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Kyle Kersten was a true friend of TCM. One of the first and most active participants of the Message Boards, “Kyle in Hollywood” (aka, hlywdkjk) demonstrated a depth of knowledge and largesse of spirit that made him one of the most popular and respected voices in these forums. This thread is a living memorial to his life and love of movies, which remain with us still.

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Top Ten Favorites Review


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#1 LawrenceA

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Posted 10 September 2017 - 01:52 PM

#1 Favorite Movie of 1929

 

Man With a Movie Camera - Soviet director Dziga Vertov's "documentary" is more of a cinematic poem than a document. He uses exquisitely framed shots, rapid editing, and early special effects techniques to broadly paint a picture of life in a bustling city. As the film proudly, defiantly proclaims at the beginning, there is no plot, no script, no actors or sets, there are no intertitles (this is a silent film with music). This is meant to be experienced, not followed. For me, it is similar to Un Chien Andalou, in that it pushes the boundaries of what a movie can be. Obviously this won't appeal to a lot of casual film viewers, but for any interested in film history, the development and refinement of technique, or purely visual endeavors, they don't come any better than this.   10/10

 

Source: Kino DVD, with a score by Michael Nyman. There are also short text biographies of Vertov and Nyman.

 

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#2 LawrenceA

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Posted 09 September 2017 - 11:48 PM

#2 Favorite Movie of 1929

 

Un Chien Andalou - Short film that's a collaboration between Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali. A man slices a woman's eyeball open with a straight razor. Ants crawl out from a hole in the palm of someone's hand. A woman languidly prods a severed hand on a busy sidewalk. A man's mouth disappears before being replaced by armpit hair. These are just a few of the bizarre, nonsensical moments in this 16 minute surreal masterpiece.

 

While the imagery is certainly striking, with moments of extreme violence and nudity, the reason that I regard this short film so highly, and why it's the only short film on my Top Ten Favorites lists, is because of the profound impact it had on me when I saw it for the first time. I was in my early 20's, and while I had read about this movie, I was uncertain if I would like it, as abstract "artsy stuff" wasn't my thing. The reason I bristled at this kind of art is because I had previously always looked for distinct meaning and purpose in art: the plot, the character, the emotional truth that the filmmaker was trying to convey. And it wasn't until I saw Un Chien Andalou that I realized that art did not have to have an inherent viewpoint, or serve a narrative purpose, or be any kind of preconceived notion of what a movie should be. Instead, art could be simply images filmed and edited in any way the filmmaker-as-artist wished, and the audience could draw from it what they wished, and that there were no right or wrong answers as to what the art should be saying. The same can be held true for abstract painting or sculpture or music or whatever else form it can take. That may seem like an obvious notion to many, but for me it was a revelation, and I've looked at art in a different way ever since. And if a film can fundamentally change the way you view the world, what higher praise can there be?   10/10

 

Source: transfluxfilms DVD, with an assortment of extras, including an interview with Bunuel's son, a transcript of a speech given by Bunuel in 1953, and audio commentary from "surrealism expert" Stephen Barber.

 

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#3 LawrenceA

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Posted 09 September 2017 - 10:45 PM

#3 Favorite Movie of 1929

 

The Cocoanuts - First feature for the Marx Brothers was this adaptation of the hit musical stage show featuring songs from Irving Berlin. Groucho Marx stars as Hammer, the manager of a shabby Florida beachfront hotel. Zeppo Marx plays Jamison, another hotel employee, while Chico and Harpo play a pair of lunatic ne'er-do-wells who set up shop in the hotel. There are a few sub-plots vying for time among the Brothers' lunacy, including a love story between Polly Potter (Mary Eaton) and Bob Adams (Oscar Shaw), and a plan by a pair of shady characters (Kay Francis and Cyril Ring) to swipe a valuable necklace from hotel patron Mrs. Potter (Margaret Dumont). Also featuring Basil Ruysdael as Detective Hennessey. 

 

The Marx Brothers anarchic style is on fine display here, and this is one of my favorite unhinged Harpo performances. Groucho is already the king of wordplay and the quick verbal gag, and Chico has some great moments too. The love story is dull, though, as are Eaton and Shaw as the young lovers. Kay Francis is beautiful and compelling as the conniving wouldbe thief. Some sources list this as her first film, others as her second. The film had two directors, Robert Florey for the dialogue scenes and Joseph Santley for the musical numbers. The latter are a mixed bag, although interestingly depicted in a proto-Busby Berkeley manner. The print is a patchwork of the best possible material from a few different sources, so the quality varies greatly throughout the film, and over 7 minutes are thought to be lost altogether. I really liked rewatching this one, as the last few days have been a nerve-wracking pain with the Hurricane Irma preparations. I needed the laugh break! From Paramount Pictures.   8/10

 

Source: Universal DVD, as part of The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection. There are a few late-life interviews included as extras.

 

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#4 LawrenceA

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Posted 09 September 2017 - 08:02 PM

#4 Favorite Movie of 1929

 

Blackmail - Alfred Hitchcock's first talkie is this moral dilemma drama from British International Pictures. Anny Ondra stars as Alice White, a fun-loving young woman who has grown bored with her current boyfriend, Scotland Yard Detective Frank Webber (John Longden). Alice decides to spend the evening out with charming artist (Cyril Ritchard), but when he tries to rape her, she kills him in self-defense. She leaves the place, but Frank finds her glove at the scene and tries to cover for her. Meanwhile, they are both approached by Tracy (Donald Calthrop), a low-rent sleazeball with an aim to blackmail them for money in exchange for his silence, as he witnessed Alice entering and exiting the artist's apartment. Also featuring Sara Allgood, Charles Paton, Hannah Jones, and Harvey Braban.

 

The decision to make this a talkie was made after production was already begun, and so some scenes were re-shot. There was one problem, though: star Ondra had a very thick Czech accent. Hitchcock resorted to having his leading lady mouth her lines while another actress read them into an off-camera microphone. This trouble aside, I thought Ondra gave a very good performance, expressing her fragile emotional state well with subtle facial moves. Calthrop, too, is good, especially during his self-assured scene buying a cigar. There are also a few good camera shots, including one that tracks up the side of a staircase being ascended by two characters, and there's an exciting finish at the British Museum.    7/10

 

Source: Mill Creek DVD, part of the Alfred Hitchcock: The Legend Begins set, featuring most of his silent and early sound movies.

 

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#5 LawrenceA

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Posted 09 September 2017 - 03:55 PM

#5 Favorite Movie of 1929

 

Woman In the Moon - Fritz Lang directed this "first scientifically-accurate science fiction film" based on a novel by his wife Thea von Harbou, and released by UFA. Adventurous entrepreneur Helius (Willy Fritsch) decides to build a rocket to the Moon based on the writings of the eccentric Professor Mannfeldt (Klaus Pohl), who believes that the Moon is rich with gold deposits. Also joining them on their voyage will be Helius's two assistants, Windegger (Gustav von Wangenheim) and Friede (Gerda Maurus), the latter of whom Helius secretly loves, despite her engagement to Windegger. The enterprise also involves the sinister American "Walter Turner" (Fritz Rasp), whose secret organization threatens to destroy their efforts unless "Turner" is allowed to travel with them. The astronauts also have a stowaway on board: a young boy named  Gustav (Gustl Gstettenbaur). Also featuring Tilla Durieux, Hermann Vallentin, Max Zilzer, and Karl Platen.

 

Despite the filmmakers' best efforts, there are many things shown here which have proven to be scientifically inaccurate, such as the Moon having a breathable atmosphere, but those issues are easily forgivable. The romantic triangle melodrama is routine stuff, and the evil organization is similar to several of Lang's previous films. I enjoy seeing the groundwork for future space travel movies being built, as you can see the influence this held on films like Destination Moon and the many Moon mission movies of the 1950s. The basic character set-up, with a few tweaks, would be the blueprint for TV's Lost In Space, with a father-figure, a mother-figure, another friendly adult male, a child, and an unwanted guest (Dr. Smith in the show, "Turner" in this film). Speaking of "Turner", the great German screen villain Fritz Rasp has one of his best roles here, and although his character is said to be an American, his look is markedly Nazi-like. At 169 minutes, this will try the patience of many viewers, but I like this early attempt at serious SF, even if the suppositions prove to not be entirely accurate.   7/10

 

Source: Kino Blu-Ray, with a 15-minute German making-of featurette included.

 

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#6 LawrenceA

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Posted 08 September 2017 - 09:50 PM

#6 Favorite Movie of 1929

 

Bulldog Drummond - Adaptation of H.C. "Sapper" McNeile's gentleman adventurer, from producer Samuel Goldwyn and director F. Richard Jones. Ronald Colman stars as Hugh "Bulldog" Drummond, an English veteran of WW1 and man of leisure who grows bored and sets out, along with his friend Algy (Claude Allister) and valet Danny (Wilson Benge) to find adventure. And he finds it in the person of Phyllis Benton (Joan Bennett), a desperate young woman who wants to help her Uncle John (Charles Sellon), who Phyllis believes is being mistreated at a hospital by a trio of shady characters. Also featuring Lilyan Tashman, Montagu Love, Lawrence Grant, and Gertrude Short.

 

Drummond had been brought to the screen 5 times before, but this was the biggest hit yet, as it marked the first sound version and Colman's first talkie. Few, if any, silent films stars transitioned as well to talkies as did Colman, with his fantastic, cultured voice. Here, he's witty, sharp, dashing, charming and charismatic. Joan Bennett, all of 19 years old at the time, is lovely and fragile, very dissimilar to her later hard-edged noir roles. And while Allister's performance as Algy may rub some viewers the wrong way, I find him humorous. This is light entertainment well done. This received Oscar nominations for Best Actor (Colman) and Best Art Direction.   7/10

 

Source: MGM VHS.

 

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#7 LawrenceA

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Posted 08 September 2017 - 09:31 PM

I'm starting this thread to discuss the movies that I have previously picked as my top ten favorites from each year. After I rewatch them, I'll post a short review and make any comments or observations about my enjoyment of the films as well as any anecdotes or associated trivia bits. Feel free to comment on my choices, my reviews, or post your own reviews or comments about any of your favorite films that you've rewatched recently.

 

I've already posted my thoughts on my picks for the Silent Era (any movies made up to 1928) in the Silent section in the Genre Message Boards. I'll be starting this thread with my picks for 1929. A couple of comments beforehand, though: I was not able to find copies of all of my choices for my ten favorites of the year, so I'll only be rewatching six titles. Also, I've recently more than doubled the number of movies that I've seen from 1929, and a few of those titles would appear on my list were I to rewrite it. I'll list those titles here first, but since I just watched them, I won't review them again, as there are reviews of them elsewhere on the site, down in the Genre sections.

 

These are the titles that I could not secure a copy of to rewatch:

 

The Trespasser

The Letter

The Love Parade

Pandora's Box

 

These are the titles that I watched recently that would likely appear on an updated list:

 

The Mysterious Island

The Last Warning

The Great Gabbo

The Old and the New

A Cottage on Dartmoor

 

As for the rest of my original list of my top ten favorite films of 1929, the next would be...






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