Ace in the Hole

The Media Funhouse just posted about the unbelievable classic film treasures that enjoy a short, but rich life on YouTube (kinda like the cicada in August). And the two collections he links to are filled with Western and Film Noir gems. I am featuring Ace in the Hole (1951) here because it is one of Billy Wilder’s best, if not most deeply cynical films, that no one has seen. It’s a vision of the press/media that came to fruition in the 80s and 90s, and has quickly spilled over into the internet. Anything for a buck and a story…anything.

But if that’s not your cup of tea you can find Out of the Past, Touch of Evil, Lady in the Lake, Lady from Shanghai, Murder, My Sweet, and on and on in their entirety here. All classics, and that’s just the Noirs, you can see a number of classic, hard-to-find Westerns here.

Now, we know they won’t be there long, and all of this is online ephemera that will soon be taken down, after which accounts will be suspended. But I still think what makes the web great are these folks who are in love with film, obsessed with the classics, and driven by the logic that everyone should have access to them, even if in 10 parts and at a lower resolution.

You can run entire film courses off the collections these two users have uploaded, and more than that students and faculty alike could download them and cut them up to frame scene specific arguments and discussions. After writing about this stuff for years now, and continually being blown away by YouTube, I am also continually shocked and appalled that the sharing of our culture has been criminalized, and the criminalization has been so effectively internalized that we all might begin to actually believe that sharing film classics that are more than 50 years old might actually be wrong, or unethical. That is what was so exciting about the site Cultra Rare to me, it openly refuted that idea by uplaoding full, feature films from the 70s, 80s, and 90s with the argument that these cultural artificats are otherwise unattainable given they had not been transferred to DVD and re-marketed. Yet, alas, that experiment doesn’t seem to have lasted very long by the looks of this dead link.

It’s funny that when we talk about the web and preserving it somehow we don’t realize that so much of the kipple that is amassing has just as much to do with the idea of ownership and the corporate ownership of our mediated cultural heritage as it does with technology. I think we really have to learn to embrace the short-lived windows of opportunity that sites and playlists  like this offer, and archive what we can for ourselves. All the while accepting the fact that the web is not an archival resource as much as it is a shell game that disappears as quickly as it manifests on crowded city street in Manhattan (at least before the imperial reign of Gulianni and then Bloomberg 🙂 ).

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