* * *
Robert Wise, who died on September 14 at the age of ninety-one years and four days, was one of my favorite American filmmakers. Still is. A director whose personality was a matter more of consistent temperament than consistent themes, he was perhaps handicapped in the eyes of the critics, if not those of the public, by his lack of identification with any one genre in particular, not to mention by his disproportionate identification with one musical in particular, The Sound of Music. Yet he made notable contributions to numerous genres and subgenres, with the significant exception of the comedy ones. (That aforementioned consistent temperament stayed on the sober side.) Blood on the Moon stands as one of the very best Westerns, possibly one of the top ten. The Curse of the Cat People and The Haunting, as I had occasion to say when discussing Dark Water over the summer, are two of the very best ghost stories, two of the top five. Science fiction: The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Andromeda Strain, and the first and easily best -- as I would heatedly argue against the consensus -- of the Star Trek movies. Musicals: West Side Story and Star. The thesis film, or to be specific the anti-capital-punishment film: I Want to Live. The Vietnam War film (when the war was still going on): The Sand Pebbles, if you'll permit metaphor, and more explicitly Two People. The disaster film: The Hindenburg. The fight film: The Set-Up, Somebody Up There Likes Me. The film noir: Born to Kill. The semi-documentary crime film: The Captive City. The caper film: Odds Against Tomorrow. The last-named, a model of how to handle a Big Theme (racial prejudice) without getting weighed down by it, is one of my favorite films, period. I look around at the active American filmmakers I think of as my favorites today -- Clint Eastwood, the Coens -- and I see they still have a long way to go to catch up.
* * *
Just a little reminder, and just a little favoritism: With the San Diego Film Festival now out of the way, the San Diego Asian Film Festival commences Friday at Hazard Center and lasts a week.