Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

I am no expert in the history of silent Soviet cinema, merely an enthusiastic hobbyist, but I think I’m still comfortable saying that the two most important, well-regarded filmmakers in the USSR in 1927 were Sergei Eisenstein and Vsevolod Pudovkin. So it makes sense that those two men were tapped by the Central Committee to […]

There’s a particular subgenre of movies that’s really popular, and relied on so heavily that just a few years after it broke out, the Hollywood studios have almost driven it into the ground. Hoping to freshen things up, one of the savviest producers around decides to offer a job to one of the most impressive […]

To begin with, define “horror” in a way that makes everybody happy; then solve the intractable mysteries of cinema history prior to 1920. And once you have done these two things, you can authoritatively state, “this is the first American horror film”. But until we reach that point of pure intellectual fulfillment, the best we […]

In the waning days of the American silent film, the artform was at the arguable peak of its sophistication as a visual storytelling medium. And there are four films in particular that I would suggest are the very best of the best, among the most sublime examples of what American filmmaking could achieve in the […]

1927 is perhaps the single most important year to date in the development of the film medium. It is the year when first the Hollywood continuity system and subsequently the cinema of the entire world was at a turning point between two paths, that of pure image, or that of image combined with sound. The […]

The title card of Flesh and the Devil trumpets itself as a vehicle for John Gilbert, king of the romantic leading men at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (and even just a couple of years into its formal existence, the lavish MGM was not going to cut corners on its romantic leads), leaving the pair of recent Swedish imports […]

At the time when it was still new, Charles Chaplin called The Gold Rush, from 1925, the film he wanted to be remembered for. He’s gotten his wish, and then some – we still remember The Gold Rush along with City Lights, Modern Times, The Kid, The Circus, and so on, and will undoubtedly do […]

By the mid-1920s, the American feature had more or less gotten through all of its learning curve to become the thing it is today. there were still some kinks to work out – camera movement wouldn’t be perfected until ’26 or ’27 in the States, and then after the coming of sound, it had to […]

We are happily no longer in a place where the dismissive (if only inadvertently) phrase “the third one” needs to be applied to silent comedy star Harold Lloyd. Though he was once a mostly forgotten sidebar to the always-iconic Charles Chaplin, and later, as Buster Keaton began to be rediscovered, written off largely as the […]

The truly exciting story of the 1922 Sherlock Holmes, starring John Barrymore, has nothing to do with the mysteries encountered by the titular sleuth in the course of the movie, but rather the amazing fact that we can, in 2014, talk about the film to begin with. Sherlock Holmes was one of the many, many […]

Latter-day considerations of the 1921 mega-blockbuster The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse tend to focus on the contribution of one or both of two men when looking to explain its success and effectiveness. One of these was Rudolph Valentino, an Italo-Franco actor born Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina D’Antonguolla, who had spent […]

Above all else, the best reason I can think of for adopting a historically-oriented approach to art appreciation is that there’s so damn much history just sitting there. Limit yourself to only the stuff produced in any given year, and you’re going to make some discoveries and have a great deal of random dross to […]