Friday, February 27, 2015

Oscar Movie Review: "Bonnie and Clyde" (1967)

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Movie"Bonnie and Clyde"
Year Nominated: 1968
Director: Arthur Penn
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 51 minutes
Did It Win?: No.

Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) and an ex-con named Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty) meet and start a life of crime together, robbing many banks and stores. After a short time, they add a few members to their gang and increase their crimes to murder and kidnapping as they continue to evade the police in order to keep robbing banks.

America has always had an almost obsessive fascination with outlaws and criminals, especially those in the early part of the 20th century in the Great Depression era. There is almost a poetic folklore surrounding criminals like John Dillinger, "Baby Face" Nelson, "Pretty Boy" Floyd, and of course, Bonnie and Clyde themselves. The media certainly had a hand in creating that folklore, especially with a movie like this one. Films about criminals often romanticize versions of their lives of criminal activities and paint them in a relatively positive light. We wouldn't go as far as saying their circumstances glorify the criminal lifestyle since thye are constantly on the run, having to evade police, and are forced to stay in run-down or abandoned houses just so they don't get caught. In the case of "Bonnie and Clyde," though filmmakers show that being a criminal isn't the best thing to be since it isn't all that glamorous, the people themselves are certainly glorified. They show Bonnie and Clyde robbing banks and letting customers keep their money like they are attacking big businesses, but in reality, they often knocked over rural markets and gas stations and even murdered several police officers, as well as civilians. There is one scene where a kid yells "I have been following you in the papers!"as if the duo were celebrities whose virtues needed to be extolled. The filmmakers also felt is was necessary to make Clyde sexually impotent, which seems unlikely based on the account of one of their gang members. We're not entirely sure what their reasoning in implying that Bonnie and Clyde had no physical relationship was, but we figure it was only added to drive drama between the two, and/or in an effort to either garner sympathy for them or to simply humanize them. Needless to say, they took a lot of liberties with their story as filmmakers often do, but in this case, it just didn't do it for us all the time.

This is another one of those films that was groundbreaking at the time of its release. It had a strong depiction of graphic violence, which actually seems tame by today's standards but was not common back then. In a historical context, it's rather important to allow filmmakers to start to push the boundaries in terms of violence, since this film eventually paved the way so that, almost 30 years later, "Casino" could show Joe Pesci put a guy's head in a vice and squeeze it until his eyeball popped out of his skull. Even some 45 years later, the hubbub that was caused when a man got shot in the face in "Bonnie and Clyde" is small potatoes compared to another Best Picture nominee, Quentin Tarantino's alternate version of WWII in "Inglorious Basterds," where a movie theater full of nazis and nazi supporters burns to the ground in a blazing inferno. So, thanks "Bonnie and Clyde" for your addition of groundbreaking violence. As far as entertaining stories go, this isn't the most enthralling film ever. The fact that a film broke new ground almost 50 years ago doesn't mean its story stands the test of time today, especially since the shock factors of those groundbreaking achievements have since lost their effect. All of the mundane and dramatized details really only serve to get audiences to the very end of the movie, the ambush scene, which is still by far the best and most iconic part of the film and is such a spectacular sight even today that it surely had to have been jaw-dropping at the time. I dropped my jaw even today, what a wonderful ending to the movie. This ending doesn't carry the entire film, though, and the rest of it apart from some decent performance by Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway is only fine, but nothing special.

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.9/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 90%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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