Today in Movie History: June 29

In these charged times, an ethical media is more important than ever. The key word there being “ethical,” which is where the problems arise. Billy Wilder knew the score long before Fox News and supermarket tabloids. Ace in the Hole, the caustic story of just what one newspaper man will do to sell some papers, hit theaters today in 1951, and in most ways that count, it hasn’t aged a day.

Then there’s The King and I, one of the greatest musicals ever made and the object of eternal gratitude from us bald men for whom Yul Brynner is just the gift that keeps on giving. It opened today in 1956.

Those two are pretty hard to top, but Pixar certainly tried with Ratatouille, Brad Bird’s Oscar-wining masterpiece about a French rat who becomes a chef at a five-star Parisian restaurant. It ranks as one of the studio’s very best, and that’s saying something. It also contains perhaps the most astute observation of criticism in film history, courtesy of Peter O’Toole’s chastened restaurant snob. It opened today in 2007

We’ll close with a couple of interesting if not quite perfect entries. Steven Spielberg’s A.I.: Artificial Intelligence certainly ranks among his most ambitious works and at times it’s as powerful as anything he’s ever done. But without Stanley Kubrick, who helped develop the project and might have directed it were it not for his untimely death, it lacks the clinical cynicism that it really needed to succeed. It opened today in 2001.

Finally there’s Moonraker. Um, yeah. Moonraker. As James Bond films, it’s indisputably one of the worst, bowdlerizing Ian Fleming’s terrific source novel in favor of a quickie cash-in on the Star Wars craze. That said, it’s also an undeniable guilty pleasure, with 007’s 70s-era ridiculousness taken to glorious extremes and Roger Moore’s “what, me worry?” routine at its most disarming. Moonraker opened today in 1979.


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