Posted by Susan Doll on November 2, 2015
No Golden Age movie star projected vitality, vigor, and a lust for life more heartily than Burt Lancaster, born on this date in 1913. With his dazzling smile and handsome Irish looks, he was destined to be a movie star. The mere mention of his name conjures up his most iconic roles, such as the title characters in Elmer Gantry or The Birdman of Alcatraz. Movie lovers know that he began his career in film noir, playing the Swede in The Killers and Joe Collins in Brute Force. Reviewers took notice of the devilishly good-looking actor, referring to him as a “brawny Apollo.” Though he tried to play against this image by starring as the acid-tongued gossip columnist in Sweet Smell of Success or as a working-class brute in The Rose Tattoo, it was an image difficult for fans to forget. Lancaster can be seen this month on TCM in The Professionals (November 29, 8:00pm) and in Three Girls and a Sailor, in which he appears in a cameo as himself (November 19, 6:15pm).
In the 1980s and 1990s, his career took an interesting turn. He appeared in the films of young directors who cast the aging actor because of his status as a fabled movie star. In Phil Alden Robinson’s Field of Dreams, Lancaster costarred as Archibald “Moonlight” Graham, a baseball player who played only one game during his pro career before retiring to become a doctor. As an icon of the Golden Age of Hollywood, Lancaster was much like his character, who represented the glory days of baseball. In Daniel Petrie’s Rocket Gibraltar, Lancaster starred as the dying patriarch of a dysfunctional family who demands a Viking funeral. Who would be more deserving of a mythic funeral than a movie star from Hollywood’s most mythic era?
Posted by Pablo Kjolseth on December 29, 2013
Pope Francis may have edged out Eric Snowden as “Person of the Year” at TIME magazine, but the contributions by the latter have had a deep and ongoing impact on our national psyche. A lot of whistleblowers wind up dead, behind bars, labeled traitors, or – like Snowden – on the run. Small wonder they’ve also found their lives dramatized on film. Their actions inevitably wrestle with big moral questions and all kinds of risks. They flirt with danger and sometimes succumb to tragedy. The high drama lends itself to the screen. Surely some 100 movies out there deal with the topic, many well regarded and yet to be seen by me. For example, I must have been asleep all of 2005, because I missed both The Constant Gardener and North County that year, films I still need to watch when time allows. My own short list must therefore be taken with a grain-of-salt. It’s not comprehensive so much as a casual cluster of what comes to mind. The consolation prize is that two of these will screen on TCM next month. [...MORE]
Posted by David Kalat on January 5, 2013
The late 1970s and early 1980s were lousy with disaster flicks, a sub-genre to which Virus unquestionably belongs. Apocalypse thrillers have always been in vogue, but they do tend to shift in tone with the cultural zeitgeist. But there was something about the Cold War era that gave rise to some wonderful end-of-the-world movies the likes of which we don’t really encounter anymore. The bizarre illogic of the Cold War was somehow more conducive to nightmare poetry: two superpowers armed with enough firepower to destroy life on Earth countless times over, where in order to preserve the peace they each must threaten total war. The only thing keeping those nukes in their holsters was the promise of Mutually Assured Destruction (quite appropriately, MAD). Edward Albee couldn’t have thunk up any better.
And Virus, mind you, is the gift that keeps on giving. It’s a rip-snorting good movie that packs in not just one apocalypse, but two.
Posted by Susan Doll on November 5, 2012
I have been an ardent film-goer my entire life, but I think I reached a peak during the 1980s. At the time, I was finishing my doctorate at Northwestern while working as a book editor, and I looked forward to weekends when my friend Maryann and I went to the movies both Friday and Saturday nights. To say we were avid movie-goers doesn’t adequately describe it: We saw anything and everything.
Now that I teach film history, I have noticed that the decade of the 1980s does not always get a fair assessment in text books. Coming after the legendary Film School Generation, in which directors like Scorsese, Coppola, Altman, Malick, Lumet, Ashby, Friedkin, DePalma, and others explored and experimented with film form and content, the 1980s saw a return to more conventional filmmaking. The decade’s focus on genre movies, return to larger-than-life movie stars, flirtation with franchises, and dependence on blockbusters are generally painted as a precursor to the aesthetically bankrupt Hollywood of the millennium. Though the current industry systems and practices that have robbed Hollywood of its imagination and craftsmanship did begin in the 1980s, I find the decade to be richer and more diverse than generally acknowledged.
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