Calder Willingham

Calder Willingham

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Thieves Like Us Review


Excellent
Those watching Robert Altman's 1974 Depression-era robbers-on-the-run film Thieves Like Us and looking for a Bonnie and Clyde-style antiheroic odyssey -- charismatic young lovers, blaze of glory, the whole deal -- will come away severely disappointed. Altman, fortunately, has other things on his mind than building up legends and stoking the coals of nostalgia. His robbers aren't savage animals, but they're far from dashing; opportunistic, venal, and unable to plan their lives more than five minutes into the future is a more apt description.

A languorous single take opens the film, sweeping across verdant Mississippi countryside being traversed by a railcar carrying a chain gang and armed guards, before spying a couple of other prisoners rowing their way across a pond, chatting about things inconsequential. A third accomplice shows up with a car and some civilian clothes. The car breaks down, they take off on foot. Eventually the trio -- a couple of hard cases, T-Dub (Bert Remsen) and Chickamaw (John Schuck), and one fresh-faced young Ozark farmboy, Bowie (Keith Carradine) previously serving life for a murder committed at 16 -- wind up at a relative's place, where they hide out and plan their first robbery. Because the three, who continually refer to themselves as "thieves," never seem to consider even for a moment to do anything but just keeping on robbing and running. And so they do.

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One-Eyed Jacks Review


Weak
Marlon Brando proved he wasn't cut out for westerns with this, one of his few stabs at the genre.One-Eyed Jacks is a long, meandering, and poorly constructed film that has faded even further since its release -- none of which is terribly surprising, as this was Brando's sole attempt at directing a film. The plot concerns a criminal (Brando) who falls in love with a Mexican girl, among other misadventures. Unfortunarely, the slick-haired Brando doesn't come close to looking the part, and the movie's randomness quickly becomes a major turnoff. Note that many current-era DVDs are extremely badly mastered, with atrocious video and audio that comes primarily out of the rear speakers.

The Graduate Review


Essential
A rare, introspective masterpiece about a recent college grad (Dustin Hoffman) and his jaded outlook on life... which leads him into an ill-advised fling with the older, married Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft). A true classic and the spawn of the immortal one-word line of advice: "Plastics."

Hoffman is unforgettable, as is Bancroft (supposedly old enough to be Hoffman's mother but actually only 6 years his senior in real life). Of course, Buck Henry and Calder Willingham's adaptation of Charles Webb's novel is what makes this picture so perfectly solid ("Mrs. Robinson... you're trying to seduce me. Aren't you?"), and who can forget the masterful direction of Mike Nichols, here in his prime, setting up that immortal shot of Hoffman as seen beneath the bent knee of Bancroft? And Simon & Garfunkel's soundtrack is also perfectly apt, unforgettable to this day.

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Paths Of Glory Review


Essential
Brilliant study into the nature of cowardice and the pathetic nature of the modern (well, in 1957) military machine. Vehemently anti-war, Kubrick takes us on a this-can't-be-happening ride, as French soldiers fail in their mission to take a certain hill from the enemy. A court martial ensues, with devastating results.

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