Wednesday, January 25, 2012

30 Days of Oscar Day 1: City Lights

I had so much fun running this feature last year (and got a LAMMY nomination for it) that I decided to run it again.  The point was to fill some gaps in my knowledge of award nominated films.  However, I also used the opportunity to look at films I've already seen through the lens of an Oscar nomination.  You can take a look at the movies I saw last year here.  The point was just to try to see what they saw that made them award worthy and to see who they lost to or ultimately beat for the award.

Movie: City Lights
Year: 1931
Nominations: None
Wins/Snubs: Best Picture nomination should have been a given, but silent films were already over.

I'm breaking my own "rules" right off the bat.  In honor of The Artist I wanted to watch Charlie Chaplin's best silent film.  According to Wikipedia, Hollywood had embrace talking films in 1928 and by 1931 they were almost obsolete.  Chaplin had lots of his own money and managed to get City Lights made.  Following his most famous character, simply "The Tramp", it's a romantic comedy with all the best slap-stick, mistaken identity, and humor tinged with romance and really terrific acting.  

The plot is remarkably basic - a Tramp meets a blind woman selling flowers.  He is intrigued and thinks about her all day.  At the water he meets a drunk millionaire about to kill himself.  The Tramp saves his life and they become fast friends.  However, when the millionaire wakes up sober, he doesn't remember anything.  Hijinks ensue and of course the Tramp does very well and gets the girl. The hijinks are laugh out loud funny (though if you've never seen this, they may seem overly cliched - so try to put them in context while watching it).  Virginia Cherrill plays the blind woman and is famous for this role, but also for becoming Mrs. Cary Grant.  Her interaction with The Tramp is funny and sweet.  

If you've never seen a silent movie, definitely check this one out.  If you've already seen The Artist and want another one, this is terrific.  With a wonderful score (written by Chaplin) and intertitle dialogue, it's easy to follow without getting bored.  The story is complex, but it does make you see how great a film-maker Chaplin was given the restraint he exhibits, but not filming this with speaking and limiting the actual dialogue to the necessary.  Modern filmmakers and particularly actors could learn a lot from this film. 5 of 5 stars/lambs


David Bishop said...

Chaplin was such a great craftsman of emotionally engaging characters. City Lights is my favorite of his Tramp roles, but I would also highly recommend Gold Rush and The Kid.

Jess said...

David - I really would like to see more of his stuff. I couldn't believe this wasn't nominated for anything and is still revered as a film.