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Issue: Summer 2021-2

Films of Future Past

Just How Old Is Old?

The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906); 222x582

The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906) movie poster

Let me just preface this by saying that people who need to preface things are ...

Okay, I've got that off my chest. One thing about the web and social media is that despite one's best efforts it is impossible not to be confronted by the strident certainty of certain youths.

When a self-styled reviewer/critic talks about 'the old films' and 'terrible CGI' of the 2000s, they are speaking from a place of overwhelming egotism. One Google support person told me that 1990s web pages made him 'want to throw up'. There is an expectation from these junior webizens that everything today is best and better, and the real world started at their own birth. This makes for bad content like so-called reviews.

The web provides a lot, and not all of it is quality. Social media gives people delusions of adequacy. Not having to justify every column-inch to editors and publishers because space costs money means that people on the web believe that their emotions, opinions, frustrations and prejudices are the whole damn world. Being able to publish on the web in no way reflects an ability, willingness, ethical background or professionalism that justifies publication, that is, being heard.

Nora Roberts, who is a writing machine and sits down even on her holidays, is said to decry self-publishing because of this type of concern. She points out that her first books were not published, and deservedly so. Having done the research and found her first published book, I agree. There is no substitute for hard work, experience and persistence.

Wow, that went off the rails seemingly, but what this all means is that the history of cinema did not begin the day your mummy sat you in front of your first Disney movie.

Here are two facts to offer perspective.

The FIRST full-length feature film was THE STORY OF THE KELLY GANG, produced in Australia in 1906. The earliest surviving Australian film is believed to be PATINEUR GROTESQUE (1896)(THE HUMOROUS ROLLERSKATER).

If you liked the shot in the PSYCH tv series where the wall falls down leaving the actors standing in the doorway, it is a reference to a Buster Keaton special effect. It was a practical effect so dangerous that Keaton's shoes were nailed to the ground so that he wouldn't move as the flat fell over him. CGI my eye.

"The Buster Keaton stunt, said to have a two inch clearance around him. From STEAMBOAT BILL JR (1928)".

PSYCH TV series, wall falling down over characters stund; 624x352

"PSYCH TV series, wall falling down over characters stunt"

Great films are great stories told well - scripts and actors and directors working together and using the best technology available to them.

Want to see good acting? Watch some of the films from the 1930s. Want comedy? THE THIN MAN (1934) is a crime-solving couple who have fun, an equal relationship, and solve the crime. They don't have colour, or CGI, but they have class, we can understand every word they say clearly, and they are thoroughly entertaining.

Don't tell me you watch BABYLON 5 for or despite the crappy CGI. Have you seen the alien in STAR TREK's CATSPAW? It looks like one of those pipe cleaner and matchbox spiders we made in school. But the suspension of disbelief has to include a willingness to accept the reality of the story, to listen, and watch, and maybe even learn. It is not about 'realistic' computer and other special effects.

One actor on a stage, with a great script and a spotlight can take the audience away anywhere, anywhen.

So do watch movies from all eras. And watch the classics, the seminal works before you bloody call yourself a reviewer or worse, an authority.

Rant over.

Or is it?

Does it continue in the facebook group Festivale's Reel Life?

Only the Shadow knows.

(And if you don't recognise that reference, I weep for the future.)

THE STORY OF THE KELLY GANG is title number 123032 in the National Film and Sound Archive

Summer 2021-2 (Dec 2021 - Feb 2022

Ali Kayn, photograph courtesy of the author

Ali Kayn is a freelance photojournalist and the founding editor of Festivale Online Magazine. Festivale was founded in October, 1996 to provide mentorship to developing writers, an outlet for talented fans, and a test bed for software and hardware under review. She lives in Melbourne, Victoria with a garden full of birds.

Ali Kayn contributor page
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