Cinema Versus Dr. Caligari: Authority Gone Mad

Fair warning, I will be spoiling Robert Weine’s 1920 German Expressionist classic THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI in this blog entry. The film is nearly 100 years old, and you probably already know the story. If you HAVEN’T seen it though, then go do that. Right now. It’s on Netflix. Anyway, enjoy!

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You knew I was going to be talking about this movie eventually. It’s in my banner for godsake!

Safety is an important thing for people. We all like the security of knowing that, as we go about our daily lives, we have nothing to be afraid of. We, as a people, have conquered the beasts and monsters that may have threatened our great, great ancestors, though we may still tell tales of dragons and trolls and goblins. We never really faced these things, but it is safe to say that there are creatures out in nature that could threaten us. That is why we have doors on our houses. The things that go bump int he night are not meant to open our doors,  just as our locks are not meant to be picked. We needn’t fear intruders, because that is what society tells us. Society has rules that keep us safe. A code of conduct that everyone obeys. Heck, even vampires have to be invited in.

But what about when all that breaks down? When someone breaks the rules? When someone tears down the veil that society has created for us to invoke terror? What happens when the person doing this is someone we thought we could trust?

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Cinema Versus 2015: Dave’s Top Ten

Okay, I know it’s February 2016. I am well aware that the year I am writing about right now ended 56 days ago. One of the problems with not being a critic or a film festival hopper is that it takes a while to get to see all the films you want to see from a given year. It wasn’t until about a week ago I felt confident putting down what I considered to be my favorite films of this surprisingly solid year of cinema. Sure, there were some stinkers in 2015; some films that didn’t quite live up to the hype, films that disappointed movie goers across the country, and even some that are getting tons of praise that I just don’t understand and may even win a bunch of Oscars!

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Unrelated image from The Revenant

But, we’re not here to talk about the bad films.

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Unrelated image from Chappie

I said we are NOT here to talk about the bad films. We’re here to talk about the ones that I liked the most! It was tough narrowing it down to just ten. There were many films I had to chop off of the list (which was quite tragic), but I can stand by the 10 films I present for you below. I will note before we begin that I have NOT seen all of the films I’d like to see from 2015. Some notable blind spots are Mustang, Anomalisa,Embrace of the Serpent, Creed, Youth, and most importantly Bone Tomahawk (which I know is streaming on Amazon Prime, so I don’t know what I’m waiting for).

Anyway, without further adieu, here are my top 10 films of 2015.

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Cinema Versus Pixar and The Importance of Story

About 20 years ago, a weird new sort of cartoon graced the screens of our theaters. It wasn’t drawn by hand, but animated using computers. It was odd, it was cool, it was new. At 8 years old, that kind of stuff mattered. I desperately wanted to like cool things, and this movie seemed like it was made for me. So, I managed to convince my mom to let me tag along with my older sister who she was going to the theater to see this movie with some friends (much to the embarrassment of my sister). That movie was TOY STORY, and it was my first encounter was the studio known as Pixar.

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This film about toys that came to life when their owners weren’t around was funny, it was sweet, it had great characters, and most importantly, it had a great story. It was instantly my new favorite cartoon movie. “How can that be your favorite?”, a friend asked me upon that apparently ludicrous statement. “They don’t even sing!” It didn’t matter to me, I hadn’t even noticed. I was transfixed on something else, something I couldn’t even quite put my finger on. At least, not at that time.

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Cinema Versus ‘THE BROOD’ and Other Monsters

SPOILER WARNING: In this article, I’m going to be discussing a number of key plot points for my Criterion Blogathon film of choice, THE BROOD. If you haven’t seen the film (and you should), or care about spoilers, perhaps you shouldn’t read the essay below. I realize this is a great way to maintain regular viewership for my new blog and promise to be less spoilery (even for 36 year old films) in the future (unless otherwise noted). Anyways, without further adieu, let the blogathoning begin.

Criterion Brood

Monsters have always fascinated movie goers. From Nosferatu in the early twenties, to Frankenstein in the 30s, to Godzilla in the 50s and 60s,  to the zombies of today, audiences love a good monster. They are a foreign force, something wicked that taps into our instinctual fear of predators that go bump in the night. But, what happens when the real monster isn’t some mythical creature? What about when the real monster is us?

So, what better film to discuss on the topic of human monsters than David Cronenberg’s THE BROOD? What, did you expect a compelling human drama, or period piece that highlights the darkest aspects of the human soul? No, I’m going to talk about a film with actual, albeit unconventional monsters.

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Cinema Versus ‘Night and the City’ and Unlikable Characters

One of the first things you learn when you’re learning to become a screenwriter is that your protagonist (see: main character) should be likable. It makes sense, you want someone the audience can see themselves in so they can form an emotional attachment to their plight and their story. Considering that most people see themselves as “good”, you obviously want your main character to be some form of “good guy” with a few flaws to humanize him or her. But what happens when the story you want to tell doesn’t call for a good guy? What if your story is about bad guys?

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Lobby card for NIGHT AND THE CITY

1950’s NIGHT AND THE CITY, directed by Jules Dassin and written by Jo Eisinger, based on the novel of the same name by Gerald Kersh, is a prime example of a film with dastardly, wicked, and some may say irredeemable characters. A staple of noir, NIGHT AND THE CITY is the story of Harry Fabian (played by Richard Widmark), a hustler and insufferable heel, and his attempts to make it big in the seedy underworld of the East End of London. He finds what might be his last and only shot in wrestling, an industry controlled by ruthless gangsters and racketeers. His doomed journey towards the big time is speckled with a fantastic and equally dark supporting cast, including Phil Nosseross (played by Francis L. Sullivan), a portly and imposing gentleman who owns the Silver Fox nightclub, his wife Helen (Googie Withers), a conniving femme fetale, Kristo (Herbert Lorn), the dangerous racketeer who runs wrestling in London, and The Strangler (Mike Mazurki) one of Kristo’s violent and unstable star-wrestlers.

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Cinema Versus Dave

Hi everyone, welcome to this very first post for that fledgling blog known as Cinema Versus. I’m Dave (aka the guy that thinks his writing is worth reading), and considering that I just recorded a “thing” with Aaron West from Criterion Blues/Criterion Close-Up, I figured it would probably be for the best to get this derelict site up and running. But obviously, every blog writer struggles with what their first topic should be about. This is an introduction into my mind, my writings, and everything that will come after this. So where to begin, other than my favorite topic: me.

My name is Dave Eves, and I like movies. ‘Like’ is perhaps a bit of an understatement, as after my girlfriend, family, friends, and cats, movies would probably be the most important thing in my life. I would say I’ve seen quite a few films in my life, though you dear reader may have seen more, I’d still like to think that I have something interesting to say about them (or at the very least, like the sound of my own writing enough to justify this whole… thing). Aside from watching movies, I also fancy myself a filmmaker, you know, the unsuccessful kind. I’ve made short films like this one, or this one, or maybe this one, and even this one, you know, in case you wanted to watch one. I also think I’m pretty good at screenwriting, but that’s not REALLY what this blog is about. I’m hear to talk about movies, good, bad, ridiculous, insane, and hopefully not just ones made by yours truly.

In my opinion, the world of cinema is like a tapestry. Anything that has been made or seen has a thread in this tapestry, whether the filmmaker is Ingmar Bergman or Michael Bay, Orson Welles or Ed Wood, Stanley Kubrick or Tommy Wisseau, they all have their place. Now, I’m not a critic, and I’m not going to pretend to be one, so instead, what this blog is going to be is not so much a critique of films, but more so an examination of the aspects of cinema, where films and their filmmakers lie within the tapestry, what makes scenes important, and what as a whole makes cinema an art form that has captured the imaginations of audiences across the world for over a century. So, without further adieu, I’m going to hit publish on this rambling entry and get the ball rolling on this blog. I hope to see you all reading and liking my posts, and sending them off to all your friends and family, printing them and framing them on your walls, you know, normal stuff, but most importantly, I hope you like what I have to say. See you soon

~Dave