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About robtucker63

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  1. robtucker63

    Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

    To me this a no-brainer for the AFI top 100. One of the funniest movies, but still able to communicate serious themes about humanity's dark side and the fear that we can't overcome the darker impulses of our species. This and 2001 are my favorite Kubrick films, and I agree with sycasey 2.0 that both need to be on the list despite discussion of a one-film-per-director rule. Thanks for the Tom Lehrer clip above - love that song! In 1960 there was a biopic about Von Braun titled I Aim at the Stars. Mort Sahl's been cited (though I guess there's some question about whether he actually said it) as suggesting the film's subtitle be "...But Sometimes I Hit London." A personal note about the film. In the 1970s my dad was in the Air Force and worked with Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles for 10 years. For a time he was one the officers who would turn the key (no buttons) that would launch the missiles in the event of a nuclear exchange. Anyway, I didn't learn until I was an adult that one of my dad's favorite movies is Dr. Strangelove. Talking to him since, I think even a lot of the military personal trained in nuclear deterrence theory and doctrine recognized the insanity at the core of what they could possibly be asked to do. So in a way I understand Kubrick's inability to deal with the subject effectively without resorting to comedy and satire. I think that's what my dad can relate to in Kubrick's humorous approach to such a grim subject.
  2. robtucker63

    Pulp Fiction

    Reading the above comments, I started thinking that Pulp Fiction and Star Wars have a lot in common as to how they impacted film making and pop culture in general - though maybe PF on a smaller scale. Both Lucas and Tarantino were drawing on past films, largely from movies most people hadn’t seen - me included. And both films clearly had a major impact on the way films were made and marketed afterwards. I was in my early 30s when PF first came out and saw it twice in theaters on its initial run. What struck me most was how much fun it was and how funny it was, especially compared to most other movies at the time. I also remember feeling a little uncomfortable at what I was laughing at times. Kind of a should I really be laughing at this feeling. A strong yes on this one being on the AFI list.
  3. robtucker63

    Upcoming Episodes

    I skipped A Clockwork Orange also. I’ve seen it several times, and I don’t think I could sit through the brutality again. And I usually love Kubrick. 2001 and Dr. Strangelove are two of my all-time favorites.
  4. robtucker63

    Gone with the Wind

    This was a tough watch. I’ve been studying and teaching U.S. history for over 30 years. I love movies, but I’ve avoided GWTW because of its reputation for historical inaccuracy and its causal acceptance of the myths of white supremacy. It’s true GWTW doesn’t foreground white supremacy, but it’s at the very heart of the story. And the historical liberties made me cringe all the way through. I give the movie some credit for pursuing the idea that war brings horror and misery, especially to civilians caught up in the fighting. And I was pleasantly surprised by the characters of Scarlet and Rhett. Both are complicated and flawed, and have an edge to them that makes them fun to watch. But GWTW is an elegy for a way of life that was built on the backs of enslaved humans. Every time the theme of “The Lost Cause” came up, I thought of the untold and unquantifiable suffering the system of American slavery brought to millions of people. To romanticize the Southern way of life the way GWTW does is too much to bear.
  5. robtucker63

    Upcoming Episodes

    Gone With the Wind? I’ve avoided that movie my whole life. As a U.S. history teacher for almost thirty years, I’ve got little patience for films that try to put a happy face on slavery and the Confederacy. It’s going to be a tough watch.
  6. robtucker63

    Deer Hunter

    I watched The Deer Hunter for the first time for this episode. While it shows flashes of brilliance, and definitely has some interesting performances, the racism at the core of its Vietnam scenes is troubling. Ironic that last week’s episode was about probably one of the most perceptive films ever made about racism. The Russian roulette scenes just killed (no pun intended) any good will I had toward the story. They are so unbelievable and play into racist stereotypes about Asian culture.
  7. robtucker63

    All the President’s Men

    Full disclosure: I haven't listened to the episode yet, but when did that ever stop someone on the internet from giving an an opinion? I wonder if someone's opinion of All the President's Men can be affected by their age. I absolutely love this movie - it's one of a handful that I watch about once a year (others include Pulp Fiction, Mad Max: Fury Road, JFK, Apocalypse Now, Lone Star, The Seven Samurai). Maybe not the greatest movies ever, but ones that hit me on a personal level in some way. I was in elementary school when Watergate happened, but I remember the way it absolutely dominated public conversation. I even remember arguing about whether Nixon was guilty or not with my classmates (I was pro-Nixon at the time). My earliest political memory is my mom watching the Watergate hearings on T.V. during the summer. And I vividly remember Nixon resigning, even though I was only 9 years old. My family was camping in Canada, but we ran into friends who told us Nixon was about to quit. We actually gathered around the car radio to listen to Nixon's farewell. It's hard to understate the way Watergate dominated the public consciousness back then. So I wonder if my enthusiasm for All the President's Men partly grows from my coming of age during and just after Watergate. Plus, I was pretty aware of what happened with Nixon, so I didn't need a lot of background about when I first watched the movie - probably when it first aired on TV, maybe in the late 70s or early 80s? I could see where someone growing up later might not engage with the film quite as much. That said, I still think Pakula does a lot with a very minimalist approach. As some have noted earlier, his storytelling is super-economical, but he manages to give the audience just enough to understand what is going on and to be caught up in the excitement and drama. Credit has to go to Redford and Hoffman too. I noticed when I watched the film last week how spot on their performances are for delivering information through tone of voice, expressions, and body language. Regarding nothing distinguishing the two, I can't agree with that, but notice when Ben Bradlee refers to the pair as "Woodstein." I've read that it was a running joke at the Washington Post for staffers to get the two mixed up.
  8. robtucker63

    City Lights

    This was my first Chaplin film, and I loved it. I’ve seen lots of films by Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd, but always resisted Chaplin for some uncertain reason. I think it had to do with the way the Little Tramp character is all over pop culture, and my incorrect view of Chaplin as overly sentimental and sappy. Like Amy, I found myself laughing out loud at City Lights probably more than any other silent comedy I’ve watched. The boxing scene is physical comedy perfection, and every single actor involved does an amazing job. One small observation about the boxing match and its treatment of the Black boxer. It seems a lot of the films I’ve seen from the era either marginalize their Black characters as servants or in similar stereotypical roles, or they present them as minstrel show-like caricatures in an attempt at comedy. It was nice and a little surprising to see the boxer presented as just another character in the scene. City Lights definitely belongs in the AFI top 100.
  9. robtucker63

    Apocalypse Now

    Apocalypse Now. I think Platoon is a great film, but if I'm judging on pure film making it's AN hands down. To me Platoon does a better job of giving a grunt's eye view of the war, which makes sense given Stone's background. I think AN is more about the hubris that got us into Vietnam and the lies and unreality that kept us there for so long.
  10. robtucker63

    Apocalypse Now

    FWIW, I didn't know the history of the making of AN when I first saw the film. I was in high school when it came out, but didn't see until I was in college. And, as I commented above, this is still one of my favorite domestic movies. I think I saw the doc Hearts of Darkness in a theater when it first came out, and I enjoyed it. But I like AN way more. Unspooled so far has really got me thinking about why we like certain movies and dislike others, and why we view some as indispensable classics. I'm roughly a generation older than Paul and Amy. I was introduced to AN in my late teens, when I was becoming a pretty serious film buff. I remember it being one of the first movies I watched thinking that this was serious art, and there were meanings below the surface that I had to think about to understand. I think this is one of the reasons I still hold it in high regard. Compare that Paul's and Amy's reactions to Titanic and E.T. Both saw these movies while relatively young. I can't stand Titanic. My wife and I sat in the theater making fun of it as we watched. And I liked E.T. just fine, but I still think of it as minor Spielberg when compared to Jaws, Close Encounters, Raiders, Private Ryan, etc. So maybe part of our feelings for certain movies has to do with our age when first seeing it and where we are in our journey as film watchers? I mean, I enjoy Paul's and Amy's discussions - I wouldn't listen if I didn't. But as I listened to the AN episode, there were a lot of eye rolls on my part. So maybe it is a generational thing in part. I came to Unspooled as a fan of The Canon and HDTGM. A few years back the AV Club used to review the same podcasts every week, and I think HDTGM was one of them. I mainly listen for the humor. Funny, but during the AN episode I found myself almost imagining Devin's reaction to some of what Amy said about AN, and how he probably would have been able to challenge her on what she was saying. The dynamic for Unspooled is completely different, but that's fine.
  11. robtucker63

    Apocalypse Now

    Loved it when Amy was discussing her affection for movies such as The Princess Bride, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and Clueless. These are three personal favorites of mine. But I also consider Apocalypse Now one of my all time-favorite films. The last few years I have used The Princess Bride with my 8th grade English students in our literary elements unit. The main reason I use PB is the kids still love it, even though they were born some two decades after its original release. They especially connect with the humor. Once they get hooked on the film, it's much easier for them to pull apart the plot and analyze the conflict, settings, etc. There really is something timeless about PB.
  12. robtucker63

    Apocalypse Now

    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.
  13. robtucker63

    Upcoming Episodes

    Excited to see Double Indemnity on the upcoming episode list. One of my favorite film noirs and one of my favorite Billy Wilder films.
  14. robtucker63

    The General

    I love The General, but to me Our Hospitality from 1923 is a better feature-length Keaton film. It runs 70-some minutes. The first section also features a train, though in this movie the train is a bizarre narrow-gauge one that Keaton uses for some great gags. I was delighted Amy and Paul mentioned Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last, probably my favorite silent-era comedy. The giant clock Lloyd dangles from toward the end of the movie was actually a set built on top of a building in downtown L.A. The filmmakers used different camera angles to make it appear Lloyd was hanging over a sheer drop, though he was actually several stories above the roof of the building where the set was built. There are some great YouTube videos showing how the building climbing stunts were done. Watching Safety Last on my T.V. at home still terrifies me, so effective are the stunt and camera work. Incidentally, Cottage Grove, Oregon, where much of The General was shot, was also the location for the final scene in Animal House, when the Deltas attack the homecoming parade.
  15. robtucker63


    I was in my mid-20s when Platoon came out. It was marketed as the first Vietnam War movie told realistically from an infantryman’s point of view, and the media tended to focus on Stone’s experience in the actual war. As several others wrote above, the film did seem to open up a lot of reflection on Vietnam in popular media. I think it was viewed as a game-changing movie when it was released, which may partly account for it being on the AFI list. I think the thematic elements overlap a lot with Full Metal Jacket, though Krubrik uses a lot more dark humor in FMJ. The idea of the price young people pay when trained as soldiers and then put into war. The idea of man’s duel nature - like Joker writing Born to Kill on his helmet, but putting a peace sign on his body armor.