Wednesday, December 14, 2011

About movies....

So often I watch a movie and find that it just hits me in unexpected ways. Then I wonder if anyone else could be equally affected. Occasionally I force stray family members to partake, but usually the result is the same–a wandering sets in, usually a wandering from the TV. So I’m posting these in case others may want to peer into my passion for films that I do not tire of revisiting.

Silence, Please:
OK, so silent films and the expressive use of pantomime aren’t to everyone’s taste, but when they are done well, and when they are shown correctly, they distill mood to its essence and create a universal, visual language:

Asphalt (1929) - Joe May in Germany tells the story of criminals and law enforcement and how human interaction can blur the distinction.

City Lights (1931) - Chaplin’s next-to-last silent feature, with the most heartbreaking final scene ever filmed.

The Crowd (1928) - King Vidor created this astonishingly downbeat story of a promising young man who has his entire life crushed by circumstance and missteps.

The Kid Brother (1928) - Harold Lloyd is wonderful in this sentimental rural story, beautifully photographed, with a realistic climatic fight on a derelict ship

The Last Laugh (1924) - Emil Jannings as a demoted hotel doorman must cover his shame, but does so without a single intertitle in this completely visual tour-de-force.

Laugh, Clown, Laugh! (1928) Lon Chaney cannot love Loretta Young, but does...

Lilac Time (1928) - a WWI love story for which a great song was written, and an equally fine ending where Gary Cooper and Colleen Moore find each other at a hospital - here's a clip from my youtube channel:

The Man Who Laughs (1928) - Conrad Veidt is disfigured as a child into a grotesque whose face has been carved into a permanent smile. His girlfriend, of course, must be blind. Paul Leni directed this atmospheric classic with an early recorded Movietone soundtrack.

Pandora’s Box (1929) - Louise Brooks creates Lulu in this astonishingly modern tale, a woman who floats freely through life, seemingly playing and being played by everyone, until she seems to get away with murder...

Picadilly (1929) - one of Britain’s few great non-Hitchcock silent classics, this one by E. A. Dupont, features Anna May Wong and the seamier side of exotic theatre.

Sunrise (1927) - Visual poetry, with another Movietone soundtrack, about a rural couple’s life disrupted by temptation from the city and the ultimate triumph of love. Ahhhhh.

The Wind (1928) - Lillian Gish, who defined acting in every one of her films, goes out west and somehow survives the constant onslaught of maddening wind and dust storms

Casablanca – Ingrid Bergman’s perfect complexion. Bogart’s incredible delivery. Claude Rain’s wry amusement. Damn! I’m putting this tape in right now!

Children of Paradise (1945) – I’ve actually watched this French 2-parter six times, in addition to the commentary track, and I keep pulling more from it each time.

It’s A Wonderful Life - I’m so conditioned by this I start choking up at the opening credits. Honest. People time me. I’m choking up now.

The Palm Beach Story (1942) - Preston Sturge’s loving and screwy comedy, and how can you ever listen to Rudy Vallee’s singing the same way after this (when he starts his signature song “Goodnight Sweetheart” by screwing it up...I’m off my chair)

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg - It’s French! It’s sung! It’s beautiful! It’s referenced in an episode of Futurama! What’s not to love? Multiplying time by experience can yield adventure!

Wizard of Oz (1939) - The film that defined my existence on this planet from ages 5 to 13.

More recently:
Allegro Non Troppo - the animated parody of Fantasia, in particular the part with Valse Triste...sniff   Might one generation reach to enfold another, and with renewed appreciation, embrace life’s discovery and joy.....

Chaplin - Robert Downey Jr becomes the master.
Hair - forget “The Deer Hunter” from the same year–this is how I remember the 60s!
The Lathe of Heaven - the first PBS feature, rescued from shredding and flaking magnetic tape, is an incredible dream, or is it....NOT the remake from 20 years many of the lines in this film still involuntarily pop out of my mouth
The Mask - Amid the special effects animation, there’s actually a plot twist!
Monkeybone - Rose McGowan as a kitty? Can a coma get any better than that?
Paper Moon - This film was the first time I realized how beautiful a movie could look without being made before 1939
They All Laughed - gorgeous women and John Ritter in a wonderful film where everyone keeps their clothes on except Audrey Hepburn!
What Dreams May Come - another beautiful and heartbreaking film where people just try to find each other, not realizing how the universe can actually be in your corner, cheering you on...
What’s Up, Doc? - I watch this and keep saying Cripes! It’s Madeline! Cripes! It’s the guy from Blazing Saddles! Cripes! It’s how I survived high school!
Young Frankenstein - still laugh til I cry

This is just a few of a zillion movies that come to mind, under the category, “Is it just me, or is this a pretty amazing movie?”

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