Apr 4, 2014

If I Ran BFI Film Classics...

You've likely seen in the book store's film section these thin, pocket-sized books, running 80 - 100 pages, each devoted to analyzing one singular film. These volumes, under the imprint of BFI Film Classics are quite often great reads. Still, while this BFI film series (nearly 100 titles to date) has an impressive catalog of the expected classics and arthouse favourites, one feels that there is a whole other world of cinema they could be covering. 

One evening about three years ago, I felt inspired to have a little Photoshop fun, and did my own run of book titles that the BFI could be releasing, using some Facebook friends as authors. These were collected in a Facebook album for my friends to see, but thought maybe the outside world might enjoy them too! Have fun! 

Apr 3, 2014

Starting Today: The Toronto Silent Film Festival

The fifth annual Toronto Silent Film Festival begins today! Our good friend Shirley Hughes has always put on a wonderful program every year of classics from the silent era, nicely mixing some familiar titles with some rarities, but this year she may have outdone herself.

The 2014 lineup features silent film stars Charlie Chaplin, Lillian Gish, and Emil Jannings, directed by such masters as Josef von Sternberg, F.W. Murnau and Victor Sjostrom. Refreshingly, the selected films are not the obvious choices to represent these talents. Therefore, the thrill of discovery is on high: to most, there will surely be something they haven't seen.

Another unique aspect of the TSFF is that it doesn't confine itself to one venue for its six-day run. Movies are shown downtown, at the Beaches, and at the west end, thus encouraging neighbouring residents to check something out whenever something plays in their area during the festival.

As always, the movies are presented with musical accompaniment, guest speakers and film notes.

Here is this year's schedule:

Tonight: Lillian Gish in Victor Sjostrom's masterpiece, The Wind (1928).

Friday Apr. 4: F.W. Murnau's City Girl (1930), whose plot is a reverse spin to his classic, Sunrise.

Sat. Apr. 5: 2014 marks the centenary of The Little Tramp's debut. Charlie Chaplin's iconic character is however being represented with The Circus (1928; pictured above), a feature every bit as good as his acknowledged silent classics, The Gold Rush or City Lights, equally adept at hilarity and pathos.

Sun. Apr. 6: 1000 Laffs: It Started With Charlie. The 1000 Laffs series is always certified fun. This collection of shorts features silent comedians Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, Arbuckle, Keaton, Langdon and Chase...

Mon. Apr. 7: A major influence on Chaplin, Keaton and all the rest was the French comedian Max Linder. His tour de force Seven Years Bad Luck (1921) is being featured at Casa Loma, accompanied by the house Wurlitzer organ.. .sure to be a show stopper!

Tues. Apr. 8: Emil Jannings is a general during the Russian Revolution in Sternberg's The Last Command (1928; pictured below), who becomes cast as an extra in a Hollywood movie on that very subject.

For information on show start times, locations and more, visit their website today!

Jan 1, 2014

Juanita Moore (1914 - 2014)

Among the most powerful acting performances I've seen this past year were those of Juanita Moore and Susan Kohner in Douglas Sirk's Imitation of Life (which I had watched for the first time last summer). Ms. Moore, who passed away today at the age of 99, was the fifth African American performer to be nominated for an Academy Award, for her unforgettable work in Sirk's 1959 melodrama.

Imitation of Life, adapted from Fannie Hurst's novel and previously filmed in 1934, features Lana Turner and Juanita Moore as two women who share a home, each with two young daughters to raise. This film was a strong indictment of racial segregation in its fascinating story of two single mothers of different races who live together. Ms. Moore's role as a housekeeper largely remains unchanged while her housemate, an aspiring actress, rises in stature, however, we've seen that she is truly the backbone in this dynamic. They rely upon each other for economic and domestic reasons, yet there is also a deep friendship.

Although Lana Turner is first-billed, the film is stolen by Juanita Moore and Susan Kohner, as her daughter who passes for white and renounces her black heritage. Their scenes together are unbearably moving, with Ms. Kohner's fiery selfishness balanced by Juanita Moore's heartbreak of betrayal. Although Juanita Moore was quite active before and after Imitation of Life, she is understandably best remembered for this landmark role.

1942: Star Spangled Rhythm. 1943: Cabin in the Sky. 1949: Pinky. 1951: Tarzan's Peril; No Questions Asked. 1952: Skirts Ahoy!; Lydia Bailey; Affair in Trinidad; The Iron Mistress. 1953: The Royal African Rifles. 1954: Witness to Murder; The Gambler from Natchez. 1955: Women's Prison; Lord of the Jungle; Not as a Stranger;  Queen Bee. 1956: Ransom!; The Opposite Sex; The Girl Can't Help It. 1957: Something of Value; Band of Angels; The Helen Morgan Story; Bombers B-52; The Green-Eyed Blonde. 1959: Imitation of Life. 1961: Tammy Tell Me True. 1962: Walk on the Wild Side. 1963: A Child is Waiting; Papa's Delicate Condition. 1967: Rosie! 1968:  Uptight. 1970: Angelitos negros. 1971: Skin Game. 1973: The Mack; Fox Style. 1974: Thomasine and Bushrod; The Get-Man; Abby. 1975: Fugitive Lovers; Everybody Rides the Carousel (voice) 1977: Deliver Us From Evil. 1981: Paternity. 1982: O'Hara's Wife;  And They're Off. 1988: Two Moon Junction. 1999: The Sterling Chase (voice); 2000: The Kid