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Posts Tagged ‘Robert Duvall’

Roy Hobbs is a baseball player who comes almost out of nowhere in the 1930s, to join the New York Knights, who are going through a losing streak.  Nobody has ever heard of Hobbs, who has never played professionally, but his talent for the game is undeniable, despite him being nearer retirement age for the sport, than a youthful rookie.  As the film shows, his career was halted for a while by an unforeseen tragedy, but that doesn’t stop his determination to be the best baseball player in history.

This is a beautifully shot, wonderfully acted film, with an air of magic about it.  Robert Redford, at nearly 50 years of age, may have been slightly too old to play Hobbs, but it doesn’t matter at all – partly because he looks so youthful, and partly because he embodies the role so completely.  Glenn Close is Iris, the sweet woman from his past, and Kim Basinger is Memo, the avaricious girl who dates him after he becomes famous.

This is certainly a baseball movie, but you do not have to be a fan of the sport to appreciate and enjoy the film (although personally speaking, Baseball is about the only sport which I can enjoy watching).  In fact, the sport scenes are very enjoyable, and I could feel the excitement and tension of the players and the crowd.

I loved Redford as the gruff but brutally honest Hobbs, and Close as the young lady he almost left behind.  Basinger was great in an extremely unsympathetic role, and Wilford Brimley and Richard Farnsworth gave excellent support as Pop Fisher and Red Blow, the manager and co-owner of the NY Knights, and his assistant.  The always superb Robert Duvall also makes the most of his role as Max Mercy, an unscrupulous sports journalist.

Not just a sports movie, but an allegory for life, this film was unexpectedly delightful and moving.  As a Redford fan, I was bound to enjoy it, but it exceeded my expectations, and I would certainly recommend it.

Year of release: 1984

Director: Barry Levinson

Producers: Philip M. Breen, Roger Towne, Mark Johnson, Robert F. Colesberry

Writers: Bernard Malamud (novel), Roger Towne, Phil Dusenberry

Main cast: Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, Glenn Close, Kim Basinger, Wilford Brimley, Richard Farnsworth

 

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Peter Finch (who won a posthumous Oscar for this role) plays Howard Beale, a news anchor, who upon being told that he is being fired due to low ratings, has an on air-breakdown where he says that he will kill himself live on tv the following week.  He is given a chance by his bosses to redeem himself and make a live apology, but when he is due to do so, he simply says – again on-air – that he is sick of “bullshit.”

The tv company’s immediate reaction is to fire him, but his friend Max Schumacher, who sympathises with Beale, keeps him on and Beale eventually ends up with his own show, where he is known as the Mad Prophet.  In his show, he rants about America, about corporate lies and life in general, and the ratings go through the roof…but the television network will only look after Beale for as long as he is a valuable commodity to them…

This film was made in the 1970s, but it is just as relevant, if not more so, in today’s world.  It perfectly portrays the exploitation that we see in so much television today.  For instance, it is clear that Beale is suffering from some form of mental illness (he starts to have visions and hear voices talking to him), yet nobody at the network is interested in helping him; in fact, helping him is the last thing they want to do, as his shows will not work if he is totally in his right mind.  We see much the same thing in shows today like Big Brother, where people are put on screen simply to be laughed at or gawped at, however cruel this may be.  And think how many people are shown in the audition stages of X Factor, simply to be laughed at (as an aside, it’s worth remembering that the people who get to audition on tv in X Factor have already been through three auditions before they get to be in front of the four main judges.  It is clear that some of them are put through purely to be humiliated).  This film understood and showed all of that happening.

In another storyline, ambitious tv producer Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway) gives a gang of terrorists their own television show, on the basis that they film their crimes as they commit them.  In one of my favourite scenes, a bunch of tv executives are sitting around discussing contracts and terms with the terrorist group.  This gang are killing and robbing, but hey – who cares as long as they give good ratings, right?  Robert Duvall is excellent, as always, as Christensen’s boss Frank Hackett.  Hackett is heartless and cares for nobody except himself.

All in all, this is an entertaining and very relevant film.  Highly recommended.

Year of release: 1976

Director: Sidney Lumet

Writer: Paddy Chayefsky

Main cast: Peter Finch, William Holden, Robert Duvall, Faye Dunaway

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