Archive for category: Essays

Chet Baker, Choppy Waters: ‘Let’s Get Lost’

20 December, 2014 (07:39) | by Sean Axmaker, Documentary, Essays, Musicals | By: Sean Axmaker

1987, Santa Monica. Chet Baker is weathered and worn. Filmed in black and white in the back of a convertible at night, framed by a pair of lovely young models, with street lights and headlights catching his features in a slash or a flash, his once smooth cheeks are leathery with age beyond his years […]

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Presenting Thanhouser, the Greatest American Independent Studio of the 1910s

15 December, 2014 (16:04) | by Sean Axmaker, Essays, Silent Cinema | By: Sean Axmaker

The title to Ned Thanhouser‘s documentary, The Thanhouser Studio and the Birth of American Cinema, isn’t mere hyperbole. Veteran stage actor and theater manager Edwin Thanhouser (the director’s grandfather) made his move from live theater to making movies for the growing market of cinema in 1909. By 1918, as the industry grew beyond Thanhouser’s ability […]

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Ten Silent Movies to Make You a Silent Movie Fan

8 December, 2014 (12:49) | by Sean Axmaker, Essays, lists, Silent Cinema | By: Sean Axmaker

“We didn’t need dialogue. We had faces.” —Norma Desmond, Sunset Blvd. You say that you’re really into old movies and you can’t get enough of the classics but you just haven’t found a way to love silent cinema? You say that all your friends are doing the silents and you feel left out? You say […]

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That’s not Art, that’s Smut!

22 November, 2014 (12:41) | by Sean Axmaker, Essays, lists | By: Sean Axmaker

Sex sells, as the saying goes, and movie producers, distributors and exhibitors have known this since pictures began to move. In That’s Sexploitation, filmmaker Frank Henenlotter and exploitation legend David Friedman celebrate the freewheeling culture of sexploitation, the sensationalistic underground of independent filmmakers and studios who cashed in on promises of carnal thrills and forbidden […]

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John Ford Reprints the Legend

17 November, 2014 (05:20) | by David Coursen, Essays, John Ford | By: David Coursen

[Originally published in Movietone News 42, July 1975] John Ford was probably more conscious of the meaning of history than any other American director; in a sense, the evolution of his historical vision is the measure of his growth as an artist. This evident fact is often commented on but, surprisingly, almost invariably in only […]

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Orson Welles: The Enigmatic Independent

16 November, 2014 (17:11) | by Sean Axmaker, Essays, Orson Welles | By: Sean Axmaker

[Originally published on Greencine in 2003] “And now I’m going to tell you a story about a scorpion. A scorpion wanted to cross a river, so he asked a frog to carry him. ‘No,’ said the frog. ‘No, thank you. If I let you on my back you may sting me, and the sting of […]

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The Dialectics of Humor: Russian Silent Comedy

10 November, 2014 (16:16) | by Sean Axmaker, Essays, Silent Cinema | By: Sean Axmaker

Let’s face it, Soviet silent cinema isn’t renowned for its sense of humor. And that’s a shame. Most of us were introduced to the silent era of Russian film through the dialectic exercises of Sergei Eisenstein, who combined the intellectual and the visceral in such films as Strike (1925) and Battleship Potemkin (1925) or the dazzling montage […]

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‘Horrors of the Black Museum': Herman Cohen’s Lurid Horror with a British Accent

13 October, 2014 (05:52) | by Sean Axmaker, Essays, Horror | By: Sean Axmaker

Hammer wasn’t the only studio in Britain mining the vein of horror films that made them such attractive imports for American theaters. Before Amicus and Trigon arose in the 1960s, American producer Herman Cohen made a deal with British studio Anglo-Amalgamated to produce a pair of lurid horrors with British accents. Horrors of the Black […]

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A Dalmatian Called Nixon

11 October, 2014 (10:12) | by Ken Eisler, Essays | By: Movietone News contributor

[Originally published in Movietone News 44, September 1975] The Doberman Gang was playing all over Mexico City when I was there last June—including the front-page headlines. Passing up Byron Chudnow’s three-year-old dog biscuit (retitled El Gran Asalto de los Doberman) was easy, but I did find myself drawn guiltily, morning after morning, into the details […]

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‘Destroy All Monsters': Rumble in the Jungle with Godzilla and Friends

7 October, 2014 (08:40) | by Sean Axmaker, Essays, Science Fiction | By: Sean Axmaker

The original Godzilla (1954), especially the original Japanese release, is more than a mutant monster movie of the atomic-scare fifties. It is a stark disaster thriller that evokes the terrors of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the lingering poison of the nuclear radiation. The two destructive forces come together in a screaming atomic lizard, […]

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Essay: ‘The General’

5 October, 2014 (07:53) | by Sean Axmaker, Essays, Silent Cinema | By: Editor

This essay was originally written for the Silent Fall 2014 program presented by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival on September 20, 2014 No silent moviemaker ever engaged with the machinery of modern life as resourcefully as Buster Keaton did. From One Week (1920), his debut as a solo director after his apprenticeship with Fatty […]

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Why ‘Goldfinger’ at 50 remains the definitive James Bond movie

17 September, 2014 (08:24) | by Sean Axmaker, Essays, Science Fiction | By: Sean Axmaker

Goldfinger was the third Bond feature but the first Bond blockbuster, an instant smash hit that turned the series into a phenomenon. Fifty years after its Sept. 17, 1964 London premiere, which was overrun by fans fighting to get into the theater, it remains the definitive big-screen incarnation of the world’s most famous secret agent. […]

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‘Horses of God': The Making of a Martyr

10 September, 2014 (08:14) | by Sean Axmaker, Essays | By: Sean Axmaker

There’s not one reason why a young boy can turn into a suicide bomber. There are many of them. —Nabil Ayouch, director of Horses of God, in a 2014 interview with Dan Lybarger In 2003, just a couple of years after the Twin Towers attack, twelve suicide bombers blew up multiple targets in Casablanca. The bombers […]

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Rediscovery: Orson Welles’ ‘Too Much Johnson’

21 August, 2014 (08:19) | by Sean Axmaker, Essays, Orson Welles, Silent Cinema | By: Sean Axmaker

Ladies and gentlemen, presenting the slapstick stylings of Orson Welles, the boy wonder of Broadway! Not exactly how we think of Welles, is it? We know he had a rich career both on radio and on the New York stage before he made Citizen Kane, but the few comedies he made were far outnumbered by […]

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‘We Are Mari Pepa': New Life for the Coming-of-Age Genre

18 August, 2014 (11:00) | by Jay Kuehner, Essays | By: Jay Kuehner

Deceptively sumptuous given its scruffy punk milieu, We Are Mari Pepa (Somos Mari Pepa) breathes unexpected life into the naturally jaded (but hormone-riddled) body of youth/skate/band/buddy flicks. Samuel Kishi Leopo’s debut is utterly faithful in its depiction of the torpor and hope that doggedly accompanies teenagers everywhere, while limning a distinctly Mexican portrait of Jalisciense […]

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