Seven Chances (1925)

Yes, this will do. Seven Chances is a finely-crafted comedy that’s amusing throughout, up until… what must be about the most elaborate, madcap, off-the-wall chase sequence you’ll ever see. It’s crazier than anything in Road Runner, and, of course, Buster Keaton did the stunts himself. The man’s a genius and this is one hell of a bloody funny, absolutely mental film. I laughed my arse off! Continue reading

Make Way for Tomorrow (1937)

Well. I’m astounded. I find it hard to collect my thoughts about this film without stumbling over so many feelings. It’s so sweet that I had to concentrate on holding back the tears. Such a beautiful-sweet-sad film about something most of us will hopefully get to do – grow old. Everyone should see it. Continue reading

The Great Ziegfeld (1936)

The Great Ziegfeld is a film that you may or may not want to watch. Working against it is its length: it weighs in at just over three hours. I’m of the opinion that any film over ninety minutes has to justify its length, especially as it approaches two hours. Does this film justify its length? I don’t think so. There’s a five-minute overture at the beginning, several long musical numbers (including a forty-five minute one that includes an intermission) and another four minutes of music at the end. Cutting all of this out you might be left with around two hours of narrative. Any reasons to watch it? William Powell, of course. Continue reading

The Wild Bunch (1969)

“We all dream of being a child again, even the worst of us. Perhaps the worst most of all.”

The Wild Bunch is about turning back the clock. It’s about regret; about approaching your twilight years but having nothing to show for it. It’s about those who recognise that the earliest you can start to make a change is right now… and those who’d never change, even if they had a second chance. It’s about action and blowing people away. Continue reading

Sherlock Jr. (1924)

Boy meets girl. Boy is a hopeless dreamer. How’s this ever going to work out? Sherlock Jr. is fun and has a lot of charm. It’s a little light on laughs, instead often giving us special effects, stunts and action. While some of these are great and it always remains amusing, it’s the kind of film that doesn’t age well. Special effects and action sequences lose their wow when they’ve been greatly surpassed. Continue reading

Manhattan Melodrama (1934)

Manhattan Melodrama is a love story. It’s the first Powell and Loy film but this time the focus is on the fraternal love of two men who grew up as brothers, before following different paths as adults. It’s melodramatic and contrived but all its cards are on the table – just look at the title. The contrivances serve to give two great actors, William Powell and Clark Gable, a stage on which to knock our socks off.  I think they succeed. Continue reading

The Navigator (1924)

It takes creativity to overcome our limitations. How do you tell a story and keep people laughing for an hour  when you can’t even speak? Some people were very good at this and had it down to a fine art by the time the human voice was heard in films. Buster Keaton’s The General is very arguably the best film ever made. One of the old chestnuts of film making is “show, don’t tell” and it’s as relevant today as it ever was, considering the recent plague of over-blown nonsense like The Lord of the Rings and pretty much everything from Christopher Nolan. The Tom & Jerry and Roadrunner shorts are timeless. WALL-E was a transcendent film until somebody spoke. Up (the Pixar animation) was possibly even better in its short introduction… but it didn’t save its best for last, either. The recent silent comedy The Artist was hugely entertaining. One of the strengths of the original Star Wars films was how they showed you their odd, mysterious world while keeping their traps shut. Continue reading