Modern Times – Required Viewing

modern times
On this date in 1936, Charlie Chaplin’s film Modern Times opened in New York City. It was the last film in which his beloved and iconic character “the Little Tramp” appeared, and it was the only film to include Chaplin’s voice.

“Talkies” had been around since The Jazz Singer in 1927, but Chaplin had held out. His films had been internationally successful in large part because there was no language barrier in silent films; his comedy was physical, and it was a simple matter to replace English title cards with those in the local language. Chaplin knew that giving the Tramp dialogue meant losing all the audiences that didn’t speak English. In 1931, he had released City Lights, which was silent in defiance of the new mania for sound, and had gone so far as to say that talking pictures were a fad that wouldn’t last. He told an interviewer, “Dialogue may or may not have a place in comedy … dialogue does not have a place in the sort of comedies I make.” The interviewer asked him if he had ever tried including dialogue, and he answered, “I never tried jumping off the monument in Trafalgar Square, but I have a definite idea that it would be unhealthful.” City Lights was a critical and commercial success, and one reviewer said: “Nobody in the world but Charlie Chaplin could have done it. He is the only person that has that peculiar something called ‘audience appeal’ in sufficient quality to defy the popular penchant for movies that talk.”

By 1934, however, Chaplin had realized that the days of the silent movie had passed, and he was worried about being seen as old fashioned and outdated. He wrote a dialogue script for Modern Times, but in the end, used almost none of it. He used sound effects, and human voices carried through radios and loudspeakers, but the Little Tramp did not speak. He did, however, sing: at one point in the story, he gets a job as a singing waiter, but loses the lyrics to the song he’s meant to sing. He sings a language of gibberish instead — no translation required.

Modern Times reflects the anxieties of its age. Chaplin had spent the past year and a half touring Europe, witnessing the rise of nationalism and the effects of the Great Depression. He describes how he got the idea for the film: “I was riding in my car one day and saw a mass of people coming out of a factory, punching time clocks, and was overwhelmed with the knowledge that the theme note of modern times is mass production. I wondered what would happen to the progress of the mechanical age if one person decided to act like a bull in a china shop.” The movie portrays a very different reality from the pre-World War I world into which the Little Tramp character was born. Workers were being replaced by machines, and — even worse — assembly-line labor was turning them into machines themselves. Humanity was second to progress and efficiency, and Chaplin turned anxiety into comedy. When the movie opens, the Little Tramp is working in a factory, but his mindless and repetitive task — which he must perform faster and faster to satisfy the foreman — drives him mad and he literally becomes a cog in the great machine of industry. He spends the rest of the movie in a series of jobs, and tries to get arrested so he can have three meals a day and a place to sleep. Eventually, he finds happiness in an anarchist lifestyle with his co-star, Paulette Goddard, who plays “the Gamine.” They walk off into the sunset to the strains of the song “Smile,” which was composed by Chaplin.

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Thank you, Mr. Hitchcock

Today is the birthday of arguably one of the best film directors of all time, Alfred Hitchcock.  His films are perfections of the suspense/thriller genre.  Please consider watching one of them the next time you are planning movie night.  We have the box set out at the lake house and I sometimes just pop one in and catch a bit of it as I come and go throughout the day.  They are like old friends you never tire of seeing.

In March of 1962, Alfred Hitchcock took a break during filming of The Birds in Bodega Bay and visited a local school to greet the pupils. Soon after, the school’s principal wrote the following letter of thanks to the filmmaker, and described the visit’s positive effect on one particular child.

Transcript follows.

Transcript

WILMAR UNION SCHOOL DISTRICT

3775 Bodega Highway

PETALUMA, CALIFORNIA

April 3, 1962

Mr. Alfred Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock Productions

Bodega Bay, California

Dear Mr. Hitchcock:

I wanted to take the time to say that your stopping one morning on your way to Bodega Bay to give a group of children a drawing and autograph of you was certainly a deed of thoughtfulness. It is realized that taking the time from your busy schedule is not an easy thing to do.

The real purpose of this letter is to inform you what your deed of kindness did for a boy to whom you gave your drawing and autograph. This boy is quite shy and does not participate readily in class activities, such as sharing his experiences before others during sharing time. He was so thrilled and moved by his experience that he proudly shared his experience and autograph not only with his own class, but in every classroom in the school. The boy never before has done such a thing. Many times it takes such a spark as this to help a youngster out of his shell and on the road to confidence. You don’t realize what your act of kindness has done for this child.

I realize that many other people since then have tried to take advantage of the same opportunity and this has made it difficult and impossible for you to fulfill. None the less, your thoughtful act will not be forgotten by youngsters and teachers alike.

Sincerely,

(Signed)

Duncan Coleman

Principal

I need to return some videotapes…

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I live in the American Gardens Building on West 81st Street on the 11th floor. My name is Patrick Bateman. I’m 27 years old. I believe in taking care of myself, and a balanced diet and a rigorous exercise routine. In the morning, if my face is a little puffy, I’ll put on an ice pack while doing my stomach crunches. I can do a thousand now. After I remove the ice pack I use a deep pore cleanser lotion. In the shower I use a water activated gel cleanser, then a honey almond body scrub, and on the face an exfoliating gel scrub. Then I apply an herb-mint facial masque which I leave on for 10 minutes while I prepare the rest of my routine. I always use an after shave lotion with little or no alcohol, because alcohol dries your face out and makes you look older. Then moisturizer, then an anti-aging eye balm followed by a final moisturizing protective lotion. There is an idea of a Patrick Bateman. Some kind of abstraction. But there is no real me. Only an entity. Something illusory. And though I can hide my cold gaze, and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours, and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable, I simply am not there.

American PsychoBret Easton Ellis

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11 Scariest Horror Movies of All Time

Click on the link to see clips of each movie.

11 Scariest Horror Movies of All Time – Page 1 – The Daily Beast 

Just in time for Halloween and exclusively for The Daily Beast, the man who brought you Taxi Driver and The Departed shares his favorite horror movies of all time. Plus, watch clips of the scariest scenes.

1. THE HAUNTING
“You may not believe in ghosts but you cannot deny terror!” was the tagline for this absolutely terrifying 1963 Robert Wise picture about the investigation of a house plagued by violently assaultive spirits.

2. ISLE OF THE DEAD
There’s a moment in this Val Lewton picture, about plague victims trapped on an island during the Greek civil war, that never fails to scare me. let’s just say that it involves premature burial.

3. THE UNINVITED
Another, more benign haunted house picture, set in England, no less atmospheric than The Haunting—the tone is very delicate, and the sense of fear is woven into the setting, the gentility of the characters.

4. THE ENTITY
Barbara Hershey plays a woman who is brutally raped and ravished by an invisible force in this truly terrifying picture. The banal settings, the California-modern house, accentuate the unnerving quality.

5. DEAD OF NIGHT
A British classic: four tales told by four strangers mysteriously gathered in a country house, each one extremely disquieting, climaxing with a montage in which elements from all the stories converge into a crescendo of madness. Like The Uninvited, it’s very playful…and then it gets under your skin.

6. THE CHANGELING
Another haunted house movie, filled with sadness and dread. George C. Scott, recovering from the death of his wife and child, discovers the angry ghost of another dead child in the mansion where he’s staying.

7. THE SHINING
I never read the Stephen King novel, I have no idea how faithful it is or isn’t, but Kubrick made a majestically terrifying movie, where what you don’t see or comprehend shadows every move the characters make.

8. THE EXORCIST
A classic, endlessly parodied, very familiar— and it’s as utterly horrifying as it was the day it came out. That room—the cold, the purple light, the demonic transformations: it really haunts you.

9. NIGHT OF THE DEMON
Jacques Tourneur made this picture about ancient curses near the end of his career, but it’s as potent as his films for Val Lewton. Forget the demon itself—again, it’s what you don’t see that’s so powerful.

10. THE INNOCENTS
This Jack Clayton adaptation of The Turn of the Screw is one of the rare pictures that does justice to Henry James. It’s beautifully crafted and acted, immaculately shot (by Freddie Francis), and very scary.

11. PSYCHO
Again, it’s so familiar that you think: great movie, but it’s not so scary anymore. Then you watch it…and quickly start thinking again. The shower…the swamp…the relationship between mother and son—it’s extremely disturbing on so many levels. It’s also a great work of art.