The Great Dictator (1940)

The Great Dictator

The classic image of Hynkel (Chaplin) playing with the world in his hands.

Before the release of The Great Dictator, Hitler was a fan of Chaplin’s, so much so that it is rumored he modeled his mustache from the comedian. This makes me wonder why Hitler never shaved after the movie came out. After the release, it was unsurprisingly banned in Germany even after the war ended.

After years of his immortal tramp character had become one of the world’s most recognizable images, Chaplin finally decided to make a talkie (12 years after talking pictures were born). In The Great Dictator, he is not known as the tramp, but a jewish barber (though he is still nameless). After serving in the first World War (then called the great war), the barber survives a plane crash with a soldier he saved named Schultz (Reginald Gardiner). The barber is in a hospital for years suffering from memory loss before he returns to his home country of Tomania, only to discover it is ruled by a new dictator, Adenoid Hynkel (also Chaplin). A local neighborhood girl Hannah (Paulette Goddard, one of Chaplin’s wives in real life) supports the barber as he fights the higher power, even if the new appointed Schultz fails to get his soldiers to lay off of the barber.

As in all Chaplin films, there are a plethora of scenes that are classic comedic gags. The airplane ride at the beginning, the wacky slapstick on the street as the barber tries to stand up to the storm troopers, Hynkel playing with the world in his hands, and more to discover. We also get Jack Oakie as Napaloni (basically Benito Mussolini), the dictator of Bacteria. Their scenes together are ripe with comedic energy.

Oddly, the most popular scene in the film is the last five-minute speech given by the barber. In a way, it is out-of-place, because it makes the comedy automatically stand still and makes way for what is arguably Chaplin talking to the audience, not the barber. I am not saying I agree or disagree with what he says, only that the whole speech is a little superfluous to the story.

Parents, kids would be fine with this movie (no swearing or any sexual stuff), but I would at least think they should be old enough to know who Hitler was.

This would be the last time that Chaplin had played a man with a mustache on-screen. The film is not his best (that is always City Lights, with Modern Times a close second), but it is nice to see how Chaplin managed to fight back against the real life ruthless dictator of the 20th century with all the weapons he could muster. In his biography, he did mention that he would not have made the film if he knew ahead of time the horror that was going on for those under Hitler’s thumb at the time.

Thankfully, Chaplin pursued the film’s completion, one year before the United States went to war.

 

Overall: Four and a Half Stars ****1/2

The Death of a Nation (2018)

Death of a Nation

In the first five minutes of the movie, Hitler (Pavel Kriz) commits suicide. Even he wanted out of this film.

With about twenty or so minutes left in the new Dinesh D’Souza documentary Death of a Nation, I realized he had changed my view on something that I held very dear to my heart. Until that moment, I was a firm believer in never having your cellphone on during a movie. Well, Mr. D’Souza, congrats, you have changed my belief. If only I had done that sooner.

I try to stray away from politics, but this film kept nipping at my heels the last few weeks, especially the zero percent on rottentomatoes (yes, the audience rating is at 90, but look closer at how many other reviews those positive reviewers have done before hand). For those of you have not even heard of this film, it is as pure propaganda as they come. D’Souza is easily one of the most right winged people known to mankind. He basically equates liberals to Nazis and slave owners. While I am sure there are some who agree with him on somethings, I find it hard to believe anyone would like how he explaining them. I would say boring, but that is to insult the six fine letters used in that word.

In Charlie Chaplin’s classic film Modern Times (1936), there is a timeless sequence when the tramp is on a lunch break at work. Instead of eating normally, the company has made a choice to feed him with a machine as he works. The imagery of that scene reminds me of how D’Souza is giving us this information. He is truly shoving it down our throats without a chance to swallow.

Another set of images that came to mind was from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986). The scene was when the history teacher (Ben Stein) was reciting information (“Anyone?”), and we see the dumbfounded looks of the students. That was my reaction to this film.

Parents, I honestly don’t know. I mean, if you believe what D’Souza is saying, then sure, I guess you can take your kids. Even then though, they will be bored.

Not sure if it matters, but I would consider myself a centralist (though I do lean toward the right). Just putting that out there because I am sure there are some who may think of me as someone who just doesn’t get it. Some of you may be thinking I know nothing of politics and should just stick to movies.

You are right. I know hardly anything about politics, but I do know a lot about movies.

And this one was atrocious.

 

Overall: Zero Stars (my first ever film to get this rating, so congrats?)