Birdy

Here we have an anti-war film, set in the Vietnam era, that for the most part takes place stateside and without much reference to the war. The story centers on the history of two traumatized soldiers, who were close friends before their duty in Nam. Each one is coping with what we today would refer to as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) . One has been badly burned in the war and is worried that he won’t recognize himself when the bandages come off, the other has retreated into the fantasy world of flying and birds that he was obsessed with before being in a helicopter crash. The story involves the ability of their friendship to pull them back into the world.

birdy_ver1This was a movie given a limited release in Los Angeles in late 1984, to qualify for Academy Awards consideration. It was ultimately a Grand Prize winner at the Cannes film festival in 1985, but it never got widespread distribution. In fact as far as I can tell it only made it onto three screens in the U.S. and it did about one and a half million dollars at the box office. Amazingly enough, I actually saw it in its three week run in Westwood. I dragged my wife across town when we had a holiday break and we saw it in a matinee screening. I doubt that she will remember much about the movie except the final line, which we have quoted to each other with the same tone of Matthew Modine for thirty years now.

Continue reading

The Hotel New Hampshire

Sometimes memory is cruel to us. We hold onto faults and disappointments rather than the minor little victories and joys that we experience all the time and let slip by. “The Hotel New Hampshire” is one of those brutal memories for me. The film was based on one of my favorite books and it starred a good  cast headed by Jodie Foster. My reaction to it at the time was weak and over the years has gotten more antagonistic. The return to the movie for this project was not expected to be a happy one. Imagine my surprise that instead of a malignant tumor of a film, I found a flawed but mostly sincere interpretation of the book that I love.

hotel_new_hampshire_ver1If you have read any of John Irving’s novels, you know that they are full of prostitutes, wrestling, bears and frequently Vienna. The characters are oddballs and have major sexual hangups of some sort or other. In spite of how off putting some of the characteristics are, Irving usually manages to get us to care for them before he tortures us with their fates. A John Irving story is not going to end on a happy note, although there will be happy moments along the way.

Continue reading