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Naked City (1958)
Born a few years after this ended, this show is history.
A couple years ago, this television show started airing on Me-TV. I had never seen it before. I love the show. I was not around in the late 50s and early 60s, and the only television images I have are the more romantic and fantasia ones. This show really shows what life was back like then. Surprisingly, not everyone was going to sock hops and living out in Leave It To Beaverland. Life was different then, but it was also very rough. There was poverty, crime, despair - all the things that we learn are today's ills. The "good ole days" were not really so "good", nor so "bad".
I even laugh at shows like That 70s Show, because the main character that rings true is the Dad. I remember Dads like that when I was a kid. Freaks And Geeks was the best show about "ago" - the early 80s. I remember those days. This show is great, because it really shows the life of cops and people in NYC back then. There were great episodes, like when the cops were forced to work long shifts and sleep in cots at the station. You never hear about this reality when people talk about back then.
The cops are not flashy. They are down to Earth. The younger cop is more idealistic, but the older cops have seen too much of life in their careers. The actors who appear in this show, really are the show, though. I, for one, never knew that Dustin Hoffman appeared in anything before 1967. Here, I am ready to faint, because there is Dustin Hoffman in the late 50s. Wow! The number of future actors and present time actors that appeared in this TV show is unparalleled. Here are some of them: James Caan, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen, Vic Morrow, Robert Walker, Jr., George Segal, and Jon Voigt. It is very interesting seeing Jon Voigt as a teenager, years before he became famous. The acting is first rate. Already, one sees the great talent who was willingly to try a hand on the show. It was James Caan's very first role on camera!
Great idea, but too much of a yawn fest
Robert Altman made great films, such as Nashville, The Player, and McCabe and Mrs. Miller. What defined these movies was a great and engaging script that kept the audience involved for the entire film. Such is not the case with Buffalo Bill And The Indians. It as if Altman was in too much of a rush to make this film, because he wanted to make a statement about Native American history.
There were a lot of interesting bit roles in this film, but these characters were never developed very well. I felt robbed that not much time was devoted to explaining them a little more. Altman assumed that the audience understood that it was 1885 and the Wild West was now "tamed". That was clear, but still I feel that the film would have been much stronger if it began with a flashback to nine years before, explaining where each of these characters were at the time. That way we would have had more understanding for the points Altman was making.
For example, it is hard to believe that the great actor from the Heche days, Burt Lancaster, was reduced to this engaging and enigmatic role, who waxing philosophically, but we have no idea who he is and how he relates to Buffalo Bill. This is the downside of this film. The script seems winding. There is a lot of dull time where one is just yawning and wondering when this movie will start going somewhere. Is that part of the point of the film? Altman never makes it clear. It is quite possible the point was that this town in the prairie had basically become filled with bored, opportunistic townies who sought significance even if it was tormenting someone by hanging him up on a rope and swinging him like a baby.
In many ways this movie was uneven. For example, the ideas were brilliant. The idea was that Buffalo Bill was no longer the man he once was, but now just a money grubbing tool who made up myths and tales about his exploits. Buffalo Bill must have been a very handsome and engaging man in real life. He may well have been a great actor and promoter. You could not help like Buffalo Bill, and Paul Newman plays him brilliantly. Bill was also very childish, probably an alcoholic, who used to have infantile temper tantrums.
The racial arrogance was also very clear. Buffalo Bill was very happy to exploit the myth that Native Americans were just 'savages who brutalized women'. It was a terrible moment when Sitting Bull tried to speak with President Cleveland and was rebuffed and treated with contempt. I also loved the ending. Buffalo Bill had this mad and crazed look, like now he was the great hero he never was. He now was beating and defeating Sitting Bull, which was a complete fabrication of history to promote white man's ego.
I also loved how President Cleveland was just another part of the opportunism to seek significance from Buffalo Bill's mythology about how the West was really "tamed". Although he was "the Great White Father", he was mainly about finding a way to win re-election and defeat his opponents. There was another beautiful moment, where a woman sang an opera song, and the camera showed the various reactions of members of the audience. It was hard to determine whether they were awed by the beauty of her voice or bored. And that was a confusing moment for me, too. I did not quite get it. The whole movie was afraid to really state what it really wanted to state. There were great moments, but not enough to engage the audience and win it over.
Lassie Come Home (1943)
Innocence with a message
I watched this movie specifically because I want to relax and enjoy a film that was innocent and dreamy. It turns out that Lassie was this and much more. It is a great film about how a dog lights up a lonely child's life. Lassie is there every day when school ends to meet his owner (Roddy McDowell).
There is a lot more to this film. The boy's parents are good people, but they are poor and have the survival instinct of their class. They like Lassie, but also see dogs as a burden and an expense that are welcome only when there is work. Unfortunately, the boy's father is unemployed right now, and his Mom explains that it is either us or the dog that they can support.
Lassie is sold to a wealthy landowner played by Nigel Bruce. Bruce plays a decent fellow, but one driven by a desire to breed animals that make him money and prestige at shows. He hires a mean man to tend his dogs, someone who is clearly from the lower classes and is in the wrong profession. He dislikes animals and only wants to control them and make them perform in shows.
Lassie is eventually taken to Scotland, several hundred miles away from home in the Yorkshire. You guessed it. Lassie spends the rest of the movie making the perilous journey trying to get back home to the boy. This was the finest part of the film. The main flaw is the scenery was obviously California, not Scotland and England.
Edmund Gwynn plays one of the most lovable characters - an old man who travels from town to town perform tricks with his dog companion. He represents the best in us all - kindness, honor, and appreciation.
Other memorable characters are the elderly couple who rescue him from a rainstorm. The elderly lady is lonely. However, in one of the most heartwarming scenes of compassion she realizes that Lassie wants to get home to someone. She is willing to let go of the dog who relieves her loneliness so Lassie can be truly happy.
What I liked most about this movie is that it was set in a bygone era of innocence. Dogs really make lives better for people. I also liked that it touched base on the people who are touched by dog's lives - what their dilemmas in life were.
Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams (1973)
Decent movie, with balanced portrayals
Joanne Woodward plays a woman going through a midlife crisis. After spending lunch with her diet obsessed Mom, her Mom collapses at the showing of an Igmar Bergman film. With the sudden loss of her Mom and her husband, an eye doctor, diagnosing her with further impaired vision, she falls into a depression of sorts. I guess this sounds like the typical tearjerker 70s TV movie. Well, sort of. She is not poor. She has a nice apartment and owns a farm through her Mom that she inherited it from. However, there is much more to this movie that makes me long for the old days when movies were about seeming mundane and boring things, rather than superhero comic characters like most of the movies out today.
For example, there is a lot of reality to life and relationships in this movie. At her Mom's funeral the younger generation just wants to watch Joe Namath and the Jets. Her brother-in-law basically wants to argue over the inheritance. Her husband just wants to keep peace. I am sure there are some, if not many families, that can identify with this.
Woodward is someone who one cannot decide whether to love or hate. I think that is a good portrayal, because this adds depth to her. She hears from her daughter, an abandoned single Mom, and her son that she has failed as a mother. Her husband is very kind, wise, and patient, but she is not sure whether she ever loved him or not. I think that the point is that marriages do fall into this doldrum, and there is no easy solution.
She goes off to Europe with her husband as a vacation, but it becomes the chance to move full circle and to wind her way out of the crisis she has entered into. There is a beautiful walk through Hyde Park, but in the subway she encounters crowds and has a daydream that her Mom is alive. That evening she has a long talk with husband, and in the end they conclude that maybe she never loved him but just choose him because she lost out on another love in the past and that he seemed like a reliable person headed for success.
The most magnificent part was at the French village. It was a peaceful and scenic village, but her husband reenacts all his experiences as a soldier during WWII in this village. The village that looks beautiful becomes the sight of horror and nightmares just thirty years before. And it is the remembrance of those horrible days of war through her husband's eyes that help her find peace with her realities.
In conclusion, what I like the most about this movie is that it is a look at real people's lives. I think if this movie was made ten or twenty years later, she would have left her husband and found a multi millionaire lover. It was still the time in the early 70s when real movies were made about real lives without all this escapism and fantasia that destroys the vital points of showing that ordinary people's lives struggles can be grim and yet teach invaluable lessons.
Tito i ja (1992)
Funny, then sad
Yugoslavia is one country I know only a little history about. However, this movie was done in 1992, probably the best time to do a film on this subject. Tito was the Croatian-born leader who led Yugoslavia for about four decades after World War Two. Yugoslavia was Marxist-Communist, but not having as strong ties to Moscow as other Communist countries in eastern and southern Europe.
The beginning of the movie is very light hearted and funny. Zoran's parents are dancers who live in very close proximity to another family in Belgrade, the largest city and capital of Yugoslavia. His parents are in love, but argue. His grandparents live in separate houses, but still come over for the family meal. There is no privacy, and the two mothers argue incessantly with one another because of having to be living in such cramped quarters.
There are very funny comments, such as when his father loses his job at the ballet and finds a job at a jazz nightclub. This leads his Mom to be jealous that he is having affairs with lots of women and they have a big argument. Although not dirt poor, like in many Communist countries most people are always at the edge of poverty. The son, named Zoran, even eats the wall literally to get nutrients.
Zoran is a ten year old boy, but despite not getting all his nutrients, is a bit overweight. This gets him labeled and called all kinds of names. His big passion is a crush on an older girl who grew up in an orphanage.
This leads to the second and main part of the film, the adulation of Tito totally dominates the society. His teacher in his classroom even goes so far to teach her kids the name of Tito's cows in the village he came from. When Tito finds out the girl he has a crush on is leaving for two weeks to participate in the Young Pioneer's camping trip to the birthplace of Tito, he is devastated.
But sort of like the Red Rider BB Gun essay in Christmas Story, Tito finds his ticket when the winner of the best essay praising Tito in his class will be able to go on this camping trip. Zoran makes sure he writes so good an essay that he not only gets to go, but has written the best essay in all of Belgrade. He goes so far as to say that he loves Tito more than his parents.
His parents are very offended when they hear he prefers Tito to his parents. For the first time it intrudes that maybe not everyone is totally happy with the political regime in Yugoslavia. But, still Zoran is merrily sent off on the train to camp where he finds the girl he loves. He is so in love with the girl that he had secretly given his grandmother's valuable ring to her.
The leader of the pioneers is named Raja. He is a very cowardly and obedient servant of the state. He is very charming, but the movie soon turns tragic because Zoran is overweight and cannot keep up with the group. He soon becomes seen as a nonconformist and threat to the group and the Yugoslavian state. Staying in the palace of a disgraced aristocrat, Raja dresses up as a ghost to scare the kids, and the kids knock over all kinds of priceless statues when they flee around the house in terror. The aristocratic owner stupidly informs the police. The police tell the aristocrat to buzz off or they will drag him in and beat him up, but the incident embarrasses Raja, who sees this as both a slight to his authority and makes him look too close to a disgraced aristocratic in the state. In authoritarian states, it is extremely important to save face and look in control. Minor disputes with someone, especially someone seen as right wing to the state, can lead to arrest and humiliation.
Sadly, Raja scapegoats ten year old Zoran and uses his romance with the girl, his slowness in keeping up with the group, and even his going to a church to pray over the fact that he is being now labeled as a troublemaker in the group, as all part of his devious plot to fool people into thinking that he is devoted to Tito.
This part is most sad, and it is very hard not to feel a great deal of sorrow of a poor ten year old, who through his innocence, becomes a scapegoat for his inability to completely conform.
The ending is very significant. Raja is arrested, because he is seen as incompetent in his control of the group and commits suicide. Zoran gets to meet Tito at the palace, but when all the kids run to Tito, Zoran realizes for the first time that the political regime is using these kids to prop up the state through their worship and devotion to Tito. Zoran realizes that the state is not about innocence, youth, and about promoting the image of a great leader who all should totally admire and be devoted to, but beneath that brutality and pain to those who cannot conform and go along with it all. So, in defiance, Zoran goes off to another room filled with food to eat.
The movie is interesting, because although Yugloslavia is not as undemocratic as most of the other Communist states of the time, it is still a place where there is a thin line between getting along with regime and being seen as an obstacle.
Day of the Outlaw (1959)
This movie has so much to it. It is about a band of outlaws who invade a small town in the mountains during the winter. Now, Robert Ryan plays a pretty tough guy, and he can best a big guy in the fight but not all of them. That is the whole point. It is about the limits of being human. Burl Ives plays a character that you do not know whether to love or hate. He is very wise and charming, but also spends all his time trying to make decisions to keep his crew of roughnecks happy. He has a sense of justice, but also can turn and become the dictator as well. So, Robert Ryan's character knows that he cannot defeat the whole band, so he lets them know that this is their last chance to get out of town and make it to the warmer valley below, or self destruct in a town with just four women. In the end, he beats the outlaws not by strength and force, but by using the ultimate powers of nature to outwit and defeat the outlaws. The freezing cold and snow is what ultimately defeats them. I think this is a very unique and wonderful movie. I can't help but think that Robert Altman probably was inspired by this film to do McCabe and Mrs. Miller, another movie about nature as the ultimate decider.
Walker, Belushi, and idea keep it interesting.
This movie is a bit sleepy, but there are many good things to keep the last role of John Belushi entertaining. First of all, Kathryn Walker was great as the wife who was completely bored with her life. Her role was very convincing. She seemed to know her husband and be tired of his contained personality. Belushi usually played crazy people, but in this role and Continental Divide Belushi plays relatively down-to-Earth roles. Belushi was a totally conservative, conformist, who couldn't even complain about the high power electrical wires right outside his home.
In come his new, strange neighbors who quickly turn his life upside down. Like many films with this theme, the one whose life is turned upside down by his crazy neighbors soon finds out that the real problem is not his neighbor, but his boring life. I remember when this movie came out, but I hadn't seen it until today. The critics really slammed this movie at the time. One thing I think the movie critics missed was how brilliantly this movie satirized suburban doldrums. At the very end of the movie, Belushi's character is watching an advertisement on television about a funeral home. Belushi was only in his early thirties at the time, but was overweight. His character, I believe, was supposed to be about ten years older. The advertisement on television is one of the best scenes (and the person speaking is obviously Dan Akroyd in the commercial). His life is over, and all that is left in his boring existence is preparing for his mortality.
The Chase (1966)
Those Were The Days
The good old days of 1966, when a filmmaker can make a film about real people and not having to sellout to the market with a happy ending. Bubber, a local boy (Robert Redford) has escaped from prison and is heading back to town to reunite with his wife (Jane Fonda), only to find out that it is a trap - literally and figuratively. All the realities of a small town in Texas unravel when the news breaks of the prison break.
Why? I think Bubber represents the heroism and independence that doesn't exist in his hometown. Bored housewives, trapped husbands, and an extremely rich man (E.G. Marshall) who has everything, but can't understand the alienation and plights of his own son (James Fox).
Stuck in between this mess is the sheriff of the town (Marlon Brando)and his wife (Angie Dickinson). They are a modest couple, who just wants to save up to buy their own home some day. Brando is excellent as a modest sheriff (too many of his roles have gone overboard, but this one really allowed his acting skills to shine)who is trying to maintain order in the town. There are a few decent folks. An elderly couple that is shocked by sexual affairs going on in the town. A woman who runs around with a Bible. Also, a square man (Robert Duvall) struggling to keep sanity and order in his household, but who ends up being humiliated and laughed at by the mob of social upstarts who besiege his home for a big party.
There is a lot to be said about this film. Firstly, people are trapped by their social positions and by living in a small town. They have no real excitement in their lives, and create aimless fun, but realize that they are trapped and bored in the end. I loved the part where the husband of the biggest and most beautiful flirt at the party realizes that Bubber's escape somehow reveals his loss of manhood over time, and that he has basically become someone trapped within his identity and role in this small town. You can see it in his look.
Secondly, Bubber himself discovers that he can't really return home. He has matured completely by prison lives, has no illusions, and only thinks about survival. In the end, Bubber realizes that handing himself to the fates - the law - is the only choice left without completely destroying the town's psyche.
Lastly, I really liked how it portrayed the Sexual Revolution and the new changes of the 60s as just exasperating the situation. Most people had become immoral and lawless, and whatever morality existed in the old days was completely gone. The ending scenes of being trapped in an auto junk yard, while townies launch Molotov cocktails at the escaped prisoner make the World of the 60s look like a scary mess that has gone completely out of control of even the participants. The town mob doesn't have control over themselves anymore. No one does.
Starsky & Hutch (2004)
For once, a decent remake. However, some major flaws.
Although I was just a kid in the Seventies, I remember Starsky and Hutch. The first fifteen minutes of the movie were outstanding in that the audience really feels that it is the 1970s. There is the romanticism and coolness of the 70s, but there are also real problems going on. Too many nostalgia movies just turn some era into a stereotype and fantasia.
In the very beginning, Vince Vaughn plays an extremely psychopathic drug dealer who has no problem killing someone and then going back to getting a massage. The job of being a cop is seen as pretty rough. The 70s was an exciting time, but it was also a time of stressful change. The beginning of the movie is excellent in making one believe that it is actually 1975.
There are some hilarious and funny moments in the movie. Stiller plays a really uptight person, tightly wound and a rules freak. I think Starsky was supposed to be college educated. Hutch is less developed, and more like Owen Wilson. Still, Wilson and Stiller are very funny together, as they usually are.
The funniest scene was when Stiller accidentally shoots off the tail of an iguana, owned by a local hood played by Snoop Dog. It turns out to not lead to a shootout, because they all determine that iguanas grow their tails back.
I also like it when the cops meet at the home of the two drug dealers. Rather than being unsophisticated, Bateman and Vaughn are excellent as portraying themselves as drug dealers masquerading as sophisticated members of San Francisco's gentry. They even talk about the charities they are involved in.
I also like how Hutch and Starsky are seen as clowns, treated with disrespect and contempt by their fellow officers. Christopher Penn was excellent as a cop who thinks that Starsky is someone who is an oddball to the unit. This rings "real life", where people often do jobs where there is not much visible reward. The police chief, played by 70s actor Fred Williamson, is very good as someone who is so tired of the duo's antics, but somehow keeps them on because he sees potential in them.
There are other things that seem completely overboard and unnecessary. The role by Will Farrell just seems weird and obtuse. The cheerleader openly stripping naked is ridiculous. America is not Norway. Believe me, even in the 70s, America was Puritan. The disco scene seemed a bit ridiculous and overboard. It just seemed to be a sidetrack. So did the scene where they dress up like Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda. That was 1969, not 1975. It was a distraction.
In the end it, it was the Grand Prix that changed my vote from a 5 to a 6. Cars were a big deal back then, and the Grand Prix was amazing. I never really got into the original TV show - Starsky and Hutch. I liked that the movie mostly succeeded in showing the 70s as they were, but went too overboard with distractions, as well.
This movie makes me very sad
It isn't from the painful relationship between his girlfriend, or his addictions. It is from how I remembered this film when Andrew Dice Clay was being attacked for his portrayal in Ford Fairlane (which was an excellent comedy). I was young when this movie was made, and it takes place before I was born. So, I don't know if this movie was accurate.
However, this is the irony. Bruce was supposed to be Anti-Establishment. He was lambasting a society that wanted to close its doors on taboos - such as sex, race relations, etc. We had won that war by the 1980s. Then, along came "political correctness". The Anti-Establishment became even worse than the Establishment of old. At least, younger people were already revolting against it by the 1960s. However, the same younger generation that won the 60s suddenly turned "clean". Bruce, may have not have had a wonderful personal life, but at least he was speaking his mind and heart, and not being shut out by the "political correctness" of the time.
This is why this movie makes me so sad. It makes me think of the days, when there were painful realities, but people were more human, less perfectionistic, and could speak their minds. And by the late 80s, that World died with the birth of "political correctness". No longer could there be Lenny Bruce's - speaking their hearts and minds. In the old day, the "blue meanies" were the Hooverites. Now, they are the Neo Yuppies who have taken away whatever voice and freedom we used to have in this country.
This movie was not great, but it was interesting. Hoffman can carry most roles, and he did a pretty good impersonation. He was a lovable and dislikeable person. He did bad things, but he had a heart, too. He was a person who was imperfect, but trying in many ways to speak his mind. It is too bad that nowadays these days are long gone. We no longer can tell the truth and be enraged. Someone now tells us that we are "unpolitically correct" for trying to speak the truth. That is why this movie is so sad.