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Ruk Watches Old Movies: Now with Cartoon Shorts!

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Posted (edited)

Yeah, the title's kinda self evident for this one, isn't it?

 

 

 

Okay, to explain in a little more detail, I recently did my list for BOT's Top 100 Favourite Movies (incredibly last minute as I assume most people did). While I was admiring my perfect and impeccable taste, I couldn't help but notice how lacking said list was in regards to older films. Sure, there were a couple of old classics scattered here and there, but it made me realise how few of the really famous older films I'd actually seen. And, since I'd been meaning to try and get back into watching more films anyway, I figured I might as well kill two birds with one stone and make a project out of it. And then write about it. Because I am nothing if not determined that everyone should hear my opinions.

 

Basically, my plan is to watch and review one old film every day (or couple of days depending on scheduling), starting with a 1920 movie, then going onto 1921, then 1922 and so on and so forth, all in the aim of getting to at least... let's say... 1999 (by which time I should either be thoroughly sick of the project or ready to go around for another go). In addition, I'm going to grade and rank them as I go along according to my favourites, because what I think this forum really needs is even more lists/rankings.

 

Brief warning though, while I'm obviously going to be watching a lot of the most famous movies of the time while doing this, I'm also primarily going to be targeting the sorts of films that I personally am/think I would be interested in. So it's highly possible I may skip over a classic or two if there's a lesser known movie that looks significantly more appealing to me. So in that regard, expect to see a lot in the way of comedy, horror, action and animation (once it eventually turns up) and not too much in the way of long sweeping romantic dramas. I don't have anything against those sorts of movies, but it's just not my cup of tea. So just warning you about that now.

 

Right, with all that out of the way, let's get started shall we? And I'm going to be beginning my marathon with a certain 1920 German expressionist horror that you might have heard of... 

 

The_Cabinet_of_Dr_Caligari_Conrad_Veidt.

 

 

Edited by rukaio101
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:bravo:

 

Good stuff right here, I am subscribing to this newsletter

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1920

 

What happened this year?

 

A buncha stuff! Prohibition began, the first US General Election took place in which women could actually vote (Warren G. Harding won, fyi), the ACLU was founded, Joan of Arc was canonised as a saint and DeForest Kelley was born! Aka Dr 'Bones' McCoy!

 

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(Also so was Frederico Fellini, Yul Brinner, Toshiro Mifune, Maureen O'Hara, Mickey Rooney and Pope John Paul II, so... good year?)

 

Oh, and in incredibly minor news, the German Workers Party decided to change its name based on reforms pushed forward by one of its members. But I'm sure we'll never hear of this 'National Socialist German Worker's Party' ever again, right?

 

Of course, in less foreboding German news, director Robert Wiene got together with writers Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer to release this little gem of expressionist cinema...

 

 

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari

 

the-cabinet-of-dr-caligari-movie-poster-

 

Plot: At the annual fair at Holstenwall, a series of mysterious and brutal murders begin to take place. At the same time, the mysterious and sinister Dr Caligari shows off his exhibit, a somnambulist (sleepwalker) named Cesare. Could the two events possibly be related? Well, no fucking duh. This was the 1920's. Good narrative misdirection hadn't been invented yet. Still, as protagonist Francis searches for the truth behind both the murders and the mysterious Dr Caligari, the audience is left to wonder who is truly the insane one here? 

 

Trivia: Writer Hans Janowitz claims to have gotten the idea for the film when he was at a carnival one day. He saw a strange man lurking in the shadows. The next day he heard that a girl was brutally murdered there. He went to the funeral and saw the same man lurking around. He had no proof that the strange man was the murderer, but he fleshed the whole idea out into his film. (Fun!!!)

 

Helped Inspire: Dracula, The Night of the Hunter, Citizen Kane (apparently) and almost everything Tim Burton's ever done.

 

 

 

Ruk's Thoughts:

 

Boy, who’d have thought that the first old movie I saw on this list of old movies would be so… old, eh?

 

Yeah, I may have jumped into the deep end a little bit here, because the Cabinet of Dr Caligari is a film that... kinda shows its age? Not just in the fact that it’s a silent, black and white movie, but in everything from its simple camerawork and cliche plot (even though it probably invented most of said cliches in the first place) to its numerous cheap set backgrounds that look more appropriate for a school play than a proper movie.

 

Well, okay, maybe that’s a little harsh on the last one. The production design of Dr Caligari has been one of its most iconic elements and, while I thought it looked ridiculous at the beginning of the movie, as the film went on the set designs honestly kinda grew on me? Are they weird and somewhat cheap looking? Maybe. But they're almost endearingly so and in a way that helped give the film its own unique flavour.

 

Honestly, if I had to give real praise to any technical aspect, however, it’d definitely be the lighting. The use of shadows and low light really give the film a dark and haunting atmosphere that matches the creepy psychological tone of the film perfectly. And while a significant chunk of that shadowy lighting is probably down to the actual limits of filmmaking at the time, I still have to give it credit for the achieved effect. The make-up is pretty ghoulish as well, in a very good way. You can definitely see why Tim Burton chose to base his style on this movie.

 

The other aspect I’d give some praise to is the acting. Sure, it’s very much silent film acting, with a lot of exaggerated motions and expressions, but the actors do a genuinely good job with the parts they were given. (Mostly. The guy who played the doomed best friend made me somewhat giggle at the wrong times.) Special credit goes to Conrad Veidt (the guy whose look (in another movie) inspired the Joker!) as Cesare, the somnabulist, who in spite of having surprisingly little screentime manages to steal the show almost every time he shows up as one of the most genuinely creepy characters in the whole mess.

 

Still, I’m somewhat torn as to how to rate this. On the one hand, it really did show its age in my eyes, both in terms of filmmaking and all the elements of story/design/whatever that I’ve already seen done elsewhere and usually done better (even if said movies were most likely inspired by this). But on the other hand, having had a bit of time to digest and think on the movie, there is something… strangely compelling about it. Especially towards the end, I found myself being drawn more and more towards it and its haunting atmosphere. It’s not exactly something I personally found to be great, but I am definitely glad I watched it and can entirely get why others might love it so much. That said, on my own personal experiences, I still can't bring myself to give it any better than a B-/C+. Sorry.

 

 

 

 

Well, now that that's done, maybe I should relax with something more lighthearted? A comedy, perhaps, starring one of the great slapstick comedians of the age?

 

charlie-chaplin-x28-the-kid-x29-pop-art-

 

Wait, hang on, I've already seen that one.

 

maxresdefault.jpg 

 

 

Thaaaaaat's better. 

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1921

 

What happened this year?

 

A lot of less fun stuff than 1920. The Tulsa race riots happened, the Red Army invaded Georgia, Adolf Hitler became Fuhrer of the Nazi party and his brownshirts begin physically assaulting the opposition, the Italian Fascist party was founded and a famine in Russia kills roughly 5 million people. But, on the plus side, the US officially declared an end to WWI! Which, you know... maybe a little late on that front guys?

 

There were a few famous births of note, though. Prince Phillip, Tommy Cooper, Nancy Reagan, Gene Roddenberry, Charles Bronson and Jackie Stallone! (Sylvester Stallone's mother) So there's that.

 

Anyway, meanwhile, Buster Keaton was making one of about a billion short comedy films, including this particular gem that I'm watching today... which, fyi, I did not know was actually only 22 minutes long, so... yeah. Bit of a short one today.

 

 

The Goat

 

Keaton_Goat_1921.jpg

 

Plot: After a mix-up with a photographer, Buster Keaton accidentally gets mistaken for an escaped murderer and his face is plastered up on wanted posters. Hijinks ensue. Then more hijinks ensue. And even more. Look, it's a 1920's slapstick comedy, who really gives a fuck about the plot?

 

Trivia: At the 03:30 mark, when the man on the street is counting money in a wallet he found, the graffiti on the fence in the background reads "G.I.P. Funny". (Alright look, IMDB didn't have much in the trivia section for this.)

 

Helped Inspire: This specifically? Probably not much. Buster Keaton inspired a ton of people through his physical comedy though, including Jackie Chan.

 

 

 

Ruk's Thoughts:

 

You know, after watching Dr Caligari, I did actually wonder whether I might have gone too far back in time to begin this. Whether all the old-timey stylings of black/white silent filmmaking might have been too much of a culture shock for my modern palate to take all at once.

 

So naturally, trust this movie to almost immediately disprove that.

 

Yeah, this was just great fun. I’ve not watched as much Buster Keaton as I’d like, but I’ve seen some of his more famous works like The General (which was… slightly awkward considering all the Confederacy stuff) and his slapstick routine translates almost seamlessly through time (even if the politics don’t). And that goes just as much for this movie. It’s fast, it’s fun, it’s frenetic and it’s incredibly funny at times. And it wasn’t even the best comedy of the year! (I’ve already seen The Kid, so I couldn’t watch it for this.).

 

If I had to pick anything apart it’s that the plot is paper thin and not really resolved at all. Pretty certain they never clear Keaton's name or catch the wanted criminal or resolve anything. But then again, honestly, the plot is clearly just an excuse for the comedy and in that regard it works perfectly. Although, I do have to wonder exactly why this movie is called The Goat, because it has literally nothing to do with goats. Then again, maybe it's an old-timey term I'm not getting.

 

So yeah, this movie, short as it was, was still a lot of fun. Maybe not in the top tier of slapstick comedies I’ve ever seen, but certainly a proud example of the genre and I enjoyed watching. Honestly, they really don’t make movies like this anymore and I think that’s a genuine shame. So for now, I’m giving it a strong B+
 

 

Rankings:

 

1. The Goat (1921) - B+

2. The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920) - B-/C+

 

 

 

Well, now I've lightened things up a bit, maybe for my next film I should give the whole German horror thing a second chance? After all, I can't let one bad experience throw me off. And, as luck might have it, there's a certain little bonechilling movie available. One that is definitely not based on any existing properties like Dracula. Totally. I don't know why you'd even suggest such a thing. Because it's definitely not-

 

Oh hang on, someone's at my door. 'Scuse me for a second...

 

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1922

 

What happened this year?

 

Some neat stuff, some not so neat. On the neat side, the first successful insulin treatment for diabetes was administered! On the not so neat side, Mussolini seized power in Italy. On the neat side, Rebecca L. Felton became the first female US Senator. On the not so neat side, Mahatma Gandhi was imprisoned for sedition.

 

Also, Vegemite was invented. Make of that what you will. 

 

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(All I'm saying is that it might not be a coincidence this happened the same year that Tutankhamun's tomb was also discovered.)

 

As for famous births, this was actually a pretty good year, with Judy Garland, Betty White, Bea Arthur, Doris Day, Martha Stewart, Charles M. Schultz and not one, but two awesome Lee's with Christopher Lee and Stan Lee

 

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(Also consider this the obligatory Stan Lee cameo for this thread.)

 

However this wasn't all good news. German currency went through some truly ridiculous inflation as a result of the post-war punishments inflicted upon it by the Allied Nation. How ridiculous, exactly? Well, in 1919, the normal exchange rate was 12 German marks to one American dollar. In July of 1922, the exchange rate was approximately 563 marks to the dollar. By December of the same year, the exchange rate had gone up to 7000 marks to the dollar. Which is, you know, not great?

 

Why am I bringing this up, you might ask? Well mainly because this year's movie is a German Expressionist horror and I needed to find some way to make that awkward transition from Stan Lee and Vegemite to a hideous terrifying vampire. And it was either this or a Twilight joke. Aaaaanyway....

 

 

Nosferatu

 

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Plot:  An English German estate agent named Harker Hutter is sent on a journey to deepest Transylvania to visit the castle of the sinister Count Dracula Orlok, in what Harker Hutter believes to be a routine business deal, leaving his lovely wife Mina Ellen behind. Harker Hutter's trek is an unusual one, with many locals not wanting to take him near the castle where strange events have been occurring which doesn't at all remind you of any other famous vampire novel. Once at the castle, Harker Hutter does manage to sell the Count the house, but also discovers that the Count is really a vampire or Nosferatu. While Harker Hutter is trapped in the castle, the Count, hiding in a shipment of coffins, makes his way to Whitby Wisbourg, causing death along his way, ...

 

Trivia: Count Orlok is only seen blinking once on screen, near the end of Act One.

 

Helped Inspire: A lawsuit from Bram Stoker's estate.

 

 

 

Ruk's Thoughts:

 

Okay, good news everyone, you can put the torches and pitchforks away, because this is one 1920's German Expressionist horror that I thought actually did hold up fairly well. Really. Definitely. Totally. 100%. I mean, okay, there were a few problems here and there but- wait no, put that pitchfork down!

 

Seriously though, I wasn't kidding, this is actually pretty damn great. Espeeecially the titular Nosferatu.. Vampires have gone through quite an evolution over the years, from scary to pretty to tortured loners to comic figures, back to being scary and so on and so forth. And, while I could make arguments both for and against what each of those different types bring to the table (yes, even Twilight), I genuinely can't think of any vampire in any media I've ever watched as instinctively and unnaturally horrifying as Max Schreck's Count Orlok.

 

Seriously, this guy is isn't in the movie quite as much as you think, but every time he shows up, you just can't look away. It's not just the fantastic make-up that easily outdoes any modern CGI, or the unsettling rat-like design that still somehow reeks of danger. But it's the physical performance as well, the weird shuddering way in which Orlok moves, like a stop-motion figure slowly creeping towards you. Not to mention the way he gets some of the most iconic moments in vampire lore... hell, in movies in general. The 'vampire rises at an unnatural angle out of his coffin' thing has been parodied to death and back, but this movie not only created it, but still manages to come off as kinda terrifying.

 

I also gotta compliment a lot of the beautiful and sweeping visuals whenever they showed up. No weird painted backgrounds in this one (and yes, I still think they looked kinda silly in Caligari). The house Orlok eventually moves to in Germany deserves special mention for its almost looming presence throughout the movie. 

 

I do have issues though which stop me from declaring it an out and out all-time favourite for me. For one, most of the stuff without Orlok is not nearly as interesting as the stuff with him in. And since, as mentioned, he's not in the movie quite as much as you'd think, that means a lot of time with the relatively uninteresting side cast. Secondly, even though I thought it held up better than Caligari, there are still areas in which the movie definitely shows its age. Especially the 'night' scenes, which have clearly been shot during the day and a terrible-looking blue filter added in post. 

 

In conclusion, this one's definitely worth checking out. It's a story that you've probably seen told a bunch of times, but with an outstanding central performance, some excellent direction and genuine sense of creeping horror that many movies have tried but failed to recapture. As it is, I'm giving it a strong B+

 

Rankings:

 

1. Nosferatu - B+

1. The Goat (1921) - B+

2. The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920) - B-/C+

 

 

 

Alright, well I've done a second German Expressionist Horror now, so maybe I should try a second comedy to help balance it out. Preferably one with an iconic scene or two to reference. I'd start looking now, but it is getting rather late over here in the UK. In fact, I wonder what time it is...

 

SafetyLast1_384.jpg

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Great write ups so far. 

 

If you'd like to see a companion piece to Nosferatu, Shadow of The Vampire (2000) -  a fictionalized making of the film with Dafoe and Malkovich is pretty entertaining.

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1923

 

What happened this year?

 

Hey, remember that hyperinflation of German currency I mentioned last time? Well, it kinda hit its peak this year. Specifically, it got to the point where 1 German mark grew to the equivalent of 4.2 trillion dollars! (I feel there's a box office joke I should be probably making right now, but I keep forgetting which way round the exchange rate goes here.)

 

In other news, President Warren G. Harding dies of a heart attack and is replaced with Calvin Coolidge, Hitler got arrested after attempting a coup in Bavaria during the Beer Hall Pusch and Warner Bros Studios was officially founded!

 

As for famous births, there weren't that many I could actually find this year. Charlton Heston, Richard Attenborough, Bob Barker and that most hateful of monsters, Marcel Marceau Henry Kissinger. 

 

But anyway, enough doom and gloom. Instead, let's go back and look at another classic silent comedy, this one with the most recognisably iconic scenes of all time, even you don't know that this was where said scene originated. Yes, I'm talking Harold Lloyd in...

 

Safety Last

 

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Plot:  Harold Lloyd plays a country boy trying to make it good in the big city to make his hometown (and girlfriend in said hometown) proud. However, while he claims in his letter that everything is going great, he ends up getting stuck in a dead-end job as a salesman in a department store, with a friend named 'Limpy' Bill (which I don't think is a dick joke?). Fortunately, he sees a chance to turn things around when the General Manager offers a $1000 reward (which was probably a lot in 1920's money) to any employee who can come up with a good way to draw publicity to the store. Harold comes up with the idea of getting his friend, Limpy Bill, to climb the several-stories high department building. However when Limpy Bill is stuck trying to avoid arrest, Harold is forced to do it instead. Also he dangles from a clock. Not that plot relevant, but it's like the one scene everyone remembers from this. 

 

Trivia: During the famous clock tower stunt, Harold Lloyd is not as far from the ground as he appears. The building on which he climbs was actually a fake wall constructed on the roof of an actual skyscraper and skillfully photographed to maintain the illusion. Harold Lloyd first tested the safety precautions for said stunt by dropping a dummy onto the mattress below. The dummy bounced off the roof and plummeted to the street below.

 

Helped Inspire: Almost every scene with a guy dangling from a clock ever.

 

 

 

Ruk's Thoughts:

 

JESUS PEOPLE, I WAS TOLD THIS WAS A COMEDY! WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL?!

 

Okay, maybe I should supply a little context for that freakout, because this is definitely labelled a comedy movie for clear reasons, or at least is definitely a comedy movie for the first half. Said first half is mainly dedicated to more basic comedy bits involving Harold's everyday life and a number of humorous misunderstandings and the likes that he gets into, from being late back to his shift, to trying to trick his girl by pretending to have been promoted to general manager and so on and so forth. It's funny enough, with some great moments, even if I feels it lacks a bit of the energy and style of someone like Chaplin and Keaton.

 

However, in the second half, once Harold Lloyd actually starts climbing the building, it goes from lighthearted slapstick comedy to a surprisingly intense thriller disguised as slapstick comedy. Seriously I was on the edge of my fucking seat for a lot of said climb and not just for the infamous clock scene. The movie is genuinely surprisingly good at creating and maintaining tension and the physical comedy stylings only add to that. One scene where Lloyd comes very close to boinking his head on a weather vane, while structured and appeared to look like a slapstick comedy bit, honestly translated amazingly well as a thriller instead. It's genuinely quite impressive.

 

I will say though, I'm not quite prepared to put this over Nosferatu, if only because the comedy sections lacked the same polish as the likes of Keaton, and the building climb isn't until a long way in, but this is still a genuinely excellent, even if not necessarily for the reasons (or genre) I was expecting it to be. B+

 

Rankings:

 

1. Nosferatu - B+

2. Safety Last - B+

3. The Goat (1921) - B+

4. The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920) - B-/C+

 

 

 

Alright so, while a quality movie on its own, that wasn't quite the comedy I was looking for. And while I could try something new, I feel like going back to one of the masters to see how it's done. And, as luck would have it, Buster Keaton just happens to have made one of his most famous movies...

 

maxresdefault.jpg

(And yes, I'm aware this one's only 44 minutes long. Don't care, I want to watch it.)

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Sorry this is a day late. Got back later than expected due to Deadpool 2 and was too tired to write up a full thing.

 

1924

 

What happened this year?

 

Stuff happened! Lenin died, the Ottoman Empire was abolished, J Edgar Hoover became head to the FBI, Mercedes-Benz was formed by a merger of two different companies, famed movie studio MGM was created and someone invented the Caesar Salad!

 

One of my favourite stories that did caught my eye though was that of Harry Grindell Matthew's failed attempts to convince people that he had managed to invent a death ray. Despite his attempts to demonstrate the ray, the British War Office didn't buy his claims and refused to buy the weapon. Which is an almost tailor-made Silver Age supervillain origin, fyi. I have no idea how this didn't end up with Grindell Matthews going on a crime spree and attempting to blow up Big Ben before being stopped by Batman. Aside from, you know, the 'death ray' in all probability being just a confidence scam.

 

(Although, weirdly, Grindell Matthews did end up going to work for Warner Bros Studio at some point, so... WB might have a death ray in their vault?)

 

Anyway, as far as births go, there were a few. Benny Hill, Lee Marvin, Robert Mugabe, Marlon Brando, Lauren Bacall, Truman Capote and two US Presidents (George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter) Make of that what you will. In the meanwhile, time for comedy. And one of Buster Keaton's most well-regarded films...

 

Sherlock Jr

 

sherlockjr.jpg

 

Plot:  Buster Keaton plays Buster Keaton as a theatre projectionist who dreams of being a famous detective. After being framed for stealing a pocket watch by 'the local sheik' (which was apparently a thing in 1920's America?), Keaton dozes off during the playing of a movie and, in his dream, ends up imagining himself as the hero, the titular Sherlock Jr, solving a case that bears a certain similarity to the one he's already caught up in...

 

Trivia: Buster Keaton practiced for four months, working with a pool expert, to learn all the trick shots that Sherlock Jr. performs during the pool game. Nevertheless, it took him five days to film all the trick shots, and get them right. When he was finished, all the best trick shots he had filmed were cut together to make it look like Sherlock Jr. was playing one continuous game of pool.

 

Helped Inspire: Same stuff as mentioned on The Goat's page. Also possibly Last Action Hero. Can't confirm that though.

 

 

 

Ruk's Thoughts:

 

So, once again I'm stuck watching a Buster Keaton comedy and, once again, it was genuinely a ton of fun. And, honestly, I loved this movie even more than The Goat. While that movie was almost a perfect example of the old silent film era of slapstick comedy and the hilarity, this movie goes even further and has the sort of inventive camera trickery and choreography that I thought wasn't just inventive for a slapstick comedy, but is inventive for movies period. I laughed my ass off during the 'quick scene transition' stuff in the movie theatre scene and I'm surprised more modern movies haven't tried anything like that. 

 

Really, almost everything I liked about The Goat was here except sharper, more refined and more inventive. Stuff like the motorcycle chase, the car boat, the pool table scene (which apparently was not faked, Keaton pulled off every single one of those shots (albeit separately and edited together)) all had me both in stitches and marveling at the ingenuity shown. 

 

If I had to pick any real flaw it's that, like The Goat, it doesn't really have much of a plot. But, then again, unlike The Goat, it does bother to have an actual plot conclusion, so that's a plus. But either that doesn't really matter much, because this movie is all about the comedy. And on that point, I'd say it more than hits the mark. As such, I'm giving it a nice strong A.

 

 

Rankings:

 

1. Sherlock Jr- A

2. Nosferatu - B+

3. Safety Last - B+

4. The Goat (1921) - B+

5. The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920) - B-/C+

 

 

Alright, enough comedy, time to get back to the actual classics. In this case, probably one of the most famous silent films of all time, a pioneer in regards to the formation of cinematic language and one of the earliest films of one Sergei Eisenstein... 

 

Now if you'll excuse me, I think I've got something in my eye...

 

Potemkin-3.jpg

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Posted (edited)

Waiting to get to the 30's so there is a chance of having something I have seen.

Edited by Tower

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Sherlock Jr. is a masterpiece and maybe the best cure for anyone who thinks silent movies aren't for them. There are more visual ideas and energy in there than in most movies made since. 

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1925

 

What happened this year?

 

Lotta kinda crappy stuff, to be honest. Hitler started writing Mein Kampf, the SS were first formed (as a bodyguard unit for Hitler), the Ku Klux Klan organised a parade in Washington DC with over 30,000 marchers (which was a lot in 1920's terms) to show off their popularity, Mussolini began his dictatorship in Italy and The Great Gatsby was published, bring torture and pain to the thousands of schoolchildren forced to cover it decades later in English class.

 

Alright fine, maybe that last one isn't quite in the same league.

 

As for famous births, we've actually got quite a few, some of whom, while not household names now, are still a pretty big deal in regards to film history. Paul Newman, Lee van Cleef (aka the Bad in the Good, the Bad and the Ugly), Jack Lemmon, Robert Altman, Rod Steiger (of Night of the Hunter fame), Johnny Carson (aka the 'Johnny' in 'Here's Johnny!'), Richard Burton and Julie Harris And on the more well known side, we have people like Peter Sellers, Dick van Dyke and Angela Lansbury.

 

We also have a bunch of controversial people that I won't common on as well like, Margaret Thatcher, Malcolm X and Pol Pot. Oh, and Audie Murphy. Who isn't actually that controversial at all, but I wanted to bring him up because he's awesome.

 

Anyway, onto the movie. And it's sure as hell a big one today...

 

Battleship Potemkin

 

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Plot:  Based on the real-life mutiny, Battleship Potemkin tells the story of the sailors on the titular battleship who, after being denigrated and abused by their (literally) moustache-twirlingly evil officers, decide to revolt. They successfully take over the ship and sail to the near port of Odessa where they inspire the citizens to revolt in the spirit of the glorious Russian Revolution (you know, before it got all totalitarian and mass-murdery).   

 

Trivia: The famous Odessa steps sequence was not originally in the script, but was devised during production.

 

Helped Inspire: God, where do I even start? Um... The language of cinema? Seriously, this is one the most influential films of all time for a reason. Oh, and I guess it also inspired that baby carriage, train station shoot out from The Untouchables.

 

 

Ruk's Thoughts:

 

So I gotta admit, I wasn't entirely certain what to expect when I started watching this movie. Sure, I definitely know of its importance in film history and its status as an all-time classic and so on and so forth. But I also knew that about Dr Caligari and that still didn't stop me from feeling somewhat lukewarm on it. Yet, once I actually watched this movie and digested it, the more I thought about it, the more I realised that Battleship Potemkin actually very reminded me incredibly strongly of another movie I recently watched. Not necessarily in style, story, execution or any real surface details, but more in how it engaged me and how I viewed it and ultimately how I think I felt about it.

 

And that other movie was....... the 2017 Cambodian Martial Arts movie Jailbreak

 

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(Wait wait wait, don't leave, I'm going somewhere with this, I swear!)

 

Now, to explain fully why I think this is the case, I need to go into the backstory of Jailbreak a little. As those of you who were following my 2017 film ranking list might know, I first saw Jailbreak at the London Film Festival. And, before the screening, there was a short talk from Jean-Paul Ly, one of the film’s stars and stunt choreographers, who told us a bit about the film’s production. I won't go into full details here, but basically Jailbreak was possibly the first Cambodian action movie ever and was made on a shoestring budget with a team of extras who, before Jean-Paul arrived, barely knew the slightest thing about martial arts or how to be stuntmen or almost anything else.

 

And, I should note, all that definitely showed. The movie wore its pitiful budget and its relative inexperience on its sleeves, with cheap sets constantly reused and a rather basic plot and acting and so on. Yet, in spite of all of that, it still ended up being one of my favourite films of the year. Why? Because while it may have been cheap and sloppy and lacking in the sorts of things most movie studios take for granted, there was one aspect that the movie was not only good at, but managed to hit into fucking orbit again and again and again. Specifically, the martial-arts action. Which I won't gush about too much here, but I honestly think is every bit as good as The Raid. And ultimately, it was so good at said action that, honestly, all those other problems not only felt insignificant, but honestly almost gave the movie kind of an underdog vibe and made it all the more meaningful that in spite of all its limitations and problems it still somehow managed to be so damn good at what it tried to do.

 

Now, why am I bringing all this up, you may ask? Well, because I kinda feel Battleship Potemkin is sorta in the same boat (pun not intended). The movie itself came off as sloppy and unpolished and weird to me in a lot of ways, in large part because so much of what we consider modern cinema had yet to be properly developed. Yet, like Jailbreak, the movie had things that it was so good at, so genius and incomparable and brilliant at, that when it started really utilising its talents, all those minor problems and awkwardness just seemed to melt away in the face of how freaking amazing it was.

 

Seriously, when the movie really, really started pushing the boundaries of cinematic language during the boat revolt, I was freaking transfixed in a way that very few movies have ever managed to achieve from me. And it kept the hits coming and coming and coming, culminating in the infamous Odessa Steps sequence which was just pure cinematic magic. There were techniques that I'd seen other filmmakers use before, yet never as effectively as they were used here. And in some ways the sloppiness and rough-around-the-edges nature of a lot of the film honestly emphasised the emotion, making it feel less robotically perfect and more human and visceral and real. I was genuinely blown away by how good it was and not in the precise ways I was expecting it to be.

 

In conclusion, I do think Battleship Potemkin is a flawed film and I'm not entirely certain everyone whose used to more modern cinema will necessarily appreciate it. But, honestly, I almost feel like its flaws made it shine even further. That imperfectness that, like Jailbreak, added almost an underdog element, that ultimately made the effort put in feel all the more real and meaningful and meant that when the movie starts to shine with its dramatic montages, it shines all the brighter. As it is, while I'm not certain I'd give it a straight A+, I do still feel it definitely deserves its place as a true film classic. A+/A

 

 

Rankings:

 

 

  1. Battleship Potemkin- A+/A
  2. Sherlock Jr- A
  3. Nosferatu - B+
  4. Safety Last - B+
  5. The Goat (1921) - B+
  6. The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920) - B-/C+

 

 

Okay, I feel I should quickly say that I'm likely to be on hiatus for the next few days or so. I've got a coursework deadline coming up that I really need to be focusing on right now (and probably should've thought about before I started this, but ah well.) Still, I will definitely be continuing this. Especially since, as some people might know, I freaking love animation. And the next film coming up is possibly the oldest (surviving) feature-length animated film ever.

 

What? No, not Snow White. Fuck that Disney poser. I'm talking about something else entirely...

 

1096459-493451-34.jpg?v=2

 

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Aaaaand I'm back. Coursework done and dusted so now I can get back to doing this. I'm sure the 2/3 people still following this thread must be overjoyed. Anyway, on with the year.

 

1926

 

Highest Grossing Film: Aloma of the South Seas- $3,000,000

 

What happened this year?

 

Some interesting stuff. PCP was invented, Britain was put under martial law because of a coal miners strike, Agatha Christie very briefly went missing, Winnie the Pooh was published, there were multiple assassination attempts made against Mussolini and Harry Houdini died. ...Or did he? (Yes. Yes, he did.)

 

That said, one of the smaller stories that I liked was that Ireland set up the wonderfully named Committee on Evil Literature. In case you couldn't guess, the committee was basically just formed to ban books that offended 1920's sensibilities, but I still really love that name. It makes them sound like a secret cabal of book-themed supervillains. Maybe they should've teamed up with that death ray guy from a few years back.

 

Famous birth-wise, we've got Leslie Nielsen, Jerry Lewis, Hugh Hefner, Queen Elizabeth II, Harper Lee (of 'wrote To Kill a Mockingbird' fame (and absolutely nothing else)), David Attenborough, Don Rickles, Marilyn Monroe, Mel Brooks and Fidel Castro. So yeah, important big year. That said, is it weird that the one I cared most about was Mel Brooks?

 

Anyway, time for the movie itsel. And this one actually has a fairly interesting story behind it. Not only is the world's oldest surviving feature-length animated film (suck it Snow White), but it also took 3 years to complete and was even directed by a female director (Lotte Reiniger). And, since I'm a big animation fan, I figured I might as well check out...

 

The Adventures of Prince Achmed

 

Achmed-copy-260x368.png

 

Plot:  Based on stories from "The Arabian Nights." A wicked sorcerer tricks a weirdly gullible sultan into letting him marry his daughter and then kinda tricks the girl's brother, Prince Achmed, into riding a magical flying horse which carries him far far away. (Honestly, it was mostly Achmed's own fault, but I digres). The heroic prince is able to subdue the magical horse, which he uses to fly off to many adventures, including kissing a bunch of girls, kidnapping a princess and a rather racially uncomfortable one in China that we don't like to talk about. While travelling, he falls in love with the beautiful Princess Peri Banu (hence the aforementioned kidnapping), and must defeat an army of demons to win her heart. Also Aladdin is there for some reason.

 

Trivia: Lotte Reiniger cut figures out of black cardboard with a pair of scissors, and joined movable parts with thread in order to animate them. From 1923-26 about 250,000 frame-by-frame stills were made and 96,000 were used in the film.

 

Helped Inspire: More than you'd think. For one, it beat Disney's The Sword in the Stone to the 'shapeshifting wizards battle' thing and Disney's Aladdin to... the whole Aladdin story thing. Rebecca Sugar even named it as a direct influence to a few Steven Universe episodes.

 

 

Ruk's Thoughts:

 

Okay, those of you who know me probably know that I love animated movies. I think it’s a tremendous medium with almost unrivalled potential for inventive storytelling and am rather disappointed at how its mainstream presence in the US is more or less delegated to kids films. So I was naturally intrigued to see how the oldest surviving animated film in existence held up.

 

And the answer? Surprisingly damn well, to be honest.

 

As opposed to Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, which was fully animated via a cel-shading process (and was the first of its kind in this regard) this movie uses shadowy cutouts, animated through stop motion and it honestly looks really good. The animation is smooth and the cutout style really creates a unique and sometimes haunting style that I’ve honestly not seen in any other animated movies to date. And it genuinely holds up to a startling degree. Seriously, I've seen actual modern theatrically released animated movies that don't even begin to look as good as this does and this was made in the 1920's, for god's sake.

 

And it's not just the animation, but the direction as well that stands out. Being a silent movie, obviously, the film has very little dialogue or narration and thus mostly relies the visuals to tell the story, which itself only compliments the strengths on animation. And the movies does a great of capturing the appropriate tone for each moment or scene, be it action, fear, awe or whatever. Seriously, the movie can be downright haunting at times, with the scene of Aladdin finding the genies in the lamp being a standout, or the shapeshifters battle (which I'm fairly confident The Sword in the Stone ripped off, fyi).

 

The story itself is a bit basic. It's a mix of Aladdin and another of the tales from the 1001 Nights (although honestly, the Aladdin stuff kinda comes the hell out of nowhere). It also shows its age a little, with more than a few story aspects that are a little… problematic in modern times. (Such as the main romantic subplot being initiated by the protagonist effectively kidnapping the girl, the harem scene and the... let's call it 'racially awkward' scenes in China. But the story itself also carries a fun sense of timelessness and, even with those few problematic elements, rarely feels dated in any way.

 

As it is, this movie really wasn’t what I was expecting from the oldest surviving animated film and I mean that in a mostly positive way. In spite of its age, the animation holds up really well and it's a genuinely quite enjoyable movie. Hell, polish up the quality of the film a little (and remove some of the problematic elements) and it could easily be released today, that's how well it holds up. So I'd definitely recommend giving it a try if you're interested. That said, it's not perfect, so for now, I think I'll give it an A-

 

(Side Note: Avoid the version of the movie which adds an annoying woman narrating and explaining everything that happens onscreen. I tried watching that version and ended up muting it after about 10 minutes.)

 

 

Rankings:

 

  1. Battleship Potemkin- A+/A
  2. Sherlock Jr- A
  3. The Adventures of Prince Achmed- A-
  4. Nosferatu - B+
  5. Safety Last - B+
  6. The Goat (1921) - B+
  7. The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920) - B-/C+

 

 

Anyway, next time is 1927 and a movie I've been wanting to check for quite a long while now. I won't make it too obvious but needless to say, if you know anything about which movies came out that year, this won't be too difficult to guess.

dni5B87.gif

 

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Monday: "Alright, my coursework is finally out of the way! Time to continue with this thing!"

 

Tuesday: *laptop immediately has a catastrophic fatal error and I spent most the day trying (unsuccessfully) to fix it.*

 

Wednesday: *takes the laptop in for repairs only to find out the logic board's gone kaput and they probably won't be able to fix it until Monday.*

 

Thursday: *Despair*

 

 

Yeah, sorry about this delay, but my laptop picked a real fine time to go and mess shit up. I have already watched my film for 1927 (as well as 1928 & 1929 as well), but my ipad isn't the best for this sort of thing and I'd rather until I got my laptop back before doing my write-ups.

 

In the meantime though (and to foster some kind of discussion), here's a few hints as to what I've been watching/will be watching in the future. Feel free to take your guesses.

 

  • 1928) Widely considered a cinematic masterpiece and also probably the most obvious choice I could've picked here.
  • 1929) Technically watched 2 films this year, since I didn't realise the first was only 21 minutes long. However, both films do share a similarity in that they're rather lacking in the (logical) plot department.
  • 1930) Finally! The first talkie in this challenge! And the first BP winner! Also, again, probably the most obvious choice I could've gone for.  
  • 1931) *hums In the Hall of the Mountain King*
  • 1932) A logical successor to my 1922 pick.
  • 1933) Surprised to realise I hadn't actually ever watched this all the way through. Peter Jackson would be rolling in his grave.
  • 1934) Shares a name with one of my favourite characters from my 1927 pick.
  • 1935) One of the earlier (popular) films of a particularly famous director.
  • 1936) One of the later films of another particularly famous actor/director (who I'm kinda ashamed hasn't shown up more on this list thus far)
  • 1937) An animated film.

 

 

 

 

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58 minutes ago, rukaio101 said:

 

  • 1933) Surprised to realise I hadn't actually ever watched this all the way through. Peter Jackson would be rolling in his grave.

 

KongGif3a.gif.CROP.original-original.gif

 

Peter Jackson is still alive though :lol:

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2 hours ago, rukaio101 said:

Monday: "Alright, my coursework is finally out of the way! Time to continue with this thing!"

 

Tuesday: *laptop immediately has a catastrophic fatal error and I spent most the day trying (unsuccessfully) to fix it.*

 

Wednesday: *takes the laptop in for repairs only to find out the logic board's gone kaput and they probably won't be able to fix it until Monday.*

 

Thursday: *Despair*

 

 

Yeah, sorry about this delay, but my laptop picked a real fine time to go and mess shit up. I have already watched my film for 1927 (as well as 1928 & 1929 as well), but my ipad isn't the best for this sort of thing and I'd rather until I got my laptop back before doing my write-ups.

 

In the meantime though (and to foster some kind of discussion), here's a few hints as to what I've been watching/will be watching in the future. Feel free to take your guesses.

 

  • 1928) Widely considered a cinematic masterpiece and also probably the most obvious choice I could've picked here.
  • 1929) Technically watched 2 films this year, since I didn't realise the first was only 21 minutes long. However, both films do share a similarity in that they're rather lacking in the (logical) plot department.
  • 1930) Finally! The first talkie in this challenge! And the first BP winner! Also, again, probably the most obvious choice I could've gone for.  
  • 1931) *hums In the Hall of the Mountain King*
  • 1932) A logical successor to my 1922 pick.
  • 1933) Surprised to realise I hadn't actually ever watched this all the way through. Peter Jackson would be rolling in his grave.
  • 1934) Shares a name with one of my favourite characters from my 1927 pick.
  • 1935) One of the earlier (popular) films of a particularly famous director.
  • 1936) One of the later films of another particularly famous actor/director (who I'm kinda ashamed hasn't shown up more on this list thus far)
  • 1937) An animated film.
Spoiler

 

The Passion of Joan of Arc

Un chien andalou + The Man with the Movie Camera?

All Quiet on the Western Front

M

Vampyr

King Kong

The Thin Man

The 39 Steps

Modern Times

Snow White

 

 

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Boom. Guess whose laptop is back from the repair shop? Time to fire back up the ol' time machine!

 

 

1927

 

Highest Grossing Film: The Jazz Singer- $7,630,000

 

Best Picture: Wings

 

What happened this year?

 

This was actually a pretty important year for film. Not only was The Jazz Singer released, aka the first major popular 'talkie' feature film (and following in the footsteps of Birth of a Nation by being both incredibly important in film history and also being reaaally kinda racial awkward), but this was also the year where the Academy Awards were first established. And in true Academy Award fashion, rather than award the movies that actually ended up having lasting cultural impact and longevity, they gave it to Wings. A movie that, while I'm sure it's very good, is probably more-or-less only remembered today for being the first Best Picture winner. Oh, and Laurel and Hardy made their first movie too, which is neat.

 

Meanwhile, in other news, Charles Lindberg made the first solo transatlantic flight, work started on the Mount Rushmore sculptures and both Ireland and Iraq officially gained independence from the United Kingdom (which, I'll admit, the latter surprised me more than the former.) Also, in regards to famous births, we've got Barbara Rush, Sidney Poitier, Emmanuelle Riva, Pope Benedict XVI, Janet Leigh, Roger Moore and the ever classic George C. Scott.

 

Got all that? Good. Now, on with the movie.

 

Metropolis

 

Related image

 

Plot:  In a futuristic city sharply divided between the working class and the city planners, the touchy-feely son of the city's mastermind falls in love with a working class prophet who predicts the coming of a savior to mediate their differences. Also robots. Robots are cool.

 

Trivia: Film included more than 37,000 extras including 25,000 men, 11,000 women, 1,100 bald men, 750 children, 100 dark-skinned people and 25 Asians. 310 shooting days were required. Unemployment and inflation were so bad in Germany at the time that the producers had no trouble finding 500 malnourished children to film the flooding sequences.

 

Helped Inspire: Almost every sci-fi movie in the last 90 years. And Superman's home city.

 

 

Ruk's Thoughts:

 

Okay, let me start by saying that I respect the hell out of this movie.

 

Seriously, while a lot of the visual design and sci-fi elements can easily come off as cliche and overused in media, it’s important to realise that almost all of said visual design ideas were actually outright created by this movie and that, much like Blade Runner pioneered the neo-noir visual style, this movie more or less pioneered the sci-fi visual style, period. Which is seriously damn impressive.

 

That said, in case this whole 'no srsly I did like it' intro didn't tip you off, I do have to admit I have a fair share of issues with it. 

 

For one, the movie is too long by half and it especially feels it in the first half. While I have no issues with setting up the world and characters and the great visual designs of the sets and backdrops and the like, the movie doesn’t really get going with the plot until about an hour in and a lot of what we get before that does kinda feel like padding. We didn’t really need to see the journey of that one guy Freder replaced on the machines or of the assistant who got fired or the Thin Man (as much as I love the guy for being creepy as shit). It felt drawn out and unnecessarily slow and really kinda bored me. Fortunately, it definitely does pick up in the second half, which really redeemed the movie for me, but it was something I had an issue with.


The second issue was with the protagonist, Freder, who is kind of a foppish, lovestruck idiot incapable of a having a conversation with someone without more or less groping them. Seriously dude, personal space is a thing. Can you not hold a single conversation without draping yourself over the nearest person? (Although admittedly, I found that more hilarious than anything else). And I get what they were going for with his character, making him an innocent naive rich boy slowly coming to learn and understand the darker underbelly of his world. But he’s also almost entirely useless and spends most of his time having mental breakdowns at the most innocuous of stuff. Again, part of this might be heavily to do with how stretched out the first act was, since he’s the main focus for much of it, but still I really couldn’t stand him.


Honestly, a lot of the acting in general leans a bit too strong to the hammy side of things. The worker extras in particular seem to switch emotions on a dime, going from celebratory to heartbroken to bloodthirsty to celebratory again and all completely 100% over-the-top. Made it hard to take the emotional moments seriously with background extras cackling like a bunch of coked-up loons. The only actors I think I unambiguously liked were Jon Frederson (who almost reminded me of a proto-Tywin Lannister at times) and Maria/Robo-Maria for whom the hamminess actually really worked to make her unsettling. The way Robo-Maria unnaturally moved and twitched in particular gave me strong flashbacks to the Bride of Frankenstein, making me wonder whether the latter in fact took a lot of inspiration from the former. Considering how much else this movie has inspired, it really wouldn't surprise me.


Also, on the negative side, the resolution of the conflict was kinda shite. The politics of where the line lies between fair work and exploitation in regards to the working class and the rich is a complex subject and not really something that can be fixed by going ‘maybe we should hold hands and be friends!’ But, then again, apparently Fritz Lang agreed with me that the ending was kinda poorly thought out, so... eh?


But now that I’ve finished talking about all the problems I had with it, what about the stuff I did like? Because there was actually quite a lot. As mentioned, the visual look and design and setting of this movie is outstanding and even to a modern view something impressive to behold. Rotwang’s Machine Man, in particular, was amazing, even if it didn’t appear in that form nearly as much as almost every movie poster would lead you to believe. The scene where it first rose from its chair and started moving was actively haunting and easily one of the best scenes in the movie. And Robo-Maria was just tons of fun, even if the ‘Whore of Babylon’ stuff was piled on a bit strong. (Honestly, Maria in both forms was a pretty awesome character who probably should’ve been the main instead of Freder.)


Also, while I wasn’t fond of the first act, I did really enjoy the story once it got going into the second half. It was tense, dramatic and had some great destruction shots as everything started blowing up and flooding and so on. Sure a few bits got dragged on a bit long, but it was really engaging and absolutely fantastic to watch. If the first act was maybe a C or so, I’d definitely give the latter half an A.


In conclusion, while I may have spent most of this review ranting about the things I disliked about it, this movie is actually pretty damn good and not just for the influence it had on the sci-fi genre going forward. It has a great visual design, a solid plot once it gets going, some good characters and sequences and is overall a relatively fun watch. B+

 

Rankings:

 

  1. Battleship Potemkin- A+/A
  2. Sherlock Jr- A
  3. The Adventures of Prince Achmed- A-
  4. Nosferatu - B+
  5. Metropolis - B+
  6. Safety Last - B+
  7. The Goat (1921) - B+
  8. The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920) - B-/C+

 

 

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1928

 

Highest Grossing Film: The Singing Fool (a follow up to the Jazz Singer)- $5,916,000

 

Best Picture: None (Early Academy Award Ceremonies weren't actually based on calendar years, so the schedule is somewhat screwy right now.)

 

What happened this year?

 

Pretty interesting year, actually. Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, Herbert Hoover became president, construction was approved for the Boulder Dam (which would be later renamed the Hoover Dam, in case you're wondering why I bring it up), Amelia Earhart became the first woman to successfully make a transatlantic flight, the world's first colour television transmission was demonstrated and sliced bread was invented! (Well, okay, machine-sliced bread, but damn it, it still counts.

 

Famous births include Walter Mondale, Maya Angelou, Shirley Temple, Che Guevara, Stanley Kubrick, Andy Warhol, James Coburn, Roddy McDowall, Ennio Morricone and the beloved late Adam West.

 

Meanwhile, in France, director Carl Theodore Dreyer was teaming up with stage actress Maria Falconetti to bring what many call the last great silent movie of the era...

 

The Passion of Joan of Arc

 

1200px-The_Passion_of_Joan_of_Arc_(1928)

 

Plot:  A dramatisation of the trial of Joan of Arc after her capture by the English. Joan must defend her messages and faith in God in the face of a hostile audience who want nothing more than to see her discredited in the eyes of the people. Spoiler alert: It doesn't end great for her.

 

Trivia: None of the actors wear any make-up, which was unheard of in the silent era. Carl Theodor Dreyer thought this lent strength to the characters' faces. Much of the project's budget was reserved for the expensive sets, although Dreyer used so many close-ups that very little of the actual sets are seen.

 

Helped Inspire: Modern acting as we know it.

 

 

Ruk's Thoughts:

 

Okay, Imma start this off by saying something that I think’ll probably be a bit controversial? Specifically that, in spite of this being the 'last great silent movie' of the era, I really think this movie should've been a talkie instead.

 

Don’t get me wrong, the silent direction has a lot of strengths to it. The use of close-ups to create a sense of claustrophobia and really emphasise the grotesqueness and corruption compared to the purity of Joan, a lot of that stuff works really well. But it doesn’t really change the fact that about 80% of the movie is people talking back and forth to one another and that’s really not a format that excels in the silent movie form. The movie works hard to try and convey the maximum amount of meaning in each expression and answer, but it doesn’t always work and I’m just left wondering what each character said to make the others react like that (if the title cards aren’t around.)

 

As for Maria Falconetti’s famous performance, I did like it a lot… but I have some issues with it. The thing is, Falconetti clearly brings 110% to almost every moment she’s onscreen which, yeah, is great, but does feel a little much at some points. When a scene or reaction feels like it should be relatively low-key, seeing Falconetti on the brink of tears and looking emotional as hell almost actively works against the movie at times. Don’t get me wrong, when it fits, it fits really well and brings an astounding amount of emotion to the character and the movie, but when it doesn’t, she just kinda feels like she’s being over-the-top and detracting from the scene.

 

Okay, now that I’ve finished poking holes in the sacred cow, I will say that, like Metropolis, I did really like the movie. As mentioned, Falconetti’s performance really is brilliant when it works and a lot of the visual storytelling and narrative is really neat. And the burning scene at the end is really outstanding stuff comparable to the Odessa Steps sequence from Battleship Potemkin. So, I will definitely say I liked it a lot. But that doesn’t stop me from feeling it really could’ve benefited from waiting a few years until talkies properly became a thing. Although, then again, maybe Falconetti had a really weird sounding voice, so who knows. Anyway, I’ll still give this a strong B+.

 

Rankings:

 

  1. Battleship Potemkin- A+/A
  2. Sherlock Jr- A
  3. The Adventures of Prince Achmed- A-
  4. Nosferatu - B+
  5. The Passion of Joan of Arc - B+
  6. Metropolis - B+
  7. Safety Last - B+
  8. The Goat (1921) - B+
  9. The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920) - B-/C+

 

 

 

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1929

 

Highest Grossing Film: The Broadway Melody (also the first major musical of the sound era)- $4,366,000

 

Best Picture: The Broadway Melody

 

What happened this year?

 

Pretty dang important year, actually. The Wall Street Crash happened, which led to the Great Depression, there were significant riots in Palestine, Stalin expelled Leon Trotsky from Russia and adopted a country-wide policy of collectivism and the infamous St Valentine's Day Massacre happened.

 

It was also a pretty important year culturally too. Enrich Maria Remarque published the famous 'All Quiet on the Western Front' based on his experiences in WWI while Ernest Hemingway and Robert Graves did the same with 'A Farewell to Arms' and 'Goodbye to All That' respectively. Also famous characters like Tintin and Popeye made their first appearances as well as the first film about the sinking of the Titanic named.... Atlantic. (Which honestly just makes it sound like an Asylum ripoff, but whatever.)

 

Famous births include Sergio Leone, Martin Luther King Jr, James Hong, Max von Sydow, Audrey Hepburn, Ursula K. Le Guin and Christopher Plummer, so pretty dang awesome year on that front.

 

Meanwhile, film-wise, I decided to try something a little different this time and tackle not just one, but two films (although one's just a short film thankfully)... And they're both a little on the odd side...

 

Pre-Show: Un Chien Andalou

 

web%20again-900x900.png

 

Plot:  *laughs*

 

Trivia: At the Paris premiere, Luis Buñuel hid behind the screen with stones in his pockets for fear of being attacked by the confused audience. Nothing of the sort happened. In fact, the audience loved its mysterious and incomprehensible plot.

 

 

Ruk's Thoughts:

 

.......Boy, that sure was a series of images put to film, wasn’t it?

 

Honestly though, I hate to say it, but I wasn't really all that impressed with this movie. Which is kind of a shame too both because I'm fond of surrealist films and because I'm a decent fan of a lot of the artwork of Salvador Dali. And I will definitely say this movie was surreal. But aside from a few neat visual images, like the eyeball cutting scene or the ants in a man’s palm, a lot of this movie felt just kinda… boringly surreal. The sort of stuff that’ll make you say ‘Huh, that sure was random’ and then immediately lose interest.

 

The problem is that even randomness requires some kind of sense of comedic/dramatic/poetic timing to it or a sufficiently surreal/weirdness to make it worth watching. And as mentioned, aside from a handful of scenes like the eye slice, I never felt anything in this movie that really elevated it above your average ‘lols so random’ youtube video. And honestly, even the infamous eye cutting scene lost a few points for me after I spotted halfway through that it was just a shaved dead cow head.

 

So yeah, not really all that impressed with this short film. Shame too because this movie was definitely one of my more anticipated ones for this decade. But as it is, it probably ended up being the most disappointing so far. It's certainly not the worst thing ever and has more than a few worthwhile qualities, but I'm hardpressed to rate it over a C-

 

Okay, with that out of the way, onto the main feature! Hopefully this'll be a lot better...

 

Main Feature: A Man with a Movie Camera

 

poster-for-dziga-vertovs-man-with-a-movi

 

Plot:  *laughs harder*

 

Trivia: A revelation in its day, the film was noted for introducing all sorts of camera techniques to audiences. Some of these include double exposure, fast motion, slow motion, freeze frames, jump cuts, split screens, Dutch angles, extreme close-ups, tracking shots, backwards footage and stop motion animation.

 

 

Ruk's Thoughts:

 

......Boy, that sure was a series of images put to film, wasn’t it? But fortunately, I actually mean that in a mostly positive way this time!

 

Honestly, this movie was genuinely a lot more fun than I was expecting it to be. If you're not familiar with it, basically it's ostensibly a documentary about a cameraman shooting footage, but in practice it's effectively a playground for the film to try all sorts of crazy and fun camera tricks including, but not limited to, the stuff mentioned in the trivia section. And while I’m not normally the sort of person to enjoy this sort of plotless series of images/scenes/whatever, even I have to admit that this has a real sense of energy, inventiveness and, dare I say it, fun to it.

 

The movie switches between weird camera tricks and quick edits and interesting day-to-day stuff with a quick freneticness that keeps you from getting bored and it has a real sense of style and rhythm that I really can’t put my finger on 100% as to why I liked it so much, but I really really did. 

 

Now, I will admit that I did start to tire and drift off a few times during the movie, since as mentioned, this is not really my kind of thing, but it still managed to keep my attention astoundingly well and certainly much better than Un Chien Andalou. So yeah, this wasn’t really something I’d have expected to find myself watching, but it ended up being a very pleasant surprise nonetheless. A great watch if you're interested. A-

 

Rankings:

 

  1. Battleship Potemkin- A+/A
  2. Sherlock Jr- A
  3. The Adventures of Prince Achmed- A-
  4. Man with a Movie Camera- A-
  5. Nosferatu - B+
  6. The Passion of Joan of Arc - B+
  7. Metropolis - B+
  8. Safety Last - B+
  9. The Goat (1921) - B+
  10. The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920) - B-/C+
  11. Un Chien Andalou- C-

 

 

 

 

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37 minutes ago, rukaio101 said:

Honestly, this movie was genuinely a lot more fun than I was expecting it to be. If you're not familiar with it, basically it's ostensibly a documentary about a cameraman shooting footage, but in practice it's effectively a playground for the film to try all sorts of crazy and fun camera tricks including, but not limited to, the stuff mentioned in the trivia section. And while I’m not normally the sort of person to enjoy this sort of plotless series of images/scenes/whatever, even I have to admit that this has a real sense of energy, inventiveness and, dare I say it, fun to it.

 

The movie switches between weird camera tricks and quick edits and interesting day-to-day stuff with a quick freneticness that keeps you from getting bored and it has a real sense of style and rhythm that I really can’t put my finger on 100% as to why I liked it so much, but I really really did. 

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This is one of the most fun movies ever made. Just people playing with the form and actually stretching the bounds of what a movie can be, without any of the crutches of narrative. I find it absolutely delightful.

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Woot! Finally made it to the 1930's! And it only took me a month to do so! Procrastination ho!

 

Also, just notifying you all of a bit of a change in format. Specifically, that, since I bring up my love of animation at almost every opportunity, it might be a neat try checking out some of the early cartoon shorts that often played before movies in the 1930's, one for each year as a sort of pre-show before the main entry. Since most of them can be found on youtube (and are only about 5-10 minutes long) I'll post them with them entry so you can all check them out as well.

 

Also, I'm resetting the rankings counter so it doesn't get too long. Don't worry though, I'll post the full ranking list at the end of each decade. Anyway, with all that out of the way...

 

1930

 

Highest Grossing Film: Tom Sawyer- $11,000,000

 

Best Picture: All Quiet on the Western Front

 

What happened this year?

 

Who knows what secrets lie in the hearts of 1930's man?... The Shadow knows! Mainly because this was the year that his radio drama started airing. However, he wasn't the only one. This was also the year where Betty Boop, the Looney Tunes and one Mickey Mouse all appeared. Oh and so did Hostess Twinkies. And chocolate-chip cookies. And Pluto. (The ex-planet, not Mickey's dog.) This was a big year for discovering a lot of stuff.

 

However, that didn't mean it was uneventful news-wise either. This was also the year that Mahatma Gandhi began his protests against the British government for the sake of Indian Independence, including his infamous 200 mile march to the sea to protest the British salt laws, culminating with him breaking said laws via making salt from the sea.

 

As for other inspiring 'people', Elm Farm Ollie became the first cow ever to fly in an airplane. And also the first cow ever to be milked on an airplane. Because apparently both of these were things that needed to happen?

 

Anyway, for famous births, we've got quite a few this time. Robert Loggia, Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong Gene Hackman (who fyi, I was amazed to learn is actually still alive today?), Steven Sondheim, Steve McQueen, Rolf Harris (who unfortunately is still alive today), Clint Eastwood, Sean Connery, Richard Harris, Harold Pinter and Jean Luc Godard.

 

Phew. That all done? Great. Now on with the pre-show and it's a pretty fucked up one to start us off with. But Ruk, I hear you cry, how fucked up can a 1930's cartoon short really be? Well...

 

Pre-Show: Swing you Sinners

 

 

Ruk's Thoughts:

 

Haha, I told you this was fucked up. Seriously, I pity any kid who watched this in the 1920’s because it would be traumatising as shit. Hey kids, who wants to come and watch a cartoon about a chicken thief being haunted by a cavalcade of nightmares and having his soul condemned to hell?!

 

Seriously though, I actually enjoyed the hell out of this. It certainly wasn't what I was expecting from an early cartoon short, but I thought it was inventive, exciting and fucked up in a demented but entertaining way.

 

Honestly, it’s actually quite interesting to see a non-Disney early cartoon short (this was created by the Fleischer brothers) and how it differs from the regular Disney product/path that most mainstream animation ended up following. Maybe it's just me, but there’s something about the motions, the movements, the everything that seems so subconsciously different from how we’re used to seeing cartoons move. And in this case, it really does work to help the atmosphere that the short is trying to create as everything comes off as more exaggerated and surreal and demented. Ghosts and skeletons and hellish creatures crowd the screen, adding to the more nightmarish quality. It’s really quite a trip.

 

I will say, if I had any criticism, it'd be that the sound quality isn’t the greatest and I couldn’t tell what the creatures were singing half the time (although that might've just been the low quality youtube vid), but this was still definitely worth a watch for a demented old cartoon from the early days of animation. I had a great time with it. A 

 

Now, onto the main feature, which is certainly horrific in its own way...

 

Main Feature: All Quiet on the Western Front

 

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Plot:  War, huh? What is it good for? Absolutely nothing, uh huh. Seriously though, WWI was fucked up. Really fucked up. And nowhere is that better demonstrated than through this movie, which shows us the horrors of the battlefield through the eyes of its main protagonist, Paul Baumer, a once idealistic schoolboy embittered by his experiences in the front.

 

Trivia: Final film of Raymond Griffith, who played the dying French soldier Gerard Duval stabbed by Paul Baumer (Lew Ayres). He had lost his voice through illness as a child. A popular silent-film star, the coming of sound meant the end of his career. Speaking of Lew Ayres, in part because of his experience in playing the part of Paul Baumer, he became a conscientious objector during the Second World War.

 

 

Ruk's Thoughts:

 

Okay, fun fact, I actually tried to watch this movie about 7 years ago. Key word being ‘tried’. See, at the time I’d been reading the novel version of ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ and absolutely loved the shit out of it (and still do, tbh, it’s one of my favourite novels of all time). But I was also at that stupid age where I was convinced that ‘good adaptation’ required 100% slavish replication of the original and that significant changes turned the whole thing into garbage. So I gave up on the movie about 5 minutes in because I didn’t like them starting off with the Kantorek classroom scene. Because I was dumb like that.

 

So here I am, 7 years later, a little older and (hopefully) a little wiser sitting down to watch it again. The original novel has sufficiently aged in my mind that I’m not so obsessive about changes to the source material and I’m interested to see whether it was actually the masterpiece so many have praised it as or whether my original opinion was actually fair representation.

 

To cut a long story short, 16yo me was a dumbass. This movie is fantastic.

 

Oh, it makes a lot of changes from the source material, certainly, and not all of them for the best, imo. But both the direction and writing are strong enough that it really doesn’t matter and it definitely manages to capture the key themes of the novel, of the difference between the fiction of war and the reality, of how war does more than physically damage the soldiers fighting it (although it does plenty of that to boot) of the view from the lower end of the totem pole. But it also captures a lot of the smaller things about the book that I loved, like the camaraderie and friendship between the soldiers, the dynamics between the older embittered soldiers and freshfaced newbies, the sense of constant tension and suffering on the front line. 

 

I will say, however, there are a couple of things that I wasn’t so fond of. Mainly Lew Ayres, the actor playing the main protagonist. He’s not awful by any means and does a decent enough job acting as our everyman and eyes though which we witness the wars, but he’s also a little stiff and not particularly great at delivering some of the film’s more emotional and dramatic moments. I’m thinking of the Frenchman in the foxhole in particular, but there were a lot of smaller moments were I wasn’t all that impressed with his delivery

 

Also, as mentioned, there were a few changes from the novel that I wasn’t so fond of. The speech to Kantorek’s class near the end, for example, I thought was kinda hammering in the themes a bit much and felt a touch unnatural to the impressive realism of the source material. I guess I can understand why it was included, since it adds a bit of a book ends/climax to a source material somewhat lacking in that sort of strong structure (to its benefit in the book, imo) but it just didn’t work for me. Honestly, the final third in general was where it felt like it began to lose steam. Even Paul’s death in the movie, as iconic as it was, felt inferior to me to the sheer nothingness of the book’s death.

 

In conclusion, while I do still this movie is inferior to the novel, it is definitely a masterpiece in its own right. It’s a harrowing look at the horrors of war and the people who fight them and you can still feel its influence to this day in productions like Hacksaw Ridge. Honestly, if I hadn’t read the source material first and somewhat polluted my mind with what it could be, I might have given this an even higher mark. As it is, I’m still giving it a strong A/A-

 

Feature Rankings (1930s):

 

  1. All Quiet on the Western Front- A/A-

 

Short Rankings (1930s):

 

  1. Swing, you Sinners- A

 

 

 

 

 

 

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