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  1. I remember my father taking me to see "Patton" in 1970, and being awestruck by the opening scene - the one where Patton comes and gives a speech in front of that *amazing* American flag - other than that, I remember it being really long! What a difference 47 years makes when it comes to seeing a film about the quirks and eccentricities of a WWII General. I'm not going to issue any spoilers, especially because this is all based on historical facts about the WWII North African Theater, and its three principles: Patton, Montgomery, and Rommel. Some historical facts which you should know about (and will know about, if you watch the film). Note that since the location for this part of the war (and film) was North Africa, you can assume these are in Morocco, Tunisia, etc. You can consider these spoilers if you really want to, but since you should know about the events anyway, I'm not marking them as such (don't feel badly - I didn't either). The Battle of the Kasserine Pass - The first major conflict between allied and axis troops, at the two-mile-wide Kasserine Pass in the Atlas Mountains of Tunisia, during which we got the shit kicked out of us: 6,500 American casualties with over 1,000 dead. It was this battle which the Americans, caught sleeping, decided to bring in General Patton to run the North African campaign, and he became a three-star general (and placed in charge of General Omar Bradley, a two-star general). The Battle of El Guettar - Rommel had planned a massive Panzer attack in southern Tunisia, but Patton was more than ready for them. The Germans were pretty much devastated, and at this point, the two rival leaders had each other's full respect (the amount of respect shown to other competent leaders and soldiers in this film is quite touching, and has nothing to do with politics - they're like boxers in the 15th round, slugging it out. --- Aside: One of my treasures - my absolute treasures - is my father's Master's Degree diploma from Columbia Universty, which is hand-signed by none other than University President Dwight David Eisenhower - he came home from the war, and served in that capacity from 1948-1953, and anyone who got a diploma during that time, received a hand-signature of Eisenhower on their diploma (note that this is *before* he was U.S. President, so people didn't know he was going to be *as* famous as he was). This isn't all that rare, or valuable, but just imagine how much it means to me. How much does it mean? When the last of my parents passed away, this is the *only* thing of theirs that I wanted, out of all their tangible possessions - I'm hoping that, two-hundred years from now, it will be passed down to a distant relative of mine, and they will treasure it nearly as much as I do (it would be comparable to having something hand-signed by Benjamin Franklin today). I'm so proud of my father for serving his country in WWII, even though he was "only" in Occupied Japan after the war as over (he was a chauffeur who drove a limousine for a general, and received an honorable discharge). For the lucky recipient of this diploma, here is our family tree. --- The Allied Invasion of Sicily - Patton, a whack-job who believes in reincarnation, destiny, fate, etc., vies with British Commander Montgomery for getting the glory in taking over Sicily. They're both willing to sacrifice foot-soldiers so *they* can get the headlines and the glory for having taken over the important Italian outpost. The Sicilian campaign reveals both Patton an Montgomery to be egocentric, self-centered generals who put themselves before their troops, and this is the first part of the film that concretely shows just what bad people they are - they don't care about the greater good; they care about having their name in spotlights. These are *exactly* the types of people who need to be the generals in a science-fiction film, invading the aliens (who have superior weapons) and in the process, gain a significant dose of humility by virtue of laser beams, electric heat-rays, etc. God, would it be *awesome* to see Patton taken down a couple of notches by being forced to be humble. I love this line: A reporter who brought some priests to join Patton on his march towards Palermo, said (in front of the priests), "Colonel Davis showed us around your quarters, General Patton, and I was interested to see a bible by your bed. You actually find time to read it?" Patton: "I sure do. Every God-damned day." Oomph, a really bad moment in the movie: Patton's forward-moving line is stalled because of a couple stubborn jackasses (literally, jackasses), and he openly complains about it, and then shoots them. But, there was very clearly a body-double that did the shooting, and they didn't make any type of effort to hide that fact - this is one of the worst scenes in the film, as this is clearly not George C. Scott (yet, the person shooting the jackasses has a three-star general's helmet on). To me, this stands out as being the worst individual moment in the film thus far. There have been several scenes which definitively show that Patton has no tolerance for "cowards" in his army. There is to be no "combat fatigue," no "cases of nerves," etc. He will openly scream in these soldiers faces, scream and call them "God Damned Cowards!" and send them back out to the front lines. A general sympathetic to human needs he most certainly was not. I would be fascinated to hear peoples' viewpoints on this complex man - perhaps someone who we needed in extraordinary times; but these extraordinary times have come about (I mean, *truly* come about) perhaps twice in the last century; the other 95% of the time, these guys are just plain crotchety old bastards - but when you *really* need them, you *really* need them. I'm pretty sure this film tried to stay true to the gist of real-life, so it wasn't embellished except for what was needed for dramatic effect. That said, there was *plenty* of dramatic effect - for example, when Patton was being criticized for not including Russia in a statement about post-WWII world-rule, a newsreel by "Senator Clayborne Foss" was entirely fictional (there was no Senator Clayborne Foss) - the clip used is bogus, so while the main facts of the movie are true, there are plenty of liberties taken. I suppose you could take this as a *** SPOILER ALERT *** The deeper you get into this film, the more you realize that Patton isn't in this war for the good of the world; he's in it for himself. Why should what *he* wants matter, when what an enlisted man wants doesn't matter - at least when it comes to individual needs and also the greater good? I'm 2/3 of the way through the film now, and I'm liking Patton as a person less-and-less, and although he might be the person I'd want leading me in combat (and I mean "in the field of battle"), I don't think I'd want him making strategic decisions, because his first priority always seems like it's for himself. I wonder if the real General Patton was this much of an egoist? This all said, the personal rivalry between Patton and Montgomery was *highly* amusing. Patton said it best: "Hell, I know I'm a prima donna - I admit it. The thing I can't stand about Monty is that he *won't* admit it." Of course, all the humor quickly evaporates when Operation Market Garden costs Patton's troops an unspeakable amount of casualties. I have to say, the ending of this movie resonated more with me than the ending of any movie I've seen in a long, long time.
  2. I was 12 years old when "American Graffiti" (1973) was released, and just like with "Animal House" (1978) when I was 17, I think both movies meant more to me then than they do now - they're both, in a sense, "coming-of-age" films, and I think coming-of-age films have a greater influence if you're about to go through that period in your life: With American Graffiti, I was 5-years away, with Animal House, I was only 1-2 years away, and that's probably why I loved both movies at the time. Like with "Blackboard Jungle," I didn't realize that "Rock Around the Clock" was the opening theme song of this film - it makes a lot more sense here than there, since American Graffiti is so gentrified and set up to be a movie for upper-middle-class white people - it's almost like you're watching the pilot episode of "Happy Days" (which *also* used it as its opening theme song for awhile). Is American Graffiti the first of the "50s retro-movies" to look back upon it tenderly, as an innocent era? I can't think of any that came before this, so maybe that was the appeal to society (likewise with Happy Days). It all seems so harmless and naive - I wonder if anyone can think of any pre-1973 films that gave the early Rock-n-Roll era the same, sanitized treatment? I guess there's nothing wrong with this; it just comes across to me as a little bit sappy right now, not that sappy is bad. Ha! 45-years later, I still remember laughing at the line, "File that under 'CS' over there" when John Milner (Paul Le Mat) gets a traffic ticket. Oh my goodness! I had no idea Debralee Scott (who played Rosalie "Hotsie" Totsie in "Welcome Back Kotter") was in this movie. Not to mention the fact that she's Bob Falfa's (Harrison Ford's) date. The number of famous people in this movie is absolutely incredible, and I think that, for the most part, it was the movie which made them famous, and not vice-versa. I remember so well the line when Steve Bolander (Ron Howard) is in the car with Laurie Henderson (Cindy Williams) trying to get one more session in before going off to college - she refuses him, and he arrogantly says, "You want it, and you know it." Even at a pre-pubescent age 12, I thought to myself how ridiculous it was for *Ron Howard* to be saying that to such a pretty girl - it's funny the things you remember (and the things you don't) after nearly 45 years. By the way, the leader of "The Pharaohs" - the physically intimidating Bo Hopkins - is someone I recognized, but didn't remember from where. If you've ever seen "Midnight Express" (1978), he plays Tex, who's the one who says to Brad Davis - after Davis tries to escape - "You seem like a nice enough kid to me, Billy, but try it and I'll blow your fucking brains out." With just over thirty minutes left in the movie, I'm finally getting into American Graffiti - with "slice-of-life" movies, you have to immerse yourself into their atmosphere to enjoy them (cf: "The Last Picture Show," the impossibly beautiful Cybill Shepherd on the diving board notwithstanding). Finally, I feel like I'm watching a longer, edgier version of "Happy Days," which I enjoyed as a teenager, so I've started to feel at home with American Graffiti - but I just can't get over how young Richard Dreyfuss looks, no matter how long the movie goes on. I'm not sure I've ever seen a movie with more famous people in it than American Graffiti.
  3. I watched "The Godfather" from start to finish for only the second time in my life a few days ago, and my overall impression might not curry favor with movie fans: While it must be watched with full knowledge that it was 1972, and the films that came before it were nothing at all like it, my takeaway was that "this film is certainly not underrated." I'll raise the ante a bit by saying that Marlon Brando's performance might be one of the most *overrated* performances I've ever seen. Mind you, "overrated" doesn't mean "bad"; it just means overrated - Brando was deified for this performance, and I don't see all that much in it that merits deification. He was *good*, he was even *very good*, but I can't see this performance and call it "great." I found it very difficult to keep track of peoples' names, in particular the suspected crime bosses who were betraying the Corleone family, and Marlon Brando - cotton stuffed in his cheeks - was almost unintelligible at times. That said, I've been watching a lot of films in the past couple of years from the late 60s and early 70s, and the viewer *must* watch the film in that context. Just six years before, we were enduring such tripe as "Alfie," "Fantastic Voyage," and "One Million Years BC," among some of the better films from 1966. Even among the best of those films, "The Godfather" must be considered groundbreaking. I remember very well when my parents and my aunt went to see it, and it was a *huge* deal to them to be going out to watch this movie. "Is It Just Me, Or Is 'The Godfather' Overrated?" by Joe Rivers on sabotagetimes.com "Is The Godfather Overrated?" on answers.yahoo.com "Is The Godfather (Movie) Overrated?" on quora.com "'50 Most Overrated Movies" on imdb.com Obviously, I trolled the internet looking for the terms "Godfather" and "overrated," and there are plenty more links to be found (look for yourself), but you can also find just about anything you want to on the internet - it has a 99% "Tomatometer" rating on rottentomatoes.com (95% by Top Critics), so I'm clearly in the minority here. That said, I would also rate the movie both "Excellent" *and* "Overrated," so I don't see a conflict here.
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