Category Archives: 1970s

Apocalypse Now (1979)

After the heart wrenching story that created The Deer Hunter, watching Apocalypse Now is a little sickening. There couldn’t be a deeper contrast in the portrayal of Americans in war, and this film displays some soldiers (at least in the beginning) as indestructible barbarians out for the kill. I’m only an hour in, and something tells me that rather than just diving right into the suffering, as Deer Hunter did, this will be a painfully slow progression into an indescribable nightmare.

Martin Sheen was the star of my least favorite movie of all time: Badlands. His character is slightly more redeeming in this film, it’s just that when he kills people now he has the approval of US Army Sergeants. This is difficult for me to watch, as yesterday I became so attached to these simple boys from Pennsylvania who really didn’t have a clue. And today, Robert Duvall “had that light around him, one that showed he wasn’t gonna get a scratch.”

The famous scene that just played was the one in which the Americans are flying in on helicopters blasting Flight of the Valkries. This was played as a mechanism of fear, as to show no question of the task at hand. However, before they are seen, it is a simple village with children singing and farmers working, until they are ambushed by the American choppers. These innocent citizens, and the barbaric way in which they were slaughtered, makes me despise war for how it wholeheartedly shatters any faith or pride in the world.

There seemed to be a level of sarcasm in the dialogue during this scene, however. A chopper exploded and Duvall screams “What savages!” It causes you to stop and think of the order of events that just happened. Perhaps that’s the entire point. The sarcasm leads to success: feeling that these acts are absolutely despicable.

I liked it, I suppose. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. Movies I love do not have to be comedies, they don’t have to be romances, or even family dramas, they just have to have that one character to root for. As forApocalypse Now, I couldn’t tell if it was just Martin Sheen or it was his character, maybe a combination of both, but I couldn’t get in touch with him. His experiences, yes, but not his heart and soul like so many other characters I’ve seen.

However, at the end of the day, the film does exactly what it sets out to do. It paints a horrific picture of what Vietnam was, a seemingly endless strand of brutal attacks all thrown together, without much success other than to just get the hell outta there.

Apocalypse Now (1979)

Advertisements

Breaking Away (1979)

The other day I watched this coming of age story about a group of post high school grads living in a college town. Typical of this time in people’s lives, the boys collectively feel stuck in a rut. Continually taunted by the college students, they begin to discover ways to make their lives worthwhile. Despite the fact that I am a college student, I think this feeling can be relevant to lots of kids my age regardless of what they do with their time.

Coming of age stories are, at least to me, meant to be inspiring (in a “I know how you feel” sort of way). If someone had a blast in high school, moving forward from that can be really difficult. This is how it was for me. My high school years were spent with great friends, great times, and little worries. It wasn’t until my first semester at school that I realized how sheltered I had been. It was extremely difficult, to leave behind this life that seems so flawless, and to completely rebuild myself in a new and strange environment.

What’s important is to realize that these coming of age stories are never about failure. They are about feeling lost, and fighting your way back to the surface. They are about discovering what your passions are. They describe the process in which one changes and adapts and succeeds. As for me, in my first semester which I consider ignorantly, the most difficult few months of my life, I took a class that changed everything. I discovered this buried passion for film. Sure, I haven’t the vaguest idea of what I’m going to do with it, but I’ve never felt more secure in my life.

Breaking Away describes this feeling. The mindset that is complicated, yet refreshing. Feeling unbalanced, yet fulfilled and optimistic. This is what this film meant to me. Breaking Away (1979)

Star Wars (1977)

Once 1977 hit, the Star Wars series started with a bang. Naturally, my obsessive way of going about movie watching: Watch all six films in the series in one week! I loved them all, even the new ones. I understand the writing was awful and cheesy in the prequels, but weren’t the old ones the same? I’m not a knowledgable fan, but I always feel like anything that is not an “original” is automatically given a bad rep.

Remakes are different than prequels. I loved the new additions to the film series because it allows the audience the ability to comprehend Vader’s character. It’s expanding upon the story, not rewriting it. Again, what do I really know about Star Wars? Not too much. But they are fun, I have to say.

I think it goes on with the traditional dissatisfaction with new things. People live their lives through comparisons. That’s why a film adaptation of a novel will never be good enough, a cover of a song will never be as good as the original. The question is this: does it matter what was written first? Or what was experienced first? Here’s an example as I’m getting further and further off track from Star Wars: Billy Joel’s To Make You Feel My Love is my favorite version of the song, even after hearing the original by Bob Dylan. So it’s not about what is actually better, it’s simply about how the movie, song, book, etc. is integrated in your life.

To make this odd tangent go full circle, the original series of Star Wars, episodes four through six, were widely experienced in the late seventies to early eighties. All these fans went to the theaters in 1999 to see Phantom Menace and were probably incredibly disappointed. Whereas for me, I watched all the films at the same time, so my opinion wasn’t culturally impacted. It was much more about the story line and the development of the characters that caught my interest.

All in all, I think the term “original” is less about when or who created something, and more about the time and place in which one experiences it. Oh, I don’t know, it’s all relative.

Star Wars (1977)

Gable and Lombard (1976)

I watched this biopic a few days ago with extremely high expectations. James Brolin has that same suave disposition that Clark Gable did, perhaps to a fault. I felt that through the depiction of their relationship, it was Rhett Butler and his relationship with Carole Lombard’s older cousin who lacked the “it” factor in the Lombard family.

What made Carole Lombard special was her fresh face and charming irrationality matched with a good heart. My Man Godfrey is one of my favorite movies, and sure, she was a character actor. Audiences didn’t love her in dramas, and why should they? She was one of those character actors that was already so perfect, there’s no sense in trying to reform that personality. Jill Clayburgh was alright, but she didn’t have it. While Brolin beat the “Gable impression” into the ground, Clayburgh didn’t have enough of the Lombard sparkle, which is what makes her so enchanting.

I’m just a big fan, so my expectations are completely unfair.

Three stars, it is still a beautifully tragic story.

Gable and Lombard (1976)

One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest (1975)

Here we go. Only twenty minutes in and let me just say, this is a group of incredibly talented actors. I can’t seem to imagine how difficult it must be to play these characters, with such varying psychological problems. I wonder if method-acting was common for the filming, and whether any of the actors needed a breather after.

I’m really enjoying this so far, I love the variety of personalities in the group of men. The scene in which they go fishing showed some of the most endearing facial expressions I’ve ever seen. It’s fascinating, these men are seen as psychotic, and they are locked away in an institution with white walls and bars on the windows. But the moment they can finally breathe fresh air and see the outside world, they seem delighted by life and desire to live it. I guess I don’t suppose mental institutions are as closed off as this, but I would hope they are places where people can be outside. There is nothing more therapeutic than escaping a closed space.

This film questions the meaning behind “crazy.” The patients have twisted backgrounds and insecurities, there’s no question, but they seem to have some of the most delightful minds in the entire film. Like Danny Devito. Perhaps this is due to ignorance. But does ignorance make you crazy? It’s about halfway through the film when the psychological unbalance switches sides. Suddenly the nurse is the crazy one, the doctors providing electroconvulsive therapy, and the psychologists wanting to send McMurphy back to jail.

The fundamental question: Is McMurphy crazy? Perhaps that’s the whole idea. At the start of the film he is seen as “faking it to get out of prison.” Yet as the film goes on, his spontaneity and rebellion cause his image to turn for the worse while the patients who were initially labeled as crazy level out. As this change is simultaneous with the change of the management, does that put McMurphy on the other side? Or is he the leader of the patients, the craziest of them all?

I also wonder if this film could be considered as having the flavor of a classic early 70s blaxploitation film. These kind of films were very low budget, and released directly following the Civil Rights Movement. Usually with purely African American casts, these films would hyper-masculinize the leading men, and over sexualize the women, as a way of boosting their portrayal after decades of playing maids, butlers, farmers, etc. However, this plan backfired because these roles only continued to create caricatures of the African American men and women. Instead of portraying them as just people, which they obviously should have been, they were given exaggerated roles that could not be taken seriously, therefore stripping them of their masculinity and placing them on a lower level similar to before. The reason all this comes to mind is due to the black male staff that work at the hospital. All the patients are white, and the lines spoken by the staff emulate those similar to Shaft or even Sweet Sweetbacks. I wouldn’t think about it if it weren’t from 1975, the heart of the blaxploitation era.

Wow, that was a great movie. I totally was not expecting that ending. I suppose it couldn’t have ended any other way. Damn Jack Nicholson, cool it.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)