The Deer Hunter

Inglourious Basterds - Shoshanna

Happy Veterans Day, or early Veterans Day if this goes up early, or belated Veterans Day if it goes up late! Don’t blame me, blame our unpatriotic commie editors. (Note to editors: It was just a joke! Haha! Please give me back my family.) And what better way to celebrate our veterans than a good old fashioned war movie! But what if, like me, you’re not really a fan of war movies? Well, never fear, because I am here to help with these war movies for people who don’t like war movies. Simple enough? Good. MOVE OUT!

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deerhuntertruth-4

Back in 1978, director Michael Cimino gave the world one of the early cinematic examinations of the traumatic experience of the Vietnam War. A film that was vastly ahead of its time, The Deer Hunter took a stark look at how soldiers returning from the war dealt with what is now known as post traumatic stress disorder. The film was a hit with critics and audiences, earning nine Oscar nominations with five wins, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor for Christopher Walken. However, The Deer Hunter was not without its controversy. Not only was the final scene in which the veterans sing “God Bless America” criticized and analyzed, the film was notorious for depicting the torture of American POWs by the Vietcong by forcing them to play Russian roulette. While powerful and effective in the picture, there was no evidence that Russian roulette was forced on prisoners of war in Vietnam, leading to a raging debate at the time of Cimino’s artistic license. Still, no one can deny the effectiveness of these scenes. This got us thinking. Just in case we found ourselves in an artistically-licensed Vietcong jail, how long could we survive playing Russian roulette?

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Criterion Files

Sometimes the greater cinematic spectacle ends up not being the film itself, but the ability to watch the film crash and burn. And Hollywood history has arguably seen no greater spectacle of failure than Michael Cimino’s epic anti-western, Heaven’s Gate. Credited as the film that destroyed United Artists, the bloated-for-its-time production has come to represent for some the last hurrah for a New Hollywood whose challenging artistic visionaries eventually stumbled over their own escalating egos. But decades after the hype, damage, and demonization of the film faded away, audiences can finally see Heaven’s Gate’s depiction of the Johnson County War for what it really is: a gorgeously realized, largely misunderstood, admittedly far from perfect but heavily underrated film. The Criterion Collection’s addition of Heaven’s Gate is a significant step in complicating the story of the film’s overwhelmingly bad reputation. But unfortunately Criterion’s DVD and Blu-ray packages make for a strange release that doesn’t go far enough in recontextualizing a movie whose tattered history always threatens any potential appreciation of it.

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You’ve stumbled upon Circle of Jerks, our sporadically published, weekly feature in which we ask the questions that really matter to our writers and readers. It’s a time to take a break from our busy lives and revel in the one thing that we all share: a deep, passionate love of movies. If you have a question you’d like answered by the FSR readers and staff, send us an email at editors@filmschoolrejects.com. As some of you know, my wedding was last week, and during the 9th hour of the reception, someone (or my Four Loko-addled mind) brought up the blissful concept of movie weddings. What’s your favorite? – Cole A.

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Rob Hunter loves movies. He also thinks the 80s are going to be the best decade ever in the world of film. These two joys come together in the form of cash money payments that he receives every week and immediately uses to rent more movies on VHS.

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Michael Cimino has gone over budget, beyond his schedule, and generally through hell for Heaven’s Gate. Now his cut is 5 and 1/2 hours long. Is artistic freedom really what Hollywood needs?

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published: 11.21.2014
D
published: 11.21.2014
B+
published: 11.19.2014
C+
published: 11.19.2014
B-, C


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