Tag: Robert Duvall

MOVIE REVIEW | ***AFI WEEKEND*** #2. The Godfather (1972)

“The American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies was selected by AFI’s blue-ribbon panel of more than 1,500 leaders of the American movie community to commemorate 100 Years of Movies”. Every weekend(ish) during 2015, I’ll review two(ish), counting them down from 100 to 1.
Godfather 1
“Luca Brasi held a gun to his head, and my father assured him that either his brains or his signature would be on the contract.”

The Godfather might be the film most responsible for me becoming so obsessed with movies. Sure, there were plenty of flicks I was obsessed with before The Godfather, but they were all surface level obsessions. I liked the actors, or the jokes, or the story. The Godfather is the first time I can remember being aware that movies were just as much about what was going on behind the scenes and in the background. It was the first time I was aware that someone had to build this world, join these dots and make this film.


Francis Ford Coppola therefore became the first director I recognised by name. The first director whose involvement was just as enticing a reason to see a movie as the actors starring in it. The first director who I actively looked into their career and started tracking down their movies. I have no idea how I did that pre-internet, but I did. I remember my mum bought me The Godfather on VHS for my 13th birthday, despite it R rating. And it’s probably the first movie I ever got obsessed with, that still holds up as a legitimate masterpiece today. I’ll still watch The Goonies if it comes on telly, but I know my appreciation is pure nostalgia. The Godfather on the other hand, is simply amazing film making that I know will impress me for the rest of my life. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***AFI WEEKEND*** #25. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

“The American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies was selected by AFI’s blue-ribbon panel of more than 1,500 leaders of the American movie community to commemorate 100 Years of Movies”. Every weekend(ish) during 2015, I’ll review two(ish), counting them down from 100 to 1.

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Review Originally Posted Mar 28, 2014

“Neighbors bring food with death, and flowers with sickness, and little things in between.”

“Message” movies are often boring.  “Important” movies are often pretentious.  “Classics” of decades ago often become dated and irrelevant.  But every now and again, a movie’s message stays compelling.  Its importance never falls into self-importance.  And it stays relevant an immediate long after its release.  And that’s what made me love To Kill a Mockingbird far more than I ever anticipated.


Based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Harper Lee, it’s a story of childhood, and racial intolerance in 1930s Alabama.  Told from the point of view of the six year old Scout (Mary Badham), younger brother of Jem (Philip Alford), and daughter to local idealist lawyer, Gregory Peck in probably his most iconic role, as Atticus Finch.  Over their summer, Scout and Jem befriend a young boy staying next door named Dill (John Megna). (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***AFI WEEKEND*** #30. Apocalypse Now (1979)

“The American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies was selected by AFI’s blue-ribbon panel of more than 1,500 leaders of the American movie community to commemorate 100 Years of Movies”. Every weekend(ish) during 2015, I’ll review two(ish), counting them down from 100 to 1.
Apocalypse
“I watched a snail crawl along the edge of a straight razor. That’s my dream; that’s my nightmare. Crawling, slithering, along the edge of a straight razor… and surviving.”

The top three examples of ego run rampant that ended the director lead era of 70s Hollywood are Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate, William Friedkin’s Sorcerer and Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now.  Way over time and way over budget, Cimino basically brought down an entire movie studio and ruined his own career.  Way over time and way over budget, Friedkin used every bit of goodwill he’d built with The French Connection and The ExorcistAnd while he’s made more than a few well received movies in the decades since, he never really reached the A-list again.  Way over time and way over budget, Coppola made one of the most deservedly iconic movies of all time.


It’s the Vietnam War and Martin Sheen’s Capt. Willard is a black ops soldier, with several clandestine assassinations to his name.  Which makes him just the man to be covertly sent to Cambodia, where rogue US. Col. Kurtz (Marlon Brando) has built his own cult like army, and taken to fighting his own war by his own rules. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***AFI WEEKEND*** #32. The Godfather Part II (1974)

“The American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies was selected by AFI’s blue-ribbon panel of more than 1,500 leaders of the American movie community to commemorate 100 Years of Movies”. Every weekend(ish) during 2015, I’ll review two(ish), counting them down from 100 to 1.
Godfather II
“Do me this favor. I won’t forget it. Ask your friends in the neighborhood about me. They’ll tell you I know how to return a favor.”

With The Godfather, Francis Ford Coppola accomplished two pretty amazing things.   He turned an entertaining, but ultimately pretty trashy novel into a filmic masterpiece.  And fought a major movie studio all along the way that hated him, his casting choices and pretty much every artistic decision he made, and he came out the other end with an a multiple Oscar winning blockbuster.  But what’s even more impressive than all of that?  Making a sequel that many would argue is even better than the original.  I love them both too much to declare one better than the other, but I also have no problem with people who firmly believe that The Godfather Part II is the superior film.  That’s how amazing this movie is.


After settling all family business at the end of the first movie and fully succumbing to his darker side, the once idealistic Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) has taken his already powerful crime family to new heights. Where they were once a strong New York organisation whose leader carried senators and judges in his pocket like so much loose change, Michael has taken the Corleones international, with gambling concerns in Las Vegas and the soon to be overthrown Cuba. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***AFI WEEKEND*** #64. Network (1976)

“The American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies was selected by AFI’s blue-ribbon panel of more than 1,500 leaders of the American movie community to commemorate 100 Years of Movies”. Every weekend(ish) during 2015, I’ll review two(ish), counting them down from 100 to 1.
Network

“Hi. I’m Diana Christensen, a racist lackey of the imperialist ruling circles.”

It’s one thing for a movie to perfectly, accurately and unflinchingly capture its time.  It takes a little more balls to perfectly, accurately and unflinchingly satarise its time.  It takes balls and sheer brilliance to perfectly, accurately and unflinchingly satarise its time, while also perfectly predicting the future.  I assume Network was intriguingly subversive in 1976.  I assume Network was darkly hilarious in 1976.  But I would be surprised if anyone knew just how accurately prophetic Network was in 1976.  And with each year, it becomes less darkly hilarious and more depressingly hilarious as we see our media become more and more like the then-insanely hyper world of Network.


The ratings are falling on Howard Beale’s nightly news broadcast.  In retaliation, he declares live on air that he’ll blow his brains out in one week, live on air.  While his complacent crew in the control room are too oblivious to notice, the rest of America’s media does.  So he’s immediately fired by his best friend and news director, Max (William Holden).  All the while, in the back offices of the network, the ratings obsessed Diana (Faye Dunaway) is trying to figure out what sensationalist freak show will be the next ratings winner.  While the money obsessed Frank (Robert Duvall) is obsessed with cutting the news department’s massive, money losing budget. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | Colors (1988)

Colors-Dennis-Hopper-1988-DVDRip

“There’s two bulls standing on top of a mountain. The younger one says to the older one: Hey pop, let’s say we run down there and fuck one of them cows. The older one says: No son. Let’s walk down and fuck ’em all”.

Dennis Hopper began his directorial career in style. With Easy Rider, he made one of the most influential, iconic and revered movies of the last half century. Over the next 40 years, he only made eight more, and none came anywhere near the critical or audience success of his debut.


For someone who started with something so ground breaking, and who seems to have one of the most unique points of view in Hollywood (and who was never afraid to express it), I’m surprised by how anonymous the rest of his filmography as a director is. In fact, when I decided to watch Colors, it was based on the two lead actors. I had no idea Hopper directed it until his named popped up in the opening credits. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Mockingbird
“Message” movies are often boring.  “Important” movies are often pretentious.  “Classics” of decades ago often become dated and irrelevant.  But every now and again, a movie’s message stays compelling.  Its importance never falls into self-importance.  And it stays relevant an immediate long after its release.  And that’s what made me love To Kill a Mockingbird far more than I ever anticipated.


Based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Harper Lee, it’s a story of childhood, and racial intolerance in 1930s Alabama.  Told from the point of view of the six year old Scout (Mary Badham), younger brother of Jem (Philip Alford), and daughter to local idealist lawyer, Gregory Peck in probably his most iconic role, as Atticus Finch.  Over their summer, Scout and Jem befriend a young boy staying next door named Dill (John Megna).

While Atticus is defending Tom Robinson (Brock Peters), a black man accused raping a local white woman, the seriousness of this story is juxtaposed with the carefree summer fun of the three kids.  Their main obsession being a creepy house in their street, where the mythical Boo Radley (Robert Duvall) lives.  Eventually though, the stories begin to intertwine and the real point of To Kill a Mockingbird starts to poke through.

I don’t know if it’s intentional, or just the result of shooting on a sound stage or black lot, but the stagey nature of Scout’s neighbourhood really works to build the idea of this small, tight knit community.  Everyone knows each other, it’s totally understandable that Atticus would let his kids wander unsupervised all day and into the night.  And being surrounded by the happy houses makes the creepiness of the Radley home all the more menacing.

The casting of Badham, Alford and Megna as the core trio of kids is pretty amazing.  There are times when they’re acting is a little stilted and awkward, but it’s more than made for by the way they interact with each other so naturally.  The way Scout and Jem can so naturally, quickly and easily go from easy affection to casual aggression, to obvious awe of each other, often for no reason, just seems so accurate to how young siblings are.

After recently watching Infamous and knowing that Dill was based on Truman Capote as a young boy, Megna seems like such a perfect choice.  He’s cocky and a braggart, but you know it’s all in self-defence to hide a sad, lonely little boy.  If the portrayal of the adult Capote by Toby Jones in Infamous was anywhere close to accurate, the portrayal of the young Capote / Dill seems absolutely spot on too.

Atticus Finch is a character that pops up whenever there’s a list of greatest / most inspiring / most memorable movies characters, and after watching To Kill a Mockingbird, that makes sense.  He could have so easily been a one dimensional good guy who only ever does the right thing.  But that’s boring.  Peck makes sure we see the struggle.  He does the right thing because he was always going to do the right thing.  But it’s somehow not as cut and dry as that.  You can see the wheels turning, the almost torment he goes through, knowing that doing what’s right very rarely leads to a happy ending.

To Kill a Mockingbird
Directed By – Robert Mulligan
Written By – Horton Foote

MOVIE REVIEW | ***DIRECTOR DEBUT WEEK*** Coppola: The Rain People (1969)

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Fracnis Ford Coppola has to be one of the ballsiest directors to ever dominate the main stream.  Throughout the 70s and 80s, the making of several of his movies seemed like career suicide, and more than once had him on the brink of financial ruin.  Then all the dust would settle and something amazing like The Conversation or Apocalypse Now would be the result.   Or maybe something not so great would appear, like The Cotton Club or One From the Heart.  But even when they weren’t so great, there was always an attempt at something big, something different, something new.  With all that’s come since then, it’s amazing to see where it all started, with a small, character based road movie, The Rain People.

Shirley Knight is Natalie, a suburban housewife who finds out she’s pregnant, freaks out and hits the road, leaving her husband.  Along the way, she picks up a hitchhiker played by James Caan, Jimmy, who goes by his college football nickname, Killer.  Killer suffered a head injury on the field and is now never going to be eligible for Mensa membership.

At first strangely sexual, their relationship becomes more like a mother and son as Natalie realises the extent of Killer’s brain damage and she becomes increasingly protective.  Later, Robert Duvall appears as a motorcycle cop and bizarre possible love interest, but it’s obvious from the opening minutes that The Rain People isn’t interested in giving Natalie a happily ever after.

Coppola rarely does things small.  His movies are big, grand, bombastic and rich with everything…  Characters, story, music, sets, production design.  So it really is amazing to see it start on such a small scale.  And I don’t just mean small in budget and small on experience from its director.  I mean small in story, small in focus, small in execution.  Other characters pop up here and there, but the majority is just Natalie and Killer.  Even Duvall, who gets third billing as the cop Roger, only shows up for a handful of scenes in the second half.

The Rain People is a road movie, but it’s not all highways that vanish over the horizon and endless scenic vistas.  Instead, it’s all about the claustrophobic inside of Natalie’s station wagon, the cheap motels on the side of the road and the small towns that road movies usually drive right past.

The story goes that while Coppola, along with a young production associate  named George Lucas, were travelling across the top of the country from west to east making this movie, Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonder were a little more south, headed east to west, making Easy Rider.   Even as someone who’s always found Easy Rider kind of over rated, indulgent and boring, it’s great to think that these future legends were all just getting started, doing things their way and getting ready to dominate the next decade in Hollywood.

The Rain People
Directed By – Francis Ford Coppola
Written By – Francis Ford Coppola

MOVIE REVIEW | ***DIRECTOR DEBUT WEEK*** Lucas: THX 1138 (1971)

THX1138
Poor old George Lucas gets a bad wrap.  Sure, I didn’t like the Star Wars prequels, but I was in my 20s when they came out, they weren’t made for me.  Just like my parents who were in their 20s and 30s when the original trilogy came out and didn’t like those.  The Star Wars movies are kids movies, and if you see them early enough, chances are you’ll love them into adulthood.  Yet the nostalgia of those original trilogy fans is so rabid, Lucas has spent the last 15 or so years vilified as a hack.  But George Lucas is more than Star Wars.  He also made the great American Graffiti, and before everything else, he made THX 1138.

This is science fiction, but it’s not the kid friendly, gee-whiz science fiction of Star Wars.  THX 1138 is serious, dark, adult shit.  In this world, mankind are drugged up drones, living in a cold empty world, surrounded by sanitised white and constantly monitored by big brother.  Robert Duvall is THX, a factory worker who builds the police robots that help keep society down.  His missus, LUH (Maggie McOmie) realises they are being numbed by the mandatory drug program and orchestrates THX going cold turkey.

Sobering up, THX starts to think for himself and feel all the emotions he’s been missing.  Soon, THX and LUH are also mixed up with Donald Pleasance as SEN.  They’re growing independent thinking brings them to the attention of the authorities and shit gets real.

Over the years, Lucas has more than once talked about his desire to make small, personal, not so commercial movies.  Based on the Star Wars series and America Graffiti, I always thought he only knew how to make mass appeal, feel good crowd pleasers.  But THX 1138 shows he’s capable of genuinely subversive, interesting and very non conventional story telling and film making.

Robert Duvall is great in the title role.  He sells the lobotomized, dead eyed compliance of the movie’s early scenes and convincingly evolves through confusion to realisation to rebellion as the story progresses.   Of course it’s no surprise that Robert Duvall puts in an awesome performance, but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining.

And what was the story with Donald Pleasance in the 70s?  He was either insane or an absolute genius.  From movies like THX 1138, to Halloween to the amazing Wake in Fright, he really does have one of the most interesting and bizarre resumes of the decade.

Now that George Lucas is out of the Star Wars game, and now that I’ve finally seen THX 1138, I really hope it does free him up to make the small, personal, not so commercial movies he’s talked about in the past.  The result could be like the Frances Ford Coppola of the last decade.  Maybe not amazing and as hugely successful as his prime, but never boring.

THX 1138
Directed By – George Lucas
Written By – George Lucas, Walter Murch