Happy Birthday to Robert Duvall, who turns 86 today!
Robert Duvall has been in a lot of big films but he seems to be an actor who is often overlooked. To be fair, when I decided to do this Top Ten after watching THX 1138, I couldn’t have instantly named all the movies he’s been in & was like “Oh yeah – he was in that one too!” when looking him up at IMDB & seeing his full list of films. I think some of the films in this list are overlooked as well (I actually really like Falling Down, Colors & Deep Impact, which is why I have them fairly high & will probably be moaned at for having them above a couple of classics). 😉
As always, I’ve ranked these according to how much I personally like these movies (Not according to Duvall’s individual performances in each. But he’s good in them all!). Here are My Top Ten Robert Duvall Movies:
Starring: Robert Duvall, Donald Pleasence, Don Pedro Colley, Maggie McOmie, Ian Wolfe
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) THX 1138 stars Donald Pleasence and Robert Duvall and depicts a dystopian future in which the populace is controlled through android police officers and mandatory use of drugs that suppress emotion, including outlawed sexual desire.
Here’s a quick list of links to my 2016 Blind Spot Reviews so far, including where I’d rank THX 1138:
First of all, I have to point out that I’m going to be reviewing this in an odd way. I’ve unfortunately only seen the Director’s Cut of THX 1138 as it’s the only version I have. I’m a bit of a snobby purist (even little things like replacing the guns with walkie talkies in E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial pisses me off) so knowing that an original, minimalist, un-fucked-with version of THX 1138 exists and that it appears not at all easy to get a copy of seriously annoys me.
So I’m reviewing & rating this movie as if I’ve seen the original version as I can see that there’s a very good dystopian sci-fi film here hiding underneath a bunch of added & completely unnecessary digital bullshit. I know it’s a weird way to do this as I haven’t even seen the original so I can’t be as annoyed as I am with the stupid changes Lucas made to the original Star Wars trilogy (WHY, George Lucas? Why?!?!?) but I’ve looked into the changes that’ve been made & seen images from the original version so I have an idea of what it was like beforehand. There’s a really good comparison between the two versions along with images HERE at movie-censorship.com if you’re interested. For example:
The first image is from the original film. Lucas seems to be a big fan of “extending hallways, etc, and adding more people”. Many of the THX 1138 changes involve making an area look much larger and to have it filled with more things & more people. Why? I honestly don’t see the point. The thing I liked most about this film was its striking imagery, especially the stark white of the majority of the scenes in the beginning of the film. It was quite beautiful in its minimalist approach & this artistic vision is undone every time a very obviously altered scene crops up. A lot of the rather drab gray shots of the factory in the beginning are also replaced with completely new shots of a large & busy factory with a sort of golden hue instead. It’s a dystopian sci-fi film – the “drab” shots of the factory made more sense! Surely George Lucas is missing the entire point of his own film by making visual changes that work against its themes?
Okay – that’s ALL I’ll say about the Director’s Cut & its changes. I promise! I now just want to talk about this movie. The sci-fi dystopian (and/or sci-fi post-apocalyptic) genre is and always will be my absolute favorite above all others, which is why I put this movie on my Blind Spot list as I felt it was a huge gap in my knowledge of these sorts of films. And I did really like it, although it’s a hard one to actually recommend to others who aren’t die hard fans of the genre. If you don’t love this genre, you’re very unlikely to enjoy this movie. I’m not going to pretend that it’s not a bit of a struggle to sit through. It’s very slow, especially in the first half. I do love the story but, yes, it’s one that has been done in loads of “dystopian future” novels & films. No, I wouldn’t say it necessarily brings anything all that new to the table in terms of its themes but you have to remember the fact that it was released in 1971 and does actually feel ahead of its time. We’re just used to movies like these now as there have been a lot of similar ones since but THX 1138 deserves more recognition than it seems to have received. Visually, I think it has dated very well (and I do mean the original version) unlike some other sci-fi films of its time and the lower budget, minimalist look really is to thank for this.
I’ll be honest & admit that this is one of those films that I appreciate but that I like the “thought” of it more than the actual film itself. It’s a lovely work of art. I’m a sucker for great imagery & would happily stick a poster of an image from this film up on the wall of my cinema room (if I was rich and actually had a cinema room… that would be cool). I have very similar feelings about several other films I’ve watched since starting this blog: The Man Who Fell To Earth, Rollerball, Under The Skin, and Daft Punk’s Electroma. These are my favorite sort of movies & I loved them all (well, Rollerball was a bit weak & didn’t age as well) but plenty of people would sadly yet understandably find these films just plain unwatchable. Yep, THX 1138 is a struggle and I’d be a liar if I didn’t say that I fell asleep the first time I attempted to watch it. But I still ultimately find this sort of movie far more rewarding than most of the crap that gets made nowadays. I’d say that they’d never allow this sort of movie to be made now but things like Under The Skin & Ex Machina (which actually IS very good & totally watchable, FYI) prove that theory wrong. I’m glad that artistic movies like these which won’t please a mainstream audience or rake in loads of blockbuster money are still sometimes given a chance. THX 1138 easily fits alongside other visionary sci-fi classics and still feels relevant 45 years later. It really didn’t need to be messed with…
Now let’s talk about The Conversation, which is one that doesn’t seem to get mentioned that much but is really quite good…
The Conversation (1974)
Directed & Written by Francis Ford Coppola
Starring: Gene Hackman, John Cazale, Allen Garfield, Michael Higgins, Cindy Williams, Frederic Forrest, Harrison Ford, Robert Duvall, Teri Garr
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB) A paranoid, secretive surveillance expert has a crisis of conscience when he suspects that a couple he is spying on will be murdered.
First of all, let’s face it: I suck at writing “movie reviews”. 😉 I’ll remain spoiler free for anyone who hasn’t seen this movie but for those who have, you’re much better off reading this article HEREthan my ramblings below. It’s Francis Ford Coppola being interviewed by fellow filmmaker Brian De Palma about the making of The Conversation. It’s a really interesting read considering it’s a conversation between two respected directors. Damn – Francis Ford Coppola doesn’t totally love Alfred Hitchcock movies, though!
I can see where Hitchcock comparisons were made in the above article as the plot of this movie certainly has a Hitchcock feel to it, which is probably why I enjoyed the story since I love Hitchcock’s films. As also pointed out in that article, its story is somewhat similar to the 1966 film Blow-Up but has a conversation being listened to over & over again that takes on new meaning instead of a photograph as in that film? Maybe – I did see Blow-Up a very long time ago but remember very little now. I should watch it again!
The Conversation is very good and I even prefer it to Apocalypse Now but I’ll admit that I also found it a little slow & dated. The opening scene was absolutely brilliant, in which Cindy “Shirley” Williams & the man in the above picture (not the stupid mime – the other guy) are being “listened to” & recorded by surveillance expert Gene Hackman as they walk around a loud & crowded Union Square in San Francisco.
One of the biggest strengths of this film is, surprisingly, Gene Hackman as the surveillance expert who has been hired to spy on this couple but becomes increasingly concerned with what he fears the outcome will be as a previous surveillance job resulted in people being murdered. I don’t mean to be rude about Hackman – it’s just that he’s one of these old male actors who has been around for years but I’ve never really “noticed” him all that much. He’s great in this role, though! His job has led him to be extremely secretive, paranoid, and obsessed with his own privacy. Or perhaps he was this way to begin with, which is how he ended up in a job which would result in him living a very lonely life? Either way, it means he’s unable to form any close relationships as he doesn’t trust anyone, which we see in the way he interacts with colleagues and especially with his lover (played by Teri Garr). Oh! Oh!! And I read that, basically, Hackman is playing this same character again in Enemy Of The State with Will Smith?? I mean, not the actual same character but one very similar. I wonder if that was intentional? I guess I need to watch that one again as well as Blow-Up! Anyway: Bravo to Hackman in this film.
You know who else is in this movie? Harrison Ford!!! It makes for a nice little American Graffiti connection with Cindy Williams. But he doesn’t have a huge role. Luckily. Because, um, his acting is a little dodgy… I mean, it was still very early in his career so who cares if his acting was a little “off” – the dude is Indiana Jones & Han Freaking Solo! Look at him – so damn handsome:
I know I haven’t seen all of Francis Ford Coppola’s films but The Conversation is a very good piece of filmmaking that I suppose gets somewhat unfairly ignored as it came out in between The Godfather & The Godfather: Part II. It’s slow & subtle and not some “grand epic” like those but the mystery involving the couple Hackman is spying on had me intrigued and Hackman’s performance deserves special recognition. I forgot to mention during my review yet another movie this one reminded me of: the absolutely brilliant German film The Lives Of Others. The Conversation isn’t quite as good as that one nor as good as its Hitchcock comparisons but I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who likes a good “mystery thriller” with a great central performance. Don’t let my score slightly put you off as I rate mainly according to my own personal enjoyment & this one did drag a bit in the middle. If I was basing this only on worthiness, I’d give The Conversation a slightly higher rating.
My Rating: 7/10
Since I couldn’t help but think of Laverne & Shirley anytime Cindy Williams was on the screen, here’s one of the many excellent clips from my beloved Wayne’s World. Zang! 😉
I’m starting up the IMDB Top 250 Guest Reviews again (link to list of available films below) & today’s review comes from Keith of Keith & The Movies. Thanks for the review, Keith! 🙂 Now let’s see what he thought of Network, IMDB rank 171 out of 250…
There are another 23 movies available if anyone wants to do a guest review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos at the top of any of these guest reviews.
“Network” is a film that I have probably seen if you piece together all of the portions I’ve watched over time. But it qualified as a Blind Spot because I had never sat down and watched it through. I never could put a finger on what kept me from investing the time to watch a film that many categorize as truly great. Upon watching it in its entirety, I was reminded what first drew me to the movie as well as what pushed me away.
For me “Network” is a mixed bag that is hard a narrow down or label. To call it messy would be an understatement, but there is a reason and motivation behind its messiness. “Network” seeks to push every button it can reach. It strives to be a full-blown outrageous satire, an insightful look behind the scenes, and a sermon on nearly every social or political concern of 1976. Director Sidney Lumet and writer Paddy Chayefsky never allow their film to be pigeonholed but at the same time its constant shifts in tone and voice, specifically in the second half, do more to distract than enlighten.
The film begins by painting itself as a behind-the-scenes expose on a struggling television network. UBS makes the decision to fire their longtime evening news anchor Howard Beale (Peter Finch) after a steady ratings decline. During one of his final broadcasts Beale threatens to kill himself on live television (an idea inspired by Christine Chubbuck’s on-air suicide in 1974). This infuriates the network heads who have him removed immediately.
Beale’s best friend and news division boss Max Schumacher (William Holden) allows him to appear one more time in order to bow out with dignity. Beale uses the opportunity to go on a mad rant which again angers his bosses but spikes the network ratings. Programming director and ruthless ratings hawk Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway) convinces her boss Frank Hackett (Robert Duvall) to exploit Beale’s obvious mental breakdown much to Max’s disapproval.
But “Network” then shoots off into a number of unusual directions including an ill-fated romance between Diana and Max. Diana is incapable of loving anything other than television ratings while Max flippantly and emotionlessly leaves his wife of 25 years Louise (earnestly played by Beatrice Straight who won an Oscar for her whopping 5 minutes of screen time). It is a weird side road that only plays out in spurts. There is a compelling current in each of their scenes yet we are never allowed the time to fully understand the relationship.
The film also branches off into a Patty Hearst-like side story complete with an urban leftist militant group directly patterned after the Symbionese Liberation Army. These scenes start off strong but intentionally grow more absurd. These things all clash together before culminating in an ending which is completely off the rails. Again, none of this is by accident. Lumet and Chayefsky have so much to say, so much to explore, and so many indictments. Some of it is chilling and prophetic while some gets lost in the melange of loud rants and pointed lectures. But somehow it is always compelling.
“Network” was a huge success in 1976 and was widely applauded by critics. It won a total of four Oscars (for Dunaway, Finch, Straight, and Chayefsky) and was nominated for six more. It is a film that does so many interesting things and it subverts nearly any expectation the audience may have going in. Yet despite its irreverent ambitions it is messy to a fault. The clashing between seriousness and satire is jolting and not always in an entertaining way. I also don’t think the film lives up to its own lofty feelings of self-importance. It ends up being an engaging but frustrating road full of many ups and some disappointing downs.
Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Zoe of The Sporadic Chronicles Of A Beginner Blogger. She reviewed The Godfather: Part I for us last week (see her review HERE). Now she’s tackling The Godfather: Part II. She’s also reviewed The Departed (HERE) and The Green Mile (HERE) and Big Fish (HERE). Thanks once again, Zoe – you’re truly awesome! 🙂 Now let’s see what she has to say about The Godfather: Part II, IMDB rank 3 out of 250.
There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.
“There are many things my father taught me here in this room. He taught me: keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.” – Michael Corleone
So as the trilogy progresses, Michael Corleone has become a force to be reckoned with. Al Pacino reprises the mantle of Michael, and it is rapidly evident that he has completely taken up and embodied the role of being the head of the Corleone crime family. This movie was presented interestingly, different from the first in that it plays out the current state of affairs that Michael is dealing with as well as taking you back to Vito Andolini’s youth, and seeing how he ultimately lost his Andolini name, took on the Corleone name and rose to his prominent position.
“If anything in this life is certain, if history has taught us anything, it is that you can kill anyone.” – Michael Corleone
This movie worked incredibly well. It is a long movie, clocking in at 200 minutes, but not once do you get too familiar with that, you are instead caught up in another time and whisked away. This speaks volumes about Coppola’s ability to rivet the audience, still. The time shift that worked its way in throughout the movie was truly brilliantly executed. In the present you see Michael (Al Pacino), and his antics, as well as the issues he is dealing with, ranging from his wife Kay (Diane Keaton) to his drama in court. Michael is progressively becoming more and more ruthless, which still resonates with the watcher seeing as we know how reluctant he was to become involved with the family business in the first place, and to watch him embrace it now in its entirety never fails to surprise and amaze. Al Pacino’s performance was again subtle, carrying with it a power that is palpable, a demand for allegiance and focus, respect and fear. I love the way Pacino captured Michael’s brooding, his shift, his stress, the way he worked to keep everything functioning, the way he dealt with betrayal from everyone, truly highlighting how ruthless he had become. His portrayal as Michael Corleone is definitely one of my favourite portrayals in movie history.
“Don’t you know that I would use all of my power to prevent something like that from happening?” – Michael Corleone
Diane Keaton was really good in conveying her role as the wife of a mobster – not just any mobster, but the head of an extremely strong mob family. The splinters of the relationship are introduced at the end of The Godfather, where we see how unhappy Kay is about the fact that Michael is running things, as well as how he has changed towards her, too. Now, however, two kids along and all that, we see how she is starting to pull away from him, his violence, his dominance. She is seemingly alone, Michael has all the love and respect from everyone, and she is considered his wife, and is respected as such. Later we learn what extremely hard and rough decisions she made due to her growing hatred and resentment for Michael, which leaves you stunned that she would take such steps against him as well as admit it. Her desperation is palpable. Michael is cold and cruel, and he does not hide that from her. Kay is eventually on her own, from permanently fighting with Michael, egging him on and pushing him for legitimacy to being cast out, even being taken away from her children, completely cut off.
Robert Duvall steps up as Tom Hagen once again, delivering another fine performance as the family consigliere. Something that is extremely evident from the off is that Tom has become more involved with the family business as well as how things get done. A lot of responsibility and trust has been placed on him, and he has become colder. Still extremely calculated, and still doing some of the more horrendous jobs (remember the horse head?). He visits Frank Pentangeli (Michael V. Gazzo) in prison and informs Frank that he should recant, also promising that the Corleones will care for his family. Frank commits suicide later that night in the fashion discussed with the consigliere, and Tom seems to have no emotion for it as it was merely business. His performance was great, but it is becoming obvious that he is no longer just an incredibly educated outsider, but Michael’s right hand man, and that he loves the position.
“When a plot against the Emperor failed… the plotters were always given a chance… to let their families keep their fortunes. Right?” – Tom Hagen
Vito Andolini’s (Robert De Niro) youth is addressed, and it is quite the enthralling tale. His father was murdered, his brother attempted to avenge him and was killed, and his mother was gunned down by Don Francesco Ciccio (Giuseppe Sillato) and Vito, who did not talk much and was considered to be a bit slow, ran for it, and was helped out by family friends to make passage to the United States of America. A struggling young man with a wife and a child, Vito sees how things are going in life, how the crime families are treated, and in a scheming way eradicates any competition he could have had, instantly making him the new man on the block, a man who definitely does things differently than the previous guy. He listens to the people, and is respected by the people. We get to explore the rise of Vito’s empire, as well as how he exacted his revenge that eradicated his family and swept him from his homelands. We see who he was and how he became what he did. He was smart and methodical, and in stages got everything just as he wanted it. The Corleone children serve as markers to see Vito’s progress, as well as indicating how the family did not always have everything, but that Vito built them up from scratch.
“Do me this favour. I won’t forget it. Ask your friends in the neighbourhood about me. They’ll tell you I know how to return a favour.” – Vito Corleone
Fredo’s (John Cazale) bitterness at Michael is thinly veiled, something he struggles with constantly. Michael may have humoured it for the first while, but eventually that, too, becomes a serious problem, causing strife between the two brothers. I liked how the discord in the family was shown, that even though Michael is the one that stepped up, there was resentment and bitterness about it. Fredo took it as a personal failure that Michael ran the Corleone family, and that Michael was the one supporting Fredo and looking after him, even though Fredo is the older brother. His ultimately betraying Michael could be seen coming, but the reaction of Michael was intense, and it caused some tension within the family, too. Michael has many friends, but at the same time he is losing family and loyalty he thought he didn’t have to question faster than he suspected. As if Fredo is not enough for Michael to deal with, Connie (Talia Shire) is still bouncing off the walls, crazy and doing really stupid things, expecting Michael to pick up after her, to see how much she can push him. Initially she is not looked into much, and while she does not command a lot of screen time, it is eventually explained why she did what she did. This does not make it better, but the questions are no longer floating around and not making sense anymore. As fast as she broke herself away from the family, it seems that she is doing what she can to work her way back into Michael’s good graces at the very least.
“Taken care of me? You’re my kid brother and you take care of me? Did you ever think about that?” – Fredo Corleone
So many aspects of this story come together at intervals, and it is a stunning work of art to get to the end result. The journey, the characters, the events are all just exactly what they need to be, and it is exceptionally impressive overall. The score used suited everything just right, and Coppola truly took this film in a direction to match its predecessor equally. The camera work was fantastic, and all the actors worked wonderfully in their roles. Movies are just not the same as they used to be, and The Godfather Part II is just further evidence of this. I don’t really have words to justify this movie, there is just so much to talk about (the scheming, the partnerships, the travels, the alliances struck up, etc), and I know many more people have discussed it in more detail than I have, but I am going to stop here now, The Godfather Part II is just one of those films that has to be experienced to be understood. My Spock Chop, I know you are not a fan and all, but really, this is something glorious!
Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Zoe of The Sporadic Chronicles Of A Beginner Blogger. Zoe has already reviewed The Departed (HERE) and The Green Mile (HERE) and Big Fish (HERE). Now, as if all those reviews weren’t enough, Zoe was the first person brave enough to choose to review The Godfather I & II (stay tuned for her review of The Godfather: Part II at this same time next Tuesday). Thanks so much for being such a big part of this project, Zoe! 🙂 Now let’s hear her thoughts on The Godfather, IMDB rank 2 out of 250.
There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.
Alright, so this is going to be quite the post here. I took The Godfather movies because I was horrified to see it just languishing there on Table 9 Mutant’s IMDB Top 250 challenge… alone and untaken. How could this possibly be?! This is one of the greatest film sets ever! Alright, Part III might be a little sketchy and all that, but Part I and Part II are just… wow. Naturally, there are the heathens out there that will slam it, which I just find heartbreaking (though I still love you Eric, don’t ever forget that…). I am one of those people, like a good war movie I love a good mob flick.
“There is more money potential in narcotics than anything else we’re looking at now. If we don’t get into it, somebody else will, maybe one of the Five Families, maybe all of them. And with the money they earn they’ll be able to buy more police and political power. Then they come after us.” – Tom Hagen
Synopsis: The story begins as “Don” Vito Corleone, the head of a New York Mafia “family”, oversees his daughter’s wedding with his wife Carmela. His beloved son Michael has just come home from the war, but does not intend to become part of his father’s business. Through Michael’s life the nature of the family business becomes clear. The business of the family is just like the head of the family, kind and benevolent to those who give respect, but given to ruthless violence whenever anything stands against the good of the family. Don Vito lives his life in the way of the old country, but times are changing and some don’t want to follow the old ways and look out for community and “family”. An up and coming rival of the Corleone family wants to start selling drugs in New York, and needs the Don’s influence to further his plan. The clash of the Don’s fading old world values and the new ways will demand a terrible price, especially from Michael, all for the sake of the family. – IMDB
“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse”. – Don Corleone
This movie is just amazing. Something that you can really just wax lyrical about. This is certainly a fantastic mob movie, no two ways about it. I mean just to look at how old this film is, for starters, you cannot help but appreciate how particularly stunning this is, how well it is put together, the actors, the camerawork, the story, the music… everything. But we shall gush about that all as this progresses.
This movie was a piece of pure genius. Marlon Brando was an amazing Vito Corleone… he was certainly not someone I would have messed with, at any rate. The movie progressed at a gradual pace, but it was never boring. From the beginning you know that Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) is definitely the Don’s favoured son, though he has three as well as one that Sonny (James Caan) brought in at a young age and is regarded as equal to his blood sons, and a daughter, Connie (Talia Shire), who has just gotten married to Carlo Rizzi (Gianni Russo). Vito Corleone is a powerful man, and such is evident at his daughter’s wedding. Michael arrives at Connie’s wedding dressed in his Marine Corps uniform and his girlfriend, Kay Adams (Diane Keaton) at his side. It is evident from the off that Michael is not like the rest of his Corleone brothers, though he is favoured by his father.
“My father is no different than any powerful man, any man with power, like a president or senator.” – Michael Corleone
A drug baron called Sollozzo (Al Lettieri) rolls into town and wishes to go into business with some of the families, and Vito is approached by a rivalling family, the Tattaglias, to take the deal. Vito, however, is not in for the drug trade, though it seems Sonny is. Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall), considered the up and coming family consigliere, brought up with the Corleone boys as one of them, advises Vito that taking the deal is the one was to keep the family in power, and not having it usurped over the years. Naturally, this is where the whole movie finally catches. An attempt is made on Vito’s life, and he is left for dead. The Corleone family bands together and Sonny heads it up in the meantime. Michael gets wind of his father’s predicament, and soon his life changes.
Watching the change in Michael is astounding. He starts off as reluctant, wary and insistent that he is not like his family, but when push comes to shove it is evident that the Corleone tendencies are well and truly there. Full scale crime family war breaks out, and it seems no one is safe. There is so much that is going on, so much traitorous betrayal and attempts to do one another in to protect themselves, but the Corleone brothers still stand. Michael gradually becomes harder, tougher and less forgiving, ultimately making the choice and assassinating the police chief and Sollozzo, taking cover in Sicily while things come right. Vito is not dead, but it seems that the family structure has changed drastically.
“What’s the matter? What’s bothering you? I’ll handle it. I told you I can handle it, I’ll handle it.” – Michael Corleone
Michael’s isolation changes him even more, and he takes a wife while over in Sicily, though it becomes evident that it will not be safe for him there for much longer. While he is away, he needs to deal with the fact that his brother, Sonny, is killed, and he in enraged. Due to Sonny’s assassination, Vito decides enough is enough. Too many people are dying at one another’s hands in an attempt to even the scales, and it must come to a close. It thrilled me to watch how pacts and truces were made, how the hierarchy fit together, how people understood their place and abided by it, not questioning too much. It amazed me to see the power that some of these people have. It is astounding to me that although you know what rackets the Corleone family is involved in, it is never thrown onto the screen, never made something that takes over the story. Primarily this movie depicts the familial ties, the organisation and the loyalty, keeping focus on it and demanding your attention.
“You talk about vengeance. Is vengeance going to bring your son back to you? Or my boy to me?” – Don Corleone
The Godfather also touts one of the best cast ensembles in ages, and cannot be faulted for it. I was doing some extra reading and was so shocked to see exactly how much drama there was involved of the making of this movie, how Paramount fought Coppola almost every damn step of the way on casting, decisions, attempts to have him fired, the whole shebang. They were adamant about not having Marlon Brando in there (who *cough cough* won a damned Oscar for his performance, although he declined it) as well as not wanting Al Pacino… I was like what?! Imagine Paramount had gotten as much say as they wanted… The Godfather is one of the most influential films of all time, and should be appreciated for what it is: a piece of genius.
“Only don’t tell me you’re innocent. Because it insults my intelligence and makes me very angry.” – Michael Corleone
I loved everything this film brought to us. This film was an excellent piece on the mob, not highlighting it as something evil and disgusting and something that should be taken down, but telling the story from the inside, which was fantastic. I loved how authentic everything was, how Italian, there are infinitely quotable lines from it, the camera work was fantastic, the score complemented every minute of it and the cast rounded it off perfectly. I still feel I haven’t done this film justice, but I just don’t know anymore. You are riveted for 175 minutes; there are no two ways about it.
For today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review, we have J James of JJames Reviews (oddly enough!). He writes excellent reviews and watches LOADS of films. I can’t keep up with him! I’m forever apologizing to people on WordPress as I fall so behind on my blog reading & J James is certainly one of those people always receiving my apologies! But when I do catch up on his blog, I know I’ll always get reviews of all the most current theatrical releases as well as the classics.
There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list HERE.
Now over to J James to hear his thoughts on Apocalypse Now, IMDB rank 35 out of 250…
Apocalypse Now (1979)
Directed By: Frances Ford Coppola
Written By: John Milius and Frances Ford Coppola
Running Time: 2 hours 33 minutes
Adapted from: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
After returning to Vietnam for his second tour of duty, special-forces trained Captain Benjamin Willard’s (Martin Sheen) superiors order him to track and terminate Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando), a formerly decorated US soldier who has begun leading a cult that unilaterally executes those they call enemy. With the aid of Chief Phillips (Albert Hall) and his crew of navy personnel, Willard travels the Nung River en route to Kurtz’ compound, all the while growing more disenfranchised with the war. And also more psychologically unsettled.
Frances Ford Coppola’s epic treatise on the Vietnam War needs little introduction, if only because those unfamiliar with the film’s content probably know the story of its creation, a fact that makes this film as infamous as it is respected.
To be sure, it is a quality picture, even if it is not perfect.
More than most films, Apocalypse Now is theme-based. Good thing that Coppola and Writer John Milius effectively portray the senselessness of war and the fragility of sanity. Between Willard’s mission, Colonel Kilgore’s (Robert Duvall) unseemly obsession with surfing, Captain Colby’s (Scott Glenn) men mindlessly firing their weapons into uninvestigated space, Clean (Laurence Fishburne) shooting civilians, and soldiers responding badly to a USO show, Coppola shows how war creates bad decisions. In his hands, war becomes descent into madness, whether it is Kurtz’ explosive variety, Kilgore’s obliviousness or Colby’s soldiers’ emotional catatonia.
Perhaps most impressively, Coppola’s filmmaking technique, especially the audio, helps us understand Willard’s descent. Early in the film, the sound design is conventional. We hear the sounds of the characters’ surroundings as they shout to be heard, but as the movie progresses, the audio becomes increasingly psychedelic, until, eventually, Willard’s environment is almost silenced by trippy and disturbing rhythmic noise. Apocalypse Now won an Oscar for Sound Design, and it is no wonder why.
Sound is not the only technical element that proves successful. So does the movie’s cinematography. Few motion pictures use darkness and (almost paradoxically) color to blind both the viewer and the characters, to produce uneasy nervousness.
In other words, Apocalypse Now is very well made. It is also well acted. Robert Duvall shines as a crazed combat commander, as does Dennis Hopper as a hyperactive photojournalist convinced of Kurtz’ greatness. Of course, Marlon Brando is disturbingly intelligent as the malicious Kurtz, while Martin Sheen admirably anchors the movie.
All of which is to say that Coppola’s epic is thematically and technically successful. Too bad it is narratively flawed. Most of Willard’s descent, for example, is told through dry voice over, not shown through action or other character’s dialogue, a direct result of Willard’s status as observer in his own story. He spends most of the movie watching other people’s insanity, instead of doing things himself. Similarly, we frequently hear about Kurtz’ charisma, most especially from the Photo Journalist (Hopper), but we do not see it. We see Kurtz’ intelligence and ruthlessness, of course, but not the likability that causes his followers to treat him as their god. Unfortunately, telling not showing continues throughout much of the film’s narrative.
Including with many of the side characters, none of which are well developed. Each has one trait, something Willard often describes in voice over. Ditto that for the consequences to many actions, including Willard’s choice to kill a wounded woman. He tells us that his companions now feel differently about him, but we don’t see their behavior change, really.
Finally, Apocalypse Now has zero notable female characters. While understandable given context, the absence of femininity makes the picture too macho.
To be sure, none of the narrative flaws ruin Coppola’s film, but they do keep us at an emotional distance from the story. We are unable to immerse in the characters’ psychology and experience, a fact that means we never truly feel their struggle.
Apocalypse Now is a masterfully made thematic film that accomplishes its objectives. Even still, additional focus on narrative and character development would have produced a more emotional, and thereby more moving, final product.