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Rating Movies—And Billy Wilder

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by Leonard Maltin
November 4, 2013 2:27 PM
7 Comments
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I’m back on-camera to answer more of your questions about a variety of topics, from how we calculate the ratings in my Movie Guide to which Billy Wilder film is my favorite. And I’ve posted my first “rant,” in which I vent about a recent moviegoing experience, as a cash-paying customer. I have a feeling many others will relate to this.

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7 Comments

  • David | November 5, 2013 11:13 AMReply

    Love these videos. Thanks for taking the time!

    You mentioned that Ace In The Hole was put out by Criterion in DVD and Blu-Ray - O that it HAD been re-released in Blu-Ray, but I don't think it has . . . Am I wrong?

  • Jeff Heise | November 5, 2013 10:18 AMReply

    It would be hard for to choose my absolute favorite Wilder film-I love the cynical, bitter noir comedy that is SUNSET BLVD. and the cynical, bitter drama that is ACE IN THE HOLE as much as I also love the human and farcical comedy that is SOME LIKE IT HOT and even the somewhat lumpy, overlong historical drama THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS (love Franz Waxman's soaring score).
    I am fortunate to have pretty much all of your books and, to your amazement on a few occasions, have gotten them all signed by you. You are what I would describe as a "people's film critic and buff," a designation that very few of your profession really deserve to have (Otis Ferguson and Roger Ebert are the only others that earned that sobriquet) and that goes to someone who, when you meet them in person or read their prose or watch, you speak a language that the public can understand and perhaps use themselves to discuss and debate with. You have never talked down to your readers/fans, and I think that is one reason you have had such longevity. I know that I consider myself one of the lucky ones that whenever we happen to meet (and we met for the first time over 30 years ago at the Detroit Museum of Art when you did a lecture on classic animation), you greet me as a friend but also as a fellow traveler amongst film mavens, and that is such a wonderful feeling to have.

    Now, if you could only give THE COWBOYS a slightly higher rating....please?

  • JLewis | November 5, 2013 8:39 AMReply

    Some day... I should get you to sign my THE GREAT MOVIE SHORTS, one of those one-of-a-kind antiques of yours (from 1972!) that nobody else ever bothered to expand upon or update. I understand that Pete Smith and Joe McDoakes don't "wow" critical highbrows like Alfred Hitchcock or George Lucas, but hasn't there been enough in print about the latter to fill up a good many libraries? At least now TCM bothers to show shorts (even if mostly MGM and Warner stuff... and not nearly enough of the latter studio), so some TV viewers are a bit more familiar with these.

    OK... no need to answer any questions here, but just add them to your "think tank" list:

    If there is a 3rd edition of your CLASSIC MOVIE GUIDE, would you consider...
    1.) expanding it to 1970, since the previous edition jumped five years from 1960 to '65? First, this makes it easier for somebody searching a sixties title they can't determine is early or late decade. Secondly, '70 is perhaps the best "cut-off" year for "old" Hollywood: at least three film companies were taken over by conglomerates by this time, one Zanuck was out of Fox and another Zanuck on his way out, short films (along with other traditions of ol' Hollywood) were phased out for good, a cluster of longtime directors released their last major works that year, the first wave of porno films and blaxploitation got started at this time, international imports were now equaling the number of homegrown products in US theaters... and a great many under 30-year olds (not the ones who have discovered ol' Hollywood like many posters here, obviously) haven't seen a whole lot made before THE GODFATHER anyway.
    2.) would you change a few ratings? I understand, as a teenager, you absolutely hated DOCTOR DOOLITTLE and CAMELOT and, no, they do not deserve a three star rating... but maybe a two star rating is better than a "bomb" or one and a half stars. Certainly you can't rate the failed elephants of yesteryear in the same bracket as today's trash.
    3.) maybe take a page from the ol' Leslie Halliwell and add studio information in the capsules? For the newer movie guide, this isn't necessary with so many companies involved in the making of a modern day theatrical release (and so many majors buying independent product from Sundance and other festivals), but CLASSIC MOVIE readers may enjoy knowing if a title is MGM or Fox since these were done in the tighter "in-house" era. I understand this requires extra work, but at least you can abbreviate for space: UA- United Artists, WB for Warner, Col for Columbia, Par for Paramount, Goldwyn-RKO, Selznick-UA, Disney-RKO, etc.

    Just some thoughts. It is not necessary for any suggestion here to rock the boat if most are happy with the book "as it is".

    Back to the shorts mentioned above...

    Some of us are bugging the Warner Archive to get more compilations out. Bobby Jones, "Crime Does Not Pay", Charley Chase (Sony label) and Vitaphone comedy shots were great, but its has been a while since they have been dusting off the goodies. I have no problem with them re-issuing Paramount's popular feature releases from a decade ago or another obscure seventies/eighties B-flick, but John Nesbitt, Tex Avery and Tom & Jerry's MOUSE CLEANING still need some belated attention.

    Maybe you should whine and fuss for us wee urchins since "they" will more likely listen to YOU. *chuckle chuckle*

  • Martin Stumacher | November 4, 2013 7:56 PMReply

    Mr. Maltin,

    I'm thoroughly enjoying your video presentations. For me, this there is no other film critic like you that has a love affair with film. Your appreciation and knowledge of the history of this art-form is unending. Please continue to teach us about the history of film. Thank you.

    Respectfully,

    Martin Stumacher

  • Norm | November 4, 2013 7:28 PMReply

    Too bad you can't edit the films you review with the "movieola..."

  • jayare | November 4, 2013 6:19 PMReply

    Being also a huge Wilder-fan, I ask myself: Why is it that ACE IN THE HOLE still gets only *** if this is one of your favorites? I really appreciate your enthusiasm and your work as whole as a critic, but I find there are a lot of inconsistences concerning a lot of ratings of yours. Another example: A lot of spaghetti westerns which are luckily part of the new guide now are rated adequately. But speaking of the genre as a whole, the prototypes of all - A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, A FEW DOLLARS MORE - should be revisited and rated appropriately with ***1/2 at least.
    Or this one: I consider as many other aficionados ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK as great movie, a classic of its decade. Your rating ** is unexplainable for me, but okay so. But because of its significance you should've added a few words by now and given BOMB to the totally abysmal try of a remake ESCAPE FROM L.A. (..) To make it shorter: It's not the rating, it's the sometimes lapidary statement and the dissonance (regarding the genre or oeuvre of a filmmaker etc.) that astonishes me. My advice: Take a look at some of your old reviews...and I know you will be open enough, as we can see by the change of rating for ALIEN or THE GODFATHER. :-)
    PS: ..and you've always been: i got an old paperback here (TV Movies 1981-1982), LAWRENCE OF ARABIA getting *** . ;-)

  • Nat Segaloff | November 4, 2013 4:10 PMReply

    THIS is the Leonard Maltin I know and love! Personal, personable, bringing a film lover's passion and insight to first person answers. Keep these up.

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