Young men make wars, and the virtues of war are the virtues of young men. Courage and hope for the future. Then old men make the peace. And the vices of peace are the vices of old men. Mistrust and caution. It must be so.
Back in 2006, when Blu-ray players and discs first appeared in stores, Sony distributed a demo reel for stores to play showing how fan-damn-tacular movies looked in the new format. This included scenes from Lawrence of Arabia, a Sony property via Columbia Pictures, implying the film would be among the first released. For the next six years, film buffs waited with increasing impatience for Sony to make good on that promise.
I, for one, am tickled that they waited so long. The Blu-ray edition released in November, based on a meticulous 4K restoration, is simply amazing. The last time the movie looked this good to my eyes was back in 1989, and I was watching it projected in 70mm at the old Cinedome theaters in Orange, CA.
Why, you stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking Nerf herder.
While the 1977 original may have launched the Star Wars phenomenon, I would make the case that this film was responsible for creating the enduring franchise. Had The Empire Strikes Back fallen flat on its face, had it not been, in many eyes, a superior film to the original (or equal in quality at the very worst), there would have been no special editions, no prequels, no Disney sale, and no one would be talking about whether J. J. Abrams wants to direct a seventh film.
I think the strength of this film lies in one simple fact. This is Darth Vader’s movie, more than any other in the franchise. Continue reading →
Luke's just not a farmer, Owen. He has too much of his father in him.
Looking back on it from more than 30 years, it’s hard to imagine a time when Star Wars did not permeate our culture. It informs both our popular arts as well as high-level policy debate during the Cold War. It rewrote the rules of summer movies only two years after Jaws wrote them in the first place. This one movie took merchandising from a tidy little sideline to a stratospheric cash cow for Hollywood.
In short, a little movie made for less than $10 million, of which the studio thought so little that they willingly parted with all the ancillary rights that studios normally hang on to until hell freezes over, ended up being the greatest single act of creative destruction in the history of the business since The Jazz Singer. After Star Wars, the artistically ambitious films that were a hallmark of the early-to-mid-seventies were shuffled off to the independent filmmakers, while Hollywood became a factory for blockbusters.
At this juncture, it’s pointless to review this movie like I would a “normal” film, other than to offer my conjecture on why this little movie worked like no other movie before it and few since. And yes, I’m calling it Star Wars, not Episode IV or A New Hope. The movie that hit theaters in 1977 was called Star Wars, so that is the name of the movie.
Remember, you're fighting for this woman's honour, which is probably more than she ever did.
I would offer up Duck Soup as the spiritual great-grandfather of movies like Blazing Saddles and Airplane!. Its plot seems to exist as an afterthought, unnecessary baggage that gets in the way of the movie’s true purpose: “four Jews trying to get a laugh,” as Groucho Marx would later confess.
It’s possible to view Duck Soup as a brilliant political farce, lacerating the bloated self-importance of world leaders, or you can just look to it for 68 minutes of pure post-Vaudevillian anarchy. It works both ways. This may not be the Marx Brothers at their most coherent, but it’s easily them at their funniest.
Sergio Leone’s follow-up to the “Man With No Name” film trilogy was probably not what anyone expected, but international audiences seemed better able to cope with the surprise than their American counterparts. Once Upon a Time in the West initially bombed in the States despite being a smash hit overseas. Only in retrospect have we conferred upon this film its proper status as a unique classic, as different from the director’s previous work as it was from the more traditional Hollywood conventions it inverted at the same time it was playing homage to them.
John Huston’s classic film had the unusual distinction of being the last film from the American Film Institute’s 100 Years, 100 Movies list to appear on DVD in the United States, not bowing on that format until March of 2010, well into the Blu-ray/Netflix streaming era. You could find it overseas, but only if you had a “region-free” player, and those copies were made from prints that were, to be polite, pieces of mule dung. Yeah, you should have heard the less polite version of that sentence.
Having seen Paramount’s new release, on Blu-ray of course, I have to say it was worth waiting for the studio to sort out who had the rights to The African Queen, find a half-way decent copy, and then take the time to restore the film to something quite near its original glory.
While John Ford would go on to direct several more pictures after this one, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance represents a sort of exclamation point of one of most celebrated directorial careers in American film. His previous high-water mark, The Searchers, was a film torn between the conventions of a previous era and emerging modern sensibilities. Liberty Valance is thoroughly modern by 1962 standards and virtually timeless by any other.
Even before its classic final scene, the subject of madness runs under this particular bridge, as all three of the main characters have their sanity questioned at some point and the chief questioner, played by William Holden, jokingly questions his own mental state. For all its vast scale, The Bridge on the River Kwai remains an indelible and intimate portrait of fanaticism fatally clashing with fanaticism.
John Ford’sThe Searchers is a movie in desperate search for an identity. For every aspect that is excellent, two more make you want to cringe. The film seems to have feet in two eras. Its ambivalent attitude toward the stereotypical treatment of Native Americans seems slightly ahead of its time, although Hollywood would do much better later. Balancing against this are characters and storylines that would have seemed dated when Ford and John Wayne were first working together back in the thirties.
In lesser hands, this movie would have been one long soap opera, but this adaptation of James Jones’ rather bawdy novel manages to wring real human drama out of its characters instead. The real miracle is that the filmmakers managed to tame the rather explicit novel enough to appease the censors and still stay true to the spirit of the story. If all you remember or know about this movie is Burt Lancaster’s famous clinch on the beach with Deborah Kerr, then you owe yourself a viewing of this movie, which has a lot more to offer.
This story of a lonely man isolated from the millions of people around him could have been told in any city but Martin Scorcese’s movie could only have been made in New York City, and only in the city of the mid-seventies. Travis Bickle is as much a product of that time and place as he is a creation of screenwriter Paul Schrader’s imagination.
The New York City of Taxi Driver is definitely not today’s “Disney-fied” city. This is the pre-Giuliani Big Apple, the domain of pimps and drug dealers. Continue reading →