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» Film-Tech Forum   » Community   » Film Handlers' Movie Reviews   » the Straight story

Author Topic: the Straight story
Greg Anderson
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 766
From: Ogden Valley, Utah
Registered: Nov 1999

 - posted 04-24-2000 01:28 PM      Profile for Greg Anderson   Author's Homepage   Email Greg Anderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Since the Straight story has been mentioned in other threads and not "officially" reviewed by participants here, I'll take a stab at it. I realize many didn't get a chance to see this movie because Disney had no idea how to promote it or get it into enough theatres. And I understand why Disney didn't know what to do with this movie. It just breaks too many rules (...rules which have been established by test-audience worshippers and people who think only hormonally-charged teenagers should go to movie theatres).

On the surface, it's a story about an old man named Alvin Straight who rides his lawnmower across the heartland so that he can visit his brother. Yep... sounds like a bomb. If only they could have cast DiCaprio in the lead role then maybe the marketing team would have had something to work with!

This movie is a celebration of those salt-of-the-earth Americans who make this country great. They live in the "flyover states" (which are little more than an annoyance to people in show business). These Americans don't have nor spend lots of money. They look out for each other. They take what life dishes out without making much of a fuss and their only therapists are loving friends and family members. But they won't pass their bitterness on to strangers. And, perhaps, their lives are just too boring for us glamour-hounds.

The beauty of this movie is how under-stated everything is. Any character can show up, say one sentence and Presto! You know him. It's a refreshing change from the over-written movies you've been seeing which require two miles of film to develop characters... using weapons, fancy costumes, cliche dialog and tons of product placement to suggest who these plastic people really are. In this movie, just one product (John Deere) tells you what you need to know. Ah... but does anyone have a gun? Does anything explode? I'll let you find out on your own.

The movie has slow-burn appeal. A long, important pause says a million words (whereas a less-talented filmmaker would fill that pause with a million, tiresome words). But the images and characters will linger for many hours after you walk away. Then again, if you want to be bored, you'll be quite bored with it. Much has been said of Richard Farnsworth's performance. He deserves all the congratulations he gets. Acting without using a lot of words is, perhaps, a lost art in America. Don't overlook the other supporting players. They rise to the challenge of sharing screen time with Farnsworth as well.

Much has also been said of the cinematography, which is perfect, but perhaps lacked enough variety to please the Academy (But, hey, it was 'Scope and that's a fundamentally correct choice which Spielberg can't even get right anymore).

Pardon me for rambling more than the old man on the lawnmower does. This movie doesn't start or end like movies from the Hollywood assembly line. David Lynch's pure genius shines through without the typical Hollywood distractions or the weirdness you thought Lynch couldn't live without. And, hey, I saw this at a run down, discount theatre with a buzzing, monophonic sound system! I can't wait to hear a DVD version and find out what it was really supposed to sound like.

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Tyler Skinner
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 115
From: Pa
Registered: Nov 1999

 - posted 04-24-2000 04:38 PM      Profile for Tyler Skinner   Email Tyler Skinner   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Beautifully stated.

SOund is a great part of all David Lynch's movies, he even personally does the sound mixing. The DVD hasn't been anounced yet (the VHS has) but it should be a great disc.

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Chad Souder
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 962
From: Waterloo, IA, USA
Registered: Feb 2000

 - posted 05-10-2000 09:27 AM      Profile for Chad Souder   Email Chad Souder   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I'm glad someone finally started a thread about 'Straight Story.' Why didn't I? Same reason I never entered the shower first in junior high. Let someone else draw the attention and add my little part later. Anyway, this is probably the best 'G' rated picture I've ever seen. I know, what about 'Bambi', etc. Well, I've never been a big cartoon fan, and in years past, I've grown to hate Disney. That's why I'm glad they did this film with David Lynch. No classic story for them to ruin here. It was just a well done tale of family values and being kind to one another. We need more of these movies made to complement the all-action, demolition types. No, I'm not a softie who blames Columbine on modern entertainment, but I do enjoy the kind of picture I can feel comfortable watching with my grandparents. Being from Iowa, my grandparents loved this one.

"Asleep at the switch? I wasn't asleep, I was drunk!" - Homer Simpson

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Greg Anderson
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 766
From: Ogden Valley, Utah
Registered: Nov 1999

 - posted 05-10-2000 03:45 PM      Profile for Greg Anderson   Author's Homepage   Email Greg Anderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Originally, I didn't want to comment too much on the fact that this film is rated G. But that's an important part of what makes it great. There was no marketing guy in the background insisting that Lynch add some nudity, for example, to make this a hit on cable TV. (Or maybe there was someone like that but Lynch told him to take a hike.)

My point is... why not have G-rated movies which are not made for children? The movie should have just as much or just as little offensive material as is necessary to tell the story. How many times have you seen a movie with some offensive element which looked like it was just grafted into the script but had no purpose for being there? Be honest.

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Phil Connolly
Film Handler

Posts: 80
From: Derby, England
Registered: May 2000

 - posted 05-16-2000 08:24 AM      Profile for Phil Connolly   Author's Homepage   Email Phil Connolly   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I agree with all the above points.

This film is great, the pace, the characters and understated nature excellent.

I've seen this film in mono and dobly stereo, both at arthouse cinemas with less than perfect sound, but it did not affect enjoyment. But I won't bother with the DVD or video, the fantasic scope images would be lose most of their power on a TV screen.

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