Posts Tagged ‘1969’

Easy Rider

Movie Review #681


Studio: Columbia Pictures Corporation — Pando Company Inc. — Raybert Productions
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Country: USA
Spoken Languages: English — Spanish

Directed by Dennis Hopper. Produced by Peter Fonda. Written by Peter Fonda & Dennis Hopper & Terry Southern.

Rated R by the MPAA – frequent drug material, infrequent nudity. Runs 1 hour, 35 minutes. Premiered at Cannes Film Festival on May 8, 1969. Limited release in New York City, New York on July 14, 1969.

Starring Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper. Also starring Luke Askew and Jack Nicholson as George Hanson.

Cinemaniac Reviews two and a half stars

“Here’s the first of the day, fellas. To ol’ D. H. Lawrence.”
- George Hanson (Jack Nicholson)

I’ve never exactly “gotten” stoner movies. The assumption among that crowd of celluloid seems to be that he who watches a stoner movie is stoned. There never seems to be a plot to me. I’m assuming “Easy Rider” is also a road movie, because, well, these guys are riding around all the time. I’m not sure though because their destination is all but obvious. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were maplessly trekking the plains hoping to find somewhere to light up every fifteen, twenty miles.

“Easy Rider” is a fun, if pointless, movie. Perhaps it’s better than the average stoner, as these characters aren’t plain stupid. They’re aimless, though, for those who think that’s much different. I had high expectations of this movie. Dennis Hopper starring, directing, writing. Peter Fonda starring, producing, writing. Jack Nicholson in his first mainstream role. And I’ll give this points. The soundtrack is awesome. If the movie isn’t edgy or relevant to its time, then the music is. Watch the first ten minutes, which features some of the simplest titles ever. Though they feel dynamic with Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” in the background. I’m also not surprised that this one brought Jack Nicholson to fame, instead of something later. (And this was his first thing that wasn’t a B-movie, so god, he had an early start.) His performance doesn’t come along for 45 minutes, but it grabs our attention when it does come along.

“Easy Rider” is neither a good movie nor a bad movie. Sure, Dennis Hopper directed it with style, and the financial results were successful. Compare this rising actor’s directorial debut with “One Eyed Jacks”, a much lesser known from Marlon Brando, the man who ruled the ’50s. But here’s a question. Why exactly was everybody so thrilled over this to make it a box office success? I’d like to say it’s because LSD was prominent in the day, but then I look at the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine album. It’s all about acid trips, and 75% of the album is songs only serious Beatles fans have heard of.

Tomorrow’s Review

Frances Ha

Gone with the Wind

Review No. 609

“Gone with the Wind” will make you “give a damn.”

Dedicated to my grandmother —

— she was two years old when “Gone with the Wind” was released…

…if I’m putting the movie on a pedestal —

— then I guess Webster’s needs a new idiom to describe how much she loves this movie.


Director — Victor Fleming

Uncredited Directors — George Cukor & Sam Wood
Producer — David O. Selznick
Screenplay — Sidney Howard

Uncredited Screenwriters — Oliver H.P. Garrett, Ben Hecht, Barbara Keon & Jo Swerling
Based on — Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Clark Gable — Rhett Butler
Vivien Leigh — Scarlett O’Hara
Leslie Howard — Ashley Wilkes
Olivia de Havilland — Melanie Hamilton

TARA PLANTATION — Thomas Mitchell, Barbara O’Neil, Evelyn Keyes, Ann Rutherford, George Reeves, Fred Crane, Hattie McDaniel, Oscar Polk, Butterfly McQueen, Victory Jory & Everett Brown.
AT TWELVE OAKS — Howard C. Hickman, Alicia Rhett, Rand Brooks & Carroll Nye.
IN ATLANTA — Laura Hope Crews, Eddie Anderson, Harry Davenport, Leona Roberts, Jane Darwell & Ona Munson.

Distributor — Loew’s, Inc.
Premiere Dates — December 15, 1939 (Atlanta); December 19, 1939 (New York); December 28, 1939 (Los Angeles); April 18, 1940 (United Kingdom); April 30, 1940 (Sydney); March 29, 1990 (Soviet Union)
Wide Release Date — January 17, 1940; March 31, 1942 (first re-release); August 21, 1947 (second re-release); June 3, 1954 (third re-release); October 14, 1967 (70mm re-release)
Standard Re-release Dates — March 10, 1961 (Atlanta, Georgia); December 29, 1961 (Finland); October 15, 1962 (Spain)
70mm Re-release Dates — March 25, 1967 (Sydney); October 10, 1967 (New York, New York); March 12, 1969 (London)
Language — English
Country — USA
Running Time — 3 hours, 40 minutes (plus 14-18 minutes of overture, intermission, entr’acte, and exit music)


A huge sucker for epics has been made of me lately.  Obviously I have a long ways to go before I’ve seen everything I need to in the genre, but I’ve found myself so utterly fascinated by how sincerely some directors want to hold their audience past three hours, if not for a larger-than-life story.  Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now.  Mel Gibson’s Braveheart.  Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi.  Ridley Scott’s Gladiator.  David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia.  Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables.  Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List.  James Cameron’s Titanic.

And as if I would need to reserve the spot when saving the best for last, Victor Fleming’s Gone with the Wind.  Let’s just adjust it for inflation before I start beating around the bush: it made over three billion in the U.S. alone, another more-than-three-billion overseas–all on a budget of about $65 million.  I’d have guessed the budget was greater, to be honest, but maybe that’s my mind emphasizing the beauty of it all.  Gone with the Wind premiered in Atlanta in mid-December of 1939.  It was shot from January 26th through July 1st (that’s over 150 days), and editing didn’t begin until November 11th.  It’s a pretty tight schedule, I’d say, for a film that chooses technicolor, 70mm cinematography, exquisite sets and direction, and a larger-than-life feel.  Should I mention that Fleming released his The Wizard of Oz that August?  He’s either hardworking or completely OCD.  Though the latter’s already reserved for Howard Hughes.

Revisiting Gone with the Wind, my one question was: “Did they ever actually love each other?”  Now let’s be honest.  That’s not a question you ask of a romance, let alone the quintessential epic romance.  Yet it’s valid, because this isn’t a love story.  It’s about characters who don’t know what love is.  They think they do, but they have miles to go before they discover they’re dead wrong.  Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) is a brat fighting for the Confederate States of America, during the Civil War era.  Moreover, she’s fighting to get what she wants, though I guess that’s implied in “brat.”  You can’t make enough of her egocentric personality, and there’s no telling why we feel so sorry for her.

Now let’s take a careful look at Scarlett.  There truly is no telling why we would dare feel sorry for her, but we do, and that’s that.  We feel sorry for Anne Bancroft in The Graduate, even if we don’t immediately realize she is the protagonist, but guess what, everything she did actually had a motive.  Scarlett would have an affair with a college graduate just for the hell of it.  Actually she’d marry him just for the hell of it; she struggles through two marriages, which leaves her twice a widow, and she decides to marry a man she sometimes doesn’t seem to love (but says otherwise), sometimes doesn’t think she loves.  Her bipolar nature only adds on, so it’s amazing Vivien Leigh could ever deliver so well on a screenplay that sprawls out over four hours.  She’s even better with Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) around, and god, do we hate him.  Of course, we realize that she’s defined by her impulses, he by his clever (albeit possessive) nature, but we realize only in perception.

Gone with the Wind is the perfect movie.  It flies by in four hours, with the best moments being in the latter act.  The music is downright riveting, as well, so there’s no shame in sitting through the overture, the intermission, the entr’acte, and the curtain-closer.  Rarely do films hold up this well, but I can’t say that until I’ve seen it in theaters.  Something tells me that’s “the full experience.”  (Not to dishonor another completely different favorite, but what kind of trash world do we live in that plays The Rocky Horror Picture Show every Saturday at midnight, but gives no love to classics like Gone with the Wind?)  Between the story and the style, D. W. Griffith (The Birth of a Nation) may be the only director to ever top the poignancy of Victor Fleming’s in retelling Civil War era.  Even Edward Zwick (Glory) looks a bit half-baked in comparison.  That this movie’s dramatic side is still touching is almost impossible to believe.  It doesn’t feel like it was made in 1939, even if it feels like something of an “old movie,” for lack of a better word.  In other words, it’s already over seven decades old.  You gotta give Victor Fleming some credit for his achievement here.  1939 was only twelve years after we got our first sound film, and less than a decade before they became significantly popular.  Gone with the Wind takes another step–in fact, another twenty.  There’s what makes you “give a damn” about cinema when rarely anything else does.

The Wild Bunch

Review No. 552

Damn straight, it’s “Wild”!



NOTE: This review regards the “Original Director’s Cut” of The Wild Bunch. Research says that while this cut is just as controversial as the American cut from back in 1969, it heightens Peckinpah’s cinematic intents.

Director — Sam Peckinpah
Producer — Sam Feldman
Screenplay — Mr. Peckinpah & Walon Green
Story — Mr. Green & Roy N. Sickner

William Holden — Pike Bishop
Ernest Borgnine — Dutch Engstrom
Robert Ryan — Deke Thornton
Edmond O’Brien — Freddie Sykes
Warren Oates — Lyle Gorch
Jaime Sánchez — Angel
Ben Johnson — Tector Gorch

Distributor — Warner Bros.-Seven Arts
Release Date — March 3, 1995 (1969 cut: June 18, 1969)
Language — English
Country — USA
Running Time — 145 minutes (1969 cut: 135 minutes; 1969 premiere cut: 143 minutes)
MPAA Rating — R on appeal (1969 cut: R)


I’d like to propose the following theory:

A filmmaker may be accurately dubbed as “great,” if and only if he or she has made an oeuvre in which more than half the films are, or will eventually be, universally considered “classics” by critics and movie buffs alike.  The universal understanding of a film as a “classic” can be accurately predicted, if and only if the filmmaker is enamored with every shot of the film, as much as the ideal audience.

It’s been nearly 120 years since the five-second Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze became the first successful “movie,” and since then, films have become more and more defined by the egos of the men and women who make them happen. It’s true that where cinema most differs from real life is that when a fearless ego makes its domineering way to celluloid, it’s far more entertaining, not to mention artful, than watching movies made of a fearful/deficient/nonexistent ego.  If I fail to make sense, then let me put it this way: the most palatable movies feature style and substance as inseparable.  It’s a rule of thumb that made auteurs out of Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorsese, Mel Brooks, Quentin Tarantino, Stanley Kubrick, and Woody Allen.  And, as I have more recently discovered, Sam Peckinpah.

The Wild Bunch was Peckinpah’s fifth movie; it’s preferable to look at this as the movie that transformed this writer-director into a sensation.  This man seems to give movies a signature correlation between controversy and lifespan.  Straw Dogs (1971), Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973), and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974) each remain as controversial as when they were issued to theaters, while regarded as classics as avidly as when they earned their respective “tenth anniversary re-evaluations.”  Yet The Wild Bunch earned a renewed controversy: In 1993, slightly prior to a 25th anniversary re-release, Warner Bros. handed the film over to the MPAA with ten minutes’ additional footage.  While not a second of this had any of the graphic, violent material that made the movie warrant a 1969 R rating (which still rings of a low R, more than four decades later) was added to the new cut, the rating system’s appeal board was needed to intervene to bump the movie from an NC-17 to the more commercial R.

While this didn’t help the movie’s second chance at commerce (the domestic box office receipts, when adjusted for inflation, total to less than $980 grand), the “controversy-to-class” correlation is still a shoe sized to perfection.  If I spent as much as a second wallowing in boredom, that second is gone from my memory as I write this review.  As far as cinematography, it has been reported that the average late-’60s movie contains 600 cuts.  The Wild Bunch boasts a whopping 3,600.  Without disregarding the accuracy in the Oscar nominations for music and original screenwriting: why the hell didn’t this earn any nominations, let alone Oscar runaways, for its visuals?  The story here is simple, but when this influential shootout and a half, both a western and a witty deconstruction of the western, is over, you can’t help but want to watch more of Sam Peckinpah.  The man’s got style.  He’s got substance, too, and I mention that because I could never distinguish between the two.  That’s a compliment of immeasurable praise.

POSTSCRIPT: I wasn’t sure where and/or how to put it in my review, but The Wild Bunch is by no means a movie deserving of an NC-17.  The MPAA barely considered an equivalent X rating for the original release.  Had they given it an X rating, A Clockwork Orange, two years later, would have been labeled “violent pornography” and earned the first official MPAA endorsement of the satirical “XXX” rating, no matter how much was cut out.


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Review No. 421


The Bottom Line: A landmark with “unforgettable” written all over it.

Directed by: George Roy Hill
Written by: William Goldman
Butch Cassidy: Paul Newman
The Sundance Kid: Robert Redford
Etta Place: Katharine Ross
Also Starring: Jeff Corey, Strother Martin, Ted Cassidy

Distributed by 20th Century Fox on October 24, 1969. Produced in English by the United States. Runs 112 mins. Rated PG by the MPAA (mature themes; profanity; Western violence).

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was watched on February 17, 2013.

“For a moment there I thought we were in trouble.” –Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman)

I could rattle off countless movies like this right off the top of my head. Die Hard 3. 21 Jump Street. Lethal Weapon. Thelma & Louise. The common bond is a hard focus on crime, with two leads and varying levels of comedy. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is essentially no different, and I’m sure there were “buddy flicks” before it for even further inspiration. But when the film’s venerability is taken into consideration, it’s still something we’d love to see more often.

Butch and Sundance are the archetype of the “buddy flick.” Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson, Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, Danny Glover and Mel Gibson, Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis–they all innovated from the iconic powerhouse starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid blares 1969. The technical efforts aren’t so much as standard, with low-quality sound mixing, cinematography, and photo vignettes (save for the one powerfully used to make the ending unforgettable). On one hand, you could look at this as a trashy low-budget film with no sense of style.

On the other hand, it’s nice to venture back to crime films that entertained without being visceral or explosive. In fact, the film can be bittersweet at times. Just within the first half-hour, we hear B.J. Thomas’s “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”. The scene is emotional like no other crime movie could ever dream to be.

The style is all dissolved as part of the storytelling regime. Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) and a man known only as “the Sundance Kid” (Robert Redford) are outlaws. They pass time with secretive criminal affairs, specifically armed robberies. When they find “business” will be more successful for them in Bolivia, they find that a chance to flee from the authorities in the United States. But how long will it be before the Bolivian deputies discover these two are outlaws?

The tale is almost as simple as a knock-knock joke. We’ve heard it so many times before. This is compensated for, however, with characters we have absolutely no familiarity with; characters we enjoy. Butch is an arrogant fellow. He’s a belligerent, pugnacious guy who often times fails to tolerate “the Sundance Kid.” Sundance, on the other hand, is an inattentive, tall, broad fellow. Most of the film’s humor–not that it’s a full-fledged comedy–derives from Sundance’s inclination to stand as a nimrod.

And now, as I describe Butch and Sundance, I begin to wonder why the characters struck me as so likeable. In any other film, these characters would be detestable protagonists. But this isn’t any other film. This, if I may end on a corny note, is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Postscript: I wasn’t sure where to mention it in my review, but this is a Western. It’s often difficult to tell, especially when it impressively departs from the clichés we know of the genre.



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