Friday, July 6, 2012
Bonnie and Clyde (Two-Disc Special Edition)
#27 (1998) and #42 (2007) on the AFI List of Top 100 Movies
Bonnie and Clyde is a 1967 American crime film directed by Arthur Penn and starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway as the title characters Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. The film features Michael J. Pollard, Gene Hackman, and Estelle Parsons, with Denver Pyle, Dub Taylor, Gene Wilder, Evans Evans, and Mabel Cavitt. The screenplay was written by David Newman and Robert Benton. Robert Towne and Beatty provided uncredited contributions to the script; Beatty also produced the film. The soundtrack was composed by Charles Strouse.
Bonnie and Clyde is considered a landmark film, and is regarded as one of the first films of the New Hollywood era, since it broke many cinematic taboos and was popular with the younger generation. Its success motivated other filmmakers to be more forward about presenting sex and violence in their films. The film's ending also became iconic as "one of the bloodiest death scenes in cinematic history".
The film received Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actress (Estelle Parsons) and Best Cinematography (Burnett Guffey). It was among the first 100 films selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
* Warren Beatty as Clyde Barrow
* Faye Dunaway as Bonnie Parker
* Michael J. Pollard as C.W. Moss
* Gene Hackman as Buck Barrow
* Estelle Parsons as Blanche Barrow
* Denver Pyle as Frank Hamer
* Dub Taylor as Ivan Moss
* Gene Wilder as Eugene Grizzard
* Evans Evans as Velma Davis
* Mabel Cavitt as Mrs. Parker
Actor Gene Wilder made his film debut as Eugene Grizzard, one of Bonnie and Clyde's hostages. His girlfriend Velma Davis was played by Evans Evans, who was the wife of film director John Frankenheimer. Three years earlier, Frankenheimer had replaced Bonnie and Clyde's director Arthur Penn as director on The Train at the insistence of the film's star, Burt Lancaster.
The family gathering scene was filmed in Red Oak, Texas. Several local residents were watching the film being shot, when the filmmakers noticed Mabel Cavitt, a local school teacher, among the people gathered, who was then chosen to play Bonnie Parker's mother.
The instrumental banjo piece "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" by Flatt and Scruggs was introduced to a worldwide audience as a result of its frequent use in the movie. Its use is anachronistic, however: the bluegrass-style of music dates from the mid-1940s rather than the 1930s. Long out of print in vinyl and cassette formats, the film soundtrack album was finally released on CD in 2009.
The film considerably simplifies the lives of Bonnie and Clyde, which included other gang members, repeated jailings, other murders and a horrific auto accident that left Parker burned and a near invalid. One of the film's major characters, "C.W. Moss", is a composite of two members of the Barrow Gang: William Daniel "W.D." Jones and Henry Methvin.
The Gene Wilder-Evans Evans sequence is based on the kidnappings of the undertaker H.D. Darby and his acquaintance Sophia Stone, near Ruston, Louisiana on April 27, 1933. In the film, Velma and Eugene are romantically involved; Stone and Darby were not.
The film strays farthest from fact in its portrayal of the Texas Ranger Frank Hamer (played by Denver Pyle) as a vengeful bungler who had been captured, humiliated, and released by Bonnie and Clyde. Hamer was already a legendary Texas Ranger when he was coaxed out of semi-retirement to hunt down the duo; he had never seen them before he and his posse ambushed and killed them near Gibsland, Louisiana on May 23, 1934. In 1968, Hamer's widow and son sued the movie producers for defamation of character over his portrayal. They were awarded an out-of-court settlement in 1971.
The film portrays an unarmed and unsuspecting Clyde walking away from the car to investigate the broken down truck when he was ambushed. It suggests that Bonnie, still in their car, may also have been unarmed. Both remained in the vehicle and had weapons at the ready in the front seat; the back seat contained a dozen guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Neither outlaw got out of the car alive.
Thursday, July 5, 2012
Apocalypse Now (Two-Disc Special Edition)
#28 (1998) and #30 (2007) on the AFI Top 100 Movies List
Apocalypse Now is a 1979 American epic war film set during the Vietnam War, directed and produced by Francis Ford Coppola. The central character is US Army special operations officer Captain Benjamin L. Willard (Martin Sheen), of MACV-SOG, an assassin sent to kill the renegade and presumed insane Special Forces Colonel Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando).
The screenplay by John Milius and Coppola came from Milius's idea of adapting Joseph Conrad's novella Heart of Darkness into the Vietnam War era. It also draws from Michael Herr's Dispatches, the film version of Conrad's Lord Jim (which shares the same character of Marlow with Heart of Darkness), and Werner Herzog's Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972). The film drew attention for its lengthy and troubled production. Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse documented Brando's showing up on the set overweight, Sheen's heart attack, and extreme weather destroying several expensive sets. The film's release was postponed several times while Coppola edited millions of feet of footage.
On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, Apocalypse Now has a 99% "Certified Fresh" rating and was received with critical acclaim. Its cultural impact and its philosophical themes have been extensively discussed. Honored with the Palme d'Or at Cannes, and nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture and the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama, the film was also deemed "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" and selected for preservation by the National Film Registry in 2001.
* Martin Sheen as Captain Benjamin L. Willard. Willard is a veteran officer who has been serving in Vietnam for three years. The soldier who escorts him at the start of the film recites that Willard is from 505th Battalion, of the elite 173rd Airborne Brigade, assigned to MACV-SOG. It is later stated that he worked intelligence/counterintelligence for COMSEC and the CIA, carrying out secret operations and assassinations. An attempt to re-integrate into home-front society had apparently failed prior to the time at which the movie is set, and so he returns to the war-torn jungles of Vietnam, where he seems to feel more at home.
* Marlon Brando as Colonel Walter E. Kurtz, a highly decorated American Army Green Beret officer with the 5th Special Forces Group who goes renegade. He runs his own operations out of Cambodia and is feared by the US military as much as the North Vietnamese and Vietcong.
* Frederic Forrest as Engineman 3rd Class Jay "Chef" Hicks, a tightly wound former chef from New Orleans who is horrified by his surroundings.
* Albert Hall as Chief Quartermaster George Phillips. The chief runs a tight ship and frequently clashes with Willard over authority. Has a father-son relationship with Clean.
* Sam Bottoms as Gunner's Mate 3rd Class Lance B. Johnson, a former professional surfer from California who spends the majority of the journey on a drug binge. After the scene at the bridge, his character does not speak for the remainder of the film (even as the final hit of acid should have worn off). He becomes entranced by the Montagnard tribe, even participating in the sacrifice ritual.
* Laurence Fishburne (credited as "Larry Fishburne") as Gunner's Mate 3rd Class Tyrone "Mr. Clean" Miller, the 17 year-old cocky South Bronx-born crewmember. He resents the inward nature of Willard.
* Robert Duvall as Lieutenant Colonel William "Bill" Kilgore, 1st Squadron, 9th Air Cavalry Regiment commander and surfing fanatic. Kilgore is a strong leader who loves his men dearly but has methods that appear out-of-tune with the setting of the war. His character is a composite of several characters including Colonel John B. Stockton, General James F. Hollingsworth (featured in The General Goes Zapping Charlie Cong by Nicholas Tomalin), George Patton IV, also a West Point officer whom Robert Duvall knew and possibly Col. David Hackworth.
* Dennis Hopper as an American photojournalist, a crazed photographer who intercuts poetry with obscene cynicism. Stranded in Kurtz's camp. Takes pictures from a camera that may or may not contain film. According to the DVD commentary of Redux, the journalist is supposed to be a real life photographer who went missing in Vietnam in 1966. Coppola stated that Hopper's character is supposed to be the real life journalist Sean Flynn years later; the real Flynn was also a character in Herr's Dispatches. The Hopper part was also based in part on the "harlequin" (patchwork) figure in Heart of Darkness that greets Marlow; Hopper repeats the harlequin's "the man's enlarged my mind" soliloquy.
* G.D. Spradlin as Lieutenant General Corman, military intelligence (G-2) an authoritarian officer who fears Kurtz and wants him removed.
* Jerry Ziesmer as a mysterious man (who is coincidentally addressed by General Corman as 'Jerry') in civilian attire who sits in on Willard's initial briefing. His only line in the film is the famous "Terminate with extreme prejudice".
* Harrison Ford as Colonel Lucas, aide to Corman and general information specialist. Despite his rank, he often appears nervous and jittery regarding Kurtz and the mission.
* Scott Glenn as Captain Richard M. Colby, previously assigned Willard's current mission before he defected to Kurtz's private army and sent a message to his wife telling her to sell everything they owned (but he goes on to tell her to sell their children, as well).
* Bill Graham as Agent (announcer and in charge of the Playmates' show)
* Cynthia Wood (1974 Playmate of the Year) as "Playmate of the Year"
* Linda (Beatty) Carpenter (August 1976 Playmate) as Playmate "Miss August"
* Colleen Camp as Playmate "Miss May"
* R. Lee Ermey as Helicopter Pilot
* Christian Marquand as Hubert de Marais (redux version), the surrogate leader of the French residents and strong vocal opponent of American action.
* Aurore Clément as Roxanne Sarraut-de Marais (redux version), a widow and influential figure at the plantation.
* Roman Coppola as Francis de Marais (redux version)
* Francis Ford Coppola (cameo) as a director filming beach combat; he shouts "Don't look at the camera, keep on fighting!" DP Vittorio Storaro plays the cameraman by Coppola's side.
Several actors who were, or later became, prominent stars have minor roles in the movie including Harrison Ford, G. D. Spradlin, Scott Glenn, R. Lee Ermey and Laurence Fishburne. Fishburne was only fourteen years old when shooting began in March 1976, and he lied about his age in order to get cast in his role. Apocalypse Now took so long to finish that Fishburne was seventeen (the same age as his character) by the time of its release.
In the film, shortly before his death, Colonel Kurtz recites part of T.S. Eliot's poem "The Hollow Men". Not only is Kurtz in the novel characterized as "hollow at the core", the poem is preceded in printed editions by the epigraph "Mistah Kurtz – he dead", a quotation from Conrad's Heart of Darkness which inspired the film.
In addition, two books seen opened on Kurtz's desk in the film are From Ritual to Romance by Jessie Weston and The Golden Bough by Sir James Frazer, the two books that Eliot cited as the chief sources and inspiration for his poem "The Waste Land". Eliot's original epigraph for "The Waste Land" was this passage from Heart of Darkness, which ends with Kurtz's final words:
Did he live his life again in every detail of desire, temptation, and surrender during that supreme moment of complete knowledge? He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision, – he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath –
"The horror! The horror!"
When Willard is first introduced to Dennis Hopper's character, the photojournalist describes his own worth in relation to that of Kurtz with: "I should have been a pair of ragged claws/Scuttling across the floors of silent seas", from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock".
In 2001, Coppola released Apocalypse Now Redux in cinemas and subsequently on DVD. This is an extended version that restores 49 minutes of scenes cut from the original film. Coppola has continued to circulate the original version as well: the two versions are packaged together in the Complete Dossier DVD, released on August 15, 2006 and in the Blu-ray edition released on October 19, 2010.
The longest section of added footage in the Redux version is a chapter involving the de Marais family's rubber plantation, a holdover from the colonization of French Indochina, featuring Coppola's two sons Gian-Carlo and Roman as children of the family. These scenes were removed from the 1979 cut, which premiered at Cannes. In behind-the-scenes footage in Hearts of Darkness, Coppola expresses his anger, on the set, at the technical aspects of the shot scenes, the result of tight allocation of resources. At the time of the Redux version, it was possible to digitally enhance the footage to accomplish Coppola's vision. In the scenes, the French family patriarchs argue about the positive side of colonialism in Indochina and denounce the betrayal of the military men in the First Indochina War. Hubert de Marais argues that French politicians sacrificed entire battalions at Điện Biên Phủ, and tells Willard that the US created the Viet Cong (as the Viet Minh), to fend off Japanese invaders.
Other added material includes extra combat footage before Willard meets Kilgore, a humorous scene in which Willard's team steals Kilgore's surfboard (which sheds some light on the hunt for the mangoes), a follow-up scene to the dance of the Playboy playmates, in which Willard's team finds the playmates awaiting evacuation after their helicopter has run out of fuel (trading two barrels of fuel for two hours with the Bunnies), and a scene of Kurtz reading from a Time magazine article about the war, surrounded by Cambodian children.
There is a deleted scene titled "Monkey Sampan", which was used as a way to represent the whole movie in a three minute scene. The scene shows Willard and the PBR crew suspiciously eyeing an approaching sampan juxtaposed to Montagnard villagers joyfully singing "Light My Fire" by The Doors. As the sampan gets closer, Willard realizes there are monkeys on it and no helmsman. Finally, just as the two boats pass, the wind turns the sail and exposes a naked dead civilian tied to the sail boom. His body is mutilated and looks as though the man had been whipped. The singing stops. It is assumed the man was tortured by the Viet Cong. As they pass on by, Chief notes out loud, "That's comin' from where we're going, Captain." The boat then slowly passes the giant tail of a shot down B-52 bomber. The scene is ominous and the noise of engines way up in the sky is heard. Coppola said that he made up for cutting this scene by having the PBR pass under an airplane tail in the final cut.
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
#29 (1998) and #26 (2007) on the AFI Top 100 Films List
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is a 1939 American drama film starring Jean Arthur and James Stewart about one man's effect on American politics. It was directed by Frank Capra and written by Sidney Buchman, based on Lewis R. Foster's unpublished story. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington was controversial when it was released, but also successful at the box office, and made Stewart a major movie star. The film features a bevy of well-known supporting actors and actresses, among them Claude Rains, Edward Arnold, Guy Kibbee, Thomas Mitchell and Beulah Bondi.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, winning for Best Original Story. In 1989, the Library of Congress added the movie to the United States National Film Registry, for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."
* James Stewart as Jefferson Smith
* Jean Arthur as Clarissa Saunders or "Saunders"
* Claude Rains as Senator Joseph Harrison Paine
* Edward Arnold as Jim Taylor
* Guy Kibbee as Governor Hubert "Happy" Hopper
* Thomas Mitchell as Diz Moore
* Eugene Pallette as Chick McGann
* Beulah Bondi as Ma Smith
* H.B. Warner as Senator Agnew
* Harry Carey as President of the Senate
* Astrid Allwyn as Susan Paine
* Alec Craig as Speaker Hi
* Other veteran character actors who appear in the film include All Bridge, William Demarest, Ruth Donnelly, Porter Hall, Charles Lane and Grant Mitchell. Milton Kibbee, Guy Kibbee's brother, appears in a bit part as a reporter, as does Matt McHugh, of the McHugh acting family.
When it was first released, the film premiered in Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., on October 17, 1939, sponsored by the National Press Club, an event to which 4,000 guests were invited, including 45 senators Mr. Smith Goes to Washington was attacked by the Washington press, and politicians in the U.S. Congress, as anti-American and pro-Communist for its portrayal of corruption in the American government. While Capra claims in his autobiography that some senators walked out of the premiere, contemporary press accounts are unclear about whether this occurred or not, or whether senators yelled back at the screen during the film.
Senator Jefferson Smith addresses inattentive Senators
It is known that Alben W. Barkley, a Democrat & the Senate Majority Leader, called the film "silly and stupid," and said it "makes the Senate look like a bunch of crooks." He also remarked that the film was "a grotesque distortion" of the Senate, "as grotesque as anything ever seen! Imagine the Vice President of the United States winking at a pretty girl in the gallery in order to encourage a filibuster!" Barkley thought the film "...showed the Senate as the biggest aggregation of nincompoops on record!"
Pete Harrison, a respected journalist, suggested that the Senate pass a bill allowing theatre owners to refuse to show films that "were not in the best interest of our country." That did not happen, but one of the ways that some senators attempted to retaliate for the damage they felt the film had done to the reputation of their institution was by pushing the passage of the Neely Anti-Block Booking Bill, which eventually led to the breakup of the studio-owned theater chains in the late 1940s. Columbia responded by distributing a program which put forward the film's patriotism and support of democracy, and publicized the film's many positive reviews.
Other objections were voiced as well. Joseph P. Kennedy, the American Ambassador to Great Britain, wrote to Capra and Columbia head Harry Cohn to say that he feared the film would damage "America's prestige in Europe", and because of this urged that it be withdrawn from European release. Capra and Cohn responded, citing the film's review, which mollified Kennedy to the extent that he never followed up, although he privately still had doubts about the film.
The film was banned in Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, the USSR and Falangist Spain According to Capra, the film was also dubbed in certain European countries to alter the message of the film so it conformed with official ideology.
When a ban on American films was imposed in German-occupied France in 1942, some theaters chose to show Mr. Smith Goes to Washington as the last movie before the ban went into effect. One theater owner in Paris reportedly screened the film nonstop for 30 days after the ban was announced.
The critical response to the film was more measured than the reaction by politicians, domestic and foreign. The critic for the New York Times, for instance, Frank S. Nugent, wrote that
[Capra] is operating, of course, under the protection of that unwritten clause in the Bill of Rights entitling every voting citizen to at least one free swing at the Senate. Mr. Capra's swing is from the floor and in the best of humor; if it fails to rock the august body to its heels — from laughter as much as from injured dignity — it won't be his fault but the Senate's, and we should really begin to worry about the upper house.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington has been called one of the quintessential whistleblower films in American history. Dr. James Murtagh and Dr. Jeffrey Wigand cited this film as a seminal event in U.S. history at the first "Whistleblower Week in Washington" (May 13–19, 2007)
The film has often been listed as among Capra's best, but it has been noted that it
"marked a turning point in Capra's vision of the world, from nervous optimism to a darker, more pessimistic tone. Beginning with American Madness in 1932, such Capra films as Lady for a Day, It Happened One Night, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, and You Can't Take It With You had trumpeted their belief in the decency of the common man. In Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, however, the decent common man is surrounded by the most venal, petty, and thuggish group of yahoos ever to pass as decent society in a Capra movie. Everyone in the film -- except for Jefferson Smith and his tiny cadre of believers -- is either in the pay of the political machine run by Edward Arnold's James Taylor or complicit in Taylor's corruption through their silence, and they all sit by as innocent people, including children, are brutalized and intimidated, rights are violated, and the government is brought to a halt."
Nevertheless, Smith's filibuster and the tacit encouragement of the Senate President are both emblematic of the director's belief in the difference that one individual can make. This theme would be expanded further in Capra's It's a Wonderful Life and other films.
Monday, July 2, 2012
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (Two-Disc Special Edition)
#30 (1998) and #38 (2007) on the AFI 100 Best Movies List
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is a 1948 American film written and directed by John Huston, a feature film adaptation of B. Traven's 1927 novel of the same name, in which two impecunious Americans Fred C. Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart) and Bob Curtin (Tim Holt) during the 1920s in Mexico join with an old-timer, Howard (Walter Huston, the director's father), to prospect for gold. The old-timer accurately predicts trouble, but is willing to go anyway.
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre was one of the first Hollywood films to be filmed almost entirely on location outside the United States (in the state of Durango and street scenes in Tampico, Mexico), although the night scenes were filmed back in the studio. The film is quite faithful to the novel. In 1990, this film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
By the 1920s the violence of the Mexican Revolution had largely subsided, although scattered gangs of bandits continued to terrorize the countryside. The newly established post-revolution government relied on the effective, but ruthless, Federal Police, commonly known as the Federales, to patrol remote areas and dispose of the bandits. Foreigners, like the three U.S. prospectors who are the protagonists in the story, were at very real risk of being killed by the bandits if their paths crossed. The bandits, likewise, were given little more than a "last cigarette" by the army units after capture, even having to dig their own graves first.
* Humphrey Bogart as Fred C. Dobbs
* Walter Huston as Howard
* Tim Holt as Bob Curtin
* Bruce Bennett as James Cody
* Barton MacLane as Pat McCormick
* Alfonso Bedoya as Gold Hat
* Arturo Soto Rangel as El Presidente
* Manuel Dondé as El Jefe
* José Torvay as Pablo
* Margarito Luna as Pancho
A few notable uncredited actors appear in the film. In an opening cameo, director John Huston is pestered for money by Bogart's character. Actor Robert Blake also appears as a young boy selling lottery tickets. However, the most controversial cameo is the rumored one by Ann Sheridan. Sheridan allegedly did a cameo as a streetwalker. After Dobbs leaves the barbershop in Tampico (actually a set on a studio soundstage), he spies a passing prostitute who returns his look. Seconds later, the woman is picked up again by the camera, but this time in the distance. Some filmgoers and critics feel the woman looks nothing like Sheridan, but the DVD commentary for the film contains a statement that it is she. A photograph included in the documentary accompanying the DVD release shows Sheridan in streetwalker costume, with Bogart and Huston on the set. However, single frames of the film show a different woman in a different dress and different hairstyle, raising the possibility that Sheridan filmed the sequence but that it was reshot with another woman for indeterminate reasons. Many film-history sources credit Sheridan for the part.
Co-star Tim Holt's father, Jack Holt, a star of silent and early sound Westerns and action films, makes a one-line appearance at the beginning of the film as one of the men down on their luck.
Significant portions of the film's dialog are in unsubtitled Spanish.
The opening scenes, filmed in longshot in Plaza de la Libertad, Tampico, show modern (i.e. of the 1940s) cars and buses, even though the story opens in 1925, as evidenced by the lottery numbers poster.
Sunday, July 1, 2012
Annie Hall is a 1977 American romantic comedy directed by Woody Allen from a screenplay co-written with Marshall Brickman and co-starring Diane Keaton.
Allen has described the film as "a major turning point", as it introduced a level of seriousness to his films that was not found in the farces and comedies that were his work to that point.
Critical reaction to the film is generally positive. It won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Film critic Roger Ebert described it as "just about everyone's favorite Woody Allen movie"
* Woody Allen as Alvy Singer
* Diane Keaton as Annie Hall
* Tony Roberts as Rob
* Carol Kane as Allison Portchnik
* Paul Simon as Tony Lacey
* Shelley Duvall as Pam
* Janet Margolin as Robin
* Colleen Dewhurst as Mrs. Hall
* Christopher Walken as Duane Hall
* Jeff Goldblum as LA party guy on phone
* Sigourney Weaver as Alvy's date
* Beverly D'Angelo as Actress in Rob's TV Show
* Shelley Hack as Street Stranger (as Shelly Hack)
* John Glover as Annie's actor ex-boyfriend
* Truman Capote (uncredited) as Winner of the Truman Capote Lookalike Contest
* Marshall McLuhan as Himself (Cameo)
* Laurie Bird as Tony Lacey's girlfriend
* David Wier as Alvy's Classmate
* Keith Dentice as Alvy's Classmate
* Susan Mellinger as Alvy's Classmate