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Decent and Entertaining.
I admit to be only a mild fan of The Star Wars series. Yes, I saw the original back in 1977, and it was the best one. Still, I prefer THX 1138, and the original Star Wars was just very good. The worst one was (this causes the grossest confusion) the sixth one filmed. The one with Ewan McGregor was a horrible letdown, and just abysmal. This one is the seventh one filmed and it is at least as good as New Hope and The Return Of The Jedi. We have the storm trooper who defects,and this pretty woman who we can guess is the daughter of Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker. Right away we see the great actor Max Von Sydow. His part was cut short. Harrison Ford was as funny as ever. The other actors are not really well known yet, but they seemed to be good sidekicks to Han Solo ' s personality. It was neat at the end when the woman heroine just hugged Princess Leia and it ended with She and Luke Skywalker looking at each other, rather than admitting that she must be their daughter. The special effects were good. I think the movie was decent, but then again the original Star Wars was just a very good movie.
On the job stress in a changing World
A great movie with many different points, but the main thing is that this movie was done in 1968. Although I was being born then, I understand this was the year that the U.S. changed quite a lot. Madigan is an aging cop who is clearly a product of the "old days". Detectives still wore suits and ties and were not "politically correct". Madigan is struggling in a new World of hippies, parties, wives and mistresses who have their own needs, and race relations. None of this is very blatant in the movie. It is always there, though, part of the side story. The main thing is that Madigan (Richard Widmark) and his partner (Harry Guardino) are humiliated on a routing arrest when the suspect grabs his gun and escapes. It is apparent that the police department is under more and more scrutiny during the Vietnam War Era. The commissioner (Henry Fonda) is a calm and fair man who has to deal with the fallout of his botched arrest. Madigan has to restore his lost honor and pride. It becomes clear that his whole life revolves around his work, and his wife is extremely depressed by the low pay and long hours. It becomes Madigan's obsession to capture the suspect that he was humiliated by. In the end, he pays with his life to do that. This movie really touched me in very subtle ways. Don Stroud plays a long haired street hustler (not sure what he was exactly - possibly a drug dealer),and he brilliantly represents someone who struggles between being a hippy and being a man of the past - tough guy. Harry Bellaver from The Naked City has a minor role as a man who once may have been something, but now is just a lonely old alcoholic. Madigan is so frustrated and impatient that when the suspect is cornered, he refuses to wear a vest. He pays with his life for this. It is a very symbolic action, because he feels that he has lost his honor and has to restore it at all costs. His wife scolding the commissioner at the end shows that there is no easy solution and answer in the tough World of being a cop and being the commissioner (who has to soft pedal the whole thing).
A movie with messages
I didn't understand everything about this movie, but there were a number of different messages. In the beginning, two old army buddies meet. One of them is temperamental, prone to anger. The other is a cool one, who doesn't lose his temper. One is from the high arctic fishing town on the Barents Sea. The other is a lawyer in Moscow. The lawyer from Moscow is visiting a family whose mayor is taking away their home, so he can develop the area. The family is relatively happy and together with hints of problems. For example, the father is a bit brutal with his wife and son. His son is becoming estranged and rebellious. Probably not too much different than modern families anywhere. The mayor is a bit older and plump. He is no longer quick on his feet and drinks too much. He gets drunk and confronts the family to brag about how it is now his home and they should get out. He comes with a body guard about seven feet tall and mouths off. The lawyer manages to calm his friend down and get them indoors with only a bit of arguments. The father has just been released from prison, too. The family goes to the local court and hears a hilarious, brutal, and robotic litany of information from a woman court reader. The Russian system seems to be struggling between modern democracy and the past. While it seems to be democratic, it is basically a no win description of how they will lose their home. Some say this movie is anti-Russian. I don't know the answer. These kind of things happen in America, too, although a lot of people pretend they don't. Get in a legal dispute or have to face a committee in the U.S. and it is not that much better. The Moscow lawyer is a bit too idealistic and foolhardy. He decides to confront the mayor and blackmail him about his past - I suppose maybe working with the KGB and doing some nasty things in the old regime would not be the best thing for re-election. The mayor appears very calm and shrewd and promises to think it over. The amount that the family is offered for the loss of their home is 680000 rubles. My guess is that is about $40,000 in US Dollars. The lawyer tries to barter for 4.5 Million rubles, which is about $200,000 US Dollars. Big mistake. The mayor doesn't deliver his promise, gets all wound up and bullies his employees to get back at the Moscow lawyer for slighting him. He hires some thugs to kidnap him, and then they bring him to a remote location, tie him up, and the mayor pretends to shoot him. Maybe, the mayor realizes that in the new regime he can only go so far, and does not want a murder rap. There is a relationship between the Moscow lawyer and the wife of his old army buddy. That is one part of the movie that I did not feel was necessary. It confused things and made everyone look like they were in some ways to blame for the loss of their home. It might have worked if it was better developed and explained, but I found it confusing and distracting. In any case, the lawyer leaves the town in humiliation. The situation turns tragic from there. The father starts to drink more, is under more stress, and loses his temper more. He alienates his family, and over the extramarital affair causes his wife to commit suicide. The father is charged with murder of his wife, even though he was almost certainly innocent. He is sent to prison. His son ends up losing both his father and mother. There was another big point to the movie. The relationship between the local orthodox priest and the mayor. Russia's main struggle over the last few centuries has been struggling from one inflexible system to another. The mayor was probably with the KGB at one time, and a fanatical and brutal supporter of the communist system. Now, he has embraced The Russian Orthodox Church with equal zeal as a tool to justify his position and place. There was even a strange relations between the church and Stalin. After all, Stalin once almost became a priest. The church became a tool of nationalism during Stalin's regime. The priest is a powerful person, who basically justifies any and all actions the mayor takes to protect his interests as long as he supports the church. The father visits a lay priest or monk at one point and gets a better and more honest answer. The priest tells him about the Book of Job and about a whale as an analogy to say that it is better to be humble and modest in life to survive and exist in the World happily. The whale is also and important symbol about a town that was once a bustling whaling hunt center, but now is just a place of misery and decay.
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.