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Robert Duvall, almost surely most famous for his work in "The Godfather" franchise, began his career in 1952. Here are some excerpts: 1962 - as Arthur "Boo" Radley in "To Kill a Mockingbird" - 1963 - as Charley Parkes in "Miniature" on "The Twilight Zone" - 1964 - as Louis Mace in "Chameleon" on "The Outer Limits" - 1969 - as Lucky Ned Pepper in "True Grit" - 1970 - as Major Frank Burns in "MASH" -
I feel like I just ate an entire box of Chips Ahoy! cookies. I am so ashamed that I have now watched - and enjoyed - "Jack Reacher," the Tom Cruise action thriller from 2012, but so I did. Sometimes, multiple external factors converge to make you want nothing but the cheapest, most escapist brand of diversion, and such was it with me, and the previews for the Reacher sequel which just came out were enough to reel me in for the most tawdry brand of entertainment there is. And I enjoyed it. This was my beach book, my Robert Ludlum, my Twilight Zone without the historical significance. I'd enter a spoiler alert, except there's nothing to spoil, any more than me taking pictures of the Domino's pizza that arrived, twenty minutes into the film. And I'm kidding about the pizza. But the movie was perfect within its genre, and I'm actually looking forward to the sequel.
*** SPOILERS FOLLOW *** "True Grit" is a continuance of 'Hollywood Classics which I've never before seen.' It begins with a surprise murder by Tom Chaney (Jeff Corey), then a distressingly *non*-surprising gathering at the Courthouse, where they're going to be hanging three men that day. Why people have always wished to gather to witness others being violently killed is beyond my capability of understanding. And in case you think our species has evolved since the days of the Wild West: Aug 14, 2014 - "20,000 Watched the Last Public Hanging 78 Years Ago" by Mark Murrmann on motherjones.com Hating human beings, but loving cats and dogs, is perfectly justified, don't you think? Hey, I have an idea! Let's all have a get-together, and push our kids on swings while three men await their deaths! Anyway, daughter Mattie Ross (Kim Darby) is understandably furious at the murder of her father, Frank Ross (John Pickard). Mattie is one of the witnesses to the public hanging, and thinks the cold-hearted judge (who "flips the switch") is *just* the man she needs to try the murderer of her daddy, and it's hard to blame her. Interestingly, Kim Darby was 21-years-old when she portrayed 14-year-old Mattie - she really does have a youthful appearance. Mattie reveals to us that she's from Dardenelle, in Yell County, Arkansas, establishing the setting of "True Grit." Frank Ross (Mattie's dad) was killed in Ft. Smith, just west of where the courthouse is, and one of the westernmost places in all of Arkansas. A pretty telling scene occurs when the Sheriff tells Mattie that Tom Chaney is now in "Indian Territory," which is out of his jurisdiction, and only U.S. Marshals can pursue him there. He names three of them for Mattie: the best tracker, the most merciless (Rooster Cogburn, played by John Wayne), and the straightest - Mattie immediately asks the Sheriff where she can find this "Rooster Cogburn" - she's out for vengeance, plain and simple. I'm very curious why Cogburn wears the eye-patch. This seems to have caught on as a generic "tough guy" symbol, and I wonder if this picture had anything to do with it - I suspect some older, pirate-based movie started it before this. Rrrrrrrrrr there any you can think of? Defense attorney Goudy (I didn't name these people) was played by Alfred Ryder, a character actor who was in many television shows, including "The Man Trap" - the first (non-pilot) episode of "Star Trek." (Darby, by the way, had the lead in the "Star Trek" episode "Miri" as the eponymous character - an important role.) In the same scene, there's a man sitting in the very front row of the courtroom, in what can only be described as a "bit part" - non-speaking, uncredited, and only on camera for maybe thirty seconds total. "True Grit," it turns out, was Wilfred Brimley's very first movie, and this is him - I think (but am not sure) that he's the somewhat stocky, somewhat balding man in the beige leather jacket towards the right of the photo: The only reason I even knew he was in here was because Amazon X-Ray listed him - there is *no way* I would have picked this up on my own. Brimley was personal friends with Robert Duvall - who plays Lucky Ned Pepper - and I strongly suspect that's how Brimley got the part - he was born in 1934, so he would have been only 35 when this was filmed. I'm not convinced this man is Brimley, but he's somewhere in the courtroom: When you see this film, concentrate on the initial, extended, one-on-one conversation between Mattie Ross and the Texas Ranger, Mr. La Boeuf (Glen Campbell). This conversation came across as stilted and poorly directed - essentially, an interplay between two inexperienced actors (which they both were) - nevertheless, this one falls on the Director, Henry Hathaway, and he didn't make it work. It didn't ruin the film, of course, but it was simply not a good scene. A very interesting note: I later read, long after I wrote the preceding sentences, in the "Trivia" section of the IMDB website, that Hathaway hated Campbell's performance, calling it "wooden," and only had him in the movie so he could have a hit song associated with it. If this *isn't* the worst scene in the movie, then that worries me. I. Do. Not. Like. Kim Darby in this role. I hope to God she gets better, because I have a feeling this film is going to hinge on her acting abilities. So far, Darby is every bit as "wooden" as Campbell - maybe more so. However, *this* gentleman, Chen Lee (H.W. Gim) knows how to slice bacon! As of right now, I'm 50 minutes into a 2'10" movie, and two of the three leads can't act worth a damn. I know that Duvall is going to show up soon, and so is Dennis Hopper - right now, I'm praying for a miracle, or at least that these two, along with Wayne, can act "louder" than Campbell and Darby - it must be so in order for this to be a good film: fingers, crossed. The film is half over, and we just met two horse thieves: Emmett Quincy (Jeremy Slate) and Moon Dennis Hopper (thank goodness - btw, when is the last time Dennis Hopper has been spotted in a role that involves being very "off?"): Maybe now, we won't have to watch Wayne attempt to carry the entire movie by himself - Wayne was a good actor, but he wasn't good enough to carry a film when he's handicapped with Campbell and and Darby. Well, five minutes later, so much for either Quincy or Moon possibly saving the film. Now, we have to hope for Pepper (Duvall), who will be along shortly. For those of you into biker flicks, Jeremy Slate played the leader of the gang, "The Born Losers," a sub-par but highly influential movie that was the first of the "Billy Jack" enterprise. For those few of you who saw the film, here's a little memory stimulant to help you remember Slate's role, that of gang leader and lead antagonist, Danny Carmody, Billy Jack's (Tom Laughlin's) nemesis and gadfly: With Quincy and Moon gone, and over halfway into "True Grit," I'm painfully reminded that - just as with all the other art forms including the culinary arts, wine, music, and sports - I don't like "movies" per se; I like *good* movies. And so far, this simply isn't one due to the sub-par acting and the plot, which is thus far moving at a snail's pace. Why have I heard so much about "True Grit" throughout my life? I refuse to look until it's over - I'm just going to try and enjoy it, or at least to glean whatever I can from it. The extended, character-developing dialogue that Darby and Cogburn had, about 1:15 into the film, was *so much better* than the dialogue that Darby and La Boeuf had early on, that maybe it was mostly Glen Campbell, and not as much Darby, who was completely devoid of acting talent. I really enjoyed listening to those two talk with each other, and the viewer really learned quite a bit about Cogburn in the process. This is a *very* imposing gang that Pepper has, and that Cogburn, La Boeuf, and Darby are going to have to face by themselves (Duvall is third from the right): The whole, extended attack scene, complete with rattlesnake pit, made up for a *lot* of the film's first half of ennui. It was exciting, dramatic, well-acted by everyone, and just plain fun to watch. In many ways, it might have been an inspiration for "Raiders of the Lost Ark." It is, by far, the high-point of the film, and enough on its own to make the movie arguably worth watching. Yes, it was a long, painful build-up, but it was one heck of an extended piece of suspense - even La Boeuf died a complete hero, winning over the hearts of all viewers. The near-mythical lawyer "Dagget" ended up being played by John Fielder, another famous character actor (who also played in "Star Trek," as Administer Hengst in "Wolf in the Fold.") He, too, deserves his own thread - he has done so much with his career, including being the voice of Piglet in "Winnie the Pooh." Dagget, to a much lesser degree, was to "True Grit" what "Keyser Söze" was to "The Usual Suspects." How do you not at least "like" a film that ends with such a sweet shot?
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.