OKLAHOMA CRUDE

year: 1973 rating: **

Yet another Depression era movie where the corporations are worse than Nazis. Along with Emperor of the North, Boxcar Bertha, The Grapes of Wrath, the bad guys depicted are just a little... actually, a lot... overboard in their villainy, to the point that, what's unrealistic is the fact if they were this bad, why would they hold back enough to be defeated?

As for a movie, this one's all over the place: Great actors turn in pretty good performances, but Faye Dunaway and George C. Scott (she owns a coveted yet dilapidated oil well and reluctantly hires him for employment/protection) are one-dimensional, maybe even more so than heavy Jack Palance, who at least smiles around his guard dog. It's another one of those pretty decent movies that simply gets too heavyhanded with the haves and have-nots. Probably the best character is William Lucking, caught between both.

ROOM AT THE TOP (1959)

Oh these one-dimensional class envy melodramas about rich people who are one-dimensional snobs while the poor ones are one-and-a-half-dimensional... the half being that they are able to fall into the thing called Love, in which... because of the rich snobs who haven't any feelings at all... they're doomed because of it.

This was only a little better than the overrated A Place in the Sun being that the torrid affair between the young climber (Laurence Harvey) and the old married woman is realistic wherein the love affair between Monty Clift and Liz Taylor is rushed, and something from a preteen girl's reverie.

The acting is good here, usual for England, and oh boy is that Heather Sears a cutie-pie... but the story can only go as far as all the class envy cliches allow, and that's not very far. Because right when you catch onto something passing as intrigue, that agenda rears up and stops it... both the audience and the main characters. Rates: **

THE GLASS BEAD GAME (BOOK)

THE GLASS BEAD GAME i.e. Magister Ludi by Hermann Hesse can be a companion piece to the existential author's most famous work, Siddhartha, or even a sequel, only set far in the future where Zen Buddhist-types call Life a Glass Bead Game and learn to appreciate it more than figure it out by learning, becoming, being.

The main character learns to meditate in a cave and has no women in his life. He's basically Buddhist. Doesn't take a "Magister" to figure that one out. And it's a great book, very hypnotic, and like The Game itself... never completely makes sense, which is what's so mesmerizing, enigmatic and addictive...

The first part starts like an intentionally vague philosophy course, and then turns into a biography of a great man...

Sometimes particular avenues are mentioned, teased... like spending a weekend in the real world with the non-believer our man debates... only to be quickly rejected, making one wish it wasn't brought up at all since the narrative (a kind of serious satire of historical biographies) does get a bit claustrophobic, and often seems like several possible adventures are abandoned... But Monks (and Priests, for that matter, although this book is very anti-Catholic) are "cloistered", aren't they?

OLIVER'S STORY

year: 1978 rating: ***

Poor Ryan O'Neal couldn't catch a break. Even two films now considered classics didn't make money in the 1970's upon release. His daughter Tatum's BAD NEWS BEARS beat the pants off both Stanley Kubrick's BARRY LYNDON and Walter Hill's THE DRIVER. And OLIVER'S STORY did even worse; ironic being the sequel to one of the highest grossing films of the previous decade, LOVE STORY, and yet Ryan himself had a reason/theory of why it failed: Intellectual thinking man's ingenue Nicola Pagett (resembling cult starlet Pamela Franklin) was supposed to be the girl he winds up...

Early on they share one blind date which is more interesting and has far more chemistry than any of O'Neal's scenes with wooden rich girl Candace Bergen, who, being the studio's choice of perfect and pretty, made it so Nicola's third act return was left on the cutting room floor. And while OLIVER'S STORY is not a horrible picture, and has relaxing moments within the mahogany-hued classy-to-poor New York City where Oliver, a lawyer, fights a slum lord with fellow idealist employees, there's simply no inner peace or contentment for the titular character or his titular story.
Nicola Pagett as Joanna Stone in Oliver's Story

Nicola Pagett as Joanna Stone in Oliver's Story

Nicola Pagett with Ryan O'Neal in Oliver's Story
Ann Risley & Deborah Rush are two bar girls in Oliver's Story

ROAD TO PERDITION

title: ROAD TO PERDITION
year: 2002 rating: **

At the very end, the 12-year old son of a hit man, who had spent six weeks on the road with his father, on the run, narrates that he lived a lifetime on that particular journey. And while it feels a lifetime length-wise, hardly anything really happens to make the viewer agree that it was quite a ride. But that's not without some anticipation along the way. Like Hanks' Michael Sullivan, a former "enforcer" for Paul Newman's 1930's-era gangster chief John Rooney, having to rob a string of banks and to teach his son to be a getaway driver in the process. But what follows is a quick, much-too-easily-pulled-off montage. If this were made twenty-years earlier, those scores would have to provide thrills, action, suspense, but here it's superfluous filler. Only Jude Law as a menacing, photo-snapping creep on Hanks' trail is memorable... and we're simply supposed to hate him for wanting to kill the endearing mainstream star who always wins.  

Meanwhile, unlike its obvious cinematic muse, MILLER'S CROSSING, the mob boss and his supposed best friend/hit man never seem all that close to begin with, unlike Albert Finney and Gabriel Byrne, who are like inseparable father and son. One scene where Newman and Hanks play the same song on the same piano may as well have been danced on a giant floorboard-keyboard and their friendship would have felt more, well... BIG or something... so that the inevitable betrayal (involving Newman's trigger-happy son, a pre-Bond Daniel Craig) would actually mean something when things turn sour. But all there is is the praised dark-room GODFATHER style cinematography, but set in the rain-soaked East Coast Great Depression: For that, just watch MILLER'S CROSSING and it's all there... With something actually inside above and beyond this coming-of-age, violent revenge picture that isn't innocent/moving enough or intense/thrilling enough to successfully blend both. 

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