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Humble Beginnings: Really Old Film, and Things I’ve Learned

July 13, 2010

I began my History of Motion Pictures class at the end of June. Despite having a monotone professor, the class has been fairly enjoyable. Like most classes, it has its ups and downs. Ups being films such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) and downs being avant-garde drivel like The Man With a Movie Camera (1929). Yes, I’m sure it’s very important, but that doesn’t mean I enjoyed it! Love it or hate it, I appreciate seeing the beginning of film. And thanks to the Internet, you can too! Here are some of the things I’ve seen in the past few weeks that I have enjoyed, and you might too. Warning: it’s all pre-sound-era, but still delightful…

Record of a Sneeze (1894)

The oldest film on record, Edison’s Record of a Sneeze is important, I suppose. Don’t blink, or you might miss it.

The Kiss (1896)

One of the first films shown to a paying audience, The Kiss caused quite an uproar. A kiss on film? How scandalous!

A Trip to the Moon (1902)

This was the first science fiction film, and it may seem simplistic today, but the special effects used were top-notch for the day. You might want to find and read the synopsis before you watch. In class, we had an English narration that explained what was happening, but I couldn’t find that on You Tube. You’ve gotta love the imagination and ridiculousness involved: landing in the moon’s eye, waltzing around the moon like there’s oxygen and gravity there…

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

Here’s the entire film. It’s definitely worth the 51 minutes of watching. The style is really unique, and it is still considered, by some, one of the greatest horror films of all time. I personally don’t like horror films, but I enjoyed this a lot.

City Lights (1931)

This has been one of my favorites. You’d never think 150 college-age kids would sit in a class and laugh out loud at the humor of a black and white silent film made 80 years ago. I can’t show the whole thing because it isn’t yet in the public domain, but I recommend watching it if you can find it at the library or somewhere. This is one of the more famous scenes, where The Tramp steps into the boxing ring, hoping to win money for his love interest. Charlie Chaplin is so great!

I’m not even halfway through the class yet, so maybe I’ll have more to say about it later. We’ll be watching Citizen Kane today, which has been on my list of movies to watch for some time. Isn’t it great to enjoy classes? I’m very glad with the path I’ve chosen in the college-era of my life. I’m doing what I love, and loving most moments of it.


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