Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

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 […]

The history of the American film industry from its formation into the 1950s is inextricably tied in with the history of trade unions and contracts. Here in the 21st Century, filmmaking on both sides of the camera is typically described in terms of artistry and what the actors, writers, directors, composers, cinematographers, sound designers et […]

Mary Pickford, in the 1910s and ’20s, was famous on a level which it’s truly difficult to contextualise in the modern era. It’s lazy and smacks of nostalgia to talk about how they don’t make movie stars like they used, but in a ruthlessly pragmatic sense, it’s also completely accurate: the kind of culture of […]

Straight Shooting offers up a twofer for the the historically-inclined fan of director John Ford. Made in 1917, the year that the 23-year-old (years away from swapping out the name “Jack”) began making movies with The Tornado, it is the first feature-length project of his career, after five shorts. And with all of those presently […]

It is generally agreed that D.W. Griffith’s 1916 epic Intolerance: A Sun Play of the Ages (also subtitled Love’s Struggle Throughout the Ages, if that’s the way you roll) was made because of the reaction to his The Birth of a Nation from the year prior, though the exact reason behind that because is a […]

In her day, Lois Weber was regarded as one of the greatest, if not the greatest film director in America, but unlike contemporaries and near-contemporaries such as D.W. Griffith, Cecil B. DeMille, and Charles Chaplin, her name has not survived to any kind of broad recognition among general film buffs or even those with a […]

There are old movies – really old movies, I mean, movies from the first 15 or 20 years of cinema, when the visual language and narrative structures were so different from any of the norms we’ve grown accustomed to in the intervening decades that it’s virtually a different art form altogether – so self-assured and […]

The Great Snow Whitening of 2012 is long past and happily consigned to memory, but let us stop briefly to pay homage to the third film of that calendar year to adapt the Grimm brothers’ most famous fairy tale – the sweetly trivial Mirror Mirror and the wholly useless Snow White and the Huntsman preceded […]

Louis Feuillade’s Fantômas quintet of 1913-’14 predicted many of the aspects of future escapist entertainment, but I’m afraid that the last thing it managed to establish is one that we’d have all hoped would have been avoided. The False Magistrate, premiering 364 days after Fantômas – In the Shadow of the Guillotine (that is to […]

Fantômas vs. Fantômas, the fourth movie in the Fantômas series by Louis Feuillade and the first to premiere in 1914, continues the little trend I have noticed in the series, whereby various facets of modern-day popcorn filmmaking are all seen in some embryonic form (and though we can add glossy escapist movies to the list […]

There’s probably no such thing as a feature-length movie made prior to maybe 1920 or ’21 that can really be suited for modern tastes, I will resentfully concede, but if we can pretend that there is, I’d like to nominate the third of Louis Feuillade’s Fantômas films, The Murderous Corpse from November, 1913, as being […]

In reviewing the first film in Louis Feuillade’s five-part Fantômas series of 1913 and 1914, Fantômas – In the Shadow of the Guillotine, I rather snottily compared to Iron Man 3 as being “a critic-proof, and essentially quality-proof opportunity for filmgoers to spend time with a character they already knew they loved”. And of course […]