Monday, July 1, 2013

Some Thoughts on Cinevent 45

Here's a list of films my wife and I saw at Cinevent this year, and some short notes on them. I'm not including shorts here; I am including the three pre-code films screened the night before Cinevent at the Wexner Center, shown in conjunction with Cinevent.

Seventeen feature films in four days. (Many thousands of films to go...)

Laughter In Hell (1933) - This was an unexpectedly harrowing prison drama, with excellent acting by Pat O'Brien and hair-raising direction by the underrated Edward L. Cahn. You know the prison Marlon Wayans was sent to at the end of Darren Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream? This is that prison.

The Little Giant (1933) - An enjoyable try at comedy as Edward G. Robinson tries to quit the mob life and join the genteel upper crust. Not a great comedy, but an enjoyable one.

Black Moon (1934) - Atmospheric tale of voodoo, ritual murders, etc. as a group of white ex-patriots try to survive in Haiti. As politically incorrect as you can imagine it would be. It became a bit repetitious to me; I thought it ran too long. Fay Wray's good in it, though.

The Fighting Eagle (1927) - Average whimsical comedy starring Rod La Rocque which takes place during the Napoleonic Wars. We took some young viewers (around age 13) to see this just okay silent; I wish there had been a first-class Harold Lloyd or Buster Keaton film shown during the weekend to show them.

The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. (1953) - This deranged Dr. Suess tale never gets old. In fact, I've been watching it since the mid-'60s and I can report it only gets better every time I see it. Who cares if Suess himself had a bad experience making it? Who cares if a half-hour or more was lopped off of it? I, of course, wish the missing parts still existed, but what's there is, as Spencer Tracy would say, cherse. The insane lyrics alone make this surrealistic dream a must-see.

A Woman of the World (1925) - One of the best Pola Negri films, in which she toys and spars with a small town moral crusader who's both attracted to her and aghast at her - tattoos! Just wait 85 years, guy. Very entertaining.

Crossed Swords (1954) - An Italian swashbuckler starring Errol Flynn and Gina Lollobrigida which attempts to recreate the spirit of Flynn's earlier adventure flicks, but it just doesn't get there. Like Black Moon, I thought this film became repetitious and ran too long.

Under Pressure (1935) - Suspenseful and hard-hitting tale of competing builders of underwater tunnels, starring Victor McLaglen and Edmund Lowe. Good directing by Raoul Walsh.

The Canadian (1926) - Nearly every year at Cinevent one film stands out that I was A) very impressed with and B) completely unfamiliar with. The Canadian was that movie this year. The story of a city girl in a western environment, it's masterfully acted by Thomas Meigham and Mona Palma; it's one of those silent movies that doesn't look dated, in acting or directing technique. The writing is also realistic. The basic plot is somewhat similar to Victor Sjöström's The Wind, but without the over-the-top melodramatic flourishes by both Sjöström and Lillian Gish. Directed by William Beaudine.

Pardon My Past (1946) - A screwball comedy of mistaken identity with Fred MacMurray and William Demarest (fifteen years before My Three Sons). We'd seen this film before on Turner Classic Movies, but it held up and was even funnier the second time.

The Man Who Lost Himself (1941) - A very similar comedy of mistaken identity with Brian Aherne and Kay Francis. Unlike Pardon My Past, it just wasn't very funny.

Stella Maris (1918) - I usually love Mary Pickford's films, but this one just seemed dreary and depressing. And not in a good way.

Hold That Co-Ed (1938) - Any comedy that features John Barrymore is worth watching and this one is no exception. it's also helped by Jack Haley, Joan Davis and a song called "The Limpy Dimp" that you have to see to believe.

The Disciple (1915) - William S. Hart's a preacher, trying to bring religion to the west. Like Stella Maris, I usually love William S. Hart's movies, but this one just seemed too dated in its acting and directing. Again, not in a good way.

The Mob (1951) - This is a top-notch, compelling noir entertainment as policeman Broderick Crawford goes undercover as a dock worker in order to make amends for a slip-up made in the film's suspenseful opening scene. Gobs of great character actors, snappy lines, well-directed scenes and atmosphere in this one. Recommended.

The Social Secretary (1916) - This is one of the better Norma Talmadge movies I've seen, due to it being more of a comedy than melodrama.

Henry Aldrich, Editor (1942) - Like watching a movie from an alternate universe, this all-American character is so quintessential, it's almost a parody of itself. But, still fun.

Thanks to the very hard-working programmers at Cinevent who toil throughout the year to plan the film schedule and procure the films, the hard-working projectionists, and the hard-working pianists, Dave Drazin and Phil Carli, who superbly accompany the silent films every year.
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