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THE BIRTH OF A NATION -- 1915

When this picture was filmed, racism was fairly commonplace and The Birth Of A Nation is definitely a racist film. However, if you can bite your tongue for a few moments and look beyond the tragedies of racism (and we know it's tough), the movie itself still merits a place in the annals of film history -- not because of its content, but because of its techniques. It's a Civil War epic that turned cinematography into "art". While the techniques used in the The Birth Of A Nation are commonplace today, the movie was astonishing at the time. It lasted a full three hours (which was a movie time that was unheard of in 1915), people didn't seem to mind and sat through the movie enthralled and fascinated by the wizardry of cinema. D.W.Griffith pioneered "crosscutting", a technique which imbued the picture with suspense and excitement by taking the viewer from the past to the present and from one series of events happening simultaneously with another. He was also highly creative with his use of the camera, mixing close ups with long shots to make a point. Of all the landmark films, Birth Of A Nation ranks among the top few because it ushered in a new era of bad it was on the shoulders of a tragic time in America's racial history. Things have changed today, however, Thank God!

NANOOK OF THE NORTH -- 1922

This film was the first "reality" film. Robert Flaherty took great pain to capture this story of Nanook, a real Inuit on the shores of Hudson's Bay. He travelled to the far north to follow Nanook on his daily hunt for food. As the movie progresses the viewers begin to realize that "the hunt" is a "life and death" proposition -- a constant challenge to stave off starvation. Flaherty's "Nanook Of The North" was a great cinematic achievement because of its emotional content and its incredible cinematography of the grand, sweeping North.

BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN -- 1925

This film by Sergei M. Eisenstein chronicles the crew on a Russian ship who decide to revolt in 1905. Similar to D.W.Griffiths' BIRTH OF A NATION, Battleship Potemkin was also an epic. What was most impressive about the movie was Eisenstein's startling use of montage to tell his story and fire the emotions. In Potemkin, he used different kinds of montage with a grace and rhythm not previously seen.

THE GENERAL--1927

The General isn't so much a salute to films as it is a salute to Buster Keaton and silent films in general. It is, without a doubt, the greatest of the silent films. In an era of Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford, Buster Keaton was both an artist in front of the camera and behind it. THE GENERAL is a film that uses cuts and crossovers for maximum comedic effect.

THE JAZZ SINGER - 1927

This film marks the beginning of the "talkies" -- movies in which the actors actually got to say something. The Jazz Singer is a story that has been made into a movie several times, the most notable of which for today's generation stars Neil Diamond. The earlier "Jazz Singer" was Al Jolson. The film made an impact on the moviegoing public and proved to be the death knell for the silents. When The Jazz Singer was released only 200 theatres were equipped for sound in the United States. Two years later, however, there were over two thousand.

39 STEPS -- 1935

Alfred Hitchcock is considered one of the most influential minds ever to stand behind a camera lens. His films are still being studied by today's film students. Considered a master at using the best visuals to create suspense, his stories usually involved an innocent bystander who suddenly found his life in peril. Other ingredients of his movies included murder, scenes in a train, comic relief, visual tricks to fool an audience and, of course, Hitchcock always played a cameo role in all his movies.

MODERN TIMES --1936

Charlie Chaplin worked "damn hard" on the set to make a great film and MODERN TIMES was a perfect example of his work. In a hilarious look at the despair of the depression-ridden thirties and the merciless reduction of the average man to a cog in the wheels of progress, Chaplin takes great delight in depicting the lighter side of the industrial revolution -- proving that man, not machine, will emerge as both the survivor and winner.

Stagecoach-- 1939

America loves the western. It's the perfect genre for stories of action, drama and bravery. Of course, the western is all-American and Stagecoach was the all-American western. Stagecoach brought together a cast of characters and deposited them into a crisis situation. It was riddled with Oscar winning performances such as Thomas Mitchell, cast as the whiskey-soaked Dr. Josiah Bone and Andy Devine as the whiney-voiced Stagecoach driver. In a bumper-crop year for movies which included Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Wizard of Oz, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Gone With The Wind and Wuthering Heights, John Ford, the director of Stagecoach was still able to pull off an oscar win for his direction.

GONE WITH THE WIND -- 1939
Even though it is the most popular movie ever made, Gone With The Wind is not the highest-grossing movie ever made, mostly because today's ticket prices cost more than the tickets that were purchased in 1939 -- but more people have seen Gone With The Wind than any other movie. It was the perfect product of everything that Hollywood stands for: glamor and fakery, tinsel and technique, stars and extras, powerful producers and hangers-on, talent and tom-foolery. Gone With The Wind's budget was astronomical, its scenes epic, its schedule crashingly unbelievable. But out of the incredible mess that this project created, there emerged a perfect jewel of a story with powerful performances from everyone involved. Hey, that's Hollywoood! Go figure.
THE GRAPES OF WRATH -- 1840.

Hollywood was always a city that was heavily involved in fantasy. It was fearful of movies that depicted the most appaling aspects of the human condition -- yet when Twentieth Century Fox acquired the rights to John Steinbeck's famous novel about farmers in the Oklahoma Dust Bowl, John Ford adapted the novel to a screenplay and the movie went on to be an artistic and financial success.

FANTASIA -- 1940

Nobody is quite sure why this movie was well ahead of its time. Whatever it was, it still bears mentioning as a landmark film. Our editor remembers the day when he took his children to see Fantasia and recalled the shocked horror on their faces when they realized it wasn't a "cartoon". Mr. Disney's intent was well meaning. He wanted to marry classical music with art, but the effort went way, way over the general public's collective heads. Over the years, however, the critics have been kinder to Fantasia and it has been analyzed and re-analyzed until Mr. Disney's efforts have been rationalized into making some sort of artistic sense. Whatever the case, the movie was a daring move for Disney -- and let's face it, this guy was a pioneer.

CITIZEN KANE -- 1941 At twenty five years of age, Orson Welles crafted this Oscar winning movie about a tycoon who could never forget his childhood sled: "Rosebud". The movie remains as one of the most studied pieces of work in cinematic history.
SINGIN' IN THE RAIN -- 1945

Gene Kelley starred in this jubilant trip to Paris by an American. His contribution to the film as choreographer, director and dancer has been the injection of styles based on ballet, tap and jazz, as well as an athletic energy that was ideally suited to cinema. The picure had all the elements that make a musical entertaining and coordinated with rare precision -- dancing, singing, score, production numbers, comedy,book, dialogue, performance -- plus an overall joie de vivre . The tour de force, of course, is Kelley's number: "Singin' In The Rain" which very few people will ever forget!

ROOM AT THE TOP -- 1959

Room at The Top was a British film that marked the beginning of the "Adult" film. Although it was not as racy as some of the movies today, it threw the blankets off the concepts of sex, infedility and homosexuality. Its characters curse, swear, connive and commit adultery. Generally, movies which didn't meet the Production Code Authority's strict censorship rules weren't successful, however Room At the Top was the first to break through. Its release marked the beginning of the end for the censorship authority. The movie won two Oscars. One for Simone Signoret, the lead actor and another for Neil Patterson, the screen writer.

DR. STRANGELOVE -- 1964

Any serious attempt at researching the film industry cannot ignore the contributions of Peter Sellers and his starring role in Dr. Strangelove. Directed by Stanley Kubrick, Dr. Strangelove is the ultimate masterpiece of gallows humour as it examines life on the brink of a nuclear maelstrom. Every scene strikes the perfect balance between realism and satire. Slim Pickens, Keenan Wynne and George C. Scott deliver sterling performances. One of the most memorable movie scenes ever is when Slim Pickens rides a launched nuclear bomb like a bucking bronco to its totally final destination (and unfortunately his and the world's demise)

BONNIE AND CLYDE -- 1967

"Bonnie and Clyde" was another step forward for movies. The movie tried to portray "real" violence as it actually happens. Sure, it may pale in comparison to the films that are being shown today, but "Bonnie and Clyde" was a few steps up from the Edward G. Robinson gangster films, which portrayed gangsters as wise-cracking comic-book characters. Bonnie and Clyde has endured for its power, complexity and dramatic and emotional impact and stands primarily as the film that best exemplifies the mood of the period.

A SPACE ODYSSEY -- 1969

Stanley Kubrick takes us on a flight into space in this brilliantly conceived cosmic adventure. Film students should study Kubrick's match dissolves (for example, the dissolve from a bone thrown in the air to a space station) and his judicious use of music. Kubrick wanted a full visual experience, a two hour and twenty minute movie with less than forty minutes of dialogue. It is an innovative film that forms an exciting point of departurefor the medium.

Z -- 1969

Z is based on the novel by Vassilis Vassilikos. This movie from Greece uses a documentary approach to get its message across. Perhaps the most exciting part of the film is the irresistable music by Mikis Theodorakis, Greece's best-known popular composer. Making the movie was a heroic battle for the director, but his efforts eventually paid off. Z was not only a commercial success but also won the best picture and best director awards from the New York Film Critics, as well as an Oscar for best foreign film and another for best editing.

EASY RIDER -1969

Easy Rider was a classic example of being in the right place at the right time. When it finally reached the movie theatres (after a ton of rejections), it was a watershed for a new generation that eschewed the old values of getting a job,buying a house and working until it was time to receive a pension. The script was rejected by every major motion picture company and eventually filmed independently on a small budget. In a sense the film became a national anthem for a younger generation in search of greater personal freedom. For Jack Nicholson and Karen Black, their performances were a turning point in their career and they went on to become major motion picture stars.

THE SORROW AND THE PITY -- 1967

Very few documentaries can begin to approach the profundity of Michael Ophul's movie about the Nazi occupation of France. The documentary about the occupation of a small town is incredibly complex -- although it can be simplified to two major parts --"The Collapse" and "The Choice". When the movie was released, the French were still reeling over the Nazi occupation of their THE PITY. It was relegated to a small theatre on the left bank. Eventually, however, it gained national and international recognition.

DEEP THROAT -- 1972

This hard-core porno film started the "anything goes" revolution in the movies. It was a small-budget film which played in a few movie housesin New York City. The movie's big break came when the police decided to raid the movie house and confiscate it. Suddenly, Deep Throat became very popular. Serious movie reviewers called DEEP THROAT better than average porno fare and the race was on to come up with "me-too" and sequel movies.

SLEEPER -- 1973

And then came Woody Allen! SLEEPER was Woody Allen's first attempt at directing-- and it worked brilliantly! Its off-the-wall theme and esoteric zingers turned itinto a cult classic.

NASHVILLE -- 1975 Nashville has been dubbed the most versatile picture since CITIZEN KANE. Robert Altman broke the mould with his musical extravaganza that had eveything: vulgarity, greed, deceit, cruelty, barely contained hysteria and the frantic lack of root and grace into which American life had spiralled, driven by its own heedless vitality. NASHVILLE won the best picture and best director awards from the New York film Critics Association.
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