Monthly Archives: February 2017

The Horror!: “The Devil’s Castle”

This time, a movie with plot! I mean, sort of. This film, officially titled “Le Manoir du Diable,” is known as the world’s first horror movie. Despite this, it has a very light tone and is more funny than scary. Unlike the previous two films I have posted, which were films of moments of daily life, this is a fictional film. As such, it has something of a narrative element to it. Not a major narrative element. But there’s something more there. I don’t really have a thesis with this one, so I’m just gonna go through the film and highlight what I found fun or interesting.

In the beginning, a bat turns into a human. I assumed that this would be some sort of vampire. But then! He starts to doing magic. So, either he is a vampire-wizard or just a wizard. So perhaps they had different feelings about what creature could transform into bats. He immediately starts making things appear. I’m not sure if he uses a wand to do this or just his hands. I think he draws something on the ground with a sword. Anyway, to the main point, they really like the appearing effect in this one. The first 40% is the wizard dude making things or, more commonly, people appear. I’m not entirely sure what all of these are meant to be. The first one is a hunched-over guy, who might be meant to be a human with a hunchback or maybe some kind of goblin. Then wizard dude pulls a hot chick out of a cauldron.

Then! Plot twist! Two guys walk in! They appear to be some sort of guards, maybe? Anyway, a goblin/devil thing appears and starts poking them in the butt. Good to know poking people on their behinds for comedy’s sake has a long legacy. After the shorter one leaves, the taller one, who’s definitely the hot one, what with his fancy hat and better facial hair, remains. He keeps trying to pick up and/or sit on a bench. He’s weirdly undeterred by the fact that it keeps disappearing. He sits down next to a skeleton that he tries to kill(?) with a sword. Then it turns into a bat because it’s secretly the wizard! They have some sort of showdown. Which somehow involves the hot chick coming back and the hot dude immediately tries to romance her. Because that’s what happens. But! She’s really a witch, as signified by a light-colored cloak/sheet appearing on her. Then more witches come.

These witches seem to signal some kind of final phase of the battle. The witches keep doing swirly things. The shorter dude makes an appearance for a few seconds, then seems to disappear again. The witches descend on the taller guy. He then somehow gets out and then the witches disappear. The hero thinks it’s over, but no! It’s the return of wizard dude! The hero retreats and grabs a cross, which must have been hanging on a wall in that room, and vanquishes the wizard.

Overall, I find this one quite fun. It’s a bit confusing, since I’m not really sure what’s going on all the time. But it’s clear that there’s a dude and he fights a wizard. I like this film’s obsession with things appearing and disappearing. It’s a good use of the medium, as it was at the time. You can’t have things just appear and re-appear on another side of the room in a theater without some very careful staging and lots of trap doors. But it’s really easy to do in film. In this 1896 film, it’s really abrupt, but it’s good for its day.


The Lost Potential of Firefly: Knowingly Adding Nothing to the Discussion of this Cult Classic

Firefly details the misadventures, both legal and illegal, of the cargo ship Serenity and its crew as they avoid detection from the bureaucratic Alliance and earn a living doing odd jobs on the intergalactic frontier. Firefly was originally released in 2002, fifteen years ago, thus putting it into the “retro television” category albeit just barely. Regardless, Imma write about it. Fight me. (Spoilers Ahead)


Siblings River and Simon Tam. Screenshot from the pilot episode “Serenity”

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Clips of Life: The Lumiere Brothers’ First Ten

Sorry, internet. I got distracted yesterday baking cupcakes and completely forgot. Apologies.

The first commercial films were created by two brothers in France in the 1890’s. Auguste and Louis Lumière were the sons of a photographer. Louis began his career developing a commercial grade of film. Once he had the technique, he opened a factory producing these plates. He and his brother would later be inspired by his father’s visit to showing of Thomas Edison’s kinetoscope to work on combining this animation with film. After patenting their successful combination in 1895, they began working on their first run of films. Their film “La Sortie des ouvriers de l’usine Lumière” (“Workers Leaving to Lumière Factory”) is considered to have been the earliest motion picture.

In this year, the brothers made a run of ten films. These documented aspects of daily life in France. What I find interesting is the focus on people leaving things. They have two films of workers leaving their factory and another one of some people leaving a boat. My initial reaction was that it was a strange preoccupation of the brothers, but the more I thought about it, the more I began to wonder if what we’re seeing is a the establishment of something important to the film industry. I once took a class on anime in college. One of the things we discussed was the difference in the type of motion that is characteristic of each medium. While anime is characterized by sliding motions, due to the nature of the layers of drawings moving against one another, film’s niche is really ballistic motion. With film, you can capture something as it moves towards you. You get a bit of this in most of the films seen here.

(Also, as a fun fact, the train film they did in the link below is the first movie to have played in the Ottoman Empire, according to some source I used on a project last year that I don’t remember.)

I also like these because they show simple moments of people’s lives. It cut through our notions of what the past was like and shows us moments of people’s lives as seen by at least two of their contemporaries. I find this most interesting when it comes to gender roles. A lot of people assume that women didn’t work prior to the last several decades. The films of workers leaving a factory show quite clearly that the majority of employees were female. We also see a couple feeding their baby. The husband is at least involved in this activity as the wife, who is drinking tea. Also, this video shows that graham crackers were a thing in the late nineteenth century. I knew this intellectually, but I still found it shocking when I actually saw it. The fact that these moments are just so mundane is something I find comforting. It’s good to remember that people in the past had lives that contained these very simple, familiar moments.


Mecha Marathon – Aldnoah.Zero

Fifteen years after Heaven’s Fall, a cataclysm that destroyed the Moon, relations between the Vers Empire on Mars and the United Earth are almost nonexistent. Princess Asseylum of Vers descends to Earth as a gesture of goodwill but is assassinated shortly after landing. Caught in the crossfires of the battle that ensues are Inaho Kaizuka and his classmates who must use their limited resources to help with the civilian evacuation. Meanwhile, among the Orbital Knights of Vers, Earth-born Slaine Troyard uncovers the conspiracy behind the princess’s assassination only to find her alive and in a very unlikely place. Some Spoilers Ahead.


screenshot via opening 1 sequence

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