Tag: James Caan

The Godfather

September 30th, 2018 — 6:02pm


The Godfather

Recently my son, grandson and I got together for an evening of pizza and watching the original Godfather movie, which won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1973. It also won the Oscar for Marlon Brando as Best Actor in a Leading Role and Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola won an Oscar for Best Screenplay. Coppola (who was a high school classmate of mine) was nominated for the Oscar for Best Director as were James Caan, Robert Duvall, Al Pacino for Best Supporting Actor. Also in the film were Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, Ali MacGraw, Robert De Niro, Jill Clayburgh, the singer Al Martino and many other excellent actors and actresses. The movie also won the “75 years of Golden Globes Best Picture”.

The storyline, if you don’t know, is about an organized crime family in the 1950s led by Don Corleone (Marlon Brando) referred to as the “Godfather” and how they confronted the appearance of narcotics on the New York City crime scene. It is also about how the Godfather is transferring his power to his youngest son, Michael Corleone, a decorated United States Marine just returning from the war (Al Pacino). The movie depicts the lifestyle of this crime family with grandiose lovely wedding celebrations, as well as brutal murder scenes.

The fact that our viewing team of three did not notice nor mind the about three hours of running time of the film attest to the well-deserved success of the movie. In fact, it was my impression that the classic depiction of the Godfather by Marlon Brando appeared to be a much shorter role than I remembered it (although no one questioned his well-deserved acclaim). It was also interesting that his mumbled speech and the Italian accent of some of the characters led to the youngest member of our viewing team to turn on the English subtitle feature, which I didn’t even know was possible. Another feature of this movie was the recurring, haunting and memorable music theme, which was voted Best Grammy Score of a Motion Picture for that year.

If you are interested in re-experiencing a “blast from the past,” taking another pass at this great movie is highly recommended. Keep in mind  that there are two sequels also available. (1972)

Comment » | 5 Stars, Crime, Drama

Henry’s Crime

April 1st, 2011 — 6:28am


Henry’s Crime-sp  Henry (Keanu Reeves) is sort of a nebish, stumbling through life as a toll collector on what seemed to be the New York State Thruway,  in a a loveless marriage to Debbie ( Judy Greer). He just seems to have no purpose in life.  Through no fault of his own, he ends up in jail for a crime he really didn’t commit and serves a year in the clinker. He meets Max  (James Caan) an old timer who was once a con or  “confidence” guy who isn’t even sure he wants out on parole even if he could. Henry’s life is about to change after Julie (Vera Farmiga in a great spirited performance) an actress rehearsing for a play in Buffalo runs into him in a chance meeting. Shortly before this meeting Henry has found a goal in life as nefarious as it might be. There is a play within the movie and a Chekhov play at that, which is driven by love, emotion and suspense. At the same time the life of the characters are filled with suspense, drama, passion and the fun of a heist movie plot. Director Malcolm Venville in his second feature film and American debut, seamlessly moves back and forth between these two dimensions  building to a great movie climax in which we heard out loud reactions from the  audience watching the play within the movie  as well as from our audience viewing this screening. Our reaction was very positive and we recommend that this movie not be missed. (2011)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Comedy, Crime, Romance

Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel

September 8th, 2010 — 9:43am

Hugh Hefner* * *
Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel
– sp – Filmmaker Brigitte Berman won an Oscar for her documentary film about iconic musician Artie Shaw. Hugh Hefner is a great jazz aficionado and founded the acclaimed Playboy Jazz Festival which is how they had occasion to meet and get to know each other. Berman then decided that she wanted to make a documentary about Hefner but one, which shows the largely unknown side of the man who in most people’s minds represents the Playboy lifestyle of beautiful women and lots of sex. Hefner liked the idea of such a film and gave Berman free access to his vast archives as well as participating in extensive interviews with her. Friends of Hefner such as James Caan, Tony Bennett, Dick Cavett, Joan Baez, Jessie Jackson, Jim Brown, Bill Maher, Dick Gregory and others also gave very fascinating interviews. What emerged in the two hour and 4 minute film was a picture of a hardworking man who was determined to be a success. He loved women (many women) and did not believe that he was demeaning them by making them sexual objects. More to the point of the documentary, he had a sense of fairness and acceptance that was completely color blind at a time when much of the country and certainly the entertainment industry was not. He did not allow discrimination towards blacks to occur in his Playboy Clubs and commonly showcased black entertainers on his after hours TV shows. Interviews with Jessie Jackson, Jim Brown and Dick Gregory were extremely clear on this point. Hefner also did not hesitate to have writers, who were blacklisted as communists or communist sympathizers by the nefarious Senator Joseph McCarthy, to continue to write for Playboy magazine under their own name, which was unheard of at that time. This film is not only enlightening about these contributions of this man but it also is quite entertaining as it includes wonderful clips of Sammy Davis Junior performing as well as adlibbing on the Hefner TV show. There was a young Tony Bennett performing in his relaxed style. We saw a beautiful Joan Baez singing and youthful Pete Seeger doing his thing with some injected clips of the craggy older Seeger reflecting on the significance of Hefner’s support of him and his causes. James Mark Stewart provided an excellent original score for the background of most of the movie There are a few counterpoints to the Hefner’s views about sexuality and the Playboy life style which are periodically presented in the film by such people as Susan Brownmiller, Pat Boone and others. They are shown as weak rebuttals, at times almost humorous. It is clear that this film is an admiring tribute to Hefner now in his 80s. Ms. Berman director, producer, writer and editor told us that Hefner was extremely pleased and touched after seeing the documentary. The filmmaker said that she wanted to show him objectively as he really was which led me to ask her if there was anything in the film that Hefner didn’t like? She said no. The film comes to an end with Hefner being true to his philosophy and reinventing himself after two marriages by now having seven intimate girlfriends which he then cuts down three. There is a very revealing statement by this older guy reflecting on his life. He indicated that he understands that his outgoing life style of loving and enjoying many women has to do with the fact that his parents were very cold and rejecting. In fact as a child he says he was never hugged. Even though he has had a very successful life, it is sad to see the lingering effects of what has been missing from his childhood. 2010

Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary


September 6th, 2010 — 8:59am

Mercy* * *
– sp – Did you ever know a guy who had lots of girl friends and one night stands but who seemed to have no intentions of ever falling in love? Johnny (played by the producer and screenwriter of this film, Scott Caan ) is a 30 year old successful author who writes about romance and women. Perhaps he is trying to understand what a real relationship is about since his parents split up when he was quite young and his father ( played by his own real father James Caan) tells him unequivocally that there is no such thing as love. Of course, he does fall in love with a book critic who doesn’t like his latest book and the story goes from there. The film is moderately successful in examining the impact of love on this young man. There are some insightful moments which will resonate with many young men struggling with this universal theme which has been depicted in many great movies. What seemed to be lacking was the opportunity for the audience to know Mercy (played by Wendy Glenn) well enough to also fall in love with her, or at least understand Johnny’s love for her as we had, for example understood Woody Allen’s feelings for Annie Hall or other cinematic romances. The scenes between Johnny and his father were well done. The younger Caen told our preview screening audience that these were particularly difficult for him since he actually has a close relationship with his dad as compared to the distant one they played in the film. The screenwriter/actor chose Patrick Hoelck, an old friend whom he trusted to be the Director and he was rewarded with a well-photographed movie, which captured the emotions and transformation of the main character. (2010)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Romance

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