A. S. Hamrah

  • He Found It at the Movies

    “IF IT WAS A FRIDAY NIGHT, the president’s hair would look much softer and shinier than usual, because he had washed it that afternoon,” Mark Weinberg remembers in Movie Nights with the Reagans, his 2018 memoir detailing the many evenings he spent at Camp David seeing films with President Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy. Throughout Reagan’s two terms in the 1980s, Weinberg, then an assistant White House press officer, accompanied the Reagans on their weekend trips to Camp David, the compound located in the hills of Maryland that has been the official retreat of US presidents since 1942.

  • There Will Be Fake Blood

    The shooting of The Wild Bunch was not a pretty picture. If a film were made today the way Sam Peckinpah shot The Wild Bunch in Mexico in 1968, and if people found out, members of the cast and crew would be facing time in jail. The history of the film’s production fascinates because it was all so wrong. What happened encompasses many vices and several crimes, including manslaughter and statutory rape. It is an often repellent tale, a stew of toxic masculinity feeding a movie designed to dismantle the very myths about heroic cowboys, gun violence, and la frontera that it succumbed to as a

  • You Say You Want an Evolution

    STANLEY KUBRICK’S 2001: A Space Odyssey was not a flop when it came out. It was a big hit and ended up the highest-grossing film of 1968. It was especially popular with acidheads and pot smokers, science geeks, budding filmmakers, and people under forty in general. The critics in New York, however, all hated it (except for Penelope Gilliatt in the New Yorker), and it had not done well in preview screenings with studio execs and celebrities, who found it boring and confusing. Those preview screenings and early reviews have become part of the film’s legend. People love to remember how the snobs

  • Germanic Episodes

    “This animal sleeps its whole life away. It’s never really awake.” The Spanish conquistador and mutineer Aguirre (Klaus Kinski) thus describes a sloth in the 1972 West German anti-epic Aguirre, the Wrath of God. The same lethargy cannot be ascribed to the film’s director. Werner Herzog’s unceasing activity as filmmaker, author, lecturer, world traveler, actor in other people’s movies, and rescuer of strangers on the highway makes the paltry accomplishments of other human beings look inadequate and lazy by comparison. He gives the impression of a tirelessness that does not allow for rest, of

  • Red Badge of Courage

    Among the iconic Hollywood Westerns of the 1950s, High Noon, with Gary Cooper as Marshal Will Kane, remains a classic movie in the most basic sense. More people know what it is than have seen it. High Noon has, in many ways, been reduced to one black-and-white image: Gary Cooper walking down an empty western street, wearing his badge, ready to draw his gun and face his enemies alone. In 1989 this film still was used, with an added red splash, as the campaign poster for Poland's Solidarity movement, Cooper-as-icon standing in for the trade-unionist Lech Wałęsa in his quest to become the country's

  • The Interpretation of Screams

    In 1967, when he was a student at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, David Lynch, the future director of Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks, made a mixed-media sculpture, a Rube Goldberg device that, as Dennis Lim describes it in his thorough, compact, and illuminating new book on Lynch, “required dropping a ball bearing down a ramp that would, through a daisy chain of switches and triggers, strike a match, light a firecracker, and cause a sculpted female figure’s mouth to open, at which point a red bulb inside would light up, the firecracker would go off, and the sound of a scream