Thursday, January 3, 2013


This coming Friday night, the Northwest Film Center begins their month-long cinema party for the newest centenarian on the block, Universal Pictures.  What that celebration translates to is the return of 17 films dating from between 1916 (Lois Weber & Phillips Smalley's rarely screened silent Where are My Children?) and 1989 (Spike Lee's career-best Do the Right Thing).

There's a whole lot of good running throughout the schedule, but, if I could only pick a few to see, I wouldn't miss Douglas Sirk's 1954 melodrama Magnificent Obsession, Erich von Stroheim's 1919 silent Blind Husbands, or Anthony Mann's 1950 western Winchester '73.  And, of course, you can never go wrong with Jaws or To Kill a Mockingbird.

Here's a blurb pertaining to the series from the UCLA Film and Television Archive that I swiped off the Film Center's site:

“The Universal Film Manufacturing Company incorporated in 1912, the result of a merger between a number of independent companies that had been battling Thomas Edison’s Motion Picture Patents Trust. Universal would go on to become the oldest continuously operating film producer and distributor in the United States. In an industry defined by change, Universal’s spinning globe logo has remained, along with its back lot and tour in Universal City, Calif. 

From its beginning under Carl Laemmle, there existed a tension between Universal’s need to produce low-budget ‘programmers’ and the ‘major minor’s’ desire to compete alongside better-capitalized studios—with their national theater chains—on the level of big-budget A pictures. Ironically, while several of Universal’s early ‘prestige’ titles are beloved classics today, including ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (1930), it remains the B pictures, including its iconic 1930s horror cycle (FRANKENSTEIN, DRACULA, THE MUMMY), that epitomize its contribution to film art and commerce. This irony informs Universal’s post-war emergence as a global entertainment power. After anti-trust actions leveled the playing field in the 1940s, Universal moved into the A-list with superlative mass entertainment that ennobled populist genres, including westerns (WINCHESTER ’73), thrillers (THE BIRDS), and sex farces (PILLOW TALK). Universal also innovated new industry practices, pioneering the ‘percentage deal’ and embracing television production. 

 It changed the game again with JAWS (1975), which established the ‘blockbuster’ formula that still dominates the industry today. Throughout its history, Universal has translated economic necessity into a uniquely American challenge to the distinctions between prestigious and popular entertainment.”

And here's an awesome video clip featuring all the various permutations of the Universal Pictures logo over the years:

 Now on to the trailers!!!

The Universal Pictures: Celebrating 100 Years series begins at the NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium (in the Portland Art Museum) on Friday, January 4th at 7pm.  More info available here.


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