It’s that time of year again. 2012 has nearly gone, and yet it always seems like there’s even more to do this time of year than any other time of year, what with Thanksgiving leading into Christmas and then into the New Year. I spent last week with my family for Thanksgiving, as well as my mom’s birthday soon after, and so I didn’t really get around to getting my Miracle on 34th Street review out around the time that I intended, so I basically considered it an unofficial start to my second Christmas Movie Month. It’s mere coincidence that my mom wanted to go see Rise of the Guardians, which features Santa, but isn’t necessarily about Christmas, so that was kind of a happy accident. Now, however, I’m switching gears fully into Christmas mode, once again!
In case you missed any of my reviews from last year, here’s a quick rundown of films that I reviewed for Christmas 2011:
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
The Polar Express
Meet Me in St. Louis
Scrooged, A Muppet Christmas Carol, and Disney’s A Christmas Carol in an ill advised Grudge Match Review that I came to despise doing – Part 1 & Part 2
For this year, I plan to stay on task a bit more, and I’ve already got several reviews planned! Let’s also not forget that the aforementioned Miracle on 34th Street pulls double-duty as both a Thanksgiving and Christmas film! I also promised last year that I would review Eight Crazy Nights for those of you who celebrate Hanukkah, but the film disappeared around that time from Netflix, and I wasn’t about to use up a Blockbuster movie exchange. This year? … Maybe. But I’m not making any promises. That movie was pretty awful… Anyway, aside from maybe a few incidental theatrical reviews and one “special” review that I’m planning on writing at the end of this week (hint: it’s all about the supposed oncoming of the end of the world, and I’m not about to watch that movie or write that review without a few drinks to help me along), you can pretty much just expect Christmas movies until that day comes!
Until then, just in case I don’t get around to that awful Adam Sandler Hanukkah movie, please enjoy this classic Saturday Night Live animated music video instead, “Christmas for the Jews”:
It’s that time again! Halloween is coming up, and so it’s time for scary movies! Last year, I wound up focusing a great deal on classic slasher films, with a few other sub-genres thrown in for good measure. For your convenience, I’m including a link to all the scary movie reviews I wrote right here, in order:
The Last House on the Left (1972)
The Last House on the Left (2009)
Friday the 13th (1980)
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare
A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
28 Days Later
Shaun of the Dead
I list these because, as you can see, it’s a lot of slashers, sequels, and remakes, with Contagion being arguably the only odd duck, as it is a scary movie, but not necessarily horror. I felt it necessary at the time to explore these slashers, largely because they were films I wasn’t that familiar with. I didn’t particularly enjoy watching all of these grouped together, but I did enjoy the learning experience. This year, however, I’m going to focus more on scary movies that I, personally, enjoy. I intended to review some of these films last year but, for several reasons, did not get around to doing so.
Seeing as how Halloween is also my birthday, I’m feeling a bit selfish this year, I guess. I’m turning 26, and I’m feeling as though my youth has peaked, and I’m now beginning the downward spiral. Call me dramatic, if you must! So, yeah, you’re mostly going to see reviews of films that I actually do enjoy, though I’ll try to sneak in a few that I don’t as well. You’ll also likely see a few reviews of films that are not scary or horror, but those will only be theatrical reviews. One you will most certainly see sometime soon is a review of Looper, for example. (Go see it — It’s fantastic!)
So, yeah, that’s my plans for my second annual Scary Movie Month this year! I hope that the scary movies that I enjoy will lead some of you to new and enjoyable experiences, though I can’t exactly say that I’m all that adventurous when it comes to this genre. Feel free to chastise me if that is the case, though I doubt I’m going to get as sidetracked as I did last year, when I let some Elm Street fans hijack my attention and ended up reviewing a whopping four Freddy Krueger films.
What I am going to do, however, is provide you with a great horror film to kick things off. This year’s public domain YouTube post is The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, a horror film hailing from Germany that had a great deal of influence not only on Tim Burton (an obvious point), but also features Conrad Veidt, an actor who would go on to play another scary character in The Man Who Laughs and would directly influence the creation of Batman’s arch nemesis, The Joker. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari was one of the first full length silent films that I watched, thanks to my freshman year, second semester film history class in college. The bizarre visuals, freaky makeup, and shadowy, brooding atmosphere is fantastic and still effective at inducing fear and anxiety, even after over 90 years have passed since its creation. I hope that you will enjoy it as well as the rest of Scary Movie Month this year!
The Michel Gondry/M. Night Shyamalan Parallel, feat. KIDS SWEDE MOVIES presents: ALIEN – CHEST BURSTER SCENE
You know, despite the presence of children in the scene, this is still pretty horrific. But also kinda cute.
I need to rewatch Be Kind Rewind, as I enjoyed it the first time, but it’s also kinda like M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs in that it was the third major feature film from a director whose first made me love them, but made me also realize that they were losing their creative edge, followed by a fourth film that was a huge disappointment.
Michel Gondry / M. Night Shyamalan:
1) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind / The Sixth Sense* – Visually stunning masterpieces with wonderful ideas and brilliantly moving performances.
2)The Science of Sleep** /Unbreakable – A welcome, enjoyable, and visually stunning shake up of a familiar genre (rom-com / superhero) that’s not quite up to par as their predecessor, but still pretty awesome.
3) Be Kind Rewind / Signs — Halfway good films that start to show that the director is fallible and is starting to trip up and they’re making some bad decisions with their creative freedoms. Enjoyable for what they are, but you kind of expect more, and the films leave you hoping for a return to the breathtaking form that made you fall for the directors in the first place.
4) The Green Hornet / The Village – The law of diminishing returns takes effect, and you begin to think that maybe it was all a fluke. They may redeem themselves some day, but, man, did this really suck!
And, so, yeah, there’s where my mind went when I saw this video. Alien parody -> “sweded” -> Be Kind Rewind -> Michel Gondry -> parallel with M. Night Shyamalan. That’s my random morning post and a little example of how my mind works. Hope you enjoyed it! I’m going to go enjoy my day off now!
[Video found via io9.com]
* The Sixth Sense technically came after Shyamalan’s Praying with Anger and Wide Awake, but those didn’t really put him on the map, so they don’t count as “major” films in my eyes, regardless of their quality.
** Dave Chappelle’s Block Party also isn’t counted here because it’s a documentary, rather than a story-driven film. Again, regardless of its quality, I’ve disqualified it.
I kinda missed updating last week. I promise to you and myself that I will have a new review up this week, but I kinda needed a mental break and had a lot going on. To ease back into things, how about a new trailer for The Dark Knight Rises, eh?
So, what do you think? Like the new Batwing (or whatever its equivalent is in this film)? Like the eerie No Man’s Land vibe of the trailer? This its definitely more of a larger scale movie than the first two films, that’s for sure!
The new glimpses of Catwoman are pretty interesting. I’d previously thought that they had possibly made her it to be a reluctant(?) henchwoman for Bane, but it looks like they’re going with the antihero after all, though she definitely still has tires to Bane in some way, since you hear Bruce asking her questions about him.
Bane looks pretty fierce himself and is also notably more intelligible than previous audio from him showed. Dare I say it, but it does sound a bit… off, but we all hour through The Dark Knight despite Christian Bale’s apparently chronic throat condition and it was still a brilliant film.
Notably, we also get way more footage of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s cop character, albeit in silent clips of his reactions to the happenings in Gotham. He’s still fairly shrouded in mystery, and, to be honest, I’m kinda glad since I’ve pretty much a given that so many other spoilers are likely to reveal themselves as truth. It’s nice having one original character who can be dealt with in so many ways and who brings up so many questions, isn’t it? Like, why do we see him kneeling as if in the presence of… something? I don’t know if it’s malevolent or not, and that is probably going to help bring a great deal of tension to the role.
I’m obviously a Batman fan, as the past few weeks have proven (I promise my next review will be of a very different type of film), so to say that I’m extremely excited for this film is an understatement…
It’s officially after Thanksgiving and, therefore, it is officially time to start thinking about Christmas movies here at The Viewer’s Commentary! As with Scary Movie Month in October, I will be making my primary focus this December on Christmas movies! And, even though I’m not Jewish, I’ll even try to find a few good Hanukkah films, too! (And I’ll try to make sure that the only Hanukkah film I find isn’t just Adam Sandler’s Eight Crazy Nights, which is all I could really find at the local Blockbuster, I promise!)
I broke a few promises with my Scary Movie Month line up due to time issues and a detour thanks to the response to my review of Nightmare on Elm Street, but I’ll try not to do that this time around. There are far more diverse movies in this category than the horror category, and I’m certain that everyone will find something to enjoy this month, including myself! Some reviews to look forward to are National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, The Polar Express, Elf, Meet Me in St. Louis, and, of course, the holiday classic… Die Hard!
Of course, I’ll try to make sure to throw in a few more surprises and classics, too! I’ll even try to throw in a few features here and there to keep you interested. My Top 10 Favorite Christmas Movies, anyone? I’m way more excited about this than I was Scary Movie Month, as Christmas is seriously my favorite holiday of the year. I’m like a freaking little kid when it comes to this holiday, and it’s not just the presents, either. (I get presents on Halloween, too, since it’s also my birthday, so I’m totally unbiased in that regard.) I love the sense of togetherness, family, and giving, and, of course, it’s also a time for us Christians to remember Christ’s birth, even though it totally wasn’t originally for that purpose, as we Christians just usurped a pagan holiday… but let’s not get into that now, eh?
In the meantime, as I make preparations to deliver my Christmas cheer, why don’t you celebrate Christmas the same way we kicked off Halloween by watching an embedded movie, right here on my site? This one’s a public domain classic! However, it’s all for unintentional reasons, as Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is about as bad as it sounds! Like fruitcake, it’s probably best to serve it up with a heavy side of libations, here taking on the form of the comedic commentary of Joel Hodgson, Tom Servo, Crow T. Robot, and the rest of the gang from Mystery Science Theater 3000! Hurry, though! I don’t know how long this video – not posted by me! – will actually be up!
UPDATE: Turns out, Eight Crazy Nights might actually be the only Hanukkah film out there! Seriously, do a search for “Hanukkah movies” and this very post on The Viewer’s Commentary is on the first page as of right now, and this post is only a couple hours old! What gives, Hollywood? There are so many Jews involved in the entertainment business, you’d think a few more than just one Hanukkah movie would exist, right? Oh well… Looks like I’m already breaking promises. Guess I’ll be getting coal this year.
Starring: Winsor McCay, George McManus, Roy McCardell, Max Fleischer, “Gertie the Dinosaur”
Tracing by: John A Fitzsimmons
Remember that short animated film that featured in Jurassic Park? You know, the one where the science behind the creation of the dinosaurs in the film was explained to us by an anthropomorphic DNA strand? Well meet its inspiration, Gertie the Dinosaur.
You’ve probably seen pieces of this short film before. It’s a pretty iconic piece of animation that, nonetheless, a lot of people haven’t really fully seen. To be honest, I hadn’t seen any of the live action stuff up until this point, and I, too, didn’t really know the history behind any of it, but that’s kind of the point of me writing here: I learn along the way and hope to help you learn along with me!
Originally conceived as a vaudeville stage act, cartoonist and animator Winsor McCay’s original concept for Gertie involved him performing live on stage while the animation was projected. Much like John Hammond did with Mr. DNA in Jurassic Park, he would then interact with his dinosaur counterpart through careful timing.
McCay would issue Gertie commands, and the precocious dinosaur would seem to obey! McCay could even appear to toss Gertie an apple through sleight of hand. Then McCay would walk off stage, show up on screen, and ride Gertie offstage. I can’t imagine how amazing this must have seemed at the time, and, even today, would be pretty impressive thanks to the careful timing it would have required.
When McCay was approached by William Fox (whose name lives on in 20th Century Fox studios, etc.) to adapt the act to film, McCay added live action scenes to frame the animated sequence, creating a story about a bet he makes with fellow cartoonist George McManus that he could bring a “dinosaurus” back to life through the use of animation after they are inspired by a fossil display in a museum. After months of work, McCay presents his animated creation, Gertie, at a dinner gathering.
Predating the widespread popularity of talkies, McCay’s interactions with Gertie are limited to the standard intertitles used in silent films. The film also predates cel animation, which allowed animators to save time and energy by layering the images on top of each other. McCay enlisted an art student, John A. Fitzsimmons, to assist him in the animation, and, together they redrew every detail of every frame of animation for the film on rice paper.
Though he didn’t have the convenience of cel animation at the time, McCay did pioneer the use of a technique that would later be called “key framing” — a technique that involves drawing two reference frames of animation, point A and point B, and then going back and drawing the frames that would go in between, creating a smooth, realistic sense of motion in even the most elaborate pieces of action. He also saved time through the use of cycling, or reusing frames of animation.
Gertie is widely recognized as the first animated character with a recognizable personality of her own. She’s stubborn and has an insatiable appetite, eating everything from trees to rocks. She’s easily distracted by her surroundings, is kind of a bully to her fellow prehistoric companions, and, when she’s scolded for her misbehavior, she sulks and cries like a child. Oh, and she loves music, which explains why she’s always swaying about happily when she’s not in full on dance mode!
Gertie paved the way for future animated stars, including Mickey Mouse, who wouldn’t make his first appearance for another 14 years! Though she suffered a sophomore slump in her second, incomplete film, Gertie on Tour, Gertie lives on as one of the most influential animated characters ever, and her debut short has gone on to be preserved in the National Film Registry, alongside classics like Gone with the Wind and Casablanca.
First off, if you haven’t seen the film, don’t watch this video. Just go borrow, rent, or even buy a copy of this amazing horror film, and come back to let this scene sink in. Go on. Do it! … NOW!
Have you come back yet? Okay, then you’re ready to join the rest of us enlightened ones and watch the following clip:
This is one of my favorite horror films. Hands down. And this scene is quite possibly the best in the entire film.
Though the video quality is crude in the stream, if you’ve made it this far, then you’ve seen it and know that this is just how the film looks. (And if you didn’t, you’re a stinking liar!) This English-made horror film was made using a Canon XL-1 digital camera, which was first produced in 1997 and continued to be in production until 2001, just one year before this film’s release. Director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours, Trainspotting) deliberately chose this aging technology to give the relatively low-budget film its distinctive, gritty look.
The setting of the film is, as you may have guessed, 28 days after a devastating plague swept through England. Jim (Cillian Murphy, Batman Begins, Inception) is a London courier who was previously struck by a car on his route and plunged into a deep coma before the world came crumbling down around him. The world he awakens to is vacant madness, as the hospital he finds himself in is trashed and abandoned. He cries out for anyone still around. He’s weak and disoriented and hasn’t eaten for quite a while. Some sugary sodas give him some strength as he leaves the hospital, only to find more emptiness. London has been abandoned completely, with not a soul in sight. His cries go unanswered as debris gives him a hint as to what has happened. Missing people. Vigils for those departed. Old newspapers telling of a mysterious infestation.
This scene was filmed in the early hours of the morning. The story goes that it was so early, the filmmakers were able to capture it all while police barely had to block traffic to create the eerie effect of having a completely motionless London. The toppled bus was placed, filmed, and returned to normal within 20 minutes, which is made all the more impressive when you consider that London is pretty much England’s New York City. If you thought that the silent nature of New York City was creepy in I Am Legend, then you’re going to be completely blown away by this green screen and visual effects-free scene.
It only gets more and more unnerving the more the music kicks in. Titled “In the House, In a Heartbeat” on the film’s soundtrack, composed by John Murphy, the pulsing bass, plodding keys, and, of course, the interweaving guitar combine to project Jim’s confusion and helplessness and help to sell the absolute terror one would face in this situation. The track has since gone on to be the de facto theme to the film series, showing up throughout this film’s sequel, 28 Weeks Later, which is also worth a look.
One of the great things about this scene, though, is how utterly scary it is, despite the infected having not even really made their terrifying debut. This emphasizes that the fear in this film isn’t just from the potential the characters face in getting infected or torn apart, but also their need for companionship and their fear of feeling lonely or abandoned in a world gone mad. 28 Days Later is a film about a family coming together, but at this point, Jim has no one to help him here. You don’t hear him crying out for explanations. Instead of crying out “Why?” or “How?” he simply cries out desperately, “Hello!?” And, as you watch the film, these words continue to echo throughout, as they continue to search for hope and for their cries to be answered…
Just a quick update today. I’ve been pretty tired with work and other related stuff, and today is my day off and I’m having a friend over whom I haven’t seen in a while, but I wanted to post something since it’s been a while!
So, today, I’m bringing you a video from a movie that made it to my favorites list, Singin’ in the Rain. Now, almost everybody knows the famous song and dance number to the song that gives the film its name, but how many modern movie audiences know some of the other, just as amazing musical numbers in the film?
Today’s video, which I sadly cannot find in an embeddable format, so please follow the deceptive link, shows just how this movie mixes humor, story, and musical numbers all in one. The background of the scene involves silent film star Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) taking elocution lessons. Thanks to the release of The Jazz Singer, talkies are now all the rage, and the film Don was starring in has suddenly been put on hold to be reworked into a talkie itself. Don’s colleague and best friend Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Connor) comes in to speak to Don mid-lesson, and overhears the ridiculous tongue twisters Don’s being put through. It isn’t long before the two begin goofing off and teasing the instructor. It all culminates into a fantastic tap dance number that basically puts all other methods of procrastination to shame.
I loved this scene as a kid, primarily because of living Looney Tune Donald O’Connor’s hilarious faces, and as an adult, it’s still pretty frickin’ hilarious, with excellent timing on O’Connor’s part (ruined a bit by a bad editing gaffe causing the instructor to react twice to the same face, unfortunately). Then the musical number begins, and while it’s not the best song in the film, it suits the scene just fine. The real highlight is the dancing, however, with Kelly and O’Connor perfectly in tune with each other and really putting out a lot of energy. There’s a mixture of singing, dancing, and goofing around as they begin using every surface and prop in the room, including the poor instructor, who doesn’t quite know what to do with the two clowns.
You also have to appreciate a movie that basically acknowledges, “Yeah, we’re doing a musical.” This is one of the many songs that the characters sing that builds up into their decision to yet again convert their film, The Dancing Cavalier, into a musical called The Dancing Cavalier, and this scene is essentially just foreshadowing on the obvious — when you have actors this talented in song and dance, why not use those talents!?
If you haven’t seen this movie, go do so… NOW!
Though the female characters are mostly quite useless — with one hysterical character causing catastrophe and the catatonic Barbra in particular being nothing more than a ragdoll at times, the film was particularly progressive for casting Duane Jones, a black man, as the lead character and hero, an uncommon and potentially controversial decision in 1968. Though Romero claims that Jones simply gave the best audition, the film gains a subtle racial subtext, starting a trend for later entries in the series to tackle other social matters.
The film also predates the MPAA rating system we’re all familiar with today, so the amount of gore at the time was a cause for concern, with nobody, including children, being excluded from buying tickets. It’s rather tame by today’s standards for a horror film, and perhaps a bit cheesy, too, but the film stands out as a moody, B-movie classic.
Thanks to the distributor failing to abide by the copyright laws of 1968, this cult classic is in the public domain and is free to watch and edit as you see fit! Below is the video embed of the original version in HD. Turn down the lights, turn up the volume, and enjoy.