Monday, January 30, 2012


JER: It is early morning on January 26th 2012 and the 84th annual Academy Award nominations for  2011 have been officially announced. There is a wave of excitement and enthusiasm in the air as we begin the race to the coveted spot on Sunday February 26th, 2012. Let’s dive right into it…
Too early for you? Here are the announcements made that morning

BEST PICTURE: (nominations) over the last few years, the controversial decision to move the Academy’s usual five nomination slots to ten was an outrageous and an obvious financial choice for lucrative reasons! I feel the Academy is not being completely true in focusing on five great films, but now a feeling of some good mixed with great nominations to help as fillers. This year, however, only nine slots were announced:


Our pick: THE ARTIST
 If you have been a regular reader of CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT then you know that my choice has been and always will be THE ARTIST. Period. The film is so appealing and speaks more than dialog can ever present on the screen! It is lavish yet heartfelt; touching yet funny, without words yet translates clearly. It is the kind of film Hollywood needed to be kicked in the ass with to get it rethinking about today’s loud and obnoxious presentations of Computer Generated- filled crude! IS someone paying attention here? Less is and always means MORE! Can any actor today take on the challenge of communicating through expressions sans dialog as well as actor Jean Dujardin did? So, why wasn’t a tenth slot filled this year? Did the Academy feel satisfied with only nine or could a tenth not be produced or even drummed- up?

Here’s my tenth submission: What about THE IDES OF MARCH? How did this film fall off the radar when it was touted so heavily in its initial release? Moreover, how did Clooney’s other film THE DESCENDANTS end up on the list over THE IDES OF MARCH? This feels like an unjust slap in the cinematic face. Clooney co- wrote, directed and starred in THE IDES OF MARCH and was the kind of film that sucked you into its political web and slowly weaved a story of intrigue which quickly turns into a high- end thriller! I was not expecting that and the chain of events that occurred. Sounds interesting? Please see this film!

Alongside with THE ARTIST, the following are the other nominees I have had the pleasure to have seen and my individual takes on them. They are as follows:

WAR HORSE is an exceptional film! Beautifully photographed and worthy of both the Best Picture nomination and its accompanying nominations for Best Cinematography (Janusz Kaminski) and Best Art Direction (Rick Carter)… the film may tug too roughly on the soft spots in the old ticker. You know what you are gonna get when you make films mixing animals and parlous journeys… not a dry eye in the house is an understatement! Spielberg masterfully takes this story to both a visual and heartfelt level that only he can successfully accomplish.
The second Best Picture contender of the year...WAR HORSE

THE HELP reflects on racial tensions within the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s and the brave undertakings of writing a tell-all book from the hired help’s point of view. Controversial topics are seasoned between humorous moments to help soften the blow slightly, but although it is worth the view it just doesn’t have the legs to carry it through the finish line for a win. An excellent ensemble cast with strong performances from nominated actress Viola Davis and supporting actresses Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain.

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, is by far one of Woody Allen’s more resent better films since 2002’s HOLLYWOOD ENDING. The native New Yorker comes at you with typical Allen topics and conversations about: art, museums, culture, love, sex, relationships and the desire to transport ourselves to be amongst objects that only be admired and longed- for but can never be claimed. The story of a romantic American writer with his fiancĂ© in the ‘City of Lights’ imagines what the evenings of the 1920’s were like bustling with artists, musicians and writers of the time… only to find himself literally transported to the era at the stroke of the midnight bells! Superbly written by Allen with both a flair for sophistication and humor followed by his uncanny eye for direction makes this film a loving addition to the nine nominations, but alas, still not strong enough to win the coveted. If it’s any consolation, Allen may walk away with a Best Screenplay award, though.   

Jean Dujardin: THE ARTIST
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE: Could this be the year of George Clooney? It might be or at least present himself as a threat for his role in THE DESCENDANTS. My personal choice is leaning on Jean Dujardin’s flawless performance as the lovable silent film actor George Valentin in THE ARTIST. I am not worried about the other nominations posing a dark horse win, but performances still note worthy are:

Demian Bichir: A BETTER LIFE

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE: Much is being said about Meryl Streep’s uncanny physical and audioable transition into the role of Britain’s former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in THE IRON LADY. Could her win for Best Actress (Drama) at the Golden Globes be a deal- sealer? Is there a guarantee that Ms. Streep has this in the bag? Strong talk and a win for Best Actress (Comedy or Musical) went to Michelle Williams for MY WEEK WITH MARILYN at the Golden Globes might make this category tough to choose. Personally, I believe that Viola Davis’ nomination for THE HELP was strong and deserving to be recognized! The other nominations are:


Director Michel Hazanavicius: THE ARTIST
Snubbed...but not forgotten
BEST DIRECTOR: It would seem the obvious conclusion that if a film receives a Best Picture nomination that the logical next- step would be to nominate its Director…right? Although Steven Spielberg was won two Oscars (SCHINDLER'S LIST, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN) he has been snubbed from nominations in directing, the first was for 1986’s THE COLOR PURPLE and again for this year’s WAR HORSE. So, now that I had the chance to mention the 'should've,' let’s talk about the nominated instead. French director Michel Hazanavicius, having just won the Director’s Guild of America award for Best Achievement by a Director, may have catapulted his Oscar chances for THE ARTIST. Why, I could not tell you, but an opposing threat may come from director Alexander Payne for THE DESCENDANTS and there is this year’s Best Director Golden Globe winner Martin Scorsese for HUGO! The two other directors in this category are:

Terrence Malick: TREE OF LIFE

I believe I have done just enough pot- stirring to get my buddy JOHNNY CHAZZ all revved- up and ready for his take on the road towards the Oscars…take it away, JC!

SNUBBED as well???
JOHNNY CHAZZ: Films such as "We Bought a Zoo", "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy", "Drive" or perhaps your previously mentioned "Ides of March" were probably all deserving of filling the tenth (10th) spot in the nominations. Even based on popularity and marginal box office success, where was "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?" Nonetheless, we have nine to work with this year in the category of Best Film. Why the Academy refuses to consider foreign films in this category (read-on to see a film that should have filled the tenth slot) is beyond me.

All right - let's examine how this year's awards should pan out:

BEST FILM: I recall having posted a topic many months ago titled "The Art of the Possible" highlighting "The Artist" as quite possibly being the best film we would see this year. Simply stated, other than perhaps "A Separation", "The Artist" is the most impacting and unique film of the year containing all of the winning ingredients necessary for the top award. Thus, with recent success at the Critics Choice and Golden Globe Awards, "The Artist" is without a doubt the favorite for this year's Best Picture.

Possible Upsetter? "The Descendants" or "War Horse"

BEST ACTOR: As wonderful as Dujardin was in "The Artist", George Clooney for "The Descendants" probably gets the nod here considering his veteran status in movie-making, acting,etc. I know that your choice in this category, Jer, is Jean Dujardin, but as you stated this may well be the year of George Clooney....well, at least in the option of Best Actor.

Possible upsetter? If not Dujardin, then perhaps Brad Pitt for "Moneyball," which was actually a decent performance.

BEST ACTRESS: True, Jer - this category looks primed for a mild upset and certainly has a grab-bag feel to it. Viola Davis will be the trendy pick here, but Meryl Streep remains the main danger in this category for "The Iron Lady". Still, the feeling here is that this category may take a small spin on itself and land on Michelle Williams for "My Week With Marilyn" whose performance was gripping and classy.

Possible Upsetter? None other than these top 3.

Christopher Plummer: BEGINNINGS
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Christopher Plummer wins this for "The Beginners" (you may recall that he was overlooked just a few years ago at the awards for "The Last Station"). Plummer's performance was honest, understated, witty and quite emotional - that is what it takes to win here.

Possible Upsetter? Kenneth Branagh ("My Week With Marilyn")

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Octavia Spencer for "The Help". Here is a film only deserving of an award in the female performance categories and it may win both Actress and Supporting Actress if Viola Davis comes through. Octavia was quite convincing in this role and should win hands down here.
See the incredible female cast at their best in THE HELP

Possible Upsetter? Berenice Bejo ("The Artist")

BEST DIRECTOR: Michael Hazanavicius is the lone threat in this category and with a recent recognition from the Critics Choice is a strong sign that he will take this award. True, he did fall to Scorsese at the Golden Globes, but Scorsese's chances of winning here are much slimmer - one only needs to take a close look at both films and use some common sense.

Possible Upsetter? Scorsese ("Hugo") or Alexander Payne ("Descendants")

Writer/ Director: Woody Allen
BEST SCREENPLAY (ORIGINAL): It won't be easy topping Woody Allen for "Midnight in Paris" in this category. With two prior victories, Woody should earn his third this year. One must take note however: The casting for this film was sub-par, the story was too long and it likely falls in the bottom 30% of Woody Allen's overall film portfolio......

Possible Upsetter? "A Separation" - a tremendous foreign film that is not receiving much attention.....look out as it could surprise with two Oscars in both this category and in the Best Foreign Film Category as well.

A very riveting and moving trailer for nominated A SEPERATION

BEST FOREIGN FILM: "A Separation" out of Iran should take this award combining exceptional performance, dramatic moments, tension in scene and formidable writing. One again, here is a film that should fill our 10th slot in the Best Picture nominations - there is no reason why foreign films should not be considered.

Possible Upsetter? "In Darkness" (Holland)

JER: There you have it, two very different and opinionated ‘critics’ actually coming together to support and defend many similar choices here. I'll say it again, this is a bizarre year for films with many ‘good’ movies but lesser ‘great’ films. Will a time ever come in which the Academy would just have to throw its hands up in the air and say, “No Academy Awards this year” simply because films are not holding up to such a prestigious honor or caliber?

Returning Host: BILLY CRYSTAL!
The Academy Awards ceremony is still an honored institution, but continues to fail on many levels. For many, it is far too lengthy a presentation with too many none- interesting categories being recognized.  For others, it’s a constant turn-stile of hosts changed out from year to year. There was a time when it was understood that Johnny Carson or Bob Hope were the expected hosts for the umpteenth time and no one complained about it… most recently, Billy Crystal was performing repeated duty as well... until NOW! Crystal has been confirmed to return to host this year! Another gripe were the big lavish numbers produced to present and highlight Best Song for many years…this year we are reduced to an embarrassing two forgettable nominations that no one seems to really be holding their breathes about this year. So what’s happened? Too many Producers ruining the soup? Maybe they have their own turn-stile as well! This year's show will be produced by first- timer Brian Grazier (APOLLO 13, A BEAUTIFUL MIND) and his promise? His goal is to try to keep the presentation at to hours! I'll have my stopwatch in hand!

Look for your local presentation time for Sunday February 26th as the 84th Annual Academy Awards will be broadcasted. Make sure you keep it locked right here as we continue our own coverage of the Awards and present our annual reaction to the ceremonies shortly thereafter.

What are your favorite moments every year? What do you think of the nominations and what are your hopefuls? Share with us and return back for our comments in return! JOHNNY CHAZZ will have the chance to select a topic of his choice when we return back with a brand new entry on Wednesday February 15th , 2011!

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!

Sunday, January 22, 2012


JOHNNY CHAZZ: Sunday January 15, 2012 was an evening of fun, but unpredictability as always as the Golden Globes surfaced and honored the films of 2011-2012.

Now, let's dive in and take a look at how predictions favored with the actual wins at this year's awards:
BEST PICTURE DRAMA: I expected that "The Descendants" would probably win this and it did, but where were films such as "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" or "Drive"? This category was poorly selected and really is not much in the running for any serious considerations on Academy Award night. "Hugo" has a shot based solely on box office results as well as connections, but the film lacks merit. Nothing really deserves to win here......

BEST PICTURE - COMEDY / MUSICAL: "The Artist" won this hands down. The only film that would have surprised me was "Midnight in Paris" or "My Week With Marilyn" which were both decent films, but it would've been a bit of a shock if they had won.
This never get old... the original trailer for our pick: THE ARTIST!

Streep as Thatcher: IRON LADY
BEST ACTRESS DRAMA: Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher in "Iron Lady" looked like the main choice and my guess was right. Also, I wouldn't have lost sleep on Viola Davis for "The Help" in a Supporting role. The film was vastly overrated and flat-out dull, but she was fairly impressive in the film and even if Viola had lost out at the Globes, she may still have a shot at taking home an Oscar in February. Don't sleep on Tilda Swinton however as she was very, very good in "Talk About Kevin".

BEST ACTRESS - COMEDY / MUSICAL: Michelle Williams was excellent in "My Week With Marilyn" and got the nod here. Kristin Wiig from the overrated "Bridesmaids" could have posed a threat, but Michelle had this. I didn’t overlook Charlize Theron either for "Young Adult" - even though her acting ability is pretty limited in this critic's opinion.

Clooney: Best Actor
BEST ACTOR DRAMA: A lousy list of performers here really - but George Clooney got the nod for his role in "The Descendants". DiCaprio is overrated and so was his film "J.Edgar" - so that probably failed to contend here. Brad Pitt did have a chance to upset for his role in the undervalued "Moneyball" -

BEST ACTOR - COMEDY / MUSICAL: Jean DuJardin had a remarkable and memorable performance in "The Artist" and won here hands down in this category.

SCREENPLAY: Here is the ultimate category - and probably the one that should dictate your Best Picture award, although that is not always the case. "The Descendants" offered safe enough dialogue for audiences to digest, and thus - it could've won here. "Midnight in Paris" and "The Artist" were also dangers however - but I didn't overlook the screenplay of "Moneyball" as it was actually quite well-written and very impacting. The winner? - “Midnight In Paris.”
Woody Allen's latest offering: the trailer for MIDNIGHT IN PARIS

SCORE: "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" had a wonderful score - both chilling and mysterious, but I am afraid that it may have fallen short to "The Artist" since tonight belonged to composer Ludovic Bource.

BEST SONG: Who cares part II....... (That song by Madonna…)

TV GOLDEN GLOBES: This is not Cinema - so who cares part III.....

Now, let's turn this over to Jer to gather his thoughts on tonight's awards.
ANIMATED FILM: Who cares...... (“Adventures Of Tin- Tin” won)

JER: Let’s begin with a little Golden Globes’ 101: What makes this award show different from the Academy Awards are defined by a variety of both similar and different levels. The Globes is a ceremony created by and voted upon by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) this network is made up of journalists who write about the Hollywood films and television shows presented in America and the reporting to foreign countries about them. Since a majority of Hollywood entertainment is presented on a global scale, it is the duty of the HPFA to create awareness to their respected markets. The Academy Awards, however, are voted upon by their peers on the individual category they represent… for example, film editors vote for their choices for Best Editing by selecting who gets nominated and who wins. Finally, the Best Picture category is voted upon by all members collectively. It had been said that one can usually see where the Oscars might go based off of the Globes’ nominations and wins… but that has not been the exact case over the last several years. Some potential nominees have been snubbed in either ceremony without reservation as to why. So, what does this mean? Basically, you just never know which way the Academy Awards may sway with both its nominations and wins!

I’m going to analyze The Golden Globes for just a quick minute: there has always been more of a ‘party’ atmosphere because of its settings (usually at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, CA) and the obvious serving of alcohol.  Some of the uptight Hollywood elite is given the opportunity to let its hair down at this event and it presents for a more relaxed and ‘anything goes’ show!
Behind that glass is host Ricky Gervais...really!
On that same note let’s focus on returning host this year: Ricky Gervais. Although he threw a few jabs at the audience, the network (NBC) and even some current hot- topic events…the rest of the evening consisted of holding a glass of anything liquid and a decline in humor and a rise for impatience on the show’s length of time (a standard 3 hours). What’s the matter, Ricky? Were you not paid by the hour? Less drinkie…more talkie! More jokie! It seems as if certain members of the audience came prepared and loaded with their own assaults towards Gervais. Everyone from Madonna, Meryl Streep and Antonio Banderas all had remarks that left the host without reply. Tell you what… don’t bring back Gervais and let Madonna, Streep and Banderas host the Golden Globes next year instead!
Something that has to be mentioned, JC, before I go any further. You need to get over this boycott you have over Animated Films! They have seriously evolved into a respected and reputable category. Although some Animation put out today might be childish and locked- on to a certain demographic… most films, present and past, have been designed for a broader acceptance an audience’s palate. I personally have no interest in seeing GNOMEO AND JULIET, but I will possibly watch PUSS ‘N BOOTS and definitely ADVENTURES OF TIN- TIN for the nostalgic and it’s win for Best Animated Film…oh, a big factor would be director Steven Spielberg as well. This subject may make a great heat- infused blog topic for 2012!

DISAPPOINTMENTS: Although there were very few, there were still some worth mentioning. I have a problem with THE DESENDANTS winning Best Picture (Drama)! Even George Clooney’s other film, THE IDES OF MARCH, Spielberg’s WAR HORSE or  Martin Scorsese’s HUGO had more of a clearer definition of winning such an Award. Let me explain: a film has to make a very important first impression to me. It has to show me from the beginning how serious it is at a nomination much less a win. I’ll never forget the first trailer I saw on THE DESENDANTS…I sat with my mouth open, thinking it looked like another MEN THAT STARE AT GOATS- type film for Clooney. I don’t mind him making a silly or goofy film… but when it wins Best DRAMA???  The Marketing Department must have received an earful because the strategy of promoting this film changed its course quickly and swiftly and played on ticket- buyers' heartstrings (and pocketbooks) for a more dramatically- driven set of trailers… this may have had an impression on the HFPA!
The magnificent trailer to Spielberg's WAR HORSE!

Directors Spielberg and Scorsese: Winners of Globes
ACHIEVEMENTS: I must admit that my theater- going time has not been major this past year, but I just didn’t feel the urgent need to see a larger sum of nominations simply because most were unattractive or unappealing. Admiringly, (during the time this blog was submitted) I have only seen IDES OF MARCH, WAR HORSE and THE ARTIST with hopes of tackling HUGO, MONEYBALL, THE HELP and MIDNIGHT IN PARIS before Academy Award night. I was absolutely invigorated with THE ARTIST winning Best Film: Comedy or Musical! This is definitely what true cinema is about… it is a risk- taker as well as providing thorough entertainment from the first frame until the very last…how many films can you think of that can take on that kind of task? A “Best Picture”, in this critic’s opinion, is ALL elements pulling together to create the final product that is memorable and worth talking about for years to come. It is also very satisfying to see director Steven Spielberg accept the Golden Globe award for Best Animated Film: THE ADVENTURES OF TIN- TIN and director Martin Scorsese nab Best Director for his first family- friendly adventure film: HUGO. Although not present to receive his, Woody Allen would also be recognized with a Best Screenplay win for MIDNIGHT IN PARIS.

JOHNNY CHAZZ: Without a doubt, the Golden Globes is more of a "relaxed" and as you stated, "party" atmosphere than what we will see at the Academy Awards. In a sense, this is almost a reflection of the caliber of film that was presented to audiences this year. Thus, one can see, Jer, why your movie-going and mine were both fairly limited this past season.

As for boycotts of animated films, I do agree that it has developed into a far richer category than I ever expected. Therefore, a heated discussion on this topic may not be as easily foreseeable as it may actually be a bit of an eye-opener for me to learn more about the genre - accepted.

Better Hosts? Hmmm...
  I am not exactly quick to endorse Madonna or Banderas as a host as I frankly find both of them to be a bit dull and for a better word, full of themselves - but Gervais was simply the wrong choice - a flop indeed on this night.

Williams was quite deserving for her role as Marilyn Monroe in "My Week With Marilyn." This film was in all actuality somewhat entertaining and her performance was quite believable. Scorsese winning for "Hugo" was also nice to see, but is the film really what you would label as one of his best works? It seems like a reach.

On a final note - you had mentioned that you were enthralled by "The Artist" and I share that opinion with you. "The Descendants" won strictly by default and for the name of "Clooney" being worn on its' back. Is this not an immediate red flag as to the caliber of films released in the drama genre this year?

It would be safe to say at this point that the Academy Awards will reflect a great deal of what we saw at the Golden Globes. "The Artist" should shine bright, while "The Descendants" and "War Horse" loom the only real dangers at this point.

JER: The Golden Globes have always been considered by some to be the future forecasting of what the Academy Awards will play out as. The race is about to begin and there are a full TEN Best Picture nomination slots needing to be filled. I can and want to get into that heavy discussion…but I will shelf it for the next blog which will be posted on Wednesday February 1st with a listing of the official Academy Award nominations and our predictions and ‘counterpoints.'


Do you have any films you are rooting for? What was your take on the Golden Globes and everything tied into it? We are always wanting to hear from you and we will respond to everyone! Thanks for stopping by and we will see you again on WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 1st!

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!

Thursday, January 5, 2012


JER: Campy… Dated… Corny…”That disco flick with John Travolta”… these are but just a few words and phrases that have described one of the greatest phenomenons (aside from STAR WARS, of course) to come out of the 1970’s. This week’s subject: 1977’s SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER.

PROLOGUE: To the common viewer, the film has only represented the ‘disco era’ of the mid to late 1970’s backed by the multi- platinum selling Bee-Gees’ double album soundtrack and the iconic white suit worn by Travolta while he posed with his right arm extended upright pointing his index finger skyward. I, for one, have always seen it a little differently right from the very beginning. There was a sense of representation about not only what it was like to be a youth growing up in the 70’s: an era defined by music, drugs, alcohol, the residue of Vietnam and freedom of expression in sexual, political and other means available… it also allowed the audience to experience what it was like to keep- up appearances amongst your peers (peer pressure), the ‘act’ of being cool and life on the streets of Brooklyn and the dream to escape to the upper- crust world of Manhattan for New Yorkers.
Check out the original 1977 trailer for SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER

Another way of looking at it… the film can also be reviewed based upon two factors the story has to offer: 1) revealing the point of view of a young Italian- American male carrying the stigma of the ‘macho’ representation of a man based on his culture (drinking, having sex and not claiming responsibilities for ones’ actions) and 2) the realization: recognition of the accountability on ones’ shoulders to eventually leave the teenage world behind and enter into the rite of adulthood. When does that time come for each of us and when do we feel we can take ownership of our lives?

ORGINS: New York City- Mid 1970’s: Disco was quickly becoming the alternate ‘fun’ music coming out to appose the post- punk music scene and the acid/ metal rock music of the late 60’s- early 70’s. The change brought forth an entirely new formation of living that not only represented what was being heard in the clubs and on the radio but literally designing a lifestyle and way of life all in its own. The clothing of choice consisted of polyester and double- knit suits… hot pants and platform shoes, satin dresses and shirts, spandex, gold chains and medallions including zodiac signs and Italian horns were adorned on both the streets and on the dance floor. It was the age of Studio 54: the dance club of all dance clubs located on 54th street in Manhattan. 54 became the place that you had to be seen in, hob- knobbing amongst celebrates and musicians of the day… that’s if you could get through the very restrictive velvet ropes! ‘Recreational’ drugs were part of ‘heightening’ the experience of the music and the single scene to a whole new level. Marijuana, cocaine and heroin were the most preferred. A good mixed drink or your favorite booze ‘on the rocks’ was also very hip for the times as well as the freedom to smoke cigarettes anyplace you preferred.

From all of this, influences were moving into various parts of America and quickly mentoring globally as well. Television ‘jived’ its way through dialog and humor with shows like “All In The Family” and “Good Times.” Films were taking bolder steps in screenplay writing and acting stances. Watergate was the hot topic on the political sidelines and the times were slowly changing the media as well. This brings us up to speed to where we need to start. Our story didn’t begin in the mind of a screenwriter or a studio looking to cash in on the latest craze… it began as a publication. In 1975, the New York magazine published an article entitled “Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night” focusing on the lifestyle of the teenager/ young adult’s weekly routine of working for the weekend and spending their week’s salary for the usual Friday/ Saturday night fun. The story was put to script and within a two year period, it jumped from article to the silver screen.

Tony (John Travolta) is gonna go steppin'!
STORYLINE: Nineteen year old Tony Manero (John Travolta) is a native Brooklyn who works at a local paint store throughout the week and goes out to the discothèque on Saturday nights. His earned wages are not saved up for a new car or an apartment to live on his own, but rather spent on new clothes, platform shoes and such. His vanity is revealed early on as he is watching himself in the mirror while blow drying his hair and moving his hips as he dresses… already projecting the moves and look on the dance floor and more importantly, how the chicks are going to see him. He wears a table cloth at the dinner table to insure that not a drop of spaghetti sauce stains his new digs.

Manero lives at home with his parents, a younger sister and his grandmother… a middle- class family built on constant bickering and fighting. While he makes the conscious choice to stay, he must endure the praises of his older brother, Frank Jr., who went on to become a priest… a prestigious honor for any Catholic- Italian family. Although content with his slight- slacker ways, he is a loser… stuck in a dead- end job without any signs of improving his life by way of furthering his education, experiencing independence, setting career goals or taking any kind of responsibility. The one thing he knows how to do extremely well and that he enjoys doing is dancing on Saturday nights.

Tony and the boys AKA "The Faces"
When he enters into his favorite hot spot, 2001 Odyssey, guys want to be him and girls want to be with him. Along with his four close friends, they call themselves “the faces”, representing yet another egotistical view point of how they see themselves. The hair is perfect, a cigarette carelessly hanging off the corner side of the mouth as an even- paced strut leads them to their ‘reserved’ table to admire (or critique) whoever is on the dance floor. Being that dancing is the one true passion of Tony’s, he signs up for a dance contest that will be taking place in a matter of weeks. The motivation and importance immediately goes to work as a way of possibly feeding his already disproportioned ego and to maybe prove something to his family, his friends and himself.

Annette (Donna Pescow) waits for Tony
 Annette (Donna Pescow), a local barfly who briefly ‘went out’ with Tony, tries to talk him into being his dance partner. Alas, poor Annette’s intentions are ulterior as the request is only pulled to allow time alone with him; however, he sees it as a strictly professional partnership that would not include any funny business. Her happiness is only short- lived as Tony decides to dump Annette and move on to an even better dancer he saw at the club and again at the dance studio, Stephanie Mangano (Karen Lynn Gorney).

Tony and Stephanie (Karen Lynn Gorney)
 At first, Stephanie comes across as someone slightly more sophisticated than Tony…possibly a few years old. Quickly, it is understood that she is from the same streets and has been continually mentored into a more high- end way of living, talking and the kind of employment she deserves. Drawbacks fall out of her demeanor by way of her Brooklyn drawl creeping out in her pronunciations when speaking and switching from coffee to drinking tea with lemon because that what office women drink. An eventual move to Manhattan might be what she thinks (or what she is being told) is the next step up the ladder, but she still carries the residue of the old neighborhood no matter what. 

Tony may finally start to see the big picture through Stephanie’s eyes as he his world slowly comes crumbling around him. His friends aren’t really his friends after all, but rather just a group of losers who leach off of his presence on the dance floor and get them laid just by default. His older brother, the patriarch of the Manero’s, decides to walk away from the priesthood while leaving his family questioning Tony as to what he may have said to influence Frank’s decision to leave the church. The final straw comes from a one- two punch of events concerning his alleged friends and their careless attitudes towards everything. For once, we finally see Tony take charge by abandoning them and walking to the nearest subway. The late night trip allows him solace and the chance to access his life more carefully then he has ever imagined himself doing. His destination lands him in Manhattan as he arrives at Stephanie’s new doorstep at a very early Sunday morning. The arrival could be looked upon as washing off the scum of events that occurred the night before on Saturday (like leaving behind the scummed life he had led) and starting over like the dawn of a brand new day (thus the beginning of a whole new life and finally accepting his responsibilities).

The Bee- Gees

Yvonne Elliman
THE SOUNDTRACK: The songs not only played an important factor throughout the film, for both the heightening of emotional and dancing sequences of the film, but undoubtedly reflected the high influence it had on a generation of would- be disco- clubbers and hipsters. For 1977, the soundtrack was available in both a vinyl and 8- track cartridge listening format… the two- disc edition set was my preference at the age of 9. The album stayed on the Billboard charts for 120 weeks and was a certified 15x Platinum best seller (15 million copies). Australia’s trio of brothers; Robin, Maurice and Barry Gibb, were better known as The Bee- Gees and contributed writing seven of the songs and singing six of them. Up and coming singing sensation Yvonne Elliman (Mary Magdalene from JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR) would sing the seventh entitled “If I Can’t Have You”. In addition to The Bee-Gees version, the R&B group Tavares sang a second version of “More Than A Woman” having both appear in the film as well as in the album. Other well- known groups contributed hits to the album as well including Kool and the Gang’s “Open Sesame,” K.C. and the Sunshine Band’s “Boogie Shoes” and The Trampps’ very popular hit “Disco Inferno.” A very bold edition came from Walter Murphy who presented a controversial spin on Ludwig Von Beethoven’s classically composed “Fifth of Beethoven” by rerecorded it with a disco beat. TRIVIA: Oddly enough, the songs written by The Bee-Gees were never intended to be a part of any soundtrack but intended to be their next album. When producers heard the new direction into disco the group was heading towards, it was requested that the music become the main focal point of the soundtrack and film to which they agreed upon… the rest was history!
The Bee Gees with Andy Gibb on "You Should Be Dancin'"

THE AFTERMATH: SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER was drawing in such success from its theatrical run and the highly- ranked album sales, that it prompted Paramount Pictures to release a more ‘audience friendly’ version of the film by offering a PG rated edition of its original R rated release. This version pared down on the stronger language, nudity and drug use and shaped the plot and storyline towards the direction of dancing and dysfunctional lifestyle of Tony and his friends. I was nine years old back in 1977 and had a mature view of film appreciation even then. My mother saw that and granted my request to view the R rated version at that age as she somewhat reluctantly purchased tickets for a viewing. This would, no doubt, be my first ever ‘restricted’ film I had ever seen and viewed it with strong enthusiasm!

Yet another reflection of its success prompted Paramount Pictures to pair up the film with its other John Travolta hit GREASE as a double- feature run in 1978 as well. This decision proved to be highly lucrative for the studio.

Travolta was about 23 years old at the time of the film’s release on December 18, 1977. Although new to films, he had already created a ‘heartthrob’ image of himself from his television appearances as Vinnie Barbarino in “Welcome Back, Kotter.” Travolta garnered himself a Best Actor nomination for SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER… he lost to Richard Dreyfuss for THE GOODBYE GIRL. Keeping his family close by, his sister Ann, is the gal who sells Tony his pizza slice in the beginning of the film. His mother Helen is the lady he sells the marked- up can of paint to. To prepare for the role, Travolta lost 20 pounds by running daily and dancing for about three hours a day. He worked closely with dance instructor Deney Terrio, who went un-credited. Terrio was best known as television host for the very popular “Dance Fever” (1979- 1985).

Like any good film, studios felt that it could catch lightning in the bottle twice by making a sequel. Directed by Sylvester Stallone, STAYING ALIVE (1983) continued the story of Tony Manero with Travolta reprising his iconic role. Living on his own and disowning his loser friends, Tony has a new life as a dancer trying to make it into Broadway! His strut is still intact and shades of his past comes back throughout the story, but the film builds on his struggles to not only stay independent but to be successful in the one thing he always was good at: dancing. Released on July 15, 1983 the film grossed a modest 64 million dollars but didn’t make the impact that the original film made. The Bee- Gee’s were asked to supply a few songs to the soundtrack, but it was actually Sly’s brother Frank Stallone that provided the radio- hit song “Far From Over."
Frank Stallone's video for "Far From Over"

An inspired musical of the same name premiered in the West End on May 5, 1998 at the London Palladium. It went to Broadway in 1999 and played at the Minskoff Theatre for 501 performances. It is this writer’s critique that the show inflated all of the stereotypical disco references and tried its hardest to find a legit audience to by into it. It didn’t… the musical became more of a cult hit overseas and has produced many revivals since.
The 'gweedos' of JERSEY SHORE
INFLUNECES TODAY: In a world that has taken on the ‘new flavor’ of how cool it is to be an Italian- American, or to proudly take the slang term ‘gweedo’ as if someone was paying you a compliment, has only become more famous due to the capitalization of reality television with the over-rated “Jersey Shore” leading the pack. A short lived reality television series entitled “My Big Frigging Wedding” offered a number of Italian couples preparing for their wedding day… all of which follow a certain stereotypical behavior and attitude while mugging and fist- pumping for the cameras. Another underground favorite was VH1’s “Tool Academy” that presented guys with an all- muscles/ macho- brainless view of themselves and looking upon their girlfriends as either play objects or possessions.

EPILOUGE: In short, I have often times brought up SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER in previous blogs either as an example of modern storytelling, capturing the era of the 70’s with justification or simply because it is one of my most favorite films. I had once said that this is a sad and depressing film if the soundtrack was removed and stripped away from the focused dancing sequences. In essence, it is the examination of egotistic and bigot behaviors from a bunch of Italiano pretty boys that pop pills, drink too much and seek out meaningless sex that stemmed from high school- like acts that should have been outgrown about two or three ago. The act of invincibility, realistic issues and plain stupidity of youth is closely regarded as subject matters throughout the film: Bobby C (Barry Miller) contemplates marrying his girlfriend because he got her pregnant while struggling with the morality of his Catholic upbringing, Annette (Donna Pescow) pursuits Tony to have sex with her, Tony’s brother Frank Jr. (Martin Shakar) talks about leaving the priesthood due to a lack in faith, Tony’s father is unemployed and cannot find work… amidst other topics requiring reflection.

JOHNNY CHAZZ: The 1977 release of “Saturday Night Fever” was a hit indeed. The timing was right considering that the late 1970’s was truly the disco era, and the film was highly entertaining. We might look at a film such as “Star Wars” as being another “hit” that year along the same lines of entertaining audiences.

The seventies (1970's) however provided ample films that could be referred to as real phenomenons however. The likes of “Chinatown”, “Taxi Driver”, “The Godfather”, “Jaws”, “Annie Hall”, “The Conversation”, “A Clockwork Orange” and even the foreign influences with “Cries and Whispers” and “Day for Night”. Thus, is it a stretch that “Saturday Night Fever” could be considered a phenomenal film? Safely said: yes.

The film was without question a unique concept with a tremendous style and soundtrack to accompany. To add, this was the film that made John Travolta (as Tony Manero) a household name, and better yet – a true star in Hollywood. The cinematography as well as the dance sequences are quite impressive and they combine to make for an entertaining and fun movie to re-visit from time to time.

On the other hand, let’s not carry this too far. “Saturday Night Fever” has a nice little story-line and offers excellent eye-candy throughout the film. However, the message is not exactly “deep” to use a generic term here. It is a dance movie dealing with a young man with raging hormones (just look at the ridiculous line: “You gotta decide if you are going to be a nice girl or a ____”) living in the seventies – and that really is the essence at the film’s core.

If we are to take this film at face value, then perhaps it offers us 7 to 8 picture points and that score works just fine for some. However, if we really want more from this film and hope to get to the deeper meaning and the true message(s) being delivered, we fall short and must score the film in a lower range. The plot is thin – that is the truth in all actuality. The performances are marginal to average and the dance sequences combined with the cinematography are all that really save the movie from falling even lower on tally board.

The rape scene has always bothered me as well. It is not the violence or the inherency of the act itself per se, yet it is the fact that the film never really addresses the repercussions of what has occurred on screen. Did it never happen? Are we to just brush it off and say farewell and good tidings to the young girl? The reaction, the journey, the scarring and the end result are what the audience need to experience in this girl’s eyes – and the film completely ignores it. The film, at this level naturally becomes bland, thin and careless which immediately discards the audience at the basic level. The scene is insulting.

 The film’s director, John Badham, does utilize the dance scenes and the soundtrack as an effective character however. This is what saves the film entirely and is the primary value of the film which stands the test of time. The emotional triggers on an audience with this disco and funky soundtrack are really what maintain interest and create a film that some consider both iconic and a classic.

Is there a sub-plot in this film? Is Tony’s priest-brother that sub-plot? If so, I guess we found our sub plot. What we remember in this film is the music and the dancing – not the plot or the story-line….let’s face it – that is the harsh truth. The film reminds us of an era – an era of disco and carefree behavior in a sense. The Bee Gees are really what immediately come to mind when the topic of “Saturday Night Fever” rises to the limelight of your discussion circle. Is this what I was supposed to get out of the film? I imagine so.

Did we talk about the music already? Oh yes, we did. Moving along-

Where am I? Oh, um.....“Saturday Night Fever” is entertaining and fun – and it was a real platform for both the musical artists on the soundtrack as well as for John Travolta. A classic? For some, perhaps. For this critic? Not even close and yet so far, far away (had to use it. Carole King).

Nope - this is not what we can define as a movie classic by any means. It is, at the very root a film full of “fluff” and “fun”. Grab some milk duds, turn out the lights and listen to “More than a Woman” yet again, and again. It's fun I guess - and the music is pretty good.... (current brain cell loss: 325,204,588)

Ok. What else is on?

Overall Grading (Picture Points) for the Film:
Narrative and Plot: 4/10 (generous here)
Acting: 6/10 (this was generous, but I feel like I have to be kind...)
Cinematography and Editing: 7.5/10
Soundtrack: 9/10 (great soundtrack, but it gets real old....)
Artistic Value: 4/10 (it was either 0 or 4...I chose 4 by flipping a coin)


JER: JC, I will agree with you that there are better films released throughout the 70’s including THE GODFATHER, TAXI DRIVER and even ANNIE HALL. I am not stating that SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER is the absolute definitive film of that decade. What I am trying to state is how this film has never been looked upon as anything other than a send- off on the disco scene…and from the looks of it, you would agree with them. I believe the film has layers that few recognize. It has been lowered to a level of campy fun; it has been made fun of and joked about for years since. The point missed is the true drama beyond the music and dancing.
Yvonne Elliman's "If I Can't Have You" to clips from the film

The subplot you are searching for lies within the choices Tony makes about his life throughout the story. There is a constant ‘flip of the coin’ of decisions that lean for the better or worst that takes him down various avenues and paths that lead to his ultimate choice made in the end. It might be fair to say that story suffers from certain holes in the story: What happens to Brother Frank? I will also include your raised concerned about Annette and the controversial rape that occurred. I believe that such topics were and still continue to be very difficult to deal with on the screen and Tony almost closes that moment when he looks back at her with disgust and states, “Well, I guess you are a _ _ _ _.” A crude remark indeed considering what has just happened to her, but by her own instigations and willfulness to excess in pills and alcohol and quickly flirting with Tony’s friends to get over Manero may have been the results developed by her own doing. It is hard to analyze the choices made by director John Badham and why it is closed- up so quickly… maybe it was an editor’s view or even Paramount Pictures who decided to pear- down on the sequence… who knows.

The fact of the matter is this: It is an R- rated film for good reason. I do not like the PG version whatsoever. The plot gets too watered down and it does become a film focused on music and dance and lags on the harsh plots and dramatic aspects it was designed to illustrate.
What are your thoughts on SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER? How do you see this film? What kind of an impact has been made and what impressions have it left behind on you? All comments are welcomed and replied back! Check back with us on Wednesday January 25th when JOHNNY CHAZZ brings up the next topic of discussion for 2012!

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