Friday, August 18, 2017

Friday Quote: The Great Dictator

I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. That’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone - if possible - Jew, Gentile - black man - white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness - not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone. And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way.

Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost….

The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men - cries out for universal brotherhood - for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world - millions of despairing men, women, and little children - victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people.

To those who can hear me, I say - do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed - the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish. …..

Soldiers! don’t give yourselves to brutes - men who despise you - enslave you - who regiment your lives - tell you what to do - what to think and what to feel! Who drill you - diet you - treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men - machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate - the unloved and the unnatural! Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty!

In the 17th Chapter of St Luke it is written: “the Kingdom of God is within man” - not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! You, the people have the power - the power to create machines. The power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.

Then - in the name of democracy - let us use that power - let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world - a decent world that will give men a chance to work - that will give youth a future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfill that promise. They never will!

Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people! Now let us fight to fulfill that promise! Let us fight to free the world - to do away with national barriers - to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness. Soldiers! in the name of democracy, let us all unite!

The Great Dictator (1940)

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Lost in America (1985)

Just as this generation is overrun with movies about Millennials needing to get their lives together, the 1980's was packed to the gills with movies about Yuppies in crisis. While not strictly following the model of films like After Hours and Something Wild, Lost in America really does fit the bill. But instead of being beset by a number of outside forces symbolizing problems in their lives, David and Linda are out to destroy David and Linda. They are 100% responsible for everything that happens to them. There's no big bad guy to vanquish. They are the big bad guy. And in perfect bad guy fashion, their crisis is solved with the help of white, cishet privilege. They are pathetic characters and we laugh at them, but how much are we actually laughing at ourselves?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Sight & Sound Challenge: Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948)

Film: Letter from an Unknown Woman (222/250) 
First Time/Rewatch: First Time

Oh, Joan Fontaine. In every role I've seen her in, she is delicate, fragile, emotionally dependent. Naturally, she fits the role of the Unknown Woman perfectly. She isn't unknown, not fact we know her whole story. Her name is Lisa, and she's been in love with the charismatic pianist Stefan (Louis Jourdan) her whole life. She is unknown only to him, who thinks nothing of wooing her, smashing her heart into a million pieces, and then forgetting all about it. This one definitely had me yelling expletives at the TV! It's SO frustrating watching a woman live her life for some man who couldn't care less, and it happens way too often, in cinema and otherwise. Despite my disappointment in Lisa's self-esteem, I really enjoyed this film...the scenes were tied together nicely, and it had the same wistful melancholy feeling as other films by director Max Ophüls (The Earrings of Madame de... (1953) in particular). I was surprised that this film was so hard to track down...I had to watch it on YouTube, of all places. I really recommend giving it a watch if you're able to find it; it's an underrated little gem. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Sight & Sound Challenge: Earth (1930)

Film: Earth (221/250) 
First Time/Rewatch: First Time

I had a hard time getting into this one. From the beginning I was disoriented; a series of closeups gave me no sense of where any of the characters were. Prolonged shots of wailing women left me wondering what they were wailing about before any explanation was offered. The action jumped from working the fields, to dancing, to characters yelling back and forth. This story of farmers confronting collectivization was equal parts aimless and dull. The most exciting part of the movie was a montage of bread being made. Oh, and there was suddenly a naked woman. By the end of the film, things were starting to make a bit of sense, but I found it difficult to care much. I'm writing this immediately after watching it, however, and I haven't let the film settle in my brain. This is the best I can do right now! Not an essential watch.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Dunkirk (2017)

Remember the early days of IMAX when the theaters were mostly in museums and pretty much exclusively showed educational spectacle and documentaries? This kinda reminds me of those days. More so than anything else, this film is a visceral experience. When the screen is large enough to fill your entire field of vision it's hard not to get sucked in. But it's full credit to Christopher Nolan that it works this well. This could easily have been something along the lines of those weird attempts at doing narrative film in Cinerama. And it doesn't reduce human tragedy to mere spectacle either. Dunkirk is a uniquely cinematic experience. It almost seems sacrilegious that this will eventually be screened on televisions and phones. There's really only one way to truly see this film.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Friday Quote: The Incredible Jessica James

"I really like you."
"Of course you do! Everyone does! I'm freaking dope!"

The Incredible Jessica James (2017)

Thursday, August 10, 2017

T2: Trainspotting (2017)

As much as I love Richard Linklater, his aesthetic hasn't really changed much over the years. Just think of Boyhood being shot over the course of twelve years and feeling like a cohesive whole. That's not the case with Danny Boyle.

Unlike the characters in T2, Boyle's famously hyperbolic style has evolved. Like the world around us, Danny's gone digital and has become much faster. The celluloid scenes from the original film that pop up from time to time stick out like sore thumbs among all the digital crispness - and that's the point. This movie is the equivalent of staying at a bar until closing time when all the lights come on and you see everything with crystal clarity. Every speck of dirt on the floor and wrinkle on your face is staring right back at you.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Sight & Sound Challenge: The World of Apu (Apur Sansar) (1959)

Film: The World of Apu (Apur Sansar) (220/250) 
First Time/Rewatch: First Time

Thanks Sight & Sound top 250! I really wanted to feel like I'd been punched in the gut! This is the third film in the critically acclaimed Apu trilogy. We've seen Apu's birth, we know his family, we've seen his humble upbringing in his small village, we've seen his world through his eyes, and we've seen him overcome countless tragedies. Pather Panchali was heartbreaking enough, and in the second film Aparajito (not included in this list), he suffers even more while simultaneously trying to find his place in a new world. Apur Sansar introduces us to the adult Apu. He's optimistic, charming, and adorably earnest, despite his less-than-ideal circumstances and the hardships of his past. Life can only have good things in store for him, right? WRONG. I don't know what he did to deserve all this, but I wanted to jump into the screen, hug him, and urge him not to give up. It was a riveting and satisfying end to the trilogy, and I loved diving into the work of director Satyajit Ray. More, please!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Sight & Sound Challenge: Last Year at Marienbad (1961)

Film: Last Year at Marienbad (219/250) 
First Time/Rewatch: First Time

After Hiroshima Mon Amour failed to knock my socks off, I fully expected to feel lukewarm about this one. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself engaged despite having no idea what was going on for a while. Once I realized that it was okay to feel lost, that maybe that was the point, I felt free to really explore this film. Last Year at Marienbad reminded me of countless other films, including Carnival of Souls (that eerie score!) and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (the ethereal labyrinth of memory). It gave me a strange sense of déjà vu as I watched, a feeling like I was spying on people's memories, or like I'd been told these stories before in a dream. The sets are beautiful and meticulously arranged; the shot above in particular gave me chills in its austere precision. A haunting, strange, and memorable film, this one gave me and Craig plenty to talk about afterwards. It was hard to track down, but well worth the effort!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Baby Driver (2017)

This film would pair nicely with Collateral. Beyond the fact that it allows Jamie Foxx to play the flip side of the role he had in the Mann movie, Baby Driver deepens the themes of that other film by having a much more engaged protagonist.

Baby isn't an innocent who chanced into this life by having the wrong person get into his car. Sure he owes Doc a debt, but it was boosting a car that got him into that position to begin with. He's a thrill seeker who wants none of the consequences. And this film is all about consequences. It's not about action v. inaction. Baby is already a man of action. But does he have the strength of character to live with those consequences once the dominos start falling? Or will he continue to drown out any unpleasantness with catchy R&B tunes?