If we are to believe what the small town melodramas tell us, then every village and burg dotting the map is filled with deviants, hypocrites and mothers pretending to be their child’s aunt to hide the “shame of illegitimacy.” To mix a metaphor, these stories are all about ripping the lid off small town America and exposing the seamy underbelly.
I don’t think that I am going out on a limb when I say that World War II changed everything. Among other things, women made it into the workforce, had control over their bodies, and proved they were capable of running their own lives. Needless to say, society (read “men”) was determined to push them away from this new normal as fast as possible.
The Coronavirus has impacted everything. For many Americans, the loss of two pastimes is particularly irksome: Sports and sex. And it’s even more acute at the moment because it is spring, the season for both baseball and nookie.
We frequently turn to the movies to provide us with those things we feel are missing in our lives. If so, could there possibly be a better time to watch Bull Durham.
Dramatically if not legally, Austrian-born producer-director Otto Preminger was always fascinated with criminal proceedings. Beginning with his tutelage in Vienna under the legendary stage impresario Max Reinhardt, Preminger was drawn to plays that ended with courtroom theatrics. When he shifted to film directing in America he frequently sought out opportunities to stage scenes overseen by judge and jury.
There are many filmmakers I love, but only a few that I hold in awe. At the top of my list are the great Japanese minimalist Yasujiro Ozu, and the extraordinary British maximalist team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.
Film noir was the synthesis of a number of movements: an Americanizing of German expressionism and French poetic realism with a little Warner gangster film thrown in for good measure. More a mood than a genre, these movies hit their full flowering in the postwar years because the gloom on display perfectly suited the existential angst and accompanying social breakdown that inevitably follows global conflict. As the nation
Billy Wilder created several classic films leading up to his twin masterpieces, Some Like It Hot and The Apartment. Most studies of his work stop there, referring to his post-1960 output as his slide down from the mountaintop. Admittedly, few if any movies could stand comparison to those two, or, for that matter, to his earlier Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard and Ace in the Hole. But
“I know it when I see it.”
We all have that human tendency to define the inexplicable in this way, particularly if it requires a closer inspection than we may be willing to give it. We assign terms like “undefinable” and “inexpressible” when we fear that any real exploration of the charismatic will somehow steal what is special from it.
John Frankenheimer was always an enigmatic filmmaker. Just when you thought you knew what he was about, he would fling a cinematic monkey wrench at your assumption.
There are a lot of rules when it comes to comedy:
“Less is more.”
“Never play the joke.”
“Small and smart is better than big and dumb.”
“It’s not a job for amateurs,” or, as the great tragedienne Edmund Keane put it, “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.”