Monday, August 15, 2011

42. Steamboat Bill Jr.

Steamboat Bill Jr.

I watched this one a little while ago because I missed Buster Keaton.  Yes, that is right.  I, Amanda, a self-proclaimed silent film cinema hater at the beginning of this journey, missed Buster Keaton.  Not to be overdramatic, but I feel like I learned so, so much about silent films and gained such an appreciation for them.  I also feel like Keaton is responsible for that, since his movies were the first that I liked.  Oh dear, I am getting sentimental.  On to the review!

This great film centers on Keaton who is trying to be as successful as his father.  He ends up falling in love with his father's rival's daughter.   Around seventy minutes later, after numerous daring stunts, Keaton ends up being the hero and not the screw-up (it reminded me of The Kid Brother).

And with that, we have the last Keaton film on the list.  It definitely wasn't my favorite Buster Keaton movie (I think that title goes to Sherlock Jr. for me; or maybe Our Hospitality; I can't decide!) but he still went out with a bang.  He is so much better than Chaplin and Lloyd in my book.  I will miss you, buddy!

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

While I am writing this, I am listening to really dramatic music in the background which is adding fuel to my goodbye.  Tearing up?  No, I am not...

There is one stunt in the movie where a wall falls on Buster Keaton but he stands in one specific position so it misses him.  The studio actually used a full-weight wall so if he was a little bit off he would have died.  The studio was being shut down and Keaton had just heard the news so he said he didn't care if it crushed him or not.

Keaton shortly after signed a contract with MGM but they clashed on his independent ways. He got dropped, drifted into obscurity, and developed a drinking problem.  Oh, Keaton.

There is a short wait on my Netflix list so the next review might be awhile. That is a good sign though for the next film, that a lot of people want it!

I actually saw a reference to the house-falling scene on one of my favorite shows, Psych.

Available on Netflix Instant or YouTube.  Complete movie:

41. La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc

La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc
The Passion of Joan of Arc

Oh my gosh, that was incredible!

Let me just start by asking when the last time a good Joan of Arc movie came out.  I mean, this story has so much potential but yet no one ever does anything with it.  This film, however, told the story wonderfully so I guess no one ever tried to top it.

The acting?  Amazing.  The storyline? Amazing.  And it was in French so I could practice my dismal language skills.  The score in my version was really eerie.  I have the same kind of fascination with this story that I do with the Romanovs.  It is just so heart-breaking and interesting.  The directing was also really good.  There was this one shot of one of the judges that I jumped at.  This was a bit of an overreaction since it is not even a horror movie, but my point is that it was skillfully done.

Some of those images will stick with me and now I think I have to go do more research about Joan of Arc.  The only reason I am not giving this five stars is because I can't see watching it constantly, which is my criteria for a five star film (why didn't I go a four star maximum?  That would have made so much more sense!).  Still, an excellent movie; one of the best we have seen.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

None of the actors wore make up which was very unusual for silent movies.

The lost print was found in a mental hospital.  Another spooky element!

Real blood was used in one of the scene's but it was a stand-by's.  I am curious about how that went down.

Available on YouTube.  First part:

Sunday, August 14, 2011

40. Un Chien Andalou

Un Chien Andalou
An Andalusian Dog

What the fuck was that????

So this is one of those surrealist films that is "artsy and sophisticated" that no one really understands but they pretend to.  It is a sixteen minute long French (of course) movie that just shows a series of weird, disturbing images in hopes of getting some sort of reaction.  You have probably heard about the famous eye-splitting scene.  That isn't the disturbing part.  The ants are the disturbing part.  There is a hole in this one guys hand where ants come out.  Now I have been scared of ants since I stepped into an ant hill while volunteering for a park when I was younger.  You should be too!  Here are some scary ant facts.

1. The Argentian ant is a type of ant that lives in a global colony.  That means that if an Argentian ant from Mexico and one from New Zealand met each other, they would work seamlessly together.  A global colony!
2. They have been known to attack villages during droughts and then to eat babies and chickens.
3. They are superorganisms!!!

Anyway, back to the movie.  Disturbing for disturbance's sake.  I have seen a lot of better ways to communicate a message than just putting together a bunch of random scenes.  Still, if you want to watch it, at least it is short.

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

Salvador Dali cameoed.

This is the shortest movie in the list.

Voted as one of the most dangerous movies by Premiere magazine.

The eye that got sliced was a cow's eye.

Available to watch on YouTube:

39. Docks of New York

Docks of New York

We are nearing the end of the last full year of silent films.  The last silent movie that we will watch is called City Lights and is in 1931.  It kind of makes me sad because I feel like the silent films are getting better and better.  Back to the movie at hand...

This film is about a woman who is a tall drink of water and this kind of old geeze (they of course end up together; in his dreams!). She is clinically depressed and tries to commit suicide.  He saves her and they go out, and after being charmed by his naked tattoos they sleep together.  I won't tell more of the plot because I don't want to spoil it.

This was a peculiar movie.  The acting was really good and the plot was risque for its time and at times interesting.  However, it felt a little bit less modern than the others have.  For instance, there were tons of title cards so you had to pay strict attention (not that I ever let my mind wander during long silent films!).  It just felt like we went back a couple years.  Also, I don't think someone that tried to kill herself would just go out and party afterwards; wouldn't she try again?  Besides these grievances, this isn't a bad film.  Just not an extremely interesting one.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

The two female actresses in this film look exactly alike.  Why do they do this to us?

Could not find any more trivial facts.  I apologize on behalf of the internet.

Available on YouTube.  First part:

Saturday, August 13, 2011

38. The Crowd

The Crowd

Yay! King Vidor is back!  It is nice to see a familar face and I liked The Big Parade more than most of the other silent films we watched.  This was actually a pretty good movie, and if I am saying that a silent film is good then you know it is seeing how I have bitched about the majority of the silent movies so far.

This movie is about an ordinary guy named Sims and how he sets out to live in New York.  He then proceeds to live a fairly ordinary life (though it is marked with tragedy).  The point of the story is that we are all just faces in a crowd.

I really liked this film.  It was well-acted and Vidor did an excellent job with the camera (particularly when they were all going down the slide).  Some parts stretched on a bit long like when Sims threatened to leave his wife and the camera stayed on her for like four minutes.  Other than that, great film and one that made me think.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

This was the first American film that had a toilet in it.  Pretty racy!  Some people think it was the first movie ever to have a toilet but so many films have been lost that people can only guess.

Sorry I am so weird today.  For some reason, I had trouble writing this post.  Because, you know, I am usually so witty...

Again, no video.  You are going to have to buy this one from Amazon.  Look at how cool I am for putting a link up.  I am growing!

The actor, James Murray, drowned himself because he couldn't deal with the pressures of acting.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

37. The Kid Brother

The Kid Brother

Another glorious silent comedy and so another film that I enjoyed immensely.  They say that Harold Lloyd is the third genius of silent films after Chaplin and Keaton.  I liked him better than Chaplin, though.  He reminds me strongly of Keaton with his stunts and his hidden silliness.

This movie is about a little brother who is completely overshadowed by his brothers and his dad.  He meets a performer from a medicine show and they fall in love. Hilarity ensues.  The pair looks like Billy Bob Thornton and Lillian Gish by the way.  Anyway, the plot moves along nicely and there are some cool stunts, like when Lloyd climbs a tree higher and higher to keep his love in sight.

I really liked this movie.  It was funny and simple.  The movie is not forgettable and yet it is not like four hours long.  I needed a light movie after Napoleon too.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

The lead actress in this film, Jobyna Ralston, later went on to film The Wings which won the Best Production Oscar.

A special elevator was constructed to film the tree scene.  This was the first time that a production unit went took such elaborate measures to film just one shot.

Harold Lloyd's favorite film that he starred in.

Available to watch on YouTube.  First part:

Friday, August 5, 2011

36. Napoleon


I will start off saying what I am supposed to say and then move on to what I actually feel.

I am supposed to say that the technical brilliance of the film was breathtaking.  I am supposed to say that it is a shame that this silent movie was only four hours long and it should have gone on for four more hours (which the original apparently did).  I am also supposed to say that although the characters had no depth and it is basically propaganda, it doesn't matter because it is such a beautiful biopic.

Shit, I am glad that is out of the way.  Did not feel right.

This movie sucks.  I don't care if you are the best director that was ever fucking born.  It is a four hour long silent biography. I am reminded forcibly of Oktober.  I am getting major deja vu by saying that if I learned something it would be worth it.  However, this is a load of propaganda and boring at that.  I watched it while I was cleaning out my closet.  When I find untangling necklaces more fascinating than a movie, we have a problem.

Now, everyone claims that it is beautifully shot.  That is pretty hard to appreciate whenever you cannot pay attention.  A good movie has to have depth and interesting characters.  Cannot believe I paid $25 for this...

RATING: -----

Interesting Facts:

Abel Gance, the director, brought us La Roue. 

The restored version was released by Francis Ford Coppola.

No video, sorry.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

35. The Jazz Singer

The Jazz Singer

After a super long hiatus, I am finally back!  But don't think that I forgot about this blog.  I was in France for two weeks (disaster!) and then when I finally came back, I couldn't get this movie for a really long time.  I have, however, been watching a lot of the movies from the list so this has still been my project.  Now I should be good for awhile (though the next movie cost me $25!).  Let us get to the review!

Everybody knows that The Jazz Singer is the first talkie.  Of course, we list-people could awe cafe crowds but saying that both Sunset and The Phantom of the Opera had sound (that is if we want to be really obnoxious).  Anyway, most of this movie did not have sound.  It actually had more title cards then we have been seeing lately.

You can see from the above picture how appealing the plot of this movie is.  It actually sucked but I should still give a brief summary.  This Jewish guy wants to be a jazz singer but his father does not approve.  He does it anyway and then returns to his house.  It is actually really boring but it was a necessary evil.  I felt a comforting rush whenever I realized that the Academy had nominated it for best screenplay and given it a special award for developing a sound picture.  This movie is not entertaining, but I am glad I saw it because it is a step in the right direction for films as we know them!

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Silent films continued into 1930. 

The line "wait a minute! You ain't heard nothing yet" was voted #71 in AFI's top movie lines list.

First film musical.