Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
Stanley Kubrick has directed some of the best movies in cinematic history, but none are as satirically biting as Dr. Strangelove. Letting Peter Sellers shine in three major roles continued to reveal Sellers as a comic acting genius. Using humor, Kubrick showed in a very frightening way all the consequences of American foreign policy concerning the USSR and the Cold War in general if and when things got even a bit out of hand. Having Slim Pickens ride the bomb to humankind’s final destruction was a great ending to a very humorous and frightening movie. Social criticism can sometimes be driven home better with a smile and a laugh than it can with a speech or a rally, and this movie is proof of it. Jonathan Swift would be proud.
The Thin Red Line (1998)
Directed by: Terrence Malick
Many critics were quite impressed with this movie, but I was disappointed. Based on the novel by James Jones, The Thin Red Line falls prey, as many films adapted from books do, to a narrative that takes away from the progression of the film. Narrative is best left to move the plot along, or in a few circumstances, explain a situation that occurred or is about to occur. But in this movie, when each character voices his thoughts the progression of the film dies. You listen to babble that you need a PhD in psycho-analysis to decipher. Not only that, but there are so many characters who speak that it becomes impossible to figure out who actually said what as the film continues. The best narratives keep the speeches to a single character, not half a dozen or more. Where this film does not fail is its action sequences and its cinematography. The shots are at times breathtaking and the war scenes are realistic and penetrating. A second and third viewing also enhances your appeciation for the film.
Directed by: Sam Mendes
Not to demean the American military, and its personnel, but has the military machine and Hollywood finally run out of ways to put war on film? What the point of this was travels beyond the capacity of understanding from this reviewer. Although it may show the frustrations of military men waiting for war and give the public a Hollywood version of what it was like in the deserts of the Middle East for its sons and daughters serving, it wasn’t enough of a story to merit the backing of a major studio and the 10 bucks it would cost to see it in the theater. Although the scenes where the men had to hump through mists and rain made up of oil was interesting as it hasn’t been shown on film before.
The Deer Hunter (1978)
Directed by: Michael Cimino
One of the greatest Vietnam films ever made, Deer Hunter was nominated for nine Academy Awards in 1979 and won five of them. It won for Best Picture beating out Coming Home, Heaven Can Wait, Midnight Express, and An Unmarried Woman. What put it over the top in the minds of many, including myself, were the Russian roulette sequences throughout the movie. The first at the POW camp ranks in the top echelon of dramatic and shocking scenes in the history of film. Robert De Niro, and Meryl Streep were nominated for an Oscar while Christopher Walken won for his stellar performances. Deer Hunter is a must-see by any movie buff with sense and should be one of the first purchases in any DVD/Blu-ray collection. It’s too bad the recent reissue deluxe two-DVD set is so disappointing in bonus features.
Directed by: Tony Bill
The only cool thing that this film has going for it is the realistic portrayal of the first fighter planes in battle against one another. Otherwise, the film has little interest; you feel little for the characters and the story seems like a glossed over Disney version of WWI. These guys died at an alarming rate whether from enemy gunfire or mechanical failures, yet I don’t believe anyone watching this film would shed a tear. Perhaps Tony Bill should get some tutoring from Spielberg and try again with another period film.