“Home Folks” And The Picture Shows–Rural America During The Dawn Of Cinema

The day of the “show” came. The courts adjourned. Stores closed, the blacksmith dropped his tongs, and school “let out” at noon. The people went in droves, even the ministers and their wives…The opera house was packed, with an eager, expectant and mystified audience. The house was darkened, and suddenly a glimmering light began to play on a canvas dropped like a curtain across the stage. And the first moving scene “thrown” was one of a lazy policeman trying to hurry an old man and a crippled mare across a street. The town wag let out a whoop, everybody caught the spirit–the moving pictures were a go!

–Reminisces about an 1897 small town motion picture show,
Conestoga Magazine, 1907.

Could cinema have been invented at a more fortunate time? Once an impressive novelty viewed for a few cents a pop, it also inadvertently documented intriguing glimpses of the “old,” traditional way of life. And those glimpses were something more than the general, exciting changeover from horse-drawn buggies to automobiles, or how the cities slowly lit up with electric lights. It was the passing of using those horses to plow fields, the end of drawing water by hand from a well, the dwindling away of kerosene lamps and flickering candles. It all happened in the mere span of a generation or two.

Rural Life in the Late 19th Century | Rise of Industrial America, 1876-1900  | U.S. History Primary Source Timeline | Classroom Materials at the Library  of Congress | Library of Congress
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It’s Not Just A Movie–Musings On “The Last Jedi” Backlash And Why Cinema Matters

Note: These musings are free of clear TLJ spoilers. 🙂 

So you may have heard of a little film called The Last Jedi. Came out during Christmastime, made a bit of a splash, did pretty well at the box office and all.

And by now you’ve probably heard about the backlash against the film (much of which I, a major Star Wars fan, agree with). Although critics–surprisingly–seemed to embrace it with uncharacteristic enthusiasm, many fans have been lukewarm. Some outright hate many of the choices it makes, as you can see in numerous online articles and videos and doubtless in some face-to-face discussions as well.

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Let’s just say obvious ploys to sell oodles of plushies are the least of its problems.

I’ve noticed that some folks have been countering the backlash with the retort, “Oh calm down, it’s just a movie.” (Fans of just about anything are sure familiar with that.) And I’ve been thinking over that retort, my friends, and it simply doesn’t sit well with me.  Continue reading

Thoughts On: “Tol’able David” (1921)

It’s during these warm days of summer, when the humid, greenery-scented air brings back nostalgic memories, that I find myself turning to Tol’able David (1921). A masterpiece of Americana, it’s also arguably one of the great masterpieces of the cinema. It’s also one of my absolute favorite silent movies.

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My Top 10 Favorite Silent Films (So Far)

So I’ve been thinking: good ol’ Internet listicles are fun. And depending on the context, they can tell you a little about the writer, too. Here I’ve been publishing posts on our beloved old films week in and week out, and never thought to write the most basic one of all–a “my favorite silents” list. So allow me to tell you a little about myself.

Needless to say, picking just ten films was a task akin to scaling Mount Everest. I don’t know if my list is the most surprising one in the world (no worries, it’s not smugly crammed with obscure social dramas from Finland or something), but here it is, in no particular order–except for #1! (Links are included for the ones I’ve reviewed so far.)

10. Metropolis (1927)

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