Television is indeed a cut-throat world. Network and corporate executives exploit the mental break-down of a veteran news anchorman for the sake of ratings and monetary return. Summarised in this way, the film sounds like a jaded, cynic view of TV news in the seventies but it is so much more! It manages to introduce some surreal elements into a serious and realistic narrative that becomes one of the harshest criticism of television, entertainment and business world. Furthermore it uncannily predicts what happens to television in the next forty years: reality shows, exploitation of the worst gory events to improve ratings and such. Faye Dunaway show a wonderful combination of fanatical glee, workaholism and sheer determination as Diana Christensen, the producer who takes the reins of the news section of the network. She replaces Max Shumacher (Holden), an old-timer with integrity and also personal friend of Howard Beale (Finch), the anchorman in question. Beale’s ravings are illuminating and still actual (and downright hilarious) and Finch is fantastic to watch, no wonder he has got an Oscar for this role. To add more quality to an already stellar cast there’s Robert Duvall as Frank Hackett, face of the corporation, that recently bought the network, and ultimate shot-caller. His character might come across as one-dimensional, only driven by quarterly returns and stockholders’ expectations but Duvall manages to imbue him with some vulnerability that makes him more credible. The heart of the film is Holden’s Max: a man who is going towards his twilight years and finds himself fired, rather unceremoniously. He is viewed by Hackett as the past in TV news and he is considered both expendable and a threat to the network. All of this because Max refuses to use his friend Howard as freak-show to be paraded in front of millions of people. Max is the only silver lining of the film: someone who clings to his humanity (both the good and the bad) and doesn’t surrender and turn into a humanoid like Diana. Lumet’s directing is flawless and inspired and Paddy Chayefsky’ s script is pure gold. My favorite scenes are: Arthur Jensen’s (Beatty) speech about the primal forces of Nature and the contract negotiation between the far-left-wing revolutionaries, the communist activist and the network representatives; both are hilarious and amazing. Riveting —9/10
This is my first entry to The Matinee‘s Blind Spot blogathon. So far so good!
Mattie Ross (Darby) is determined to find her father’s killer, Tom Chaney (Corey), and see that justice is served. Being a resourceful, determined girl, she hires Rooster Cogburn (Wayne), a U.S marshal, who has true grit and a reputation for getting the job done. This unlikely pair is joined by Texas ranger La Boeuf (Campbell), who is chasing the same man for murdering a Texan senator. They start out from Fort Smith, Arkansas, and venture deep into the Indian Territory, where most outlaws seek refuge. A chance encounter with two of Ned Pepper’s (Duvall) men, a notorious bandit, put them on the right track. On a side note, it is interesting to see Denis Hopper in a small supporting role the same year in which Easy Rider was released, another proof of his versatility. The odd trio lie in wait to ambush Ned’s gang, hoping to catch Chaney as well, but luck is not on their side. Rooster’s knowledge of Ned and of the lay of the land will eventually lead them to their quarry but justice will come at a high price. There is a good on-screen chemistry between Darby and Wayne that sells quite well the story, notwithstanding the incredibly wooden performance of Campbell. The portrayal of Rooster is often celebrated as one of the best among Wayne’s roles and rightly so. He manages to complete disappear in his character and bring an artful mix of grumpiness, gumption and good-heartedness. Already in his sixties and rather portly, Wayne channels strength and make this drunken, beaten man believable as a hardened marshal, even if he looks a bit stiff climbing up or down his horse. I must confess that watching American western films from the 50s and 60s always leaves me baffled by the excess of cleanness and neatness of the people and their clothes, I have seen too many spaghetti western and post-western movies not to find it a little weird. I couldn’t help but notice Mattie’s perfectly manicured hands, her nylon stockings or the fact that no one is ever sweaty, scruffy or, god forbid, cover with dust! Anyway it is still a very enjoyable film. Entertaining —7/10
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This post is part of the Diamonds & Gold blogathon hosted by Caftan Woman and Wide Screen World, so please have a look at reviews of other great films with memorable performances of actors and actresses into their 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond:
Inspired by a true story of a Tennessee hermit in the 1930s. Robert Duvall is Felix Bush, who has been living by himself in the woods for 40 years, and one day decides to have a “funeral party” while he is still in this world. He wants to invite all the town and hear people telling the stories and rumors that circulate about him. Bill Murray is the owner of the local funeral parlor who is in financial difficulties and who agrees to organise the funeral party for Felix after seeing his big wad of cash. Lucas Black is the honest and kind clerk at the funeral parlor. To pique the interest of the townsfolk and ensure a good turnout, they publicize the party through flyers, radio and a lottery with Bush’s property as a prize (after his death). We slowly find out that the real plan is for Felix to finally tell his story and the reason of his self-imposed reclusion, in which is somehow involved Mattie (Sissy Spacek) and her deceased sister Mary Lee. Robert Duvall’s performance is seamless and very convincing (I would expect no less from him!) and Bill Murray is…well…Bill Murray, just priceless! Something different with a nice Southern atmosphere. —7/10
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