Sunday, June 20, 2010

TOP 10 SILENT MOVIES YOU HAVE TO SEE BEFORE YOU DIE.

I am a super fan of silent film and demand that you all see these films before you die. Movie friends have been after my basic silent movie list forever so here it is. These ARE listed in specific order. (I will be compiling additional movie lists so that you can have intelligent direction when you go hunting. If I left one of your favorites off then I either missed it or your taste in movies is crap. Kidding. Sorta.) Enjoy.

1) MERTROPOLIS 1927. Get the 2002 Kino Video release of this futuristic Fritz Lang socio-sci-fi masterpiece. More relevant now than ever. You will be amazed at the depth of the story and the effects that, unlike today's popcorn sci-fi films, actually propel the plot forward. This is the gold standard of the genre.

2) NOSFERATU 1922. In my opinion there has NEVER been a vampire movie made to date that captures the accuracy and other worldly horror of F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu. Sorry, but when compared to the the filthy predatory evil of Nosferatu, Lugosi's Universal film version is about as scary as a grade school play. This is a nightmare on celluloid. *Feel free to watch Universal's Shadow of the Vampire featuring John Malkovich and Willem Dafoe, as a double feature billing with Nosferatu. It furthers the original adaptation of the Dracula novel-based Nosferatu film in a delightfully twisted way.* Available on Alpha Video.
Twilight fans beware. There are no shave-chested faggot pretty boys in this film. Your film versions suck in a whole different way. (This remark is not sponsored by TIGER BEAT and 16 magazines.)

3) THE MAN WHO LAUGHS 1928. Get the Kino Video release of this heart-breaking sadistic romantic drama by Victor Hugo starring Conrad Veidt and Mary Philbin. The cruelty of this film is perfectly balanced by the heroic nature of Gwynplaine, the kidnapped son of a nobleman, who has his face mutilated into a horrible haunting smile. His love interest being that of a blind girl who performs in a traveling freak show that has taken him in. A 'must see' for the progressive German Expressionist fan. *This film is also of interest to Batman fans for obvious reasons concerning the visual image of the Joker character lifted point blank from the lead character, but should be viewed solely on it's own deserving merit.*


4) SHADOWS 1922. The tale of a Japanese laundryman who is mistreated by the good religious citizens of a small New England town where he has washed up after a shipwreck. Yen Sin is played to emotional heights by the great Lon Chaney. This is the first American film to show an Asian character as being someone larger than the ethnic comical image of the time in which it was produced. If this film doesn't make you cry and cheer then you completely devoid of anything human. Available on Alpha Video.

5) DR. JEKYLL and MR. HYDE 1920. This version of Robert Louis Stevenson's dual-nature classic features John Barrymore in one of his greatest roles. Unlike the newer versions of this epic that only seem interested in exploiting the visual change to evil and back again theme, this take keys in on the spiritual aspect of a man hellbent on escaping the purity of his chaste life and the secret beast that wants to break free within. There are some amazing moments herein including one featuring the evil Hyde breaking the back of a child in broad daylight, the infamous giant spider scene and the original transformation where Barrymore does every bit of it without the use of makeup. This is the definitive and truest version of the tale. Available on Alpha Video.


6) THE GOLEM 1920. When the Jewish citizens of a ghetto community in 16th century Prague rise up against their arrogant oppressors, their Rabbi creates a soulless defender of living clay with the use of forbidden sorcery: The Golem. The creature, created by means not sanctioned by the Jewish religious tradition, soon falls into the wrong hands and goes on to destroy everything in sight. Visually stunning and made from a very German perspective. Hmmmm. Bound to cause some conversation. Available from Alpha Video.


7) BIRTH OF A NATION 1915. There's a lot to love and abominate about this historic romp by legendary filmmaker D.W. Griffith. There are breathtaking film techniques presented here that were never done before and on a scale that was decades ahead of their time. Griffith was no man of small vision. If there was a top then he was waay over it with experimentation - that seemed to always astound. After directing over 500 short films for the Edison Studios between 1908 and 1914, he made this masterpiece. Behold: the first full-length movie in American history. This is a docu-drama about the Civil War up until the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the wars end. The battle scenes are authentic and heroic on every level. The second half of the film contains the Reconstruction period and ..the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. WTH?! Somehow D.W. didn't get his facts right and decided to use the film to hype the activities of the social supermen of his day who he honestly believed were on the side of good. Oops! Moral: Always do your research before jumping to conclusions about anyone claiming to do justice in a religious costume consisting of a sheet. Griffith admitted his blatant error and went on to make Intolerance as a sort of apology. Nonetheless, Birth of a Nation is masterpiece on every visual level. Available on Alpha Video.

8) AVANT-GARDE (EXPERIMENTAL CINEMA OF THE 1920s AND '30S) This is an amazing collection of 24 short experimental films created by names like Marcel Duchamp, Fernand Leger, Man Ray, Hans Richter, Jean Epstein, Orson Welles and many others. Haunting, amusing, beautiful, grotesque, stunning, dreamlike...it's all here. This 2 DVD set collects films from the Raymond Rohauer experimental cinema archives. A hard to find but worth the effort set produced by Kino Video. This is a gift that you give to yourself.

9) THE PHANTOM of the OPERA 1924. Like many classic horror films this has been remade countless times and with different perspectives. This version starring Lon Chaney is by far the cornerstone. Set in Paris, France it features an obsessive creepy love story between a beautiful young opera singer and a hideously deformed but classically trained composer who lives deep in the bowels of the sewers below. The unmasking of the Phantom has never been duplicated for it's fright value. The ending is not the happy one that modern interpretations offer. This one is cold blooded and chilling. This version is the one that haunts. Available from Alpha Video.

10) EDISON'S FRANKENSTEIN 1910. Yeah. It's pretty darn self serving for me to list this film here at the expense of others but, hey...IT'S MY BLOG. This short 13 minute film was created by the Edison Film Company and predates the Universal Frankenstein release by decades. It is loosely based on the 1818 Mary Shelley novel but takes liberty in making the monster from absolute scratch and the mystic arts rather than the reanimation of sewn together body parts. The society of that day felt that the creation of life by man was a blasphemy and all of the films were destroyed making it one of the great lost films in American history. An eccentric film collector, Alois Dettlaff found the only existing copy of the film in the 1950s. Before his death, Dettlaff burned 1000 copies of the epic onto signed and numbered DVDs. The film is now missing once again. In 2003 I had the pleasure of working with illustrator Robb Bihun and historian Fred Wiebel on a graphic novel featuring the film. It quickly sold out. A version of the graphic novel, minus the historic text, is slated to be re-released in the fall of 2010 just in time to celebrate the films 100th anniversary. It may be the only way to 'see' this film. For more information simply email me at: cyambar@hotmail.com
To get a great book about the history of the film and a bonus disc with an altered/restored version of the movie look for Fred's book over at the online TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES store. Worth every dime.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

YAMBAR HAS THOUGHTS ON MINISTRY



When people ask me about my life in the ministry, I always question their motives.

If they are just being a gossip-encrusted nibby-nose, then I tell them that their wife looks hot and that I'm drunk. This usually shakes them off and gives them something to talk about behind my back. I've never had the benefit of any extended outreach of compassion from these types. Gossips are lower than murderers. They get off on killing people as many times as possible and watching others suffer. This turns them on. They are perverts and sadists.
If they are referring to my vocational association to some denominationally sanctioned community gathering, I tell them that I am way too busy being a bad example to join the roster.

I don't want to be the one to rock the canoe when I stand up to pee off the side. I have a difficult time doing a wee wee in an officially labeled plastic milk jug shared by others. There are no decent rest stops along the rapids. I have a big problem with dramatic leadership that constantly wants to instruct others in the boat on how to crash it into the only boulder sticking out of the water in front of them. I have the gift of sight. Every time I use it, it costs me big-time.

Let's get a few things out of the way before I go any further: I've been a Christian (by intelligent choice) since 1978. I was raised Roman Catholic and have seriously explored Buddhist philosophy, Taoism, and Jewish and Islamic religions. I've studied mystery sects, natural science cults, and books on the occult. I've read Playboy and The New Yorker. While there are elements of truth in all of the above, none shows the way clearer and offers big-picture concrete answers like the straight-up, undiluted teachings of Jesus Christ. If this offends you then... GOOD. I'm not about to apologize for investing decades of my life in the search for absolute truth and meaning while living in this shit-for-brains society of primal savagery we call the human race.

When we allow ourselves the opportunity to look beyond our stupid species and at the world itself, it is nearly impossible to not see that there is too much order and design on every level. Where there is order and design, there is thought and imagination. Where there is thought and imagination, there is personality and purpose. Where there is personality and purpose, there are answers...and meaning. Absolutes and identity.

I've spent my entire life looking for an excuse to leave the Christian life. I put my belief and research to the test constantly, looking for refinement and better clarification. I remain a Christian, a follower of Christ. Sadly, the best reasons I've found for leaving are Christians themselves. I understand that nobody is perfect and that being a part of ANY group entitles you to no higher intelligence than those who don't. Everyone is flawed and everyone is learning. I always grade on a curve and try to look at things from another perspective beyond myself. But honestly, some of these people are god damn idiots! Embarrassments to every living and dead thing around them. Some of them, certainly not all of them, are the worst representatives of ultimate truth in the universe. There are more acts of mindless, self-serving crime being committed in the name of Christ now than ever before.

The Jesus of the West is sure not the one from the East where He actually walked upon the earth. When I read the passage where Jesus was praying in the garden to His heavenly Father prior to being tortured as the sacrifice for mankind, I am always moved by His willingness to go through it in spite of me. He knew the horror and pain He would suffer as a mortal man. I sometimes wonder if His real pain was caused by some glimpse of those in the future who would turn His gift into an excuse to hoard, lie, cheat, and hate in His name. Those who would screw their own children and beat their wife at home and act as a Deacon on Sunday morning.

I've been called "hurt and bitter." I've been called "judgmental and arrogant." I've been called "dangerous." Well, they got the dangerous part right. An honest man is a dangerous one. When I was in the traditional "suit and tie" sector of Western Christianity, I tried to play by the rules of the gang and stay in favor with the powers that be. I spent endless hours listening to people's problems, most of which could be solved if they'd just stopped doing what they were doing. I got scolded for being too frank with the youth and too modern with the elderly. If I did community outreach work to raise adult awareness about HIV and drum up some funds for local AIDS Hospice, then somehow it got twisted into my passing out condoms to school-age children. REALLY HAPPENED! My writing for the Simpsons comics and being an artist who wouldn't do free utilitarian work for the amazingly shitty Christmas play made me an anarchist responsible for the fall of America. Stating that the events of 9-11 were not the end of all time and space and simply meant that the U.S. had just entered the global community where terrorism is a constant way of life... you get the picture. The list goes on forever. The leadership always caused the most trouble. They never could shut up and get a functional education. There were days in traditional church ministry where my single greatest joy was letting out the loudest fart possible as I pooped in the metal echo-chamber bathroom next to the front office. Man, was that location amazingly loud!

I witnessed great acts of human compassion, too. There were plenty of folks willing to move out of their comfort zones and do what was most important in God's eyes: feeding the poor, clothing the naked, and taking care of the orphan, widow, and homeless. Stuff that actually mattered and earned you the right to share the faith. Silent evangelism with moving hands that physically fed in the here-and-now while making the human heart hungry for a taste of something even sweeter in the future. Actions that do not get you on the evening news or on the cover of Rolling Stone.

I live in the desert these days. Outside of the church-city. I work on whatever I put my hands to do with happiness and inner satisfaction, knowing that there is no separation between the sacred and the secular. I speak in a manner that is vulgar and funny. I always have special prizes inside of everything I do and am usually unconscious as I add what comes perfectly naturally. My "box" has no walls and, therefore, no ceiling. All I have is a solid foundation where I can run and explore with confidence in any direction that pleases me. I make great coffee. And I have just enough "proper anger" to stand my ground in any season, knowing that someday someone else will be leaving the city and coming out into the wilderness to seek something deeper than the printed page and the scowl given for asking. I await to assist. The post-modern desert shifts all the time and is ever-changing. I remain steadfast and eager to show the thirsty where the water winds beneath the sand in the secret places.

Don't understand what I'm talking about? Great. Let's go talk about it (and anything else) over some pie and coffee. Maybe some BBQ. Your dime. That's my ministry field. Friendship and relationships.
P.S.: Feel free to file my denominational association under "OTHER." I'm a "deconstructionist" by trade.

"All I've got is three chords, a red guitar, and the truth." - Bono

Saturday, June 12, 2010