rotwang, the master inventor of Metropolis, who unveils to Fredersen a female robot that he's created to replace his lost love. He claims that he only needs twenty four hours and the robot will be finished, and be created to look exactly like a human being. Fredersen also shows Rotwang the plans that we're brought to him earlier by Grot and Rotwang concludes that they are some type of map to the catacombs, the depths of the workers city. Rotwang leads Fredersen on a hidden path, underneath his home, to the catacombs.

Freder, finishes his ten hour shift and follows the workers into the catacombs, where they are holding secret underground meeting and being preached to by a pacifist by the name of Maria, the same woman who appeared to Freder in the beginning of the film. She preaches to them about peace and declares that someday a mediator will come, who will be able to help the hands (the workers) and the head (Joh Fredersen) unite in peace. After the meeting, Freder meets privately with Maria, and Maria sees Freder as the heart (the mediator) and rejoices at his presence.

The films finale comes when Rotwang finishes the femme bot and creates her in Maria's likeness, as ordered by Fredersen. He unleashes her on the underground workers and thinking that it's Maria, the workers hang on her every word, when she tells them to riot and kill the machines, thus killing Metropolis.

Visually this movie is a spectacle to behold. The sets are immaculate, some of the shots are innovative and some of the scenes that you'll see just make you go "WOW!". The scene of the workers burning the femme bot at the stake, the scenes of the camera swooping over the great city and the scene of the creation of the original Tower of Babel are all excellent and this film is a must see for the visual effects alone. As far as the enjoyment factor goes, this film lacks and maybe it's a case of "it just wasn't for me". In the parts of this movie, where there wasn't immaculate images on the screen to look at, I found myself very bored and for a movie that was less than two hours it felt a lot longer than that, in some parts. I don't know, it's just that something with this movie and me didn't click and although I really can't put my finger on why, I just didn't enjoy it that much.

RATING: 5/10 If I was rating this movie on a visual scale, I'd give it an eleven, but I'm rating them on a scale of how much I enjoyed them, so in that case we'll strike it right down the middle and call it a five.

NEXT UP: Sunrise...F.W. Murnau directs another film that is considered one of the great silent films. Comes tomorrow from Netflix!

October 14, 2009 12:54am

Sunday, October 11, 2009

29. The Big Parade (1925)

Running Time: 130 minutes
Directed By: King Vidor
Written By: Harry Behn, Joseph Farnham
Main Cast: John Gilbert, Renee Adoree, Tom O'Brien, Karl Dane

"THE FIRST WAR MOVIE ON OUR JOURNEY"

This one was getting ready to be entry #5 in our "Unfound Files" for a long time, before a post on IMDB, put me on the trail of the YouTube video and I found the entire film broken into thirteen parts there.
Jim, our movies' hero and played by John Gilbert, is a rich boy, who lives off the loot that his father brings in and is looked down upon by his suck up of a brother. When war is declared (World War I, to be exact) Jim's girlfriend and one true love Justyn, urges Jim to enlist and serve his country proud. So as not to look like a coward, Jim plays along with his girlfriend's ideas and enlists in the army. It is here he meets and befriends, Bull and Slim, two men from very different backgrounds.

While in France, smack dab in the middle of World War I, but not seeing much action, just from their commanding officers' mouths, Jim meets Melisande, a french woman who lives on a farm. When his buddies aren't badgering him, he sneaks off to meet with Melisande, and provides us with quite a hilarious little scene, where he teaches her to chew gum, because apparently she had never had it before. The two eventually fall in love, but unfortunately their love isn't given long to blossom.

One day, it is announced that Jim and his troop will be shipping out of the town where Melisande lives and moving to the front of the war. The most heartbreaking scene of the movie is inserted here, as a very emotional goodbye between the new found lovers transpires, leaving your bold journeyman nearly in tears.

Here, we the viewer, see the real "war movie" come out in The Big Parade, as we're treated to guns, explosions and all that good stuff that goes along with war. A very nice scene transpires, in which Jim's troop are making their way through a field, with some tree cover, and trying to dodge the snipers and machine gunners that await them. Eventually, Jim, Bull and Slim find themselves in the trenches, sharing a tin of corned beef and some cigarettes, and trying their best to keep their heads up and stay alive, in a very difficult time.

I must admit that one of my least favorite genre's of film is the war movie. I've just never been a big fan of any film that depicts war or shows the perils of combat. While there are a few that catch my eye, for the most part...not a fan. That being said, I can say that The Big Parade was not bad at all. Unlike other war movies, where all we're shown is the combat and the battle sequences, The Big Parade allows the viewer to get close to the characters, and get comfortable with them, before throwing them into battle. It provides us with comedy and tragedy and executes both very well. While The Big Parade, is definitely not my favorite movie so far, I think it'll be one that comes up in my next discussion of "Favorite War Films".

RATING: 6.5/10 Not bad at all, from me, for a war movie. I really couldn't go any higher right now, but maybe with a repeated viewing the 6.5 could rise.

NEXT UP: Metropolis...The director of the worst movie I've seen thus far, returns, with a movie that is lauded as the greatest silent picture ever made. We shall see.

October 11, 2009 10:48pm

28. The Gold Rush (1925)

Running Time: 82 minutes
Directed By: Charles Chaplin
Written By: Charles Chaplin
Main Cast: Charles Chaplin, Georgia Hale, Mack Swain, Tom Murray, Henry Bergman, Malcolm Waite

ON MY JOURNEY I MET A MAN NAMED 'CHARLIE'

Well I've been waiting for old Charlie Chaplin to make his debut into my list of movies, and finally Chuck swings in and hits the nail right on the head with The Gold Rush.
Chaplin plays The Little Tramp in the Gold Rush, a lone prospector who heads north to Alaska, to take part in the Alaskan Gold Rush. It is here where he meets two men, Black Larsen and Big Jim. Black Larsen, a convicted fugitive and Big Jim, a morally bound older gent who wants nothing more than to find gold and retire a millionaire.

Early in the picture, we find out trio of gold miners starving, as they send out Black Larsen in search of food. While he's away The Tramp cooks up the most unappetizing looking meal...his boot. Charlie was great with physical comedy, moving his arms and putting on facial expressions, that really made the boot look quite tasty.

Later, The Tramp finds himself in a small town, at a dance hall where he first sees Georgia (Hale) and falls head over heels for the vivacious looking dancer. To make her suitor jealous, she requests a dance with the Tramp and in another great comedic scene, where the little fellow can't seem to keep his pants around his waist, they dance the night away.

The Tramp eventually is split from Georgia, only to take a job watching over another prospector's cabin, while he's away. While staying at this cabin, Georgia happens upon him, along with some of her friends and the Little Tramp is ecstatic with joy. Georgia promises to return on New Year's Eve and have dinner with the Tramp. When that day arrives, Georgia is nowhere to be found, leaving the little fellow to envision what dinner would've been like, had his guests shown up. He imagines a grand time with Georgia and her friends, putting on a show for them, with two forks pushed into two dinner rolls and doing a little dance with them on the table...a classic scene.

I don't want to spoil anything, but I would be remiss if I didn't, at least make mention of the climax, where Big Jim and Charlie are in their cabin, which is dangling on the edge of a cliff, a true exercise in comic suspense.

The Gold Rush is a great comedy that shows the talent and comic genius that Charlie Chaplin possessed. While I can't go as far to say that I enjoyed this more than any of the Buster Keaton silent comedies that I watched, I will say that Keaton and Chaplin were different in many, subtle ways, such as their mannerisms or the type of comedy they did. The Gold Rush sets up some great scenes and sequences that must be seen to be truly admired. The cabin dangling on the cliff, the dining of the boot, The Tramp shoveling snow for business owners and the dance hall scene are all classics.

RATING: 7/10 Good movie and can't wait to see more, but I don't get anymore until sometime in the 30's.

NEXT UP: The Big Parade...Couldn't find this one for quite sometime, but finally happened upon it on YouTube, so it should be ready for review either tonight or tomorrow.

October 10, 2009 10:16pm

Saturday, October 10, 2009

27. The Battleship Potemkin (1925)

Running Time: 75 minutes
Directed By: Sergei M. Eisenstein
Written By: Nina Agadzhanova, Sergei M. Eisenstein
Main Cast: Aleksandr Antonov, Vladimir Barsky, Grigori Aleksandrov, Ivan Bobrov

"HEY!...YOU SUNK MY BATTLESHIP!!"
After reading several excerpts, after watching this film, not only from the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book, but from other critics, it seems that this picture is hailed throughout the world and at one time was considered the greatest movie ever made. I had never heard those claims made before, although, I had heard of The Battleship Potemkin, and heard that it was great. I did not hear wrong.

Our movie starts on The Battleship Potemkin (imagine that), where sailors are protesting to the food that they're being fed: meat infested with maggots and the treatment that they receive from their superior officers. When the captain of the ship confronts them, they stand up to him and don't back down, led by the bullheaded Vakulynchuk. It is here that an all out mutiny breaks out and the sailors overthrow the ship and take it over. In all of the fuss Vakulynchuk is killed and taken into the Odessa harbor and laid on the pier, underneath a tent with a note on his chest that reads: "Killed for a bowl of soup".

What follows is one of the most touching and inspiring scenes in film history, as hundreds and thousands of Odessa natives stroll down the pier to show their respects to the fallen officer, the fallen officer who took charge and stood up for his rights and his beliefs. The shot of the sea of humanity walking down the pier is absolutely breathtaking and sends chills up your spine when you watch it.

The following scene is titled, "The Odessa Staircase" (the film is broken up into parts and each part has a title). "The Odessa Staircase" is one of the most heartbreaking and outstanding visual scenes you will ever see in a film. It is this scene alone that made me sit up and take notice of the brilliance of this film. As the Odessa people are waving at the Battleship Potemkin and sending them on their way, the Tsarist soldiers enter the scene and march down the steps, where the people are sending their goodbyes and well wishes, and the massacre that unfolds is visually amazing. If you've ever seen "The Untouchables" and the scene where the baby carriage is tumbling down the steps of the train station stairs, then you've seen a scene stolen from The Battleship Potemkin.

Up until that sequence, The Odessa Staircase, I was kinda beginning to wonder why this film was so lauded. Sure, the scene where the Odessa people come in to pay their respects to the fallen sailor is quite inspirational, but it wasn't quite enough to send this movie into the great status that it is held in. The Odessas Staircase sequence, is a scene that I won't soon forget, a scene that will always stick out when my memory jumps back to the Battleship Potemkin. Roger Ebert once wrote and I'm paraphrasing "The Battleship Potemkin can no longer be considered the greatest film ever made, but it is obligatory for any film scholar." I think I'd have to agree wholeheartedly with that statement. While the Battleship Potemkin is certainly not the greatest film ever made, I believe everyone should take a look at it, at least once.

RATING: 5.5/10 That's just about as high as I can go, as almost all 5.5 of those points go to one single scene. While not the most enjoyable film in the world, The Battleship Potemkin is more about respecting the great work and something that film buffs should watch for historical value.

NEXT UP: The Gold Rush...CHAPLIN HAS ARRIVED...And I'm less than twenty movies away from the 1930's. YES!!!

October 10, 2009 3:29pm

26. The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

Running Time: 91 minutes
Directed By: Rupert Julian, Lon Chaney
Written By: Gaston Leroux
Main Cast: Lon Chaney, Mary Philbin, Norman Kerry, Mary Fabian

"YOU ARE DANCING ON THE TOMBS OF TORTURED MEN!"

I think everyone out there, who may be reading this, has heard the story of the Phantom of the Opera, or at least has heard of it. For those of you who haven't I'll recount the film version of the tale, credited as one of the closest adaptations of the 1910 novel by Gaston Leroux.
Our tales starts with two men purchasing the Paris Opera House and right off the bat being warned of a ghost or phantom that lives in the building. They laugh it off at first, but are almost immediately presented with evidence that supports the warnings that were given earlier. From there the new owners are presented with a note, signed by "The Phantom" that basically says that Carlotta, who is the Paris Opera House's main star, will not sing on the following evening, but instead will be replaced by Christine Daae. The new owners don't pay much mind to it, but the following day sees Carlotta suddenly turn up "ill" and Christine ready to belt one out at the opera house.

Christine is a big hit and upon returning to her dressing room, hears a mysterious voice calling to her and telling her that her career is going to flourish and that all of Paris would worship her. The Phantom continues to warn the managers and Carlotta's mother, not to let Carlotta sing, but the night after Christine brings down the house, Carlotta is ready to go onstage, and the Phantom doesn't take to kindly to this, bringing the chandelier crashing into the audiences, in a very memorable scene.

Later that night, The Phantom casts some kind of spell over Christine, putting her into a trance and drawing her into his underground lair, far below the Paris Opera House. While underground, the Phantom confesses his love for Christine, as he wears a mask, covering his face. As he sits down to the organ to play for Christine, she sneaks up behind him ripping off his mask, to expose a hideous, deformed face, that the Phantom is enraged that she saw. Christine shrieks in horror and the Phantom declares that he'll only let her visit the world one more time, before recapturing her and holding her prisoner underground.

With some mesmerizing shots, such as the great chandelier falling, Christine ripping the Phantom's mask off and the short technicolor sequence of the masked ball, in which the Phantom dresses in glorious red, despite all of those scenes, this movie really didn't spark the enjoyment and awe that I wanted it to. At only ninety one minutes long, this film seemed to go a lot longer than that, dragging on and on with nothing really exciting or interesting ever happening. While I will admit that there were some great scenes and great sets, as well as great costumes and makeup, the film, for me, fell short of a movie worthy of being titled one of the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die".

RATING: 2.5/10 That's just about as high as I can take it for this one, and I really expected to like this one too. Oh well, there's still 900 and some odd movies to go.

NEXT UP: The Battleship Potemkin...The review should be up later on tonight, as this one is on Netflix to view instantly and I plan to knock it out quick.

October 9, 2009 9:25pm

Thursday, October 8, 2009

25. Seven Chances (1925)

Running Time: 56 minutes
Directed By: Buster Keaton
Written By: Clyde Bruckman, Jean C. Havez, Joseph A. Mitchell
Main Cast: Buster Keaton, Ruth Dwyer, T. Roy Barnes, Snitz Edwards

I FIGURED I'D BETTER WRITE THIS REVIEW BEFORE SEVEN O'CLOCK TO AVOID CATASTROPHE

Yet another Buster Keaton film, and yet another timeless classic. Let's jump right into it, shall we?

Buster Keaton plays financial broker Jimmy Shannon, who thanks to a bad deal, needs to make some fast cash to avoid disgrace in the community and possible prison time. Enter a lawyer, played by Snitz Edwards, who makes Jimmy aware of an inheritance that his grandfather left him, in the amount of seven million dollars. There is however, one stipulation to collect the money: Jimmy must marry a woman, by seven o'clock on his twenty seventh birthday, which is the same day that Jimmy finds out about the inheritance, leaving him only hours to find a bride.
The woman he wants to marry is Mary, a woman for whom he's loved for quite sometime, yet unable to bring himself to tell her. He visits her and asks her, but after mucking his words, turns her off to the idea of marriage, leaving Jimmy to have to find a bride from scratch.

Along with his friend and business partner Billy and the lawyer, he goes all over town looking for a bride, in what is an absolutely hilarious search. In one scene we see Jimmy walking up a flight of stairs, all the while proposing marriage to a complete stranger, at the top of the stairs he gets a negative response, only to turn around, walk back down the stairs with another woman and propose to her, again, to a negative response.

Billy eventually gets the idea to advertise the situation in the paper, posting a picture of Jimmy and the details of the inheritance. This brings a storm of brides to the church in hunt of Jimmy and the seven million, that they will stand to marry in to. What follows is an absolutely hilarious and stunning scene, where all the brides chase Jimmy through the town, thinking that he was just pulling one over on them, and seeking their revenge. While running down a hillside, Jimmy trips over some rocks and now, is not only being chased by angry women, but boulders, that are tumbling down the hill after him. CLASSIC stuff!

Again Keaton doesn't fail to impress me, as he proves to me time and time again, with each film, why he's still remembered and talked about today. I still proclaim that Buster Keaton has been my biggest and most talented find of this journey, so far, providing me with three movies already, that could easily be a part of my favorite movies of all time list. There were two other short films on the disc that also contained Seven Chances, and I was so tempted to watch them, but sticking to the pages of the 1001 book, sealed the disc up and shipped it back to Netflix.

RATING: 10/10 Now I'm really not sure which one I liked better, between this, Our Hospitality and Sherlock Jr., they were all fantastic and I'd be hard pressed to pick a favorite, but all I know right now is that Seven Chances was a masterpiece in comedy perfection.

NEXT UP: The Phantom of the Opera...Directed by and starring Lon Chaney, who I've heard a lot about. This one's on Netflix to watch instantly, so as soon as I get the time, you'll get the review.

October 7, 2009 10:46pm

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

24. Der Letzte Mann/The Last Laugh (1924)

Running Time: 90 minutes
Directed By: F.W. Murnau
Written By: Carl Mayer
Main Cast: Emil Jannings, Maly Delschaft, Max Hiller, Emilie Kurz, Hans Unterkircher

"HE WHO LAUGHS LAST...LAUGHS BEST"

Received The Last Laugh in the mail today from Netflix and at only a running time on ninety minutes, decided to knock it off the list right away.

The movie starts with an aging man who is working as a doorman at the Atlantic hotel, and quite proud of his job, is he, indeed. We see him early having a bit of trouble carrying in one of the guests' pieces of luggage, and a little later on we see him receive a letter from the hotel manager, relieving him of his doorman duties and demoting him to washroom attendant, due to his rising age.

From here we see him go a bit mad. A once chipper, happy, proud man now a depressed, barren, old man, going through the motions of his new job. Prior to being relieved he happens to make off with his old uniform and continues to wear his uniform to and from work to lead his family and friends to believe that nothing has changed. When his wife comes to visit him at work, she finds him in the washroom and after letting out a shriek runs home and within minutes his entire apartment complex is aware that he's a lowly washroom attendant.

When the man is seemingly near death and sunken deep into depression, the movie's only title card is shown and reads: "Here the story should really end, for, in real life, the forlorn old man would have little to look forward to but death. The author took pity on him and has provided a quite improbable epilogue." From here we are shown a ridiculous ending where the old man inherits a fortune, a move that, in my opinion, really lessened the quality of this picture.

Up until the ridiculous ending, I was considering this a fairly average movie, not great, yet not terrible either. It was an absolute tragedy to see this old man, who took such pride in the job that he carried, demoted to a new, lowly job and to see his complete and utter breakdown. Unlike Murnau's Nosferatu, there were very little spectacular camera shots, save for the one shot when the wife finds her husband working in the washroom, and we get a quick zoom in, to her terrorized face. But all in all, the ending really brought this down for me, as it seemed like a cheap way to make the viewer leave with a happy feeling.

RATING: 4/10 I probably could've gone with a five or six, if they hadn't tacked on that ending, but as a whole this movie was nothing spectacular, in my eyes.

NEXT UP: Seven Chances...More Keaton!!!

October 7, 2009 6:19pm

SINS OF OMISSION - Entry #61: The Cable Guy (1996)

Running Time: 96 minutes Directed By: Ben Stiller Written By: Lou Holtz Jr. Main Cast: Jim Carrey, Matthew Broderick, Leslie Mann...