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What Would People Think?

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Incomparable Billy Wilder

"Nobody's perfect!"
"I love you, too."
"Shut up and deal."
"All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up."
"You forgot your brandy!"

Ah, the wonder that is a Billy Wilder closing line. The beauty part is, I can tell you the lines now, and you won't get how wonderfully clever and/or meaningful they are out of context.

Billy Wilder
is possibly the greatest writer-director in movie history. His direction is pedestrian (he's no Hitchcock, Welles, or PT Anderson), but it gets the job done. But his writing! He did every genre known to man in the '40s, '50s and '60s.

Romantic comedy (Sabrina)
Prison escapes (Stalag 17)
Movies about addiction (The Lost Weekend)
Film noir (Double Indemnity)
Subversive anti-Hollywood dramas (Sunset Blvd)
Anti-corporate comedy-dramas (The Apartment)
Screwball comedies (Some Like It Hot)
Agatha Christie mysteries (Witness for the Prosecution)

Most films from that era, even the good ones, feel a bit dated. This is rarely the case with Wilder. His films have all the realism.....well, no it's not realism. Movies generally aren't realistic. No, I'd say it's mostly his sense of irony (so well suited to the post-Seinfeld era). More than that....he's just that good of a writer. (Better than most modern films, really.) His characters always sparkle with wit, cynicism, personality and, just when you least expect it, real human feeling. They never feel like cardboard cut-outs. His scripts are filled with a million memorably, witty one-liners. Sometimes he adapted other people's work (i.e. with Witness for the Prosecution) but he always left his touch. You know within 5 minutes that you are watching a Billy Wilder film.

And the variety! Yes, I have just mentioned all the things that distinguish a Wilder film. But what's far more interesting is how different they are. Who would have thought Double Indemnity (with its murder, seduction, and hard-boiled dialogue) was made by the same guy that made the light, sweet Audrey Hepburn vehicle we call Sabrina?

Oh, for the sparkling wit of a Wilder! I'm doing a terrible job describing how magical Wilder's work is.

Sure, he may have written a clunker or two (Irma La Douce), but that's the only bad Wilder movie I'm aware of. If you want to settle down with a good movie, here's how to guarantee that you'll enjoy yourself: scan the back of the DVD box for the name Billy Wilder.

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Small note: I got a new quote in the "About" section to the right. Apparently that's where this template puts things instead of underneath the title. I like the quote.

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In a matter of days, my dear friends Kenny and Erin are getting married in good 'ol Lincoln, Nebraska (motto: "We're named after a guy from Illinois."). I shall be there and I wish them the best of luck in these crazy pre-wedding days.

Meantime, I'm off to a family vacation with Christy's family tomorrow. Disney World. Should be a blast. So I won't be blogging for a while.

2 Comments:

  • Go to the blogger dashboard and choose "change settings." Go to Settings > Basic, and then type your quote into the description box. The stuff that appears in the About box on the side comes from your source code. You can go to Template > Edit Current and take that out so that it doesn't show up twice. Good luck! :-)

    By Blogger Monica, at 5/25/2006 12:47 PM  

  • Why do I keep checking your blog during breaks at work even though I know you're out of town. I must be OCD.

    By Blogger Mike, at 5/26/2006 3:02 PM  

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