1971 – A Clockwork Orange

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A Clockwork Orange – 1971

I’m still trying to figure this one out.  To start with, I think I’ll quote from Wikipedia’s article on the film to give a perfunctory telling of the basic plot and supposed meaning of the film.  “A Clockwork Orange is a 1971 dystopian crime film adapted, produced, and directed by Stanley Kubrick, based on Anthony Burgess’s 1962 novella.  It employs disturbing, violent images to comment on psychiatry, juvenile delinquency, youth gangs, and other social, political, and economic subjects in a near-future Britain.

“Alex, played by Malcolm McDowell, is a sociopathic delinquent whose interests include classical music, rape, and what is termed ‘ultra-violence.’  He leads a small gang of thugs, Pete, Georgie and Dim, played by Michael Tarn, James Marcus, and Warren Clarke, respectively.  The film chronicles the horrific crime spree of his gang, his capture, and his attempted rehabilitation via controversial psychological conditioning.”

The plot was easy to follow, but there seemed to be a lot of symbolism in the movie that represented things of which I have no knowledge or understanding.  I believe the film was supposed to be commenting on different forms of government like communism, totalitarianism, and fascism.  I don’t know enough about any of these things to comment on them competently.  It also comments on things like juvenile delinquency, behavioural psychology, and aversion therapy, subjects of which I have only a rudimentary understanding.

I think that there were many things in the film that I just didn’t understand, and what I got out of it was mostly on the surface: the basic plot, the interesting characters, and the unique imagery.  So those are the things I’ll be focusing on.  We have come to associate that iconic image of Alex DeLarge, all dressed in white with the black bowler hat, with violence and fear, and with good reason.  The extreme cruelty and amorality that the character personifies is all the more frightening because Kubrick underscored it with music that was decidedly happy.  Alex sang Singing in the Rain while savagely beating a man and raping his wife.

But these disturbing scenes of violence and rape are only in the first quarter or so of the movie, along with images of hard-core pornography, frequent shots of full-frontal nudity of both men and women, and pornographic graffiti and art.  The rest of the movie follows Alex’s incarceration and his time in prison, and the equally cruel doctors who attempt to “cure” his psychopathic nature by brainwashing him.  It is also clear that another major theme was the different political factions that wanted to use him and his horrible treatment to further their own agendas.

But later in the film, it became evident that the intense brainwashing not only didn’t destroy his violent nature, it ended up destroying his ability to live as a complete human being.  As a result, when the victims of his violent past found him and enacted their revenge, he was not able to even defend himself.  The horror in Alex’s eyes when he is faced with his former gang-mates, who were responsible for his arrest after a murder, is all too real.  Now uniformed policemen, they beat him and nearly drown him.

By the end, I couldn’t tell what horrified me more: Alex’s psychotic and evil nature, or the cruel and inhumane methods that were employed to “cure” him, though I tend to think the former.  Either way, I, like the character of the prison chaplain, played by Godfrey Quigley, who detested the aversion therapy that was used on Alex.  They gave him drugs to make him sick, clamped his eyes open and forced him to watch images of violence and rape, conditioning him to get sick at the thought of such things.  But the treatment was a failure because though it pacified his actions, it did not change his nature.

Alex was still evil.  He still loved the raping and the violence, even though he could not act on it.  And besides, the conditioning had the terrible side effect of making him just as sick whenever he heard his beloved Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, which is something worth loving.  But the disturbing end of the film proved how pointless it all was, anyway.  After his suicide attempt, his conditioning was broken, implying that he was once again free and eager to return to his psychotic criminal ways.

And finally, I need to mention a couple of the differences between the original book and the film, of which, I have learned, there were very few.  But I think it is significant to know that in the book, Alex was much worse than the film depicted.  In the book, Alex also drugged and raped two 10 year-old girls, and murdered a man while serving his prison sentence for sexually harassing him.  But maybe those things were a little bit too much for Kubrick or the audiences of 1971, though with everything else that is shown in the movie, I can’t imagine why.

1970 – MASH

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MASH – 1970

I’ll start off by saying that this was a pretty good movie, made even more remarkable because it was the first zany, screwball comedy to be nominated for Best Picture in many years.  But the comedy was mostly pretty dark since it was set against the backdrop of the Korean War.  It made a point of not shying away from some of the graphic and bloody images of life in a Mobil Army Surgical Hospital unit.

The film had a pretty large cast which was made up of mostly unknown names.  Donald Sutherland played the arguable lead, Captain Hawkeye Pierce, M.D.  I say arguable because there was no central plot with a specific protagonist or antagonist.  There were good guy characters who were sometimes unusually cruel, and there were bad guy characters who were often commendable.  But much of the film seem to be told from the perspective of Captain Pierce.

Operating alongside him are his two closest friends, Captain “Trapper” John McIntyre, played by Elliott Gould, and Captain “Duke” Forrest, played by Tom Skerritt.  His commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake, was played by Roger Bowen.  The bad guys included Major Frank Burns, played by Robert Duvall, and Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan, the Chief Nurse, played by Sally Kellerman.  Other notable names were Rene Auberjonois as the chaplain, Father Mulcahy, John Schuck as the dentist, Captain “Painless Polak” Waldowski, and Gary Burghoff as Corporal “Radar” O’Reilly.  Incidentally, Burghoff was the only member of the cast who transitioned to the successful TV show that was inspired by the film.

I don’t want to compare the movie to the TV show, but I have to say that, like the TV show, it was very episodic.  It seemed to be made up of seven, or so, individual stories, each of which could have easily been turned into a half-hour sit-com episode.  There was the opening, in which we are introduced to most of the characters.  There was the part where the sexy Chief Nurse arrives.  There was the episode where the Painless Polak tries to commit suicide and is stopped by his friends.  There was the one where Hawkeye and Trapper go too far playing pranks on Hot Lips and she threatens to resign her commission.  And there were several others, but the final episode is where the war ends and they all go their separate ways.

The comedy was silly and often hilarious, and there were times when I found myself laughing out loud.  Director Robert Altman did a fantastic job of portraying the chaos of such an active place.  He did things that no other director had done like having actors saying their dialogue on top of each other, making it confusing but incredibly realistic.  He was overtly sexual in his sense of humor, appealing to audiences who were obviously ready for a few raunchy laughs.

But all the laughs had to be taken with a grain of salt.  The gushing blood and gore weren’t funny in the least.  The fact that war was an ugly, messy business in which young men, American and Korean, died in pain and suffering, was not lost on me.  The doctors, whose futile job it was to try to keep them alive, found that the only way for them to hold on to their sanity were the jokes.

The theme song was also pretty popular and got plenty of radio play.  Called Suicide is Painless, it was written by Johnny Mandel with lyrics written by the director’s 14 year-old son, Mike Altman.  Robert liked it so much that he used it as the theme for entire film’s score, though it was originally written for the suicide scene, which I thought was one of the best scenes in the film.  It was funny, but touching, frightening, and depressing all at the same time.  It was about a man who was supposed to be a Don Juan, but couldn’t get it up when he wanted to.  His fragile mind thought that it must mean that he was now a “fairy,” even though he was really just emotionally damaged because of the horrible conditions of the war.  It was a beautifully done scene, even though it irreverently lampooned the famous Leonardo da Vinci painting, The Last Supper.

1970 – Love Story

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Love Story – 1970

OK, get out the razor blades.  I’m ready to slit my wrists now.  But seriously, this has got to be one of the most depressing movies of all time.  Why?  Because it is, before anything else, a weepy romance.  Director, Arthur Hiller, did a wonderful job of getting us to fall in love with the characters before separating them by death, a boundary that cannot be denied.  And he did it so effectively.  The story was wonderfully told and brilliantly acted.

Ryan O’Neal plays Oliver Barrett IV, and right in the opening scene, he is shown sitting alone on a bench in the dead of winter, snow all around him.  We are immediately told that he is in love with a woman and that she has died.  Then we are transported back to the beginning of their story.  The love of his life is Jenny Cavalleri, played by Ali McGraw.

We see the two meet as young college students, he at Harvard and she at Radcliffe.  We see them go out on their first date.  We see love begin to bloom.  We see them as their relationship grows and strengthens.  We see their good times and their bad.  We see them marry.  We see them fighting and making up.  We see their relationship grow deeper and more meaningful.  And then we see Jenny fall sick with leukemia and get weaker and weaker before she finally dies in his arms.

And that’s it.  That’s the entire movie.  It was simple and unforced.  It was honest and passionate.  But that is why it was so effective.  It didn’t feel contrived or manic.  It was organic and natural.  The on-screen chemistry between O’Neal and McGraw was so good that I believed their love.  The script, written by Erich Segal, showed two real people who were perfect for each other.  He, and the actors, made us, the audience, take joy in their relationship.

And then he dashed all our hopes against the rocks.  And what made it worse was that we saw it coming.  We knew what was going to happen and we got hurt anyway.  Not only was the happiness of love celebrated in a beautiful way, the tragedy of death was handled with care and respect.  It was weepy without being sappy or melodramatic.  O’Neal and McGraw both did a fantastic job.

And I can’t write a review for Love Story without mentioning the iconic theme song.  The film’s score was written by Francis Lai, and though the film was nominated for 7 Academy Awards, Best Music – Original Score was the only category in which it won.  The music was both romantic and sad at the same time.  It had a classical style which touched on the character of Jenny, who was studying to be a concert pianist.  The theme song, entitled Where Do I Begin, was later popularized by singer Andy Williams.

The movie had a popular tagline which I happen to disagree with.  Those who know the film will always remember the line, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry,” spoken by Jenny after a fight with her husband.  That’s bunk.  In my humble opinion, they should have said, “Love means being ready to say ‘I forgive you’.”  You see the distinction?  But that’s just me.

There was another aspect to the movie which I though was nearly as interesting as the romance.  There was a big difference between the classes which was portrayed by the only two other significant characters in the film.  Oliver’s father, Oliver Barrett III, played by Ray Milland, was a stereotypical rich man, looking down his nose at anybody who was not rich.  He eventually disowned his son because of his marriage to a lower class girl.  Jenny’s father, Phil Cavallari, played by John Marley, was the exact opposite.  He was kind and accepting of his son-in-law.  And you can’t tell me that wasn’t a little bit of social commentary.  Rich equals bad and poor equals good?  But I get it.  It was really there to demonstrate one of the obstacles their love overcame… before she died.  Waaaaaah!!!

1970 – Five Easy Pieces

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Five Easy Pieces – 1970

This movie was confusing in more ways than one.  First, I couldn’t understand what the main characters’ motivations were. Then I couldn’t understand why critics loved it so much.  I mean it had a rather sparse plot and not much of a definitive point.  So what did it have?  Why was it nominated for the Best Picture of 1970?

It was directed by Bob Rafelson, and starred Jack Nicholson as Robert Dupea, a man who was raised as a piano prodigy, but for some reason which is never really explained, he decides to leave his life of privilege to become an oil rig laborer.  He never seems to be happy with either his job or his clingy girlfriend Rayette Dipesto, played by Karen Black.  He likes his best friend Elton, played by Billy “Green” Bush, well enough, though he showed signs of contempt for even him.  Robert spends his life searching for something, but he has no idea for what or where to look.

He does his best to fit into his chosen lower-middle-class life but he seems to be tormented the tediousness that it entails.  Then problems begin to mount, driving him to further seek for meaning in his life.  Rayette, who he does not love, becomes pregnant, Elton is arrested and taken away, and he learns that his father has had two strokes, and has become an invalid.

He returns to the home of his childhood and tries to reconcile himself to his family, his sister, Partitia, played by Lois Smith, his brother, Carl, played by Ralph Waite, And Carl’s wife, Catherine Van Oost, played by Susan Anspach, but is reminded of why he left that life in the first place.  He hates the pretentiousness and snobbishness of the upper-class people and their smug, superior ways.  Rayette joins him at his family’s house, but her lower class origins put her at odds with everyone.  So Robert leaves in anger and disillusionment.

The film’s bleak ending was, I think, supposed to be profound, but I just saw it as another example of his character running away from a life that he hates, hurting everyone around him in the process.  It was hard for me to identify with such a directionless and self-centered character.

It isn’t that it wasn’t a good film, though I wouldn’t call it great either.  But when I read, for example, Roger Ebert’s review, I think I caught a small glimpse of what the film was really about.  He said, “The film, one of the best American films, is about the distance between that boy, practicing to become a concert pianist, and the need he feels twenty years later to disguise himself as an oil-field rigger. When we sense the boy, tormented and insecure, trapped inside the adult man, Five Easy Pieces becomes a masterpiece of heartbreaking intensity….The movie is joyously alive to the road life of its hero. We follow him through bars and bowling alleys, motels and mobile homes, and we find him rebelling against lower-middle-class values even as he embraces them. In one magical scene, he leaps from his car in a traffic jam and starts playing the piano on the truck in front of him; Robert Eroica Dupea is one of the most unforgettable characters in American movies.”

Well, I don’t think I’d go as far as to say that, but maybe I can understand the concept of a severely emotionally crippled man who is like a child trapped in the body of an adult.  Ebert uses words like ‘intensity’, ‘magical’, and ‘unforgettable’, but I didn’t feel any of those things.  Unless… unless, the character was speaking for a generation, a society of young men and women who, like him, were searching for meaning in a world that was profoundly unsatisfying, and growing more and more out of control every day.  Perhaps Robert somehow represented the generation of hippies who were ready to move away from their free and easy youth, but who did not know where to go.

However, not having lived through the 60s or 70s, not having been alive during all the social and political upheaval of the era, and not having been around during the uncertainty of the Vietnam War, I might be missing out on some of the deeper meanings of this strange little film.

1970 – Airport

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Airport – 1970

OK, this is a disaster movie.  How many bad conditions, bad decisions, bad coincidences, and bad luck can we heap on our characters without killing them?  As a concept, it might sound a bit cheesy.  I kind-of went into the film with that kind of an attitude, something, I’ll fully admit, I should not have done.  But with one of my favorite comedy films of all time, 1980’s Airplane, being a parody of this movie and its genre, it was hard not to look at it with a sense of humor.  As I watched, I kept thinking to myself, “Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue!”

Airport had some pretty recognizable names in its cast like Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin, Jacqueline Bisset, and George Kennedy, giving the film some star power.  And though it was certainly not the first disaster film ever made, it inspired a plethora of other disaster films in the 1970s like 1972’s The Poseidon Adventure, and 1974’s The Towering Inferno.  There was even a sequel made called Airport 1975 which brought back George Kennedy to reprise his character.

Lancaster played Mel Bakersfeld, an airport manager whose wife is leaving him because he is more married to his job than to her.  Dean Martin played his brother-in-law, Vernon Demerest, who was also the co-pilot of the ill-fated Boeing 707.  Bisset played Gwen Meighen, the chief stewardess and Vernon’s pregnant mistress.  Kennedy played Joe Patroni, the chief mechanic for the airline.  Aside from Patroni, we can already see that not only was disaster plaguing the airport, it was plaguing the lives of its employees.

And what were the disasters they had to deal with?  Actually, there were really only two.  There was the snowstorm that caused a plane to get stuck on the only available runway, and the depressed Mr. Guerrero, played by Van Heflin, who brings a bomb on the plane to commit suicide so that his wife can collect insurance money.

The director, George Seaton, did a great job of building the tension over the course of the film.  However, I have to mention the slightly anticlimactic ending.  I mean, the Mr. Guerrero detonates his bomb and blows a hole in the side of the aircraft, but in the end, the plane lands safely and that’s about it.  After the bomb went off, a lot of the tension was lost.  The other plane had been removed from the runway, and the calm landing in the snowy airport had no real complications.  The ending would have been much more exciting if the other plane had still been on the runway and the landing aircraft had to swerve to avoid crashing into it… or something like that.

Part of the film’s charm was the colorful cast of passengers that were on the flight.  However, the most unnecessary of these was the character of Mrs. Quonsett, played by Helen Hayes.  She was a serial stowaway who had no real contribution to the plot until the crew made their attempt to nab Mr. Guerrero’s bomb.  They simply spent far too much time on her back story.  But for some reason, Helen Hayes was actually nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her ridiculous role.

The main cast all did a good job.  I have to mention that this is one of the few rolls in which Burt Lancaster didn’t over-act his part, and as a result, he did a good job.  Kennedy was good, as was Martin.  But I’d like to give Bisset a special thumbs-up for her good performance.  Her character was realistic and likable.  This is the first film in which I can remember seeing her, and I liked what I saw.

Other notable actors in the film were Barry Nelson as Anson Harris, the pilot of the airplane, and Jean Seberg, the public relations director of the airport, and Mel’s love interest.  But for me, a real standout was Maureen Stapleton, playing the part of Mrs. Guerrero who has to deal with the horrifying knowledge of her husband’s insane plan.  She really impressed me with her emotional performance.

1969 – Z

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Z – 1969

OK, this is going to be a difficult review to write.  It isn’t that it was a tough movie to follow, but because it was a foreign film in a foreign language with foreign actors.  I actually liked it well enough.  The acting was good and the pace was engaging.  It was easy to follow who was who when watching the film, though not by name.  That guy is the corrupt General.  That guy is the politician who is giving a speech about nuclear disarmament.  That lady is his wife.

But it is difficult to call them by name, and when I looked up the cast list on both Wikipedia and IMDB, they give names like Yves Montand as The Deputy, Charles Denner as Manuel, and Gerard Darrieu as Barone.  Only by looking up pictures of these obscure French actors on the internet was I able to discern who some of the actors were.  For example, Gerard Darrieu was the thug who sold figs and who had beaten the politician’s aid, mistaking him for the politician.

Anyway, the film was about the real-life events that took place in Greece in 1963.  Apparently, there was an assassination of a pacifist Deputy, Grigoris Lambrakis, played by Yves Montand, the order of which came from high-ranking officials of the Greek Military Police.  My research tells me that the film followed events pretty accurately.  In fact, in the opening scene, a statement is displayed on the screen, saying, “Any similarity to real persons and events is not coincidental.  It is intentional.”  This film wasn’t just made for entertainment.  It was an accusation.

Basically, the Greek government viewed Lambrakis as a threat to their power and made arrangements to have him assassinated.  They succeeded, but there were just enough questions asked to prompt an official investigation.  Suddenly witnesses who might testify against the military started getting attacked or killed, fomenting even more questions and heightening the investigation.  Key players like journalists and prosecutors were intimidated and encouraged to drop the case.

But the Examining Magistrate, the main prosecutor, played by Jean-Louis Trintignant, persevered and eventually brought four high-level military officers up on charges of murder.  Pierre Dux played The General, the main antagonist behind the assassination.  Charged with him was the Colonel, played by Julien Guiomar.  Another notable character was the Photojournalist, played by Jaques Perrin.  At first I thought he was just a sleazy reporter, but he actually turned out to be an important part of the prosecuting investigation.  Marcel Bozzuffi and Renato Salvatori played the parts of Vago, the man who actually murdered the Deputy, and Yago, the driver of the car from which the killing blow was struck.

The only name I recognized from the cast was Irene Papas, playing the part of Helen, Lambrakis’ wife.  She didn’t have much screen time, but it was nice to see a familiar face and she did a good job, bring some emotional content to an otherwise dry film.  Sure, it was a dramatization of real events, but it was told with very little emotion other than political anger and indignation.

But despite the success of the prosecuting attorneys, the film, which remained true to what actually happened, ended on a pretty depressing note.  I can sum it up best by quoting from the plot synopsis given on Wikipedia:  “Instead of the expected outcome, the prosecutor is mysteriously removed from the case, several key witnesses die under suspicious circumstances, the assassins receive (relatively) short sentences, the officers receive only administrative reprimands, the Deputy’s close associates die or are deported, and the photojournalist is sent to prison for disclosing official documents.

The heads of the government resign after public disapproval, but before elections are carried out, a Coup d’etat occurs and the military seize all the power.  They ban modern art and popular art in its many features such as popular music and avant-garde novelists, as well as modern mathematics, classic and modern philosophers, and the use of the term ‘Z’, (which was used by protesters against the former government), which referred to the Deputy and means: ‘He lives’.”

1969 – Hello Dolly!

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Hello Dolly! – 1969

Hello Dolly, while highly entertaining, was a ridiculous film.  The plot had the potential to be good, but fell short.  The ending was horribly written, the music was somewhat passable, most of the dancing was completely unnecessary, and the acting was, in some cases, beyond horrible.  And I’m sorry to say that I suspect that many of its failings were the fault of the director, Gene Kelly.

Kelly was an incredible dancer.  There no disputing that.  But though the film’s choreographer was Michael Kidd, there was no mistaking Kelly’s personal trademarks on the dance moves.  You can’t tell me that he had nothing to do with the film’s big dance numbers.  Much of the dancing was nothing more than synchronized acrobatics that were ridiculously gratuitous.  None of it did a single thing to advance the plot in any way.  It was dancing for the sake of dancing.

And just to clarify:  That unmistakable Gene Kelly stamp was nowhere more evident than in the dance number before the song Hello Dolly.  The restaurant’s waiters danced with trays of food in their hands.  Of course they would, because waiters carry trays so they would be the perfect prop.  But they start doing acrobatic flips and spins that should have sent both the trays and the food they carried flying in every direction.  But, of course, not a single morsel was spilled.  Not a tray was dropped.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  I’ll reiterate that the film was very entertaining.  The beautiful costumes and sets were wonderful.  Everything was bright and cheery.  The feeling was one of well-to-do, 1890s, New York perfection.  Everyone was attractive, everything was pristine, and there was a smile on every face.  It is hard not to respond to that.

But I had some serious problems with the script.  I understand that the film was really a fantasy, and so it didn’t exactly have to be realistic.  But then it should at least follow its own rules.  To explain that, I have to go into the plot a little.  Barbara Streisand played the part of Dolly Levi, a strong-willed matchmaker who has been hired to find a wife for Horace Vandegelder, a wealthy business owner in Yonkers, NY, played by Walter Matthau.

Horace is a grouchy old man who never has a kind word to say to anybody.  He is a tyrannical boss to his two young employees, Cornelius Hackle and Barnaby Tucker, played by Michael Crawford and Danny Lockin.  His niece, Ermengarde, played by Joyce Ames, is in love with Ambrose Kemper, played by Tommy Tune.  Being the devious match-maker she is, Dolly decides that she wants Horace for herself.  Why?  Presumably because she is in love with him, though why anybody would love such a sour old curmudgeon without a single likable quality is beyond me.

Dolly not only arranges her own match to Horace, but finds matches for Cornelius and Barnaby free of charge.  Irene Malloy and Minnie Fay, played by Marianne McAndrew and E. J. Peaker, turn out to be perfect matches for them.  They are both available, and eager to fall in love at a moment’s notice.    Dolly also arranges for Ermengarde and Ambrose to be together, despite Horace’s objections.

So right away, right from the very beginning, we know how the movie is going to end.  But after an entire film of seeing how much of a mean old man Horace is, there is no explanation as to why he suddenly changes his tune at the last instant and professes his love for Dolly.  Then, suddenly, he is Mr. Nice Guy, and there wasn’t a single indication in the entire film as to why his character would do this.

And finally I have to mention Michael Crawford’s terrible acting.  He so completely over-acted his part that he was positively buffoonish.  When faced with a pretty girl, he became a cartoon character, complete with ridiculous stuttering, clownish knuckle biting, and childish foot stomping.  Really??  But again, I suspect that Gene Kelly had to have had something to do with this.  He was, after all, the director.

1969 – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid


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Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – 1969

It has been a long time since I have seen this film.  I barely remembered anything before watching it again.  Paul Newman and Robert Redford starred as the two title characters, Butch and Sundance.  The characters were based on historical figures, and from what my research told me, both they and the film’s plot were a pretty accurate depiction of the real things.

The film followed the two notorious outlaws as they robbed banks and trains, ran from the law, fled to Bolivia, and died at the hands of the Bolivian army.  The whole film was presented with an almost carefree feel, something epitomized by the film’s big hit song, Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, by Bert Bacharach.  The loose and easy feel was also helped along by the casual and sometimes comical relationship between the two bandits.

And it was that free and easy tone that, for me, turned a great movie into just a good movie.  The film was really supposed to be a drama with some light, comedic moments sprinkled throughout.  But Bacharach’s underscoring somehow removed any real drama.  A different score could have easily raised the intensity of the film.  The problem was that Bacharach was a Vegas lounge singer.  After an exciting chase scene, I kept expecting to hear, “Be sure to tip your waitress.”

I understand, if that was the tone of the film that director George Roy Hill wanted, but surely there could have been other ways to achieve it.  The lounge act and the Old West just didn’t quite fit together.  The problem was that the music tied the film down to the 60s and prevented it from being timeless.

But that being said, I still liked the movie.  I enjoyed the light-hearted feel, the comedic banter, and the larger than life characters.  I liked the pacing, the cinematography, and the action sequences.  The iconic scene in which Butch and Sundance have to jump off a cliff into a rushing river to escape their pursuers was exciting, as was the climactic gun fight at the end.  But unfortunately, 90% of the music had to go.

The only other significant role played in the film was Sundance’s lover, Etta Place, played by Katherine Ross.  She was in bed with Sundance, but in love with Butch.  Her character was easy going and familiar with her lover’s profession of choice, and even joined the boys on a few of their jobs in Bolivia.  But not wanting to see her man die, she left when things started to get too dangerous.

I actually liked both of the characters portrayed by Newman and Redford.  One of the things that most people notice about the film is the great on-screen chemistry between the two actors.  It is easily evident in the way that they interact with each other.  There is an easiness about them that seems effortlessly natural, like the actors had been friends as long as the characters they played.

Newman played Butch Cassidy, a man with a nimble mind who is set up as the brains of the duo.  His affable charm and his amusing wit were very likeable.  Despite his criminal nature, he is the kind of guy who would be fun to know, never taking anything too seriously.  He used humor to get through bad situations, even making jokes during the final scene when the two friends are gunned down.

Redford played another likeable character, but with a completely different personality.  He was a little slow but not stupid, and generally didn’t talk much.  But he was also the fastest gun in the west.  He had an incredibly quick draw and deadly accuracy with his weapons.  He had a callous and indifferent disposition when it came to killing but I liked him in spite of that.  The fact that he was very handsome with his blond hair and moustache didn’t hurt either.

1969 – Anne of the Thousand Days

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Anne of the Thousand Days – 1969

Critics of the time didn’t give this film a very positive review.   They praised the performance of Genevieve Bujold, but that was about it.  Why, then, was Anne of the Thousand Days nominated for 10 Academy Awards, winning for Best Costume Design?  Well, it was thanks to an aggressive advertising campaign, where Universal Studios provided Academy members champagne and filet mignon after screenings.

But really, I enjoyed the film without the wooing from the studio.  They called it slow, plodding, and historically inaccurate, but I disagree with the first two.  I liked the pacing and the buoyancy of the narrative.  And as for the historical accuracy or lack thereof, I’ll admit that every now and then I’ll take issue with it.  But this is not one of those times.  If I want historical accuracy, I’ll watch a documentary.  If I want a well-acted and engaging drama, I’ll watch a film.

Genevieve Bujold, in her first English-speaking film, plays the beautiful Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII, played by Richard Burton.  The troubled relationship between the two is the source of the film’s intrigue.  The movie start out with Henry debating whether or not to sign Anne’s death warrant.  The finality of the act causes him to look back on his time with her.

Then the majority of the film is told like a flashback that does not return to Henry and his pen until the narrative catches up with him.  Of course, at that point we can understand what led up to the situation, why he seems to be hesitant, and why ultimately he condemns Anne to death by beheading.

Bujold did a fantastic job as the dramatized queen.  Her youth and innocence was perfectly portrayed, and her reasons for resisting the King’s lecherous advances were understandable.  Eve when she gave in to him, I believe her.  As always, Burton also turned in a memorable performance, portraying the man with a conscience, the spoiled child, and the obsessed lover, all of which made up the infamous monarch.

Other memorable performance came from Anthony Quayle as Cardinal Woolsey, and John Colicos as Cromwell.  Each of them was well-cast and played their parts with skill.  Quayle especially caught my attention as a fine actor.  The character of Woolsey was well written, especially in his final scene where he is forced hand the keys of his home to Queen Anne and meekly step aside as his years of devoted service to the King are stepped on and thrown away like trash.

Irene Papas, as Queen Katherine, did a good job, but my problem with her was not with the actress, but with her casting.  The real Queen Catherine had a light complexion.  Papas has a dark Mediterranean look.  But she was playing a Spanish Queen, and they wanted her to look traditionally Latino, as if audiences wouldn’t be able to understand a fair-skinned Spanish woman.

And finally, I have to mention how much I really liked the ending.  Because Anne could not give Henry a make heir, he had to find a way to get rid of her.  However, doing so was messy and complicated, especially considering everything he had done to win her.  So, at Cromwell’s suggestion, he falsely accused her of adultery and incest, stacked the judges against her, and signed her death warrant.  But her parting words to Henry left me with a sense of satisfaction, and the bear repeating here.  “Elizabeth is yours. Watch her as she grows; she’s yours. She’s a Tudor! Get yourself a son off of that sweet, pale girl if you can – and hope that he will live! But Elizabeth shall reign after you! Yes, Elizabeth – child of Anne the Whore and Henry the Blood-Stained Lecher – shall be Queen! And remember this: Elizabeth shall be a greater queen than any king of yours! She shall rule a greater England than you could ever have built! Yes – MY Elizabeth SHALL BE QUEEN! And my blood will have been well spent!”