Category Archives: Essays and Articles

“Instant Family” director Sean Anders stops in Vegas for press tour

Writer-director Sean Anders is the man behind some of the more popular comedies of the last ten years: Hot Tub Time MachineWe’re the MillersHorrible Bosses 2 and Daddy’s Home.

He’s known for his over-the-top, raunchy screwball-comedy. However, his latest picture is more of a blend of comedy and drama.

Director Sean Anders and Mark Wahlberg on the set of Instant Family from Paramount Pictures.

It’s called Instant Family and stars Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne. The two actors play Pete and Ellie, a couple looking to adopt a child.

After deciding they are “special” enough people to adopt, the two begin the process. They search for the ideal kid and finally find a teenager named Lizzy (Isabela Moner). What they didn’t know is that she has two younger siblings—Juan (Gustavo Quiroz) and Lita (Julianna Gamiz).

Just like that Pete and Ellie become mom and dad to three children. The trials and tribulations that follow make the couple wonder if they are in over their heads.


Chasing Cinema’s 2017 Oscar Predictions & Results

Update: LOUIE WINS! He predicted 17 out of 24 categories correct. Jacob predicted 16 out of 24, losing by one category. See the winners & predictions below

This Sunday, Feb. 26, is the 89th Academy Awards and just like years past the Oscars has got us excited here at Chasing Cinema. Below are Jacob Tiranno and Louie Coruzzolo’s 2017 Oscar Predictions. We both feel like La La Land will follow its recording-tying nominations for a single film (14) with a big night and walk away with a lot of hardware.

Chasing Cinema's 2017 Oscar Predictions

Chasing Cinema’s 2017 Oscar Predictions

Also, we feel that the terrific performances by Denzel Washington and Viola Davis in Fences will take home the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress Oscars respectively. To check out our full coverage of the biggest winners and the must-see moments of the show make sure you follow us on Twitter (@ChasingCinema) as we live-tweet the Oscars this Sunday, February 26 at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT!

Here our 2017 Oscar Predictions & RESULTS


Shaft Redefining Black Hollywood

Throughout the late 1960s and into the 1970s, many American films were becoming radically different in their approach. These new Hollywood films were beginning to explore darker subjects in more character driven films. During this cinematic renaissance of the 1970s, many mainstream American audiences began to develop a thirst for crime films that featured masculine heroes taking matters into their own hands. Of these new masculine, violent films were The French Connection and Dirty Harry. The white heroes that were in those films were strictly intended to satisfy the white audiences; however, the craving for these types of heroes was not limited to white audiences.

Richard Roundtree as John Shaft

Richard Roundtree as John Shaft


African American audiences of this time also wanted masculine heroes in their movies: “After years of watching elegant, well-spoken Sidney Poitier endure insults from racist white cops in films like In The Heat of the Night (1967), African Americans were ready to see someone respond to the cinematic police brutality and racial profiling of Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle and “Dirty” Harry Callahan” (Friedman 57). The need for such black heroes led to the emergence of a new film genre called Blaxploitation.


Jacob Tiranno Accepts the 365 Day Movie Challenge

Happy New Years Everyone!

I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday and had a great time ringing in the new year. Like most of you, I compiled a list of resolutions for the year of 2016. But, when I was writing that list that we all know too well, I thought for this year I needed a real challenge. Something to test my will power and my never give up attitude. But instead of choosing something silly, I decided to take on the 365 Day Movie Challenge.

Jacob Tiranno accepts 365 Day Movie Challenge

Jacob Tiranno

Now for those who are unfamiliar with this 365 Day Movie Challenge, I am committing to watching one film a day, that I’ve never seen before. To some of you, this doesn’t sound very challenging. To you, nay I say. This is probably one of the hardest things to do. The 365 Day Movie Challenge will be a part of my life for one whole year. Every day my life for the next year will be revolving around the question of when can I sit down and watch a movie before the day ends. That not only intrigued me, it genuinely excited me.


Scarface: Polarizing The Nation

As the postwar period of the 1920s and the early 1930s emerged, there were a group of crime films that dared to be darker, bolder, and more accurate in depicting its characters and their environment in the Great Depression era. These films focused on the archetypal “rags to riches” story that showcased men who would finally take matters into their own hands, and venture into criminality in order to move up the social ladder. Usually, these men were often portrayed as heartless individuals, who became successful thanks to their willingness to become murderers and thieves. Although these characters were in many ways callous criminals, they were also appealing and relatable because of their experiences in urban America. In the book, Public Enemies, Public Heroes, author Jonathan Munby states: “Central to the appeal of these gangster films of the early 1930s were their candid dramatization of the contradictory nature of the ethnic urban working-class American experience” (20). There were three gangster films of the early 1930s that had a tremendous cultural impact in depicting the underworld and the working-class American experience; however, one film has stood out the most.

Scarface: The Shame Of A Nation (1932)

Scarface: The Shame Of A Nation (1932)

The three films that have been singled out in film criticism as the defining gangster films of the early 1930s are Little Caesar, Public Enemy, and Scarface (Munby 16). Collectively, these films were able to appeal to a variety of people because of the historical elements found within the films. However, Scarface would take it one step further. In the Historical Journal of Film, Radio & Television, J.E. Smyth writes: “More than the other two critically acclaimed gangster pictures, Scarface was a biopic. It was also one of the most highly censored films in Hollywood history, mostly due to its alleged glorification of the life of Al Capone” (553). By having Scarface modeled closely after Capone’s life, the creative team behind the film was trying to make a gangster picture that was an accurate representation of the gangster lifestyle, and the inner-city life in America. In addition to making this film a biopic, the filmmakers of Scarface wanted their production to be the gangster film to end all gangster films. They collectively wanted to push the envelope of what can be depicted on screen. Author Fran Manson states in the book American Gangster Cinema: “Scarface has everything that previous gangster movies has, but more of it. It is the epitome of excess even down to the number of people killed in the film, as Ben Hecht, the screenwriter, is reported to have said: ‘In one [gangster] film, nine people were bumped off, so I went to Howard and said, ‘We’re going to kill 25 people’” (24).  Unsurprisingly, Scarface had several complications in trying to get the final product on screen. From the beginning of the production to the eventual release of the film, censorship from the Hays Code was the major hurdle that Scarface faced.

During this time period, films that were portraying a story that was essentially based on true events were considered possibly dangerous to the public. Especially, if these true events dealt with the criminal world. So, there was a set of guidelines that administered the moral content of films released by major studios. The Hays Code, also known as the Motion Picture Production Code, was the set of guidelines ran by William Hays. William Hays and his Code decided what was acceptable and unacceptable for the public by keeping an eye on all films: “American film, like its gangland subjects, was under the censorious eye of the government. Filmmakers, now under the stricter surveillance of Will Hays, had to be careful that their historical accuracy didn’t end by glorifying crime” (Smyth 545). Historically accurate gangster pictures were viewed as being extremely dangerous because these films could antagonize the audience into valuing these gangsters as modern day heroes, and when Hollywood learned of the making of Scarface they became concerned. The censors worried that Scarface was not only going to be accurate, but also blatantly excessive in its depiction of Al Capone. In the book, Crime Movies, Carlos Clarens states: “The film that was to jolt the already uneasy truce between filmmakers and civic groups was Scarface. Late in 1930, Hollywood learned with certain trepidation that Howard Hughes was about to produce a gangster epic to surpass all others in cost, scope, authenticity, and, needless to say, violence” (83). Since the project was announced, censors became worried that portraying the accurate life of Al Capone on screen could do more harm than good. They feared that this film would glamorize his life, and they began to supervise the script and production. During the filming of Scarface, Jason Jay, a member of the Production Code, wrote a letter to producer Howard Hughes. In the sample provided, Jay made clear of the danger Scarface possessed:

The motion picture industry has for a long time, in spite of strong denunciation and criticism, maintained its right to produce purely fictional underworld stories, provided certain standards were maintained, but has, on the other hand, admitted the grave danger of portraying on the screen actual contemporary happenings relating to deficiencies in our government, political dishonesty, and graft, current crimes or anti-social or criminal activities. (Smyth 556)

This part of the letter represents the fears that the censors had in Scarface, and it also signifies the beginning of the ongoing battles the Hays Code had with Scarface.

Before describing the specific issues the Hays Code had with Scarface, it is important to mention the source material the filmmakers used for inspiration. The screenwriters took the liberty of adapting some material from a novel: “Burnett, Pasley, and Hecht based their material on Aermitage Trail’s pulp novel of the same title. Although Howard Hawks later claimed that the Caddo Company only paid Trail for the use of the suggestive title. Trail’s novel provided a lurid and powerful historical background from which to project a gangster biopic” (Smyth 553). The novel resembled much of Capone’s gangster career, and the film definitely used this as a basis of their screenplay. In the article, Scarface, The Great Gatsby, and the American Dream, Marilyn Roberts compare the similarities of the book and the movie: “Scarface retains many features of Trail’s novel, including major characters, plot developments, and even the incest motif” (77). The plot developments allowed the film to add a social commentary about the main character’s pursuit of the American Dream through materialistic gain. By adding this social commentary, Howard Hawks made sure that the film was a “violent tragicomedy” and not an indictment (Clarens 89). By not making a direct indictment of the actions depicted in the film, the Hays Code had to use their power and prevent certain scenes from appearing in the final cut of the film.

The chief concerns for the censors were that the film contained too many positive depictions of Tony Camonte, the Al Capone character. The many censors and some civic groups thought that the film was sympathetic towards the criminal way of life, and also believed that the film provided no lessons for the audience: “The film simply glorified the gangster and offered no moral lesson” (Munby 58). With their complaints publicly known, the censors began to interfere with the film’s production and eventual release. After viewing a rough-cut version of the movie, the people from the Hays Code Office presented a list of modifications the film needed to make in order to get a seal of approval (Clarens 88). An outraged Howard Hughes scoffed at the demands, and intended to fight the censor boards. There was no progress made between the two parties, and the censors ordered that the film should be held from its release until the demands were met. Eventually, Hughes complied with the censors and agreed to meet their several demands, and the film was finally released:

Put into production late in 1930 the film was not finally released until May 1932, partly as a result of haggling over the film’s tittle but also because of demands by the Hays Office that changes be made to the film. Several scenes were cut, involving Tony hugging Cesca, Tony giving his mother presents, and another scene aboard a yacht which demonstrated the rewards of crime (Mason 29).

It was important for the censors to establish a moral lesson in the film, and they did this by inserting their own values of justice and authority. Also there are more examples of scenes being cut from the final cut of the movie. A violent action sequence was removed, and the censors also requested a new ending. Along with these cuts, the Hays Office also made sure that some scenes that publicly denounced gangsters and their crimes were also added: “The outcome of these recommendations was a new finale that showed Tony die in a gutless manner as well as the inclusion of a carefully written prologue that denounced gangster rule in America, ‘and asked the audience ‘What are you going to do about it?’” (Clarens 88). In the end the censors had the final say of what was going to be included in the film, and by default changed much of the original plans for the film.

Along with some of the required changes, Scarface also added some voluntary changes to the Capone story. The most obvious changes of the story came from changing the names of the characters and the locations of the places these crimes took place. Director, Howard Hawks, wanted to remove certain aspects of the film to give the film some breathing room from historical accuracy: “Hawks had become cautious with the excessive historical details. His copy of the script contains multiple penciled annotations calling for the changing of names and Chicago locales” (Smyth 554). These types of changes altered Scarface, but there is still no denying that the film stood on the foundation of historical accuracy. Despite of the name change, Tony Camonte had a lot of Capone’s personal traits: “A number of Capone’s personal traits were incorporated in the Camonte character: a taste for the Italian opera, cultural aspirations, and a facial scar” (Clarens 86). These personal traits added to the authenticity of the film; however, the end of Camonte’s story is different than Capone’s real life. In Hollywood Gangland, Jonathan McCarthy writes: “The film’s most significant departure from the Capone story- the real Scarface was already in jail for tax evasion when the movie was released- is its perverse finale” (68). Scarface actually had three alternate endings, but they all ended in the death of Tony Camonte. While the ending of the film is a big departure from real life, it fits into the movie’s rise and fall motif.

Scarface: The Shame Of A Nation (1932)

Scarface: The Shame Of A Nation (1932)

Even though the film was delayed for over a year and was modified greatly over the course of its production, when Scarface was released it was still able to resonant with the audience. The film’s greatest success came from the portrayal of Tony and his obsessive concerns of his perceived wealth in society. The way Hawks filmed the movie, and his control over certain historical elements allowed Scarface to be more than a simple biopic. Hawks used Tony, his environment, and his aspirations to be an allegory of how society was fascinated with materialistic items. More specifically, Scarface perfectly exemplified how gangsters of the 1920s wanted to be seen as successful, wealthy businessmen.  In the Journal of Academic Culture, Laura Beshears states: “Crime became as organized and structured as most legal businesses in the 1920s because gangsters took their economic role to be the provisions of goods and services that society demanded, even though supplying those goods was against the law”(200). During this time, society’s judgment on gangsters was blurred. Many gangsters were countlessly being portrayed in the movies and media. This allowed for Americans to see gangsters as success stories rather than dangerous criminals.

The most talked about gangster of the 1920s and 1930s was the notorious Al Capone. He was such a popular figure that many different outlets began mythologizing his exploits, and he became a symbol of a self-made man. Al Capone unsurprisingly considered himself a businessman when he stated: “If I break the law, my customers, who number hundred of the best people in Chicago, are as guilty as I am. The only difference is [sic] between us is that I sell and they buy. Everybody calls me a racketeer. I call myself a businessman. When I sell liquor, it’s bootlegging. When my patron serves it on a silver tray on Lake Shore Drive, it’s hospitality” (Beshears 201). In many ways Capone did actually sell Americans want they wanted, and he also presented himself in a businesslike manner by wearing businesslike attire. Throughout his reign, Al Capone was seen wearing pinstripe suits, fedoras, and elegant neckties (Beshears 197). This can be seen as an effort by Capone to legitimize himself as a respectable part of society. By wearing suits, gangsters wanted to appear as credible citizens who achieved wealth just like other legitimate businessmen: “Wearing businesslike attire, gangsters gave the illusion that their work was just as valid a career as any other” (Beshears 201). Fashion became embedded in the underworld, and was symbolic for gangsters. This exact sentiment can be seen accurately portrayed in Scarface thanks to many scenes depicting Tony’s necessity for having the appropriate attire.

Throughout the script, the screenwriters drew on society’s perception that your clothes are a symbol of prosperity. Capone in real life, and the Capone figure in Scarface both felt that they needed to live a luxurious lifestyle in order to achieve the American Dream. By absorbing himself in luxury items, Tony is able to make a valid attempt at being accepted by the good graces of society. To achieve this symbolism, Scarface looked towards The Great Gatsby for inspiration: “The main signs the screenwriters adapted from Fitzgerald are those of shirts as a symbol of wealth” (Roberts 73). The shirts in Scarface represent the attaining of the American Dream, and there are numerous scenes that showcase Tony’s need to be surrounded by an expensive wardrobe. As his career grows so does his wardrobe: “Film scholars also have pointed that an expensive, showy wardrobe is a sign of the gangster’s rise and commentary on American consumerism. Only shortly before he reaches the height of his power does Tony begin to dress well” (Roberts 77). Tony’s faith in the American Dream can be seen through his investment in material items. By showing this side of a gangster, Scarface was able to accurately portray the need for a gangster to spend extravagantly in order to demonstrate his worth and success to society. This desire to be recognized as affluent businessmen in society also represents how the American Dream can be attained on a superficial level.

Although the film didn’t do too well at the box office and many protested the release of the film, there were a few people who defended the film. Critic Robert E. Sherwood was an example of somebody coming to the defense of Scarface. In his review he stated:

The possible merits of Scarface as entertainment, or its importance as a sociological or historical document, are of no particular consequence in the argument that should be made for its free release. All that matters is that an utterly inexcusable attempt has been made to suppress it- not because it is obscene, not because it is corruptive or libelous, or blasphemous, or subversive-but because like Public Enemy it comes too close to telling the truth. (Smyth 558).

Scarface’s unapologetic tone and its unflinching portrait of gangsters in this society is what make it a classic in this genre. The film dives deep into the psyche of a man who is a product of his environment. From humble beginnings to having the opportunity to rise in society is something that everyone can relate to. Although the film was mostly received negatively, thanks to the home video release it has further established itself as a defining film in the gangster genre: “It is now hailed as one of the genre’s pioneer efforts-a tough, no-nonsense portrayal of a Capone-style mobster that delivers almost as much of a punch today as when it was made” (McCarthy 69). The reason why it is still as powerful today as it was back then is because Tony Camonte is still acting out the dreams of the audience. There is a sign in the movie that simply states: “The World Is Yours”, and Tony was a man who lived and died by that motto. That very motto also presented Tony the opportunity to achieve the American Dream through obtaining material success. Scarface’s portrayal of the American Dream might be a dark version, but it is still a version that many are familiar with.


– By Louie Coruzzolo



Works Cited

Beshears, Laura. “Honorable Style In Dishonorable Times: American Gangsters Of The 1920s and 1930s.” Journal Of American Culture 33.3 (2010): 197-206. Academic Search

Premier. Web. 10 Feb. 2014.

Clarens, Carlos. Crime Movies. New York: Norton, 1980. Print.

Mason, Fran. American Gangster Cinema. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002. Print

McCarthy, John. Hollywood Gangland. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1993. Print.

Munby, Jonathan. Public Heroes, Public Enemies. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press,

1999. Print.

Roberts, Marilyn. “Scarface,” “The Great Gatsby,” And The American Dream.” Literature Film 

Quarterly 34.1 (2006): 71-78. Academic Search Premier. Web. 10 Feb. 2014.

Smyth, J. E. “Revisioning Modern American History In The Age Of Scarface (1932).” Historical 

Journal Of Film, Radio & Television 24.4 (2004): 535-563. Academic Search Premier. Web. 10 Feb. 2014.


The Angel’s Fiery Sword: The Tragic Tale of Carrie White

There is a story that has found a home in the back of my mind. It is a tragic tale. It’s a story of pain and sorrow. A story of cruelty, vengeance, and blood. A story that has haunted me ever since I first watched the original motion picture. I still see the bucket hanging above the stage. I see her eyes widen, and then I see the chaos that ensues. This story I remember so vividly is about a high school girl named Carrieta White.

Julianne Moore and Chloë Grace Moretz in Carrie (2013)

Julianne Moore and Chloë Grace Moretz in Carrie (2013)

Carrieta White is a hopeless girl that is tormented on a daily basis by her fellow students, teachers, and even her mother, who is obsessed with religion. She is bullied, and constantly made fun of. When she is home; her mother screams and hits her in fear that Carrie is committing sins. Her mother, Margaret White, locks her in the closet for hours to get Carrie to pray; however, Carrie learns that she has a special power that makes her different from everyone else. Learning to deal with her newfound power, she is pushed to the limit when a prank at school goes to far. When this sick prank takes center stage at her school prom, Carrie finally shows everyone what she is capable of doing.

The tragic tale of Carrieta White came from the great mind of horror novelist, Stephen King. It was his first published novel, and was released in April of 1974. The book started as a short story to help King pay the bills, but once he realized it was too long to be a short–he tossed it. His wife,Tabitha King, was curious after King told her about the story, so she pulled it out of the waste basket and began to read. After reading the crumpled piece of paper, she asked him to finish it. He obliged, and It was picked up and published by Doubleday Publishing; changing King’s life forever.

Two years later, the story was turned into a poetically terrifying horror movie. The film, which was directed by Brian De Palma, became an instant classic, and is still considered one of the best horror films ever made. It earns a top spot of my favorite movies because of how beautiful, yet tragic it is. This poor, innocent girl is turned into a monster. Carrieta White was portrayed by actress, Sissy Spacek, in what probably is her most memorable performance. Spacek is defeated over and over again, until her eyes widen and the whole world hears her name. Spacek’s performance is equally matched by Piper Laurie who played Carrie’s mother. Both were rightfully nominated for Academy Awards. Laurie is despicable, evil, and so tragically lost in her own mind. The two play opposites so well. Carrie hopes; while Margaret destroys that hope. De Palma used his crafted style to make this more than just a scary movie, but a beautiful and terrifying film. Using techniques such as split screen to convey the chaos. One of the most famous shots of the movie is when we watch Carrie dance with Tommy Ross. The camera starts spinning quickly around them, “As if they were spinning out of control” Roger Ebert said in his review of the 1976 picture. Yet, my favorite shot of the film, is the one of lonely Carrie White emerging from the flames of the school gym. The doors closing behind her, locking every student inside the inferno. It was the power of emotion that makes this horror story so powerful. As Carrie is awarded Prom Queen, and for one second of this girl’s life, she is happy. For that moment in time, all of the pain and sorrow disappears, and we are finally able to cheer for her victory. However, moments later we have all of that happiness ripped away from us as we begin to be flooded with feelings of hate and sadness. Carrie (1976) is simply one of the best horror films ever made.

Now nearly forty years after the creation of Carrie; director, Kimberly Pierce, will give a modern twist to this tragic tale. The film has Julianne Moore playing Margaret White and has Chloë Grace Moretz portraying Carrie.

When I first heard they were remaking Carrie (1976), one of my favorite horror movies, two questions instantly popped in my head. One, who is gonna play Carrie? Two, and more importantly, who is gonna play her mother? Those questions were shortly answered, and to my surprise, I couldn’t have been happier with casting. Ever since her performance as Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass (2010), young actor Chloë Grace Moretz has caught my eye. I thought she had major presence and handled it well. She was witty, fast, and comedically brutal. Then her performance in Hugo (2011) was heart-felt and touching. Moretz has major talent and this is the role of a lifetime, all she has to do is make it her own, and put all of her heart in being a destroyed young girl. Then we learned the four time Academy Award nominee Julianne Moore would be playing Margaret White. Moore is a wonderful actress but the thought of someone trying to play the vicious and monstrous character that Piper Laurie brought to life made me a bit nervous. However, Moore does a great job as her version of Margaret White. What I mean is that Moore changes the character, allowing a small sentimental relationship with Carrie. Which completely changes the premise of her damaging mother. Now, I want Carrie to be it’s own film, but this was one aspect that change effected. Not because it was in fact a change, it just doesn’t add up. Margaret White, would kiss and love the devil’s child. She wouldn’t be as bipolar about sin as Moore portrays. The damaging relationship between mother and daughter make the story of Carrie. The fact a mother can hate her daughter makes this story stand out, and by making Margaret White kind of nice, destroys the power of her character. As for Chloë Grace Moretz, she does a solid job as Carrieta White. It is nothing spectacular, but good. My feelings are that Moretz has too much of a presence to be the girl that goes unnoticed. Spacek was just able to disappear in a crowd, be lost, where Moretz stands out even as they try to make her bland.

The most disappointing aspect of Kimberly Pierce’s Carrie is that the film is so much like the original 1976 movie. The movie was made, then remade for TV in 2002, so this allows Pierce to make her own version. Yet, for some reason she doesn’t. She uses the same formula with minor changes that simply don’t improve the story. Pierce is an incredible director with a strong voice, but she is completely silent in this film. Pierce should have this version her own, changing things, or using more scenes from the book. However, Pierce decides to replicate the Brain De Palma masterpiece, which in comparison falls very short. Pierce’s remake also lacks the intense emotional connection in the film. I didn’t feel as sympathetic for Moretz as I did for Spacek. Though the infamous tampon scene is one of the cruelest cinematic moments ever, it doesn’t have the gut-punching feeling it once had. The replication makes Carrie feel forced and unoriginal. Carrie is good, but fails to be great because of Pierce’s fear of breaking the mold.

It is quite interesting that Carrie addressed the issue of bullying nearly four decades ago because of what Stephen King had witnessed as a student and as a teacher. Yet, Carrie comes out in a time where cyberbullying is at a high, and the issue of bullying is a major topic. The story describes the pain of bullying and torment, as it destroys this innocent young girl. The story then shows readers and viewers that sometimes pain can do nothing but cause more pain. As a lonely, hurt, depressed young girl takes all her anger, her hurt and bestows that on others. This story is of revenge. Though Carrie is tormented and truly destroyed emotionally and spiritually, is it good that Carrie takes her revenge? Is it right for her to take the lives of those that destroyed hers? Two wrongs don’t make a right. This horror story asks some insanely prominent questions, as these things are actually happening in our schools and our society. Carrie addresses everyone’s breaking point. That at some point, something has got to give. However, the message isn’t as powerfully delivered as Pierce had hoped.

The story of Carrieta White is a powerful one, but the 2013 remake unfortunately is afraid to break the mold and allows Carrie to get repetitive. The movie doesn’t make any social commentary on today’s society in bullying, just reshoots the famous scenes from the 1976 version and adds YouTube. Even with the power of computer generated images, Carrie isn’t as heart-wrenching as the original. Usually, I hate comparing remakes and originals, however it is near impossible when the remake just wants to be the original. Carrie is good in the aspect of the already created story, and offers some tense moments. My heart was pounding out of my chest as the bucket of blood tips, but that doesn’t improve the Stephen King story. It didn’t do anything new with it, and that is why movies are remade. Take a story and add to it, and Kimberly Pierce failed to do so. She didn’t make a bad movie what so ever, she just made a movie we’ve seen already without adding much too it.

In Stephen King’s novel, Carrie is referred to as the angel’s fiery sword. This is possibly referring to Uriel, the angel of repentance, who would strike down the wicked. Carrie strikes down the wicked sinners at her high school and in her town. This is only the surface of Carrie’s depth. The tale of Carrieta White explores vengeance and asks if it is the answer. It addresses the question what if hate wins. These questions, these themes of Carrie are the reasons why is it such a compelling story.

Carrie White will still levitate in the back of my mind. The themes and messages embedded in Carrie are too compelling to forget. However, it will be the 1976 version that will replay in my mind when I think about a person’s breaking point. I won’t think of Moretz or Moore or Pierce, because there version won’t stand out. I will think of De Palma, Spacek, and Laurie. De Palma made sure to instill that feeling of desperation and defeat, right after a brief moment of hope and victory. Where Pierce thought maybe that comes with the story and not in the filmmaking. However, I’m sure it won’t be far down the line when someone else picks up the tragic tale of Carrieta White and wishes to retell the story. I will be first in line, with hopes for the film to give me something new, while illustrating the themes and emotions. Or nobody will touch the story again, and Brain De Palma’s film will remain the only reputable version of the story. Either way, what King, De Palma, and Pierce wanted came true, everybody knows her name and fears her power.

For Carrie (2013)

2.5 out of 4 stars

– By Jacob R. Tiranno


The Light At The End Of A Tunnel: A Conversation with Jeremy Cloe

Local filmmaker, Jeremy Cloe hit Las Vegas by storm with his debut feature film ‘Liars, Fires, and Bears’ last year. The film tells the story of a nine year old runaway named Eve who meets a drunk, thirty year old named Dave. ‘Liars, Fires, and Bears’ opened in Hollywood at the Dances With Films Festival and went on to win Best Feature at the 2012 Big Bear International Film Festival, the 2013 Vegas Indie Film Fest, and took home Best Nevada Feature at the 2013 Las Vegas Film Festival. After being named ‘Best Local Filmmaker’ in 2013 by Las Vegas Weekly, writer and director Jeremy Cloe has been working on his new picture–’This Way Up.’ ‘This Way Up’ is Cloe’s AFI thesis film, which is currently in preproduction. Below, is a short conversation I had with this incredible writer and director about his new film.

Jeremy Cloe working on set

Jeremy Cloe working on set


JT: First and foremost, do you have a favorite movie?

JC: Favorite movie is a tough one. I’m a big fan of those Australian guys at Blue Tongue Films. Their movies really punch me in the gut in a good way.


JT: Where did the idea of ‘This Way Up’ come from? 

JC: I’ve been skating around in these tunnels [storm drains] since I was a kid. They’ve always fascinated me in a strange way and when I discovered people lived in them when I was about 16 I was blown away. There are plenty of tunnels that people don’t live in as well but I was interested in the tunnels that were occupied. I’ve been trying to make a movie about this for several years now and finally came across the right set of circumstances to do it.

JT: What do you plan to show the world with ‘This Way Up’?

JC: This Way Up is a fictional narrative. It explores a man named Charlie who through the unfortunate circumstances of his life has found himself living underneath the Las Vegas Strip in storm drains. He’s ashamed of his situation and has been hiding it from his family. One day he gets a call from his daughter saying she’s coming for a surprise visit. He meets a teenage vagrant who helps him to create a fake life and ultimately shows him the only thing to be ashamed of is giving up. We did a lot of research in the tunnels and talked to a lot of people. Our experiences have shaped the direction we took the film to make it as authentic as possible, but at the end of the day this is just a fictional narrative.

JT: I’ve noticed a trend in your films, you tend to have relationships or conflicts with an older person and a younger person. Your films give us these unusual relationships that wouldn’t normally come about. Sometimes they guide one another down a good path sometimes down a bad one. Is that trend in ‘This Way Up’?

JC:I don’t think I consciously realize that when I’m exploring ideas but you’re absolutely right. Maybe it’s because I think we can learn a lot from the mind set kids have. It also has something to do with kids making bad decisions. It’s inherent drama. It definitely comes into play in This Way Up with Luke who is a teenager that stumbles across these tunnels and changes our main character Charlie’s life forever.1157511_622765447754331_1510144982_n (1)

Cloe and his crew need to make up another 10,000 dollars by September 16th in order to get ‘This Way Up’ made. This is a great opportunity to check out the future of the film industry and a great way to help young filmmakers share their story with the world.


You can donate to Cloe and help this movie get made at:


Down These Mean Streets: A Guide To Understanding Martin Scorsese

Throughout the late 1960s and the early 1970s, America saw many different political and radical movements. There were hundreds anti-war protests, the African-American fight for equality, and the women’s liberation movement. These movements were instrumental in the ever-changing climate, and helped changed America for the best. It is interesting to note that not only was America’s society going through a profound change, but the film industry was also going through a rebirth. In the book, Turning Points in Film History, author Andrew J. Rausch states: “The early 1970s saw the birth of a new kind of film. Younger filmmakers fresh out of film school, along with others who had started out in television, invaded Hollywood en masse” (171). This new movement of young filmmakers helped transform the film industry, and got many people excited about going to the movies again. The methods and the abilities of these young directors were refreshing and allowed the general public to connect with their films.

Robert De Niro, Director Martin Scorsese and Harvey Keitel.

Robert De Niro, Director Martin Scorsese and Harvey Keitel.

The New Hollywood era also gave many of the new directors an artistic freedom to expand on their potential. Many of the young filmmakers were allowed to develop their own unique voice: “They sought to make films very different from the normal Hollywood fare. When given the opportunity, many of these filmmakers would discard plot in favor of character development and improvisation. As a result, their films were generally more personal than those produced by older, more established directors in the American film industry” (Rausch 172). Their films became much more than entertainment. Their films became an artistic journey that can possibly make a bold statement about themselves and society.

During this era, one director was able to come into his own, and establish a film career that is nothing sort of amazing. New York University graduate, Martin Scorsese, created iconic works that have helped enforce the power of film, and by 1973 Scorsese created his first masterpiece. Once Mean Streets came out, it became a critic favorite and an instant classic. This was not Scorsese’s first feature film, but Mean Streets was able to put Scorsese on the map. In particular, Mean Streets established Scorsese as a unique and important filmmaker that: “reveals how post-classic Hollywood could seem at once familiar and yet uncanny in revealing the doubts and desires of American youth” (Friedman 101). With Mean Streets, Scorsese is able to paint an intimate setting that not only reveals his early life in Little Italy, but also demonstrates the importance of church, sins, and redemption in his life and his neighborhood. In the book, The Passion of Martin Scorsese, author Annette Wernblad states: “Scorsese has said that, ‘Mean Streets was an attempt to put myself and my old friends on the screen, to show how we lived, what life was like in Little Italy. It was really an anthropological or a sociological tract.’ In the same breath; however, he reveals that the real concerns of the film are penance and redemption” (Wernblad 29). Since Mean Streets is a very personal project for Martin Scorsese, it is important to understand and learn about Scorsese’s life to fully grasp the message and meaning of his powerful film.

Martin Scorsese was born on November 17, 1942 in New York. His parents and family emigrated from Sicily to New York, where his parents would raise him in Little Italy. His neighborhood was full of ethnic Italians and was dominated by the Catholic Church. In his early childhood he developed severe asthma, which prohibited him from playing outside with his friends and engaging in physical activity. This seclusion made Scorsese feel isolated and alienated from a lot of people; however, this same isolation brought him to his two passions in life. In the book, The Cinema of Martin Scorsese written by Lawrence S. Friedman, Martin Scorsese states: “My whole life has been movies and religion. That’s it. Nothing Else” (186). As a child Martin would split his time in the movie theater and in the church, and these two places would provide him with rituals and knowledge that he would be able to apply to his life and his films. At one point Scorsese even considered becoming a priest, but realized “that the Catholic vocation was, in a sense, through the screen for me” (Miliora 17). He then decided to go to NYU and majored in film. His student films at NYU drew a lot of interest, and helped got him into the film industry. His films, particularly Mean Streets, are always extremely personal as they all reflect his experiences in life, and in Mean Streets, Scorsese was able to perfectly mirror his experiences and upbringings in a rough neighborhood filled with Italian-Americans. In the book, The Scorsese Psyche on Screen, author Maria T. Miliora states: “We can imagine that Martin internalized the rituals, images, smells, and sounds of the church, these becoming a part of his identity, and a number of which he incorporated into Mean Streets” (15). Through this film one will be able to see what ethical and religious attitudes Scorsese and his Little Italy neighborhood encompassed.

For the majority of Martin Scorsese’s life, he must have felt trapped and bounded to his neighborhood. He would spend many days and years just being around the same environment and people. This limitation can be seen in the movie: “Mean Streets continues and expands the theme of showing the life of young men who are limited and constrained, literally and figuratively, by the boundaries of Little Italy” (Miliora 124). The two main characters of the film are Charlie (Harvey Keitel) and Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro). They are close friends that are having a difficult time finding themselves in their rough neighborhood. Charlie, who clearly represents Scorsese, is in emotional turmoil and carries a black cloud of Catholic guilt around him. Charlie has ambitions that are tied to his family and his mafia connections, but his dedication to his Catholicism is what keeps him from his being completely enthralled by his mafia desires. Also Charlie is very much bonded to his reckless friend, Johnny Boy, who is always causing trouble. This relationship is very much due to the fact that Charlie feels that the only way he can find redemption is by risking himself on Johnny’s behalf. The relationship of Charlie and Johnny boy is a complicated one that has great importance in Scorsese’s life: “Another autobiographical link applies to the character of Johnny Boy. As noted earlier, Scorsese had had experience within his extended family with a relative who did not pay his debts, and Scorsese explained that his was a very serious matter in their community” (Miliora 127). Scorsese’s experiences in life can be seen through several different layers of the film, and how the movie plays can be relatable to a variety of people who had similar experiences with family and religion expectations.

Scorsese’s characters are drawn from what he knew about himself and other men he had known in his personal atmosphere of Little Italy (Miliora 7). During his time, Scorsese and his peers were products of their environment. The church had a great effect on the people of Little Italy, and especially Scorsese: “The church affected the young men of Little Italy with regard to homophobia and misogyny as well, as we can see in the characterizations of the men in Mean Streets” (Miliora 17). The church represented an authoritative, and sometimes a supportive figure that was there surrounding the men and women of the neighborhood. Also the church had the possibility of bringing out some of the dark characteristics of the male’s ego and personality, which can be seen through Charlie’s treatment of his girlfriend, Teresa. Throughout the movie, Teresa takes a backseat to the male characters, and Teresa is even mistreated by Charlie and Johnny Boy. Mean Streets shows the masculine society that Scorsese lived in. Another aspect that is heavily used in Mean Streets is the ethnic identity. The culture of the characters in the movie is all the same, and it appears that the characters are all familiar with each other and their traditions. In the book, Starring New York, author Stanley Corkin states: “And while the concept of ethnicity gained currency in the years around the end of World War II, it further became a means of not only identifying certain groups but also of defining them” (51). The customs, the culture, the food, the language, and the religion easily define the many characters in the film. This group identity is prevalent in Mean Streets despite the fact that by the 1970s there was an increase of social mobility that decreased the significance of ethnic attachments. Many races were marrying outside of their own race, and living among a variety of different cultures and races. However, Mean Streets and other films like it brought forth a replacement for the ethnic affiliation: “These films explicitly operate in the register of “ethnic nostalgia”; that is, they replicate the longing for a lost community that never quite existed” (Corkin 51). Mean Streets was for many a calling for the old days of New York City, where many of the distinct neighborhoods were made up of immigrants that were still holding onto their cultural identities.

Mean Streets can also be seen through the prevailing political environment of America: “Mean Streets fits comfortably into the zeitgeist of an era of mistrust and suspicion of social and political structures” (Friedman 103). There is no regard to any of the politicians, government officials, and or even police officers in the film. The characters’ future only lies in the streets, and their actions in the streets will dictate whether or not they can make it in this climate. This is because of the mistrust of the government. Through their actions, the characters reveal their doubts and mistrust they have towards the government. They know that they are better off making connections at the street level. This movie came out a year after the Watergate scandal, and a year before President Nixon was impeached. So, there is obvious doubt and suspicion regarding political structures. Mean Streets can also show that organized crime is a microcosm of the government. Scorsese describes this comparison: “Mean Streets shows that organized crime is similar to big government. They’re both machines. There has been more underhanded stuff done in Washington that we’ll ever be able to fathom” (Friedman 103). The mafia bosses are the ones who run and control the neighborhood. As Mean Streets progress one can see that the mafia family, the government of Little Italy, can take you under their guidance and make sure you are taken care of. However, if you slightly go against the family, the family will be the one that betrays you. When looking at the background of Scorsese’s life and America’s social and political climate, it makes the movie have a more harrowing experience on the story and the characters.

Mean Streets starts off with a troubling voiceover quote form Charlie’s character, which was voiced by Scorsese himself. This first quote represents the inner struggles that Charlie is going to face the whole movie: “You don’t make up for your sins in the church. You do it in the streets. You do it at home” (Connelly 1). Charlie is very much a man in great conflict as he is torn between the church and the gangster environment that he lives in. In the book, The Philosophy of Martin Scorsese, Mark T. Conard states: “Charlie is a conflicted Catholic torn between his perceived duties to his friends, his own desires, and the mandates of his uncle Giovanni, the local mob boss who is grooming Charlie to become part of the world of the Mafia” (Conard 54). Charlie has the Catholic guilt in the back of his mind at all times, and is heavily wrapped up in the notion of sins and damnation. He tries to pay for his sins, but somewhat feels that church will not be able to present him with penance and redemption. So, Charlie seeks to help Johnny Boy stay out of trouble and protect him from the loan sharks. Through this, Charlie truly believes he is redeeming himself, but many people around him, including his uncle, disapprove of this relationship. As the movie progresses Johnny Boy becomes more out of control. Johnny Boy disrespects Michael, a loan shark, by verbally insulting him and refusing to pay his debt. The humiliation that Michael faced will not be left in the past, and Charlie knows this. Charlie decides that Johnny Boy needs to lay low, and they planned to get out of Little Italy. However, as stated before it is difficult for these men to leave their milieu: “Although Charlie tries to help Johnny Boy escape the inevitable retribution he knows Michael has planned, Michael and his hired gunman (played by Scorsese) hunt down the car with Charlie, Johnny Boy, and Johnny’s cousin Teresa in it. Shots are fired and Johnny Boy gets hit in the neck. Charlie is less seriously injured” (Miliora 38). The ending shows the three of them on the ground screaming in agony as they all feel damned and trapped in their personal hell. By trying to help Johnny Boy escape the terror of Little Italy, Charlie has now paid for his sins in the streets. He falls on his knees as a kind of surrender and as a penance for his sins, but as the movie fades out we can only imagine that Charlie is morally and spiritually damaged.

Mean Streets is a very aggressive film that shows how living in a gangster environment can be like. The neighborhood is filled with tough people where violence can erupt at any moment. As seen in Charlie, there is a spiritual battle raging on in all of us as it becomes tougher to live morally in a world that is not moral. In the book, Conversations with Scorsese written by Richard Schickel, Scorsese states: “Can you still be a good person? Can good still happen? I know there’s no justice, but can it be worked out? And so that, along with his own feelings about leading a spiritual life, he calls down upon himself a kind of suffering” (104). Throughout the movie it is obvious to see that not only is Charlie suffering from his surroundings, but also he is truly torn between the spiritual and the real worlds. The penance that can be achieved for Charlie does not come from the church, but from Johnny boy. Charlie’s attachment to Johnny Boy is in Charlie’s way of spiritual healing, but in reality it is something that Charlie has to pay for, and ultimately does. Scorsese goes on to state: “They understood that, ultimately, the relationship is based on loving each other, but that one was getting more out of it than the other. It was something that, in Charlie’s mind, was a more spiritual thing. But they’re all of them damned at the end. None of them die, which is worse, because they might as well die. The worst thing that could be-and it happens to all the characters at the end of Mean Streets– is that they wind up humiliated, not killed” (Schickel 105). The characters are now stuck in an environment that they cannot succeed in. Also the characters are not able to escape their humiliation and their environment. Where can they go? They have no place to go. They don’t have a formal education, they don’t have money, and they don’t know anybody. All of the people they know are in Little Italy. They are stuck in a primitive environment where the tension is growing and at any moment any of them can become victims. The future for many American youths start and end in the streets, and some might discover that their families and America are the ones that could have a restraint on them, and ultimately betray them.

The ending was not only a way to have each of the characters pay for their own sins, but the ending also came from an experience right out of Scorsese’s life. Scorsese was fortunate to get out of a car before a shooting occurred: “And that became something that was very important to me and my friend, who had left the car an hour or two earlier. Because we could have been killed. Mean Streets had to be made because I was in the car that night. I went backwards from that. How the hell did he get into a situation like that? We didn’t even know the guys. And I said to myself, that’s the story to tell” (Schickel 105). This makes you take a step back and think about the kind of people who live in our society. We live in a very violent world that can erupt at any moment just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In Mean Streets, Martin Scorsese is able to show and deal with aspects that people would rather not see, but the film reveals the many doubts and fears that we have about ourselves and about our society (Wernblad 224).

Mean Streets is a great example of a New Hollywood film. Mean Streets dealt with a low budget and a lot of improvisation among the actors, but produced a very effective, powerful, and revealing movie experience. When watching Mean Streets not only do you learn about how many people might have felt during the 1970s, but you also learn about the very passionate Martin Scorsese. Out of the New Hollywood era came a lot of brilliant filmmakers, but none of them has had the effect Scorsese has had with his films. Martin Scorsese’s movies are always a unique experience that will have the audience captivated. Scorsese constantly deals with stories that are compelling, troublesome, and reveal something about people living in our troubled society. However, his stories remain open-ended, and will allow the audience to draw their own conclusions. The audience will be left questioning what might happen next to his characters, and this can be seen in his excellent film, Mean Streets. All of his films present us with a representation of himself, his experiences, and his values. (Miliora 189). Mean Streets is Scorsese’s first masterpiece, and is a wonderful film that depicts the horrors and realties that Scorsese dealt with in his life.



– By Louie Coruzzolo      



Works Cited

Conard, Mark T. The Philosophy of Martin Scorsese. Lexington: The University Press of

Kentucky, 2007. Print.

Connelly, Marie Katheryn. Martin Scorsese. Jefferson: McFarland & Company Inc., 1991. Print.

Corkin, Stanley. Starring New York. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. Print.

Friedman, L.S. The Cinema of Martin Scorsese. New York: Continuum Publishing, 1998. Print

Friedman, Lester D. American Cinema of the 1970’s. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press,

2007. Print.

Miliora, Maria T. The Scorsese Psyche On Screen. Jefferson: McFarland & Company Inc., 2004.


Rausch, Andrew J. Turning Points In Film History. New York: Kensington Publishing Corp.,

2004. Print.

Schickel, Richard. Conversations with Scorsese. New York: Random House, Inc., 2011. Print.

Wernblad, Annette. The Passion of Martin Scorsese. Jefferson: McFarland & Company Inc.,

2011. Print.


Alice and Feminism’s Values

When most people think about the largest radical movements of the 1960s and 1970s, they think about the anti-war protests and the African-American fight for equality (Farber 240). However, there was another movement growing stronger in the late 1960s and the early 1970s: the women’s liberation movement. This movement challenged the common ideology that men should control all spheres of the political and economic life, and that women should just be the housekeepers and look beautiful. The feminist movement fought a long and hard struggle, but by the 1970s many of the women’s voices and complaints were finally being heard.

Ellen Burstyn in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

Along with this newfound feminism, came a different genre of films. Several movies started to depict feminist’s values, and showed the female character breaking out of the masculine society. In 1974 Martin Scorsese’s movie, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, was released. The movie starred Ellen Burstyn in the lead role of Alice. This wonderful film shows how common gender roles were, and how a housewife was able to find happiness and balance in her life.

The first part of the movie allows the audience to be fully involved in Alice’s normal day. We see her cooking, sewing, cleaning, attending to her child, and waiting on her husband. Those scenes also show Alice fighting with her cold, distant, and abusive husband. The roles that Alice and her husband have are the common gender roles so many people became accustomed to. Some people might view those scenes as not supporting the feminist’s ideology. Some might even say that this shows no values of feminism. However, this aspect of the film depicted a realistic reality that many women faced. In the book, The Age of Great Dreams, author David Farber states: “Most men and women, after the turmoil of the war and the Great Depression, and in the midst of the Cold War nuclear weapons race, readily accepted socially prescribed gender roles” (242). The old-fashioned gender roles became accessible and most couples were ok with the idea of men being the breadwinners and women being the caregivers at home. While this ideology does not go along with the feministic values, the roles were still prominent in America’s culture, and many women were trapped in this arrangement. Soon many housewives across America began to be unhappy with their role, and soon they became a part of a powerful women’s movement. When Alice’s husband died, Alice saw this as an opportunity to make it on her own, and become a singer in Monterey. She also saw this as a great opportunity to find happiness and meaning in her life. Even though Alice expressed doubts in the film, Alice very much has the feministic quality about her. She is ready to break out of the gender roles and prove that she can make it on her own with no help.

As the 1970s progressed, the women’s movement reached its peak and power. The feminist message was being heard through the National Organization for Women (NOW), the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), articles, and best-selling books. Also many feminist scholarship and female institutions expanded and reoriented the movement (Schulman 172).  Finally, this women’s movement gained public acceptance. This public acceptance can also be seen in the film. As Alice moves from New Mexico to Arizona she encounters a lot of people on the way. At one point she was able to get a job as a singer. Shortly after getting the job, Alice leaves the position and moves to Tucson. There she gets a job as a waitress and meets David, and both them slowly falls in love with each other. Here is where the film can become a little controversial among the feminists supporters.

The ending shows Alice stopping her pursue at being a singer in Monterey. Instead, she decides to stay in Tucson with David. Many feminists of the era would argue that the ending is not a feministic ending. The ending shows that Alice is giving up on the feministic ideology, and is now returning to the same old gender role. The ending might suggest that Alice needs a man to make it in life, and to be happy in life. Even the star of the film had strong feelings on the ending: “Burstyn was awash in the feminist tide of the early ‘70s. ‘I wanted her to leave the Kristofferson character and go on to Monterey, where she had a singing gig,’ she recalls” (Biskind 253). I strongly believe that ending is very much in favor of feminism because of the journey that Alice makes. She was a trapped housewife in the beginning of the film, and then she was able to go out and get a job as a singer. Then she met a man that was willing to give up his ranch to make her dreams come true. The fact the David and everybody around her accepted and supported her aspiration is because of the feminist movement. The decision was up to Alice and was not up to a man. Alice was the one controlling her own journey and her own faith. She chose to stay with David, who is not perfect, because he was able to fully support her and make her happy. Her first husband was not able to do that. Alice now has balance in her life, and realized that she didn’t need to go to Monterey to become a singer. She can very much stay in Tucson with a man and a son that loves and supports her. Her conclusion was that she could be a singer anywhere.

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is a testament to how the feminist movement became wildly accepted and supported. Alice is a heroine that was able to find the balance and happiness that she desired. Even though she ended up with a man, it still can be seen that Alice is not trapped in anything anymore. She is making her own decisions and she is finally deciding what she wants to do in life. The social and gender constraints are not holding her back anymore, and that is what the feminist movement fought for.


The Legacy of The Deer Hunter

Film is an extremely powerful medium in which many different topics and ideas can be analyzed. Throughout American cinema, the movies that elicit powerful emotions from the audience are ones that deal with a universal truth that can be relatable to the average American citizen. Whether these films are lauded with acclaim, or rebuked with criticism is up to the viewer and the film critic. Usually movies fall into one of two categories, that of greatness or insignificance. However, there is one film that has miraculously fallen into both categories. No film has ever created such praise and negative criticism than Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter.

Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro in The Deer Hunter.

The movie was released in 1978, and stars some of Hollywood’s best actors: Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Cazale, John Savage, and Meryl Streep. The Deer Hunter follows three Pennsylvanian steel workers and their service in the Vietnam War. Initially it was a critic favorite as the movie won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. Soon the admiration turned into disregard. Since its release the movie has been called racist, and has been labeled as an inaccurate portrayal of the Vietnam War. This is a mistaken representation of the film. The film is not racist or just an inaccurate tale about Vietnam. Instead, The Deer Hunter is about the humane experience of three average American citizens and their struggles and hardships. The movie is a journey towards inspiration, survival, and discovery. The Deer Hunter is what America needed. In a time of disappointment and disapproval in America’s society, The Deer Hunter gave the American civilians a light at the end of the tunnel.

To fully appreciate and grasp the power of The Deer Hunter, one must understand the background of the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War is easily one the most controversial wars in the history of America, and it was met with a loft of disdain and anger. Along with the anger, came a more critical view of everyday life. In David Farber’s book, The Age of Great Dreams, he states: “The war had become much more; a way for Americans to vent their feelings about the values, morals, and ‘self-evident’ truths that guided their everyday lives” (167). There was a lot of confusion to why America was getting involved in Vietnam. The public felt deceived and lied to as the number of deaths began to rise. This was a main cause for them to start analyzing their own lives and to really see if they had been living a lie. The war was as long as it was brutal. Eventually, America ended its military involvement in 1973; however, there was a lasting effect on America. The embarrassment of the Vietnam War led many to become discouraged. According to the book, After Vietnam: “Students of Vietnam War often state that its greatest long term impact in the United States was in the realm of spirit” (Xiii Neu). Thanks to the War,  American life was in shambles. People became divided, and started doubting their country’s leaders and motives. People also doubted themselves and their community’s purpose. The American people needed some sort of change and inspiration, even if it is in the form of a motion picture.

A film that contains such a controversial topic presents itself wide open for criticism. The Deer Hunter is no exception. Along with the high praise, came a great amount of scorn. The criticism of the film was based on two merits. Many people believed that the film was racist and a fallacy of the Vietnam War. In the book, The Vietnam Experience, Kevin and Laurie Hillstrom state: “But the work also elicited severely negative reactions, and within weeks of its release a significant body of critics- including a number of prominent Vietnam correspondents- had denounced the film as racist, jingoist, and manipulative” (79). In the eyes of the detractors the movie manipulated the people into thinking that the Vietnamese were barbarians who loved to gamble on victim’s lives by making them play Russian roulette. This is a false notion to have about the movie. The Deer Hunter is a character study about the three American soldiers we follow throughout the movie. It never presented itself as a character study of Vietnamese people. So, the general public should not watch the film and expect to learn about the Vietnamese people, or think about how they were portrayed. The sole purpose of the Vietnamese in the film was to pose a challenging threat to the Americans. The Vietnamese were there to challenge the protagonists of the film mentally and physically. These villains of the movie could have been any race. Even though many people have viewed the film thinking it is a racist movie, one cannot blame them for thinking that. The reason why is that the American society has had a negative picture of the Vietnamese: “Americans as a whole had trouble with the whole idea of the Vietnamese. Their color was a little different, their eyes were a little different, they were kind of small- those kind of differences tend to bother Americans” (19 Neu). The idea of Vietnamese being different was in the back of everybody minds; no matter how the Vietnamese were portrayed in the movie I am sure that someone would find something wrong with it.

The second main source of criticism deals with how Michael Cimino filmed the war sequences. Many believe that The Deer Hunter paints a false depiction of the war: “Other reviewers- including several commentators closely associated with Vietnam- castigated it as a warped, misleading representation of the war” (Hillstrom 85). Many people complain that there was never a documented account of Russian roulette in the Vietnam War, nor there was ever an account of the Vietcong ever playing that ruthless game. For those people who view the film as being a true account of what happened is viewing the film in the wrong manner. The Deer Hunter was never meant to be a documentary-like viewing. In the book, God, Man and Hollywood, author Winchell states: “The Deer Hunter was not meant to be a conventionally realistic movie but should actually be viewed in symbolic terms” (138). For those who watch the movie in the symbolic manner will be the ones who get what the movie is trying to tell its audience.

By the time The Deer Hunter was released, the Vietnam War was already over, but it was still in the minds of everyone. There was also a general consensus to how the people viewed the upsetting war: “By the time The Deer Hunter was released in 1978, many Americans had concluded that the Vietnam War was a mistake” (Winchell 150). The people knew that the war was unbearable on all accounts, and they didn’t need a movie telling them how the war was justified or not. Luckily for the public, the director knew that his film was not going to deal with this very aspect. In an interview Cimino stated: “My film has nothing to do with whether the war should or should not have been” (Hillstrom 83). Cimino had greater ambitions for his film, and he knew that he didn’t need to get in depth with the actual Vietnam War to make his point. However, he knew that the Vietnam War was still a large topic that was garnering a lot of press. The war was his outlet, in which his film was going to present a greater story. In the book, American Cinema of the 1970’s: “The Deer Hunter is less centrally about Vietnam than about a community and its rituals, about how traumatic events can threaten the continuity of that community, and about how extraordinary individuals can act heroically to help preserve it” (Friedman 215). The movie is essentially about you, your brothers, and your community before, during, and after a tragic event. Thus, the movie is cinematically broken down into three parts that takes the audience on an emotional journey.

The first half of the movie introduces the audience to the tightly linked group of friends in Pennsylvania. Michael (De Niro), Nick (Walken), and Steven (Savage) are life long friends who literally do everything together. They all work together in a factory, they all spend fun times at the local bar together, they all go hunting together, and they all enlist in the army together. Their relationship is beyond being friends; they are family to one another. Cimino beautifully shows us their relationship by showing them doing the different activities and their interaction with their small hometown: “Part one depicts and celebrates several rituals” (Freidman 215). By watching the first part, the audience member should be able to pick out these rituals. Whether it is hunting, or it is celebrating a Russian Orthodox wedding the community is very much involved in every aspect. This part is extremely important to the whole setup of the movie. By watching these people and their community one automatically becomes involved with the characters and their town. This emotional connection can also be a reminder to the kind of community the viewer lives in. We all might have different rituals, or find comfort and pleasure in different activities, but we all are looking for that connection to our community. The inspiration that lies in the first part of the movie is that the community and the group of friends never stop living. The war had already started, and the friends are leaving for Vietnam in the immediate future, but the community keeps following their daily routine. Even with danger approaching, they keep living the American life that many have fought for. One should not take for granted the prodigious opportunity we have to live freely and be a part of something that is much more important than ourselves. To be a part of a great community, a great state, and a greater country is inspiring in its own right, and The Deer Hunter exquisitely shows us this.

As much as the first part was slowly picturesque, the second part is rapidly terrifying. The second part of The Deer Hunter abruptly throws Mike, Nick, and Steven into the heart of battle in Vietnam: “Disaster then strikes in segment two” (Freidman 212). The audience is thrown right in the thick of things as flamethrowers and bullets fly in an array of despair. The second part is not only fast paced, but it is quickly edited and acted in the same manner. The beginning war sequence plays with how the war is commonly associated: “The noun most associated with the Vietnam War is tragedy. Nightmare and quagmire are a close second” (Neu 27). As much as people want to discredit the film as being inaccurate; Cimino films the Vietnam part in a style that screams tragedy and nightmare. Soon after we see our characters on the battlefield, we then see them prisoners of war and shortly playing the life or death game of Russian roulette. This particular scene makes up the majority of the Vietnam scene, and further establishes that war and life are full of risks. The game pits the friends against each other and it becomes one of the most intense things one can ever watch. In the book, The War Veteran In Film, the author points out that when one watches this scene one must keep in mind that: “The Vietnam scenes were largely symbolic” (Early 213). The Russian roulette can symbolize for many things. When watching this scene one is quickly reminded that war is very much like life, and that it is full of chances. Like the game, war and life is a gamble, but still you are the one that holds your fate in your hands. Like Michael says in the movie it only takes “one shot”, and that shot can make or break your life. This segment puts the characters in the situation where survival is the only thing that matters, and some must heroically rise and grab the opportunity to survive by the horns.

The final part of The Deer Hunter must be the most touching and heartrending portion of the movie. The characters’ physical involvement in Vietnam has concluded, and now a new type of war has started for the group of friends. Returning home for Michael and Steven proved just as tough as the war itself. The hero of the movie, Michael, especially finds the transition difficult: “Michael is at first isolated, withdrawn, and erratic” (Friedman 215). Michael is very  uncomfortable with the war hero label that everyone had initially put on him, and his life has pretty much changed. All of his beliefs and rituals are shattered now because he has been exposed to so much violence and calamity. For example, before the war he was an avid hunter, and the best hunter in his town. After the war, Michael cannot find the strength in him to kill a deer that is well in his range. This change Michael goes through represents the change that has been going on in his town, and in America. Many Americans changed their ways and their nature: “The war had seared the consciousness of an entire generation and altered the mood of the nation” (Neu 23). The final segment best represents how many Americans felt and acted during the war, and it becomes very evident that this way is no way to live life.

Despite the dejected state of the last half of the film, The Deer Hunter provides closure to the audience, and most important to the country. The dreadful experience that the characters went through soon becomes a learning experience. The town learned that they needed to be stronger for each other. The community is very valuable and needs to be preserved no matter what happens to the people. Everybody in the town didn’t really know how to act, and doing that the characteristics of the town changed for the worse. At first, the war was what drove them apart, but they needed to be able to put that behind them and join together. As the film comes to a close, the characters gather at the same bar as before and sang an emotional version of “God Bless America”. As the song resonates, a powerful message is sent to all Americans: “They are not endorsing anything except their common humanity- their common frailty, their need for each other” (Hillstrom 87). The reason why the United States of America is so great is because of the individualistic communities that make up the country. The varied and diversified people are the ones that provide strength and courage that makes life so precious. The community and the characters in the movie are able to move forward with their lives because of their strengthened relationships. In the aftermath of the Vietnam War, many people needed to learn that in order to move forward one should not focus on the past, and allow your friends and your community to provide the support and love that is needed to move forward.

The legacy of The Deer Hunter should always live on and be held in high regard. The movie’s message is still relevant today, and by watching it one can still learn something new. The Deer Hunter allowed the people of America to finally put the war behind them, and appreciate what has been around them all along. The movie shows the kind of courage and friendship that is necessary to sustain a stronger, healthier life in the postwar climate. The Deer Hunter closed the book on the Vietnam War, and opened a new chapter to the importance of a strong community, which will lead to a resilient America.

Works Cited

Early, Emmett. The War Veteran In Film. Jefferson: McFarland & Company Inc., 2003. Print.

Farber, David. The Age of Great Dreams. New York: Hill and Wang, 1994. Print.

Friedman, Lester D. American Cinema of the 1970’s. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press,

2007. Print.

Hillstrom, Kevin and Laurie Collier Hillstrom. The Vietnam Experience. Westport: Greenwood

Press, 1998. Print.

Neu, Charles E. After Vietnam. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2000. Print.

Winchell, Mark Royden. God, Man, and Hollywood. Wilmington: ISI Books, 2008. Print.


-By Louie Coruzzolo