Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Is it necessary to see a silent film in a THX theater?

Saw The Artist this weekend in the theater that had THX sound. The music was good (translation: loud) but the moments of silence sounded just like silence! Besides going to the wonderful Cornelius 9 theater, got to see a bunch of movies this weekend.

The Artist (2011) - This is a great movie. Done in the style of a classic silent film, it's about an actor who doesn't want to accept that sound is replacing silent movies. It is also a throwback to the classic film era with touches of A Star is Born, Asta from the Thin Man series and Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. I'm sure there are many others, I'll need to watch it again closer to find more references.

Will this film win best picture? I hope so for a number of reasons. Besides it being the top runner currently and I plan on picking it on my ballot (see this post for an explaination), I hope that it will get people to become more interested in older films from the 1930's and the silent era. That and it would only be the second time that I saw a film that won best picture in the theater before it won, last time 1988.

Cleopatra (1934) -The Cecil B. DeMille epic with Claudette Colbert as Cleopatra. The old story of Julius Ceasar saving the queen after concurring Egypt and then tries to marry her. Just before the wedding he goes to a knife party, but since he is the last to arrive the party goers follow tradition and stab him to death. Mark Anthony, angry that he wasn't invited, blames Cleopatra, wants to kill her, instead falls in love with her, goes back to Egypt and then tries to fight the entire Roman army himself. He comes very close, no not really, and Cleopatra allows her pet snake to bite her. This was told in about an hour and forty minutes, seventeen hours less than the Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton remake about thirty years later.

A grand film, done well for the time. Today you would have more special effects and more elaborate sets, but enjoyable, much more than the remake. Not as good as It Happened One Night, but good enough to be in the top twelve.

Black Swan (2010) - About every thirty years a film with ballet in the storyline gets nominated (Red Shoes 1948, The Turning Point 1977) so I would get ready in about 2039 for the next ballet film to be nominated. More of a suspense film about a dancer getting the lead role in Swan Lake and her losing her mind trying to get ready for the part. Has elements of American Psycho where you are not sure what is reality or fantasy, but doesn't leave it up to the viewer which in a way weakens the film. Natalie Portman was exceptional and earned the best actress award.

I heard that this film wasn't very good, I would disagree. It wasn't as bad as 127 Hours but not as good as The Kings Speech.

The Lion in the Winter (1968) - A story about a disfunctional family getting together for Christmas. The twist is that it is 1183 and the family is King Henry II's. He allows his wife out of jail to see the King of France and invites his three sons who are all vying for being the next king. Epic style drama, drags a bit, good screenplay and strong acting. Peter O'Toole, Katharine Hepburn who won half best actress, Anthony Hopkins and Timothy Dalton's first film.

Since I have seen all films from 1968 now I can give a final analysis. I saw Oliver when I was a teenager so it's not fresh in my memory as some of the other movies from this year. But seeing how it was a musical and awarded in a socially tough time, I can see why it won. In a tie for second would be The Lion in the Winter since it has epic quality and Rachel Rachel since it was the standard of what would win during the 1970's. Romeo and Juliet is in fourth place because you can't put Shakespeare in last place, and Fanny last.

Viva Villa (1934) - Wallace Berry as Pancho Villa, it doesn't get better than this. Not sure how accurate but he plays the part like he was the John Gotti of Mexico. The story of how he took his bandits and fought in the Mexican Revolution, how he had to flee to Texas and then how he came back to overthrow the government once again.

No comparison to It Happened One Night, but very enjoyable.

The Gay Divorcee (1934) - Whole lotta of 1934 going on this weekend and this is film 375. Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire, the cast of regulars, typical story of mistaken identity. And they always find a way to get Fred Astaire to dance, just like a Jim Brown film always found a way to get him to run. Not much on plot but a grand musical that I like to call escape from the failing of the Roosevelt economic policies.

A good film, good enough to be part of the top twelve, not good enough to bump off It Happened One Night.

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