This was a really good movie both from a technical standpoint and a story telling standpoint. The cast was outstanding, the messages compelling and in an era of disposable c**p on TV and at the movies this was a gem. Pro-abortion???? WHAT!!!!! your kidding right??? you didn't really get that from this movie did you??? you don't honestly think that this movie "promotes" abortion.......do you ??? are you for real??? do you also think King Kong promotes beastiality??? I can say the same thing about the critics who have attacked it for showing drug addiction and incest and claiming in some vague pseudo-logic that it also promotes those things as well. Man do you folks scare me!!!! And as for the "racist" portrayal of the black characters I really don't know where to go with that. The story accurately calls for uneducated migrant laborers (fruit pickers) that is how they were played by the ACTORS. Would you have them be sophisticated and worldly migrant laborers??? To say that any movie that features black characters interacting with white characters MUST deal with race is itself a stereotype and a prejudice. This story is NOT about race though it plays a small part it is not the central part of the story. Simply outrageous isn't it?????
Avalon is really a beautifully written story and Levinson's cast is excellent. This really is one of the better stories of the American experience. Actually I'd have to say it's the BEST story of the American experience ever brought to film. I say that knowing that it really is the urban Jewish-American experience and not one that is necessarily shared by other groups. I dont care for rigid definitions of the American experience because it can be a vastly differing one. Having said that though, I must still say that Avalon is a wonderful chronicling of an American immigrant family originaly from Eastern Europe who put down roots in the Avalon section of Baltimore. It is refreshing in that New York City is generally credited for this kind of narrative. So much so that it's easy to forget that ethnic communities sprang up in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco etc. Not just NYC. Through the narration of Sam Krichinsky we see his children and grandchildren grow up and he grow old. We are with him when his wife (Joan Plowright)passes away, When his son's business is destroyed by fire, when he argues with his oldest Brother and a great rift divides the Krichinskys forever. we hear his stories of this and that and always he returns to the 4th of July 1914 when he arrived in Baltimore for the first time. Levinson is fantastic as he films what is obviously an idealized representation seen only in Sam Krichinsky's "rose colored" memory of the event. There is so much poignance, sorrow, and love in "Avalon" and small details become deeply profound moments in the life of an elderly man struggling to remember the good times while the world moves on. The closing scene in which Sam's Grandson (now a father himself), with whom he has always had a close relationship, visits him in a nursing home. We know from Sam's state that the end cannot be far. Its a brief scene with little dialogue but it is AWESOME!!!! in the sublime way it conveys it's message. I choke up just thinking about that scene. See "Avalon"!!!
A new remake could be just what this pretty good (overall) story needs to make it great!!!
I grew up watching "Shenandoah" and "The Horse Soldiers" in the 1970's and then the 1980's with it's two monumental mini-series "The Blue And The Grey" and "North and South" I loved them all and they all played a huge part in making me a rabid Civil War buff by the time I was 12. I must confess in the wake of a movie like "Glory" though, I do find it hard to watch those old movies with any sense of awe. They are sentimental, bucolic, sterile, romanticised views of the Civil War, but they still can charm me even to this day. "Shenandoah" is, at it's core, a very good story. I have even sketched a story line for a remake which this story is more than worthy of. It would need to be stripped of it's nonsense (and there is plenty of that!!!) and made far more historically accurate. I don't think the director and writer were really "up" on Civil War history let alone the specific region of the Shenandoah Valley in 1864-65 with Generals Sheridan (Union) and Early(Confederate) fighting for control. As for the nonsense, the Anderson family Farm hardley looked like a "working" farm but more like a well manicured Hollywood Country Club. The civilian clothing was not at all "period", highly inaccurate uniforms and rifles, and too many clean shaven faces for the 1860's even for the 1960's when it was made!!!. I'm not sure why it was necessary for the Anderson Family to have such a ridiculously high number of sons and even had time to have a daughter. No wonder Mrs. Anderson is deceased, who could blame her? I think a smaller number of sons would have worked fine in conveying Charlie Anderson's "principled" reluctance to have his sons fight in the war. One could have been killed in the war which would work better as to why Charlie Anderson strongly resists conscription of his remaining 5 (2 or 3 in my version)sons but as it was six sons not fighting a war so close by is rather unbelievable, especialy considering the oldest son does want to fight. The hi-jacking of a Union Army train was silly, the brawl with Union "Purchasing" agents who ride freely around a seemingly rebel occupied countryside, was worthy of a Three Stooges film but not a Civil War drama. Too many battle scenes featuring whooping good ol' boys knocking clumsy "Yankees" of their horses and both sides dying bloodless deaths in the process. It's all great fun when your a kid but then you grow up and watch "Glory" which features as it's opening, the battle of Antietam and you get physically shaken. Some how after that those "whooping good ol' boys" just look stupid. Inspite of all this however, I do, as i have already said, think that "Shenandoah"is at it's core, a pretty good story about a family and in particular it's Patriarch, living through powerful events which they cannot control and threaten their existence. Jimmy Stewart was very good as Charlie Anderson who tries desperatley to shield himself and his family from the inevitable pain and tragedy. His devotion to his departed wife who's grave site he visits often is still, all these years later, very poignent. His Daughter left at the altar on her wedding day because her betrothed has been called to war is a little sappy but well done in the film (I'd leave it out of my version). The reunion on the battlefield between the wounded (and mistakenly captured) son and his former slave friend Gabriel was also very well done. People forget that it was "Shenandoah"in 1965 and not "Glory" in 1989 that first showed black soldiers in the Union Army fighting for their freedom (D.W. Griffith's "The Birth Of A Nation"is a poor example of this). That fact seems to have been totally lost on critics and historians who (rightfully so) praised "Glory" in 1989. "Shenandoah" does , however, imply that the Union Army was integrated which it was not. The ending is still a tear jerking scene and has saved "Shenandoah" in my mind as a good family story which, with a lot of work, could be an Academy Award winning remake. It's a pretty good story which requires some "tweaking" to make it great. I still will always have a soft spot for the original.
I was rather young when this first aired on American TV in 1978-79ish I was in the sixth grade and this was the first war movie which really made an impression on me. Even at that age, when I might not fully appreciate the deprivations and horrors of war, I remember thinking that it really was pretty brutal and utterly tragic how all of these men Germans, French, British, Russians, Americans were all sent to die by the thousands. WW1 is without a doubt the most tragic war ever fought. "All Quiet On The Western Front" had a huge impact on me. I have since seen the the original 1920's version with Lou Ayers and Louis Wholheim. It was good and featured ground breaking sound quality at a time when movies had only recently begun using sound, but I really liked this remake. It was sufficiently depressing to facilitate the theme of the "Lost Generation" or perhaps better the "Betrayed Generation" groomed for military service as soon as they graduated high school. It's a time when they have their entire promising lives ahead of them and they are stuffed full of patriotic slogans and propaganda about glorious sacrifice for the "Fatherland". This movie conveys that very effectivly. Richard Thomas (John Boy) is very good as Paul Baumer, the Romantic of the group through who's eyes we see the tragedy unfold in the muddy trenches, filthy hospitals, and countless flashbacks of his bucolic life before the war. One of the previous postings brings up the point of the "missing footage" He/She is right!!! There was additional footage when the it first aired in 1978-79 and it has always been cut short when it has subsequently been aired on TV since then, but I do recall scenes such as Baumer narrating the first time his unit encountered flamethrowers on the western front and the scene in which he and his friends tease and taunt a seemingly innocuous Mailman on their way to enlist in the German Army and that Mailman turns out to be Cpl. Himmelstosse. It makes more sense when you later see how cruel and authoritarian Himmelstosse is when he becomes their drill instructor. Why scenes like that are never on TV (except the original broadcast) and are not even on the video tape is beyond me. The Director/Producer also did a very good job with small details such as the transition from the more decorative "spiked" helmets of 1914-16 to the flared steel helmets of 1916-18. It shows good attention to historical detail. In addition the gloomy skies, constant rain, mud all add to the sense of tragedy and betrayal. Donald Pleasence has a rather small part but is really great as the nationalistic school teacher who chastises Baumer's idleness and romanticism. His shaved head and Goatee give him a great period look. Kudos the makeup and costuming people. See this movie!!!!!
Though it may be regarded as blasphemy, I did not think that "Gettysburg" was very good. In fact I thought it failed miserably to deliver the horror of 19th century warfare as well as the mood of the country in 1863. By that I mean how Lincoln was under tremendous pressure to find a diplomatic solution after several bloody attempts at capturing Richmond had failed. This is very important to remember in understanding what was at stake when R.E. Lee made his move into Pennsylvania. While watching this movie one does not get a sense of urgency that the Union Nation has been invaded and there is a general panic throughout the lower north. I said blasphemy because I would not have followed Michael Sharra's format so faithfully, but rather use a little of what Sharra did and join it with a little of what Attenborough did in "A Bridge Too Far" and you will get the perfect mix of History and dramatic license. As far as the horrors of 19th century warfare this movie was so incredibly sterile. "Glory" was a FAR FAR better movie (on all levels)in it's depiction of Civil War combat. I guess it's a question of quality "Glory", over quantity "Gettysburg". Do Civil War Reenactors really make the best extras? it sounds like it would work on paper. Professional Civil War soldiers must sound great to movie studios but in reality they are entirely too well fed and far to old. Were there really so many white haired privates and corporals? "Getysburg" tried so hard to be profound and sublime but it just fell so flat. I don't think the cast would have been anyones first choice and some of those actors were down right bad (the guy who was Hancock)!!!! And if your not going to develop Gen. John Reynolds character then don't show us his death and try and create a powerful 10 second scene in which we're supposed to be riveted by the heroic death of a character whom we don't even know. "Gettysburg" should and could have been one of those "David L. Wolper" extravaganzas from the 70's or 80's nice, censored, sterile, and hardly uncomfortable to watch.
We should all remember that Robbins promised a little camp and a little history
So many People seem to really dislike this movie and I can't figure out why. I saw this movie December 26th and have been looking forward to it's release since I first heard of it in July. I have to say that I really liked it. Politics aside it was a great romp through the 1930's New York Arts scene which is precisley what Tim Robbins wanted. Why else would he have included the Mural fued between Rokefeller and Diego Rivera which had nothing to do with Marc Blitzstein's musical which actually took place 4 years later. I really didn't care, and thought it was brilliant to include this classic story of a very brief and very odd relationship. Yes I'm a liberal, yes I'm a little left of center, Yes I love the ACLU and don't know what we'd do without them and yes I am PRO UNION!!!!!! so perhaps this movie was a little bit up my alley so to speak plus I'm fairly familier with this period the American labor movement, the Spanish Civil War, the TVA, the WPA, the CIO, the new deal and I'm crazy about Orson Welles. I personaly think he (Angus Mcfayden)did a good job. It was a little over-the-top so to speak and was more of a comedic impersonation but this was not all about Orson Welles. My only complaint is where was his Pipe. Anyone who knows anything about Welles at this period of his life knows that he was seldom seen without a pipe either in mouth or hand. Welles as a cigar smoker only came much later in life. Even Lev Schrieber who played him in HBO's "RKO 281" failed to make use of a pipe as a typical young Welles trademark. I thought Ruben Blades was great and when I saw the guys from "Tenacious D" show up as Bill Murrys ventriliquist apprentices I though I'm going to love this movie. Great casting all around. I also was not familier with Cherry Jones who portrays Hallie Flanagan, Director of the FTP and whipping post for the right. I thought she was great and I'll be looking to see more of her work.
This movie was on Bravo last night but was terribly edited so I stopped watching and stuck my video taped copy into the VCR. This movie truly grew on me over time. I had planned to see it in the theater in, I think 1993, when it was released but it was in theaters for such a brief time that I lost my opportunity. I'm very happy to see that other posters here were also profoundly affected by this movie. The first time I'd seen it I was dumbstruck and truly didn't know what to make of it. Like many, I'd been fed a steady diet of WW2 movies with John Wayne, William Holden, Richard Widmark, and the like. They were all of a jingostic testosterone bent and featured stirring musical scores, minimal blood, and happy endings, as in all the Germans/Japanese die. This was the first WW2 movie I'd ever seen that dispensed with all that crap and gave you a sense of how war makes victims of everybody, sparing no one it's violent assault on our sanity. For this Keith Gordon/William Wharton, Mike Nichols/Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegaut, James Jones, Norman Mailer, John Hersey should all be praised for their courage to discard ideological dogma and poignantly lament our violated humanity. They may have, dare I say, stepped upon an enlightend plain where even Steven Spielberg has yet to trod. His movies are remarkable presentations of events, but do not explore any issues that might touch upon this theme of the individual, powerless, human suffering in war time. They are far more traditional morality plays. In short this movie makes you truly feel sorrow for these dead, good intentioned German (Nazi) Soldiers who wanted nothing more than to end their misery as fodder in der Fuherer's army. I was struck By the scene in which Will Knott stares into the eyes of the German officer who's face betrays a million nightmarish images of the Russian front and perhaps some horrible deeds for which he has paid a dear price in guilt worthy of Macbeth. This was one of many scenes which conveyed so much with out a single line of script. Just the faces of the experience guiding the viewer. Mark Ishams fantastic musical score helped quite a bit to. For those who hated this movie, I'm not sure what to say. If your looking for a very heavy-handed war movie this is not for you. If, however, you appreciate the deft and delicate hand in conveying a powerful message and making a powerful statement, than you will be richly rewarded by a movie you will never forget.