Tag Archives: The Gold Rush

American Movie Critics: Robert E. Sherwood and Edmund Wilson

Ryan McNeil of The Matinee and I are reading through the American Movie Critics anthology and discussing each chapter as we go, crossposting on each of our blogs.

After a few weeks of interruption (thanks, TIFF!), Ryan and I are back with another installment of our conversations about the American Movie Critics anthology. This time, we’re covering pieces by Robert E. Sherwood and Edmund Wilson from the mid-1920s. One of these days we’re going to get to talking pictures! Sherwood is best known as a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, but he spent 1920-1928 writing film reviews for Life. The pair of reviews show him as a prototypical weekly reviewer, neither an enthusiast about the movies nor dismissive of them, but a pretty solid guide for the average moviegoer, honest about what he likes and dislikes with a straightforward and casual tone. Wilson was one of America’s greatest literary critics who also found time to write about virtually every kind of art (film, theatre, dance, art, etc.) for the New Republic. We only have one piece by him, an analytical and appreciative look at Charlie Chaplin in general and The Gold Rush in particular, but the intro blurb in the anthology mentions that he was skeptical of typical Hollywood movies, so I’m not sure this piece is totally representative.

Edmund Wilson, literary critic

Edmund Wilson, literary critic

RYAN McNEIL:
So after two poets and a psychologist, we arrive at a playwright-as-critic. In a way, one would think that we’ve found the “most qualified” critic yet, since Robert Sherwood likely has the best grasp on narrative structure.

JANDY HARDESTY:
I’m not sure I’m willing to grant that a playwright should be better at being a film critic, merely because of a grasp of narrative structure – films may be a narrative medium at their base, but that doesn’t mean that’s the only thing to be judged, or even the most important one! Taken at stereotyped face value, a playwright might be good, for instance, at analyzing plot structure and dialogue without being skilled at all at analyzing visual motifs or editing, which are not part of plays (or not a major part). But I don’t mean at all to assign those deficiencies to Sherwood. He does focus on the storytelling, I think, but not to the exclusion of other elements of filmmaking, and in fact, calls attention to his dislike (in both reviews!) of the visual technique of tinting certain scenes/elements for greater emphasis.

RYAN:
That sort of begs a question that we might run into again later, but what sort of qualifications do you think make for a good critic?

JANDY:
I don’t think there are necessarily an incontrovertible set of qualifications. Critics have different strengths and weaknesses, some have particular affinity and aptitude for some critical approaches rather than others, and it’s this diversity that makes reading lots of different critics interesting and informative. That said, if I had to outline a few qualities (not qualifications) that make good critics, I would choose open-mindedness, curiosity, close observation of detail, and wide-ranging interests (not only in film, but outside it).

Continue reading

Film on TV: April 13-19

Monday, April 13

2:00pm – TCM – Kiss Me Kate
It’s hard to improve Shakespeare, but Kiss Me Kate comes pretty close by couching Taming of the Shrew in a backstage show business story and adding Cole Porter tunes.

8:00pm – TCM – The Letter
A cut-above Bette Davis melodrama – great example of Warner Bros. studio style.

10:00pm – TCM – Grand Illusion
You ever get that feeling when you’re watching a film that you’ve somehow become privvy to something wonderful? The sense that being allowed to see such an incredible film is a great privilege. I get it once in a while, and it’s usually on a film that I expected not to like that much – I mean, come on, French prisoners of war? Meh. But Grand Illusion is pretty much the opposite of “meh.” It’s extremely special. Must See

2:00am (14th) – IFC – Before Sunrise
It takes a special kind of filmmaker to make a moving, entertaining, and engaging film out of two people talking all night, and Richard Linklater is just that special. Of course, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy help him out by being highly engaging and entertaining.

Tuesday, April 14

6:30pm – IFC – Garden State
(repeats at 12:30pm on the 15th)

8:00pm – TCM – Gone With the Wind

12:00M – TCM – Singin’ in the Rain
Must See

12:00M – IFC – Trainspotting
(repeats at 4:00am on the 15th)

12:00M – Sundance – 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days

2:00am (15th) – TCM – Angels With Dirty Faces

Wednesday, April 15

9:30am – IFC – The New World
(repeats at 3:45pm)

11:15am – TCM – The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T
I rewatched this the last time it was on TCM, and it’s pretty much just as bizarre as I remember – turn Dr. Seuss loose on Hollywood with Technicolor, and this is what you get. No, seriously, he wrote it. The main character is a kid who hates taking piano lessons, so he daydreams a world in which his teacher, Dr. Terwilliker, is an evil mastermind forcing children to play the piano against their will.

8:00pm – TCM – Double Indemnity
Must See

8:00pm – IFC – Night Watch
The first of a planned vampire trilogy, I wish Night Watch were better – it has so many good ideas and backstory, but it ended up fairly incoherent. It’s still worth watching, and I’m still hoping the rest of the trilogy pulls it out.
(repeats at 2:15am on the 16th)

10:00pm – IFC – Day Watch
The sequel to Night Watch. Haven’t seen it yet, so I’ve yet to discover if my hopes for the remainder of the planned trilogy are realized.

10:00pm – TCM – Swing Time

11:30pm – Sundance – Oldboy

Thursday, April 16

6:00am-6:00pm – TCM – SUPER MONDO CHAPLIN FESTIVAL
TCM is running Charlie Chaplin films all day today, and they are ALL WORTH WATCHING. They’re starting with some early shorts and short features, then moving on to the absolute classics – I’ll highlight the best below with the actual times, but seriously. All worth watching.
(see below for highlighted listings)

8:30am – TCM – The Kid
Chaplin’s Little Tramp persona comes into its own in one of his first feature-length films (and by feature-length, that’s like an hour, here). Add in an adorable kid that the Tramp tries to keep from having to take care of, but of course, he ends up taking care of him.

9:15am – Sundance – The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
Luis Bunuel’s biting critique of the bourgeoisie. Quite surreal, so don’t expect anything else.
(repeats at 3:45pm)

11:30am – TCM – The Gold Rush
The Little Tramp takes up prospecting in one of Chaplin’s most enduring films, with great set pieces including the house that’s about to fall over the cliff, and memorable scenes like the starving Tramp boiling and eating one of his boots.

12:45pm – TCM – Modern Times
My absolute favorite Chaplin film has him as a cog in the wheel of a factory, rebelling against the mechanization of the industrial age. It was made in 1936, long after synchronized sound was introduced in film (1927), but is mostly silent. Which doesn’t hurt the film at all. Must See

2:15pm – TCM – The Great Dictator
Chaplin’s first completely talking film, and one in which he doesn’t play his Little Tramp character. Instead, he’s both Hitler and a Jewish man who looks strikingly like Hitler. This obviously creates confusion. Brilliantly scathing satire – always amazes me that it was made as early as 1940.

8:00pm – TCM – Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Friday, April 17

8:00am – TCM – Sunset Boulevard
Recently rewatched this as part of a series at the local repertory cinema, and totally loved it – before I had admired it but it hadn’t quite grabbed me. This time it grabbed me, and most every bit of it is perfect. Still easily the best “dark side of Hollywood” ever made. Must See

8:00pm – TCM – The Maltese Falcon

11:30pm – TCM – Silk Stockings
The musical version of Ninotchka, about a staid, repressed Communist woman who goes to Paris on a mission, only to get loosened up by a Western guy. You’re better off with Ninotchka, honestly, which has the triple-threat of Ernst Lubitsch, Billy Wilder, and Greta Garbo behind it. Silk Stocking substitutes Cyd Charisse (who’s really only ever convincing when she’s dancing), Fred Astaire (who’s fine, though a bit on the old side by 1957), and adds Cole Porter music, which is really the major reason to check this version out.

Saturday, April 18

6:00am – TCM – Dead of Night
An omnibus horror film from 1945, set at a country house where each guest tells his or her horror story. The frame story I love (a man is drawn to the house, where he seems to know everything that will happen before it does, though he can’t figure out how); the other stories are pretty varied, a couple of them even comedic. But Michael Redgrave’s evil ventriloquist dummy story is one to watch. It’s quiet horror, but that makes it all the better for me.

8:00pm – TCM – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

10:00pm – TCM – The Graduate

Sunday, April 19

11:00am – TCM – Mr. Deeds Goes to Town

3:00pm – TCM – Oklahoma!

6:00pm – IFC – Miller’s Crossing
(repeats at 5:00am on the 20th)

8:00pm – TCM – A Shot in the Dark
Here’s your counter example for the “sequels are never as good as the original” argument. This second film in the Pink Panther series is easily the best, and stands as ones of the zaniest 1960s comedies ever.

12:00M – TCM – City Lights
TCM didn’t get City Lights in on their Chaplin day, but apparently decided to make up for it a couple of days later. This one is from 1931, but is silent. The Little Tramp helps a blind girl get the operation she needs to see again, but doesn’t immediately reveal himself to her. One of the most beautiful and poignant final scenes in film history. Must See

1:45am (20th) – Sundance – 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days

4:00am (20th) – TCM – The More the Merrier

Film on TV: Feb 23 – March 1

Monday, Feb 23rd

Nothing today!

Tuesday, Feb 24th

Probably getting this posted a bit late for the first couple of these, but what the heck. Rent them, because they’re worth it. :)

1:45pm – TCM – The 400 Blows
One of my favorite films, and the one that started off my current love affair with the French New Wave. Director Francois Truffaut’s first film is a tender (and somewhat less sentimental than some of his later films) look at growing up in Paris – it’s a coming of age film, but a very sweet one.

3:45pm – TCM – Au revoir, les enfants
A new boy arrives at a French school and becomes close friends with one of the French boys. But it’s the early 1940s and the new boy turns out to be Jewish. Louis Malle directs this achingly lovely portrait of schoolboy friendship in an uncertain time.

10:00pm – TCM – Rashomon
I’m the first to admit that I don’t “get” Japanese film as much as I should, but even I have to admit the brilliance of Rashomon. It’s pretty much the first film that is absolutely ambiguous – two men and a woman are in the woods, and one of the men dies. But we get three different eyewitness versions of how his death transpired, and the film shows us all three without ever privileging any of them as true – any of them or none of them may be what really happened. With this film, Akira Kurosawa forever banished any sense that what you see on film is the truth (cinematically speaking, I mean – before this, whatever was visually presented could be taken as true within the narrative over whatever any of the characters had to say).

11:30pm – TCM – The Seven Samurai
I’m still working on my appreciation of Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai, despite how highly it ranks on every single best-of list. I know it’s me, not the film, so I continue to recommend it.

Wednesday, Feb 25th

8:00pm – TCM – Dark Victory
Bette Davis is stricken with a blindness-causing brain disease. This is classic old Hollywood melodrama – not, I don’t think, as well-turned as Mildred Pierce or some of Douglas Sirk’s 1950s work, but still a must-see for Davis fans. Plus a great supporting turn Geraldine Fitzgerald (who deserved more work than she got) and a quite frankly baffling role for Humphrey Bogart as an Irish stable hand. I know, right?

Thursday, Feb 26th

6:00am – TCM – The Gold Rush
Not my favorite Charlie Chaplin film, but it’s still one of the best comedies/best silent films ever. Charlie’s Little Tramp goes to the Yukon and has all sorts of misadventures mixed in with Chaplin’s trademark poignancy.

8:00pm – TCM – The African Queen
I may be the only person in the history of the world who doesn’t think The African Queen is all that. I mean, it’s not BAD, but I wasn’t blown away. Still, you’re not gonna see Kate Hepburn and Bogey together in any other film.

Friday, Feb 27th

7:00am – TCM – Notorious
Alfred Hitchcock. Cary Grant. Ingrid Bergman. One of the best spy movies ever. ‘Nuff said.

9:00am – TCM – North by Northwest
Do I need to do the Hitchcock.Grant thing again? Nah.

8:00pm – TCM – Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Jimmy Stewart is the epitome of idealism as a small-town man brought to Washington as a puppet senator – but he takes the Senate into his own hands. Call it Capra-corn if you want, but its hopeful message is still inspiring.

12:15am (28th) – TCM – The Manchurian Candidate
The original 1962 version, not the pale comparison of a 2004 remake. Former soldier Frank Sinatra starts having nightmares about his war experience, then finds that he and his unit were part of a brainwashing experiment – the result of which was to turn his colleague Laurence Harvey into a sleeper agent assassin. A classic of the Cold War era, full of well-honed suspense and paranoia.

Saturday, Feb 28th

Not too much going on today, either…hold onto your hats for Sunday, though.

Sunday, March 1st

11:15am – TCM – Gaslight
Ingrid Bergman won her first Oscar for this film, as the harried wife that psychopath Charles Boyer is trying to drive nuts. It’s possible that the Oscar is partially in recognition of her work in the previous year’s Casablanca and For Whom the Bell Tolls (Oscar’s been known to do that), but Gaslight is a solid melodrama on its own terms.

1:15pm – TCM – Rear Window
My favorite movie of all time. ‘Nuff said.

2:00pm – IFC – Howl’s Moving Castle
All of Hayo Miyazaki’s animated films are worth watching, and a lot of people will put Spirited Away at the top of the list, but I think Howl’s Moving Castle is my favorite. Howl is a prince with a castle (a walking ramshackle building) which can open up anywhere. I was entranced the whole time I was watching it.

3:15pm – TCM – Vertigo
Hitchcock again. Yes, I will always point out all Hitchcock films, because they’re my favorite.

5:30pm – TCM – Close Encounters of the Third Kind
It’s interesting to me to compare the Spielberg of Close Encounters and E.T. (aka “friendly alien Spielberg”) with the Spielberg of War of the Worlds (aka “evil faceless alien Spielberg”). But besides whatever conclusions you can draw from Spielberg’s move from curiosity to fear, Close Encounters is still a film full of wonder and imagination. Plus a fantastic John Williams score.

8:00 – TCM – The Three Faces of Eve
Joanne Woodward portrays a woman with multiple personalities in an Oscar-winning role; Lee J. Cobb is allowed an uncharacteristically sympathetic role as her doctor (usually he’s the villain, or at least antagonist).

8:00 – IFC – Fargo
Still one of the Coen Brothers’ best films, despite over a decade of mostly good films in the intervening years. Dark comedy is not an easy genre, and Fargo is the gold standard, blending shocking violence and a noir-ish crime story with comical inept criminals and a perfectly rendered performance from Frances McDormand.
(repeats at 1:30am on the 2nd)

9:45pm – IFC – The Cooler
I’ve mentioned this one a few times before, but every time it shows up on IFC’s schedule I’m always like “The Cooler! Yay!” It’s just such a sweet, well-done under-the-radar kind of film – great performances from William H. Macy, Alec Baldwin, and Maria Bello.
(repeats at 3:15am on the 2nd

10:00pm – TCM – Psycho
It’s on. Watch it.

12:00midnight – TCM – Spellbound
Another Hitchcock (must be Hitchcock day at TCM or something), this one with Gregory Peck as a disturbed individual and Ingrid Bergman as his psychiatrist. Throw in a trippy Salvador Dali dream sequence and you’re made!

July Reading/Watching Recap

Click through for reactions for Pirates of the Caribbean 2, The Gold Rush, Night of the Hunter, Shopgirl, A Scanner Darkly, Transamerica, and Hitchcock’s Films, among others.

click for more

Continue reading