It was only this past year, sadly, that I had ever watched a full-length Chaplin movie. Now I’ve watched three and love every one of them. I threw this movie in the mix thinking it didn’t have a chance, especially against The Wizard of Oz. But City Lights was the little movie that could this week and deserves the big win. If you’ve never seen it, see if you can find it streaming online.
By the way, I should address this form of movie watching for the benefit of those who don’t know how. There are many sites that offer free movies streaming, though how do I know which one is good to use? Well, the answer to that question changes from month to month. I used to use Surf the Channel, but it’s no longer in operation (that I know of anyway). Currently I use TubePlus a lot. Now there’s a trick to it. Unfortunately it is rarely as easy as click-here-to-watch-your-movie-for-free. Usually you have to get to know which links to click and endure the tedious task of closing pop ups, and yes many or most of them potentially offensive. Really, I think the best thing is to find a friend who watches movies streamed and ask them to show you how. It’s frustrating at times, but so work getting to see some old classics. I have no idea how I would ever get the chance to see these Chaplin movies without it.
…back to City Lights. I LOVED watching this movie. It was, admittedly, a little strange at times. After all, it was made in 1931 when my grandfather was a preteen. There is bound to be some cultural/generational dissonance, but not enough to make me want to turn the screen off. Chaplin, as you probably know, was a master at physical acting. I’m not even sure anyone has come close to him in these 70 or so years since he was active in film. I really think everyone needs to see him perform either in a movie or a short at least once in his/her lifetime. Remember when you watched a movie that brought out a wide range of emotions? Perhaps it was the music. The words spoken and, more importantly, how they were spoken. The cinematography of beautiful landscapes. Chances are it was a combination of all of these things. Chaplin didn’t have the technology for brilliant visual or audio effects. There is pleasant music played throughout the movie, though he doesn’t get to utter a single word. Yet you get that variety-of-emotions experience anyway.
Did you like watching Johnny Depp playing with his food in Benny n Joon? Do you think it’s cool to see all the stunts Jackie Chan does in his action movies? How about Jack Tripper wrestling with a hammock on Three’s Company? How about just about any of Jim Carrey’s comedies? If you answered yes to any of these, thank Charlie Chaplin. In this movie, he doesn’t just make dancing both funny and impressive, he makes a work of art out of everything from eating, to smoking (and putting out an ensuing fire), to buying a flower, to competing in a boxing match. And it’s not just his agility, timing, and coordination that we’re talking about here. His expressions do more than any spoken words in a thousand other award-winning movies. In any comedic scene of any movie, it’s often the expression of the actor that makes it so funny. If there is another actor who can do this any better than Chaplin, I don’t know who they are. And the way he looks lovingly at the woman he falls for–in more than one scene–is unforgettable.
But this review is saying more about Chaplin than the actual movie. The story of City Lights is magnetic, not to mention very original. At the moment, I can’t think of another movie that has used a similar plot. And consider the fact that this is a silent movie and it sits at the #38 spot on IMDb’s list of best movies rated by hundreds of thousands of users worldwide.
Congratulations, City Lights. This is your week.
As for the runners up, The Wizard of Oz is one powerhouse of a movie. It has more lines that have made their way into pop culture vernacular. “Follow the yellow brick road… I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore, Toto… There’s no place like home.” (I could go on.) And absolutely no one can hear, the words “Lions and tigers and bears,” and not finish the line. In fact, you’ve done it already in your head, didn’t you? I was one of the many kids who watched it, loved it, and had nightmares about the flying monkeys. And for the record, one of the munchkins did NOT hang himself on the set. A big crane did get loose, however, which is what is seen in that legendary shot.
Gone with the Wind. Now I have to admit that it’s been years since I saw the movie, and I wasn’t crazy about it. I know it’s a good movie and that it was groundbreaking, but I really need to watch it again. Nonetheless, it’s more than obvious that this film was enthralling to its original audience, and still is to today’s viewers. It was also culturally significant and put together some of the most iconic performances in movie history.
And the winning quote of the week:
I think Wizard of Oz deserves this considering what was just said about the impact of its colourful script. And this line is one of my favourites: “You, my friend, are a victim of disorganized thinking. You are under the unfortunate impression that just because you run away you have no courage; you’re confusing courage with wisdom.”
And the Oscar goes to:
Actress: A tough call between Vivien Leigh and Judy Garland, but if it’s up to me, I pick Judy. My daughter, Erika (the other movie lover in our household) does a great impression of her.
Actor: Enough praises have been sung for good ol’ Charlie. Let’s give this one to Clark Gable.
I loved how many people responded to this week’s picks on Facebook. I thought there wouldn’t be enough people who cared about movies from eighty years ago. Looks like we all can appreciate a good movie when we see one, regardless of its age. And to think, someday people will watch Lord of the Rings and Star Wars and view them the same way.