Thursday, February 4, 2016

Oscar Movie Review: "Bound for Glory" (1976)

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Movie"Bound for Glory"
Year Nominated: 1977
Director: Hal Ashby
Rating: PG
Running Time: 2 hours, 27 minutes
Did It Win?: No.

Born in Oklahoma and living with his wife and kids in Texas, Woody Guthrie (David Carradine) makes money as a sign painter. After the dust bowl settles in, he takes off to find work in California, leaving his wife and kids behind. When he arrives, work isn't as abundant as he thought it would be, but luckily, he is discovered by a radio musician who hooks him up with a job at the local radio station. This is Woody's window to stardom as he uses his fame to raise awareness to the plight of the field pickers. 

"Bound for Glory" is a film that was nominated for Best Picture and a slew of other awards at the Academy Awards in 1977 in a stacked year amidst classics like "All the President's Men," "Network," "Marathon Man," "Carrie," and "Taxi Driver." This film covers a good portion of the life of country folk singer Woody Guthrie, played here by David Carradine, from the emergence of the dust bowl to his leaving Texas and his subsequent travels while bumming rides across the country to California. It also covers his rise to stardom there before leaving for New York City. Before getting discovered, Woody tried to get work picking fruits and vegetables, but found there wasn't enough work for all of the people who moved to California in search of jobs. This left many, many people to accept backbreaking work for very low wages and very long hours. A radio musician named Ozark would come to the work camps to entertain the pickers and try to rally them to form a union. It was at one of these camps during a hoedown that Ozark would find Guthrie and urge him to try his hand at playing professionally. When Woody gets hired on at the radio station, he uses his platform to speak for the plight of the pickers as he would sing of the personal troubles he had while traveling from Texas to California and urge the pickers to unionize via song.

We really didn't know much about Woody Guthrie going into this film, and to be quite honest, we still don't. We do know that a good portion of his life was similar to what was written about in "The Grapes of Wrath" except, in this case, Woody Guthrie is a real person who really experienced it. He sacrificed his relationships with his wife and kids for his principles and his support of unions. Guthrie initially left his wife and kids in Texas when he headed out to California looking for work. He had a bit of a wandering eye as he was never faithful to his wife during his travels, but this was also the case when he was at home, for that matter. Once he started making money as a singer, he brought his family to California to live with him, but he would regularly leave them for days or weeks on end to go and drum up support for a field pickers union. This eventually led to his wife leaving him, which we understand completely. "Bound for Glory" is another film that was very important in its era as its message was extremely topical at the time, but over the years, it has become so explored that it has been done bigger and better without the country singer sub-topic to bring it to light. It is still important in terms of having an historical understanding of how workers have been exploited in the past and to remember the rights workers have today were fought for by someone in the past. Even though the film has a long run time, the gorgeous cinematography makes it feel a little less long and overall, relatively well paced. The best part about the movie by far is David Carradine. He gives a good performance as Woody Guthrie, but unfortunately, we are just too uninterested in the folk genre as a whole and the film's overall made-for-television appearance and feel to get invested in it.

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 6/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 83%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?
One year ago, we were watching: "Inglorious Basterds"

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