Tag Archives: film

Little tramp, big city

City Lights film posterLast night I attended the Butler County Symphony Orchestra‘s November concert, in which they performed the film score to Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights as the movie played.

The symphony sounded amazing, well-timed to the film and perfectly attuned to the emotional ups and downs of the film. The film itself was a surprise to me. I thought I’d seen it before, but no, I’d somehow missed this one — all the more surprising since this is considered one of Chaplin’s greatest works.

The physical gags and running jokes in the film are excellent, as I’d expect in any Chaplin movie. But what surprised me was the emotion, particularly that of the Little Tramp. I think of Chaplin films as broad and silly, light-hearted and fun, and on the whole this followed that recipe. But the end of the film isn’t light at all. It’s touching and open-ended, and it’s not clear — at least not to me — what might happen next. I’ve found myself thinking back to it all day.

If like me you’ve somehow missed this particular piece of film history, seek it out. It’s being rereleased on Blu-ray this month, or you could rent it on Amazon Prime. Or if you’re very lucky, you might find it being shown with live accompaniment, which is the very best way to see it.

Image source: wikimedia.

Draw Something, Picasso-style

Still from Visit to Picasso documentaryWhat I like about the mobile app/game Draw Something isn’t the game. As a game it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Should I try to make it hard for my opponent to guess what I’m drawing? If I make it too hard, he won’t guess, and then neither of us gets a point. But if I make it really easy, then where’s the challenge for my opponent/collaborator? What exactly are we doing here? Continue reading Draw Something, Picasso-style

You know I feel alright

Over the weekend I watched A Hard Day’s Night, the Beatles’ first film. I’d seen it before, years ago. Watching it now, I was happy to see it was as silly and plot-free as I remembered, but in many ways it also surprised me.

  • The movie has lots of surreal moments — jumps and shifts that are sort of goofy but maybe a bit more than that. John in the bathtub and then gone; the band in the train corridor and then running outside the train; John cutting the tailor’s tape. In the time between when I first saw this movie and now I’ve seen more film, particularly French film and film by bona fide Surrealists, so now I see better where the influences came from.*
  • The music is of course amazing — but it’s even more so if you believe the movie’s producer when he says in the DVD extras that the band wrote the songs in the few months between when the three-picture deal was signed and when the production started shooting. The title track wasn’t even written until near the end of production, and it was written overnight. Makes my all-nighters look like wasted hours.
  • The lads fell down a lot, especially George. And then they bounced back up and kept going, like Weebles. I mean, watch the opening sequence below: Happens 8 seconds in. Doesn’t that look painful? They do it a few more times during the movie. How George’s hands weren’t too bruised and scraped to play guitar I can’t understand.
  • I knew that footage from the Beatles movies and TV appearances were the source material for the visuals in The Beatles: Rock Band, but I didn’t appreciate how closely the game mirrors the footage, and sometimes improves on it.

Next in my queue: Magical Mystery Tour. Yeah, I know, it won’t be as good. Still, must be done.

BONUS: I came across this while seeking out a suitable clip. Nicely done.

* My brother suggested that I should watch the Monkees TV show again, to see if I have a similar renewed appreciation for its surrealism. Excellent idea. But I was always a big fan of the Monkees, so it’s hard to imagine I could like them more than I already do.

Film flashback: Born Yesterday

William Holden & Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday

The highlight of my weekend was seeing a classic film I hadn’t seen before: Born Yesterday, starring Judy Holliday and William Holden. I’m not sure how I missed this one in the past. Judy Holliday is outstanding in this, coarse (check out her shouting “What?” in the clip above) yet sexy and sweet, and smarter than anyone thinks. She’s the prototype for all the not-so-ditzy blondes in film — Legally Blonde, Clueless, any early Goldie Hawn movie.

The plot hasn’t aged too well. With its focus on the evils of business trying to influence government, it looks pretty naive these days — or maybe it could serve as a reminder of how things ought to be. But the characters are as fresh as ever.

The gin game scene from Born Yesterday

One Too Many Mornings — new indie film, new indie film distribution strategy

Trailer for One Too Many Mornings

Each year it becomes harder for an independent filmmaker (or anyone) to release a movie. Making a movie is hard; distributing it is nigh on impossible.

So it’s interesting to see a filmmaker taking the simplest approach and releasing a movie straight to DVD and to web purchase and download. John August featured the micro-budget One Too Many Mornings on his blog and highlighted their distribution strategy (brief overview post; brief review post), and in the comments of the first post he, blog readers, and the film’s director Michael Mohan are having a discussion about how the film was financed and made, the web software being used to market and distribute the film, and more. Terrific info for anyone in indie film, but also thought-provoking for anyone creating media and considering alternative or straight-to-the-public distribution (fiction and nonfiction, video, podcasts, art).

I particularly love the bundles in which you can buy the DVD. In the Limited Edition Deluxe Package ($34.99) for example, you get a piece of the film’s set: “Yes, literally a scrap from the upholstery of the couch used in the main set of One Too Many Mornings.” It comes with a certificate of authenticity. Buy it now!