Tag Archives: Douglas Fairbanks

American Movie Critics: Vachel Lindsay

After my post on Phillip Lopate’s introduction to American Movie Critics, Ryan McNeil over at The Matinee expressed an interest in reading the book himself and doing a joint series on it. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to discuss the book with another film fan while reading it, so that’s what we’re going to do. Ryan posted his take on the introduction and Vachel Lindsay, the first writer covered, earlier this week, so I’m posting this short piece on Lindsay’s section to catch up, and then from here on out, these posts will be conversations between me and Ryan. Look for the first one of those within the next few days.

In the meantime, here are my thoughts on the two pieces of criticism included from Vachel Lindsay. Lindsay was primarily a poet, but was also an enthusiastic supporter of the movies, writing the first American book about film aesthetics in 1914, a time when movies were still considered impossibly low entertainment and very few people seriously considered film artistic in any way. In the two excerpts in American Movie Critics, one from that 1914 work The Art of the Moving Picture and the other from a sequel written in 1925 but not published until long after his death, he rhapsodizes about the Action Picture and Douglas Fairbanks. According to Lopate’s little introductory bio, Lindsay also has chapters in his book about the Intimate Picture, the Film of Splendor and more, but it’s great to have this section on the Action Film, since action films represent the type of film most enthusiasts of the time pointed to as the major thing movies could do much better than the more established arts, yet they’re also the kind of dime-a-dozen thrill that detractors decried as the lowest of all forms of entertainment. Lindsay doesn’t deny the cheap ubiquity of the genre, but rather finds his way to praise that in itself, urging his readers to “close the book and go round the corner to a photoplay theatre. Give the preference to the cheapest one.”

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Scorecard: April 2012

[At the end of every month I post a rundown of the movies I saw that month, tallying them according to how much I did or didn’t like them. You can always see my recent watches here and my ongoing list of bests for the whole year here.]

AKA, the TCM Classic Film Festival edition. There are a few others mixed in, but the majority of these are from that Fest. Which means it was a damn good month of moviewatching. Oh, and apparently my two favorite new-to-me films were both silent. I honestly do not try to do this, people. It just happens that way, I swear.

What I Loved

Girl Shy

I wouldn’t say Harold Lloyd is a recent discovery for me as I continue my odyssey through silent film; I saw Safety Last quite a while ago and always included him as one of the great silent comedians. But beyond that obligatory name-checking, I hadn’t had a lot of exposure to his work. I was very grateful to put that to rights this month with not one but THREE Lloyd films seen at the TCM Fest and at Cinefamily, and the presentation of Girl Shy at the Egyptian Theatre will definitely go down as a lifetime filmgoing highlight. This film is awesome, taking the nerdy, girl-shy Harold through a series of misadventures whereupon he meets a girl and overcomes his stuttering shyness as he tells her about his book – which is about how to get all kinds of women to fall in love with you. It’s extremely charming and quite funny, and all capped off with one of the most incredible chase stunt sequences I’ve ever seen, and yes, I’m including Keaton’s motorcycle chase in Sherlock Jr. in that assessment. Just when you think Lloyd has done about all he can do with this gag, he tops himself and does something even more gasp-worthy. Insta-favorite. Full review on Row Three.

1924 USA. Director: Fred C. Newmeyer, Sam Taylor. Starring: Harold Lloyd, Jobyna Ralston, Richard Daniels, Carleton Griffith.
Seen April 14 at the TCM Film Fest, Egyptian Theatre.
Flickchart ranking: 372 out of 2930

For Heaven’s Sake

My other Lloyd experience was a double feature (the other one is a bit lower on the list) Cinefamily and the Silent Treatment showed in honor of Lloyd’s April birthday. These were actually before Girl Shy, and were already enough to solidify my Lloyd fandom, I liked them so much. Particularly this one. Thoughtless millionaire Lloyd accidentally funds an inner-city mission, but his apathy turns to extreme interest when he meets the preacher’s lovely daughter. I really enjoyed this film, which has two fantastic extended chase/action sequences – one with Lloyd provoking all the street thugs he can find into chasing him right into the mission (where he wins their loyalty by nonchalantly passing the collection plate to rid them of stolen jewelry before a police search), the other with Lloyd trying to corral a group of five drunk friends and get back to the mission for his wedding. Both are filled with physical gags and insane stunts, all done with a charm and physicality that belies Lloyd’s milquetoast first impression.

1926 USA. Director: Sam Taylor. Starring: Harold Lloyd, Jobyna Ralston, Noah Young.
Seen April 4 at Cinefamily.
Flickchart ranking: 512 out of 2930

Cabin in the Woods

I’ve been looking forward to this Joss Whedon-penned horror film for literally years now, as it went through distributor hell along with everything else MGM owned as they fought bankruptcy. In fact, I’ve been watching its progress so long that I remember being disappointed that I was going to have to watch a horror film to keep up with Whedon, because I wasn’t into horror films yet. Thankfully by the time it came out, I had overcome that hurdle and managed to see and enjoy most of the films Cabin in the Woods references, plus this film isn’t really going for scares as much as laughs and meta in-jokes, which are precisely up my alley. I had a great time with this film, which is extremely clever in the way it plays with expectations, horror tropes, and manipulation. I won’t go as far as some in saying that revolutionizes the horror genre – it doesn’t do that so much as celebrate it, poke loving fun at it, and layer a great workplace comedy in on top of it. It’s a lark, not a deep satire, and that’s fine. I laughed a lot, gasped some, and had a ginormous smile plastered on my face the whole time.

2012 USA. Director: Drew Goddard. Starring: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Fran Kranz, Anna Hutchison, Jesse Williams, Bradley Whitford, Richard Jenkins, Amy Acker.
Seen April 21 at AMC Burbank 16.
Flickchart ranking: 534 out of 2930

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Links I Like: June 6, 2011

I‘m starting to get back in the swing of reading other blogs again (I know, I’m a bad blog citizen), and wanted to start sharing some of my favorite things I’m reading – mostly film blogs, naturally, but if I find something in other areas that I think is particularly noteworthy I’ll probably give it a shout-out, too. Like this week, there’s one on gaming that I thought was pretty good. I’m gonna try to get some variety in there, but don’t be surprised if you see some of the same people popping up over and over. What can I say, some people just give good blog. So anyway, go check out these posts and bloggers and leave them some comment love if you like what you see!

Note: Photos and videos I particularly like may show up in my Tumblr rather than here, or at least earlier than here. The newest Tumblr entry is always showing at the bottom of my home page, but the rest is always there, waiting.

A prayer beneath the Tree of Life – Roger Ebert

A post on Roger Ebert’s personal blog rather than a review, this reverie on Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life points out the film’s prayer-like attributes and discusses the very personal ways the film touched Ebert, and explores how well the film evokes one’s own memories. I don’t even have memories of growing up in the 1950s, and yet Malick’s film allows me the same “memories,” or similar ones – not as real as Ebert’s, of course, but nonetheless true. This is the power of Malick’s film.

Review: The Tree of Life – Jake at Not Just Movies

A more indepth look at The Tree of Life, and a review that said most of what I think without me having to formulate words (which I’m not sure I can do yet). I find most intriguing the effect that the film is having on non-religious people (which both Ebert and Jake are), because it’s not very different from the effect it had on me, in terms of being able to evoke a deep spirituality and even religiosity without actually having any dogmatic particulars at all. Jake compares it to a wordless piece of music, like Bach’s Mass in B minor, a comparison which makes an awful lot of sense.

Opening Shots: The New World – David Nicol at scanners::blog

From the most recent Malick to the first Malick I personally saw. Jim Emerson has started up (or revived, to be more accurate) a series on his always-excellent scanners::blog analyzing opening scenes of movies, and invited others to submit their own analyses. This one from Dr. David Nicol gets a surprising amount of depth out of the very simple water-reflection shot that opens The New World.

Jean-Luc Godard’s Film Socialisme Seeks to End Language – Landon Palmer at Film School Rejects

With Godard’s latest opus coming out in theatres this month, we’re getting another rash of reviews, both positive and negative. Landon Palmer hits the nail on the head, I think, and in an eminently readable way.

George Stevens’ Giant, in One Scene – The Self-Styled Siren

The Siren provides a close reading on the diner fight scene Giant, which she convincingly argues incapsulates the whole of the film in its treatment of anti-Mexican bigotry and of main character Bick Benedict’s changing attitude toward it that comes to head in this scene. It’s been a long time since I saw Giant, and I wasn’t a huge fan, but this piece definitely makes me want to go give it another look. She also includes the YouTube clip of the scene.

Thumbnail Reviews: Douglas Fairbanks in 1916 – The Mythical Monkey Writes About the Movies

The Mythical Monkey has been going through the 1910s, providing tons of invaluable and well-presented information about the first decade of feature-length filmmaking. This post has short reviews of almost all of the dozen movies Douglas Fairbanks was in during 1916. I consider it a remarkable achievement to even see all these films (it’s also somewhat remarkable that only one is lost), and I’ve definitely added a couple to my list to check out if Cinefamily ever plays them.

Alignment, Allegiance, and Murder – David Bordwell

Bordwell takes a bit of time to introduce concepts of narrative point of view and character identification, which he recasts (following Murray Smith) as alignment and allegiance, then does a close reading with an abundance of screencaps of a scene from Fritz Lang’s House by the River, showing how the audience’s alignment and allegiance are subtly shifted from one character to another throughout the course of one scene, merely by how Lang sets up the shots and blocking. A great example of formalist criticism, showing how important composition is, even though we rarely realize it consciously while watching films.

The Forgotten: Negative Space/Capability/Attitude – David Cairns at Mubi

David watches Von Morgens Bis Mitternacht (From Morn to Midnight), a 1920 German Expressionist film that, judging by the screencaps, is pretty much the most extreme German Expressionist film I’ve ever seen. He also watched it without subtitles, yielding musings on “negative capability,” or the ability to enjoy things without fully understanding them. For that thought and for the glorious screencaps, I share this post.

What Adults Want From Games – Matthew Keast at GamesRadar

As the average age of gamers is now solidly in the mid-30s, I kind of wonder why so many games still seem steeped in immaturity and adolescent fantasies, and so does Matthew Keast. Well, he’s got a bunch of things that he’d like to see more of (or less of) as an adult gamer, and I agree with almost all of them, from better age controls for online play to more games based on story and character instead of violence and titillation. Several commenters on his piece pointed out that they are under 18 (thus not adult according to his criteria for the post) and agree with him, suggesting that the kinds of experiences he’s calling for are desired by even more of the population. Game developers, please listen!