Tag Archives: Thunderbolt and Lightfoot

No Country for Old Men (2007): The Devil Wears Progress

Our Take Two column offers second opinions and alternative angles on films and TV series reviewed elsewhere on Motion State. Head here for our Face Off between Fargo and No Country for Old Men.

“The setting is the Texas-Mexico border. The time is our own.”

This is how the synopsis on the back of the first edition of Cormac McCarthy’s novel No Country for Old Men begins. One of these things is inarguable: we’re definitely in the Southwestern U.S. borderlands, weaving along the imaginary line separating Texas from Mexico. But the other bit — “the time is our own” — seems at the very least a strange thing to say about a story set in 1980. Then again, one could sit through the Coen Brothers’ meticulous 2007 adaptation and reasonably assume it to be set in the present day. Maybe the dusty West will always be stuck in time throughout the future of American film, a land pioneered from the 1800s but never truly transformed in the ensuing centuries. One of two hints in No Country comes when Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) references Vietnam explicitly, having served in two tours in 1966 and ’68; the other, of course, comes courtesy of the oracular Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), who holds up a quarter from 1958 and muses on the coin’s 22-year journey into his hand.

But the ill-defined nature of time is more than just a peculiar facet of this bloody yarn. We mistake the time period for today, and yet in actuality it’s nearly forty years in the past; if the film centers on the concept of progress, then this curiosity becomes darkly ironic. As is the case with nearly everything by the Coen Brothers (and everything by McCarthy, for that matter), the assertion of numerous interpretations and readings usually leads only to more questions, more ambiguities, more uncertainty. This uncertainty is admittedly fitting of the landscape of the film, and of its inexplicable antagonist. But moreso than “Chigurh as Fate” or “Chigurh as Death” or “Chigurh as Capitalism,” the implication of Anton Chigurh as the living manifestation of Progress seems to make the death knell of No Country for Old Men ring all the louder.

Continue reading No Country for Old Men (2007): The Devil Wears Progress

Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985)

In the wake of the 88th Academy Awards we’ve arbitrarily decided to revisit the Year in Film of three decades ago, reviewing a selection of films that were either honored at the 58th Oscars, snubbed, or overlooked altogether. Out of Africa was the major winner that year, scooping up seven trophies, but of course the question everyone always asks after the Best Picture mic drops is whether or not the winner is deserving. Spotlight, more of a traditional cinematic experience than the likes of The Revenant, was a mild surprise to don this year’s crown. If we dispense with the niceties, we might say that Spotlight — though undoubtedly a strong film about a powerful true tale, well-crafted, well-acted, well-received — simply isn’t a cinematic experience on par with Revenant. And if we did the same 30 years ago we might find a similar scenario with Kiss of the Spider Woman.

Every once in a while a movie rears its head from the past and simply begins, production credits appearing and giving way to the title, the opening credits, the first scene, and off to the races. Nowadays it’s far more common to preface all of that with casting news, screener reviews, trailers, trailers for the next trailers, interviews with the stars wherein the plot of the movie is dissected before the film is even released, etc. Rarely do we get to experience a movie as is, shorn of all the machinery. For me, Kiss of the Spider Woman was one such rarity. I knew the title and knew that William Hurt won an Oscar for his role, and that’s it. Hitting play was in the grandest sense a leap into an unknown territory of infinite possibility, even if in the quotidian sense it was just something to do on a lazy late Wednesday evening.

Continue reading Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985)

The Deer Hunter (1978)

Bob De Niro always gets invited to the best weddings. Alongside all of the countless things young brides concern themselves with in the months leading up to their marriage — what if it rains? Can Trudy and Greta get along if we sit them together? Chocolate or vanilla? — there’s incredible solace to be had in the fact that De Niro will be there, in attendance and in approval. The guy clearly loves weddings. One of his first starring roles was in Brian De Palma’s The Wedding Party and one of his most recent was The Big Wedding, followed by the pre-wedding bachelor party shenanigans of Last Vegas; jury’s out on whether those movies are any good or not (wait — jury’s back — they’re not) but still, the weddings in those movies rock. Come on: Robin Williams is the presiding priest in The Big Wedding. This could be an all-divas-on-deck Kardashian wedding or some other unfathomably incestuous socialite caucus and you’d still attend if Robin Williams was the priest. So too would De Niro, apparently.

One of the better ones is the wedding from Goodfellas, in which the goodwill wishes come in a drunken torrent and the prerequisite for inclusion on the guestlist is being named Peter, Paul, or Marie. Just look at Henry and Karen — they’re perfect together. De Niro’s here, he’s having a pretty good time. But there’s something else on his mind, maybe, like whether the salami on that antipasto platter is fresh or whether he should just go ahead and whack Morrie Kessler already. Remember how he cut loose at Steven and Angela’s wedding down in Pennsylvania? That was a blast! He almost fought that Green Beret at the bar. Then he took his clothes off and ran down the street! Really, when we all invite De Niro to our weddings, the Hammered Brawling Run-Naked-Through-the-Streets De Niro is the one we want to RSVP.

Continue reading The Deer Hunter (1978)

Film & TV News: August 26

News

  • Lots of production at the Rumor Mill this week, including the possibility of Mad Max‘s George Miller taking on directing duty for a future Superman film; there’s the possibility of Jon Hamm playing the villainous Negan in The Walking Dead; and there’s the strange possibility of Star Wars: Rogue One utilizing a CGI version of Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin. Likely? Unlikely? Awesome? Weird? Both?
  • The New York Film Festival slate is shaping up well this year, including as a bit of a surprise Paul Thomas Anderson’s Junjun, a short documentary about Radiohead guitarist and There Will Be Blood composer Jonny Greenwood.
  • Christian Bale will reportedly play Enzo Ferrari for Public Enemies director Michael Mann, continuing the ill-advised trend of Not Being Batman Anymore.
  • Motion State turns 1 this week! A special thanks to all of our contributors and readers.

Continue reading Film & TV News: August 26

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974)

Progress — that’s what Thunderbolt and Lightfoot is about. The buddy dramedy is about more than that, of course, from women-chasing to bank-robbing to cross-dressing. Five years after Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Clint Eastwood’s stoic Thunderbolt and Jeff Bridges’ anything-but-stoic Lightfoot came closer to capturing the same verve and tragedy of American rebelliousness than most films in the ensuing forty years. It’s part road flick, part heist flick, part character study. In the simplest sense Thunderbolt and Lightfoot is a drive-in movie, complete with laughs and adventure and car chases and a few explosions for good measure; in a more complex light Michael Cimino’s directorial debut yearns for the American Dream, for satisfaction greater than that offered by everyday life, for an accomplishment, for progress.

The comparison with George Roy Hill’s Butch Cassidy isn’t borne entirely of the fact that the protagonists are a pair of BFF criminals, and Lightfoot even takes direct issue with that label — “criminals” — before the final credits roll. Butch and Sundance are battling against the death of the West they love, the West in which they thrive. Bigger guns, bigger armies, bigger bank vaults — the world’s changing whether they like it or not. Still, it’s their own perception of the world that really matters, especially in Butch’s case. “I’ve got vision,” he tells the Kid, “and the rest of the world needs bifocals.”

Continue reading Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974)