The Wild Bunch (1969)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Wild Bunch</strong> (1969)

(On Cable TV, January 2018) I may be a jaded cinephile, but there are a few things that I still don’t like. I’m a big fan of action scenes, for instance, but I don’t like violence all that much, and gore even less. Given this, it was almost a foregone conclusion that I wouldn’t be all that happy with Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch, a film whose reputation is tied to its brutal depiction of western violence. The opening sequence concludes on a bloody and depressing heist, and much of the film that follows doesn’t get any better—the characters are criminals escaping justice, but the lawmen aren’t more virtuous. Though visually a western, The Wild Bunch is set in 1913 and the end of the Far West era hangs upon the film like a curse—much of the film is about the characters realizing that there is no place left for them or their tools in the world. The automobile is replacing the horse, and the machine gun is far more efficient than the six-cylinder gun. There’s clearly a Vietnam-era attempt to deglamorize the western archetypes though blood squibs and dishonourable character. It must have been quite a sensation back in 1969, but today The Wild Bunch feels redundant. Worse; its unpleasantness lingers after the film has so little to teach us. I can admire the craft of the production (many of the action sequences feel surprisingly modern) but I can’t love the result. Even in the not-so-narrow field of revisionist westerns, I can think of a few better examples.

Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Beneath the Planet of the Apes</strong> (1970)

(On Cable TV, January 2018) I actually have faint and mild traumatized memories of seeing the end of Beneath the Planet of the Apes as a kid, with its nightmarish conclusion. A more contemporary viewing isn’t making me any friendlier toward the film, although for different reasons: I now think that the end of the film, with its horrific facial revelation and atomic conclusion, is the best thing about a remarkably redundant sequel. Not that I’ve been a fan of the original film or the subsequent series—While the 2011–2017 second remake trilogy is fantastic, the first series and 2001 singleton are dull beyond belief. Beneath the Planet of the Apes is not particularly interesting, revisiting the same material and not offering much until the end. Even Charlton Heston is sidelined for most of the film. The cosmic coincidence of having a second set of astronauts land in more or less the same place is too big to swallow, and the grimness of the ending, underscored by a fairly definitive narration, isn’t one to make one’s inner kid happy. Too bad the rest of the series couldn’t stay as dead as it should have been after the ending of this one.

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, Michael Wolff

Henry Holt and Co., 2018, 336 pages, C$39.00 hc, ISBN 978-1-250-15806-2

Just so that we’re clear on where this review is coming from: I’m not an American, and I’ve never been aboard the Donald Trump train. Like many others, I considered him a joke candidate until he wasn’t, and while I was momentarily intrigued by the idea of an outsider president able to set his own policy agenda outside establishment politics, a pair of articles read in early 2016 definitely made me a Never-Trumper: A transcript of Donald Trump’s meeting with The Washington Post editorial board that portrayed a candidate with serious cognitive problems, and an article from The Atlantic in 2011 describing how Trump personally wrote insulting notes to journalists reporting on him, showing a candidate with even more serious temperamental issues. I’m not claiming to any special deductive power here—what I saw was what everyone saw, and once you are outside the United States’ partisan borders as I am, my opinion is widely, almost universally shared.

You can imagine that I didn’t sleep much on Election Night.

The rest, as we now approach the first-year anniversary of Trump’s inauguration, is slowly sliding into history. It has been an eventful twelve months—even political junkies such as myself regularly risk overdoses when it comes to the carnival of political stories. Trump’s administration has been a rolling dumpster fire of incompetence, meanness and absurdity. While Americans seem to be stuck in a tribal epistemology debate, the rest of the world looks on worryingly and occasionally sends care packages to the remaining sane Americans—Are you OK? We’ll be there for you once this is all over. If we survive.

Of course, the one-year anniversary of any new administration also sounds the starting gun of a second wave of reporting. Beyond the daily headlines and slightly longer analyses, a full year allows writers to take in the first few months of an administration and write longer pieces taking it all in. News reports and incidents accumulate, becoming data, patterns of behaviour and knowledge. While there have been a few relevant books about the campaign already published (Clinton’s What Happened is on shelves, along with the pro-Trump The Devil’s Bargain about Steve Bannon, and Corey Lewandowski’s Let Trump Be Trump), Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House is the first blockbuster book giving readers insider access to the Trump White House’s first two hundred days.

During that time, Wolff tells us, he basically sat in White House hallways, interviewed various people, listened to random conversations and was able to piece together a coherent picture of the administration. Amazingly enough, Wolff never signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement and was able to ask questions in a way that made people confide in him. The Trump administration thought he was one of theirs, but his conclusions aren’t friendly.

Consider that most of Fire and Fury’s first chapter consists in presenting a portrait of Donald Trump as a dangerously unintelligent person. Though numerous examples and third-party recollections, we are shown an egomaniac who expected to lose the presidential election, someone uninterested in reading, analysis or decision-making. The essential Trump equals Stupidity equation is hammered over and over again, leaving us to wonder if Wolff has blown his most salient conclusion too early.

But as it turns out, Trump equals Stupidity is a foundational aspect of the narrative that Wolff builds throughout the book. It is the necessary element to understand the dark comedy of Fire and Fury. The intellectual void at the top of the Trump administration explains why, in its first six months, three warring factions operated within the White House: The establishment Republicans (rep: Reince Preibus), the far-right populists (rep: Steve Bannon) and the president’s own family (rep: Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner). Trump being a weak president unable to lead, all factions saw the potential for their viewpoint to prevail, explaining much of 2017’s turmoil.

In any other administration, Wolff’s book would have been an unprecedented tell-all, vulnerable to basic incredulity—who would believe such a thing? But in Trump’s administration, the warring factions inside the White House leaked so much information throughout their tenure that much of the story has already been told and can readily be believed through corroboration. The leakiest administration in history has already had nearly all of its actions and inner processes extensively documented in public media. In this light, Wolff’s book becomes an exercise in detail and narrative—it provides additional information about actions already publicly described (such as going into further detail as to how Ivanka convinced her dad to send missiles on a Syrian airbase, by showing emotionally poignant pictures of dead children) and wraps up those news reports into something of an overarching theory about the administration.

The story, as often repeated, is this: Trump is ill-equipped to be the President of the United States. He has neither the knowledge, the temperament nor the abilities to be commander in chief. This void is filled by people around him (few of them competent, because the competent ones know better than to dive in this cesspool), but since there are various factions all aiming for superiority, the results we get are inconsistent, and frequently sabotaged by Trump himself. Wolff tells, time and again, how everyone surrounding Trump has lost their illusions about him. They know him to be inept, and it’s only a matter of time before he turns on them. Those who stay do so because they’re convinced they can use his weakness as a way to further their own ambitions, or because they fear that even worse things would happen if they left.

The book’s main narrative effectively ends in August 2017, days after the infamous press conference in which Trump refused to condemn neo-Nazi groups in the wake of the tragic Charlottesville events. (I remember that day—we were driving home after a long family trip, and my wife was reading the highlights of the press conference as they came in on her cell phone, while I was shaking my head in redundant disbelief.)  An October 2017 epilogue describes Steve Bannon’s future plans after leaving the White House, suggesting that Trump is merely a component of a larger movement.

Ironically, the one person who does come out of the book more positively than others is Bannon himself. He was obviously a primary source for Wolff (thanks to the copious amount of Bannon’s inner monologue, but also descriptions of how voluble he can be) and it shows… Bannon’s agenda may be repulsive to most, but the man himself is shown to be more intelligent than most of the other people in the White House, his policy-making efforts sincerer than others, and his warnings going unheeded in the wake of catastrophic PR moves by the administration. Conversely, it goes without saying that the biggest loser of Wolff’s book is Trump himself—an empty shell where a leader should be, a self-destructive fool frequently losing control of himself. (“Dyslexic” and “illiterate” are only a few of the words used to describe him.) Still, those rankings are relative: Nearly everyone in the book is portrayed as being in over their heads, holding on until the pressure is intolerable. But once you accept the Trump equals Stupidity equation, it becomes difficult to be sympathetic to anyone willing to cover up for an unsuitable president.

The reaction to Fire and Fury in the week-and-a-half since its first excerpts leaked has been as spectacular as it’s been predictable: The national conversation has seriously looked at nigh-unthinkable topics such as “Is the president mentally fit for duty?” prompting the new Trump-issued catchphrase “stable genius.”  The various factions of the Trump White House have started firing denials and accusations about what other factions have said, further reinforcing the book’s thesis. (And as I write this review, the BREAKING NEWS is that Bannon is out of Breitbart, largely due to Fire and Fury. The Trump news never stops, don’t they?)  Wolff has become a minor newsmaker, with post-publication interviews dropping further nuggets of provocation along the way, such as a possible affair in the White House. Clearly, there was an untapped hunger for a Trump-weary nation to discuss these things and the book was a catalyst for the conversation.

And while it felt really good to read a book that tells it as candidly as possible, I’m not too fond of some aspects of Fire and Fury. Wolff spent a lot of time embedded with the Trump team and some of it has stained him. He sets up, somewhat disingenuously, an overarching polarized conflict between Trump and the media, minimizing that much of the revulsion against Trump and his systematic undermining of institutions goes far beyond the media to the American people at large who, by a three-million-vote margin, collectively preferred Hillary Clinton. There’s no need to portray the media as an antagonist. But then again, Wolff is a New York media creature, and he’s got plenty of baggage about it. In the middle of Fire and Fury, there is a lengthy digression about the New York Observer magazine that Jared Kushner bought, and it feels like score-settling coming out of nowhere. In other spots, the book feels as if it has been rushed through editing, with cumbersome sentence structures that could have used another round of polish.

But does it matter? Ultimately, I expect that Fire and Fury’s legacy will be dictated by later events. There are roughly seven ways the Trump presidency can end (three of them not advisable to mention unless I want to end up on a list of suspicious foreign nationals) and the conclusion of his presidency will either invalidate or reinforce what Wolff has seen from his perch in the White House.

And yet, as I proofread this review for publication a few weeks later, I’m struck at how the book both caused and explained Steve Bannon’s fall from grace even from his once-unassailable position in the conservative news media. Destructive agenda aside, Bannon is too smart for his own good … leading him to candid comments and a sentiment that he was essential to his cause. Alas (?), it turns out that he underestimated how much of a tool he was for Trump worshippers. I’m also struck at how much of a good mental model Wolff offered in Fire and Fury to understand how the Trump White House works—and how, as droves of people are quitting or being fired, Trump remains at the middle of the storm, empty, weak and impulsive. We can already tell it won’t end well.

The Apartment (1960)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Apartment</strong> (1960)

(On DVD, January 2018) For late-twentieth century cinephiles such as myself, Jack Lemmon is first the eponymous Grumpy Old Man, or the miserable salesman of Glengarry Glenn Ross. But this late-career Lemmon is the last act in a long list of roles, and films such as The Apartment (alongside Some Like it Hot and The Odd Couple) do suggest that young Lemmon was the best Lemmon. He’s certainly charming in The Apartment, playing a young man who has struck a most unusual arrangement with his superiors at work: His apartment made available for dalliances, in exchange for professional advancement. The film does begin in firmly comic mode, as the protagonist juggles the schedules of four executives with his own desire to sleep, and then to court an elevator attendant played by Shirley MacLaine. The first half of The Apartment plays as a proto-Mad Men, capped off by a sequence in which Lemmon dons a dapper hat and strolls out like a true New York City professional with a bright future. The look at this slice of 1960 NYC living is terrific and if the film had stopped there, it would have been already worth a look. But there’s a lot of murk under the premise of the film and The Apartment soon heads deeper in those troubled waters, shifting from suggestive comedy to much bleaker romantic drama as the protagonist ends up in romantic conflict with one of his superiors, and then in even darker territory with a suicide attempt that changes everything. Director Billy Wilder had an illustrious career, and the way he shifts adeptly between three subgenres in a single film is a great example of what he could do with difficult material. The Apartment is still unsettling today—less so than upon its release, but it still defies sensibilities. The film’s second half is a great deal less fun than the first, but it does give much of the film’s enduring power.

Some Like it Hot (1959)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Some Like it Hot</strong> (1959)

(On DVD, January 2018) Curiously enough, it takes longer than expected for Some Like it Hot to warm up. The first act, in which two Chicago-based musicians witness a mob murder and decide to go on the run by cross-dressing and joining an all-female musical group to Florida, is occasionally a slog. Sure, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon are sympathetic enough, and Marilyn Monroe makes a striking entrance, but the film seems far too busy setting up its ridiculous situation to get many laughs. Things get much better once the story lands in a posh Florida resort, as the complications pile up and the film’s true nature starts coming out. By the time Lemmon’s character has to fake being uninterested in Monroe as she slinks all over him, or as Curtis rather likes the attention he’s getting as a woman, the film starts hitting its peak comic moments. It keeps going to a rather simple but effective final line. It helps, from an atmospheric perspective, that the Floridian passages spend quality time looking at a high-end lifestyle in which yachts are treated as mobile homes for the rich—there’s some wish-fulfillment right there. Thematically, the film has a few surprises in store: For a comedy dealing in cross-dressing and attraction based on misrepresented gender, Some Like it Hot has aged surprisingly well—it’s far less prone to gay panic than you’d expect from a movie from the fifties, and still feels almost progressive in the way it approaches same-sex attraction. As a result of its pro-love anti-hate agenda, it can be rewatched without too much trouble even today, while many (most!) movies of its era feel grossly dated. Much of this credit goes to director Billy Wilder as he allows Lemmon, Curtis and Monroe, to become a terrific comic trio and help the film get over its duller moments. The far more interesting last half makes up for an average beginning, and Some Like it Hot is still worth a look today.

Baby Driver (2017)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Baby Driver</strong> (2017)

(On Cable TV, January 2018) The appeal of Edgar Wright’s role as a director is multifaceted (you can like his impeccable editing, highly structured scripting, hip pop-culture references or ability to get great comic performances from his actors), but he is without peers in his use of music as an essential counterpoint to the visual aspects of his movies. Nearly all of his films so far have included at least one sequence that perfectly blend sound and images, and he pushes that facet of his work to its limits in Baby Driver, a movie in which nearly the entire film seems built around its soundtrack. I mean it in the best way, as the opening sequence proves: Wright dares to synchronize an entire feature film around a selection of underexposed songs and the result is a frizzy delight. Sure, it’s all in the service of a criminal revenge story … but why use labels when the entire film is a tour de force? From beginning to end, Baby Driver is a choreography of sound and visuals as it takes us in the mind of its music-obsessed protagonist. A movie experience with few peers, Baby Driver is meant to be listened to as much as seen—while I’m a big fan of watching movies with the sound down as so not to disturb other members of my household, I made an exception for Baby Driver—and it deserves to be played at the appropriate volume. Ansel Elgort is fine in the lead performance, but the supporting actors are far more interesting, in-between what is likely to be Kevin Spacey’s last high-profile performance, Jon Hamm leaning on his comedy and action skills, Jamie Foxx as a dangerous sidekick and Lily James as the love interest. Much of the overall plot is familiar, but it’s the execution that truly shines—Baby Driver is filled with cool little moments, set pieces and the usual amount of Wright’s clever writing that becomes more apparent upon viewing the film a second time. It’s a lot of fun and it’s a particular treat for anyone who’s been following Wright’s career so far.

Coma (1978)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Coma</strong> (1978)

(On Cable TV, January 2018) Michael Crichton became a contrarian cuckoo in his last few years, but even that sad brain-eating epilogue shouldn’t distract from an amazing career in which he wrote best-sellers, created hit TV shows, coded computer games, won a Technical Achievement Academy Award (!) for budgeting and scheduling innovations (!!) and, oh, directed half a dozen big-budget movies. Movies like Coma, showing his knack for technical medical drama coupled with solid storytelling abilities. While it’s not required to praise Coma beyond its own goals as a straightforward thriller, Crichton’s film does manage to be effective. Based on nothing less than one of Robin Cook’s early novels, it’s a blend of medical drama, high-tech investigation, conspiracy thriller and woman-in-distress drama. Genevieve Bujold stars as a doctor who becomes suspicious of mysterious coma cases at her hospital, with some good supporting performances by Michael Douglas and Rip Torn. (Watch for Ed Harris in his first film role as a technician.) While the film can’t escape a certain seventies stodginess, it’s this very same atmosphere that makes the film more interesting than expected today—Coma has emerged from the last thirty years as a period piece rather than a dated one, and it’s seeing things like Douglas in a full beard that makes the film rather entertaining to watch. Even the high-tech gloss of the film, at times ridiculous, is now rather charming. Not an essential film, but not an uninteresting one either.

M (1931)

<strong class="MovieTitle">M</strong> (1931)

(On Cable TV, January 2018) It’s easy to dismiss early cinema as somehow less than what is now possible. I suspect that much of this easy dismissal comes from the examples set during the Hays Code, which stunted the emotional development of American cinema for decades. But there are plenty of examples of movies (either pre-Code or non-American production) that show that even early cinema could be as hard-hitting, mature and disturbing as anything else since then. A good case in point would be Fritz Lang’s M, an upsetting crime drama set in Berlin during which a serial killer of children is hunted by both the police and organized crime. Peter Lorre plays the killer, in a performance that is instantly repellent, then pitiful as he finds himself targeted for summary execution by crime syndicates none too happy about his actions and the ensuing police crackdown. A true noir film in which the black-and-white images belie the gray morality of its characters, M remains a captivating piece of work even today. Deftly using primal fears to move its audience (up to a fourth-wall-breaking final shot), M is a well-controlled achievement that certainly gets reactions. The use of sound, not even five years after the introduction of the technology, is quite effective — “In the Halls of the Mountain Kings” is used as a meaningful leitmotif, and even in German, the film does quite a lot with the voices of its actors. It is a bit long, perhaps slightly inefficient in the ways it moves its characters in the middle third, but the overall dreadful atmosphere of the film is striking, and the nightmarish quality of the last sequence makes up for most shortcomings. There is an added dimension to the film for modern audiences knowing that the society depicted here was already in fully Nazification. All of that, and more, combine to make M essential viewing today, not just as a piece of movie history.

Marty (1955)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Marty</strong> (1955)

(On Cable TV, January 2018) The long list of Best Film Oscar-winning movies is definitely skewed toward big pictures: Big themes, big budgets, big actors. But there are exceptions, and Marty feels like one of the outliers. Not much more than a small-scale romantic drama in which a not-so-young man dares to come of age, this is a low-key film that works best in details. Good dialogue (by the legendary Paddy Chayefsky) brings the characters to life, blessed by good grounded performances by actors such as Ernest Borgnine and Betsy Blair. Borgnine, in particular, is a revelation in a performance that breaks from his later tough-guy persona. Much of the film takes place in small apartments or in the streets of The Bronx, without too many dramatic flourishes. The result is striking in its own way, and having won the Oscar ensures that low-key low-budget Marty will remain seen for decades to come.

Oliver! (1968)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Oliver!</strong> (1968)

(On Cable TV, January 2018) Well, that settles it—I like my musicals funny and romantic, not dramatic and dour. Fast sinking down my list of least favourite Oscar-winning pictures, Oliver! may be a respectable musical adaptation of Dickens’s Oliver Twist, that doesn’t necessarily make it fun or enjoyable. I had a really hard time staying interested in the film, as the musical element seemed to distract from the dramatic bones of the story rather than enhance it. By the time characters die, I had my fill of the film. To be fair, I’m not criticizing the production itself—the costumes are great, the historical re-creation is credible and the actors are fine in their singing roles. The simplest explanation is that Oliver! simply failed to reach me where it counts. I remain open to the possibility that another viewing in twenty years or so may produce different results.

Harvey (1950)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Harvey</strong> (1950)

(On Cable TV, January 2018) It took a surprisingly long time for me to warm up to Harvey, especially considering that it stars James Stewart and remains a minor classic of film fantasy. I think that much of this initial reluctance has to do with not quite knowing which way the movie was leaning at first—is Stewart’s protagonist delusional or simple-minded? What are we watching here—gentle fantasy or sad realism? Mental illness is no joking matter, and yet Harvey does spend quite a bit of time in a Todorovian twilight zone where this may be the solution. Fortunately, Harvey never quits and soon become passable, then acceptable, then quite charming right in time for the end. The first big breakthrough happens when Stewart blandly states, “Well, I’ve wrestled with reality for 35 years, Doctor, and I’m happy to state I finally won out over it.”  Then there’s the romance between Charles Drake and the superb Peggy Dow, or again a bland statement “Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”  Finally, there’s the confirmation that the film is whimsical fantasy. Harvey hinges on a few very delicate strings, and it’s almost an achievement to find them so finely balanced. Stewart being Stewart, it’s difficult not to like the film, but it does earn its likability along the way.

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Miracle on 34th Street</strong> (1947)

(On DVD, January 2018) Due to cultural osmosis, you already know how Miracle on 34th Street ends, with mailbags proving the existence of Santa Claus. But what may not be so iconic is the rest of the film, with its sugar-coated view of Macy’s department store, and especially with its Santa Claus character barging in on human affairs for a while. There’s a tension in seeing as pure a character as Claus trying to fit within the harsh reality of ordinary humans and Miracle on 34th Street does manage to get quite a lot of mileage out of this premise, and resolve it in a way that works for everyone. In-between, we get a rather lovely look at mid-century Manhattan in its airbrushed glory. Maureen O’Hara is fine as the sensible lead character, but Edmund Gwenn owns the movie as Kris Kringle in his genial charm. One of the quintessential Christmas movies, Miracle on 34th Street remains surprisingly interesting even absent the holiday element.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?</strong> (1966)

(On Cable TV, January 2018) Whew. Some movies are entertainment, some are a spectacle, but Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? feels like a roller derby of emotional destruction. Set among the world of northeastern academics, what first feels like a quasi-parody of mainstream drama quickly turns ugly as a middle-aged history teacher and his wife start arguing, then bring in another younger couple in the clash for “fun and games.”  Nobody escapes unscathed, especially the audience. A solid drama (with streaks of dark but undeniable comedy) becomes something special by virtue of its actors—Not only do Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton play the lead couple viciously squabbling, but they were married to each other at the time. Neither Taylor nor Burton have done anything better in their career—Burton, in particular, progressively shrugs off a meek drink-holding character to best his co-star in merciless put-downs. As for Taylor, it’s still impressive to see how she’d transform herself from a sex symbol to a frumpy shrewish housewife for the purposes of the film. (Not that it’s completely successful—even overweight and made-up with aging lines, Taylor-being-Taylor still looks better than anyone else.)  The film was shocking then for its frank language, but it’s still somewhat disturbing today due to its pure harshness: the film’s four characters constantly tear themselves down in the worst possible ways, and score hits on bystanders even when attacking each other. It’s as good as dialogue-driven drama gets, and it’s still remarkably effective today (albeit maybe a touch too long). As a capstone to the Taylor-Burton relationship, though, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? carries a weight that goes simply beyond a great movie.

Gifted (2017)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Gifted</strong> (2017)

(On Cable TV, January 2018) Frankly, I expected the worst schmaltz from this family melodrama featuring a genius-level kid. Hollywood seldom deals well with genius, and the temptation to turn this into a syrupy rote “brain doesn’t matter at much as heart” Hollywood pap seemed irresistible from the plot synopsis. But Gifted actually works better than expected thanks to a few winning performances and generally well-executed conventions. Chris Evans is rather good as a smart-but-troubled ordinary guy trying to raise his genius niece despite significant challenges. McKenna Grace is fine as the genius kid, while Jenny Slate is immensely likable as a teacher trying to help. Octavia Spencer does her best with a limited role, while Lindsay Duncan is suitably hissable as the antagonist. Director Marc Webb returns to simpler drama after disappointingly overblown superhero films, and the genre suits him much better. Otherwise, Gifted is a straightforward family drama, not too syrupy and decently heart-warming when it needs to be. Some of the plot turns aren’t necessarily happy (and the conclusion is bittersweet enough). The details are interesting: there’s a cute Lego reference, and the look at mathematical academia is intriguing despite a bit of showboating with a celebrated “unsolvable” problem. Gifted doesn’t avoid the usual “heart> brain” stuff, but it does seem to come to its conclusion honestly. It could have been much worse, and the result is palatable enough.

Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Bonnie and Clyde</strong> (1967)

(On Cable TV, January 2018) There’s no denying that Bonnie and Clyde still carries a strong mystique even today. It’s a reference that pops up every single time there’s a man-and-woman criminal team. It’s also a film that showed very clearly the state of Hollywood by the end of the sixties, sufficiently emboldened by the end of the Hays Code to start showing blood and gore in big-budget entertainment. I can’t quite picture how revolutionary or upsetting the film must have been at the time, with elaborately constructed scene in which people are shot in the head by criminals portrayed as heroes. Such things are, for better or for worse, far more common these days and so Bonnie and Clyde is approached differently today without the element of shock. Personal preferences certainly come into play—I had a surprisingly negative reaction to the film myself: being generally unreceptive to the stereotype of the heroic outlaw, I was unable to empathize much with the murdering anti-heroes. (I’m also Canadian, if that helps: “Peace, order and good government”)  The film does have its qualities—Warren Beatty is at the top of his young roguish persona here, and let’s not forget Faye Dunaway’s presence either. Screen legends such as Gene Hackman and Gene Wilder also pop up in small roles, although modern viewers may be disappointed at their ineffectual characters or small roles. The infamous ending remains upsetting. Bonnie and Clyde, taken on its own fifty years later, is a great deal less special than it must have been. Despite remaining a pivotal film in Hollywood history, I’m not sure that it has aged all that well.