News and Commentary – Another Semester of 70s Films: The Graduate

I’m teaching “The Politics of the 70s Film” this semester, and, as we have done previously, Mid Century Cinema will follow along with commentaries related to the movies screened for class—or to movies related to those movies (since we can’t bear to repeat ourselves).  This week we watched The Graduate.  Regarding the general themes of this one, we don’t have much to add to last year’s comments, so we’re going to focus instead on one specific sequence in the film: when Benjamin reluctantly takes Elain

50 Years Ago This Week – Sydney Lumet’s The Deadly Affair

On January 26 1967, Sidney Lumet’s The Deadly Affair opened in America (the UK-based production had its premiere in Britain the previous October).  Largely unnoticed at the time and a flop at the box office (though it did earn five BAFTA nominations), the movie is very much worth revisiting, both on the strength of its own formidable merits and also as an important harbinger of the introspective themes and aesthetic motifs of the emerging New Hollywood.

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?”