It’s time for another edition of The Vault! For this one I decided to try and pick films each from a different decade. I also wanted the films to span a great space of time. Included in this edition are films from as early as 1912 to as recent as 2014. Each one is a must see for their own unique reasons. If you haven’t seen some of these films be sure to check them out!
1- Fargo (1996)
This is very well known film to say the least. It is also an extremely well made film. In just an hour and a half we are pulled into this crime story that has its moments of comedy and seriousness. The entire premise is based around a staged crime turning into a real one with major repercussions for almost all the characters in the film. The soundtrack for this film is at both beautiful and haunting. It is made by the Coen Brothers, who rarely disappoint, and is sure to take you on one wild ride.
2- Frank (2014)
The most recently made film in this edition, this is an extremely fun film to watch. It stars Michael Fassbender, yet we never actually see his face until the end of the film. Why? Because he wears a giant fake head for 99% of the film! If that sounds weird, well, it is weird. This weirdness is present in a lot of the characters and makes the film what it is. The premise of this one is that there exists a band that is so experimental it takes them close to a year to make a record because they spend most of their time doing odd things with household objects and running around outside. It is truly a story about creativity and art. It offers us a different perspective on some of those avant-garde musicians that we see do weird things and make even stranger music. The soundtrack is also pretty amazing and the fake band in the movie actually performed a couple shows in real life! I highly recommend this film for its strangeness, its emotion, and it’s touching storyline. It’s got everything!
3- The Last Stage (1948)
This is a foreign language film from Poland. This film is about the director’s (Wanda Jakubowski) time at Auschwitz during the holocaust. What makes this film so powerful is the fact that they were able to film it at the actual Auschwitz just a few years after the end of the war. Even Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List” wasn’t allowed to do that. As a result, the painful memories are still fresh in the air within the film. Another interesting aspect of the film is that the prisoners speak polish while the guards speak German. All these elements combined truly add to the realism of the picture.
4- The Musketeers of Pig Alley (1912)
This is a short crime film from 1912 that would go on to inspire Martin Scorsese as he made Goodfellas (1990) and Gangs of New York (2002). Directed by D.W. Griffith, this film was the first film about organized crime. The first gangster film as it were. It was also one of the first films to ever use follow focus. At the time this film was made, cinematographers were judged at how clear and sharp their images were. To blur the background seemed like something crazy to do at the time but now is used in almost every film you are likely to see.
5- The Toll of the Sea (1922)
The final film in this edition of The Vault is this film from 1922. I will say that it is just an okay film. So why am I putting it in The Vault? It was the second ever feature length color film (the first is now considered lost). It was also the first color film that didn’t need a special projector to be shown in theatres. It is a monumental film just for these reasons alone. I recommend to see it to see just how far we have come with color in film. When I watch old films or see old pictures in color it is just so strange to see the past in color. When we think of the time period of about the 1830s (birth of photography) to about the 1950s and 1960s, we think of the world as being in black and white. When a photograph or film comes along from earlier in this time period that is in color it really gives us a different perspective on the world at the time. It reminds us that even though we think of that time as being in black and white, these people saw everything in color. We are so used to color nowadays that to see color integrated into media from anything pre1930s gives us a closer connection to what is happening on screen. At least in my opinion.
For as long as I can remember I have always loved watching the Academy Awards. I print out my own ballot and make a game out of it. How many can I guess right? I have dreams of winning an Academy Award one day, (an extreme long shot, but what have I got if I haven’t got dreams!?) Last year I went to an Academy Award party with my friends and we had a great time. However, at the end of the day I still don’t know how I feel about the Oscars or award shows in general. They are really just popularity contests with politics streamlined throughout them. The telecasts last way, way, way, way, way too long. These award shows could be done in an hour and still be entertaining.
Sometimes films that deserve a nomination don’t get one whereas a film that doesn’t deserve any clean house! People who are deserving of a nomination never get one while people who have no business at the Oscars win one! The Academy Awards aren’t too bad when it comes to this, the real culprit is the Golden Globes, but I won’t even open that can of worms. At the end of the day; art is art. It isn’t a competition. The Awards are mere recognitions of one’s work, not a declaration of greatness. Awards are not the “be all end all” that many think they are. If you believe in your work you shouldn’t need to have an award to tell you it’s good. Although, an award doesn’t hurt one’s self esteem either. I am not against awards, every profession has them, I just think that sometimes we put way too much emphasis on them.
All that being said, I am still going to print out my ballot. I’m still going to make my predictions. I’m still going to watch the telecast and see how many I get right. I’m still going to dream of winning one. What can I say, it’s tradition at this point.
Welcome to 2016! What better way to kick off the New Year than to release another volume of The Vault! I have selected four films for inclusion in this edition. They each are unique in their own way. I think that anyone who is a lover of film should make it a point to see these films at least once. There are three films in this edition that are among my most favorite films ever. In volume three I talked about my absolute favorite film of all time, but now it’s time to look at a few others in my top ten. They each are important in their own way, and I hope you get a chance to see some or all of them at some point! On to the list!
- The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
This is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. Even though we know what will happen because of the title, doesn’t mean this film doesn’t thrill and excite us. It’s the journey that is important here. It is also a great commentary on fame vs. reality. Have you ever been enamored with a celebrity only to find out that in reality they aren’t the same person you idolized? Robert Ford found that out about Jesse James. This film will leave you speechless in all the right ways.
Sex addiction isn’t a topic that is often discussed. This is surprising since the media seem to be all about sex these days. Regardless, Steve McQueen’s “Shame” is a graphic depiction of sex addiction and the negative effect it has on people. It is a very powerful film exploring a topic that is not talked about nearly enough. This film is NC-17, so expect some explicit scenes of sexuality/nudity, but it is never done gratuitously, there is always a reason for everything you see as you delve deeper into the main character’s addiction.
Andrei Tarkovsky is never an easy filmmaker to get into. His films are filled with long takes, sequences of silence, and highly symbolic imagery. Once you take a closer look, however, you’ll see how powerful his films are. There is a certain spirituality that is infused in all his films, “Solaris” is no different. I’m not sure what it is, but this film captivated me from beginning to end. I am not usually a science-fiction viewer, but this film (along with 2001: A Space Odyssey”) are notable exceptions. The film plays around with memories as a plot device in an exceptional way. The end of the film will certainly leave you with a multitude of questions which will only necessitate more viewings of the film.
- Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)
In my personal opinion this is the best silent film ever made. Granted, there are still a lot of silent films I have not yet seen, but this is one of a handful that have not aged at all. I can think of a few others that would fit in this category, (The General, The Immigrant, and Modern Times), but I guess I just enjoy this one the most. F.W. Murnau uses innovative techniques that were ahead of their time. This film contains some very impressive tracking shots. The camera movement in this film is literally quite amazing. There are so many great scenes in this film, it is hard to speak of just one. I always have a fun time watching this film and I always leave feeling satisfied with what I just watched. This film won the first (and only) Academy Award for Best Unique and Artistic Picture, which in 1928 was just as prestigious as the Best Production (Best Picture) Academy Award. If it was up to me it would have won both! Trust me when I say that this is a must see for any lover of film!