Showing posts with label Paul Newman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Paul Newman. Show all posts

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Review: "SLAP SHOT" is Still Top Shelf

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 4 of 2022 (No. 1816) by Leroy Douresseaux

Slap Shot (1977)
Running time:  123 minutes (2 hours, 3 minutes)
DIRECTOR:  George Roy Hill
WRITER:  Nancy Dowd
PRODUCERS:  Stephen Friedman and Robert J. Wunsch
EDITOR:  Dede Allen


Starring:  Paul Newman, Strother Martin, Michael Ontkean, Jennifer Warren, Lindsay Crouse, Jerry Houser, Andrew Duncan, Jeff Carlson, Steve Carslon, David Hanson, Yvon Barrette, Allan F. Nichols, Brad Sullivan, Stephen Mendillo, Yvan Ponton, Matthew Cowles, and Kathryn Walker

Slap Shot is a 1977 sports comedy-drama film directed by George Roy Hill and starring Paul Newman.  The film focuses on a hockey coach and his minor league ice hockey team that finds success when they turn to violence in order to gain popularity in their hometown.

Slap Shot opens in the (fictional) New England small town of Charlestown.  The town's main business, the local mill, is about to lay off 10,000 workers.  That threatens the existence of the town's minor league hockey team, the Charlestown Chiefs, which is struggling with a losing season.  The hometown crowd is increasingly hostile, and the team's general manager, Joe McGrath (Strother Martin), is looking for another job, that is when he isn't trying to sell off team equipment.

After discovering that the team's ownership is going to fold the team, player-coach Reggie Dunlop (Paul Newman) concocts a plan to save the team and his job.  He tells his players that the team is going to be sold to a buyer in Florida, but in order to make the team attractive, they have to win and draw larger crowds.  Reggie encourages the recently acquired Hanson BrothersSteve (Steve Carlson), Jack (David Hanson), and Jeff (Jeff Carlson) to engage in the violent play they enjoy so much.  The brothers' aggressive violence and thuggish style of play excites the fans, so Reggie retools the team, encouraging his players to act like “goons.”  Soon, the team is actually winning games, and the victories and violence draw big crowds at home and on the road.  But how long can Reggie keep hiding the truth?

I had been putting off seeing Slap Shot for years, but recently, I got to see part of it on one of those retro Cinemax/Flix cable channels.  I couldn't believe how much I liked what I saw, so I decided to watch the entire movie.  Thanks to (Netflix), I was able to do so.

It was worth it.  I'm not a big fan of sports movies, and I am quite particular about the ones I watch.  I thoroughly enjoyed Slap Shot, in large part because I am a fan of the late actor, Paul Newman (1925-2008).  Slap Shot is an odd movie, but in many ways it is a Paul Newman movie.

Yes, the elements of Slap Shot that involve minor league hockey:  struggling clubs, small town hockey fans, inconsiderate management and uncaring ownership, and professional hockey players on the less glamorous side of a professional career feel genuine.  There are times while watching this movie that I could believe that the Charlestown Chiefs were a real down-and-out minor league hockey team.  The small town setting seems authentic.  The supporting characters are quite interesting, and not just the now-legendary, delightful, and lovable Hanson Brothers.  Players like the wide-eyed Dave “Killer” Carlson (Jerry Houser) and the lascivious Morris "Mo" Wanchuk (Brad Sullivan) add color, spice, and edgy humor to Slap Shot.

However, Slap Shot is a Paul Newman movie.  The movie strikes a wonderfully odd tone, in large part because of the shifting tones of Newman's deft comic performance.  Reggie Dunlop is essentially having a midlife crisis, as he is about to lose the one and only thing he has in life – playing hockey.  It is certainly the thing he loves the most, and he clearly would not give it up in order to hold onto his wife, Francine Dunlop (Jennifer Warren).  Newman deftly navigates the shifting tones of Slap Shot – from riotous sports comedy to quirky character comedy-drama.  With a sly grin and roguish charm, Paul Newman's acting talent and star power carry Slap Shot through its inconsistencies and lapses in logic.  And when none of that works, Newman's lovely blue eyes step in to save the day.

Although it apparently was only a moderate box office success upon its first release, Slap Shot is one of those film that has gained new generations of fans through showings on cable television and home entertainment releases like VHS, DVD, and Blu-ray.  I hope it continues to find new fans because there is nothing else like it and because we should never forget Paul Newman.  Slap Shot is both unique and uniquely entertaining … and it has the Hanson Brothers, of course.

8 of 10

Friday, February 4, 2022

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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Review: "Road to Perdition" is Powerful (Happy B'day, Tom Hanks)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 95 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

Road to Perdition (2002)
Running time: 117 minutes (1 hour, 57 minutes)
MPAA – R for violence and language
DIRECTOR: Sam Mendes
WRITER: David Self (from the graphic novel by Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers Rayner)
PRODUCERS: Sam Mendes, Dean Zanuck, and Richard D. Zanuck
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Conrad L. Hall (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Jill Bilcock
COMPOSER: Thomas Newman
Academy Award winner


Starring: Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tyler Hoechlin, Daniel Craig, Liam Aiken, and Stanley Tucci

Almost everything about Road to Perdition is superfine, from the beautiful and evocative (to call it haunting seems trite) photography of Conrad L. Hall (for which he posthumously won an Academy Award) to the varied performances of the cast. In a broad sense, the film is about the relationships between men, specifically the father-son relationships that are made by birth or created by the bond of friendship. In a narrow sense, the film is about a boy coming to grips with loving his father despite his revulsion to his father’s profession.

The bonds of loyalty break when Michael Sullivan, Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin) witnesses a gangland killing perpetrated by his father Michael, Sr. (Tom Hanks) and Connor Rooney (Daniel Craig), the only son of his father’s boss. Daddy is a hitman/enforcer for John Rooney (Paul Newman), a mob boss. Connor initiated the brutal killings to cover his trail of deceit against his father. In a half-baked plan to cover himself, Connor kills Sullivan’s wife, Annie (Jennifer Jason Leigh), and younger son, Peter (Liam Aiken), and narrowly misses having Michael Sr. killed. Father and son Michaels take to the road while the elder Sullivan plots his revenge against Connor. That vendetta destroys the father-son relationship the Sr. had with John Rooney. To staunch the blood flow, the Chicago mob hires a talented hit man (Jude Law) to kill Sullivan and son.

Of the many quality elements that stood out in this film, the one that shined the most to me was Tom Hanks’ performance. No longer is he merely an actor, he is an artist: creating, communicating, and storytelling. In a way, his performance becomes symbolic of the character type for which he plays. Sullivan, Sr. isn’t a saint. He is, we must painfully admit, an evil man, who loves nevertheless loves his family and loyalty in that order. When his family is wrecked, his loyalty disintegrates, and all that he has left to love is his boy. Their time “on the run” is time best used to revealing that love to his son. This isn’t the script telling us that; it’s Hanks’ performance told through his facial expressions and in the tenor of his voice. Although the son is the film’s narrator, this is a story about his father and how the son comes to separate the man that is his father from the man who can be a cold, merciless killer.

This is a high quality Hollywood production that doesn’t break the rules. In fact, although Hanks is ostensibly a villain, the filmmakers quietly downplay his wickedness. The script is good, but relies on the audience’s familiarity with father-son relationships, stories about loyalty and betrayal, as well as viewers having an understanding how crime organizations work, at least from a Hollywood point of view. In Road to Perdition, we watch a talented director (Sam Mendes) work his actors (Paul Newman also turns in an excellent pathos-filled performance.) into making the familiar seem special, and that in itself is an accomplishment.

8 of 10

2003 Academy Awards: 1 win: “Best Cinematography” (Conrad L. Hall: Nomination and award were posthumous. His son Conrad W. Hall accepted the award on his behalf.); 5 nominations: “Best Actor in a Supporting Role” (Paul Newman), “Best Art Direction-Set Decoration” (Dennis Gassner-art director and Nancy Haigh-set decorator), “Best Music, Original Score” (Thomas Newman), “Best Sound” (Scott Millan, Bob Beemer, and John Pritchett) “Best Sound Editing” (Scott Hecker)

2003 BAFTA Awards: 2 wins: “Best Cinematography” (Conrad L. Hall: Posthumously) and “Best Production Design” (Dennis Gassner); 1 nomination: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” (Paul Newman)

2003 Golden Globes: 1 nomination: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Paul Newman)


Friday, June 24, 2011

Review: Superb "Cars" Hydroplanes on Nostalgia

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 127 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

Cars (2006)
Running time: 116 minutes (1 hour, 56 minutes)
DIRECTOR: John Lasseter
WRITERS: Dan Fogelman, Philip Loren, and Kiel Murray; additional screenplay material: Robert L. Baird and Dan Gerson; from a story by John Lasseter, Jorgen Klubien, and Joe Ranft
PRODUCER: Darla K. Anderson
EDITOR: Ken Schretzmann
Academy Award nominee

ANIMATION/COMEDY/FAMILY/SPORTS with elements of action, drama, and romance

Starring: (voices) Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, Larry the Cable Guy, Cheech Marin, Tony Shalhoub, Guido Quaroni, Jenifer Lewis, Paul Dooley, Michael Wallis, George Carlin, Katherine Helmond, John Ratzenberger, Michael Keaton, Richard Petty, Jeremy Piven, Bob Costas, Darrell Waltrip, and Lynda Petty

If that’s possible considering what they’ve already done, Disney/Pixar’s latest computer animated feature film, Cars, is a technical improvement over their previous work. It’s easy to see why so many consider Pixar Animation Studios the gold standard in computer animation. The pity is that the only thing holding this technically and artistically exceptional and pleasurable animated film from greatness is a less than compelling story grounded in dewy-eyed nostalgia.

Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is a hotshot rookie race car trying to win the Piston Cup Championship (similar to NASCAR). On his way to a championship race in California, Lighting makes an unexpected detour down the famous Route 66 and finds himself in the sleepy burg of Radiator Springs, where he meets the town’s eccentric automotive denizens. Self-absorbed and snobby of what he considers lesser cars, Lightning has to repair the town’s only road after he damages it.

The time he spends “prisoner” in Radiator Springs allows him to get to know the other cars, including Doc Hudson (Paul Newman), a 1951 Hudson Hornet with a mysterious past, Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), a rusty tow truck who becomes Lightning’s trusty friend, and Sally (Bonnie Hunt), a snazzy Porsche who at first is Lightning’s rival, but later becomes the friend who helps him see the simple beauty of Radiator Springs. And maybe he’ll learn that there are things more important than championships and fame.

I think many viewers will be shocked to find that the racing sequences, especially the Piston Championship Cup race that opens the film, capture the feel of watching NASCAR-style racing. It has all the ferocity, intensity, organized chaos, the spectacular crashes and wild spins off the course, the rumbling and shaking, etc. However, most of Cars’ narrative takes place in Radiator City. By architecture and design, this small town is like stepping back into the postwar era that roughly covers from about 1945 to 1965. Cars tries to recapture this small town era of neon-lit drive-in diners and spanking new motels just off a highway like Route 66. The Western landscapes and the golden backdrops of desert landscapes, dusty roads, pastoral skies, and marvelous rock formations transport the viewer back to some kind of midwestern idyll. This is the kind of “old America” that Hollywood likes – small towns where things moved slowly and everyone knew everyone.

That’s where the fault in Cars lies. It’s a nostalgia piece; it’s more longing than it is a narrative – a story with a universal message, which Pixar’s previous films have had. For instance, in Finding Nemo, an overprotective father fights unceasingly to save the only thing left of his family, a handicapped son, and learns that he will gradually have to let go as his son grows into his own person. In Cars, Lighting McQueen is just a dumb kid – arrogant, smug, lacking in humility; that is true, but he’s ultimately a dumb harmless kid. What’s compelling about that? The central idea behind Cars is that Lightning must embrace the simple life of a small town as a balance against his celebrity status. Balance is a good message, and that’s cute and all, but ultimately, the storytellers, Pixar, are being nostalgic for a time most of them are probably too young to remember. They’re yearning for a lifestyle that never existed in the ideal fashion it’s usually presented as in pop culture – this romanticized version of mid-century American history.

They try to sell us this wonderful world (that still exists in TV Land) using a variety of ethnic stereotypes blended into a politically-correct collection of townsfolk that couldn’t have lived together in a real small town like Radiator Springs: Italians with heavy accents, a hippie, a taciturn former military officer, a sassy black woman named Flo who sounds like Aretha Franklin (but is voiced by Jenifer Lewis), a flashy Latino, an affable redneck rogue, etc. It’s a multicultural cast of village idiots. Still, Cars actually makes for a very entertaining tale of rustic charm versus the fast life of celebrity. I could certainly feel the old-timey charm tugging at my heart. Only Pixar through the magic of their eye-catching achievements in animation could make such preening nostalgia charming and enjoyable eye candy. Cars has spectacular animation painted in so many vivid colors that it dazzles the eyes just the way a Pixar flick should.

8 of 10

Saturday, June 10, 2006

2007 Academy Awards: 2 nominations: “Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song” (Randy Newman for the song "Our Town") and “Best Animated Feature Film of the Year” (John Lasseter)

2007 BAFTA Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Animated Feature Film” (John Lasseter)

2007 Golden Globes: 1 win: “Best Animated Film”


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