SYTYCR Round 1.5: Dr. Diggler VS. Dr. Richard Thornton (CITY LIGHTS)

by Nick Jobe · July 11, 2012 · So You Think You Can Review · 18 Comments

(If you have no idea what this is, please click here and here.)

Let’s get right to it. For this next battle, it’s the battle of the doctors! And we’re going to be looking at another classic, Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights. Read, vote, comment, enjoy! You have until Friday. Below is the updated bracket. Click to make it bigger.


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Review #1
By Dr. Diggler

City Lights marks a lot of first for my movie repertoire. It is the oldest movie I have ever seen, the only Pantomime I have ever seen, and the only Charlie Chaplin movie I have ever seen. So really, when I watched this movie, it wasn’t to appreciate it as some classic work of art. I considered it the same way I would watching any other movie, and wanted to know. Will it hold up.
First off, this is my first Charlie Chaplin movie. Sure I’ve heard his name and have some basic knowledge of the iconic man, but I really hadn’t seen any of his work. When the few slides of opening credits rolled, the first thing I realized is the man was not just an actor. He wrote, directed and even chose the musical scoring to City Lights. That latter is really impressive, as well without voices, the entire movie is scored with music, which communicates almost as much as the actors themselves.
Don’t Worry Buddy, if I really thought you were going to do it, I wouln’d be smelling this flower. 
The movies biggest obstacle of course when it comes to measuring up to modern movies, is that it has no voices. While, the music and those few quick squeaks at the beginning clearly indicate that the technology for recording voices must have existed, for some reason Chaplin chose to keep things simple and stick to pantomime. Considering this, the story must be kept relatively simple, and easy to communicate without any large dialogues or conversations. Because of this City Lights is a simple romantic comedy, which I think must have been one of the first kinds of movies. I mean, without the technology we have today, or the ability to have speaking characters, the story can’t really be a complex medieval tale of corruption and magic. But even with those limits, Chaplin knows what he is doing.
One of the reasons Chaplin’s work is still significant today, is because when it came to that era and style of filmmaking he was quite literally the master. While he keeps the story simple enough, you can tell that he realizes that it is threw body language and actions that everything must be communicated. While yes, he over-exaggerates many of his actions in order to max things humorous, he also communicates more subtly as well. I mean, Chaplin is the entire focus of the movie, and while you acknowledge the other characters are present, you never at any point want to remove your eyes from Chaplin, you never know what he is going to goof up next.

That spaghetti looks rather plain even for black and white.
I thing that many people will describe City Lights, and other movies of its time and style as timeless and other such words. I wouldn’t really agree with that. While I agree that Chaplin’s work hasn’t really faded into memory to many, I wouldn’t say that modern films won’t be the same way as well. I mean, considering how long the film industry has been turning, I would say that a wonderful job is done at preserving the best works to grace the screen. But does that really mean that they hold up the same way today?
I will admit that watching City Lights was probably something I needed to do as a movie blogger. I pride myself in the variety of films I collect, and while I may not often venture into such long gone days of cinema, the work is still valid today. That being said, I wasn’t exactly astounded by City Lights. I mean, I have no real problem with any of it’s silence or black and white or age. The first twenty or so minutes are quite fun, mostly Chaplin himself and his goofy actions. However, when it comes down to it. The limit on how much can be communicated and how simple the story must be kept meant that things kind of dragged on. Today movies pack in so much knowledge and events in a small time that you can easily feel overwhelmed at times. City Lights however, is quite underwhelming in its way. It encompasses in the entire hour and twenty two minute length, the amount of story that is often covered today in a condensed twenty two minutes. I mean sure, maybe not overcrowding a movie is good, but considering the norms we are used to today, I found myself really waiting for the movie to wrap up.

All I can think about while captioning this is how much I want to go to Pizza Hut.
The story is as I’ve said pretty simple. Chaplin’s lovable character, The Tramp, falls in love with this blind girl, who unfortunately believes he is wealthy. This is because of his on and off friendship with a millionaire, and The Tramp goes to great lengths to please the girl. While he gets into some interesting mishaps and scenarios trying to scrape together all the money he can, in the end things don’t work out for him. Then of course, true love conquers all and they apparently live happily ever after. Considering that no one slept with anyone else, that is one tame romantic comedy by today’s standards.
So, in the end I may not have overly enjoyed City Lights. Did I find it a waste of time? Not particularly. City Lights and Chaplin’s other works represent a past era in filmmaking that should not be forgotten. While it may be hard see the direct influences it had on today’s cinema, it is without a doubt there. When it comes to watching any movie of this era, Charlie Chaplin should be the first man on your list, for he was easily one of the best filmmakers and movie stars of his time. Let’s see what this game throws at me next.

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Review #2
By Dr. Richard Thornton

“City Lights” came out in 1931, and even though “talkies” have been around for a couple of years, Charles “Charlie” Chaplin decided to give one more silent film a go before calling it quits.  And this would also be the final film in which Chaplin plays his trademark Tramp character, which is of course the character that made him a household name.

The story of “City Lights” is a bit depressing if you think about it using a modern mind. But if you were in 1931, you would most likely chuckle at the on screen antics of The Tramp. For instance, the film opens off with the unveiling of a statue but underneath the sheets is The Tramp, sleeping.

After being chased away by a large group, he roams around and comes across two boys selling newspapers. They make fun of him and cause him grief. This would upset anybody, especially in 1931 but thankfully The Tramp meets a Flower Girl, who is blind. During the exchange, she think he leaves her and instead of fixing the situation, The Tramp goes about his business.

Later on, The Tramp meets a drunk rich man who wants to kill himself. After talking him out of it, the rich guy befriends The Tramp and takes him home, where he showers him with gifts and money. The Tramp, wanting to win the affection of the blind flower girl, takes the money. But the next day, when the rich guy sobers up, he chases The Tramp away.

Thankfully, the rich guy gets drunk again and they go out and party. Unfortunately, the rich guy sobers up and kicks The Tramp out. The remainder of the film deals with The Tramp trying to win The Flower Girl over by finding out there’s a cure for her blindness. He takes a job to earn the money but while showing up late for work, he’s fired.

So naturally, he becomes a boxer and some more shenanagins ensue, which cause The Tramp to go to jail for awhile. The ending of the film is famous for having the most moving endings in film history, when The Tramp revisits the Flower Girl and she can see. But will she stay with The Tramp, or reject him and throw him back out to the streets?

Being one of Chaplins final silent films, it’s filmed beautifully and the use of music in the film is interesting to note. Most silent films just have an organ player playing throughout the film while the title cards are shown, but here this plays like a modern movie with different music cues and sound effects thrown in. Even at times the music sounds like speech, which is an interesting take on the whole film.

If you never seen a silent film before, I would highly suggest this film. It will surprise you, it will move you, and most importantly, it will make you chuckle. And if you never seen a Charlie Chaplin film before, this too would be a good start.

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Now Vote!

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18 Responses to SYTYCR Round 1.5: Dr. Diggler VS. Dr. Richard Thornton (CITY LIGHTS)

  1. Anonymous says:

    I think Thornton’s review was better written and researched, but he gave away almost the entire plot, which to me was annoying as I was looking forward to seeing this film one day. Diggler gave the ending away too, but at least he didn’t spoil the journey there. Neither review made me particularly want to watch the film, and I think Diggler’s pictures would have been better without the captions.

    • Nick says:

      Trust me… City Lights is an excellent, excellent film… and neither reviewer spoiled anything. They might have told you the story, but the story is very simplistic and guessable even if you watch it without knowing anything. The true joy in watching this movie comes from the visuals–the physical comedy and Charlie Chaplin’s expressions. At least to me, anyway.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Diggler’s review has a lot of basic grammar and spelling mistakes. Thornton’s review is little more than a plot summary. Both reviewers seem open to silent film, which is good, but neither provides a meaningful perspective on the form.

    Thornton has the better writing style but I voted for Diggler because he made the more serious effort at analysis.

  3. Anonymous says:

    What’s with all the anonymous comments?-Albert Einstein

  4. Dan says:

    I’m going to skip the Anonymous route, which I hope is the right way to go for these posts. I’m thrilled that both writers were able to see City Lights, which is one of my favorite movies.

    I think Dr. Diggler was on the right track with the approach to the post and just needed to do one more edit to cover some minor grammar and spelling issues. Dr. Richard Thornton has solid writing, but I was hoping for more analysis beyond the last few paragraphs. It was very close, but I voted for Diggler.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Sorry if this is rude, and I honestly don’t mean for it to be, but I just couldn’t get over the blatant grammar and spelling errors in Diggler’s review. Every time I got back into the review, I was taken out of it again by some error. It was very jarring to be honest.

    And to me, if I can’t get through a review, then the reviewer hasn’t successfully done his/her job. It’s a shame, because I think Diggler’s review had potential to be the better one.

  6. Awesome that this was a new experience for both writers, but I agree with the comments above, as well. I voted for Thornton because his writing was better, but he should have spent more time on his thoughts on the movie as opposed to a plot synopsis.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Honestly, I wish everyone was commenting anonymously. That way we wouldn’t be able to weed out certain authors that comment on the posts.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Echoing the above sentiments… Diggler’s review is sloppy, but Thornton’s is little more than a plot synopsis. Voted Diggler, his style is more interesting, just needs some proofreading.

  9. SJHoneywell says:

    I’m going to post under my name here–I’ll stand by these comments. I understand the desire for anonymity, but I also lean more toward constructive criticism backed by a name.

    Diggler’s review needs proofreading. It’s difficult for me to take an author seriously with multiple basic punctuation/grammar/spelling mistakes in the first paragraph. I’m far from perfect (I appreciate, for instance, that Blogger doesn’t show how much I go back and edit my own work), but I am careful. Missing plurals, periods for question marks…these are basic errors.

    My issue with the second isn’t the plot summary (more on that in a moment). There’s a factual error in the first paragraph: Modern Times was the last appearance of the Tramp character.

    So, does a factual error weigh more heavily than usage problems? Nope. We all get bad information now and then, and we learn from it being pointed out. Basic construction issues, though, are fundamental to good writing. In other words, the one problem I have with the second review is of a higher level–the reviewer got the basics right.

    As for the summary aspects of the second review, well, I write in much a similar way. I’m more concerned with issues of character and narrative in film than I am with cinematography or mise-en-scene or auteur theory. Summary is fine if the summary is good.

  10. I didn’t particularly care for either reviews, but I gave the edge to Thornton because at least he had some previous knowledge of Chaplin, and probably the film going into it, and I consider that paramount for most people who venture into film reviewing to have a wide variety of film knowledge. It’s scary to me that somebody would begin writing a movie review blog without having seen a silent film previously, much less, having not seen a Chaplin. However, I thought both reviews were rather immaturely written. I don’t particularly care for either review.

    • Anonymous says:

      I almost find this offensive. What if somebody is a genre blogger that does not write about those kinds of movies? Is it still wrong for them to blog about movies without having seen a Chaplin film? What if their blog’s purpose is to record their journey and become more knowledgable with film? Then that would also make sense if they are less experienced. I don’t think every blogger needs to be an aficionado of the classics or the early days in order to write about movies they enjoy.

      As for the reviews, I agree both left me wanting more. The first was poorly written. The second was well written, but it was mainly summary. I agree with SJHoneywell in everything he said however. That is why Thornton gets the edge in my eyes.

    • LifeVsFilm says:

      I agree with Anon. I’m hardly a silent movie buff, in fact I’d only seen the Great Dictator and Journey to the Moon before I started the blog, but for me my blog helped me to watch more and understand more silent movies. Blogs are just as good at widening your knowledge as showing it off.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I voted for Diggler because I felt that in spite of the grammar mistakes, it was a more worthy assessment of the film. I’d rather have an attempt at observation and criticism with mistakes than a simple plot synopsis that’s mostly error free. Some of the other comment arguments have made me question my initial decision, though. Neither are good, but they definitely have split the people down the middle in terms of what pisses them off more.

    I also greatly enjoyed the fact that they both had never seen the film, which always brings an interesting viewpoint to any discussion of a classic. Random draws FTW. Definitely one of the most interesting and hard-to-vote-on matches yet. Looking forward to some more!

  12. Anonymous says:

    Neither review was really up to par. The second one was all plot and the first was poorly edited and took its time actually discussing the movie. Due to the latter’s research they get my vote, but it seemed to be battle of who was mediocre.

  13. Anonymous says:

    This is Kai from http://www.manilovefilms.com and the MILFcast.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Anonymous comments are lame. -Still Kai

  15. Bubbawheat says:

    I did notice a couple of the grammar errors others have noticed, but apparently not as many of them because I enjoyed reading the review as a whole, especially from someone who had never seen a silent film before. I’ve only seen a couple, and one was Buster Keaton rather than Chaplin, in the end, I gave the vote to Diggler, but I would hope to see better editing in future rounds.

    Also, I think all the anonymous comments are because of the Blog Blustering. I’m just going the route that if my own round were to come up, I would comment just the same as all the other rounds.

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