Wednesday, June 30, 2010

6. Freaks (1932)


We accept you, one of us! Gooble Gobble!

I really fell in love with movies twice. The first time was when I watched my first movies in the theater between the ages of 4-6 (Follow that Bird, The Goonies, An American Tail, Star Trek III: The Search For Spock). The second time I fell in love with movies came when I was a Freshman at ECU and I discovered East Coast Music & Video. Most rentals were still VHS so Gil at East Coast rented DVDs for .99 cent apiece. Let's just say I was hooked. The reason I bring this up for this movie was that East Coast had the normal video sections (action, drama, horror, etc.), but they also had a "cult" section. I had never heard of most of these movies, but they intrigued the heck out of me. Freaks was one of my first selections from this section and it had an overwhelming effect on me.

Tod Browning's Freaks challenged my idea of what a movie could or should be. The movie is short (64 minutes), has no famous actors (or decent acting for that matter), and uses real-life "circus freaks" pretty-much portraying themselves. Most importantly this movie showed me how powerful movies could be. The bottom line is that this movie is not a very GOOD movie from a technical point of view, but it IS very relevant to everyday life. I draw direct parallels between this movie and modern socially-minded documentaries. Both use seemingly insignificant storylines to achieve the ultimate goal of moving the viewer to action.

The film itself is about two "normal" people who attempt to con a little person out of a bunch of money. His "freak" friends smell a rat and come to the rescue. One of the highlights includes watching a man with no legs and no arms roll his own cigarette, light it, and proceed to smoke...

Monday, June 28, 2010

5. Monkey Business (1931)


Oh, why can't we break away from all this, just you and I, and lodge with my fleas in the hills? I mean... flee to my lodge in the hills.

....and we're back to the Marx Brothers. This film is a nonstop excuse for funny skits. The brother's begin by stowing away on a cruise liner, then crash an upscale party, then get chased by gangsters for the grand finale. There's some semblance of storyline that links these things together, but it really doesn't matter. Probably my favorite scene comes when Chico and Harpo interrupt a chess match and then commandeer the board and pieces and proceed to play and shush people in strange places throughout the cruise ship.

4. M (1931)


Just you wait, it won't be long. The man in black will soon be here. With his cleaver's blade so true. He'll make mincemeat out of YOU!

Wow, and here I thought my movie tastes were diverse. After four days, I have 2 Marx Brothers movies and now two Fritz Lang movies...

This is a movie way ahead of its time. Considered by most to be the grandaddy of all film noir (stylish "dark" crime drama"). It breaks many of the rules all to set the new standards. First off, the protaganist, Hans Beckert (portrayed hauntingly by Peter Lorre) is the murderer mentioned in the quote above. Instead of bright happy cinemetography, Lang uses shadows and darkness to paint the mood of the film perfectly. It is also extremely astounding to see the way that criminal organizations are portrayed as a mirror existence to the police instead of "the bad guys". The film culminates with a critique of our modern justice system that is just as biting now as it must have been almost eighty years ago.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

3. Animal Crackers (1930)


I'm sick of these conventional marriages. One woman and one man was good enough for your grandmother, but who wants to marry your grandmother? Nobody, not even your grandfather.

This is probably the Marx brother's most inaccesible film because of the poor quality of the restored film, the super-fast dialogue, and the politically incorrect overtones (especially regarding African subjects, an actual line from the film: "We took some pictures of the native girls, but they weren't developed. But we're going back again in a couple of weeks!" ). Still, the movie is absolutely hilarious. Highlights include Groucho dictating a letter to Zeppo in which he begins "Gentleman.... question mark." and then gets more ridiculous from there.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

2. The Cocoanuts (1929)


Well, I have already hit the first problem in my 365 day blog. I decided to do this chronologically to avoid bunched up similar movies (Star Wars I, II, III, Toy Story 1,2,3, Back to the Future, etc.). Then I realized that nine of my first 15 movies starred the Marx Brothers... Oh well, I guess this first couple of weeks will be pretty heavy with Groucho, Chico, and Harpo.

Marx brothers movies are pretty crazy. For some reason, I laugh harder at Groucho's wit, Chico's sarcasm, and Harpo's physical comedy than any modern "funny" movies. I just get it I guess. I warning to anyone who tries to watch some of these movies though (especially the early ones), the quality can be a bit sketchy and there are long song & dance numbers that have pretty much nothing to do with the plot.

Some of the highlights of The Cocoanuts include an awesome adjoining room hotel gag, Harpo chasing every woman he sees, and Groucho and Chico's perfectly timed banter. Just a taste:
Groucho: "All along the river those are all levees"
Chico: "That's the Jewish neighborhood?"

Friday, June 25, 2010

#1. Metropolis (1927)

Fritz Lang's masterpiece is an admittedly risky starting point for this blog. First, I'll probably lose a bunch of possible readers because the film is (gasp) black & white and (even bigger gasp) silent. To those I say, have no fear the talkies and Technicolor is coming. Another portion of possible readers will be appalled that this is the ONLY silent film on my list. I freely admit that I do not have enough experience with silent cinema and I fully realize that there are many great films from this era, but I just haven't seen them yet. Feel free to suggest some...

With that said, this film will make your jaw drop to the floor. Absolutely beautiful from start to finish. It transports you to the future in a world where there is a clear and absolute distinction between the workers who toil without reason and reward and the thinkers who live in luxury and decadence with no connection to the work by which it is acheived. The film uses some pretty epic storylines to illustrate the problems and disconnect that can form in a capitalist society. One could watch this flick everyday for a month and find something new or get new ideas every time.