John Cazale

John Cazale

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Dog Day Afternoon Review


Extraordinary
Attica! Attica!

I'd say they don't make 'em like Dog Day Afternoon anymore, but, you know, they sure do try to. Bank robbers under fire, hostage negotiations, panic in the streets. Why, moviedom is littered with films like Heat, Mad City, The Negotiator... some good, some bad.

Continue reading: Dog Day Afternoon Review

The Godfather: Part II Review


Extraordinary
The inimitable Godfather story continues in The Godfather Part II.

Unlike many critics, I don't feel the sequel has the weight of the original -- many feel it to be better than the first film -- but it certainly is a necessary and extremely good follow-up, adding a wealth of information about "the family" that only serves to enhance the experience of the original movie. The problem, of course, is how could you measure up to The Godfather? The truly memorable scenes from the series -- the spilling cart of oranges, the horse's head, Michael's vengeance in the Italian restaurant, "an offer he couldn't refuse" -- are all found in the original, not here (or at best, they are simply repeated in the sequel). Godfather 2's most memorable moments -- the Senator's private meeting with Michael ("My offer is this: Nothing."), the denouement of Fredo -- pale in comparison. Well, not exactly pale, but you can't say that Godfather 2 is as good as Numero Uno.

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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

John Cazale

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