I can’t decide whether I have a legitimate reason to be annoyed with the opening sentences of this post by Diane Ellis Scalisi over at Acculturated, or whether I’m just being a snob. My default assumption is the latter, but you be the judge.
Let’s take it line by line.
This past summer, I set out to watch old films from the 1940s and 50s and to write about how they speak to universal themes and circumstances even today.
I hadn’t realized that anyone was in doubt that the films of the ’40s and ’50s are relevant “even today.” Admittedly, I had a film-intensive upbringing, but this sentence should be jarring even to people who didn’t. There are many ways to define what it means to have a “conservative” approach to culture, but I have to think that one fundamental requirement for all of them is not being surprised that art from fifty years ago still speaks to people . For Pete’s sake, this is our grandparents’ generation we’re talking about, not the Middle Ages. Lauren Bacall is still alive—heck, she’s still acting. Liberals go all goggle-eyed at how “modern” the plays of Noel Coward are and how much sex there is in film noir, but we should aspire to be more mature than that.
I wrote about three fantastic films— Gentlemen’s Agreement here , Sunset Boulevard here , and High Noon here —that really deserve to be seen by a new generation of movie watchers.
This is equivalent to saying that The White Album and Dark Side of the Moon deserve to be heard by a new generation of music listeners. I can understand categorizing Gentleman’s Agreement as obscure, but Sunset Boulevard is basic literacy. I wouldn’t waste my time talking about movies to someone who hadn’t seen it any more than I would talk about pop music with someone who’d never heard of Elvis Presley.
I don’t mean to pick on Diane Ellis Scalisi, so to demonstrate my good will, here’s a tip for her future reference, free of charge: Next time you write about a Preston Sturges movie, don’t try to summarize the plot. The man’s signature style involves, among other things, having a storyline so implausible that its failure to make sense would be positively obtrusive if the action didn’t move so quickly. A full recap of a Preston Sturges movie is generally too convoluted for the average reader to follow. Great movie reviewers have tried; all have failed. Just state the basic premise—“Betty Hutton is married and pregnant but can’t find her husband or remember his name,” or “Joel McCrea wants to make a movie about suffering and to that end becomes a hobo”—and then say that wackiness ensues and leave it at that.