Advertisements

Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Valerie Curtin

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974)

Sometimes, you just need to start anew five times straight.

After her husband dies, Alice (Ellen Burstyn) and her son, Tommy (Alfred Lutter), leave their small New Mexico town for California. There, Alice is hopeful that she’ll be able to make it big there achieving her one true dream: Singing. However, the town is so small and dry, that there’s hardly any work for a bartender, let alone for a singer. So eventually, Alice and Tommy end up settling for Arizona instead, where she takes a job as waitress in a small diner and Tommy is left to make friends with some mischievous locals. She intends to stay in Arizona just long enough to make the money needed to head back out on the road, but her plans change when she begins to fall for a rancher named David (Kris Kristofferson), someone she can’t help but be drawn to, even if he’s got his own problems going for him as well.

Seeing Martin Scorsese’s name attached to this flick may seem odd, until you actually see the movie and totally get it. For one, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore has the same type of free-spirit, wild and rather chaotic energy that all of Scorsese’s movies seem to have, not to mention that the movie itself hardly ever seems to let-up. It’s part road movie, part romantic-comedy, but altogether, it’s an entertaining piece that would soon show the world what Scorsese could do out of wheelhouse.

alice1

Look out, world! Here’s Alice!

Which isn’t to say that this movie’s perfect, but it’s the first sure sign of Scorsese taking a risk and seeing it pay-off quite well. While I’m most definitely in the minority of feeling like Mean Streets is incredibly overrated, it’s still an enjoyable movie, considering that it’s showing-off what Scorsese could do with a story about crooks, gangsters, cops and all sorts of hectic violence – something that we would see him continue to make movies about for the next many decades. That’s why a movie like Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, while seeming like an unabashed and boring chick-flick on paper, moves like a fast-paced thriller, but still doesn’t forget that characters do matter here and they are what make the bulk of the flick so damn good.

That is to say that Ellen Burstyn, in her Oscar-winning role of course, is great.

Then again, when isn’t the gal?

Burstyn’s great here, but it does help that she has such a meaty character to work and play around with; Alice is a very challenging character because she doesn’t always make the right decisions, nor does she seem to apologize for them, either. Scorsese and Burstyn both present this woman as someone who knows that whatever move she makes next, probably won’t be ideal, but she’s constantly thinking about what’s best for her and her son, meaning that every once and awhile, she’s got to make a sacrifice and suck up the stupidity. Even the smart decisions that Alice seems to make, still end-up biting her in the rump by the end, making you wonder whether or not this woman should be trusted with the care of a pre-adolescent boy in the first place. But still, there’s something compelling about this woman, flaws, warts and all that junk, as well as Burstyn’s performance that make it all the more watchable.

The happiest diner in the world it seems.

The happiest diner in the world it seems.

And it’s actually very interesting to see this movie and think about it in retrospect, as we’ve come to see Scorsese’s career grow further and further away from female-led stories, making us wonder one simple thing, “Why?” After all, he handles this story with such delicate care, never shying away from showing this woman for all of who she is, that he not just respects her as much as we do, but he loves her, even. It’s a rare sign that even though Scorsese’s movies tend to gain all sorts of controversy for their violence, drugs and crime, mostly all involving and/or against women, there’s still this small glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, he was curious of taking this road even further.

It makes you wonder, really.

Regardless, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, all things considered, may be a bit too long for its own good, but in a way, that’s okay. We get to see and learn about more characters throughout Alice’s journey, some of whom are really fun and exciting to watch. Harvey Keitel shows up as a slimy dude Alice starts hooking up with; Kris Kristofferson’s is interesting enough of a dramatic-lead to make you want to see more of him around; Jodi Foster shows up in a very early role as one of Tommy’s friends and is very good; Diane Ladd steals just about every scene she’s in as Alice’s co-worker/best friend; and even as a young kid here, Alfred Lutter does a nice job as Tommy, mostly due to the fact that the kid’s not annoyingly written. He’s a little too smart for his britches at certain points, but that’s mostly because his mom makes him that way; there’s quite a few scenes where the two have heart-to-heart conversations about all things in life and while they may seem a little tacked-on, the chemistry between Lutter and Burstyn is so good, that you sort of believe in it.

Consensus: Not his best by any means, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore still presents a very bright and entertaining picture for the whole cast, especially Burstyn, and Scorsese, and the many years to come.

8 / 10

Keep on smiling, Ellen. You'll get that Oscar.

Keep on smiling, Ellen. You’ll get that Oscar.

Photos Courtesy of: The Soul of the Plot

Advertisements

All the President’s Men (1976)

Can’t trust journalist nowadays. They’ll do anything for a quick dime!

Obviously based on true events, political operatives working for President Nixon broke into the Watergate Hotel to spy on the Democratic National Committee. Two low-level reporters by the names of Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) come upon the story and have no clue what to do with. Because one’s an experienced journalist, and the other one isn’t so much as so, they aren’t really gelling together well and therefore, the story is being left with a big question-mark. That is, until Woodward gets a reliable tip and, as their editor (Jason Robards) tells them, follow the money that they begin to investigate the event and the mystery surrounding it. Eventually, the two discover that there’s an elaborate scheme at hand that involves all sorts of political espionage, sneakiness, and illegal activity, all being directed from, none other than the White House. Being the dedicated journalists that they are, Woodward and Bernstein go the most extreme lengths to ensure that their story hits the presses and is able to see by the rest of the world. Even if that does mean, on many occasions, risking their own lives and safety in the process.

Yup, journalists are always on phones.

Yup, journalists are always on phones.

Being a journalist helps make movie like All the President’s Men all the more great to watch. While there’s no doubt in my mind that somebody else who may not at all be involved with the world of journalism could, and most likely already has, found something to love and adore about the movie, it’s still something special to me that has me connect to this movie all the more, each and every time I check it out. For example, that certain rush and adrenaline that goes all throughout your body when you stumble upon a story that, at first, may not seem like much, but eventually, turns into something far more greater and powerful than you ever expected it to be. Then, to go out, follow your sources, catch up with people, back-up facts, put more info in the story, edit it time and time again, try your hardest to get it published, have to edit it one last time, chop it up as much as can be, and publish it for you, as well as the rest of the world around you to see, is just one of the many lovely feelings I get as a journalist.

So with that said, yes, All the President’s Men is a great movie for journalists who love to write stories and all of the other extra work that goes into them.

However, in its own right, it’s also a great movie that deserves to be seen because, well, it’s so damn well-done.

For one, it’s a thriller that is, believe it or not, thrilling. The reason I say “believe it or not” is because for anyone who has ever picked up a piece of paper or passed 8th grade history, will now exactly what the historical significance behind the Watergate scandal was and the countless other, ins and outs surrounding it. And because of that fact, All the President’s Men could have been nothing more than a glamorized, Hollywood-retelling of the story, but it’s actually not; in fact, most of what the movie is actually about, has less to do with the breaking of the story itself, and more about what certain emotions and feelings the story actually brings along.

Though the suits aren't always that nice.

Though the suits aren’t always that nice.

Of course, seeing as how this is directed by Alan J. Pakula, it’s obvious that a lot of All the President’s Men surrounds that idea of being paranoid in a society where, whether you want to admit it or not, the government is always spying on you and everything you do. You may want to believe that they’re spending all of your well-earned tax money on institutions such as school, the army, and programs to help out those who need it the most, but really, they’re just screwing everybody over. While I know that I sound like the kid who has gotten stoned one too many times, this is the same kind of point that the movie brings up and in an effective, never-hacky way.

The scenes where Woodward and Bernstein are out, covering their bases, trying to get more info, and meeting up in some of the shadiest spots to do so, are all filled with a certain bit of intensity that makes you wonder what’s going to happen next even though, you know, you know exactly what is going to happen at the end. The story’s going to be told; Nixon is going to be made an example out of; and Bernstein and Woodward are going to become the legends that they so rightfully deserve to be. However, there’s a certain chill in the air that makes it seem like Pakula can, and most definitely will, switch things up at any moment he sees fit. And honestly, because the movie’s so interesting and compelling, I wouldn’t have had much of a problem with that; but because he sticks to the story and all the facts within it, makes it all the more of an impressive job of directing on his part.

Not to mention that, Redford and Hoffman themselves are quite solid here, as well. Though we’ve come to see Hoffman and Redford in more interesting roles in the time since they starred in All the President’s Men, it still goes without saying that these two are talented pros and make every second count. It also helps that their personalities allow for us to distinguish between the two and understand why they make the certain choices that they do throughout the majority of this flick; Hoffman’s Bernstein is a bit sneakier, whereas Redford’s Woodward, likes to keep things on the straight and narrow, even if he does begin to realize that that’s sometimes easier said then done in the world of journalism. And yes, that world is indeed one where even the most easy-going, level-headed dudes can, whether they intended to or not, break a person’s life in-half, all for the goal of telling a story the public needs to see.

So yeah, people. Start writing!

Consensus: Engaging and exciting, despite everyone knowing what happens at the end, All the President’s Men is both, a smart-thriller, as well as a nice bit of social commentary about the way our social climate worked and still does, even to this very day.

9 / 10

But yeah. Those phones, though.

But yeah. Those phones, though.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire