What Is The Greatest Silent Film?

I don’t usually like “what is the greatest X” questions, but this article is a fun discussion of what might be the silent film most representative of the medium’s strengths. (For my money, it’s either The General or The Passion of Joan of Arc, but we each have our own pick.)

Silent-ology

This is my own post in honor of the Silent Movie Day Blogathon. Hope you enjoy!

When it comes to talking about great movies (in the Roger Ebert sense of the word), I’ve always loved making and sharing lists: top tens, top fives, your “essential threes”–they always seems to prompt interesting discussions. Face it, you’re asked to list what you think are the Top 10 Best Movies Ever Made and it’s hard to resist, isn’t it? Even the top film critics and directors in the world famously contribute to Sight & Sound‘s “Top 10 Greatest Films” lists once every decade. It’s enlightening to see how certain films will fall a bit out of favor while others remain universally praised–often for generations.

The greatest films of all time- a list compiled from multiple sources –  OWEN TEMPLE
Image credit: Owen Temple

But your average carefully-compiled lists, hard as they can be to put together, are one thing. Trickiest of all is picking a…

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I’m baaack– kind of

Well, it’s been half a decade since I’ve haunted WordPress, hasn’t it?

What a wild five years it’s been.

To be honest, I’ve been cutting back on social media in general, both for my mental health and so I can concentrate on other interests. However, I still enjoy posting about old movies, so I don’t plan on totally jumping ship, either here or on that dreaded hellsite Tumblr.

So what does that mean for this blog? Well, I plan on posting blogathon posts here. Let’s face it: WordPress is better suited than Tumblr for longer-form content. Easier on the eyes.

So yep, look for my upcoming contribution to the Silent Movie Day blogathan here! I plan on writing about the top-grossing movies of 1921. Check out Silentology and In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood blogs for the full line-up– or to sign up yourself!

Modern Myth: Frankenstein (1931)

I watched this magnificent film again last night. Nitrate Diva’s write-up from four years ago is divine, a wonderful close reading of a single moment in the movie which speaks volumes about its themes. Give it a read!

Nitrate Diva

I need to reign myself in when writing about Frankenstein. God knows, I could easily concoct a series of blog posts about Colin Clive’s hair alone. So, I’ll isolate one moment that has always fascinated me and try to bring it ALIVE!

Recognize the scene? This is a pristine publicity still, I believe, but you can still get the gist (and some extra angst!) from my slightly murky screenshots.

The monster has dragged his maker to the windmill. Henry Frankenstein wakes up and tries to run away, but the creature stops him and they take up positions on either side of a turning wheel in the mechanism of the mill. In shot-reverse-shot, we get Frankenstein looking at his creation and the thing looking back, as the gear continues to turn between them. There’s just so much in these two shots. They conjure up a multiplicity of meanings.

Following a pretty…

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Amazing New Keaton Discoveries – My Wife’s Relations

Always cool to hear more silent era discoveries are being uncovered, even in the modern world!

Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd film locations (and more)

ca Click to enlarge – newly discovered footage from My Wife’s Relations at the Alvarado Arms.

An entirely original stunt - how is it we've never seen this before? Click to enlarge – an entirely new stunt – who knew this was awaiting discovery for 95 years?

An astonishing new Keaton stunt, Buster’s return visit to a classic apartment house, and yet another surprise appearance of the Cops – The Kid – Safety Last! Hollywood alley – the Lobster Films restoration of My Wife’s Relations (1922), with over a minute of restored footage unseen for decades, is a cornucopia of new discoveries and delights.

On screen Buster is mistakenly married to a harridan, moves in with her caveman brothers, and after a climatic family brawl, the film concludes (in the version we’ve been accustomed to seeing) as Buster flees for a Reno-bound train. In the Lobster restoration, Buster flees the family apartment, is chased back inside by the cops, only to escape from the…

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Mentor-student relationship and storytelling

Studying Lucas, Tolkien, and Frank Herbert revealed a curious little rule-of-thumb: if there’s a story which you really love but there’s some little piece of it which just doesn’t feel right to you, include that piece in your own story as a reversal. Why? If you’re a writer, your mentors are the people who wrote your favorite stories, and myth teaches us that the student’s heroic cycle doesn’t end with merely absorbing the mentor’s wisdom; to fully honor your teacher, you must transcend him by taking his teachings further than he could. This doesn’t mean that you become superior to your teacher: there are plenty of things which you couldn’t have seen without his help. The hierarchy between student and mentor is an illusion; it’s more like a partnership between two people with different strengths and imperfections, both working towards a common goal. Obi-Wan couldn’t have defeated Darth Vader, but neither could Luke have defeated Darth Vader without Obi-Wan’s guidance. Your teacher gives you the gift of his teaching, and you give your teacher the gift of bringing his teaching forward.

Star Wars Origins

Liebster Award

I have just been nominated for a Liebster Award by the lovely Leah of Silentology, a warm and enthusiastic shrine to the wonders of silent film.

Here are the rules when nominated for a Liebster:

a) Answer the eleven questions of the tagger.

b) Share eleven facts about yourself

c) Nominate up to eleven other bloggers

Here are Leah’s questions:

1. You are given the opportunity to make a movie. Money is no object. What’s it gonna be?

An adaptation of Wuthering Heights which is true to the book. While I don’t mind film adaptations of books being different from the source material, I really do wish we had a “definitive” WH film. It would be set in the correct period (the late 18th century), feature both generations, have Heathcliff portrayed as a Romani (the book strongly implies he is not white), shot in black-and-white (fits the atmosphere to me), and filmed on location in England.

2. You have the choice between two superpowers: learning any language in seconds, or being able to fix any car problem instantly. You must choose! 

Learning any language in seconds! I would love to know French and Japanese in particular so I would not have to watch my favorite foreign films with subtitles.

3. Which three places/countries must you visit before you die?

Ireland, Germany, and Denmark

4. You can go back in time to witness one historic event. Just one. What is it?

I would have loved to see the first production of Hamlet.

5. What is one very obscure or off-the-wall film you would recommend?

Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards. It’s insane and probably not objectively “good,” but I thoroughly enjoy it. Imagine Lord of the Rings meets Star Wars meets 1970s acid trip.

6. Which decade of film do you appreciate the most?

The 1920s.

7. If someone handed you a million dollars, what frivolous thing would you buy first?

A copy of the 1920s book tie-in for The General. Maybe not super frivolous, but I want one.

8. Which book do you wish you had written?

The Parade’s Gone By, because I would have loved to interview all of those filmmakers and stars from the silent era.

9. What are your three guilty pleasure movies?

The Sheik, because goofy Valentino faces.

Flash Gordon, because it contains operatic levels of camp.

Dario Argento’s Phantom of the Opera, because telepathic rats and general weirdness.

10. What is the one tip you would give to a beginning blogger?

Follow your passions. Don’t write something if your heart is not in it or you feel you don’t have much to say.

11. Okay, Keaton or Chaplin?

Love Chaplin, but Keaton is a demigod to me.

11 facts about me:

1. The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory was the last book I finished. She’s kind of a literary guilty pleasure for me: her books are not 100 percent accurate to history, but gosh, they’re fun!

2. Anne of the Thousand Days was the last movie I watched– just five minutes ago, actually! As you can see, I’m on a Tudor kick right now.

3. I love me some Shakespeare. My three favorite plays of his are Hamlet, Richard III, and Romeo and Juliet.

4. I’d pick Walt Disney World over Universal Studios any day.

5. I don’t watch many TV series (what can I say, I have commitment issues), but my top five would be Princess Tutu, Animaniacs, Revolutionary Girl Utena, the 1971 Lupin III, and Avatar: The Last Airbender.

6. I have German, French, Irish, and Spanish heritage.

7. History was my first major obsession as a child.

8. I am still depressed over what happens to Bing-Bong the cotton candy elephant from Inside Out.

9. My top three favorite video games are Final Fantasy IV, Chrono Trigger, and Final Fantasy X.

10. I have a special fondness for the pre-Studio Ghibli work of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata.

11. My bottom three films are The Phantom Menace, the 1925 Wizard of Oz, and Free and Easy.

Alright, here are my nominations: Movies Silently and Hamlette’s Soliloquy. Because I am a recluse and don’t socialize much even on the net.

Here are my questions, mwahaha:

1. Who’s your most attractive historical person?

2. Favorite animated film and three reasons why.

3. Three movies you wish would get released on DVD/Blu-ray?

4. Favorite TV series.

5. Historical figure you find the most fascinating.

6. Would you prefer the ability to fly or talk to animals?

7. A movie or TV series that is objectively well-made that you just couldn’t warm up to.

8. Three movies you love that everyone else hates.

9. Three movies you hate that everyone else loves.

10. Three favorite film scores.

11. Favorite dessert.

The return of Nitrate Glow

Final.Fantasy.III.full.84613

This site is a trial ground of sorts for me. I’ve been blogging on Tumblr for about four years now, but I feel it’s time for a slight change. For those who have followed my previous blog, never fear, I’ll still make posts there, but I’ve been meaning to make a blog solely for my own material for years. May as well stop putting it off.

So what do you have to expect here? Pretty much what I’ve been doing on my Tumblr, posts about all my interests: silent film, animation, other films, JRPGs, and all sorts of additional musings. The usual stuff.

Here’s hoping this all goes well. Take care, readers!