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Cameron H.

Apocalypse Now

Apocalypse Now  

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  1. 1. Should Apocalypse Now be on the Afi 100 list?

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  • Poll closed on 10/04/18 at 03:59 AM

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(I just saw this hadn't been created yet)

Paul & Amy plunge into the heart of darkness to cover 1979’s Vietnam War fever dream Apocalypse Now. They discover which famous film character screenwriter John Milius inspired, dig into the meaning of the USO show sequence, and are ultimately amazed this film ever came together in the first place. Plus: All of your amazing/terrible Marlon Brando impressions!

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I honestly don't have much else to say beyond the podcast on this one.  I think Paul & Amy heavily focusing on the filmmaking and the personalities behind the movie indicate that the film left them a little cold, and that's where I was too. 

Most of the films on this list, even ones I haven't loved, left me thinking about somethingSwing Time even made me (and us) go, "well are these dance scenes enough for greatness?" and we pondered that.  Clearly Apocalypse Now is certainly impressive enough, and its greatness is right there in the burning jungles and weird acting for all to see, but what else is there to even contemplate?  *shrug*

I think that's what I'm finding here with this list: I want my great movies (or, even, art in general) to make me think, to leave some sort of mark.  That's what sets a 'best movies ever' list apart from a list of 'fun stuff I like' for me.

But maybe it was me: so to people who love this movie, what did it make you think about?

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27 minutes ago, AlmostAGhost said:

I honestly don't have much else to say beyond the podcast on this one.  I think Paul & Amy heavily focusing on the filmmaking and the personalities behind the movie indicate that the film left them a little cold, and that's where I was too. 

Most of the films on this list, even ones I haven't loved, left me thinking about somethingSwing Time even made me (and us) go, "well are these dance scenes enough for greatness?" and we pondered that.  Clearly Apocalypse Now is certainly impressive enough, and its greatness is right there in the burning jungles and weird acting for all to see, but what else is there to even contemplate?  *shrug*

I think that's what I'm finding here with this list: I want my great movies (or, even, art in general) to make me think, to leave some sort of mark.  That's what sets a 'best movies ever' list apart from a list of 'fun stuff I like' for me.

But maybe it was me: so to people who love this movie, what did it make you think about?

I try not to comment too much before I’ve listened to an episode, but AN, for me, is a movie I appreciate without actually loving. In fact, my first Letterboxd review basically said I’d probably never watch it again unless for academic purposes, and well, here we are I guess :) 

What I appreciate about AN is its commitment to surrealism. It’s like a Salvador Dali painting. It’s interesting to look at, but like Dali, the absurdity can seem at times to be almost too calculated. For me, this results in a kind of emotional detachment. So while I can marvel at the technical ability, I don’t feel particularly drawn to either AN or Dali.

In my opinion, Platoon does a better job of getting you into the shit with the characters. It feels more real because the characters feel more real. However, from a sound and visual aspect, AN is the more interesting movie to ingest. That being said, I’d be far more likely to rewatch Platoon over AN even if it’s the more prosaic of the two.

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I legitimately love Apocalypse Now, and I think it's ranked about where it could be. I fully disagree with Amy and Paul's take here, that this is a movie only on the list because people think it "should" be. Yes, the backstory behind the making of it is fascinating but what I respond to is what's on screen.

I don't think there's ever been a movie that so well captures a psychotic break, a descent into madness. That it's applied to the Vietnam War makes it extra-interesting, because it then becomes about comparing America's frequent military misadventures to the idea of going mad, pressing on and trying the same thing without getting any better result. Then when you consider the insane way Coppola went about making the movie, it becomes extra-extra-interesting to me because it's ALSO about how an artist can go down that same road and drive himself mad in trying to realize his vision. Was it worth it? We did get a classic movie, so maybe. But the movie itself is also saying that maybe it wasn't, that its central character(s) can never return from that journey.

I think it's brilliant. Maybe accidental brilliance, but brilliant just the same. I will say that seeing this on the big screen helps a lot -- you want to be surrounded by the sound and visuals to get the full effect. When Redux came out (though I do think the original cut is better) I first got that chance and the movie clicked for me. I understood its power.

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I probably saw this before I actually saw Apocalypse Now.

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I think the first thing I knew of that referenced Apocalypse Now (before I'd seen the movie) was an Animaniacs episode that was a full parody. The studio boss sends the Warners in to stop a film shoot that's gone way over budget.

I don't know why they put all these references into a show for kids, but there you go. They did also have a whole recurring segment dedicated to parodying Goodfellas.

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If we're talking animated takes on Apocalypse Now, my mind immediately goes to The Critic and Apocalypse Wow!

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5 hours ago, Cameron H. said:

What I appreciate about AN is its commitment to surrealism. It’s like a Salvador Dali painting. It’s interesting to look at, but like Dali, the absurdity can seem at times to be almost too calculated. For me, this results in a kind of emotional detachment. So while I can marvel at the technical ability, I don’t feel particularly drawn to either AN or Dali.

This is a really interesting comparison.  In my case, I love Dali, and I love Apocalypse Now.  

In last week's episode, guest Henry Parke called High Noon a western for people who aren't really into westerns.  Similarly, Apocalypse Now is a war movie for people who aren't really into war movies.  I am one of those people who does not particularly enjoy war movies, so when I first watched Apocalypse Now a decade or so ago, I expected to hate it.  Instead of getting some pro-war gung-ho bullshit, or some anti-war cloying morality tale, we just get insanity.  In the psyche of the main characters, in the events, in the design, it's all carefully crafted insanity, and even the craft went insane at times too.  As sycasey points out, the film and the book are about a descent into madness, and I agree with him that very few films pull it off as well as Apocalypse Now.  As I wrote in my Letterboxd review, it's only tangentially a Vietnam War movie.  It's mostly a psychological thriller with spots of 1960s European surrealism, and a dark comedy that is often a horror film.  My favorite sequence is the one where a cow is being airlifted by helicopter over a Catholic mass whose participants are unflinchingly immune to the bombs exploding directly behind them.  It feels like something out of 8 1/2 inserted into this film which is ostensibly about the Vietnam War.  As pointed out in the podcast, Robert Duvall's Kilgore feels like he was ripped out of Catch-22, and I see that as a feature, not a bug.  From the drug-laced soundtrack to the near catatonic states that Lieutenant Colby and Lance end up in, the film seems to run the gamut on depictions of insanity.  The Winnie the Pooh clip I posted was made as a joke (30 years ago, too!), but there's an interesting parallel I believe.  I'm a fan of the theory that the characters in the Winnie the Pooh stories all represent a different flavor of mental illness or psychological disorder.  I feel like Apocalypse Now works in a similar way, inundating the viewer in insanity from all angles, until you realize that the most insane character of all is Willard for being completely immune to all of it.

A word about Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness":  Far be it from me to whitesplain colonialism to the brilliant Chinua Achebe, but I've always seen "Heart of Darkness" as more of a critique of colonialism than a glorification of it, and it always seemed like a companion to Achebe's work, including "Things Fall Apart."  Though I agree that there will always be issues with groups in power getting to tell the stories of others who should be telling their own stories, I still would characterize "Hearts of Darkness" as firmly anti-imperialist.  Similarly, I think those same critiques of colonialism are present in Apocalypse Now, such as when Kilgore calls the Vietnamese woman a savage after he has obliterated a peaceful village without remorse, or when Clean shoots up a boat of innocent people because a woman didn't want to lose her puppy.  (Aside: I didn't understand the issue that Paul and Amy had with the puppy.  Maybe it's a little on the nose in symbolizing the innocence of that boatful of people, but it works perfectly well to me and I can't think of something that would have worked better.)  Now, these scenes don't push that message as much as, say, the scenes of atrocities committed on the Vietnamese people in Platoon, but I think that's because Platoon is about that particular war, those particular soldiers, and those particular atrocities.  Apocalypse Now is only commenting on imperialism as a whole, because that's what the story is about, and the setting is just the setting.

It seemed like Amy really dislikes the film predominantly because she dislikes the monumental assholishness of the main figures behind the film, particularly Coppola.  I can't disagree with that assessment of Coppola, but at the same time, regardless of all the shit going on behind the scenes, the end result is masterful.  I do echo Amy and Paul's recommendation to check out the documentary Hearts of Darkness.  However, I disagree with Amy (and Abed and Luis Guzman from "Community") that the documentary surpasses Apocalypse Now, but I feel rather that it's an excellent companion.

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And speaking of that "Community" parody of Hearts of Darkness/Apocalypse Now:

 

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During the decade of the 90s, if you'd asked me what my favorite movie was, I probably would have answered Apocalypse Now. Partly I think it's my affinity for Coppola's films from the 1970s. The Godfather, The Godfather II, The Conversation, even The Outsiders (though it's from '83) are among my all-time favorites. As I've aged, however, I don't think as much in terms of one favorite movie - there are many movies that I'd say were my personal favorites. It seems artificial to narrow it down to one. But Apocalypse Now is still solidly in my personal canon of all-time great films. 

But honestly, I've always been a little troubled by my affection for the film. I think part of that comes from the violence in Apocalypse Now, and what Coppola and Milius were trying to achieve with it. Then again, one of the themes of the film is probably the human tendency towards violence. Another thing that makes me cringe is the portrayal of the Vietnamese people. Really, the Vietnam War is their story and the war had a much larger impact on their people and culture than on ours. Yet in the film they're pushed into the background and mainly serve as human props for the Americans to react to. For example, the ARVN officer interrogating the wounded prisoner, the people on the sampan murdered by the crew of the PBR, or the wounded NVA soldier finally killed by the Roach. This last person we don't even see - he's simply a voice.

Despite all this, Apocalypse Now is still one of the handful of films I watch pretty much once every year. I love Coppola's ability to tell a story visually, and the way he has of communicating thoughts and emotions without much dialogue. His shots can be beautiful and terrifying, often simultaneously. The performances in the film are mostly excellent. I don't think I've seen Martin Sheen do better work. And Brando is, well, Brando, but Coppola finds a way to make his performance work in the context of the film. In my eyes it all adds up to a major work of art, and definitely deserves its place in the AFI top 100.

Most of all, I think Apocalypse Now is a perceptive examination of human nature (like its source novel, Conrad's Heart of Darkness). G.D. Spradlin's line that "good does not always triumph," cuts to the heart of what the movie is trying to express.

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8 hours ago, AlmostAGhost said:

But maybe it was me: so to people who love this movie, what did it make you think about?

I wouldn't say this movie makes me think about much. Maybe when I was 18 and thought they are trying to kill this great colonel because he's using his brain and not just following orders and all that kind of stuff. Now, I think it's just a great experience. There isn't a movie that feels or makes me feel like Apocalypse Now. SynCasey basically nails my thoughts on this one. 

Which is really making me think that I'm looking for the opposite of you in what we want. You want to think and I want to feel. I think I find myself too detached from most movies because I watch too many movies which makes me constantly thinking while watching them:  this will happen next logically...this person's acting is good... that's a well framed shot, and so forth. If a movie penetrates that and gets to me emotionally, I'm more likely to appreciate it long term.

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1 hour ago, bleary said:

It seemed like Amy really dislikes the film predominantly because she dislikes the monumental assholishness of the main figures behind the film, particularly Coppola.  I can't disagree with that assessment of Coppola, but at the same time, regardless of all the shit going on behind the scenes, the end result is masterful.  

This also seems a little bit inconsistent to criticize Coppola's ego run amok while also praising James Cameron movies (as Paul mentioned) and also Aguirre, the Wrath of God! Klaus Kinski was an unhinged lunatic and the crazy stories from that film set at least rival those of Apocalypse Now.

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1 minute ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

This also seems a little bit inconsistent to criticize Coppola's ego run amok while also praising James Cameron movies (as Paul mentioned) and also Aguirre, the Wrath of God! Klaus Kinski was an unhinged lunatic and the crazy stories from that film set at least rival those of Apocalypse Now.

Also, if we're doing Kinski/Herzog boat movies, I'm picking Fitzacarraldo.

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25 minutes ago, grudlian. said:

Which is really making me think that I'm looking for the opposite of you in what we want. You want to think and I want to feel.

Hm maybe yea. Though 2001 is one I wrote about being an experience, and it's my favorite thing we've watched yet.  But even that feeling can and should leave you something, right?  I'm not sure I'm expressing what I mean quite right, so I'll keep adjusting my thoughts on this over time.  

It might be definitional of the terms "think" and "feel" though, because I do think we agree: I may want something to think about, but I also do not want to think about the movie itself.  I like when I forget I'm watching one!  Those are my favorites.  I think I've been consistent on that for these 20 movies.  I want to be sucked into the universe and the metaphors and the characters and have a story that lingers with me or makes me reflect on something, but not worry about the logic and the acting and framing, as you mention.  So perhaps we are both on the side of 'feel'?  I don't want a moral necessarily, or that kind of specific thought provocation, but just something that leaves a mark.  I don't think Apocalypse Now did that for me.

Maybe I framed my initial question wrong -- though I love the answers so far -- but maybe I should have said "for those who like it, how does Apocalypse Now make you feel?"

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23 hours ago, AlmostAGhost said:

Hm maybe yea. Though 2001 is one I wrote about being an experience, and it's my favorite thing we've watched yet.  But even that feeling can and should leave you something, right?  I'm not sure I'm expressing what I mean quite right, so I'll keep adjusting my thoughts on this over time.  

It might be definitional of the terms "think" and "feel" though, because I do think we agree: I may want something to think about, but I also do not want to think about the movie itself.  I like when I forget I'm watching one!  Those are my favorites.  I think I've been consistent on that for these 20 movies.  I want to be sucked into the universe and the metaphors and the characters and have a story that lingers with me or makes me reflect on something, but not worry about the logic and the acting and framing, as you mention.  So perhaps we are both on the side of 'feel'?  I don't want a moral necessarily, or that kind of specific thought provocation, but just something that leaves a mark.  I don't think Apocalypse Now did that for me.

Maybe I framed my initial question wrong -- though I love the answers so far -- but maybe I should have said "for those who like it, how does Apocalypse Now make you feel?"

Speaking in terms of experience, how did you watch it?  I'm asking because I imagine a large screen with surround sound might really make a difference.  In terms of how I feel about it, I think it's fairly similar to robtucker63.  If you were to ask me during my late teens (i.e. the 90s for me)/early 20s what my favorite 10 films were and then to ask me again in my early 30s, the four movies that overlapped were Citizen Kane, 2001, 8 1/2, and Apocalypse Now (which makes it odd I still have never watched the Redux version nor Hearts of Darkness).  As I get older the other three hold and get stronger thematically.  Apocalypse Now, thematically feels more problematic (knowledge of John Milius contributes to this. Who I shall just refer to as Viking Man because of that's how he was almost ever referred to in Steve Erickson's Zeroville.  I will say, the final lines of, "everyone wanted him dead, he just wanted to go out like a solider," feels worse as I get older.  Maybe someone can talk me down from this, but it does feel like the machismo flowing over.  Add in the sense I get from the film that Kurtz is someone who knows how to fight the war effectively and while it is savage, the army's protocol is standing in the way.  By the 80s, my understanding/vague recollection was, there was a sense, at least amongst some, that in retrospect, Vietnam was winnable, we just lost it at home... which for personal political reasons, I have issues with.  This parenthetical is much longer than originally intended, and was edited in after writing this sentence and just started go on and on long a sentence towards the end of a certain Joseph Conrad novella), but god, even rewatching it for this podcast, does the cinematic effect of the film just pull you in.  

To weigh in on the Herzog/Kinski boat stories - I showed friends a double feature of Apocalypse Now and Aguirre (which I prefer to Fitzcarraldo) some odd years back, and one of my friends made the joke, too bad it wasn't Apocalypse Now and Fitzcarraldo, then you could have done a Hearts of Darkness/Burden of Dreams double feature next year.

That said, I think Amy was right in bringing up Aguirre.  In many ways it's the most comparable film thematically in many ways.  I guess one could argue about the theme in Full Metal Jacket that war's effect on soldiers, causing them to dehumanize their adversary, enabling them to do savage things.  But, IDK, Aguirre feels more appropriate.  Maybe it's the knowledge that, even without watching the Redux version, I've heard, I think Coppola say you were supposed to get a sense of traveling back in time the further up they go (someone can correct that if it's wrong.  Vague memories of someone else describing something isn't the most reliable thing), and with Aguirre, you can see them slowly discarding elements of their society (gunpowder, horse, established king), which struck me as a bit of a regression and one that felt chronological.  To add to the ickiness of the backstory of Aguirre though, well Kinski, you guys do know that his daughter has said he raped her while she was a minor.  Maybe it would have been best if Herzog had firebombed his home.

People keep saying surrealism, and I guess, if nothing else, that bridge sequence could be very dreamlike (in a nightmarish way); I was thinking the visuals of the film might be more expressionism.  Speaking of the visuals (oh god, the colors of this movie), I should put in the disclaimer, I do really like Suspiria (Argento version to be clear) as a horror film, and that's a movie with not a very good plot, but great atmosphere, and amazing colors.  So I think there is a certain bold style that my lizard brain might have some weaknesses for.

That said, should it be on the list?  IDK.  I guess. I have a bit of a tautological sense on these lists.  Lists are a reflection of who's voting for them, how they vote is being tallied, and stated sense of what should be on the list.  And in that sense, what deserves to be on a list, I guess is what gets voted to be on the list (though seeing The Sixth Sense there was a real headscratcher.  I didn't know people loved this movie and were voting for it.  Granted, I thought the AFI went by BFI ballot style and had people submit their top 10.  The Sixth Sense being in people's top 100 from a list of 400 movies seems more understandable).  Given that, does it seem out of place on the AFI list?  I guess not.  This list does like the 70s.  If for some reason the AFI polled me for my top 100 American movies, would I include it on my ballot?  Yes, I would.  That said, I would impart the sentiment not to look to these lists for validation of opinion, you'll be at more peace in the long run.

But, I guess for comparison

BFI Critic's poll (2012): 14th 

BFI Director's poll (2012): 6th

imdb: 40th

They Shoot Films (aggregate list): 11th

Oscar for Best Picture: Apocalypse Now was nominated but lost to Kramer vs Kramer

Box Office Gross for 1979: 4th at $83,471,511.  The highest grossing movie that year was Kramer vs Kramer ($106,260,000) 

So, comparatively it does much worse with the AFI than it does with the BFI.

ETA: Apologies, I really went off on tangents there and stretched the English grammar in ways that it wasn't meant to be mixed. 

EATA: Decided to add Oscar for Best Picture and Box Office Gross just to present alternate metrics (and also because it'll probably be interesting to see just how few movies on this list won Best Picture).

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In terms of clips, I wanted to post the intro to Fishing with John episode 5 (with Dennis Hopper), because I rewatched it randomly the other night and thought, "this might be an oblique reference humor to Apocalypse Now with Martin Sheen." (I mean... very oblique), but can only find the entire episode on youtube.  And I feel okay posting clips, somehow linking to an entire episode does feel copyright infringy.

 

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Sorry, one most post!

Since I do really like Kubrick, and I think I've read at least some other people here do as well, so I feel his take on AN is worth putting out there:

https://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/sight-sound-magazine/polls-surveys/stanley-kubrick-cinephile

Quote

“I think that Coppola was stuck by the fact that he didn’t have anything that resembled a story. So he had to make each scene more spectacular than the one before, to the point of absurdity.

“The ending is so unreal, and purely spectacular, that it’s like a version, much improved, of King Kong [laughs]. And Brando is supposed to give an intellectual weight to the whole thing…

“I think it just didn’t work. But it’s terrifically done. And there are some very strong scenes.”

 

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2 hours ago, AlmostAGhost said:

Hm maybe yea. Though 2001 is one I wrote about being an experience, and it's my favorite thing we've watched yet.  But even that feeling can and should leave you something, right?  I'm not sure I'm expressing what I mean quite right, so I'll keep adjusting my thoughts on this over time.  

It might be definitional of the terms "think" and "feel" though, because I do think we agree: I may want something to think about, but I also do not want to think about the movie itself.  I like when I forget I'm watching one!  Those are my favorites.  I think I've been consistent on that for these 20 movies.  I want to be sucked into the universe and the metaphors and the characters and have a story that lingers with me or makes me reflect on something, but not worry about the logic and the acting and framing, as you mention.  So perhaps we are both on the side of 'feel'?  I don't want a moral necessarily, or that kind of specific thought provocation, but just something that leaves a mark.  I don't think Apocalypse Now did that for me.

Maybe I framed my initial question wrong -- though I love the answers so far -- but maybe I should have said "for those who like it, how does Apocalypse Now make you feel?"

Ok. I get what you're saying. I think I was too caught up in the differences between "think" and "feel".

The thing I get from Apocalypse Now, at least what I can put into words, is I feel like I'm on that journey up river. I don't quite get in the mindset of Martin Sheen, but I feel like I'm right there with him. Lost in the mystery of what's to come, unable to fully comprehend what's happening. I'm not watching him on screen because I'm the unseen fifth person on the boat.

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5 hours ago, ol' eddy wrecks said:

People keep saying surrealism, and I guess, if nothing else, that bridge sequence could be very dreamlike (in a nightmarish way); I was thinking the visuals of the film might be more expressionism.  Speaking of the visuals (oh god, the colors of this movie), I should put in the disclaimer, I do really like Suspiria (Argento version to be clear) as a horror film, and that's a movie with not a very good plot, but great atmosphere, and amazing colors.  So I think there is a certain bold style that my lizard brain might have some weaknesses for.

Yes, it is more expressionist than purely surrealist, because there is at least some basis in a concrete, literal plot.

The comparison to Suspiria is interesting, because when that movie was covered by Amy on The Canon podcast, I remarked that though the overall plot doesn't hang together very well, the "little stories" in the individual scenes are pretty great. It's like a series of tightly-crafted short films, which are strung together to create an overall disorienting effect.

Apocalypse Now seems the same way to me: a series of short stories strung along together, as sort of thematic companions to each other. A lot of the individual sequences are just really well done as visual storytelling unto themselves. I'm noticing that more than a few of the "greatest movies" on this list have a similar approach. Some of the more post-modernist directors (like Tarantino) will even label their segments on screen.

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Apocalypse Now is my favorite movie. So I'll go ahead and admit to my crime.

I waited a day to post a response to the episode, because as I was hiking and listening to it, I was wondering if I was listening to a a review of the movie, or listening to an episode regarding all the background information (making, financing, producers, editors...), and even a review about a pseudo-documentary about the making of AN. (If I'm not mistaken, wasn't the doc made by Coppola's daughter? And if that is true, I think Coppola is hamming it up for her.) I saw the Heart if Darkness doc when it was in the theater, and I only remember that I felt Coppola was a bad actor.

I'm 55, so I saw the movie back when the original ending was the fire mission on Kurtz' compound, which has since been deleted in all the redo's of AN. Kurtz leaves the note in his memoir to Willard to kill them all. So in the end, Willard is actually following the order of Kurtz. Why Coppola removed the  scene is lost on me. (then again Coppola went on to make "Wind", so maybe he just wanted to make turds)
Back to the ep. The idea that Americans in war are white hat wearing good guys that spread glad tidings, and that the movie makers should somehow be ashamed that they presented scenes of women being objectified, isn't true to the culture in which the movie was made, or the reality of sending Playboy Bunnies to a combat area.

I was in an infantry division, the Big Red One. This is the early 80's (so just a few years after AN comes out), but back then there were NO WOMEN IN COMBAT UNITS, just guys. The average age for these young men in Vietnam was 19. Nothing more than kids. The only time we saw women was when we were in the rear, and went to bars, and the only women around were strippers. So you end up with 20,000~ young guys having only a look at a handful of women and your interaction is to throw $1 bills at them. Its a business transaction between the woman and the men. Its distressing, Guys are yelling, its been months since a woman has even looked in their or our direction. You are yelling just so you can gain some sort of attention and validation from someone or something outside of your world.  So I understand why they are yelling obscenities at the women, but you can't look at these scenes with 2018 sensibilities, they are desperate to be be seen.
Why the desperation? There was no email, the ability to even find a telephone is scarce to impossible. There is no skype. As time goes by, you get fewer and fewer letters from home. As a soldier you are cranking out letters all the time, but families and friends trail off. You live to see the mail distribution guy, you have a lot of hope that you will get mail, but when your name isn't called, you're gutted. When days without mail turns into weeks & months you lose your sense of importance in the world. You become a non-person. You existence isn't even validated by loved ones. So the yelling and obscenities is desperation for validation. If someone from the world can at least see you, its enough to get you through another day.
One time I got to see a USO show. Its important to point out, the soldiers do not get to dictate what act or acts they see. I know for the one show I saw, we weren't told anything beyond "Its a USO show." We've been in the Mojave for a month, get back to the rear, and are now going to a USO show. Half an infantry division. All young guys, haven't seen a woman in well over a month, Russians are in Afghanistan, so we get switched from winter training to desert training, this is under Reagan, Casper Weinberger is in attendance, and the act they put on the stage was an all girl dance school. So you have a couple adult women wearing their tight dancer outfits, and clearly this is a dance school, because there is also a lot of kids wearing leotards dancing on the stage. Guys are screaming for the adult women's attention, but make no mistake, its awkward that they brought children into this environment. I'm in the back, I can barely see anyways, and the guys in my platoon are looking at each other, because those were kids. Finally the dance recital ends, and the one adult woman comes back out on stage wearing a skimpy burlesque outfit, and slinks around the stage for ten minutes while the song "Hey Big Spender" blares over the PA. Guys are screaming, but its obvious the clothes are staying on, who cares, we just want out of the field. My platoon is about a football field away. Its all odd, and out of place, but the soldiers are not the organizers, and they are going to behave in a way that a group of rowdies behave. Because all we know about women is you throw dollar bills at them, just hoping they acknowledge you.
"Fuck on the front of their helicopters," the line in the movie's meaning was just as it was presented, when you are in the business of murder, why draw the line at the word "fuck?" When I was in, we wore the steelpot helmet, on top of that steelpot is a cloth camo cover

830130196_52d88a3965_z.jpg, to hold down the fabric cover was a thin elastic band. Usually guys would put their last name on the band, or the name of their favorite bands, or maybe peace signs or religious symbols. I wrote the word "FUCK."
Now by 1983, not many people had seen Apocalypse Now. Not many soldiers had a video tape player, cable TV, (I think when Back to the Future came out on VHS it cost $80.00, so you need to remember that you can't view Apocalypse Now with 2018 perspective.)  So I caught shit from officers, because they didn't like "FUCK" on my camo band, so they made me flip it to the other side (where they probably thought things got better), but on the reverse side of the camo band I wrote "YOU."
Guys like me would be labeled as bad attitude, and was constantly in need of adjustment.
The Do Long Bridge scene. Do Long Bridge would be a bridge that is being pointlessly rebuilt and friendly troops killed, because it would be a meat grinder. You send your troops with bad attitudes to meat grinders. When Roach is asked by Willard, if he he knew who was in charge, Roach's response of "yeah," meant that their was no official leadership, and Roach considered himself to be in charge. Why? Because the panicked soldier Willard is talking to is firing a 50 cal into a pile of bodies, but he can't kill the guy that is taunting them from underneath those bodies. (the VC soldier clearly yells "Hey GI, fuck you!" They call Roach over, who had been sleeping through all this, comes over with his M79 grenade launcher, turns down the radio, and without having a visual of the enemy, by simply hearing where the VC's voice killed him with that grenade. Its badass. That's skill, so when Roach says "yeah" its Roach knowing he's badass. (I should reel myself in, I said I had a bad attitude and guys with bad attitudes would be sent to meat grinders,  my attitude might never register on anyone's radar, because no one wants to be in that situation). Point being they send expendables to meat grinders.
Putting off a day to respond, its a dick move on my part to review a review, but after this word blast, it boils down to me saying, that AN can not be viewed with 2018 sensibilities. When the movie came out, there were only a couple other movies that were about Vietnam. Coming Home, Green Berets, and some Burt Lancaster movie. So the perspective AN gives, is a perspective that was unknown to a global audience. A perspective only a few years removed from the end of the war. It was so recent, that even when I served, I was getting called names, and hissed at in airports. I stopped wearing my uniforms on planes because of the abuse.
As far as the reduxes and alternate endings, Coppola should admit those as failures, and go back to the original ending of the destruction of the compound during the credits.
* I came back to edit a little bit. It was early in the morning when I posted, and I was still a wittle sweepy. Paul, I think you mentioned that you had done some USO shows, glad that whoever organizes the new shows, follows Harris Wittels' adage "mother fuckers just want to laugh." The organizers probably told Paul to shake as many hands, and say hello to everyone that he could. Those things go a long way to to buoy a kid's spirit, and each spirit you lifted made that a good day. So thank you for your service Paul.

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I wrote "there sure seems to be a whole lot of sound and fury that ultimately signifies nothing..." which basically echoes Paul's observation in the podcast about it seeming more like one of a film student's first films. Then I remembered I thought about that for Sixth Sense, but for some reason I rate the latter higher. 

And then I read Origami's post above, too. My attempt at quippy phrase was not the best one to follow that. Thanks, Origami, for your personal reflection (and your service!) and that contributes way more than mine. I don't think we'll see eye to eye on this film, but it's certainly not a 'crime' to respond to film in such a personal and heartfelt way.

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15 hours ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

I think the first thing I knew of that referenced Apocalypse Now (before I'd seen the movie) was an Animaniacs episode that was a full parody. The studio boss sends the Warners in to stop a film shoot that's gone way over budget.

 

I'm so glad someone mentioned this. It was my first experience with anything AN, and it was just too obtuse for me to make any sense out of. It spurred me on to look up the movie, actually. Along with other references the show made, specifically Jerry Lewis/The Day The Clown Cried,  etc.

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5 hours ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

Yes, it is more expressionist than purely surrealist, because there is at least some basis in a concrete, literal plot.

The comparison to Suspiria is interesting, because when that movie was covered by Amy on The Canon podcast, I remarked that though the overall plot doesn't hang together very well, the "little stories" in the individual scenes are pretty great. It's like a series of tightly-crafted short films, which are strung together to create an overall disorienting effect.

Apocalypse Now seems the same way to me: a series of short stories strung along together, as sort of thematic companions to each other. A lot of the individual sequences are just really well done as visual storytelling unto themselves. I'm noticing that more than a few of the "greatest movies" on this list have a similar approach. Some of the more post-modernist directors (like Tarantino) will even label their segments on screen.

Well, compared to Suspiria, AN does have a thematic through line and plot (of venturing into the darkness of the human heart), where-as Suspiria is mostly just, there's something on the other side of the door/out the window that wants to kill me (I think I'm borrowing that phrasing for Suspiria from the critic, Tasha Robinson, and I think it works). The part I'm wrestling with, other movies that I love and think are great, I can probably talk a great deal about them or say how they do something on a theme in a nuances, flushed out, or unique way. And I'm not sure at the moment if I can with AN. And as Amy pointed out there's other movies that also explore similar themes. Granted, maybe it's a case where the style is a large part of the substance (e.g. Wong Kar Wai often did that. Fallen Angels was full of it).

I mean, you're traveling into darkness of man, and seeing the Do Long bridge scene, you just feel the darkness of what you're entering. It's washing over you (the viewer, I mean).  You can just feel something seeping in and it is dark and it is hopeless and it is without defined shape.

As opposed to the earlier scene of the attack on the village where you feel the intoxicating, horrible fun of your own ability to terrible violence to other people with abandon (I'll compare it to what people sometimes complain about FPS games, at least back in my day. Maybe that's a concern that's passed). And it's terrible, but you're having fun, but you really shouldn't. 

I'm just spitballing here.

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