I'm Going Going, Back Back, to Classics Classics
If you're curious, you can find my debut "What I've Been Watching" segment here.
City Lights (1931) - Charlie Chaplin
Widely considered to be the crowning jewel of Charlie Chaplin's auspicious career, City Lights illuminated his greatest gifts. Performing as The Tramp, his most beloved and recognized character, Sir Charles demonstrated a rarefied adeptness for physical comedy, slapstick humor and visual pizzazz. For those who doubt his creative genius, enjoy a lifetime of purgatory. And unlike "Andy" Dufresne from Shawshank State Penitentiary, you won't have a rock hammer. Charlie's virtuosity, if you'll take me at my word, arose at the very outset of City Lights: the iconic opening scene featured The Tramp on the Statue, which demonstrated his unrivaled flair for performance. Through a nuanced veneer of inventive acrobatics, Chaplin both captivated and horrified the crowd. And few actors of any era could ever capture the impossible, non-compartmentalized essence of a character—an essence empathized with striking vibrancy—without seeming contrived. Chaplin, as director and lead actor (basically, lead everything) could do so without breaking a sweat and probably without even showing up on set. Performances, we can almost-uniformly agree, are measured and quantified differently. The criterion, while graded in universally established principles, is pliable across generations. But no critic, past or present, revered or rejected, can overstate the greatness of Chaplin. His legacy is carved into the granite faces (since we're talking about Hollywood, expect those faces to be glittered) of Mount Rushmore. Ultimately, City Lights, an enduring staple of the silent film era, defined the standards for romantic comedy. And it ended, arguably, with the greatest and most touching moment ever transcribed to film: The Tramp asked, "You can see now?" "Yes, I can see now." 10 out of 10
The Shining (1980) - Stanley Kubrick
Film aficionados, pedigreed or not, are entitled to very few absolutes. Guilty of confusing opinion with fact, fan-aficionados diverge into what I'll term "Cinema-Limbo," the idea, de facto in its imposition, that, if you disagree with somebodies opinion, which has been derived from personal, self-attributive standards, then you're wrong. To refute is to assert blasphemy. Therefore, in lieu of, and, in juxtaposition to these impossibly high standards, I will state my first infallible Opinion-As-Fact(s): I believe Stanley Kubrick is one of the five-best directors of all-time. I believe The Shining is one of the scariest movies of all-time. I also believe these statements are irrefutable. Kubrick's obsessiveness, endlessly documented, is instrumental to his genius. Like Michael Jordan's presence in the NBA, Stanley Kubrick is a gift to cinema, straight from The Nile. He is a storytelling savant, a technical perfectionist, and a psychological magician. And The Shining illustrates the versatility, and surreality, of his Classical Music, Beethoven-inspired symphonic oeuvre. The images are haunting. The music is terrifying. The characters are indelible; who among us can erase from memory, Jack Torrance's descent into madness. The acting is superlative; "Here's Johnny!!" The narrative, based upon Stephen King's novel of the same name, is peerless. The film's legacy is indefatigable; Martin Scorsese ranks it as "one of the greatest horror films." And Stanley Kubrick's magnificent imprint is undeniable. In the absence of further approbation, I encourage everyone to watch it (I'm sure most of you have seen it, like myself, multiple times). If you haven't yet de-virginized your eyes to a psychotic Jack Nicholson, well, then, after you've finished watching it, come right back here. And, as if conjured up by the demonic spirits inhabiting Overlook Hotel, feel free to curse me. Spoil me with your grievances: why in-the-hell did you recommend this movie to me? Did you not realize I would watch it by myself, at night? How could you not know I live in a secluded neighborhood? How dare you be so bold? Well, in the spirit of humility (i.e., saving you from weeks of nightmares), The Shining deserves a disclaimer...if those last three conditions apply to you, then watch it at a friend's house, during the day, in the heart of suburbia. You'll still shit your pants. 10 out of 10
An Andalusian Dog (Un Chien Andalou 1929) - Luis Buñuel & Salvador Dalí
Experimental. Revolutionary. Shocking. Un Chien Andalou is a triumvirate of sensations, a fitting claim, without doubt, because of the employment of three central tenets: an abstinence of plot (it's a disjointed, super-short narrative), a breakthrough in montage, and an abundance of dream-like imagery. Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali co-opted a way-ahead-of-their-time film that established the standard for surrealism in cinema. The most famous in Buñuel's filmography, an amazing feat considering this was his very first film, Andalou blazed a trail for experimental filmmaking. Buñuel's purpose was to "alienate" the audience, not "please" them, a realization that is affirmed, immediately, by his famous cutting-open-an-eyeball shot; Premiere magazine ranked it 10th out of "The 25 Most Shocking Moments in Movie History." Film Scholar Ken Dancyger contends that Un Chien Andalou "may be the genesis of the filmmaking style present in the modern music video," which cements its legacy as both a blessing and a curse; bipolar ideas synonymous with the film's experimental construction. It was a groundbreaking work of antagonistic art, during a time, the 1920's, when the surrealist movement was taking shape. And Dali, the famous surrealist painter, was instrumental in "dreaming-up" the revolutionary script. Any filmgoer, who enjoys the work of David Lynch, an insurgent filmmaker in his own right (he sets the standard for present-day surrealism in cinema), must pay heed to Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali. For Andalou, the forbear of dream logic, is, according to Roger Ebert, "The most famous short film ever made." Who am I to disagree with the master of criticism? 10 out of 10