The alt-right's asinine in-jokes are less original than they think. The real joke is the one they're the butt of.
Of the various films in the genre of “Frank Capra directs Jimmy Stewart and several other stars in a surprisingly funny drama about socioeconomic injustice”, You Can’t Take It With You may be the least of them. Adapted from a George S. Kaufman play, it feels stagebound and claustrophobic, lacking a strong sense of visual expression. The story is just about a rich guy meeting a houseful of Manic Pixie Dream Anarchists, and some of the jokes don’t really work in the 21st century.
I lost a friend a few days ago. Roger Hobbs was one of those frustrating people: you wanted to resent his talent and huge success, but he was such a decent, easygoing guy that you just couldn't. Everything he did, he did too young. Novels, movie deals, bestsellers, award after award after award... all years, decades ahead of any normal career trajectory.
And now he's dead. Too young.
This is what you call surefire Oscar bait: a period biopic that talks about an Important Social Issue. The Life of Emile Zola is a weirdly-paced story with a strange two-part structure. First, we have your conventional biopic. Zola starts out penniless and living in a garret, but perseveres and works hard and finds success with Nana, because it turns out sex sells. He raises a family, yadda yadda yadda, and his career and the film are both slowing down by the halfway mark.
Do you like long, slow musical numbers that involve almost nothing but looking at showgirls’ legs? No? Well, tough shit, because you’re in for a LOT of them. Get comfy.
A scene I’m 100% sure took place in Irving Thalberg’s office at MGM one day in 1935:
“So, last year Gable took his shirt off in It Happened One Night, and we made… how much money again?”
“All of it, sir. All the money.”
“Oh yeah. That was great. We also won enough Oscars that I had to have my mantelpiece reinforced. Anyway, having said that, what’ve we got this year?”
“We’ve got a picture where Clark Gable is shirtless for literally half the running time.”
“Good start. What’s he wearing the rest of the time?”
This article was originally posted in 2012 at the Good Men Project, and is being reposted here the day after the (so far) deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. I'm reposting it unchanged, as its relevance to current events is unchanged. The rhetoric and legislation about guns in this country has budged not an inch in four years.
This movie feels like the beginning of an era. Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Frank Capra directing, and a romantic-comedy plotline we’re still using today. These are all elements that became dominant over the coming years, but here they all still had that new-star smell. The storyline’s nothing new, your basic fall-in-love-over-an-involuntary-journey bit, but the journey in this case provides a wonderful look at 1930s Americana, all the little motel cabins and logistical weirdness that made up a pre-freeway road trip.
Twenty years ago, in the summer of ’96, teenaged me saw a new movie called Independence Day. It’s been a wedge between me and most of my generation ever since. Most people seem to remember it fondly, for some reason. I just remember how it kept getting my hopes up with genuinely exciting, interesting, original scenes, and then letting me down with the stupidest possible followthrough. The visually incredible destruction of Los Angeles ends by pissing on all physical logic just to spare the hero’s girlfriend, her cute kid, and their cute dog.
This was based on a play by Noël Coward, and the nicest thing I can say is that maybe it worked better on stage. On film, it’s a godawful tedious slog through two generations of affluent London life, showing the great upheavals of the 1899-1933 period via a bunch of colorless, unlikable characters who mostly die, but not soon enough to suit me.