Hey everyone and welcome to an all new collaborative segment I’m calling Film Through the Ages. So what is this all about, you may be asking? Well, I’ve gathered together eight other WordPress movie bloggers to recommend some great films for YOU to watch.
The idea of this segment is to recommend movies to those of you who are looking to expand your film knowledge and delve into the rich history of film. These recommends span the entire 80+ years of sound film making so that no matter what era you would like to explore, we have a recommendation for you.
Ian from IanTheCool’s Movie Reviews
My pick for 1931 is Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights. I don’t claim to be an expert on Chaplin, but from the filmography of his I’ve seen, City Lights is his best work. Its a tragically comic story in which the Tramp tries to raise money for a blind girl so that she can get an operation to see again, which is really quite touching. But its also hilarious. Silent films usually have to rely on sight gags for their comedy, but Chaplin’s pure talent draws you in and make you laugh. The riverfront scene is a great example of this. So if you have never seen a Charlie Chaplin movie, or perhaps you simply have never seen a silent movie, City Lights is a great place to start.
Dan from Dan The Man’s Movie Reviews
The year: 1941
The movie: Citizen Kane
I know, I know, it’s a total cliche, but trust me, you honestly cannot talk about cinema in the year of 1941, without talking about this bad-boy classic. The first time I ever saw this flick, which, mind you, wasn’t long ago, I was totally floored by everything I saw. The story, at its time, was innovative for how it told a story through flashbacks, and allowing us to see a character from other people’s perspectives and stories from what they thought of him. Not only is it original, but it’s very compelling in that we see this character for all that he is, and all that he isn’t, basically painting a perfect portrait of a man who is not perfect. Will you cry? I don’t know, it sort of depends on the type of movie-watcher you are but what I can assure you, is that you will feel hooked into this story right from the speedy start.
Orson Welles not only starred in it, but also directed, wrote, and even produced it all at the swift age of 26. I’m 18 right now, and it makes me feel like the next 8 years of my life have to be building towards something, and when I mean something, I mean movie-making! Yeah, some parts may be a little dated here and there but it was released around the same time WWII got started, so you got to cut it some slack here! Basically, if you want a movie that will inspire you, make you appreciate fine story-telling for what it is, and realize that Orson Welles was one of the most under appreciated workers of all-time, then give this classic a look and see how it makes you feel.
(1951)I can’t claim to be an expert on the filmography of the legendary French director Jean Renoir, but I have seen a number of his movies and not a single one of the one I’ve seen has been bad. In fact nearly every one of them has been downright brilliant. But one stands out as a film that I feel I can easily recommend both to dedicated film buffs and more casual (albeit open minded) audiences alike and that’s his 1951 film The River.The film tells the story of a middle class English family living in India and focuses on a young girl named Harriet and her two sisters who need to adjust to these exotic surroundings. It sounds like a fairly typical coming of age story on its surface, but there’s a lot of richness in the detail and in the overall execution. This was Renoir’s first film in color, and he really dived into the format head first. This is one of those definitive examples along with The Red Shoes and The Wizard of Oz of how beautiful Technicolor could be when it was at its peak.Those looking for Renoir to apply his satiric bite to British colonialism in India may find the film disappointing. Renoir does not go out of his way to criticize these upper-class British characters for their role in the subjugation of India, but it’s no colonialist propaganda film either. Renoir takes Indian culture very seriously and put a lot of effort into bringing an authentic portrait of the nation to the screen. It’s a far cry from the juvenile and racist image of the country brought to the screen in earlier films like Gunga Din. Another possible stumbling block for audiences may be the film’s use of non-professional actors in certain roles. This might be a little hard to get past at first, but it brings a degree of authenticity to the proceedings and shouldn’t be too hard to get past.
Martin Scorsese has long been a champion of The River and has told stories of having seen the film as a child and having been blown away by the exotic world of the film, which was nothing like anything he’d ever seen growing up in Queens. That is perhaps the best mindset to go into the film having. As modern audiences we’ve seen hundreds of depictions of India, but audiences in 1951 would have rarely seen a mature vision of the country like this before, certainly not in glorious Technicolor.
A film that I would recommend from 1961 is Breakfast at Tiffany’s. It stars Audrey Hepburn in her Oscar nominated role as Holly, a young socialite in New York, hungry for the finer things in life. When Paul (George Peppard) moves into her apartment building, a friendship is kindled, and he sees her sudo-glamorous and unstable lifestyle up close. He becomes a protector of the spunky, yet vulnerable girl and learns of her troubled past. While focusing on the two main characters, it becomes a film about love, dreams, life and all it is or isn’t cracked up to be. This film is a staple of the early sixties and features Hepburn’s most iconic role. Best of all, she is wonderfully likeable, no matter what mess she gets into.
In 1971, Director William Friedkin brought to the screen one of the grittiest, most intense crime thrillers ever . It was based on the true story of how two New York City police detectives made one of the largest drug busts in U.S. history.
“The French Connection”.
Two undercover NYC Police detectives crack an enormous drug trafficking operation, resulting in the seizure of 112 pounds of heroin, which at the time was the largest drug bust in US history. The movie conveys the story with a gritty intensity and fantastic characters. It took home Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay. It’s full of riveting pursuit scenes, including an great “tailing” scene where Gene Hackman follows his target on foot for blocks through the city, and of course, the legendary car chase sequence beneath the elevated train tracks of New York City
When first asked to participate in this event and write about a movie from a year in the past, I secretly hoped for 1982 (the year I was born). My assignment given was very close to that: 1981. When I found out that 1981 was my year, I was even more excited because I got to choose from the likes of Clash of the Titans, On Golden Pond, Superman II, Excalibur, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, and Taps. But, of course I wasn’t about to choose any of those when Raiders of the Lost Ark(later to be titled “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark”) also came out in the same year.Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. 1981. Just one year after the release of the highly successful second installment of the original Star Wars trilogy, the near-40 year old in-demand actor Harrison Ford teamed up again with producer George Lucas and director Steven Spielberg in what would end up as the year’s highest grossing film that would spark the beginning of a fandom following and further exciting adventures to come.In this first adventure, archeologist Indiana Jones is hired to locate the legendary Ark of the Covenant and comes across a whole lot more adventure and danger than he bargained for. With a worn out jacket (which was brand new, yet aged by the costume dept), iconic hat, and whip in hand, “Indy” embarked on a race to find the Ark for the US government before the Nazis. Having already played the hardened rogue part of Han Solo in two Star Wars movies, the part seemed to come natural to Ford who practically owned and lived the griseled role. (Trivia states that during filming, a plane ran over Ford’s knee, tearing ligaments. Rather than submit himself to the foreign healthcare of the shooting location in Tunisia, Ford just wrapped it in ice and continued shooting scenes! Wow!)Ford was not the first choice for the iconic role of Indiana Jones. It may surprise you to know that each of the following actors were all considered but were unable to follow through due to lack of interest or availability: Tom Selleck, Bill Murray, Nick Nolte, Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, and even Jack Nicholson. They chose correctly when they picked Ford just three weeks before production began.With a great cast, story, and soundtrack (that is immediately recognized and is one of John Williams’ best), this first adventure of Indiana Jones received NINE Academy Award nominations (including one for Williams’ musical score). Winning four of the awards, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark remains the greatest and most popular of the rest of the films and tv series inspired by it. It is definitely one of my family’s favorite movies and would only have been made greater if it came out the same year as I was born! What a claim to fame that would be…for me that is! Of course, I’ll always have E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial. ha!
My pick for the best film of 1991: The Silence of the LambsIt was a close race between this and James Cameron’s Terminator 2, but I ultimately had to side with Silence. The Silence of the Lambs tells the story of FBI agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) tracking down the brutal serial killer Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine). Starling is aided by incarcerated serial killer Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins). The film is the ultimate psychological thriller and is able to get under the skin of the viewer in a way few films can. Jodie Foster’s Clarice Starling is a great character, and Foster’s performance is brilliant. Ted Levine delivers a great performance too, one which is sadly overlooked. And of course, there’s Anthony Hopkins. What can I say about Hopkins’ performance that hasn’t already been said? Nothing. So I’ll just repeat what everyone else has said; that Hopkins is sublime and his Hannibal Lecter is one of the greatest characters in the history of cinema.
The film also features a great script, shining with smart dialogue and an intense and interesting plot. All of these elements and more are brought together perfectly by director Jonathan Demme. The Silence of the Lambs won five actors, the big five, Best Picture, Director, Screenplay (Adapted), Best Actor, and Best Actress. The film deserved them all too. Bottom line, if you’re only going to see one film from 1991, see The Silence of the Lambs.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring(2001)I had to pick this film for 2001 because it managed to launch a fantastic movie trilogy and was a great film just on its own. Within the first scene of this film you get how big a deal this adaptation was going to be with the giant battle for middle earth right from the word go. The film also boasts fantastic acting and actors which when you think about it must have been hard to get done with this type of feel, it’s basically about a hobbit taking a ring to a volcano and its main fans would be nerds who have read the book (like me). We are lucky that so many big names and studios picked this film up to be a big budget film because anything less would have failed. So to end my views I would like to say that this film started the Peter Jackson craze and showed brilliant visuals that mixed the beautiful sites of New Zealand with the smart CGI use to create Gollum and the massive fights between good and evil that has become a signature of the film series.
I pick a movie that’s extremely underrated to recommend as I figure most people probably haven’t seen it. It’s Peter Weir’s The Way Back
(released January 2011), which grossed only a little over $2 mil with a production budget of $30 (per BoxOfficeMojo
)I recommend it because it’s inspired by real events, loosely based on The Long Walk
written by a Polish POW in the Soviet Gulag (labor prison camp) and it tells the story of about a half dozen men who escaped the Siberian prison in 1941.I think stories of extreme survival tale is fascinating and this one is well-crafted and well-acted all around. In the lead role, Jim Sturgess makes for a compelling character, Colin Farrell has some scene-stealing scenes, and Ed Harris provides the gravitas. The massively talented youngster Saiorse Ronan also has a memorable role as a runaway girl who joins the group midway through the journey.The cinematography by Russell Boyd shows an overwhelmingly beautiful yet harsh scenery that adds so much to the film. Peter Weir is perhaps one of the most underrated filmmakers working today. The Way Back
is a worthy survival tale that paints a convincing narration about human endurance.
So those are nine great film recommendations for any of you who are interested in expanding your film viewing repertoire, spanning a range of eighty years. I hope you found this helpful, and I’d like to thank everyone who contributed!
If you have a wordpress blog of your own and would like to contribute in a future Film Through the Ages post, feel free to email me or leave a message in the comments. Thanks!