Most of the movies coming out of Hollywood today are awful. By the time I reach my car in the cinema parking lot, I have forgotten their dismal plots and crummy dialogue. But a few movies from the past stick in my memory. I enjoyed a few of Woody Allen’s movies: Husbands and Wives, Hannah and Her Sisters, and Crimes and Misdemeanors. I also heard, sometime during my college years, about a writer/director named Whit Stillman. He was described in the press as the “WASP Woody Allen.” I rented his first two movies, Metropolitan and Barcelona, and was very impressed by the depth of their drollery. The sensibility informing them seemed to me more Catholic than Protestant. If memory serves me right, one of his characters in Metropolitan refers to the Protestant Reformation as “barbaric.”
After a long absence, Whit Stillman has returned to moviemaking, injecting some much-needed wit and intelligence back into Hollywood. His latest, Damsels in Distress, has generated some good press coverage. His movies largely revolve around sharp and beautiful actresses. I believe Kate Beckinsale got a career bounce from The Last Days of Disco. My guess is that the actress Megalyn Echikunwoke will get a career bounce from Damsels in Distress. Perhaps her difficult-to-say name will pose a problem for agents, though it sounded nice when I heard her pronounce it in an interview.
I hope that Whit Stillman makes many more movies. Without writers and directors like him, who have actually read a few books and studied some intellectual and religious history, the cultural wasteland that is Hollywood would be even more barren.