Video Virgil: Self Portraits

The literary critic Irving Howe was once asked whether the New York literary scene was self-absorbed and incestuous, and he replied, "It only looks that way from the outside." The same could certainly be said of the agglomeration of organizations and individuals who make up Hollywood. They live in a heavily fortified bubble that almost always distorts their view of the society in which the rest of us live.

That's why Hollywood's best social criticism tends to be directed at itself. As a longstanding fan of movies about the movie biz, I recently revisited "The Bad and the Beautiful," directed by Vincent Minelli and starring Lana Turner in what may be her finest role. It views a gifted but ruthless studio head (Kirk Douglas) through the eyes of three people he sucked in and blew out: an alcoholic, going-nowhere-fast actress (Turner); a talented but too diffident director (Barry Sullivan); and a frustrated college-Joe writer (Dick Powell).

Of course, if you prefer your classic studio heads to be the embodiment of philistine evil, then I recommend "The Big Knife," an overwrought study of a matinee idol (Jack Palance) caught between the integrity urged by his wife (Ida Lupino) and the servitude imposed by his boss (Rod Steiger). Steiger is only on the screen for one scene, in which he manipulates the hapless Palance to renew his contract for another seven years. But that one scene is worth the price of admission.

April 7, 2005 10:15 AM |



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The best part of him will never leave the building ...

Beyond Country 

Like all chart categories, "country" is an arbitrary heading under which one finds the ridiculous, the sublime, and everything in between. On the sublime end, a track that I have been listening to over and over for the last six months: Wynnona Judd's version of "She Is His Only Need." The way she sings it, irony is not a color or even a set of contrasting colors; it is iridescence.

Miles the Rock Star? 

Does Miles Davis belong in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame? Here's my take on his career ...

Essay Contest 

Attention, high school jazz listeners ...

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Me Elsewhere

Edward Hopper 

Painter of light (and darkness) ...

Dissed in Translation 

Here's my best shot at taking Scorcese down a few pegs ...

Henri Rousseau Revisited 

"Henri Rousseau: Jungles in Paris" appeared at the National Gallery of Art in Washington this fall ...

Paul Klee's Art 

Paul Klee was not childish, despite frequent comparisons between his art and that of children...

Our Art Belongs to Dada 

Rent my "Dadioguide" tour of the Dada show (before it moves to MoMA) ...

more picks


About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Chris Mackie, Principal, Covelly Strategies published on April 7, 2005 10:15 AM.

The Perverse in the Popular was the previous entry in this blog.

Video Virgil: Antique Self-Portrait is the next entry in this blog.

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