Tag: Film

Why It’s So Hard to Understand What a Silent Movie Audience Saw and Felt

 

Last month I re-read Leonard Maltin’s Behind the Camera, interviews with five famous directors of photography, and it got me interested in re-reading Kevin Brownlow’s The Parade’s Gone By, a longtime favorite. Camera was published in 1970 when Maltin was only 21; Parade was published in 1968, based heavily on interviews that Brownlow did during a 1964 trip to America, when he was 26. Both men are to be commended for knowing about and seeking out some of the then-forgotten filmmakers of the silent and early sound eras, many of whom were still around and delighted to have a chance to tell their stories. Now it’s a half-century later.

Brownlow’s was the more influential, though both books were coming to attention at the historical moment when film scholarship was really taking off. Brownlow’s thesis is simply that modern people look down on silent films because they’ve never seen a good one, and never seen one properly shown. In fact, he claims they’re the height of cinema, better than sound films once you properly see and understand them. He builds a good case but oversells it some. Still, there are so many great anecdotes, interviews, and learned explanations. Chapters on the making of Ben Hur and Robin Hood would be classic articles all by themselves.

There’s a whole pre-cinema, proto-cinema world of forgotten history in the fairground and nickelodeon days, roughly 1896-1911. Brownlow gives a clear and interesting account of those pre-Hollywood days, but his real interest begins when the movies started to mean something, sometime between about 1912 and 1915, the year of The Birth of a Nation, pretty much the agreed-on beginning of film’s claim to being an art form. That window closes in 1928, though a lagging handful of silent films came out in ’29 (and of course City Lights was 1931, but Chaplin was a special case). So this vanished, maybe golden age of the silver screen lasted little more than 13 years.

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Taliesin Nexus’ flagship program, the Liberty Lab for Film is again accepting applications for next season’s program. Past participants and their films have screened at film festivals all over the country, picking up awards along the way. Don’t miss out on this one of a kind opportunity.  http://www.facebook.com/TaliesinNexus/videos/1070727389631981/ Preview Open

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Last night I watched Calvary (2014), a very interesting film about an Irish priest who is told in a confessional by a child abuse victim (who we don’t see) that the victim is going to kill him, though he knows this particular priest is a decent man who had nothing to do with the abuse the […]

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With the Oscars over I thought I’d recommend a documentary film that was not involved, but that some Ricochet members might find interesting – Senna. After compiling and editing countless hours of video and audio the film was released in 2011. The affection for Ayrton Senna and the desire to have something in his memory drove […]

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Hit Thriller Get Out Makes Social Commentary Fun

 

A young black man walks through a still, upper-middle class suburban neighborhood at night. Hopelessly lost in the sameness of the streets, he mutters about the lousy directions he was given. Noticing a car following him, he keeps his head down and keeps moving. The car pulls over ahead of him; he turns the other way, not wanting any conflict. Without warning, he’s hit from behind, tossed into the trunk, and the car speeds off.

The opening scene demonstrates that Get Out is a thriller, not the comedy that writer and first-time director Jordan Peele is most known for. He’s half of the hilarious sketch duo Key & Peele, but has a lifetime obsession with the horror genre. This isn’t the gorefest of Evil Dead or Saw; think more Stepford Wives or Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

The movie cuts to an interracial couple relaxing in their Brooklyn loft. Photographer Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is about to meet the parents of his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) at their secluded estate. “Do they know I’m black?” he asks. She tells him not to worry. Her dad “would have voted for Obama for a third term if he could.” Her folks aren’t those kind of white people; they’re down with the struggle.

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While many better-known celebrities died in 2016, one that hit me in the gut was the death of Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami. Many (including Roger Ebert) found his films too arid, but even at his driest, I loved his work. It made me think differently about what film could be. A few nights ago, I […]

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On the Weekly Substandard podcast from early December, Vic Matus, Sonny Bunch, and Jonathan Last discussed guilty pleasures of the TV and movie variety. Confessions ranged from Gilmore Girls to Party of Five to Bring it On. I’m serious about that third one. Very amusing stuff. But in the course of the podcast, Last suggested […]

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If you’re confused by Jews’ response to Trump, whether the support he has from the religious and particularly the religious Israeli Jews or the powerful, loud opposition he faced from the non-religious American Jewish community, it will pay to remember The Pianist. The story: A talented Jewish pianist from Warsaw is saved from certain death by […]

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Ok, so it’s not exactly my book. It’s our book. I’m only one of twenty-three authors and one of two editors. (But I think I did more work than the others, and the book was my idea.) I like this artwork: Lewis overlooking a cityscape drawn with an old-school sci-fi vibe that makes me think […]

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I’m starting to feel like I go see these Marvel movies less out of general interest and more out of an obligation.  With Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge playing in the next theater (I’m seeing it tomorrow), it was like I was dragged kicking and screaming to Doctor Strange instead. If I were to rate Doctor […]

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It’s Friday afternoon and that means it’s time to belly up to the bar and wash the week’s troubles away. This week’s topic is the cult classics. There are movies that are made that shouldn’t work. At all. But somehow they do: they go into a theater and earn a passionate audience who work tirelessly […]

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I thought this one might be of interest to the Ricochetti. Some of you, especially James Bond fans, probably know the story, but, here, I examine one of the most infamous and protracted intellectual-property battles in entertainment history. The war over the rights to Bond—specifically, the story and script for Thunderball—took over half a century to […]

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Science, Religion, or Art: There Can Only be One (According to Some Movies)

 

galileoOkay, okay, I understand Drama is about Conflict. So when you make a scientist a hero in your film, you usually want to have someone oppose him (or her). And who could be better to have as an adversary of Truth than a power-hungry, know-nothing clergyman (and yes, it must be a man). In quite a number of films it seems like there is a choice between Science and Religion and there must be only one (a lot like Highlander, in that way).

In films about Galileo, like, well, 1975’s Galileo based on the play by Bertolt Brecht, the scientist is a good guy only concerned with discovering how the universe works. He really doesn’t care about religion or politics or his own personal gain; whereas the Roman Catholic Church hates science because they believe it will ultimately disprove God, the Bible, and the Creation Story. Not that the Pope, Bishops, and Priests care about the Truth of such things, but if the Church falls, they will lose their power and position — the only thing they do care about. Forget that the historical story is much more complex than that. Galileo’s main enemies were other scientists, and the church approved of much of what Galileo wrote before they condemned it. But don’t let the truth get in the way of a story about the truth.

Of course, sometimes filmmakers attacking Religion on Science’s behalf like to pretend they’re doing nothing of the sort. In 1960’s Inherit the Wind, director Stanley Kramer has Spencer Tracy’s Clarence Darrow figure solemnly hold a Bible in one hand and Darwin’s Origin of the Species in the other as if he honors both books. But this is after two hours of showing the science teacher and his lawyer as models of prudence and wisdom, and religious believers and clergymen as quacks and lunatics.

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So I’ve been writing about the new season of Daredevil. Go to my website if you’ve seen it or at least know a bit about the character. Daredevil is the most realistic hero, because he is realistic about who we are: Both individuals with rights & freedoms–& human beings defined by our love of each […]

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If I ever turn into an evil villain, the reason might be the effect on America of Mr. John Landis’s Animal house. To talk about the coarsening of the culture–the decline in public mores–the mindlessness & inability to write plots or to pick up images–is besides the point. This man corrupted or abetted the corruption of […]

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The digital version of Star Wars: The Force Awakens has already released (disc version on April 5th). I’ve watched it a second time and enjoyed it. In fact, the final challenge (SPOILERS hereafter) was more satisfying since the initial surprise of DS 2.0 has faded.  This time, a question stuck in my mind: What distinguishes […]

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Cary Grant played doctors more than you think, not usually of the medicalvariety; & other personages of excessive dignity, who are owed deference. He could do a lot of things, Cary Grant, & gravitas was one of them. It was not a leap into the dark: People wanted to believe he was serious, & he was to […]

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In the PIT, we had a good fight about movie criticism & what there is to criticize about American movies. Maybe you’re interested in seeing some movies made in America, usually about parts of America you don’t see in every spectacle–stuff that’s not the sort of ‘in the future, we’ll all be liberals pretending to […]

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