Ian's Movie Reviews
Short Reviews of Movies, Board Games, and Other Stuff

Film Through the Ages II

Its time for another Film Through the Ages post, where I gather movie recommendations from bloggers from all around the blogosphere.  We try to cover each movie decade since the emergence of sound pictures, and recommend great films from a given year that we think you, as an avid blog reader and movie fan, should take some time to watch and increase your movie-viewing resume.

I’ve gathered up eight of my favourite film bloggers and assigned them each a year, and they came back with some great choices.  So enjoy reading their recommendations to you, enjoy the movies they’ve selected, check out their great blogs, and come back again for Film Through the Ages III!


Michael from The Movie Vampire

I Am A Fugitive From a Chain Gang (1932)

By 1932 the great depression was in full swing but movies remained a popular form of entertainment for people nationwide.  Many of the films coming out of Hollywood were light escapist fare intended to transport audiences from the nation’s squalor, however, there were still movies made which addressed the issues of the day and one of the most famous films to do so was Mervyn LeRoy’s I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang.  It cannot be understated just how awful prison conditions have been in this country for decades but these institutions may have reached their nadir in the era of the chain gang.  The “chain gang” was a particularly troublesome phenomenon because they actively incentivize the state to imprison people, it could be argued that they were a means of re-enslaving the predominately black inmates who were forced to work on them.
The film I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang takes the easy way out by making its protagonist an almost completely sympathetic innocent (white) man who has been wrongly convicted, but it’s hard depiction of the horrors of chain gang work was still very gritty and difficult material for its time.  In particular, the film’s bleak ending was a far cry from what anyone would expect from a film produced by a major studio in a time when audiences were looking for musicals and comedies.  In fact the film did manage to bring a lot of awareness of the issue to the public and likely did help bring about the beginning of the end of the institution.
The film itself does need to be viewed as a product of its time.  The early thirties were one of the weakest eras in the evolution of film; directors didn’t really understand how to fully utilize sound, film acting techniques were not yet fully formed, the bulky equipment required for sound shoots made adventurous camera movement almost impossible.  This film is no exception, the acting is fairly stiff and the film’s style is nothing groundbreaking.  This is basically a direct descendant of the “issuetainment” movies like Blood Diamond or North Country, it may not tackle its subject with the most elegance or complexity, but it does have a power which is all the more palpable now that it is also a historical document.


Chris from Terry Malloy’s Pigeon Coop

The Magnificent Ambersons

It would have been all too easy to choose Casablanca for 1942, but another film was released that
year that, in my opinion, tops it. The Magnificent Ambersons was Orson Welles’ first film after
Citizen Kane and is thought by some to be the superior film. That may be pushing it, but it certainly
runs it close.

Ambersons tells the story of Major Amberson and his family, more specifically his daughter Isabel
Amberson Minifer and her son George. It’s the early 1900s and industrial and technological
advancements are becoming more commonplace. When Isabel’s husband dies, she’s romantically
linked with childhood friend and automobile pioneer Eugene Morgan. George is not impressed with
said romantic link and goes about trying to put a stop to the relationship, all the while falling for
Eugene’s daughter Lucy.

This is a classic tale of a powerful and wealthy family struggling to keep up with changing times
and the struggles it brings them. All of Welles’ hallmarks are present – long takes, low angle shots,
tracking shots, chiaroscuro lighting, deep focus, the list could go on – and it makes for an intriguing
and powerful character driven narrative.

However, no matter how good the film is, there will always be the lingering thoughts of what it
could have been. Whilst filming in Brazil, Welles lost control of the editing of the film and around 40
minutes were cut. Some parts were also reshot to give the film a happier ending, much to the ire of
Welles. Despite that, The Magnificent Ambersons remains a shining example of Welles’ work that
sits proudly alongside Citizen Kane, even if it doesn’t get the recognition it deserves.


Andy from Andy Watches Movies

Umberto D. (1952)

Umberto D. is a film that seems largely unknown and yet is one of the most moving stories I’ve seen committed to celluloid. The film focuses on an older, retired man named Umberto Domenico Ferrar that struggles to get by on a daily basis, lives in a small room with a selfish landlady, but has acquaintances all over town and his best friend, his dog, Flike. As we watch Umberto do everything possible to continue living in his home, the film trudges along as things get more and more grim for the poor fellow. At first he seems a bit of a scoundrel but by the end of the film you will feel like you know Umberto personally. Very few character-driven films have asserted the main character in such a relatable fashion in the 60 years that have followed the release of Umberto D. and because of that, it’s my choice for 1952.


Dan from PG Cooper’s Movie Reviews

I believe the strongest film from 1962 is John Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate. The film takes place in the 1950’s, and follows a former soldier named Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey) who is brain washed and turned into an assassin by the Soviets. The film also stars Frank Sinatra as Ramond’s former captain Ben Marco, Janet Leigh as Ben’s love interest, and Angela Lansbury as Raymond’s hated mother.

The Manchurian Candidate is one of the most compelling films I’ve ever seen. The audience is never 100% sure where the film is going until the very end, and even then there is a level of ambiguity present. The Manchurian Candidate is a very suspenseful film, one on the level of Alfred Hitchcock. Frankenheimer’s use of camera angles keeps the audience on edge and the script is woven in a way where the audience is expected to keep up with the plot. The cast is also very good here. Frank Sinatra gives what is widely considered his best performance, Angela Lansbury creates one of film’s best villains, and I love Laurence Harvey’s performance as Raymond. Of course, it isn’t a perfect film. There are errors here and there, but they aren’t enough to lower my opinion of the film. Despite its imperfections, The Manchurian Candidate is still one of my all time favourite films. It’s a masterfully executed thriller and a brilliant political satire, one that’s relevance has remained consistent in the years since its release.


Dan from Dan the Man’s Movie Reviews

Year: 1972
Movie: The Last House on the Left
Reviewer: Dan O’Neill from Dan the Man’s Movie Reviews
The directorial debut of famed writer/director Wes Craven, isn’t the greatest film of 1972 by any means, hell, it’s barely even a good film at all as it’s more of one that you just have to see, especially around the month of October, where watching creepy shit like this is accepted. The film follows a group of teenage girls heading into the city, when they all of a sudden meet up with a bunch of nut-jobs that end up killing, torturing, and raping them. It’s a pretty grim start to a grim movie and just in case you think I spoiled the whole movie for you, trust me, there’s still some left as these said nut-jobs, end up going to one of the homes of the victims, only to find out that the parents aren’t going to necessarily back down from extracting revenge. The whole movie, is one big mind-fuck of a flick. There’s gruesome bits of everything that’s wrong with the world and what people can do to one another and at times, it is incredibly hard to watch. Of course the film looks dirty, grainy, and almost a bit like a student-made film, but that only keeps us closer to the material and feel as if we are watching a true story happen right out in front of our eyes. Definitely check this one out around Halloween and be ready to look away when Craven wants you to. Also, don’t go for the 2009 remake. That blows.


Terrence from The Focused Filmographer

1982: The year that Disney’s Epcot center opened (on the same day I was born in that year coincidentally), the year that gas averaged a price of 91 cents a gallon, the year that the first cd player was sold in Japan, AND the year that a new scifi film directed by Steven Spielberg not only hit the theaters, but also beat up Rocky III, Blade Runner and others in overall box office performance. I am, of course, talking about E.T.: the Extra-Terrestrial.

I actually watched both the horrible 1988 rip-off Mac and Me and the acceptable Disney adventure Flight of the Navigator (1986) before I ever got to see E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial (from here on, I’m just going to use the shortened title of “E.T.“) and by the time that I got around to see the E.T., I remember just thinking something along the lines of “Okay, another little alien/kid adventure. yay.” Having seen a few others prior to (I was around the age of 8 the first time I watched E.T.), I didn’t pay that much attention to it and only remembered the finger that glowed, Reese’s Pieces, and the floating bicycle.

Fast-forward to my teen years when I finally gave E.T. a second chance. Man, what a difference a few years makes. E.T. definitely was deserving of all the box office attention it received. (I actually felt a little guilty if I ended up keeping my mom from enjoying it on the big screen because of her being pregnant with me. haha). Watching E.T. again made me have a greater appreciation for “Sentimental Spielberg” movies. With a contributing cast, including a young Drew Barrymore, and a fun and whimsical adventure that is a staple of so many charming movies of the 80′s and 90′s, E.T. definitely left an impression on myself and several of movies that followed. It’s one of the reasons I found 2011′s Super 8 so captivating and fun as well. Nice work Spielberg! You don’t always hit the mark for me, but more often than not, you do. And E.T. is an example of that for sure! (E.T. recently released on Blu-ray for the first time in celebration of it’s 30th anniversary. Be sure to pick up a copy.)


Ian from Ian’s Lists, Bits and Reels

I’ve decided to go in a different direction for my 1992 pick and choose a comedy classic I worry may be fading from public consciousness.  This pick is one of my all-time favourite comedies, Wayne’s World.  Yes, that’s right, I”m not going with a big blockbuster, or an obscure silent film, or a critically acclaimed masterpiece. I’m going with a comedy, albeit a comedy which stands the test of time and really deserves to be in the discussion of the great comedy pantheon.

Wayne’s World has a really fresh and unique style, much like Airplane did and the early Mel Brooks comedies did.  And its a style which was never really imitated much to drag it down, like whats happening with The Hangover right now.  Its a movie where the characters are easy to care about, very easy to laugh at, and it builds an entirely unique culture for itself in these Chicago suburbs, full of classic rock, street hockey, and donuts.  I’m recommending it because I fear that Wayne’s World may be falling out of the comedy conversation with all the Anchormans and Hangovers of late.  Many people will have grown up with it, but for those who haven’t seen it, please do so.


Alyson from The Best Picture Project
If I had to pick one film from 2002 to recommend, it would be Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.  It’s also my personal favorite of the trilogy.  Being the middle film, the meat of the LOTR burger, there’s no exposition to wait through and action takes up a good portion of the film.

With all the characters spread apart into smaller groups, they develop more independently in Two Towers.  Merry and Pippin get a chance to shine hanging out with the Ents, while Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli are off helping the Kingdom of Rohan.  Frodo and Sam are off on a long hike to Mordor and Gandalf is being reincarnated, becoming even more powerful and awesome.  Plus, this is the first of the trilogy to feature Gollum, in all his slinking, creepy glory and he leads some amazing scenes
What makes this film stand out above everything else in 2002 is the huge scale, epic, spectacular action scene that is the battle of Helm’s Deep.  Once considered an unfilmable point in the story, Peter Jackson and his crew not only put the impossible into film, but made it an exciting, beautiful and one of the biggest scenes in film history.  When Two Towers first came out, I could not believe the grand scale of Helm’s Deep, let alone the entire film.


Jackson from Bored American Tribute

Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master.

Many have already praised Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master and many have criticized it, and I will be the first to admit that the critics who finds problems in the film have justified complaints. At numerous points it drags on, The Cause — created by the incredibly charismatic Lancaster Dodd, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman who, once again, turns in an Oscar-caliber performance — is never fully explained, and many have pointed out how not much is explained in general. It’s the definition of an enigma, and it’s by far Anderson’s most mysterious, existential-lite film.

But here’s why I love this movie: I agree with its critics, and yet their criticisms are many of the reasons why I love the movie. Besides the areas that you must give it credit for (it looks gorgeous, the performances are fucking brilliant, and Paul Thomas Anderson has added another gem to a resume that is once again putting him in place as “The Best Filmmaker of His Generation,” and I’d be willing to debate that with anybody), I was absolutely fucking spellbound by the aimlessness of the movie. It fits it like a damn glove. The flow of the film, slow and dream-like and raising questions about what exactly it all means, matched the main character: Freddie Quell, played by Joaquin Phoenix, the proverbial guinea pig in Dodd’s designs, a man who is the very definition of imperfection and hopelessness and loss that Dodd believes he can cure through just another bullshit, cooked-up divine route to Nothing. Anderson’s newest film is not as good as his previous film — 2007’s There Will Be Blood — but he’s definitely growing and expanding his ever-brilliant talents. He’s becoming a master, and I can’t fucking wait to see what he comes out with next. Oh, and in closing: if Joaquin Phoenix doesn’t win an Oscar for his work in this movie, there is no justice in this world. He stole the goddamn show and you know it. See it twice and sit in the middle row, dead center — it really helps, trust me. It’s all about the ocean shots, and I’d never lie to you.

So there are your recommendations throughout the ages of film history for this time.  By now I’m sure you are seeing a pattern and can discern what years we will be going with for FTtA III.    I’d like to thanks all of my guest bloggers for helping out.  If you would be interested in participating in this segment, please let me know in the comments or via email.  Thanks for reading!

15 Responses to “Film Through the Ages II”

  1. Nice selection from some great bloggers!

  2. Pleasure to be involved with this Ian, thanks man!

  3. I especially agree with the best of 2012. The Master is my favorite film this year so far as well.

  4. That was a ton of fun. I gotta say though, I despise the original Last House on the Left. That movie is awful. I’d actually put the remake above it.

  5. Oh, and Ian, I’m totally with you on Wayne’s World. That movie rocks. I’m also a big fan of E.T., The Two Towers, and The Master, so another batch of great choices. The rest I haven’t seen.

  6. […] The ever awesome IantheCool released a great collaborative blog post called Film Through the Ages II. I was asked to participate by writing about my favourite film from 1962. Check it out to read my thoughts, as well as what others thought of films from 1932, 1942, 1952, and so on. If you’re interested, click here. […]

  7. a great selection here Ian. I’ll tell ya, this time around I haven’t seen that many of the movies on the list. and that’s very cool.
    Some great bloggers here as well. Thank you for the opportunity.

  8. Great job everyone, so many wonderful movies here. Looks like I really need to check out The Master now. Thanks for putting this together, Ian!

  9. Love Wayne’s World. Party on!
    I just went and looked up The Manchurian Candidate some more and it sounds freakin awesome!! I am going to have to see that film sometime soon. Love that creepy political stuff.
    I’ve also been wanting to see Ambersons for awhile… haven’t gotten around to it unfortunately.
    Totally agree with Jackson about The Master, it’s the best movie I’ve seen so far this year… but of course there’re a lot more coming. Joaquin Phoenix was so great at portraying such a weird and distinctive character. Also loved Amy Adams in the film. I would even say she creeped me out more than Dodd did because they didn’t characterize her as much so she was more of a mystery. I liked how the film encouraged you to think. Great movie.
    If you have any blank years in subsequent installments, I would love to be a part of this thing, it’s such an awesome idea.

  10. Awesome picks from everybody! Glad to be apart of this once again. Thanks Ian!

  11. Great picks, everyone — and thanks for inviting me to take part, bud. If you have any absentee years like last time, consider me up for another go-around. 🙂

  12. Cool post with some awesome picks from some awesome bloggers.

  13. […] check out IantheCool’s latest installment of Film Through the Ages, where he, a bunch of other great film bloggers and I give some great film recommendations in every […]

  14. Reblogged this on Bored American Tribune. and commented:
    Yo, readers. I wrote a guest post on my buddy Ian’s blog and I thought you’d enjoy it.

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