A disgusting account of what the evil Vietnamese did to poor, innocent Americans stands at the center of this Oscar-laden weepie about macho buddies from a small industrial town (Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Savage, and John Cazale, wasted in his last screen performance). It begins with an extended wedding sequence cribbed from Visconti and ends with a world-weary rendition of God Bless America. While the results are far from unprofessional — the cast is uniformly good, including a characteristically slapped-around Meryl Streep, and the two deer-hunting sequences mark director Michael Cimino as an able student of Disney’s Bambi and Riefenstahl’s The Blue Light — the male self-pity is so overwhelming that you’ll probably stagger out of this mumbling something about Tolstoy (as many critics did when the film first came out in 1978) if you aren’t as nauseated as I was. I much prefer Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate. 183 min. (JR)
Daily Archives: October 12, 2020
From the September 1, 1995 Chicago Reader. — J.R.
Director Paul Verhoeven and writer Joe Eszterhas’s fresh meat market—a sleazy Las Vegas porn show with clunky production numbers that resemble body-building exercises, backed by heaps of big studio money. The story, a low-rent version of All About Eve, charts the rise of one bimbo showgirl (Elizabeth Berkley) at the expense of another (Gina Gershon); alas, the only actor who seems comfortable is Kyle MacLachlan. It must be admitted that, as with Basic Instinct and Starship Troopers, which I also underrated initially, this 1995 movie has only improved with age—or maybe it’s just that viewers like me are only now catching up with the ideological ramifications of the cartoonlike characters. In this case, the degree to which Las Vegas (and by implication Hollywood) is viewed as the ultimate capitalist machine is an essential part of the poisonous package. With Glenn Plummer, Robert Davi, Alan Rachins, and Gina Ravera. R, 131 min. (JR)
While I can’t vouch for how well this 1991 documentary interprets Stephen Hawking’s best-selling book, this is my favorite Errol Morris picture after Fast, Cheap & Out of Control — a cogent and fascinating presentation of Hawking’s theories about the origin and fate of the universe, intercut with an account of Hawking’s life (including how he has managed to cope with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). I find the material from the book much more important and fascinating than the inspirational life story; though interesting in its own right, it’s a standard triumph-over-adversity scenario that periodically threatens to trivialize Hawking’s ideas and work. However, the alternation between Morris’s usual talking-head approach for the biography and Hawking’s computer-generated voice and various kinds of illustrations to recount most of the theory creates a dialectic that the film profits from stylistically. Philip Glass composed the music. (JR)Read more