Wednesday, January 18, 2017

But before we silence silent movies ...

January is usually the month where I wrap up my previous year's monthly viewing series and tell you which one is coming next.

January 2017, however, is the month where I feel like I may be recovering from jet lag until February 2017.

But I still wanted to give you some kind of closure on No Audio Audient, perhaps the series I was most personally worried about before starting. Even if it won't be as lucid or as thorough as a post like this may have been in the past.

Twenty sixteen was my sixth year doing a monthly viewing series, although the first two years featured the same series. In 2011 and 2012 I did Getting Acquainted, in which I watched three films per month by a cinematic luminary with whom I was previously unfamiliar. Deciding that three movies per month was more than I could handle -- what a wimp -- I downshifted to just a single movie per in 2013, offering up what turned out to be my least-inspired series: Famous Flops. The series itself was a bit of a flop, at least as far as I was concerned, though not because the movies were difficult to watch. (I enjoy a good flop as much as the next guy, I just didn't think my picks were all that great.) I upped my game in 2014 with Australian Audient and in 2015 with Audient Auscars, which helped me catch up with unseen Australian movies and best picture winners, respectively. But outside of a stray undeserving best picture winner here and there, these didn't feel "difficult" either.

Silent movies were a bit different. There's a certain barrier to entry with silent movies that can be difficult to overcome -- even when some of them are only 45 minutes long. It wasn't the 45-minute ones that had me worried. It was the ones that ran over three hours. One even hit the four-hour mark.

But guess what? The four-hour film was one of two I awarded a five-star rating. (The other being the 45-minute one, ha ha.) And in fact, this may be the only series that has yielded two different films I gave my highest possible star rating. It never happened in Famous Flops, that I can tell you for certain.

Have I grown as a viewer? I don't know. I'm probably still seeing most silent movies as medicine, and not particular eager to get back to them right away. I'll need an excuse, I think.

But I sure am glad I did it. I saw four films that I consider masterpieces, the two that didn't get five stars coming in with a very respectable 4.5. And I didn't hate any of them.

How did I rate them? Well, here, I'll rank them from best to worst, making a fairly arbitrary choice between my #1 and #2:

1. Sherlock Jr. (February)
2. Greed (December)
3. The Kid (June)
4. The Big Parade (September)
5. The Lodger (May)
6. The Phantom Carriage (October)
7. I Was Born, But ... (November)
8. The Freshman (January)
9. Regeneration (March)
10. The Sheik (July)
11. Intolerance (April)
12. Broken Blossoms (August)

And the two Griffith movies pull up the rear. In 2016, I wasn't willing to rake Nate Parker over the coals for the personal baggage he brought to his version of The Birth of a Nation, but the director of the original got no love from me.

Want to know what's coming up in 2017?

Well, let's save that for tomorrow, so it doesn't get lost in the shuffle. I'm guessing there are some of you who view silent movies as medicine as well, and stopped reading this post after the words "But before."

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