The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

Welcome to October, ye aulde scavengers of doorstep candies and defacers of guileless pumpkins.  This is a month unto itself in the world of film, a sort of embodied actor dictating the atmosphere and mood of its cinematic output with all the gusto of a mad composer.  Where December takes us to the stereo systems, bidding us hear the crooners and choirs in their mystic wonderlands of white, October ushers us manipulatively to dark rooms with dull lights emanating from silver screens.  It is a haunting force, not unlike the specters that inhabit it, simultaneously possessing us and scaring us away.  October is no mere month, it is a phenomenon, beckoning us to consume fear like we would fun-size chocolates and candy corns.  Trick-or-treating, costumes, haunted houses, plumes of dry ice flowing from plastic punch-bowls… none of these exorcise that possessive ghost of October quite like a scary movie.  Indeed, the genre of horror film lies at the very heart of Halloween celebration. Continue reading

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Seven Samurai (1954)

I plan on writing four different reviews on famous chanbara (or “samurai”) films.  Initially, I wanted to save the best for last, but, after writing my review on Hiroshi Inagaki’s The Samurai TrilogyI learned that I just couldn’t wait anymore.  Were I to keep waiting, I would have to keep mentioning Seven Samurai every other line in the other reviews, and you would not have the foundational benefit of having read a review on Seven Samurai.  So, I’m going to go ahead and save the best for second. Continue reading

It Happened One Night (1934)

Of all the screwball/romantic comedies of the 1930s, few stand as tall as It Happened One Night.  When the movie was released to secondary movie houses in 1934 after mixed success with its initial release, it started a popular wave across the United States as people everywhere swarmed theaters to see Clark Gable—“The King of Hollywood”—and silent-film golden girl Claudette Colbert fall in love.  What at first appeared to be a flop turned out to be the biggest success in the history of Columbia Pictures up to that date. Continue reading

“Ignorance, Sheer Ignorance”: The Audacity and Innovation of the Citizen Kane Experiment

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Note: before reading this post, I want to make an apology.  This post is designed to prove the optic innovation and aesthetic quality of Citizen KaneTo help you—the reader—see first-hand some of the innovations at hand, I have included clips from the movie.  Unfortunately, these clips are hosted through YouTube and other online sources that are subject to the fickleness of Internet connections and the variance of upload quality.  Because of this, the complete visual experience of Citizen Kane is not available in these clips alone, because they may be more blurry or slow than they would be watching a well-restored Blu-Ray or DVD release. 

In my last post, I attempted to make one point quite clear: the greatness of Citizen Kane lies in its duality.  It is part-drama, part-comedy.  It is based on truth, but shrouded in lies.  It’s a mystery with no resolution.  It is light.  It is dark.  It is black.  It is white. Continue reading

My Introduction to a Series of Essays on Citizen Kane

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The most intimidating part of this blog is now upon me.  Part of me has wanted to do this for a long time.  Another part has been apprehensive. Continue reading

Fantasy Academy Awards Ceremony

Okay, so this is a little indulgent.  But I can’t help but think that all this Academy Award talk in which I have been engaging can be diverting in this quest from casual movie watching to competency in film.  What I would like to do is bring back the discussion from contemporary films and set our sights backwards again, towards the vast world of cinema that encompasses over a hundred years of art and culture.  So, I’ve decided to go back and set up my own hypothetical awards ceremony, complete with honorary awards and imaginary glamor.  Imagine a red carpet with Miley Cyrus in her fishnet leggings and Audrey Hepburn in her black Givenchy dress; Jared Leto’s long hair followed by Humphrey Bogart in unbelted wool jackets.  The notion is enchanting, sure.  Those basketball or football video games that I like to play often have a “fantasy draft” setting or a pick-up game kind of setting were you can do the most absurd things: you can have LeBron James play against Oscar Robertson, or have the Detroit duo of Isaiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer take on Michael Jordan and Dennis Rodman.  Why not do something like that for movies?  I consider this “fantasy academy” a well-earned journey into the indulgent imagination of my own self.  It is time to let all those worlds, the world of John Huston, the world of Federico Fellini, the world of Robert Bresson, the world of Martin Scorsese, and the world of Christopher Nolan, all come together in the ultimate exposition of glamor, art, competition, and class.  And considering the fact that my lists of the greatest directors and movies and acting performances are buried so deep in this blog, I feel like a resurrection of these lists in some new form is not an altogether bad idea, especially considering the fact that I just posted a page which, in essence, restated all the principles and theories that this blog has laid out thus far.  As long as I’m in the “reviewing” mode, I might as well review those earlier lists by having a little fun; having my own awards ceremony in my head.

The nominees are listed in alphabetical order.  There are 10 nominees for each category.  The winners are in bold.  I have hyperlinked all but one of the nominees to clips online (most of which can be found on YouTube) for your viewing pleasure. Continue reading

The Gold Rush (1927)

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I have decided that as long as I am here, I will stay here and enjoy it.

For me, after all, Charlie Chaplin is like Paris.  He’s that thing you’ve always heard of and can recognize in a heartbeat even if you’ve never really seen it for yourself.  He’s the one who’s always been there; not a single person alive today knows of a time when he wasn’t.  He’s the icon that transcends just one country; he belongs a little bit to everyone.  Amid a Hollywood full of Chicagos and Houstons, Chaplin is the La Ville-Lumière, the City of Love and Lights.  It is only fitting, therefore, that he made such urban films.  With that being said, his personal favorite film, and the one which is most universally praised, is The Gold Rush: his most rural. Continue reading

Modern Times (1936)

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My blog, at least on the surface, is directed by reason and ruled by rationale.  While I sometimes stray from the formula (see my occasional dabblings in annual Academy Awards season, etc.), I attempt to methodically determine what is the next best thing to post in conjunction with what has already been posted and what I would like to post in the near- and distant-future.  In this regard, the option for my next film review is obvious: I’ve done three Hitchcock films and three Coppola films (Vertigo, Notorious, Psycho, The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, and The Conversation) and only two silent films (The General and Battleship Potemkin).  It is time, therefore, for a silent film. Continue reading

Battleship Potemkin (1925)*

*And supplementary lecture on the nature of silent film.

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This blog is due for another silent film, and the one that I have selected is Battleship Potemkin (or, in Russian, Bronenosyets Potyomkin).  As was recently posted, Potemkin stands at number 2 on my list of the “Most Important Films of All Time.”  These are films selected strictly for aesthetic and technical innovation, with the qualification that said innovation produced radical change in the popular movie landscape, and not due to story or tertiary film elements along the lines of score, acting, or literary devices—save for those situations when one of those tertiary elements brought forth radical change (Wizard of Oz, for example).  These were, quite simply, decided upon the film itself.  Not the film as in “the movie,” but film as in the film, the literal celluloid collection.  Embracing film as a singular art medium is a necessary facet to understanding silent films, and is unfortunately lost in much of what we consider quality film criticism today. Continue reading