The Billy Wilder Blog-a-Thon, called for by filmscreed, featuring articles galore on the films of Billy Wilder, is officially underway and will continue through March 4. House contributors and regulars are heavily represented; you can find them huddled in a smoky room around a virtual card table courtesy of Edward Copeland on Film.
Odienator's offering, "Norma Desmond Knew What She Was Doing," offers a provocative reading of a certain faded silent film star's psychotic behavior. Or perhaps we should say allegedly psychotic. "I used to consider Sunset Blvd's famous ending to be a Pyrrhic victory for Norma Desmond," he writes. "She had gotten what she wanted—the tongues were wagging for her again, but her delusions had overtaken her. I thought that Cecil B. DeMille was there only in her mind. Shooting Joe Gillis, the man who, like her former public, was turning his back on her, had seemingly driven her off the cliff of sanity. What nagged me was the death knell of Norma Desmond's grasp on reality—it seemed too calculated...There are several holes in Sunset Blvd's plot, and I believe they are all intentional. Like any good lie, if one stares long enough at it, it will start to unravel."
Wagstaff contributes an appreciation of Wilder's rarely-discussed second film as director, Five Graves to Cairo, which he calls, "Wilder's Casablanca. Made at the height of WWII, it is a rousing mix of action, humor, mystery, suspense, propaganda, and even tragedy. It is also one of his earliest outings as a director. Already all of Wilder's expertise is on display: his visual flair, the biting wit of his and longtime collaborator Charles Brackett's dialogue, their penchant for adapting stage plays (this time one by Lajos Biro) and their special knack for entertaining an audience."
Josh R. writes about how Wilder's unpleasant experience writing Hold Back the Dawn led him to practice "Directing as Defensive Screenwriting." "It was a career spanning six decades, featuring some of the most cherished examples of the filmmaker's craft in the annals of Hollywood history. The Wilder canon is stunning, not only for the number of classics it produced, but for the variety of genres it encompassed; who else, apart from Howard Hawks, ran the gamut from screwball comedy to film noir, taking pause to explore all of the ground in between? And—in a twist worthy of a Wilder screenplay - it all might never have been if not for a cockroach."
Last but not least, there's the boundlessly energetic Mr. Copeland, who not only coordinated this erstwhile blog-a-thon within a blog-a-thon (say that five times fast) but also contributed two pieces. One is an assessment of Wilder's One, Two, Three. "James Cagney may have achieved stardom in gangster films, but if you put all those together, I doubt the machine gun fire contained within would come close to equaling the speed of the rat-a-tat-tat dialogue that he fires in this Cold War (and cola war) comedy," he writes. "No wonder Cagney decided to quit movies for 20 years after this—he must have been exhausted and needed that long to catch his breath." The other compiles 23 (!) capsule reviews of every film Wilder wrote and/or directed that Copeland has seen. The list stretches from 1934's Wilder-codirected Mauvaise Graine through his final picture, 1981's Buddy, Buddy.
As if that wasn't enough, Ed also went to the trouble of creating a satellite blog, Eddie's Blog-a-thon Board, that will henceforth keep track of present and future blog-a-thons on movie-related subjects. Bookmark it now.