#237- Storm Over Asia

Quick recap: A Mongolian herdsman starts a revolution because he got ripped off by a fur trader.

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To be fair, that’s a pretty nice piece of fur

Fun (?) fact: A silver fox fur coat will put you back about $5,000.

My thoughts: I’ve recently gotten into the podcast You Must Remember This, which examines the history of American cinema. This season, they are tackling the story of the Hollywood Blacklist, which fits perfectly with Storm Over Asia because it is legit Soviet propaganda, yo.

Did this movie create a bunch of Communists? Probably not. Unlike Salt of the Earth which had me legitimately questioning what I believed, Storm Over Asia only made me feel sorry for the poor foxes murdered for their fur. Not too sorry, though, because Mongolia is a very cold place and I’m sure fur was invaluable for keeping warm. The story itself, about the Mongolian joining with the Communist Partisans to fight the evil British army never really happened. Britain never invaded Mongolia, although they did occupy other places in Asia so it’s not too far fetched of an idea. Granted, I don’t know my USSR history as well as I should, but I just can’t imagine hoards of Russians rushing to movie theaters only to leave as card carrying members of the Communist Party because they were so angry about the fictional invasion of Mongolia.

Propaganda aside, the movie itself ran much longer than it should have. There are several scenes that made fun of Eastern religions, which made sense for the USSR to put in but watching 20 minutes of ritualistic dancing got old very quickly. I also didn’t really sympathize with the Mongolian herdsman, although I agree he should’ve gotten more for that pelt than what was given to him. Really, the only part I truly enjoyed was the last minute or so of the film when an actual storm blows in. At first, I wondered why someone chose to film a wind storm but then I got it- THIS is the storm over Asia! To make sure I understood the subtlety, among the wind blown objects were British Soldier hats and dead bodies, It was an exciting way to end an otherwise boring movie, although it still didn’t make me a Communist.

Final review: 1/5

Up next: La Notte

#204- Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans

Quick recap: Girls from the City are evil creatures who wreak havoc on everyone they come into contact with. Avoid at all costs.

She's stealing his soul!

She’s stealing his soul!

Fun (?) fact: The city scenes were all filmed on a set, not an actual city.

You mean they weren't really walking straight into traffic? Nothing is real anymore.

You mean they weren’t really walking straight into traffic? Nothing is real anymore.

My thoughts: Despite what my 1001 Movies book says, Sunrise is TOTALLY a melodrama. A farmer has an affair with a Girl From the City (she doesn’t have a name and neither does any other character), which crushes his perfectly sweet wife. He’s totally a jerk about the whole thing, even rushing out to meet her while his wife is cooking dinner. She puts it in his head that he needs to kill his wife during a boat ride, which is about as melodramatic as you can get. During the ride, the wife figures the whole thing out and manages to escape. She pouts for awhile when they get to the city because, you know, she was almost murdered and that can bring anyone down. The farmer continues to beg for forgiveness, at one point even offering her a whole plate of sandwiches. I’m not sure what was socially acceptable back then, but I imagine that most people would have a hard time getting over attempted murder with a plate of sandwiches. Anyway, while pouting, the couple heads into a church where a wedding is taking place. The farmer has a revelation that he shouldn’t have been such a jerk, and the two fall madly in love again. Awww.

Alexis Bledel is a time traveler, apparently.

Alexis Bledel is a time traveler, apparently.

But wait, there’s more! As the ‘newlyweds’ head back to their farm in the boat, a storm comes out of nowhere and irony upon ironies! the boat flips over and the Wife is presumed to be dead. I’ll admit that the film had almost won me over until this point, and then I lost interest because I’m just not a melodramatic kind of person. Thankfully, all of this happens at the very end so I didn’t have to endure for very long. And it was worth watching because the Girl From the City meets up with the Farmer, thinking he went through with the plan. She expects him to say that he’s ready to move with her, but instead he strangles her and it’s kind of awesome. And of course, the Wife was not actually drowned and was found perfectly fine. They all lived happily ever after, except for the Girl From the City who was strangled.

Silent films tend to be overally emotional due to the fact that the actors must physically show how they feel since they can’t say it. Sunrise is no exception, but it mostly worked for me and wasn’t annoying. In the beginning of the film, the Farmer walks around like his boots are made out of lead, to represent the struggles he is dealing with (mainly him being a jerk). I appreciated watching his unhappiness rather than just reading it on a title card. And as I stated before, the Wife is about as perfect as anyone can get, so there’s no mistake as to who is ruining the marriage (actually there is , because it’s 1927, so it’s the city girl’s fault and not the poor Farmer’s doing). The scenes where the husband and wife reconnect are pretty silly, but also seem genuine and I really enjoyed them. For a melodrama, there were many moments that could’ve been over the top, yet came across as sweet and innocent. Still not a fan generally, but this one was rather ok.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: STAR WARS

#199- Orphans of the Storm

Quick recap: Two orphans (Louise and Henriette) find themselves caught in the middle of the French Revolution

If it's DW Griffith, expect a Gish or two

If it’s DW Griffith, expect a Gish or two

Fun (?) fact: Griffith made parallels between the French Revolution and Bolshevism, which he feared might happen to America. The Bolsheviks, however, were inspired by the films and used certain techniques for their own propaganda.

French Revolution or Obamacare death panel verdicts being carried out? THANKS, OBAMA

French Revolution or Obamacare death panel verdicts being carried out?
THANKS, OBAMA

My thoughts: Seeing as how I am one movie away from 200, it seems only fitting that I close out this second set of films with my final one from DW Griffith. We’ve had a long, strange ride, me and Griffith. I hated Birth of a Nationmostly loved Intolerance, became inconsolable from Broken Blossoms and completely forgot that I saw Way Down EastAnd now, here we are with what might be the grandest of all films and definitely the one with most plot.

I feel it’s important to note that A Tale of Two Cities is non-ironically my favorite book of all time. I’m not really sure why I latched onto it back in high school- maybe because of the doomed love story ( the best kind of love story) or maybe because it is so beautifully written. Anyway, Griffith got his inspiration directly from the book, which is probably why I enjoyed this film so much. I’ve always wondered why no one has made a major motion picture of A Tale of Two Cities and now I know it’s because Griffith did a damn fine job. I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence. But really, even more than a doomed love story, I love that he used the two sisters to symbolize the different parts of the revolution and how complicated everything actually was.

In the film, Louise goes blind from an illness so her sister takes her to Paris to hopefully be cured. While there, Henriette is kidnapped by the aristocracy and her sister is forced to beg for food to survive. Both stories are equally tragic as Henriette escapes and subsequently falls in love with the nephew of the Countess while still hanging on to hope that her sister is alive. I was glued to the screen watching the revolution grow and finally explode into violence. It still blows my mind that something so epic could’ve been created in the early 1920s, when you consider how much work must have gone into it all. I began to get very impatient at the end, as Henriette is accused of helping the aristocracy and sentenced to the guillotine. I knew that there was no way she would actually die, and the drawing out of the final pardon seemed a little much. Still, it all ended well and I was left with the concept that maybe I love Griffith after all, even though he has subjected me to over 15 hours of silent movie footage.

I googled 'French revolution cat' for fun, and found this. No idea.

I googled ‘French revolution cat’ for fun, and found this.
No idea.

Final review: 5/5. So long, Griffith

Up next: My Own Private Idaho

#196- The Kid Brother

Quick recap: Harold Lloyd Plays Harold Hickory, the youngest brother in a family of sheriffs. He is the very opposite of them-timid and always getting himself into trouble somehow.

he's also prone to picking up snakes. What shenanigans!

he’s also prone to picking up snakes. What shenanigans!

Fun (?) fact: An elevator was constructed for the camera to follow Harold as he climbed a tree to see the woman he loved.

Considering 8 gagmen were hired for this film (which I didn't even know was a profession) you can probably guess what is going to happen next

Considering 8 gagmen were hired for this film (which I didn’t even know was a profession) you can probably guess what is going to happen next

My thoughts: Apparently Harold Lloyd was a thing back in the day. Charlie Chaplain had the emotions, Buster Keaton had the stunts and this guy had the laughs. Or something like that. Now, I didn’t personally laugh out loud ( or ‘lol’, as the kids are calling it), but I did recognize that humor was being used. I can imagine an audience back in the 20s eating this stuff up, much like audiences today loving mindless humor now and then.

The thing that keeps me from fulling embracing this guy is that he’s like, 40. Ok, 34, at the time of this film, but still. WAY too old to be anyone’s ‘kid brother’. The opening scenes have him picking a fight with the neighbor boy (who’s also, like, 40) and then trying on his father’s sheriff vest (essentially playing dress up). It’s weird, a little creepy, and totally familiar. Instead of my usual indignation over actors playing much younger than they actually are, I realized that his movie might just be the inspiration for one of my favorite characters of all time:

Buster-Bluth-Excitement

Thinking of Harold as the original Buster Bluth made this film a little more enjoyable to watch than when I first started it. The plot was entirely predictable ( he saves the day AND gets the girl. What a country), but I liked seeing exactly how he would do it. The fight scene at the end of the movie was surprisingly complex and although I think a real person stuffed into lifesavers and rolled down the road would most likely die, it was was still fun to watch.

one more for the road

one more for the road

Final review: 2/5. Arrested Development, though is a solid 5 and you should go watch it

Up next: Gun Crazy