Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ordinary People.

Ordinary People (Robert Redford, 1980)

Category: Sad movie about familial guilt. Family issues crop up frequently in the sad films covered on the blog. Often it’s just because certain family members are mean to others, but in this case it’s because of a sad event that is difficult for the family to deal with. (To be specific, this is a sad movie about boating accidents. We’ll get to the absurdity of going on boats later.) These sad events generally cause guilt, and guilt is so awful, especially because it's often the result of something that you didn’t even do. Which when you think about it is pretty un-American. Most people in this country don’t even feel bad when things ARE their fault. (They’d feel differently if they knew my mom.)

My familiarity with this issue: I try to avoid guilt where I can, but it’s not easy. So many normal everyday things make me feel guilty, like not giving a homeless guy a dollar, or not going to the gym/being a member of a gym. But it’s important to draw the line somewhere. As mentioned earlier, some of the guilt in this movie comes as a result of a character’s death in a boating accident. This would not make me feel guilty. Not to be mean or anything, but if someone I knew died in a boating accident, I’d totally be sad, but I’d also think, “Well this is why I don’t go on boats.” It's like how they talk about the two stages of grief: feeling sad for a few minutes, and then reaffirming your own choices in life. That's it.

Hey let’s talk some more about boats. In my view, there are two natural things about which human beings should be wary, if not adversarial. Those two things are animals and bodies of water. (My morbid fascination with the movie Jaws is thus understandable, as it combines the two things.) I’ve written extensively about animals on the blog: namely, how most of them are dumb and mean and secretly want to kill all humans. (At the time of this writing, they still haven't found that Bronx Zoo cobra. My feet have scarcely touched the ground all day long.) It hasn’t stopped people from inviting them to LIVE IN THEIR HOMES, like ACTUAL PEOPLE. My warnings about the water have similarly gone unheeded. It’s not just me, though: there are dozens of films about bad stuff happening to people in the water: Open Water, Titanic, Deep Blue Sea, What Lies Beneath, The Sharktopus, etc. I know none of you will listen, but srsly: it’s almost summer, people. Be vigilant.

To be fair, the movie isn’t strictly about the boating accident, but rather its aftermath. I can relate to this. A few weeks ago, I was on a plane that experienced moderate turbulence. I'm still living with that.

Plot summary yoinked from IMDb: “Beth, Calvin, and their son Conrad are living in the aftermath of the death of the other son. Conrad is overcome by grief and misplaced guilt to the extent of a suicide attempt. He is in therapy. Beth had always preferred his brother and is having difficulty being supportive to Conrad. Calvin is trapped between the two trying to hold the family together.” [Editor’s Note: This plot summary is very ESL.]

What I thought about the movie: It was very good. Often really really good. But in the end not really great, I think. We’ll get to it. It’s very SERIOUS, but straightforward and generally not maudlin or mawkish or other words that sound like that. Known dreamboat Robert Redford does a fine job directing, and the actors are all great, especially known Groupon shill Timothy Hutton. For most of the movie it seems really honest and real, like a true depiction of so-called ordinary people who each react to a terrible tragedy very differently.

A somewhat controversial element of the movie (at the time of its release) was its depiction of the psychiatrist who helps Hutton, played by Judd Hirsch. While I suppose there is still some backlash against psychiatry from the Scientology crowd, today it has a degree of mainstream acceptance that was widely lacking in 1980, and thus the fact that the movie’s portrayal of the psychiatrist was so positive turned some heads. I suppose it's good that the movie helped usher in a more accepting atmosphere of psychiatry, but I can't help but feel a little off about it. I remember reading a critical response to Good Will Hunting (a movie that I love) by a psychiatrist who found the film unrealistic (particularly this scene, which I also love). I thought about that while watching this movie. While it’s hard to imagine what a realistic cinematic depiction of a relationship between psychiatrist and patient would look like (not least because I’ve never been to a psychiatrist), I’d imagine it would be far too boring and long to put in a movie. And also that it wouldn't really involve dramatic, hug-inducing breakthroughs. In a movie that was particularly impressive because of how understated and realistic it was, the emotional breakthrough that occurs between Hutton and Hirsch late in the film was jarring.

How I, John Krizel, related to the movie: The other weird thing in the movie is how mean Mary Tyler Moore was. Maybe I felt this way because my mom is cool (HI MOM), but still: the fact that she feels like the brother’s death is Timothy Hutton’s fault, and really does nothing to hide that fact at all throughout the movie was really off-putting when compared to the subtle complexity of the other characters. Granted, she’s supposed to be a less communicative, more private person, I get that. And maybe I’m not appropriately viewing this movie as a relic of an era where people didn’t talk about their feelings as much as they do now. But c’mon now. It’s your own son! Be nice! He didn’t mean it! That kind of took me out of it.

Here’s something not really related to the film that bothered me: the Wikipedia entry about this movie features a lengthy plot summary that is totally judgey. I think it’s designed that way to try to bring out the mother’s side of the story, but I didn’t agree with a lot of it. Wikipedia’s supposed to be unbiased, right? If I wanted a judgey version, I’d have fired up Conservapedia. (Remember Conservapedia? I just looked through it for a while and it’s one of the worst things ever. The entry on homosexuality is both abhorrent and hilarious at the same time, featuring sections on the Biblical passages condemning homosexuality, the dubious studies that “prove” homosexuality is a choice, and one section entitled “2006 Survey Finds Homosexual Men Seek to Become Ex-homosexuals Often Do So to Heal Emotional Pain or For Spiritual Reasons.” Yes, that’s a headline. The entry is over 20,000 words long!  They're obsessed! It’s like in elementary school, when you're mean to some girl in the sandbox because you secretly like her and want to gay-marry her. I don’t know what happened to that analogy.)

How I felt after the movie ended: Where was I? Oh yeah stupid Wikipedia nonsense. Whatever. The point of all this is, the Timothy Hutton and Donald Sutherland stuff, and most of the Judd Hirsch stuff, was all really good and relatable. It reminded me a lot of Rabbit Hole: how everyone grieves in their own way, and how hard it is to just make the people around you happy when there’s so much sadness weighing everything down. It also explores the difficulty of doing that when the prevailing wisdom is that keeping everything private and repressed is the only way you can deal with your issues. But the scenes with Mary Tyler Moore reminded me of Precious, almost. She’s not nearly as monstrous/fat as Mo’Nique, but I just couldn’t find any sympathy for her at all.

So in the end I was a little annoyed. The ending (which isn’t something that can really be spoiled) just isn’t as perceptive and smart and good as the rest of the movie. It kind of devolves into speechifying and overdramatic stuff, and that's totally not what the first hour and a half was all about. I still think it was worth seeing, but I guess you could say the ending was kind of ordinary, people! Amirite? No? Eh.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Last Song.

The Last Song (Julie Anne Robinson, 2010)

Category: Sad movie based on a Nicholas Sparks book. I’ve deconstructed the Sparks phenomenon in my post on The Notebook. Devotees will recall that I found that film occasionally sappy but ultimately charming, mainly due to the charisma of its two lead actors, Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams. It remains to be seen if The Last Song can replicate this formula. (Apropos of nothing, the two lead actors in The Last Song are Miley "Salvia" Cyrus and Liam "Who?" Hemsworth.)

I don’t really know a lot about the plot of this movie, but it looks like a sad movie about short-lived summer romances. This seems to be a main Sparks theme. By that I mean it happened in The Notebook too. They say to write what you know, and so maybe Sparks had one of these when he was young. Or maybe he just really loves Grease. Either way, it’s dramatic GOLD.

Here’s something I find profoundly odd: Sparks was commissioned to write both the screenplay for the film and the novel itself. And he finished the screenplay BEFORE THE NOVEL. Thus I think it’s kind of inaccurate to say that the film was based on the novel. If anything, the book is a novelization of the screenplay, or something. One wonders if Sparks was able to keep track of all this during the writing process, while also counting all of his money.

My familiarity with this issue: First of all, let no one forget that The Last Song was the film that sparked this reaction from noted soccer photographer and friend of the blog Lindsay Filardo. #sad.

When I think about those archetypal summer romances that involve the beach and bonfires and people who play Dave Matthews songs on the guitar while wearing long-sleeved shirts with cargo shorts, it really makes me want to throw up. The beach is terrible. Bonfires are terrible. That last thing is REALLY terrible. It’s not my scene. I also feel like these romances get sparked when the girl sees the guy on the beach with his shirt off, playing Frisbee or some such, and thinks to herself, “what a hunk.” That’s gross. Maybe I’m just jealous: I’ve never been called a hunk, and the sight of me with my shirt off evokes not lust, but a unique mix between pity and ridicule that I call “piticule.” Plus also usually those guys are quite tan, and I’m so white that you can see my heart beat through my chest, like a newborn fish. But still. Keep it in your pants, ladies.

The only reason this movie is at all notable to most people, I think, is the Miley factor. Now I don’t want to rip on Miley too much. “Party in the USA” is a legitimately great song. “See You Again” is also very good. I’ve never seen Hannah Montana but I’m sure it’s not all that bad. It’s the Disney Channel! They have different rules. And as for the salvia thing… I mean, she was just being Miley! (Or so my best friend Leslie tells me.) Yeah, she’s annoying and she has a weird face and she says “pretty cool” a lot and all that. But she’s like eighteen. Cut her a break. Does that mean I think she’ll be a good actress? Oh Lord no. I’m sure she’ll be terrible. But I’m willing to give her a shot in the name of the blog. I reserve the right to bash her mercilessly if she is terrible.

Plot summary yoinked from IMDb: “Ronnie's (Miley Cyrus) and her younger brother, Jonah's, parents are divorced. They live with their mother until this summer they are sent to live with their father (Greg Kinnear) in a small town on the beach. Ronnie resents her father and has no intention of being friendly or even talking to him for the summer. But after meeting a handsome guy and beginning to fall in love, Ronnie starts rediscovering her love for music, something she shares with her father. Reconnecting with music revives a kinship with her father which proves to be the most important relationship she may ever experience.”

What I thought of the movie/How I, John Krizel related to the movie: OK listen. Obviously I hated it. But this is a different level of hate. It evoked some real visceral, loud reactions, the kind that I had during The Lovely Bones, but while that movie made me really uncomfortable, I couldn’t stop watching this one. I reveled in hating it. It was compellingly awful. And if you’ll indulge me, I’m going to forgo the usual structure of these posts, and just talk about everything that happens in this movie that leads up to the sad stuff, because it’s all just so ridiculous. And you know how thirty seconds ago I said I reserved the right to bash Miley if she sucked? It's a good thing I reserved that right, because I intend to use it LIBERALLY.

The first thing you need to know is that Miley’s character’s name is Ronnie, short for Veronica. (This brought me endless joy, as I imagined how Jersey Shore Ronnie would behave throughout the film. My conclusions: a lot more drinking, a lot more yelling, a lot more fighting, but strangely, the same amount of crying.) It opens with Ronnie and her brother being driven to somewhere in Georgia to spend the summer with their dad (a very likeable Greg Kinnear), who up and left their mom (Kelly Preston) three years earlier. Ronnie totally hates her dad and the fact that she has to be there, and she’s not afraid to show it, either, because she is REBELLIOUS and EDGY and an OUTSIDER. (My limited knowledge of the Miley oeuvre leads me to believe that outsiderdom is central to her iconography. “Party in the USA” is entirely about how out of place she is in LA. While it should be well-known by now how much I love that song, the lyrics are really really insufferable. Because it’s not like she’s singing about a character. She’s singing about how she moved from Nashville to LA and felt out of place. She’s been an uber-famous gazillionaire since she was like 14, and she’s worried about how she’s wearing different SHOES than everyone else. As if [a] anyone would ever look at her and say, “who’s that chick who’s rockin’ kicks?” and then derisively conclude that she must be from out of town [as if anyone is actually FROM Los Angeles in the first place]. And then [b] as if people wouldn’t be like, “oh shit it’s Miley Cyrus, look at her sweet kicks!” and then go out and buy them. Yeah okay MILEY. The outsiderdom is annoying in this movie, too, for different reasons. We’ll get to that.)

We learn from her parents’ conversation that Ronnie is a piano prodigy. (I think they show a news clipping indicating that she performed at Carnegie Hall when she was seven. Because that happens.) In keeping with her rebelliousness, she quit playing the day her father left (three years earlier, mind you) and hasn’t played since. (Her mom’s new boyfriend bought her “an electric piano,” but she wouldn’t touch that, either. Symbolic!) However, Preston informs Kinnear that she’s been accepted to the Julliard School. DESPITE NOT HAVING TOUCHED A PIANO IN THREE YEARS. (Also despite the fact that “she barely graduated from high school” and was arrested for shoplifting. But of course Ronnie doesn't want to go, because that would be too NORMAL.) Kinnear inquires as to HOW THAT IS AT ALL POSSIBLE, and Preston says, “they said they’d been watching her since she was five.” Which (a) is creepy, and (b) WHAT. That is not a thing. Presumably they would have also been watching her NOT PLAY FOR THE LAST THREE YEARS. You figure the Julliard talent scout or whoever that was assigned to her would have reported back to the dean and said, “Yeah that Ronnie chick was great when she was five, but I haven’t seen her near a piano in three years. Not even that electric one!”

Meanwhile, Ronnie heads to the beach and gets a strawberry shake spilled on her by some volleyball HUNK who wears a vaguely creepy smile in lieu of a shirt. She acts all outsidery and sarcastic, which of course only makes Smiley McNoshirt more interested, because he can sense, instantly, that she’s “not like the other girls.” (This is actually what he says to her after somewhat rapily kissing her for the first time.) It’s important to note how the filmmakers choose to portray this trait.

Aspects Of Ronnie’s Personality That Are Supposed To Indicate To The Audience That She Is An Outsider
1)  She has dark hair. All the other biddies on the beach, including her main antagonist, who is in like two scenes, have blond hair. Classic.
2)  She is a vegetarian. Yeah, she would be.
3) She is concerned about sea turtles. This is a major plotline. She sees a raccoon going after a nest of sea turtle eggs. Naturally she’s horrified by this, and sets about to construct an enclosure (i.e., an overturned shopping cart) and stand guard by it all night long. Kinnear comes out and, bemused, asks her what she’s doing, and she angrily explains about how when a female lays eggs, the raccoons can smell them and etc. So she’s got some background in sea turtles. But then Shirtless comes by, because he just so happens to volunteer at the aquarium, and tells her that he has to build a different sort of enclosure, because the shopping cart will prevent the newly hatched turtles from getting to the sea after they’re born. Apparently she didn’t know this fact, only the ONE THING THAT EVERYONE KNOWS ABOUT SEA TURTLES, the thing that everyone gets taught about in elementary school science class. But maybe Ronnie was off shoplifting that day and came back just in time for Sea Turtles 102.
4) She reads Tolstoy. Specifically Anna Karenina, while keeping watch by the sea turtles. And she’s unimpressed when Shirtless recites the first line from memory, which is actually decently impressive for some beach-bum volleyball doofus. (The issue of how she treats him, and his reaction to her treatment of him, for the first half hour of the movie prompted another digression that I cut out for space. That is the first time that I have EVER done that for this blog. Suffice it to say I found it somewhat unrealistic.) But yeah she just LOVES Tolstoy, because he writes about unhappy families and she can totes relate. I was half-expecting the sad part of this movie (which at this point was still totally unclear to me) to be her throwing herself in front of a train. REFERENCE.

Aspect Of Ronnie’s Personality That Is Unspeakably Hilarious After The Information Contained In The Previous List Has Been Established
1)  She loves Maroon 5. I had to pause the movie, I was laughing so hard at this part. So after she gives in and they start their summer fling (as depicted in a montage that contains two other ridiculous things that I will talk about in a bit), they’re driving along in his car and the song “She Will Be Loved” by Maroon 5 comes on. And she goes, “I love this song,” and starts singing along. Just so perfect.

The Two Other Ridiculous Things From That Montage That I Alluded To In The Previous List
1)  He writes the word “forever” on her shoe with a Sharpie. Which seems a bit redundant.
2)  They break any number of safety regulations at the local aquarium. Remember how he volunteers there? As an 18-year-old volunteer, he is apparently entitled to wear SCUBA gear and swim around in the tank with all the fish. Including a SHARK. They let volunteers into the tank to hang out with the shark. And not just volunteers: THEIR IDIOT GIRLFRIENDS TOO. First he pulls her when she’s not wearing the gear for a laugh, and that's ADORABLE and not at all stupid. And then she gets gear of her own (they’ve got a lot of this SCUBA gear lying around) and goes for a planned swim. Aren’t there professionals who go through extensive training to be able to do this? Isn’t it dangerous for non-trained humans to swim around in aquariums with fish of any sort, LET ALONE SHARKS? HOW IS THIS ALLOWED.

OK enough lists. The rest of the movie is less exciting. There’s some standard Sparks class warfare (he’s rich, and his parents are the most stereotypically obnoxious rich parents I have EVER seen in a movie). Other angst happens too; his brother died in a car accident a year earlier. After hearing this, Ronnie is so moved that she throws all his stuff out of their room, calls him the c-word and breaks his glasses. Whoops, wrong Ronnie. No, Miley Ronnie goes inside and plays the piano for the first time in three years, and then they wordlessly and dramatically kiss. I’m not a man to hyperbolize, but that scene might have been my least favorite scene in the history of cinema. Dear Lord.

Before I get to the sad stuff, I want to talk about Miley’s face. She has to register a lot of emotions in this film, and she tries really really hard to reflect all of them. The face I like best is when she’s displeased about something. It looks like she’s just smelled something terrible. She has this face on for pretty much the entire first half hour of the movie. Then she has her goofy in love with Shirtless face, which is similarly off-putting. And then she gets concerned about the sad stuff, and that’s also gross. This is not to mention her growly throaty weird voice. Every two seconds throughout this movie, I said (aloud) either, “Ughhhhh her VOICE,” or “Ughhhhh her FACE.”

(SPOILER ALERT if any of you care about what the sad stuff is.) So we learn that Kinnear has cancer. At first, Ronnie yells at him because he concealed his illness from her. (I really can’t believe the number of times that people who have cancer get YELLED AT by other people in all these movies. How is this a thing!) Then there’s a lot of drama about this church fire and stuff I didn’t care about, and Ronnie gets mad at Shirtless and he leaves, and she stays in Georgia with her father who she formerly hated. It doesn’t get any better during this part. It’s still really dumb, and the dialogue sucks, and Ronnie is still kind of a terrible person because of how mean she was to her dad earlier in the film, and the movie has to kind of acknowledge that but also forgive her for it. This sentiment is conveyed when she expresses remorse for how she treated him, and Kinnear says, “At least you have the courage to feel.” Which is really not saying much. Seems like pretty basic stuff, feeling. It’s one step above, “At least you have the courage to breathe.” And then he dies, and she plays the piano at his funeral and Shirtless comes to the funeral (wearing a shirt) and they make up/out. End of film.

How I felt after the movie ended: I mean obviously I took careful notes about all the nonsense that happens in the movie. But that’s not what this blog is about. I must address whether or not the movie is sad. And I know I’ve just spent the last 8,000 words ridiculing this movie, and rightly so. But it was still kinda sad. Greg Kinnear is a good actor. (Watching him act with Miley is like me trying to fight Jersey Shore Ronnie. No chance.) It’s like, let’s say there’s someone you know who you kind of hate, because she's annoying and has a gross throaty voice and a weird face, and she pretends she's all edgy but actually likes Maroon 5. It would still be sad if her dad got cancer and died. Even if she was the worst actress of all time.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Deer Hunter.

The Deer Hunter (Michael Cimino, 1978)

Category: Sad film about deer. Ohhhhhh the deer.

More significantly (in life and for this blog), this is a sad Vietnam War film. I believe this is the first war film I’ve covered for this blog, which is more than a little surprising. But it’s about time I switched over to more masculine sad movies. Men cry, too, you know. Just ask the Miami Heat.

Vietnam is a real raw nerve, artistically speaking. It’s recent, it’s controversial, and it was the center of the kind of big important social debate that comes around once in a generation. And also it was a WAR, in which over 58,000 Americans died, many of whom didn’t choose to go and fight. The idea that there was so recently a draft in this country is pretty crazy, considering how unthinkable the idea of a draft was this past decade, when our country was involved in two (2) wars. And add to all of that the fact that the vast majority of people nowadays consider the war “pointless” or “unnecessary,” and that a lot of people thought the war was pointless at the time. Like I said, a lot of tsuris going on here. The films that have been made about this period in our history feature a lot of these weighty issues: futility, guilt, anger, drugs, the horror, the horror, the horror. They include Born on the Fourth of July, Platoon and Full Metal Jacket.

My familiarity with this issue: Yeah, I was in the shitOK fine I wasn’t in the shit. But I’m somewhat familiar with the shit. I’ve seen a few films on the subject (most notably Apocalypse Now), I’ve read The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, and I’ve listened to the song “Goodnight Saigon” by Billy Joel, which effectively portrays the fear and confusion that the young soldiers dealt with, not even knowing who was wrong and who was right-ight-ight-ight-ight. Interesting stuff all around.

As mentioned, Vietnam reached a level of cultural pervasiveness that’s been wholly unmatched by the Iraq/Afghanistan wars. From a purely selfish Taste My Sad standpoint here, this is really lame, as we’re missing out on the kinds of great sad movies that would deal with the wars and their effect on what it means to be American that were so prevalent after Vietnam. I realize that the great Vietnam movies came out sometime after the war’s end (starting with this film in 1978 and Apocalypse Now in 1979). But I just don’t really see it happening anytime soon, for two reasons: (1) we as Americans tend to forget about the wars if we aren’t reminded of them often enough (Iraq was on the forefront of everyone’s mind for most of 2003, but we completely lost interest right around the Janet Jackson nipple incident), and (2) those kinds of movies don’t make any money, and making money is a lot more important to movie studios now than it was in the 1970s. The only culturally significant movie about Iraq/Afghanistan so far has been The Hurt Locker, which I really liked but doesn’t offer anywhere near the kind of insight into the war’s effect on our country as, say, Born on the Fourth of July. (I do plan to watch The Messenger, about an Iraq veteran who gives notice to the families of deceased soldiers, which I hear is good and sad, but made little impact in its US theatrical release.)

OK enough Vietnam. The Deer Hunter is only partially set there; its opening section concerns the Pittsburgh area and Russian-Americans getting married, if Wikipedia is to be trusted. And deer hunting! Let’s not forget that. I’ve never hunted and kind of think it’s terrible, to be honest. (Except if Ron Swanson is involved.) My relationship with animals is a bit paradoxical: I don’t think anyone should kill them, because that’s mean, but if any of them are within a 50-foot radius of me, I really really wish they were dead. Just get them away from me. And also I eat many of them. But hunting just seems wrong, or at the very least, not a fun way to spend one’s time. (There’s a great scene from the show Sports Night on this subject that I wish I could link to here, but the Youtube of it has no sound. You’re killing me, Internet. Also everyone should watch Sports Night, it’s awesome.)

But there are people who know more about this than me who say that hunting is alright, and talk about natural predators and fair chase and Teddy Roosevelt and all that. If I were in a conversation with these people, I would undoubtedly pretend to agree with them, because I’d know that they have experience in killing. KILLING! Imagine! Very few of my friends have killed. Then again, when I lived in West Virginia, hunters would frequently drive by my house, guns strapped to their backs, ready for some recreational murder, and I’d always wave at them and say “hi.” I wasn't condoning what they were doing, it's just that animals don’t wave and say “hi.” You can never be too careful.

Plot summary yoinked from IMDb: “Michael, Steven and Nick are young factory workers from Pennsylvania who enlist into the Army to fight in Vietnam. Before they go, Steven marries the pregnant Angela and their wedding-party is also the men's farewell party. After some time and many horrors the three friends fall in the hands of the Vietcong and are brought to a prison camp in which they are forced to play Russian roulette against each other. Michael makes it possible for them to escape, but they soon get separated again.”

What I thought of the movie: WHOA. Epic. Three hours! So much stuff, and so much of it sad. Not really a war film in the end, but still with an incredibly moving story about the effects of war and all that. The movie seemed to be full of really interesting contradictions. It’s a three-hour epic, centered on a small group of friends from a small town. It has a lot to say, but the characters don’t really say very much. It’s full of intense dramatic action sequences and long slow nature sequences. Russian roulette is a central symbol in the film, reflecting the random pointlessness of war, but most observers agree that Cimino’s use of Russian roulette is historically inaccurate. And most interesting of all: we care a lot about these characters even though we barely know anything about them. We know where they’re from and what they do, but little else. Very “show, don’t tell.” I’m a fan.

I read a lot on Wikipedia about the difficulties that Michael Cimino had in making this film (only his second film), and about his next one, the infamous flop Heaven’s Gate. Cimino has a reputation now as the kind of overblown, pretentious auteur because of Heaven’s Gate, and it affects the way people view The Deer Hunter. His modern analogue is probably M. Night Shyamalan, who followed up The Sixth Sense with six movies that were progressively more and more terrible (as shown in this handy graph), including his most recent film, The Last Airbender, which FsOTB Micah Lubens and Sarah Orton saw at midnight the day it opened. Fact. (Later that day, I received the following GChat: “Micah: oh dear jesus.”) But anyway. I don’t think it’s fair to retroactively change your opinion on a movie based on later movies. Michael Cimino could have directed Jaws: The Revenge, Batman and Robin and The Lovely Bones back to back to back after The Deer Hunter and it wouldn’t change the fact that The Deer Hunter is awesome. (OK maybe it would. The Lovely Bones is just so terrible.)

How I, John Krizel, related to the movie: So Cimino is one of those intensely committed directors, the ones who fill the frame with details and shoots miles and miles of film and all of that, and in this movie it all works. The wedding scene feels really authentic, even though I’ve never been to a Russian wedding. (PS someone invite me to a Russian wedding. They look AWESOME. The dancin’! The drinkin’! The rituals!) There’s a scene that really has nothing to do with the plot at the beginning of the movie, wherein Meryl Streep gets slapped by her drunken asshole of a father, and it just works so well to help us understand why she acts the way she does later in the film. Making me relate to working-class Pennsylvanians whose experiences are so vastly different from mine is a real accomplishment.

The war stuff is super-intense and gets to the heavy stuff REAL QUICK. They’re in Vietnam for two seconds and boom, captured. I could DEFINITELY relate to that. (Of course I know that they were probably there for a while before actually getting captured, but Cimino only shows us like three minutes of non-captured time before the capture. My point is that I would have been easily captured if I were a soldier. You saw what I was trying to do there, right? You could have let that one slide.) Where was I? Oh yeah. The war and that. So they get captured, and then there’s Russian roulette (thankfully not a feature of Russian weddings). I’m not a gambling man, so normally I’d pass on it, but the Vietnamese guys seemed to really insist. Jesus. 

Here’s the thing though: the effect that the Russian roulette has on the guys is SO INTENSE, and it’s completely understandable. I can see someone going completely bonkers after having to do that/watch their friends do that. It's inhuman. But then Walken and De Niro, after escaping the POW camp, keep the Russian roulette flame alive (in differing ways that you really should see the movie to understand). Which is a little confusing, because, you know, it’s very easy to die in one of those games. But in the end I can see where they’re coming from. When I’ve played really cool games that others of my friends didn’t know about, I've tended to proselytize a bit and enthusiastically show them how to play. I’m thinking mainly about the drinking game Douchebag. You guys gotta play it, it’s great. Slightly less dangerous than Russian roulette.

How I felt after the movie ended: It’s given me a whole new perspective on Christopher Walken (who won an Oscar for this film). Before this film I focused on his awesome SNL prowess, and also his ability to defy gravity while dancing in hotels. But he brought the Acting in this. Mad respect. (I will continue to do poor impressions of him.)

Srsly though, Roger Ebert wrote that The Deer Hunter is one of the most “emotionally shattering” movies ever made, and that’s a good description. Maybe it’s the length (that’s what she said), maybe it’s the intensity (that’s what she said), or maybe it’s just the subject matter (…), but it’s crazy haunting, the type of movie that stays with you for a long time. Although I just saw it yesterday, so, I guess we’ll see. I still remember most of the stuff from it. That’s a good sign.