The highlight of this week was definitely my trip to the local AMC to see Darren Aronofsky’s mother! Still not quite done processing that one. Other than that, I knocked a big film off my to-watch list. The Deer Hunter was one of the few films left on American Film Institute’s top 100 that I hadn’t seen yet. I believe I have six left now.

The Deer Hunter    94% on Rotten Tomatoes                         8 (DVD)

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Starring Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Savage, Meryl Streep

Plot Summary-The lives of working class buddies in a small Pennsylvania town are interrupted when three from the group head to Vietnam with the Army. There, Mike (the most serious of the group), Nick, and Steven are forced into a game of Russian Roulette that scars them well after they manage to escape.

My Take- Mike might be De Niro’s best performance and most compelling character (and yes, I have seen Raging Bull). Walken and Streep with the two key supporting roles also stand out. My problems with the film have been noted by others, and mainly concern its lack of complexity. It wears its emotions on its sleeve. The other side, the Northern Vietnamese, are foreign and brutal. Rather than condemn this aspect as racist, I simply saw it as an extension of the film’s simple-mindedness. This being said, the three hour long epic was engaging and moving. The crap-shoot chance involved in the Russian roulette sequences plus the acting make for two memorably brutal and sad scenes. I also admired the odd three distinct act structure that makes the film feel epic and not drag. The scenes between De Niro and Streep were some of the best in the movie.

-Directed by Michael Cimino, 1978

Pardners      No Rotten Tomatoes Score                            5 (Youtube)

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Starring Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Agnes Moorehead

Plot Summary-In order to save their ranch, Slim and Wade Jr. (Martin and Lewis) take on a violent gang known as the masked raiders, over twenty years after their fathers were murdered by that same gang.

My Take-A lesser Martin and Lewis pairing, while still showcasing an abundance of style,  that lacks wit and any memorable musical numbers. Lewis’ screen time dwarfs Martin’s, and I don’t consider that a positive. There’s also no romance to speak, despite there being two romantic interests. Too much Lewis, not enough Martin.

-Directed by Norman Taurog, 1956

Paper Moon     91% on Rotten Tomatoes                        9 (Filmstruck)

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Starring Tatum O’Neal, Ryan O’Neal, Madeline Khan, Randy Quaid

Plot Summary-Moses Pray promises to take 9 years old and orphaned Addie to her Aunt in Missouri, as she suspects he might be her dad. After watching Moses pull a number of small-time cons, Addie proves adept at assisting him, and the two escalate their grift on the way to Missouri.

My Take-Paper Moon is completely wonderful. Sad when it wants to be sad, funny when it wants to be funny. The two lead performances are pitch perfect, and never reduced to being cute. They form real characters and take them seriously.

-Directed by Peter Bogdanovich, 1973

-Walter Howard-

 

 

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