Selma (2014) – An Important Film with a Hopeful Message

When Selma first premiered I caught NPR interviews with director Ava DuVernay and star David Oyelowo and could hear the palpable passion that they had put into this work. I knew I wanted to watch it. Of course, regrettably, I didn’t make the time for it then. But I knew it would make a great addition to my Shame list.

Last February I finally did make the time to watch it, I even began writing my blog post but for some reason I couldn’t push through. It kinda just felt like my write up wasn’t doing the film justice. As it turns out, that may have been a good thing. Not only is the film even more relevant now, watching it again filled me with a sense of hope that I haven’t really felt since our Presidential election. Yeah, sorry folks, it’s going to get political.

Selma recalls a particularly awful time in America’s history. Last year when I first watched it, for me, it represented how far we had come as a nation. Now given the current political and cultural landscape, it represents how little America has learned in fifty-two years.

My thoughts on the film (and other things) continue after the jump, just as a disclaimer these are my own personal views and don’t necessarily reflect the opinions of other contributors to this blog.

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Third Time’s a Charm? (Shame Statement 2017)

Listen, if they can reboot the Spiderman franchise 3 times with each successive series of films being BETTER than the last…ok obviously we don’t know if Spiderman: Homecoming is actually going to be any good but this analogy started off poor and it’s not getting any better so I’ll just halt it now…

Every new year holds the promise of great accomplishments to come. For the past two January’s I have posted a list of films that I want to watch and write about here on this blog. For the past two years I have petered out after one or two decent entries. (Actually the Spiderman franchise analogy does work pretty well here.) I have barely made a dent in my list of cinema shames over these past few years and I really want to turn that around in 2017 so I’m giving it another go.

I look forward to seeing all of your entries in the new year, and being inspired to finally tackle this list!


January – Selma
February – The Stunt Man
March – Smokey and the Bandit
April – Lawrence of Arabia
May – The Man with the Movie Camera
June – Chinatown
July – High Noon
August – Animal House
September – Rope
October – Breakfast at Tiffany’s
November – Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
December – White Christmas

The Shame doesn’t feel, it doesn’t give up, it follows. (Also Hard Eight!)

In the winter of 2014 I was given the wonderful opportunity to write about some classic films that I had slept on and do battle with my lifelong habit of procrastination.

Welp, after two articles I promptly flamed out. Two years later I am trying again. I’ve read some self-help books. I’m a little older, a little wiser, a little more married than I was before (Hi Rach!). I would consider myself a much more responsible person on the whole. I am truly a penitent man and I promise not to fall off the wagon again. If I do, know that it won’t be for some dumb reason like general laziness, it’ll be something more exotic like a hardcore meth habit.

So here’s my list for 2016. Same as my 2014 list, mostly, with some new additions… (I finally saw Jaws over the summer, so I can say that for myself…)

Hard Eight
Selma
The Stunt Man
Smokey and the Bandit
Lawrence of Arabia
The Man with the Movie Camera
Chinatown
High Noon
Animal House
Rope
Breakfast at Tiffanys
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Let’s kick it off after the jump with my thoughts on Hard Eight, the directorial debut from P.T. Anderson.

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The Artist (2011) – Here’s to January in May!

You gotta believe me when I tell you that I did NOT join this blogging community to compound my cinema shame. And yet, shamefully, I have not contributed anything to this blog since my shame statement. Shameful indeed. But I am here today to rectify this and hopefully get back on track with regular contributions. So let me take you back to a simpler time in our history, to a time when I should have written this…let me take you back to January of 2014…

The Artist (2011) dir. Michel Hazanavicius

The-Artist-poster

The idea behind choosing this film as my first write-up stemmed from the fact that in theory it would be supremely easy for me to get ahold of, you see it has been sitting on my movie shelf since 2012. I bought it not knowing much about it other than the general conceit of it being a film done in the silent-movie style that won a slew of Oscars (Best picture, and I would hope Best Dog Actor among them.) I figured I would love it. Sadly, it has sat on the shelf, shrink-wrapped and gathering dust while I walked past it day after day. This blog has provided the perfect reason to finally check it out and (a mere four months after I meant to) I have finally been able to spend some quality time with this film.

The year is 1927 and the place is Hollywoodland. It is the heyday of silent-film and our hero is George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), a movie star in the most classic sense. Handsome, dashing, talented and with an ego to match. All he wants from the world is complete, unconditional devotion, and based on the reaction that his newest picture is getting from the audience, he’s got it. As such he is a cad, a glory-hog and a bit of what we might refer in todays’ parlance as a douchebag. But as it is with all good rakes of his kind, a humbling is on the horizon, and his particular troubles are coming in the form of the talking picture. But for now he is riding high, the audience loves him, his pictures are a hit, the studio bends to his every whim and what’s more he has by sheer good luck met beautiful ingenue Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) a rising star. George stands tall and proud watching the audience devour his latest film, master of all that he surveys. A sign that warns to ‘PLEASE BE SILENT BEHIND THE SCREEN’ looms over him. And thus we begin The Artist…a glowing love-letter to the era, aesthetically and thematically, a moving examination of the successes and hardships of the people dealing with the transition to sound filmmaking and film that I really should have watched a long friggin’ time ago.

What draws me in the most is how well director Michel Hazanavicius and his team play within and without the aesthetics of the silent film. The picture is black and white throughout, grainy (though I think they could have gone grainier), filmed at 22 frames per second giving you that nice choppy motion and is presented in the classic academy 4:3 ratio, just like ye olde silent films. The intertitles help to clarify long silent speeches, lip reading sometimes clues you into bits of dialogue, and actor mugging takes care of the rest. Most importantly it all feels true to the genre. Of course, what you really want to write home about is the way that the filmmakers use sound.

@MisterGreggles and I recently attended a screening of Metropolis (1927) and we were fortunate enough to see it with a live orchestra. So I still have that experience fairly fresh in my brain, and I have to say that they really nailed that symbiosis between silent film music and picture. The music does a beautiful job of conveying the feeling of the scene, solidifying the performances (which are great on their own) and communicating story points. For example, a scene late in the film has George discovering a stockpile of items he had to auction off following his downfall. Initially I figured he would be happy to find out who had purchased everything but once those ominous strings and tympanies make their presence known: you realize no, no he is not happy about this at all.

Sound effects are also used to jarring effect in the film, and when the audience is finally rewarded with a bit of honest-to-goodness dialogue, it is in a wonderful little moment that ties up loose ends and sends you off with the warm and fuzzies. I like how the film uses sound to step outside of the constraints of the silent film era. It is an homage to the era, but not slavish, and when the film does decide to transcend its boundaries, it does so in beautiful, meaningful ways.

I think I enjoyed this movie a lot because I have a particular fondness for movies about moviemaking, and one of my all-time absolute favorites is Singin’ In the Rain (1952), a film which shares many many MANY thematic elements with this picture, and also features a story about the chaotic transition from silent to sound era. I have no doubt that the little nods to that picture and so many others were intentional. It’s obvious that the filmmakers have a great love for film. (One of my favorite bits involves Missi Pyle as a Lina Lamont type, George’s current leading lady who wants just as much admiration as he does.

I could go on.

I haven’t even talked about the acting, which employs just enough “dumb show” to be genuine to the era but not enough to turn off modern viewers. I love the scene where Peppy is giving an interview and dogging silent film actors as clowns who do nothing but gesture and mug for the camera, while the film dictates that she must essentially do the same to communicate to the audience. Sweet sweet movie irony.

I was also afraid of the name actors taking me out of the experience, that I would be lulled into the story and the aesthetic only to be confronted with Malcolm Mcdowell or James Cromwell for lady from Speed (1994) who freaks out and goes for the bus door only to end up as a pile of gibbly bits. (How is it by the way that the first bomb only blew up a 2×2 square at the front of the bus…that was a pretty hefty digression. My bad.) Anyway, they are all welcome and fit nicely into the world, Cromwell does really nice work as the loyal driver (cut from the same cloth as Alan Swann’s driver from My Favorite Year (1982)) and John Goodman will make you believe that a beta studio head could actually be a real thing.

So I did go on a little bit there.

Okay, let’s wrap it up. Needless to say, I loved this film and I am thankful for the opportunity to write about it here. I know that watching films (good and bad) is good for the filmmaking soul. It informs the way that I make my own films and is just a good thing to do in general. I don’t do enough movie watching, frankly. But I hope to change that by continuing this journey with all of you.

It’s good to be back!

Schpadoinkle.

  1. The Artist
  2. The Stunt Man
  3. Smokey and the Bandit
  4. Lawrence of Arabia
  5. The Man with the Movie Camera
  6. Chinatown
  7. Jaws
  8. High Noon
  9. Animal House
  10. Rope
  11. Breakfast at Tiffanys
  12. Lord of the Rings the Fellowship of the Rings

@Peaceman630, a lifelong procrastinator, ready to face my Cinema Shame

I was a premature baby.

I decided I just had to be born a few weeks early despite the fact that I hadn’t yet finished cooking. Aside from that it’s hard to recall too many things in my life that I haven’t waited until the last possible minute to address or creative projects that I haven’t stretched long past the due date. Case-in-point, here I am writing my first post to this wonderful blog on February 1st. I’m late to the party but happy to be here.

I’ll give you another example: @MisterGreggles, who is my best friend, gave me a DVD of the John C. Reilly film “Hard Eight” back in 2007 for my birthday. I wanted to watch it. I had the time to watch it. But perhaps not the will. Each time we’d hang out he’d ask me if I’d watched the film hoping to engage in a lively discussion on its merits. “Nope, not yet. I’ll get to it eventually though, I promise” was the common refrain. It got to the point where I resolved to watch the film and made a semi-serious, mostly-jokey ultimatum. Something to the effect of: “If I don’t watch this film by the end of the week I will renounce our friendship, that’s how much watching this means to me because I consider you my dearest friend.”

Technically speaking we haven’t been friends since 2007.

In any case, you get the extent to which I need to change my evil ways and I think this blog will be a great opportunity to do so while also meeting you fantastic people and sharing in your stories as well. Thank you to @campbelldropout and @007hertzrumble for allowing me to contribute, and thank you to @mistergreggles for encouraging me to get with the program.

And now the list:

January (oops, already off to a late start) –  The Artist

February – The Stunt Man

March- Smokey and the Bandit

April – Lawrence of Arabia

May – The Man with the Movie Camera

June – Chinatown

July – Jaws

August – High Noon

September – Animal House

October – Rope

November – Breakfast at Tiffanys

December – Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

You’ll notice Hard Eight didn’t make the cut for this year, but don’t worry Greg I’ll get to it eventually.
I promise.