ALWAYS KEEPING AN EYE ON HOLLYWOOD!!!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

JER'S TURN: FILM RECOMMENDATION OF THE WEEK- THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS

JER: This week's attention focuses on a film I recently re-visited, one that I can arguably consider one of my TOP 25 Favorite Films of All Time: Michael Mann’s THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS. A sweeping epic mixing the beauty and danger of the wild frontier, dramatic adventure, unnerving battles and a heartfelt love story to tie it all up with.
Click to view the original 1992 LAST OF THE MOHICANS trailer in HD

The year is 1757 and we are brought into the French and Indian War, battling for land within the North American territory. The audience is quickly introduced to two natives of the land and their adopted ‘white’ counterpart (Daniel Day- Lewis) as they live the life on the land they call home. British armies are enlisting the assistance of the locales to join the militia to help protect their lands against the French, who are allying the local native Huron tribes as trackers.

A crossing story finds two daughters as they travel the terrain to visit their father, Colonel Munro housed at Fort William Henry. In an ambushed attack, both daughters are rescued by our native heroes and escorted to their father’s Fort safely.

As matters get worst and tensions escalate, a developing relationship ensues between ‘white’ native Hawkeye and British daughter Cora (Madeline Stowe) all the while cautiously fending for their lives and well- being…but sacrifices will be made throughout the journey.

Director Michael Mann with cast
I would like to talk about director Michael Mann for a moment. As a huge fan of his work, Michael Mann began his career primarily in television executive producing such classic shows as MIAMI VICE and CRIME STORY. He would later move into major film projects, directing such noted titles like THEIF, MANHUNTER, HEAT, THE INSIDER, ALI, COLLATERTAL, MIAMI VICE: THE MOVIE and PUBLIC ENEMIES. In review of all titles mentioned, Mann has a certain style and draw to man in peril, defying the odds and the struggle for survival. Mixed in with a visual sense borrowed from his earlier works as a commercial director and an ear for music expanding from various backgrounds, Mann combines visual with sound to create his works.

The first thing that I fell in love with when I saw this film in late 1992 was the sweeping soundtrack co- written by Trevor Jones, who had also written soundtracks for EXCALIBUR and LABYRINTH, to name a few. A blend of classic orchestration pieces combined with Celtic woodwinds and percussions create a stirring and emotional backdrop to the telling of this romantic and tragic tale.
Click to enjoy the sights and sounds of a medly to Trevor Jones' amazing soundtrack! Thank you 'glossybutton'

Italian Cinematographer Dante Spinotti has worked on several Michael Mann films including HEAT, MANHUNTER, THE INSIDER, and PUBLIC ENEMIES. Spinotti captures a spectacular and breathtaking view of the North Carolina landscapes, to which the film was primarily shot in. Classic in appearance and gripping in its action sequences, the photography is first class and undeniable in recognition.

A noted sequence that combines great direction, photography and soundtrack composition to its greatest degree has to be the distinctive chase between Hawkeye, father and brother as they follow behind the heels of native tracker Magua and his two captives, the Colonel’s daughters. This is a truly marvelous piece of filmmaking mixed with tension with a wonderful piece of written music that lends to the beat of the pursuit. Fantastic!
Click and enjoy this exciting sequence mentioned

JOHNNY CHAZZ: When you have a director such as Michael Mann, the first thing I wonder is if he should be doing films or sticking to TV. Now, as you are well aware Jer, I am a giant "Crime Story" fan and a small "Miami Vice" fan. To add, I am extremely intrigued by the post-production TV series "LUCK" starring Dustin Hoffman that should be hitting the tube sometime soon. Oh, and Michael Mann really does do TV the right way - dramatic, sexy, great sets, a real sense of dark mood, sharp and resilient characters plus just the right amount of tension and edginess to keep the audience tuning-in every week. His films? "Ali"? No way. I did enjoy "Heat" however.

“Mohicans” is probably a film that History students in high school should watch. And, if I was 17 and in high school again I would probably re-visit it. Why? Because all a high school kid in 1993 (heck, still today) really needs is a little music, some sex, continual action, gummi fish, a Jolt cola - and lo and behold.....THERE-IN lies a great movie. As a history teacher it would also give me a reason to leave those kids for an hour and retreat to my office to relish el silencio.

Now, there is some good action present, and the cinematography is quite impressive. That is always how I have viewed this film - and even with the sodden musical tastes of youth these days, how could one not enjoy the soundtrack here? Just outstanding.

Yet, in a year (1993) where "Schindler's List" pretty much dominated all other films - and rightfully so, it is hard to focus on “Mohicans.” It was frankly overshadowed by the brilliance of “Schindler's List.” Here is a prime example of how one film really had it all - and the other ('Mohicans) reminds me of pieces of a beautiful landscape puzzle with 4 of the pieces missing from the set.

Additionally, I have to care about the characters intertwined with the essence of the story - more so, caring about the genre. The character development? Very questionable here - and that is probably where the film loses me......entirely.

Then again, maybe it was the time period. I really don't "do" the 1700's and never found that time period to be one that holds my interest. Is there a 1940's version of 'Mohicans” set in Chicago starring Paul Newman and Eileen Brennan perhaps? Let's research that for fun.

All right - on a serious note: For those interested in this genre, this time period, and in a vibrant soundtrack - I would likely recommend this film. I know that many consider this to be one of their top 100 films of all time - and it probably even makes a top-10 list for others. As for Daniel Day Lewis fans, I would probably guide them in the direction of films like "My Left Foot" and "A Room with a View" (two more period pieces) as they are written and carried out with a far more impressive and stylish aura, and prove far superior from a pure performance angle.

I guess it comes down to style in the end - what is it that the film-goer prefers? Maybe a film only has to be interesting - and somewhat compelling for it to work. Maybe it has to make a statement. Maybe it only needs to be kind of pretty to watch. Maybe it has to have big Hollywood stars. Maybe it only needs a sense of something real and genuine. It is, beyond a doubt, the entire package however which makes a production one of high caliber - and I am not sure that 'Mohicans, as a film, really satisfies that. ** Rating: 6.5/10

JER: JC, I am going to go on the defense because I believe you are missing some vital points with this film as it should be recognized and highlighted for its own ability to stand alone. Granted, this was the year of SCHINDLER'S LIST, but ...we have also seen some films of equal power and magnitude stand on its own two feet well over the course of time. Should we forget RAGING BULL, E.T. or even THE COLOR PURPLE not winning the Best Picture award and yet still be recognized by its own sense of credibility?

MOHICANS absolutely sets up the characters and the roles they play early in the film. This allows the audience their moment to care for them and emotionally feel their fates, whatever they may be. This film rides on emotions as is constructed on that very platform... emotions for the times they live in, the struggle to survive and stay alive, the emotional bonds created between father and daughters, father and sons, man and woman and good versus evil.

There are clearly some technical 'emotions' that make this film work: cinematography, musical score and costuming are all key elements that must be designed and executed accurately or else fail in the attempt.

Now, let's talk Michael Mann. Television- wise, a master in all degrees. It works equally for me for CRIME STORY as it did for MIAMI VICE... however, you bring up ALI as questionable in the film department?.. or that there would be an argument as to why he should not cross-over to film? Well, allow me to bring up his most recent disappointment, PUBLIC ENEMIES then. Now that’s out of the way, let's talk about HEAT, MANHUNTER, THIEF or THE INSIDER... arguably containing, what you said is how 'Michael Mann really does do TV the right way - dramatic, sexy, great sets, a real sense of dark mood, sharp and resilient characters plus just the right amount of tension and edginess' ... these films contain the same ingredients as well.
With that said; MOHICANS contains, in my opinion, the right stuff to not be overshadowed, but rather to stand in its own ray of light to bask!
Click and enjoy this small tribute highlighting the works of director Michael Mann

JOHNNY CHAZZ: I agree that we must recognize all the films that can stand on their own two feet - and “Mohicans” may be one of those. However, as you know, there are good films... and there are outstanding films --- such as “Schindler's List” in 1993. The "good" films can never receive a rating from me higher than a 7 and that is a given fact. It's sad - and we can all have a cry, but it is what it is. So, I feel that my 6.5 was justified here since “Mohicans,” for me is a good film, but in now way a great one.

The weakness in the character development is precisely "that" which you stated. It is only set-up and focused-upon during the early portions of the film. And although we learn to care for them, I also learned to care for little Keisha in the "Whale Rider" early in that film, but I really was praying the film would wrap itself up in 45 minutes. Why? There was nothing complex about her which basically ends our interest in that character after 20 minutes.

Once again - you list all the factors here (cinematography, score, emotional factors) - but where's the strength in the writing Jer? The dialogue is stilted. I almost feel that the story could belong in a comic book - it is sort of pulpish in that sense - as well as in the sense that it is trying to throw everything at us including the kitchen sink just to satisfy us as an audience. I do not want things thrown at me in multitudes. We see too much of this today and can see the great weakness that lies inside. No sir - no way....too much. I rest on my 6.5 grading for this film - c'est finale.

As for Michael Mann - I can see your point there. Still, there is not much "sexy" (to me at least) about this film compared to what we saw in his TV work. Also, if I want romance, then I will re-visit "Never Been Kissed" or "Working Girl" or anything else disastrous with the likes of Kate Hudson or Jennifer Anniston. Ok, now where is the bathroom? I am urging to throw-up now - and I mean in a bloody way.

With respect to his (Mann's) films - I did not see "Public Enemies" and really never wanted to. I liked "Heat" as I mentioned and as for the rest of his films - it's a crapshoot really. I guess I just miss the days of “Crime Story” and “Miami Vice”.....

So, maybe I am the odd man out on this one. I highly respect and appreciate your response here as you know I tend to fire on all cylinders. But isn't it precisely this type of discussion that you are trying to generate here? If I love a film, I will tell you - and if I detest it, I will also share that joy with you. Yet, if we were back in 1993 and this film was playing at a theater where “Schindler's List” was NOT playing.......then I guess.....well......I would have to go see....."Remains of the Day.”

JER: Well, some you win and some you lose…my opinion remains strong and intact that THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS is worth a re-watch or a visit for the first time. The DVD offers a special extended Director’s cut, different than the original theatrical release. On the other hand, the newly released blu- ray offers yet another extended cut that differs from the DVD release. Whichever you select, I know that you are in with a beautifully shot and executed piece of contemporary filmmaking long before the days of green screens and CGI photshopping!

With that said, it’s time to close up the page welcoming your comments and thoughts. Thank you as always for your kind support and encouragements as Johnny Chaz takes the wheel on our next ride…so, until then, we will SEE YOU NEXT WEDNESDAY!

Have you visited the official CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT page on YOUTUBE? Check out classic and contemporary trailers, scenes and other great trips down memory lane! Just click the link and check out the "Favorites" on our site! Enjoy!

4 comments:

  1. 'MOHICANS was okay, but kinda overrated I think. I can not place this movie in my top 100 list purely due to the so-so plot and the fact that 1993 really did have better movies that year. - Kendall, SAN DIEGO CA

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  2. Kendall, thank you for your comments...respectfully taken, I can appreciate your thoughts! I hope to hear from more people in regards to their opinions as well! Thank you so very much!

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  3. THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS WAS AN AMAZING MOVIE - EVEN FOR ITS TIME. THE SOUNTRACK ALONE IS A STAND-OUT AND EVEN THOUGH THE SCREENPLAY AND DIALOGUE MENTIONED BY THE CRITICS ABOVE IS NOT THE BEST EVER, THE CINEMATOGRAPHIC COLORS AND VIEWS ALONG WITH THE ACTING ARE TOP NOTCH. - JARED, TEMPE AZ.

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  4. Hi Jared, thank you for your comments...I will agree with you on the fabulous soundtrack and brilliant photography!
    Thanks again!

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