The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
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by Jesse Walker

Monday, February 04, 2008
SILENT MONDAY MORNING: I've picked my favorite films of
1997, 1987, 1977, 1967, 1957, 1947, and 1937. Time to step into the silent era.

When the Motion Picture Academy looked back at 1927, it gave away not one but two Best Picture awards. "Best Production" went to Wings, a dull drama about World War I. The prize for "Artistic Quality of Production" went to a much better movie, F.W. Murnau's Sunrise. It, unlike Wings, is on my list -- but not at the top:

1. The General
Directed by Buster Keaton and Clyde Bruckman
Written by Keaton, Bruckman, Al Boasberg, and Charles Smith

Forget D.W. Griffith. This is the great American Civil War movie.

2. Berlin: Symphony of a Great City
Directed by Walter Ruttmann
Written by Ruttmann, Karl Freund, and Carl Mayer

A brilliant snapshot of a day in the life of a city.

3. Metropolis
Directed by Fritz Lang
Written by Lang and Thea von Harbou, from a novel by von Harbou

Trivia: In 1984 this dystopian science-fiction story was rereleased with a "modern" soundtrack, featuring Pat Benatar, Billy Squier, and the king of Eurodisco, Giorgio Moroder. Only advanced students of late 20th century kitsch should watch that version, unless you're willing to risk permanent brain injury.

4. Napoleon
Written and directed by Abel Gance

Featuring the best snowball fight in movie history.

5. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
Directed by F.W. Murnau
Written by Carl Mayer, Katherine Hilliker, and H.H. Caldwell, from a novella by Hermann Sudermann

This was a strong year for good movies with ridiculous subtitles.

6. The End of St. Petersburg
Directed by Vsevolod Pudovkin with Mikhail Doller
Written by Nathan Zarkhi

Before Stalin came along, the young Soviet Union produced some of the most dynamic and inventive films in the world. Unfortunately, they were usually yoked to simple-minded propaganda, but the best efforts -- like this one -- managed to be great despite that.

7. A Wild Roomer
Directed by Charley Bowers and Harold L. Muller
Written by Bowers, Muller, and Ted Sears

These days nearly everyone agrees that Buster Keaton was better than Charlie Chaplin. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Charley Bowers, the wildest and most surrealist of the silent-era clowns, was better than Chaplin too.

8. The Kid Brother
Directed by Ted Wilde with J.A. Howe, Harold Lloyd, and Lewis Milestone
Written by Howard Green, John Grey, and Lex Neal, from a story by Wilde, Neal, and Tom Crizer

Harold Lloyd was also better than Chaplin.

9. The Unknown
Directed by Tod Browning
Written by Waldemar Young and Joseph Farnham, from a story by Browning

"Hands! Men's hands! How I hate them!"

10. The Lodger: A Tale of the London Fog
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Eliot Stannard, from a novel and play by Marie Belloc Lowndes

Hitch's first hit, a riff on the Ripper.

posted by Jesse 10:29 AM
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