I like each of the four versions in this video, but the final one–starting at 5:35 and delivered by Patrick Stewart, from the Richard II segment of The Hollow Crown–really gives me chills.
I’m a bit of a film nerd, and as much as I love YouTube channels like CinemaSins and WatchMojo, those are just fluff. However, I get a much deeper enjoyment out of the CineFix channel. I’ve really learned quite a bit about film from them. Here are a few of their more recent videos that I think are especially valuable for the critical film fan:
This brilliant scene showcases the physical vitality of much classic film (especially in the work of director Akira Kurosawa), as opposed to the relatively unrealistic style of film today.
This scene is also an homage to the Odessa Steps scene in the even older Russian classic Battleship Potemkin (1925).
The film itself–particularly the two bumbling low-class men from whose vantage point the story is shown–heavily influenced George Lucas in the making of Star Wars (in which those characters become R2D2 and C-3PO).
Recent for me, at least. Here are some things I’ve seen lately that have stuck with me:
I came across this film while researching a unit on international media for a class. It’s short, simple, and says something true about humanity, with a bit of a twist at the end.
I heard this one while listening to the wonderful Thitsleradio.com. Again, short and beautiful, but I love the harmonizing and the folksly chant of it.
I’ve watched a few short films like this lately, and this one really impressed me: not at all historically accurate, but believable enough for a fantasy, and seriously well made.
Great old blues song I heard as a kid, and it just popped back into my head. Man, this is catchy.
This video has the Babylon segments of D.W. Griffith’s 1916 silent film epic Intolerance. The entire 3-hour film rotates between four stories in different historical periods, and while each of the four has its charms, the Babylonian story is by far the best. As this classic of cinema celebrates its 100th anniversary, here is that story, complete and by itself.
My favorite scene from the 2002 documentary Stone Reader. The combination here of the elemental score, the slow and colorful visuals, and the simultaneously awakening and valedictory narration make this a truly beautiful bit of the filmmaking art.
I copied and posted this clip online because nobody has much from this great movie anywhere, and I want to spread awareness of it. I encourage anyone seeing this to appreciate this celebration of literacy and to purchase the complete documentary–it’s really a wonderful film.
Last week I found this channel that, among other things, has several complete Ingmar Bergman films. Check it out:
The best thing about the new Star Wars teaser trailer is how thoroughly cinematic it is. Most trailers, especially teaser trailers, are just a lazy mess of spotlighted clips. This one, though, was clearly constructed with a specific narrative arc in mind.
It naturally falls into three acts:
Act I: Establishing character and setting
First we see Tatooine, then we see a hero. The hero is tired, sweaty, and scared. And alone. That’s how we know he’s a hero, despite the Stormtrooper uniform–villains never appear so beleaguered in Act I.
The soccer ball droid reassures us that two big mainstays of the series are still present: innovation and whimsy.
The next shot reaffirms the first: a panicked, lone hero in a hurry. No coincidence here: clearly, we’re meant to know that this film will show our new protagonists in a fractured, oppressed state, desperate to escape a threatening presence. This, of course, is highlighted by the gravelly voiceover.
The fourth “scene” reaffirms the second: a reassurance here, not of innovation and whimsy, but of action and equipment. Few series are so rooted in their weapons and vehicles as Star Wars, and this part of the trailer shows us J.J. Abrams doing what he did with Star Trek: preserving the bets of the old while updating its peripheral elements.
I was interested in the work of Terrence Malick after seeing Tree of Life. As I started watching his much earlier film Days of Heaven, I was at first reminded of Ron Howard’s Far and Away: young lovers brought together and separated by the the trials of pioneer life in an earlier American era, set against the gorgeous backdrops of that unsullied wilderness.
But where Howard’s movie was a fun bit of pop celluloid, Malick’s is art.
The style is wholly ambitious. Not unlike 2001: A Space Odyssey in this sense, he uses dialogue sparsely, and constructs a deceptively simple plot. Much of the film’s meaning is communicated symbolically through the physical environment on which the story is imposed.
Days of Heaven begins in fire: the furnaces of a factory and the violence that attends them. After this prologue, we enter the paradise promised in the title; indeed, the story’s central act is truly a season of heaven on earth, one of those times in life where everything is perfect and you just lose yourself in the rapture of it all.
I got out of the habit of keeping track of what I watched last year. I’m back in it, but for now, here are the first 12 movies I can remember seeing for the first time last year, in alphabetical order:
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
So much swashbuckling fun! Actually saw this as a little kid, but couldn’t remember much about it; watched this with the fam now, and everybody loved it. Errol Flynn is the perfect Robin Hood (“You speak treason!” “…Fluently.”)
Strange to contrast this with 1991’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, a movie so bad I hadn’t bothered to see it again since then, and when I did this year, I thought it was even worse. From the constant hero shots of Costner’s mullet, to the weird ways they contort their own screenplay to find excuses to use Morgan Freeman’s character, this is a sad, obvious bunch of clichés. What a joke. At least Alan Rickman knew enough to ham it up.
10/10 (the 1938 version!)
Babette’s Feast (Danish, 1987)
My main train of thought watching this was how different–and how much worse–this would have been as an American production. In a Hollywood version, Babette would have been a sexy cougar whose metaphorically erotic orgy of food would have “liberated” all the “narrow-minded prudes” around her, freeing them all to “be who they really are.”
As it is, Babette’s Feast is far more subtle, realistic, and, therefore, moving.
Ikiru (Japanese, 1952)
Honestly, I didn’t see what the big deal about this Kurosawa classic was for most of the film. Sure, it was poignant and beautiful, but not earth-shatteringly so. Until the final act. That daring bit of directorial bravado–where tipsy mourners at the protagonist’s wake review his final days, intercut with scenes of the great living in question–profoundly impressed me. Genuinely insightful and impressive.
Another contrast with a hypothetical American version: in Hollywood, Watanabe would have had a love affair with Toyo in the second act, finding his passion for life in the arms of a young woman. How sad that we’re so predictable.
Remembering legendary actor Peter O’Toole, everyone calls up his role in Lawrence of Arabia. Rightfully so, as it may still be the screen’s most breathtaking epic.
But I’d suggest another work to cinephiles who would celebrate his legacy.
1968’s The Lion in Winter is one of my favorite classics. O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn spend two hours flawlessly firing some of history’s most viciously barbed language at each other. No movie before or since has had such deliciously venomous dialogue, and these titans of stage and screen relish every line with sadistic aplomb. Cold blooded fun!
This week I finally saw Ingmar Bergman’s Winter Light. What a beautiful film, in many ways. I absolutely loved it.
The most striking part, though, was a scene near the end where a supporting character gets his screen time to talk to our protagonist, a pastor plagued by doubt and melancholy. The church sexton confesses to the pastor that our apparent understanding of Christ’s suffering is superficial, limited to the cross.
He wonders if the emotional suffering of Gethsemane, and the spiritual elements of the crucifixion might not have been worse. He describes these scriptural details in a way that deeply intensifies the Lord’s suffering.
I sat up pretty straight during this scene. His confused reaching for truth brings him so close to a Latter-day Saint knowledge of the Atonement. I wanted to tap him on the shoulder and talk about the Book of Mormon. I wanted to show him Jeffrey R. Holland’s Easter talk below.
Sadly, YouTube doesn’t have a clip of just this scene. It starts around 7:00 in the 7th video in the linked playlist, and runs about 40 seconds into the 8th.
I’ve never seen GoodFellas, but I found this scene on YouTube when looking for this old song by the Crystals. What a work of art! Scorcese perfectly uses the period music and adoring, long tracking shot to establish this guy’s bravado, in the service of impressing a girl.
I mean, when a club holds a table for you, you’re powerful, but when they build a new one in front when you show up, that’s serious!
But the technical artistry here is the best part. Getting that shot must have been tough, but it was worth it. It’s a joy to watch.
Reminds me of this long tracking shot from Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil:
But, of course, like all kids who grew up in the 80’s, “Then He Kissed Me” mostly reminds me of the opening of Adventures in Babysitting:
As I recently finished reading a survey of Joyce’s writings, it occurred to me that each of his four majors works could be compared to the four major acts of Kubrick’s film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, in order.
A critical care for presenting a realistic story gives us the first stage of the work. The inhabitants of this place are frustrated and stunted. The Kubrickian monolith is equivalent to the Joycean epiphany. Ironically, where the epiphanies of Joyce only instigate paralysis, the monoliths of 2001 catalyze a quantum leap in evolution.
= A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Here we see a truly new style (or, at least, a recent style perfected)–Joyce’s stream of consciousness and Kubrick’s special effects ballet. Each work is a seamless, totally integrated work of ambitious art, where every facet contributes to the whole united message. Each work, thematically and in its plot, is about man moving onward and upward.