Deric Washburn

Deric Washburn

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Silent Running Review


Good
Bizarre to the point of cult classicality, Douglas Trumbull's Silent Running is often so bad it's good but never quite so good that you forget (and forgive) those missteps.

Starring Bruce Dern, the film takes place in the far future, after Earth has wiped out its ecosystem and has sent its forests into space aboard enormous greenhouse spaceships. All is well until the order comes in to blow up the greenhouse and return to earth, which drives ultra-greenie Freeman Lowell (Dern) to desperate measures -- namely, killing off his crewmates and trying to escape undetected with the ship into deep space.

Continue reading: Silent Running Review

The Deer Hunter Review


Good
In his book Final Cut - the story of the infamous bomb Heaven's Gate and still the best book on Hollywood around - Steven Bach points out that Gate was so deeply reviled upon its release that the backlash extended even to Michael Cimino's previous film, The Deer Hunter. Critics stepped gingerly away from their initial high opinion of Hunter, as if Gate was so bad a movie that its taint made other movies bad too. It's rare to see film critics publicly change their opinion of any movie, but the revisionist history seemed especially odd in this case. Released in 1978 and featuring some stellar performances from Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken, it won a truckload of Oscars in 1979 and marked the arrival of a major filmmaker in Cimino. Yes, Cimino botched his career with Heaven's Gate, but that couldn't be The Deer Hunter's fault, right?

Right. But all the same, the critics were right the second time around. Time has eroded the chief power The Deer Hunter had in 1978, which was to speak to America's anxiety about itself in the wake of Watergate and Vietnam. Stripped of its '70s moment, it looks now like a film that strives for meaning but doesn't know what it wants to say. It gives us both small-town America and war-torn Vietnam, but neither convincingly. It confuses ambiguity with art, blood for drama. But before those flaws set in, it gives us the promise of a great movie about tested friendship. Set in the late '60s, the film opens on the day of a wedding in a Pennsylvania steel town, as the groom Steven (John Savage), Michael (De Niro), and Nick (Walken), all Russian-immigrant working-class stock, prepare to go to Vietnam for a tour of duty.

Continue reading: The Deer Hunter Review

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