Anthony Kozlowski's Profile - Rotten Tomatoes

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The Chase
The Chase (1966)
8 days ago via Movies on iPhone

From my experience, filmmaking is a collaborative art. What you see on the screen is the work of dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people working in tandem to create a single piece of storytelling. At least for Hollywood, the ultimate goal may be filling coffers, but to that end, everyone wants their movie to attract a crowd.

It?s funny that even with that narrow goal in mind, some movies can still fall so flat. In the case of Sam Spiegel?s ?The Chase,? the fault mainly lies with one person--Sam Spiegel himself. Built-up on the overwhelming success of previous works like ?On the Waterfront,? ?Bridge on the River Kwai,? and ?Lawrence of Arabia? (all of which handed Spiegel Best Picture Oscars), he set out to make this film thinking he could do no wrong. He wanted to make a huge blockbuster that would appeal to everyone and capitalize on the rapidly changing social climate of the 60?s. Those are noble enough goals for someone with his prestige, but what happened next is a case of ambition gone awry. He hired a cash crop of talent from esteemed playwright Lillian Hellman penning the script, to a cast that boasted Marlon Brando, Jane Fonda, Robert Duvall, and a young Robert Redford. But instead of letting these creative minds do their job, he micromanaged every aspect of production, making so many daily additions and changes, that he soon ostracized his writer, director, and cast.

The results of this meddling are on clear display in the film. In attempting to make it all things to all people, a simple story of a sheriff (Brando) hunting down an escaped convict (Redford) gets bloated, distorted, and eventually sinks under its own weight. It feels like a soap opera retelling of ?High Noon.? Every character has their own side story and life-changing arc, often unrelated to the main plot at all. It shifts in tone as often as it changes storylines, going from melodramatic family tragedy, to scathing indictment of youth culture, to harrowing action beat-em-up. It becomes a two and a half hour slog, only engaging as long as Brando steps on set to whip the townsfolk with cutting one-liners. He and Redford are the lone players in this mess who command attention, and Brando seems like he doesn?t want to be there to begin with (a note confirmed by my further reading). For a movie called ?The Chase,? it can?t seem to cut to it.

All-in-all, this is a good example of ego and misplaced ambition sinking what could have been a great film. It just needs the fat trimmed. Unfortunately, it?s a steak that?s more fat than meat. 3.3/10

Cleopatra (1963)
11 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

The story of Cleopatra is one about hubris, first of Julius Caesar, then of Marc Antony, and most importantly of the titular queen herself. It's sort of ironically fitting then that the production history of this movie is also one of hubris. In a gambit to save their ailing studio, 20th Century Fox poured everything they had into "Cleopatra," ballooning the budget to 44 times its original $1 million. That's to say nothing of the behind-the-scenes in-fighting over at Fox as well as the revolving door of scripts, locations, and cast that led to millions of dollars being spent before a single useable frame was shot. It was a case of a too-big-to-fail movie falling flat on its face. The fact that anything at all was made - much less to the tune of nine Oscar nominations - is astounding.

The end result is watchable. The battle scenes are rightfully glorious and no expense was spared on the production design or costumes. That's about where the praise ends.

The movie stumbles everywhere else. An air of self-righteousness infects every scene. Characters spout monologue after monologue like they're all auditioning for the same role. The hours mount as they spell out every little piece of subtext. It's exhausting, workmanlike, and utterly boring. You realize that Fox's too-big-to-fail attitude worked its way into the script.

If someone had the nerve, foresight, or plain common sense to reign in this picture, it might have been something that saved Fox (instead of nearly bankrupting it). But because so much was thrown at it, it became a bloated mess that rightfully sank. It's saying something that "Cleopatra" was the highest grossing movie of 1963 and still went down as a horrific box office disaster. 5.1/10

The French Connection
14 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

The release of "The French Connection" more than anything, seems very timely. Nixon first used the term "the War on Drugs" to describe the systematic (and subliminally racial and politically focused) crackdown on the illegal drug trade at a press conference in June 1971. "The French Connection" had a release date a mere four months later. It doesn't seem coincidental that the film portrays the police as a staunch force for good pitted against a Black drug-consuming underbelly and an encroaching foreign presence trying to taint the American way of life. On the surface, this seems like a Nixonian wet dream, and it's probably one of the reasons it was so devoured upon its original release.

Under the surface, though, we see the toll this takes upon law enforcement and the public at large. In pursuit of a $31 million heroine deal, Gene Hackman's Det. "Popeye" Doyle slowly loses his sanity and perspective of what his role as a police officer is in the first place. During the iconic train pursuit, he steals a car, wrecks it several times, and puts the Brooklyn pedestrian population in needless danger. His mind focuses only on the bust and everything else is consequential. That alone makes the final seconds of the film that more psychologically brutal.

We can take Doyle's struggle and superimpose it on the War on Drugs itself. What is the cost to reward ratio in outlawing narcotics and targeting minority and liberal communities by proxy? No one at the time had that much foresight, but in retrospect "The French Connection" makes a poignant commentary. 7.9/10

The Great Train Robbery
14 days ago via Movies on iPhone

I've heard a lot of talk about "Birth of a Nation" being the first film to use the camera as a storytelling device (instead of treating the frame like the stage of a play), but the seeds of that are definitely at work here and this film precedes that by twelve years. If it wasn't this first, it's still among one of the first movies to build a narrative scene to scene and location to location, creating a standalone story. It also introduced genre elements that would become staples of the Western for nearly half a century. Trains, bandits, the American West, and the romanticization of the outlaw are all in play here. It can be fun to learn your roots. 7.1/10

Le Voyage dans la lune (A Trip to the Moon)
14 days ago via Movies on iPhone

What can I say that already hasn't been said? A technical marvel in its time and the forebearer of science fiction film, Georges MÚliŔs' early-century short is unmissable for cinephiles. 8.2/10