Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): Remembering the Movies, Mar. 25 - 31

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Remembering the Movies, Mar. 25 - 31

Every Friday, we look back at films released 10-100 years ago this week.
Visit Remembering the Movies to further peruse the past

I couldn't complete Remembering the Movies at its regularly scheduled time this week, as I was working in Philadelphia. An explanation of the delay was scheduled to appear but, as always seems to be the case when I'm not at my computer, the announcement didn't go up on time, leaving this spot vacant on Friday morning. So rest assured that the series continues, regardless of blogging snafus. This week we have Marlon Brando's directorial debut, an early American picture from Milos Forman, and a kids' film which might serve as a nostalgic touchstone for some of our younger readers (that very notion might make some other readers feel rather old). Next week, the entry will appear on Friday morning, as usual. In movie-related news, I got to run up the "Rocky steps" in Philly.

10 years ago (March 30, 2001 - wide release)
"One of the pleasures of regular moviegoing is being dragged to a picture you thought you couldn't care less about, only to find yourself enjoying it almost against your will. Spy Kids, written and directed by Robert Rodriguez (whose last movie was the hugely entertaining but largely overlooked teen horror picture The Faculty), is one of those gentle surprises, a kids' picture made with enough thought and care to keep adults entertained too.

Rodriguez's strong suit here isn't just that he remembers what it's like to be a kid (although the movie's crackerjack gadgets and silly jokes prove that beyond a doubt). It's more that he's hip to what it's like to be an adult in a kids' world -- in other words, he knows parents are people too: individuals who have willingly given up adventure and romance to raise good kids, but who can't help feeling occasional pangs of regret for the old days. Spy Kids is partly an adventure in which children get to be the adults; freed from parental restrictions, they get the chance to go off and save the day with their own ingenuity and smarts. But beyond that, it's also a story about parents' finding their own independence in the context of raising their kids. The movie's message -- that families are stronger when they allow for both parents' and kids' independence and breathing room -- is refreshingly subtle and sophisticated, without ever dragging down the movie's unabashed entertainment value." - Stephanie Zacharek, Salon

Spy Kids (2001)

20 years ago (March 29, 1991)
"'Aaah, turn it off!'
'No, you can’t turn it off, you must finish this movie for the sake of the readers of Absolute Horror.'
'But it’s just so awful! Must…finish…movie.'

What you have just read was a dramatization of the voices in my head as I counted down the wasted minutes of my life watching The Unborn. I know what you’re thinking, with a name like this it sounds like an anti-abortion instructional video. But The Unborn does make a strong argument for birth control – not to mention the 'off' button on your remote." - Opening Kill, Absolute Horror

"The story is nothing new, in fact the film borrows heavily from Rosemary’s Baby – the father is in on the experiment, another patient who finds out whats going on too late – as well as a myriad other ‘mad doctor playing with genetics’ movies but what works for The Unborn is the way director Rodman Flender successfully builds the suspense and over-arcing fear of dread throughout the film, making good use of the character’s history of depression and nervous breakdowns to create a sense of isolation and familial estrangement.

It’s just a shame that like a lot of low-budget horrors the final payoff is somewhat of a letdown, once the child is born all suspense is out the window and instead we end up with a final denoument that is marred by bad FX and a schlocky looking baby.

However despite the poor payoff at the film’s climax, like I said, nothing could’ve prepared me for the events of The Unborn‘s final half hour – a backstreet abortion, digging a dead baby out of the garbage, the baby not being dead but rather an ‘It’s Alive’ style mutant, then Brooke Adams suckling said mutant baby! Those final thirty minutes are either the work of a mad man or genius, I can’t quite decide." - Phil Wheat, Blogomatic3000


The Unborn (1991)

30 years ago (March 27, 1981)

"This movie works so well for several reasons. One is that Thief is able to convince us that it knows its subject, knows about the methods and criminal personalities of its characters. Another is that it's well cast: Every important performance in this movie successfully creates a plausible person, instead of the stock-company supporting characters we might have expected. And the film moves at a taut pace, creating tension and anxiety through very effective photography and a wound-up, pulsing score by Tangerine Dream." - Roger Ebert

"With Thief, Mann leaves plain an American standard–the gangster movie. Halfway through the film, I wondered how it fit, as the energy the film opens with is gone. The film moves these awkwardly handled scenes without much flare. These scenes are presented as the standard dramatic scenes, but with something not quite right about the storytelling in these very familiar scenes. Then it becomes clear." - Andrew Wickliffe, The Stop Button

Thief (1981)

40 years ago (March 28, 1971)

"When you stop to think about Taking Off, the circumstances are almost as bleak. Lynn and Larry don't seem to have a clue as to what's going on in Jeannie's mind, and although they are decent enough, the house in which they live is a kind of memorial to their humdrum sensibilities: knotty pine paneling, lace doilies on the TV set and piano, and, on the wall, one of those 'perspective' paintings that, depending on your angle of vision, is a clipper ship, the portrait of a 19th-century lady, or a still life of a bowl of flowers. 'That,' says a friend of theirs, 'is what I call art.'

The circumstances are bleak, but the movie is not. It has as much affection for Jeannie's parents, even at their most foolish, as it has for Jeannie and the freshfaced innocents—the acid heads, the drop-outs and would-be recording artists—she meets in her Village wanderings." - Vincent Canby, New York Times


Taking Off (1971)

50 years ago (March 30, 1961)
"With One-Eyed Jacks, Marlon Brando brings cinema to one of its most romantic landmarks. Its cruel romantic beauty has no equal in recent movies. If the French 'New Wave' romanticism is expressed through lovers and nihilists, Brando's romanticism is classical: he is a romantic brooder, a Hamlet standing by the ocean shore, listening to the waves and meditating on violence, revenge, love." - Jonas Mekas, Village Voice



60 years ago (March 25, 1951)

"A simple story with a unique angle - this is the first western to confront the issue of the aging gunslinger - his reputation dogging his attempts at a settled lifestyle. Gregory Peck is Johnny Ringo - reputed to be faster on the draw than Wyatt Earp, Billy the Kid and Hikcock - and every cowboy looking to make his mark is foolishly prepared to test his mettle - to see how far he can be pushed. Then are those that mark Ringo as the killer of their son, or brother and they seek revenge." - Gary Tooze, DVD Beaver


Rawhide (1951)

70 years ago (March 28, 1941)

"The Adventures of Captain Marvel began life in 1941 as an intended adaptation of Superman. It got as far as the planning stages when National Periodical Publications (the predecessor to DC Comics), Superman's publisher, denied the rights to the property to Republic. Those screen rights were sold to Paramount Pictures, who assigned a reluctant Max Fleischer to create an animated series of shorts. The debut animated short reached screens later in 1941. (By the way, two Superman serials were made and released by Columbia Pictures: Superman in 1948 and Atom Man vs Superman in 1950, both starring Kirk Alyn as the Man of Steel. Anyone who has copies of these serials, please contact me.)

Republic then contacted Fawcett Comics, who held the rights for the Captain Marvel comic series. They happily accepted Republic's offer and pre-production began. The budget was set at $100,000, making it one of the most expensive serials then produced. William Witney (Master of the World) and John English were hired to direct it. The Lydecker brothers, Howard and Theodore, were hired to handle the visual effects. A fitting cast—including Tom Tyler, Frank Coughlan, Jr., William Benedict, Louise Currie, and George Pembroke—was hired. The ingredients were set for the serial to end all serials." - Bill Treadway, DVD Verdict


80 years ago (March 28, 1931)
 "[Man of the World] is a small drama with a rather personal, self-loathing screenplay by Herman Mankiewicz and a compellingly quizzical, melancholy lead performance by William Powell (who briefly became Lombard's first husband). Lombard isn't quite herself yet; she seems to be struggling to keep the natural sense of fun out of her voice, and gives overly cadenced, solemn line readings, as if she's counting. It's clear that she has promise, but it took her a long while to warm up." - Dan Callahan, Slant

"Yes, it’s romantic and to an extent it works, but it is not the expected resolution of the storyline. It should also be said it has a younger William Powell playing a bit more seriously than we have come to expect from his later films. He’s good at this but the scenes, again in the latter half, are not balanced by lighter ones so there is a heaviness to the movie’s final half partly due to Powell’s character. He’s just too glum.

Having said all that, I still found the film quite delightful. However, it is a bit confused, I think, in that it wants to tell both a serious story and a lighter romance at the same time and it just doesn’t work that way. You have to make a choice.

The movie is worth seeing however, especially if you’re a fan of Carole Lombard and William Powell. (This is one of Carole Lombard’s earliest films.) You can see the beginnings of what would later be a great team in My Man Godfrey." - Bill Wren, Piddleville


90 years ago (March 27, 1921)

"I liked it a lot and certainly it is just another recommendable short of Harold Lloyd and in my opinion very underrated here in IMDb. Lloyd is not on the screen during the first minutes however is really funny to watch the younger version of his character. The girl (Mildred Davis) clearly remembers Lloyd' s character and now is time to see him again. But is the companion of the girl who will bring the laughs. I'm not going to be very specific but for some reasons the boy, that Lloyd plays, has to take care of a little girl but not before we watch how the boy is." - eric_canella, IMDb


Now or Never (1921)

100 years ago (March 27, 1911)
 
"The additional footage found in the abbreviated version of Sweet Memories is not just important to persons with a technical or academic interest in film. The extra material cut from the AFI/McPherson print also has biographical significance to the life and career of Mary Pickford. The discovered scene is of Charlotte and Jack Pickford, Mary's mother and brother, who also starred in the film. The two are in a graveyard grieving over the loss of the husband/father. The 16 feet of footage not only represents the power of Mary Pickford's early fame (IMP was willing to employ the entire family to get Mary), but it eerily reflects an actual incident in the life of the Pickford clan, the early death of Mary's father John. Extra material, like the scenes found in Sweet Memories or In the Sultan's Garden illustrate the necessity of detailed moving image research and the potential relevance/significance of even a fragment of film footage." - Library of Congress Project Report



2 comments:

Jaime Grijalba said...

Well, I've only seen one, sadly, and that's Spy Kids, which I found entertaining when I saw it for the first time, but now just becomes dull.

Sam Juliano said...

ONE-EYED JACKS, THE ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN MARVEL and Harold Lloyd are what float my boat the most in another memorable installent of remeniscence on this weekly cinematic celebration. Great to hear you are working in Philly, and fully understand the two day time lapse.