Series: Cold War

Fail Safe and The War That Left Its Box Office Cold

There’s an interesting phenomenon in Hollywood: films get made to satisfy a timely cultural zeitgeist, causing a glut of movies with the same topics or themes to come out around the same time. Deep Impact came out so close to Armageddon in 1998 that many misremember it as a cheap imitation despite the fact that it was in production at exactly the same time as the Bruce Willis drilling-in-space classic. In the end, the film that will be revered as the original is simply the one that’s more successful. For every Babe there’s a Gordy, with every Prestige there’s...

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Billy Wilder’s One, Two, Three: “Adolf, who?”

Even the name “Cold War” brings to mind long, slow, depressed periods of time. Yet, Billy Wilder’s One, Two, Three offers constant humor and a spin on post-war Germany that I found mostly amusing, but often confusingly devoid of references to Nazis. When someone makes an uncomfortable parody of the U.S.’s current political state I hope a spade is called a spade. One, Two, Three Directed by Billy Wilder Starring James Cagney, Horst Buchholz, Pamela Tiffin, Arlene Francis December 15, 1961 MacNamara (James Cagney) runs the Berlin branch of the Coca-Cola factory and is itching to move up in the...

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Black Rain: Hiroshima and the Cold War

Kuroi Ame (Black Rain) Directed by Shohei Imamura Produced by Hisa Iino Written by Ibuse Masuji & Toshiro Ishido Starring Yoshiko Tanaka, Kazuo Kitamura, Etsuko Ichihara, and Keisuke Ishida Distributed by Hayashibara Group, Imamura Productions, and Tohokushinsha Film Co. May 13, 1989 “Today is already yesterday.” Shohei Imamura’s 1989 film Kuroi Ame, based on a 1965 novel by Ibuse Masuji, is a haunting meditation about trauma, sickness, death, and the bombing of Hiroshima. It follows an older man named Shizuma Shigematsu, who survives the bombing and is exposed to the radiation, along with his wife Shigeko and niece Yasuko....

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WarGames: The Only Winning Move Is Still Not to Play

WarGames is a late 20th century film that puts the lie to adults scoffing that teens care about nothing other than food, fooling around, and enjoying the latest pop culture fads. Surprise, surprise: teens don’t want to die in a nuclear holocaust either. Teens are as capable of empathy, love, regret, guilt and fear as any adult — and the adult tendency to forget that is a failing with equal potential for a tragic outcome. When the tragic outcome includes the deaths of everyone they know and love, teens care with passion and energy that stuns. This is still true today. You...

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Otherworlds and Underworlds: Filthy Futures in Roadside Picnic and Neuromancer

More often than not, science fiction depicting the future on Earth conjures up spick-and-span cityscapes: gleaming streets and towers, an ordered and efficient environment, and hidden danger disguised as benign societal mechanisms. What’s seen less often are chaotic, dirty, bucket-of-bolts futures where menace lurks around every corner and people spill out, swearing, from grungy dives. These filthy worlds represent a vision of the future that is not idealized into utopia, nor even slicked back into dystopia. These stories envision a situation similar to our current lives, realistic in its corruption, no matter the fantastic elements included. Two important examples...

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