Tag: american cinema foundation

ACF Critic Series #16: Teachout, Out of the Past


Second podcast this week–we’re coming up to my birthday, so for a couple of weeks, we’re doing the part of generosity here at the ACF! Today, Terry Teachout and I turn to noir: Out of the Past. Robert Mitchum, Kirk Douglas, and Jane Greer starring in Jacques Tourneur’s directing of the Daniel Mainwaring script. Roy Webb scoring, Nicholas Musuraca shooting. This is one of the peak achievements of noir and we had such fun talking about it. It is beautiful and tragic. It shows small-town life vs. the big city; America vs. south of the border; and the corruption of glamour that makes a chump of a noble man.

PoMoCon #3: Henry Olsen on our Coalitions


Our new political podcast episode, as always, is on the political corruption of the elites. This time, we’re looking at recent elections and the major trends that have led to populism. We have elites who don’t want to represent the electorate. This will not end well, but it will end.

ACF #23: Blow Out


Folks, here’s the completion of my trilogy with John Presnall on liberalism confronted with technological surveillance: Brian De Palma’s Blow Out, which puts together image and sound, Antonioni’s Blow-Up and Coppola’s The Conversation, turning these theoretical studies of art and technology into a practical matter — where does art stand to corrupt politics in our world.

ACF#22: The Conversation


Ok, here’s the next episode in our trilogy on liberalism and the age of technological surveillance. We talked about Antonioni’s Blow-up last week–we’re talking about De Palma’s Blow Out next week. This week, John Presnall and I talk about Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation. We talk about secrecy, the revelation of evil, and the limits of technology in achieving justice for all human beings. Listen, share, and let’s talk in the comments, friends!

ACF Middlebrow #23: Harold Ramis


Pete Spiliakos and I bring you a discussion about The Prophet of Trump, the most successful comedy writer of the ’80s, who just happened to suggest that a vulgar, loud, billionaire real estate developer (Rodney Dangerfield) or a snake-oil salesman who treats women shabbily (Bill Murray) might destroy our conservative and progressive elites. Listen, share, and comment, friends!

ACF Middlebrow #21: Brooklyn


Flagg Taylor and I bring you a movie fit for the festive season — a beautiful piece of selective nostalgia, a story devoid of anything sordid. A girl from Ireland is sent to America in the 1950s, to make something of herself, to find herself a future — to find her path to a decent happiness. You get to see her adventures in Brooklyn and it’s a perfectly Tocquevillian story of America’s many voluntary associations. It was a success and earned three important Oscar nominations, including protagonist Saoirse Ronan’s second actress nomination — she has earned a third meanwhile. I have an introductory essay over at The Federalist and, of course, the podcast for an in-depth, loving conversation about a wonderful movie.

ACF Middlebrow #20: The Thing


Last week, my friend Scott Beauchamp and I talked about the Catholic horror, The Exorcist. This week, we turn to its antithetical double, the scientific horror, in this case, John Carpenter’s The Thing. We talk about body horror and its relation to nihilism, horror of life in its meaningless, destructive quest for reproduction. About science, the cold universe, and fire — the power behind technology. About post-Vietnam manliness retrieving the darkness of the noir detective or the cowboy who cannot live in the community he saves.

ACF Middlebrow #19: The Exorcist


The podcast turns to horror, Catholic and scientific. I am joined by veteran and writer Scott Beauchamp to talk about William Friedkin and William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist and about Russell Kirk’s views on horror — having read his very humanistic essay on horror in Modern Age. We talk about body horror as a way of confronting evil, of raising existential questions: Is being human special, after all, or just another meaningless accident? Next week, we turn to the scientific horror for comparison–The Thing.

ACF Critic Series #10: Double Indemnity


Terry Teachout and I have worked our way to the pluperfect noir, Double Indemnity, written and directed by the great immigrant observer of America Billy Wilder, with the help of the most famous writer of crime fiction–Raymond Chandler! Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck, Hollywood stars, play great roles as fallen lovers and Ed G. Robinson, usually a gangster, plays as well against type, as a hard-nosed, but also honorable insurance investigator. This is one of the great stories about the temptations of America–quick success and insurance! You will see tragedy in everyday life here: Love vs. law, friendship vs. eros, and happiness vs. justice!

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!

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.

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.

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!

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!

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.

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.

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!

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.

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!

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.