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Entries in silent films (32)

Saturday
Jun142014

Two "Dracula" Actresses

The Los Angeles Times reports that one of the last remaining silent era actors has passed away. The actress in question, Carla Laemmle, had an easy in to the movies: her uncle Carl Laemmle founded Universal Studios and invited her family to live in a bungalow on the lot.  Carla only had a small part in the horror classic Dracula (1931) but a key one: she uttered the first line of dialogue. She didn't appear in many pictures in her long life, dying at 104 years of age, but she apparently just recently filmed a role in a new horror film Mansion of Blood (2014) starring Gary Busey.

In happier news - this is not a double RIP -  Lupita Tovar, a Mexican beauty who starred in the Spanish language version of Dracula that same year (in those early days of sound they made simultaneous alternative versions for other markets with the same sets and costumes) is still with us at 103 years of age. Lupita also comes from a movie family or, rather, began one. She is the mother of Oscar nominee Susan Kohner (Imitation of Life) and grandmother to the directors Paul Weitz and Chris Weitz (of About a Boy fame)

Related: Oldest Living Screen Stars of Note

Thursday
May082014

Links

Salon "Dear serial tweet-favoriter: you are a coward" lol. a must read for anyone with a Twitter account
The Uncool Cameron Crowe's agonizing search for a title for Almost Famous (2000)... in notepad form
Film School Rejects two members of the staff watched "the 50 best movies of all time" and here are their takeaways from that two year process
Antagony & Ecstasy on King Vidor's The Crowd (1928) at the great end of silent filmmaking
Kenneth in the (212) shares a pretty great X-Men related Graham Norton wherein Fassy & McAvoy see gay fan art of themselves


MNPP tries to rekindle his love for George Clooney with his three favorite Clooneys. Good choices
Variety asks where the kids movies are this summer in the absence of Pixar
The Wire "Zac Efron hits bottom by accepting life advice from Tom Cruise" haha. I'm linking that for the title alone 
i09 see what your favorite webcomics would look like animated 
Cinesnark terrific examination of why Captain America films are what Superman films have failed to be 

news bits
Empire the ever employed Liam Neeson joins A Monster Calls... the new feature from the director of The Impossible. I can't wait until it's retitled something dull like "Dark River"
Cinema Blend The Flintstones getting a new animated feature because no franchise is allowed to ever die
In Contention The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby will be released in three different versions. It's a neat experiment but it fills me with horror. Goodbye final cut and "definitive" versions. That's a thing of the past (Malick, Lucas, and Scott have been trying to force that on us for years with their "oh, i'm sorry did i say i was finished i wasn't finished" tinkering so I'm sure they're thrilled.)
Guardian Andrea Arnold to direct first US film, a road trip called American Honey. I hope she casts professional actors this time. 

Tuesday
May062014

In Blog No One Can Hear You Link

MNPP "Do Dump or Marry" with the cast of Neighbors 
Shadowplay "everything that's wrong with Stanley Kramer..." (Judgment at Nuremberg) 
Cooper wishes a happy birthday to silent god Rudolph Valentino with beauteous gifs
Pajiba a righteous rebuttal to Shailene Woodley's ignorant anti-feminist comments
In Contention I should have linked this on my Star Wars day post but Kris did a history of Oscar and George Lucas' galaxy far far away

HuffPo Emma Stone and Gabourey Sidibe on their own body image and ignoring the haters ("too skinny" / "too fat")
Kenneth in the (212) loves Desperately Seeking Susan (as do I). You can visit the locations as they exist now in NYC 

small screen
Variety the rumors were true. Lisa Kudrow's brilliant biting showbiz satire The Comeback is returning to television. Albeit for a tiny six-episode run
Kevin P. O'Keefe terrific retrospective on the brilliant pilot episode of Glee all those long long years ago...

On a whim, I rewatched the pilot episode of Glee – first aired five years ago this month – just to see if it was as good as I remembered it. If anything, it’s better. In fact, it’s great. Yet watching Lea Michele, Cory Monteith and co. fresh-faced, unaffected by the ills that would befall them and the show over the next five years, is strangely heartbreaking. It’s a bit like watching a horror film backward.

I am so confident that show would have a gorgeous place in history if they had only wrapped it up with Season 2. 
AV Club Ancient Egypt is hot right now in Hollywood what with Ridley Scott's Exodus in production and new series from HBO and Fox going there, too. Spike TV joins the parade with a new series Tut
Comics Alliance how did I never hear that cheesy Electro Woman and Dyna Girl from Saturday Mornings in the 70s got its own unaired TV pilot in the Aughts? 

Today's Must Read
The Daily Beast looks back at Battlestar Galactica and charts what ineffable fanservice quality it had at the time that helped reshape pop culture. Really good piece which touches on a lot of genre films and tv that pop culture currently or still worships.

must see
I somehow missed this recent BuzzFeed gallery on movie posters improved with animation. Some are annoying with all the choppy looping reset feel that comes with most gifs. I like the subtler ones like the tense Sigweavie breathing of Alien or the elegant rippling Atonement but my favorite is probably this one for Fight Club. Pointedly cinematic... literally.

 

 

Moving posters for motion pictures are the future. Learn to love them.

 

Thursday
Apr172014

100th Anniversary: Cabiria

Tim here, asking the most burning question of them all: who’s ready to talk about Italian silent film?!?!

(Blogging pro-tip: italics and interrobangs make people excited to discuss things that they are not, in fact, excited to talk about).

But actually, we do need to talk about Italian silent film a little bit. Because this weekend marks the centennial anniversary of one of the greatest milestones in film history: Cabiria, a massive historical epic produced and directed by Giovanni Pastrone, and written by literary celebrity Gabriele D’Annunzio. It’s a film in which the title character, played by Lidia Quaranta as a young woman and Carolina Catena as a child, escapes the eruption of Mt. Etna, is captured by Carthaginian pirates, is rescued by a great Roman warrior Fulvio Axilla (Umberto Mozzato) and his muscular slave Maciste (Bartolomeo Pagano), who are themselves then caught up in the Second Punic War as Hannibal (Emilio Vardannes) attempts to conquer Rome. And this involves naval and land battles, and of course the elephants for which Hannibal is famous.

After the jump: Cabiria's unique and hugely influential place in fim history

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Feb132014

17 Days Til Oscar

Today's Useless But Fun Oscar Trivia Numbers Chain!

17 years ago The English Patient (1996) won 9 Oscars, driving Julia Louis-Dreyfus Elaine to the brink of madness "quit telling your stupid story about the desert and just die already. die!!!" and making it one of the seven most-Oscared films of all time. (Only Titanic and Return of the King have since beat it). Can Gravity, which has 10 nominations but will definitely lose Best Actress, tie The Patient's record -- it would have to win ALL of its other nominations -- or do you foresee a "spread the wealth" year?

Sal Mineo is the only 17 year-old of either gender ever nominated for an Oscar. That nomination came for his role as "Plato" in Rebel Without a Cause (1955). Mineo also holds the record of youngest (male) actor to two nominations as he was nominated for Exodus (1960) by the age of 22. He would have turned 75 this very year had he not been murdered at the age of 37 in West Hollywood.

• Nomination #17 was the lucky number for Meryl Streep with The Iron Lady, finally giving her her controversial and long-awaited third win (2011). If it had only been for The Devil Wears Prada (2006) instead!

• There are only three people who've ever been nominated for an Oscar exactly 17 times. Those lucky souls are the production designer George W. Davis who won Art Direction Oscars for The Robe (1953) and The Diary of Anne Frank (1959),  the composer Miklós Rosza who won Best Original Score for Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound (1945), as well as A Double Life (1947) and Ben-Hur (1959) and, finally and most recently, Gary Rydstrom who has been nominated in three different categories (Animated Short Film  and both Sound categories) and has won 7 Oscars! 

• In 1917 the Oscars hadn't been invented yet but if they had I'm reasonably certain that Mary Pickford would have won Best Actress unless scary Theda Bara had intervened (Pickford had at least three hits that year and then we could have been spared her career-tribute Oscar win for Coquette which so embarrasses Oscar historians!) 

And finally I made this photograph (and also the snowballs) this morning which I have christened

SEVENTEEN SNOW DAYS TIL OSCAR  

I had planned to do something far more elaborate an hour or two afterwards. (Yes, I am one of those sick sick people who loves winter and the snow) but then it quickly turned to sludge. Boo! 

Thursday
Feb062014

A century of tramping

Hi all, it’s Tim, here to celebrate a milestone of particular significance in the history not just of movies, but of pop culture generally. This weekend marks a centennial of one of the most iconic figures of the modern world: silent comedian Charles Chaplin’s legendary Little Tramp, who premiered in a pair of short comedies that released 100 years ago by Keystone Studios. The second to be shot, but the first to be released, was the half-reel comic short Kid Auto Races at Venice, Cal. on February 7, 1914; two days later, it was followed by the single-reel Mabel’s Strange Predicament, during the production of which Chaplin threw together a costume on the fly made of too-large shoes, baggy pants, a tight jacket, and a bowler hat. Within months – if not, indeed, within weeks – the character thus assembled through a quick burst of inspiration had become a sensation with audiences, and by the end of 1915 would be firmly entrenched as the most internationally beloved face in movies.

The Tramp, at the time of his birth, bears very little resemblance to the figure that he’d become over the next few years as Chaplin gained more artistic autonomy and developed a clearer sense of what he wanted to do with the character. In Kid Auto Races, he’s a belligerent bystander trying to ruin someone’s newsreel footage of the race (in addition to its freewheeling violation of the fourth wall, the film is claimed to be the first time that a movie crew was shown in a movie) – you can see on the faces of the race bystanders (the film was shot guerilla-style in an afternoon) that they’re a little confused and a lot delighted by the weird little figure. In Mabel’s Strange Predicament, he’s a drunken lech in a hotel lobby trying to assault a pajama-clad 19-year-old Mabel Normand (who also directed), forcing her to hide under a bed. The Keystone slapstick comedy formula was not, after all, very sophisticated: it was built on the twin pillars of people falling down, and people getting hit in the face. In the early going, Chaplin’s gift wasn’t to subvert these tropes, but to execute them as flawlessly as possible, and the Tramp made for an easily-mocked figure whose pratfalls were played with acrobatic skill that remains fresh and wildly physical, even after a century.

Somewhere along the line, though, Chaplin began to find something fuller and richer to do with the character, and that’s the Tramp we know and love today. The put-upon everyman with an eternal sense of optimism, who no matter how often he got knocked down, was always ready to dust himself off and trudge on to the next fight. Which he’d also probably lose. He represents the best instincts of humanity found at the lowest rung of society, a pathetically admirable figure. The early Tramp is a loser that we laugh at because he’s also kind of a jerk; the late Tramp is a loser that we laugh at because he let us laugh at our own failings without criticism.

That overwhelmingly generous human spirit animates all of the late silent masterpieces: The Gold Rush, City Lights, Modern Times. They’re funny, though not by any means the funniest of all silent comedies; but they are probably the sweetest and warmest. They are the works of an artist who could look at the world and say, “this is wrong”, but instead of being angry and depressed about that, follow with, “and here’s how we can make it better”. That has been the Tramp’s legacy: he is cinema’s finest portrait of our best selves as humans. On his one-hundredth birthday, I’m happy to remember all of the great experiences I’ve had watching his stumbles and small triumphs, and I’m pleased to think of all the films in his lengthy career that I still get to see for the first time.

Five Essential Little Tramp Films
The Floorwalker (1916, two-reel) - YouTube
The Pawnshop (1916, two-reel) - YouTube
The Immigrant (1917, two-reel) - YouTube
The Gold Rush (1925, feature)
City Lights
(1931, feature)

Five titles, of course, is barely even scratching the surface, so I'll throw it out there: what's your favorite Little Tramp movie?

Thursday
Dec052013

Silent Linking

Variety glorious piece gently berating Disney for their self-loathing Frozen marketing ('no, this isn't about girls and it's not a musical, either!')
Towleroad James Franco's '50 Shades of Batman & Robin'. Ha! I know a lot of people hate Franco's absurdities and his ubiquity but I love that he has turned the boredom of professional acting (all that time not acting on film sets or between jobs) into performance art.
EW Marcia Gay Harden will play Christian Gray's mother in 50 Shades of Gray. Can the movie just be about her instead?
MNPP which is hotter retro reminder: American Hustle's JLaw or... 

Vanity Fair Katey wonder whether Lena Dunham or Kristen Stewart have the Sundanceiest Sundance movie
Time Wispy beautiful Gal Gadot from Fast and Furious 6 will play the world's most famous Amazon warrior, Wonder Woman. Or at least Diana Prince in that likely-to-be-terrible Man of Steel 2 Men of Steel? Batman vs Superman? World's Finest. (I don't care what it's called. So bored of superhero movies... especially Batman. He's been on movie screens regularly since 1989... hibernate in the cave for a bit, PLEASE. Make us miss you)
Cinema Blend Two competing live action version of The Jungle Book are headed your way. It's Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu vs. Jon Favreau. I can't be the only person who still remembers the 90s live action version with Jason Scott Lee, can I?
The Wire Joe Reid on Her's NBR win
Hollywood Elsewhere Jeffrey Wells is grossed out by some hearsay that someone somewhere who is savvy about Oscars thinks Saving Mr Banks is going to win Best Picture. (P.S. You can find someone somewhere who thinks anything... even among people who are generally not completely dumb about the Oscars)
Coming Soon a new Ira Levin adaptation is coming: Veronica's Room. If it's anywhere close to as good as previous Levin adaptations like Rosemary's Baby or The Stepford Wives (original) than we are in for a treat.

Today's Must Read
Gawker Tom Scocca's essay about "Smarm" and social media. A lot of food for thought. Don't dismiss it unless YOU'VE written a 9,253 word thinkpiece...

Finally... 

Library of Congress findings on Silent Films

Finally, I'm noticing a lot of news sites suddenly reporting about these awful stats about the survival of silent film... or the lack thereof that is. This chart and many of the articles, are stemming from a September 2013 report from the Library of Congress which you can read in full here.