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Smokey and the Bandit (1977)
Best of the good old boy movies
I guess one reason I love this movie is because it doesn't pretend to be anything more than it is. It doesn't aspire to great movie-making. It was just supposed to be 90 minutes of entertainment on the big screen, and it's still entertaining. Take your brain off for a while and have fun with it.
There are hilarious lines, some funny pratfalls and even a bit of home-grown wisdom: "How ignorant you are depends a lot on which part of the United States you're standing on." Or something like that. I get a kick out of watching the convoy/rocking-chair scene every time. Makes me wonder how in the world they got around Birmingham, but that's suspension of disbelief for you. LOL.
Wish director Hal Needham had remembered that Alabama State Troopers drive Fords, not Pontiacs, but that's a small thing. My dad remarked on it every time, though.
It's just cornball entertainment, rare enough these days. Pop some popcorn and have a blast watching it.
The Last Waltz (1978)
Glare of the Spotlight
This movie was only a name to me until I saw it last year. Immediately, I was riveted by everything about it. I've always been a casual fan of The Band, and of Levon Helm in particular. However, I'd never been bowled over by Bob Dylan, except as a songwriter, so much of The Band's work remained unknown to me as well. I wouldn't say I've become a rabid fan, but I am much more interested in their work, now.
It's a Scorsese film--how could it not be beautifully photographed, but Scorsese managed a difficult feat: he keeps himself out of the movie, except as interviewer during those sequences. This is not really Scorese's vision of a rock concert. It happened mostly organically, certainly with mistakes, gaffes and grit. This is part of its charm.
There are better singers than the guys in The Band, but few better musicians. This can be illustrated with Robbie Robertson in the Clapton song: Clapton's guitar strap comes off and Robertson, with one beat, picks right up on the solo. It looked planned, but wasn't. Joni Mitchell was notoriously hard to back up, due to her original guitar tuning, and ragged song phrasing, but bassist Rick Danko fills in every space with intricate bass figuring.
Perhaps we have become too accustomed to the overwrought, over-hyped, overproduced, overexposed, shiny gack that passes for popular music to appreciate the raw, the imperfect, the sheer humanness of this music. Scorsese shows it all. The guys in The Band were largely worn out and sometimes strung out in the interviews. They are tired, scrawny, empty-eyed from the excesses of the road. Rick Danko is hovering on the ragged edge, as his band is dissolved, and he says his goal is to "keep busy." Richard Manuel looks lost as he says "I just want to break even." These are two musicians who desperately needed the music, but who were murdered by the road. We see their bleak destinies in their eyes in this film.
It is bittersweet certainly, but also a moment in time, crystallized into something great by the music, the love of friends, the willingness of the director to simply stand back and allow the music to happen. It also reminds us what good music used to sound like and makes me wish could exist again.
Marvelous seafaring yarn
I must agree with Dr RJP in his/her assessment of this movie, especially with the comment that the characters speak the nautical language so easily. I was reminded of the language of the novel "Mutiny on the Bounty," which also evokes the same basic era. Our spoken language has changed greatly since then, but these actors deliver their dialogue with native grace and flair.
This is a huge movie in scope and sweep, but has actors with sufficient screen presence to handle it. Russell Crowe can command a screen. I don't know if I would compare him to Erroll Flynn--perhaps more with Clark Gable, as in his role as Fletcher Christian in "Mutiny on the Bounty." Flynn's characters were more suave, more refined than the tough seaman Jack Aubrey. Actually, Crowe reminds me of Robert Mitchum in his acting style: both men's men, a little rough on the edges, not afraid of roles that challenged them.
The whole "feel" of the movie is authentic, and hearing some of the old sea chanties was wonderful. I could smell the saltwater above, the tar and gunpowder and humanity below. I could feel the wind blowing across the deck.
I enjoyed this movie from beginning to end, and I feel this movie and "Hidalgo" are Hollywood at its very best. The flaws were minor compared to my total enjoyment of the movie.