I Didn’t See Prom Night

In a world where commercials are becoming more interesting than films, Charlie Chaplin and William Holden remind us that when new movies fail us, the old ones are happy to step in.

I didn’t see Prom Night this week, but I can review it right now for you if you like. 1.5 stars, some starlet who is astonishingly busted looking for being so young (can’t they dig up some fresh new seedlings in Hollywood? Can we get a talent search?) runs around in heels, screams a lot, and eventually seals the bad guy’s fate with a line that she thinks is clever but was actually retired years ago. Probably contains some sort of startlingly clever dialogue for about five seconds that saves it from being a solid one star, but ultimately the film isn’t worth all of the limitless advertising budget it seems to have had.

Ho hum, you’re welcome to prove me wrong. It’s your $9. Submit your review to ross[AT]rvanews.com and he will be happy to fire me and hire you, I’m sure. Especially if you turn things in on time. I really couldn’t be bothered. You see, I have (re)discovered the cinematic careers of Charlie Chaplin and William Holden.

It’s the horrifyingly barren periods of filmic wasteland, such as April 2008 seems to be becoming, that lead popular film enthusiasts into the alluring, intimidating, and — without a doubt — vast archives of American cinema.

Charlie Chaplin and William Holden have nothing to do with each other. One popped up on my halfhearted quest to watch films that have won screenwriting awards (I watched 1929’s The Circus) and the other has been nagging me internally to examine his career since I watched the magnificent Stalag 17 last fall.* I’m not a complete stranger to either bloke. I’m pretty sure I wrote a good paper on City Lights in college, and I remember that Chaplin wrote, directed, scored, and starred in (of course) all of his movies. I didn’t remember having as much fond admiration of him as I did during my schoolgirl crush on Buster Keaton (think I’m weird? Rent Seven Chances and you’ll see what I mean.)**

And Holden, well, I first discovered him in Sabrina during what was probably my first thorough movie career exploration – that of Audrey Hepburn.*** I also read a biography of Hepbrun in middle school that sketched vaguely around her purported love affair with the rugged, older-than-he-looks Holden. The story goes that they had a torrid romance while Holden was still married (hey, Audrey was human, too), but she broke it off because the darling thing wanted kids, and Holden, sadly, had seen to it that he could no longer shoot with live ammo. IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.****

So in this age of theater boredom, I have discovered some films that you should view, whether or not you have seen them before. Of Chaplin’s impressive body of work, I really enjoyed The Circus best (although Modern Times and City Lights are the more touted — and quite worth it as well). The Little Tramp (hey, he named the character, not me), with all of his physical comedy, impeccable timing, enormous heart, and affable inability to get things right is somehow ten times funnier than anything humorous I’ve seen lately. Could it be that irony is so widespread that it’s no longer effective? Can the simplest of comedy styles be somehow complex and clever again? I seriously think I’ve hit upon the perfect antidote to 2008 movie malaise — watching a little man with a moustache and a cane get chased by a pony over and over again. Oh, crap, I guess there’s YouTube for that, isn’t there?

Stalag 17 is a near-perfect film that I’m always pushing on people, but if you want to wait until after the election to watch something about prisoners of war (just so you don’t run the risk of picturing John McCain dancing around with fake boobs), I can safely recommend The Wild Bunch. I’d seen parts of this movie in class but never really sat through the entire thing. It’s a Sam Peckinpah Western of the highest degree. At first, it might seem like it’s so derivative of 1970s TV shows – same zooming, same music, same Sunday afternoon feel to it – until you look closely at the sleeve and realize it was made in 1969. This Western helped shape Westerns as we know them! In this era of Western-esque movies that play with character dimensions, it’s good to see some of the influences, no? And Holden…something about him is so familiar and warm, while still being gruff. I mean, he’s no Buster Keaton or anything, but he’s strangely heartwarming.

Turn up your skeptical nose at me if you must, but be warned. National Treasure: Book of Secrets will take up both timeslots at the Byrd, starting Friday.

*When I was on an Otto Preminger kick. I don’t have a lot of actual things to DO after work, if you feel me.
**Or maybe not. I also think the Colonial Williamsburg Drum and Fife Corps is sexy, much to the utter astonishment of the colleagues who accompanied me to a conference there.
***Required preteen girl viewing.

****Unlike ross[AT]rvanews.com. Congrats!! And eww!!

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Susan Howson

Susan Howson is managing editor for this very website. She writes THE BEST bios.

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