Cavalcade (1933)

  • Posted on: 28 March 2016
  • By: Noah Brand

This was based on a play by Noël Coward, and the nicest thing I can say is that maybe it worked better on stage. On film, it’s a godawful tedious slog through two generations of affluent London life, showing the great upheavals of the 1899-1933 period via a bunch of colorless, unlikable characters who mostly die, but not soon enough to suit me.

Grand Hotel (1932)

  • Posted on: 21 March 2016
  • By: Noah Brand

Watching Grand Hotel, the 5th-ever Best Picture winner, it struck me how rapidly I was seeing the art of filmmaking develop. An audacious plotline-juggling comedy, this movie makes remarkable use of the camera in ways that haven’t shown up in previous films, but will continue showing up in subsequent ones. (Except for the fact that Greta Garbo has a proprietary lighting system that exists only for her character, as though she’s in a whole different movie by herself. That one’s all Garbo.)

Cimarron (1931)

  • Posted on: 14 March 2016
  • By: Noah Brand

This is one of those movies that has to be taken in context. It traces the history of the development of the American West through the life of one man, from the first Oklahoma Land Rush up through the present day. Thus, the first piece of context that must be taken into account is that “the present day” means “the Hoover administration”.

Obsolete Joke: Soviet Shortages

  • Posted on: 9 March 2016
  • By: Noah Brand

Some jokes are perennial, lasting for decades or centuries with minimal revision. Others have specific expiration dates. In this series, I revisit jokes that can no longer be told.


One day in the Soviet Union, an old Jewish man is down at the collective market, looking at the signs about all the stuff they ain’t got.

“These shortages are awful,” he says. “Look at this: they’re out of bread, they’re out of tea, they’re out of meat, they’re out of eggs… how is a person supposed to live?”

All Quiet On The Western Front (1930)

  • Posted on: 7 March 2016
  • By: Noah Brand

This is the earliest Best Picture winner that doesn’t require any apology or explanation before showing it to contemporary friends. It holds up perfectly, a stark and even angry look at the pointless, brutal cost of war. Its characters join the German army as teenagers full of idealism and hope and all that dulce et decorum est crap, and everything goes downhill for them from there.

The Broadway Melody (1929)

  • Posted on: 29 February 2016
  • By: Noah Brand

I hated this movie. Hated it. Hated it in a way that started to feel weirdly personal after a while. The title song is repeated every five minutes by someone or other, which would be tolerable if it were a good song, but it’s not. There’s not a single likable character in this movie, which is a serious problem since we’re supposed to find them all charming. It’s about various people trying to achieve true love and showbiz stardom, but I didn’t want anything good to happen to any of them.

Obsolete Joke: 2016

  • Posted on: 24 February 2016
  • By: Noah Brand

Some jokes are perennial, lasting for decades or centuries with minimal revision. Others have specific expiration dates. In this series, I revisit jokes that can no longer be told.

Q: Where do you see yourself in five years?

A: I don’t know, I don’t have 2020 vision.

Expiration date: December 31, 2015

A rare example of a single-year joke, and the most recently-expired one I currently know.

Bachelor Chow: Introduction

  • Posted on: 23 February 2016
  • By: Noah Brand

A lot of us, men especially, never really got taught to cook growing up. Even when we did, many of us find that we don't have the time or resources to cook "properly". A lot of apartments have lousy kitchens, a lot of people have limited equipment, and when you're working hard, it's tough to make time to simmer things.

Wings (1927)

  • Posted on: 22 February 2016
  • By: Noah Brand

It’s hard to remember now just how amazing airplanes were in the 1920s. Barnstormers used to cruise from one small town to another, charging impressive fees just to show off their miraculous flying machines. That sense of wonder deeply informs Wings, in a way that’s hard to understand from here in the miracle-jaded future. The story of two young pilots and their service in WWI is nothing new even for the time, but the flying shots are spectacular, and in 1927 they might as well have been magic.