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Author Topic: Ace in the Hole (1951)  (Read 10381 times)
dave jenkins
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« Reply #15 on: November 15, 2011, 04:29:20 PM »

If he's bleeding to death, where's the blood? I might buy another scenario--the stab wound ruptured his spleen, and he's slowly being poisoned. Except I think the spleen is not where the wound is indicated. But maybe there's a plausible explanation that someone with more anatomical knowledge can make.

I see your point about Tatum being a walking dead man once his meal ticket dies. But why, then, would he bother to write his story? He makes that one last attempt with the editor in New York. But when that fails he knows his career is over. So why go back to the small town newspaper? Particularly since he just ends up dying there, story untold. Why not call the small town publisher up and give him the story over the phone (preferably from a hospital bed). Why not tell his young protege what he's up to? Hell, why not tell anyone what he's up to. If he just wants to die, he needn't make the trip back to the paper. If he just wants to write his story, he needn't make the trip back to the paper (he can phone the story in or dictate it to the cub).

The only thing that makes sense is that he wants to punish himself for his past sins against journalism. He returns to a "real" newspaper (where on the wall is the message "Tell the Truth") as if he were going to The Temple of the Holy Newsprint to lay his body down in sacrifice. If you think this is far fetched, look again at the scene with the dying man and the priest. That scene is not treated ironically. And look at Douglas's face throughout that scene. That's the moment when he gets religion.

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« Reply #16 on: November 15, 2011, 04:50:00 PM »

I only remember, and it is long ago since I watched it, that I didn't likerd the ending too.


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« Reply #17 on: November 15, 2011, 08:00:53 PM »

As per usual, titoli and I completely agree. If the film had true noir spirit, Douglas would begin and end as an SOB. Instead, he starts to sympathize with the trapped man: he makes the feckless wife wear the fox stole, he goes and gets the priest personally to perform extreme unction, he announces the man's death to the people as a way of shaming them, he tries to tell the guy in New York the real story and when he refuses to listen, he goes back to the small town paper to write the story up. At every point, he's so high on his white horse that he neglects to get the medical attention he needs and so dies. Garbage.

So it was even worse of what I remembered. THX, you saved me a couple aof euros.

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« Reply #18 on: November 16, 2011, 02:32:33 AM »

If he's bleeding to death, where's the blood? I might buy another scenario--the stab wound ruptured his spleen, and he's slowly being poisoned. Except I think the spleen is not where the wound is indicated. But maybe there's a plausible explanation that someone with more anatomical knowledge can make.

I see your point about Tatum being a walking dead man once his meal ticket dies. But why, then, would he bother to write his story? He makes that one last attempt with the editor in New York. But when that fails he knows his career is over. So why go back to the small town newspaper? Particularly since he just ends up dying there, story untold. Why not call the small town publisher up and give him the story over the phone (preferably from a hospital bed). Why not tell his young protege what he's up to? Hell, why not tell anyone what he's up to. If he just wants to die, he needn't make the trip back to the paper. If he just wants to write his story, he needn't make the trip back to the paper (he can phone the story in or dictate it to the cub).

The only thing that makes sense is that he wants to punish himself for his past sins against journalism. He returns to a "real" newspaper (where on the wall is the message "Tell the Truth") as if he were going to The Temple of the Holy Newsprint to lay his body down in sacrifice. If you think this is far fetched, look again at the scene with the dying man and the priest. That scene is not treated ironically. And look at Douglas's face throughout that scene. That's the moment when he gets religion.

Tatum lives for the big story.

Imagine Tatum can now get his new BIG story printed, ie. the story of how he, as a reporter, manipulated an event and singlehandedly created a major human interest story that captivated America for a week, well that indeed is a big story that would also generate much interest. So it certainly makes sense that he would want it told. (otherwise, it's back to where he came from -- the little desk in the crapy little NM newspaper offices).

It is possible that he is somewhat disgusted with everything that has happened -- sure, he is disgusted with the failure of his big plan, but perhaps that has led him to be disgusted with everything. Not necessarily a complete "religious awakening," but in some sense, now that he has failed and he is beat, he wants to just, for the first time in his life, "tell the truth."

So again, I am not saying it is 100% clear exactly what Tatum's thoughts are at the end, and I think it's legit to have somewhat varying interpretations. But I never thought he is truly remorseful. and I think the ending fits very well with the narrative and the character and is entirely appropriate.

Here is another point to ponder: Tatum is not necessarily a truly evil guy. I mean, he is certainly not the most ethical reporter in the world. And he  is looking for his big break to get back to his dream job in the big city. And if he has to create a crisis and cause a man to be trapped in a cave for an extra week, so be it. But that doesn't necessarily mean he is willing to kill someone to achieve his goals. Perhaps, he never considered the serious possibility that Leo would die; and if he had been aware of it, there is no way he'd have taken that chance. Being willing to cause a man to be stuck for a week in a cave is far different than being willing to risk his death. So while Tatum is not the most ethical person in the world, he is not a classic "bad guy" either. If you agree with me on this point, then -- while I still don't think Tatum is terribly saddened by Leo's death -- it fits with Tatum's character that he would be somewhat remorseful.

As I've said, I am looking at this strictly from a point of view of whether it fits with Tatum's character, rather than worrying about noir conventions. Perhaps you should do the same  Wink



« Last Edit: November 16, 2011, 02:45:46 AM by drinkanddestroy » Logged

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« Reply #19 on: November 16, 2011, 02:48:02 AM »

btw I get a kick out of y'all here whining about what you view as Tatum's unrealistic actions. Cuz  everyone around here is always telling me that I am too worried about realism  Grin Grin As I've said  many times in these past discussions about realism: of course, movies are not REAL. But there is a certain level -- that is hard to define in words -- up to which point a person is willing to suspend his disbelief, until it reaches a threshold where he says, "no longer. this is bullshit." That threshold varies for every person in every situation, but it exists at some point for everyone. Nobody truly expects movies to be 100% real, but nobody is willing to suspend his disbelief infinitely either. So while some generally have a high threshold, and some (like me) generally have a low threshold, it exists at some level for everyone. Just remember that next time you wanna tell me that I am too concerned about realism   Wink

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« Reply #20 on: November 16, 2011, 05:16:49 AM »

We saw this film in college film class.

Stalag 17 is simply great.  You see how many POW films have drawn from it, even Great Escape, Hogan's Heroes.  It's aspisodic-type film, Cool Hand Luke also was episodic.

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« Reply #21 on: November 16, 2011, 05:56:29 AM »

As I've said, I am looking at this strictly from a point of view of whether it fits with Tatum's character, rather than worrying about noir conventions. Perhaps you should do the same  Wink
I don't consider the film a noir. But that doesn't have anything to do with whether or not I think the film works. I'd like to believe that the film is the way you view it, but I'm not seeing that up on the screen. I see Douglas starting out as a manipulator, losing control as events overtake him, then exhibiting disgust at the mess he's caused, and finally succumbing to self-loathing before his death. I'd like to believe that the film is actually better than that, but at this point I really can't. Maybe some day.

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« Reply #22 on: November 16, 2011, 07:55:57 AM »

I don't consider the film a noir. But that doesn't have anything to do with whether or not I think the film works. I'd like to believe that the film is the way you view it, but I'm not seeing that up on the screen. I see Douglas starting out as a manipulator, losing control as events overtake him, then exhibiting disgust at the mess he's caused, and finally succumbing to self-loathing before his death. I'd like to believe that the film is actually better than that, but at this point I really can't. Maybe some day.

It may well be true that Tatum is "finally succumbing to self-loathing before his death." I completely agree that that may well be what is happening. I still think that is a very believable turn of events.

His desire to finally "tell the truth" may be because right now, that's the next BIG story. Or it may be him succumbing to self-loathing, or some combination thereof.

So let's focus on that "self-loathing" point: at this point, Tatum doesn't give a rat's ass about the BIG story anymore, but has succumbed entirely to self-loathing. I think that fits perfectly with the story and Tatum's character.

Tatum's plans have fallen apart, he is kind of going nuts, is self-destructive and self-loathing, realizes that now he's never gonna get out of New Mexico, and he's given up on life (as I described earlier, like he is "dead inside.") I think all of that is very believable from Tatum's character.

 It seemed to me that that what bothered you and titoli is that Tatum is now "repenting", and you did not find that believable.

However, I think it is possible for Tatum to be "succumbing to self-loathing"-- but not because he has repented and become  a "good guy" and had a sudden change of heart about the evilness of his ways.

Rather, his succumbing to self-loathing is out of despair upon realizing that his grand plans have backfired, and thus arises from the very narcissism he has displayed all along. He realizes now that he screwed up, his plans are down the drain, he is a failure, and thus begins the self-loathing. Not because he has suddenly gotten a conscience, but because the realization has hit him that he has failed and he'll never be anything more than a $50 a week reporter at a NM paper working for a guy who wears both a belt and suspenders.


Do you agree that the self-loathing (possibly) arises out of this realization that he's failed? If yes, do you have a problem with that -- do you still find that not plausible? Do you still say you'd "like to believe that the film is actually better than that"? Please explain. Cuz that sounds mighty plausible to me.



-----------------------------------------------------------


This reminds me of something one of my law professors once said, while I was chatting with him about politics/policy: He is an awesome guy, more like a buddy. a real young guy, who also is an economist, and one of the few profs that I chatted about politics with -- in general, I am very selective about who I talk about politics with. Anyway, at one point, I don't remember what the specific issue we were discussing was, he said (paraphrasing heavily):" "Over time, the longer a particular issue is debated in the public arena, the more refined the argument becomes:  the more the the BS falls away, and the better the really good, solid arguments -- on both sides -- remain, the better the debate becomes, the more knowledgeable the debaters become, the more they can understand the other side's point of view, the more they learn how to answer those questions, and the more everyone gets educated, and the higher the level of discussion becomes etc. etc. etc."
 
You may well argue that is an oversimplification. You may well argue that it's an entirely unnecessarily "deep" way to describe a straightforward point. But seriously, I was just reminded of that now, seeing how the discussion gets elevated from post to post, and how -- while I can't speak for anyone else here -- I certainly gain an immense understanding from much of the discussion here. Thanks all  Afro


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« Reply #23 on: November 16, 2011, 08:52:04 AM »

Quote
It seemed to me that that what bothered you and titoli is that Tatum is now "repenting", and you did not find that believable.

However, I think it is possible for Tatum to be "succumbing to self-loathing"-- but not because he has repented and become  a "good guy" and had a sudden change of heart about the evilness of his ways.

Rather, his succumbing to self-loathing is out of despair upon realizing that his grand plans have backfired, and thus arises from the very narcissism he has displayed all along. He realizes now that he screwed up, his plans are down the drain, he is a failure, and thus begins the self-loathing. Not because he has suddenly gotten a conscience, but because the realization has hit him that he has failed and he'll never be anything more than a $50 a week reporter at a NM paper working for a guy who wears both a belt and suspenders.

Do you agree that the self-loathing (possibly) arises out of this realization that he's failed? If yes, do you have a problem with that -- do you still find that not plausible? Do you still say you'd "like to believe that the film is actually better than that"? Please explain. Cuz that sounds mighty plausible to me.
It does sound plausible--up to a point. If that were the whole of the matter, I wouldn't have a complaint. But it seems the film sends out mixed signals. True, I don't find the repentance (if that's what it is) persuasive, but that seems to be what the film is trying to put over (again, I refer you to the priest with the dying man scene). I like the idea of Douglas being engulfed in his sins, deciding, Oedipus-like, to deliberately take into himself the punishment for those sins, to ride them down to his own destruction. And at times the film seems like it can be read that way. But there are other moments that seem that the phony repentance thing is going on. Again, why does Douglas make the wife wear the stole when no one is around to see her do it? Why does he go personally for the priest? Why does he himself make the announcement of the man's death to the crowd? None of these things are in the interest of the story or can be accounted for in terms of journalistic practice. They can be accounted for, however, if you believe that the screenwriter wanted to show that Douglas has suddenly grown a heart.

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« Reply #24 on: November 16, 2011, 09:32:28 AM »

It does sound plausible--up to a point. If that were the whole of the matter, I wouldn't have a complaint. But it seems the film sends out mixed signals. True, I don't find the repentance (if that's what it is) persuasive, but that seems to be what the film is trying to put over (again, I refer you to the priest with the dying man scene). I like the idea of Douglas being engulfed in his sins, deciding, Oedipus-like, to deliberately take into himself the punishment for those sins, to ride them down to his own destruction. And at times the film seems like it can be read that way. But there are other moments that seem that the phony repentance thing is going on. Again, why does Douglas make the wife wear the stole when no one is around to see her do it? Why does he go personally for the priest? Why does he himself make the announcement of the man's death to the crowd? None of these things are in the interest of the story or can be accounted for in terms of journalistic practice. They can be accounted for, however, if you believe that the screenwriter wanted to show that Douglas has suddenly grown a heart.

I think either you are reading too much into some details, or I am reading too little:

He wants the wife to play the part of the "good wife," cuz that makes for a better human interest story. I don't think he cares that she wear the stole inside per se; his point is, "put it on and play the part!" If she played the part on the outside, he wouldn't care what she feels. But his putting the stole on her and smacking her around is a stern message, "Get you shit together, at least for the next few days." Obviously, having the priest there makes for better copy -- the part about him going personally for him, I never thought much about -- though remember, this is Tatum;s circus, and he takes a very hands-on approach. As far as Tatum making the announcement to the crowd: again, I don't read that much into it. All along, Tatum has been the ringleader: all information comes from him, he is the one providing all updates, he is the Master of Ceremonies. It is only natural that he be the one to announce that the ceremonies are over. (I think the studio gave the movie the title "The Big Carnival" or sumthin).

As I've discussed previously: I do think it is possible -- and plausible! -- that Tatum does have a slight twang of guilt upon realizing what he's done, but not full-blown repentance.



I had another question, on a separate but related matter: at one point, when Tatum returns to the carnival area, and sees the "Re-Elect Sheriff Kretzer" sign and he reads it, it seems to me that there is a big cynicism/disgust to the way he reads it. Tatum is not one to be criticizing the sheriff for lack of morals, so why does he read the sign aloud with a very negative connotation? Is this the beginning of his realization that this carnival is getting a little out of hand? is it just that one sleazeball looks down upon another? or am I wrong that Tatum says it in a negative way, and does he really say it in an amusing way?


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« Reply #25 on: November 16, 2011, 09:38:03 AM »

alright cigar joe, time for you to chime in...

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« Reply #26 on: November 16, 2011, 11:20:39 AM »

alright cigar joe, time for you to chime in...

Nope I'm staying out,  Cool

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« Reply #27 on: November 16, 2011, 11:41:54 AM »

you couldn't last a week on the sidelines.....

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« Reply #28 on: November 16, 2011, 12:12:25 PM »

He wants the wife to play the part of the "good wife," cuz that makes for a better human interest story. I don't think he cares that she wear the stole inside per se; his point is, "put it on and play the part!" If she played the part on the outside, he wouldn't care what she feels. But his putting the stole on her and smacking her around is a stern message, "Get you shit together, at least for the next few days."
Maybe. But notice that this follows immediately the scene in which the dying man confides the fact of the stole and its hiding place to Tatum. The man in effect commissions Tatum to make sure his wife gets her present (and he checks later to see if Tatum followed through). It seems to me that Tatum's racing back to look for the stole is not motivated by his desire for one more prop to help sell his story. Instead, it looks very much like he is attempting to fullfill the dying man's last--or next to last--wish. And the fact that Tatum treats Jan Sterling so roughly seems to be not because she isn't playing her part better, but because she's such a heartless bitch. He's finally found the one person who is so bad she can disgust even him. And this is a personal response, not a professional one.

What I'm seeing is a script that doesn't hang together all that well. Douglas is playing a particular kind of character that the audience can enjoy but not identify with. Initially, that's not a problem. But later it becomes apparent that there needs to be a character who is a surrogate for the audience, who can respond with righteous indignation to the things done by Douglas, the wife, the sherrif, the other newspeople, and especially the rubes who come to enjoy the "carnival." Because no character was established to assume that role, it, by default, falls to Douglas. But since he's playing a different role already we end up with a character with a lot of inconsistencies. Believable characters can be inconsistent, but they have to be written that way from the beginning. Douglas is a single-minded, well defined character from the beginning, then late in the film becomes this very different guy. You may not see a change but I do. Again, change in a character is possible, but it has to properly prepared for. This film, to my way of thinking, doesn't do the necessary preparation.

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« Reply #29 on: November 16, 2011, 01:45:22 PM »

Tatum is never really a completely evil dude. He is opportunistic and does what is necessary to get ahead, even if that means he doesn't always "tell the truth." but i don't think he is ever presented as a totally evil motherfucker. So assuming for a moment that Tatum is indeed feeling true remorse: Is that so implausible? It's one thing to make a guy stay in a cave for a week -- even a guy like Leo, who is a genuinely good guy -- but it's quite another to kill him. Is it so implausible that Tatum realizes it's gone too far, only once it's too late?.... also, when he is in his room with the Sheriff, talking about how they have to get Leo out ASAP, Tatum emphasizes that it's because people bought a human interest story, which includes a happy ending. He never ever explicitly mentions concern for Leo. Do you believe that all that shit Tatum said about delivering the happy ending the people had bought was really just a cover-up for what has become his genuine concern fo Leo's well-being?.....

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