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Episode 137 - The Hustler (w/ David Scarpa)


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Poll: Episode 137 - The Hustler (w/ David Scarpa) (30 member(s) have cast votes)

Should "The Hustler" enter The Canon?

  1. Yes (25 votes [83.33%])

    Percentage of vote: 83.33%

  2. No (5 votes [16.67%])

    Percentage of vote: 16.67%

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#1 Dalton Maltz

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Posted 14 January 2018 - 08:58 PM

Screenwriter David Scarpa (All the Money in the World) joins Amy this week to talk about the 1961 Paul Newman film “The Hustler.” David and Amy discuss how “The Hustler” subverts the underdog paradigm and questions what it means to be a winner or loser. Plus, they find meaning in Fast Eddie’s search for success and what it reveals about the nature of excellence before contrasting the acting of Paul Newman with costars Jackie Gleason and Piper Laurie.

#2 Johnny Pomatto

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Posted 16 January 2018 - 12:52 AM

There isn't much that I can add that hasn't already been said. The reason this film seems like it's full of familiar tropes from an average inspirational sports movie, is because this is where so many of those clichés originated. This movie gets better every time I watch it, which has happened many times, especially anytime I need to cleanse my palate after an unfortunate attempt with THE COLOR OF MONEY. It seems unlikely, but with all his fame and adoration, Paul Newman still somehow is an underrated actor. I consider myself a great fan, and yet I'm still constantly stumbling on films from his career that seem to fall by the wayside of the tributes that typically celebrate his filmography. Have you ever seen HARPER? THE RACK? SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME? The guy has got layers and there's still much to discover for the casual Newman fan. But of course THE HUSTLER is not an obscure gem. It's one of his most iconic roles, and rightfully so.

As great as Paul Newman is in this though, I'd like to talk a bit about Piper Laurie. She's sensational in this, and playing a kind of role that I don't think had been seen much prior to this 1961 film. There has never been a shortage of alcoholics (or drunks) portrayed in films. More often than not they were comical. When attempted seriously they often would come across as broad and melodramatic even when played successfully (THE LONG WEEKEND, DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES). But Laurie in THE HUSTLER gives one of the first performances in film that I can think of that truly channels the defeated, sad, desperation of an alcoholic. The kind of traits that one might still recognize in people they know today. One feels so much empathy for her tragic plight in this film. The one line I can never forget is when she tells Eddie that she loves him. He responds with "You need the words?" She looks doe eyed at him and says "Yes. I need them very much. If you ever say them I'll never let you take them back." To me, that's one of the most heartbreaking portrayals of love I've ever seen. The notion that she truly won't believe that he loves her unless she hears the words, and even if he's insincere she will cling to those words as comfort enough to keep her going a little bit longer. There's so much more to this film that a story of a pool shark. I could go on for pages. But why bother? Amy and David covered it beautifully and anyone who watches the film will find their own favorite moments. That alone makes THE HUSTLER an easy YES into The Canon.

#3 mveew

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Posted 16 January 2018 - 04:38 AM

I’ve always loved The Hustler, but I hadn’t thought about why nearly as much as Amy and David have prior to listening to this week’s episode. However, thanks to their insights and careful observations, I’m sure to seem really friggin smart when my wife and I watch it later this week. My vote is yes.

#4 Nathan Roberson

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Posted 16 January 2018 - 08:00 AM

This is an easy yes. I got lucky, seeing a pristine 35mm print for my first round with this amazing film. It's never left me since. Every time I see a pool table in this bar I think back on those "eyes you can tell are blue in black-and-white," shining with a pretext of confidence that masks so much self-loathing.

#5 Bruno Bolisarte

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Posted 16 January 2018 - 10:34 AM

Easy yes for me, this is in my Top 20 favorites. The look is so bracing, the black and white has a look that feels unique, more warm greys than stark black and whites. The mood is as cool as Sweet Smell of Success or The Killing, two other favorites of mine, but with an early 60s sensibility. I'm a sucker for movies about cons, swindles and heists, but this is pushed over the top by the deeper characterizations.

#6 FictionIsntReal

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Posted 16 January 2018 - 05:05 PM

This was a good movie, but not really Canonical. It didn't strike me as nearly as subversive as people here make it out to be: there are plenty of movies about a driven man who neglects/harms the woman unlucky enough to fall for him. And it even ends with him beating Minnesota Fats, like a Rocky sequel (I'm going to admit I've only seen the original, "Rocky Balboa" and "Creed", each of which end with the protagonist losing his bout in a dignified manner). The ambiguity of what Gordon said to Sarah didn't work for me either, because she presumably remembered what he said and she decides to sleep with him later (a decision I didn't understand, since she loathes him) prior to killing herself.

There was a lot of talk about how movies existed which don't fit our ideas of the 50s, but to me that just indicates how the next generation put forth an image to contrast themselves with. Of course Leave it to Beaver* doesn't resemble those, because it's a family sitcom and you don't include the cynicism of noir in something like that.
*Which my dad claims is one of the most realistic shows he's seen, since it resembled his own life at the time.

There was a lot of talk about On the Waterfront, which has not yet been nominated for the Canon. Is that because its inclusion is too obvious?

#7 Un Americano Feo

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Posted 19 January 2018 - 05:35 AM

So this was a great episode with a lot of insight from both Amy and David. However, it was really offputting to hear David constantly interject “yeah” every time Amy spoke a sentence. I timed it out and at times while Amy was making a point he would interject a “yeah” every 6-9 seconds.

Once I noticed what he was doing it was a huge distraction. It seemed completely unintentional, but it comes off as a bit domineering - as if he is granting his approval to Amy for every single sentence she speaks. He also interrupted her several times while she was in the middle of a sentence, somewhat ironically even while discussing issues of gender and power holding. Maybe it was nerves or maybe it’s just how he interacts with people, but once I noticed it I couldn’t unhear it.

So while he made some solid points about a great film, I really think he should learn quietly listen to the other person in a conversation, wait a beat, and then respond. Again, he seems like a smart and friendly guy, but his interjections were just constant.

#8 bluesheep4

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Posted 19 January 2018 - 12:48 PM

I have always been a fan of this movie, and it's an obvious in for the canon! Same with the others above, there isn't much to say that hasn't already been said about this film, and honestly, you guys said even more than I would have to begin with, just the minutia of the film I haven't quite noticed when watching it, and it really gave the film a whole new life for me! I love this and it's a yes!


Also, Amy, I'll take note of the braums, honestly I totally didn't even think of there being no braums lol.. Just thought I might also share (with Amy, but also I guess anyone in the forum) I'm moving to Chicago to pursue an education in film! I'll be attending the School of the Art Institute of Chicago this coming fall! I'm super excited, and also hella nervous but that's how it goes.

#9 sycasey 2.0

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Posted 19 January 2018 - 03:19 PM

I usually say something about the movie pretty quickly after the episode drops, but I haven't had much to add this week. I enjoyed the movie a lot, it's clearly well-made, and the podcast did a great job of laying out why it's Canon worthy (iconic Newman role, an outline for future sports movies). It's a yes!

#10 EarthaMajor

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Posted 21 January 2018 - 04:35 PM

Double plus yes. I haven't seen it noted that Findley is also the mayor from Jaws!

#11 daustin

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Posted 29 January 2018 - 10:23 AM

View PostUn Americano Feo, on 19 January 2018 - 05:35 AM, said:

So this was a great episode with a lot of insight from both Amy and David. However, it was really offputting to hear David constantly interject “yeah” every time Amy spoke a sentence. I timed it out and at times while Amy was making a point he would interject a “yeah” every 6-9 seconds.

Once I noticed what he was doing it was a huge distraction. It seemed completely unintentional, but it comes off as a bit domineering - as if he is granting his approval to Amy for every single sentence she speaks. He also interrupted her several times while she was in the middle of a sentence, somewhat ironically even while discussing issues of gender and power holding. Maybe it was nerves or maybe it’s just how he interacts with people, but once I noticed it I couldn’t unhear it.

So while he made some solid points about a great film, I really think he should learn quietly listen to the other person in a conversation, wait a beat, and then respond. Again, he seems like a smart and friendly guy, but his interjections were just constant.


More than just that, he was in full lecture mode the whole time. This was the most uncomfortable episode since Armond White was on. A rare instance where I couldn't get through the whole episode, because it was just offputting. And I quite like The Hustler.