17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Stephen H. Wood
- Published on Amazon.com
CONTROVERSIAL CLASSICS VOLUME 2: THE POWER OF MEDIA is one of the crown jewel disk boxed sets in my private DVD library. It includes three incendiary masterpieces from the golden age of the 1970's: DOG DAY AFTERNOON (1975), NETWORK (1976), and ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN (also 1976). All three were Oscar contenders for Best Picture, and all three were winners for Screenplay.
DOG DAY AFTERNOON, directed by Sidney Lumet from a script by Frank Pierson, is so far-fetched that it has to be true. On a hot summer afternoon in 1972 Brooklyn, a nobody named Sonny Wortzik (Oscar nominee Al Pacino) robs a bank to pay for his male lover's (Oscar nominee Chris Sarandon) sex change operation. What should have taken ten minutes ends up becoming an eight hour media event, complete with pizza delivery to the hostages. Lumet took over an entire block in Brooklyn, had the hostages in effect play themselves with improvised dialogue, and worked like an Army commander with a thousand or so extras and stunning second-unit helicopters. The movie has incredible vitality and conviction from Lumet, powerhouse editing by Dede Allen (another Oscar nominee), and another of the great Pacino performances. Bonuses include a vintage featurette on Lumet, brand-new audio commentary by Lumet, and a four-part 30th anniversary featurette. Plus a brand-new remastered print of a great film.
If you thought DOG DAY was looney tunes, get a load at Paddy Chayefsky's audacious Oscar-winning Original Screenplay for another great Sidney Lumet triumph: NETWORK (1976). It is a satire on network television, but so outlandish that virtually everything (except the ending-thank God) has taken place. An unbalanced man (Oscar winner Peter Finch) becomes a media folk hero with super ratings. Oscar winner Faye Dunawaty lives only for ratings-and even discusses them in bed with producer William Holden (at his very best and and an Oscar nominee). Beatrice Straight is electrifying as Holden's wife in one Oscar-winning scene. ("I'm your wife, damn it! And if you can't work up a winter passion for me, the least I ask is respect and allegiance...Are you in love with her? Then say it. SAY IT!") Then the question arises over what to do with Finch's Howard Beale character ("I'm as mad as hell and not going to take it anymore!") when his ratings seriously fail. NETWORK is a brilliant satire that is almost reality thirty years later. And the direction, writing, and performances are all flawless. Bonuses here are huge: PRIVATE SCREENINGS: SIDNEY LUMET (2005) from Turner Classic Movies with Robert Osborne, a vintage Paddy Chayefsky interview from "The Dinah Shore Show", a new 90 minute 30th anniversary filmmaking documentary, and a brand-new Lumet audio commentary. Figure on three nights for this baby.
Best of the lot is producer-director Alan Pakula's ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN (also 1976), with an Oscar-winning screenplay by William Goldman. Both of them together make the saga of Watergate, the fall of President Richard Nixon, both understandable and gripping. Our heroes are WASHINGTON POST reporters Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman). A huge and wonderful supporting cast includes Oscar-winner Jason Robards as editor Ben Bradlee, Oscar nominee Jane Alexander as The Bookkeeper with some secrets, and Hal Holbrook as the enigmatic Deep Throat who is only glimpsed in shadowy night parking garages. Realism and actual locales help this one a lot. Bonuses on this masterpiece, that should have won Picture and Direction Oscars, include audio commentary by co-producer Robert Redford, a new filmmaking documentary, a documentary on who Deep Throat really was now that we know, a documentary on how Woodward and Bernstein cracked the case, a vintage filmmaking documentary, a vintage chat with Robards on DINAH!, and a gallery of theatrical trailers for other movies in this vein from the late Alan J. Pakula.
CONTROVERSIAL CLASSICS VOLUME 2: THE POWER OF MEDIA will keep you out of trouble for as long as nine nights (!), three per movie if you watch all the bonuses, so only rent it this one boxed set the week you order from Netflicks. It sells on Amazon.com for about $55. It is a sobering lament for an era when movies could be brilliantly written dramas about the media for intellectual adults. DOG DAY AFTERNOON, NETWORK, and ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN are masterpieces in a stupendous boxed set that I cannot recommend highly enough if you have a huge block of time for them. Consider buying them and spending two weeks doing all of the extras and the lenngthy movies leisurely.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
I bought this set primarily for All The President's Men and Network. At the approximately $44 USD price I paid, that made the set just slightly more expensive than buying these two movies separately, but I did not own Dog Day, not had seen it, for years. The latter is a good movie as any of you who've seen it will know, but it's my least favorite of the three. I would have preferred, say, The China Syndrome, but that's just my preference.
I will leave more thorough content description up to others -- it's probably more thorough to look at each movie separately on Amazon and see the reviews just for that movie, but I will add a what I found interesting. I thought I would try doing something that has helped me when reading other movie reviews, which is to suggest films that might be of similar interest. They may or may not be for you, but I have discovered many fine movies this way. Note the links I embedded were the best available at the time from Amazon. If you are interested in any of these, you may find a non-special edition version or similar that is cheaper than what's linked here, so be sure to look around in order to ensure you're getting exactly what you want (DVD region 1 vs. 2, directors cut vs. regular version, etc) as prices differ.
ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN
I have a 'presidents' movie collection, with movies like Nixon [Blu-ray], JFK - Director's Cut (Two-Disc Special Edition), Path to War (LBJ), Truman, Thirteen Days (Infinifilm Edition) and The Missiles of October (JFK). While at first this type of theme sounds like a collection only a C-SPAN watcher could love, many would agree that these are some terrific movies, although some are more fact-based than others. ATPM is one of the most fact-based, almost docu-drama. This may lead some to like it more or less, but this movie is the only reason I understand as much about Watergate as I do. This was a difficult web to understand even at the time, and I think I finally now know the roles that Woodward (Robert Redford), Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman), Bradley (Jason Robards), Dean, Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Liddy, and of course Deepthroat (the inimitable Hal Holbrook) all played. We never see Nixon in the movie, which makes it more intriguing. If it sounds dull today, well, perhaps it is history now. But this movie really helped me to see how the Executive branch was supposed to work, how it actually did work, and how individual people who didn't fully understand their roles were involved. If you're interested in these movies, you might also like The Parallax View (which was also directed by Alan J. Pakula) or Quiz Show, both of which I find myself watching soon before or after seeing the above. The miniseries The Winds of War and War and Remembrance - Volume 1 - Parts 1-7 and War & Remembrance - Vol. 2, The Final Chapter: Parts 8 - 12 also are helpful in showing a little bit what the FDR/Hopkins Whitehouse was like, should you wish to duplicate my theme of watching presidents, and are excellent miniseries in their own right.
In case you've never seen it, Network is both an editorial and a warning about what TV -- and particularly TV news -- could become, although the producers at the time may not have seen it quite so precisely that way. This movie is scary because most of it has come true -- in fact, even the ending seems to have really occurred with recent headlines out of Brazil. I remember hearing about Network when my brother snuck into a movie theater in 1976 and reported how everyone was swearing on TV! At the time, the premise of deteriorating television standards to this extent seemed ridiculous, what with Walter Cronkite the order of the day. The UBS Evening News and its antics as depicted in this movie just seemed inconceivable. Little did anyone know that it would only require 10-12 years for most of it to come to pass, and with greater regularity. The movie will probably be more profound for those 40 and over, but it's a fascinating study of how television started to change for anyone so interested. Faye Dunaway simply owns her character -- I forgot she's an actress in a movie. I'm also a huge fan of William Holden and 'mad as hell' Peter Finch, for both of whom this was amongst (or was) their last performances on film. I have no similar suggestions for this movie as it's quite unique, although in a very basic way, I think newsroom movies like Broadcast News and the curious Groundhog Day (Special Edition), put me in a similar frame of mind. The China Syndrome (Special Edition), as mentioned above, also does represent to an extent power of the media in an interesting and what initially was a fictional concept when it was released, though not for long. (Sorry, I had added hyperlinks for suggested movies here and below, but Amazon restricts me to 10 links, so if interested, you'll have to search for them manually.)
DOG DAY AFTERNOON
One of Al Pacino's better-known films, and for good reason, DDA is based on a true story of a bank heist gone astray, and television plays a significant role in the way the story plays out...both on screen and in the real-life incident the movie was based on. Actually, the film is somewhat humorous in parts, something intended by director Sidney Lumet, and I found this interesting, as it seemed quite believable with its Stockholm-syndrome reactions between the robbers and the hostages. It also stars popular 70's stars like James Broderick and Charles Durning. It's a well-made movie, but the subject matter at it's core does not appeal to me in the same way as the first two movies described. However, once you start watching, you will probably have to see it all the way to the end, and it's interesting. Will the bad guys get shot as you see so often on TV, or are they actually going to get away this time? Although not entirely similar, those who like this might also like The French Connection (Two-Disc Collector's Edition) or The Conversation, if only because they are similar-period movies that involve some aspect of crime, intrigue and to an extent, technology.
The transfer for all 3 movies is excellent, as good as possible for conventional DVD. Color, sharpness, sound, are all perfect. I have not seen all of the extras because there are a lot of them, as you will see from the Amazon description. There's a reason there are 2 DVD's per movie. For example, Dog Day has a Making Of, a 4 part 30th Anniv Documentary, a vintage featurette and a director's commentary. The other two movies each have similar (but even longer) length documentaries. They didn't skimp on the extras in these sets.
There is little doubt that if you are interested in all 3 movies, this is a great way to get them, but even if you were just looking for any 2 of these movies, while you might be able to get any two at a slightly better price, the fact is that when you add shipping, getting a set like this might make more sense for you. However, prices do vary. I certainly enjoyed all 3 movies and would get the set again if I had to, even though I was just looking for ATPM and Network.