Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Ace in the Hole

Billy Wilder, 1951, bw (8.2*)
Just another notch in the genius belt of director-screenwriter Billy Wilder. Though not one of his important films, it's still a small gem of a story, and based on the media saturation of the recent Chilean mining story, the journalism techniques it condemns are still in practice today, namely "maximize the story for ratings".

Washed up big city reporter Charles Tatum (Kirk Douglas) ends up in Albuquerque with no real stories, when by chance he stumbles onto one, as local Leo Minosa gets trapped in a cave behind some ruins of cliff dwellings in a town of seven people in the desert. Douglas and his photographer are passing by on their way to a rattlesnake hunt, and Douglas sees a chance to milk a story all the way back to the big time.

Wilder accurately shows how just any human interest story becomes a literal circus in America, as hordes descend on the area when the story hits the press, including circus tents, rides, vendors, anyone out to make a buck, and of course the national media. Admittance to the ruins starts out free, and doubles each time they show the sign! Jan Sterling, as Leo's bored wife at the end of her patience, won a National Board award for actress, while Wilder received one of his 20 Oscar® nominations for the screenplay (he won six, 3 for screenplay, 2 for directing), and a directing award at Venice. This is another must see for his fans.

Here is our own article on the films of Billy Wilder, posted in 2008. He's one of my favorite directors, perhaps the favorite.

Wilder is one of the great directors, here's a small list of his best films:
The Front Page, Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, Lost Weekend, The Spirit of St. Louis, One Two Three, The Seven Year Itch, Sabrina, The Apartment, Some Like It Hot, Witness For the Prosecution, The Fortune Cookie.


Shubhajit September 4, 2009 at 10:17 AM  

This is one amazing movie. The acerbic cynicism might be difficult for some to take, but I loved every moment of it. Arguably one of Kirk Douglas' finest performances.

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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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