Since my remarks have been given somewhat greater significance on page one. I shall keep this short and sweet. This will be another of a continuing series of good weekends for movies, both on and off campus, only a few of which can be covered here.
The Deer Hunter. The star of the lineup and probably the best movie of the year, The Deer Hunter, fully deserves to win the nine academy awards for which it has been nominated. The politics are terrible--Hollywood will never really deal with the ultimate horror of what America did to Vietnam. But Michael Cimino concerns himself more with what Vietnam did to America. He follows the lives of five Russian-American steelworker friends in a small Ohio valley town, while remaining largely true to actual events. This ground-level view is contrived at first--for instance, the actors are awkward and reckless with their guns, and they talk a little like displaced New Yorkers--but the emotional strength of the story wins the audience. Robert DeNiro carries the movie with the intensity of that inner distance he has copyrighted, and the supporting cast crystallizes and meshes perfectly around him. In the end, it doesn't matter that this film refuses to deal with Vietnam, because small-town America has refused, too. The Deer Hunter is nothing if not true to the values of small town America and the sense of shared community that keeps these friends going. At the review showing, the audience cried.
Midnight Express. If you want to be blown away by emotional intensity, but don't want to pay five bucks and travel to Boston for The Deer Hunter, try Midnight Express, right here in Harvard Square. Another politically naive and outright xenophobic Hollywood product, Midnight Express still succeeds in conveying a very forceful statement of individual will. The story of an arrogant American college kid who gets caught (through his own stupidity) trying to smuggle hash home for his friends, the movie works because it is beautifully filmed and edited, because the violence, though abundant, is carefully placed, and because it all really happened (almost) that way.
Dr. Strangelove. Perhaps a timely warning in view of China's recent misbehavior, Dr. Strangelove, Stanley Kubrick's 1964 black comedy about dropping the A-bomb, returns this weekend. Kubrick creates an absurd and violent society (some say something like our own), peopled by the likes of General Jack D. Ripper, who gives the bombs-away order and then seals himself off, refusing to release the recall code. Meanwhile, the Russians have cooked up a Doomsday Machine to destroy the world in case someone drops an atomic bomb in their territory. It was going to be announced later that week, the Soviet Ambassador explains,..."The Premier loves surprises."
Classic performances by Peter Sellers in three roles: the crippled scientific adviser to the President, Dr. Strangelove; the effete U.S. president; and a British air force captain. George C. Scott turns in a good leer as a stodgy hawk, Buck Turgidson. Great choice of music, too--"When Johnny Comes Marching Home" as the planes head out.
To Kill a Mockingbird. You all read it in high school. The screenplay is a good adaptation of Harper Lee's story of racial prejudice and growing up in the rural South. The trial is effectively handled, as is the kumquat scene in which one of the kids, dressed up like a vegetable, is pursued by meanies who don't like her father defending a black man). Gregory Peck is better than he's ever been, before or after, as the slow, humble, and wise Atticus Finch. The kids are marvelous, too.
As for the rest, you pays your money and you takes your chance.