Truth (2016) James Vanderbilt

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Based on former CBS news producer, Mary Mapes memoir, the film takes a look as the 60 Minutes II segment claiming that then President, George W. Bush, running for re-election in 2004 received special treatment back in the early 1970’s by passing over hundreds of other applicants to enlist in the Texas Air National Guard. This all happening while the Vietnam War was still in progress. Mapes is said to have received supporting documents from the files of George W. Bush’s then Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Jerry B Killian, then deceased. The files were delivered to Mapes by Bill Burkett, a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Texas Army National Guard. When the showed aired, Dan Rather said the documents have been authenticated by various experts. Continue reading

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The Candidate (1972) Michael Ritchie

Note:  A couple of years ago I did a series of reviews for Halo-17 an Australian music and arts website which from what I can tell is no longer out there in cyber space. In the past I have occasionally linked to some of these reviews here at Twenty Four Frames. Recently, it seems all the links lead to an internet void, subsequently over the period of the next few weeks and months I will be posting these reviews here in updated versions. The current postings with broken links to some of the reviews, like “The Panic in Needle Park” and “Thieves Highway” will be deleted and new full reviews, updated will appear sometime in the near future. “The Candidate” appears here for the first time.

In the early 1970’s Michael Ritchie was an up and coming filmmaker with a fairly decent list of films including, “Downhill Racer,” “Prime Cut,” “Smile,” “The Bad News Bears,” “Semi Tough,” and “The Candidate.” After “Semi-Tough” in 1977, Ritchie’s career became somewhat erratic. There were still a few minor decent works like “Fletch”, and the concert film “Divine Madness” but more and more there were depressingly bad films like “The Couch Trip”, Wild Cats”,  “The Golden Child”, “Cops and Robbersons”, “The Island” and “An Almost Perfect Affair.” Sports, competition have been major themes in Ritchie’s films and if on target, well pointed satire. Of all his films, ‘The Candidate” is arguably his best. An on target assault on the American political system that is even more relevant today than it was over thirty-five years ago when it was first released.   Continue reading

Three Days of the Condor (1975) Sydney Pollack

 

Sydney Pollack’s 1975 paranoid thriller still holds up more than thirty five years later and is as relevant today as it was then. Why? A three letter word… OIL.  Redford, coolly dressed in his Bobby best, denim jeans and shirt, is a CIA agent known as Turner, code name Condor. Turner is not your typical CIA movie screen secret agent; you see what Turner and his fellow agents, working out of a brown stone building, do is read. They read everything, books, magazines, newspapers in all languages searching, highlighting anything that may contains some kind of secret code or messages passing it on to another office in Washington. So why then on one cold rainy December day do two gunmen sneak their way into the building and kill everyone inside. Turner managed to escape the massacre when he went out to the local deli to pick up lunch for that day (it was his turn, luckily). 

When Turner calls in the shooting and wants to come in from the cold the situation turns more sinister as he discovers there is a rouge CIA unit within the CIA and you can trust no one. Turner is out there alone, well almost alone except for a  lonely and somewhat dowdy photographer Kathy Hale (Faye Dunaway).  The free lance assassins for hire are led by Max Von Sydow who  will change sides or targets on the flip of a coin or rather the signing of a paycheck.

I originally watched this film upon its first release and liked it quite a bit. I hesitated in watching it again now because I thought the film would be dated but soon as I heard the word OIL and invading the Middle East, I lost any uncertainty that I may have had. Redford was at the top of his superstar status in these years and he plays it to the hilt. Faye Dunaway is wasted in a role that could have been played by a lesser talent. She has one decent scene but other than that her character is a prop for Redford and remains in the background for much of the film. 

The paranoid thriller fit the times with the Watergate scandal, the Vietnam War and of course a few years earlier the assassination of JFK but it is still is a relevant topic today.  “Paranoia runs deep”, as the line from the Buffalo Springfield song, “For What It’s Worth” says and Hollywood is always ready to follow trends. “All the President’s Men”, “The Parallax View” were also released during this same period. More recently, we have had “Conspiracy Theory” and “Michael Clayton.”  In “Three Days of the Condor” the paranoia is there right up to the last frame of the film where it is even hinted that the news media, in this case The New York Times, can be under the control of the CIA.

One of the more unsettling aspects of watching this film since 9/11 are the scenes that take place inside the World Trade Center ( One World Trade Center- North Tower  and at 7 World Trade Center). From my understanding this is only film to ever shoot inside One World Trade Center.

Barefoot in the Park (1967) Gene Saks

 

In 1962, “Barefoot in the Park” was the Broadway second production for a fairly new playwright at the time by the name of Neil Simon. Simon already had a previous hit show with “Come Blow Your Horn” and a well-earned reputation as one of the team full of writers on  the classic TV show “Your Show of Shows”, whose madhouse stable included  Neil’s brother Danny, Mel Brooks, Mel Tolkin, Carl Reiner and Larry Gelbart. The play starred a young upcoming actor by the name of Robert Redford along with Elizabeth Ashley as his kooky wife Corie. This would be Redford’s last Broadway play having previously appeared in “Sunday in New York”, “Tall Story” and a couple of others.  Also in the cast were Mildred Natwick as Corie’s mother and Herb Edelman as the Telephone Man, both would repeat their roles in the 1967 film. The stage version of “Barefoot in the Park” was a huge success running for more than three years. It was  Mike Nichols first Broadway production as a director and the beginning of a string of theatrical hits. At one point, Nichols had four plays he directed running on Broadway simultaneously, “Barefoot in the Park”, “Luv”, “The Odd Couple” and “The Apple Tree.” Nichols first taste of success came as half of the sophisticated comedy team of the 1950’s Nichols and May (Elaine May) who earlier had their own on stage success on Broadway with “An Evening with Mike Nichols and Elaine May.”

    At the time, it was a common practice that the movie version of a play could not be made until the Broadway production closed or was close to its final performance. The fear was that if people saw the movie the play would lose its audience. Subsequently, “Barefoot in the Park”, the movie opened at Radio City Music Hall in May 1967 one month prior to the closing of the play.

Redford had been a frequent visitor to the world of TV shows and had already made a few films (War Hunt, Inside Daisy Clover, This Property is Condemned, The Chase) though with little impact on his career.  Therefore, it is surprising that he actually received top billing over Jane Fonda in the film who was already a more established star having appeared in both European films, most by her then husband Roger Vadim (Circle of Love, The Game is Over), and in U.S. films (Sunday in New York, The Chase, Walk on the Wild Side, The Chapman Report, Cat Ballou). Nichols was passed over to direct in favor of the more vanilla Gene Saks, a Broadway veteran director himself. Simon adapted his own play for the screen, his first.

    The film is sort of an earlier version of “The Odd Couple”, focusing on opposites, in this case newlyweds Corie Bratter (Fonda), an unconventional free spirited young woman and her husband, the uptight legal eagle Paul (Redford).  If this sounds familiar, that is because, yes, Corie and Paul are the original “Dharma and Greg.” After a honeymoon spent at the Waldorf where Corie embarrasses a stodgy Paul, heading to the elevator as he goes off to work, by insinuating she is a hooker he spent the night with (Fonda is standing outside their hotel room dressed in only the top half of a man’s pajamas). Corie goes off and rents a top floor apartment in Greenwich Village. Paul, the ever constipated young lawyer isn’t that crazy about having to climb several flights of stairs to reach the apartment, nor is he happy about the hole in the skylight where a cold front followed by snow easily passes through. Then there is the eccentric neighbor who can only access his attic apartment by going through the Bratter’s apartment.  Corie, on the other hand sees it all as an adventure. When Corie attempts to seduce Paul for a little romantic interlude that first evening in the new apartment, he is too occupied with his first big legal case and the cold air coming in from the skylight. Before you can say sing the first verse of Tammy Wynette’s D-I-V-O-R-C-E, Corie is declaring the marriage a failure.

    It is all very light, sit-comish and unbelievable. That said, Fonda and Redford make a good team; their charisma together is plainly evident and the film is fun. Admittedly, I have a soft spot for this film, one of only three I ever saw at Radio City Music Hall. It remains a guilty pleasure.

Redford came away from this film a movie star; set to explode into superstardom a couple of years later with “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” At this point in her career, Fonda’s dramatic roles (The Chase, Walk on the Wild Side, The Chapman Report) did nothing to dispel the notion that she did not have any depth as a dramatic actress. Her European films were known more for their sexiness and nudity than for her talent as an actress. This would all change in a couple of years, after one more film with Vadim (Barbarella) Fonda would display her serious acting chops in “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” for which she would receive her first Academy Award nomination.  It would take almost 10 years before she would return to a comedic role in “Fun with Dick and Jane.” The supporting cast is also entertaining with Mildred Natwick as Corie’s mother, Charles Boyer as the eccentric attic living neighbor and Herb Edelman providing some laughs as the telephone repairman.

   This was Gene Saks first film and like 99% of his films they are adaptations of stage plays, and like most of his other films they are all stage bound. The film is not cinema; it is a pop corn movie and in between the tired jokes about climbing five flights of stairs to reach the apartment there remains a bit of charm to the movie. The two leads win you over.

I use to like Neil Simon more than I do now. Other than “The Odd Couple”, “The Goodbye Girl” and “Laughter on the 23rd Floor”, I find much of his work tired and generally less funny than I use too.  I imagine much of today’s audience would find the film a little too cute, dated or both, still if compared to some of the so-called romantic comedies that the studio’s release today, this film looks good. For one thing too many of the “romantic” comedies today seem to be funny at the expense of the female character’s integrity where they are either desperate (Knocked Up) or bitchy (The Proposal) or just plain stupid (All About Steve).  While I generally enjoyed “The Proposal”, the scene where Sandra Bullock had to get down on her knees in the middle of a Manhattan street to propose was pretty degrading. If nothing else, Simon was never degrading to any of his characters.

   As a play,  “Barefoot in the Park” was revived on Broadway in 2006 with Amanda Peet, Patrick Wilson in the newlywed roles and with Jill Clayburgh as Corie’s mom and Tony Roberts as Victor Velasco, the eccentric neighbor in the leading roles. It ran for only 109 performances.

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