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  1. So I just saw The Graduate for the first time. Odd, I know, but there it is. The movie really is wonderfully shot and composed. Visually, there was a great deal in it to admire. In terms of character and story, however, I have a hard time reconciling the movie's reputation as a "youth movie" with what was actually onscreen. To be sure, the movie is relentlessly hard on its adult cast, which I can see appealing to a young audience in '67. Other than Mrs. Robinson, they are all completely vacuous. And Mrs. Robinson, herself, while not vacuous, is a shattered wreck of a woman. But were young audiences even paying attention to the movie's portrayal of its young characters? Benjamin, when not utterly passive, is selfish and insensitively cruel. Poor Elaine is little more than a pretty blank slate on whom Benjamin projects the answer to his problems. (Elaine is also a pretty poorly drawn character. She has to make no less than three unmotivated right turns in her romantic relationships in very little screen time, all to service a plot that is visibly wheezing at that point.) The famous ending, which, I think, shows that the director was well aware of the fact that Benjamin hadn't really solved any of his problems, could hardly have been a less celebratory result of youthful rebellion. (If it can even be called rebellion — Benjamin did after all run off with the girl of his parents' dreams.) It has been a long time since I saw Nichols' previous film, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, but although visually it is a very different movie than The Graduate, the two seem to me similar in their treatment of their characters. Both are generally sadistic towards them, but the similarities don't end there. Martha and Mrs. Robinson are much alike, but with very different husbands. (George is as alive to the misery of his situation as Martha, whereas Mr. Robinson is simply a fool.) Child sacrifice also plays a large part in both movies: George kills his imaginary son, while Mrs. Robinson sacrifices her real daughter into exactly the kind of marriage that killed her own soul. Finally, both movies end with an "escape" of the young couple from the old that is ambivilant at best: What did they escape to? What is their future? (And speaking of ambiguous escapes, after The Graduate, Nichols moved on to Catch-22, which ends with its main character attempting to row from away from WWII on a rubber raft. Nichols certainly didn't like wrapping up his movies with a neat little bow, did he?)
  2. I'm nominating this for the A&F Top 100, and, seeing that there is no thread for this excellent film, I figured I'd start one. WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? is one of the shining achievements of Hollywood cinema, a no-holds-barred, bombastic confrontation between two married couples. "Turbulent marriage as a window into the dark side of suburbia" has become a kind of stable cinematic sub-genre (we saw it crop up not too long ago with Mendes' REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, and we'll see it crop up again with Polanski's GOD OF CARNAGE), but for all the cinematic stabs at this kind of film, it was probably never done more powerfully than it was here, right in the middle of the turbulent 60s. I'm reticent to start explaining plot elements for those who haven't yet seen the film--it's best to simply watch the interactions between these characters unfold--but everyone here is operating at the top of their powers. You have Edward Albee's marvelous play (beautifully adapted by Ernest Lehman), Mike Nichol's terrific direction which never confuses intimate with bland, a lovely score by Alex North, and a cast that features two Hollywood giants, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, firing on all cylinders (Taylor would win an Oscar for her performance). Here's a fairly great scene from a film full of great scenes if you need some further convincing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cB4IAdUApPE
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