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Film90: The Introduction

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What Is Film90?

Film90 is a blog project for Digital Monkey Shines.  The overall goal of the project is straight-forward: to watch 90 years of cinema history in chronological order.  A single film from each year has been selected, and I will watch one film per day towards completion of the project.  Blog entries about the films will be posted approximately every five days.

I’m doing this because I have often struggled with a difficulty that presents itself to someone who wants to learn about movies past and present.  We simply don’t have the patience or the access to film in its original chronology.  We start with something we think we’ll like, maybe we use film lists like the AFI top 100, and the story of cinema comes to us in a chaotic system as we move through linkages formed by directors, film movements, and actors only to find cul-de-sacs created by the inconsistent availability of classic film on the retail/rental market.

In my case, I started by trying to watch all of Roger Ebert’s Great Films, having stumbled onto the first volume of the series at a bookstore.  The first title I removed from that list was All About Eve, which, released in 1950 would put it almost exactly in the middle of the Film90 time line.  Outside of the most common exceptions (Snow White, It’s a Wonderful Life), it was the oldest film I’d ever intentionally set down to watch at the time.

Since then I’ve worked my way back and forth throughout the entire history of the moving image, and occasionally I found myself having to revisit a film because I hadn’t understood it in its temporal context.  For example, I watched The Searchers before watching any other John Wayne westerns.  I’ll admit I never inherited an appreciation for Wayne in my family.  Once I’d taken a gander at Stagecoach and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, I returned to The Searchers and felt anew the sea-change that western represented.

Watching films in chronological order is not a task to be taken lightly.  Were I to subject a neophyte to a strict diet of Edison actualities, followed by Edison shorts and then by Biograph shorts, I doubt I’d be able to convince the viewer to stay even to the advent of feature film.  Silent film is such an alien medium to the modern film viewer, that I believe appreciation requires some development.  To make matters worse, outside of the big three comics of the silent era, silent film actors are often unfamiliar to typical people.

Now that I’ve chewed through a couple thousand classic, foreign, or otherwise notable movies in the past five years, I feel sufficiently prepared to view the Film90 films and write about them.

Selection of the films was a feat of balancing dozens of competing demands, but I do want to be clear that none of these demands represent an attempt to identify a film canon.  In fact, I’ve made a conscious effort to avoid overloading the selections with obvious canon-fodder.  Plenty of people have written more eloquently about films like Citizen Kane than I can hope to scribe.

Among the selection goals were:

  • To not over-represent any one director, limiting the number of films to three for any one individual
  • To include a reasonable selection of foreign language film from a diverse selection of film industries
  • To insure a sufficient number of films have never been seen by me
  • To include broad coverage of genres
  • To choose some films purely for their entertainment value

How to Enjoy the Film90 project

First, check in with the blog every five days or so.  The plan is to report on my progress after every fifth film to share my observations, reactions, and whatever else comes to mind.

If you want to try to view-along as if this were a film-club you’re welcomed to join in.  Check out the Film90 page accessed from the side-bar menu, where you can see a listing of the planned films.  Some of the selections may be exceptionally difficult to get, as I am partially drawing from my personal collection and some titles have gone out-of-print.  You are welcomed to find suitable replacements in line with your needs.

Comment and share!  I hope we have an opportunity to share our experiences.

If you’re waiting for the project to get going, take a moment to view my earlier post on Edison films for a little warm up to put you in the late-Victorian frame of mine.

Written by Bill

May 7, 2011 at 7:22 pm

Posted in Movies

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