Monday, June 25, 2007
Friday, June 22, 2007
This week, the American Film Institute revised their list of the top 100 movies of all-time. The list, first published in 1997, was updated to include any films released in the past ten years. And while there were some new films added, the most newsworthy event of this new compilation was how some titles changed their positions.
Take City Lights. On the original list, it was number 76. But in the past ten years, its stature must have grown, because on the new list it vaulted all the way to number 11.
I like the film, don't get me wrong. It's cute and it has extrememly funny moments. The boxing scene includes some of the funniest moments in film history. And the famous final scene is touching. But the eleventh best film of all time? I don't think so.
Look, it sounds like I hated City Lights. I didn't. When I watched it tonight, I was never bored and I never cringed at anything I saw. Chaplin's critics call him too maudlin, but I think that's what makes his movies timeless. The emotion is so basic that we can all relate. Also, his use of sound in this film was ingenious. Not wanting to give the Little Tramp a voice since the character had never spoken before, Chaplin used only sound effects and music to convey his story. He took a gamble that the film would alienate audiences at the time since all anyone wanted to see were talking pictures, but he didn't, and the movie's obviously gone on to become the eleventh best film of all-time.
(To be honest, I hate lists like these. They're just shallow attempts at nostalgia, and more often than not they fail miserably because everyone concentrates on the negative aspects - what was left off, what was kept on - than the positive ones. Still, if it inspires some kid who doesn't like black and white silent movies to give City Lights or The Gold Rush a look, they can't be all bad.)
*The title of this post is the official German title of City Lights. The DVD includes a German trailer, one of the most bizzare things I've ever seen. It's nothing but short clips of the movie underneath an announcer screaming gibberish like "Morgan! Heute! Gestern!" ("This Morning! Today! Yesterday!") What time periods have to do with City Lights, I have no idea.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Found this on Youtube today. It's a mash-up of Spike Lee's classic Do the Right Thing and the beloved children's program Sesame Street, using the old Fisher Price set I owned when I was a kid. (Although I must have had the basic version of the set, because there are a lot more Muppets in this skit than I ever had.) It gets a little lame towards the end, but the first half made me laugh hysterically.
Mr. Hooper must be spinning in his grave.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
See Once. It's been dubbed an "art house musical" by its director, which is a pretty apt description of the film. A busker (street musician) meets a Czech woman on the streets of Dublin, they form a friendship and begin collaborating on music. It's a nice meditation on how music can bring people together and inspire their lives. It's nice to see two characters - a man and a woman - bond without the film trying to cram a romance between them down our throats. The movie is a romance, just not a typical one. It reminded me a lot of Lost in Translation, only with better music and without the self-importance that that film had. (And the characters are roughly the same age, which eliminated the creepiness factor of that film.)
But here's the best part: The lead actor was one of the musicians in The Commitments. He was one of the three members of And And And. Guitar player. Once has a lot in common with The Commitments, and not just its setting. No soul music in Once, though.
Sure, I could bitch about the mid-section of the film, especially a seriously cheesy moment when a character goes to a drug store and breaks into song on her way home. (It was the only moment in the film that didn't feel real.) Or I could complain about the music which, while good, still felt like leftover Damien Rice tracks. And there's a silly section with a motorbike that should have been rewritten. But those are minor problems. I highly recommend this movie. See it if you get a chance.
"Elvis was a cajun, he had a cajun heart..."
"That's fuckin' blasphomy!"
Monday, June 18, 2007
Check out the new toy. Yep, my entry into the 21st century is now complete. A few years back I finally broke down and bought a cell phone and now, as of today, I own a laptop. I can now access the Interenet pretty much wherever and whenever I want to. Wires are for losers!
Of course, my PC had to die a miserable Unmountable Boot Error death in order for me to buy a new laptop, but those are just small details. Sure, I could have rebuilt the PC, but I'm about to assistant direct a show - as well as direct a show next spring - so my excuse was that I could use a new laptop for notes and stuff. This will be a good thing, since I lost what little writing ability I had around 1996 when I started using computers all the damn time.
This is my first experience with Windows Vista. It's pretty cool, a bit mac-y, but easy to use. It sure does love its pop-up windows telling me all sorts of info, that's for sure. Those will all be disabled soon.
And that picture above is the cleanest you'll ever see my desk. Take a note of it.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
In other news, it is never going to rain again. I'd like to thank Mother Nature for helping me with my goal of keeping up the yardwork this summer. It's very easy when everything has died.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
After a steady diet of mostly modern garbage - seriously, how many pointless sequels can be released in one summer? - I've decided to go back into film history and watch some older titles. (Basically, I took my DVD owned list and my DVD wish list, mashed 'em together and sorted them by year. The plan is to watch them all chronologically, either renting or buying the ones I don't already have. We'll see how far I get.) First up was 1925's The Gold Rush, one of Charlie Chaplin's many masterpieces.
There is seriously very little wrong with this film. The narrative is pretty tight, the acting is hilarious, and nearly every scene is a classic. There's the rolls-as-shoes bit. The eating-a-shoe bit. The house-on-the-edge-of-the-cliff bit. But they all pale in comparison to my favorite moment of the movie, the starving-man-hallucinates-and-thinks-his-friend-is-a-chicken bit. Chaplin is easily the screen's best chicken. Funny stuff.
I have about three silent films on my list, because a) I haven't seen many and b) a lot of silent movies have long since been destroyed by film disintegration. I have seen some Buster Keaton stuff, which I enjoyed but not enough to watch again. Keaton's movies, while clever, have never been nothing more than technically funny films. They're executed brilliantly, but they're very cold. Chaplin's movies, on the other hand, are not only stuffed with physically impressive sequences, they also have a lot of heart. It's that emotional element that makes his films succesful.
More on this film journey as I take it. See, I told you I was going to blog more often.
Just got back from the Wilco concert. For all you Wilco fans, here's what they played:
Shot In The Arm
Side With The Seeds
You Are My Face
I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
War On War
Sky Blue Sky
Hate It Here
Shake It Off
I'm The Man Who Loves You
Heavy Metal Drummer
Outta Sight (Outta Mind)
We missed the first three songs due to a lack of parking spaces around the Murat. Which sucks, because "Shot in the Arm" is one of my favorites. Oh, well, maybe next time.
The band was at the top of their game. "Outta Sight (Outta Mind)" was a lot of fun, as was "I'm the Man Who Loves You". And seeing Jeff Tweedy run in place during the outro to "Hummingbird" was worth the price of admission alone. I was kind of hoping to hear "Misunderstood", since the live version on Kicking Television is phenomenal, but they opted not to play it. And no Uncle Tupelo stuff, which I didn't expect but was secretly hoping for. When are they going to reunite?
But don't take my word for it. The band has officially archived the concert on their website so you can listen and judge for yourself. Here you go. How cool is that?
Look, pictures on the blog! This thing just keeps evolving. Now I just need to update more often and we'll all be set...
Next concert: The Police in Minneapolis.