Author Topic: Year-by-Year: Something Old, Something New  (Read 6746 times)

pixote

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Re: Year-by-Year: Something Old, Something New
« Reply #20 on: June 12, 2015, 11:56:24 PM »
Mostly I just want to say, I'm reading along!

Thanks, Sandy! That's all I could ever ask for!

pixote
I think I'd love how awkward it'd be, or how awkward it should be.

pixote

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Re: Year-by-Year: Something Old, Something New
« Reply #21 on: June 13, 2015, 12:42:33 AM »
1926: Bonus Short



Slick Sleuths  (Charles R. Bowers and Bud Fisher, 1926)

Aside from the Criterion collection, the film content available from Hulu is always a little sketchy, in terms of quality. And that's a shame, because their library is sort of marvelous in terms of how random it all is.

This Mutt and Jeff animated short — much like the Our Gang short I watched for 1930 (also from Hulu) — is less interesting as a film itself than as a representative of a pop cultural landmark that was previously lost to me. I went into School's Out with at least some picture of what the Little Rascals looked like and acted like. But I've only really known "Mutt and Jeff" as an old timey way of describing a pair of ragged pals — and even that itself appears to be wrong. According to Wikipedia, the phrase really describes "any pair of individuals of different sizes." I guess I sort of knew that, but not really. Either way, I couldn't have told you with certainty that the phrase had its roots in a comic strip that ran from 1907 to 1983, and that almost 300 animated Mutt and Jeff shorts were produced between 1916 and 1926 (in addition to a weekly live-action serial than ran from 1911 to 1913). This is all news to me. I would have even guessed wrong that Mutt was the short one and Jeff was the tall one. (It's the other way around.)

Slick Sleuths was one of the last of the animated Mutt and Jeff shorts, and it's also one of the ones that received the Kromocolor treatment in the early 1930s — getting rereleased with nicely repainted colorized frames, new music, sound effects, and no intertitles. This is the version available from Hulu, and I wish I hadn't made the mistake of watching it first. The colorization is actually pretty nice, but the sound effects absolutely ruin the film. There's this constant, tinny, jabbering sound that's used to represent dialogue (mostly from Jeff, I think), and it's more annoying that it would to listen to Charlie Brown's schoolteacher at length. The lack of intertitles also makes a few aspects of the story needlessly confusing.

Luckily, the original version is available on YouTube. I still didn't love it (seeing the Kromocolor version first may have killed the chances of that), but it's clearly the better film. It even made me smile twice, at jokes that made zero impression on me at all just a few minutes earlier. There's a definitely a nice whimsy to some of the animation.

As a sidenote, I'm fascinated by the idea that Charles Bowers, the animator, became Charley Bowers, the slapstick comedian. I really hope that, later in this marathon, I can catch up with some of the shorts he starred in.

Silent, B&W Version
Grade: C

Colorized, Sound Version
Grade: C-

pixote
« Last Edit: August 20, 2016, 03:25:05 PM by pixote »
I think I'd love how awkward it'd be, or how awkward it should be.

MartinTeller

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Re: Year-by-Year: Something Old, Something New
« Reply #22 on: June 13, 2015, 01:11:03 AM »
My review indicates that I really liked Rien que les heures but since I can't remember a damn thing about it, I dunno.

pixote

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Re: Year-by-Year: Something Old, Something New
« Reply #23 on: June 17, 2015, 07:13:22 PM »
1926: Something New



A Page of Madness  (Teinosuke Kinugasa, 1926)

Review in the Top 100 Club.

Grade: B-

pixote
I think I'd love how awkward it'd be, or how awkward it should be.

pixote

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Re: Year-by-Year: Something Old, Something New
« Reply #24 on: June 17, 2015, 07:25:07 PM »
1922 (Poll)

Films graded: Beyond the Rocks (B-)

Films remembered: Nosferatu, Nanook of the North, Grandma's Boy

Watchlist: Cops (probably have seen this but can't be sure), Haxan (thought I'd seen this but I guess not), Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler, Foolish Wives, Kino-pravda

My Something New film is going to being Dr. Mabuse. It's been in my Netflix queue for a while, and I've long wanted to watch more of Fritz Lang's silents. As for the Something Old film, I can't decide between Nosferatu and Nanook. I have equally fond memories of both. I once cited Murnau and Flaherty as my top two directors, yet I've been entirely delinquent in watching and rewatching their films. Tough choice.

pixote
I think I'd love how awkward it'd be, or how awkward it should be.

pixote

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Re: Year-by-Year: Something Old, Something New
« Reply #25 on: July 01, 2015, 12:54:54 AM »
1922: Something New



Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler  (Fritz Lang, 1922)

There's a very scene early on in this four-and-a-half-hour film in which criminal mastermind Dr. Mabuse stands stock still in the center of the stock market while a frantic crowd moves around him in a panic. Mabuse himself is secretly responsible for the panic and thus knows it's temporary. He's just patiently waiting for the affected stock price to drop and drop so that he can snatch up a ton of shares and make a quick, killer profit. This single image — the dark genius, calm among the crowd he controls like puppets — represents the film at its visual best, and also at its most engaging.

I hoped at this point that Dr. Mabuse might resemble a crime serial viewed all together, with each set piece attempting to outdo the last, and impossible cliffhangers somehow turning possible at the last moment. That's not quite what Lang delivers, though. After the stock market prologue, the movie more or less hones in on a single story, as Mabuse (who's a real doctor of psychotherapy or something) uses his far-fetched powers of hypnosis (along with his mastery of disguise) to win at cards. After the high stakes fun of the stock market con, this main storyline seemed too penny-ante, and not really worth Mabuse's time. It's still decently entertaining, especially the ensuing cat-and-mouse game that's played with the state prosecutor.

Through the end of part one, I rated the film as solid entertainment (Grade: B). Part two tried my patience a little more, though, along with my suspension of disbelief. The hypnosis stuff goes from fun to silly, and Mabuse's kidnapping a countess seemed a little out of character somehow. I also longed more and more for the more artistic visuals of the prologue; too much of the film consists of static shots of the various interiors. They're well composed shots and nicely decorated interiors, but after four hours I definitely wanted a little something extra.

If I had a time machine, I'd definitely go back to 1922 and watch this in a theater, just to see how an audience then would have reacted to everything. That'd be amazing.

Grade: B-

pixote
« Last Edit: July 07, 2017, 04:47:54 AM by pixote »
I think I'd love how awkward it'd be, or how awkward it should be.

Junior

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Re: Year-by-Year: Something Old, Something New
« Reply #26 on: July 01, 2015, 01:01:41 AM »
Sounds both cool and disappointing. Not sure the best way to get me to watch a 4+ hour movie is to call it "penny-ante". Not that it's your job to make me watch it, of course.
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DarkeningHumour

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Re: Year-by-Year: Something Old, Something New
« Reply #27 on: July 01, 2015, 04:10:47 AM »
Sounds both cool and disappointing. Not sure the best way to get me to watch a 4+ hour movie is to call it "penny-ante". Not that it's your job to make me watch it, of course.

I don't know what that means but what worried me was the «silly» part. Still sounds interesting though.
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pixote

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Re: Year-by-Year: Something Old, Something New
« Reply #28 on: July 01, 2015, 10:02:01 AM »
I really had trouble reviewing Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler, mostly because I waited too long between watching it and writing up my thoughts -- but also because the movie plays a whole lot better on screen than it does in summary. With "penny ante", I was referring more to Mabuse's schemes than the film itself. The stock market gambit demonstrates that he has a vast network that is capable of a really big and profitable criminal coup; so the risk-reward ratio of his gambling scheme didn't seem to match. (It reminds me of the funny bit in Donnie Brasco where these big time mobsters spend hours trying to crack open a single parking meter.) But the film itself treats the gambling very serious and makes it fairly entertaining; it just requires a little extra suspension of disbelief. Mabuse, you see, is a master cheat card dealer, so he's able to know exactly which cards his opponent has and then to use his powers of hypnosis/suggestion to get them to play to his advantage. One opponent even folds an unbeatable hand without realizing what he's doing, and afterwards he's fuzzy about the whole thing. It's a little cartoonish (i.e., silly) but still entertaining.

pixote
« Last Edit: August 16, 2016, 04:05:21 AM by pixote »
I think I'd love how awkward it'd be, or how awkward it should be.

Junior

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Re: Year-by-Year: Something Old, Something New
« Reply #29 on: July 01, 2015, 01:59:51 PM »
I guess I was attributing the low stakes as compared to the intro to the entire movie. Either way, there are other Lang movies I need to catch up with before this one.
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