Tag: american cinema foundation

If You Come At The King, You Best Not Miss


It was bound to happen, he’s been looking more and more like a conservative for a while now. So now they’re coming for David O. Russell, quite possibly America’s best working movie director. Russell has made some of the most beautifully twisted motion pictures, and just like Louis C.K. people are shocked to find that such essential creators are, or at least have been, pretty twisted themselves. C.K. makes jokes about the ugly thoughts most wouldn’t dare utter, David O. makes movies about an America off its rocker.

My purpose here isn’t to get into the thing that the director of The Fighter (2010), Silver Linings Playbook (2012), American Hustle (2013), and 2015’s Joy (possibly the most emphatic ode to Capitalism since Whit Stillman’s Barcelona) did a decade ago, nor do I care much to ponder on why the journalist Laura Bradley has decided to make it the public’s business; I’d rather just write a bit about a filmmaker whose movies deserve more attention from a justifiably Hollywood-weary right.

ACF PoMoCon #10: The Benedict Option


Folks, here’s a podcast for the weekend–my conversation with Rod Dreher on traditional conservatism’s new moment. We talk about his books, about Christian communities facing the Pink Police State (hat tip to our friend James Poulos) and the need to retrieve pre-modern resources for communities of faith. We also talk about what Rod has learned from Christians surviving communism (hat tip to our friend @FlaggTaylor).

ACF Europe #9: White


After Blue, we talk about White–after freedom, equality–the centerpiece of Krzystof Kieslowski’s Colors Trilogy! His theme is modern abandonment and so he looks at equality as the problem of revenge–getting even, dealing with dissatisfied desire in a hateful way, and all done through the forms of the law. This is the comic part of the trilogy, and yet it starts with a divorce in Paris and ends with prison in Warsaw. The Poland-France clash here points to the difficulties the EU would find trying to marry Western and Eastern European countries which are unequal in money, power, and politics–but equal in pride.

ACF Europe #8 Three Colors: Blue


So we’re doing a trilogy about the Colors Trilogy–Krzystof Kieslowski’s masterwork, and the end of his career. The least known of the Polish masters assumes the authority to tell Europe what the problem of reunification is–what the problem of the European Union is, in the terms of the French Revolution, whose tricolor replaced the aristocratic crests and Christian cross of medieval flags. Those three colors stand for Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity. We start with Freedom, of course–Paris, the beautiful Juliette Binoche, and our reliance on accident for insight.

I Saw Satan Laughing with Delight, the Day the Culture Broke


Don Mclean’s classic, “American Pie,” would not likely become the hit it was in 1971 if released today. Apart from the biblical references or its unembarrassed use of the word “love,” the song has another disadvantage. It was written at a time when popular music was for everybody.

Today, the popular arts are strictly for the kids – or more broadly, toward non-adults. (The country’s easiest target demographic.) And the non-adults have objectively bad taste buds today. More importantly, despite access to the entire repository of world culture in their pockets, so many of them don’t know how to read – at least not in any meaningful way. Thus, those thankless gatekeepers we once called critics are no longer accessible to them.

You Say You Want a Revolution, Part 3


In a recent post, we revisited fifty years ago, a cultural turning point with many similarities to today’s, a tumultuous, angry year when much of Hollywood saw mass audiences respond to Easy Rider and M.A.S.H. But inadvertently, it triggered a powerful law-and-order backlash whose inexhaustible fury would ensure that Archie Bunker, General Patton, Dirty Harry, Popeye Doyle, Vito Corleone, and Charles Bronson would provide the most iconic screen moments of the early Seventies.

To understate things, it sure seems today like a lot of people in this country, tens of millions of media consumers, are frustrated by their relative powerlessness. The Woke Market is not as big or bigger than the rest of America put together, and yet you’d never know that if you looked at a list of current films or TV shows. We can debate the reasons why, but there’s clearly an unsatisfied need to hotwire a path to cultural change, because whatever market mechanism is sending a corrective signal to the media, it’s not reaching enough of a real response.

ACF #26: Kurosawa, Rashomon


Here’s our first Kurosawa podcast–Rashomon, one of the master’s early Oscar nominations, a sign of the openness of Hollywood to great moviemaking elsewhere. The movie is still near the top 100 on IMDb, which I take as a sign that American film lovers nowadays also sense its greatness–in the beautiful cinematography and acting, and above all in the poetic device. This podcast also gives me an opportunity to introduce a new contributor, Molly McGrath, who teaches philosophy at Assumption College and now and then writes on movies, always with force and insight.

ACF PoMoCon #6: Ben Sixsmith on Twitter Culture


Culture in the age of social media–here’s my conversation with writer Ben Sixsmith about the vast democratization of communications brought about by digital technology and the vast concentration of the public space in a handful of corporations. It’s not made us happy and good, but instead created new political conflicts and social drama. It’s an interesting time, but hardly bearable–so you might like some thoughts on Twitter, YouTube, and various other observations about what it’s like to be human plus digital. Also, if you’re interested in a fine read on British-Polish relations, Ben’s book is the thing for you!

ACF Critic Series #33: Citizen Kane, Part 2


This week, Telly Davidson and I wrap up our conversation on Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane–the tyrannic soul who wants to be loved by everyone, erotic longings that slip the bounds of nature, and the failure of friendship to limit madness. We talk about the problems of love and friendship, but also about politics and media, or how tyranny shows up in the age of Progress.

ACF Critic Series #32: Citizen Kane


For the two-year anniversary of the podcast, here’s Citizen Kane. We talk media moguls and politics; radio, TV, and Trump; democratic reform and the tyrannic soul; Progress and Eros. Here’s, for once, a defense of Orson Welles’s political wit, not movie magic! I talk to Telly Davidson, another of the few conservatives in Hollywood– a critic, author, and man toiling away in production. His most recent book is Culture War about, you guessed it, the ’90s, when the seeds were planted of the whirlwind keeping things interesting now. We’ll talk about it on our next podcast!

ACF Pomocon #5: Education


Today, I interview Spotted Toad, of Twitter fame, about his book on education. He now works in public policy research, a moderately quant guy, as he says–but he was once an idealistic Teach For America kinda guy, who taught the sciences for ten years in public schools in New York and then upstate, among the poor as well as the well to do, in different communities and different periods of the ongoing failure of Progressive education reform. He eventually wrote a lovely, all-American, Emersonian book of reflections on his experience and you can buy it for 99 cents on Amazon as e-book and read it in an afternoon. It’s intelligent and poetic at the same time, devoid of narcissism, and serious about the problems a young teacher faces. This is the sort of conservatism I think we should encourage and so this is me doing my part!

ACF Critic Series #29: Breaking Bad


Here’s my new podcast with Paul Cantor, on the Macbeth of Meth! We talk about The Dark Side Of The American Dream — go buy the book, folks. It’s about tragedy in pop culture, from Huck Finn to The Walking Dead (which we’ll get to next week). We talk about the American Dream — especially the middle-class suburban dream of the post-war era–and what happens when it doesn’t work out. Especially during troubled times, like nowadays, people turn to darker stories and are more interested in the tragic side of life. So all of a sudden mere villains ascend by the path of the anti-hero to the full status of tragic hero, trying to out-American America, so to speak.

ACF American Masters #7: Ballad of Cable Hogue


Prof. John Marini and I wrap up a trilogy on Sam Peckinpah’s westerns with his most comic, least violent picture: The Ballad of Cable Hogue. The only movie he made about a founding also turns out to be his story about dealing with movability, mutability, and mortality in America. Progress is a killer, but human beings can remember their love of the natural, tranquil life. It’s also Peckinpah’s Lockean Western, where labor mixed with nature creates property and leads to a common good for a community!

Hollywood Conservatives


On the radio: President Calvin Coolidge, being welcomed to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios by Louis B. Mayer.

He was born Lazar Meir. By the time he was America’s highest-paid man and the most powerful Hollywood boss in history, he’d done more than anglicize his name; he set the standard for a pioneer generation of studio chiefs who believed in America with the fervent, grateful conviction of people who’d seen the worst of what the Old World could do. Mayer kept a plaster elephant on his desk as a playful, or sometimes a not-so-playful reminder that MGM’s boss was no New Dealer. He was a delegate to the Republican national conventions of 1928 and 1932 and the state chairman of the California Republican Party in the early Thirties. He wasn’t alone, of course. There were always some Republicans and conservatives in Golden Age Hollywood, though those terms don’t always line up with our present-day understanding of them; stars like Ginger Rogers, Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, and Robert Taylor, writers like Morrie Ryskind. There’s a scholarly monograph waiting to be written about that forgotten history, but this post isn’t it. With the greatest respect for the people and events of that era, there’s little or no living connection with the people and the issues of today. What has Hollywood Conservatism been in our own times? How is it organized, and by who?

ACF Critic Series #28: Never Look Away


There is a new Donnersmarck movie, Never Look Away, a brilliant successor to the famous The Lives Of Others, so we are getting the team back together. @FlaggTaylor and Carl Eric Scott join me on the podcast for a long, wide-ranging discussion about art and tyranny, about the relationship between beauty and politics, and what great movies can offer by way of meditation on our search for freedom. Flagg and Carl co-edited the book on Donnersmarck’s marvelous, Oscar-winning debut, The Lives of Others.

ACF Critic Series #27: Classical Music and Evil


Today, I am joined by Theodore Gioia for a conversation on how classical music became the favored soundtrack for evil, villainous masterminds. What happened to classical music in Hollywood! How did we get from classical music ennobling movies and deepening characterization — to Hannibal Lecter murdering people to Bach’s Goldberg variations! We start from his fine essay over at The American Scholar. You can also find more of his essays over at his site!

ACF Critic Series #21: Katyn


Our own @FlaggTaylor and I talk about Andrzej Wajda’s Katyn, his 2007 film about the terrible Soviet slaughter of the Polish officer corps–some 22,000 men — as well as its aftermath. The protagonist is the wife of one of the officers and we follow her through both the Soviet and the Nazi parts of occupied — and dismembered — Poland. We get to see various characters struggling with questions of honor and prudence as the country is being destroyed. Only memory is left to give reasons for hope for future freedom. Krzysztof Penderecki’s music is also worthy of mention.

ACF Critic Series #17: Sonny Bunch, Watchmen


This week, we’re doing a crossover: Sonny Bunch of the SubBeacon (formerly SubStandard) is joining me to talk about Zack Snyder, the only artist of the superhero blockbuster era, and his greatest achievement, Watchmen, the best superhero movie we have, on its 10th anniversary. Listen, share, and join us in the comments!