03 September 2013

Lloyd Wins Dad's Approval - Wings is a Fine War Pic - Hitchcock's First Great Film and Chaplin's Brilliant Take on Der Fuhrer

I was the caretaker of my dreams
I danced to the tune of your laughter
I lived the perdition of yesterday's ecstasy
And still
Still I am here with this blog trying to defy the norms
(Oh yes and sometimes I write about films. Kazowie!)

I watched some films and wondered if they were watching me back. Like maybe they've got their eye on me. I can't explain it but I can sure feel it. Wonderful things films are. They can set are minds at ease or get them working furiously or mine our minds for mindfulness. They can devilishly bedevil us. But can they watch us from another dimension? 

Harold Lloyd is The Kid Brother (1927) fighting villains chasing the girl trying to earn the love and respect of dad the sheriff and his older brothers. That's a reality for a lot of sons. Wanting dad's approval (and daughters too). I've been a son and I am a dad. In one role you try to please in the other you try to show your pleasure. Lloyd had to bring in the bad guy to win pop's admiration. That's a tough go for a bespeckled lad of less than average build. But in the silent comedy world our heroes win the day no matter their size and best of all provide us with chuckles aplenty. Oh yes he may also get the girl (whatayou think?). It's not my favorite Lloyd but he made so many good ones that's hardly a slight.

Wings (1927) was the first Oscar Best Picture winner. It was a crowd pleaser then and still is. It set the precedent for the academy awarding the best pic Oscar to to a film that was not the best picture. Still it has nice moments most of which are in the air. It is a World War I aviator movie with a love story a story of brotherhood and friendship and it has a bit of Shakespearean tragedy to its melodramatic ending. But mostly its entertaining fun from director William Wellman who had been a flyer during the Great War. He was later to direct some of our greatest pre code films some outstanding westerns and WWII movies. Clara Bow is in Wings. Her life began and ended sadly but she left behind some good work as this film evidences.

Blackmail (1929) was shown recently at the PFA as part of their series of nine newly restored Alfred Hitchcock silents. It was my favorite. I had previously seen the talkie version of the same film which cannot hold a candle to this one. Then candle holding is difficult for intimate objects not so designed.
An attempted rape becomes a murder although at worst a manslaughter if viewed objectively and through modern eyes. Our heroine (Marie Ault who is wunderbar ) has a police detective boyfriend who is put on the case. Meanwhile a dastardly criminal has evidence of her role and threatens -- what else? -- blackmail!  From the director who was to go on to make some of the greatest films of the 20th century Blackmail is -- for me -- easily one of his ten best. He was no novice at this point. This was film number 11 and his stride had been hit. Great stuff.

The Great Dictator (1940). This is a stunning movie to look back on. My god the brilliance of Charlie Chaplin to make this film when Hitler was not just in power but at his greatest glory. Course Chaplin said he'd never have made it had he known just how bloody awful the Nazis were. We are fortunate that he was ignorant of the facts (while it is tragic that so many in power were either similarly ignorant or chose to ignore). In the nearly 75 years since no one -- no one -- has done a better job of satirizing lampooning and skewering Hitler. To do at that time and to evoke such genuine laughter is as much a testimony to Chaplin as you can come up with. And that speech at the end? You know the one the Little Tramp assumes the dictator's place on the podium and delivers an impassioned speech for humanity and against everything the evil tyrant stands for? That one. It has at times seemed hokey overly long and repetitive to me. No more. We could use a little more of its sentiments today.

There have been other films that I've watched recently. But. Maybe I didn't care for one and don't like writing about movies I don't like. Maybe I have already written about the film. Maybe I have nothing much to say about the film. Maybe I am suffering from dengue fever or cholera or yellow jack or amoebic dysentery or dropsy or diphtheria or lockjaw or typhus or scurvy and so can't write more. Who knows?

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