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|Index||49 reviews in total|
Although this film takes place 15 years before I was born, growing up
in an ethnic family in the early 60's had changed very little.
My family is Greek, but this film will appeal to any ethnic group especially first or second generation Americans. Back then we all still gathered at one member's home for holidays and on Sundays. We all dressed up (and still do) for church and holiday gatherings. Watching little Elijah Wood with his bow tie reminded me of myself at that age.
Mr. Levinson through film, and Randy Newman through his haunting musical score did a magnificent job of recreating a world that has all but disappeared. A time when family was the center of our lives, children respected the adults and were expected to behave in a civilized manner, people didn't spend Sundays running all over town to football, soccer games etc, and the elder members of the family were revered instead of ignored or worse, placed in a home.
We, those of us in the post-war generation would to well to look at this film as a guideline for how to bring values back into our lives and realize that we all need to re-think our priorities.
If you want to relive your childhood for 2 1/2 hours laugh one minute and cry the next, I HIGHLY recommend this film
AVALON which is the third leg of the Baltimore Trilogy was unfortunately
overlooked at Oscar time in 1990. It is a truly brilliant film written and
directed by Barry Levinson.
It is about the evolution of the storyteller. Sam the head of the family comes to America in 1914 on the Fourth of July. It was a time when family meant something and those that came here first sent money back so that other family members could join them in the land of hope. Sam is the the family storyteller. He tells the family history to the children in hopes that they will always remember where they came from. As the years go by the family moves away from Avalon, the neighborhood that they first came to and the family begins to change. They move apart and splinter and the new technology known as the television becomes the storyteller. Thanksgivings which are the unifying holiday throughout the story begin with the family waiting for all of the brothers to arrive before "they cut the turkey" and proceeds through smaller family groups sitting at TV stands watching television and ends finally when grandson Michael, with his son visits Sam in a nursing home where the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade plays silently on the televison in Sam's room.
As the film concludes Michael, who is the embodiment of Barry Levinson in the tradition of the storyteller shares his grandfather's story with his son.
All of this backed by Randy Newman's haunting score one of the most fitting ever written for a film.
This is a must see.
AVALON (1990) **** Armin Mueller-Stahl, Aidan Quinn, Elizabeth Perkins, Kevin Pollak, Joan Plowright, Lou Jacobi, Elijah Wood, Leo Fuchs. Barry Levinson's personal masterpiece, loosely autobiographical, on family values. Absolutely charming and at times poignant account of the Krachinsky clan, spanning four generations of the Baltimore based Jewish immigrants, and the effects of suburbia, television and the decline of the closeness of American families at large. Wonderful ensemble of talent with a steadily paced and absorbing calmness in tone. Stahl gives a sterling endeavor as does young Wood as his wide-eyed grandson. Loving valentine for all families perfectly realized. Great production design and cinematography.
It is heart-warming to read comments from those of you who do not even live
in Baltimore and enjoyed the movie as much as we Baltimoreans did. What a
stirring tribute to the city and to our immigrant grandparents.
My ancestors came from County Cork to Baltimore in the late 1800's. We too, grew up in rowhouses (retitled "townhomes" by realtors in the 1980's) nearby our cousins. Many scenes brought back wonderful memories: the kids playing in the "back alley," the marble steps of the rowhouses which my mother used to lovingly scrub, the "bee" incident, trips to the lake, Thanksgiving dinner with extended family members and tables to seat all the kids extending into the next room, etc., etc.
This could have been just another sappy movie but the actors were so immersed in their characters, I was swept away. Apparently, so were you.
If you want a film that celebrates a way of life that's almost gone,
that's well-acted in every department, and that gives you a major case
of the warm fuzzies in a way the movies seem to have forgotten how to,
Barry Levinson's "Avalon" is definitely it.
First, let's examine the cast: Armin Mueller-Stahl, Aidan Quinn, Elizabeth Perkins, Elijah Wood (some ten years pre-"LOTR"), Joan Plowright and Lou Jacobi ("Time to make the donuts!") all give fine, understated performances. Mueller-Stahl, in particular, is the sort of gentle, old-world grandfather anyone might have wished for.
But, as I said earlier, what this film is mainly about is a loving salute to a way of life that's almost gone. As a second generation American growing up in New York, what strikes me about "Avalon" is how real it all is, especially if you grew up in this era, as I did. Young Michael Kaye might have been myself in many ways. And a recent family reunion brought this feeling all back again.
A Wonderful, warm movie. See it!
This film has much to recommend it-set design, cinematography and so on- but what makes it truly shine is a marvelous script and an ensemble cast that almost uniformly turn in excellent work. The characters live and breathe and fair jump off the screen at the audience. You come to care about them, even the ones you don't like. It's an entrancing, riveting journey through the 20th century as it was lived by one family. Don't miss this one. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll even be nice to that cousin you can't stand or your daughter's current boyfriend,who you swear is from Pluto! Most exceedingly highly recommended!!!
Levinson does a spectacular job in showing us the life of a man and his
family after coming to America and the different ways his offspring grows
up. This film also shows how values have changed from the time that Sam
a young man to when his son Jules was in the workforce (the father, Sam
a wallpaper hanger eking out a meager existence and his son, Jules was a
well to do salesperson with a country club membership). The father (Sam)
could not understand why his son wanted to golf or why golfing was
at one point in the movie. It also dealt with the issue of the family
eventually moving to the suburbs and how Jules' mother commented that she
could not any longer take the streetcar when they lived in the suburbs.
This film also shows us how television has changed the face of America.
example, Thanksgiving in an earlier part of the movie was spent at a
table, before the television was invented, and after the family has
television, Thanksgiving dinner was spent in front of the TV.
Not bad performance acting wise by the cast the cinematography is also spectacular especially when Sam arrives in America on July 4th, 1916.
Barry you have done a great job of reminding us that what makes this a great country is fact that we should never forget our families, our traditions or where we come from.
The third of Barry Levinson's Baltimore trilogy (following Diner' and Tin
Men') is a gentle and low key yet hugely impressive film that is a worthy
successor to his enormously prosperous and Oscar winning Rainman'. Although
adopting the box office disaster strategy no stars just talent', Levinson
manages to create a small yet thoroughly incisive look at the changing face
of America and its values during an eventful period in its cultural
Set in the mid 1950's at the height of the post war economic boom and on the eve of Television's dominance of domestic life, Avalon' looks closely and lovingly at the lives, loves and disasters of three generations of a Polish family in the New World. Opening with a magnificently shot flashback of Mueller-Stahl's arrival in America on July 4th some forty years earlier, the film develops a nostalgic yet never overtly sentimental approach to its subject matter and always keeps its story-line rooted firmly in reality.
Although the film has no specific plot or central character, the magnificent Mueller-Stahr emerges as the principal paternal figure trying to keep his increasingly disparate family of brothers, children, nephews, nieces and sundry together amidst the turning tides of cultural change. Joan Plowright plays his stubborn wife who has never learned to fully adapt to the lifestyles in the West, while his son Aidan Quinn is trying desperately to cash in on the American dream that brought his father to those shores in the first place.
A tale told with great colour, character and humour and populated with a huge assortment of human characters and memorable moments, 'Avalon' is a beautifully composed piece of American cinema.
On paper, writer-director Barry Levinson's semi-autobiographical
Avalon, which begins with the arrival of Polish Jew Sam Krichinsky
(Armin Mueller- Stahl) in the Avalon area of Baltimore, Md., on July 4,
1914, and ends when he is in his dotage on another July 4 sometime in
the sixties, is an intellectually crystalline epic about the demise of
the extended family, the erosion of traditional American and European
values, the growth of alienated suburban culture (organized around
television) and the hegemony of materialism.
That's on paper. On screen, Avalon is unconscionably sloppy (the leaves of deciduous trees in Baltimore at Christmas are green on one block, yellow on another and non-existent on a third), structurally amorphous (the movie could end at any time or go on forever, which it seems to do), and gummily sentimental (grandparents and children are psychologically saintly). The lovely moments and fine performances in the picture can't redeem Levinson's technical carelessness - the editing is without rhythm, momentum, or even logic - nor can they compensate for Avalon's ethnographic toothlessness: imagine Mordecai Richler without the bite.
Levinson would have made Duddy Kravitz a mensch.
Avalon is more irritating than most ambitious failures because Levinson, winner of the best directing Oscar in 1988 for Rain Man, is wildly talented, and his two earlier semi-autobiographical films set in Baltimore, Diner and Tin Men, were twin peaks of Proustian purity. Structured lightly but soundly, in the esthetic version of aluminum, they vaulted over the twin valleys of bathos, sentimentality and nostalgia.
Avalon is a bridge made of lead.
But students of performance will want to see it for a quartet of reasons. The first is Armin Mueller-Stahl, the East German actor who came West in the late seventies and has not been within spitting distance of mediocrity since, whether as the tortured politician in Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Lola, the complex farmer in Angry Harvest or Jessica Lange's mysterious father in Music Box. As written, Avalon's Sam Krichinsky is fundamentally a grandchild's adoring projection of a grandfather, but Mueller-Stahl's Prussian blue eyes bespeak more depth than the character is permitted to articulate; when the script does become bluntly pedantic, Mueller-Stahl subtly softens the blows. Sadly, even this great actor is done in at the end when he is plastered with outrageously inept old-age makeup. He looks like nothing less than a blue-eyed, Teutonic E.T. about to sing a geriatric variation of Cabaret's Nazi hymn, Tomorrow Belongs to Me: Yesterday Vas Mine.
The second extraordinary actor is Joan Plowright, the British widow of Laurence Olivier; she plays Eva Krichinsky, Sam's Polish-American wife, with a flawless accent, as if she had not done Shakespeare, Chekhov, John Osborne or Peter Greenaway, all of whom she has, of course, enlivened. But technique aside, she follows Mueller-Stahl in toughening up the soft edges and in softening the rough edges of a character verging on caricature; while certainly Jewish, her meddling mother-cum-grandmother is no stage- bound Jewish mother.
The most fully dramatized conflict in Avalon involves the grandparents and their relationship to their son Jules and his wife Ann (and eventually to the young couple's children), all of whom live together. Aidan Quinn, as the cautious and contemplative Jules, and Elizabeth Perkins, as the fun-loving but responsible Ann, complete the foursome of exceptional performances: he infuses an introvert with exterior life and she captures the spirit of femininity in the fifties with eerie exactitude, as if Life had come to life (it's an asset that she looks like the Judy Garland of that period).
Four fabulous musicians, less than fabulous music for them to play: the resonant sequences (an on-going Thanksgiving argument, for example) are regularly intercut with comic schtick, the most egregious instance being the purchase of a television set - would people interested enough in TV to buy one not know that during the day there were no programs? The purchasers sit in front of the box, watch the test pattern, get disgusted, and leave it to the kids. It's a funny bit, but it's fraudulent, and it corrodes Avalon, which is trying to do something new, with the stuff of deja-vu. There are two lines delivered by Eva that express the irritation Avalon engenders: "How many times do we have to hear this story? We all heard it before." Benjamin MIller, Filmbay Editor
Avalon is really a beautifully written story and Levinson's cast is excellent. This really is one of the better stories of the American experience. Actually I'd have to say it's the BEST story of the American experience ever brought to film. I say that knowing that it really is the urban Jewish-American experience and not one that is necessarily shared by other groups. I dont care for rigid definitions of the American experience because it can be a vastly differing one. Having said that though, I must still say that Avalon is a wonderful chronicling of an American immigrant family originaly from Eastern Europe who put down roots in the Avalon section of Baltimore. It is refreshing in that New York City is generally credited for this kind of narrative. So much so that it's easy to forget that ethnic communities sprang up in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco etc. Not just NYC. Through the narration of Sam Krichinsky we see his children and grandchildren grow up and he grow old. We are with him when his wife (Joan Plowright)passes away, When his son's business is destroyed by fire, when he argues with his oldest Brother and a great rift divides the Krichinskys forever. we hear his stories of this and that and always he returns to the 4th of July 1914 when he arrived in Baltimore for the first time. Levinson is fantastic as he films what is obviously an idealized representation seen only in Sam Krichinsky's "rose colored" memory of the event. There is so much poignance, sorrow, and love in "Avalon" and small details become deeply profound moments in the life of an elderly man struggling to remember the good times while the world moves on. The closing scene in which Sam's Grandson (now a father himself), with whom he has always had a close relationship, visits him in a nursing home. We know from Sam's state that the end cannot be far. Its a brief scene with little dialogue but it is AWESOME!!!! in the sublime way it conveys it's message. I choke up just thinking about that scene. See "Avalon"!!!
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