Saturday, November 20, 2010

Experiencing 1929

It's no secret that I watch more movies than Abigail does. If I wasn't so lazy, I'd go back through these posts and figure out a percentage. Even doing that, though, would be a way of avoiding real work while Abby does something productive.

Mostly, I watch movies alone after she's fallen asleep or early in the morning before anyone has woken up. Sometimes, if I have a day off, I'll sneak upstairs in the middle of the day for a nap with the baby, which usually turns into me staying awake watching a movie.

In an effort at matrimonial concord, I've decided to stop spending so much time catching up on the crap movies of the present. I can name on one hand the films from 2010 that I think are worth caring about and even out of those I haven't really fallen in love with anything besides a few isolated shots/scenes/sequences here and there. So, I'm mostly done with 2010 for now. I'm going back to...


And I'm bringing Abby with me!

Together, we'll slowly make our way through the movies of 1929. When we're done with that, 1930. Then, 1931. Then... well, you get the idea.

I was directly inspired by Peter Bogdanovich's post about his favorite American films from 1929 (as an aside, his 1930 list was just published today). Additionally, I've taken the broader International lists of Ed Gonzalez and Jonathan Rosenbaum as further guides along the way. The Wikipedia Year in Film lists are also quite helpful. (Brandon, am I missing any other good lists?)

I was also directly inspired by Brandon's ambitious '40s-'50s project. That's pretty much what I'm doing here; only slower, and in chronological order, starting with the beginnings of the talkie revolution.

AND, as a treat for my few friends/readers here and as a special treat to myself, I'm dragging Abby along for the ride.

I'm not sure if I can get her to write much, but I have convinced her to keep a ranked list to accompany mine.

Will our marriage survive the stress of disagreeing strongly about movies? Or will we find a perfect harmony numbered 1 through 10?

So far we've watched three films from 1929. What I think I'm going to do is post updated 1929 lists three movies at a time. So, here I'll be posting our top 3's. Next, I'll post top 6's. Then Top 9's. Then, a genuine top ten list with more and more movies falling off the list each time we update another batch of 3.

So, what were the first three films?

In the order we watched them...

Spite Marriage is a modestly funny Buster Keaton vehicle. There are a couple of really hilarious moments (the beard, the stuffed animal) but the majority of the film resides in steady smile territory.

The Iron Mask was the last film that Alan Dwan and Douglas Fairbanks worked on together. The action has that sparkling quality that Dwan and Fairbanks had perfected. Exhilarating! All this action almost makes me want to exercise more than my eyeballs. This movie certainly has the best ending of the three we watched. I was almost tearing up with joy.

Hallelujah! is King Vidor's all-black semi-musical about a man's fall, his being lifted up, falling harder than before, then receiving unmerited grace far richer than he deserves. There are some sho 'nuff racist moments in the film, but I think the blame for this has more to do with the times in general than with Vidor's intentions. This film is the most visually sophisticated of these three films. Vidor knows how to shoot familial tenderness and redemption and he knows how to shoot lust and rage. After seeing this and Show People (1928) earlier this year, I'm convinced that King Vidor is one of the great filmmakers of the U.S.

We let the girls watch The Iron Mask with us and they all really enjoyed it. I sometimes chuckle when people think that my love for classic films means that I have a shelf full of family-friendly titles ready to recommend. Surely, the past has many more family-friendly offerings than the present, but a quick glance at a list of titles for 1929 will show anyone that these films are not really for children. I've got about 20 films from 1929 lined up to watch. Many of these have really adult themes and too many of them deal with that perennial cinematic problem, infidelity. Needless to say, it's good to find an exciting adventure movie that the girls can watch. For the sake of fun, I'll keep a list of the girls favorites based on what we've let them watch with us.

Enough. Here's the first set of lists:

1929 Top Ten - The Girls
1) The Iron Mask

1929 Top Ten - John
1) Hallelujah!
2) The Iron Mask
3) Spite Marriage

1929 Top Ten - Abigail
1/2) Hallelujah!/The Iron Mask
3) Spite Marriage

That's right. Her first attempt at ranking movies by year and she waffles. A tie! Right now, the first half of Hallelujah! and the final moments of The Iron Mask are wrestling in her grey matter for supremacy. Will this stalemate last forever? Who will eventually win?

Stay Tuned! Same Blog Time! Same Blog Channel!


brando said...

Nice dude! I can’t wait to hear what Abby has to say. There is nothing wrong with smile territory, I need more of that. I wish Tara would try something like this. She hasn’t been as interested in older films as she used to be. I’m currently being blown away by Lewis Milestone’s Hallelujah I’m a Bum!. I’m trying not to rush into the 30s but I’ve already begun to check out films from that decade. I’m doomed. Ed Gonzales is the best as far as getting lists is concerned. Of course Rosenbaum’s top 1000 is incredible. There is a fella who goes by The Crop Duster, I really like him as well. Yeah 2010 has been pretty thin. If you are not too swamped we should come up with more top ten ideas (sci-fi, adventure, rom coms, feature length cartoons). What do you think?

abigail said...

Just wait, Blue. I'm planning a top ten list in which all ten films are tied for the number one slot.

And it's really only the last three minutes of Hallelujah that stick in my craw. (Yeah. They stick in my craw.)