News and Commentary – A Semester of Seventies Films (4): Five Easy Pieces

The magnificent Five Easy Pieces (1970) is an exemplar of everything the Seventies Film aspired to be.  Directed by Bob Rafelson (who also co-wrote the story), the movie was a product of the legendary six-picture deal that BBS Productions (Bert Schneider, Bob Rafelson, and Steve Blauner) reached with Columbia Pictures—one that traded small budgets in exchange for no studio interference with the product.  BBS, with Jack Nicholson as a virtual fourth par

News and Commentary – A Semester of Seventies Films (3): Medium Cool

Week Three of the “Politics of the 70s Film” featured Medium Cool (1969), a labor of love from quadruple-threat Haskell Wexler (writer-director-cinematographer-camera operator).  I have written at length about this outstanding film previously, and more recently a short piece about Wexler as well, and so I will not repeat those efforts here.  But Medi

50 Years Ago This Week – Harper

The Paul Newman vehicle Harper opened on February 23, 1966.  Despite the considerable talent attached – including cinematographer Conrad Hall (whose 70s credits include Fat City and Smile), screenwriter William Goldman (All the Presidents Men, Marathon Man), and a marvelous cast that also features Lauren Bacall, Shelly Winters, Robert Wagner and Janet Leigh (wasted in a thankless role that brings out Newman’s mugging) – it is by no means a must-see.  Goldman’s adaptation of a Ross McDonald novel (the source material probably accounts for the exce

News and Commentary – A Semester of Seventies Films: The Graduate

I’m teaching “The Politics of the 70s Film” this semester, and Mid Century Cinema will follow along, with a few words about each movie screened for the class.  First up is The Graduate (Mike Nichols, 1967), a film that, in style, substance, and attitude, crystallized many of the elements of the emerging New Hollywood.

News and Commentary – Jacques Rivette: Another Giant Has Left Us

Jacques Rivette, one of the great and singular directors of his time, died January 29 at the age of eighty-seven.  He was one of five young movie-obsessed friends (along with Claude Chabrol, Jean-Luc Godard, Eric Rohmer and François Truffaut) who met in the late 1940s, each drawn like apes to the monolith in 2001 to film screenings at the Cinémathèque Française. (How obsessed were they? Godard and Rivette once showed up for an early afternoon showing of Orson Welles’ Macbeth; Godard watched repeated screenings through ten o’clock; Rivette stayed on till midnight.)

News and Commentary – The Best Years of our Lives

The allied triumph in the Second World War is remembered – fondly and correctly – as one of the great and inspiring moments of modern history, and the quarter century that followed was a period of economic growth and prosperity almost unimaginable in the context of the miserable decades that preceded it.  But all periods have their troubles, and the immediate post-war era had its own healthy portion: real fear that the peacetime economy might slip back into depression, emerging cold war anxieties, and the chilling social paralysis that went hand-in-hand with anti-communist hysteria.   

50 Years Ago This Week – Batman!!!

January 12 1966 was a momentous day in television history, as perennial third-place network ABC unleashed Batman, with the first of 120 episodes that would air during its brief but glorious run.  Like Get Smart (which also negotiated an ambitious blend of comedy and drama), Batman straddled the cultural shifts of the mid-1960s, with one boot firmly planted on either side of the decade’s divide.