Category Archives: dustin hoffman

Marathon Man

Marathon Man ~ This is actually, just by weird coincidence, my second John Schlesinger and Dustin Hoffman movie this week. Like Midnight Cowboy, Marathon Man is an interesting time capsule that maybe doesn’t hold up as well. Midnight Cowboy still holds its own as representative of its era while Marathon Man comes off lacking its initial impact and in fact feeling dated. It’s the 1970s, but it’s not as timeless and is showing its creaks and groans.

Based on the book by William Goldman, who also wrote the screenplay, this tale of runaway Nazi dentists, smuggled diamonds, and the slacker graduate student caught in the middle just isn’t as hard hitting as it was in 1976. Roy Scheider, the king of the seventies, has little to do, while Hoffman does a bad naive Benjamin Braddock imitation throughout, and William DeVane’s best bit is when he recites the plot aloud in super speed. Scheider is wasted because the screen feels so empty when he’s not there, and it similarly feels that that is the only times the direction appears skilled and careful.

The grueling scenes of torture between Hoffman and Laurence Olivier, what the film is remembered chiefly for these days, are all that still stand up. These scenes are horrifying. I often have conversations with folks who won’t watch horror but do watch things like this. I don’t get it, I really don’t. Olivier as a Nazi scares the crap outta me, yet I laugh at Freddy Krueger. And the Nazis were/are real. It’s the real monsters that scare me. The scariest movie I ever saw was The Incident, about two hoods terrorizing a subway car full of innocents. No boogieman there. I just don’t get it.

Marathon Man is a good thriller for its time, just don’t see it before a dentist appointment.

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Midnight Cowboy

Midnight Cowboy ~ This is the movie that changed the way people thought about movies, and it was also the first and only X-rated film to win the Academy Award for best picture, although the X rating meant something a little different back then than it did later on. It cemented Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight as the stars of the 1970s, and it forever placed the song “Everybody’s Talkin'” in people’s heads when walking in crowds in New York City. It also features two of film’s most memorable characters, and one of its most quoted lines, “I’m walkin’ here.”

Based on the 1965 novel by James Leo Herlihy, written for the screen by Waldo Salt, and brilliantly director by the legendary John Schlesinger, Hoffman and Voight lead an all star ensemble cast through a tour of the seedier side of New York, a Time Square that no longer exists, and the darker side of life that still haunts us. At its core, it’s a tale of friendship and desperation.

The real feat of Midnight Cowboy is bringing life, thanks to the expert direction and the performances of the actors, to two almost cartoon-like characters – naïve hustler Joe Buck and the infamous Rico ‘Ratso’ Rizzo – amazing. You actually grow to love them and their relationship so much that the ending may bring you to tears. This is truly one of the best films of its era, and a definite game changer. Recommended.

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Luck

I’ll watch any drama on HBO. There is simply a level of quality that is always present. And it doesn’t matter what a given television series is about, there is always amazing writing, direction, and performance, always.

My mother-in-law notoriously dislikes science fiction, fantasy, and horror. That genre stuff just turns her off. It’s too ‘creepy’ to use her word. Yet last summer she was sucked into the fantasy world of George R.R. Martin’s “A Game of Thrones.” She even watched several episodes one right after the other to catch up. That is the magic of HBO drama. It doesn’t matter what it’s about, it matters how it’s done, and the quality and care with which it is done.

That brings us to “Luck.” I really couldn’t care less about horse racing. It does less for me than genre television does for the mom-in-law, but the HBO drama rule pulled me in. The sneak peek of the pilot back in December hooked me and made me wait with baited breath for the series debut a few weeks back. This show is fabulous.

The HBO drama rule is not all it has going for it though. Oh there is a slight “Sopranos” vibe going on, but that’s not the kicker. What drives this show is the acting. You’ve got some heavy hitters here with Dustin Hoffman, Nick Nolte, and Dennis Farina, as well as an ensemble of some of the best character actors around. Most notable are Kevin Dunn, Richard Kind, and one of my faves, from the much missed “Dirt,” Ian Hart.

The series, created by writer David Milch who also worked on the network’s terrific and also missed “Deadwood,” follows the events and characters tied to a particular race track, and it’s all done with class and in the slick style of executive producer Michael Mann. These two allow the big three actors to be as big as they want on the small screen and it’s a good thing – all are at their best here.

There are only nine episodes in this first season, and with the fourth coming this Sunday, there’s plenty of time to catch up. This is yet another HBO show you should not miss.

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Just a reminder, The Virtual Book Tour for THE HUNGRY HEART STORIES is featured today at Shelley Szajner’s blog with an interview with the author Fran Metzman, and continues tomorrow on Becca Butcher’s blog. Don’t miss it!

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Regarding Henry


A Video Review of Regarding Henry

Copyright 2002 Glenn Walker

Harrison Ford is one of the best living actors today. Everything he appears in bears a certain standard of quality and his skill as an actor is always top notch. Such is the case with Regarding Henry.

Unlike other actors in similar roles; Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, Tom Hulce in Dominick and Eugene, Sean Penn in I Am Sam, Adam Sandler in all his films; there’s an unwelcome urge to laugh at the mentally challenged. Here, with Harrison Ford, that doesn’t happen. Here you can only marvel at his performance.

Ford stars as Henry Turner, an evil lawyer (is there any other kind?), who is shot in the head and goes into a coma. Upon awakening and rehabilitation he becomes a new man, a kinder, gentler and much better husband and father. We watch him confront his past and his sins and make a new start.

Annette Bening as Henry’s wife and Mikki Allen as his daughter hand in equally excellent turns. Bill Nunn as Bradley the physical therapist gives the performance of his life and makes you wonder why we haven’t seen the like since.

This is an excellent film that should not be missed.