Thursday, July 26, 2012

Grab Bag: Diary of a Lost Girl, Transatlantic Tunnel, Series 7: The Contenders

Hey, sorry I haven't updated in a while. I'm in the midst of a big cross-country move. I'll still post reviews whenever I can, but I'm guessing they'll be a little less frequent for the time being.

Diary of a Lost Girl,
by Georg Wilhelm Pabst, 1929

I challenge you to watch Diary of a Lost Girl and not fall in love with Louise Brooks. Louise Brooks was a silent movie star in the 1920's whose hairstyle became a big fashion thing. When sound movies started happening, she's one of many who didn't make the transition (see: The Artist), but before giving up completely, Brooks went to Germany and starred in three more silent films by director Georg Wilhelm Pabst.

Diary of a Lost Girl is a silent masterpiece, starring Brooks as Thymian, a girl raped and impregnated by her father's associate. When she refuses to marry him because she doesn't love him, her parents give her baby away and places Thymian in a cruel and abusive boarding school. And so on. Lots of tragic, horrible things happen to Thymian, and she stays strong throughout it all, showing love and compassion in the face of a cruel, uncaring society.

I really loved this movie. The storytelling is timeless (except for the no sound thing, I mean, that kind of dates it), and Louise Brooks is great. Totally worth watching. In fact, I think it's essential. I want to see her other films now too, especially the ones with Pabst.

Transatlantic Tunnel, by Maurice Elvey, 1935

"The Tunnel" was a 1935 British science fiction film chronicling the building of an underground tunnel beneath the Atlantic Ocean from London to New York City. Somewhere along the way, they picked up the word "Transatlantic", which was added to the title for the US release.

The movie actually treats the subject matter rather realistically, and spends much time on the difficulty, danger, personal toll, and great expense of such a massive undertaking. The narrative takes place over a period of many years.

Though I did not think it was a very good movie, I found Transatlantic Tunnel's very existence interesting. You don't hear of a lot of science fiction films from the 1930's, and this might be the only one I know of that actually tries to project an accurate future. The idea of building a tunnel between the continents has been proposed and explored in the past as far back as the late 1800s, and found to be physically possible but not worth the time, money, resources, effort, and danger inherent in building it. They use televisions a lot in the movie, which I thought was cool, since they weren't widely available for another 15-20 years.

I probably wouldn't recommend Transatlantic Tunnel, unless you're interested in the history of science fiction. It's more of an interesting artifact than anything else.

Series 7: The Contenders
, by Daniel Minahan, 2001

I remember when Series 7: The Contenders came out. I was only 18, and it was the peak of the reality TV boom. I thought the idea of a satirical movie about a reality show where people were given guns and given a legal pass to kill each other was really cool. It IS the kind of idea a teenager would find really cool. I never got to see the movie, though. Until now.

It's pretty corny stuff, man. The story was rather silly and contrived, and the execution was trying to emulate the feel of a reality show, but it just didn't feel slick and polished enough. It could have gone so much further. I'll give it a few points, though. There are a couple of good moments. Some nice bits of irony here and there. A couple of surprising twists and some original ideas. I liked that the people were no-name actors, who just looked like real people. The soundtrack by the alternative band Girls Against Boys was decent, I always kinda liked them. The biggest, most pleasant surprise for me, though, was a brief appearance by a pre-Arrested Development Will Arnett as an MC for the reality show.

It's not worth watching for that, though. He doesn't ride around on a Segway or do an impromptu magic show to the Rocky IV music. Series 7: The Contenders has its moments, but there are better satires about reality TV out there. Just watch The Truman Show. Or if you want a reality TV thing with killing, watch Battle Royale or The Hunger Games.


Well, this wasn't the greatest bunch of movies. Diary of the Lost Girl was lovely, though. That's the one to watch. More to come as soon as I can!

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