Contemplative Prison Films As Zeitgeist

Socio-political Film Studies was one of my favorite things from College. Here is the newest of my regular series.

There were so many Prison Dramas in the 70s that are of a certain similar flavor, it bears noting how and why these similarities were printed and what it suggests about the zeitgeist of the era. Prison films in general boil down to a struggle between men, machines and the mincer.


In “Papillon,” Steve McQueen the one intent on escape, says to his buddy, the crooked guards’ best-friend, the dutifully bribing Dustin Hoffman character: read more

The Final Shot of Three Days of the Condor – NSA Considered

Yeah, um, remember in 2004 when The New York Times sat on the NSA Wiretapping story until AFTER the most important election in generations? Remember why? ┬áSPOILER ALERT: Because the criminal exposed in the story asked them to. He was afraid the story would cost him the election if his crimes were revealed. Then, after he won reelection, the White House let The Times publish. At that point, who cares? They were in for four more years – safe and sound. It really is that simple.

Why did The Times not print it? As The Times tried to explain it away: read more

The Final Shot of The Conversation – The Third Man considered

Strangely, it wasn’t the recent NSA ruling by a Federal Court smacking down Bush’s illegal spy ring that got me to netflix one of my old favorite Watergate-era films.

What got me going back to my favorite time in film history, America’s 1970s, was actually the fade-to-black shot of film-noir masterpiece The Third Man (1949) [view trailer]. You know, that brave long quiet last shot where the loyal and jilted lover of Orson Welles, Valli (Anna Schmidt) walks towards the camera for an aching 65 seconds of heavy zither music only to pass her suitor, the audience surrogate, without a glance. read more

Socio-Political Film Studies: America 1970s

The late 1960s was a time of radical change in the world of film. The Hollywood studio system was in decline, while the European art film movement created a new aesthetic standard for filmmaking. This industry transformation, encouraged by the success of a few experimental Hollywood films at the end of the decade, led to the filmmaking renaissance of the 1970s. The monolithic Hollywood studios began to lose their power during the 1960s. Millions of dollars were spent on extravagant blockbusters such as Cleopatra, but with diminishing returns at the box office. At the same time, the traditional, wholesome values represented and reinforced by Hollywood movies were increasingly rejected by the new generation of film audiences, and the studios were unsure what to do. read more