100 Years of Movies

100 Years of Movies
One cinephile's chronological journey through a century of film...

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Rocky II vs. Logic

I am introducing my son to the Rocky series of films (as one does).  The first remains just awesome in every way, but that second film has some insane film logic as though in writing the film, the screenwriter completely forgot what the characters did the scene before...

  • Apollo challenges Rocky to a rematch, but Rocky has an eye injury so he retires.
  • Apollo calls Rocky names so Rocky says I will fight again, but Adrian doesn't approve. Apparently Rocky never heard of "sticks and stones...
  • Because of Adrian, Rocky doesn't really train. Because what better way to demonstrate your manhood to Apollo and make your wife happy then by going into the ring and suffering a debilitating injury in the first round.
  • Then Adrian goes into a coma, comes out of the coma and tells Rocky he should fight.  Comas apparently help people come to irrational decisions.
  • Rocky trains really hard and works on his speed.  We know this because he can catch a chicken.  Mickey tells us how fast he is.
  • Rematch arrives and is 14 rounds of Rocky getting pummeled because he is not fast.  Exactly the opposite of the thing Mickey told us he was.
To sum up: Rocky won't fight, he will fight, Adrian doesn't want him to fight, he totally should fight, Rocky needs to train to become fast, he is not fast at all. And I won't even get into the brilliant "fight right-handed for 14 rounds while getting beaten to within an inch of your life, then switch to southpaw when you can barely stand and immediately win the match" strategy.

So this film is basically a whole lot of filler that means nothing just so we can get to the fight.  Nostalgia had me remembering Rocky II as okay.  But this is a BAD film.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Noah and the Difference Between Deepening Faith and Reinforcing It

[Spoilers for Noah and The Last Temptation of Christ ahead.]

I'm a Catholic.  I went to 16 years of Catholic school.  I go to Mass every Sunday.  My kids go to a Catholic grade school.

But I have a confession to make...

I liked Noah. A lot. 

Why is this is this a confession? Because according to some, Noah is blasphemous and sinister and anti-Christian.

I am always mystified by these reactions from religious organizations and others.  If they really feel so strongly, they are stirring controversy (and publicity) for a film they are decrying. Of course, they are also holding themselves up as defenders of the faith and if that heroism gets more views, subscriptions or donations, so be it.

But I digress.  What I really want to talk about is the state of Christian filmmaking.  And frankly, it's not great.

Part of it goes back to the messaging above.  The Blind Side and Fireproof? Good. The Last Temptation of Christ? I'll just hold your reservation for this seat in hell right now.

The problem from my perspective is two fold:
  • Media supports a view that films that reinforce faith are good and films that challenge and potentially deepen it are at best dangerous and problematic.
  • Audiences are trained by these accounts to view movies based on what happens in them and not based on what they are about.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Set Visit: The Patchwork Girl of Oz

Posted April 1 1914 6:01:02pm

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit the set of The Patchwork Girl of Oz, J. Farrell MacDonald's adaptation of L. Frank Baum's novel released just last year.

Let me admit upfront that I am quite the Oz-phile so of course I jumped at the chance to see what MacDonald was up to in bringing Baum's world to life.

Upon arrival, I got to see some production designs that would blow your mind.  MacDonald and his crew are clearly going all out to bring Oz to life.  Sadly, I was not able to take any pictures here and was sworn to secrecy so you will just have to wait for the film's release to behold its awesomeness.

From there, I got to tour a couple of the sets.  Specifically, I got to see both Unc Nunkie's hut and Dr. Pipt's lab.  It was like walking into a storybook.  The painted facade of Nunkie's fireplace as well as the imaginative contraption that allows Pipt to concoct his wonderful creations are more spectacular than I could have possibly imagined. For fans of Baum's stories, you can rest assured that you are in good hands.

At the end of the day, I got to watch them film a scene.  It was a small moment with Unc Nunkie and Ojo attempting to cross a bridge while the stubborn mule named Mewel (a typical Baum flourish of a name) prevents their crossing.  The scene itself is humorous, but what really astounds is the imaginative costuming that allows Fred Woodward to play Mewel.  The actor in every way becomes a mule.  It is seamless.  I cannot wait to watch how the effect translates to the big screen.

Sadly, I only had a moment with MacDonald himself as I was leaving.  I asked him how they would carry off the effect of creating the Patchwork Girl.  He smiled and said he couldn't reveal much but that it would "blow my mind."

Earlier, we reported on some of the effects work for this film and you can find that here.  Suffice to say, Baum fans will be more than satisfied if what I saw is any indication.  And for moviegoers new to Oz? Prepare to have your mind blown.

Gertie the Dinosaur and the Future of Animation

Posted April 1, 1914 3:00:32

Earlier this year, Winsor McCay released the remarkable Gertie the Dinosaur, a painstakingly crafted two dimensional animated film that clocks in at a robust 12 minutes.

The wild success of McCay's animated dinosaur has industry insiders wondering: is this the end of one dimensional animation?

At the end of last year, animator Dan Baines released what was to be his masterpiece The Adventures of Dot & the Infinite Plane.  However, instead of accolades and box office glory, Dot was met with a tepid critical response and poor ticket sales. What went wrong?

Many point to the wider audience's reaction to two dimensional animation like How a Mosquito Operates and Little Nemo.  However, 1D films still thrived when early 2D line animation was first introduced.

Production Still: Fixed Point Follies
There are rumors that studios will be closing down their 1D animated production houses.  That would be an absolute shame to me.  Fixed Point Follies remains a formative film experience for me and I would hate to live in a world where my children did not have an opportunity to see the work of brilliant animators like Baines.

What can you do? For one, let your voice be heard.  Baines has started a foundation to support the one dimensional arts.  Details can be found here.  I will be donating and hope you can too.  There should be room for both dimensions.

Opinion: Theaters Have No Future

Posted April 1, 1914 12:00:13pm

Later this month, the Mark Strand Theater will open in New York.  The so-called movie "palace" will seat 3,000 people accommodate a full orchestra and show its features up on a stage on a massive screen.

All of which I give a hearty "thanks, but no thanks" to.

So right now, I can walk to the corner of my street walk into the nickelodeon, plop in seven cents, and boom! there's my film.  Easy. No fuss. No muss.

Now, we are getting a supposed improvement that means traveling to the city and hoping I can get a ticket for the show I want to see. Assuming that goes well, what do I win? The chance to sit behind a gentleman who talks to his companion throughout the film? And what if I'm stuck in the front of the theater? What kind of experience is that?

Who pays for this? We all do. D.W. Griffith (whose work I have enjoyed) is supposedly prepping a three hour "epic" that is already being talked about as "needing" a $2.00 ticket price to make it work.  You read that right. Two. Dollars. Who wants to pay that kind of price to sit in a theater for THREE HOURS?

Obviously, this is a film experiment doomed to failure, but it's not my money.  If you are interested, you can prepurchase tickets here. People will not change their viewing habits to accommodate new technology and the film industry needs to get that message.

Casting Rumor: Farnum for The Virginian?!

Posted at April 1, 1914 9:01:23am

Really? The Virginian? Really?
Cecil B. DeMille is starting pre-production on one of his next films and the early favorite for the role is a familiar face.

Dustin Farnum, who was just featured in DeMille's The Squaw Man in February, is apparently at the top of the short list for the lead in the upcoming adaptation of The Virginian

I, for one, hate this casting.  I get that DeMille wants to keep working with actors he is familiar with, but Farnum is just too much of a lightweight.  As a huge fan of Owen Wister's novel, I can say that Farnum has not demonstrated any of the gravitas necessary to carry this one off.  The Squaw Man was fine, but with a revered franchise like this? 

And if early word that the film is aiming for an almost 60 minute running time?  I really have to wonder whether DeMille is the guy to carry off this project without producing a bloated mess.

I predict a lot of controversy on Twitter over Virgin-num. There's already a petition to stop the casting which can be found here.

Hopefully the rumors are false, but I am not optimistic.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Fantastic Four Has Its Cast and It Is Fantastic

Fox is rebooting this.
After months of rumors, we finally have the cast list for director Josh Trank's Fantastic Four reboot.  They are Miles Teller as Reed Richards, Kate Mara as Sue Storm, Jamie Bell as Ben Grimm and Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm.

For years, my favorite Marvel comic book property has been The Fantastic Four.  It was better than Spiderman, better than The Avengers, better than Captain America (well, until Ed Brubaker started writing Cap). I fell in love with the team during Mark Waid's run on the comic and stuck with it through the years, even following the alternative dimension book Ultimate Fantastic Four.

There's some things to unpack in the casting that are obvious.  First, it seems clear based on the age of the actors that they are following the Ultimate team (assuming they are following anything from the comics at all).  Second, Sue and Johnny obviously will not be blood relatives (yes, Michael B. Jordan is black; everybody freak out).  Finally, Trank and the studio decided to go with actors as opposed to, you know, Jessica Alba.

All of this is for the good. All of it.

Updates from the Tundra

As I write this, my home is surrounded by a foot of snow that has been here forever a week.  I'm nestled in my basement, Philadelphia Flyers hoodie providing most of the warmth with the glow of my monitor filling out the rest.

I'm sure you've noticed things at 100 Years have been slow. Make that anemic.  Okay, completely nonexistent.  There are a number of reasons for that. In order of importance, they are:
  1. Spending time with my wife and four kids,
  2. Spending more time on my actual job that pays the bills, and
  3. The 1930s.
For those keeping score, I am up to 1932 (about to start 1933). It's taken me *** months to get from 1930 to 1933.  There are a number of reasons for that (see number 1 and 2 above), but a lot of it comes down to the 1930s kind of sucking.  After the experimentation and the inventiveness of the 1920s, I was jazzed for what the next decade would bring. But the reality is the introduction of sound forced movie technology back a couple of steps and turned every plot into a game of how many sounds can we squeeze into this film.  It's getting better, but I have not been anticipating each movie the way I used to.

So after a couple of months of soul-searching, here is where we are:
  • I definitely want/need to keep going with the website.
  • I plan on expanding the site to include observations about current film news and releases. This will be a bit of whatever strikes me.  I'm never going to be a movie news site and I'm not planning on becoming a new release review location either.
  • The 100 Years project will remain a core component of what I am doing.
I plan on doing a bit of a redesign (nothing drastic as I am computer illiterate) to capture my new direction. For those still following and reading, thanks for your patience.

More to come soon....

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Not So Secret Santa Review Swap - Live Flesh (1997)

As long time readers know, I'm a "director" guy. When I find a director that I like, I will follow their filmography from the Oscar-buzzy to the Razzie-worthy.  The rest of you can have your actors.  I'll go directors every time.

Which isn't to say I don't have director blind spots.  I've only seen 1 percent of Woody Allen's output (and that's likely with rounding).  I have barely touched Billy Wilder's oeuvre.  It's not that I do not want to; I just have not gotten around to it yet.

That's my long way of introducing the fact that Pedro Almodóvar has been criminally ignored by me.  He's a director I've wanted to catch up with, but have just never found the time.

Which is why I loved seeing that Live Flesh was the film I was gifted in The CK's Not So Secret Santa Review Swap.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Horse Feathers (1932)

Directed by Norman Z. McLeod
Starring The Marx Brothers
Produced by Paramount Pictures

There's a college and a football team and a plot to steal another school's players and...frankly, I'm not going to bother.

You either like the Marx Brothers brand of comedy or you don't.  I don't.  There's no progression or escalation.  It's simply variations on the same jokes I did not like in every other movie.

There is nothing for me to say about Horse Feathers that I haven't said before.  If you want to know what I think, read any of these.

Will I watch the last couple of Marx Brothers films? Yes, but only to get through it.  As it stands, these are the movies I dread watching from each year.

*1/2 out of *****

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Que Viva Mexico! (1932)

Directed by Sergei M. Eisenstein and Grigori Aleksandrov
Produced by the Mexican Picture Trust

NOTE: There's no final star rating from me on this one.  Eisenstein started filming in the early 1930s, but went over budget and the film was never finished as he envisioned.  Several versions have been released over time, but none is what you can consider definitive. As such, it seems unfair to judge this on the traditional scale.

Que Viva Mexico! opens as though awakening from a dream.  Eisenstein's camera captures an ancient temple, each shot bringing us closer until we are no longer focused on the structure, but on the stone statues that decorate the edifice.

Then suddenly, there are people here as well standing or sitting motionless, as though they too have always been part of the landscape.  They have always been here and are the creators and characters in every tale.  Every story in Mexico ceases to exist on its own and becomes the continuation of one grand tome stretching back through the ages.

It's an effective, evocative prologue that as reflected through the prism of this film grants the country a timelessness.  Sadly, once the opening ends, we get the rest of the film and it is almost universally dull.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Singing Poorly and Rambling...

And now for something completely different...

Over the last couple of months, I have started a new podcast endeavor with fellow blogger Nick Jobe of Your Face called We Sing Poorly. It's a monthly show in which we review movie musicals... in song.  That's right! You can listen to the dulcet tones of yours truly as he reviews movies like Les Miserables and West Side Story.

Just in time for the holidays, we have released our latest episode based on The Nightmare Before Christmas.  Give a listen and let me know what you think below.

And finally, just a reminder that I am still rambling on the Rambling Ramblers Movie Podcast with Justin Gott of Man I Love Films.  Episodes are available over on our Wordpress page.  In the latest episode, we tackle Kevin Smith. Not literally, he's a big dude...

If you get a moment please leave a review on the iTunes pages for The Rambling Ramblers and We Sing Poorly. Short of donating a kidney, it is the best way to help the shows out.

As always, thanks for listening and reading.