- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 9, 2005

Myth vs. Max

“Ron Howard’s ‘Cinderella Man’ … is both schmaltzy and dramatic in the way that the movies of its period, the 1930s, so often were, yet without (for the most part) the postmodern knowingness with which Hollywood usually patronizes the past … these days.

“It tells the story of James J. Braddock … the down-and-out Irish dockworker from New Jersey, whose seemingly miraculous victory in a heavyweight title fight in 1935 is presented as a moral parable. … Braddock is here represented as … tough, modest but undaunted by the great odds against him or the fearsome reputation of his opponent, Max Baer. … Baer is represented as a braggart, a bully, and a philanderer.

“That the historical Max Baer was none of these things is neither here nor there. It’s just too bad that his reputation has had to be sacrificed to enhance Braddock’s. … Moreover, Braddock is the darling of Hollywood in another way too, for he is the man who, so Mr. Howard tells us, gave hope to America in the depths of the Depression. That is to say … he made people believe that they too could be suddenly translated from being hungry, broke, and unemployed to fame and riches overnight.

“A politically minded filmmaker would not consider this to be any kind of achievement on his part, but the Hollywood religion of sentimentality trumps even politics.”

James Bowman, writing on “Cinderella Man,” Wednesday in the American Spectator Online at www.spectator.org

No third act

” ‘The Graduate,’ removed from its the counterculture context, is a somewhat different film. (It’s worth mentioning that the movie doesn’t appear to be set during the counterculture: There are no hippies or mentions of Vietnam; it’s all very 1962.)

“Today, Mrs. Robinson emerges — at least in the first two-thirds — as the film’s most complex character. Her dry seduction of the schnook Benjamin, and her brusque, faintly amused manner … barely conceals the woman’s despair and self-loathing. My favorite moment is her saddest, when, after professing ignorance about (and indifference to) a work of art, she admits, with a faraway look (but no evident self-pity) that her major in college was ‘art history.’

“It’s clear that her rage at Benjamin’s attraction to her daughter is a continuation of that self-loathing: Anyone who’d sleep with her is unworthy of her daughter. But there’s no scene in the last part of ‘The Graduate’ in which her vulnerability registers. … And so one of cinema’s most fascinating characters has no third act.”

David Edelstein, writing on “And Here’s to You,” Wednesday in Slate at www.slate.com

Hollywood Reds

“From the first years of the Soviet Union, Moscow tried to turn Hollywood’s dream machine into a Communist propaganda outfit. … The most notable beneficiaries of the Communist effort in Hollywood might be today’s Left, for whom the blacklist serves as a secular ‘Lives of the Saints.’ …

“The myth of the blacklist depicts innocent artists, driven to poverty and suicide by brutish anti-Semitism. …

“The blacklist forms the core of the Hollywood Left’s self-image. …

“Ronald Reagan … defended freedom of speech and of political association — even for Communists — but he also, famously, opposed Communism in the film industry. When the blacklist was a done deal, he worked to minimize its scope, but he didn’t allow himself to be used by Communists seeking liberal cover.”

Eve Tushnet, writing on “Tinselgrad,” in the June 20 issue of National Review

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