laughingrat: A detail of leaping rats from an original movie poster for the first film of Nosferatu (Default)
[personal profile] laughingrat
Normally I wouldn't post what amounts to an ad in here (at least not an ad for Amazon.com), but this pre-Code set, which I've watched before and which is legitimately excellent-quality, is on huge sale right now. Normally $50, now $13. Probably limited time, as these things are. I snapped up a copy and wanted to give fellow film peeps a heads-up.
ar: Lady Mary Crawley facing away from the camera in a red dress, walking towards an unknown destination. (downton abbey - mary wandering)
[personal profile] ar
It's always fun to hear what people have watched and what they thought about it! Maybe we can get some ideas from each other. Tell us about a couple of movies you've been thinking about lately--either because you just watched them or because you've been meaning to.

This morning, I finally got around to watching the 1966 A Man for All Seasons, which I taped off TCM back in February. And I loved it to pieces. The performances were great--Orson Welles was so good as Cardinal Wolsey, and Paul Scofield just owned St. Thomas More--and I really enjoyed the writing a lot. It was funnier than I was expecting it to be, and even though I knew what was going to happen, I was still really engrossed in seeing it all unfold. (And, speaking as a Catholic, it was nice to see the story of someone so principled and stalwart when facing the dangers he did.)

Meanwhile, I've been meaning to watch more of the films from a collection of 50 musicals on DVD that I bought a while back. It's all B-musicals, which are basically my favourite, and while the stories are incredibly slight, they feature performances of some incredibly talented musicians. I found the collection for $10, which works out to something like twenty cents a movie--and at a price like that, I can highly recommend the collection to anyone interested in the more disposable pictures Hollywood put out in the 40s and 50s. (I'm getting to be a big fan of boxfuls of movies like this one--I've also got one of horror and monster movies from the first half of the 20th century. They're bare-bones collections, but you're getting one heck of a bang for your buck! And sometimes the films can be near-impossible to find outside them.)
onyxlynx: BxW F. Lang & T. von Harbou each reading. (Fritz Lang Thea von Harbou)
[personal profile] onyxlynx
I like watching people fall in love onscreen so much that I can suspend my disbelief in the contrived situations that occur only in the heightened world of romantic comedies. I have come to enjoy the moment when the male lead, say, slips and falls right on top of the expensive wedding cake. I actually feel robbed when the female lead’s dress doesn’t get torn open at a baseball game while the JumboTron camera is on her. I regard romantic comedies as a subgenre of sci-fi, in which the world operates according to different rules than my regular human world. For me, there is no difference between Ripley from “Alien” and any Katherine Heigl character. They are equally implausible.
--Mindy Kaling, The New Yorker.  

With list of "implausible" female staples of romantic comedy, some of which go all the way back to the silents, although she doesn't mention that (it is a humor piece, after all), several postdating the screwball comedy.  

I had not seen quite so much dominant narrative all in one place.
laughingrat: Buster in a diving suit, from "The Navigator" (Goin to the Moon--Keaton)
[personal profile] laughingrat
I was really happy to see info in the new Criterion newsletter about this! Apparently they've restored the 1925 version, rather than the 1942 re-release that had an added narration track with several scenes cut. For a lot of folks, the narration track is like nails on a blackboard, and it definitely reduces the ambiguity that makes silent comedy so interesting and funny. This blurb talks a little about the restoration and has info about a NYC screening during the New York Film Festival.
glinda: I want everything I've ever seen in the movies (movies)
[personal profile] glinda
So during my hosting week back in August, I promised to do a couple of posts on silent film. And then had to run away to Wales for work stuff and never posted them...literally, I opened the file I was writing this one in and it cuts off half-way through a sentence. Who knows what the end of that sentence was originally going to be...

The film I’ve chosen to write about is The Great White Silence (1924), which is a documentary of the Scott Expedition to the South Pole. Recently restored by the BFI. The film’s director was the expedition’s photographer, so the film has more in common with what modern viewers would associate with the term ‘documentary’ than many other surviving films of the period.

The early passages of the film contain several typical staged for camera events, with the crew performing some dances and sea shanties, along with a boxing match, that would not have looked out in many other early non-fiction films. However, as the film develops, it becomes increasingly a document of the journey, as though the photographer has taken over from the film-maker and though there are certainly staged moments they are largely more of the ‘stand still while I take this photograph kind’ than anything else. In fact there is a large section in the middle of the film where it essentially becomes a nature documentary.

A lifetime of documentaries on penguins assures me that a great deal of his assumptions about gendered penguin behaviour is wrong, but nonetheless, it remains pretty pioneering nature documentary, especially with regard to the seals. In fact his references to techniques for filming them (pretty much setting up near a blow hole and waiting for something interesting to happen) would probably be quite recognisable to modern nature documentary makers.

There’s even a really surreal moment where a couple of the crew of the ship (clearly very bored by this point) are herding a group of penguins around on the ice. The behaviour veers from being like a couple of sheep dogs herding some sheep to that of a couple of small kids let loose amongst a flock of pigeons. Unfortunately for the penguins they cannot fly away.

Part of the restoration process has involved the recreation of the original tinting of sections of the film. Which is the main follow pretty simple conventions – sections in the warmth of New Zealand are yellow, those in the Antarctic are blue – but others are a little more artistic. For example at one point a title card appears with its text in vivid magenta, which seems unlikely until the shot resolves into the sun setting behind an icy mountain and we understand that the director was recreating the colour of the sunset and how that helps to ground the audience in the place. Giving a hint at the majesty and unreality of being in such a place.

I would like to be able to put this film in context with contemporaneous British documentaries, but unfortunately while there are lots of books on the documentary tradition in Britain; they all have a tendency to start with Grierson and co and work forward from there. Without really giving much attention to any documentary/proto-documentary makers who happened to make films prior to 1926. Though I did discover that, unlike in many other countries, fiction and factual film developed almost entirely separately in that period with little crossover between and entirely separate/different economic models.
laughingrat: Carole Lombard and William Powell exchange a glance in "My Man Godfrey" (Godfrey)
[personal profile] laughingrat
Every so often I'll hear someone say, "That movie would have been so much better if X was cast in it instead." I'll admit it, though: I'm terrible at envisioning that sort of thing (although I am pretty happy that George Raft turned down The Maltese Falcon), although it's always interesting to hear others' thoughts about it. Are there any classic films you think would have been better with a different cast?
kareila: (Default)
[personal profile] kareila
Today is Alfred Hitchcock's 112th birthday, and to celebrate, Mental Floss has posted a list of 13 Hitchcock Films That Were Never Made. Someone posted a link to the screenplay for "Mary Rose" in the comments, for the curious.
glinda: I want everything I've ever seen in the movies (movies)
[personal profile] glinda
Hello! I'm [personal profile] glinda and I'll be your host this week. I'm planning on posting about silent cinema tomorrow so I thought I'd garner your thoughts on the subject.

How do you feel about cinemas doing live musical accompaniments to silent film showings? An essential part of the proceedings? Take it or leave it? Utterly pretentious and off-putting?

Also restoration of silent films, which films are you longing to see restored to their former glory and which should have been left to moulder? Should they try to restore the original colour choices (tinting and toning etc) or is early colour experimentation best forgotten in favour for a crisp black and white?

Half Hitch

Aug. 3rd, 2011 11:39 pm
onyxlynx: The words "Onyx" and "Lynx" with x superimposed (Default)
[personal profile] onyxlynx
Three reels of a six-reel feature thought to be earliest Alfred Hitchcock movie have turned up in New Zealand.
themis: Two cups of coffee. (m: coffee)
[personal profile] themis
Hi! I'm [personal profile] themis, and I'm your host for this week. I'm coming in a bit late because when I said "sure, the week of the 31st should be fine!" I didn't remember that this was also the week I would take the GRE. So, a lot of good decision making there. Anyway, I'm here now, and I thought I'd start a discussion on tracking down harder to find films/people.

I'm a completist with a short attention span. When I see someone I like, I try to track them down to other films, but I do get distracted. Almost inevitably, the actor's worked either primarily in silents or in foreign film. Has Gunnar Bjornstrand been in movies by people other than Ingmar Bergman? Probably. Have I managed to see any of these movies? Ah, well - no. (Luckily, Bjornstrand's in a whole bunch of Bergman movies.)

It's a lot easier to track down movies starring Anna May Wong than it was even three or four years ago. It's a lot easier to find information on her generally, too, which is great.

But then, of course, there's a really good reason many of these movies have been lost, or haven't transferred over to the US. That reason is, naturally, that they are terrible. (And a lot of the surviving ones are too, of course.)

Watching the terrible movies is always sort of a weird contradictory experience. On the one hand, you're thrilled you've managed to locate this new movie, that shows you another facet of whomever it is - Anton Walbrook, Sessue Hayakawa - and on the other hand, it's not really enjoyable at all. But I don't think I've ever been willing to give this process up, however many disappointments there are.

So, who are you willing to sacrifice hours of enjoyment for? Do you drag other people along with you?
onyxlynx: The words "Onyx" and "Lynx" with x superimposed (Default)
[personal profile] onyxlynx
I am on record in several places as giving movie remakes the hairy eyeball. Whenever I hear that some beloved but less than 15-years-old movie is being remade, I reach for my revolver weep for the lack of creative mojo that privileges remakes and sequels over new stories, or at least narratives with the serial numbers filed off and repainted.

The current worst offender in this regard is the upcoming The Amazing Spider-Man, which is coming out in 2012, a mere 10 years after Spider-Man (yes, I know it's called a "re-boot" rather than a remake and it uses a different villain, but retelling the origin story? Please), for no apparent reason other than to rake in loose cash from people who can't deal with Netflix or the local video store.

That said, there are (1) good reasons to remake a movie and (2) remakes/reboots that don't stink.

  1. "Good" reasons to remake a film include:
    • "Doing it right." The Maltese Falcon we all know and love? Had been made twice before. The classic version sticks pretty close to the book.
    • Telling the story free of censorship issues. Yes, I know that hidden subtext makes a work more interesting, but it's not really necessary anymore.
    • Taking a movie problematic for various social issues and scripting it so that it, um, isn't. (This doesn't actually happen too often.)
    • A couple of generations have passed since the last version. This requires that:
      • The film in question is not ICONIC. There is no acceptable reason to remake certain movies.
      • The source material for the film in question retains enough interest on its own. ("Jaaaaaane...!")
      • The film in question has already been remade and possibly parodied as well, but not recently. Captain Blood might be remade. The Three Musketeers has been in continuous remake since 1903.
      • The earlier version is a silent but has some relevance.
      I don't by this mean either "but funny costumes to the young" or "no recognizable names."
  2. Having mentioned The Three Musketeers: I don't think I've ever seen a bad version (I haven't seen the current one only because it hasn't opened yet).  (Just because the modern sensibility is heavy-handedness does not mean that the occasional light touch doesn't happen.)
    • A Fistful of Dollars.
    • Batman Begins/The Dark Knight.
    • The current Jane Eyre, oddly enough.
    • The 1995 Pride and Prejudice. (There's been one since. If they must film English literature, couldn't someone untangle Wuthering Heights? Depressing though it is?)
    • The Thing. Which seems to be un-ruin-able.
As usual, feel free to add your own items to either list, or dispute mine.  I'm not proud.  
onyxlynx: BxW F. Lang & T. von Harbou each reading. (Fritz Lang Thea von Harbou)
[personal profile] onyxlynx
As I mentioned a day or two or possibly six ago, there was a post by [personal profile] laughingrat , mostly about a movie about LARPers. I think I have in fact seen the trailer. Eh. Anyway, toward the end of the post, Rat mused:
"You know, the thing about movies from 1900ish to 1950 is that they're full of sexism and racism. But somehow, with only a few exceptions, they didn't manage to be nearly as full of shit as the movies full of sexism and racism being put out today."
I noticed this because with a few exceptions there are no "screwball" comedies after the late '40s, and I've long suspected there is a connection.

Mind you, I don't necessarily know where or what that connection is.

(The least likely reason is that Cary Grant took roles more befitting his age and acting chops, and there was only one Cary Grant.)

Comedy is a deeply conservative art (damnit, I need footnotes!); some of the things that trigger laughter are perceived incongruity (something not as it should be), sudden misfortunes of others, and people digging themselves more deeply into trouble.  Comedy is a safe way of upending the universe because it dictates that the universe be restored at end.  In "proper" order.  Remember all those happy ending marriages in Shakespearean comedy?  

I do not believe there is a conscious massive conspiracy to reinforce and strengthen what would be considered hierarchic social structure.  Most of the action on that front is unconscious, subconscious, and "the way we've always done things."  The way this kind of social structure perpetuates itself is through constant repetition.  Media--literature, music, performance art, radio, TV, newspapers--do the job of repetition.

Aaaaannnnnddd...  this will require plagiarism research.  I am pretty sure World War II had an effect on visible and invisible racism and sexism.  Also, the process of recycling and remaking had already begun back in the silent era.  The late '40s saw (middle and upper-class, and in some cases working class) women being forced into domesticity strongly discouraged from working outside the home.  One of the possibilities, paradoxically, is that naming behavior patterns as sexism and racism makes them more visible and more obvious,  I'm going to hope that that's not it.  But my brain is shutting down at intervals, including during the noisy game I was playing to distract myself.  Oooops.
onyxlynx: BxW F. Lang & T. von Harbou each reading. (Fritz Lang Thea von Harbou)
[personal profile] onyxlynx
Hello, I'm onyxlynx, occasional contributor to this forum, and I'll be your host for this week.

What I had planned on being boring about dissecting in a wide-ranging essay was remakes. This is not a new subject here (June 2009, anyone?), but I wanted to get at good reasons for remaking a movie, as opposed to "Somewhere somebody still has a nickel."

Unfortunately, that will have to wait; [personal profile] laughingrat posted on patriarchist tropes having infected even non-major-studio filmmaking, and there was a (mercifully) brief outbreak elseweb of people in countries not Norway claiming to know What They Would Do if faced with a gunman while unarmed and on an island. And that last reminded me a lot of Roger Ebert's Movie Glossary, which features a daily poke at cinematic cliché, as submitted by his readers. Which brought up *sigh* Flick Physics, or the Laws of Improbability.

Cartoons of course obey the Laws of Improbability; they're supposed to. Cartoons that restrict themselves to reality aren't funny. The whole point of a cartoon is the violation of physical possibility. Where I get antsy is action-fantasy movies where people do things like outrun fireballs.

There are certain givens of movie plotting that are probably not dispensable. If the assassin from the Sekrit Conspiracy hits the Spy with Amnesia with the first bullet, the movie is over. We get that. There have to be at least 2 acts of total stupidity in a romantic comedy before the designated couple can be together. We get that (we may not like it, but we get it). If the protagonists don't outrun the fireball in the disaster movie, it's too downbeat and realistic to make money. We get that. We get it even though we know the fireball has sucked up all the oxygen and is going rather faster than 5 mph.

This is why I have to believe that hobbits have very different biology from humans: They can survive high heat and toxic gases.

No scriptwriter has ever heard of concussions. Philip Marlowe at the end of his career must have been punchy from being hit in the head that often; football players at least had helmets, not that that helped much.

No set designer believes in railings and barriers to prevent people from accidentally falling from high places. Of course, this just heightens suspense if there's a swordfight going on, but what about the rest of the time? Aren't there children and sleepwalkers and blind people and drunk/drugged people and folks who are just there hanging out in the towers? (And why encourage suicide?)

There are other examples, which I'm going to let you provide, because I bought the deluxe edition of A Hard Day's Night, and now I can't find it.



laughingrat: Young David Manners in costume for "The Tempest." (David Manners)
[personal profile] laughingrat
There are actors who, when they show up in a movie, cause one to groan inwardly, “Oh lord, not him.” For me, David Manners has always been one of those actors. Seeing him in Dracula* or The Mummy, I found him impossible to like: handsome, sure, but bleating, strident, poorly-timed, and cheesy. Is it any wonder the monsters held such fascination for the heroines, when David Manners was the only other option?

I couldn’t help but wonder if I was selling him short--can a person really build a Hollywood career out of being handsome but annoying?--so when it came time to do a [community profile] classicfilm post, I thought I’d check out a few of Manners’ other films and see what he was really made of.



David Manners in The Tempest, his first acting role. Image courtesy of Davidmanners.com

Manners got his start acting on stage, and made far more films than I’d initially realized. He retired from cinema early, eventually becoming an artist and author, and passed away in 1998. (You can check out a full bio, filmography, and other info at DavidManners.com, a wonderful site assembled by a personal friend of Mr. Manners.) Through a cunning combination of library loans, YouTubery, and visits to the Internet Archive, one can actually see several of Mr. Manners' films, although some have not been issued for home viewing, and at least one is lost entirely.

The films, and where they are found )

FYI: Copyright is always a funny thing with the stuff that's up at YouTube--at least one other Manners film, Beauty and the Boss, seems to be available there, but in sections. However, upload restrictions and a desire to stay under the radar of copyright-violation hunters cause our intrepid content providers to do things like chop the films up into several segments, use partial titles, not use a cast list, and other things which may make them harder to find. Bearing this in mind when seeking one's favorite early sound pictures on YouTube may be of some use.

I thought this month's "work" watching some of David Manners' stuff would be a real slog, but instead, it was an education. I can honestly say I really like the guy now, and I feel like I got some more insight into a film era that I enjoy, but don't know a lot about. I hope at least a few people read this and opt to give a movie or two on the list a try!



Bonus image: David Manners and Katharine Hepburn in A Bill of Divorcement, included because it is charming. Image courtesy Dr. Macro.




*"David then asked me why I loved Dracula so. He went on to say, 'You know, I'm so awful in that film!'" --Dracula, Davidmanners.com
kareila: (Default)
[personal profile] kareila
Hi there! I'm [personal profile] kareila and I will be your host in [community profile] classicfilm this week.

A bit about me: like many of you, I am by no means a student of classic film; I've joined this community out of an interest in learning more as well as seeing what other people enjoy. My only claim to any sort of "expertise" is that I was roped into co-directing my university's classic film series during one semester, oh, about 15 years ago. Around the same time, I took a class on the use of music in film, and thus I am more likely to ping on soundtracks than the average viewer. (Just don't ask me about the time we watched Birth of a Nation without any content warnings.)

I enjoy both comedy and drama, but I'm generally more about the comedy. It probably goes without saying that I love the Marx Brothers and the Thin Man movies; I also love Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains, Humphrey Bogart, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon.

I thought I would start out by watching a classic movie musical, since I haven't noticed any previous discussions about musicals, and there's no "musicals" tag in the community (yet).

I'm also in the mood to watch a movie about baseball, since the All Star Game is this week. The movie I chose is Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949), which was directed by Busby Berkeley and stars Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Esther Williams. I've never seen it before, but I'll let you know what I think of it after I watch it!
franzeska: (Default)
[personal profile] franzeska
Last year, I bought the first Film Noir Reader and set out to watch the noir canon. I didn't get very far before getting distracted, but the idea has been rattling around in my brain ever since. Noir isn't really a genre, particularly not one defined by plot content, and it wasn't a movement; nobody making noirs at the time would have called them that. Even defining what noir is is tricky, never mind figuring out which films count. Everybody watches the dozen most famous films and stops there. Bogie, private eyes, and a bad ending: That's noir, right?

Well, sure, that's one thing noir was, but there are noirs that aren't about cops and PIs at all, and lots of them don't star any big names. Tons of them were short, trashy B movies nobody watches these days, and I think that's a pity. That's why I picked The Madonna's Secret. It's not really very good, but it provides a great look at what was going on in the styles of the time. (Ok, ok, I confess: it's also quite short and available on Netflix instant view. Ahem.)

The Madonna's Secret )

My overall verdict: Freud soup with a great lighting director.


What are your favorite noirs? What dead lady portrait movie should I watch next?

Does anybody else have the Film Noir Reader series? (I highly recommend them.) Any other favorite books and blogs on noir?

I think this particular "gem" is ripe for remaking, preferably with a more naturalistic acting style and more focus on the supposed serial killer motive. Do you have any classic noirs you'd love to see them remake? And what's up with that Johnny Depp Thin Man? (Can we hope it will be more like a faithful adaptation of the novel and less like a hideous murdering of the movies?)
laughingrat: Carole Lombard and William Powell exchange a glance in "My Man Godfrey" (Godfrey)
[personal profile] laughingrat
O hai! I've noticed that comms such as [community profile] poetry do really well on keeping active, in part because they actually have a posting rota. Every week, someone takes the helm and posts regularly through the week. Nifty!

We're all busy, though, and when it comes to something like movies, posting can take a lot of thought and energy. Every day might be a bit much to ask of someone, but what about having a rotating schedule where members sign up for a week at a time, posting at least once that week (but more if they like)? It wouldn't all have to be serious business, either; if swooning over Cary Grant is your thing (and how!), and you've got some great pics or some trivia/bio to share, why not? If comparative viewing is your thing, and you want to post a lengthy piece about some common theme in three Japanese classics (or whatever), that would be cool too.

I'm curious about what the interest-level would be for something like this; I'd love to see what some of the quieter folks have to say about movies, and this seems like a potentially low-pressure way for people to feel encouraged to participate. Thoughts, suggestions, etc. are welcome in the comments. (Even a "Yes, please!" or "Heck no!" would be welcome, since that would help me gauge whether or not I should then go around with a virtual clipboard, signing people up. :))

Alas

Mar. 30th, 2011 11:34 am
onyxlynx: BxW F. Lang & T. von Harbou each reading. (Fritz Lang Thea von Harbou)
[personal profile] onyxlynx
 Pillow Talk will be at the Paramount Theatre on April 1.

Alas, I will not be in the audience.

It conflicts with the baseball game I will be attending.  Ahem.

When I first saw this movie I was a small child, and it made very little sense to me (except the part about party lines; I had heard of party lines.  This is the part that would puzzle a small child now, though), especially since Doris Day doesn't sing much (she does sing; but at that point I'd heard her on the radio forever).  Later I was able to understand the wordplay.  Later still, I understood that this movie is kind of problematic for feminist enjoyment.

The color is nice, though.
laughingrat: Harpo, Zeppo, Chico, and Groucho (The Four Marx Bros.)
[personal profile] laughingrat
For those who don't follow Letters of Note, they recently published a facsimile and transcript of Groucho Marx's famous letter to Warner Bros. regarding the upcoming Marx Bros. film, "A Night in Casablanca." Quite possibly the most amusing made-up feud in Hollywood!

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