Thursday, June 30, 2011

6.30.11 Bee-otch of the Day: Paramount Pictures


Name: Paramount Pictures
Age: 99
Occupation: storied movie studio
Last Seen: Hollywood, CA
Bee-otched For: making it a three-peat

Some of the greatest movies ever made may never, ever be seen ever again.

One of those films is called The Way of All Flesh, a 1927 film about a man who is thought to be dead, but is still alive. German-American actor Emil Jannings played August Schilling, a Milwaukee banker who's on a business trip to Chicago to deposit $1,000 in securities. On the way, he ends up meeting a seductress on a train who flirts with him and ends up at a saloon run by a crook. The next morning, Schilling wakes up in a broken-down bedroom with the money gone. He finds the woman, pleads with her to return the funds only to get punched by the saloon owner and dragged unconscious to a railroad track. He strips Schilling of all identification, but when August regains consciousness, he fights with the man, who is thrown in front of a train and killed. August flees, but wants to take his own life.

However, since the crook has all of August's IDs, his dead body is believed to be August's, and it's reported in the news. August ends up living in seclusion as an old, unkempt tramp 20 years into the future, making a living picking up trash in a park. One day, he learns that his young son has become a popular violinist and goes and sees him in concert. After his show, he goes to his house - which the Schilling family still owns - and pays a visit to his son. He never reveals his identity, and walks away into the snowy city with a dollar little August gives him.

I know, I know. I gave out the whole movie. But chances are, unless somebody finds a copy of this film in a private collection, you'll never see it. Despite the fact that Jannings won the first ever Best Actor Oscar for his performance in this picture, it's a lost film. The two sole fragments of this movie were featured in a special called (what else?)Fragments on Turner Classic Movies a few months ago. One fragment was that of Jannings watching his son play his violin in a theatre, which was featured in a short subject Paramount made in the 1930's about its past called Movie Memories. The other fragment was the movie's final few minutes, where August Sr. and Jr. made their exchange before Sr. walks away and the iconic Paramount "The End" logo appears on screen without the Paramount logo in the background. Of course, Paramount should be happy that their logo wasn't in the film's end since the last few seconds of the film have warped into a sea of nitrate decomposition.

So, why did Paramount lose The Way of All Flesh? Simple. When silent film production ended in 1929, they were no longer popular. Since there was no television, home video, internet and all that back then, Paramount - and almost all other studios - had no way of profiting from their old movies anymore. So, the studios chucked their negatives and other prints mainly for the silver needed to make more film. Even worse, the film itself was made from nitrate, which was severely flammable and decomposes in hot, humid conditions. As a result, around 80% of all silents ever made (c. 1894-1930) are lost, and so are half the films made prior to 1950.

According to one source, of all the silents made by Paramount, only a quarter of them still exist.

It's pathetic that Paramount saw no value in Emil Jannings' Oscar-calibre performance, yet, they went ahead and made a THIRD Transformers movie. The latest heap of shit,Transformers: Dark of the Moon, was released on Tuesday and so far has made $15 million in two days. Not shabby, especially since the film took nearly $200 million to make. Most of the cast from the first two movies are back sans Megan Fox, who was fired for making anti-semetic remarks about director Michael Bay, comparing him to Hitler which angered executive producer Steven Spielberg.

I skimmed through a writing of the film's plot, and I wasn't interested. Quite frankly, I'm sick of the phenomenon about the series, since it's confusing as hell. Even Roger Ebert gave this film a whopping one star because it was nothing more than a confusing mixture of special effects and a weak plot. I'll even admit that I saw the firstTransformers and thought that it was only OK. I saw the second one only because I was up in my old hometown of Elk Rapids, MI, and the local movie theatre I grew up attending had just remodeled. The Cinema Theatre's owner did a wonderful job of restoring its original beauty, but goddamn he should have chosen another film.

Well, I'm swearing off Dark of the Moon. PERIOD. I'll only see it if 1) a hot chick wants me to see it with her, and she's promising me hot, horny sex or 2) there's a gun pointed to my head. Sorry, but I'm 30 fucking years old. Yeah, I played with Transformers toys as a kid, but I'm not a kid anymore. It's too bad that there aren't any more "adult" pictures out there, or else I'd be at the theatre this July 4th weekend.

Summer: the worst time to watch a movie. 


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