In a short but brilliant essay about the undercurrents in Alfred Hitchcock‘s Notorious, Senses of Cinema‘s Lauren Carroll Harris writes that “it is far too easy to watch a film and extract its moral themes through the lens of your own ideological framework.” One and a half seconds after reading this I said to myself, “Hey, that’s what HE readers have have accused me of doing from time to time.” But not consistently, I would argue. There are many films that I’ve liked or worshipped that I don’t agree with ideologically. (Including Triumph of the Will, Rio Bravo, The Informer, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Patton, A Man For All Seasons.) The bottom line is that we all respond best to films that affirm our basic understandings of the way the world is and how it most often works. And anybody who claims they don’t generally do this is a bald-faced liar.
Which is why I responded so strongly 35 years ago to Ordinary People (I know the lonely teenaged suburban malaise territory all too well) and 25 years ago to Goodfellas and eight years ago to No Country For Old Men and five years ago to The Social Network. They affirmed and agreed with what I know to be true about certain aspects — some local, some national — of the American culture, which I grew up with and know like the back of my hand.
Which is why I expect to love or at least admire Joel & Ethan Coen‘s Hail, Caesar! (which I’ve read and which absolutely must open limited by the end of the year) as well as Danny Boyle‘s Steve Jobs, Thomas McCarthy‘s Spotlight, James Vanderbilt‘s Truth (about the journalistic downfall of Dan Rather in ’04) and Oliver Stone‘s Snowden. And which is why I expect to have problems with Martin Scorsese‘s Silence, which I realize may not open this year. Either way I have no sympathy for Christians who suffer for their faith. Especially if it’s Andrew Garfield, who’s always getting the shit end and suffering for his beliefs. Tough shit, homey, but you bought the farm.