Gene Wilder (1933-2016)

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Marcel Proust, in the second part of his Remembrance of Things Past—Within a Budding Grove—wrote,“But genius, and even great talent, springs less from seeds of intellect and social refinement superior to those of other people than from the faculty of transforming and transposing them. . . . To mount the skies it is not necessary to have the most powerful of motors, one must have a motor which, instead of continuing to run along the earth’s surface, intersecting with a vertical line the horizontal line which it began by following, is capable of converting its speed into lifting power. Similarly, the men who produce works of genius are not those who live in the most delicate atmosphere, whose conversation is the most brilliant or their culture the most extensive, but those who have had the power, ceasing suddenly to live only for themselves, to transform their personality into a sort of mirror, in such a way that their life, however mediocre it may be socially and even, in a sense, intellectually, is reflected by it, genius consisting in reflecting power and not in the intrinsic quality of the scene reflected.”

Certainly a wordy passage for one of the wordiest of novels.  Yet, like practically every sentence in Proust’s masterpiece, these sentences paint a colorful and insightful picture into the human mind and condition.  Genius is not brute force.  Genius is the grace-like ability to expand, enlighten, and, like Proust said, transform.  Genius lies in the application of talent, not so much the exposition of it.

If there is one way to describe the comedy of Gene Wilder, then, it is genius. Continue reading

87th Annual Academy Awards

It’s that time of year again….awards season.  Like last year, I will take you on an adventure through 2014’s best films as I make my selections for each Academy Award.  I will first list the movies that were nominated by the Academy, and then mark the ones that I feel didn’t deserve nomination as well as the ones that got snubbed.  I will then select the film that I feel should win the given award.  I reiterate a point that I made last year: these are not predictions!  They are selections.  You may even find that some of the movies that I select weren’t even nominated by the Academy for a given category.  If that is the case, I will let you know.

Just like last year, I will list the Academy’s nominees, then I will put an asterisk by the names that I don’t feel deserved a given nomination.  In a subcategory labeled “Snubbed”, I will put the film or individual who should have been nominated, in my opinion. I will put my pick for the winner in the given category in boldface.  This year, I will add a little bonus detail: I will also select a runner-up for each category, which will also be in boldface.

My general observations for this year’s crop: the movies this year weren’t as good as they were last year.  But that’s okay, there will still some certifiable masterpieces in my opinion.  Among them stands one supreme: Richard Linklater’s Boyhood.  Don’t be surprised to see it mentioned a lot in the coming lines.

Anyway, enjoy! Continue reading

Duck Soup (1933)

One year before It Happened One Night shifted the gaze of the 1930s comedy towards romance, creating a genre that would shape American cinema for decades and decades to come, a group of writers and performers were capitalizing on the screwball comedy in its purest form, full of wit and satire and slapstick.  Speed of delivery, incoherence of plot, and satirical approaches to class and politics became the hallmark of what this blog has called (in the “My Take On…Comedy” chapter) the “anecdotal” comedy.  This subgenre of comedy (made up for this blog) is the sister genre to screwball, taking slapstick to new extremes while approaching its storyline with an anecdotal approach; what resulted from such an approach was a film that played out more as a compilation of sketches than a story in the conventional sense.  While this type of comedy would survive into the 1940s with the Marx Brothers, Charlie Chaplin, Abbot and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, and W.C. Fields (and would continue beyond the 40s in gimmicky novelty films like Airplane! and the Monty Python movies), the ultimate anecdotal-screwball comedy was released in 1933.  It was the crème de la crème of all the Marx Brothers films—the most funny, the most political, the most daring, the most memorable—Duck Soup. Continue reading

“There’s Nothing Good on Netflix”…or is there?

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Before I continue with my series of essays on Citizen Kane (i.e. the best movie I’ve ever seen, and probably will ever see), I must respect the wishes of a few people who have made a special request.  I always play requests, even if that means I delay whatever plans I may have had for a post or a page.  That is, I will always play requests until that time that this blog actually gains a real following and I won’t be able to keep up with the demand.  But, until that time, bring ’em on. 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

86th Annual Academy Awards

With my most recent page focused on the topic of “Awards Season”, I have considered it worthwhile to post my own comments in regards to the upcoming Academy Awards.  This is merely the opinion of one man, and they are not to be read as predictions.  I have merely selected those films which I think should win, not those that shall win.  This was a fantastic year for film, and there were, therefore, no shortage of “snubs.”  I should make some preliminary comments: the Academy is primarily American, and these awards are undoubtedly ethnocentric.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.  So, while foreign films do indeed have a category of their own, and while these foreign films do indeed get the occasional nomination in other categories—including “Best Picture” every now and again—I am not putting up a fight that we should take the Academy Awards ceremony away from its home.  I am the first to assert that the world as a whole produces better films in cooperation as opposed to the narrow scope of Hollywood, which casual movie-goers too-often consider as the only true factory of film.  However, I will not try, in this blog post in particular, to fight against a solid, respectable tradition.  So, there there are two foreign films that make the “Best Picture” race, at the expense of a couple very popular American films (sorry), but for the most part, the ethnocentrism is maintained.  Critics who decry American films get annoying, after all.  It’s not like we can’t make a good movie ourselves.  We often make the best movie in a given year.  Granted, it takes 100 movies to make one good one.  But that’s beside the point.  Besides, think of all the jobs we’re creating.

KEY:  My pick for winner is in boldface.  The asterisks (*) mark those who shouldn’t have been nominated in my opinion and should rather have been replaced with those that were “snubbed.”  The “snubbed” category refers only to those films that should have been nominated, not those that could have been or those that barely missed the cut (there are three exceptions here…you’ll see them in the “Best Picture”, “Makeup and Hairstyling”, and “Original Song” categories).  I include various notes to explain my more controversial picks.  You will notice that some “snubs” were so egregious that even the person or film who should have won it all was not even nominated (“Makeup and Hairstyling”, “Original Song”, and “Foreign Language Film.”)  I watched all the movies that were, and might have been, nominated, with the exception of a few that I refused to watch based on sexual content or lack of personal appeal.  These movies were Blue is the Warmest Color, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, and The Wolf of Wall Street.  I also could not get to most of the short films, as most of them are accessible only in certain windows of time. Other than that, my opinions should be considered pretty valid. Continue reading

City Lights (1931)

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In my review of Modern Times, I said that it was part of Charlie Chaplin’s “Big 3” along with The Gold Rush and City Lights.  Since I have already reviewed The Gold Rush as well—and, in that review, admitted that I had great desire to tarry in Chaplin’s world for a little while—I would like to now provide a review of Chaplin’s best picture, City Lights. 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

350 Greatest Movie Quotes

I like to release a fun little list in conjunction with my new posts and pages.  I think it’s time I put up a new one, especially considering the fact that I didn’t have such a list for that mammoth publication on montage theory I did.  Now, considering the emphasis I placed on wit and dialogue in my “My Take On…Comedy” page, I felt it would be appropriate to list the greatest movie quotes of all time.  Most of these are comedic in that they are funny, satirical, witty, or sarcastic—as a matter of fact, they’re all at least witty (though some are far from funny).  That is good enough reason to publish this list in conjunction with an analysis on comedy. Continue reading

The Best Actors

All movie-goers (casual and competent) have “guilty pleasures.”  For me, the occasional action film or slapstick comedy can fulfill a part of me that no Antonioni drama ever could.   That being said, there is a mortal aspect to said pleasures: they are rooted either in nostalgia or in the heat of a single moment that soon dies off.  Because of that, you will notice the allowance of indulge into my list-making.  I think that of all my lists, my lists on actors will be the most indulgent.  But, don’t be made to think that these don’t have clout.  Consider them overrated.  Better yet, consider them necessary indulgences for the evolution from casual to competent. Continue reading