July 15, 2007

BECAUSE NO PORTRAIT CAN BE AS CYNICAL AS THE MEDIA DESERVES:

Wilder trumps media by playing his "Ace" (Mark Rahner, 7/15/07, Seattle Times)

It's not in my own best interest to turn you on to "Ace in the Hole" (The Criterion Collection, 1951, $39.95). Like I need to see one more poll that places journalists somewhere between pharmaceutical lobbyists and E. coli in the public esteem.

But if you're a fan who made it one of the most-requested and oddly absent titles on DVD, cough up the extra for Criterion's excellent two-disc edition. If you've never seen it, knock a child out of the way to do so.

Billy Wilder made this jarringly cynical, dark commentary on the media's exploitation of human suffering right after he'd cleaned Oscar house with "Sunset Boulevard." The protagonists of both are the same species. Unscrupulous reporter Chuck Tatum (Kirk Douglas) has screwed up at so many papers that he bullies his way into a small-town rag hoping for a story that'll catapult him back to the big time. Stopping for gas on the way to a dull feature assignment, he finds one: a man trapped in a mountain tunnel.

"Bad news sells best. 'Cause good news is no news," Tatum says. [...]

The movie flopped in the States. In his audio commentary, scholar Neal Sinyard suggests critics took Wilder's insult personally, and the movie may also have been ahead of its time.


Which is to miss the point entirely. The film is timeless because that's what the press is like and always has been. The notion that journalism has degraded recently is a canard.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 15, 2007 8:21 AM
Comments

Netflix has the new DVD starting the 17th.

Posted by: erp at July 15, 2007 11:15 AM
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