Tag: american cinema foundation

ACF Critic Series #9: Paul Cantor

 

We’re adding a new critic to the ACF podcast: America’s eminent Shakespearian, Paul Cantor! He’s a writer I admire and from whom I have learned much on Shakespeare–much to my surprise and delight, he’s getting into film criticism in a big way and he’s in the mood to talk about it. We have a long interview to offer you, the first in a series of discussions about pop culture in America. We go from Godfather to Breaking Bad, we get to super-hero movies and ancient mythic heroes–to tragedy in Greece and in Shakespeare’s England–and lots of other things about TV and movies in-between. Also, we do more than a little talking about Mark Twain. Listen and share friends, join the conversation in the comments, and read more Cantor!

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ACF Founders Series #3: John Marshall

 

Historian Richard Brookhiser returns to the podcast for our third conversation on a Founder–in this case, the man most responsible for the Supreme Court–John Marshall, the fourth Chief Justice, a log cabin Federalist, a patriotic soldier in the Revolution and a very successful lawyer, who then served in all three branches of government. (You read that right: The first three CJs thought the job wasn’t worth it…) Mr. Brookhiser is just publishing his biography of Marshall, the last of the great Federalists, out the week after the election, so go order it, buy it, read it, and let everyone know! We’ve already covered two great Federalists — Hamilton and Gouverneur Morris — so by now we can show fairly well what it was like to be the first party in government in American history.

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ACF Critic Series #8: Teachout, In a Lonely Place

 

Back to noir: Terry Teachout and I talk about In A Lonely Place, Bogart’s most amazing performance, Nicholas Ray’s most elegant film, and a rare romance between adults who know their minds and speak them–the lovely Gloria Grahame is at her best playing opposite Bogie. The film feels as modern as it gets because of that, but also because it’s tragic–it suggests your choices aren’t the most important things in your life and, if the movie grabs you, it’s because you know that to be partly true.

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ACF#40: Apocalypse Now

 

John Presnall and I offer you a conversation on Francis Ford Coppola’s most ambitious movie, Apocalypse Now. It was shot over most of a year in the bicentennial year 1976, and needed some three years of work to make into a movie, ready for release only in 1979, whereupon it won the Palme D’Or at Cannes and a couple of Oscars and other awards and made a lot of money–and was also a great scandal from every point of view. We think it’s great, that it teaches very important things about “horror and moral terror,” and that its reflections on America and the Vietnam War are both insightful and unusual. Listen and share, friends–and let’s talk about the movie in the comments below!

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ACF Middlebrow #16: Jack Ryan

 

This week, James Lileks and I give you a mini-episode on Jack Ryan, then (The Hunt for Red October) and now (the Amazon series), Cold War and War on Terror, Boomers and Millennials, Soviets and the absent Chinese today, silly shadowy corporate conspiracies and stories of heroism in the national security bureaucracies, the redoubtable Tom Clancy and the rather wishy-washier Amazon, as well as a hilarious fantasy ending that involves a Jeff Bezos-Mark Zuckerberg war. So a Middlebrow conversation with all the fun and insight! Listen, enjoy, share!

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ACF Critic Series #7: Teachout “On Dangerous Ground”

 

Terry Teachout and I continued our series on noir movies and also meet each other in the flesh for the first time. Listen and share, friends–we talk about Nicholas Ray’s On Dangerous Ground, about the touch of greatness in Robert Ryan’s portrayal of justice turning to loneliness and, eventually, cruelty–about Ida Lupino’s remarkable portrayal of realism and innocence mixed together–Ward Bond’s equally compelling turn as a father mad for revenge, driven to the limits of humanity–and, of course, Bernard Hermann’s impressively Romantic score, which adds a solid depth to characterization, enough to give an American story the tragic depth it needs. We also talk about the loss of innocence of WWII and how American movies took a turn for the tragic, becoming less lovely, but more beautiful, in the process.

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ACF Middlebrow #15: Die Hard

 

My friend Pete Spiliakos and I are doing our 10th podcast and it’s about a movie on its 30th anniversary. Die Hard is well-loved and little talked about — we’re here to remedy that. We discuss the great everyman performance Bruce Willis put in and how director John McTiernan crafted the entire movie around him. With remarkable coherence, you get a view of the working class moral realism and virtues of American men and, from that perspective, of the arrogant incompetent of all sorts of institutions: Corporations, media, government, police, etc. We also talk at length about the social changes that have made action movies almost inconceivable and replaced working class heroes with oligarchs and mythical aristocrats, who alone seem to deserve our attention and billions of box office dollars… This is what our Middlebrow series is all about: How movies reflect society and also reflect on our ideas and beliefs.

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ACF Critic Series #6: Teachout on The Night of The Hunter

 

After Vertigo and Laura, Terry Teachout and I turn to famous British actor Charles Laughton’s great directorial debut, The Night Of The Hunter, starring Robert Mitchum at his peak. We talk about the consummate work of art, the craftsmanship put into a thrilling and fearful story of great moral seriousness, and many other things about the cast and crew, Flannery O’Connor, and about child actors. We talk about innocence, violence, and respectability, and how the devil can come in the clothes of a preacher. Listen to our conversation and share it, friends, and we’re always waiting for your comments!

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ACF#39 The Wild Bunch

 

This has been a summer of Westerns on the ACF podcast and we are now talking about one of the last great ones: The Wild Bunch, Sam Peckinpah’s answer to John Ford. Peckinpah answers to the epic with tragedy, to foundations with collapse, to the respectability of the railroad that carries The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance with the railroad that carries Gen. Pershing’s men and which the Wild Bunch robs. The Civil War song We will gather at the river, Ford’s favorite Western song, is sung during a terrible, bloody shootout. Agony is Peckinpah’s mood and he displays violence in all its ugliness to give all the moral seriousness of our mortality. His movies are about choosing a noble death.

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ACF Middlebrow #12: Comedy & Communism

 

The new Middlebrow podcast deals with comedy and communism, spurred by the recent movie The Death of Stalin, which Flagg Taylor (@FlaggTaylor) and I both wanted to succeed. Unfortunately, it is a failure. More on this on the podcast, as well as some talk about Milan Kundera, Ilf and Petrov, Solzhenitsyn and Leo Strauss, Vaclav Havel and Vaclav Benda, an English-translation book of whose essays Flagg has just edited, The Long Night of The Watchman. Flagg is also the co-editor, with our friend Carl Scott, of Totalitarianism on Screen, about the great movie The Lives of Others (won the Oscar for Best Foreign Picture in 2006), which dealt with the secret police in Communist East Germany, and which we discussed on the podcast last year. So now we match our conversation on tragedy and communism with one on comedy. Listen, share, and give us a rating/review!

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ACF Founders #2: Gouverneur Morris

 

The Founders series continues with Gouverneur Morris. Morris was a man who saw up close both the American and French Revolutions, who judged politics on both continents with a keen eye and no piety, and who conducted himself more generously than any other Founder. We owe Richard Brookhiser a debt of gratitude for bringing to modern audiences Gouverneur Morris’s incredibly charming and inspiring story. Morris faced physical and political dangers with great manliness, and at the same time was America’s most sophisticated aristocrat–he had all the vices we admire and none of the virtues which annoy us, to paraphrase Churchill. He was a patriot and dedicated much of his life to public service, but he also dedicated much of his life to business, making money, and about as much to enjoying the spending of it, often in the company of women to whom he wasn’t married. He was a Federalist, an adept of a strong national government with a strong executive, almost immune to idealism, and so a great match for Alexander Hamilton, the hero of our first conversation.

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ACF#38: Unforgiven

 

Happy Fourth, everyone! After the celebrations, I recommend Unforgiven, the last Western, and the movie that first won Clint Eastwood the Oscar–two awards, Best Picture and Best Director, as well as a nomination for Best Actor. This is a very dark movie, but it is a very good movie. It is beautifully shot, but also sober. It is violent, but dignified. It’s a movie about what it takes to establish the equal human rights of all human beings, the human dignity we all sense in the fine words of the Declaration. It deals with the origin of law as we now know it in a sacred law that requires violence to put an end to violence, at least the chaotic violence of the Old West. It is also a reminder of the difference between law and order, which we tend to think of as identical or at least necessarily connected. But the movie shows order is perfectly compatible with treating some people as property, i.e., slavery.

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ACF#37 My Darling Clementine

 

Ready for another Western? Here’s Hank Fonda as Wyatt Earp in My Darling Clementine, John Ford’s most elegant Western. It combines a simplicity of storytelling with a remarkably clear structure about the emergence of civilization, announced in four skeptical exclamations: Marshaling in Tombstone? Shakespeare in Tombstone? Church bells in Tombstone? Schooling in Tombstone? It’s also the Ford Western that explores friendship and its potentially tragic consequences with the greatest feeling, and the most erudite Western, where characterization and themes are established by quoting Hamlet and Addison’s poem on the Duke of Marlborough. It’s a beautiful movie, free of the sordid, and its dignity is a show of Ford’s understanding of the American past.

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ACF Anniversary Edition: Terry Teachout on Vertigo

 

Friends, the American Cinema Foundation movie podcast is on its first anniversary. To celebrate, the celebrated Terry Teachout joins me to discuss Hitchcock’s Vertigo. It’s a pleasure to have him join and I am even more pleased to announce we will be doing such conversations in future, with whatever regularity circumstances permit. I’m also glad to return to Hitchcock, who was on my mind last year, when the podcast was just getting started–I was preparing for my journey to America, to become a Publius Fellow at the Claremont Institute, and at that time, thinking about Hitchcock’s reflections on American society–I did several podcasts that I thought revealed the power of tragedy: Psycho (with a discussion of the moral teaching of the art on display in the movie), The Birds, and later Rope. That was when I conceived a book on Hitchcock’s movies from 1948 to 1963–his analysis of the post-war transformation, which mirrors his own change from the thriller to the horror. Listen and share, friends–I hope you will be delighted with this conversation and find some insights!

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ACF #35: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

 

The Great Western series continues. Prof. Marini and I move from the sacred law of the family–The Searchers–to the law of the city: Liberty Valance. We talk about love and law, nature and progress, the desert and the railroad, and the rest of the symbols and structures that stand out in John Ford’s best movie. Listen to our conversation, friends, and please share the podcast. If you prefer iTunes, go here, and please leave us a review/rating. You can also find us on stitcher and on pocketcasts.

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ACF#34: The Searchers

 

Today, I am joined by Prof. John Marini for the first in a series of podcasts on Great Westerns. We start with The Searchers, John Ford’s thematic treatment of the sacred law of the family. American freedom out West and the nature-civilization conflict are treated in parallel in a story that blends comedy and tragedy with an eye to Homer. This is John Wayne’s greatest role and it is an education about human things wrapped into one. Listen and share, friends!

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ACF Middlebrow #11: Never Let Me Go

 

Our own Flagg Taylor joins me on the podcast this week for a discussion of Never Let Me Go, from the novel by Nobel Laureate Kazuo Ishiguro. Flagg assigned the novel in a class on dystopias this semester and so we talked about how Ishiguro’s story compares with other famous dystopias, what it has to say about our society, and how it dramatizes the emergence of soul in love, art, and care-giving, even in the face of a dehumanizing scientific tyranny. It’s a fine movie and I can confirm it is as beautiful on a second viewing, so well told that when once you know the big surprise, it touches your heart even more. Listen to our conversation, comment, and share, friends! As always, please subscribe to and review/rate us on iTunes.

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ACF Middlebrow #10: The Last Jedi

 

New podcast, new ideas, new controversies! This week, Pete Spiliakos and I talk Star Wars. We pick apart The Last Jedi to show you what is expected of competent mediocrity; how hard it is to get plots, characters, their conflicts, and relationships right; and how important it is to do so. We talk about how the audience is supposed to react to various characters and developments, thus connecting emotions to ideas to develop themes about the education of a new generation of leaders. Properly done, TLJ would have been a good story reflecting the innocence and incompetence of Millennials and their confrontation with Boomers who are both mythical and catastrophic. This is what middlebrow art is like — if only we aspire to it…

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ACF Middlebrow #9: Justice League

 

My friend Pete Spiliakos and I bring you a discussion of one of the few truly interesting recent cinematic events, Justice League. This was an example of the conflict between artists and businessmen. Zack Snyder, one of the lonely few examplars of first-rate Hollywood talent, had his work destroyed by a studio Warner Bros / DC hellbent on suicide. Warner had the greatest team in Hollywood working on their superhero movies–Christopher Nolan (as writer and director, also with his brother Jonathan in the writing role) and Zack Snyder. The only men who have any grasp on the epic and the tragic as genres and insights. They also made billions of dollars for the studio. So naturally, the studio destroyed their work. Listen and marvel with us at the good, the bad, and the very bad, and the worse.

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ACF#33: Westworld

 

Two of my academic friends, George Dunn and Jason Eberl, join me for a discussion of Westworld, the HBO sci-fi-Western now premiering its second season. Creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy (husband and wife) give us a new version of a Blade Runner future and this is one we recommend. We talk through all sorts of important philosophical insights from Plato to Nietzsche, showing what intelligent writers-directors bring to popular culture and how we can think about our crisis of identity. We end with a discussion of friendship and truth-telling.

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