Howard Rosenberg retired last summer after 51 years as an art professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, movie critic at KTVN for a couple of decades, 12 years as a Nevada regent and four years as a Washoe County School Board member. He will be teaching a four-session class for Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in February.
Seen any good movies lately?
As a matter of fact, no. I’ve seen some mediocre movies. I was looking forward to Vice. I really was. I expected Christian Bale to do something, and it came out as a one-note performance, as Dick Cheney, but by the same token, it scared the hell out of me. I think it’s a performance of quiet menace, is the only way I can describe it. Amy Adams is fantastic as his wife. She comes off as an actress of excellence as the character [Lynne Cheney]. … The best film I’ve seen in a long while—and a lot of people will disagree with me—is Bohemian Rhapsody. I really enjoyed it. I knew nothing at all about Freddie Mercury except that he dressed outrageously, but that’s par for the course in those kinds of bands. The film had a beginning, a middle and an end. I could follow it. And what’s driving me nuts—even with Vice—they went back and forth, back and forth. The only way I could tell where I was is what color Dick Cheney’s hair—or what little he had of it—was. So they don’t make movies like they used to. I sound like my parents now. But they’re not good.
There’s a saying these days that the best movies are on television.
I’m not sure, Dennis. The thing that’s good about television is that it is an hour or an hour and a half. Sometimes two hours, but you’d have to really work at it to get it there. I can remember Frank Capra saying to my students one year that “For a film to be over 90 minutes, there’s got to be a good reason. The time has to fly by. If it doesn’t, something’s wrong with you, the film-maker.” And I tend to agree with that. Plus, the good part about television movies is they have an order that they follow, because you’ve got to tell the people what it is that they need to know so they understand what’s going on. In movies, it’s somewhat laissez-faire. You’re supposed to be able to figure it out. I’m not that smart. Sorry.
You’re going back into the classroom a bit for Capra.
We’re going to do “Capra/Capraesque” for OLLI. That’s the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute up at the university. And there’ll be four films in February [on succeeding weeks]. … What I’m going to do is I’m going to show, to start, It Happened One Night, which was the first really major, major success that Capra had that really worked the way that he hoped that it would. Now, 20 years later, they made a film called Roman Holiday. Had nothing to do with Capra, but it is the same story that Capra told in It Happened One Night. Then, the next week we’re going to show Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, which is terribly apropos today, and finish off the class with Dave, the Kevin Kline film, which isn’t Capra but it is Capraesque. And we’ll be able to discuss things in between. What I’m looking forward to is that the majority of my students while I was teaching were young people. This is older than that, I’m told, so that they’re going to remember. At the same time that we’re going to be looking at things, they’ll tweak those memories.
Is this the start of something, where you’ll be doing Wellman or Ford and so on?
I don’t know.