9 items from 2014
As the spindly figure of Cesare ambles along with a damsel in distress slung over his shoulder, hunted by the law on a pathway that defies all architectural sense, a few things are being born into the popular cinema vernacular. Not only do you realise that this is Expressionism functioning at its highest, but you get the feeling that every psychological thriller, gothic fable and crime noir is being formed in an early, embryonic state, over the course of a mere seventy-seven minutes.
Sitting on a bench, a man by the name of Francis relates a tale to an elderly companion. It’s a tale of woe, of murder, of foreboding horror; cutting back in time to the town of Holstenwall, an ominous new attraction rolls into the annual fair – with an even more ominous figure at the helm. Dr. Caligari presents Cesare the Somnambulist, a sleepwalking near-zombie who can »
- Gary Green
After watching (and writing about) Out of the Past earlier this week, I had an itch to watch a little more film noir. So, last night, before bed, I started doing a little searching and decided on Edgar G. Ulmer's 67-minute feature Detour starring Tom Neal and Ann Savage. It should be said, before Ulmer started directing films he worked in the art department as set designer on Fritz Lang's Metroplis and M as well as assistant art director on F.W. Murnau's silent classic Sunrise. We've also featured a previous film of his here on this site when Matt Risnes wrote about his 1934 classic Black Cat (read that here) a spectacularly dark and eerie feature featuring Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, each of them chewing up the big screen, attempting to outdo one another. That aside, when it comes to Detour, like Out of the Past we're talking about another femme fatale, »
- Brad Brevet
F.W. Murnau’s 1927 drama Sunrise has the distinction of winning “Best Unique and Artistic Production” at the first-ever Academy Awards ceremony in 1929, which at the time was deemed just as prestigious of an honor as winning “Outstanding Picture” (which, at that ceremony, was given to the film Wings). It is also the only film to ever win that award, as the Academy soon changed its mind and decided that one best, outstanding picture was quite enough, thank you very much, discontinuing that specific honor. Yet Sunrise has maintained its place in cinematic history even as the award it was honored with has faded into nonexistence. Its story is the epitome of silent-era melodrama and occasionally elicits more laughter than one can imagine was intended, but as a prime example of early advances in the art of filmmaking, it is most definitely worth watching.
- Lee Jutton
The Moon, the opposite of the sun, hovers over us by night, the opposite of day.
And indeed, when Matahi chases after her, the moon spreads its path on the sea.
He runs and swims after her, moving faster than a normal human being, defying the laws of gravity.
Miraculously, he catches up to the boat.
Thus, he must die, sinking back into a void…
…while ghost ships linger on in the distance…
…carrying another hopeless romantic, and a moving corpse—A second Nosferatu.
The moon is absent in Murnau’s earlier film, made nearly ten years before Tabu, but it is in the one he made nearly five years after Nosferatu, when George O’Brien leaves his wife for a midnight rendezvous with another woman.
And indeed, »
- Neil Bahadur
Next month is the 86th Academy Awards ceremony but ever since sentimental fighter pilot movie Wings beat F.W. Murnau’s still lauded Sunrise to the inaugural big prize, there has been a general feeling that the Best Picture Oscar doesn’t really represent the year’s best film at all. The Academy has a reputation for picking safe “prestige” dramas over anything original, innovative, stylised or genre films.
This is nothing new. The 14th ceremony in 1942 gave the top award to worthy Americanised Welsh mine drama How Green Was My Valley, despite the other nominees including the hugely innovative and influential (not to mention far more entertaining) Maltese Falcon and Citizen Kane.
In the 84 Oscar ceremonies between Wings’ first win and the triumph of 12 Years a Slave, Gravity or The Wolf of Wall Street this year, there have been bafflingly undeserved winners (Driving Miss Daisy in 1990), good »
- Jack Gann
Most people these days know F.W. Murnau for his silent classic Nosferatu, but many have argued that his best work came after he emigrated to America and went to work for Fox. Specifically, Sunrise: a romantic melodrama concerning love lost and found, stands as perhaps the greatest cinematic expression of the Silent Era, and remains a treat not only for film buffs but for anyone interested in strong storytelling. Fox has just released a new Blu-ray edition of the film, and while it's not the Criterion Collection, it should prove more than enticing for fans and casual viewers alike. Hit the jump for my full review. Among its other notable aspects, Sunrise was one of the first movies to use an integrated soundtrack, though it remained dialogue-free and only music and audio effects were included on the film. In many ways, that's a selling point, since its haunting narrative needs no further embellishment. »
- Rob Vaux
Directed by F.W. Murnau
William Fox had seen Faust, Nosferatu, and The Last Laugh, and on the basis of these German masterworks, he brought their creator, F.W. Murnau, to Hollywood. What he got was a truly distinct cinematic vision, which was what he had in mind: something to set a few Fox features apart from the other studios’ output. What he probably didn’t expect was just how much of that “artsy” European touch he was going to get with Murnau on contract. Were American audiences going to go for this type of movie, with its symbolism, melodious structure, and overtly self-conscious style? At any rate, Murnau’s first picture at Fox was one to remember. Sunrise, from 1927, is one of the greatest of all films. It is a touching, beautiful, and artistically accomplished movie, one of the best ever made, »
- Jeremy Carr
We’re breaking form this week and going alphabetical instead of preference order because of the Incredible diversity of product available for you to rent, buy, or stream over the next ten days. How does someone really compare “Sunrise” to “You’re Next”? Why bother?
If you need to know, “Closed Circuit” and “Runner Runner” aren’t really worth your time and “A.C.O.D.” and “Riddick” are flawed but everything else in here comes with varying degrees of recommendation, particularly the quiet beauty of “Sunrise” and the incredible charm of “Enough Said”. We’re also loading you up since we’ll be off next week seeing flicks in Park City at the Sundance Film Festival. There’s plenty in here to tide you over. Pick your favorites.
20 Feet From Stardom
Photo credit: The Weinstein Company
“20 Feet From Stardom”
One of the most crowd-pleasing documentaries in years is likely to find an »
- email@example.com (Adam Fendelman)
Short Term 12 One of my top ten movies of 2013, Short Term 12 was a movie that surprised me with its honesty as well as writer/director Destin Cretton's ability to turn a cliched moment into an authentic one. It's a film filled with passion, disappointment, love and humor. You know, sorta like life. I urge you to check it out.
Fruitvale Station A heavy contender for my top ten movies of 2013, on another day, perhaps Fruitvale Station actually makes it into my top ten. From the feature writing and directorial debut of Ryan Coogler to the performances from Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz and Octavia Spencer, this is a film that deserves recognition, but it unfortunately won't receive anywhere near as much as it deserves.
Rififi (Criterion Collection) I will have my review of this one online shortly, but until then know this Blu-ray looks great, far better than the previous DVD release. »
- Brad Brevet
9 items from 2014
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