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The Influence of Billy Wilder’s ACE IN THE HOLE


For many, legendary director Billy Wilder’s 1951 film Ace in the Hole is not only his best but also one of the most influential films of the last century. Unfortunately, despite its uncanny commentary on the news media that is still relevant today, it’s slightly under the radar for a lot of audiences. Because of it’s perfect mixture of brilliant filmmaking (from the cinematography to the writing to the acting, ah, Kurt Douglas) and a scathing look at the media’s influence to create a news frenzy, we’re excited to screen it here at Nitehawk this Tuesday as part of our Journalist in Film series with VICE News. But before you take our word for it, read what the likes of John Sayles, Martin Scorsese, and Chuck Bowen have to say about the film…

John Sayles (from THE DISSOLVE)
“It’s a really dark film, and it’s got Billy Wilder’s acidic view of human nature. I really reacted to the tawdriness of it, which you rarely really saw done well at the time. Kirk Douglas’ performance—one of the interesting things you see in Michael Douglas is that he’s one of the few lead actors who’s willing to play a heel, like in the Wall Street movies. And his father was the same way. Kirk Douglas could play a hero, but very often, he played a charismatic heel. You know from the start here that this guy’s too big for the world he’s landed in, and he’s going to be pretty ruthless. Film noir is a claustrophobic genre. There’s no escape in film noir. There’s a point in Miller’s Crossing where John Turturro’s character is under the gun, and he says, “Let me go, I’ll leave, I’ll go out of town,” and you wanna say, “There is no out of town in film noir! There’s only this closed system, so don’t believe him! There’s nowhere for him to go!”

With Ace In The Hole, there’s the claustrophobia of the mine, but really, the claustrophobia is in this closed, sleazy system of greedy people with their own agendas, and it’s going to end in tragedy. The only nice guy is the guy who’s trapped down at the bottom of the mine, and of course he doesn’t stand a chance if that’s the world he’s depending on to save his life.”

“This Billy Wilder film was so tough and brutal in its cynicism that it died a sudden death at the box office, and they re-released it under the title Big Carnival, which didn’t help. Chuck Tatum is a reporter who’s very modern–he’ll do anything to get the story, to make up the story! He risks not only his reputation, but also the life of this guy who’s trapped in the mine.”

Chuck Bowen (from SLATE MAGAZINE)
“Ace in the Hole appropriately opens in motion. Chuck Tatum (Kirk Douglas) doesn’t waste time. Consideration, nuance, empathy—words that are anathema to a man who prizes action and momentum. In a striking opening shot, we see a tow truck pulling a convertible behind it as it idles into a small western town. Tatum’s sitting behind the convertible’s steering wheel, though you wouldn’t guess from his cocksure expression that he’s out of work and in dire economic straits; for him, this truck is merely a substitute for the limo he’ll inevitably return to. The truck stops in front of the Albuquerque Sun-Bulletin‘s office, and Tatum marches in and gets himself a crummy newspaper job after launching into a series of double and triple entendres that establish him as a brilliant reporter who can’t work for anybody. Talent, after all, only means so much when you’re drunk or screwing your boss’s wife, though Tatum intends to prove that hunger, more so than even talent, trumps any setback or limitation.”…more

Shadow of a Doubt on VICE: written contributions on Hitchcock’s first masterpiece

SOAD-still03SHADOW OF A DOUBT (Alfred Hitchcock, 1943). Tuesday, April 29 at 9:30pm. Archival 35mm. Get Tickets!

If you can believe it, our yearlong program of VICE Presents: The Film Foundation Screening Series concludes this Tuesday with our screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece, Shadow of a Doubt. As we have done throughout the series, we have a few fantastic essays for the evening’s program. Check out this excerpt from one of our program text contributors, William Rothman (author of Hitchcock: The Murderous Gaze and Must We Kill the Thing We Love?: Emersonian Perfectionism and the Films of Alfred Hitchcock). 

Hitchcock was profoundly attracted to the moral outlook—rooted in the American Transcendentalism of Emerson and Thoreau—that enabled the Hollywood movies of the New Deal era to achieve their rare combination of popularity and seriousness. The 39 Steps followed the lead of It Happened One Night, the monster hit that marked 1934 as the beginning of the period when the Emersonian worldview was ascendant in Hollywood, by concluding with the union of a man and woman that holds a hope of being a relationship worth having. In turn, the brilliant thrillers Hitchcock made in the few years remaining before his departure for Hollywood followed the lead of The 39 Steps by aligning Hitchcock thrillers with American romantic comedies—but only up to a point. Hitchcock found himself unwilling or unable to abandon himself to the genre’s Emersonian outlook, which was already beginning to suffer repression in Hollywood—as in the nation at large—by the time David O. Selznick lured him to America. For Hitchcock was no less powerfully drawn to an incompatible vision. He never tired of quoting Oscar Wilde’s line, “Each man kills the thing he loves.”

Read the rest of Rothman and others essays on Hitchock’s Shadow of a Doubt on 

Video: Ben Rivers Introduces THE BEYOND

On March 26, 2014, London artist/experimental filmmaker Ben Rivers selected and presented a 35mm presentation of Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond for the first of Art Seen’s screenings where we ask contemporary artists to present and introduce a film that has influenced them.

Next Art Seen is THE ART OF THE STEAL, screening on April 19 (Saturday) and April 20 (Sunday) at noon!

Art Seen: Ben Rivers on Lucio Fulci’s THE BEYOND

thebeyond-1Special 35mm ART SEEN presentation of THE BEYOND (Lucio Fulci, 1981) presented by Ben Rivers! Wednesday, March 26 at 9:30pm | Get Tickets

London artist and experimental filmmaker Ben Rivers selected Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond for the first of Art Seen’s screenings where we ask contemporary artists to present and introduce a film that has influenced them. Rivers’ says:

The Beyond belongs to a period in horror that helped form my love of cinema, and hence shaped my life. Around the age of 11, just starting secondary school, some friends and i would hire vhs tapes from a very dodgy video shop in my little country village. The video shop was in the basement of a church, and the owner cared none for the fact that we were clearly not 18. The Beyond was one of his offerings, and as far as my murky memory tells me, my first Fulci. His lack of concern for plot, in favour of atmosphere and visceral effect, could be said to have had a lasting impact on my own filmmaking, even if the outcome is somewhat different… 

Ben Rivers’ new film with Ben Russell, A Spell to Ward off the Darkness, screens in March as part of The Film Society’s New Directors, New Films at MoMA. 

Written Contributors: THE CONNECTION

CONNECTION-still02THE CONNECTION (Shirley Clarke, 1962). Tuesday, February 25 at 9:30pm. Get Tickets.

The written contributor program for our VICE presents: The Film Foundation Screening Series 35mm presentation of Shirley Clarke’s The Connection is now online! Includes texts by Clarke’s daughter, Wendy Clarke, and Dennis Doros from Milestone Films (those responsible for restoring and re-introducing Clarke’s work to the world). Our favorite line? “If Barbara Loden is underexposed, Shirley Clarke is a ghost.” Don’t miss this rare and important screening on Tuesday as The Connection isn’t available on DVD/Blu Ray (yet!). We’ll have a special introduction by writer/director Desiree Akhavan.

Read the whole thing here on!

Post by Caryn Coleman, Senior Film Programmer/Communications. @caryn_coleman

WANDA: Barbara Loden Video

wanda-blogWANDA (Barbara Loden, 1970) | Buy Tickets

As we do for each of the VICE Presents: The Film Foundation Screening Series, Nitehawk and VICE invite scholars, artists, filmmakers, and film restorers to offer their thoughts on that month’s screening. One of our contributors, Kate Zambreno, discusses an somewhat strange interview with Barbara Loden on The Mike Douglas Show along with Yoko Ono and John Lennon. It’s one of the few things you can source on Loden online and worth a watch…

 You can read all the written contributions for Wanda here on (and get it in person at tomorrow night’s screening).



Best Of: From the Page to the Screen


Tomorrow night Nitehawk is delighted to be place where literature meets cinema with a special screening of When Harry Met Sally. The event is presented in collaboration with Nylon Magazine and Alfred A. Knopf celebrating Nylon Magazine’s first book club pick, The Most of Nora Ephron, the new collection of the writer-director’s journalism, essays, fiction, and screenwriting.

This got us thinking about the great (and often not-so-great) movies that come from novels. From Frankenstein to The Hunger Games there sure are a ton of examples to choose from so we’ve each listed only one of our favorites below. Which of course begs the question…what are yours??

thehauntingCaryn’s selection: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (1959) adapted as The Haunting by Robert Wise (1963)

hhh4Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone. – Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House (1959)

The story goes that when Robert Wise was making West Side Story he decided to read a much-talked about book that had just been published: Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. Recognizing the potential for stunning atmospheres and chilling characters, Wise purchased the rights to the book and set out to make the film…in black and white, Val Lewton style.

The results reveal an incredible transformation from the page to the screen. The conniving personality of the house, Nell’s internalization, the blurred boundary between two dimensions, and the undeniable pull towards something evil really make Jackson’s narrative come alive. Most amazingly is the personification of the house; it aches and creaks and bends and taunts its inhabitants. And how you read Shirley Jackson’s seductively descriptive and dark language is exactly how Wise makes it visible.

It’s one of the very rare examples of when you can see a movie and then read the novel and still relish every word.


Kris’s selection: Dune by Frank Herbert (1965) adapted as Dune by David Lynch (1984)

dune“Greatness is a transitory experience. It is never persistent. It depends in part upon the myth-making imagination of humankind. The person who experiences greatness must have a feeling for the myth he is in. He must reflect what is projected upon him. And he must have a strong sense of the sardonic. This is what uncouples him from belief in his own pretensions. The sardonic is all that permits him to move within himself. Without this quality, even occasional greatness will destroy a man.” – Frank Herbert’s Dune (1965)

Dune is a pretty intense dose of nerdery.

It’s about a far-away planet in the distant future. There’s ancient dynasties and giant monsters. There’s a boy on a quest.

That little description could match 100 different sci-fi/fantasy stories, but there’s only one Dune. Not only is Dune about how a desolate Hell of a planet that becomes the center of the universe, it also tackles a lot of dweeby philosophical stuff that’s fun to mull over: the burden of a living God, humanity’s greater legacy in the universe, the revolutionary power of religion.

You definitely don’t get anything like that in Star Wars.

The series gets weirder and weirder as it goes, but on its own, the first Dune book is a meaty sci-fi epic with the kind of scope and elegance that makes for great movies. The problem, though, is that even though Dune is rich with battles, sex and explosions, the thing that elevates the books is all of the dorky fake histories and words with a lot of ‘y’s and ‘k’s in them. In the book, most of that information gets relayed through prose and internal monologue — it’s world-building, not plot. Imagine condensing condensing an entire season of Game of Thrones down to two hours, it would hardly make any sense.

This is the main problem with David Lynch’s weirdly magnetic adaptation of Dune.

Lynch’s Dune is kind of a fantastic mess, one that tries to maintain the book’s philosophical and mythological edge while also being kind of like the director’s own grand version Star Wars. Lynch attempts to solve Herbert’s mythmaking by including quite a lot of whispered internal monologue — the result is… really off-putting for some reason.

Despite its incoherence, there’s something about Dune’s grotesquery that’s difficult to pry away from. Lynch’s vision never feels wholly familiar or comfortable. There’s something… meaty and rotten about it. The oozing boils on Baron Harkonnen’s fat, greasy face; the endless rows of teeth in the gaping mouths of the planet’s sand-worms; those hazy blue eyes. Just like the book it’s based on, there’s nothing quite like it.

Hatched Essay: EATEN ALIVE


THE DEUCE presents Eaten Alive (Tobe Hooper, 1977)
Thursday, December 12 at 9:30pm | Buy tickets

An essay re-blog.

Everything and everyone in Tobe Hooper’s Eaten Alive looks like it/they need a good, long, hard scrub. The dingy dwellings, saturated coloring, and hazy lighting make an atmosphere that mimics each character’s dirtiness (both inside and out) as well as their visceral insanity.  No one here, aside from the little girl and poor pooch, is pure: sex, killing, stealing. Eaten Alive is where vice meets its crocodilian end.

The Big Country: Written Contributions

BC_005-smVICE Presents: The Film Foundation Screening Series: The Big Country (William Wyler, 1958) on Tuesday, November 19 at 9:30pm | Buy Tickets

The seventh screening of the VICE, The Film Foundation, and Nitehawk trifecta presentation of restored 35mm prints by The Film Foundation is none other than William Wyler’s epic western, The Big Country. As we’ve done with the previous screenings, we’ve invited people to write about the film and this month we have  William Wyler scholar Gabriel Miller and Susanna Moross Tarjan, the daughter of renowned composer Jerome Moross, write about The Big Country. You can read their texts on VICE.COM.

A last minute addition (which will be included in the printed program) is by scholar Jennifer L. McMahon who co-edited The Philosophy of the Western and is included below. We’ve also added some stunning still images of The Big Country to prepare you for the scope of the film. So be sure to come on Tuesday, it’s surely the best way to get ready for Thanksgiving.