Friday, July 31, 2009

Happy 100th!

Having spent the last month looking back to the beginning of the decade (and we're not done yet!), I'm taking us back ten times farther. 'Tis the season for fall-term course preparation, which has prompted me to investigate films from 1909, and though I've only been through seven so far, I've already covered a gamut from incredible work to inert misfires, occasionally from the same director. You all generally like the contemporary stuff and the Oscar champions best, but trust me, for once the reviews are as short as the movies! Surely, you are titillated by titles like Nero, or The Fall of Rome and Princess Nicotine; or, The Smoke Fairy? (A tip for weekend fun: reprise an old trope and add a second or, title to recent releases: Julia; or, A Woman So Under the Influence She's Almost Beyond the Influence, or Away We Go; or, Boy, I Hope Our Baby Is Cooler Than Our Friends, etc.)

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Blogger Sam Brooks said...

We did a class on Early Silent Films in our brief Film History class yesterday, and I was quite startled to see how well some of the older films hold up, even as cute little vignettes.

Particularly hilarious was Mary Jane's Mishap, but I think it's always interesting to look back at these early films.

10:13 PM, July 31, 2009  
Blogger Dame James said...

I randomly decided to broaden my horizon of early silent shorts a couple of months ago and the first one I saw was Griffith's Corner in Wheat. At first I was bored by that completely static first shot where (if I recall correctly) the farmer just kinda stands there planting his seed and thought, "This so typical of Griffith." But, as the film unfolded and I saw Griffith's complete vision, it made complete sense to me. Just the way he arranges the vignettes tells a more complete and fascinating story than most movies with eight times the length. I was so taken aback with the pure strength of the storytelling that I didn't even notice half of the technical things you mentioned. In my estimation, I think you could learn a whole lot more from Corner in Wheat about film techniques than in the 3+ hour snoozefest that is Intolerance.

10:32 PM, July 31, 2009  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Brooke: I'll have to look up Mary Jane's Mishap. Thanks for the recommendation - and yes, the durable humor of a lot of these old shorts is one of their most wonderful pleasures.

@Dame James: How terrific to hear from another Corner in Wheat fan! An unexpected treat, and I'm so glad to hear that the movie impressed you as much as it did me. I agree that its eloquence and grammar exceeds what Griffith achieved in lots of his longer features, which sometimes just repeat (and pad) the graceful approaches he worked out in his best shorts.

11:01 PM, July 31, 2009  
Blogger Guy Lodge said...

"Antichrist; or, Fox and his Gynocidal Friends" might distract attention from that intimidating first title in the red states.

5:33 AM, August 01, 2009  
Blogger NATHANIEL R said...

i thought i'd been doing well with silent films (or at least finding a competitive knowledge) but i have not seen a one of these.

but you've encouraged me to add centennials to my next mammoth (why do i do this to myself project) ;)

8:18 AM, August 01, 2009  
Blogger tim r said...

I'm gunning for Brüno; or, a Tale of Two Dildos.

Drag Me to Hell; or, Hold On To Your Buttons, and Mind the Embalming Fluid?

6:13 PM, August 02, 2009  
Blogger tim r said...

PS. Watchmen; or, what was Tim thinking... I'm dreading a look back at that one, though Lane's more-fascistic-than-fascism argument strikes me as too easy, and a bit of a conversation-stopper.

6:21 PM, August 02, 2009  
Blogger Glenn said...

I have neither seen nor heard of these films, but I have seen the first feature length film ever made. It's an Australian film called The Story of the Kelly Gang. Well, I've seen the small parts of it that remain, as unfortunately there is about 40-50 minutes of it gone forever.

The number of times I've read articles about early films and it never receives a mention despite being the actual first. :/

9:38 AM, August 05, 2009  

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