Movie Project #4: Modern Times [1936]

Due to the overwhelming success of my initial Movies Project, I decided to do a second round for 2012. This time around I put a greater emphasis on directors I am not familiar with, but I also tried to compile a mix of different genres and eras. This will be an ongoing project with the finish date being sometime this year.

Modern Times [1936]

Modern Times [1936]
Director: Charlie Chaplin
Genre: Comedy/Drama/Romance
Starring: Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard and Henry Bergman
Runtime: 87 minutes

In last year’s movie project, I included Charlie Chaplin’s classic City Lights, one of only a handful of selections that I gave an elusive 10/10 score to. My love for that film inspired me to watch The Gold Rush, another fun endeavor from The Tramp, but I didn’t get the chance to dig any deeper into his filmography. I made sure to include another for this year’s project: Modern Times.

By 1936, talkie pictures were all the rage, yet Chaplin felt inclined to make one last silent movie. Well, mostly silent anyway. Modern Times occasionally uses vocals from authority figures, as well as sound effects. The Tramp character himself is silent for the entire runtime, except for one bizarre foray into a song and dance number that uses a made-up language.

Modern Times is a varied mix of satire, slapstick, drama and romance, a delightful mashup of genres that Chaplin does oh so well. This time around The Tramp is a factory worker who suffers a nervous breakdown as he struggles to keep up with the ever-increasing work rate, costing him his job. He ends up in a mental hospital, gets released and then finds himself in jail. A series of hilarious events pushes the Tramp back on the streets, and a chance encounter leads him to his love interest: a wild gamine girl (Goddard). The two of them form a unique partnership, with the Tramp looking for work while the gamine keeps their “house” (a run-down shack) tidy. Society has shunned both of them, and they seem to be kindred spirits.

Modern Times [1936]

While Chaplin is terrific as always, I found myself to be most impressed with Paulette Goddard. She looks unlike any other actress I have seen from this time period, a real beauty with unforgettable eyes. It seems silly to have a “crush” on a woman who was my age nearly 80 years ago, but it’s easy to see why Chaplin himself fell in love with her and eventually married her as well.

There are many memorable moments in Modern Times. One early gag shows the Tramp struggling to keep up with the assembly line in comical fashion. This scene inspired a similar event in the TV show I Love Lucy, which is unforgettable in its own right. I got a kick out of the Tramp accidentally ingesting “nose powder” (bet you can guess what that is), as well as his later bout where he unknowingly is the recipient of a streaming fountain of rum. I found myself laughing quite a bit throughout, actually.

I am glad that I included Modern Times in this project. There are plenty of great gags, and it’s a lot of fun to watch Chaplin and Goddard together. Just an entertaining movie all around, and one that is more than worthy of its classic status.


Blogathon: Cool Off With The Classics

Another month, another movie blogathon! Marc over at Go, See, Talk came up with another great idea that is sure to start making its rounds in the film blogging community. The idea here is to “Cool Off With The Classics” — that is, to compile a list of black & white classics you would watch to “beat the heat.” Since I have been digging into more classics than usual lately, I thought this would be a fun event to participate in. So here we go… ten of my favorite B&W movies.

12 Angry Men [1957]
1) 12 Angry Men [1957]
Sidney Lumet’s early classic was one of my first experiences with a black & white film. I watched this for the first time in high school and could not believe that an “old movie” set in a courtroom could maintain my interest from beginning to end. An incredible film, and one that I absolutely must see again soon.

The Third Man [1949]
2) The Third Man [1949]
I saw this for the first time earlier this year and fell in love with it. There is so much to like about this movie, and of course it has some of the most memorable moments in cinematic history (such as Orson Welles’ big reveal). The closing shot is one of the best I have ever seen.

Crashout [1955]
3) Crashout [1955]
I caught this earlier this month at the Music Box Theatre’s awesome Noir City Festival. This rarely-seen prison break movie is a lot of fun, and surprisingly brutal for its time period.

Among the Living [1941]
4) Among the Living [1941]
Another rarely-screened movie that I caught at the Noir City Festival. This is a wonderful noir/horror hybrid with great performances from Albert Dekker and Susan Hayward.

Citizen Kane [1941]
5) Citizen Kane [1941]
This is the movie that made me excited to see more classics. We watched the entirety of the film in my university’s Music & Film class, and I was quite frankly amazed. One of the best of all time, obviously, and it felt great to finally understand the lyrics to the Kane-referencing White Stripes song, “The Union Forever“.

City Lights
6) City Lights [1931]
My 50 Movies Project is already reaping dividends, as it provided the means for me to catch this Chaplin silent classic. Words are not needed for Chaplin’s dynamic Tramp character, and his endless pursuit of love is inspiring (with hilarious results).

The Day The Earth Stood Still [1951]
7) The Day The Earth Stood Still [1951]
I am not a big sci-fi fan, so I was a little skeptical about this movie. I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed it. Intelligent, entertaining and backed by Bernard Herrmann’s incredible therimin-driven score, this is one of the better sci-fi films I have seen, regardless of age.

The Killing [1956]
8 ) The Killing [1956]
One of Kubrick’s earliest films is one of my favorites from him, and it has been heavily influential over the years (most notably for Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs). An exciting, well-crafted heist noir.

Steamboat Bill, Jr. [1928]
9) Steamboat Bill, Jr. [1928]
I have only seen two, maybe three, Buster Keaton movies, but this is the one I have enjoyed the most. Lots of laughs and some ridiculous physical stunts make this one of the more memorable silent films I have seen.

Seven Samurai [1954]
10) Seven Samurai [1954]
It is a testament to the film’s brilliance that I am able to sit through the full three hours without ever once growing bored or impatient. I saw it for the first time last year and it just blew me away. The quintessential samurai film.

Be sure to check out the rest of the participants in this blogathon, and feel free to join in on the fun as well.

Quick & Dirty #8 – The Gold Rush, The Lincoln Lawyer, Tangled, Unknown

I haven’t had as much time to crank out full reviews lately, so now is a good time for a new Quick & Dirty. Here are some quick thoughts on a handful of recent movies I have seen.

The Gold Rush [1925]
The Gold Rush [1925]
After watching City Lights as part of my ongoing Movie Project, I grew even more interested in digging into Charlie Chaplin’s catalog. I found The Gold Rush on Netflix Instant, and really enjoyed this story of the Tramp searching for gold in Alaska. There were some truly memorable scenes, such as the Tramp eating his own shoe and, of course, the dancing potato scene. Not as good as City Lights, but still a lot of fun. 8/10

The Lincoln Lawyer [2011]
The Lincoln Lawyer [2011]
Man, it sure is good to see Matthew McConaughey in a respectable role again! He is on top of his game here, again delivering a brilliant performance as a sleazy lawyer. McConaughey is aided by a strong supporting cast that includes the likes of Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe, William H. Macy and Bryan Cranston. The story isn’t groundbreaking, but it is smart and enthralling enough to maintain interest. Legal thrillers don’t seem to come around too often, but hopefully The Lincoln Lawyer’s success will lead to more quality films in the genre. 8/10

Tangled [2010]
Tangled [2010]
I got roped into seeing this thanks to my ever-loving girlfriend. I wasn’t expecting to care much for it since Disney films/musicals aren’t really my thing, but I was pleasantly surprised with Tangled. Some of the musical numbers were a bit trite, but the movie looked sharp and had mostly enjoyable characters. Plus the lead male wasn’t an insufferable douche, so that was good. Not one of the better Disney movies I have seen, but still decent enough. 6/10

Unknown [2011]
Unknown [2011]
If you can ignore some gaping plot holes and find a way to tolerate January Jones’ atrocious acting, Unknown isn’t half bad. As a thriller, it succeeded in keeping me on the edge of my seat, and it’s hard not to like Liam Neeson’s performance in the lead role. It’s not exactly a memorable film, but there are worse ways to spend two hours. 6/10

Movie Project #3: City Lights [1931]

The 50 Movies Project is a personal “marathon” of mine. In June, I compiled a list of 50 movies that I felt I needed to see by the end of the year. Old, new, foreign, English — it doesn’t matter. These are all movies that I have heard a lot about and have been wanting to see for some time. This project gives me a way to stay focused on the goal.

City Lights [1931]

City Lights [1931]
Director: Charlie Chaplin
Genre: Comedy/Drama/Romance
Country: USA

I have fond memories of Charlie Chaplin. Even during my close-minded movie watching days of my youth, I always enjoyed watching his work. I couldn’t tell you specifically what movies I saw back then, but when he was on the television I would be there until the very end.

Revisiting Chaplin in the form of 1931’s City Lights was a blast for me. This movie is a wonderful hybrid of comedy, drama and romance. Chaplin, playing his recurring Tramp character, falls in love with a beautiful blind woman (Virginia Cherrill). Her family is going through a bout of financial trouble and they are about to be evicted from their home. Realizing this, the Tramp does everything he can to help out his new love interest.

This scenario leads to some truly hilarious moments. At one point, the Tramp accepts a boxing gig in which his opponent agrees to go easy on him and split the profits 50/50. His opponent, apparently on the lam, runs off before the match. The Tramp’s new opponent has no interest in working out a deal, and therefore he has no choice but to fight legit. What transpires is a classic scene in which the Tramp dances around carefully behind the referee, thereby evading any attacks from his much bigger adversary. It’s equal parts clever and hilarious.

City Lights

The Chaplin slapstick humor I know and love is present from the get go. The opening scene shows a city dedicating a new statue, only to see the Tramp sleeping on it when it is unveiled. As he frantically tries to leave the statue, he gets his pants hooked on the figure’s giant sword. When the National Anthem is played, he continues to slip around aimlessly. It’s a wonderful introduction that sets the tone for the rest of the film.

I would be remiss not to mention the Tramp’s on-and-off friendship with an alcoholic millionaire (Harry Myers) who only enjoys his company when he is drunk. The scene where the two of them get drunk and then go out for a night on the town is just brilliant.

Really, City Lights is fantastic with memorable scene after memorable scene. It’s amazing to think that this movie is 80 years old, yet it’s still hilarious in this day and age. The way Chaplin interweaves drama and romance into this is a thing of beauty. And, of course, who could ever forget the ending, one of the most iconic in all of cinematic history? I loved City Lights, and I can’t wait to dig into the rest of Mr. Chaplin’s filmography.