[I've wanted to incorporate a regular movie column to the music, art, and food features here at the Banter for more than a minute now, so here goes... My good pal, Matt Blankman, who is mad for movies, will contribute his take, as will some of the other regular Banter contributors. Here's our debut, cue the lights...Alex Belth]
I’ve spent the last few days enjoying a rare moment of pop culture serendipity which has placed my brain squarely in the 1970s, the decade of my birth. First there’s been Josh Wilker’s fantastic new book Cardboard Gods (which we’ll assume you’re already familiar with to some extent if you’ve been keeping up with the Banter). Josh’s memoir isn’t just largely set in the 1970s, but it’s obviously shaped by it as well, and he sincerely attempts to make sense out of those strange times, how they came to pass and what they meant (and continue to mean) to him.
Soon after seeing Josh do a reading from “Cardboard Gods” last week, I found myself at home watching a new PBS documentary on the John V. Lindsay years (1966-1973) in New York City. To look back at those years now, with clear eyes, one can see many ways that the hope and exuberance of the 1960s gave way to the despair and confusion of the 1970s. How the New Frontier and Great Society faded and left us with gas lines, custom vans, pet rocks and malaise.
Finally, I watched a film from 1971 I’d never seen, The Hospital, which felt like a fictional illustration of so many of the issues present in both the Lindsay doc and Wilker’s book. The Hospital was written by Paddy Chayefsky, who was still enough of a big deal in the early 1970s that he may have been the only screenwriter ever to get his name above the title. Chayefsky’s script was directed by Arthur Hiller, a director who managed to have a lengthy career marked by a number of “big” movies and yet never once seemed to have any discernable personal style. (I’d call him a hack, except he always displayed a knack for comedic timing and knew to trust his script and cast. He may not have been much of an artist, but he wasn’t incompetent.)