Monday, August 13, 2007

I'm feeling ambitious today

Very slow day today, so I'll continue with the updating.

The next two movies on the list weren't my cup of tea. There were two movies where again I see the significance, but I wasn't entertained by them and I could've lived a happy and full life having never seen them. Strike was brought to me by Netflix, it's about a Russian factory going on strike and about the revolutions in Russia during the early 1900s, some interesting effects but just not my kind of movie. Next was Greed, which happened to be aired on the Fox Movie Channel, so I recorded it. I was surprised by it's length, but I guess when it comes to Erich Von Stroheim, you come to expect a lengthy picture. The story was fairly interesting and shows what happens when people become overcome with greed, but for some reason this film didn't resonate with me. It was slow and was easy to zone out during. Perhaps this is due to being from the MTV generation, but I think I have a high tolerance for movies that are any length, as long as it's interesting, and I guess this just wasn't for me.

The next two films on the list were infinitely more engaging to me, both from Netflix. The Last Laugh was kind of a ridiculous story of a very hard working doorman who was demoted, due to his age, to a washroom assistant and who's pride wouldn't let him tell his family and friends what had happened, he then comforts a wealthy man as he dies in the washroom and inherits his fortune. The filmmakers don't take themselves too seriously, with a title card saying how the story should end with the poor disenchanted old washroom assistant living out his days in embarrassment, but instead this is made-up so we allow him to inherit a fortune. And the film then concludes with him as a happy wealthy man, who is proud again. I was very impressed with the lead actor, who carried the film, Emil Jannings.

I also very much enjoyed the next movie, Seven Chances, this was another Buster Keaton film, as I've said before I really, really like Buster Keaton movies, and this one was no exception. The plot is a little silly, a struggling businessman stands to inherit his grandfather's fortune, but only if he's married by 7pm on his 27th birthday, and wouldn't you know it, the movie begins on his 27th birthday. As you can imagine hilarity ensues, from women rejecting his proposal, to a fleet of upset brides chasing Buster.

After these 2 lighter films comes the much darker 1925's The Phantom of the Opera, starring the magnificent Lon Chaney. I didn't know what to expect from this film, I have seen the 2004 version of the movie, as well as the Broadway show, so I definitely knew the story. And I had heard how scary Lon Chaney's make-up had been at the time. And I have to admit, it's still scary by today's standards. I was impressed by this film, mostly with Lon Chaney, but also because I was surprised that the emotions and the intrigue would be able to come across in a silent film. What's important to note is the ball scene which was filmed in color. I tried to read up about it, but I can't be certain that it was the first use of color film, and I couldn't find out why it was used for just that one scene.

That's enough for now, more to come.

Some More

So, I'm not the best at updating, but I've been pretty good at movie watching.

Since my last update I've seen 23 more films from the list. I didn't stay in strict chronological order, cause sometimes after watching a netflicked movie I'd want to watch something else and did want it to be from the 1001 list so I'd watch a movie I'd recorded with my DVR from TCM.

And I'm also now not sure of the best way to post about the list. Would it be best to just go in chronological order of the whole list even if I've seen the movie months ago or years ago, or should I should just mention the movies I've seen recently? I can't really decide which would work best. I'm leaning towards doing what I did with the last post which was make the bulk of the post about recent viewings and then touch on the previously seen films, or films I've skipped over for various reasons. Well I'll keep posting like that and see how I like it.

The first new movie I saw since my last post was La Souriante Madame Beudet. A French film from 1922. After I discovered that it wasn't available on video or DVD, I did a google search to find out more about it and saw that I could view the whole film on google video. Which was quite surprising. The quality was decent enough, the only problem was that there were no English subtitles, the title cards were in French. But I think I got the gist of the film from the acting and images. Seemed like an early film about feminism and women's rights, which I'm all for.

Next were a bunch of movies from Netflix. First up was 1922's Nosferatu. I had an interesting experience with this film. I put the movie in the DVD player and I first noticed something was amiss when the background music started to sound like a cat meowing. It then changed to the main theme music from Home Alone. I thought there must be something wrong here, usually silent movies come with their own soundtrack, but it's usually music that was arranged and composed from that time period that was played in the movie houses with the movie. Not contemporary music, certainly not meowing and the song from Home Alone. I decided to double check the menu to see if there were any clues to what was going on, checked the physical disc and discovered that I had in my possession the 'Gothic & Industrial Re-mix of Nosferatu. I wasn't really too into that, so I reported the mistake to Netflix and then the next day got the original version of the film. It was more enjoyable with the original music, very creepy film, just take a look at that guy.

Next was Haxan, from 1923. I honestly didn't enjoy this film too much, it felt like a documentary at first, with odd images and quotations about witchcraft and less than savory activities. Then once the action got started, it just seemed like weird imagery for the sake of weird imagery.
Next up from Netflix was Foolish Wives, directed by and starring Erich Von Stroheim from 1923. This was another film that didn't really do anything for me. It felt very long and epic, but the story didn't warrant so much hub-bub. It was just about a man who was a con artist and got money from various women, but interesting to see Erich Von Stroheim's earlier work.

Next, was my first exposure to Douglas Fairbanks, in 1924's The Thief of Bagdad. At first I couldn't get over how similar Aladdin was to this movie. I guess it's because it's a common story, or part of Arabian folklore, but sometimes I resent the fact that I don't get to see these stories for the first time. I can't help but compare older movies to movies that came after them, rather than the other way around. Once I kind of got over the similarities I started to appreciate the movie on it's on and found it to be a fun adventure.

The movies that I have previously seen or skipped cause it was unavailable:
  1. Nanook of the North, I rented from Netflix a couple of months ago. It was a pretty entertaining documentary, although some of the scenes and elements seemed staged or manipulated, I read more about it and discovered that this is a common belief. Either way an interesting documentary on an interesting group of people, and I really liked seeing how an igloo is built!
  2. Our Hospitality from 1923 is a wonderful! Buster Keaton movie. I absolutely adore Buster Keaton and this movie was the first one of his I watched. I saw it a few months ago and was completely surprised by how funny silent comedies could be. The physical comedy is just great.
  3. According to IMDB, The Wheel is not availble on video or DVD. But I'll continue looking for it.
Well, this is starting to turn into a very long post so I'll stop now, more movies next time.

Monday, July 16, 2007

A Very Silent Weekend

Welcome Back!

So I began my chronological viewing of the list this weekend. It turned out that I needed to find a resource other than Netflix for the first few films on the list, because some of the movies have never been released on DVD or weren't widely released. I decided to check Rocket Video which is a great! rental store in Los Angeles, they have almost any movie that has ever been released on Video or DVD, if you're in the LA area I highly recommend them for any hard to find movies. And they came through for me this weekend, thanks to them I was able to get my hands on:

'A Trip To The Moon' from 1902, this French short film was directed by George Melles and was highly impressive. I didn't realize so much could be done with film in 1902, I was not expecting this from one of the first films. The effects are stunning and you know they're not computer generated, which somehow makes it more interesting to watch. Oddly enough this film is also available through youtube. It's two separate files, and well worth watching.

I was also able to get 'The Great Train Robbery' from 1903. Both movies were on a DVD that contained a collection of Silent films from the early 1900s called 'The Movies Begin.' This movie was enjoyable to watch as well, also better than I had anticipated, what's worth noting is the coloring in of the negatives for a couple of the women's dresses. I was very impressed by this film as well.
After these 2 shorts I tackled the next film I haven't seen on the list, 1921's Swedish film, 'The Phantom Carriage.' This movie utilized a lot of interesting camera effects and included some layering of the negatives to get the effect of the un-dead interacting with the living. The movie reminded me of the series Dead Like Me and had hints of 'It's A Wonderful Life.'

My Sunday consisted of what I have to believe is the longest silent film in all of humanity. It's called 'Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler. It's a German film directed by Fritz Lang. While it was VERY! long at over 4 hours, it was also very good. It had a lot of whimsy and fun to it. It reminded me a lot of 'The Sting' and movies like 'Ocean's Eleven', pretty much any movie with a heist. There were a lot of fun disguises and a lot of intrigue. I'd definitely recommend it, but I don't know if I could watch it again.

I made a lot of headway on the list this weekend, my total is now at 279.

The movies that I had seen previously or skipped for one reason or another are:
  1. Birth of a Nation from 1915. I Netflicked this D.W. Griffith directed movie a few months ago. I found it to be a bit slow and not too engaging, but I see the significance it has in the history of cinema, but I don't need to see it again.
  2. Les Vampires from 1915, this movie has not yet been released on Netflix and is in my Saved Queue, to be released at some point.
  3. A few months ago I Netflicked Intolerance another D.W. Griffith epic from 1916, this was a bit difficult to watch, I found it to be racist and derogatory, but I guess that was the way people thought and what they felt at the time, so it's relevant.
  4. I really enjoyed The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, a German film from 1919. While I may have spent the first half thinking that somnambulist was a made-up word for a sleep walking creature, I still enjoyed the film for it's wonderful storytelling and interesting images. I've also decided that it's the first film to utilize flashback as a form of narrative, I could be wrong.
  5. The next two films on the list that I netflix'd awhile ago are two more epics from Mr. D.W Griffiths. Broken Blossoms, another one of his films that I found to be a bit racist I guess it was the social climate at the time, and today is just very dated, but I found it to be offensive and almost hard to watch.
  6. The other was Way Down East, which was a convoluted love story and starred Lillian Gish.
  7. I haven't been able to find the next film on the list, Within Our Gates. According to IMDB it's available on DVD, but I couldn't find it on Netflix or at Rocket Video, so the hunt is still on.
  8. On the list after the Phantom Carriage comes Orphans of the Storm, which was by far my favorite D.W Griffith's movie. It had an engaging plot and characters you cared about and rooted for.
  9. It seems that the next movie on the list La Souriante Madam Beudet is not availble on DVD or Video so I'll have to skip this one for the time being.
I made a lot of headway on the list this weekend, my total is now at 279.

Next up are some more silent films. Stay tuned.

First Post

Hello and welcome to my blog.

This is going to be my attempt to keep an up-to-date journal of the movies I've seen while trying to complete the list of 1001 must see movies. For reference here is the list that I am basing my viewings on: 1001 Movies You Must See

Here's a little background before we get started. Let me explain the list, there's a book titled "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" as you can see it has a very scary picture of Jack Nicholson on the cover from the movie 'The Shining.' You've probably seen it in a bookstore, it's a book published by Barons and edited by Steven Jay Schneider. I hadn't taken much interest in the book in the past, but I had recently been watching a lot of classic films and decided to see how many of the movies I had seen, thinking I would have an impressive number.

This was not the case, when I first talley-ed up the movies I had seen from the list I had only seen 201 of the movies. I was shocked. I've always been a fan of movies, took a couple of classes in college, but I guess I hadn't seen enough of the bigger, more important films. That was when I decided to make a real effort to see more of the films on the list. That and because one of my best friends had bested me by seeing more than twice as many of the movies as me and I had to defeat him. :)

At first, I was a bit haphazard about how I was going to tackle all these movies. I decided to add movies from the list that I had always wanted to see, but put off watching, to my Netflix queue. Let me take this moment to express my love of Netflix and say that it is the main source for the movies from the list. I didn't want to get too involved and just get movies from Netflix from this list, so I continued getting current movies, or TV shows and just staggered in movies from the 1001 list.

From October of 2006 thru around last week (July 2007) I got my number of seen movies up from 201 to 265 and I was having a lot of fun with the project, seeing movies I had always wanted to see and some that sounded interesting to me. But last week I decided that what might make more sense would be to watch the movies in chronological order, so I take away an experience and see how film has progressed and evolved over the years. And I would have more order instead of a hodge-podge of cinema.

So I felt like this blog would help me do a better job of working through the list in order. So here we go! :)