Wednesday, July 30, 2014
(April 1981, U.S.)
The crime thriller NIGHTHAWKS, in my opinion, may very well have been Sylvester Stallone's second turning point in his film career. The first, as everyone knows, was ROCKY (1976). The next three films that would follow, F.I.S.T. and PARADISE ALLEY (both 1978) and ROCKY II (1979) would each find him playing the underdog fighting against challenging obstacles. NIGHTHAWKS would finally display an almost complete transformation to the man and his traditional character. Physically, the man now looks like this...
...and for the first time in his career, he's playing a real bad-ass motherfucker with a gun (see above picture again!). How many times has Stallone played this sort of tough guy in his career? Who can count. But as is often said, the first time is the best! This is not only his best role as a cop, in my opinion (certainly beats the shit out of COBRA! Man, that sucked!), but I would consider NIGHTHAWKS to be the second best cop and crime thriller I've seen since THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971)!
Before most cop films were constantly dealing with the repeated and recycled plot of serial killers and drug dealers as traditional screen bad guys, NIGHTHAWKS took on the subject of terrorism in New York City twenty years before the events of September 11, 2001 would ever happen. International terrorist Heymar Reinhardt, alias Wulfgar (played by newcomer Rutger Hauer) is on the run from justice after blowing up a London department store. Hiding out on the island of Manhattan, he seeks to continue his wave of fear and terror by exploding buildings in the Wall Street section and taking hostages aboard the Roosevelt Island tram car. In short, he's looking to bring the city to its knees and, of course, the only man who can stop him is Stallone's character of police detective Deke DaSilva (cool name!) and his partner Matthew Fox (played by Billy Dee Williams fresh off of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK). Unlike any other cop he's ever played, however, Stallone plays DaSilva as not only a man committed to his profession, but also a man who feels genuine fear and concern, particularly when it comes to innocent civilians in harms way. This is the exact weakness he needs to fight in order to graduate his mindset from that of traditional street cop to that of a terrorist combat soldier. Even when he's repeatedly screaming "Yer fuckin' dead!" to Wulfgar in the subway, you can tell he's a man who still cares! And as he's taught in repeated Anti-Terrorist Action Command seminars, "Hesitation kills!" and "In order to combat violence, you need greater violence!" Such words, true or not, are certainly valid subjects of debate in our world today that is plagued with terrorism. One could argue those words right now as Israel goes to war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip (but not here, though. I have no interest in political debates on my blog!). As a terrorist, Rutger Hauer plays a sharply drawn character who acts as his own driving force within the movie's violent scheme. Sadism and bloodlessness are his only identifiable characteristics, and yet he manages to behave in a memorable fashion wherever he goes and whatever he does.
Like THE FRENCH CONNECTION, director Bruce Malmuth captures the streets of New York City with much of the same darkness and grit that was very much still alive and well by the year 1980. He also offers a particularly intriguing look at a modern discotheque at a time when disco was considered officially dead. Watch the nightclub scene and take note that people are dancing to tunes like "Slowride" by Foghat, "Brown Sugar" by the Rolling Stones and a synthesized version of the Spencer Davis Group's "I'm a Man" by Keith Emerson (who also provides the film's soundtrack). I tell you, I'd still go to dance clubs if I could shake my ass to great rock tunes like that! Though I understand the most currently available widescreen DVD version of this film by Universal mysteriously substitutes the last two songs I mentioned (WTF???). This is also the first time one can enjoy the classic shootout at a dance club; a sequence we've all seen repeated in many crime films and I'm sure once or twice on TV's MIAMI VICE. By the film's climax, I can't claim that we're seeing anything that extraordinary because it's the classic cliché of good guy shoots bad guy to death. Perhaps one can view this final moment as more of an epilogue following the more climactic sequence of the hostage crisis gone wrong in the end and a speeding bus crashing into the East River. Either way one chooses to experience the action and thrills of NIGHTHAWKS, one can't deny that it's not only a superior crime thriller (and probably overlooked by even some of Stallone's more modern fans of the 21st Century), but one of the most noteworthy roles Sylvester Stallone has ever taken on in a career filled with too many forgettable roles and films. Just watch STOP OR MY MOM WILL SHOOT (1992) and you'll now what I'm talking about!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Matthew Fox: "Come on, Deke. Listen, why don't we check out another place."
Deke DaSilva: "Wait! Wait!"
Deke DaSilva (revising his own pencil sketch of Wolfgar): "Let's say I did this? Took this off?"
DaSilva: "Added this? He could look something like that, couldn't he?"
Fox: "Yeah, I guess so. Why?"
DaSilva: "Because that...is standing over there!"
Sunday, July 27, 2014
(November 1935, U.S.)
The Marx Brothers' A NIGHT AT THE OPERA is one of their most challenging films for me to watch. On the one hand, it's funny as hell, thanks to the ever-traditional wild and spontaneous dialogue from Groucho Marx, in particular. On the other hand, it's very musical and if you've followed my blog long enough, you all know that I have a rather low tolerance level for musicals, which is why I end up fast-forwarding through the entire musical sequences throughout this film.
As is their usual style, the Marx Brothers (now just three of them because Zeppo was totally NOT funny!) are typically where they don't belong and getting involved in matters that are usually at risk of being threatened by their crazy antics. For this film, the three find themselves in the midst of a high profile opera company and the rather high society people who keep it all going. As is also their usual style, the brothers are always looking for a way to profit off of other people's business. Mind you, the Brothers can't sing opera (thank goodness!), but they're willing to put their minds and their faith behind a young and handsome opera singer who's also madly in love with another young and beautiful opera singer. The subject of love in just about any Marx Brothers film is very often a triangle and this one's no exception. Two young opera singers in love (by film standards, they're supposed to be the good guys) and the third opera singer who also wants the young, beautiful opera singer and who's also a bit of an asshole (the bad guy!). And while the Brothers can always be counted on to cause trouble wherever they go, they also have the good hearts to see that other good people get what they deserve, as well as seeing that the bad people get what they've got coming, as well.
As with any good Marx Brothers film (they're not all good!), there's always some sequences of action and dialogue that are better than others. For this film, there are two that come to mind. First is the irresistible negotiations of an opera singer's contract between Groucho and Chico in which the party of the first part is always and constantly the party of the first part! Sure, that makes little-to-no sense when I write it here, but just listen to it between the two brothers and how the confusion of negotiation persistently decreases the terms of the contract, and I promise you'll be laughing, too! Second is the physical gags of trying to stuff as many people as possible into a shoe box-size stateroom aboard a luxury ocean liner while repeatedly ordering an endless supply of hard boiled eggs for the always hungry Chico and Harpo. Here's what that scene looks like...
A NIGHT AT THE OPERA began a new era for the Marx Brothers' style of comedy. Whereas their previous comedies at Paramount Pictures consisted of a constant barrage of zany, free-for-all jokes sandwiched in between something that resembled a plot, this film was a rather calculated comedy with a stronger story structure, making the Brothers more sympathetic characters, interweaving their comedy with romantic plots and non-comic spectacular musical numbers (which I've told you I have little patience for!). The targets of their mischief are largely confined to clearer villains who we, as the audience, come to hate almost immediately. The Brothers' characters are more refined and that, in my opinion, may not necessarily be the best thing for a Marx Brothers film. Groucho now makes a bit more sense, and less trouble (that's a good thing??). Chico gains additional intelligence (that's a good thing??), and Harpo regresses into more of a child (what's changed??). The film dives straight into a plot and accompanying comedy, with every scene apparently having a definitive beginning, middle, and end. The end consisted of a grand finale in traditional MGM musical fashion at the time, something lacking from the Brothers' Paramount film efforts. In other words, with A NIGHT AT THE OPERA, the Brothers have changed and perhaps matured a bit. But really, when we're looking to sit down and enjoy a Marx Brothers film, are we really seeking maturity?? I think not! Still, the film is very worthwhile for outrageous laughs in all the right places. Unfortunately, for my tastes, it's the last Marx Brothers film I own and enjoy.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Otis B. Driftwood: "Now pay particular attention to this first clause because it's most important. It says the, uh..."The party of the first part shall be known in this contract as the party of the first part." How do you like that? That's pretty neat, eh?"
Fiorello: "No, that's no good."
Otis: "What's the matter with it?"
Fiorello: "I dunno. Let's hear it again."
Otis: "It says the, uh..."The party of the first part shall be known in this contract as the party of the first part."
Fiorello: "That sounds a little better this time."
Otis: "Well, it grows on you. Would you like to hear it once more?"
Fiorello: "Er...just the first part."
Otis: "What do you mean? The...the party of the first part?"
Fiorello: "No, the first part of the party of the first part."
Otis: "All right. It says the, uh, "The first part of the party of the first part shall be known in this contract as the first part of the party of the first part shall be known in this contract..." look, why should we quarrel about a thing like this? We'll take it right out, eh?"
Saturday, July 19, 2014
(November 1976, U.S.)
For this blog post of the late Sidney Lumet's film of NETWORK, I'm going to sidetrack myself into two rather different writing approaches that I almost never take. The first is to immediately acknowledge the writer of this material and his creative motives at the time of writing rather than focus solely on the film maker and filming techniques in general. NETWORK was written by Paddy Chayefsky in the mid 1970s as a satirical farce toward the world of television with a specific target toward the news division. It's important to note that I use the words "satirical" and "farce" because I cannot, for the life of me, imagine that when Chayefsky was writing fantastic concepts of reality-based television and tabloid news broadcasting, that he ever imagined that any of that crap would actually come true. Had he lived to see the 21st Century (he died in 1981), he would have seen his broadcasting fantasies come true in the form of "real housewives", dance moms, weight loss contestants, the newest rising singing idol and news broadcasts that would rather fill our pathetic minds with the latest celebrity dirt rather than real, hard news. The Cable News Network (CNN) was still several years away from being launched, so it was the three primary television networks of ABC, CBS and NBC that ruled the news airwaves. For NETWORK, we're introduced to the fictional network of UBS, its ongoing struggle with poor television ratings and their desperate attempts to come up with programming that will save them. This programming need not necessarily be of decent quality; it only need get people to watch it!
The second approach I'm going to take is to truly let the miraculous dialogue of this film speak for itself and the messages it was attempting to send out at the time and their (possible) relevance to today's media culture. There are moments of such powerful monologues and speeches that literally take your breath away! When they're concluded, you can't help but search your mind and consider their true meanings and how their content hardly seem dated, despite a difference of several decades. The first comes from the character of cold-as-ice, hard-hearted programming director Diana Christensen (played by Faye Dunaway in what is undeniably her greatest film role!) in which she truthfully acknowledges the quality of UBS's programming...
"I watched your 6 o'clock news today; it's straight tabloid. You had a minute and a half of that lady riding a bike naked in Central Park. On the other hand, you had less than a minute of hard national and international news. It was all sex, scandal, brutal crime, sports, children with incurable diseases, and lost puppies. So, I don't think I'll listen to any protestations of high standards of journalism when you're right down on the streets soliciting audiences like the rest of us. Look, all I'm saying is if you're going to hustle, at least do it right."
Even back in 1976, Chayefsky was directing our attention to the fact that most broadcast news was tabloid crap that sought to only hook our time and our mind into wanting more of that same tabloid crap. Today, think about the news that you watch on TV if it isn't CNN (and hey, even they're not perfect!). For myself, on a regular basis, I watch NBC news. It seems that unless there's some terrible tragedy in the form of war or a plane crash, they're likely to show their top story of the day in the form of the latest local crime to be caught on video or a threatening thunderstorm that's on its way to our neighborhood. The real tragedy is that I, like many others, sit there disgusted by what we have to watch and listen to that's being passed off as real news and yet we never bother to turn the TV off. We sit there and continuously take it all in, only to return to the same place, same channel twenty-four hours later to indulge in more, all for the sake of "staying informed". And for those of us who really love our TV (NOT ME, thank goodness!), we go beyond the news and watch what we actually believe to be real life in the form of reality TV. Why do we do it? That I cannot answer because I simply don't understand people anymore! However, that though in mind leads me into the next piece of dialogue that clearly raises the same complaint that I've just outlined. It comes from the film's main character of burned-out, slightly mad news anchorman Howard Beale (played by Peter Finch), who hosts his own show called "The Howard Beale Show" and plays a rather mad preacher and prophet of the TV airwaves. Today, his outrageous character may be found in men like Howard Stern or Jerry Springer. It goes like this...
"But, man, you're never going to get any truth from us! We'll tell you anything you want to hear! We lie like hell! We'll tell you that, uh, Kojak always gets the killer, or that nobody ever gets cancer at Archie Bunker's house, and no matter how much trouble the hero is in, don't worry, just look at your watch; at the end of the hour he's going to win! We'll tell you any shit you want to hear! We deal in illusions, man! None of it is true! But you people sit there, day after day, night after night, all ages, colors, creeds...we're all you know! You're beginning to believe the illusions we're spinning here! You're beginning to think that the tube is reality, and that your own lives are unreal! You do whatever the tube tells you! You dress like the tube, you eat like the tube, you raise your children like the tube, you even think like the tube! This is mass madness, you maniacs! In God's name, you people are the real thing! WE are the illusion! So turn off your television sets! Turn them off now! Turn them off right now! Turn them off and leave them off! Turn them off right in the middle of the sentence I'm speaking to you now! TURN THEM OFF!"
You starting to see the point I'm making here, people? Good! Then let's continue, shall we?
The next piece of dialogue comes from the character of Arthur Jensen (played by Ned Beatty) in which he lays out, in no uncertain terms, the conditions of our world to Howard Beale...
"You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and I won't have it! Is that clear? You think you've merely stopped a business deal! That is not the case! The Arabs have taken billions of dollars out of this country, and now they must put it back! It is ebb and flow, tidal gravity! It is ecological balance! You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples! There are no nations! There are no peoples! There are no Russians! There are no Arabs! There are no third worlds! There is no West! There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multivariate, multinational dominion of dollars! Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, reichmarks, rins, rubles, pounds, and shekels! It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet! That is the natural order of things today! That is the atomic and subatomic and galactic structure of things today! And YOU have meddled with the primal forces of nature, and YOU... WILL... ATONE! Am I getting through to you, Mr. Beale? You get up on your little twenty-one inch screen and howl about America and democracy! There is no America! There is no democracy! There is only IBM, and ITT, and AT&T, and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon! Those are the nations of the world today! What do you think the Russians talk about in their councils of state, Karl Marx? They get out their linear programming charts, statistical decision theories, minimax solutions, and compute the price-cost probabilities of their transactions and investments, just like we do! We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr. Beale! The world is a college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable bylaws of business! The world is a business, Mr. Beale! It has been since man crawled out of the slime! And our children will live, Mr. Beale, to see that...perfect world...in which there's no war or famine, oppression or brutality! One vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work to serve a common profit, in which all men will hold a share of stock! All necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredom amused!"
Pretty heavy insights, are they not? Do they apply to the general opinions of today's 21st Century common folk? Who knows. I suppose that's left up to individual opinion. But just think back a few years ago to the year 2008 when the last recession hit this country hard. Who were we blaming? We looked to the great banks and giant corporations of America as those responsible for our financial woes. When people took to the streets of Manhattan in great masses during the "Take Back Wall Street" marches, they blamed the banks and the corporations for running the country into the ground and ultimately screwing the common person who just didn't seem to matter anymore. And through it all, we had television news to continuously provoke our worst fears about what was to come and the consequences we would all have to endure. The great concept of America, it seemed, did not exist anymore. All that was left was the richest 1% and the common rubble that was left surrounding it. My point being, that even though the two decades differ greatly, it's basic idea that we're all being controlled by the so-called corporate "powers-that-be" that also include foreign powers and dollars, remains unaltered.
So now let me take a break from this format for a moment and go back to my traditional writing and speak of NETWORK as a film that is intelligent, brilliant, superbly well acted, outrageous and cruelly funny. It's a topical comedy that confirms Chayefsky's position as a major satirist of his time and a piece of work whose wickedly distorted views of the way American television looks, sounds, was (and still is!), are the writer's cardiogram of the hidden human heart; not just of television itself but also of the common society that supports it and is, in turn, supported by it. It's also one of Sidney Lumet's best films alongside SERPICO (1973) and DOG DAY AFTERNOON (1975). As for my thoughts on television in general - in a nutshell, I don't watch it; not anymore, and this comes from a man who was a serious TV addict as a kid! I'm of the strong opinion that all of today's TV is nothing but recycled crap, in one form or another. One's memories of what they would consider the "golden age" or "great days" of television would depend greatly on one's age, I suppose. For my generation (forty and up!), our parents and grandparents would place their fondest memories with the days of Jackie Gleason, Lucille Ball, Sid Caesar and Edward R. Murrow. Those who shared my childhood of the 1970s would remember an era of ALL IN THE FAMILY, HAPPY DAYS, THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN and Walter Cronkite. Sad as it seems, our children today will fondly remember an era of all the previously-mentioned tragedies of television today that also include too many damn spin-offs of CSI and LAW & ORDER! In the end, though, perhaps only the technology has changed the face of television and not so much the content as I'm lead to believe. In the end, it's all up to our own perception...and also the amount of time we spend watching the damn tube (no, sorry, I meant SCREEN!)
Finally, with regard to film performance, I feel the need to vent a frustration that I'm sure has been spoken by others before. As good as Beatrice Straight's performance is in this film, how in the name of all that makes sense in the world could she possible win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress of 1976 based on what amounts to no more than six minutes of screen time (yes, I timed it!)??? Somebody please explain that one to me!!!
And so, having said all that, let me conclude with the big one; the ranting, raving speech that says it all and is totally infamous with those who know this great film so well. Here, too, is the appropriate picture to go with it...
Howard Beale: "I don't have to tell you things are bad! Everybody knows things are bad! It's a depression! Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job! The dollar buys a nickel's worth, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter! Punks are running wild in the street and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it! We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TV's while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that's the way it's supposed to be! We know things are bad, worse than bad! They're crazy! It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out anymore! We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, 'Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms! Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won't say anything! Just leave us alone!' Well, I'm not gonna leave you alone! I want you to get mad! I don't want you to protest! I don't want you to riot! I don't want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write! I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street! All I know is that first you've got to get mad! You've got to say, 'I'm a HUMAN BEING, God damn it! My life has VALUE!' So I want you to get up now! I want all of you to get up out of your chairs! I want you to get up right now and go to the window! Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, 'I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE'!
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
(July 1998, U.S.)
By the Summer of 1998, I was what you might consider a full-fledged summer blockbuster addict. I'd seen the good (DEEP IMPACT, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN), the bad (GODZILLA, LETHAL WEAPON 4) and the downright ugly (ARMAGEDDON - I need not say more!). THE NEGOTIATOR offered the traditional thrills of action and intensity, but gave us the acting power of Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey, whom I was still getting to know from great prior films like SE7EN (1995) and L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (1997). From the initial movie poster I'd seen before actually seeing the film, I surmised that perhaps both of these men were hostage negotiators on the same side. As the film turns out, that's not to far from the truth. But as it turns out, they're on opposite sides when Jackson's character finds himself taking hostages to prove his innocence and Spacey is brought in to try and talk him through the whole thing. It's "cat and mouse" in a rather traditional sense, but when you're following two superb actors as these two, you can't help but enjoy getting caught up in the entire game and even find yourself wondering who is ultimately "the cat" and who's "the mouse".
The provocation of the entire event is traditional enough in the sense that honest cop Danny Roman (Jackson) is set up as the fall guy when it's discovered that police corruption is responsible for the embezzlement of money from the department's disability fund, as well as the brutal murder of Danny's own partner. Of course, one can always expect the good cop to get screwed first in a situation like this, but Danny shows just how far off the edge he's willing to go and take the audience in order to gain his justice. If you've seen enough hostage films in your time, then you'll often expect the criminal to be somewhat sharp in knowing what to expect from the cops and the negotiators who stand outside trying to talk him out. However, when the hostage taker is also a hostage negotiator, then we're also expecting every possibility of action and deception to take place against him. In addition, when you've got negotiator going head-to-head with another negotiator on opposite sides of the door, then you can also expect that the acting and dialogue will (perhaps) cut through all the bullshit. Jackson and Spacey pull no punches and pull out every weapon against each other in this saga, all the while not losing a mutual respect for each other and what each of them are compelled to do in this situation.
Unlike a high-rise building thriller like DIE HARD (1988), where the good guy and the bad guys are clearly defined for your expectations, THE NEGOTIATOR supplies the proper level of good guy sympathies at both ends. We know Danny is innocent and we know that in the end, he'll somehow manage to prove it and bring the real corrupt police criminals to justice. We also know that Chris Sabian (Spacey) is the best at what he does and also possesses the patience and empathy to allow Jackson the opportunity to clear his name and his badge. In the end, both men are winners in their own sense, and it would seem a new friendship is developed. As action heroes, both men show their own sense of style. Jackson has always spoken for himself in multiple action roles that have included SHAFT (2000), three STAR WARS prequel films and the more recent Marvel comic book character of Nick Fury in multiple films. Spacey, on the other hand, is more or less a one-hit-wonder as an action star in this film, and it's rather a shame. Not that he didn't absolutely bowl me over in AMERICAN BEAUTY (1999) and even make me smile as Lex Luthor in SUPERMAN RETURNS (2006), but I can't help but wonder what sort of action hero or bad-ass cop he might have made had he continued the effort. Well, sixteen years later, it may be too late to find out the "what if". No matter. We have THE NEGOTIATOR and that's good enough!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Lieutenant Chris Sabian: "I once talked a guy out of blowing up the Sears Tower but I can't talk my wife out of the bedroom or my kid off the phone!"
Tuesday, July 8, 2014
(May 1984, U.S.)
Before Kevin Costner developed a solid reputation as the "Mr. Baseball of the movies" with BULL DURHAM (1988), FIELD OF DREAMS (1989) and FOR LOVE OF THE GAME (1999), it's pretty safe to say that a guy like Robert Redford was about as American as you could get in any simple story of this country's greatest national pass time. THE NATURAL is director Barry Levinson's second film after DINER (1982) and is about as innocent as you can get in terms of its simplicity toward the history of a sport that's come to define America; innocent, despite the fact that Redford's character of Roy Hobbs is shot by a crazed woman early in the film. Redford, in his unique soft-spoken manner, seems perfectly fit for a man searching to find himself within the great game that he loves so dearly.
Interestingly, though, this is a particular film that I hadn't watched in so many years before writing this blog and I'd forgotten many of its points of details and could only recall its very basic clichés of baseball during an era long since vanished. This is a true baseball story with the classic elements of the underdogs, the rise of those underdogs and the corruption that seeks to destroy the underdogs. But in careful study of the film, one find themselves constantly asking the mysterious question of, "Just who is Roy Hobbs?" By all accounts, he's a man who grew up a common farm boy with a natural talent for pitching and hitting. Reaching manhood, he (naturally) seeks the dream of playing in the big leagues and being the best there is at the game. Along the way, however, and as previously mentioned, he's shot by an alluring woman (played by Barbara Hershey) and isn't seen nor heard from again for sixteen years when he decides to try and get back into the game. There's virtually no explanation of who this woman is and why she would just up and shoot this poor man for no real reason other than she apparently has some sort of sick history in shooting athletes. This shooting, in my opinion, serves no real purpose in the film other than to establish Roy Hobbs' inevitable obstacle that will bring him back from the brink of his own extinction and propel against all odds him into baseball stardom.
Or does it...?
From the time that Roy Hobbs is re-introduced into the world sixteen years after the shooting, we know little-to-nothing about him. He won't say where he's from and there appears to be no real record of his life. Even would-be harassing reporters are stumped. If thought about long enough, one can't help but wonder if the character of Roy Hobbs is not real at all, but rather an elaborate fantasy, or perhaps dare I go so far as to suggest an angel of sorts? One need only recall Will Smith's character in THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE (a 2000 film directed by Robert Redford) to understand what I'm suggesting. Is it possible that Roy Hobbs was actually killed when he was shot down and has somehow returned to Earth to fulfill the dream of baseball that was unexpectedly cut down by the force of a bullet? Want some evidence of that possibility? Look carefully at the attached movie poster images and tell me that Robert Redford doesn't appear to be a somewhat faded image in the background. If that doesn't suggest the possibility of something spiritual and not-quite-of-this-world, then I don't know what does! And there's the baseball bat he calls "Wonder Boy" that seems to have some form of magic of its own. Again, very little is offered by way of explaining this bat other than it was carved from a tree that had been struck by lighting when Roy was a boy. The bat, though, serves its purposes in that victorious-make-the-audience-feel-good-sort-of-way in cinema when it hits miraculous home runs on more than one occasion.
Therefore, what am I really suggesting here? Is Roy Hobbs real? Is he a fantasy? Is he an angel? Is he a spirit of the dead? Or is the entire premise of THE NATURAL just a wonderful dream in the mind of Roy Hobbs where the good man gets to triumph against all odds of physical obstacles and human blockades? Frankly, I don't believe any viewer or professional film journalist has ever raised such outrageous questions about this film, so perhaps I'm in a minor league (no pun intended) of my own. Oh, but consider the possibility that I could be right...just for a moment!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Iris Gaines: "You know, I believe we have two lives."
Roy Hobbs: "How? What do you mean?"
Iris: "The life we learn with and the life we live with after that."