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Beginning a series looking at obscure pre-Code Hollywood films, made between the advent of sound and the strict enforcement of the Production Code. Some of these movies are rightly celebrated and frequently screened: Baby Face (1933), Red Headed Woman (1932), even to some extent Bed of Roses (1933). But others are trapped in copyright limbo or locked in vaults by studios too blind to exploit their holdings. That's the kind we're going to look at.
Tay Garnett was a typical tough-guy director, working in every genre but with a feeling for exotic climes (usually reproduced on the backlot). His reputation—that of a seventh-rate Howard Hawks, maybe—has never been hugely prestigious, and despite his frequently working on the screenplays of Hawks' films, and even making cameo appearances, the notion of Garnett as auteur never really took hold. Maybe, just maybe, this is partly due to the scarcity of some of his most interesting work. »
Chicago – The sheer craft of the actor’s expression is what drove the early “silent” film industry, before syncing up the “talking.” Director Michel Hazanavicius has a new film opening called “The Artist,” in which he explores the expression of early moviemaking, during the era of its transition to talking, and it is rendered as a silent film.
“The Artist” is beautiful, and essential viewing as a glimpse into that passionate era of moviemaking, approximately from 1927 to 1932. Stylistically, it borrows from the canon of that era, where the flappers and film studios joined forces creatively to produce what was best described by by Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) in “Sunset Blvd,” – “We didn’t need dialogue, we had faces!”
Photo credit: The Weinstein Company
Director Hazanavicius first made his mark brilliantly aping another era of filmmaking, »
- email@example.com (Adam Fendelman)
I was working on a screenplay about Buddy Bolden, "inventor" of jazz, when I went to a screening of the classic Chaplin silent film City Lights. Dimly lit beneath the silver screen was the Chicago Symphony Orchestra playing the score live. I'd never seen anything like it. By the time the Little Tramp restored the Blind Girl's sight, I had decided to write another film, a silent one about jazz that would be stylistically like films of the Chaplin era.
Bolden's career ended in 1907, when he was committed to an asylum. The concept of there having been an "inventor" of jazz seemed far fetched. Jazz, I figured, developed incrementally, over time. But what if there really was such a person? »
Director: Michel Hazanavicius Writer: Michel Hazanavicius Starring: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, James Cromwell, John Goodman, Malcolm McDowell, Penelope Ann Miller, Missi Pyle, Bitsie Tulloch Most of us remember that video killed the radio star, but how often do we ruminate upon the fact that talkies killed the silent film? For those of you who have not brushed up on your film history in a while: Until the 1920s, films were made with no synchronized recorded sound -- this means there is no spoken dialogue. Instead, the "dialogue" of silent films is communicated via facial expressions, body gestures, and title cards. Attempts to create sync-sound films might go back to the Edison lab (circa 1896), but it was not until the 1920s that sound-on-disc and sound-on-film sound formats such as Photokinema (1921), Phonofilm (1923), Vitaphone (1926), Fox Movietone (1927), and RCA Photophone (1928) came into common practice. The Jazz Singer (1927) is often toted as the first commercially successful sound film; and, »
- Don Simpson
In under a minute, catch a whirlwind montage of great moments in cinematic history spanning 60 years.
Joel Bocko, of the film blog Wonders in the Dark, has compiled flash clips from movies in the period 1912 to 1970. We caught glimpses of classics like "City Lights," "Metropolis" and many, many more. According to Bocko, the selection was "contingent not on a canon but whatever I had on DVD."
The montage ends with a quote from 1970's "Patton": "And whispering in his ear, a warning. That all glory is fleeting," the clip concludes. Fleeting, too, are these clips: It bears re-watching.
[via Wonders in the Dark] »
- The Huffington Post
The theories of Slovenian philosopher and psychoanalyst Slavoj Zizek might not be the first subject you'd think could be easily translated into a documentary, but in her 2006 film "The Pervert's Guide to Cinema," Sophie Fiennes accomplished just that. The film inserts Zizek into footage of classic movies like "The Birds," "Blue Velvet" and "City Lights," creating the illusion that he is speaking from within each film. With this technique, »
We hate to convey a band’s sound by comparing it to that of another, but sometimes there is no way around it, especially when the comparison is layered with compliments. So, City Lights, you guys are the exception to our no association rule. It is time for you guys to meet your parents, Simple Plan and Bowling For Soup. The Columbus, Ohio band, which consists of vocalist, Oshie Bichar, guitarist, Joey Kasouf, guitarist, Jeremy Smith, bassist, Chase Clymer and drummer, Sean Smith, formed in 2008 and released their debut Ep, “Rock Like A Party Star” in April of that same year. The pop punksters will drop their inVogue Records debut, »
"The problem is when DVD came out I had Lasers [LaserDiscs] already, and I made a solemn promise to my wife: 'I'm just going to get my 10 favorite movies.' There are now 7,000.
"If I had a gun to my head -- and it may change tomorrow -- but instinctively my 1o favorites would be 'Frankenstein,' 'Bride of Frankenstein,' Von Stroheim's 'Greed,' Charlie Chaplin's 'City Lights,' probably 'Taxi Driver,' 'Blade Runner'... I would start then regretting everything I didn't say... Let me call you back! [laughs]
- Max Evry
Guillermo del Toro is the force behind this weekend's Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, and he recently spoke about his involvement with the Katie Holmes and Guy Pearce film during a NYC press day. Troy Nixey directed the scary movie, with del Toro operating behind the scenes as a producer and "presenter." Del Toro discussed what his duties included and how he stuck to his original vision for the picture. He also revealed his favorite movies, admiration for the young actress Bailee Madison, and how he thinks perpetuating the weak-females-in-horror-movies cliche is immoral. On their film having an R rating despite little sex or profanity: "We shot the movie carefully - no profanity, no sex - and it’s not graphic at all. There’s not a single moment when you see anything gory, but when we asked the Mpa, 'What would it need to change?' they said, »
- Allie Merriam
Clark (Tom Welling) takes another look at the engagement ring, when waiting for Lois (Erica Durance). He's made reservations for dinner at an expensive restaurant, but she prefers to just have dessert at home. He promises her dessert even if he he has to fly to Madrid for cherries and hot chocolate. Lois wants to spend time with him, yet she was stopping him at every opportunity when he was coming up with all the suggestions and having booked a busy restaurant too. She'd like to pretend for one night that the world isn't crazy. The government has updated their status from vigilantes to terrorists. Clark calls Lois at the phonebox and tells her to look up, he throws petals from the sky and then proposes on bended knee. Now that's how a proposal should be, unashamedly romantic: raining petals from the night sky. Clark tells her she's "the woman »
- firstname.lastname@example.org (Mila Hasan)
A public school board in Missouri has voted to ban novels such as Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five that they deem "contrary to the Bible." I keep alternating being amused by the audacity of the move that can't possibly stand up to a lawsuit and totally horrified that they feel they can do this.
Michael Patrick King says that his new show Two Broke Girls isn't just Sex and the City on a budget, which is good, because he finally admits that there was no possible way the women in Sex and the City could exist in Manhattan.
Fox News says that Spongebob is pushing a global warming agenda on children (and using government money to »
- Ed Kennedy
As you may have heard, Michel Hazanavicius’s “The Artist” (The Weinstein Company, 11/23, ?, trailer) — which made a big splash at this year’s Cannes Film Festival (where it was a serious contender for the Palm d’Or and its star Jean Dujardin was named best actor), and which will soon be seen again at the Toronto International Film Festival — is not only in black-and-white, but also silent!
Many credible analysts — including Harvey Weinstein, who is as savvy an Oscar-prospector as anyone, and whose studio purchased the film’s rights shortly after Cannes – believe that it is visually beautiful/emotionally powerful enough to seriously factor into this year’s Oscar race.
But could a silent film, in this day and age, actually catch on with the public and/or Oscar voters?
Most people today dismiss silent movies as lacking something — namely, sound — but that’s not a particularly enlightened position. After all, »
- Scott Feinberg
To accuse Michael Bay of going over the top is like yelling at Mount Etna just because it erupts. It's in his very nature and genetic makeup; it's what he does – over the top is where he lives, up where the air is thin and icy and finally makes you giddy, addled and crazy enough to make movies like Transformers: Dark Of The Moon.
Forget the critical rout and ponder its contradictions and many overlapping instances of deep weirdness: a popcorn kiddie-flick that's longer, at 155 minutes, than some Béla Tarr or Pedro Costa movies; a threequel based not on a book or a comic or a Broadway hit or even a videogame, but on a Saturday morning cartoon designed to pimp a line of toys.
Considering its prepubescent target audience, »
- John Patterson
(In this new series, What Culture!’s Tom Barnard takes a look at a selection of great books written about and around that endlessly interesting subject: movies. Be it a tell-all memoir of Hollywood scandal, or a chronicle of a filmmaker’s struggle to make his masterpiece, each of the books in the series have one thing in common: they are classics; books that will stand the test of time; books that will be referenced and sighted for their unique contribution to movie literature. Above all, they are relentlessly entertaining works.)
No. 1: Final Cut:
Dreams And Disaster In The Making Of Heaven’S Gate by Steven Bach (1985)
By the early 1920s, four major Hollywood players decided that the early studio system wasn’t for them. Like being caught in the grip of a boa, it was restricting, terrifying, and – ultimately – soul crushing. »
- Tom Barnard
Charlie Chaplin’s fifth feature-length film (after scores of shorts), City Lights (available on DVD) was released early in 1931, the third full year of all-talking pictures and though it had numerous sound effects, a synchronized score, several sound jokes including some sardonically squeaky babble at the beginning, it is a silent movie, the last one made. Everybody had warned Chaplin that this was a terrible risk, since while he was shooting it over a period of nearly three years, the craze for sound films had exploded and entirely transformed the picture medium. But Charlie’s gamble worked. Released as the novelty… »
Charlie Chaplin’s fifth feature-length film (after scores of shorts), City Lights (available on DVD) was released early in 1931, the third full year of all-talking pictures and though it had numerous sound effects, a synchronized score, several sound jokes including some sardonically squeaky babble at the beginning, it is a silent movie, the last one made. Everybody had warned Chaplin that this was a terrible risk, since while he was shooting it over a period of nearly three years, the craze for sound films had exploded and entirely transformed the picture medium. »
Handwritten manuscript shows actor's early faltering attempts at dialogue in a satire on colonialism
A manuscript revealing Charlie Chaplin's first shot at a "talkie" has come to light in the family archives.
Fifty handwritten pages outline the dialogue for a satire on colonialism, inspired by the British-born star's visit to the Indonesian island of Bali in 1932.
Chaplin agonised over his future in a new world of film sound, and the manuscript reveals his initial faltering steps in dialogue. He planned a film, titled Bali, lampooning European arrogance on the paradise island and the invasion of a people's idyllic life. He poked fun at colonials taxing natives to build roads they did not need and making them harvest more rice than they could eat.
Chaplin was the comic genius who created the little tramp, society's eternal victim, with derby hat, toothbrush moustache and impossibly large boots – one of entertainment's most universally recognised characters. »
- Dalya Alberge
Chicago – Every time I’ve seen “The Great Dictator,” I’m amazed that it even exists. It is not only one of the great Charlie Chaplin’s most consistently funny films but it is a satirical masterpiece that is So daring that it’s amazing it even got made. It is a piece of slapstick comedy about World War II and Adolf Hitler. Think about that for one minute. Now, it was made in 1940 (a year before our entry into the war), but it was still a risky move to make a piece this politically and socially conscious and try and sell it to an audience who had grown accustomed to watching Charlie Chaplin fall down.
Blu-Ray Rating: 5.0/5.0
- email@example.com (Adam Fendelman)
Where did Charlie Chaplin stage a throwaway gag in his classic 1931 movie City Lights—and does the street look the same today, eighty years later? The answer is yes, and John Bengtson just figured it out. John isn’t the first person to track down locations where famous scenes from silent films were shot, but within the past decade he has become the preeminent authority on this arcane but fascinating subject. He has two books to his credit, on Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton locations, with a new volume on Harold Lloyd due shortly. Now he’s blogging about his latest discoveries… »
One more reason to be super jealous of our friends in Austin, the announcement of the Paramount’s Summer Classic Film Series 2011 would make any classic film lover think they had died and gone to heaven. Celebrating 36 years and going strong, the place to be during the summer is Austin (as usual). And of course, when there’s classic films being announced at a repertory theater, there’s always a few Criterion connections.
Peter Bogdanovich, who recently entered the Criterion collection himself with his magnificent film The Last Picture Show (which will be screening July 27th – 28th, hosted by Sam Beam of Iron & Wine), will be there at the kick off, on May 20th, where he will be discussing Hollywood history which then is followed by a screening of Casablanca and a film of his choosing. That alone is worth your anticipation, because if anyone has great stories about film, »
- James McCormick
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