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riffraf

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Everything posted by riffraf

  1. 1. What elements (set design, costume, prop, camera placement, acting) make this gag effective as visual comedy? The piano seemingly real and heavy when being carried by the big burly deliveryman worked well as a devise to overwhelm the smaller framed Keaton. The flexible ceiling being stretched and pulled in ways you would normally only see in a cartoon made for a surprising visual effect. The set design of the house also worked well having the porch railing double as a ladder. These elements were certainly unrealistic but the way they were used made them visually hilarious. 2. In what ways do you sense that Keaton's comedy differs from that of Charlie Chaplin? Keaton’s characters are physically demanding and by his incredible athletic ability and acting skills, he makes his falls and misfortunes look smooth and effortless. Buster Keaton’s stone faced character is more of an “every man” who encounters unusually difficult situations and the action revolves around his attempts to abide or just survive. Chaplin’s character is not so much physical but more of being one slick, clever little tramp using his street smarts to get through the various situations he finds himself in. 3. When you watch a scene like this with Buster Keaton, what contributions do you sense he added to the history of slapstick comedy? Buster Keaton’s ability to conceive an idea and translate it into visual art for the camera and his intended audience is unsurpassed. His genius of planning and laying out the logistics of each scene and calculating his own physical abilities to survive the punishment scripted in the various situations will be his greatest contribution to the history of film.
  2. 1. Similar to Agee and Youngson's perspective in Daily Dose #1, Canby makes a claim at the end of his analysis that there is something missing into today's visual comedies when compared to the silent classics. Do you agree or disagree with Canby? I would agree that there is visually, a lot missing in today's movies, not only in comedies but in all the film genres. The use of multiple, rapid cuts in editing seem to be the choice of current generation filmmakers rather than carefully crafted and choreographed actions. 2. Beyond the placement of the camera in middle distance, what other elements (set design, costume, props, acting, etc) makes this gag effective as visual comedy? The actor’s facial expressions are key to visual style of this reel. What’s lacking in dialog is visually communicated in what each character is feeling or thinking vividly by their body language and facial expressions. Also the blocking or actors movements are especially effective visually as each character moves or counters to the other and interacts, almost like watching a tennis match. 3. What do you think a gag like this and its brilliant on-screen execution contributes to the history of slapstick comedy? I believe these types of gags were the building blocks for the time period as each studio, filmmakers and cast experimented to find out what would work in a particular setup and what wouldn’t. They were the pioneers and were establishing the boundaries of their individual crafts.
  3. 1. Do you agree or disagree with Agee and Youngson's statements that the silent films from 1912 – 1930 constituted "comedy's greatest era" or its "golden age?" Why or why not? I would agree with Agee & Youngson's statements that the silent films from 1912-1930 did constitute comedy's greatest era because of the ratio of comedies made compared to all the other silent film genres, be it drama, action or any other themes. Considering this time period was a huge turning point for the country (and the world) reacting to the far reaching effects of the industrial revolution where so much of the population that had been agriculturally based and rural were migrating more and more to the nation's rapidly growing metropolitan cities. This generation was experiencing the new technologies of air planes, automobiles, air conditioning, neon lights, safety razors, motorized movie cameras (replacing hand-cranked cameras), Cellophane, wire photos, as well as World War I...these people needed to laugh. This could have been the golden age of comedy simply because of supply & demand and this is what they needed or preferred the most from their entertainment in 1912-1930. 2. Do you agree with the film's narrator that in the silent film era the "gags were completely visual—a form of wit that has all but disappeared from the land, but which experts now agree were among the most imaginative and enduring comedy of all…?” Did this form of comedy "disappear" or did it simply evolve in the sound era? The gags were almost completely visual until they evolved with the film making technologies involving sound and editing techniques but certainly have not disappeared. 3. What impact do you think documentaries, compilation films, and essays like these have had on popular opinion about the silent film era? I believe we rely a great deal a great deal on documentary films and essays for historical references to illustrate the history of film and the social/political environment of when they were made. How else can we learn and appreciate an era of events before our time.
  4. Watching these clips of Chaplin you will notice how smooth the action flows to the point where it looks effortless. However at closer examination & re-examination you can see how important the timing and choreography of the scene and the actors actions were. Since most of us grew up on films with sound and fluid camera movements, it requires a little more patience on our part to appreciate how much effort went into the staging of some of these seemingly simple pratfalls and just how agile and athletic these comedians had to be.
  5. Don't forget Edmond O'Brien's wonderful onscreen narrative in The Wild Bunch (1969)! In particular his descriptive conversation with Robert Ryan at the end or near end, an amazing and most valuable character actor!
  6. Excellent! And I think we can all agree that no one in cinema history (much less Noir history) can serve coffee better than Gloria Grahame!!! What a babe!
  7. Maybe those two separate sunsets was something Luke Skywalker might have witnessed in a Galaxy far far away from planet Noir, but I don't think so. It was out of place! Maybe the scriptwriter's 50s fantasy or he had a serious case of writer's block. Puh-leeze, good point!!!!
  8. True! A light at the end of the tunnel (the movie) that wasn't an oncoming freight train! : )
  9. I'm so glad you pointed out this line from Dave's army buddy of how these city thugs wouldn't be able to face the horrors these veterans had dealt with! Fits with the post war noir film criteria but on top of that helps galvanize the idealist from the corrupt. When the hoods backed by political power, wealth and muscle cross the line torturing and killing women, threatening children without consequence, it's time for some definite, unrelenting action.
  10. You are so right on with The Asphalt Jungle. I've seen this film so many times & agreed, it's flawless. The script is tight, meaningful and justified (no unnecessary rambling). The acting is first rate. Jean Hegen's emotional breakdown in Dix's room broke my heart. Likewise Dix's stumbling into "the clean life" of Hickory Farms is also heartbreaking if not fateful. And it did look like an Ansel Adams landscape. And on top of that, I too think Louis B. Mayer was an idiot! Check √ Check √ and check √
  11. You know I felt like Jean Hagen removing her eyelashes was underscoring the fact that she removing any personal facade after entering Sterling Hayden's world, a small dingy apartment, and bearing her soul in desperately asking for help (a place to stay). Breaking down and crying, she had no where else to go, no one else to turn to. I believe removing her lashes was as naked as she could be. (Take that Hays Commission/censors)!
  12. I too am big fan of The Big Heat (1953) for all its' noir traits, the gritty black & white camera work with sweaty close ups, night for night slick streets, tight editing and an amazing cast. I liked it so much I would consciously ignore the minor flaws of it being a low budget film and often wondered if Fritz Lang had a bigger budget & another 20-30 minutes screen time to accentuate even more what was already a compelling story...a really good movie could have been an amazingly good movie! I think most of us agree he was certainly capable. Has anyone else noticed the similarities in The Big Heat to Rio Bravo (1958)? Both have the incorruptible lawman, Glenn Ford and John Wayne going up against a sadistic bad guy, Lee Marvin and Claude Atkins, both working for and encouraged by powerful but corrupt rich men, Alexander Scourby (Lagana) and John Russell (Nathan Burdette). John Wayne gets outside help from Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson and Ward Bond while Glenn Ford gets help from his army buddies. Similarities end there but a theme of honest, honorable men challenging the odds and going up against a corrupt system backed by greed and wealth.
  13. Our class may be over but our investigation into the dark vast depths of cinema will continue in our search for clues and tell-tale signs of film noir! Also many thanks to Eddie Muller and the gang of co-conspirators at TCM for helping make this such a classy learning experience, as I failed to mention them in my earlier post, Thank you!!!!
  14. I would highly recommend I Wake Up Screaming (1941) with Betty Grable, Victor Mature and Carole Landis...be sure to get the version with Eddie Muller's commentary!
  15. The opening scenes in Criss Cross (1949) covers "the usual suspects" in noir film making tools. Starting in darkness above a bustling Los Angeles, zeroing in on a darkened, crowded parking lot, then using the headlights of a parking car to spotlight a couple embracing in the shadows. Moving to a medium close up exposes Steve (Burt Lancaster) and Anna (Yvonne De Carlo) looking and feeling guilty about being seen. The two are planning something and worried about the outcome. Almost identical to the conversation between Jeanne Moreau and Maurice Ronet in Elevator to the Gallows (1958) only this couple is together in a claustrophobic lot, sandwiched between parked cars. Their conversation of dread builds tension which the camera magnifies by moving in closer, putting the couple in a tighter frame. Though we assume from their conversation, they are a doomed couple, Anna professes "after it's all over, it will just be the two of them...you and me, you and me!" In less than three minutes we got an eye and ear full of love/lust, desperation, dread, doom, conspiracy, regret, danger, jealously, fear...all the things that spell out in capital letters NOIR. But we knew that, otherwise professor Edwards wouldn't had it in our class line up! Enter the picture Slim Dundee (the "Oh so underrated" Dan Duryea) steely-eyed, cold, methodical and calculating he's obviously the one Steve and Anna are concerned about. (I've yet to see this film) but the short sequence in which we see Slim, we learn he's the character that makes everybody jump. When Anna enters the nightclub the music in the background sounds like a warning chant as she is intercepted by Slim. The way he berates his employee looking for answers and the way he cross-examines Anna, this is a man used to getting his way and seems to have the power (and the motive and the opportunity) to do so. And so the fate of these three is sealed and the rest of the movie (I assume) is just logistics. I am so looking forward to seeing this one!!! The Daily Doses assignment has definitely sharpened my wits on the way I view films and how I focus on the many factors that make it work the way it does (or does not), from camera angles, to props, lighting, music and how it all comes together. As a photographer and movie buff, I've always looked at movies and tried to analyze them from different points of view. The acting, the camera movements, depth of field, staging, lighting etc. but the advantage of this class has been being able to share and exchange so many different ideas of what we were all able to virtually view together. This has been an excellent learning tool and I appreciate all those who participated in making this such a positive experience by sharing their collective knowledge and love for film! Needless to say I hope the TCM message boards will continue to serve as a tool of communication for us all. A special thank you to professor Edwards for the concept of this class and all the hard work that was required to make it happen. I hope there is more to come! Thank you all!
  16. A few side notes: Being fascinated with history I found it very interesting if not ironic that Valkerie (a reference to a maiden in the Wagner opera) was the code name for the plan by numerous German officers, generals and civilians including Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, to assassinate Hitler, return the government to the German people and make peace with the allies. Of course it failed and resulted in hundreds or more executions by the nazi regime. As seen in the very well depicted film Valkyrie (2008) or a history book near you. As mentioned by a number of classmates the Ride of the Valkyries was used in Apocalypse Now (1979) during a mobile cavalry attack on a seaside village in Vietnam. And as life imitates art, American forces used a recording of the Ride of the Valkyries during the US invasion of Grenada in October 1983.
  17. In this clip from Brute Force (1947) music is used to help drown out the sounds of the beating Captain Munsey (Hume Cronyn) applies to prisoner Louis (Sam Levene). Another possible purpose is to put the audience expectations at ease with the calm classical music by suggesting Captain Munsey as a more sophisticated individual preparing to engage in a civilized conversation with an inmate (sic). On the darker side, maybe it was on purpose that the Captain chose to play Wagner knowing his music was from Adolf Hitler's favorite composer and seeing how Munsey is an iron-fisted (fascist) authoritarian warden (wardenfuhrer) and rules/laws did not apply to him. This could be warning the audience that the war was over but not the ideas behind the causes. Don't try this in your country! Or this could be a theme of juxtaposing something very beautiful, the classical music side by side with something very dark, a violent and brutal torture of a helpless individual. A theme, incidentally well explored by Stanley Kubrick in A Clockwork Orange (1971) where inmate Alex (Malcolm McDowell) was forced to watch acts of violence (which he enjoyed) however the scenes were accompanied by a classical music score by Beethoven, whom he loved but did not appreciate associating this brilliant composer with vulgar violence (go figure). Once Captain Munsey doesn't get the answers he's looking for, the tension is upped a notch as the window shades are drawn, the room goes dark, and the standing guard (only other witness) is excused from the room. It seemed like the music became louder and "wrong answer" Louis knows what's coming. The rubber hose and the music volume is up another notch! The guards in the next room hear the sounds of the assault and are unnerved at what they know is happening but they do nothing, just as some of Raymond Burr's henchmen thought he was going too far in Desperate (1947) but the beating continued. Notice how Hume Cronyn's character, who really worked up a sweat, washes the blood off his hands after learning Louis was innocent of what he was accused. The shades are raised, there's light in the room, the Captain didn't get his answers but his hands are clean, Louis is bloodied and sore from his accident coming from the drain pipe and is on his way to the isolation ward. But it's not all bad, we got to listen to some really good Wagner! These early postwar films seemed to dwell in the dynamics of violence much more than the earlier noir releases and about character types who thrive on psychotic behavior as lessons in violence we learned from World War II. I'm sure things will only get worse as we move into the early 50s, the Cold War, the Red scare and the blacklist. Just when you thought it couldn't get any darker on the screen. Duck and cover everybody and don't stare into the light!
  18. You are so right about the incredible talent of Raymond Burr and agreed that most of us were more familiar with his iconic television image running for nine years as a very brilliant and civilized Perry Mason. Seeing Burr in the role of not just a bad guy but a sadistic, heavy who never flinches when seeing pain inflicted on his victims. Especially our favorite good, tough guy, Robert Mitchum, you can't get any more bad than that. In A Cry in the Night (1956) he plays a deranged character who kidnaps a teenage Natalie Wood for all the wrong reasons. The list is long and he was so good at it, it's amazing that he didn't get typecast. I also wonder if his court room DA role in A Place In the Sun (1951) planted the idea of moving into Perry Mason. And notice in that role as the DA he was handicapped, using a cane, foreshadowing his wheelchair role of Ironside. Anyway he was an amazing actor!
  19. By choreographing the fight scene in Desperate (1947), director Anthony Mann and his cinematographer George Diskant were able to create a barrage of high contrast light and shadows over the entire set and all the actors, making a more intense if not limited view of not only the beating of Steve Randall (Steve Brodie) but the actions and reactions of all the characters in the scene. Having so much of the screen images limited to brief illumination from the swinging light and just as quickly hidden by fleeting shadows we are forced to interpret the actions we see and imagine what it is that we can't see which is further enhanced by the brutalizing sound effects. The result is a much more painful and terrifying experience happening on the screen within our minds than anything a film crew could have created using brightly lit actors, make-up and stage blood. It is an equally effective editing tool to inter-cut the various characters' point-of-view of the actions that are basically dark and obscure to the audience. Action and reactions. If the characters on the screen witnessing or participating in the assault are repulsed by what they see and are looking distraught themselves, the audience is further convinced this is an unusually cruel and savage beating. Adding the low level point-of-view from the victims perspective, the four hoodlums take on a more menacing and threatening demeanor by towering over him. The action is further intensified by having the characters and/or objects moving closer to the camera with a fist or a broken bottle completely filling up the screen. For a noir in-your-face experience, this is as brutal as it gets!
  20. This scene from The Asphalt Jungle (1950) depicts the city as one of an industrial wasteland, with empty streets, dilapidated buildings and almost totally devoid of any people. The Asphalt Jungle is the most appropriate title for the film because these barren, isolated streets and debris strewn alleyways look forbidding and dangerous even in broad daylight. A wild and tangled mass of concrete structures, peeling paint, crumbling brick, intersecting rail lines and grids of overhead cables make this unnamed city a very gloomy and troublesome environment. In style and substance we are viewing a landscape of dark shadowy visions in spite of being a daylight shoot. The background score is used to accent the films tension as the police prowl car patrols through the deserted streets and the lone character on foot maneuvers the city "jungle" to avoid detection. A low angle, long shot of the patrol car moving towards the camera becomes a close-up as the POLICE insignia fills the frame and the audio of the police radio becomes louder and louder and the music tempo picks up to a faster beat. A deep focus shot inside the cafe includes the proprietor (James Whitmore), in foreground, the two police officers and the seated customer (Sterling Hayden). For character insight, during the police line-up we learn that Dix (Sterling Hayden) is a hardcore criminal who has been busted for possession of a firearm, has been sentenced to and escaped from prison, and even in police custody has no problem intimidating a witness against him with a stern glare. He is one tough "mo-fo" and not to be messed with.
  21. This coming Friday night will be a noir binge I am really looking forward to & hope all can enjoy! I too would like to take this time during our last Daily Dose to thank all my classmates (accomplices) and true fans of noir for all of your posts, input, thoughts and creative interpretations of all that we have viewed together! Even when we can't agree, the very idea of pooling all of these different ideas and perspectives helps stir the pot and potentially formulate new ideas of just what it is we love about film. To my new found friends, I hope we can continue trading ideas on the TCM message boards keep going forward with posts anew. Never look back, baby! And a special thanks to professor Edwards for giving us the tools, the motive and the opportunity to enjoy the film art we love! Thank you all!
  22. You know it never would have crossed my mind if I had not seen The Art of Love (1965) a romantic comedy with James Garner (so versatile -comedies,dramas u-name it) Dick Van Dyke (so funny) and Elke Sommer (Wow!). Anyway James & Dick were pulling a con job in France, Garner gets framed and convicted for murder & they are just about to lead him up the steps to the guillotine before Dick Van Dyke, the supposed victim, comes forward. I couldn't help but think, in this day & age (1965) they still use the guillotine? Ouch! Pardon me if I show my age but it's all about movies isn't it?
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