50 Years Ago This Week – Star Trek: Balance of Terror

One of the very best episodes of Star Trek, “Balance of Terror” (season 1, episode 14), first hit the airwaves on December 15, 1966.  A great show even with an average episode, "Terror" rolled out the best of everything that The Original Series (the kids call it TOS now) had to offer: a thoughtful and suspenseful plot (it is more about waiting for the action than the action itself—and all the better for it), soul-searching conversations about the meaning of life (no episode of TOS can make do without

News and Commentary – Hitchcock in the Thirties

I’ve been thinking about the 1930s these days, and not in a good way (though if it’s any consolation, I think we’re in France, not Germany).  But in these dispiriting times, let’s reach for some movies-as-therapy, and remember that not everything about the 1930s was dismal—in fact it was a great decade for the films of Alfred Hitchcock. 

News and Commentary – The Ultimate Thanksgiving Movie

Why is the greatest Thanksgiving movie ever made called “A Christmas Tale”?  (Which, we hasten to add, is not to be confused with “A Christmas Carol.”)  Because it is French. And, as director Arnaud Desplechin explained, they don’t have Thanksgiving in the Old World. But he wanted to tell a version of that particular type of story: the convergence of an extended family returning back to the old homestead—with newcomers, ex-lovers, and assorted relatives and friends all along for the ride, dragging a lifetime of emotional baggage in tow.

News and Commentary – After The Catastrophe: What Can the Movies Tell Us?

And so this has actually happened—America has elected as its President an ignorant, nativist authoritarian.  One would not have thought this possible.  It is still very difficult to process.  

At such a moment, talking about the movies seems, perhaps . . . frivolous?  

I am sympathetic to this perspective.  But I want to suggest that the movies have a role to play in the context of our current existential crisis, especially because the most common question I hear (and the question I keep asking as well) is, “what am I supposed to do now?”

News and Commentary – Mike Nichol’s Carnal Knowledge

Mid Century Cinema favorite Mike Nichols would have turned eighty-five on November 6.  We have previously celebrated each of his first two films, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966) and The Graduate (1967), so on this occasion we thought we would take a look at another one of his best—one of the milestones of the New Hollywood, Carnal Knowledge (1971).  Written by

50 Years Ago This Week – Another Masterpiece from Jean-Pierre Melville

Jean-Pierre Melville’s ninth feature film, Le Deuxieme Souffle, premiered in Paris on November 1, 1966.  The nominal plot – prison break, world-weary gangster, impossible heist, inevitable unraveling – sounds like standard-issue fare.  But in Melville’s hands . . . in Melville’s hands . . .

50 Years Ago This Week – Monte Hellman and Jack Nicholson, Twice

The program of the 1966 San Francisco Film Festival, which ran from October 20-30 of that year, featured two modest efforts that were the product of a partnership between Jack Nicholson and Monte Hellman. The duo, who had previously collaborated on a pair of movies in the Philippines, had this time gone off to the Utah desert on Roger Corman’s dime (which is probably an appropriate indicator of their total budget) and shot two Westerns in six weeks, featuring overlapping casts.

50 Years Ago This Week – Hitchcock/Truffaut

October 1966 welcomed the publication of Hitchcock: The Definitive Study of Alfred Hitchcock by François Truffaut, a long-form interview of the Master by one of his most devoted enthusiasts, who, both as a young critic and subsequently as a great filmmaker in his own right, counted Hitchcock among his idols.  (It is easy to point to The Bride Wore Black as the Truffaut film that most obviously reflects this influence—too easy, I would argue.  To see the cinema