Glory days: by the late 1970s, Reynolds and Clint Eastwood were the two most bankable stars in the world.
BY LEE PFEIFFER
Burt Reynolds has died at age 82 from a heart attack in his home town of Jupiter, Florida. Reynolds had been suffering from poor health in recent years but was still appearing in films. He was announced as one of the stars of Quentin Tarantino's forthcoming "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood". Reynolds entered acting in the 1950s but his rugged good looks sometimes worked against him as he was told he bore too close a resemblance to Marlon Brando. He made "B" movies before gravitating to television where he landed a recurring role as a blacksmith in the hit series "Gunsmoke". Reynolds would go on to star in other short-lived TV series that never capitalized on his real life wit and humor. Of playing the title character in the "Dan August" detective series, Reynolds would quip that he had two expressions: "Mad and madder". Reynolds slogged through undistinguished feature films in the 1960s, some of which were undeniably appealing but none of which resonated with the public. However, he gained considerable attention with his frequent appearances on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" where his self-deprecating sense of humor and racy quips endeared him to Carson's mammoth nightly audience. He agreed to pose nude (well, mostly nude) for Cosmopolitan, which caused a sensation. However, Reynolds said he regretted the decision because it detracted from his ability to be taken seriously as an actor. The release of director John Boorman's "Deliverance" in 1972 changed that. Reynolds gave a terrific performance and the "A"-list roles started pouring in. Most of his films had a considerable element of humor attached to them, combined with Reynolds' ability to do his own stunts. He became popular playing wise-ass characters with a penchant for towel-snapping humor. In 1977, he struck gold by starring in "Smokey and the Bandit", a film which became a phenomenal success with rural audiences. The Reynolds persona was often that of a good ol' boy from the south who took on corrupt cops and politicians. For a period of years, Reynolds could do no wrong and became one of the biggest stars in the world. However, his judgment often failed him and turned down major roles in classic films in order to star in forgettable movies. A misguided stunt on the set of "City Heat" in the early 1980s caused him severe injuries and helped spread rumors that was was suffering from AIDS. His career never fully recovered, but in 1998 he earned a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for "Boogie Nights". He didn't win and he also squandered the newfound respect he had earned by churning out mediocre films and TV movies. Not helping matters was his messy personal life that saw marriage problems, nasty divorces and bankruptcy issues spread across the pages of tabloids.
Still, Burt Reynolds was a genuine superstar at his peak and he never went out of style, as evidenced by the enduring affection for his films- and yes, he certainly could act.
many filmmakers since the great Stanley Kubrick have had the same kind of
mystique, but one who easily fits that bill is Terrence Malick, a
writer/director who has endeavored to redefine the narrative form of cinema in
visually poetic terms.
doesn’t create movies, he makes cinema in verse. The story in a Malick film is
not a priority, although there is often a profound tale at work. A Malick picture
is all about the emotions, the visual beauty, the aural splendidness, and
taking part in a cerebral, yet primally impressionistic experience.
reclusive filmmaker disappeared from the public eye after his two acclaimed,
more “accessible” works (Badlands,
1973, and Days of Heaven, 1978). He returned
twenty years later and made The Thin Red
Line (1998). Something was immediately different about his art. Malick’s
storytelling was more oblique, nonlinear, and lyrical. This trend continued more
intensely in The New World (2005).
Never one to be labeled “prolific,” Malick brought out his fifth feature, The Tree of Life, in 2011, and it
featured a radical progression in this elegiac, non-traditional way of spinning
The Tree of Life received Oscar
nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Cinematography (by Emmanuel
Lubezki), but there were many audience members who just didn’t get it or
refused to meet the film halfway. I remember counting many walkouts from the
theater in which I first saw it. Its comparison to the initial reaction to
Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is
apt. This was a new kind of film, something that challenged the viewer into sitting
back, opening the mind and the heart, and going with the flow.
flow it does… the picture is much like a symphony of sight and sound. The imagery
of the world in all its glory from
the ground, sky, and sea to the plants, animals, and people is breathtakingly sensual.
The music—mostly classical pieces and some original scoring by Alexandre
Desplat—is practically continuous as the pace of the editing moves frenetically.
How anyone could call this a boring movie is mind-boggling.
is a story. The focus is on the
O’Briens, a family in a small town in Texas in the 1950s, particularly utilizing
the point of view of the oldest boy, Jack (played by newcomer Hunter
McCracken). Brad Pitt is the stern, sometimes over-the-top disciplinarian
father, and angelic Jessica Chastain is the loving mother. Jack’s two siblings
are played by Laramie Eppler and Tye Sheridan. The entire family’s performances
are superb. Scenes in the present day feature an adult Jack (Sean Penn), who is
somberly “remembering” the events of the film. Something has triggered old Jack’s
memory of when the middle brother died at the age of nineteen (we don’t know
how… possibly Vietnam?).
then there’s the creation sequence, something else that is comparable to the
Star Gate section of 2001 (and that
film’s co-visual effects supervisor, Douglas Trumbull, is a consultant on Tree). We see in a nearly twenty-minute
segment how the earth was formed in the heavens, how life began in the waters,
the rise of dinosaurs (yes, dinosaurs!), the predatory disposition of certain
species, and their eventual destruction to make way for man.