Norman Jewison is not what you would call a particularly imaginative director; his skill set positioned somewhere in a middle ground of narrative competence and skilled craftsmanship that is all too frequently taken for granted amid the never ceasing jockeying for discovery of the latest great cinema savant whose technique of intentional personal intrusiveness over their material is mistaken for bold innovative talent: Stanley Kubrick became a past champion after “2001”, with Martin Scorsese currently holding exalted critical and industry favor among those easily impressed by obvious film school gimcrackery. Middlebrow film making is commonly mistaken as inferior film making, when in actuality it is the basis of virtually all of what has been generously labeled “classic” Hollywood cinema, in that a respect for the narrative was considered paramount over the aesthetic embellishments demonstrating a willingness of directors who endanger coherent and logical storytelling for the sake of advancing their own aesthetic signature. (This will explain the circumstances under which an inexplicably lauded film as “Raging Bull” seduces with its catalog of “notice me” directorial tricks while scoring zero points as a character study.) Conversely, Norman Jewison is the brand of director to whom few, if any, memorable moments are attributable solely through visual inspiration, yet his films are postulate with scenes that nourish the audience’s appetite for both intelligent entertainment and occasionally the more profound thought. Seldom does a Jewison film contain set pieces which will excite the banal analytics of university study and corresponding auteurist treastises (a characteristic of some directors which proves dangerously revealing when their bag of manipulative tricks is on the wane, best exampled by the later years of Alfred Hitchcock) but what they have are an abundance of interesting stories well cast, proficiently mounted and relayed with a refreshing attention to narrative clarity.
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I always watch this when it shows up on cable. Not because I love the show — it’s okay, but nothing more — but because it has such great shots of Israel and places I used to visit regularly, some on my way to work or grocery shopping. It’s a virtual visit back to my other country.