Top Fifty Films of the 40s — Number Three

#3 — Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944) Double Indemnity is the film that convinced me of Billy Wilder’s ability to full off just about anything within the borders of a movie screen. Admittedly, this represented, in part, my own personal shortsightedness, a unlearned tendency to always categorize directors in terms of the genre in which they were most prolific, of at least crafted their best known triumphs. If Alfred Hitchcock struggled somewhat artistically the further he strayed from the splendid spectacles of suspense that made his fame, surely it was worth marveling at Wilder’s ability to make a film far darker and … Continue reading Top Fifty Films of the 40s — Number Three

Kubrick, Kurosawa, Robbins and Wise, Rydell, Wilder

Harry and Walter Go to New York (Mark Rydell, 1976). A colleague of mine at Spectrum Culture wrote about this nostalgic caper comedy a while back, calling it “a delightful farce of a film.” Not really, but it’s surely an oddball relic of the era when nineteen-seventies adventurism gave way to self-defeating excess. Clearly inspired by (and given its greenlight due to) the smashing success of George Roy Hill’s The Sting a few years earlier, the film casts Elliott Gould and James Caan as a pair of hackneyed vaudevillians in the late nineteenth century who get caught up in a … Continue reading Kubrick, Kurosawa, Robbins and Wise, Rydell, Wilder

Benedek, Lang, Morris, Scorsese, Wilder

Standard Operating Procedure (Errol Morris, 2008). The Oscar-winning documentarian turns his attention (and his Interrotron) to the appalling abuse of prisoners inflicted by American soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison. The resulting film is exhaustive and exhausting, laying out the ugly details of the matter with an appropriate relentlessness. Morris corrals interviews with most of the principals, and their collective testimony seems painfully honest if sometimes buffered down in the name of understandable self-preservation. Morris inserts a handful of subdued and yet entirely unnecessary recreations. It’s a tactic that he’s notably employed before, but this time out it’s just intrusive. The … Continue reading Benedek, Lang, Morris, Scorsese, Wilder

Fraker, Hood, Wilder, Yeatman, Zinnemann

Stalag 17 (Billy Wilder, 1953). This unlikely comedy set in a Nazi prison camp has a more famous echo that showed up on CBS around twelve years later. It’s not hard to see why someone might think this could turn into a nifty recurring show. The hook about prisoners of war who’ve cooked up their own unique society in captivity, complete with schemes to dupe the guards and cobbled together contraptions to better hide their small luxuries, is further enlivened by the colorful nature of the characters, a common result when Wilder’s is one of the names on the screenplay. … Continue reading Fraker, Hood, Wilder, Yeatman, Zinnemann

I dreamed i was in a hollywood movie and that I was the star of the movie, this really blew my mind

Somebody Up There Likes Me (Robert Wise, 1956). By all accounts, this is the film that made Paul Newman a star. The most intriguing thing about that is that his performance here has little of the charismatic verve that drove later work in films like Hud or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It’s a thick, meaty character piece as Newman plays boxer Rocky Graziano as his pummels his way from backstreet destitution to the heavyweight championship of the world. Newman brings integrity to his character’s brutishness, subsuming his natural sparkle in favor of a honest portrayal of simpler man. … Continue reading I dreamed i was in a hollywood movie and that I was the star of the movie, this really blew my mind