Frank W. Buckles, The Last U.S. Veteran of World War I

Frank Woodruff Buckles was born on February 1st, 1901. At the age of 16, he enlisted in the U.S. Army by convincing recruiting officers that he was, in fact, 21. In this short film, Buckles recalls this time so long ago and the last year of the Great War. There are two particularly moving passages in this documentary: when he talks about the difficulties veterans experienced after returning home, and when Buckles voices his opinions on war in general, and particularly war today ("How did we get involved in this thing, Iraq? It was crazy, we have no damn business in there.")

Frank died on February 27th, 2011, at the age of 110. The last surviving U.S. veteran of World War I, he was properly laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery (find video of the ceremony here). There are two tributes to Mr Buckles that offer more insight into his life: a short video by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs and an obituary in the Washington Post.

By profession, Matthias Rascher teaches English and History at a High School in northern Bavaria, Germany. In his free time he scours the web for good links and posts the best finds on Twitter.

“You Just Don’t Get It, Do You?” – A Montage of Cinema’s Worst Cliché

Jeff Smith, an independent filmmaker from Indianapolis, must have spent quite a bit of time going through hundreds of movies to come up with his final montage of 120 movies containing the line "You just don't get it, do you?". If you want to invest some time as well, try to guess the movies first and then compare your results with the list of actual movies here.

If you enjoy guessing movies, you can take a look at Jeff's blog post "Name That Film," in which he shows you tricky movie stills (don't worry, he also provides the solutions).

By profession, Matthias Rascher teaches English and History at a High School in northern Bavaria, Germany. In his free time he scours the web for good links and posts the best finds on Twitter.

Revisit Havana, the “Paris of the Caribbean,” in the 1930s

This short film showing Havana in the 1930s was shot by André de la Varre, the long-time cameraman and cinematographer for American traveler, photographer and filmmaker Burton Holmes. In those days, Havana was a flourishing and fashionable city dubbed the "Paris of the Caribbean," attracting an ever increasing number of tourists. André de la Varre's film portrays Havana as the "exotic capital of appeal," which pretty much sums up its essence during those days.

Bonus material: A list of all the sights shown in this film can be found here; another short film about Havana in the 1950s hereThis video from late 2008 gives an idea of the sorry state of Havana's city center today. And don't foget to marvel at the wonderful collection of vintage travel films at The Travel Film Archive.

By profession, Matthias Rascher teaches English and History at a High School in northern Bavaria, Germany. In his free time he scours the web for good links and posts the best finds on Twitter.

“Lift” – A Portrait of Life in a London High Rise

How do you adequately portray life in a high-rise building? London filmmaker Marc Isaacs found a rather unconventional answer to this question. He installed himself inside the lift/elevator of a high rise on the East End of London. And for ten hours a day, over two months, he would ride up and down with the residents, with his camera pointing at them. It is fascinating to see how the residents react to him being there - some are suspicious or even hostile at the beginning. Others open up about their personal lives and their daily life in the building. And then others bring him something to eat, a chair to sit down on, or even little presents. The result is a moving and "quietly fascinating meditation on the mundanities of London life." Writing about the film, the Times Online put it best: "Isaacs has an astounding gift for getting people to open up to him and he uses film the way a skilled artist uses paint. The result is beautiful, heartbreaking and profoundly humane."

Here's some bonus material: a review of "Lift" and Isaacs' two other short documentaries "Calais" and "Travellers," a Sunday Times article entitled "Marc Isaacs on his documentary art," and an interview with Mark by The Documentary Filmmakers Group dfg.

By profession, Matthias Rascher teaches English and History at a High School in northern Bavaria, Germany. In his free time he scours the web for good links and posts the best finds on Twitter.

1956 Home Movie: Laurel & Hardy Together for the Last Time

There is no exact date for this silent home movie shot at the Reseda, CA home of Stan Laurel's daughter, Lois. But the year must have been 1956, because, during that year, Oliver Hardy, the other member of the great comic duo, lost more than 150 pounds, resulting in a complete change of his outward appearance. Hardy had a mild heart attack in 1954 and started looking after his health. But letters by Stan Laurel indicate that Oliver was also suffering from cancer. In September 1956 - probably not long after this movie was made - Oliver suffered a major stroke, which left him unable to speak and confined to bed for several months. Then, at the beginning of August 1957, he had two more strokes and slipped into a coma from which he never recovered. He died on August 7 that year.

Exactly one week after Oliver's death, Stan gave a rare radio interview and recounted the moment when he and Oliver met for the first time. The full, one-hour interview can be enjoyed here. Stan died on 23 February 1965 after suffering a heart attack of his own. He was buried at Forest Park Memorial Park in Burbank. Footage from the funeral shows celebrities such as Dick Van Dyke, Buster Keaton and George Chandler in attendance. Stan's friend Dick Van Dyke delivered this moving eulogy.

Rare Footage: Home Movie of FDR’s 1941 Inauguration

The vintage video above is an excerpt from a 16 mm home movie showing President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on January 20, 1941, the day of his Third Inauguration. This silent color movie was shot by FDR's son-in-law (Clarence) John Boettiger, who was then working for the Motion Picture Association of America, and the quality of this rare footage is quite outstanding. Watch the full 14-minute version here.

FDR can first be seen at 2:45, heavily supported by his oldest son James. This is one of the rare moments on film where Roosevelt can actually be seen walking, and it's obvious how difficult it was for him to walk after polio left him paralyzed from the hips down in 1921. Next, FDR is seen on the presidential platform with his wife Eleanor and Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, taking the Oath of Office and giving his Inaugural Address. The full text of the address can be read courtesy of Yale Law School, and a high-resolution scan of the Inauguration Ceremonies Program has been uploaded by The Library of Congress.

FDR was the first American president to successfully run for a third term due to the precarious international situation in 1941. (Get the audio file of FDR's State of the Union from January 6, 1941 here). After George Washington declined to run for a third term in 1796, it had become an unwritten rule to follow his lead. But it was not until the 22nd Amendment from 1947/1951 ("No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice.") that this restriction was enshrined into law. FDR was, of course, elected for a fourth term in 1945, but died of a massive stroke on April 12, 1945.

By profession, Matthias Rascher teaches English and History at a High School in northern Bavaria, Germany. In his free time he scours the web for good links and posts the best finds on Twitter.

Everything Is Rhythm

"Foli" is the word used for rhythm by the Malinke tribe in West Africa. But Foli is not only found in Malinke music, but in all parts of their daily lives. Directed by Thomas Roebers, this short film portrays the people of Baro, a small town in eastern-central Guinea, and gives you a glimpse inside their culture of rhythm. As the Malinke man says, "Tous les choses, c'est du rythme." ("Everything is rhythm.") What makes this film even more beautiful is the fact that it was edited so as to reflect Malinke rhythms.

By profession, Matthias Rascher teaches English and History at a High School in northern Bavaria, Germany. In his free time he scours the web for good links and posts the best finds on Twitter.

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