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The Recent years Great and good films (2000-2016)

Some believe that since the advent of digitalism, that has made movie making easy for almost everyone, Cinema in its real sense has died. Many films in the past few decades have been shot not on 35 mm films, but digital cameras and special effects have taken away any artistic creations. Filmmakers and casts have been flowing from television to the silver screen and the movie theatre or cinema audience have declined as people watch movies at home on TV or the internet. Even movies on DVD have become a rarity as they are rented or pirated from the internet and film file sharing. Therefore the number of great or even good enough films from an artistic point of view have tremendously diminished. As a result Cinema has lost its capacity of enlightening and nourishing minds, or even pleasuring the sights. The past creations and inventions have been copied one after another and the public consume as mindless followers or brain washed to follow and watch what is made, solely for the sake of profits of the studios. Hence as time goes by and Cinema ages, the number of films to be included in any greatest list of all time, has lessened so it has made the effort of such true list makers a lot easier.

 The following is a meager list of a few great films of only 12 in the present century of 21, from the year 2000 on, and a few more of good enough films to watch. Although hundreds of films are made each year all over the world, mostly by Hollywood, and in this century the number could reach thousands, and many of them are sufficiently entertaining to please the lay audience and even some critics, the real art film as an art medium is a rarity. All the following list have been carefully selected among many acclaimed and awarded films all over the world by critics and film festivals, that some could not even be put on a good enough films list, based on our criteria. There are only two American films on the following great film list, “The Aviator” and “The Reader” that did not even win any Academy Awards. There are 10 foreign films on our great film list that non won any best foreign film awards by Academy Awards, and none any recognition by the “prestigious” Cannes Festival. For the this year 2016 there has not been any great film, and three good films of this year, “Nocturnal animals”, “Queen of Katwe” and “Sonwden” have not been nominated for the upcoming “Golden Globe Awards”! Even perhaps none of the following 12 great films of this century could compete with the greatest films of all time!        

There are only a few great films in the 21 century thus far, almost less than one for each year, per this site standards and criteria. Two great films each in the years 2000, 2001, and 2002, one great film in each year of 2003, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2011 and 2014.  There have not been any great films in the other years of 2005, 2006, 2007-2010 and 2012-2013 and none for 2015-2016.  The following short list of 12 great films deserve a brief explanation each of the reasons of their inclusion in the list. The films are listed temporally by the year they have been released, not by ranking or significance.

Amores perros (2000, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Mexico)

Amores perros (“Love is betrayal”) is the first chapter in González Iñárritu’s “Trilogy of Death”, succeeded by “21 grams” and “Babel”, three distinct stories connected by the themes of the inequality of classes, lack of trust and betrayal of love, cruelty and violence of humans towards both animals and other humans, showing how humans may live dark or even hideous lives. This deep contextual film is beautifully portrayed in an ambiance of sexual, thrilling and action process, all in a perfect fast and enthralling tempo that ordinary audience will enjoy it the same as the sophisticated ones. In brief, the due to Cinema has been done in this modern classic at the dawn of the new century, perhaps as a message that this art medium has not yet died!

In the mood for love (2000, Wong Kar-wai, Hong Kong)

From Mexico to Hong Kong, our second great film of this century, in the same year 2000, is also about love, but not on its betrayal, but its secret, innocence and tenderness. The film has an original Chinese title of “the age of blossoms” or “the flowery years”, to convey the fleeting time of youth, beauty and love. This film is also a part of a trilogy, second to the first “Days of being wild” (1991) and “2046” (released in 2004). The film telling the secret cross love affair of a married couple, leaving door to door in a small building, to the surprise of audience, at least the western ones, does not lead to a sexual but platonic love relationship, like two children or young teenagers. Captivating with its classic Chinese, Latino, and English soundtracks, edited well into the shots and fit perfectly to the camera moves, the film elegantly tells this story of unspoken but well expressed love in “secret”. This flowery years’ innocent love that could not be shared with anyone else or even united by the two lovers, leaving behind a sorrow, that only in the Chinese culture could be shared with a hollow in a tree by whisper in the secret and cover it with mud.

 Kandahar (2001, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Iran)

The next film in our list, Kandahar or “Journey to Kandahar”, alternatively known as “The Sun Behind the Moon” released in 2001, is a tale of the rescue of a sister left behind in the war torn Afghanistan, before her plan on committing suicide on the last “solar eclipse” of the millennium. A rare and true documentary film in a narrative context, stunningly colorful, visionary and poetic, leaves the audience with an awe impression of Afghanistan never seen before.

Werckmeister harmonies (2001, Béla Tarr, Hungary)

The film adapted from a 1989 novel “The melancholy of resistance”, is a black-and-white film, of only 39 long and sluggish shots, telling the story of Soviet occupation of Hungary at the end of the Second World War. It also shows the journey among helpless citizens as a dark circus with its star performer, “The Prince” comes to a desolate small town casting an eclipse over their lives. The title refers to the baroque musical theorist “Andreas Werckmeister”, and his harmonic principles in music, that is a metaphor in the film in the search of the utopian harmony for a society, that has never been so for Hungary before or after the war. The film is really a manifesto of reviving Cinema once again as a medium for visionary poetry and while entertaining, being enlightening and conveying ideology and concepts.

Russian Ark (2002, Alexander Sokurov, Russia)

This film is a celebration of imagery, but within a narrative of tale telling of 300-years of the “Winter Palace” of the Russian State Hermitage Museum. But like Samsara, the film appears documentary-like as the unnamed narrator or the man behind the camera wanders through the palace and time, passing by people over ages like a ghost, and interacting at times, still invisible. The film other than its grand imagery, rarely seen on the screen, has been filmed all in one single long shot of 96 minutes, another rarity in Cinema.  

 City of God (2002, Fernando Ferreira Meirelles, Brazil)

The film depicts the growth and war between the organized crime in the “Cidade de Deus” or “City of God”, suburbs of Rio de Janiro, between the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1980s. Most of the actors were, in fact, the residents of “Favela”, “Cidade de Deus” and a few other nearby towns. The film is partly based on the true events of organized gangs of the suburb of Rio, during the military dictatorship of 1964-1985 in Brazil. Only a few miles away from Rio with its beautiful beaches, nightclubs, parties and all other extravaganzas, the poor children of “City of God” for survival and a better life, succumb first to petty theft then grow into major robberies and finally killings. Part of this organized crime that in the beginning had some Peter Pan’s type of goodwill or social ideology, over time evolve to pure crimes, arms and drugs trafficking, unequal to anywhere else in the world, and still to this date ongoing. The film is quite shocking and put any other gangster organizations on film and in reality as less significant, as crimes in the “City of God” run not by adults, but by the kids!

Oldboy (2003, Park Chan-wook, South Korea)

Oldboy from South Korea, is actually based by the same name Japanese novel, is a mystery, thriller and neo-noir film, the second in “The Vengeance Trilogy”, preceded by “Sympathy of Mr. Vengeance” and followed by “Sympathy of Lady Vengeance”. The film right away put every critic and filmmakers in surprise awe, including “Quentin Tarantino” and many American thriller, action and revenge films in shame. The film has already had an American adaptation or remake by Spike Lee, starring Josh Brolin in 2013. The film according to Roger Ebert is a “powerful film not because of what it depicts, but because of the depths of the human heart which it strips bare”.      

 The aviator (2004, Martin Scorsese, USA)

This film is the only American narrative film in our short list of the great films of the 21st century thus far, for quite a few reasons. The subject of the film, “Howard Hughes”, an aviation pioneer and filmmaker, and the process of depicting his life story on the screen is quite a drama on its own. Howard Hughes’ involvement in many creative aviation projects and relationship with many Hollywood stars such as Catherine Hepburn and Ava Gardner (also played in this film) and finally his struggles with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) has been himself the subject of several film projects over years. First in 1970’s “Warren Beatty” planned to make such a film and had the same project on his mind until most recently this year, 2016 that finally released “Rules don’t apply” on the life of “Hughes” but with a quite different take than “The aviator”. In 1990 “Beatty” approached “Steven Spielberg” to direct such a film that never materialized, then “Brian De Palma” with acting of “Nichols cage” between 1997 and 1998 failed, so the promise of “Johnny Depp” playing “Hughes”. “Leonardo DiCaprio” who has done his best performance on the screen in this film after dedicating hundreds of hours working to better acting “Hughes” and his OCD, was first supposed to be directed by “Michael Mann”! But the chance fell on “Martin Scorsese” who made quite a different film than his usual gangsters types and in fact better than his rest!     

 Pan’s Labyrinth (2006, Guillermo del Toro Gómez, Mexico)

This fantasy, fairly tale film is unlike other such types and “Harry Potter” kinds, channels between the clean world of fantasy and the dark world of real life full of wars, atrocities and injustice. The story takes place in Spain in 1944, one year before the end of the second world war, and five years after the country’s Civil War, now torn and tortured under the dictatorship of General Franco. The main character, the young “Ofelia” escapes such cruel real world of the time and his falangist stepfather, Captain Vidal, enters the “Pan’s Labyrinth” and interacts with “Faun” creatures. Dreaming of helping her ill pregnant mother and save her to be soon born brother, and stopping the killings of the cruel “Captain Vidal”, “Ofelia” who cannot do so in real world, seeks refuge in the underworld of “Labyrinth” requesting help from its kingdom. While she fails in real life to save his mother and many revolutionary fighters who all die by Captain Vidal, she succeeds to rescue his newborn brother, but at the cost of the loss of her own life. But drops of her blood falling on a staircase opens the altar to the golden throne room of the underworld where the king and the queen welcome their daughter or princess Moanna (or Ofelia) to her kingdom to be “visible only to those who know where to look”!   

 The Reader (2008, Stephen Daldry, Germany/USA)

“The Reader” is a German-American film based on the same name German novel by “Bernhard Schlink”, directed by the British director, Stephen Daldry, the last film produced by Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack who both died prior to the release of the film. Kate Winslet in her best life career performance, plays Hanna Schmitz who in the late 1950’s while in her 30’s falls in a romantic relationship with a teenager boy, Michael Berg. The first half of the film is a romantic and sexual adventure, between the pair depicted better than “The Graduate” or anything alike. Then on a sudden twist, all the pleasure and happiness, like the life itself, are blasted away and the truth of the darkness and wrong behind the surface, creeps out. Years later Hanna with a few other women, accused of war crimes as guards in the Nazi concentration camp are in trial. Michael who is now a law student attends the hearing as a part of his teaching with his professor and classmates, when he sees Hanna among the defendants. All the other accused claim that Hanna has had a major role in selecting Jewish women for extermination and it has been her to write a report on a church fire. Hanna refuses to provide a handwriting sample to the court, so receives a life sentence, but Michael realizes a life long secret she is hiding that is her illiteracy and that cannot read or write. Since Hanna’s wish is to keep her secret, Michael respects that and she will remain in prison for many years until in 1988 when she receives amnesty, but on the day of release when Michael comes to receive her with flowers, he finds her dead by hanging in her cell! The film unlike many other Nazi’s crime movies, takes us behind the facades to show the victims on both sides of the wrong and darkness, the mass murder of the Jews and the forcing of the ordinary Germans to work in the concentration camps and select the victims for extermination! Such depiction of life beyond the Nazi’s, Jews and wars, with all its ebbs and flows, love and lust, trust and lies, honors and dishonesty, and at the end guilt for all, has rarely this beautifully been shown on the silver screen.      

Samsara (2011, Ron Fricke, USA)

This film is a documentary celebration of mesmerizing and wonder images from around the word in 25 countries, shot in 70 mm format, by Ron Fricke, originally a cinematographer as a sequel to his earlier “Baraka” in 1992. The film like “Man with a movie camera” is an extraordinary experimentalism on the silver screen, to show the audience the beauty and haunting images all around us in the nature and our cosmopolitan livings, without narratives or even interpretations, leaving all to us for enjoyment and judgment.

 We are many (2014, Amir Amirani, England)

This brave documentary about the “February 2003 global day protest” against initiating war against Iraq, is astonishing and eye opening for everyone around the world. The players are all the people of the world from Africa, Australia, Asia, Europe to North and South America. The largest humans protest in history with up to 30 millions marching in more than 600 cities all around the world on the same day certainly needed to be depicted on the screen. Although such a huge seas of people, famous and unknown at the end failed to stop the hungry war machines, the root of imperialism was seriously shaken, the history was recorded, and the future for war crimes tribunals were founded. The media owned by the war machines, all over the world specially in the western lands, on that day of February 15, 2003 chose not to show this historical moment to their people. But it took more than 10 years for an Iranian/British documentary maker to depict this historical triumph onto a film and show it to the world. The film is tremendously great, perhaps the greatest on this short list, not for being very inventing and technical, but for the courage and dedication to show what needs to be shown. This is a great lesson to all filmmakers, critics, festivals and award agencies that documentaries could not be ignored and that the great films are only narratives. Some of the greatest films of all time are pure documentaries such as “Man with a movie camera” and other greats such as “Battleship of Potemkin” and “Birth of a Nation” are basically documentaries in the format of some narratives. Even in this short list of great films of the 21st century thus far, that is only 12, four of the films are documentaries, “Kandahar”, “Samara”, “Russian Ark”, and “We are Many”. Therefore if no great art work on the screen wants to be missed, documentaries need to be included in the major category as feature films in competition for any awards!    

Good Films in recent years:

Each year thousands of films are made all over the world, majority by Hollywood and Bollywood, but only a handful of them could be considered as good enough films from an artistic, technical, significance and influential points of view. The following is a short list of such good films that not many won any awards, like the above list of great films, and also not included some awarded films by different festivals or agencies. Unfortunately recognition of good and great films have become political as well and are focused often on the subject of the story than the process of the filmmaking, so the recognition and the awards usually goes to the trend of the time and day than the real art of filmmaking!

Good Films in recent years (2000-2016):

Read the list and see the trailers here:

https://cinemarevisited.com/the-good-films-in-recent-years/

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The Greatest films of all time: 22.Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog) (1929)(Spain)

Introduction:

“Un Chien Andalou” of 1929 by the Spanish filmmaker, Luis Bunuel will be perhaps the only short film (16-21 min., based on the copy) on this list, for its significance, heroism, invention and influence in the history of cinema. This great film which still to this day, viewers discretion is advised and would not be appropriate for young audience, was Buñuel’s first film. The unusual avant-gard film for the time and even now, was a product of collaboration between the famous Spanish painter, Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel. When Buñuel was working as an assistant director for Jean Epstein in France, one day at a restaurant, he told Dali about a dream in which a cloud sliced the moon in half “like a razor blade slicing through an eye”. Dalí responded that he had also dreamed about a hand crawling with ants. Then both excitedly decided to write a script based on the concept of suppressed human emotions, dreams or nightmares. Bunuel deliberately intended in this film and many of his later films, like the paintings of Dali, moving beyond reality, logic and approach the depth of humans’ darkest imaginations, so to be only interpreted and understood perhaps by Freudian psychoanalysis. So Bunuel brought “surrealism” of earlier work of other artists such as Dali and Breton in painting and other art forms onto the screen.

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The film, initially released in 1929 with a limited showing in Paris, soon became popular that ran for 8 months. The film with no plot or story, unconventional and chronologically disjointed, is the frontier of so many similar surrealistic and avant-gard films from Hitchcock to David Cronenberg, that deserves its creator introduction. Bunuel is perhaps second to Charlie Chaplin, his contemporary who also met and partly collaborated, with five decades of filmmaking and many other activities including politics and fighting for freedom and democracy of his homeland Spain.

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A man for all seasons:

Luis Buñuel (1900-1983), who when died at age 83, was called by the New York Times, “an iconoclast, moralist, and revolutionary who was a leader of avant-garde surrealism in his youth and a dominant international movie director half a century later”, was born in Calanda in the Aragon region of Spain. Bunuel’s film career is long and significant, from his first film, “Un chien Andalou” in 1929 in the silent era, that has been called “the most famous short film ever made” by the critic Roger Ebert, to his last film,“That Obscure Object of Desire”, made 48 years later, won him Best Director awards from the National Board of Review and the National Society of Film Critics.

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Read the full text here:

https://cinemarevisited.com/the-greatest-films-of-all-time/the-greatest-films-of-all-time-14-un-chien-andalou-an-andalusian-dog-1929/

 

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The Greatest films of all time: 21. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)(France)

Introduction:

Cinema, though was invented in the late 19th century, but it took a couple of decades until 1920’s to come to fruition, and produce great films that some great ones are in this list and many other list of great films of all time. That is why the 1920’s is the most significant decade of the art of filmmaking and many inventions in cinema were created during this period, so the foundation of cinema. A year after the production of the first talkie film and the assumption of the fall of the silent film era, in 1928 “The Passion of Joan of Arc” a silent French film was created by a Danish filmmaker, Carl Theodor Dryer, that has influences so many films and filmmakers for years to come. Still by the end of 1920’s, cinema was mostly dominated by Americans, Germans and Russians, and other societies did not have much contribution to the art of film, including France that later on in 30’s start to emerge. So Carl Theodor from Netherland was invited to France to make a film that he chose “The Passion of Joan of Arc”, for being very patriotic subject in the country, despite many opposition why such a national subject has to be made by a non-French! The film is based on the actual record of the trial of Joan of Arc by when captive in England by the British Christian court. The film is not only by many has been regarded as a landmark of cinema for its groundbreaking techniques and direction, but by its only principal actor’s performance, Renée Jeanne Falconetti’s performance, which is often listed as one of the finest in cinema history.

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Dreyer spent over a year researching Joan of Arc and the transcripts of her trial before writing the script. Although the film has had many replica in the later years, such as “The Messenger: The story of Joan of arc” in 1999, none has been based on the true story, showing Joan of Arc, as a simple young girl, only 19, without armors and glamor. So the film stands out as well for its genuineness and simplicity, staying away from distortion of the history and commerciality, in spite of Dryer to do so for the popularity of the story in France. The film which is also a frontier of not all court films with interrogation and inquisition, but all the films mostly running in a room, such as “12 angry men” of 1957 and 1997. For doing this Dreyer needed a stage actress, so he picked Falconetti as her only major and last film role, but her performance and devotion to the role have become legendary among film scholars. This great influential but simple film that to this day has been well known for its cinematography, use of close-ups, directing and acting, deserves some introduction of its creator, Carl Theodor Dryer.

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The Greatest films of all time: 21. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)(France)

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The Greatest films of all time: 20. The Jazz Singer (1927)(USA)

Introduction:

1927 according to some such as Peter Bogdanovich is considered the greatest year in the Hollywood history. That is why this year contains four great original films in our list of the greatest films of all time, “Metropolis”, “Wings”, “Sunrise” and finally “The Jazz Singer”. 1927 was also the decline of silent film era and the beginning of the sound and talkie movies era until now. Although before “The Jazz Singer” directed by Alan Crosland, there were earlier sound films with dialogue, but they were all short subjects, using “sound-on-disc” technique that was very primitive and of poor quality and not synchronized. In 1923, the “sound-on-film” system was introduced which had synchronized sound and dialogue, but the sound quality was still poor, and the films produced in this process were still short. Then the “Vitaphone” technique was introduced with the film “Don Juan” in 1926 with synchronized instrumental score and sound effects. But it was not until “The Jazz Singer” that the world watched the first film with numerous synchronized singing sequences and some synchronized speech.

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This first full feature sound film was not only talkie but the first feature film musical, to be adapted and followed by many future musical films such as “Singin’ in the rain” of Gene Kelly in 1952. The film depicts the fictional story of Jakie Rabinowitz (Jack Robin), a young man who defies the traditions of his devout Jewish family, to be a religious cantor (singer), running away from home, and years later changing his name and identity. Despite all these and the film being a frontier in technical and even the content story, based on a true story and a revolution against religion, the film in the first Academy Award ceremony, won only an award for Darryl F. Zanuck, for the producing the film, but not the direction or else!

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From a real life story to a stage show to a historical film:
Samson Raphaelson, a native of New York City’s writer, who had attended a performance of the musical Robinson Crusoe, Jr. in Illinois, starring a 30 year-old singer, Al Jolson, a Russian-born Jew who performed in blackface, was impressed by his acting. Then a few years later, he wrote “The Day of Atonement”, a short story about a young Jew named Jakie Rabinowitz, based on Jolson’s real life. Raphaelson later adapted the story into a stage play, “The Jazz Singer”. Later on after a version performance of the show on Broadway, with another actor, George Jessel, Warner Bros. acquired the movie rights to the play in 1926, and signed Jessel to a contract to make a film. Since the studio got into a monetary conflict with Jessel as he asked for more pay, the role was then offered to Jolson, who had inspired the film in the first place.

Read the full text here:

https://cinemarevisited.com/the-greatest-films-of-all-time/the-greatest-films-of-all-time-11-the-jazz-singer-1927/

 

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The Greatest films of all time: 19. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)(USA)

Introduction:

“Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans” is a 1927 American silent romantic drama and suspense film directed by the German director F.W. Murnau and starring George O’Brien, Janet Gaynor, and Margaret Livingston. The story was adapted by Carl Mayer from the short story “The Excursion to Tilsit”, from the collection with the same title by Hermann Superman. Murnau used the then new Movietone sound-on-film system, making “Sunrise” one of the first feature films with a synchronized musical score and sound effects soundtrack. The film incorporated Charles Gounod’s 1872 composition Funeral March of a Marionette, which was later used as the theme for the television series Alfred Hitchcock “Presents” (1955–65).

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“Sunrise” won the Academy Award for “unique and artistic picture”, best cinematography and best art direction at the 1st Academy Awards in 1929. This was another rare occasion that a great film was recognized by Hollywood, as time goes by such great films are ignored. Janet Gaynor won the first Academy Award for “Best actress in a leading role” for her performance in the film. The film’s legacy has endured, and it is now widely considered a masterpiece and one of the greatest films ever made. In 1989, Sunrise was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry of the United States by Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. The Academy Film Archive has preserved Sunrise in 2004. The 2007 update of the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 greatest American films has ranked “Sunrise” at number 82, and the British Film Institute’s 2012 Sight & Sound critics’ poll named it the fifth-best film in the history of motion pictures. Although the original 35mm negative of the original American version of Sunrise was destroyed in the 1937 Fox vault fire, a new negative was created from a surviving print.

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Before exploring this great work, its creator, F. W. Murnau will be briefly introduced. Friedrich Wilhelm “F. W.” Murnau (December 28, 1888 – March 11, 1931) was greatly influenced by the great German philosophers Schopenhauer and Nietzsche and the great playwrights, Shakespeare and Ibsen. During the World War I, Murnau served as a company commander at the eastern front and was in the German air force, surviving several crashes without any severe injuries. One of Murnau’s acclaimed works is the 1922 film “Nosferatu” , the first adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a masterpiece of Expressionist film. He later directed the 1924 film “The Last Laugh”, as well as a 1926 interpretation of Goethe’s “Faust”. He later emigrated to Hollywood in 1926, where he joined the Fox studio and made three films: “Sunrise” (1927), “4 Devils” (1928) and “City Girl” (1930). Murnau in “The last laugh”, introduced the subjective point of view camera, where the camera sees from the eyes of a character and uses visual style to convey a character’s psychological state. It also anticipated the cinema verite movement in its subject matter. The film also used the “unchained camera technique”, a mix of tracking shots, pans, tilts, and dolly moves. Murnau’s “Nosferatu” and “Faust” were two of the first films to feature original film scores.

A prototype of suspense murder film:

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The Greatest films of all time: 19. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)(USA)

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The Greatest films of all time: 18.Wings (1927)

Introduction:

“Wings” is a 1927 American patriotic war silent film, set during the World War I, directed by William Wellman, starring Clara Bow, Charles Rogers, Richard Arlen, and the first appearance of Gary Cooper that launched his film career. Wellman was the only director in Hollywood at the time who had World War I combat pilot experience, and the actors, Richard Arlen and John Monk Saunders had also served in the war as military aviators. Hundreds of extras and some 300 pilots were involved in the filming, including pilots and planes of the US army air corps which were brought in for the filming and to provide assistance and supervision. “Wings” acclaimed for its technical prowess and realism became a landmark for the future aviation films, specially its realistic air-combat sequences. A short list of the films that followed the footstep of “Wings” are Hell’s Angels (1930) by Howard Hughes, remade in 2004 by Martin Scorsese under “The Aviator”; Flying Tigers (1942) of David Miller with John Wayne; The first of the few (1942); Air Force (1943) of Howard Hawks; The Memphis Belle: A story of a flying fortress (1944) of William Wyler; Command decision (1948) of Sam Wood; Flying Leathernecks (1951) of Nicholas Ray; Island in the sky (1953) with John Wayne by William Wellman himself; Reach for the sky (1956); Battle of Britain (1969); Aces high (1976); Flyboys (2006); The Red Barron (2008), and more.

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“Wings” is one of the rare true great films in the history of American cinema to be recognized and winning an Academy award, that won for the best picture at the first Oscar in 1929, as the only fully silent film to do so. It also won the Academy award for the best engineering effects. In 1997, Wings was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress and the Academy Film has preserved “Wings” in 2002. Before further discussion about this frontier film, its director deserves some mention.

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From aviation to acting and filmmaking:

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The Greatest films of all time: 18.Wings (1927)(USA)

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The Greatest films of all time: 17.The Gold Rush (1925)(USA)

Introduction:

The Gold Rush is a 1925 American silent comedy film written, produced, and directed by Charlie Chaplin. The film though begins with stating to be a “comedy drama”, it is more comedy romantic. Chaplin in his usual tramp character, from realism with a few tears of “The Kid” moves on to some adventure of gold explorer or greed and romance. Chaplin had said several times that this was the film for which he most wanted to be remembered. This great film that is still on the many list of greatest films of all time, at the 1958 Brussels first World Fair after, was rated by many film critics and filmmakers, the second greatest film in history, behind only Sergei Eisenstein’s The Battleship of Potemkin. While in “The Kid”, Chaplin is more an adult, a father figure and a rescuer, in “The Gold Rush”, he himself is more like a kid, acts as funny, and with his acrobatic and chuckling moves makes the greedy gold seekers of the time, look ridiculous. While in “The Kid”, he is a savior of a poor little infant left on the street by his mother and raises him, in “The Gold Rush”, he is the savior of love and romance that to him is more vital to life than gold. Before discussing more about the film, Chaplin himself will be explored further.

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Charlie Chaplin: One and only one

A century ago before comedy becomes making fun of others to put smile and laughter on people’s lips, there was a Charlie Chaplin whose comedy went beyond laughter and also portrayed the reality of life in a funny way. Chaplin method was to criticize the system and the society instead of a harsh and direct way, through laughter, that worked better on people’s minds all over the world. He was the only one in the history of cinema who made more than the producing and distributing studios did.(United Artists made $1 million from The Gold Rush, while Chaplin himself made a profit of $2 millions.)

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The Greatest films of all time: 17.The Gold Rush (1925)(USA)

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The Greatest films of all time:16.Greed (1924)(USA)

Introduction:

Greed is a 1924 American silent film, written and directed by Erich von Stroheim, based on the 1899 Frank Norris novel McTeague. The film is not only unique in many aspects of its originality and technicality, but in the way it was censored and cut to less than ¼ of its original (10 reels down from 42) and the way its creator was berated by the Metro-Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) studio. The original version of Greed has been called the “holy grail” for film archivists, as no one yet has been able to locate its lengthy original version of 42 reels.

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The film is about the story of McTeague, a miner who practically without proper education being trained to be a San Francisco dentist, who marries his best friend Schouler’s girlfriend, Trina. Shortly after their engagement, Trina wins a lottery prize of $5,000, at that time a substantial sum. Schouler jealously informs the authorities that McTeague had been practicing dentistry without a license, and McTeague and Trina become impoverished. While living in squalor, McTeague becomes a violent alcoholic and Trina becomes greedily obsessed with her winnings, refusing to spend any of them, despite how poor she and her husband have become. Eventually McTeague murders Trina for the money and flees to the Death Valley. Schouler catches up with him there for a final confrontation, that is still one of the rare memorable scene in the history of cinema.

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From an ordinary actor to a great filmmaker:

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The Greatest films of all time: 15.The Kid (1921)(USA)

 

Introduction:

The Kid is Charlie Chaplin first full-length film as a director in 1921, after 7 years of creating the character of “The Tramp”, a vagrant with a big heart and dignity, helping the poor. Charlie Chaplin is undoubtedly the greatest single name in the history of cinema, an actor, writer, director, editor, producer and composer, or a man of all trades, impossible to match! Charlie Chaplin who goes beyond his films, is the only name in cinema who was known and is still well known by every child, adults and old, not only in US, but across the world. Chaplin who created the character of “the Tramp” earlier from the short film “Mabel’s strange predicament” starring Mabel Normand in 1914, continued with the same character in most of his filmography, so that the name of Charlie Chaplin equals “The Tramp”. This was so much so that Charlie was inseparable from his own character, that when in 1947 he made his first different character in “Monsieur Verdoux”, the world were in shock and hard to accept him in a different role. But since Chaplin was a genius, he shone in his latest films as well and was hailed by viewers and critics alike.

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Charlie Chaplin’s character of “the Tramp” that had been a huge success from 1914 as an actor, continued throughout of his career as a filmmaker as it captured the hearts of people in any lands on the face of earth. “The Kid” is Chaplin’s first feature film written, produced, directed, edited and scored by himself in 1921, after losing a child in marriage with the actress Mildred Harris. Chaplin, while maintaining the character of “The Tramp”, he moved beyond comedy to realism alongside of an infant who had been deserted by his mother on the street, to raise him kindly as another tramp. Dealing with issues of poverty and parent–child separation, The Kid is thought to have been influenced by Chaplin’s own childhood and was one of the earliest films to combine comedy and drama. It was released in January 1921 with instant success, and by 1924 had been screened in over 50 countries. In 2011, The Kid was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” Innovative in its combination of comedic and dramatic elements, The Kid is widely considered as one of the greatest films ever made.

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Due to the uniqueness of Charlie Chaplin and having more than one film in any list of the greatest films of all time, he will be discussed here in some detail.

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The Greatest films of all time:15.The Kid (1921)(USA)

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The Greatest films of all time 14.The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)(Germany)

Introduction:

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a German silent film, directed by Robert Wiene, released in 1920, just a year after the end of world war I. Although this film has been commonly considered as a prototype of horror films, but it is also a prototype of thrillers, murder mysteries, and even films with the psychological content of psychotic or insane killers, asylums, mental hospitals, double personalities, sleep walking and else. This great frontier film is the quintessential work of Expressionist movement in cinema, showing and proving that without much camera work and movement, but the application of twisted and distorted set designs and shapes, shadows, lighting, etc. the thrills, emotions, fear and else could be pictured on the screen like painting on canvas. The film has influenced so many filmmakers around the world for years, from Fritz Lang and others in Germany, to Alfred Hitchcock and others in England and US, to the present time when one can see its impact on “The Shutter Island” of Martin Scorsese.  

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Robert Wiene was born on April 27, 1873 in Breslau, Germany as the elder son of the successful theatre actor Carl Wiene. He first studied law at the University of Berlin, then followed the footstep of his father and brother, by starting to act in 1908 in small parts on stage. Four months after the Nazis took power and when Wiene’s latest film, “Taifun,” was banned on May 3, 1933, he fled Germany to work in a Hungarian film company that had invited him, then after production of “One Night in Venice” (1934), he moved to London, and finally to Paris where together with Jean Cocteau he tried to produce a sound remake of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Wiene died in Paris ten days before the end of production of a spy film, “Ultimatum” after having suffered from cancer. 

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The Film Plot:

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari opens with Francis, the main protagonist of the film sitting on a bench listening to an older man who complains that spirits have driven him away from his family and home, when a dazed woman named Jane passes them. Francis explains she is his “fiancée” and that they have suffered a great ordeal. Most of the rest of the film is a flashback of Francis’s story, which takes place in Holstenwall, a shadowy village of twisted buildings and spiraling streets. Francis and his friend Alan who are good-naturedly competing for Jane’s affections, plan to visit the town fair. Meanwhile, a mysterious man named Dr. Caligari seeks a permit from the rude town clerk to present a spectacle at the fair, which features a somnambulist named Cesare. The clerk mocks and berates Dr. Caligari, but ultimately approves the permit. That night, the clerk is found stabbed to death in his bed. 

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The Greatest films of all time:14.The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)(Germany)

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