There is much to like about Billy Wilder’s 1951 film Ace in the Hole. It stars a down on his luck formerly big time reporter played by Kirk Douglas, who has drunk himself out of all his papers. He ends up on a paper in Albuquerque. He’s super bitter that he’s covering boring stories that won’t get him back to New York. One day, along the way to one of these dumb stories, he runs into a story–a guy was exploring back behind some Pueblo ruins and he is caught. Douglas has his story–if only he can keep the guy underground long enough. So he convinces everyone that it’s in their interest to do so–his terrible wife can get more money to leave, the sheriff can be reelected, the contractor to dig him out can get the good government contracts, and most importantly, he can milk the story and get back to the Big City. The problem is that Wilder lays all this on VERY THICK! Like as thick as the blizzard that will bury me tomorrow. Yes, we get that the media is corrupt, that people like bullshit circus stories, and that everyone will act in their self-interest. Wilder was a great director and Douglas a great actor, but in the end, the lack of nuance undermines what is a pretty interesting picture in its first two-thirds.
Now, some people find this critique of the media quite compelling. Among them is Spike Lee who did a TCM thing about it.
Anyway, here’s the trailer: