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.

50 Years Ago This Week – Sydney Pollack’s First

The closing days of 1965 saw the release of The Slender Thread, the first feature film directed by Sydney Pollack, who had been scuffing around as a TV actor (and director) for the previous decade.  Thread marked the start of an impressive career for Pollack as a movie director (and subsequently as a notable producer as well).

News And Commentary – Haskell Wexler Est Mort

The great cinematographer Haskell Wexler died on December 27, six weeks shy of his ninety-fourth birthday.  Over the course of his long and extraordinary career, which straddled documentary and fiction films, Wexler was probably best known for his incisive photography on Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (Mike Nichols, 1966).  Nominated for five academy awards, he won twice, for Woolf and for the Woody Guthrie biopic Bound for Glory (Hal Ashby, 1976).  Other notable efforts included his work on America, America (Elia Kazan, 1963), In the Heat of the Nigh

50 Years Ago This Week – The Spy Who Came In From the Cold

Producer/Director Martin Ritt’s outstanding The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, based on the John le Carré novel, opened in America on December 16 1965.  The liberal-humanist Ritt (who was blacklisted in the 1950s) had a reputation for often wearing his politics on his sleeve, which is not typically a recipe for dramatic intrigue.  His first film, Edge of the City (1957) has an outstanding cast (including John Cassavetes, Sidney Poitier, and Jac