Mike Kueber's Blog

November 10, 2012

Saturday Night at the Movies #53 – Deer Hunter, Into the Wild, and J. Edgar

Filed under: Movie reviews — Mike Kueber @ 3:59 pm
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Deer Hunter (1978) is a drama about a trio of traditional, deer-hunting-country, steel-working kids from western Pennsylvania who volunteer for military service in Vietnam, and nothing is ever the same for them and the friends that they return to.  I remember watching this Best-Picture Academy-Award winning movie back in the 70s, and not getting much from it.  I decided to watch it again when I learned during a recent trip to Steubenville, OH that Deer Hunter had been filmed principally in that area.  Once again, I didn’t get much from the movie other than seeing how war permanently affects the lives of those involved and their friends.  DeNiro (best-actor nominee, looking like Packer QB Aaron Rogers), Walken (best-supporting actor winner), and Steep (best-supporting actress nominee) are the surprisingly young stars and they do a good job, but the film still fails to generate a reason for viewers to care about them.  Rotten Tomato critics and its audience both score the movie at 91%; I give it only two and a half stars out of four. 

Into the Wild (2007) is a coming-of-age/road movie with a philosophical college grad (Emile Hirsch) rejecting modern society (“You are wrong if you think the principal joy of life comes from human relationships.”) and the materialism of his parents (William Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden).  Instead he wanders America and lives mostly off the land for two years – successfully until he gets to his ultimate of destination of Alaska.  His road trip not only has a profound effect on him and the people he befriends on the road, but also on the parents and kid sister that he abandoned.  Sean Penn writes and directs this true story of Chris McCandless based on a book by Jon Krakauer (author of Into Thin Air).  Rotten Tomato critics score it 82%, and the audience likes it even better at 90%.  I agree and give it three and a half stars out of four.  Great soundtrack by Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam. 

J. Edgar (2011) is the biographical movie of the legendary J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the FBI from its inception in 1935 to his death in 1972.   When famed biographer Edmund Morris was recently asked whether Romney or Obama would be a better biography subject, he surprised me by answering, “I don’t find either of them complex enough to want to write a biography about them.”  Well, that answer certainly would apply to the complex J. Edgar, whose straight-laced patriotism and public morality contrasted with his peculiar personal relationships with his mother, his secretary, and his right-hand man, FBI Associate Director Clyde Tolson.  The movie, which was directed by Clint Eastwood, stars Leonardo DiCaprio, who is excellent in playing a virile young man who ages into a decrepit old man.  A major theme of the movie is that Hoover held onto his power in Washington for so long by maintaining and using embarrassing or incriminating files on powerful people.  Ultimately, he took those files to his grave.  Hoover also seems not averse to trampling personal liberty in order to advance national security.   Although the Rotten Tomato critics (44%) and audience (46%) gave it mediocre scores, I disagree because I found the story and the man interesting, and give it three stars out of four.

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1 Comment »

  1. […] steel-mill town hard on the banks of the Ohio River.  Steubenville was the setting of 1978’s Deer Hunter, another gloomy movie about miserable people. Despite its awards, I didn’t like the big-budget […]

    Pingback by Saturday Night at the Movies #105 – Steel City, Inside Llewyn Davis, and Blue Valentine, | Mike Kueber's Blog — March 16, 2014 @ 5:48 am | Reply


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